Aid trickles in from Pakistan, Qatar, Iran after deadly Afghanistan quake

Volunteers from the Al-Khidmat Foundation load sacks of flour on a truck for the people affected by the earthquake in Afghanistan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on June 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Aid trickles in from Pakistan, Qatar, Iran after deadly Afghanistan quake

  • An estimated 1,000 people were killed and 70 percent of houses destroyed in Paktika province
  • Trucks with food and emergency supplies reached the quake-hit region by road from Pakistan

KABUL/PESHAWAR: Pakistan said on Thursday it had sent special medical teams to Afghanistan while aid also trickled in from Qatar and Iran, as rescuers in the country’s east continued efforts to help survivors of a deadly earthquake that officials said killed at least 1,000 people.

An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 hit areas of Paktika and Khost provinces neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday night, flattening homes as people slept.

Paktika was worst affected, with officials estimating more than 1,000 people were killed and over 1,500 injured in the province’s Gayan and Barmal districts alone.

The extent of the destruction in the villages tucked away in the mountains was slow in coming to light, as search and rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain and poor connectivity in the affected areas. UN World Food Program teams deployed to deliver emergency supplies estimated more than 70 percent of homes in the worst-hit regions had been destroyed.

“The whole area looks like an open camp,” Qais Mohammad Muslim, an aid worker who arrived in Gayan district, told Arab News. “People have no shelter and no food to eat. The aid that reached the area so far is little and insufficient.”




A child walks out from inside a gate of a house damaged by an earthquake in Bernal district, Paktika province, on June 23, 2022. (AFP)

Paktika resident Abdul Qudos said he had never experienced a quake “as powerful and destructive.”

“Entire villages were drowned in soil in Barmal and Gayan districts. There are families who lost all members,” he said. “We must do everything possible to help them. The international community has to deliver urgent aid to avoid further damage and loss.”

Response efforts are complicated as rescuers work without heavy equipment and proper medical support, after many international organizations pulled out of the aid-dependent country when the Taliban seized power after the withdrawal of US-led forces last August after two decades of war.

The Taliban government has requested foreign assistance, and its chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday aircraft with aid had arrived from Qatar and Iran, and trucks with food and emergency supplies reached had Paktika by road from Pakistan.

“Twenty special medical teams comprising orthopedic surgeons, medical officers, nurses and paramedical staff, medicines, 100 advanced medical beds sent,” Muhammad Ali Said, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, told Arab News. “All DHQs [district headquarter] and civil hospitals on high alert in North and South waziristan tribal districts to deal with any emergency in case of patients’ arrival from the neighboring country.”

But more aid is needed.

Naeem Hakim from the Afghan aid group Ehsas Welfare and Social Services Organization, who arrived in Paktika on Wednesday, said local hospitals were struggling to treat the injured.

“There’s an urgent need for blood (for) the seriously injured, and medicine,” he told Arab News. “Six hundred to 700 wounded people have been brought to the nearest hospital in Urgun district since yesterday. Around 200 are still there today. The more serious ones are transferred to the military hospital in the provincial capital Sharana, the provincial hospital and hospitals in Gardez and Ghazni.”

The quake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 1998, when magnitude 6.5 tremors killed more than 4,000 people in Takhar province in the country’s north.

Ramiz Alakbarov, UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday at least $15 million in aid was needed to respond to the disaster, a figure that is expected to rise in the coming days.


