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.


Dubai-bound Indian airline plane makes ‘emergency landing’ in Karachi

Updated 18 sec ago

Dubai-bound Indian airline plane makes ‘emergency landing’ in Karachi

  • India’s SpiceJet airline says plane diverted to Karachi due to indicator light malfunctioning
  • The B737 aircraft landed at Karachi airport at around 9am where it’s currently being repaired

ISLAMABAD: A Dubai-bound Indian airline plane on Tuesday made an “emergency landing” in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said. 

The B737 aircraft flew from New Delhi for Dubai this morning, according to the PCAA. The pilot requested Pakistani aviation authorities for an “emergency landing” because of a fuel leak. 

“An aircraft of SpiceJet going from Delhi to Dubai sought permission for emergency landing which was granted and the aircraft with 138 passengers on board landed at Karachi airport after 9am today,” PCAA spokesman Saifullah told Arab News. 

“The aircraft was diverted to Karachi airport for landing after fuel leakage.” 

SpiceJet, however, said the plane was diverted due to “indicator light malfunctioning.” 

“No emergency was declared and the aircraft made a normal landing. There was no earlier report of any malfunction with the aircraft,” the airline said in a series of tweets. 

“A replacement aircraft is being sent to Karachi that will take the passengers to Dubai.” 

The PCAA spokesman said all passengers had been moved to the transit longue of the airport, where they were provided food and refreshments. 

“The aircraft is currently being repaired,” Saifullah added. 


England to tour Pakistan for first time in 16 years from September 15

Updated 05 July 2022

England to tour Pakistan for first time in 16 years from September 15

  • England and Wales Cricket Board security team expected in Pakistan later this month to assess arrangements
  • Tour originally scheduled to be played in Rawalpindi last October but England had called off their visit

ISLAMABAD: Lahore and Karachi are likely to host seven T20Is between Pakistan and England from September 15 to October 2, ESPN cricinfo reported on Monday, quoting the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman. 

PCB is yet to announce the fixtures for the series, which will be the first instance of England touring Pakistan in 16 years. 

The England and Wales Cricket Board’s three-member security team is expected to arrive in Pakistan later this month to assess arrangements, the cricket website said. 

The matches were originally scheduled to be played in Rawalpindi last October but England had called off their visit, following New Zealand doing the same at the last minute over security issues. 

Though Pakistan have Multan and Rawalpindi as other venues to consider, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said the schedule is “very tight and we can’t go elsewhere.” 

The upcoming series is significant as England have not toured Pakistan since 2005 and two of Pakistan’s home series in 2012 and 2016 were forced to be played in the UAE. 

After England decided to withdraw their men’s and women’s teams from tours to Pakistan last year, Raja had hit out at cricket’s “western bloc.” 

The ECB cited bubble fatigue and “increasing concerns about traveling to the region” to pull out of the series. 

Following the series with England, Pakistan will depart for New Zealand on October 4 to participate in a T20I tri-series (also involving Bangladesh) in Christchurch from October 7 to 14.  

England, meanwhile, will return to Pakistan following the 2022 T20 World Cup for a three-Test series in November as part of the World Test Championship. 

England’s new white-ball captain Jos Buttler last week said he did not expect to have his best team available for the series due to fixture congestion. England’s red-ball players are unlikely to be available at the start of the limited-overs series in Pakistan, with England’s third Test against South Africa due to finish on September 12. 


Torrential rains kill seven, including women and children, in southwest Pakistan

Updated 05 July 2022

Torrential rains kill seven, including women and children, in southwest Pakistan

  • More than 300 mud houses were destroyed in Quetta after Monday’s downpours in southwestern Balochistan
  • Five people, including two young girls, went missing after a flash flood hit the city's Bhosa Mandi area

QUETTA: At least seven people, including women and children, were killed as torrential rains wreaked havoc in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan on Monday, officials said. 

The rains, which came with the onset of monsoon season in southwest Pakistan, destroyed hundreds of mud houses in the provincial capital of Quetta. 

In an alert this week, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said strong monsoon currents, which were likely to prevail for 10 days, could trigger flash floods in Balochistan and southern Sindh provinces. 

“Seven people, including three children and two women, were killed after monsoon rains hit Quetta city on July 04, 2022, while more than 300 mud houses collapsed in different neighborhoods of the city,” Naseer Khan Nasir, director-general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), told Arab News. 

He said more than 13 people were injured in different rain-related incidents, while two young girls among five others had gone missing after a flash flood hit Bhosa Mandi area of the city. 

He said rescue teams were searching for the missing people, while the district administration was distributing relief goods among people affected by the downpours. 

Sevak Kumar, who hails from Thul area of Sindh, lost six of his family members after a wall collapsed on their tent accommodation on Quetta's Link Badini Road. 

“The family members were sitting inside the tent when the mud wall collapsed due to heavy rain,” said Kumar, who along with his family came to work as laborers. "The women and children were killed on the spot." 

