Ex-PM Khan’s anti-government march enters Islamabad after daylong struggle

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan, waves to supporters during a protest rally in Attock, Pakistan, on May 25, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2022

Ex-PM Khan’s anti-government march enters Islamabad after daylong struggle

  • Negotiations between government and Khan’s party could not take place despite court orders
  • Police say Khan supporters burnt trees, metro station near the business hub of the city

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan and his convoy of vehicles and supporters entered the federal capital on Wednesday night to hold an anti-government rally after a long day of political drama that included clashes between demonstrators and police, and the arrests of hundreds of Khan supporters across the country.

Khan’s caravan was close to Islamabad when he called on his supporters to reach the D-Chowk protest spot near the country’s parliament building and other sensitive government installations, saying he would stay there until the assemblies were dissolved and an election date was announced.

Khan was removed from office in a vote of no-confidence last month after losing his majority in parliament. Subsequently, he held several public rallies across the country saying his ouster was part of a Washington-backed foreign conspiracy while refusing to recognize the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The US has denied the allegations.

“Public welcome on entering Islamabad,” Khan’s close aide Shahbaz Gill said in a Twitter post while sharing a video clip of fireworks.

Khan started his anti-government march from Peshawar on Wednesday morning while the government blocked all roads leading to the federal capital and was rounding up workers and supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the government to designate a ground near the H-9 sector in Islamabad for the PTI protest rally while hearing a petition for the removal of road blocks in the city. It also ordered authorities not to arrest political workers and hold consultations with a PTI committee to discuss the modalities of their protest in the federal capital.

Videos shot by an Arab News reporter on Wednesday evening showed thousands of Khan supporters walking down the capital’s Blue Area business zone toward D-Chowk while police fired tear gas at, and baton charged, them. Supporters had lit fires all the way down the road to D-Chowk in an apparent bid to neutralize the effects of the tear gas but Islamabad police said on Twitter they had set fire to trees and vehicles.

“Police called the fire brigade. Some places were set on fire while the protesters again set the trees on the Express Chowk,” police said. “Security in the Red Zone has been beefed up,” police added, referring to an area in Islamabad where government, judiciary and legislature buildings are located.

Video clips on social media platforms also showed a burning metro station in the city surrounded by hundreds of PTI supporters.




Supporters of Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan, take part in a protest rally amid tear gas smoke in front of the parliament building in Islamabad on May 25, 2022. (AFP)

According to the head of the government’s negotiating team, Ayaz Sadiq, talks could not be held with members of Khan’s political party since they did not show up at the designated place at the stipulated time.

“If we do not implement the directives of the Supreme Court, it will be seen as contempt be of court,” he said. “Now that we have implemented the order, you can see what is happening.”




Police use tear gas to disperse supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of ousted prime minister Imran Khan during a protest in Lahore on May 23, 2022. (AFP)

He said the top court should take action against what was happening in the city.

“Despite the Supreme Court’s directives, Imran Khan has been asking his supporters to reach D-Chowk,” he said. “In light of the apex court’s ruling, the government removed containers and opened the roads and because of that these people have reached D-Chowk and Red Zone.”

Khan had said earlier in the day there was no possibility of a deal with the government on calling off or limiting the rally.

“We are moving toward Islamabad & no question of any deal. We will remain in Islamabad till announcement of dates for dissolution of assemblies & elections are given.”

“God willing we have to reach D-Chowk Islamabad, no hurdle can stop us,” Khan said in an address to supporters in Swabi en route Islamabad.

CLASHES, ROAD BLOCKS, ARRESTS

Videos circulating on social media and broadcast on local TV channels early in the day showed police clashing with protesters in Lahore and Islamabad, with Punjab police using tear gas on demonstrators in Lahore and baton charging them in the capital. 

PTI supporters and police also clashed in Gujranwala when the latter tried to stop protesters with barricades but the marchers forced their way through the obstructions.

According to PTI’s Gujranwala General Secretary Tariq Gujjar, 150 people from the caravan had been taken into custody.

Clashes were reported in Karachi as well in which at least two video journalists were injured.

All major roads linking the Punjab province with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from where Khan started his march were blocked with barricades. Police and district officials blocked the GT Road highway with shipping containers over the Attock Khurd Bridge which marks the border between Punjab and KP. Media reported intense tear gas shelling on the bridge by anti-riot police in the late afternoon on Wednesday.

The motorway M1 connecting the two provinces was also blocked off and other motorways traversing Punjab, including M2, were blocked at several places.

