China affirms support to Pakistan after India blocks participation in Beijing-hosted meeting 

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves while hosting the 14th BRICS Summit in Beijing on June 23, 2022. (@XHNews/Twitter)
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Updated 28 June 2022

China affirms support to Pakistan after India blocks participation in Beijing-hosted meeting 

  • China hosted 14th BRICS summit on June 23 with participation from many non-member states 
  • Pakistan earlier said its participation in the BRICS sideline dialogue was ‘blocked’ by New Delhi 

ISLAMABAD: China on Monday reaffirmed its support to Pakistan after India blocked Islamabad’s participation in a ‘High-level Dialogue on Global Development’ that was virtually hosted by Beijing on the sidelines of BRICS meetings this month, Pakistani state media reported. 

The BRICS countries comprise Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China hosted the 14th BRICS summit on June 23 and focusing on an agenda regarding the expansion of the group, invited leaders of other non-member countries including Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Thailand to its sideline meetings. 

Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, a Pakistani foreign office spokesperson, confirmed to Arab News that India had blocked Pakistan’s participation in sideline meetings. Pakistan and India have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller armed clashes, mostly over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. 

On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the decision to hold the dialogue on global development was based on consultation among BRICS countries, Pakistani state-run APP news agency reported. 

“Pakistan is an important member of the group of friends of the Global Development Initiative (GDI),” Zhao was quoted as saying at a routine media briefing. 

“China highly values the important role of Pakistan in promoting global development and advancing implementation of the UN 2030 agenda for a sustainable development and booting regional cooperation.” 

Zhao said China and Pakistan maintained close coordination and Beijing would continue to partner with Islamabad on a priority basis to implement the global development initiative. 

“We have conducted substantial cooperation in the field of development, which has delivered tangible benefits to the people of both countries and the region,” he said. 

“We will continue to work with the country (Pakistan) to advance the global development agenda.” 

Earlier in the day, the Pakistani foreign office spokesperson said China, being the host country, engaged with Pakistan prior to the BRICS meetings, where decisions were taken after consultations with all BRICS members, including extending the invitation to non-members. “Regrettably one member blocked Pakistan’s participation,” he said. 

The spokesperson hoped future engagement of the organization would be based on the “principles of inclusivity, keeping in view the overall interests of the developing world and in a manner that is devoid of narrow geopolitical considerations.” 

“Pakistan stands ready to work with all developing countries, including the BRICS members for addressing the challenges faced by the global community,” he said. 

When questioned by Arab News on the impact on Pak-China relations of Pakistan’s absence from the BRICS meeting, the foreign office spokesperson declined to comment. 

China caving in to ostensible Indian pressure comes even as ties between New Delhi and Beijing remain strained after a fatal border clash in the Galwan valley in June 2020 left at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead. 

Beijing has repeatedly said that the border standoff, which is ongoing, does not represent the entirety of China-India relations, while New Delhi has maintained that peace along the frontier is essential for the two countries to work together. 

China is India’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade expanding exponentially since the turn of the century to $95.02 billion in 2021/22. More than 100 Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises, operate in India, including electronics manufacturers that have come to dominate the country’s mobile phone market. 

Abdul Basit, a former Pakistani ambassador who has served in India, said the recent dialogue was merely a sideline meeting and would not have much impact but cautioned that Pakistan be more careful about upcoming multilateral meetings where India could attempt to harm Islamabad’s interests. 

“Pakistan must also ensure that India should not be invited to the upcoming Organization of Islamic Cooperation summits as their participation would be harmful to Pakistan,” Basit added. 

Naghmana Hashmi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to China, said Pakistan missing the sideline meeting would not have “any kind of negative impact” on Pakistan’s relations with China. 

“China wanted Pakistan to be on the table but because of the regulation of unanimous decision by all the BRICS members, they [Chinese] did not have any option left,” she added. 

Syed Muhammad Ali, a foreign and strategic affairs expert, said the Indian approach toward Pakistan’s participation was driven by “narrow and short-term geopolitical goals,” instead of a spirit of inclusivity, accommodation and cooperation. 

“This Indian attitude has also prevented SAARC, another important regional forum, from playing a more substantive and constructive role in regional cooperation and progress,” he told Arab News, referring to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an economic and political organization of eight countries in South Asia. 

Pakistan, perpetually in a brittle relationship with the United States, has leaned closely to longtime partner China in recent decades, offering its “all-weather friendship” with Beijing as an alternative to Washington. 

In 2015, China and Pakistan launched a plan for energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan worth over $60 billion, linking their economies and underscoring China’s economic ambitions in Asia and beyond. In March this year, the Pakistan Air Force showed off the latest addition to its fleet, next-generation Chinese J-10 C fighter jets, as the longtime allies counter what they see as the threat from regional military rival India. 

“Pakistan and China are all-weather strategic partners and our iron brotherhood remains rock solid,” the Pakistani foreign office statement said. “The two countries are fully committed to take our all-round cooperation to higher levels both bilaterally and multilaterally.” 

Pakistan was headed to Sri Lanka’s ‘default-like situation’ but crisis averted — finance minister

Updated 19 sec ago

Pakistan was headed to Sri Lanka’s ‘default-like situation’ but crisis averted — finance minister

  • The high price of energy imports have recently pushed Pakistan to the brink of a balance of payments crisis
  • Foreign currency reserves have fallen as low as $9.8 billion, rupee had weakened to record lows against USD

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani finance minister Miftah Ismail said on Tuesday “serious worries” that Pakistan would end up like Sri Lanka, grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, had been averted due to “significant” policy changes and austerity measures.

The high price of energy imports have recently pushed Pakistan to the brink of a balance of payments crisis. Its foreign currency reserves had fallen as low as $9.8 billion, hardly enough for five weeks of imports, and the Pakistani rupee had weakened to record lows against the US dollar this year.

But the Pakistani economy got a new lease of life when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said last month it had reached a staff-level agreement with Pakistan that would pave the way for the disbursement of $1.17 billion of a stall $6 billion loan program, if approved by the IMF board.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is caught in its worst financial crisis in more than 70 years as a shortage of foreign exchange has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of food, medicine and, critically, fuel. The economic mismanagement meltdown sparked months of mass protests and eventually forced then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country.

“There were serious worries about Pakistan heading Sri Lanka’s way, Pakistan getting into a default-like situation but thankfully we have made some significant changes, we’ve brought in significant austerity, belt-tightening and I think we have averted that situation,” Ismail said in an interview with CNBC.

He said the country was in an IMF program now and board approval was expected later this month. Without the IMF deal, which should open up other avenues for external finance, Ismail has previously said the country could have headed toward default.

The government had also raised taxes, removed unfunded subsidies on the oil and power sectors and reduced imports in recent weeks, the minister added, to help push the country out of economic difficulty.

The measures also, however, increased inflation, with Pakistan’s consumer price index (CPI) rising 21.3 percent in June from a year earlier, the South Asian nation’s highest inflation in 13 years. In May, the CPI was up 13.8 percent on the year.

But Ismail insisted Pakistan was now “headed in the right direction,” blaming rising inflation on a “challenging environment internationally,” especially the rise in the prices of oil, edible oil and commodities globally.

“In the last week, our currency actually has come back about seven percent or so against the US dollar,” the minister said. “If we had gone the Sri Lankan way it would have been much worse.”

Last month, Ismail said Pakistan was likely to get $4 billion from friendly countries to bridge a gap in foreign reserves highlighted by the International Monetary Fund.

“As per the IMF, there is a $4 billion gap,” Ismail told a news conference in Islamabad, referring to the shortfall in foreign reserves.

“We will, God willing, fill this gap in the month of July,” he said. “We think that we will get $1.2 billion in deferred oil payment from a friendly country. We think that a foreign country will invest between $1.5 to $2 billion in stocks on a G2G (government-to-government) basis, and another friendly country will perhaps give us gas on deferred payment and another friendly country will make some deposits.”

Ex-PM Khan’s chief of staff arrested day after ‘seditious’ comments against army

Updated 09 August 2022

Ex-PM Khan’s chief of staff arrested day after ‘seditious’ comments against army

  • In news segment on Monday, hosts and Khan chief of staff discussed alleged media cell set up by ruling PMLN party to malign PTI
  • Dr. Shahbaz Gill’s comments tantamount to inciting “ranks and files of armed forces toward revolt,” electronic media regulator says

ISLAMABAD: Dr Shahbaz Gill, a senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former prime minister Imran Khan’s chief of staff, was arrested on Tuesday, the PTI said, a day after he made comments in a TV show that the national media regulator said were “seditious.”

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had issued a show-cause notice on Monday night to a private TV channel, ARY News, for airing a segment that included Gill’s comments, viewed as critical of the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as well as the high command of the Pakistan army.

In the segment, two hosts and Gill alleged that Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had activated a “strategic media cell” to malign the PTI and its chairman and build a public narrative that the party was against Pakistan’s all-powerful army.

Gill also advised army officers during the show not to follow orders of their top command if they were “against the sentiments of the masses.”

Hours after the segment was aired, ARY News executives said the channel had been taken off air across the country. On Tuesday afternoon, the PTI announced Gill's arrest.

“After the ban on ARY yesterday, they’ve today arrested @SHABAZGIL,” Khan's PTI party said in a Twitter post. “We strongly demand the immediate release of Dr Gill.”

The PTI also said Gill was attacked and his assistant was roughed up.

“In which democracy people are arrested like this,” the party said in a post showing a video of Gill’s car with a broken window.

Another PTI leader, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, said Gill had been “abducted” while driving to Khan’s residence by people who “came in vehicles without numberplates,” a widely used euphemism for intelligence officials.

ARY News is widely seen as being partial to ex-premier Imran Khan’s opposition PTI party, with criticism of the Sharif government’s political and economic policies a regular feature of news bulletins and current affairs shows.

In its show-cause notice, PEMRA said on Monday that the arrested PTI leader had made “highly hateful and seditious comments” which amounted to inciting the armed forces to rebel against their leaders.

“Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individual who intent to spread malice and hatred against the state institutions for their vested interests,” the notice to the channel read, saying this was against the country’s constitution.

The regulator directed the chief executive officer of the channel to show cause in writing within three days, explaining why legal action should not be initiated against the channel for violating the law and the constitution.

On Monday evening, officials of the ARY channel said it had been taken off air in a number of cities.

“On the orders of PEMRA, cable operators across Pakistan have started removing ARY News from their cable network. Watch ARY News Live on Youtube,” Ammad Yousaf, senior executive vice president of ARY News, said.

The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) confirmed to Arab News the suspension of the channel’s transmission across Pakistan, saying it was done on the instructions of PEMRA.

“We have received verbal instructions from PEMRA about an hour ago to off air ARY News,” Wahaj Siraj, convener ISPAK and co-founder of Nayatel, a major Internet service provider, told Arab News. “No reason is given to us to off air the channel, and this is being done almost across Pakistan now.”

The channel was still off air as of Tuesday afternoon.

Pakistan’s election agency begins voter verification after 20,000 centenarians found in database

Updated 09 August 2022

Pakistan’s election agency begins voter verification after 20,000 centenarians found in database

  • According to the 2017 census, only 3.7 percent of the country’s population is aged 65 or above
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan is expected to publish the final list of voters in the ongoing month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulatory authority has started door-to-door verification of elderly voters after more than 20,000 of them were found to be between the ages of 100 and 142, reported the local media on Tuesday.

The country is said to have one of the youngest populations in the world. According to the 2017 census, 40.3 percent of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 15 while only 3.7 percent is aged 65 or more.

“Over 20,000 voters registered on the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) voters’ list have been found to be aged between 100 and 142 years, many of them possibly eyewitness of the British colonial rule, World War II and the creation of Pakistan,” the Express Tribune reported.

It added the door-to-door verification process would continue until August 13.

The ECP is expected to publish the final list of voters during the ongoing month after thoroughly reviewing its database.

At present, the election agency’s record reflects a total of 11,760 female and 8,590 male Pakistani citizens above the age of 100 in the country.

“In Sindh, over 8,633 centenarian voters belong to Karachi, including 4,301 females and 4,332 males,” the newspaper reported.

The ECP said earlier this month it had completed the process of delimitation of constituencies for national and provincial assemblies and was in a position to hold general elections in the country.

Pakistan PM condemns suicide attack that killed four soldiers in North Waziristan

Updated 09 August 2022

Pakistan PM condemns suicide attack that killed four soldiers in North Waziristan

  • Sharif says the nation will continue to fight until the ‘scourge of terrorism’ was completely eliminated
  • The country’s intelligence agencies are trying to get information on the bomber and his handlers

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday condemned a suicide attack on a military convoy in Pakistan’s North Waziristan district which claimed the lives of four soldiers earlier in the day.

The military media wing, ISPR, confirmed the development in a statement, saying the incident had taken place in the settlement of Mir Ali.

Pakistan’s northwestern region has also witnessed similar attacks in the past since the US-led international coalition invaded neighboring Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The international forces pulled out of the war-ravaged country in August last year, though violent incidents in Pakistan’s border regions near Afghanistan have not ended yet.

“I feel sorrow and grief over the martyrdom of four soldiers as a result of suicide attack in North Waziristan,” the prime minister said in a statement. “The nation will continue to fight until the scourge of terrorism ends.”

Sharif paid tribute to soldiers who lost their lives while fighting against militant outfits.

According to the ISPR statement, the country’s intelligence agencies are trying to find out more about the suicide bomber and his handlers and facilitators.

“Pakistan Army is determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices of our brave soldiers will not go unpunished,” it added.

India’s Neeraj Chopra wishes Arshad Nadeem ‘all the best’ after new record, gold at Commonwealth Games

Updated 09 August 2022

India’s Neeraj Chopra wishes Arshad Nadeem ‘all the best’ after new record, gold at Commonwealth Games

  • The two South Asian athletes first met in India in 2016 when they were still in their teenage
  • Nadeem is the first South Asian athlete who has breached the 90-meter barrier in an international contest

ISLAMABAD: A leading Indian athlete, Neeraj Chopra, congratulated his Pakistani rival and friend, Arshad Nadeem, after the latter shared the video of his record-breaking, 90-meter javelin throw at the Commonwealth Game on Instagram that helped him earn a gold for his country.

The two sportsmen first met in 2016 as teenagers when Nadeem visited India to participate in an international competition. Ever since, they have competed with each other in several international contests, including the Olympic Games held last year where Chopra secured the top position for his country.

Nadeem made history in the early hours of Monday while participating in the Men’s Javelin Throw Final, setting the new record at the games and snatching the title in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters.

His performance not only made him the first Pakistani, but also the only South Asian, to breach the 90-meter barrier in the sport.

“Congratulations Arshad bhai [brother] for gold medal and crossing 90mtr with new games record,” Chopra said while commenting on Nadeem’s social media post.

The Indian athlete, who could not represent his country at the Commonwealth Games due to a groin injury, also wished him luck for future competitions.
Asked about Chopra’s absence from the competition, Nadeem said he “missed” him at the games.

“May God grant him good health,” he added. “It would have been more fun if he were here.”