Congo virus threat looms in southwest Pakistan ahead of Eid Al-Adha

People gather for shopping at a market in Quetta, Pakistan, on April 10, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 July 2022

Congo virus threat looms in southwest Pakistan ahead of Eid Al-Adha

  • Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province reported four cases of Congo virus in the month of June
  • Cattle markets being fumigated to curb virus spread, animals vaccinated against lumpy skin disease

QUETTA: The number of Congo virus cases could rise in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan ahead of Eid Al-Adha, a top health official said on Friday, weeks after the province reported four cases of the virus. 

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, or Congo virus, is an infectious disease transmitted by ticks to humans and animals. These ticks can be found on the skin of goats, sheep, cows, buffalos and camels that are sacrificed by Muslims during the Islamic festival of Eid Al-Adha. 

The disease, which is still endemic in Africa and parts of Asia, has a high fatality rate of 10-40 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 




This undated file photo shows the premises of the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in Quetta, in Pakistan's Balochistan province. (Photo courtesy: social media)

Balochistan last month reported at least 16 suspected cases of the virus, of which four people tested positive who were treated at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital in the provincial capital of Quetta.  

"Sixteen suspicious Congo cases were brought to the Fatima Jinnah Hospital. Two of them were in critical condition who were discharged in the last week of June," Dr Saqiq Baloch, the hospital's medical superintendent, told Arab News. 

"Following the imminent threat of Congo, we are prepared to handle any emergency-like situation and have urged livestock officials to fumigate cattle markets with anti-Congo spray." 

Just like elsewhere in the Muslim world, people have been preparing for Eid Al-Adha, one of the two biggest religious festivals in the Islamic calendar, and buying animals to offer as sacrifice. 

With the influx of livestock traders from Sindh and Punjab provinces, the threat of a spread of Congo virus and other diseases has also increased in Balochistan. 

The Balochistan Livestock Department has intensified fumigation across the province against the Congo virus and deputed teams at entrances to the province to check and administer lumpy skin disease (LSD) vaccines to animals. 

“A total of 8,150 cases of LSD have been reported in many districts of the province, particularly those bordering Sindh and Punjab, since the outbreak was first reported in Pakistan,” said Dr Jumma Babar, director of the Balochistan Animal Health Department. 

"The Animal Health Department has started a mass vaccination campaign in Lasbela, Uthal and Jaffarabad districts that has been effective in controlling the spread of the disease." 

Prevalent in Africa since 1929, LSD is transmitted by bloodsucking insects like ticks and mosquitoes. It does not affect people and is rarely fatal. In Pakistan, LSD was first reported in animals in the Punjab province in October 2021. 

Khuda Buksh, 40, who came to main cattle market in Quetta to buy animals, said previously they only heard of the Congo virus, but this Eid season they have been hearing about LSD too, which is why a majority people are buying small animals. 

“We have seen people splashing spray on animals in the market and hope this would be helpful in eradicating the disease among sacrificial animals,” Buksh told Arab News. 

Muhammad Yousuf, a 38-year-old trader who brought with him 35 cattle from Sindh's Jacobabad district, said they await customers throughout the day, but a majority of people is interested in buying goats and sheep instead of cows and buffaloes. 

“We haven’t heard about this animal pox disease before, but many customers here keenly observe the cattle skin. This would impact our business this Eid season,” Yousuf said. 


Pakistani journalists vow resistance after government cancels NOC of main TV channel

Updated 12 August 2022

Pakistani journalists vow resistance after government cancels NOC of main TV channel

  • ARY News was pulled off air earlier this week after airing controversial remarks by ex-PM’s aide
  • Journalists say move ‘unprecedented,’ tantamount to putting an end to independent media

KARACHI: Pakistani journalists vowed on Friday to resist the interior ministry’s move to cancel the no-objection certificate (NOC) of one of the country’s leading TV channels, ARY News, which was taken off air earlier this week.

ARY News was taken off air in several cities of Pakistan on Monday night after former prime minister Imran Khan’s top aide, Dr. Shehbaz Gill said military personnel should not follow the commands of their top officials if they were “against the sentiments of the masses.” Pakistan’s media regulator said Gill’s comments amounted to inciting mutiny within the army.  

Gill was arrested on Tuesday for his comments on charges of inciting a revolt within the Pakistani armed forces. The channel’s news head, Ammad Yousaf, was also picked up from his Karachi residence earlier this week. He was released on Thursday on the directives of a court in Karachi.  

