After Kabul trip, Pakistani clerics' delegation says ‘positive’ Taliban will reopen girls’ schools soon

An Afghan girl reads a book inside a private educational center in Panjwai district of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on June 7, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 30 July 2022

After Kabul trip, Pakistani clerics' delegation says ‘positive’ Taliban will reopen girls’ schools soon

  • Allowing girls and women into schools has been one of the key demands the international community has made of the Taliban
  • Pakistani scholars met Afghanistan’s acting PM, interior minister and top education officials this week

PESHAWAR: A prominent member of a delegation of Pakistani religious scholars who visited Kabul this week told Arab News on Saturday the Afghan Taliban were likely to reopen high schools for female students soon.

Allowing girls and women into schools and colleges has been one of the key demands the international community has made of the Taliban since they took control of Afghanistan in August last year.

In mid-March, after months of uncertainty, the Taliban said they would let girls around the country to return to class, but eventually backtracked on the announcement, saying high schools would remain closed for female students until the government prepared a plan in accordance with Islamic law to allow them back.

The Pakistani delegation of religious scholars was in Kabul to push forward the ongoing peace process between Islamabad and the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group. The TTP, which has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks inside Pakistan since 2007, is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, but the latter have been engaged in mediation between the group and the Pakistani government.

Hafiz Salman Ul Haq Haqqani, deputy administrator of Dar al-Ulum Haqqania, an Islamic seminary in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, who was part of the delegation, said that besides the TTP talks, the top agenda of the trip was women’s education in Afghanistan, and they had held “very productive meetings” with Afghanistan’s acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, and acting Education Minister Noorullah Munir, as well as other education ministry officials.

“Our focus in those meetings was allowing girls to attend schools and we got positive response,” Haqqani told Arab News.

The Haqqania school is known as one of the oldest seminaries, and many Taliban leaders have educational links to it.

“During our meetings, scholars from the Pakistani side presented before the Afghan side convincing arguments in support of girls’ education. We told them an educated female in Pakistan has translated the Holy Qur’an in other languages such as Pashto. The Afghan side listened to us patiently and they hinted to open all girls’ schools and colleges very soon,” Haqqani said.

Maulvi Ahmad Taqi, a senior official at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education, told Arab News that Pakistani religious scholars held a series of meetings with Afghan education officials.

“I hope the meetings were positive and will lead to the opening of all girls’ schools,” he said. “Universities for females are though opened but girls of all age groups will soon be going to schools and colleges.”


Bomb kills 34 at mosque inside Peshawar police compound — city commissioner

Updated 10 sec ago

Bomb kills 34 at mosque inside Peshawar police compound — city commissioner

  • Security officials say too early to determine if attack was carried out by suicide bomber
  • Such attacks have increased since Pakistan Taliban called off truce with government last year

PESHAWAR: Up to 34 people were killed and dozens of others wounded when an explosion ripped through a mosque inside a compound where the headquarters of the provincial police force are located in Peshawar, the commissioner of the northwestern city said.

Police said up to 350 worshipers were inside the mosque for afternoon prayers when the bomber detonated his explosives.

“It was a big explosion that totally damaged the mosque’s roof but it will be premature to say whether it was a suicide explosion,” Commissioner Peshawar Riaz Mehsud told Arab News, putting the casualties at 34 and number of wounded at 150. “Security officials are investigating the nature of the blast.”

"We haven't yet confirmed how many policemen are dead and wounded but I think 90 percent casualties are of police personnel because most of those offering prayers in the mosque were policemen," Mehsud added.

Muhammad Ijaz Khan, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), said many people, including policemen, were still trapped under the debris.

“We can’t as of yet determined what caused the explosion but it was a security lapse,” Khan said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing but the Pakistani Taliban group have recently carried out similar attacks, with assaults on the rise since last November when the group called off a ceasefire signed with the government in May.

Muhammad Asim, a spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), the city’s largest medical facility, told Arab News people were still being pulled out of the rubble and being brought to the hospital, so the death toll could rise.

Ahmad Khan, a police constable who was inside the mosque when the blast occurred, said the roof collapsed after the explosion.

“It was the time for Zuhr (afternoon) prayers,” Khan said. “I was in the second row among worshippers when the blast took place. The roof of the mosque collapsed with many worshippers trapped but I managed to come out with small injuries.”

Akbar Khan, an official at the Edhi charity in Peshawar, estimated that 50 people, including policemen, were still trapped under the debris.

Soon after the blast, the provincial health department declared a state of emergency at the city’s hospitals.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged people, especially followers of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ruling party, to donate blood to those injured in suicide attack.

“Reach Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, and contribute to saving precious human lives,” he tweeted.

The prime minister's office later reported Sharif had flown via helicopter to Peshawar.


Pakistan’s human rights record examined by UNHRC in Geneva

Updated 30 January 2023

Pakistan’s human rights record examined by UNHRC in Geneva

  • State minister Hina Rabbani Khar presents Pakistan’s human rights record at Human Rights Council in Geneva
  • UN member states urge Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, suspend its use and end early child marriages

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday examined Pakistan’s human rights record, with the country’s state minister for foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar saying Pakistan’s human rights record is “overall on an upward trajectory.”

The UNHRC conducts a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights record of all UN member states. In it, each state is provided the opportunity to declare actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and fulfill human rights obligations. 

“Mr. President, today I am pleased to report that my country’s human rights progress is overall on an upward trajectory,” Khar told the 42nd UPR review in Geneva. “We continue to aspire for a pluralistic and progressive society, which puts a high premium on the respect of human rights for everyone.”

Khar said Pakistan is proud of a “vibrant civil society, with our independent judiciary and legal community.” She said Pakistan had enacted the Anti-Rape Act 2021 and established courts against gender-based violence against women. 

She mentioned how devastating floods in 2022 affected 33 million people and left thousands dead and injured. Khar said an astounding 8 million people had been displaced by the deluges while over 2 million houses had been either damaged or destroyed. 

Khar said Pakistan was taking due care of the rights of minorities in the country. “Individuals belonging to various religions are equal citizens of Pakistan and as a responsible state, we are fully committed to protecting and promoting their fundamental rights and freedoms,” she added. 

She said Pakistan has taken safeguards against the misuse of the blasphemy law in the country, citing Section 211 of the Pakistan Penal Code which calls for action against any person who falsely accuses another person of blasphemy.

In response, UN member states urged Pakistan to enact a bill criminalizing rape and enact the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act. Member states also urged the country to reinstate the national commission on human rights and abolish the death penalty and suspend its use. 

They also called on Pakistan to make further efforts to end enforced and early (child) marriage and increase the legal age of marriage to 18. 


KSRelief distributes food aid in Pakistan, Lebanon and Niger

Updated 30 January 2023

KSRelief distributes food aid in Pakistan, Lebanon and Niger

  • The Saudi charity distributed 1,960 food packages for 13,720 Pakistanis in Sindh
  • KSRelief also distributed 3,125 food parcels in Niger and Lebanon's refugee camps

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) distributed food aid to floods victims in Sindh Province, Pakistan.

The Saudi charity distributed 1,960 food packages, benefiting 13,720 people.

Elsewhere, KSRelief also distributed  3,025 food parcels to Syrian and Palestinian refugees in several Lebanese regions, benefiting 15,125 people.

In Niger, 100 food packages were also distributed, benefiting 768 people.

KSRelief also carried out a project to empower young people to improve the living conditions in Al-Mahrah Governorate, Yemen.

A total of 1,250 young people in eight governorates have benefited from the projects through vocational courses in 11 fields.


Ex-president sends legal notice to Imran Khan over 'fabricated' assassination allegations

Updated 30 January 2023

Ex-president sends legal notice to Imran Khan over 'fabricated' assassination allegations

  • Ex-president Asif Ali Zardari sends Rs10 billion legal notice to Imran Khan for 'scandalous' allegations
  • In televised address last week, Khan accused Zardari of devising a plan to assassinate him

ISLAMABAD: Ex-Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari sent a legal notice to former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday for making “fabricated, scandalous” allegations against the former of hatching a plot to assassinate him.

Zardari, Khan’s political rival and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), served as Pakistan’s president from 2008 to 2013. Tensions between the two escalated last week when Khan, during a televised address, told his supporters Zardari had devised a plan “behind closed doors” to have him assassinated. 

Khan also maintained that Zardari was guilty of accumulating ill-gotten wealth and had paid “a terrorist group” to assassinate him. The allegations have been vehemently denied by PPP and Zardari.

Ousted via a parliamentary vote of confidence in April last year, Khan received gunshot wounds during an anti-government rally in Pakistan’s Wazirabad city in November 2022. He blamed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a senior intelligence official for orchestrating the attack, without providing proof. The military and government both strongly rejected Khan’s allegations. 

On Monday, Zardari’s legal representative Farooq H. Naek sent an Rs10 billion notice to Khan for making “false, fabricated and scandalous remarks/statements” against the former president. “That through your baseless accusations of malicious and defamatory nature you have tried to defame our client nationally as well as internationally,” the notice read. 

The notice said Khan had tried to create a link between Zardari and militant organizations, reminding him that the former president’s wife, Pakistan’s first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was also assassinated by militants. 

It said that while Khan had accused Zardari of accumulating wealth through ill-gotten means, the PPP leader had spent almost eight years in prison on “false, fabricated, trumped up and concocted cases” that were never proven against him. 

“You, through your malicious accusations have injured and defamed our client with ulterior motives to get undue benefit in current political situation of the country,” it said. 

Zardari demanded an unconditional apology from Khan within 14 days, stating that if Khan doesn’t comply, he would be compelled to take legal action against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman. The notice said Zardari would initiate legal proceedings against Khan in “the competent Courts of law and forums of Pakistan as well as of England, including but not limited to Suit for Damages for Rs.10,000,000,000/.”

The former prime minister has so far not responded to Zardari’s legal notice. 


US envoy on Afghanistan to discuss women’s rights during Pakistan visit

Updated 30 January 2023

US envoy on Afghanistan to discuss women’s rights during Pakistan visit

  • US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West to visit Pakistan, Germany, Switzerland from January 29 to February 4
  • West says will work with counterparts to ‘refine a unified regional and international response’ for women’s rights and access to aid 

Islamabad: US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, announced on Monday he would be visiting Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland from January 20 to February 4 to seek a “unified regional and international response” for women’s rights and access to aid in Afghanistan. 

Ever since seizing control of Kabul in August 2021, the Taliban have issued edicts that have restricted women from seeking education and employment in the country. 

In December 2022, the Taliban government banned women from working in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the pretext that female staff of NGOs had violated the dress code by not wearing hijab. The Taliban have also prevented women from entering parks and gyms, among other public places, in the country.

A couple of days before that, the Taliban banned women from attending universities and secondary schools across the country. The move sparked international outrage with Washington, United Nations, and several other countries including Pakistan, criticizing the move. 

“I will travel to Pakistan, Germany, and Switzerland Jan 29-Feb 4 to consult with partners, Afghans, and humanitarian relief organizations regarding extraordinary challenges we face in supporting the Afghan people,” West wrote on Twitter. 

West said that the Taliban’s recent decisions have posed “extraordinary challenges” for the international community as it seeks to support the Afghan people. 

“SRA West will work with counterparts to refine a unified regional and international response that reflects a collective commitment to Afghan women and girls’ rights and access to vital aid,” the US State Department website added. 

While Pakistan has expressed “disappointment” over Afghanistan’s edicts concerning women, it has called on the world to engage with the Taliban government rather than shun ties with it altogether. Islamabad has also called on the world to provide humanitarian aid to Kabul to stave off an imminent economic collapse of the country.