Militant attacks spiked by 72 percent in Pakistan’s Balochistan province during February— report 

A soldier stands guard at the premises of a mosque after a bomb blast in Quetta on January 10, 2020. (AFP/File)
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Updated 03 March 2024
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Militant attacks spiked by 72 percent in Pakistan’s Balochistan province during February— report 

  • Report by Islamabad-based think tank states 57 attacks took place in Balochistan during February 
  • Fifty of those attacks occurred from Feb. 1-8, showing militants wanted to disrupt polling process, says report 

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province saw a 72 percent increase in militant attacks during February, mostly as banned outfits targeted political parties’ election activities in days leading up to the polls, the managing director of a Pakistani think tank said on Sunday.

The security situation in Pakistan’s restive southwestern province remained precarious in February, especially in the days before the Feb. 8 polls. Twin blasts in Balochistan killed at least 28 people and injured scores of others on election eve, triggering security fears ahead of polls. 

In a report released on March 1, the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) said 57 attacks in total took place in Balochistan during February, which resulted in 42 deaths and 72 injuries. January had witnessed 33 attacks, leading to 31 fatalities and 50 injuries in the province, the report said. It added that 30 out of the 57 attacks last month were directed at election activities. 

“As you may recall, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had announced that it would not target election activities while the terrorist groups active in Balochistan had openly threatened that they would target the election process,” Abdullah Khan, managing director of the PICSS, told Arab News.

The report pointed out that 50 out of the 57 attacks in Balochistan occurred from February 1-8 while only seven attacks were reported after the elections, “underscoring the militants’ primary focus on disrupting the election process, considering political participation in Pakistan a threat to their cause.”

The report said that in contrast, the security situation “improved” in the rest of the country during February, with a 54 percent drop in violence in the former FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and a 23 percent reduction in mainland Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. 

“In the tribal districts of KP, 11 attacks resulted in seven deaths and 17 injuries, compared to 24 attacks, 36 deaths, and 57 injuries in January,” the PICSS said. 

“Mainland KP witnessed 23 attacks with 35 deaths and 28 injuries, showing a decrease in attacks but an increase in human losses compared to January.”

Khan said militant attacks had decreased in KP due to the TTP’s decision to refrain from election violence. 

“ISKP was keen to carry out attacks against the election process but its operational capabilities in Pakistan are still no match to TTP,” Khan explained. 

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province by land yet its most sparsely populated and poor province. It has been the scene of a low-lying insurgency for the past two decades. Ethnic Baloch nationalists accuse the state of denying them a share in Balochistan’s mineral resources and now demand independence from the center. 

The state rejects these allegations and has vowed to quash any armed rebellion. 


Rain wipes out first Pakistan-New Zealand T20 after just two balls

Updated 18 April 2024
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Rain wipes out first Pakistan-New Zealand T20 after just two balls

  • Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returned to international cricket after nearly four years
  • Having come out of retirement last month, Amir’s participation was limited to just fielding

RAWALPINDI: Heavy rain caused the first Twenty20 international between Pakistan and New Zealand to be abandoned after just two deliveries in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
New Zealand skipper Michael Bracewell won the toss, which had also been delayed by 30 minutes, and opted to bat but no action was possible for two-and-a-half hours.
Umpires Ahsan Raza and Aleem Dar then announced a five-over-a-side game at 10:10 local time (9:10 GMT).
Pakistan paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi conceded two leg-byes to debutant Tim Robinson off the first ball before bowling the batsman with a sharp delivery off the next.
But as soon as the Pakistan fielders started celebrating the wicket, the rain returned to force an abandonment.
Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returned to international cricket after nearly four years, having come out of retirement last month, but his participation was limited to just fielding.
The 32-year-old retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side but changed his mind last month and decided to restart his career, which had already been stalled by a match-fixing ban in 2010.
Pakistan handed T20I caps to batsman Usman Khan, spinner Abrar Ahmed and all-rounder Muhammad Irfan Khan, while Robinson debuted for New Zealand.
The remaining matches are in Rawalpindi on April 20 and 21 and in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
The series gives a chance to both teams to test their bench strength ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in June in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand are without nine key players, including skipper Kane Williamson, who are playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League.