The Ministry of Interior said on Friday it had cancelled “with immediate effect and until further orders,” an NOC in favor of M/S ARY Communications (ptv.) limited – ARY News – on the basis of “adverse reports from agencies.”

After the notification, journalist groups said they would resist the move.

“Even the martial regime didn’t resort to such oppressive measures. The cancelation of NOC to ARY is unprecedented thing, which if not taken back will leave far reaching negative impact over the media in Pakistan,” Fazil Jamili, president of the Karachi Press Club, told Arab News.

He said journalists had earlier opposed the previous government’s measures aimed at gagging media and will not allow the present government to do the same.

“We have a clear-cut stance and a very clear message for the government that it should refrain from taking actions to curtail the media and curb freedom of speech,” he said.

Karachi Union of Journalists -Dastoor (KUJ-D) secretary general Moosa Kaleem said shutting a TV channel was tantamount to putting an end to independent media in the country.

“The government should immediately take back notification and if it went ahead to close the channel, journalists would resist the move strongly,” Kaleem told Arab News.

He added that the government had the right to regulate media but not to close it down.

“If a politician has said something (that raises) objections, PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) can assess the role of the TV channel and can make mechanism for not airing anything which is unlawful in future,” he said. “But taking back NOC tells that the intention of government to attack the channel under excuse of a remark by a politician.”

ARY News owner Salman Iqbal told Arab News the channel’s NOC had been revoked suddenly and unilaterally.

“The government’s oppressive action will render my 4,000 employees jobless, depriving more than 35,000 people of their livelihood,” he said.

“What crime have we committed? We are being punished for a statement by a politician which we have already disowned. But such stern action after a clarification shows that the government has made its mind to silence a critical voice.”


Protests break out in northwestern Pakistan after reports of TTP presence in Swat Valley

Updated 12 August 2022

Protests break out in northwestern Pakistan after reports of TTP presence in Swat Valley

  • Thousands of families were forced to flee Swat in 2009 as security operations against militants were underway
  • Provincial government says writ of state will be ensured, peace will not be sabotaged

PESHAWAR: Thousands of people held demonstrations in two main towns of Swat Valley in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Friday, after reports of Pakistani Taliban militants’ presence in the area.  

The Pakistani Taliban — known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — have carried out some of the bloodiest attacks inside Pakistan since 2007, including a 2014 assault on a school in which 134 students were killed. The group is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, but pledges allegiance to them.

Pakistan has since 2007 launched a number of military operations against the TTP, but despite reducing the militant group’s footprint — with most fighters fleeing to neighboring Afghanistan — it has not been able to fully stop attacks, which had begun to rise again along its western border in recent months.

In June, the TTP extended a ceasefire with the government, after talks facilitated by the Afghan Taliban.

As peace negotiations continue, local media over the past couple of days have been reporting that the TTP has been present in Swat Valley, which used to be the group’s bastion until a 2009 army offensive drove them out. Thousands of families in the region were displaced during the military operation.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Kabal and Khwazakhela towns in Swat chanting: “We want peace on our land and we denounce terrorism on our soil”.

Fawad Khan, one of the protest leaders in Kabal, said that security situation in the area started deteriorating when the government resumed peace talks with the TTP resumed.

“Through our today’s demonstration, we made it clear not to allow the repetition of a situation that Swat had experienced a decade ago when militants were beheading people and blowing up educational institutions,” he said.  

“We’re denouncing militancy and demanding peace. We have observed militants are forcing their way into Swat. But this time around, we’ve pledged to protect our people and land with our blood.”

Ikram Hussain, a civil society member in Khwazakhela, told Arab News there was “a fresh cycle of violence to sabotage our peaceful life again.”

“We’ve demonstrated our resolve not to allow anyone to play with our lives,” he said.

Provincial government spokesperson Muhammad Ali Saif said his administration was monitoring developments in the region.  

“We’re aware of protests in Swat. We’ve directed local authorities to tackle demands of the people,” Saif told Arab News. “We will not allow elements to sabotage peace. We’ve decided to deal with those challenging the writ of the government with iron hands.”


Three Pakistani mountaineers break records after summiting Gasherbrum-I

Updated 12 August 2022

Three Pakistani mountaineers break records after summiting Gasherbrum-I

  • Shehroze Kashif, Sirbaz Khan and Naila Kiani summit Gasherbrum-I on Friday
  • Kashif becomes youngest climber to summit all five peaks of eight-thousanders

KHAPLU, GILGIT-BALTISTAN: Three Pakistani mountaineers on Friday summited the eleventh highest mountain in the world, Gasherbrum-I (G-I), located above 8,000 meters, breaking a couple of records in the process.  

G-1 stands 8,080 meters above sea level and is located in Pakistan’s Karakorum mountain range, which spans the international boundaries of India, Pakistan and China.  

Pakistan’s Shehroze Kashif, 20, summited the mountain early morning today, Friday. He became the youngest climber in the world and the first-ever Pakistani to summit all five peaks of the eight-thousanders—the 14 mountains in the world that stand above 8,000 feet—located in Pakistan.  

“Alhamdulillah, today at 4:09 a.m. PST, #ShehrozeKashif has summited Gasherbrum I 8,080m,” Kashif’s account wrote on Twitter.  

 

His father, Salman Kashif, told Arab News excitedly the mountaineer will leave Pakistan soon in his bid to summit all of the 14 tallest mountains in the world. 

 “Now, he will climb Mt Shishapangma (Tibet), Cho Oyu (Nepal), Annapurna (Nepal) and Dhaulagiri (Nepal) to complete his 14 peaks,” he added.  

On Wednesday, Kashif became the youngest mountaineer in the world to scale Gasherbrum-II, the thirteenth highest mountain in the world.  

Sirbaz Khan, who hails from Pakistan’s mountainous Hunza Valley in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, also summited G-I on Friday, becoming the first Pakistani to scale 12 of the world’s top 14 peaks.  

Following Kashif, Khan also became the second Pakistani to scale all five peaks of the eight-thousanders located in Pakistan.  

“Sirbaz summited the mountain without using supplementary oxygen. With this summit, Sirbaz has summited all 8,000 peaks in Pakistan and Nepal,” Saad Munawar, Khan’s manager, wrote on Facebook.  

Meanwhile, Dubai-based Pakistani mountaineer Naila Kiani became the first female climber from Pakistan to summit G-I. She has so far summited three of the eight-thousanders.  

“No doubt! It’s a very happy and proud movement for Pakistan as our three Pakistani [mountaineers] Shehroze Kashif, Naila Kiani and Sirbaz Khan, summited G-I today, setting new records,” Karrar Haidri, secretary general of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told Arab News. 

In July, Kiani added another feather to her cap when she became the first female Pakistani mountaineer to successfully climb the world’s thirteenth highest mountain, Gasherbrum-II.  

Karrar said that for the first time ever, over 1,700 mountaineers and trekkers had arrived in Pakistan and over 160 summited K2 alone. “It’s a record in history,” he added.  


Army chief addresses graduation ceremony at UK's Sandhurst, congratulates cadets including two Pakistanis

Updated 12 August 2022

Army chief addresses graduation ceremony at UK's Sandhurst, congratulates cadets including two Pakistanis

  • Army chief attends UK military academy’s passing-out-parade
  • Armies exist to ensure wars do not take place, says General Bajwa

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa addressed a passing-out parade at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) on Friday, during which he congratulated cadets, which included two Pakistanis, for successfully completing their training.  

Bajwa arrived in the UK on Thursday during which he met the country’s military officials. He attended the RMAS passing-out parade on Friday.  

RMAS trains cadets to take on the responsibility to lead soldiers in battle. Considered one of the finest military academies around the globe, RMAS has trained cadets from several countries.  

During his address, Bajwa congratulated the graduating cadets for working hard throughout their time at the academy, paying credit to their families for supporting them consistently.  

“Two Pakistani cadets would also be graduating with you today. Let me say that I am as proud of you all, as I am proud of them,” he said.  

The army chief emphasized the importance of armies around the world, saying that they should exist to prevent conflict rather than fan it.  

“The primary reason for armed forces to exist today, should not be to prosecute wars, but to ensure that they do not take place,” he said.  

Pakistan’s army chief urged people to come together and take the route of peace rather than conflict and choose “communication instead of clash and multilateralism instead of self-preservation.” 

Bajwa advised cadets to adapt to technological changes in warfare brought about by the industrial revolution, adding that artificial intelligence was altering the course of wars.  