Pakistan’s army bid farewell to Gen Nadeem Raza in transition of military leadership 

Updated 42 min 9 sec ago

Pakistan’s army bid farewell to Gen Nadeem Raza in transition of military leadership 

  • Raza will be succeeded by Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as new head of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee 
  • Mirza, who comes from Sindh Regiment, has had illustrious career and served in multiple leadership roles 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army on Friday bid farewell to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza, the Pakistani military said, in a transition of military leadership which put to rest widespread speculation earlier this week. 
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday picked Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the CJCSC and Lt Gen Asim Munir as the new chief of the country’s all-powerful army, ending uncertainty surrounding the high-profile appointment that caused months of political instability in Pakistan. 
The office of the army chief is arguably the most influential position in Pakistan, given the country’s turbulent history of civil-military relations. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for around half of its 75-year history and enjoys extensive powers even under civilian administrations. 
To bid farewell to the outgoing CJCSC, a special ceremony was held at the Pakistani military’s Joint Staff Headquarters, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, said in a statement. The ceremony was attended by former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and senior officials of the tri-services. 
In his farewell address, General Raza thanked the Almighty for enabling him to discharge his duties to the best of his abilities and applauded the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces in the defense of Pakistan. 
“[The] defense of the country is impregnable and gallant soldiers will not hesitate in making it even more formidable,” he was quoted as saying by the ISPR. 
The outgoing CJCSC was also presented a ‘Guard of Honour’ by a smartly turned out tri-services contingent at the venue. 
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee works for coordination among the three branches of the military, while its chairman also serves as the principal military adviser to the prime minister. 
CJCSC-designate Mirza will be taking over the office after the retirement of Gen Raza following his 41 years of military service. Mirza, who comes from the army’s Sindh Regiment, has had an illustrious career and has served in multiple leadership roles in the army. 
He came into the spotlight after he became the director-general of military operations in the last two years of former army chief Raheel Sharif’s tenure. 
Since his elevation to the rank of a three-star general, Mirza has served as the chief of general staff — the second-most powerful position in the army after the chief himself — and then the commander of the army’s 10th Corps. 
In accordance with the constitutional procedures, President Arif Alvi ratified the appointments of the CJCSC and the army chief Thursday evening, with some experts expressing concerns Alvi might not immediately ratify the prime minister’s summary to prolong the process. 
The fears were raised in the backdrop of ex-prime minister Imran Khan, a chief rival of Sharif, saying in an interview on Wednesday the president, a close aide and member of Khan’s party, was in contact with him and would consult him on the appointments on the top slots.


Interior minister asks ex-PM Khan to return to parliament, hold dialogue for early elections

Updated 26 November 2022

Interior minister asks ex-PM Khan to return to parliament, hold dialogue for early elections

  • Khan has asked his supporters to gather in Rawalpindi today, in a final showdown with government
  • Intelligence agencies have warned of a threat to Khan’s rally in Rawalpindi, interior minister says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday asked former prime minister Imran Khan to return to parliament and hold a dialogue with the government and its allies for early elections, a day before the ex-premier is scheduled to hold a massive rally in a final showdown with the government.

Ex-PM Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, resigned from his parliamentary membership a day later. His resignation followed mass resignations of members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from parliament.

The former premier has since been agitating against the coalition government of PM Shehbaz Sharif and has held several rallies in a bid to pressure the government into announcing snap polls in the South Asian country, which are scheduled to be held in the latter half of 2023.

In a final showdown with government, Khan has urged his supporters to gather in the garrison city of Rawalpindi today, Saturday, for a massive protest against his ouster, but Sanaullah advised Khan to “act like a politician” in order to achieve his goal, instead of being “obstinate.”

“Don’t be obstinate. If you want a date for the election, then act like a politician, sit with other politicians [and] have a dialogue,” the minister said on Twitter.

He also told Khan that he should not pin his hopes on the country’s army, which even when not in power is the invisible guiding hand of politics in the country, as the army as an institution would not go beyond its constitutional role.

“Come back and become a part of the parliament. Let the political and democratic process go forward.”

Khan says his ouster was part of a United States-backed foreign conspiracy for pursuing an independent foreign policy for Pakistan. Washington and Khan’s opponents have repeatedly denied the allegation.

Late last month, he launched a march toward the Pakistani capital of Islamabad from the eastern city of Lahore, which was ended this week upon reaching Rawat town near the capital.

