Pakistani PM tasks authorities to prepare emergency polio eradication plan for 2024 

A health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a vaccination campaign in Lahore on October 24, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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Pakistani PM tasks authorities to prepare emergency polio eradication plan for 2024 

  • Caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar chairs high-level meeting of Pakistan’s task force on polio eradication 
  • PM notes recent cases of polio reported in Pakistan, calls for integrated anti-polio campaigns in high-risk areas 

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar tasked authorities on Wednesday to prepare an emergency polio eradication plan for the next year to target high-risk areas, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of ten years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio continues to threaten the health and well-being of children, with Pakistani authorities reporting six polio cases this year. 

Kakar chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s task force on polio eradication during which he stressed monitoring polio vaccination campaigns through technology, the PMO said in a statement. 

“The prime minister gave directions [to authorities] to prepare an anti-polio emergency plan for next year,” the statement said. 

Kakar called for the resumption of regular polio immunization campaigns across the country, emphasizing that best international practices and research be adopted for the use of Inactivated Polio Virus (IPV) vaccines. 

The prime minister said integrated anti-polio programs should be adopted in high-risk areas, the PMO said. Kakar said important stakeholders of Pakistani society such as parents, religious scholars and teachers should be included in polio awareness campaigns as well. 

He issued directions that a Ulema Convention should be held to shed light on the importance of the role of ulema in anti-polio campaigns, the statement added. 

Participants of the meeting were told polio teams are administering vaccines to children at Afghan repatriation camps in Peshawar, Nowshera, and Chaman cities. They were also briefed that Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan were polio-free areas, whereas some union councils in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were more affected, the PMO said. 

Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate polio have encountered difficulties as many Pakistanis harbor suspicions about foreign entities that fund vaccination campaigns. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

The 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. 


Saudi Arabia gifts Pakistan 100 tons of dates ahead of Ramadan

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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 20 min 32 sec ago
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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 36 min 19 sec ago
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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.


Saudi ambassador honors Pakistani policewoman for heroic rescue, offers royal invitation to kingdom

Updated 01 March 2024
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Saudi ambassador honors Pakistani policewoman for heroic rescue, offers royal invitation to kingdom

  • ASP Shehrbano Naqvi safely extracted a woman from an enraged blasphemy mob in Lahore last month
  • She received widespread acclaim from the general public and was also praised by Pakistan’s army chief

ISLAMABAD: The Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Malki, praised a female Pakistani police officer for her timely intervention that saved a woman surrounded by an enraged blasphemy mob in the eastern city of Lahore, extending a royal invitation to her for a visit to the kingdom.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Shehrbano Naqvi received widespread acclaim from politicians, officials and the general public after a social media video showed her rescuing a woman wearing a dress with Arabic inscriptions, which some people mistook for verses from the Holy Qur’an.
Naqvi, who safely extracted the woman from the crowd, later clarified that the dress bore no sacred inscriptions, featuring only the Arabic word “halwa.”
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency, during a meeting at the embassy, the Saudi envoy commended Naqvi’s selfless devotion that defused the volatile situation.
He also extended an invitation to her to visit the kingdom.
“The Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan praised the bravery of the police officer and assured her that the Saudi government would cover the expenses of her and her family’s trip to Saudi Arabia as honored guests,” reported the APP.
Independent Urdu, quoting an embassy spokesperson, revealed that Naqvi, along with her family, would be visiting Riyadh as royal guests before performing Hajj.
Prior to her meeting with the Saudi diplomat, Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir also invited Naqvi to his office to commend her dedication.
In the past, blasphemy charges have triggered mob lynchings in the country, with politicians assassinated, lawyers murdered and students killed over unverified accusations.


Pakistan’s former interior minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, elected unopposed as Balochistan’s chief minister

Updated 01 March 2024
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Pakistan’s former interior minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, elected unopposed as Balochistan’s chief minister

  • Bugti took oath as a caretaker federal minister last August before resigning in December to contest the recent elections
  • He asks Baloch insurgents to cease fighting and engage in dialogue, warning that the state would not condone violence

QUETTA: Pakistan’s former caretaker interior minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti was elected as the 25th chief minister of the southwestern Balochistan province on Friday, after no other lawmaker submitted nomination papers to contest the post.
Bugti previously served as the home and tribal affairs minister of the province and remained a senator from 2015 to 2021. Last year in August, he took the oath as the country’s interim minister for interior before resigning in December to contest the recent elections.
He participated in the provincial polls after joining Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
“I am thankful to President @AAliZardari, Chairman @BBhuttoZardari, my party @PPP_Org, and the people of #DeraBugti who allowed me to serve the people of #Balochistan,” he said in a social media post. “May Allah guide me and help me to do justice with this heavy responsibility.”
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area, holds a strategic position of immense importance due to its rich mineral resources, including natural gas, coal and minerals, along with its access to the Arabian Sea through the deep-sea port of Gwadar.
The port is also a cornerstone of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, making the province a pivotal player in regional connectivity and trade routes between Asia, the Middle East and beyond.
Balochistan has also experienced a low-level insurgency for decades by Baloch separatist groups who express grievances over political disenfranchisement, economic marginalization and the exploitation of the province’s rich natural resources without adequate benefit to the local population.
However, Pakistani authorities have always denied these claims.
Bugti, scheduled to take the oath at the Governor House tomorrow, asked Baloch insurgents to cease fighting the state and engage in dialogue while speaking to the media.
“The Pakistan Peoples Party believes in dialogue to resolve all political issues,” the newly elected chief minister said. “We wish all militants to skip violence and become part of the mainstream political paradigm. However, the state will not condone any kind of violence.”