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

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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.


Highlighting local cuisine, Pakistani women chefs stand out at Saudi culinary competition

Updated 29 September 2022

Highlighting local cuisine, Pakistani women chefs stand out at Saudi culinary competition

  • Kingdom Chef Competition is held under supervision of International Association of Chefs and the Saudi Chefs Association
  • Ninth edition of the tournament was held in Riyadh from September 13-16, with culinary delights prepared by over 140 global chefs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani women chefs fared impressively at a culinary competition in Saudi Arabia held earlier this month, bagging five medals after cooking up scrumptious Pakistani dishes in Riyadh.

The Kingdom Chef Competition is an international contest that is part of the Foodex Saudi exhibition, held under the supervision of the International Association of Chefs and the Saudi Chefs Association.

The contest is open to all chefs and culinary enthusiasts, both citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia, to showcase their cooking skills.

The ninth edition of the tournament was held in Riyadh from September 13-16, providing an opportunity for visitors to experience culinary delights from more than 40 different countries prepared by over 140 global chefs.

“I am happy that I presented Pakistani cuisine in the kingdom and people liked it,” Pakistani chef Hina Shoib told Arab News over the phone from Jeddah. “I took part in two categories, meat and chicken, and won a separate bronze medal in each of them.”

Pakistani chef Hina Shoib poses with two bronze medals and a certificate at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Hina Shoib)
Pakistani chef Hina Shoib poses with two bronze medals and a certificate at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Hina Shoib)

Shoib said it was a matter of “great pride and honor” for her to stand among the best chefs in the world and that too, without proper training.

“When I told the judges that I am going to make a kebab, they were astonished that how will you do that in a 45-minute time limit from raw meat,” Shoib said. “I said I will do it and I did it.”

Shoib said she wanted to prove that nothing was difficult if one pursued it with “strong will.”

Pakistani chef Hina Shoib cooks at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Hina Shoib)

Shagufa Afshan, another Pakistani chief, bagged two bronze medals and a silver at the competition.

Speaking to Arab News, Afshan said she wanted to highlight the unique taste of Pakistani cuisine in the kingdom, where people usually have trouble separating it from Indian food.

“My main purpose is to highlight unique Pakistani cuisine because unfortunately, we are far behind Indian cuisine in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News over the phone from Jeddah, adding that this was the second time she had won prizes at a culinary competition in Saudi Arabia.

“I won second prize at the Foodex Saudi in March 2022 held at the Jeddah exhibition center,” she said. “This time again, I won two bronze medals and one silver medal in the competition held in Riyadh this month.”

For Afshan, the competition’s ‘mystery box challenge’ was the most demanding, requiring chefs to prepare a dish from whatever ingredients came out of a box.

“You have to cook or bake it then and there in 45 minutes by utilizing those things,” she said.

In this group photo, Pakistani chef Shagufa Afshan (center) shows off her medals and prizes won at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Shagufa Afshan)
Pakistani chef Shagufa Afshan shows off her medals and certificate at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Shagufa Afshan)

Judges awarded marks based on an EAT standard (execution, appearance, and taste), Afshan said, where taste had the maximum weightage out of 100 marks.

“I am trying to get a work permit and then will start culinary classes for both men and women,” she added.

Hamzah Gilani, a spokesperson for the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah, said such cooking competitions fostered a sense of “community and camaraderie” among participants.

“It is a fun way to meet new people and make new friends,” he said. “Additionally, they help promote healthy eating habits and teach people about different cuisines from around the world.”

Judges evaluate dishes cooked by different chefs at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Hina Shoib)
Judges evaluate dishes cooked by different chefs at the Kingdom Chef Competition in Riyadh on September 16, 2022. (Supplied/Hina Shoib)

 


Pakistan national security body approves investigation into audio leaks from PM Office

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistan national security body approves investigation into audio leaks from PM Office

  • Leaks have engulfed top officials including PM Sharif and ex-PM Khan in a fresh round of controversy
  • Interior minister Rana Sanaullah to head body to probe leaks of audio conversations from PM Office

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday approved the constitution of a committee headed by the interior minister to investigate audio leaks from the Prime Minister’s Office that have engulfed key politicians, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and ex-premier Imran Khan, in a fresh round of controversy.

The leaks, which were released last weekend, initially involve discussions between PM Sharif and members of his cabinet, including conversations with ruling party leader Maryam Nawaz over the performance of outgoing finance minister Miftah Ismail, and with an official about the possibility of facilitating the import of Indian machinery for a power project for Nawaz’s son-in-law.

But the controversy reached its crescendo on Wednesday with a leak featuring a conversation between Khan when he was PM and his then principal secretary Azam Khan, once again bringing into the spotlight a diplomatic cipher that is at the center of Khan’s allegations that his ouster n April this year was part of a regime change conspiracy hatched abroad.

Wednesday’s meeting of the NSC was chaired by PM Sharif and attended by cabinet members as well as military service chiefs, and other senior civil and military officials.

