As Pakistan gears up for polls, Balochistan prepares ‘comprehensive’ plan to counter militant threat 

A soldier stands guard at the premises of a mosque after a bomb blast in Quetta on January 10, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2024
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As Pakistan gears up for polls, Balochistan prepares ‘comprehensive’ plan to counter militant threat 

  • Balochistan has been scene of low-level insurgency by Baloch separatists, other groups who have targeted polls in volatile region 
  • Pakistani political leaders, based in troubled border regions, have already expressed concerns about security situation ahead of polls 

QUETTA: Authorities in Pakistan’s Balochistan have prepared a “comprehensive” security plan to counter a threat of militant attacks in the southwestern province, officials said, as the South Asian country gears up for a national election on February 8. 

Balochistan, which shares a porous border with Afghanistan in the north and Iran to the west, has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baloch separatists and other armed groups, who have targeted election activities in the volatile southwestern region over the last two decades. 

In July 2018, at least 128 people were killed and dozens injured after a Daesh suicide bomber targeted an election rally in the Mastung district, some 50 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Quetta, during the last general election. Another 31 voters were killed in a separate attack near Quetta’s Eastern Bypass area on the day of polling. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been finalizing a plan to protect its staff and voters on 5,067 polling stations in Mastung, Khuzdar, Turbat, Awaran, Gwadar, Kharan and Panjgur districts of Balochistan. Of these polling stations, 2,038 have been declared “highly sensitive.” 

“Balochistan has a sprawling landscape and distinct features as compared to the other provinces, holding the elections in a peaceful environment will be a challenge but we have a comprehensive security plan to maintain security on the polling day,” Balochistan Provincial Election Commissioner Ijaz Ali Chauhan told Arab News on Thursday. 

He said the ECP was focusing on each and every polling station across the province and aiming for considerable deployment of police, Balochistan Constabulary, Frontier Corps and Pakistan Army. 

The Balochistan caretaker government has vowed to help the election authorities hold a peaceful election in the province. 

“There are many terrorism threats ahead of general elections, but we will tackle them and we are ready to cope with any situation relating to law and order,” Interim Home Minister Zubair Jamali told Arab News. “We have accepted the challenge to hold the elections in a peaceful manner.” 

The elections are scheduled to be held at a time when Pakistan is witnessing a surge in militant attacks in its northwestern and southwestern provinces that border Afganistan. These attacks particularly increased after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) called off its months-long truce with the government in Islamabad in November 2022. 

Pakistan has accused Kabul of allowing the TTP to operate and launch attacks from the Afghan soil against the Pakistani security forces and people. The Afghan Taliban administration denies its land is being used against any country. 

Pakistani political leaders, based in the troubled border regions, have already expressed concerns about the security situation ahead of the polls, but Jamali dismissed their concern and said more than 90 percent of Pakistan’s border with Iran and Afghanistan had been fenced. 

“Our forces are securing the border and they are devoted to eliminating all security threats,” the home minister said. 

Security analysts, however, remain concerned about a peaceful conduct of the 2024 election in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

“In 2023, there were a series of attacks on political leaders in Balochistan which proves that a threat does exist during the electoral activities in the province,” Abdul Basit Khan, a research fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told Arab News. 

“Security challenges are paramount given the fact that Balochistan is a sparsely populated region. If the elections provide opportunity to armed groups, particularly the Baloch separatists, to undermine the state, they will avail it.” 


Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

Updated 25 May 2024
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Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

  • The electric supply company says the protesters ‘forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders’ in the area
  • It mentions losses due to power-theft, non-payment of dues, lodges police complaint against the lawmaker

ISLAMABAD: Residents of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest, led by a provincial lawmaker from former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stormed a grid station on Saturday and restored electricity themselves to protest prolonged power cuts amid scorching heat.
Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply due to the widespread use of air conditioners and desert coolers. These seasonal surges often lead to prolonged power outages, which fuel public discontent, particularly during the intense heatwaves that have swept across Pakistan in recent years.
While the blackouts can sometimes be part of the official load management strategy, Pakistani authorities have also pointed to power theft in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a significant issue, occasionally leading to complete shutdowns of electricity.
“If our electricity is cut off, everyone’s electricity will be cut off,” Pakistan’s Geo TV quoted the PTI lawmaker Fazal Elahi as saying after the incident.
The Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) said Elahi and other protesters entered the grid station and “forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders” in the area.
“Losses due to power theft and non-payment of dues on these feeders are more than 80 percent,” it added.
Local media also reported that PESCO had filed a police complaint against the PTI lawmaker, who said protesters were only demanding their rights.


Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

  • Skipper Jos Buttler, who smashed 84 off 51 balls, was the star of the England batting
  • Babar Azam praises Pakistani bowlers but says that the team could not finish well

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer claimed two wickets on his long-awaited return to international cricket as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston to move 1-0 up in the four-match T20 series.
England captain Jos Buttler won man-of-the-match after he smashed 84 off 51 balls to set the hosts a target of 184.
But it was Archer’s return that caught the eye as he made a case for selection in next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies no harm.
The fast bowler has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
On his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, Archer bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with two for 28.
“I thought Jofra Archer was brilliant,” said Buttler. “You could see his emotion taking wickets for England again but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.
“I’m really pleased with the whole bowling group.”
Muhammad Rizwan was removed in the first over by Moeen Ali and Reece Topley took three wickets for 41.
Buttler was the star of the England batting with three sixes and eight fours.
He was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
Five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back with Shaheen Shah Afridi the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
“We got them to a par score, our bowlers bowled very well and we had our moments when we were batting,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Fakhar Zaman’s 45 from 21 balls gave the Pakistan chase some impetus, but after he departed the pace of Archer, Topley and Chris Jordan ripped through the tourists’ tail with four balls to spare.
“We didn’t finish well. We had a small partnership, myself and Fakhar but we didn’t get any other 40 or 50 partnerships that England did,” added Azam.
England lead the four-match series 1-0 after the first match was washed out on Wednesday.


Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

  • SIFC reviews progress related to trade and investment with friendly nations in a meeting presided by PM Sharif
  • The meeting also evaluates progress on the privatization of state-owned entities, instructs timely implementation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif instructed Pakistan’s top investment facilitation body to set up six country- and region-specific desks, including one solely focused on Saudi Arabia, while presiding over a meeting on Saturday that concentrated on progress related to economic collaboration with friendly nations.
Last year, the country established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing, to help overcome its prolonged economic turmoil that has forced successive administrations to seek financial assistance from global lenders and close allies.
Pakistani officials have primarily focused on Gulf countries since the inception of SIFC, briefing governments and businesses about investment opportunities available across various economic sectors in their country, including areas like agriculture, mining and information technology.
Following the announcement of a $10 billion investment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during Sharif’s daylong visit to Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Pakistan expects to receive substantial investments from the region.
“The prime minister has announced that the SIFC will have a China desk, a UAE desk, a Saudi desk, a Qatar desk, a European Union desk and a United States of America desk,” Federal Minister for Information Attaullah Tarar told the media after the meeting.
“The prime minister has formally announced these six desks to promote trade and investment,” he added. “It was a historic meeting whose fruits will become visible in the coming days.”
An official statement issued after the meeting said the SIFC appreciated the recent upsurge in trade and investment related engagements under government-to-government and business-to-business frameworks, directing concerned ministries for efficient follow-ups.
It instructed the participants to make every effort to transform the commitments received from friendly countries into tangible projects and economic dividends at a fast pace.
The meeting reviewed progress on the privatization of state-owned enterprises, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing process and urging the timely accomplishment of various milestones in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.


British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

Updated 25 May 2024
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British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

  • Saira Peter says she is privileged to contribute her voice to British government’s public events, citizenship ceremonies
  • She also recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ in 2018 and received acknowledgement and gratitude of Queen Elizabeth II

ISLAMABAD: A British-Pakistani Sufi Opera singer, Saira Peter, announced in a video message circulated on Saturday she received a letter of appreciation from Buckingham Palace for recording the British national anthem, “God Save the King,” following the coronation of King Charles III.
The British king’s coronation took place last May at Westminster Abbey in London. The event brought leaders and high-profile personalities from around the world and marked his official accession to the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
Upon receiving the recording, performed in the soprano vocal range, the highest of the female voice types in classical singing, the king sent Peter a letter conveying his good wishes and sincere thanks for her public services.
She also received a signed photo card from him and Queen Camilla.
“I want to share with all my followers how excited I am to receive a letter and card of appreciation and gratitude from His Majesty King Charles the Third,” Peter said in the video, where she mentioned she was Pakistan’s first opera singer. “This arrived in response to my civic service of recording the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King.’”
“Being British-Pakistani, I feel so privileged to contribute my skill and voice to the British government’s public events and citizenship ceremonies,” she added.
Peter informed the British national anthem was recorded at the request of UK Government offices at Hastings Town Hall in East Sussex. The recording is now used across her adopted country for official government events.
Previously, she recorded “God Save the Queen” in 2018, making her the first Asian and the only Pakistani officially invited to undertake the task. Peter also received acknowledgment and gratitude from the late queen.
Born in Karachi, the opera singer told Arab News during her visit to Pakistan last year she used to sing in church choirs and began her Western classical journey, learning from Paul Knight, a disciple of Benjamin Britten, in London in the early 2000s after her family moved there.
Peter’s father, Zafar Francis, pioneered the Noor Jehan Arts Center in London, which was opened by British superstar Sir Cliff Richard in 1998.
She is the director of the performing arts center and teaches both Western and Pakistani classical music there.
She said her work in Britain was projecting “a positive image of Pakistan.”


Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

  • Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls, but his team failed to build on that and lost 5 wickets for 25 runs
  • Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-36, as Pakistan try to build on their 2-1 win against Ireland this month

BIRMINGHAM: England captain Jos Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls as the hosts set Pakistan a target of 184 to win the second T20 international at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Buttler was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
England were 144-2 with five overs to spare before Bairstow departed.
But five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back to give the tourists a chance of chasing down the target.
Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
Jofra Archer will form part of the England bowling attack in his first home international appearance since 2020.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” Buttler said before the match.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan have been included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir