Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 11,000

A child is seated amid crates of water in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on February 8, 2023. (REUTERS)
Short Url
Updated 08 February 2023

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 11,000

  • Pakistan has sent relief goods to the two Middle Eastern states on commercial and military airliners
  • As rescue activities continue, time is running out for the thousands who are trapped in the rubble

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday postponed his visit to Ankara after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces that were hit by a major earthquake that has so far claimed over 11,000 lives in Syria and Turkiye.

The prime minister called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye a day before while pointing out that Ankara had generously helped Pakistan in the wake of the 2005 earthquake and floods in recent years. He instructed to set up a relief fund for quake victims and urged well-off individuals to contribute.

Sharif also decided to travel to Turkiye to express solidarity with its people and government while announcing to reschedule a national conference to discuss the security situation in his own country.

“PM visit is postponed due to [the] ongoing relief activities in Turkiye,” federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a brief message to the media on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, rescue activities continue in Syria and Turkiye after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the two countries earlier this week. According to World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, time is running out for the thousands injured and those still feared trapped.

Reports emerging from the two countries say thousands have taken refuge from rains, snow, and aftershocks in mosques, schools, and bus shelters after losing their apartments and houses.

Some estimates suggest that nearly 23 million people have been affected by the quake which will require significant relief and reconstruction activities in the coming days.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already sent two planeloads of relief goods to Turkiye and Syria.

The goods were sent to the Syrian capital of Damascus by a specially chartered plane from Islamabad airport.

The NDMA said more relief materials would also be sent “for Syrian brothers and sisters affected by the earthquake.”

The Pakistan Air Force also said in a statement on Wednesday it had dispatched tents, blankets, and other essential items on two C-130s to Turkiye to help people.

Pakistani envoy reminds Muslim community at UN of Ramadan’s message of compassion, tolerance

Updated 9 sec ago

Pakistani envoy reminds Muslim community at UN of Ramadan’s message of compassion, tolerance

  • Condoles with people who lost their loved ones in climate disasters in Muslim nations
  • Pays homage to Kashmiris and Palestinians “living through the yoke of occupation”

ISLAMABAD: In a message on the eve of Ramadan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, reminded the Muslim community at the UN about the holy month’s teachings of compassion, patience and tolerance toward others and steadfastness in the face of hardships and calamities.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.

The first fast in Pakistan is likely to be observed on Thursday, March 23, with the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, which sights the new moon and announces the start of Ramadan, scheduled to meet this Wednesday.

“I hope this month enshrines us with the need to always do good to others and ourselves,” Munir was quoted by state-run APP as saying.

“Ramadan is a month of exchanging gestures of compassion and empathy. It is a time for reflection, self-purification and learning. It is also a time to look after those in need and to uplift one another.”

“During this time, I would like to express my condolences to my Muslim brothers and sisters who lost their loved ones, and their homes in climate calamities, in particular during the devastating floods that affected Pakistan, Türkiye, and other parts of the world. The earthquake which affected southern Türkiye and northern Syria also incurred extensive loss of life and damage to properties,” the envoy added.

“I pray that May Almighty save us from the menace of such mega-disasters in the future.”

The ambassador also paid homage to Kashmiris and Palestinians “living through the yoke of the occupation.”

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to our peacekeepers in UN missions abroad who are working diligently in difficult circumstances and I express my tribute to the fallen peacekeepers in the line of duty. May Allah grant their soul peace and give fortitude to their families and loved ones.”

'Separate elections unconstitutional': Govt trying for same-day vote, says Sana

Updated 43 min 2 sec ago

'Separate elections unconstitutional': Govt trying for same-day vote, says Sana

March 20: Express Tribune reported interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has claimed that the upcoming polls in two provinces – Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – would be unconstitutional as they would lead to the next general elections not being held under caretaker setups in these provinces. Read More I

Sharif blames ex-PM Khan for ‘intolerable’ smear campaign against Pakistan’s army chief

Updated 14 min 54 sec ago

Sharif blames ex-PM Khan for ‘intolerable’ smear campaign against Pakistan’s army chief

  • PM Sharif urges “patriotic overseas Pakistanis” to raise their voices against “foreign-funded” campaign
  • PTI supporters, in demonstration outside White House on Monday, urged military to accept civilian supremacy

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday criticized his predecessor Imran Khan for orchestrating a “foreign-funded” campaign against Pakistan’s army chief, Syed Asim Munir, saying that it is being launched against him by using overseas Pakistanis.

The prime minister’s statement comes a day after hundreds of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters gathered outside the White House in Washington D.C. to protest against what they said were “atrocities” being committed against Khan. In the protest, a PTI leader demanded that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment must realize the “mistake” it is making while another supporter said the military should accept civilian supremacy in the country.

The protest took place a couple of days after clashes between Khan supporters and Punjab police personnel who attempted to arrest the former prime minister outside his Zaman Khan residence in Lahore on court orders.

Munir was appointed army chief by PM Sharif in November last year. The army chief’s appointment became a subject of controversy after Khan — who challenges the legitimacy of the Sharif government — insisted Pakistan’s ruling coalition government should not appoint the new army chief. Rather, he insisted elections be held and a new prime minister should appoint the army chief.

“Campaign against the army chief is intolerable and a continuation of the conspiracy against institutions,” Sharif said in a statement. “Patriotic overseas Pakistan should raise their voices against this foreign-funded campaign,” he said, adding that overseas Pakistanis are being used to spread “toxic politics.”

Sharif appealed to overseas Pakistanis not to fall prey to the alleged conspiracy, adding that Khan was violating the constitution by dragging the heads of institutions in his “dirty politics.”

“The interior minister should deal with iron hands against those who are running dirty campaigns against institutions within the country,” Sharif said. “Strict legal action should be taken against those who instigate chaos, riots, and rebellion in Pakistan.”

The prime minister said a campaign against an army chief, who had been appointed on merit for the first time in Pakistan’s history, could only be the agenda of enemies of the state. “The nation stands with its institutions and is united against miscreants,” he added.

In separate tweets later, PM Sharif accused Khan of orchestrating a “disgusting smear campaign” against Pakistan’s army chief.

“PTI’s disgusting smear campaign against Chief of the Army Staff General Asim Munir at the behest of Imran Niazi is deserving of the strongest condemnation,” Sharif wrote on Twitter.

In another Twitter post, the premier said Khan is “stooping to unprecedented lows” for power and is undermining Pakistan’s armed forces.

The PTI chairman, who has severely criticized Bajwa and accused him of having a hand in his removal from office in April 2022, has largely refrained from criticizing Munir directly. However, in an interview earlier this month, Khan said he expected Munir’s appointment would “change” his and his party’s fortunes but added that “hardships have increased.”

Pakistan’s military has historically held massive sway in the governance and foreign policy matters of the nuclear-armed South Asian nation. Over the past couple of years, the army, which has ruled Pakistan for nearly half of its 75-year history, has come under intense criticism, arguably unprecedented for the all-powerful institution, particularly for its role in politics.

In his farewell speech, Bajwa said the military had decided in February 2021 to quit any role in Pakistani politics. In a veiled warning to Khan, he also said the military’s patience has limits.

Survey shows almost half of Pakistan does not know how to ride a bicycle

Updated 20 March 2023

Survey shows almost half of Pakistan does not know how to ride a bicycle

  • Gallup Pakistan surveys 764 men and women across all four provinces
  • Answers were collected via telephonic surveys, says Gallup Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The findings of a survey conducted by Gallup and Gilani Pakistan earlier this month said 45 percent of Pakistanis don’t know how to ride a bicycle.

The government in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi organized the “longest cycling race” on March 5. Almost 95 participants took part in the 35-km long race which started from the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi and ended at the Governor House. Though Pakistan has not won any significant world titles in cycling, the country hosts several cycling competitions in major cities across the year.

According to Gallup Pakistan, the survey was conducted on March 16 from a “nationally representative sample of adult men and women” across the country’s four provinces. Respondents were asked the question, “Please tell if you know how to ride a bicycle?”

Fifty-five percent of the respondents said yes while almost half, 45 percent, said no.

The survey was carried out among a sample of 764 men and women in urban and rural areas in the four provinces. The methodology used for data collection was telephonic surveys (CATI), Gallup Pakistan said.

After violent clashes, Punjab says police to do ‘whatever it takes’ to establish writ

Updated 20 March 2023

After violent clashes, Punjab says police to do ‘whatever it takes’ to establish writ

  • Punjab caretaker chief minister announces joint investigation team to probe “terrorist activity” from last week
  • Supporters of former PM Imran Khan clashed with police in Lahore after the latter attempted to arrest him

ISLAMABAD: A couple of days after violent clashes with former prime minister Imran Khan’s supporters, caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Raza Naqvi said on Monday that he had allowed the provincial police to do “whatever it takes” to establish the writ of the state from now on.

Last week, Punjab police fought pitched battles with Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters throughout the night, firing fusillades of teargas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds. The clashes erupted after police showed up at Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to arrest him on court orders in a case relating to the sale of state gifts when Khan was the prime minister.

Punjab’s police chief claims Khan supporters pelted stones and threw petrol bombs at police during the clashes. Naqvi has alleged that militants from Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province attacked police with Khan’s supporters. Khan denies the allegations and insists the police action is part of a larger plot to arrest him and delay general elections.

Naqvi told reporters during a news conference on Monday that Khan supporters had vandalized police vehicles, beaten up police officers, and snatched their weapons. The chief minister said until now, he had told police to practice restraint and avoid bloodshed.

“After this morning, we have told police officers and I have spoken to them, they will now do whatever it takes,” Naqvi said. “The writ of the government will be established. If anyone puts up a challenge and lays a hand on police then those hands will be broken,” he added.

The caretaker chief minister reiterated allegations that militants were part of the protesters who had attacked police.

“You all know there are many people there who have been involved in terrorism, their pictures have also been released,” Naqvi said, adding that supporters of political parties do not indulge in “such activities.”

Naqvi said the government has decided to form a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the “terrorist activity” that had taken place over the past week.

“The team will investigate all of these things; it will include all those people who are usually part of such JITs and [will also probe] people who came from outside of Punjab. We will release a notification about this later in the evening today,” he added.

Meanwhile, Khan told his supporters via a video message on Sunday that he would take action against all Punjab police officers who had allegedly tortured his supporters and been part of a raid at his house. He urged Pakistan’s judiciary to “save the country” before it descends into further chaos.