After months of acrimony, ex-PM Khan’s party says wants to improve ties with army

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan (C) addresses his supporters during an anti-government long march towards Islamabad to demand early elections, in Lahore on October 28, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 05 December 2022

After months of acrimony, ex-PM Khan’s party says wants to improve ties with army

  • PTI had a particularly tense relationship with the military since Khan was ousted from power in April last year
  • PTI confirms “informal communications” had begun with federal government on announcement of snap polls

ISLAMABAD: A top leader of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said on Monday the party wanted to improve its relations with the country’s all-powerful army, confirming that discussions on early elections were ongoing with the federal government. 

Khan was ousted from the office of prime minister in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April. He has since blamed his removal on a conspiracy hatched by the United States, the country’s military, and his political opponents, all of whom deny the charge. 

The ex-premier particularly criticized former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for not blocking his ouster and backing the new collation government of PM Shehbaz Sharif instead. However, after Bajwa retired last month and a new army chief, General Asim Munir, was appointed, Khan expressed hope of an end to what he called a “prevailing trust deficit between the army and the public.”

The army has ruled Pakistan for nearly half its 75-year history and plays a central role in internal politics and foreign policy. 

Speaking at a presser in Lahore, PTI’s Senior Vice President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the Sharif government was trying to sabotage the PTI’s recent repeated attempts to mend ties with the army.

“While we are trying to lessen the tension that has existed between the PTI, the armed forces, and the judiciary for the last few months, some people, the federal government precisely, is trying to derail that process,” he said.

However, Hussain said the PTI wanted to move on toward general elections, confirming that “informal communications” between the PTI and the federal government on announcement of snap polls had begun.

“Either they can sit with us and talk, give us a date for the general elections ... or else we will dissolve our assemblies,” Hussain said, reiterating the PTI’s warning it would dissolve assemblies in the two provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, where the party is in majority. 

“We have tried to make them understand that no system other than elections can bring stability in the country,” Hussain told reporters.

PM Sharif has so far rejected the demand for snap polls, saying the election would be held as scheduled late next year.


Army chief visits suicide blast site in Peshawar, praises police as ‘frontline force’

Updated 03 February 2023

Army chief visits suicide blast site in Peshawar, praises police as ‘frontline force’

  • Gen. Munir’s visit comes at a time when PM Shehbaz Sharif announced ‘zero-tolerance policy against terrorism’
  • The prime minister expressed his resolve not to let armed groups reverse the country’s recent ‘anti-terror gains’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir praised Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police for playing a critical role in fighting extremist violence on Friday while visiting the site of a deadly suicide blast in Peshawar where over a hundred people were killed during a prayer congregation.
The incident took place when an explosion ripped through a crowded mosque in Peshawar’s police headquarters on Monday after a suicide bomber managed to enter the facility in police uniform.

Pakistan's army chief Asim Munir, third left, visits the site of Monday's suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 3, 2023. (Photo courtesy: social media)

According to a statement released by the military’s media wing, ISPR, the army chief met with police personnel and praised their bravery in the “war against terrorism.”
“The [chief of army staff] said that KP police is one of the most brave and has fought as a Frontline force against terrorism,” the statement added.
He appreciated the morale of police personnel and paid tribute to the martyrs who “laid down their lives for the defence of motherland.”
“We as a nation together will root out this menace of terrorism till enduring peace and InSha Allah we shall achieve this,” General Munir was quoted as saying.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a high-level meeting to review the security situation of the country which agreed to adopt “a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism.”
“Those who attacked innocent citizens will be brought to justice,” he said in a Twitter post. “We will not allow anti-terror gains to be reversed.”

The prime minister said the participants of the meeting also considered proposals to revise the National Action Plan, announced in December 2014 to crack down on militant networks, and approved “a slew of measures to improve investigation, forensic & working of [counterterrorism departments].”
“The meeting agreed to institute implementation mechanism for the decisions,” he added.


Pakistan’s UN envoy apologizes for comments on Pashtun culture in women education comments

Updated 03 February 2023

Pakistan’s UN envoy apologizes for comments on Pashtun culture in women education comments

  • Munir Akram called keeping women at home ‘distinctive cultural reality’ of Afghanistan, Pashtuns
  • Pakistani envoy to the UN says he ‘misspoke’ his words as he had deep respect for Pashtun culture

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Munir Akram, on Friday apologized for his comments about the Pashtun culture which drew flak on social media after he termed the Afghan Taliban government’s ban on women’s education and work a “distinctive cultural reality” of Afghanistan.

The Pakistani diplomat briefed member states on two high-level UN visits to Afghanistan on Thursday and said the Taliban’s decision to bar women from seeking education and employment did not stem from religious beliefs but was an aspect of the Pashtun culture that required women to stay at home and had remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

Akram’s statement was widely criticized on social media by both Pakistanis and Afghans, with Afghanistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka asking the UN to “immediately refute this piece of disinformation” and saying Pashtun girls had been attending schools and universities since time immemorial.

In response to the criticism, Akram issued an apology, saying his words “did not accurately reflect Pakistan’s position.”

“My apologies for the hurt caused by my comments at the humanitarian briefing on Afghanistan,” he wrote on Twitter. “I [misspoke] & my words did not accurately reflect Pakistan’s position.”

“I have deep respect for Pashtun culture,” he continued. “Denying women & girls access to education is neither Islamic nor Pashtun culture.”

