Government promises investigation as ex-PM Khan says plot hatched to kill him

Ousted Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan delivers a speech to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's supporters during a public rally in Sialkot, Pakistan, on May 14, 2022. (Social Media)
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Updated 15 May 2022

Government promises investigation as ex-PM Khan says plot hatched to kill him

  • Imran Khan tells rally in Sialkot video naming his enemies to be made public if anything happens to him
  • Interior minister asks the PTI chairman to share evidence of the threat so full investigation can be launched

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan told a public rally in Sialkot on Saturday there was a threat to his life, adding that he had recorded a video in which he had named everyone who had conspired against him since last summer.
Khan, who was driven out of the top political office in his country in a no-confidence vote last month, has attributed the downfall of his administration to an international conspiracy hatched in the United States in response to his independent approach to Pakistan’s foreign policy.
He also repeated the same claim during the power show in Sialkot where a large number of workers and supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had gathered to hear his speech.
US officials have repeated denied the accusation against them.
“A conspiracy is being hatched against me behind closed doors in and outside the country,” he told the massive gathering of people carrying PTI flags. “And that conspiracy is that they want to take Imran Khan’s life. Listen to this: I knew about this conspiracy before and I became fully aware of it a few days ago.”
“I have recorded a video and placed it at a secure location,” he continued. “If anything happens to me, this video will be brought before the whole nation. And I have taken the name of every single individual who was involved in this conspiracy against me since last summer.”




Ousted Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan delivers a speech to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's supporters during a public rally in Sialkot, Pakistan, on May 14, 2022. (imrankhan.pti/Instagram)

Khan has refused to accept the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and raised questions about the role played by various state institutions in his removal.
Speaking to a local news channel, Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah dismissed Khan’s latest statement.
“There is nothing like this and if he [Khan] has any evidence [of a threat to his life] then he should come forward with it,” Sanauallah told Samaa TV. “We will treat it as a first information report and launch a complete investigation.”
Earlier in the day, the PTI switched the venue for the Sialkot rally after the Christian community denied it permission to hold the event on the grounds of a church-run school.
Members of Khan’s PTI party were preparing to hold Saturday’s rally at the CTI Christian Boys School Ground in Sialkot, but local authorities stopped them after the local Christian community objected to using the ground for “political purposes.”
Local media reported the police tear-gassed and baton-charged PTI supporters who resisted the move. Dawn News footage showed police at the venue as people stood atop a crane in an apparent attempt to prevent authorities from razing structures erected for the rally.
Reverend Dr. Majeed Abel of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan said in a video statement that the school was the property of the Presbyterian Church of the United States and had been handed over to the local Presbyterian Education Board to hold school functions and the annual event of the mission.
“The campus cannot be used for any other purposes,” the pastor said.
After the local administration stopped the PTI from holding the rally on the school grounds, the principal of the school thanked them in a video message.
“I am grateful to the administration in Sialkot, DPO [district police officer], deputy commissioner ... that they stopped a rally from being illegally held on the CTI school ground. They have stopped it and handed the ground back to us,” the principal of the school said in comments to local media.
After the PTI was stopped from holding the rally at the CTI ground, ex-PM Khan took to Twitter and in a series of posts accused the government of destroying “all democratic norms when in power.”

 

 

Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a legislator from Sialkot, said the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was not trying to block the PTI from holding a rally.
“Holding a rally is a basic democratic right and it is not our way to obstruct it,” Asif said on Twitter. “We support safeguarding the rights of our opponents as well.”
He also posted a copy of a notification by the deputy commissioner Sialkot that said the PTI could hold the rally at “any other suitable venue” but not a site that held “religious sanctity for Christians all around the country.”

 

 

In a video clip shared online, Sialkot district police officer Hassan Iqbal said the PTI had not been barred from holding the rally.
“No one is stopping from the jalsa (rally) itself. Where you stand, this place is the private land of Presbyterian American Society, for which you have not taken due permission from them,” he was seen telling a crowd of PTI supporters at the site.
After the incident, Shafqat Mahmood, a senior PTI leader and former education minister, told reporters the rally’s venue has been moved to the VIP cricket ground in the city.