The rains affected telecommunication and power supply remained suspended for more than nine hours as 53 out of 90 electricity feeders tripped across the city. 

Hameed Khan Awan, a Quetta Electricity Supply Company (QESCO) official, said supply through major feeders in the city had been restored, but nearly two dozen feeders were still not functional and QESCO staffers were working on them. 

“The rains caused a breakdown in the city as dozens of electricity pylons collapsed in different areas,” Awan said. "Efforts are now under way to restore supply to areas on the outskirts of Quetta." 

The Quetta district administration has established a flood emergency control room to monitor and address any emergency situation in the city and adjacent areas. 

According to the Met Office, Quetta has so far received 22 millimeters of rain. 

Provincial Minister Mir Zia Langove, who oversees the PDMA, said the government was making relief efforts during the monsoon spell. 

“PDMA teams have reached all major affected areas and distributed food and goods among people rendered homeless after Monday’s downpour,” he told reporters in Quetta. 


Pakistan arrests key suspect in Karachi bombing that killed three Chinese nationals

Updated 05 July 2022

Pakistan arrests key suspect in Karachi bombing that killed three Chinese nationals

  • The three Chinese nationals were killed after a woman suicide bomber blew herself up at Karachi University
  • CM Shah also meets a Chinese delegation, briefs on security arrangements for 3,637 Chinese nationals in Sindh

KARACHI: Pakistan police have arrested a key suspect in connection with an April bombing that killed three Chinese nationals at a university campus in the southern port city of Karachi, a senior police official said on Monday. 

The three Chinese nationals were among four people killed on April 26, when a woman suicide bomber blew herself up outside the Confucius Institute at Karachi University. The separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Militant groups based in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province have frequently targeted Chinese interests in the country, where Beijing has invested heavily in infrastructure projects that are part of a multibillion-dollar joint regional connectivity initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

“In the in-depth investigation of the case, technical and ground sources have been utilized,” Sindh IG Ghulam Nabi Memon was quoted as saying, in a statement shared by the Sindh chief minister’s office. 

“With the efforts of the CTD Intelligence team, an important accused has been arrested. The details of the investigation have been shared with the Chinese concerned authorities.” 

The Sindh government spokesman, Murtaza Wahab, and senior police officials are due to share details of the arrest at a press conference in Karachi today, on Tuesday. 

Also at Monday’s meeting, CM Murad Ali Shah and a Chinese delegation, led by deputy director-general of China’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Gao Fei, discussed security arrangements for Chinese nationals working in Sindh, according to the statement. 

The chief minister said his government had deployed 3,361 security men, including 1500 police, 517 army personnel, 173 Rangers, 28 Frontier Corps (FC) personnel and 1,143 private security guards, for the security of 3,637 Chinese nationals, who were working on eight CPEC projects in Sindh. 

“The Chinese delegation told the chief minister that they were technically strengthening CTD and the Special Branch of Sindh Police,” the statement read. 

The Karachi University bombing was the first major attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan since last year, when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese working on the Dasu Hydropower project in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

Beijing has pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan under the CPEC framework which is central to its initiative to rebuild a new “Silk Road” through land routes and sea lanes to connect with markets in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. 


Military leaders to brief Pakistani lawmakers on talks with local Taliban today

Updated 05 July 2022

Military leaders to brief Pakistani lawmakers on talks with local Taliban today

  • Over 100 lawmakers, officials will attend the in-camera briefing at Parliament House
  • Military officials likely to brief on negotiations with the outlawed Pakistani Taliban

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) will hold an in-camera meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday, the lower house of Pakistan parliament said, which will be briefed by top military officials on talks with the Pakistani Taliban. 

Over 100 lawmakers and officials would attend the meeting to discuss the negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is a separate movement that shares common roots with the militants that took power in Afghanistan last year, local media reported. 

The TTP, which has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan since 2007, on June 4 extended a cease-fire with the government for an indefinite period, after two days of talks with a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders that were facilitated by the Afghan Taliban. 

“6th in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security will be held on Tuesday, the 5th July 2022 at 3:00 p.m. in the Chamber of National Assembly, Parliament House,” the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan parliament, said on Twitter. 

“The agenda will include the Briefing on current issues of National Security.” 

Last month, Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership after a meeting in Islamabad agreed that talks with the Pakistani Taliban were taking place within the ambit of the constitution and any decision on negotiations with the outlawed group would be taken with parliament’s approval. 

After the meeting, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah announced that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would hold an in-camera briefing in parliament to inform legislators about the progress in negotiations. 

The TTP is asking Pakistan to scrap a 2018 law that did away with the semi-independent status of the former tribal regions that dates back to the British colonial rule. The law aimed to grant equal rights to millions of residents in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) once they were incorporated into Pakistan’s authority as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

The Pakistani Taliban also want Pakistani troops to pull out of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, release all TTP fighters in government custody and revoke all cases against them.