The former premier has also been increasingly critical of Pakistan’s powerful army and its outgoing chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, for not blocking his ouster and maintains he has been protesting for a “free” Pakistani nation.

Sanaullah also asked Khan not to pin his hopes on the country’s establishment, a term that is synonymous to the all-powerful army in Pakistan’s context, and said the army as an institution would neither step back from or go beyond its constitutional role.

Pakistan’s army has ruled the South Asian country for nearly half of its 75-year history, and even when not in power, it is seen as the invisible guiding hand in the country’s politics.

Sanaullah also asked the former prime minister to postpone his anti-government rally in Rawalpindi, saying intelligence agencies had warned that a militant attack could target the gathering.

Prior to that, the provincial government in Punjab, which Rawalpindi is a part of, said it had made arrangements to provide “foolproof” security to Khan and his protest rally.


Pakistan PM invites Turkiye to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional progress

Updated 26 November 2022

Pakistan PM invites Turkiye to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional progress

  • Shehbaz Sharif says he will discuss the matter with Chinese leadership, if Turkiye agrees to the idea
  • Pakistan prime minister vows to make all-out efforts to achieve the target of $5 billion bilateral trade

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday invited Turkiye to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to bring about regional prosperity, alleviate poverty and empower people through better education and health facilities, Pakistani state media reported.

Sharif arrived in Turkiye on Friday on a two-day visit that he said would unpack the “untapped potential” of bilateral ties between the two countries.

The prime minister vowed to boost Pakistan-Turkiye trade and defense cooperation to $5 billion, inviting Turkiye to join CPEC, a major segment of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

Under the $65 billion project, Beijing is building a network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan that will connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy.

“I would suggest that let this be a cooperation between China, Pakistan and Turkiye. This would be a wonderful joint cooperation. This will bring prosperity and progress to this entire region,” Pakistan’s APP news agency quoted Sharif as saying at a joint press stakeout with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“This will help alleviate poverty and unemployment. This will certainly empower our poor people. This will promote education and health. This is how we can meet the challenges of today.”

Sharif said he would be “happy” to discuss the matter with the Chinese leadership, if Turkiye moved ahead on the idea of joining the CPEC.

In their meeting, the two leaders underscored the effective implementation of a trade and goods agreement the two countries signed in August this year, according to the report.

Sharif said the $1 billion trade volume between Pakistan and Turkiye did not reflect the close brotherly relations and promised to make all-out efforts to achieve the target of $5 billion trade between the two countries.

Erdogan said both countries were hopeful of further increasing their relations in trade, defense and other sectors.

Expressing grief over the deaths and destruction caused by the recent floods in Pakistan, the Turkish president said, “Our solidarity has been shown to each other during challenging times… Pakistan’s joy is our joy and their grief is our grief.”

The deadly floods, blamed on climate change, killed more than 1,700 Pakistanis, affected 33 million others and caused the country more than $30 billion losses earlier this year.


In northwest Pakistan, one police official bans music and dance at wedding ceremonies

Updated 25 November 2022

In northwest Pakistan, one police official bans music and dance at wedding ceremonies

  • Some people of Shahpur community say they should be free to mourn and celebrate their grief and joy in traditional ways
  • CCPO Peshawar maintains the decision was to curb crimes, discourage use of narcotics at parties and prevent aerial firing

