Pakistan’s army concerned over militant ‘safe havens’ in Afghanistan, threatens ‘effective response’

Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir visits injured soldiers in Zohb district, Balochistan province of Pakistan on July 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)
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Updated 14 July 2023

Pakistan’s army concerned over militant ‘safe havens’ in Afghanistan, threatens ‘effective response’

  • The army chief visits soldiers who got injured in a militant attack in Balochistan’s Zhob district earlier this week
  • General Asim Munir leaves for Iran on a two-day official visit where he is also scheduled to meet several officials

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army reiterated its concern over the presence of militant “safe havens” in Afghanistan on Friday and threatened “effective response” as its top commander General Asim Munir visited soldiers in southwestern Balochistan province who got injured after a group of armed men targeted their base earlier this week.

Nine soldiers lost their lives after a group of militants stormed the military facility in the province’s Zhob district on Wednesday. According to official information released after the attack, three militants were also killed in the encounter in Balochistan which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

While most attacks on security forces in the southwest of the country have been carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in the recent past, the responsibility for the Zhob attack was claimed by a new armed faction called Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), which announced itself in February this year.

The TTP, whose leadership is said to be based in Afghanistan, also unilaterally broke a fragile ceasefire with the government last November before launching several attacks in different parts of the country. Pakistan also raised concern over the presence of militant network in Afghanistan in the past and urged the administration in Kabul to address the situation.

“The Armed Forces of Pakistan have serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to TTP in Afghanistan,” the army’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement issued after the army chief’s visit to Balochistan. “It is expected that interim Afghan Government would not allow the use of its soil to perpetrate terror against any country, in the real sense and in line with commitments made in Doha Agreement.”

“The involvement of Afghan nationals in acts of terrorism in Pakistan is another important concern that needs to be addressed,” it continued. “Such attacks are intolerable and would elicit effective response from the Security Forces of Pakistan.”

The ISPR said operations against militants would continue unabated and the armed forces would not rest until extremist violence was rooted out from the country.

Meanwhile, the chief of army staff (COAS) also paid rich tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the attack while visiting the injured soldiers at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Quetta. He also lauded the services of his troops to the nation and appreciated their resolve.

In the past, attacks on security forces and other targets in Balochistan were largely carried out by the Baloch Liberation Army and other separatist groups seeking complete independence for the arid mountainous province that is Pakistan’s largest by territory but smallest by population and most backward in terms of almost all social and development indicators.

Balochistan is also home to a number of China-backed economic projects carried out under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), against which some militants have also launched attacks.

Later, the ISPR announced in a separate statement that the army chief left for Iran on a two-day official visit.

“The COAS will meet Iranian military and civilian leadership during his visit to Iran,” it said, adding the army chief would discuss bilateral matters related to defense and security cooperation with officials in the neighboring country.

Pakistan, UAE sign agreement for promotion of date palm cultivation

Updated 26 February 2024

Pakistan, UAE sign agreement for promotion of date palm cultivation

  • The United Arab Emirates is Pakistan’s third-largest trading partner, after China and the United States
  • Under the deal, the UAE will provide technological support to Pakistan to increase date palm cultivation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance agricultural innovation and research to develop and promote various aspects of date palm cultivation and related industry, Pakistan’s top diplomat to the UAE said.

The UAE is Pakistan’s third-largest trading partner, after China and the United States. Policymakers in Pakistan consider the Gulf state an optimal export destination due to its geographical proximity, which minimizes transportation and freight costs while facilitating commercial transactions. Presently, Pakistan’s primary exports to the UAE include textile products and a variety of food items.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Faisal Niaz Tirmizi and Dr. Abdelouahhab Zaid, general-secretary of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation, signed the MoU in Abu Dhabi. The signing ceremony was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE minister of tolerance and coexistence.

“The MoU will help in promoting joint cooperation and sharing of expertise between the two sides,” Tirmizi told Arab News. “It will also provide an opportunity to Pakistani farmers to increase cultivation of date palm including through innovative ideas.”

Being one of the pioneers, the UAE will provide technological support to Pakistan to increase date palm cultivation as Pakistan’s rich topography presents immense potential in the sector, according to the Pakistani ambassador.

Pursuant to the deal, Pakistan will organize its first international date palm festival this year.

“Pakistan and the UAE enjoy fraternal relationship and are engaged on a range of mutually beneficial collaborative projects, including in the realm of political, economic, agricultural, cultural, energy and defense cooperation,” Tirmizi added.

Pakistan has resolved three of five operational issues for KE stake sale — Al-Jomaih official

Updated 26 February 2024

Pakistan has resolved three of five operational issues for KE stake sale — Al-Jomaih official

  • Al-Jomaih bought 66.4 percent share in KE in 2005 along with Abraaj Group and Kuwait’s National Industries Group
  • In 2016, consortium decided to sell stake to Shanghai Electric but sale stuck due to regulatory and other issues

KARACHI: The top official of a consortium that owns majority shares of Karachi Electric said on Monday Saudi investors were satisfied with the outcome of a committee formed by the Pakistani government to resolve regulatory hurdles and issues of payables that have been blocking the sale of the Pakistani utility to Chinese powerhouse Shanghai Electric Power (SEP) for years.

Al-Jomaih Holding Group, one of the largest business groups in Saudi Arabia, bought a 66.4 percent share in KE in 2005 as part of a consortium comprising Al-Jomaih, Abraaj Group and Kuwait’s National Industries Group (NIG). In 2016, the consortium decided to sell the stake to China’s Shanghai Electric Power and submitted an application for a National Security Certificate (NSC) to the Pakistani Privatization Commission. However, the group still awaits approval of the deal due to long-standing issues of regulatory approvals and KE’s liquidity constraints as a consequence of mounting circular debt plaguing the country’s power sector.

