Pakistan PM pledges full support to armed forces on first military headquarters visit since election

In this handout picture, taken and released by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on March 15, 2024, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (2L) and army chief General Asim Munir (R) salute after laying a wreath at Yadgar-e-Shuhada in Rawalpindi. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)
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Updated 16 March 2024
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Pakistan PM pledges full support to armed forces on first military headquarters visit since election

  • The PM says Pakistan is destined for a peaceful rise and the role of the armed forces is crucial in that regard
  • The army chief says his institution will measure up to the nation’s expectations and deal with security challenges

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured the country’s armed forces on Friday his administration would provide all necessary resources for them to effectively perform their professional responsibilities on his first visit to the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi since his election to the country’s top political office.
The army has historically played an outsized role in the country’s politics, often exercising significant influence over governance and policy decisions, with a history of direct rule through military coups. Recently, however, its leadership has publicly denied intentions to interfere in political affairs, asserting a commitment to uphold democracy and remain apolitical, amid growing public scrutiny over its past involvements in political matters.




In this handout picture, taken and released by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on March 15, 2024, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reviews a guard of honor at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, during his first visit to army headquarters after assuming office. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)

The prime minister, who was accompanied by the key members of his cabinet during the visit, was received by the army chief General Asim Munir upon arrival. During their stay at the GHQ, Sharif and his cabinet members engaged in discussions with the military leadership on matters of national security, regional stability and military preparedness.
They were briefed on the current security environment of the country, threat spectrum and the ongoing counterterrorism operations in different parts of the country.
“The PM assured that the Government shall provide all the resources required for ensuring operational readiness of the Armed Forces,” announced an official statement released by the army’s media wing, ISPR, after the visit. “He said that Pakistan is destined to rise and the role of the Armed Forces in ensuring peaceful rise of Pakistan cannot be over-emphasized.”




In this handout picture, taken and released by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on March 15, 2024, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (L) speaks during a meeting with army chief General Asim Munir (R) on his first visit to army headquarters after assuming office in Rawalpindi. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)

The army chief thanked the prime minister for the visit and showing his confidence in the armed forces of Pakistan.
He said the army would continue to measure up to the nation’s expectations and resolutely support the government in addressing the security challenges facing the country.
Both the military and political leaders reiterated their commitment to upholding Pakistan’s national interests and working together for its security and prosperity.




In this handout picture, taken and released by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on March 15, 2024, Pakistan army chief General Asim Munir (4L) briefs newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (C) and the cabinet members (R) during a meeting on their first visit to army headquarters after assuming office in Rawalpindi. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)

 


PIA aims to repatriate over 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia following Hajj

Updated 9 sec ago
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PIA aims to repatriate over 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia following Hajj

  • The national airline is among several aviation services working to bring Pakistani pilgrims back to their homeland
  • PIA says it will operate its special flights to Peshawar, Islamabad, Sialkot, Lahore, Multan and Karachi until July 21

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national air carrier announced on Friday it would bring back more than 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia via 171 flights after transporting 325 devotees to Lahore this afternoon who had performed the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Pakistan launched its post-Hajj flight operation on Thursday, bringing back 1,200 pilgrims through seven flights to four different cities in the country.

The authorities have announced the continuation of special flights to repatriate 70,000 pilgrims on the government Hajj scheme until July 21.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is among several aviation services working to bring Pakistani pilgrims back to their homeland.

“PIA’s post-Hajj flight PK 764 from Jeddah to Lahore arrived this afternoon carrying 325 pilgrims,” the airlines said in a statement. “The pilgrims were adorned with garlands of flowers.”

“PIA will bring back more than 35,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia through 171 flights,” it added. “Under the government Hajj scheme, approximately 19,500 pilgrims, under the private Hajj scheme about 14,900, and around 630 Hajj assistants will be brought back to Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s national airlines will operate post-Hajj flights to Peshawar, Islamabad, Sialkot, Lahore, Multan and Karachi.

PIA announced pilgrims from Sukkur and Quetta would travel to their cities via Karachi.

The airlines said it would conclude its post-Hajj flight operation on July 21.


Pakistan affirms full political support for CPEC during Chinese Communist Party official’s Islamabad visit

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Pakistan affirms full political support for CPEC during Chinese Communist Party official’s Islamabad visit

  • Liu Jianchao is visiting Islamabad to co-chair the meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism on CPEC
  • Ishaq Dar says the Pakistan-China relations and CPEC have opened new vistas of progress, prosperity and development

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar announced on Friday the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) enjoyed the complete support of political parties in his country while welcoming a senior Chinese Communist Party leader Liu Jianchao at the foreign office in Islamabad.

The Chinese official arrived in the country on Thursday night to co-chair the 3rd Meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism (JCM), focusing on the progress of CPEC projects.

Established in 2019, the JCM for political parties on CPEC serves as a regular consultation platform between the Communist Party of China and Pakistani political parties.

Its inaugural meeting took place in Beijing in March 2019, and the second meeting, held virtually in August 2020.

Welcoming Liu, the deputy PM said Pakistan and China had always been strategic partners and trusted neighbors who had consistently supported each other’s core concerns on the world stage.

“Pakistan-China relations and CPEC [enjoy] full support and confidence of all political parties in Pakistan as [they have] opened up new vistas of progress, prosperity and development,” the foreign office quoted him as saying in a social media post.

The Chinese official also described the bilateral ties between the two states as unique, with “no parallel in modern inter-state relations.”

He also underscored China’s commitment to work with Pakistan to add further substance and scope to relationship and upgrade CPEC as envisaged by the leadership of both countries.

The two officials agreed to maintain the momentum of high-level engagements and to further enhance communication on important regional and global issues.

Liu is expected to meet Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his stay in the country.

He will also interact with leaders of various political parties and Pakistan’s top military officials.

Pakistan and China have agreed to advance CPEC into its second phase, expanding beyond infrastructure and energy to broader economic and social development, including rural revitalization, agricultural modernization, industrialization, and green development.

This phase also emphasizes establishing Special Economic Zones to promote industrial growth and job creation.


World Bank approves $535 million for social protection, livestock development in Pakistan

Updated 21 June 2024
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World Bank approves $535 million for social protection, livestock development in Pakistan

  • The top bank official in Pakistan stresses the importance of building disaster resilience after the 2022 floods
  • The funding is also expected to create growth opportunities in the livestock and aquaculture sectors in Sindh

KARACHI: The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved $535 million for two projects in Pakistan, a statement said on Friday, adding that the funding would strengthen the social protection system for poor households nationwide while promoting climate-smart and competitive producers in the livestock and aquaculture sectors in Sindh.

The bank’s financing is part of its Crisis Resilient Social Protection (CRISP) and Sindh Livestock and Aquaculture Sectors Transformation (LIVAQUA) programs.

The former project has a wider scope as it seeks to increase resilience of vulnerable households to economic shocks in different parts of the country. However, the latter initiative is only confined to Pakistan southeastern province of Sindh.

“The catastrophic floods that hit Pakistan in 2022 were a tragic reminder of the importance to build resilience to such disasters, including by strengthening both social protection and sectors that support economic growth and recovery,” Najy Benhassine, World Bank

Country Director for Pakistan, was quoted in the statement. “It is also imperative to help the vulnerable absorb climate shocks through innovative climate-smart technology and contingency planning.”

It added that the additional financing of $400 million for CRISP would build on the program’s on-going efforts to equip Pakistan’s social protection system with the policy and delivery system foundations necessary for more effective and rapid responses to future crises.

“Since its inception, the CRISP program has achieved significant results with regular safety net support to more than 9 million families and a demonstrated capability of quickly reaching 2.8 million families during the recent floods,” Amjad Zafar Khan, Task Team Leader for the Project, noted.

“The additional financing would not only assist families in becoming more resilient to climate and economic shocks, but also encourage the use of provincial capacities to take up a larger role in social assistance,” he added.

Meanwhile, the $135 million in LIVAQUA funding is expected to facilitate interventions to promote climate-smart production, value addition and inclusive access to markets.

The statement said this will create growth opportunities in the livestock and aquaculture sectors.

“The project will improve the livelihoods of small and medium livestock and aquaculture producers, increase their resilience to animal health and climate-related shocks, strengthen the overall growth of these two sectors in Sindh, and more broadly improve food and nutrition security and reduce the sectors’ contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” Myriam Chaudron, Task Team Leader for the project, said.


