Muslim World League to launch forum for religious diplomacy, secretary general says in Islamabad

The secretary general of the Muslim World League, Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa (center), addresses scholars in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 10, 2022. (AN photo)
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Updated 10 October 2022
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Muslim World League to launch forum for religious diplomacy, secretary general says in Islamabad

  • President Dr. Arif Alvi confers Hilal-e-Pakistan on MWL secretary general Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa
  • MWL held international conference in Riyadh in May last year to promote interfaith harmony, secretary general says

ISLAMABAD: The secretary general of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, said on Monday the organization was establishing a forum to start religious diplomacy with the aim of promoting interfaith harmony and peace in the world, saying a conference would be held in Riyadh this year for this purpose.

The MWL is an International Islamic non-government organization based in Makkah that aims to spread the true message of Islam and advance moderate values that promote peace and tolerance. Its secretary-general is visiting Pakistan until October 14.

On Monday, during a special investiture ceremony, President Dr. Arif Alvi conferred the second-highest civil award in Pakistan, the Hilal-e-Pakistan, on Al-Issa in recognition of his services in strengthening relations between the two countries as well as for promoting scholarships for Pakistani students at Saudi educational institutions and peace and harmony in the world.

“We have started religious diplomacy to promote interfaith harmony and peace in the world,” Al-Issa said at a separate event organized by the Pakistan Ulema Council where he met with, and addressed, scholars and leaders from different religions.

An international conference was organized by MWL in Riyadh in May last year for this purpose, the secretary general said.

“We have taken a few initiatives at the Riyadh conference. One of the initiatives is to establish a forum for religious diplomacy and another is preparing an international encyclopedia containing common things between humans,” the secretary-general said.

Addressing the event, Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, said the main aim of the visit of the MWL secretary general was to strengthen and enhance bilateral relations between the two brotherly Islamic countries.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a relationship like the soul and body and the relations between two countries have flourished throughout history,” Al-Malki said, adding that the kingdom had always stood with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, Mufti Abdul Shakoor, said the MWL secretary-general was playing a “very important role” in promoting peace and harmony in the world.

“MWL always remained at the forefront in helping Pakistani people, especially in crises like earthquakes and floods,” he added.

Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, said Pakistan had recognized the work and services of the MWL general secretary by conferring the Hilal-e-Pakistan award on him.

“On behalf of religious scholars, we thank the MWL secretary general for his visit and services to Pakistan,” he added.

Earlier, the MWL secretary-general met with President Alvi and discussed Islamophobia and other challenges faced by the Muslim world.

According to a statement issued by the president's office, Alvi called Islamophobia one of the biggest challenges being faced by Muslims and stressed on the need to ease the fears of the world regarding Islam.

“Islamophobia needs to be countered and eliminated through peaceful and harmonious actions in the Islamic world by holding inter-faith conferences, dialogues, and meetings to exchange ideas with religious scholars and leaders of other religions to explain the real message of Islam,” Alvi was quoted as saying in the statement.

The president appreciated the MWL’s efforts for the welfare of the Muslim World, especially its work in setting up vocational education and training centers, provision of water, and renovation and construction of mosques and religious institutions.

The statement said Al-Issa commended Pakistan’s efforts against Islamophobia at different international forums, including the United Nations, which this year unanimously adopted a “landmark resolution” introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.


Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 

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Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 

  • Ranjit Singh was first Maharaja of Sikh Empire, which ruled northwest Indian subcontinent in 19th century
  • Death anniversary rituals will be centered around the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal city

ISLAMABAD: Around 447 Sikh pilgrims from India have arrived at the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib shrine in the Pakistani city of Hassan Abdal to attend events marking the 185th death anniversary of Ranjit Singh, the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, state media reported on Sunday.

Sikhs are a small minority mostly based in the Punjab region that is divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India, but several key Sikh holy sites are in Pakistan, including the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib, some 45 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. The shrine is one of Sikhism’s holiest sites and it is believed that the handprint of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, is imprinted on a boulder there.

