Registered Afghan refugees among hundreds arrested in police crackdown in south Pakistan

In this file photo, taken on January 30, 2021, a police vehicle enters the central prison in Karachi. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 12 September 2023
Follow

Registered Afghan refugees among hundreds arrested in police crackdown in south Pakistan

  • The crackdown on Afghan nationals began on Saturday following militant infiltration from Afghanistan into Chitral district
  • Police have acknowledged making 293 arrests, as an Afghan diplomat seeks time for unlawful inhabitants to return home

KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s southern Karachi port city have arrested hundreds of Afghan nationals in the last few days for allegedly residing unlawfully in the country, though a senior diplomat from Afghanistan and a human rights activist have said that many of those apprehended possessed valid documents.
Pakistani authorities initiated the crackdown on Saturday, making some speculate it was in response to reported militant infiltration from Afghanistan into the country’s Chitral district where four security personnel were killed in a gunbattle that took place on Thursday. The incident prompted Pakistan to issue a demarche to the Afghan charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge “strong protest over the incident.”
According to a spokesperson for the Karachi police, 293 Afghan nationals were booked under the Foreigners Act during the three-day crackdown.
Moniza Kakar, a lawyer and human rights activist, took to social media to voice concerns, saying that Afghan refugees had been arrested by the police who also confiscated their proof of registration (PoR) cards.
“Alarming situation in Karachi as 150+ Afghan refugees, many registered, face arrests with reported confiscation of their registration cards by police,” she wrote on X messaging platform. “Mass arrests of Afghan refugees in Karachi is based on their racial profiling. Urgent action needed to protect refugees’ rights.”

Kala Khan, an Afghan refugee born in Muslim Bagh, Balochistan, said he had been living in Karachi for the past 35 years, but he was arrested, along with eight others, despite being in possession of the PoR cards.
“The police took copies of our PoR cards and registered a case against us,” he told Arab News while he was brought to the court on Tuesday. “They demanded a bribe, and as we were unable to provide it, they proceeded with the case, taking our cards from us.”
The Karachi police spokesperson and SSP East Irfan Bahadur did not respond to the request for a comment related to the allegation.
Syed Abdul Jabbar, Consul General of Afghanistan in Karachi, said his office had formally communicated its concern to Pakistani authorities.
“When we contacted the federal authorities in Islamabad and provincial authorities in Sindh, they assured us that no registered Afghan refugees would be arrested,” he continued. “However, the police are continuously arresting registered Afghan refugees.”
Jabbar urged Pakistani authorities not to arrest registered Afghan refugees, adding: “Those who don’t possess document should be given time to travel back to their country.”
When contacted, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the foreign ministry spokesperson, suggested contacting the interior ministry for an official response. However, the caretaker interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti, did not respond to requests for a comment.


Pakistani anchorman, recently released after four-month custody, rearrested over ‘anti-judiciary’ campaign 

Updated 7 sec ago
Follow

Pakistani anchorman, recently released after four-month custody, rearrested over ‘anti-judiciary’ campaign 

  • Imran Riaz Khan was arrested from his home in Lahore, his brother confirmed on X
  • The prominent journalist was last picked up in May and returned home in September

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani anchorman Imran Riaz Khan was arrested from his house in Lahore, his brother said on Friday, less than five months after the journalist returned home after a nearly four-month long incarceration in which his whereabouts had been unknown.

The prominent TV journalist turned promoter of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political party was picked up from his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore late on Thursday night. Footage of police vans outside his house were widely shared on social media. 

Riaz, who has more than 5.5 million followers on X, had taken on the Pakistani military and its intelligence agencies after ex-PM Khan was removed from power in April 2022 and blamed the army for his ouster. He was picked up in May and returned home in September, with authorities giving no indication of where he had been.

“They have picked up my brother, it’s been seven hours,” Riaz’s brother Usman Riaz Khan, who is also a journalist, said on X early on Friday morning. “A cloth was placed over his head and he was dragged away.”

He said he hoped Riaz would be presented before a court and due process followed. 

