In Islamabad livestock markets, visitors ignore COVID precautions in absence of clear directives

A view of the Lehtrar Road livestock market in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 7, 2022. (AN Photo)
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Updated 09 July 2022

In Islamabad livestock markets, visitors ignore COVID precautions in absence of clear directives

  • The South Asian country has witnessed a spike in coronavirus infections in the last few weeks 
  • Management, vendors say Islamabad administration issued no guidelines for markets this year 

ISLAMABAD: Management and vendors at the three government-approved livestock markets in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Friday said the city’s administration had not communicated any COVID-related guidelines this year, which was why people were neither wearing face masks nor maintaining a safe distance during sale and purchase of animals. 

Pakistan lifted almost all coronavirus restrictions after a significant decline in the number of infections since January. However, the South Asian country has witnessed a spike in infections in the last few weeks. 

In its guidelines for Eid Al-Adha, the country’s main pandemic response body, the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), has urged people to wear masks and observe social distancing in livestock markets. 

But hundreds of buyers and sellers in Islamabad’s Lehtrar Road, Sangjani and I-15 livestock markets were seen closely interacting with each other for the purchase of sacrificial animals, despite the increase in coronavirus infections. 




A seller shows his animals to visitors at the Lehtrar Road market in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 7, 2022. (AN Photo) 

“No one asked us to check visitors for face masks or vaccination certificates this year,” Hameed Ullah Khan, a manager at the Lehtrar Road market, told Arab News. 

“There was not a single case of COVID-19 reported from our market so far. We have a basic dispensary for sellers and an animal doctor for medical aid.” 




A visitor buys a sacrificial animal at the Sangjani animal market in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 7, 2022. (AN Photo)  

Bakhtiar Ali, who came to buy animals at a market in Sangjani area, said he was not aware of the new guidelines, wherein the government advised people to start wearing masks again. 

“Previously, they used to announce via media and people followed the guidelines, but I haven’t seen any message this time,” he told Arab News. “I think the government itself is not taking the situation very seriously then why the general public will wear masks and follow guidelines.” 




Pictured is a temporary animal dispensary at the Lehtrar Road market in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 7, 2022. (AN Photo)  

Shehryar Arif Khan, an additional deputy commissioner in Islamabad, told Arab News they were “encouraging” people to wear masks and maintain social distancing, but the administration did not impose any penalties as the coronavirus situation in Islamabad was not like how it had been in the previous years. 

“We have not enforced penalties so far because the ratio of COVID-19 infections in Islamabad is comparatively very low,” he said, adding officials at markets urged visitors to wear masks for their own safety. 

Muhammad Junaid, a seller at the Lehtrar Road market, said it was very humid and impossible for them to wear masks. 




Visitors buy sacrificial animals at the Sangjani animal market in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 7, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“Last year, they were checking for masks even then people did not wear it as it is impossible to breathe with a mask on under such hot and humid conditions,” he said, adding no one inquired them about the masks this year. 

Aslam Abbasi, a buyer who was visiting with his friends, said people were not wearing masks, despite another rise in COVID-19 infections. 

“I am not wearing mask like all others around me as it is the duty of the administration to enforce the guideline and I think they have not decided it so far,” he said. 




A seller shows his goat to a customer at the Lehtrar Road animal market in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 7, 2022. (AN Photo)  

Officials at the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Friday said there has been a risk of a sixth COVID-19 wave in Pakistan due to an increase in new infections in recent weeks, but the government was taking necessary steps to keep the situation “under control.” 

The South Asian nation recorded a daily positivity ratio of 3.28 percent on Friday with 693 positive cases and zero deaths. The daily positivity rate registered a sharp decline from the peak 13 percent on January 22 to 0.37 percent on April 12, according to official data, but started rising again in June. 


At tent classroom, teachers in flooded Pakistani valley race to keep kids at school

Updated 7 sec ago

At tent classroom, teachers in flooded Pakistani valley race to keep kids at school

  • Floods destroyed 3,000 schools in Balochistan, locking nearly 390,000 students out of the classroom
  • 400 children of Government Boys School in Hanna Urak are attending classes in makeshift tents

QUETTA: As they stood up when their white-bearded maths professor entered a tent on Teacher’s Day on Wednesday, students in flood devastated Urak valley showed their respect not only for his role in their education, but in getting them back to class. 