 

Earlier, Akram said he meant “no disrespect” to the Pashtun culture which was “highly progressive and deserves all respect across the world,” the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency quoted him as saying.

The Pakistani envoy said he had referred to a “peculiar perspective” of a small minority, which had resulted in restrictions on Afghan women, according to the report.

The restrictions were “not consistent with Islam and the Sharia, which provides all rights to women, including to work and education,” he added.

Last year, the interim Taliban government in Afghanistan provoked anger in many parts of the world when it issued edicts banning women from attending universities and secondary schools. The Afghan government also ordered local and foreign aid organizations to ban women from working in their offices.

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers justified the move by saying some women had not adhered to their interpretation of the Islamic dress code.


Pacer Shaheen Afridi ties the knot with Shahid Afridi’s daughter in intimate Karachi nikkah

Updated 03 February 2023

Pacer Shaheen Afridi ties the knot with Shahid Afridi’s daughter in intimate Karachi nikkah

  • The young couple got engaged two years ago and their wedding reception was held amid sophisticated floral decoration
  • The marriage ceremony was attended by several Pakistani cricketers, showbiz personalities, officials and other athletes

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s legendary pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi on Friday tied the knot with the daughter of former skipper Shahid Afridi in a ceremony attended by some of the top players of the national cricket team along with other prominent personalities.
The engagement between the Pakistan quick and his wife, Ansha Afridi, took place about two years ago, and their nikkah ceremony was followed by an outdoor reception amid sophisticated floral decoration.
While the national team captain Babar Azam, wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, leg spinner Shadab Khan and fast bowler Naseem Shah were present at the gathering, several other cricketers sent their greetings to the young couple since they could not attend the gathering.
“Prayers for you my baby brother @iShaheenAfridi,” Pakistan’s leading batter Muhammad Rizwan said in a Twitter post with a brief congratulatory statement recorded in a video. “May you and your wife be the source of happiness and joy for each other, Ameen.”

 

 

Shaheen, who also plays for Lahore Qalandars, got video messages from his local and international teammates who shared their best wishes with him at the occasion.

 

 

According to the local media, the event was attended by former director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Saleem Bajwa and squash legend Jahangir Khan.
There were also showbiz personalities, such as Adnan Siddiqui, who took pictures with the groom and his teammates.


Survey shows 68% young Pakistanis want to stay in country despite economic, political instability

Updated 03 February 2023

Survey shows 68% young Pakistanis want to stay in country despite economic, political instability

  • British Council survey calls young Pakistanis politically passive and apathetic, with little or no trust in the system
  • 69 percent young Pakistanis have positive outlook about the country while 73 percent hope for good careers

ISLAMABAD: A British Council survey report launched on Friday found 68 percent of Pakistan’s young population willing to stay in the country in spite of the current economic and political instability while 73 percent said it was optimistic about its future and expected to live a better life in the coming years.
Pakistan has been grappling with tough economic challenges amid growing political uncertainty after a rapid depletion of foreign currency reserves which has also put its national currency under pressure.
According to a Reuters report published last month, data compiled by the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment showed that more than 800,000 Pakistani had left their country in 2022 to take up jobs abroad.
However, the British Council survey, “Pakistan – The Next Generation Report 2023,” showed the country’s youth between the ages of 15 and 34 were optimistic about the future of their country.
“[Sixty-eight percent of the respondents] wish to stay in Pakistan than move abroad, while 69% are optimistic about the future of Pakistan,” the report said.
When asked about their lives and employment opportunities in the country during the upcoming years, 69 percent said they had a positive outlook while 73 percent expressed hope in their future careers.
While the country’s next generation said it was hopeful Pakistan’s betterment, it expressed its dissatisfaction with the country’s political system.
“They are politically very passive and apathetic, with little to no trust in the political system,” the report added.
The survey showed that almost nine in ten young Pakistanis saw the economy as a key voting issue at the national level, while the majority of respondents said they felt their voices were not being heard by the country’s leadership.


Ex-PM Khan’s party refuses to attend national conference on growing threat of militant violence

Updated 03 February 2023

Ex-PM Khan’s party refuses to attend national conference on growing threat of militant violence

  • Asad Umar says government inviting PTI leaders for dialogue while registering treason cases against them
  • PM Sharif called the all-parties conference next week, asking political leaders to rise above their differences

ISLAMABAD: Former premier Imran Khan’s political faction announced on Friday it would not attend an all-parties conference (APC) arranged by the government next week to discuss the growing threat of militant violence in the country.
The invitation to the event was extended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday who called for national unity over the issue while asking Pakistan’s top political leaders to rise above their differences and collectively tackle the threat against the state and its people.
He also invited Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to the conference which would be held on February 7.
“How can we sit with the government which is registering cases against us,” asked PTI general secretary Asad Umar while interacting with the media outside the Lahore High Court.
He acknowledged the growing threat of violence but pointed out that state resources were used to file treason cases against the leaders of his political party, instead of fighting the scourge of militancy.
The government decided to call the APC in the wake of a deadly suicide attack that killed at least 100 people at a mosque at Peshawar’s police headquarters during a prayer congregation Monday afternoon.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in extremist violence since a fragile trace between the government and a proscribed militant faction, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), came to an end last November.
A TTP commander also claimed the attack on the mosque before his group distanced itself from the incident by issuing another statement.