Section 144, which bans large public gatherings, was imposed on Tuesday in Lahore, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and Karachi, as well as other major cities in the country, while the Punjab government has called in the paramilitary Rangers to keep law and order.

Former Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood from Khan’s PTI said police had raided his house in the early morning hours of Wednesday.

“Police barged into my house without a warrant while I was not there. Do they really think these tactics would intimidate us?”

Meanwhile, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhary was arrested after the Punjab government said weapons were recovered from the vehicles of PTI’s Lahore office bearers.

An admin for Chaudhry’s account tweeted:

A number of other PTI office bearers were also arrested.


Pakistan fulfills another FATF condition, makes currency declaration mandatory for air travelers

Updated 5 sec ago

Pakistan fulfills another FATF condition, makes currency declaration mandatory for air travelers

  • No passenger will be able to board a flight or leave the airport without submitting the declaration form
  • The global financial watchdog praised Pakistan for implementing its recommendations in its last meeting

ISLAMABAD: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Pakistan has made it mandatory for all incoming and outgoing passengers to fill out a currency declaration form, said an official statement on Tuesday, to meet yet another requirement of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Pakistan has been on the international watchdog’s “grey list” of countries since 2018 due to inadequate controls over money laundering and terrorism financing.
However, the country moved closer to exiting the list in recent months after implementing FATF recommendations to strengthen its financial system.
The Paris-based international watchdog also praised Pakistani officials for making substantial progress while saying its team would soon carry out an onsite visit of the country.
The CAA notification on Tuesday said no passenger would be allowed to board a flight or leave the airport without submitting the declaration.
“For inbound flights, airlines are required to ensure in-flight announcement by the flight crew for every inbound flight for submission of subject declaration wherein the passengers will mention the currency under the regulatory requirement of FATF,” the notification informed.
“The said declaration will be deposited at the customs counter before the immigration desk at international arrival,” it added.
The CAA said airline staff and travel agents should provide a copy of the declaration form to all potential passengers who intend to be on an outbound flight while booking their tickets.
“At check-in counters, airlines are directed to issue boarding pass only once the passenger has deposited the declaration with the them,” the notification added.


Pakistan's finance minister criticizes manufacturers for importing parts instead of building them

Updated 19 min 35 sec ago

Pakistan's finance minister criticizes manufacturers for importing parts instead of building them

  • Miftah Ismail says cellphone manufacturers were only adding five percent value to their products
  • He points out that automobile manufacturers had not exported cars to lucrative destinations in 30 years

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail on Wednesday highlighted the structural problems of the country’s economy, saying that Pakistani companies preferred to import parts of their products instead of manufacturing them indigenously at home.

The government recently imposed a temporary ban on the import of luxury items since it was facing a massive current account deficit along with dwindling forex reserves and a rapidly depreciating currency.

The finance minister issued the statement against the same backdrop while addressing a conference of business leaders in the federal capital where he specifically mentioned the country’s cellphone and automobile manufacturers.

“We have given subsidies and 10 percent duty advantage to mobile industry to manufacture phones in Pakistan but their value addition is not more than five percent,” he said. “They get all of their parts from outside and only assemble them here. We have given double duty protection than its value addition and the same thing holds true for car manufacturing companies as well.”

Ismail noted that automobile manufacturers had been working in Pakistan for more than 30 years, but they had not exported vehicles worth a single dollar.

“Pakistani companies are selling inside the country only, though they should try to sell [their products] in rich markets of the United States, Europe and far eastern countries,” he added. “They sell locally to earn more profit because it is a protected market.”

The minister pointed out that out of Pakistan’s $30 billion exports, around $20 billion were generated by the textile sector.

“We import $80 billion worth of goods from abroad which is unsustainable,” he continued. “Our industries have to increase exports instead of only making local sales.”

Ismail also maintained that agriculture was the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, though he added it needed more innovation by adopting advanced Agri-Tech.

“My focus is to strengthen our agriculture as we have imported $450 million tons of wheat this year and more is still required,” he said.

The money spent on the import of wheat, the minister continued, could be used to support farmers and introduce latest technology in the sector.


Pakistani minister promises voting rights to overseas nationals while visiting Saudi Arabia

Updated 40 min 21 sec ago

Pakistani minister promises voting rights to overseas nationals while visiting Saudi Arabia

  • The interior minister met expats in Jeddah where he described overseas Pakistanis as country’s ‘assets’
  • The kingdom is home to the highest number of Pakistanis living abroad, making it the biggest source of remittances

ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told a group of Pakistani nationals in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday the government was finalizing the modalities of voting process for citizens living abroad ahead of the next general elections that are scheduled to take place in August next year.

