Pakistan arrests prominent Pashtun rights activist for alleged attack on police 

An undated file photo of Pakistani tribal leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, Manzoor Pashteen. (Photo courtesy: @KroenerJess/X)
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Updated 04 December 2023
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Pakistan arrests prominent Pashtun rights activist for alleged attack on police 

  • Manzoor Pashteen’s supporters fired at police, tore down a check-post in the southwestern Chaman border town, official says 
  • The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, led by Pashteen, denies the allegation, calls for immediate release of the rights activists 

QUETTA: Pakistan police on Monday arrested leader of an ethnic Pashtun rights group for a gun attack on the law enforcers near the country’s border with Afghanistan, where hundreds of ethnic Pashtuns have been staging a sit-in for days to protest the government’s new visa policy, officials said on Monday. 

Manzoor Pashteen has emerged as a prominent advocate of rights of ethnic Pashtuns who have allegedly faced rights abuses during Pakistan’s war against militants, mainly in its northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

The 30-year-old heads the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), originally formed as the Mehsud Tahaffuz Movement in 2014, that campaigns against alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of Pashtuns and other ethnic minorities. 

Pashteen’s arrest in Chaman border town of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province came after he addressed protesters who have been camped near the border to protest Pakistan’s new visa and passport regime at the border crossing following a drive to expel all undocumented foreigners. 

“Manzoor Pashteen’s supporters have torn down a police check-post and opened fire on the police force in Chaman,” Chaman Deputy Commissioner Raja Athar Abbas told Arab News. 

“We have lodged an FIR (police report) against Pashteen and he will be produced before the judicial magistrate tomorrow morning.” 

Pashteen, after visiting the protest camp in Chaman along with hundreds of supporters, left for Turbat, where protesters have been staging another sit-in to protest alleged extra-judicial killing of a Baloch youth, Balach Baloch, according Zubair Shah Agha, central information coordinator of the PTM. 

“When Pashteen left Chaman, his convoy was attacked with indiscriminate fire by the police and eight to ten bullets hit his vehicle. It also injured a passerby woman,” Agha told Arab News. 

“After the attack, law enforcement agencies surrounded Pashteen’s convoy and arrested him and two other members of the PTM.” 

The PTM has called for an immediate release of Pashteen and warned of a “strong reaction” if the authorities didn’t free him. 

Balochistan’s Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the provincial home ministry had banned Pashteen from entering the province and notified him thrice in the last few days, but he still visited Chaman to address the protesters. 

“Manzoor Pashteen was hiding in a village near [the border of] Chaman [and] Killa Abdullah districts with his guards,” Achakzai said at a press conference, urging protester in Chaman not to let anyone use their sit-in to shape “an anti-state narrative.” 


Japan Moon lander put to sleep after surviving lunar night

Updated 8 sec ago
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Japan Moon lander put to sleep after surviving lunar night

  • The unmanned lander touched down in January at a wonky angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way
  • As the sun’s angle shifted, it came back to life and carried out observations of a crater with a high-spec camera

TOKYO: Japan’s Moon lander has been put back to sleep after it surprisingly survived the freezing, two-week lunar night, the country’s space agency said, with another operation attempt scheduled for later this month.

The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down in January at a wonky angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way.

As the sun’s angle shifted, it came back to life for two days and carried out scientific observations of a crater with a high-spec camera.

This week, the SLIM probe, which was “not designed for the harsh lunar nights,” when the temperature plunges to minus 133 degrees, produced another surprise by waking up after two weeks.

“SLIM has gone to sleep again as the sun set after 3 am (Japan Time) on March 1,” the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday, alongside an image of the rocky lunar surface captured by the probe.

“Although the likelihood of failure will increase due to the severe temperature cycles, we will attempt SLIM operation again when the sunlight comes back in late March,” JAXA said.

The announcement comes after the uncrewed American lander Odysseus became the first private spaceship on the Moon.

The lander sent its final image on Thursday before its power banks depleted.

SLIM, dubbed the “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing technology, touched down within its target landing zone on January 20.

The feat was a win for Japan’s space program after a string of recent failures, making the nation only the fifth to achieve a “soft landing” on the Moon, after the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India.

The aim of the mission is to examine a part of the Moon’s mantle — the usually deep inner layer beneath its crust — that is believed to be accessible.

NASA is planning to return astronauts to the Moon later this decade.

The US, along with international partners, wants to eventually develop long-term habitats in the region, harvesting polar ice for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.


Pakistan welcomes resumption of CASA-1000 power line in Afghanistan by World Bank

Updated 43 min 54 sec ago
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Pakistan welcomes resumption of CASA-1000 power line in Afghanistan by World Bank

  • The project aims to allow Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to sell excess energy to Pakistan and Afghanistan in summer months
  • Last month, the World Bank approved resumption of the project after it was stalled in 2022 due to turmoil in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday welcomed resumption of activities in Afghanistan relating to a $1.2 billion Western-backed project to build a power line between Central Asia and South Asia, more than a year after it was stalled over turmoil in the neighboring country.

The CASA-1000 project aims to allow Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, former Soviet republics with an extensive network of hydroelectric power plants, to sell excess energy to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the summer months.

Last month, the World Bank, a key CASA-1000 backer, approved resumption of the clean energy project after it was stalled in 2022 due to turmoil in Afghanistan, with the Bank focusing on urgently needed education, agriculture and health programs.

It said construction of the project in the other three countries was nearly complete and these countries had requested that CASA-1000 activities in Afghanistan resume to avoid the risk of the project becoming a stranded asset.

“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan welcomes the recent announcement by the World Bank that, among other initiatives in support of the people of Afghanistan,” the Pakistani energy ministry said in a statement.

“The Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000) in Afghanistan will be resumed as had been requested in December by all three neighboring countries participating in the project.”

The World Bank’s announcement of the project’s resumption was a “significant step forward” in the region’s commitment to energy collaboration, according to the statement.

The Pakistani energy ministry said Islamabad had signed a joint declaration along with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to thank the World Bank for its timely approval of the “ring-fenced” resumption of CASA-1000 construction in Afghanistan as well as to fully support the Bank in implementation of the parameters agreed with its board for the resumption of CASA-1000 construction activities in Afghanistan.

The project could be a boon for the two Central Asian nations which have excess power in the summer but suffer from shortages in the winter unless they can buy fuel or power from neighbors.

The United States was involved in financing the project when it was launched in 2016 as part of its New Silk Road initiative to integrate Afghanistan with Central Asia.

Other project sponsors have included the Islamic Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.


Saudi Arabia gifts Pakistan 100 tons of dates ahead of Ramadan

Updated 02 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia gifts Pakistan 100 tons of dates ahead of Ramadan

  • Fasting during Ramadan is one of five pillars of Islam, wherein Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset
  • Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strong brotherly relations and the Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has gifted Pakistan 100 tons of dates ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Saudi embassy said on Friday.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, wherein Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset for a month. The Islamic lunar month will begin in March.

This is followed by the sighting of the new moon and is marked by Eid Al-Fitr, a religious holiday and celebration that is observed by Muslims across the world.

“In a gesture of goodwill, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is delighted to offer 100 tons of dates to its esteemed brethren in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, following the recommendation of the esteemed leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” the Saudi embassy said in a statement.

The consignment was handed over by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Nawaf bin Said Al-Maliki along with Abdullah Al-Baqami, director of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Center (KSrelief) at a ceremony held at the Saudi embassy in Islamabad.

“This generous donation is intended for distribution among the Pakistani community during the holy month of Ramadan,” the statement read.

“This noble gesture exemplifies the enduring bond of friendship and brotherhood between the two nations, reflecting the spirit of generosity and solidarity cherished by both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.”

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and brotherly relations. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates, serving as the top destination for remittances for the cash-strapped South Asian country.


Pakistani minister wants Organization of Islamic Cooperation to negotiate ceasefire with Israeli PM

Updated 02 March 2024
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Pakistani minister wants Organization of Islamic Cooperation to negotiate ceasefire with Israeli PM

  • Aneeq Ahmed says the unity of the global Muslim community can lead to a resolution of the Palestine issue
  • Pakistan’s foreign office said on Friday Israel must be held accountable for crimes against the Palestinian people

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Religious Affairs Minister Aneeq Ahmed described Pakistan as a “foremost supporter” of Palestine on Friday, saying that a delegation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should open negotiations with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the ongoing war in Gaza to reach an immediate ceasefire.
Ahmed issued the statement during a meeting with Palestinian Ambassador Ahmed Jawad Rabi’i, pointing out that Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Qatar, Egypt and Pakistan should take the lead in this regard.
Israel launched a military campaign targeting the Gaza Strip after a surprise attack was initiated by Hamas on October 7 in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.
Since then, Israel has killed over 30,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, prompting much of the world to point out it is carrying a genocide in Gaza.
“Aneeq Ahmed ... proposed that a delegation comprising of crucial Muslim countries, under the banner of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), should talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for immediate ceasefire,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency reported.
“Pakistan stands as the foremost supporter of the Palestinian cause and will continue to do so,” the APP quoted the minister as saying. “The unity of the Muslim Ummah can lead to a resolution of the Palestine issue.”
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s foreign office condemned the killing of over 100 Palestinians who were trying to get food from an aid convoy in Gaza City, saying the incident had highlighted Israel’s “deliberate and inhumane policy of mass starvation.”
It also said Israel must be held accountable for its crimes against humanity which it had been perpetrating with impunity against the Palestinian people.


Ex-PM Khan’s party to protest today, threatens to paralyze National Assembly over election grievances

Updated 02 March 2024
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Ex-PM Khan’s party to protest today, threatens to paralyze National Assembly over election grievances

  • A PTI lawmaker accuses more than half of the assembly members of sitting in the house despite losing the elections
  • He says his party was not there for reconciliation, demands the release of former prime minister Khan from prison

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party will hold nationwide protests today, Saturday, after one of its lawmakers vowed not to let the National Assembly function until those who had benefitted from last month’s purportedly rigged elections continued to be part of the house.
Pakistan’s Feb. 8 national polls were marred by a countrywide shutdown of cellphone networks and delayed results, leading to widespread speculation of election manipulation.
Several political parties, including the PTI of ex-PM Khan, who remains incarcerated on multiple charges since August, have been protesting the election results, which they say were changed in favor of their opponents.
Pakistan’s caretaker administration and election commission have denied the allegations.
“We don’t accept [the legitimacy] of this assembly,” PTI leader Junaid Akbar said during his speech on the floor of the house. “This assembly will not function until [the people] who have usurped the rights of others [through rigging] are driven out of here.”
“Our voters and supporters have not told us to do lawmaking [in this house],” he continued. “They have not told us to tolerate this [situation] silently. We will not stay silent. Until our leader [Imran Khan] is released from prison, there is no question of anyone sitting in the [lawmaker’s] chair with respect and dignity.”
Akbar said the PTI lawmakers had not come to the National Assembly for reconciliation or negotiation.
“What constitution, democracy and parliament are you referring to [when in this house] more than half of the people are those who lost [the Feb. 8 elections],” he added. “What you have done to the constitution, what you have done to this country, you will be held accountable [for that].”
The PTI leader said no one should be under the illusion that his party would allow the National Assembly to function until its members got their rights.
Raoof Hasan, the spokesperson of Khan’s party, also told local news channel Geo TV that the goal of the countrywide protest today was to restore people’s mandate.