“The battlefield of tomorrow would be characterized by extreme precision, lethality and transparency which would be particularly challenging for military leaders, especially young officers in the battle, both mentally and physically,” he explained.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the army chief's address at the UK military academy as the chief guest is a matter of honour not just for Pakistan's armed forces, but the whole country. 

 

 

"This is a recognition of the Pakistan-UK strategic partnership & the success of our armed forces in war on terror," he wrote on Twitter. 


In Pakistan’s southwest, Royal Palace of Kalat where Jinnah was weighed in gems

Updated 12 August 2022

In Pakistan’s southwest, Royal Palace of Kalat where Jinnah was weighed in gems

  • Jinnah visited the Khan of Kalat for the first time in 1945 while the independence movement was at its peak
  • Second visit was after partition to collect donations so Bank of England could print currency for the new nation

QUETTA: A sprawling palace in Pakistan’s southwest, hemmed in by scenic mountains and apple orchards, has a special connection to the country’s founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The princely state of Kalat is in Pakistan’s largest but most impoverished province of Balochistan, and acceded to the dominion of Pakistan on March 27, 1948, after having declared independence earlier on August 15, 1947. The accession was a stormy affair, and insurgencies continue in Balochistan to this day against the state of Pakistan.

But before partition, Jinnah twice visited the Royal Palace of Kalat, built over 8,000 square feet of land, and home to the ruler of the princely state, the Khan of Kalat. The building’s design is inspired by the upper deck of a ship on which the Khan went for the first time on a Hajj pilgrimage. Before the royal residence was built, the rulers of the area had lived in the ancient Mirri Fort which was flattened in a devastating earthquake that shook the region in 1935.

“Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited the Royal Palace of Kalat in 1945 and 1948,” Prince Agha Umar Jan Ahmedzai, the Khan’s grandson, told Arab News in Kalat. “During Mr. Jinnah’s two visits, he was welcomed by the people of Balochistan because we knew he was leading a sacred cause for the Muslims of the British-ruled Subcontinent.”

The image shows the exterior view of the Royal Palace of Kalat in Pakistan's Balochistan province on August 5, 2022 (AN Photo)

Ahmedzai said Kalat had played a major role in strengthening the country and was instrumental in getting Pakistan over 40 percent of its land in the shape of the resource-rich province of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area.

According to the prince, Jinnah spent two days in the newly constructed palace during his first visit, and returned three years later for an entire week.

The Khan of Kalat had designated two of the most luxurious rooms on the top floor of the palace for Jinnah and his sister, Fatima Jinnah, and offered them expensive gifts of gold and gemstones when they visited.

“Mr. Jinnah came with his sister Fatima Jinnah to the Royal Palace of Kalat [in 1945] where my grandfather weighed [him] and donated him gems according to his weight,” Ahmedzai said. To Fatima, the Khan gave an expensive necklace. 

Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his sister Fatima Jinnah (right) are pictured with The Khan of Kalat in Pakistan's Balocistan province. (AN Photo)

He added that the founder of Pakistan also sought donations during his second visit to the palace in 1948 since the Bank of England had inquired about gold reserves before printing currency notes for the new nation.

“There was a currency problem when Pakistan came into existence and Quaid-e-Azam came here in distress, saying he had gone to businessmen of Karachi but could not gather the gold which was required for currency deposits [with the British],” Jan said.

“So, almost 1,360 kilograms of gold was given by Khan Ahmed Yar Khan [the Khan] for the printing of currency.”

“This house has overall a lot of importance. In Pakistan’s existence … definitely there is a big role of the Baloch people and this house.”

In Jinnah’s memory, the royal family has preserved all the items Jinnah used during his stay in the palace.

Saeed Ahmed Naichari, whose family has served the palace for four generations, said his job was to brief tourists about the history of the place.

“Even the overcoats worn by Muhammad Ali Jinnah still hang in the wardrobe,” he said as he gave Arab News a tour of the palace.

The picture taken on August 5, 2022 shows an overcoat worn by the founder of Pakistan, Muhmmad Ali Jinnah, during his visit to the Royal Palace in 1948, in Kalat, Pakistan, on August 5, 2022 (AN Photo)

“Our family looks after this house,” Ahmedzai added. “This is not just our house but this is a house of the Baloch nation. When you go to someone’s house, you cannot enter the gate but this house is open for everyone. And it is open for all Balochis, Pakistanis and for everyone who wants to visit it.”