Five custom officials among six killed in gun attack in northwest Pakistan

Updated 18 April 2024
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Five custom officials among six killed in gun attack in northwest Pakistan

  • Officials of the custom department attacked while on routine patrol in Dera Ismail Khan 
  • Latest killings come amid renewed violence in northwestern and southwestern regions

PESHAWAR: Six people, including five officials of the customs department, were killed and another wounded on Thursday when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police and rescue officials said.
Officials of the custom department were out for routine patrol in Dera Ismail Khan city when their vehicle came under attack in the jurisdiction of Draban Police Station, Regional Police Officer Nasir Hussain Satti told Arab News.
“As terrorists started firing on the custom officials, the driver lost control of the vehicle,” Hussain said. 
“As a result, their car collided head-on with another vehicle coming from the opposite direction, leaving five officials and a girl dead on the spot while one person suffered injuries.”
KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur condemned the incident.
“The incident is extremely tragic. Police should take all measures to arrest elements behind the attack,” a statement quoting the chief minister said.
Aziz Dotani, a spokesman at DI Khan district’s Rescue 1122 service, said a relief team promptly rushed to the area to transport bodies to the nearest medical facility.
The latest killings come at a time of renewed militant violence in Pakistan’s northwestern and southwestern regions, especially after the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) called off its fragile, months-long truce with the government in November 2022.
While there has been a spike in militant attacks across the northwest and southwest of the country, militants have particularly attacked policemen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent weeks. 
Earlier this month, unidentified gunmen shot dead a policeman in the restive North Waziristan tribal district. Separately, an official working with the provincial counterterrorism department and a senior cleric affiliated with the Jamiat Ulema Islam religious political party were shot dead in two separate incidents of “targeted killings” in the North Waziristan tribal district, according to police.
While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest killings, suspicion is likely to fall on the TTP, which has had a significant presence in KP before being driven out as a result of successive military operations over the years. Pakistan says the TTP is now mostly based in hideouts in neighboring Afghanistan, which the Taliban denies. 
Last month, seven Pakistani soldiers, including two army officers, were killed in a militant attack in North Waziristan, according to the Pakistani military. The attack led the Pakistani military to carry out rare airstrikes against suspected TTP hideouts inside Afghanistan on March 18, killing eight people. The strikes prompted Afghan forces to fire back at Pakistani soldiers along the border.
Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Nabi Omari has urged Pakistan and the banned TTP to start negotiations afresh but Pakistan has rejected the Afghan minister’s suggestion, urging Kabul to take action against militant groups operating from its soil.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have traded blame in recent months over who is responsible for the recent spate of militant attacks in Pakistan. 
Islamabad says the attacks are launched mostly by TTP members who operate from safe havens in Afghanistan. Kabul denies this and blames Islamabad for not being able to handle its own security challenges.


Seven killed in southwest Pakistan as heavy rains continue to wreak havoc nationwide

Updated 18 April 2024
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Seven killed in southwest Pakistan as heavy rains continue to wreak havoc nationwide

  • At least 33 people killed and 46 injured in various rain-related incidents in northwestern Pakistan
  • Pakistan is ranked fifth most vulnerable country to climate change according to Global Climate Risk Index

QUETTA: Seven people including a woman were killed in southwestern Pakistan as rains continue to wreak havoc in the South Asian nation ranked as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index.
Heavy rains in the last three weeks have triggered landslides and flash floods in several parts of Pakistan. 
On Thursday, seven people were killed in the southwestern Balochistan province, officials in the town of Chaman here the deaths took place said. 
“In the first incident a car drove into flood waters in Mashan Talab situated on the outskirts of Chaman,” Deputy Commissioner Chaman Raja Atthar Abbas told Arab News.
“Five men sitting inside the vehicle drowned in flood water while two people including a woman were killed after a mud wall fell on them on College road.” 
Torrential rains had caused “severe damage” in Chaman and its surrounding areas as dozens of mud house collapsed in the last two days of rains, Abbas added. 
Separately, at least 33 people were killed and another 46 injured in various rain-related incidents in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in the last six days, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Thursday.
Rains that began last Friday had completely destroyed 336 houses and partially damaged another 1,606 in different districts across the province, according to the PDMA.
The incidents occurred in Khyber, Upper and Lower Dir, Upper and Lower Chitral, Swat, Bajaur, Shangla, Karak, Tank, Mardan, Peshawar, Charsadda, Hangu, Battagram, Dera Ismail Khan and other districts.
“The deceased include 17 children, eight men, eight women, while the injured included 32 men, six women and eight children,” the PDMA said in its daily situation report on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the authority had warned of another spell of heavy rains in the province from April 17 till April 21, which could trigger landslides and flash floods.
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.


Amir returns to international cricket as New Zealand bat in first T20I

Updated 18 April 2024
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Amir returns to international cricket as New Zealand bat in first T20I

  • Amir retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side but changed his mind last month
  • Fast bowler decided to restart his career, which had also been stalled by a match-fixing ban in 2010

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir returns to international cricket from an absence of almost four years after New Zealand won the toss in their rain-delayed first Twenty20 in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
The 32-year-old retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side but changed his mind last month and decided to restart his career, which had also been stalled by a match-fixing ban in 2010.
Pakistan have handed T20I debuts to batter Usman Khan, spinner Abrar Ahmed and allrounder Muhammad Irfan Khan to gauge their bench strength ahead of June’s World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand, missing nine players due to the Indian Premier League, handed a T20I debut to batter Tim Robinson.
The remaining matches are in Rawalpindi on April 20 and 21 and in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
Teams:
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Usman Khan, Abrar Ahmed, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi
New Zealand: Michael Bracewell (captain), Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi
Umpires: Ahsan Raza (PAK) and Aleem Dar (PAK)
Tv umpire: Faisal Afridi (PAK)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)


US says Pakistan’s prosperity and security remains a ‘top priority’

Updated 18 April 2024
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US says Pakistan’s prosperity and security remains a ‘top priority’

  • Blome’s comments come amid a spike in militant attacks in Pakistan
  • Pakistani finance chief has launched negotiations for a new IMF bailout 

KARACHI: US Ambassador Donald Blome met Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday and said the South Asian nation’s prosperity and security remained a ‘top priority’ for Washington.
Blome’s comments come amid a spike in militant attacks in Pakistan and while its finance chief is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund in Washington on a potential follow-up program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement.
“US Ambassador Donald Blome met today with Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar to discuss recent events in the region,” Acting US Mission Spokesperson Thomas Montgomery said. 
“Ambassador Blome conveyed the United States’ commitment to working with the government and people of Pakistan, underscoring that prosperity and security for Pakistan remains a top priority for the United States.”
Pakistan went to the polls on February 8 in a vote marred by a mobile Internet shutdown on election day, arrests and violence in its build-up and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged. 
However, the US has repeatedly said it will work with the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, though it has expressed concerns about reported election irregularities and urged a probe.
Although defense and key foreign policy decisions are largely influenced by Pakistan’s powerful military, Sharif will have to juggle relations with the US and China.
Islamabad has close economic ties to both the nations, which has put it in a tricky position as the two countries have embarked upon a costly trade war.
“From our perspective it has to be an and-and discussion,” finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said in an interview this week when asked how the Sharif government plans to conduct its trading relationships with the world’s two largest economies.
“US is our largest trading partner, and it has always supported us, always helped us in terms of the investments,” he said. “So that is always going to be a very, very critical relationship for Pakistan.”
“On the other side, a lot of investment, especially in infrastructure, came through CPEC,” he said, referring to the roughly 1,860-mile-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor designed to give China access to the Arabian Sea.
Aurangzeb said there was a “very good opportunity” for Pakistan to play a similar role in the trade war as countries like Vietnam, which has been able to dramatically boost its exports to the US following the imposition of tariffs on some Chinese goods.
“We have already a few examples of that already working,” he said. “But what we need to do is to really scale it up.”
Militancy has also spiked in recent months, creating a major challenge for the new government, with religiously motivated groups like the Pakistani Taliban as well as ethnic separatists showing an enhanced ability to hit high-value targets.
In an attack last month that has so far been unclaimed, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project at Dasu in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver. 
The Mar. 26 assault was the third major attack in little over a week on China’s interests in the South Asian nation, where Beijing has invested more than $65 billion in infrastructure projects as part of its wider Belt and Road initiative.