“The meeting approved the constitution of a high-powered committee to investigate the issue of audio leaks. Interior minister Rana Sanaullah will be the head of this committee,” a statement issued by the PM Office said.

The heads of intelligence institutions gave a detailed briefing to participants at the meeting on the security of the PM Office and other important buildings, cyberspace, and other related aspects.

“The meeting was informed that emergency measures are being taken to ensure the security of the Prime Minister House and other important places, buildings, and ministries in order to avoid any such situation in the future,” the statement added.

“The committee agreed to review the security, and safety of government communications keeping in mind the current changing environment of modern technology and cyberspace to ensure security and security systems are not breached,” the statement said.

In April, the Khan government handed an official protest to the US embassy over what it called Washington’s interference in the country’s affairs, referring to a diplomatic note from a Pakistani diplomat based on his meetings with US officials that Khan has said was evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power.

Just weeks later, Khan was removed from office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, which he blamed, and continues to blame, on a conspiracy hatched by the United States with Khan’s rivals in Pakistan, including current PM Sharif. Both deny the charge but Khan has held rallies across the country since, sticking to the theory of a foreign conspiracy and challenging the mandate of the Sharif government.

Speaking to reporters after the latest leak, Khan did not deny the authenticity of the audio file featuring him, saying the diplomatic cipher itself should be released so the nation could see “magnitude of the conspiracy.”

The latest audio file starts midway through a purported conversation between Khan and Azam.

“Now we have to play with this [cipher],” Khan is heard saying. “Don’t take America’s name, just play with this.”

Azam then suggests that the PM call a meeting with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, then foreign minister, and the Foreign Secretary Suhail Mahmood to put on record the threat allegedly contained in the cipher.

“Qureshi would read out the letter and whatever he reads out, we will turn it into a copy. I will do that in the minutes [of the meeting] that the Foreign Secretary has told this. Then the analysis will be done here [at the PM Office],” the former principal secretary said.

“We will do analysis of minutes [of meeting] of our own choice, this way minutes would be on the records of the [PM] office. The analysis will be that [the cypher] was a threat.”

On Tuesday, PM Sharif had called the audio leaks a ‘serious security lapse’ and said it would be thoroughly investigated.


Pakistan hold nerves to pull off another last-over win against England

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistan hold nerves to pull off another last-over win against England

  • Pakistan defeat England by 5 runs to go 3-2 up in series
  • Muhammad Rizwan scores half-century, Haris Rauf takes 2 wickets

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan defeated England in yet another close encounter on Wednesday, winning the clash by five runs to go 3-2 up in the seven-match T20 series at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore. 

Set a target of 146 runs to win the fifth T20I, the English batters couldn’t withstand the Pakistani bowling attack and as a result, lost early wickets. Pakistan’s bowlers chipped in with the wickets, with pacer Haris Rauf finishing with figures of 2/41. 

Debutant Aamer Jamal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Wasim all took a wicket each to restrict England to 139/7 at the end of 20 overs. The visitors were seven runs shy of their target. 

Moeen Ali was the only English batter who put up some resistance against the Pakistani bowling lineup, scoring an unbeaten 51 off 37 balls. His innings included six 4s and two 6s. 

Dawid Malan looked threatening as well with his 36 off 35 balls but Pakistan’s Ahmed trapped him lbw and sent him to the pavilion before he could do some more damage. 

From Pakistan, Mohammad Rizwan once again top-scored from his side with his 46-ball 63. Rizwan found little help from Babar Azam or Shan Masood, who went for 9 and 7 respectively. Haider Ali, batting in at number 4, also went cheaply for 4 runs. 

Mark Wood once again proved to be the pick of the English bowlers, finishing with figures of 3/20 while David Willey and Sam Curran ended up with figures of 2/23 and 2/23 respectively. 

Earlier, England won the toss and put Pakistan to bat. 

Pakistan brought the Karachi leg of the series to a close on Sunday when the hosts beat England in a thriller. Shan Masood’s under-arm throw from the last match prevented Reece Topley from reaching the crease and England from chasing the 167-run target. 

England, who are on their first tour of Pakistan in 17 years, will play the sixth T20 fixture against Pakistan on Friday, September 30 before the final match of the series will take place on Sunday, October 2. 

Squads:

Pakistan 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Haider Ali, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Aamer Jamal, 10 Mohammad Wasim, 11 Haris Rauf

England 1 Phil Salt (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood


Pakistani boxer Usman Wazeer makes history by winning WBO Youth World Title 

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistani boxer Usman Wazeer makes history by winning WBO Youth World Title 

  • Usman Wazeer, 22, knocks out Thai opponent Somphot Seesa in round six 
  • Wazeer remains unbeaten in all nine professional bouts of his career so far 

KHAPLU: Usman Wazeer became the first Pakistani boxer on Wednesday to win the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Youth World Title, after he knocked his opponent out in the sixth round of the bout. 

