Pakistan army chief meets Saudi counterpart to discuss defense ties, security cooperation

Pakistan’s army chief, General Asim Munir (right), meets Chief of General Staff of the Saudi Armed Forces, General Fayyadh Bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on September 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)
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Updated 22 September 2023

Pakistan army chief meets Saudi counterpart to discuss defense ties, security cooperation

  • Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s militaries have a history of extensive defense cooperation
  • Two nations often participate in joint military exercises, Pakistan army trains Saudi cadets

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief, General Asim Munir, on Friday held a meeting with the leader of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, General Fayyadh Bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, and discussed strengthening bilateral cooperation in defense and security affairs, the army’s media wing said.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia share strong defense ties and security cooperation. An annual tradition involves cadets from the Kingdom, along with counterparts from other Middle Eastern nations, visiting Pakistan to undergo specialized army training. The two nations regularly engage in joint military exercises.

On September 9, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia launched a joint naval exercise near the Kingdom’s Al Jubail city and in August the two countries launched an inaugural joint special forces exercise to benefit from each other’s counterterrorism expertise.

“During the meeting, both sides deliberated upon various areas of mutual interest and bilateral cooperation, including defense and security matters,” the army’s media wing said of the meeting between the two generals.

A day ago, General Al-Ruwaili visited Pakistan’s Naval Headquarters in Islamabad and met a senior Pakistan Navy official.

“The visiting dignitary appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan Navy’s efforts and commitments in support of collaborative maritime security in the region,” a statement from the Navy said on Thursday.

Riyadh and Islamabad also enjoy close cooperation in trade, economy, culture, information, and investment. Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia are the largest source of remittances to the South Asian nation.

Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 

Updated 7 sec ago

Pakistan becomes first country in South Asia to issue ‘gender bond’ to financially empower women 

  • Through the bond, Pakistani non-profit Kashf Foundation will raise $8.7 million from stock market to extend micro loans to 30,000 women 
  • Caretaker finance minister calls the launch of gender bond a ‘groundbreaking initiative’ and a powerful tool for bridging the gender gap 

KARACHI: Pakistan on Thursday became the first country in South Asia to launch a ‘gender bond’ to raise Rs2.5 billion ($8.7 million) for micro loan disbursement to an expected 30,000 women, mostly affected by devastating floods that wreaked havoc in the country in 2022.

The first “only-for-women bond” has been issued by Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani non-profit organization, in collaboration with InfraZamin Pakistan, for-profit credit enhancement facility funded from InfraCo. Asia Investments and Karandaaz Pakistan. 

The Rs2.5 billion proceeds of the bond, raised through the country’s stock market, will be utilized to extend loans, mostly to women who were affected by the 2022 floods, according to the issuers. 

“The idea behind this bond is to give loans to those women who were affected by the floods last year so that they can build resilience and protect themselves in the future,” Shahzad Iqbal, chief financial officer at Kashf Foundation, told Arab News on the sidelines of the bond’s launch at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). 

“The bond size is Rs2.5 billion and the tenure of the bond is three years. This is only for women that is why it is called a gender bond.” 

Within the three-year period, Iqbal believed, his lending institution would provide loans to around 30,000 women through micro-lending. 

An InfraZamin official said the sole purpose of the bond’s issuance was financial inclusion of women by contributing toward small businesses led by women as well as the restoration of flood-affected homes for women. 

“By creating such a structure, we have effectively targeted women and because of that, we have met the requirements for this to be a gender bond,” Maheen Rahman, chief executive of InfraZamin Pakistan, told Arab News. 

“There are several (gender bonds) in the world, but in Pakistan this is the first gender bond. And in South Asia, this is the first gender bond to be issued,” said Rehman, whose company has guaranteed the bond. 

Maheen Rehman, chief executive of InfraZamin Pakistan, is addressing the launch ceremony of Pakistan's first "gender bond" in Karachi, Pakistan, on November 30, 2023. (AN photo)

The bond’s issuance follows the guidelines prescribed by the national financial regulatory agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), while Arif Habib Limited, a leading Karachi-based brokerage house, has played a role of financial adviser and arranger for the bond. 