Nanak was born in what is now called Nankana Sahib in present-day Pakistan. Ranjit Singh, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab or “Lion of Punjab,” was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century.

“As many as 447 Indian Sikh pilgrims have arrived at the Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassan Abdal to participate in rituals in connection with the 185th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” Radio Pakistan said on Sunday. 

The pilgrims were welcomed by officials of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as well as the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a key government department that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after partition.

Group leader Sardar Khushwint Singh thanked the government for allowing a large number of Sikh pilgrims to visit religious sites in Pakistan, the report said.

The Sikh pilgrims arrived in Pakistan by foot on Friday through the Wagha Border, according to the ETPB, where they were welcomed by Additional Secretary Shrines Saif Ullah Khokhar, along with the head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, who is also the provincial minister for minority affairs. 

Khokhar told media the pilgrims would be provided free accommodation, meals, transportation and medical facilities during their stay in Pakistan. 

“After completing immigration and customs formalities, the sikh pilgrims departed for Gurdwara Panja Sahib on special buses,” the ETPB said. “The main ceremony for Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary will be held on June 29 at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.”

Pakistan’s government has taken significant steps in recent years to make Sikh holy sites more accessible to devout Sikhs, particularly those from India. In 2019, Pakistan established the Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free border crossing and religious corridor that devotees from India can use to visit a famous gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometers from the India-Pakistan border on the Pakistani side.


Azhar Mahmood to pursue legal action against ‘false allegations’ following Pakistan’s T20 WC exit

Updated 23 June 2024
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Azhar Mahmood to pursue legal action against ‘false allegations’ following Pakistan’s T20 WC exit

  • Coach mulling legal options amid widespread allegations families of players, coaching staff traveled to US on PCB expense 
  • Pakistan team and management in line of fire this month as squad failed to qualify for second round of ICC T20 World Cup 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan cricket team’s assistant head coach, Azhar Mahmood, warned on Saturday he would pursue legal action against those levelling “false” allegations against him and his family for traveling to the United States (US) at the expense of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) during the ongoing T20 World Cup series. 

The Pakistan team and management have been in the line of fire this month as the national squad failed to qualify for the second round of the ICC T20 World Cup 2024. The criticism has revolved around the team’s performance as well as that the families of players and coaching staff traveled to the US on the PCB’s expense. 

“I will be pursuing legal advice against those responsible for making these false allegations toward me and my family, and strict action will be taken accordingly,” the former cricketer said in a post on X. “We will not be further discussing this matter on social media.”

He called the allegations “baseless and false,” and said the culture of falsely accusing and misleading people was turning “ridiculous and dangerous.”

Pakistani media has also widely reported this week on captain Babar Azam mulling legal action against YouTubers and former players who had accused him of misconduct during the T20 World Cup.

Pakistan fell to the tournament’s biggest upset when the United States, a tier-two member of the game, beat the 2009 champions via Super Over. Defeat by arch-rivals India then left Babar’s side with a mountain to climb to advance.

Babar had stepped down as captain of all three formats after Pakistan failed to make the knockout stage of the 50-overs World Cup in India last year, but was reinstated as white-ball skipper ahead of the 20-overs showpiece in the US and West Indies.


Number of Pakistani women officers taking combat courses in US up 150 percent in decade — report

Updated 23 June 2024
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Number of Pakistani women officers taking combat courses in US up 150 percent in decade — report

  • 55 women attended IMET courses from 2020-2023, which is more than double the 22 women who participated from 2013-2019
  • Over the last two consecutive years, Pakistan led the region in sending female military officers for courses in the United States

ISLAMABAD: The number of Pakistani women officers who received military training in the United States increased by 150 percent in the last decade, according to a report released this month by the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Since 2013, the number of Pakistani female military personnel participating in the International Military Education and Training program (IMET) has significantly grown. The State Department-sponsored program is designed to build military-to-military relationships with partner nations by funding international military students to attend American military training and education courses.