Wazeer, 22, who hails from Astore in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, is also known as ‘The Asian Boy’ and is widely regarded one of the best contemporary Pakistani boxers. 

He is currently an undefeated welterweight boxer and holds the Asian Boxing Federation (ABF) Asian title, the first Pakistani to achieve the feat. With his latest victory, Wazeer has now achieved victory in all nine professional bouts that he has fought in so far. 

On Wednesday, Wazeer faced off against his Thai opponent Somphot Seesa, 23, for the title in the 147-pound weight class in the WBO Youth competition in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Wazeer started off confidently, landing blows on his opponent right from the first round. A flurry of right and strong left blows in the sixth round of the bout eventually saw him knocking out Seesa. 

“Thank God, I won this title and became the first-ever champion of world boxing,” Wazeer said in a video message after winning the title. He dedicated the title to his parents for supporting him and thanked his coaches. 

However, Wazeer said he did not receive support from the government. 

“I appeal to Prime minister Shebaz Sharif and Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid, if they support Pakistan’s boxing talent, the country could get more Usman Wazeers,” he added. 

In June, Wazeer organized the first World Boxing Association tournament in Gilgit-Baltistan. Athletes from 10 countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines took part in the competition. 

“History has been made. Boxing is taking over and Wazeer Usman is bringing a boxing revolution in Pakistan! The first ever WBO Youth Title holder out of Pakistan,” Uloomi Karim, a professional Mixed Martial Artist, said in a congratulatory message on Twitter. 


Pakistani FM warns of consequences to Afghan Taliban isolation

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistani FM warns of consequences to Afghan Taliban isolation

  • Bhutto Zardari cautioned against creating “parallel governance” after US put Afghanistan’s frozen assets in Swiss fund 
  • Foreign minister said Afghan Taliban needed “political space” on concerns such as sharply curtailed women’s rights

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s foreign minister wants the world to engage the Taliban, warning of dangerous consequences if Afghanistan’s rulers are again isolated.
In an interview with AFP on a visit to Washington, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cautioned against creating “parallel governance” after the United States, distrustful of the Taliban, put Afghanistan’s frozen assets in a professional fund in Switzerland.
“We’ve learned from the past that when we wash our hands and turn our backs, we end up creating unintended consequences and more problems for ourselves,” Bhutto Zardari said Tuesday.
“I believe that our concerns of an economic collapse, of an exodus of refugees, of a threat of new recruits for organizations such as Daesh-K and others, outweigh concerns that there may be about their financial institutions.”
The Taliban returned to power last year after the United States ended a two-decade war. Relations had soured with Pakistan, whose powerful military and intelligence apparatus was accused in Washington of quietly nurturing the militants despite providing logistical access to US forces. Both deny the charge.
In contrast to some previous Pakistani officials, the foreign minister — whose mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007 — offered no warm words for the Taliban.
But he said the militants needed “political space” on concerns such as women’s rights, which have been sharply curtailed.
“Throughout history, theocratic, autocratic regimes haven’t exactly tended to expand rights at times of economic strife,” he said.
“In fact, they tend to hold on to cultural issues and other issues to engage their population.”
The United States came away unpersuaded from a series of talks with the Taliban and in August said the militants had violated promises by welcoming Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who was found at a house in Kabul and killed in a US strike.
Bhutto Zardari, the Oxford-educated 34-year-old scion of a preeminent political dynasty, took office five months ago amid political turbulence in Pakistan after a no-confidence vote in former prime minister Imran Khan.
The strife comes as Pakistan is ravaged by floods that have submerged one-third of the country, displacing millions.
At a meeting Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised long-term support. In a message less welcome by Pakistan, the top US diplomat also called on Islamabad to ask China to restructure debt accumulated as Beijing builds billions of dollars of infrastructure in a quest for Indian Ocean port access.
Asked about Blinken’s remarks, Bhutto Zardari said he has had “very productive conversations” with China and said he hoped that assistance after the historic floods “does not fall prey to great power rivalries and geostrategic issues.”
With Beijing seen by many Pakistanis as an uncritical ally, successive governments in Islamabad have rebuffed US calls to weigh in on the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim people, a campaign Washington calls genocide.
“I’m sure that the United States would like for us to comment more on China’s internal affairs,” Bhutto Zardari said.
“But maybe if we start by addressing disputes that are recognized by bodies such as the United Nations as disputes of an international nature, that would be more productive.”
He was referring to Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan and the trigger for two of their three full-fledged wars.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, in 2019 stripped Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir of its historic autonomy and opened the way for other Indian citizens to live there.
Bhutto Zardari recalled that when his Pakistan People’s Party was in power in 2010, it moved to open trade with India, then led by prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“We were willing to take the political risk, stick our necks on the line, and touch the third rail of Pakistani politics — but because we knew that there was a rational, reasonable player on the other end who would perhaps be willing to reciprocate,” Bhutto Zardari said. “Unfortunately, that space does not exist today. It’s a very different India.”