The minister, who went to the kingdom to perform Umrah, met with representatives of Pakistani community in Jeddah where he described the overseas nationals as “the country’s assets.”

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Pakistani expatriates, making it the top source of remittances for the South Asian country.

“The government will ensure that overseas Pakistanis manage to use their voting right in the coming elections,” the interior minister said, adding it was “finalizing the modalities of the voting procedure.”

Pakistan’s ruling coalition revoked the voting right of overseas Pakistanis in May by passing the Election Amendment Bill, 2022, which also prevented the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections.

The country’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s administration sanctioned the use of EVMs during a joint parliamentary sitting in February, though its political rivals resisted the move and vowed to challenge it in the country’s top court.

“Overseas Pakistanis are our best national asset,” Sanaullah said. “Their remittances are key for the economic stability [of the country].”

Discussing the Pak-Saudi ties, the minister said the kingdom had always helped Pakistan in the most difficult of situations.

“We are grateful to the Saudi government for providing employment opportunities to Pakistani workers and professionals,” he added.


Five more killed in Pakistan’s flood-hit Balochistan province as torrential rains continue

Updated 17 August 2022

Five more killed in Pakistan’s flood-hit Balochistan province as torrential rains continue

  • The death toll caused by monsoon rains this year has climbed to 201 in Pakistan’s southwestern province
  • Official statistics reveal 635 people have lost their lives in the country since the beginning of monsoon season

QUETTA: Three women and two children were killed in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province on Tuesday night after their vehicle was swept away in a flash flood in Panjpai near Pishin district, said a senior official deployed in the area.

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department warned last week that torrential rains were going to lash the country's southern region, saying they would continue until August 18.

So far, 201 residents of Balochistan have lost their lives in rains and floods since the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June.

Speaking to Arab News, the deputy commissioner of Pishin, Zafar Ali, confirmed that a vehicle carrying women and children attempted to cross flood water while moving from Quetta to Killa Abdullah district when the accident took place.

“Locals told the driver to take another route since flood water was moving through the area, but he accelerated his vehicle which was swept away,” he said. “Three women and two children were killed in the incident.”

Ali informed that security forces had recovered the bodies from Mirani area of district Pishin, adding they had been handed over to the bereaved family.

Official statistics gathered by the provincial authorities reveal that more than 40,000 houses have been damaged in recent floods in Balochistan that have also affected 400,000 acres of agricultural land.

The situation has also made it difficult for the residents of the province to travel to other areas since train services to Sindh and Punjab have been suspended by the authorities.

“The district administration in Sibi has set an embankment to stop the flow of water toward the city,” Muhammad Kashif, a railway official, told Arab News. “Until water is drained out from the area, it will be difficult to resume train service since the tracks are completely covered with water.”

He informed the railway authorities were helping passengers travel to nearby towns by hiring buses, adding these people would then catch a train to their respective destinations.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to form a committee, chaired by the climate change minister, which would give its recommendations on launching projects to mitigate the impact of harsh weather conditions on the lives of people.

Pakistan is among the top eight countries most affected by climate change, though its share in the world carbon emissions is nearly one percent.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, the country has faced unprecedented downpour during the monsoon season this year which claimed 635 lives in the last two months.

The flood forecasting division of the Pakistan Meteorological Department issued an alert on Tuesday, saying India had released 171,797 cusecs water which was likely to flood rivers in Pakistan.


UAE presents Order of the Union award to Pakistan’s army chief

Updated 17 August 2022

UAE presents Order of the Union award to Pakistan’s army chief

  • General Bajwa visited the Arab state where he discussed defense cooperation with UAE officials
  • The two countries have maintained strong bilateral relations since the Arab state’s formation in 1971

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday presented a top award to Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to Abu Dhabi where he discussed defense and security cooperation with officials of the Arab country, said a statement circulated by the military’s media wing, ISPR.

Pakistan and the UAE have maintained strong bilateral relations since the Gulf state was formed in 1971.

The UAE is also the second largest source of remittances to Pakistan and has frequently provided economic and financial assistance to the South Asian nation.

According to the official statement, Bajwa met UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the visit.

“COAS [Chief of Army Staff] was ... conferred upon Order of the Union Medal by President of UAE for making significant contributions in furthering bilateral ties between both the countries,” the ISPR said.

“During the meeting matters of mutual interest, bilateral defense and security cooperation and regional security situation in the Middle East came under discussion,” the statement added.

The UAE president and the Pakistani army chief agreed the two countries shared a history of cordial relations and spirit of brotherhood which had led to an enduring partnership between them