Pakistan military exercise with special forces contingents from Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait concludes

The picture shared on December 9, 2023, shows special forces from Pakistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait posing a group picture after Fajar Al Sharq-V, a multinational joint special forces exercise. (ISPR)
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Updated 09 December 2023
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Pakistan military exercise with special forces contingents from Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait concludes

  • The two-week exercise commenced on Nov. 27 at the National Counter Terrorism Center in northwest Pakistan 
  • The exercise, attended by contingents from Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait, helped nurture joint employment concepts 

ISLAMABAD: Fajar Al Sharq-V, a multinational joint special forces exercise, concluded on Saturday at the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) in northwest Pakistan, the Pakistani military said, with participation from multiple Arab countries. 

The two-week exercise commenced on November 27 at the NCTC in Pabbi in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing. 

The exercise was attended by special forces contingents from Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait. 

“The exercise was aimed at further harnessing the historic military to military relations among brotherly countries and helped nurture joint employment concepts against counter terrorism, besides identifying areas of mutual interest for future military collaborations,” the ISPR said in a statement. 

Besides the participating troops, officers from the brotherly nations also witnessed the closing ceremony on the final day of the exercise. 

Pakistan, which has proven its mettle in the field of counter-terrorism, routinely holds joint military exercises with friendly states to foster joint employment concepts. 

These exercises help the participating nations enhance their combat capabilities to thwart any threats and ensure peace in the region. 


Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly to elect new chief minister today 

Updated 26 February 2024
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Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly to elect new chief minister today 

  • Pakistan Peoples Party nominates former Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah for top political office in the country
  • PPP, which has the highest number of seats in Sindh Assembly, won elections for speaker, deputy speaker on Sunday

KARACHI: Legislators of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province will elect a new chief minister of the province today, Monday, despite protests by opposition legislators who have called into question the results of indecisive polls on Feb. 8. 

The assembly’s inaugural session was held on Saturday during which the newly elected members of the assembly were sworn in. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which bagged the highest number of seats, 84, successfully elected its members Syed Owais Qadir Shah and Anthony Naveed to the posts of speaker and deputy speaker, on Sunday.

“The election of Sindh Chief Minister will be held tomorrow (Monday),” the state-run Radio Pakistan said in a report on Sunday. 

The PPP has nominated former Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah as its candidate for the post once again. Shah will contest against the Muttahida Quami Movement Pakistan’s (MQM-P) nominee for chief minister, Ali Khursheedi. The MQM-P bagged 28 seats in the province’s urban cities while 14 seats were won by independent candidates. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) religious party and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) won two seats each.

Saturday’s inaugural session of the assembly was marred by protests by supporters of the JI, GDA, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other nationalist parties, who gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s South zone to protest the alleged manipulation of Feb. 8 elections. 

In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government last Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.
 


Pakistan’s commerce minister attends WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi 

Updated 26 February 2024
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Pakistan’s commerce minister attends WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi 

  • Commerce Minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz meets counterparts from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and China, says state-run media 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Caretaker Commerce Minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz is in Abu Dhabi to attend the the13th high-level ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, state-run media said on Monday, as representatives of various countries around the world gear up to discuss global trade in the shadow of Israel’s war on Gaza and conflicts in other parts of the globe. 

The WTO’s ministerial conference, scheduled to run until Thursday, includes discussions on various contemporary issues ranging from trade and environment to climate change, sustainability, and inclusion in its agenda. 

“Caretaker Minister for Commerce, Industry and Investment Gohar Ejaz is in Abu Dhabi to attend the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference,” the state-run Radio Pakistan said. 

It added that Ejaz met his counterparts from other countries, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkiye, and China in Abu Dhabi. 

The UAE is Pakistan’s third-largest trade partner after China and the United States. It is also viewed as an ideal export destination by policymakers in the South Asian country due to its geographical proximity with Pakistan that reduces transportation and freight costs.

The Gulf country is also home to an estimated 1.8 million Pakistani expatriates and after Saudi Arabia, the second-largest source of remittances for the South Asian nation of more than 240 million. Pakistan’s principal exports to the UAE consist of textile products and various food items.

Last month, Pakistan and the UAE inked multiple agreements worth over $3 billion for cooperation in railways, economic zones, and infrastructure at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 


Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children

Updated 26 February 2024
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Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children

  • Nationwide vaccination drive against polio to be held from Feb. 26-March 3
  • Pakistan’s health minister urges people to cooperate with polio volunteers 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Monday kicked off a nationwide weeklong campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children against the poliovirus disease, with the country’s caretaker health minister urging masses to cooperate with polio workers for a safer and healthier future for their children. 