Islamabad, Beijing ‘agreed’ on phased return of Pakistani students to Chinese universities 

Updated 43 min 57 sec ago

Islamabad, Beijing ‘agreed’ on phased return of Pakistani students to Chinese universities 

  • Pakistani embassy says both sides are finalizing arrangements for the return of first batch of students 
  • 28,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in Chinese varsities, with a majority stuck in Pakistan since 2020 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China have “agreed” on a phase-wise return of Pakistani students to Chinese universities, the Pakistani embassy in China said on Friday, which would be subject to the COVID-19 situation in the host country.

Around 28,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in Chinese educational institutions, with most of them stuck in Pakistan since China suspended entry of foreign nationals in March 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19.

For more than a year, the Pakistani government had been saying it was in touch with the Chinese authorities to help Pakistani students return to their colleges and universities.

In a telephonic conversation on May 16, the Pakistani embassy said, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif discussed the issue with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang and conveyed the sentiments of the families of Pakistani students who wished to resume their studies in China.

“The embassy had long been engaged with the relevant Chinese authorities regarding the return of Pakistani students to their universities in China,” the Pakistani embassy said in statement.

“Resultantly, the two sides have agreed for phased return subject to the Covid-19 situation in China.”

In the recent telephonic conversation, the statement said, the Chinese premier assured that Beijing accorded “high priority” to the matter. “Two sides are now finalizing arrangements for return of 1st batch of students at an early date,” it read.

The Pakistani embassy said it would keep pursuing the matter with the Chinese authorities for the return of the remaining students as well.


Pakistan’s Azhar Ali makes unbeaten double hundred in English county game 

Updated 21 May 2022

Pakistan’s Azhar Ali makes unbeaten double hundred in English county game 

  • Azhar reached his double century in the final over of the day with a cover drive for four 
  • Azhar arrived at Worcestershire’s headquarters after a successful Test series against Australia 

LONDON: Pakistan’s Azhar Ali made an unbeaten double century as he helped Worcestershire rewrite the record books in an English County Championship match against Leicestershire on Friday.
Azhar and former England Under-19 international Jack Haynes put on 281 for the third wicket — a record partnership against Leicestershire, surpassing the 278 by Cyril Walters and Harold Gibbons in 1934.
Their stand was the cornerstone of Worcestershire’s 456 for three, a lead of 308, at stumps on the second day of four at New Road.
Haynes was eventually dismissed for 127 but Azhar reached his double century in the final over of the day with a cover drive for four off Rehan Ahmed.
By that stage Azhar had faced 328 balls, with one six and 18 fours, and also shared in another century stand with Brett D’Oliveira (52 not out).
Azhar arrived at New Road, Worcestershire’s headquarters, after a successful Test series against Australia which included a marathon 185 spanning 11 hours at Rawalpindi.
The 37-year-old struggled at first with the change to English conditions and his opening six innings for Midlands county Worcestershire yielded 34 runs.
But the former Pakistan captain has found his form since hitting 92 against a Durham attack including new England skipper Ben Stokes.


‘Dance Icon’: Breakdancing makes school boy a household name in Pakistan’s Balochistan

Updated 16 min 16 sec ago

‘Dance Icon’: Breakdancing makes school boy a household name in Pakistan’s Balochistan

  • 10-year-old Subhan Sohail was inspired to dance after seeing Michael Jackson’s videos online
  • Sohail has never received professional training and hones his skills by watching online videos 