Shahid Ali Habib, CEO, Arif Habib Limited (AHL), informed the bond would be traded at PSX’s over-the-counter (OTC) market. 

“It will be listed in the OTC market and the issue is closed now,” Habib said. “This will be processed at the stock exchange in a month or one-and-a-half month time and then will be available for trading.” 

Pakistan’s Caretaker Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, who spoke via video link, termed the launch of gender bond a “groundbreaking initiative.” 

“The gender bond is a powerful tool for bridging the gender gap and empowering women,” Akhtar said. “As the demand for sustainable investment continues to grow, gender bonds are poised to play a significant role in driving positive social change and empowerment within Pakistan.” 

To a question about lending to borrowers, the Kashf CFO said the minimum lending would be around Rs60,000 ($209) and the maximum would be around Rs500,000 ($1,748) per borrower, for which the procedure was very simple. 

“They don’t need to provide us any kind of documentation or a guarantee. They simply need to provide us a copy of their CNIC (computerized national identity card) and a photograph, and then we do a valuation of their repayment behavior,” Iqbal said, adding it usually took around two to seven days to complete the loan process. 

Rehman said the payback ratio among women borrowers was much better than men, with the lender incurring minimum losses. 

“We found that women who borrow from such institutions (Kashf foundation) pay back far better than what we saw in other institutions that were catering to both men and women,” she said. “In fact, Kashf’s non-performing loan portfolio is only 0.5 percent of their total loan book.” 

SECP Chairman Akif Saeed said such micro loans to women created a social impact that benefitted whole families. 

A Pakistani province aims to deport 10,000 Afghans a day 

Updated 31 min 33 sec ago

A Pakistani province aims to deport 10,000 Afghans a day 

  • The measure is part of a crackdown following a sharp decline in the expulsion of undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan 
  • Some of those targeted for deportation have apparently gone to remote areas in Pakistan to avoid arrest, authorities say 

QUETTA: A Pakistani province is setting targets for police to arrest and deport hundreds of thousands of Afghans who are in the country illegally, officials said Thursday. 

The measure is part of a nationwide crackdown following a sharp decline in the expulsion of Afghans living in Pakistan without legal permission. Near the Chaman border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, local residents were protesting against new travel visa requirements aimed at cutting down on illegal immigration that have disrupted traffic in the area. 

Some of those targeted for deportation had apparently gone to remote areas in Pakistan to avoid arrest, authorities said. 

“Instructions have gone to police to arrest Afghans living in Pakistan illegally,” said Jan Achakzai, spokesperson for the government in southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan province. He said authorities have been asked to deport 10,000 Afghans a day. 

Achakzai made his comment days after authorities at the two key northwestern Torkham and southwestern Chaman border crossings acknowledged that there has been a sudden decrease in the number of Afghans who were sent back to Afghanistan after being arrested on the charges of living in Pakistan illegally. 

An estimated 1.7 million Afghans were living in Pakistan in October when authorities announced the crackdown, saying that anyone without proper documents had to go back to their countries by Oct. 31 or be arrested. 

Since then, more than 400,000 Afghans returned to their home country. 

Pakistani officials say they are deporting only those foreigners, including Afghans, who are in the country illegally, and an estimated 1.4 million Afghans who are registered as refugees should not worry as they are not the target of the anti-migrant drive. Police in Pakistan have been going door to door to check migrants’ documentation. 

Pakistan has been hosting Afghans since the 1980s, when millions of Afghans fled south and east to the neighboring Islamic nation during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers spiked after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021. 

As part of its crackdown, Pakistan stopped recognizing special permits under which hundreds of thousands of residents in the Balochistan province border town of Chaman could cross between the two countries. The new visa requirement angered residents who have been rallying near the border, disrupting normal traffic toward the border crossing. 

The protesters want Pakistan to allow them to continue using the special permits for business purposes and to meet with relatives who live in the Afghan border city of Spin Boldak. 

In Afghanistan, the Taliban-led administration says it is providing shelter and food to returnees. According to Tolo News, an private Afghan outlet, Afghan refugees have complained of mistreatment by Pakistani soldiers after returning home. 

