China blocks UN sanctions on leader of Pakistan-based militant group

The UN Security Council ministerial debate over international peace and security, conflict and food security at UN headquarters in New York on May 19, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 August 2022

China blocks UN sanctions on leader of Pakistan-based militant group

  • India and US are seeking sanctions against Jaish-e-Mohammad deputy chief Abdul Rauf Azhar
  • China says hold placed on sanctions to seek “more time to study the case”

NEW YORK: China on Wednesday blocked the imposition of UN sanctions sought by the United States and India against the deputy chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based militant group designated by the United Nations as a ‘terrorist’ organization.

Abdul Rauf Azhar has been under US sanctions since December 2010 for acting for or on behalf of the group, known as JEM. India says Azhar was involved in the planning and execution of numerous attacks, including the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft, the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and the 2016 attack on the Indian air force base in Pathankot.

In June, China put a hold on adding Abdul Rehman Makki, deputy chief of another Pakistani group proscribed by the UN, Lashkar-e-Taiba, to the UN blacklist. Makki has been under US sanctions since November 2010, and India says he has been involved in raising funds, recruiting and radicalizing young people to resort to violence, and planning attacks, including in Mumbai in 2008.

According to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism agency, the government has outlawed more than 65 militant groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“We placed a hold because we need more time to study the case,” said the spokesperson at China’s UN Mission, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

He said the UN Security Council committee monitoring sanctions allows “holds” on people proposed for sanctions, “and there have been quite a number of similar holds by committee members on listing requests.”

A spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations, who was also not authorized to speak publicly, said the United States “respects other countries’ need to verify” that people proposed for sanctions meet their threshold for evidence required to justify being put on the UN sanctions blacklist.

“We strongly believe in the importance of the committee, which is to prevent and hold Daesh, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates accountable for their illicit activities,” the US spokesperson said. “Further, the United States values cooperation with our Security Council partners to effectively use this tool in an apolitical way to stop terrorists from exploiting the global order to do their misdeeds.”


US announces another $10 million for flood relief as Pakistan seeks ‘climate justice’

Updated 5 sec ago

US announces another $10 million for flood relief as Pakistan seeks ‘climate justice’

  • State Secretary Blinken made the announcement on FM Bhutto-Zardari’s visit to Washington
  • Pakistan is one of 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change, despite 0.8 percent emissions

ISLAMABAD: The United States (US) has announced another $10 million for flood relief efforts in Pakistan, the Pakistani foreign office said on Tuesday, after a meeting between Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington. 

More than 1,600 people, one-third of them children, have died in Pakistan floods and more than 33 million have been affected, with officials estimating nationwide damages caused by the deluges at $30 billion. 

The United States has committed $56 million in humanitarian aid and sent 17 planes full of relief supplies, with promises of a long-term support. 

“On the sidelines of a ceremony to celebrate 75th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and the US, at the State Department, Secretary Blinken announced additional $10 million for the flood victims,” the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement. 

Secretary Blinken also confirmed the announcement of $10 in additional US aid toward food security in Pakistan. 

“We are proud to build on other efforts as well, including women’s empowerment,” he said on Twitter. “We are stronger when we work together.” 

In their meeting at the State Department, Bhutto-Zardari apprised Secretary Blinken about the devastation caused by the cataclysmic floods with more than 33 million people affected and a huge loss of lives and livelihoods. No country could deal with a crisis of this proportion on its own, he said. 

“Pakistan being one of the lowest emitters was ironically one of the most severely impacted by climate change,” the foreign minister told the US state secretary, as quoted by the Pakistani foreign office. 

“Pakistan was seeking climate justice and looked toward its partners to assist us in recovering from this climate induced calamity.” 

Pakistani officials have blamed the devastation on human-driven climate change and say the South Asian country is unfairly bearing the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices elsewhere in the world. 

Pakistan is eighth on NGO Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index, a list of countries deemed most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change, despite contributing less than 1 percent to global carbon emissions. 

Pakistan was committed to building back better, greener and climate resilient infrastructure in areas such as irrigation, communication, energy, agri-technology, and health, Bhutto-Zardari said. Immediate action is required to help developing countries effectively face the climate crisis, he added. 


Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

Updated 27 September 2022

Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

  • The US relationship with Pakistan sharply deteriorated over the course of the two-decade war in Afghanistan
  • Pakistan provided crucial logistical access, but US officials believe Islamabad never abandoned the Taliban

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Monday on Pakistan to seek debt relief from its close partner China as floods devastate the South Asian country. 

Blinken promised strong US support for Pakistan as it dries out from the floods, which have submerged one-third of the country, an area the size of the United Kingdom. 

“We send a simple message. We are here for Pakistan, just as we were during past natural disasters, looking ahead to rebuild,” Blinken said after talks in Washington with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. 

“I also urged our colleagues to engage China on some of the important issues of debt relief and restructuring so that Pakistan can more quickly recover from the floods,” Blinken said. 

China is a key economic and political partner of Pakistan, pushing ahead with a $54 billion “economic corridor” that will build infrastructure and give Beijing an outlet to the Indian Ocean, although Chinese interests have also faced attacks from separatists. 

Washington, whose Cold War alliance with Islamabad has frayed, has repeatedly charged that China will reap the benefits while Pakistan will face unsustainable debt. 

The warnings by the United States – which considers China its preeminent global competitor – have repeatedly been brushed aside by Pakistan. 

Some 1,600 people – one-third of them children – have died in Pakistan’s floods and more than seven million have been displaced, amid fears that such severe disasters will become more common due to climate change. 

The United States has committed $56 million in humanitarian aid and sent 17 planes full of supplies, with promises of long-term support. 

Bhutto Zardari said that President Joe Biden, who signed a landmark domestic climate package last month, also needed to look at “climate justice.” 

“It’s not only important that you ‘build back better’ here,” he said, using Biden’s campaign slogan. 

“The opportunity of this crisis in Pakistan is that we must build back better — greener, more climate-resilient — back home as well,” he said. 

“I believe that working together we can do this.” 

Pakistan, despite being the fifth most populous country, contributes only about 0.8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change due to its state of development. 

The US relationship with Pakistan sharply deteriorated over the course of the two-decade war in Afghanistan. 

Under heavy pressure, Pakistan provided crucial logistical access, but US officials believe Islamabad’s powerful military and intelligence apparatus never abandoned the Taliban, who swept back to power last year as US troops pulled out. 

“We have had our differences — that’s no secret,” Blinken said. 

But he said Pakistan and the United States “have a shared stake in Afghanistan’s future,” including greater freedoms for women and girls, whose rights have again been heavily curtailed by the Taliban under their austere interpretation of Islam. 

In another longstanding concern of the United States, Blinken encouraged Pakistan to respect for freedom of religion and expression. 

Pakistan has seen repeated attacks against religious minorities and mob violence over accusations of blasphemy. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s five-month-old government has faced criticism for restrictions on the media since he replaced Imran Khan, who lost a no-confidence vote in parliament after running afoul of the military. 

Blinken also called on Pakistan to pursue a “responsible relationship” with India. 

Dialogue has been at a standstill between the historic rivals, with India launching airstrikes in February 2019 in response to a deadly attack blamed on Pakistan-backed militants. 

Immediately after meeting Bhutto Zardari, Blinken was hosting a dinner for India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, with whom he will hold talks on Tuesday. 

The South Asian foreign ministers were not expected to meet in Washington.


Thousands of children’s futures at risk as floods damage over 1,500 schools in northwest Pakistan

Updated 27 September 2022

Thousands of children’s futures at risk as floods damage over 1,500 schools in northwest Pakistan

  • Save the Children says at least 18,590 schools damaged or destroyed in floods nationwide
  • Initial estimates say at least 670,000 children have been affected, real number could be higher

PESHAWAR: Recent floods in Pakistan have damaged at least 1,500 government schools in different parts of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, with the education department struggling to save the academic year of thousands of students, senior government officials said.

Flooding, likely worsened by climate change, has submerged one-third of Pakistan’s territory, killed over 1,600 people and left 33 million scrambling to survive. The initial government estimate of losses to the economy as a result of the three-month flooding disaster is $30 billion.