Crowd in Pakistan’s Swat kills man accused of desecrating Holy Qur’an

Updated 21 June 2024
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Crowd in Pakistan’s Swat kills man accused of desecrating Holy Qur’an

  • The mob stormed the police station where the man had been detained after being accused of burning the Qur’an
  • Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur takes notice of the incident, demands an inquiry report from province’s top cop

PESHAWAR: A man accused of desecrating the Holy Qur’an was killed on Thursday by a furious mob in Pakistan’s picturesque Swat valley after it stormed a police precinct where he had been detained, confirmed a senior police official while sharing details of the incident.

Swat, known for its tourism, hosts thousands of visitors from different parts of the country during the Eid holidays.

Madyan, the location of the incident, is a major tourist destination alongside nearby areas such as Kalam, Bahrain, Saidu Sharif and Marghazar.

Speaking to Arab News, District Police Officer (DPO) Dr. Zahid Ullah said a man named Suleman Khan from Pakistan’s Sialkot city was killed by the mob after accusations of burning the Islamic scripture. He added that Khan had been staying at a local hotel since June 18.

“A tourist from Sialkot was accused of desecrating the Qur’an and was surrounded by people in the marketplace outside his hotel in Madyan,” he said.

After learning about the incident, the police took the man into custody at Madyan Police Station, but this did not pacify the large crowd that soon gathered, broke down the door and stormed in.

“The mob pelted stones at the police station and tortured the accused before taking him outside and burning him at a nearby bridge,” the DPO said.

“The angry mob also set fire to the goods and vehicles at the police station,” he continued, adding that 11 people got injured during the mayhem.

lainclothes police officers stand beside the burnt vehicles which were torched by a Muslim mob in an attack, in Madyan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on June 21, 2024. (AP)

Blasphemy, including the desecration of the Holy Qur’an, constitutes an incendiary charge in Pakistan, where just an accusation can lead to mob violence.

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Khan Gandapur took notice of the incident by ordering an inquiry report from the Inspector General of Police and expressed his regret over the incident.

He instructed the police to the police to take necessary measures to bring the situation under control.

Gandapur also urged the citizens to remain peaceful.


US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi

Updated 21 June 2024
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US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi

  • State Department’s Matthew Miller says the ‘pace, scope and character’ should be determined by the two states
  • He highlights ‘a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements’ to combat militant groups like TTP

ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Thursday it would support direct engagement between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for securing a third term in office earlier this month.

The diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated significantly since August 5, 2019, when New Delhi revoked the special constitutional status of the disputed Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to heightened tensions and a series of retaliatory measures.

The two nuclear-armed neighbors expelled each other’s ambassadors and limited bilateral trade relations, as Modi’s administration decided to integrate the only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the Indian union and imposed a strict curfew and communication blackout in the area.

Pakistan and India have fought wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir since their independence in 1947. Both countries claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it.

“We value our important relationships with both India and Pakistan,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a media briefing in Washington while responding a question about the recent exchange between the top political leaders of the two South Asian states.

“As we have said, we support direct discussions between India and Pakistan, but the pace, scope and character should be determined by those two countries, not by us,” he added.

Miller was also asked about Pakistan’s interest in advanced US weapons to fight the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant network whose operatives have used American military equipment handed over to the Afghan National Army before the withdrawal of international forces. However, he simply mentioned the shared US-Pakistan interest in fighting against such groups.

“The United States and Pakistan have a shared interest in combating threats to regional security,” he said. “We partner with Pakistan on security through our high-level counterterrorism dialogue, including several counterterrorism capacity building programs, and we support a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements.”

“We are in regular communication with the Pakistani leaders as a part of our partnership on CT [counterterrorism] issues, and we will continue to discuss regional security in detail, including through our annual counterterrorism dialogue and other bilateral consultations,” he added.

Pakistan’s interest in US weapons was recently expressed by its envoy to Washington, Ambassador Masood Khan.

Other Pakistani diplomats and officials have also raised concern over the use of automatic assault weapons and night-vision devices by TTP militants in the past.