QUETTA: Subhan Sohail was six years old when he first saw a video of the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, on his mother’s cellphone and announced he wanted to be a break-dancer.
Four years later, Sohail, 10, has become a household name in his home province of Balochistan in southwest Pakistan since a video of him in his school uniform breakdancing went viral after a teacher shared it on social media.
“People started praising me, which gave me confidence,” the resident of Degari Kahan village in Kech district told Arab News.
Subhan’s mother, who only identified herself by her first name Shereen, said she supported her son pursuing breakdancing as a career, though the family had faced some opposition in Balochistan where many conservative Pakistanis frown on dancing. And breakdancing, an art form born on the streets of New York City in the 1970s, is a novel concept in the impoverished province. 
“I was very happy after hearing that my son’s video was appreciated,” Sohail’s mother said. “But later many people in our family discouraged Subhan and told him that dancing was not thought to be a good profession within our rural society.”
“Despite such negative comments,” she added, “I still want him to take up dancing as a career because my son wants to be a world class dancer.”
Sohail, who has never taken any professional lessons, says he learns new skills by watching online videos. That’s also how he started his dancing journey:
“I learned how to breakdance by watching videos on my mother’s cellphone. I was six years old and started practicing at my house without taking any dance classes.”
On a regular day, Sohail said, he spends two hours after school practicing.
Lately, performing in public has become a favorite activity.
“Initially, I was shy and hesitant to dance in public,” Sohail said. “Then my family supported me and emboldened me to perform at school and family events.”
Amul Sakin Baloch, a teacher at the dancer’s school for the last 11 years, said her young student was a “hero,” entertaining others with his unique talent.
“I first uploaded his dance video on social media after which many people requested me to share it again because they loved his performance,” Baloch told Arab News. “Now he has become a dance icon for the whole province of Balochistan.”
Sohail Ismael, a driver employed at the school his son attends, said he had never discouraged Sohail from pursuing his passion, but wanted him to become an engineer to secure a more viable future.
“He was reluctant to dance in front of me and used to practice in my absence,” Ismael said. “But I have been encouraging him and now he often shows me his new dance moves.”


Pakistani FM says Islamabad and Washington entering new engagement after years of strain

Updated 21 May 2022

Pakistani FM says Islamabad and Washington entering new engagement after years of strain

  • Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says United States and his country must move beyond past tensions over neighboring Afghanistan
  • Recalls legacy of his mother and grandfather, calls them “towering figures on world stage” and says he feels “burden of history”

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan’s new foreign minister says the United States and his country must move beyond past tensions over Afghanistan and are entering a new engagement after years of strained relations under former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 33-year-old son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, spoke in an interview with The Associated Press in New York, where he was attending meetings this week on the global food crisis at UN headquarters. He has also held talks with top diplomats, including a one-hour discussion with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Bhutto Zardari called the meeting with Blinken “very encouraging and very positive and productive.”

“We believe that Pakistan must continue to engage with the United States at all levels,” he said. “This meeting was indeed an important first step.”

Bhutto Zardari co-chairs one of the two largest parties in Pakistan’s disparate governing coalition, which spans the political spectrum from the left to the radically religious. The coalition removed Khan in a no-confidence vote on April 10. Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the other major party, replaced Imran Khan as prime minister.

US-Pakistani ties deteriorated under Khan, who as prime minister tapped into anti-American sentiment in Pakistan that has spread ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda, and the US war on terror. The 2011 American raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan angered many hard-liners in the country.

Khan accused the Biden administration of colluding with the opposition to oust him, a claim the administration denies.

Afghanistan also raised mistrust between the two countries. Washington felt Islamabad did too little to help ensure peace as the US and NATO withdrew their troops from Afghanistan; Pakistan insists it did all it could to broker peace and blamed the abrupt US pullout. During the final weeks of the American withdrawal, the Taliban overran Kabul in mid-August and seized power.

Bhutto Zardari said the Pakistan-US relationship in the past had been “too colored by the events in Afghanistan, of the geopolitical considerations, and it’s time for us to move beyond that to engage in a far broader, deeper and more meaningful relationship.”

Under Khan, Pakistan pushed hard for the world to engage with Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, and Bhutto Zardari said his country continues to do so.

“Regardless of what we feel about the regime in Afghanistan,” the world can’t abandon the Afghan people and must immediately address the country’s humanitarian crisis and crumbling economy, he said. A total collapse of the Afghan economy would be a disaster for Afghans, Pakistan and the international community, he said, expressing concern that many Afghans would flee the country.

Pakistan is also insisting the Taliban live up to their international commitments that the country not be used for terrorism, that girls and women be able to pursue education, and that they form an inclusive government, he said.

The Taliban, however, have taken a more hard-line turn in recent weeks, imposing new restrictions on women. At the same time, tensions have grown between the Taliban and Pakistan over militants based in Afghanistan carrying out attacks in Pakistan.

Bhutto Zardari said the more the humanitarian crisis is alleviated and the economy is saved from collapse, “the more likely we are to succeed in our pursuit for women’s rights and the more likely we are to succeed in our efforts against terrorism.”