In January this year, Shanghai Electric reiterated its commitment to the deal. The government of Pakistan currently owns a 24.4 percent stake in K-Electric, which powers the country’s largest city and commercial hub of Karachi.

Shan Abbas Ashary, the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of Al-Jomaih and a director at KE, said regulatory hurdles and disputes were being addressed at a “high pace” after the Saudi investment minister wrote a letter to the finance minister of Pakistan in December last year.

“After that, we had several meetings and the SIFC [Special Investment Facilitation Council] took up the matter and created a committee of three ministers,” Ashary told Arab News, referring to a civil-military body set up last year to fast-track foreign investments.

“Thanks to the Pakistani government, and thanks to the support from the Saudi government, this interim [Pakistani] government took it [KE’s issues] very seriously,” he said, adding that out of five key issues, three operational issues had been resolved while a committee had been formed to look into the remaining issues and progress was taking place.

“The outcome is satisfactory for us and I have reported it back to Al-Jomaih Group and they understand it and they appreciate it very much that progress is being made by the Pakistan government.”

He said he hoped the issues would be resolved in “several months not several years” due to the seriousness being accorded to the matter by the SIFC, whose committee comprised the ministers of law, energy and privatization.

When asked if Shanghai Electric, which had offered to purchase shares of KE for $1.7 billion six years ago, would revaluate its offer, the Al Jomaih official said:

“Shanghai Electric has just renewed expression of interest …. They will come back, do a complete due diligence because six years have passed, it’s a long time.”

Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects Murad Ali Shah as new chief minister

Updated 26 February 2024

Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects Murad Ali Shah as new chief minister

  • Shah was nominated as the chief minister’s candidate by the majority Pakistan Peoples Party
  • He bagged 112 votes, while his opponent, Ali Khurshidi, from the MQM-P secured only 36 votes

KARACHI: The provincial assembly in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province once again elected on Monday Murad Ali Shah as the chief minister of the province.

Shah was nominated for the chief minister’s post by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which bagged the highest 84 provincial seats in Feb. 8 national election.

He secured 112 votes in the 168-member House, while his opponent, Ali Khurshidi, from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) secured 36 votes.

The remaining members, most loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, boycotted the session, while two PPP members could not vote as they had yet to take oath as lawmakers.

“Felicitations to the chief minister,” Sindh Assembly Speaker Owais Qadir Shah said, after announcing result of the election.

The provincial assembly in Sindh held its inaugural session on Saturday amid protests by opposition parties over alleged rigging of the election. On Sunday, the PPP had Owais and Anthony Naveed elected as speaker and deputy speaker of the House.

Saturday’s inaugural session of the assembly was marred by protests by supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other nationalist parties, who gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s South zone to protest the alleged manipulation of Feb. 8 elections.

In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government last Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.

Pakistan’s commerce minister attends WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi 

Updated 26 February 2024

Pakistan’s commerce minister attends WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi 

  • Commerce Minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz meets counterparts from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and China, says state-run media 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Caretaker Commerce Minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz is in Abu Dhabi to attend the the13th high-level ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, state-run media said on Monday, as representatives of various countries around the world gear up to discuss global trade in the shadow of Israel’s war on Gaza and conflicts in other parts of the globe. 

The WTO’s ministerial conference, scheduled to run until Thursday, includes discussions on various contemporary issues ranging from trade and environment to climate change, sustainability, and inclusion in its agenda. 

“Caretaker Minister for Commerce, Industry and Investment Gohar Ejaz is in Abu Dhabi to attend the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference,” the state-run Radio Pakistan said. 

It added that Ejaz met his counterparts from other countries, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkiye, and China in Abu Dhabi. 

The UAE is Pakistan’s third-largest trade partner after China and the United States. It is also viewed as an ideal export destination by policymakers in the South Asian country due to its geographical proximity with Pakistan that reduces transportation and freight costs.

The Gulf country is also home to an estimated 1.8 million Pakistani expatriates and after Saudi Arabia, the second-largest source of remittances for the South Asian nation of more than 240 million. Pakistan’s principal exports to the UAE consist of textile products and various food items.

Last month, Pakistan and the UAE inked multiple agreements worth over $3 billion for cooperation in railways, economic zones, and infrastructure at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children

Updated 26 February 2024

Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children

  • Nationwide vaccination drive against polio to be held from Feb. 26-March 3
  • Pakistan’s health minister urges people to cooperate with polio volunteers 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Monday kicked off a nationwide weeklong campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children against the poliovirus disease, with the country’s caretaker health minister urging masses to cooperate with polio workers for a safer and healthier future for their children. 

Pakistan aims to vaccinate over 45.8 million children below the age of five during the second anti-polio campaign of this year, which is being held from February 26 to March 3. The vaccination drive is scheduled to be held from March 2-6 in the 33 districts of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province bordering Afghanistan. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“Over 400,000 of our polio heroes are knocking at your doors for a bright and healthy future,” Pakistan’s Caretaker Health Minister Dr. Nadeem Jan said in a video message. 

“Cooperate with them because eliminating polio is our national, moral, religious and social obligation,” he added. 

This is the second nationwide campaign against the disease after poliovirus was detected in sewage samples from 19 Pakistani districts in January and in 126 sewage samples in 2023. The first campaign this year was held from January 8-14 in which over 43 million children were vaccinated, according to official figures. 

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern KP province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.