In throwback to grisly Noor Mukadam case, woman killed by husband ‘with dumbbell’ in Islamabad

Pakistani policemen stand guard in front of a cordoned off area in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 11, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 September 2022

In throwback to grisly Noor Mukadam case, woman killed by husband ‘with dumbbell’ in Islamabad

  • The suspect, Shahnawaz Amir, is the son of prominent politician and columnist Ayaz Amir 
  • Women rights activists demand full enforcement of laws to protect women against violence

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad police said on Friday a man had killed his wife in the Pakistani capital in a case that is reminiscent of the headline-grabbing murder last year of Noor Mukadam, which stirred national outrage over femicides in the South Asian nation. 

Shahnawaz Amir, the son of prominent politician and columnist Ayaz Amir, is believed to have killed his wife Sara Inam with a dumbbell at a farmhouse in Chak Shahzad, a suburb of Islamabad that falls in the jurisdiction of Shahzad Town police station. 

“A man named Shah Nawaz killed his wife Sara at home. Senior police officers and forensic teams are on the spot,” Islamabad police said on Twitter. “The investigation into the incident is ongoing and whatever facts emerge will be shared.” 

Inam, who was a Canadian national, got married to Amir three months ago in Chakwal, the hometown of the suspected killer. It is believed the couple knew each other before marriage and the marriage was of their own choice, not arranged by their families, as is common in Pakistan. 

The woman was employed in Abu Dhabi and returned to Pakistan on Wednesday. 

“The police are trying to establish contact with her family in Canada,” Ziaul Qamar, an Islamabad police spokesperson, told Arab News. 

“We don’t want to speculate about the incident at this stage. Let the police complete their investigation.” 

The police said they received information about the incident from a neighbor of the family and immediately rushed to the spot. They said the victim’s body was found in a bathtub, apparently tortured and killed with dumbbells. 

“We will keep the media posted as soon as the police complete their investigation in the case,” the spokesperson added. 

The suspect’s father, Ayaz Amir, also reached the farmhouse, where the suspect was living with his mother, Samina Pirzada. 

“No one should have to go through something like this,” Ayaz told reporters at the site. “No one should have to go through this grief.” 

The police said the suspect had been arrested and was being investigated while the woman’s body had been moved to Islamabad’s Polyclinic hospital, where it was kept at the hospital’s mortuary for an autopsy. 

Women rights activists have condemned the incident and urged the police to collect conclusive evidence in the case.

“This is extremely unfortunate that cases of violence against women have been increasing rapidly in Pakistan, but criminals often succeed in evading punishment,” Zohra Yusuf, a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), told Arab News. 

She said numerous laws were enacted in the country to curb violence against women, but “their enforcement remains weak.” 

“Ours is a patriarchal society where women are not recognized as equal citizens, and this discrimination leads to violence and killing of women,” she added. 

As news of the murder spread in Pakistan and became headline news in the country, many remembered Mukadam, who was found beheaded in an upscale Islamabad neighborhood in July 2020. 

In March this year, a Pakistani court sentenced to death Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer, a childhood friend of Mukadam, for beheading her and to 25 years imprisonment with a fine of Rs200,000 for rape, ten years in jail with a Rs100,000 fine for abduction and a one-year jail term for keeping Mukadam in illegal confinement. Mukadam and Jaffer were widely believed to have been in a relationship, which they had broken off a few months before her murder. 

Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, with thousands more suffering brutal violence. But few cases receive sustained media attention, and only a small fraction of perpetrators are ever punished or convicted by courts. 

But Mukadam’s shocking murder, involving members of the privileged elite of Pakistani society, triggered an explosive reaction from women’s rights activists reckoning with pervasive violence. It also increased pressure for a swift conclusion of the trial in a country known to have a sluggish justice system and where cases typically drag on for years. 

UN says disease outbreaks remain ‘growing concern’ in flood-hit Pakistan

Updated 15 sec ago

UN says disease outbreaks remain ‘growing concern’ in flood-hit Pakistan

  • Deaths from infections, malaria, dengue have caused more than 300 deaths since July in worst-hit province of Sindh
  • Flood-ravaged regions have become infested with diseases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea and skin problems

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations has said outbreaks of mosquito-borne and water-borne diseases in flooded Pakistan were a “growing concern,” as deaths from infections, malaria and dengue fever have caused more than 300 deaths since July in the worst-hit province of Sindh, according to health officials.