The consequences have been especially horrific for children, who make up about half the affected population.

More than 400 children have been killed in the floods, and many more injured. UNICEF said at least 3.4 million children need urgent humanitarian assistance and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning, and malnutrition. Most of the approximately 16 million affected children are without homes, lack access to safe drinking water, and are living in unsanitary conditions.

Save the Children said earlier this month at least 18,590 schools have been damaged or destroyed in the flooding, with initial estimates that at least 670,000 children have been affected, although the real number could be much higher. With whole villages underwater and rain continuing to fall, thousands of students across the country who had been preparing for the start of the academic year have found their schools completely submerged, with books, blackboards, chairs and tables floating downstream.

Shahram Khan Tarakai, provincial minister for elementary and secondary education, told Arab News at least 1,500 government-run schools had been destroyed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“The scale of damages is massive and we’ve launched a comprehensive survey to identify construction cost, exact number of damaged schools and the number of students studying in those institutions,” he said. “Most of the schools need rebuilding from scratch. We also need to reconstruct the damaged schools in new locations to minimize the scale of catastrophe in the future.”

In this undated photo, a wall of the school is damaged due to recent floods in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo courtesy: KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department)

Assessments of rebuilding costs were being carried out by the education department, the minister said, adding that a month’s school time of students had already been wasted. The government was also trying to utilize other government buildings as makeshift schools, he added.

“The Global Education for All (GEA) has pledged $2.3 million to rebuild damaged educational institutions in the province with the implementing partnership of UNICEF,” Tarakai said. “In addition, the World Bank has also offered financial assistance to repair schools.”

According to a survey by the government’s Departmental Flood Response Plan, a damages assessment body, a total of 1,746 educational institutions have been damaged in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and would need funds of around Rs7.2 billion to rebuild.

This undate picture shows an inundated school in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo courtesy: KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department)

Ibrash Pasha, a researcher who studies post-conflict educational reforms, said almost 4.5 million children aged between five to 16 years were out-of-school in KP.

“If alternative space is not provided urgently, the fully damaged schools will cause almost 60,000 more students to drop out of school,” Pasha told Arab News. “We’ve observed a declining literacy rate and dropouts from school primarily due to two main reasons, the coronavirus pandemic followed by inflation. But the recent floods are the third major factor contributing to this.”

The scholar recommended the government open schools in official buildings and build new schools in “comparatively safer places” to avoid such losses in the future.

The undated picture shows a damaged roof of a school due to floods in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo courtesy: KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department)

Minister Tarakai estimated it would be at least a year before the education sector “returned to normalcy because of the magnitude of the damages.”

The floods came, he said, as the education department had been carrying out a province-wide school enrolment drive.

“In one month [July to August], we enrolled almost 0.8 million boys and girls in schools in KP, which was an outstanding achievement. But floods caused a huge setback to those efforts.”


Investors pin hopes on ‘Daronomics’ as Ishaq Dar returns to Pakistan as new finance minister

Updated 57 min 23 sec ago

Investors pin hopes on ‘Daronomics’ as Ishaq Dar returns to Pakistan as new finance minister

  • Investors hope Dar will help stabilize rupee, tame inflation, Dar favoured strong currency in previous tenures
  • Dubbed Daronomics, Dar’s approach kept rupee stable between Rs98 and Rs105 against dollar during last stint

KARACHI: Senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) returned to Pakistan on Monday night, set to become finance minister of crisis-hit Pakistan, with investors pinning hopes that a new era of “Daronomics” would help to stabilize the rupee and tame record-high inflation.

Dar is a member of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's ruling PMLN party and has already been finance minister four times. Dubbed Daronomics, his approach kept the rupee stable between Rs98 and Rs105 against the greenback during his last stint in office from 2013-2017 but he was also widely criticized for deliberately undervaluing the rupee by pumping dollars in the market.  

The Pakistani rupee gained in value by 1.11% or Rs2.63 to close at Rs237.02 against the United States dollar in the interbank market on Monday, and gained Rs6.90 to trade at Rs237.50 in the open market following the reports of Dar’s return. Dar touched down in Islamabad on Monday night and is expected to take charge this week.