PESHAWAR: A police official in Peshawar decided to impose a ban on music and dance during wedding ceremonies in areas falling under his jurisdiction earlier this week, saying such festivities were against religion and directing all residents to abide by his decision.
Peshawar is the capital of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which is thought to be a conservative region of the country.
According to media reports, the provincial assembly speaker also asked traffic police recently to ban music in vehicles providing transport services to students of public and private education institutions.
“Yes, we have taken the decision [to ban music and dance at wedding parties],” Abdul Ali Khan, station house officer (SHO) at the Shahpur police station, told Arab News on Thursday. “You should ask yourself if these [music and dance] are good things.”
A resident of the area, Ulas Muhammad Zai, confirmed that the SHO had convened a meeting of local elders earlier this week and verbally instructed them to ban music and dance during wedding ceremonies.
“There are countless un-Islamic practices taking place in our society on a daily basis,” he said. “Police should adopt measures to curb those practices instead. They should let people mourn and celebrate their grief and joy according to their traditions.”
However, the SHO also found support among some community members.
Malik Roshan, another Shahpur resident, said he was present at the meeting and decided to support the ban.
“The police officer didn’t stop us from celebrating,” he continued. “He just directed people of the locality to celebrate their weddings within certain moral boundaries.”
Asked about the development, Peshawar's Capital City Police Officer Muhammad Ijaz Khan said no official notification had been issued which was binding on people, adding that the SHO had only taken the decision to ensure the security of his area.
The CCPO maintained the ban on dance parties during the wedding ceremonies was only to curb crimes, discourage the use of narcotics and prevent aerial firing.
“In the past, we have had precedents when these music and dance parties turned violent, ending up in armed clashes and putting people’s lives in danger,” he added. “The SHO imposed the ban from a security viewpoint, not an Islamic perspective.”
Commenting on the development, Qamar Naseem, a civil society activist, said the ban on entertainment programs was an arbitrary decision and a clear human rights violation.
He maintained if the police feared that criminals were forcing their ways into such gatherings, they should view it as an opportunity to apprehend such elements.
“Will we shut down the motorway if we observe a surge in accidents,” he said while giving an analogy. “Banning music is against law and the police official is clearly overstepping his authority here. The police are legally mandated to implement existing laws, not enact new ones.”


Pakistan PM invites Turkish investment in renewable energy to cut carbon emissions

Updated 25 November 2022

Pakistan PM invites Turkish investment in renewable energy to cut carbon emissions

  • Shehbaz Sharif inaugurates the third of the four MILGEM corvette ship for Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul shipyard
  • The prime minister says Pakistan and Turkey are deeply engaged in promoting defense capabilities for peace

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday Pakistan and Turkey had huge potential to collaborate in the field of alternative energy while addressing a ceremony in Istanbul to launch a warship for his country’s naval forces.

Sharif arrived in Turkey earlier in the day on a visit that he said would unpack the “untapped potential” of bilateral ties between the two countries.

Together with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he inaugurated one of the four MILGEM corvette ship for the Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul shipyard.

He applauded the defense cooperation between the two countries while urging to expand it further in other areas of strategic importance.

The prime minister specifically mentioned how a developing country like Pakistan had to pay high import bills for petroleum and energy products while emphasizing the significance of producing clean and renewable energy.

“We immediately want to shift to solar energy, towards wind power, towards hydel power generation,” Sharif told the participants of the ceremony. “Turkish investors have great potential to invest in these fields. I want to make use of this opportunity to propose to you that let’s join hands together and get rid of high carbon emissions, cut our import bills and let’s really promote investments in these fields.”

 

The prime minister praised the MILGEM project, which his country signed with a Turkish state-owned defense contractor in 2018, under which the Pakistan Navy would get four warships from Turkey.

“It is another great day in our historical relations and brotherhood to be here and witness the launching of second MILGEM corvette, Khyber, for Pakistan Navy,” he said.

Sharif noted the two countries had strong bilateral relations and had always helped each other.

“Pakistan and Turkey are deeply engaged in promoting our defense capabilities for peace and to ward off aggression,” he continued. “Let’s further enhance our production capacities. Let’s further cooperate in this field.”

Addressing the ceremony, President Erdogan also applauded the defense cooperation between the two countries while saying that four corvettes were produced under the MILGEM project: Two of them were developed in Turkey while two were built in Pakistan.

According to Pakistan’s APP news agency, he said that his government wanted Turkey to reach the top of the global defense industry, adding that his country would also launch homegrown drone and fighter jet in the coming year.