He said his focus in talks with Blinken was on increasing trade, particularly in agriculture, information technology and energy. He said he is looking forward to working with the US on an initiative to empower women, including women entrepreneurs.

On economic, defense and military coordination, “if we continue to engage, then we can move forward in a more positive direction,” Bhutto Zardari said.

Asked about Khan’s anti-US rhetoric, Bhutto Zardari dismissed the ex-premier’s accusation of American collusion, calling it a “fanciful conspiracy theory based on a big lie” to explain his removal.

“I am particularly anti the politics of hate, division and polarization,” the foreign minister said. “If we consistently pursue the politics of `you’re with us or against us,’ whether that’s on an international level or a domestic level, I don’t believe it serves the interests of the people of Pakistan.”

He said he believes Pakistanis understand their country needs to engage with the US and all countries, in order to become democratic and progress economically.

President Joe Biden has strengthened ties with Pakistan’s arch-rival India, but Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan is not “jealous” of their relationship. “We believe the world is big enough for both Pakistan and India,” he said.

Biden will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of Australia and Japan at a summit in Tokyo on May 24 of the so-called Quad, an Indo-Pacific alliance which China sees as an attempt to contain its economic growth and influence.

Pakistan has a very close economic and military relationship with neighboring China, where Bhutto Zardari is heading to on Saturday. He told the AP he didn’t think the growing relationship with the US would hurt its ties to Beijing.

Pakistan has abstained on UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and withdrawal of its troops. Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan used to rely a lot on Ukrainian wheat and fertilizer and has been affected by rising food prices and calls for diplomacy to end the war.

The lives of the Bhutto Zardari family have in many ways reflected their country’s turbulence. Bhutto Zardari took over his mother’s Pakistan People’s Party after she was killed in a suicide bombing in December 2007.

The daughter of Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who led Pakistan in the 1970s and was overthrown and executed by the military, Benazir Bhutto was Pakistan’s first woman premier and twice served as head of government.

At the time of her assassination, she was rallying in a third bid for premiership. Bhutto Zardari’s life in politics was also shaped by his father, Asif Ali Zardari, who served as Pakistan’s president from 2008 to 2013.

In the interview with the AP, Bhutto Zardari recalled the legacy of his mother and grandfather. He called them “towering figures on the world stage,” and said he feels “the burden of history.”

“What motivates and drives me is the pursuit of their unfulfilled mission,” he said. “I hope that we live up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan” who have longed for true democracy and struggled for their economic, political and human rights.

“These are the ideals that we hold dear and we work toward every day,” Bhutto Zardari said.


Ex-PM Khan says Islamabad march to begin between May 25 and 29 

Updated 21 May 2022

Ex-PM Khan says Islamabad march to begin between May 25 and 29 

  • Former premier has been calling for early election in the South Asian country 
  • In April, he became the first Pakistani PM to be ousted through a no-trust vote 

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Friday announced his party would begin its anti-government march to Islamabad between May 25 and May 29 to compel the new administration to announce a snap election in the South Asian country.

Last month, Khan became the first prime minister in Pakistan’s history who was driven out of power in a no-confidence vote.

He has accused the United States (US) of orchestrating his removal with the help of his political rivals, saying that Washington was displeased with his desire to pursue an independent foreign policy for Pakistan. US officials have repeatedly denied the allegation.

The former premier has since held scores of rallies across the country, urging the masses to prepare for a march to the Pakistani capital to pressure the new government of PM Shehbaz Sharif into announcing fresh polls.

“I have summoned my core committee to Peshawar on Sunday. And let me tell you we are to decide between 25th and 29th May,” Khan said at a rally in Multan Friday night.

“God willing, I will clear this to you the day after tomorrow so that you may get enough time to prepare.”

He told the attendees he wanted them all to prepare for the final showdown in the Pakistani capital.

Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan listen to speech by the party leader during a rally in Multan on May 20, 2022. (AFP)

“God willing, when the sea of people will come, we will only ask them for one thing,” he said, “when will the assembly be dissolved and election announced.”

Khan, who is the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, has called for early elections in the country.

The ex-premier has vowed to keep holding political protests until the new government announces the next election.