Earlier this week, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cybercrime Wing had summoned Riaz over his alleged involvement in an anti-judiciary campaign on social media platforms. The issue revolves around a controversial judgment given by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa that many political and religious leaders have viewed as insulting to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and blasphemous. 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, for which there is widespread acceptance, are often misused against Pakistan’s tiny minority religious groups and even sometimes against Muslims to settle personal scores, critics say. Although no one has ever been executed, blasphemy convictions are common in Pakistan. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal by higher courts, but mobs have lynched dozens of people in vigilante attacks even before a case is put on trial.

In an X post on Thursday following the FIA summons, Riaz’s lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq said his client had responded to the agency’s notice. 

“Such notices have come to dozens of journalists across Pakistan and after answering the first notice, Imran Riaz Khan has also answered this second notice,” the lawyer said. 

“More than two dozen such cases have been dismissed, this one will also be dismissed.”

Human rights groups have widely accused Pakistani security agencies of being behind the disappearances of political workers, leaders and rights activists, allegations that authorities deny.


Pakistan to seek at least $6 billion in new IMF Loan program

Updated 31 min 25 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan to seek at least $6 billion in new IMF Loan program

  • Country to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility, with talks with IMF expected to start in March or April
  • Pakistan averted default last summer thanks to a short-term International Monetary Fund bailout

Pakistan plans to seek a new loan of at least $6 billion from the International Monetary Fund to help the incoming government repay billions in debt due this year, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing a Pakistani official.

The country will seek to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, the report said, adding that the talks with the global lender were expected to start in March or April.

Pakistan averted default last summer thanks to a short-term International Monetary Fund bailout, but the program expires next month and a new government will have to negotiate a long-term arrangement to keep the $350 billion economy stable.

Ahead of the bailout, the South Asian nation had to undertake a slew of measures demanded by the IMF, including revising its budget, a hike in its benchmark interest rate, and increases in electricity and natural gas prices.

The IMF staff continues a dialogue with authorities on needed longer-term reform efforts, a spokesperson for the fund said, adding that the fund is available, if requested, to support the post-election government through a new arrangement to address Pakistan’s ongoing challenges.

Pakistan’s caretaker finance minister did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Bloomberg report.

Pakistan’s vulnerable external position means that securing financing from multilateral and bilateral partners will be one of the most urgent issues facing the next government, ratings agency Fitch said on Monday.

“A new deal is key to the country’s credit profile, and we assume one will be achieved within a few months, but an extended negotiation or failure to secure it would increase external liquidity stress and raise the probability of default,” it said.


Pakistan’s leading car assembler announces Rs3 billion investment in localization of parts

Updated 45 min 23 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan’s leading car assembler announces Rs3 billion investment in localization of parts

  • Indus Motor’s investment aims to reduce company’s reliance on imports, support local auto industry
  • Pakistan’s auto sector has faced challenges due to slowing economic growth, high inflation and interest rates

KARACHI: Pakistan’s leading car assembler, Indus Motor Company (IMC), announced this week it would invest Rs3 billion ($10.7 million) to increase domestic production of parts and components of its Toyota-brand vehicles.

The investment plan aims to reduce the company’s reliance on imports and support the local auto industry, the joint venture between Toyota Motor Corporation and House of Habib said. 

“We are pleased to announce that the board of directors, in its meeting held on 21 February 2024, has approved an investment of around Rs3 billion to be made by the company for additional localization of parts and components of various existing vehicles,” the company said in a statement to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on Thursday, adding that the move would allow the company “to reduce outflow of foreign exchange and promote the local auto industry.”

“The announced investment shall be made toward expenditure in plant and machinery, molds, dies, equipment and related expenses for localization of parts and components to be manufactured locally for various existing vehicles.”

The planned investment will be completed by the third quarter of the calendar year 2025. 

Indus Motor has been increasing the localization of parts and components for its vehicles, which include popular models of the Corolla. Last year, the company launched its first hybrid electric vehicle, the Corolla Cross, which it said was 50 percent localized.

Pakistan’s auto sector has faced challenges, particularly since last year, due to slowing economic growth and high inflation and interest rates, which have dampened the demand for cars. The sector has also been hit by the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar, which has spiked the cost of imports and forced automakers to significantly raise prices.


Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China — army

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China — army

  • Third annual Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology Cattle Show kicks off in Karachi 
  • Show aims to highlight investment opportunities and technology in dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors 

KARACHI: Pakistan can save $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China, a senior military official said on Thursday at the inauguration ceremony of the third annual cattle show in Karachi.

The Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) Cattle Show is held each year to highlight investment opportunities and advanced technology in the dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors of Pakistan.

Major General Shahid Nazir, Director General of Strategic Projects of the Pakistan Army, said the country imported more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products, calling for the production of exportable surplus to earn much needed foreign exchange.

“Pakistan can save about $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China,” Nazir told reporters after the inauguration of the cattle show.

A handler stands next to cattle at the Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) cattle show in Karachi, Pakistan on February 22, 2024

He said the recently launched Green Pakistan Initiative, a joint effort between the Pakistan government and the army, would help improve the country’s agricultural development and grant unutilized lands to farmers to produce better yields using advanced technology. 

“Under the initiative advanced technology will be incorporated and the actual potential of Pakistan’s agriculture sector will be explored to achieve self-reliance,” Nazir said.

“We are facing the big challenge of foreign exchange and so there are two ways to earn the foreign exchange by saving $10 billion plus which are being spent on the import of agriculture products.”

He said collaborations in the agriculture sector had already started with Gulf countries.

Cattle displayed at the Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) cattle show in Karachi, Pakistan on February 22, 2024

“We have cultivated wheat on about 100,000 acres of land and are preparing for cotton and sunflower. In Sindh [province], for the first time, more than 4 million bales have been produced,” Nazir said. 

A new Special Investment Facilitation Council was set up in July last year to serve as a “one window operation” for foreign investors, with a special focus on attracting funds from Gulf nations. The initiative is a collaboration between the Pakistan army and government, with military officials including the arm chief holding key positions. 


Newly elected MPs to take oath today at legislative assembly in Pakistan’s key Punjab province 

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Newly elected MPs to take oath today at legislative assembly in Pakistan’s key Punjab province 

  • Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N emerged as largest party in Punjab Assembly in elections held earlier this month
  • Imran Khan and his PTI party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging

LAHORE: Newly elected representatives from Pakistan’s most politically important province of Punjab will take oath today, Friday, at the provincial legislative assembly’s inaugural session, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan announced protests outside the building against what it calls the ‘rigging’ of Feb. 8 general elections.

An agreement to form a coalition government between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif late Tuesday night ended days of uncertainty and negotiations after an inconclusive Feb. 8 election produced a hung national assembly. 

PML-N’s 79 and the PPP’s 54 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, together make a simple majority to form a government, though the two parties will also rope in smaller parties in the coalition. Independent candidates backed by Imran Khan won 93 seats, but do not have the numbers to form a government. He and his party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging.

“Those Tehreek-e-Insaf candidates who won the Punjab Provincial Assembly election but have been defeated due to the forgery of Form 47 should protest peacefully in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly tomorrow at 10 am along with supporters,” Hammad Azhar, PTI’s general secretary for central Punjab, said on X. “Everyone should join this protest.”

A party requires 186 members to form the government in Punjab. The PML-N won the greatest number of seats in the province, 137, has been joined by about two dozen independent members and is also likely to bag a significant number of reserved seats for women and minorities which are allocated based on the number of seats won in polls. 

Outgoing Punjab Assembly spea­ker, Sibtain Khan, will administer the oath to the members of the new assembly. The session will then be prorogued to be summoned anew for the election of the new speaker and deputy speaker of the house, to be followed by the election of the leader of the house, that is the chief minister.

The Punjab Assembly is the largest elected house in the country, with 371 seats, comprising 297 general seats and 74 reserved seats, including 66 for women and eight for minorities.

The province of more than 127 million people, over half of Pakistan’s population, is known as the country’s most heated battleground, contributing 173 of the 326 seats in Pakistan’s Parliament and is the heartland of the nation’s political, military and industrial elite.

Historically, the party that secures a stronghold in Punjab often manages to form the government at the center. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif, is poised to make history as the first woman chief minister of a Pakistani province. The PML-N’s candidate for prime minister is Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother.