Ex-PM Khan remains in Attock jail despite court order for transfer to Rawalpindi — party

Pakistan's former prime minister, Imran Khan gestures after arriving at a registrar office in Lahore High court to sign surety bonds for bail in various cases, in Lahore on July 3, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 26 September 2023

Ex-PM Khan remains in Attock jail despite court order for transfer to Rawalpindi — party

  • Khan held in Attock since conviction in case involving ‘corrupt practices’ when he was PM
  • Khan has also been remanded in jail until Oct. 10 in separate case involving leaked state secrets

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said on Tuesday its leader had not been moved yet to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail despite an order from the Islamabad High Court a day earlier that he be transferred from a high-security prison in Attock.

Khan was arrested on Aug. 5 after a trial court in Islamabad found him guilty of “corrupt practices” in a case involving the unlawful sale of state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He has since been serving his sentence at Attock Jail.

The IHC suspended Khan’s sentence on Aug. 29 but he remains in jail on remand in another case, popularly called the cipher case, in which he is charged with leaking state secrets. The latest extension of the remand order will keep Khan in jail until Oct. 10. Meanwhile, the former PM had filed a petition with the IHC seeking his transfer to Adiala Jail.

On Monday, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq observed that under-trial prisoners (UTPs) of all the courts in the federal capital were kept at Adiala, issuing directions to shift Khan to that prison.

The direction followed arguments by Khan’s counsel Sher Afzal Khan Marwat who said the court had suspended Khan’s sentence in the state gifts case and the ex-PM was now facing a trial in the cipher case before a special court in Islamabad. As a UTP in the federal territory, Khan must be kept in Adiala Jail, he had argued.

“Imran Khan is still in Attock Jail where a special court judge conducted today’s hearing in the cipher case,” Rizwan Ahmed, a PTI spokesperson, told Arab News on Tuesday morning. “The court has extended Imran Khan’s judicial remand in the cipher case till October 10.

“Imran Khan may be shifted to Adiala Jail from Attock prison after the Islamabad High Court issues a written order in this regard,” he added.

“Our legal team is following it and we’ll be updating the media accordingly.”

A day earlier, a senior Khan aide, Zulfiqar Bukhari, had said arrangements were being made to move Khan to the Rawalpindi prison.
In the state secrets case, Khan is charged with making public the contents of a confidential cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and using it for political gain, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Khan alleges that the cable proves the United States had pressed Pakistan’s military to orchestrate the fall of his government because he had visited Russia shortly before its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Washington and the Pakistani military have denied Khan’s accusations.

Khan also faces a range of other legal cases he says are politically motivated.

Hollywood icons ignite excitement at Red Sea Film Festival in support of Pakistani cinema

Updated 06 December 2023

Hollywood icons ignite excitement at Red Sea Film Festival in support of Pakistani cinema

  • The surprise appearance of Will Smith and Johnny Depp to endorse ‘Umro Ayyar: A New Beginning’ left people ecstatic
  • Ayyar is a famous character from a classical Urdu literary work comprising epic tales, widely read by people in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Hollywood superstars Will Smith and Johnny Depp stole the spotlight at the prestigious Red Sea International Film Festival with a surprise appearance on Tuesday to support the Pakistani film, “Umro Ayyar: A New Beginning.”

The two renowned icons of the American film industry enjoy an extensive fan following worldwide, including in Pakistan, which left the viewers excited about Pakistani film production with their presence.

The Red Sea Festival, set against the picturesque backdrop of Saudi Arabia’s seaside city, Jeddah, serves as a global platform for filmmakers to celebrate and showcase diverse cinematic creations from around the world.

Smith and Depp posed with Umro Ayyar’s executive producer, Huma Jamil Babar, and interacted with the public.

“How exciting it is,” exclaimed a Pakistani journalist, Afshan Younus, who shared a video of Smith getting a locket from Babar. “Hollywood meets Pakistani cinema in style!”

Another social media user, Nazish Alavi, called the cross-cultural support by the Hollywood actors a “big moment” for her.

“Watching Hollywood superstar Will Smith wearing #UmroAyyarANewBeginning pendant and The Johnny Depp supporting a Pakistani movie is such a big moment for me,” she said. “Best of luck to @TheUMROAYYAR.”

Umro Ayyar is one of the most famous characters from the legendary “Dastan-e-Amir Hamza,” a classical Urdu literary work comprising epic tales, widely read by many in Pakistan.

Speaking to Arab News in May, lead actor Sanam Saeed mentioned that Ayyar’s character was being adapted for the screen in a “new-age way” and receiving a “revamp” for modern times.

“Dastan-e-Amir Hamza” is the Urdu version of the Persian folklore written by Ghalib Lakhnavi in 1855, featuring a collection of stories about magic, adventure, and intrigue.

The film “Umro Ayyar” is an attempt to reimagine the story for a new generation of Pakistani and global audiences.

ADB approves $659 million to reconstruct flood-hit schools, improve Pakistan’s agricultural productivity

Updated 06 December 2023

ADB approves $659 million to reconstruct flood-hit schools, improve Pakistan’s agricultural productivity

  • The bank says fresh financing will support sustainable, broad-based and inclusive economic growth in Pakistan
  • It plans to rebuild up to 1,600 flood-damaged schools using disaster- and climate-resilient architectural designs

KARACHI: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday announced its decision to approve $659 million of financing to carry out development projects like rehabilitating schools damaged by the devastating August 2022 floods and enhancing agricultural productivity to improve food security in Pakistan.
Pakistan, a founding ADB member, has received more than $52 billion in public and private sector loans, grants, and other forms of financing from the bank to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy security, transport networks and other social services.
The country has also grappled with major financial challenges in the last few years, with its current administration trying to revive the economy by seeking foreign direct investment in various sectors.
“This significant new wave of financing will help Pakistan recover from the impacts of last year’s cost-of-living crisis and super-floods and return to the path of long-term development that is sustainable and inclusive,” ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov noted in a statement.
“This multifaceted approach is part of ADB’s strategic engagement in Pakistan and cohesively deploys our program lending and project investments to enhance support for Pakistan’s efforts to improve its economic situation and enhance the quality of life for its people,” he added.
The ADB statement hoped the new financing under the Improved Resource Mobilization and Utilization Reform Program will support Pakistan’s government to achieve economic growth that is sustainable, broad-based and inclusive.
“The $300 million policy-based loan will support the initiative’s first subprogram, which focuses on laying the foundation for reforms to policies, laws, and institutional capacity that will improve domestic resource mobilization and utilization,” the statement said. “The program is helping to transform tax administration, public expenditure management, and other institutional structures to strengthen resource mobilization including non-debt resources such as private investment and savings.”
It added that the ongoing Sindh Secondary Education Improvement Project would receive additional financing of $275 million emergency assistance loan that was part of ADB’s $1.5 billion pledge of support for Pakistan’s recovery from the devastating 2022 floods.
“The additional financing will help reconstruct up to 1,600 flood-damaged schools using disaster- and climate-resilient and gender-responsive designs,” it informed. “This will boost resilience and inclusivity in the education system in Pakistan, helping recovery of learning and earning losses especially for girls in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable districts of Sindh.”
It said a concessional loan of $80 million for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Food Security Support Project, which was also part of ADB’s $1.5 billion pledge of support for Pakistan’s recovery from the 2022 floods, would help address climate vulnerabilities, enhance food security, and boost the livelihoods of rural farm households in the most flood-damaged districts in the province.
“The project will provide essential agriculture inputs and training to smallholder farmers, including women, and improve household nutrition and women’s empowerment,” the statement noted. “It will also enhance digital access and availability, especially with regard to market opportunities and climate information.”

Pakistan’s media regulator vows ‘strict action’ against channels for speculative reporting on national polls

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistan’s media regulator vows ‘strict action’ against channels for speculative reporting on national polls

  • PEMRA says false information or media content about the general elections may shatter public confidence in voting process
  • Local media outlets have been speculating about election delay despite ECP’s announcement to hold the polls on February 8

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s media regulator issued a directive for all satellite television channels this week, asking them to comply with its code of conduct by ensuring no speculative or false information was aired that could hamper the smooth conduct of the electoral exercise or face “strict action.”
The notification followed a complaint by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that expressed concerns about recent stories that insinuated at a possible election delay in the country.
The national elections were originally expected to take place in November after Pakistan’s national and two provincial assemblies were dissolved in August before reaching the end of their tenure. However, the ECP decided to redraw hundreds of national and provincial constituencies on the basis of a digital census carried out earlier this year in April before arranging the electoral contest. Its officials later scheduled the voting process for the last week of January before announcing Feb. 8 as the final date after consultations with the country’s President Dr. Arif Alvi on the Supreme Court’s instructions.
Given Pakistan’s uncertain political environment, however, local media outlets have continued to speculate about the possibility of yet another delay.
“Dissemination of such news [about delay in national polls] may undermine the preparedness of Election Commission of Pakistan for conducting General Elections on 8th February, 2024,” Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said in a notification issued on Nov. 3.
It noted such media content could impact ECP’s “credibility” and shatter “public trust and confidence in the electoral process.”
“Therefore, it is reiterated that all the licensees while airing their transmission prior to General Elections 2024 must be mindful of the fact that no such content / discussion / comment is aired which may create doubts or an impression in the minds of general public with regard to conduct of General Elections 2024 or may sabotage elections through any negative / false news, information or report aired on any satellite TV channel, inadvertently,” it continued.
“Airing of any such news / content would be deemed in violation of PEMRA Laws,” it said while warning of “strict action” against such satellite TV channels.

Lahore cat cafe soothes feline lovers, hopes rescues will find purr-fect homes

Updated 06 December 2023

Lahore cat cafe soothes feline lovers, hopes rescues will find purr-fect homes

  • Safari Pet Cafe in Lahore offers paying customers a space to de-stress with time spent with cats
  • Owner in talks with cat rescue service, plans to house felines at cafe and encourage adoption

LAHORE: A cat walked lazily past one of several bean bags on the floor, while another lounged on a shelf in a room full of children and adults cuddling the furry creatures against the backdrop of walls filled with murals and portraits of cats.

Welcome to the Safari Pet Cafe in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, a haven for humans craving fluffy feline company, which also hopes to double as an adoption center for strays in the furture.

“Definitely, with this pet cafe, we have a plan for rescued cats and their adoption here,” veterinarian Dr. Iqrar Ahmed, who opened the cafe in the city’s Banker’s Society in November, told Arab News last week, saying he was in talks with a rescue service called “Crazy Pets” and would house cats at his cafe and encourage visitors to adopt them.

“They will be stray cats, we will keep them here and have people adopt them.”

A customer holds a cat at the Safari Pet Cafe in Lahore, Pakistan on December 2, 2023. (AN Photo)

Around the vet, dozens of cats weaved in between the tables and chairs or curled up on bean bags as cafe-goers sat enjoying coffee. 

Apart from a comfortable, loving space for the animals, Ahmed hopes he can bring cat lovers some joy with his cafe, while boosting awareness over pet raising and adoption.

In a country where people are discouraged from bringing their pets with them even to public parks, Ahmed’s is a rare space, cashing in on an idea first popularized in Japan to allow stressed-out workers to wind down by stroking a cat while sipping a cappuccino or latte — or tea, if you prefer.

The cafe has homed some cats of its own, but also allows customers to bring their own pets there. The space has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they want to publicly socialize with their cats or show them off. Then there are also those who cannot keep a cat at home.

“There are many kids, like me, who never got permission to keep a pet,” Ahmed said as he stroked a golden Persian cat. “Pet café is a place where you can bring your pets or if you don’t have pets and want to spend time with pets, [you can come here].”

The ground floor of the cafe, where the kitchen is located, is a no-go area for the feline creatures, but the second story is where they are allowed to freely lounge and play, with an Astroturf to walk on and plenty of shelves to climb and nap on.

An interior view of the Safari Pet Cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, on December 2, 2023. (AN Photo)

“The quality of cats here is beautiful and sweet, so it’s a good idea and when I heard about it, I felt happy,” said Subhana Faraz, who was visiting the cafe with her husband, two sons, and pet cat named Milo.

“Often, we have to leave them [our pets] at home and when we go back home after a long time, they get disturbed. So, we like such places where we can take them.”

Student Syed Ramil Ahmed, 14, said having pets and being around animals helped him deal with stress.

“First of all, if you have a pet, you can’t feel lonely at all because it doesn’t leave you. When you return from somewhere, when we come back from school, they always come running to us immediately,” he said as a tiny white kitten slept in his lap. 

“You can give them all your love and they love you back equally.”

Malala Yousafzai likens Taliban’s treatment of women to apartheid in Mandela lecture

Updated 06 December 2023

Malala Yousafzai likens Taliban’s treatment of women to apartheid in Mandela lecture

  • The Pakistan-born Nobel Peace Prize winner says the Taliban have ‘made girlhood illegal’ in Afghanistan
  • She warns the Taliban will take away ‘critical thinking’ from men after implementing ‘gender apartheid’

JOHANNESBURG: Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday likened restrictions the Taliban have placed on women in Afghanistan to the treatment of Black people under apartheid in a lecture in South Africa organized by Nelson Mandela’s foundation.
Yousafzai survived being shot in the head when she was 15 in her native Pakistan by a gunman after campaigning against the Pakistani Taliban’s moves to deny girls education.
Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Yousafzai, now 26, has become a global symbol of the resilience of women in the face of repression.
“If you are a girl in Afghanistan, the Taliban have decided your future for you. You cannot attend a secondary school or university. You cannot find an open library where you can read. You see your mothers and your older sisters confined and constrained,” Yousafzai said during the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg.
Yousafzai said the Taliban actions should be considered “gender apartheid” and that they had “in effect ... made girlhood illegal.”
She said international actors should not normalize relations with the Taliban, which returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 as US-led forces withdrew after 20 years of war.
A Taliban spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Yousafzai’s remarks.
Since returning to power, the Taliban have also stopped most Afghan female staff from working at aid agencies, closed beauty salons, barred women from parks and curtailed travel for women in the absence of a male guardian.
The Taliban say they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan custom and that officials are working on plans to open girls’ high schools, but after over 18 months they have not provided a timeframe.
In an interview after her lecture, Yousafzai said she was concerned the Taliban would take away sciences and critical thinking even from boys.
“It’s so important for the international community to not only step up to protect access to education for girls but also ensure that it is quality education, it is not indoctrination,” she said.
Referring to the war in Gaza, she said she wanted to see an immediate cease-fire and for children to be able return to school and their normal lives.
She added: “We look at wars, ... especially the bombardment that has happened in Gaza, ... that has just taken that normal life away from children.”