“Fifty-five women have attended IMET courses from 2020-2023, which is more than double the 22 women who participated from 2013 to 2019,” the report said. “In addition, over the last two consecutive years, Pakistan has led the region in sending female military officers for courses in the United States.”

The report said Pakistani women officers had been attending specialized courses focused on topics such as anti-terrorism and anti-piracy, military justice, information technology, cyber strategies, public affairs, gender-based violence, and medical-related courses.

Two women attended the US Naval Postgraduate School and completed their MBAs in financial management. Another student from the Judicial Commission returned to Pakistan to take an appointment in a train-the-trainer capacity and was tasked with updating Pakistan’s own curriculum. In addition, two female officers had qualified for Pakistani staff college this year, which would open the opportunity for them to attend staff college in the United States as well.

“With women now in the combat arms ranks in the Pakistani military, female officers are attending professional military education courses and returning to the force to be considered for leadership positions,” the report added. 


Mob lynchings in spotlight in Pakistani parliament as top minister seeks national strategy

Updated 23 June 2024
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Mob lynchings in spotlight in Pakistani parliament as top minister seeks national strategy

  • A mob beat a tourist to death on Thursday night in Swat after accusing him of burning pages of the Qur’an
  • Last month, a Christian man attacked by a mob on charges of burning Qur’an died of injuries in hospital 

ISLAMABAD: The recent mob lynching of a local tourist accused of desecrating the Qur’an resonated in the National Assembly on Saturday as a prominent federal minister urged the house to devise a national strategy to prevent such violence in the future.
A tourist belonging to Pakistan’s Sialkot city was dragged from a police station by the mob in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday before being killed and set on fire. Such incidents are not uncommon in Pakistan where a mere accusation of blasphemy can lead to mob violence.
“If it had been an isolated incident, it might have been overlooked, but this is a series of events,” Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told parliament. “It is my request to you that this assembly should take notice of this incident since our society is on the brink of disaster where street justice through mob lynching is done in the name of religion, trampling the constitution, law and all fundamental principles of the state.”
Iqbal suggested that the National Assembly constitute a special committee to review the causes behind such incidents and create a plan of action.
Last month, a Christian man in his seventies was attacked by a mob on charges of burning pages of the Qur’an and later died of his injuries in eastern Pakistan.
In 2021, a Sri Lankan factory manager was lynched in one of the highest profile incidents in the country. Six people were sentenced to death for their part in the lynching after the incident sparked global outcry.


Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations

Updated 22 June 2024
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Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations

  • ‘Save Gaza Campaign’ wanted Pakistan to formally protest to envoys of the countries supporting Israel
  • Two activists were killed and four others injured when a speeding car had an accident at their protest site

ISLAMABAD: A group of pro-Palestine protesters in Pakistan’s federal capital, Islamabad, decided to call off their sit-in after holding a meeting with Federal Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Saturday.
The activists belonging to the Save Gaza Campaign set up their camps near the high-security Red Zone to express solidarity with the people of Palestine who have been targeted by the Israeli war machine since Oct. 7, 2023.
The protesters stayed in the area for nearly 40 days, asking the Pakistani authorities to take practical steps, such as formally protesting to the envoys of the countries supporting Israel, to help the people of Gaza.
“Every Pakistani feels the same about Palestine as they do in their heart,” the interior minister said while referring to the Save Gaza Campaign activists after successful negotiations with the group. “And what they are saying, definitely, there is nothing in it that we object to. Pakistan is already playing its role [to demand a ceasefire]. But we have also promised them [the activists] that we will act on their suggestions.”
“My request to them, which they have agreed to, is that they are going to end their sit-in,” he added.
Last month, the Save Gaza Campaign activists decided to hold their ground after an accident involving a speeding vehicle killed two of them on the roadside and injured four others.
Naqvi also mentioned the incident while praying for the deceased activists and promising quick justice in the case.
Israel has killed over 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them women and children, since the beginning of the war.
While the conflict followed a surprise attack by Hamas, which said it was retaliating to the deteriorating condition of Palestinians under occupation, Israel’s response was widely viewed as disproportionate, bordering on genocide.