The sole Government Boys School in Hanna Urak, some 40 km Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, was destroyed when the floods, caused by abnormal monsoon rains and glacial melt, have submerged huge swathes of the South Asian country since mid-June. 

The southwestern province was one of the worst hit by the deadly floods, which destroyed homes and more than 3,000 schools, locking nearly 390,000 students out of the classroom. 

In Urak, children could not return to their damaged school when floodwaters subsided. And as the building is no longer usable, many parents gave up on their education, asking them to help rebuild their ruined households instead. 

As concerns are already rising of a lost generation of Pakistani children, who again are unable to reach the classroom after already missing out on schooling during the coronavirus pandemic, the maths teacher, Abdul Aleem, reached out to their parents to allow them to attend classes in tents. 

“I believe education in bad circumstances is better than stopping the children from school,” he told Arab News. 

“We have met the parents and students to convince them to education, and resumed the classes.” 

As most of the parents have agreed and classes resumed last month, Aleem who has been teaching for the past four decades, said it kept his “hopes alive for the educational future of our country.” 

Nadeem Shair Tareen, the school’s principle said he knows that it is hard now for the students and was doing his best to make sure they do not drop out. 

The children know it and they appreciate the efforts. 

“The teachers in this school are concerned about the students,” Sohail Khan, a Grade 10 student, one of the school's 400 pupils, told Arab News. 

“Despite the lack of classrooms, we have been getting an education.” 


During army chief’s US visit, Islamabad and Washington agree to improve ties through trade, investment

Updated 05 October 2022

During army chief’s US visit, Islamabad and Washington agree to improve ties through trade, investment

  • General Qamar Javed Bajwa is in US on a week-long visit to discuss bilateral ties and regional security
  • Washington has over the years worked closely with Pakistani army chiefs alongside civilian governments

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met top US military and security officials during a week-long visit to Washington, with both sides agreeing on the need to boost bilateral ties by improving economic cooperation, trade and investment.

Washington has over the years worked closely with Pakistani army chiefs alongside civilian governments.

On Tuesday, Gen Bajwa called on US defense secretary General Lloyd James Austin III (Retired), national security adviser Jacob Jeremiah Sullivan, and deputy secretary of state Wendy Ruth Sherman.

“Both sides agreed that Pakistan-US have long history of bilateral cooperation and shall continue improving through economic ties, trade and investment,” the Pakistan army’s media wing said in a statement.

“Both sides had convergence on major international issues including Afghanistan and need for cooperation to avoid humanitarian crisis and improving peace and stability in the region.”

The army chief thanked the US for its assistance in the aftermath of recent floods and condoled over death and devastation in a hurricane in Florida.

Last month, Pentagon announced the US State Department had approved the potential sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at up to $450 million. The State Department subsequently said the equipment would sustain Pakistan’s “capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats.”

The US-built F-16 aircraft are a critical part of the military arsenal of Pakistan, whose arch-rival India worries that the fleet could be used against it by its neighbor.

Officially for years allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have had a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad was playing a double game.

Tensions grew that militants that targetted American troops in Afghanistan were long allowed to shelter on Pakistani soil. Islamabad denies this.


Investment, climate cooperation with US key to reducing Pakistan’s growing reliance on China — study

Updated 05 October 2022

Investment, climate cooperation with US key to reducing Pakistan’s growing reliance on China — study

  • Study group released its findings during a visit to Washington by the head of Pakistan’s powerful military
  • Says US must move beyond leveraging aid to change Pakistan’s policies, a tactic that has been a proven failure

WASHINGTON: The United States needs to keep engaging Pakistan despite lingering distrust over Afghanistan, with investment and climate cooperation key to reducing the South Asian nation’s growing reliance on China, a study group recommended Tuesday.

The group released its findings during a visit to Washington by the head of Pakistan’s powerful military, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a week after a trip by the civilian foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The study group, which did not involve the US government, included scholars and former US ambassadors to Pakistan Ryan Crocker, Cameron Munter and Robin Raphel, along with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador in Washington.