The death toll from the deluge itself has reached 1,663, including 614 children and 333 women, a figure that does not include deaths from fast-spreading diseases, according to data from the National Disaster Management Authority.

“Outbreaks of vector-borne and water-borne diseases are a growing concern in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, where many districts remain inundated by floodwaters,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said on Tuesday.

He said floods had damaged nearly 1,500 health facilities across the country, including more than 300 refrigerators and solar power systems, which was disrupting vaccine cold chains.

“Assessments are continuing, but an estimated 7.9 million people remain displaced by the catastrophic floods.  Nearly 600,000 people are living in relief camps, and more than 7,000 schools across Pakistan are being used as temporary relief camps,” the spokesperson said, adding that the UN and its humanitarian partners were continuing to scale up response and had reached more than 1.6 million people impacted by the floods.

“Nearly 600,000 people are living in relief camps, and more than 7,000 schools across Pakistan are being used as temporary relief camps … More than two million houses have been damaged by the heavy rains and floods. More than 25,000 schools and 13,000 km of roads have also reportedly been damaged.”

Record monsoon rains in south and southwest Pakistan and glacial melt in northern areas triggered the flooding that has affected nearly 33 million people in the South Asian nation of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock and causing an estimated $30 billion of damage.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are in dire need of food, shelter, clean drinking water, toilets and medicines. Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of elevated highways.

The economic losses from the flooding will slash the country’s GDP growth to around 3 percent from the estimated target of 5 percent set out in the budget when it had narrowly escaped defaulting on its debt in a balance of payment crisis.

Pakistan was already reeling from economic blows when the floods hit, with its foreign reserves falling as low as one month’s worth of imports and its current account deficit widening.

PM Sharif, army chief congratulate Saudi crown prince on becoming prime minister

Updated 56 min 27 sec ago

PM Sharif, army chief congratulate Saudi crown prince on becoming prime minister

  • Saudi King Salman ordered the cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday
  • King’s son Khalid bin Salman becomes defense minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday congratulated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on becoming the kingdom’s prime minister.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced the cabinet reshuffle that also saw his second son Prince Khalid as defense minister, and another son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, as energy minister, a royal decree, carried by state news agency SPA, said on Tuesday.

“I congratulate my brother Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” Sharif said, praying for Saudi Arabia’s continued progress and prosperity.

The Pakistani army chief also shared his congrats with the crown prince, saying Pakistan valued its “historic and brotherly” relations with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan and Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih remained unchanged, the decree showed.

The crown prince had previously been the defense minister of Saudi Arabia. Prince Khalid bin Salman, his younger brother, previously served as deputy defense minister.

King Salman will still preside the cabinet meetings that he attends, the decree said.

The 86-year-old king, the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, became ruler in 2015 after spending more than 2-1/2 years as the crown prince. He has been hospitalized several times over the last two years.

Prince Mohammed has changed Saudi Arabia radically since 2017, leading efforts to diversify the economy from dependence on oil, allowed women to drive and curbed the clerics’ power over society.

Blinken defends Pakistan arms sales against Indian criticism

Updated 28 September 2022

Blinken defends Pakistan arms sales against Indian criticism

  • Top US diplomat defends $450 million F-16 deal for Pakistan approved in September, says package for maintenance of existing fleet
  • Pakistan’s military relies heavily on US equipment but the relationship soured during the two-decade-long US war in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday defended military sales to Pakistan after withering criticism from growing US partner India, which considers itself the target of Islamabad’s F-16 planes.

Blinken met in the US capital with India’s foreign minister a day after separate talks with his counterpart from Pakistan.

The US-Pakistan alliance, born out of the Cold War, has frayed over Islamabad’s relationship with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The top US diplomat defended a $450 million F-16 deal for Pakistan approved earlier in September, saying the package was for maintenance of Pakistan’s existing fleet.

