Pakistani students show solidarity with Gazan children with exhibition of paintings and poems 

Diplomats and visitors view artwork by Pakistani students to express their solidarity with the children of Gaza in Islamabad, Pakistan on February 22, 2024. (AN photo)
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Updated 23 February 2024

Pakistani students show solidarity with Gazan children with exhibition of paintings and poems 

  • Event organized by Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad with over 120 children participating 
  • Foreign diplomats, academics and dignitaries appreciate Pakistani students for taking a stand 

ISLAMABAD: Diplomats and envoys from various countries on Thursday condemned Israel for its “blatant and bold” war against Palestinians, as they attended an exhibition of poems and paintings by Pakistani students in support of children in Gaza.

The Institute of Strategic Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, organized the event in which over 120 children aged between 5-12 from five schools in Islamabad took part. 

Almost 30,000 people have been killed in Palestine since Israel launched an aerial bombing and ground offensive campaign after Oct. 7 following a Hamas attack on Israel. About 70 percent of those who have been killed are women, 7,900, and children, 12,450. The head of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that medical teams in the Gaza Strip have come up with a new acronym, WCNSF, wounded child, no surviving family.

Despite calls from foreign governments and peace activists worldwide, Israel has vowed not to stop its bombing of the densely populated territory until it destroys the Palestinian group Hamas.

“This message given by Pakistani children should show the world that no one will forget Gaza and will not accept their dual standards,” Brian Witbooi, a counselor at the South African High Commission in Pakistan, told Arab News.

“The atrocities in Gaza are blatant and bold and for the entire world to see,“

Palestine’s ambassador to Pakistan, Ahmed Jawad A.A. Rabei, said the message of support from Pakistani children to the Palestinian people “means a lot to them.”

“They [Pakistani children] draw and write many important things that came from the heart, conveying that you [Palestinians] are not alone, we stand with you, and, God willing, we will witness your freedom,” he told Arab News. 

“I am very proud to see the hope for Palestinians, its children, students here [in Pakistan], and I am very proud of you in what you drew and wrote for children in Gaza.”

Ambassador of Morocco to Pakistan, Mohamed Karmoune, said Pakistanis’ support for Palestinians transcended generations.

“They [Pakistani children] are the future of the Muslim world and their support means a lot for the Palestinian children who are suffering inhuman violence,” he told Arab News.

 Zainab Mohmand, a grade five student, said she had written a poem for children in Gaza, who were on the brink of starvation. 

“The children of Gaza are living in such a hard situation,” she said. “They don’t have enough water to drink, they don’t have enough food. So, I wrote about this so that they can somehow get out of this situation.”

MSF says ‘deeply concerned’ for Afghans as Pakistan prepares for second round of deportations

Updated 19 min 47 sec ago

MSF says ‘deeply concerned’ for Afghans as Pakistan prepares for second round of deportations

  • Pakistan had announced it would start expelling Afghans with state-issued citizen cards after Eid Al-Fitr 
  • Pakistan has already expelled around half a million ‘undocumented’ Afghan refugees since last November

ISLAMABAD: The international charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said this week it was “deeply concerned” as Pakistani authorities prepare for phase two of a ‘repatriation plan’ that has mostly targeted Afghans in the country since it was launched late last year.

Last month, the Pakistan government said it had started mapping Afghan nationals with Pakistan-issued citizen cards for deportation as part of phase two of its expulsion drive in which around half a million so-called undocumented Afghan refugees have already been expelled since November. The new campaign will mainly target 800,000 refugees who hold Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs).

“In the wake of the recent announcement by the Pakistani authorities that ‘Phase Two’ of the ‘repatriation plan’ of Afghans in the country will begin after Eid (15 April), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is deeply concerned for the rights and welfare of those impacted by the latest round of deportations,” the charity said in a statement. 

“Many Afghans living in Pakistan have been there for decades and have spent more time in the country than their country of origin, without any legal recourse to remain in the only place they can effectively call ‘home,’” MSF added.

“For many Afghans, this ‘repatriation’ means packing up their belongings and carrying them on a horse, cart, car and bus and traveling en masse to a country that is already struggling with widespread poverty, inadequate health services and increased restrictions on women.”

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan’ with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” Afghan refugees to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million refugees at risk.

In phase two of the ‘repatriation plan,’ Pakistan-issued ACC holders will be expelled from the country after the Eid Al-Fitr festival, a major Muslim holiday that fell on April 10. Phase three is expected to result in the deportation of UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders.

Until November last year, before it began the deportation drive, Pakistan was home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom were undocumented, according to the government. Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The expulsion drive started after a spike in suicide bombings last year which the Pakistan government — without providing evidence — said mostly involved Afghans. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling and other militant violence and crime.

At the time, cash-strapped Pakistan, navigating record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

Despite the challenges facing migrants, Pakistan is the only home many of them know and a sanctuary from the economic deprivation and extreme social conservatism that Afghanistan is grappling with.

While hundreds of thousands have left Pakistan since the expiry of a November 1, 2023 deadline, the South Asian country still hosts around 1.35 million registered Afghan refugees, with an additional 803,200 possessing ACCs, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Heavy rains kill 32 in northwest Pakistan in six days

Updated 11 min 50 sec ago

Heavy rains kill 32 in northwest Pakistan in six days

  • PDMA warns of another spell of heavy downpours from April 17-21
  • Rs160 million released for assistance of families of deceased people

PESHAWAR: At least 32 people were killed and another 42 injured in the last six days as heavy rains and floods have thrashed Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said in a report on Wednesday. 

The rains started last Friday and have caused large-scale damage in different parts of KP while the PDMA has warned of another spell of heavy downpours in the province from April 17-21. 

The report issued by PDMA on Wednesday morning said the 32 casualties in KP included 15 children, 12 men, and 5 women while the injured comprised 6 women, 28 men, and 7 children. A total of 1370 houses had also been damaged, 160 of them completely.

The country’s national and provincial disaster management authorities said on Tuesday almost 60 people had been killed throughout the country due to the current spell of rains and resultant floods. 

Residents stand near the flooded waters outside their homes following heavy rains in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on April 17, 2024.(AFP)

“Further heavy rains are expected to cause flash floods in low-lying areas [of KP] and have raised concerns about landslides in hilly regions,” PDMA spokesperson Ihsan Dawar told Arab News. 

“The district administrations should take proactive and immediate measures before the second spell of the rains begins … and ensure the availability of small and large machinery.”

Some of the districts where loss of life and property took place are Khyber, Upper and Lower Dir, Chitral Upper and Lower, Swat, Bajaur, Shangla, Mansehra, Mohmand, Malakand, Kurram, Tank, Mardan, Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Buner, Hangu, Batagram, Bannu, North and South Waziristan, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Kozai.

A displaced man waits for assistance outside his tent at a makeshift camp after fleeing from his flood hit home following heavy rains in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on April 17, 2024. (AFP)

Relief activities have been launched in several affected areas and the PDMA has released over Rs160 million for families of those who have died due to rain-related incidents, according to the PDMA spokesperson. 

“The loss of precious human lives in various incidents resulting from the rains is deeply saddening,” the chief minister of KP said in a statement.

The eastern province of Punjab has reported 21 lighting- and collapse-related deaths, while Balochistan, in the country’s southwest, reported 10 dead as authorities declared a state of emergency following flash floods.

On Wednesday, Balochistan was bracing for more rains amid ongoing rescue and relief operations, as flash floods inundated villages near the coastal city of Gwadar.

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild. Balochistan saw rainfall at 590 percent above average that year, while Karachi saw 726 percent more rainfall than usual.

Pakistan has world’s highest number of viral hepatitis C infections, WHO report says

Updated 17 April 2024

Pakistan has world’s highest number of viral hepatitis C infections, WHO report says

  • Pakistan among ten nations that collectively shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C
  • Hepatitis is second leading infectious cause of death globally with 1.3 million deaths yearly, same as tuberculosis

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has the highest number of viral hepatitis C infections in the world, around 8.8 million, and accounts for 44 percent of all new hepatitis C infections attributed to unsafe medical injections, a new report from the World Health Organization released this month says.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2024 Global Hepatitis Report, the number of lives lost due to viral hepatitis is increasing, with the disease being the second leading infectious cause of death globally with 1.3 million deaths per year, the same as tuberculosis, a top infectious killer.

New data from 187 countries show that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, 83 percent were caused by hepatitis B, and 17 percent by hepatitis C. Every day, there are 3500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections.

“This report paints a troubling picture: despite progress globally in preventing hepatitis infections, deaths are rising because far too few people with hepatitis are being diagnosed and treated,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“WHO is committed to supporting countries to use all the tools at their disposal — at access prices — to save lives and turn this trend around.”

While Pakistan is the world leader according to the WHO report for hepatitis C infections, if the number of hepatitis B and hepatitis C cases are combined, Pakis­tan ranks fifth in the world, only trailing behind China, India, Indonesia and Nige­ria, with around 12.6 million cases reported in 2022.

Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and Viet Nam, collectively shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C. 

Achieving universal access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in these ten countries by 2025, alongside intensified efforts in the African Region, is essential to get the global response back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, according to the WHO.

Condolences from Pakistan as at least 66 killed in Afghanistan rains, flash floods

Updated 25 min 29 sec ago

Condolences from Pakistan as at least 66 killed in Afghanistan rains, flash floods

  • Number of reported casualties has doubled since Sunday, many were killed when their homes collapsed 
  • Storms adding to challenges facing Afghanistan, still recovering from decades of conflict and natural disasters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday offered condolences to neighboring Afghanistan as heavy rains and flash floods killed at least 66 people, damaged homes, infrastructure, and farmlands across provinces.

The storms, which started over the weekend, are adding to the challenges facing Afghanistan, which is still recovering from decades of conflict and natural disasters, including unprecedented droughts in the past four years, as well as a series of deadly earthquakes.

“The Government and people of Pakistan express deepest sympathies and condolences at the loss of precious lives and livelihoods and damage to properties caused by heavy rains and flash flooding in several provinces of Afghanistan,” the Pakistan foreign office said in a statement.

“We pray that the Almighty may grant patience and fortitude to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss and wish a swift recovery to the injured.”

Janan Sayeq, the spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority, told Arab News at least 66 people had been killed and 36 injured as per preliminary reports.

The number of reported casualties had doubled since Sunday, raising fears the actual toll could be higher. Many of the victims were killed when their homes collapsed on them.

Sayeq said 1,235 houses were destroyed.

Flash floods were reported in 23 of the country’s 34 provinces, damaging crops ahead of the harvest season, and badly hitting food security in the country as UN agencies estimate more than half of its population is in need of humanitarian assistance.

“The wheat crops will be ready for collection in a few weeks. But the rainfalls could destroy most of it,” said Gul Hussain, a farmer from the eastern Laghman province, which is one of the main agricultural regions.

The impact of drought, and now also floods, has been devastating for rural families struggling with access to water.

“The floods have had severe effects on the lives of people in the southeast, southwest and east of the country and have caused loss of life and damage to houses, as well as economic and agricultural effects as crops are destroyed and livestock are killed,” Najibullah Sadid, a hydromophologist, told Arab News.

The country’s mountainous topography and reduced vegetation are leaving little to no space for people to escape flood events, as preparedness and prevention in the face of the changing climate are almost nonexistent.

Water management infrastructure — such as check dams, trenches, terraces, and reservoirs that could help reduce flooding — is insufficient.

“For instance, Iran has 22 times more storage capacity and Pakistan 13 times more storage capacity than Afghanistan, making the country more vulnerable to floods during rainfalls,” Sadid said.

“Considering the increasing climate change effects as well as frequency and intensity of rainfalls, steps taken during the past two decades and now are limited and are not sufficient to control the situation.”

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Updated 17 April 2024

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defense Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defense ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defense-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defense ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defense exercises.