Pakistan aims to vaccinate over 45.8 million children below the age of five during the second anti-polio campaign of this year, which is being held from February 26 to March 3. The vaccination drive is scheduled to be held from March 2-6 in the 33 districts of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province bordering Afghanistan. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“Over 400,000 of our polio heroes are knocking at your doors for a bright and healthy future,” Pakistan’s Caretaker Health Minister Dr. Nadeem Jan said in a video message. 

“Cooperate with them because eliminating polio is our national, moral, religious and social obligation,” he added. 

This is the second nationwide campaign against the disease after poliovirus was detected in sewage samples from 19 Pakistani districts in January and in 126 sewage samples in 2023. The first campaign this year was held from January 8-14 in which over 43 million children were vaccinated, according to official figures. 

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern KP province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Pakistani 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. 
 


Survivors, families of 94 migrants who died in shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

Updated 26 February 2024
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Survivors, families of 94 migrants who died in shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

  • On Feb. 26, 2023, wooden boat carrying about 200 migrants sank a few meters off the coast of southern Calabria
  • Many of the dead, and survivors fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan in hoping to join family members in Italy, Europe

CROTONE, Italy: Survivors and family members of victims of a tragic shipwreck a year ago that killed 94 migrants, including 35 minors, just a few meters off Italy’s southern coast, returned for three days of commemorations ending Monday, calling for truth and justice.

A torchlight vigil, a photo exhibition and a protest march were among events at the nearby town of Crotone organized by a group of activists named Network Feb. 26 after the date of the tragedy. Most of the dead hailed from countries in the Middle East or South Asia.

“One year after the carnage, their right to the truth, to justice and to be reunited with their families has not been guaranteed yet,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

On Feb. 26 last year, a wooden boat departed from Turkiye carrying about 200 migrants and sank just a few meters (yards) off the coast of southern Calabria while trying to land on the seaside resort beach of Steccato di Cutro.

Network Feb. 26 includes over 400 associations that have repeatedly asked the Italian government to seek the truth about one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

The group has denounced repeated policy failures and alleged violations of human rights by Italian and EU authorities, seen as the main cause behind the long string of deaths of migrants who face risky trips to reach European coasts in their search for a better life.

Activists have also complained that some of the relatives and survivors were denied the right to return to Crotone for the anniversary of the shipwreck, due to difficulties in obtaining proper documents.

“When we met (Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni ) in Rome after the tragedy, (she) promised that her staff would (work) to reunite us and our families, but that has never happened,” said Haroon Mohammadi, 24, a survivor from Herat, Afghanistan, who lost some of his friends in the shipwreck.

Mohammadi now lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he has obtained a one-year residence permit, and hopes to continue to study economics at a university there.

“It’s very difficult for me to be back here, but I came to honor friends and relatives we’ve lost. … We became like a family following that day,” he told The Associated Press.

Many of the dead and survivors had fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, hoping to join family members in Italy and other Western European countries.

After the shipwreck, the right-wing government of Meloni approved a decree establishing a new crime — people smuggling that causes the death of migrants — punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and pledged to further toughen its battle against illegal immigration.

On Sunday, hundreds of people, including a group of about 50 survivors and relatives of the victims, marched in Crotone despite heavy rain with a banner asking to “stop deaths at sea.” Demonstrators also stopped to pay homage in front of PalaMilone, a sports complex that hosted the victims’ caskets.

On Saturday, Crotone’s Pitagora Museum inaugurated a photo exhibit titled “Dreams Cross the Sea,” featuring 94 photographs, one for each of the victims.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

In the early hours of Feb. 26, the boat named Summer Love sank just a few meters (yards) from the coast of the southern Calabria region, while trying to land on the nearby beach. Authorities say the shipwreck resulted in the deaths of at least 94 of the 200 on board. Eighty passengers survived and about 10 were considered missing. Dozens of young children were onboard and almost none survived.

The shocking accident raised several questions over how EU border agency Frontex and the Italian coast guard responded to it.

Six days after the tragedy, Meloni told journalists that “no emergency communication from Frontex reached Italian authorities,” who she said were not warned that the vessel was in danger of sinking.

However, a Frontex incident report later indicated that Italian authorities told the EU agency at the time of the sighting that the case was not considered an emergency.

The Cutro shipwreck soon became a stark illustration of the fatal dangers faced by migrants as they try to reach European coasts on overcrowded and fragile boats, after paying smugglers for costly trips.

A total of 2,571 migrants died at sea in 2023, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration. Nearly 100 people have been reported missing or dead in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2024, more than double the toll recorded last year during the same period, the IOM said.

RAGE AND HOPE

Over the past year, Cutro survivors and relatives of the victims have voiced their rage, stressing that the tragedy could have been avoided if authorities reacted earlier to the migrants’ desperate calls for help.

Their testimonies on the tragedy have challenged both the Italian government and the international community to find new solutions to the migration crisis.

Meanwhile, the local community, which offered burial niches for some of the victims, expressed a deep solidarity and commitment to helping survivors and honoring the lost.

“My name is Mojtaba. I was born on Feb. 26, 2023. I feel I’m 1 year old today,” said survivor Mojtaba Rezapour Moghaddam, a 47-year-old Iranian who is building a new life in Crotone with the help of locals and aid groups.

Moghaddam fears the smugglers on board the Summer Love — after being arrested and sentenced — will be able go to back to Turkiye and restart their illegal trafficking activities.

His almost-deadly trip to Italy costed him about 9,000 euros, but he recalled that others on the boat had paid even more.

TRIALS PENDING

Earlier in February, a Crotone magistrate sentenced Gun Ufuk, a 29-year-old Turkish citizen accused of being one of the people smugglers on the vessel, to 20 years in prison and a 3 million euro fine. Ufuk was arrested in March last year after being identified in Austria, to where he had managed to escape.

Ufuk chose a fast-track trial, while the other three alleged smugglers who survived the shipwreck are undergoing ordinary procedures, which may last several months, if not years.

Their trial was recently adjourned to April 10 to enable testimony from three survivors who are in Hamburg and will testify via videoconference.

Meanwhile, a second investigation launched by prosecutors in Crotone into alleged delays in the rescue operations is expected to wrap up in a month’s time. That probe involves three police officers from the Italian tax and border police and an additional three people whose identities are unknown.


PSL 2024: In-form Peshawar Zalmi lock horns with Islamabad United today

Updated 26 February 2024
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PSL 2024: In-form Peshawar Zalmi lock horns with Islamabad United today

  • Peshawar Zalmi have won two matches on the trot against Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars
  • United lost their last two matches and have just one victory from the three matches they have played

ISLAMABAD: After two wins on the trot, Peshawar Zalmi will be eyeing a victory over former two-time Pakistan Super League (PSL) champions Islamabad United when the two teams lock horns at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore today, Monday. 

After a dismal start to the tournament which saw them lose to the Quetta Gladiators and Karachi Kings, Zalmi defeated table-toppers Multan Sultans by five runs in a thrilling contest last Friday. Skipper Babar Azam’s side won again on Sunday night, beating defending champions Lahore Qalandars by eight runs to ensure their second win of the tournament. 

United began their PSL 2024 on a high, crushing the Qalandars by eight wickets before losing to the Sultans and the Gladiators last week. After losing two matches on the trot, United will be eyeing a comeback on Monday against Zalmi to improve their number five position on the PSL points table. 

“Your #Sherus roar again! Tomorrow, we will be back in action against Peshawar Zalmi,” United wrote on social media platform X on Sunday. 

While United bowlers Naseem Shah, Tymal Mills and Ubaid Shah have shown glimpse of brilliance this month, the team would require more of them if it needs to qualify for the playoffs this PSL. Skipper Shadab Khan has been consistent as an all-rounder so far along with explosive batter Salman Agha. 

Zalmi’s formidable opening pair Azam and Saim Ayub found form during their fixture against the Qalandars on Sunday night, putting up an impressive partnership of 136 runs. Ayub scored 88 runs while Azam narrowly missed out on yet another PSL fifty after he was caught on 48. 

The match is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Squads:

Islamabad United

Shadab Khan, Naseem Shah, Imad Wasim, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Alex Hales, Colin Munro, Rumman Raees, Tymal Mills, Matthew Forde, Salman Agha, Qasim Akram, Shahab Khan, Hunain Shah, Ubaid Shah, Shamyl Hussain, Tom Curran, Jordan Cox, Haider Ali, Obed McCoy

Peshawar Zalmi

Babar Azam, Rovman Powell, Saim Ayub, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Mohammad Haris, Aamir Jamal, Khurram Shahzad, Haseebullah Khan , Asif Ali, Naveen-ul-Haq, Umair Afridi, Dan Mousley, Gus Atkinson, Mohammad Zeeshan, Waqar Salamkheil, Mehran Mumtaz, Noor Ahmad Gus Atkinson, Salman Irshad, Arif Yaqoob, Shamar Joseph, Arshad Iqbal, Luke Wood, Sufiyan Muqeem