The alleged mistreatment of migrants by Pakistani authorities drew widespread condemnation from human organizations. 

On Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Pakistani authorities have committed widespread abuses against Afghans living in the country to compel their return home. 

“Pakistani officials have created a coercive environment for Afghans to force them to return to life-threatening conditions in Afghanistan,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately end the abuses and give Afghans facing expulsion the opportunity to seek protection in Pakistan.” 

Pakistani authorities have denied such allegations, saying anyone found guilty of mistreating Afghan immigrants lacking permanent legal status would be punished. Achakzai said migrants who are in the country illegally are held at deporting centers in a dignified manner before transporting them to border crossings so they can go back home. 

Another appeal filed in Pakistan top court against deportation of Afghan nationals

Updated 30 November 2023

Another appeal filed in Pakistan top court against deportation of Afghan nationals

  • Thousands of Afghans, many of whom lived in Pakistan for decades, have left under government’s deportation policy
  • Petition says government committing violations of human rights, constitution and international law with new policy

ISLAMABAD: A group of top academics on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the government’s campaign to deport Afghans and seeking orders to restrain law enforcement agencies from implementing the expulsion policy.

Islamabad last month announced it would expel over a million undocumented migrants, mostly Afghans, amid a row with Kabul over charges that it harbors anti-Pakistan militants. Since the announcement of the deportation drive on Oct. 3, tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for decades, have had to leave the country, and authorities are rounding up many more in raids across the country.

Politicians and right activists earlier this month moved the Supreme Court against the government’s deportation order. The latest plea has been filed by six faculty members of the country’s top higher education institute, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The case is fixed for hearing on Dec. 1.

Article 184 (3) empowers the Supreme Court to hear cases from individuals who believe their fundamental rights have been violated and the issue is of public importance.

The plea names the federation, all four provinces, the Islamabad chief commissioner, the chief commissioner for Afghan refugees, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the director general of Immigration and Passports and the United National High Commissioner for Afghan refugees as respondents.

It stated that the petitioners, as concerned citizens, were compelled to file the plea in the interest of poor Afghans living in Pakistan, “whether refugees, asylum seekers, so-called illegal foreigners or Pakistani citizens of Afghan origin.”

“This petition is necessitated due to the serious human rights abuses and blatant violation of the Constitution and international law being committed by the federal government, the provincial government and other government authorities in the name of Pakistan.”

The plea said the caretaker government’s decision to expel Afghans “is not contained in any formal written letter” and does not “appear to have been passed under any legal authority such as the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any other statute.”

The petition highlighted that during the process of expulsion, Rs50,000 was taken from Afghan nationals at the borders while many were forced to abandon their homes, properties and businesses in Pakistan.

“Since the impugned decision was made and the expiry of the deadline was given, Afghans are being subjected to forced expulsion, harassment, extortion, physical abuse, racial discrimination, separation from family members, and inhumane treatment in violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international law,” the plea said.

In the 1980s, millions of Afghans fled to neighboring Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers witnessed a spike after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

Even before the expulsion drive began, Afghans have long complained about constant harassment due to the lack of citizenship rights for those who have spent decades living and working in Pakistan.

Human rights activists have for years called for Afghans born in the country to be given nationality in accordance with Pakistani law, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the country, except for children of diplomats and enemy aliens.

Protests over custodial death in southwestern Pakistan renew debate on extrajudicial killings

Updated 30 November 2023

Protests over custodial death in southwestern Pakistan renew debate on extrajudicial killings

  • Family says Balach Baloch killed in “fake encounter,” counterterrorism officials say Baloch had confessed to being involved in militancy
  • Protests and shutter down strikes observed across Makran division over killing as government sets up ‘fact-finding’ commission

QUETTA: A protest in southwestern Pakistan over the alleged extrajudicial killing of a 24-year-old ethnic Baloch man entered its seventh day on Thursday, in an ongoing saga that has renewed debate over extrajudicial detentions and deaths and police impunity in Balochistan province where such incidents are not uncommon.

Last week, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Balochistan issued a statement, seen by Arab News, saying Balach Baloch had confessed in custody to being a militant and carrying out a number of attacks. He was arrested on Nov. 20, as per the statement, in possession of five kilograms of explosive materials. Baloch was later killed in a raid on a militant hideout in the city of Turbat, the CTD said.