Pakistan and the United States were partners in the Cold War and, officially, in the Afghanistan war. But American officials lost patience with Islamabad which they suspected of quietly maintaining support for the Taliban, who triumphed as US troops withdrew last year.

“Instead of allowing existing differences to define the partnership, it may be time to recognize that both sides need to understand the other’s interests so that they can then find a way to work on areas of mutual concern,” the study group said.

The United States must move beyond leveraging aid to change Pakistan’s policies, a tactic that has been a proven failure.

Islamabad, in turn, needs to accept “that all of Pakistan’s problems, especially terrorism and militancy, cannot be laid at the door of the US.”

Pakistan has forged increasingly close relations with China, triggering warnings from the United States that Beijing — seen as Washington’s key global competitor — will saddle the economically troubled nation with debt.

The study group said that after previously linking the Pakistan relationship to Afghanistan or its historic rival India, the United States should avoid now seeing ties through the lens of China.

Instead, the United States can “help build Pakistan’s capacity for transparency and compliance” on Chinese loans and can reduce reliance on China by encouraging investment by US companies and others, it said.

The United States can also focus on building climate resilience — a key challenge for Pakistan, which was recently devastated by floods.

While the United States wants to step back from Afghanistan, the study group said the need for counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan “has if anything increased” due to the loss of US intelligence assets on the ground.

“While Pakistan and the US often fail to see eye-to-eye when it comes to Afghanistan, China, or India, they do share mutual interests in seeking stability in the region, combatting the problem of extremism and averting armed conflict in nuclear South Asia,” it said.


Two Pakistani soldiers, 7 militants killed in shootouts 

Updated 04 October 2022

Two Pakistani soldiers, 7 militants killed in shootouts 

  • First firefight happened near Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • Separately, troops killed four militants in northwestern town of Tank in overnight raid

PESHAWAR: Militants with small arms attacked a convoy of Pakistani security forces near the northwest border with Afghanistan, triggering an intense shootout that killed two soldiers and three insurgents, the military said Tuesday.
The firefight happened near Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The military provided no further details and the identities of the slain insurgents were not known.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Separately, in an overnight raid, troops killed four militants in Tank, a northwestern town that also borders Afghanistan, the military said. It provided no further details.
Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, said the four men killed in Tank were their “holy warriors.” In a statement, he said such military raids indicate that the government and its institutions do not want peace in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but are allies of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago as the US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout.
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, who are known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP. 
A monthslong cease-fire between the TTP and Pakistan is intact.
Although the Taliban in Afghanistan have encouraged Islamabad and the TTP to reach a peace agreement, talks between the two sides that started in May have not had results.
 


Pakistani chief justice calls constitutional article on disqualification of MPs a ‘draconian’ law

Updated 04 October 2022

Pakistani chief justice calls constitutional article on disqualification of MPs a ‘draconian’ law

  • Article 62(1)(f) has been used to end the terms of sitting heads of government and top politicians
  • In 2017, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from office under Article 62(1)(f)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial on Tuesday said Article 62(1)(f), which pertains to the disqualification from politics of members of parliament, was a “draconian” law, calling into question a legal provision that has been used in the past to end the careers of sitting heads of government and top politicians.

In 2017, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from office by the Supreme Court for not being “honest” or “truthful,” otherwise known as “ameen” and “sadiq,” respectively in Article 62(1)(f).

On Tuesday, while a hearing a petition filed by opposition politician Faisal Vawda against a lifetime ban from politics in a case pertaining to the submission of a false affidavit in election papers, the chief justice said: 

“Article 62 (1)(f) is a draconian law and we will hear this case with caution and in detail.” 

In April 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ruled that lawmakers disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) would be unable to contest elections for the rest of their lives.

The apex court said the disqualification would hold until the court declaration disqualifying the lawmaker stood. The judges also unanimously ruled that the Constitution states that those not ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’ as per the law were banned from parliament for life.

Opposition politician Jahangir Tarin was also disqualified for life under Article 62(1)(f) in 2017.