“These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have,” Blinken told a news conference with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“Pakistan’s program bolsters its capability to deal with terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan or from the region. It’s in no one’s interests that those threats be able to go forward with impunity,” Blinken said.

Jaishankar did not criticize Blinken in public. But on Sunday, speaking at a reception for the Indian community in the United States, Jaishankar said of the US position, “You’re not fooling anybody.”

“For someone to say, I’m doing this because it’s for counter-terrorism, when you’re talking of an aircraft like the capability of the F-16, everybody knows where they are deployed,” he said, referring to the fleet’s positioning against India.

“Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well nor serving American interests well,” he said.

Pakistan’s military relies on US equipment but the relationship soured during the two-decade US war in Afghanistan, with Washington believing that elements in Islamabad never severed support for the Taliban, who seized back power last year.

India historically has bought military equipment from Moscow and has pressed the United States to waive sanctions required under a 2017 law for any nation that buys “significant” military hardware from Russia.

Speaking next to Blinken, Jaishankar noted that India has in recent years also made major purchases from the United States, France and Israel.

India assesses quality and purchase terms and “we exercise a choice which we believe is in our national interest,” he said, rejecting any change due to “geopolitical tensions.”

The United States since the late 1990s has made warm relations with India a top goal, seeing common cause between the world’s two largest democracies on issues from China’s rise to the threat of Islamist extremism.

The United States has largely turned a blind eye to India’s continued relationship with Russia since the Ukraine invasion but was pleased when Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently told President Vladimir Putin that it was “not a time for war.”

Jaishankar indicated that India was working behind the scenes, saying it had “weighed in” with Russia during UN- and Turkish-led negotiations that opened up grain shipments from the blockaded Black Sea.

India “is widening its international footprint,” Jaishankar said.

“There are many more regions where we will be intersecting with American interests. It is to our mutual benefit that this be a complementary process,” Jaishankar said.

But once rock-solid support for India in the US Congress has seen gaps amid concern over rights under Modi, a Hindu nationalist whose government has been accused of marginalizing Muslims and other religious minorities and pressuring activists through legal action and financial scrutiny.

Blinken addressed the issue delicately, saying the two nations should commit to “core values including respect for universal human rights, like freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression, which makes our democracies stronger.”

Jaishankar responded indirectly that both nations were committed to democracy but “from their history, tradition and societal context.”

“India does not believe that the efficacy or indeed the quality of democracy should be decided by vote banks,” he said.

Dar takes oath as minister today before becoming new Pakistan finance chief

Updated 46 min 6 sec ago

Dar takes oath as minister today before becoming new Pakistan finance chief

  • Dar on Tuesday took oath as senator, a day after returning from self-imposed exile in London
  • Dubbed Daronomics, his approach kept rupee stable between Rs98 and Rs105 against greenback in last tenure

ISLAMABAD: Ruling party Senator Ishaq Dar took oath as a federal minister today, Wednesday, paving the way to becoming the finance minister of Pakistan five years after he was ousted from the role by a court in a corruption case.

President Dr Arif Alvi administered the oath to Dar at the Presidency at 10am.

Dar on Tuesday took oath as a senator, a day after he had landed in Pakistan from London where he has lived in self-imposed exile for five years.

Dar is a member of PM 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 arrival of Dar has changed the sentiments in the currency market and many people think that he would take punitive actions against the speculators,” Zafar Paracha, General Secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), told Arab News on Tuesday as the rupee recouped Rs5.74 or 2.3 percent during the last two consecutive trading sessions following the nomination of Dar, known to favor a strong currency, as finance minister.

Pakistan’s currency has lost its value by 6.48 percent during the current month and has depreciated by 24.54 percent since January this year as demand for imports exerted pressure on the rupee.

A Pakistani anti-corruption court declared Dar an absconder after the veteran politician, who is a close aide to three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, failed to turn up for several court hearings in 2017.

Dar, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he amassed wealth beyond known sources of income, said he was receiving medical treatment in London and unable to return to Pakistan.

The charges against Dar followed an investigation into the finances of former PM Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in July 2017 after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a small salary from his son’s off-shore company.

Both Dar and Nawaz say the cases against them are politically motivated.

During his stint as finance minister from 2013-2017, Dar was initially lauded for steering Pakistan out of a balance of payments crisis in 2013 and returning the nuclear-armed country toward a higher growth trajectory.

But by 2017 when he stepped down as finance minister after Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified him from office, Dar faced widespread criticism for his refusal to allow the rupee to weaken to ease macroeconomic pressures. He was also accused of eroding the central bank’s independence.

Top Pakistan diplomat urges flood aid, patience with Taliban

Updated 28 September 2022

Top Pakistan diplomat urges flood aid, patience with Taliban

  • Pakistani FM gave contentious recommendations that the US work more directly with Afghanistan’s Taliban
  • US long has been at odds with many Pakistani officials over sympathetic handling and support for the Taliban

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s foreign minister says the international community should work with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, not against it, when it comes to combatting foreign extremist groups and the economic and humanitarian crises in that country — even as many US officials say the Taliban have proved themselves unworthy of such cooperation.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s top diplomat, spoke to The Associated Press in the final days of a trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and to Washington that has focused on trying to draw more world attention to unprecedented flooding that has one-third of his country underwater.

Unrelenting monsoon rains that scientists say are worsened by climate change have killed more than 1,000 people in Pakistan, caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and destroyed much of the country’s staple food and commercial crops.

Pakistan is among many countries hardest-hit by climate change that have become increasingly outspoken in seeking more financial assistance from richer nations. Past and current economic and industrial booms of China, the United States and other leading economies are the biggest contributors to climate change, which is primarily caused by burning fossil fuels.

The roughly 30 million people in Pakistan reported to be displaced by the floods are “truly paying in the forms of their lives and their livelihoods for the industrialization of other countries,” said Zardari.

“And justice would be that we work together” globally, “that we’re not left alone, to deal with the consequences of this tragedy,” he said.

Zardari is the son of a past Pakistani prime minister and a past president. He became foreign minister in April.

He met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. The Biden administration on the same day announced another $10 million in food aid for Pakistan, on top of more than $56 million in flood relief and humanitarian assistance this year.

More broadly, however, the Biden administration and other governments of leading economic nations have delivered only a small part of the $100 billion in annual aid they have pledged to help less-wealthy nations survive the droughts, rising seas and other disasters of climate change and switch to cleaner energy themselves.

“We expect the United States to be one of the leading players” in that, said Zardari, who also spoke approvingly of a nascent proposal out of the UN in which developed nations could cancel out existing debt as a form of climate aid.

“We’ve not yet seen — and that doesn’t mean we won’t see — the translation of this vision to practicalities on the ground” in terms of the overall climate aid, he said.

Zardari, who spoke to the AP on Tuesday at Pakistan’s embassy, also gave contentious recommendations that the US work more directly with Afghanistan’s Taliban. Pakistan and the United States have shared widely varying amounts of cooperation against violent armed groups sheltering in Afghanistan over the decades. The US long has been at odds with many Pakistani officials over sympathetic handling and support for the Taliban.

No country recognizes the Taliban, a group sanctioned as a terrorist organization that retook power by military force in August 2021, as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. The United States and the international community at large have sought to deal with billions of dollars in frozen Afghan Central Bank funds, to institute financial reforms, and to deliver badly needed aid to ordinary Afghans with minimal involvement by the Taliban.

“At the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings, I think it’s important to mention that these funds, it’s not the Taliban’s funds, it’s not the Americans’ funds. These are funds that belong to the people of Afghanistan,” Zardari said.

Economic isolation and privation such as Afghanistan has experienced since the Taliban takeover only feed authoritarianism and extremism, he said. The best financial outcomes would work through existing institutions, now in Taliban hands, not through “some sort of parallel government.”

Asked if he meant the US needed to hold its nose and deal with Afghanistan’s ruling power, Zardari said, “Pretty much.”

Meanwhile, the US discovery that the global leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, had taken up refuge in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital since the Taliban had returned to power has left US leaders condemning Taliban officials for alleged complicity. The US killed Zawahiri in a drone strike in July.

The Taliban had yet to have the time and ability to grapple with extremist groups as a government should, Zardari said. “For them to demonstrate their will to take on terrorist organizations, we need to help them build their capacity to also do so” before judging them, he said.