While media had reported ex-finance minister Miftah Ismail would remain part of the government’s economic team, the outgoing official told Arab News on Monday: “I will have no role in the government.”

“I will try my best that I can pull Pakistan out of the economic swamp it is trapped in,” Dar told media at the airport after returning to Pakistan from London where he has lived in exile since 2017 when he was disqualified from office by a court in a corruption case.

Dar takes over as the economy faces one of its worst balance of payments crises, and recent floods are estimated to have cost it nearly $30 billion.

Earlier this month, the government cut its GDP growth forecast below 3% from a 5% budgetary target for 2022-23.

“Ishaq Dar is known for keeping the exchange rate stable for stronger currency, that is why the currency market has strongly reacted to his return resultantly the rupee gain some strength,” Samiullah Tariq, Director Research at Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company, said.

Economists said Dar’s return would bring some "comfort" to the currency market and tame increasing inflation, which is at a 47-year high at 27.3%.

“Ishaq Dar is being brought back by the coalition government keeping in view his past track of keeping the exchange rate under control,” Dr Sajid Amin, Deputy Executive Director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News.

“The first priority of the coalition government is to bring stability in the value of rupee as the national currency has fast eroded its value against the US dollar despite International Monetary Fund (IMF) program revival,” he added.

Economists said the coalition government of PM Shehbaz Sharif had paid the political cost of much-needed measures taken by the outgoing finance minister, including the withdrawal of fuel subsidies and fast depreciation of the rupee.

“When the rupee depreciates, the public attributes it to the performance of the economic managers. As a political party this has been the discourse at some level and the decision to bring Dar has been taken in order to show economic performance and improve the image in the eyes of the public.”

The government’s decision to replace Ismail with the Dar reflected the coalition government’s need to immediately “showcase” performance “due to the short time available to the election next year,” Amin said.

“Government wants to go into the election with a new image, with a new market and public feelings that it has improved things … exchange rate and inflation, two key indicators,” he added.

But many economists said Dar’s return would have little effect.

“Changing faces may have limited impacts as we are facing both global and domestic recessions,” Khurram Schehzad, CEO at Alpha Beta Core, a startup investment advisory platform, told Arab News. “Options are limited and the economic situation is challenging. So expecting something extraordinarily different from another person would not be prudent.”

Pakistani industrialists said the incoming finance minister would have to deal with a plethora of issues, chief among them political instability.

“Pakistan is facing a very difficult time at the time when Ishaq Dar is coming back … current account deficit, trade deficit, debt repayments, high inflation, and rupee dollar parity are among them,” Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Businessmen Group at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Arab News.

“The big problem is political stability ... instability is the mother of all economic evils in Pakistan so he will have to deal with it. Our best wishes are with him and we pray for the speedy improvement of the issues the country is facing right now.”

Pakistan stocks closed bullish with the benchmark KSE100 index settling at 41,151 level, up by 531 points or 1.31%.

“Bullish activity witnessed on strong rupee recovery amid decision over the appointment of a new finance minister, which is likely to stabilise economic uncertainty,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, said.


Rabiul Awwal moon not sighted in Pakistan, Eid Milad-un-Nabi to be celebrated on Oct. 9

Updated 26 September 2022

Rabiul Awwal moon not sighted in Pakistan, Eid Milad-un-Nabi to be celebrated on Oct. 9

  • Rabiul Awwal is the third month in the Islamic calendar
  • Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in Rabiul Awwal

ISLAMABAD: The Chairman of the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, Pakistan's moon-sighting body, Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, said on Monday the Rabiul Awwal moon had not been sighted in Pakistan on Monday.

Rabiul Awwal is the third month in the Islamic calendar. The word means "the first [month] or beginning of spring," referring to the month's position in the pre-Islamic Arabian calendar. It is in this month that Muslims celebrate Eid Milad-ul-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

"Eid Milad-ul-Nabi will be on Sunday, October 9, Chairman Rawit-ul-Hilal Committee," state media said. 

 

 

Mawlid is recognized as a national holiday in most Muslim-majority countries with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Some non-Muslim majority countries with large Muslim populations such as India also recognize it as a public holiday.