His family, which finally buried him on Wednesday but vowed to continue protests, has refuted CTD claims, saying Baloch was not involved in any unlawful activities but was picked up by the CTD on Oct. 29 and killed in a “fake encounter.”

Political leaders, human rights activists and families of victims have for decades spoken against killings by the police and other security agencies in staged encounters, a practice where officials claim the victim was killed in a gunfight though they were executed. Authorities deny involvement in such incidents. 

“Things are in progress,” a senior official in a “fact-finding” committee set up to probe the case told Arab News, declining to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the inquiry. 

The body has five members and has been tasked to submit a report within 15 days.

“The families of the deceased blame others, but the Chief Minister Balochistan has constituted an inquiry commission to ascertain the circumstances,” Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti told reporters on Wednesday. “There are actions that need to be taken under the law, we can’t speak on assumptions.”

A spokesperson for the government of Balochistan and the deputy commissioner’s office did not respond to Arab News queries.


Baloch’s killing has triggered outrage in cities across the Makran division, with a complete shutter down strike observed in Turbat and other towns on Wednesday while roads leading from the area to Pakistan’s main business hub, Karachi, were blocked by protesters.

Following a demand by Baloch’s family, a local court in Turbat had ordered the registration of a First Information Report (FIR), or police complaint, against the CTD team involved in the operation in which the 24-year-old was allegedly killed.

“Now we are protesting because despite court orders, why are the authorities not registering an FIR against the people who killed my brother,” Balach’s elder sister Najma Baloch told Arab News.
On the government’s inquiry tribunal, she said: 

“Neither do I know anything about the inquiry committee nor has anyone from the committee contacted us.”

“Now hundreds of people have joined the protest and are demanding registration of FIR against the CTD team,” she added, saying her family’s “clear demand” was that Baloch’s murderers be punished.

Waseem Safar, a local member of the Baloch Yakjehti Council (BYC) that is organizing the protests, said the protest would continue in Turbat and be expanded across the province if the police case was not filed.

“Now the sit-in will turn into a movement until authorities register an FIR against the personnel involved in Balach’s murder,” he said. “We will expand the protest across Balochistan against this extrajudicial killing.”

Senior analyst Dr. Amir Rana, who is the director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, said extrajudicial detentions and killings would continue as long as the pattern of releasing suspects involved in such crimes continued.

“If the authorities register an FIR against the CTD team involved in the recent Turbat killing, the state and its institutions, including the courts, will release them,” Rana told Arab News, adding that those involved needed to be brought to justice as per the law to set a precedent for the future. 

Provincial government in Balochistan to sponsor Palestinian students at Bolan Medical College

Updated 30 November 2023

Provincial government in Balochistan to sponsor Palestinian students at Bolan Medical College

  • Tuition fees of 17 Palestinian students would be waived
  • Rs10,000 paid for hostel fee, Rs25,000 for daily expenses

ISLAMABAD: The government in Balochistan announced on Thursday it would bear the expenses, including tuition and hostel fees and a stipend, of 17 Palestinian students studying at a top medical university in the southwestern Pakistani province.

The announcement comes after the government in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province also instructed all its public educational institutions to exempt Palestinian students from tuition fees and hostel charges, and provide stipends and scholarships in light of the war in Gaza.

“Balochistan Government has issued a notification for payment of sponsorship and educational expenses of 17 Palestinian students of Bolan Medical College,” the chief minister’s office said in a statement.

“Caretaker Chief Minister Balochistan Mir Ali Mardan Domki had announced to pay the tuition fee and other expenses of the Palestinian students studying in Balochistan at the official level.”

The tuition fees of the Palestinian students would be waived and they would be paid Rs10,000 each for hostel fees and Rs25,000 for daily expenses, the statement added.

Over 300 Palestinian students are currently enrolled in Pakistani universities nationwide, including 50 in Sindh’s public educational institutions, according to the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Pakistan.

Over the years, more than 50,000 Palestinian nationals have graduated from educational institutions in Pakistan.