Pakistani court summons interior secretary over X shutdown 

This photo illustration shows the X logo (formerly Twitter) on a smartphone screen in Los Angeles, California, on July 31, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 03 April 2024
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Pakistani court summons interior secretary over X shutdown 

  • X, formerly Twitter, was suspended across Pakistan on Feb. 17 after a government official admitted to manipulating votes
  • Joint interior secretary appears before Islamabad High Court, says X banned due to national security threats online

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday summoned the interior secretary to appear before the court on April 17 and provide solid reasons behind placing a ban on social media platform X, state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported. 

The platform, formerly known as Twitter, was downed on Feb. 17 after jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s party called for protests against a government official’s admission of vote manipulation in February’s election, which was itself marred by a nationwide mobile network shutdown and delays in release of constituency results.

 The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), which regulates the Internet, last month informed a high court in the Sindh province in writing that it had blocked X on the orders of the interior ministry.

“The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday summoned secretary interior in a case against closure of services of social media application X in the country,” APP said. 

The petition against X’s ban was filed by journalist Ehtisham Ali Abbasi in the high court. During teh hearing, the joint interior secretary submitted a report on X’s ban, saying that access to the platform was restricted following a report by security agencies. 

“The chief justice expressed dissatisfaction over the report and said that it was only based on assumptions as no solid reasons has been mentioned regarding the threats to national security,” APP said. 

Justice Farooq said Pakistan was being defamed worldwide over the ban on X, adding that the interior secretary should appear before the court to present his stance. 

The chief justice asked the joint secretary to produce documents regarding the security threats posed by the platform, adding that “just verbal arguments” wouldn’t be accepted in court.

“The joint secretary said that there was a threat to national security due to the material on the Internet,” APP reported, adding that the judge hit back by saying that evidence to support the claims should also have been submitted. 

The court summoned the interior secretary in person on April 17 and adjourned hearing of the case.


First batch of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Jeddah

Updated 8 sec ago
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First batch of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Jeddah

  • A total of 34,316 Pakistanis reached Madinah by May 23 in first phase of Pakistan’s pre-Hajj flight operation
  • As many as 114 flights will be transporting another 34,422 Pakistani pilgrims to Jeddah from May 24 to June 9

ISLAMABAD: The first batch of 720 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrived in Jeddah on Friday, Pakistani state media reported, a day after Pakistan diverted its pre-Hajj flights from Madinah.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able.
These 720 Pakistani pilgrims departed from Islamabad and Karachi under the Makkah Route initiative and arrived via Saudia airline flights that landed at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, the APP news agency reported.
“The first flight SV-3705, with 370 passengers on board, arrived by 5 a.m. (local time) and the second SV-3727 landed at 6:10 a.m. carrying 350 Hajj pilgrims,” the report read.
Head of Pakistan Hajj Mission Abdul Wahab Soomro, Consul General Khalid Majeed and senior officials of the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs as well as representatives of the Saudi government welcomed the pilgrims.
Under the Makkah Route initiative, the passengers directly left for their hotels avoiding long queues at the immigration counters and their luggage was shifted automatically to their residences.
In the first phase of Pakistan’s pre-Hajj flight operation, a total of 34,316 Pakistanis reached Madinah by May 23 through 146 flights, according to the report.
From May 24 to June 09, as many as 114 flights will be transporting 34,422 Pakistanis to Jeddah.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year, of which 63,805 people will perform the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest will use private tour operators.
This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.


Security of Chinese workers tops agenda as Islamabad, Beijing hold key investment meeting

Updated 9 min 1 sec ago
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Security of Chinese workers tops agenda as Islamabad, Beijing hold key investment meeting

  • Joint Cooperation Committee is main decision-making body for CPEC and convenes annually
  • Five Chinese workers, Pakistani driver were killed in suicide attack on their vehicle on March 26

KARACHI: Pakistan and China are holding a virtual meeting of the 13th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) today, Friday, with the security of Chinese organizations and personnel working in the South Asian nation expected to be at the top of the agenda. 
China is a major ally and investor in Pakistan but both separatist and other militants have attacked Chinese projects over recent years and killed Chinese personnel, including five Chinese workers who perished in a suicide attack Mar. 26 while they were on their way to the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The hydropower project falls under the ambit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of China’s Belt and Road Initiative through which it has pledged more than $65 billion for road, rail and other infrastructure developments in the South Asian nation of 241 million people.
Beijing has also over the years readily provided financial assistance to bail out its often-struggling neighbor, including in July last year when China granted Pakistan a two-year rollover on a $2.4 billion loan, giving the debt-saddled nation much-needed breathing space as it tackled a balance-of-payments crisis.
“The 13th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has formally started with a one-minute silence in honor of the Chinese officials who lost their lives in a recent suicide bomb blast,” Pakistan’s planning ministry said in a statement on X.
“Chinese workers in Pakistan are heroes of Pakistan, whose contributions significantly support the realization of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative.”
The JCC is the main decision-making body for CPEC, which convenes annually. The MoU to launch CPEC was signed between Pakistan and China on July 5, 2013. Pakistan has said more than 50 projects worth $25 billion under the CPEC umbrella have been completed since. 
But Chinese projects and interests have also increasingly come under attack in recent years. The Dasu assault in March was the third major one in a little over a week on China’s interests and followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. 
Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.
Dasu, the site of a major dam, has been attacked in the past, with a bus blast in 2021 killing 13 people, nine Chinese among them, although no group claimed responsibility, like the Mar. 26 bombing.
Pakistan is home to twin insurgencies, one mounted by religiously-motivated militants and the other by ethnic separatists who seek secession, blaming the government’s inequitable division of natural resources in southwestern Balochistan province.
Chinese interests are mostly under attack primarily by ethnic militants seeking to push Beijing out of mineral-rich Balochistan, but that area is far from the site of the Mar. 26 bombing.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s top economic body approved $2.5 million in compensation for families of Chinese workers who were killed in the Mar. 26 Dasu attack.


Authorities demolish part of Imran Khan’s Islamabad party office for ‘violating’ bylaws

Updated 53 min 17 sec ago
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Authorities demolish part of Imran Khan’s Islamabad party office for ‘violating’ bylaws

  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf calls move ‘patently illegal and unlawful’
  • PTI has complained of a widening state-backed crackdown on the party

ISLAMABAD: Local authorities on Thursday razed part of the Islamabad office of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over what they said was a “violation” of building by-laws, with the party calling on the top court to restrain authorities from doing ‘irreparable’ damage. 
Officials and staff of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) arrived at the PTI Central Secretariat in the G-8/4 sector along with heavy machinery late on Thursday night and removed two shipping containers placed outside the building, as well as took down a guard room and a fence. They then sealed the office for alleged violations of city building bylaws.
“CDA operation over violations of building by-laws and to eliminate illegal constructions and encroachments,” the authority said on X. “Encroachments and illegal constructions on a plot by a political party in Sector G-8/4 are being removed.”
Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a senior spokesperson for the PTI and close Khan aide, said the party was neither served a notice, nor granted the opportunity for a hearing.
“This is patently illegal and unlawful,” he said in a statement. “We don’t have time to file a petition at this point of time. The Hon’ble CJ SCP [chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan] may consider this message as an urgent application and direct Islamabad administration to refrain from causing such irreparable loss to the party.”
The PTI says it has been facing a state-backed crackdown, especially after May 9 last year when alleged Khan supporters ransacked government and military properties after the leader’s brief arrest on graft charges. 
Hundreds of PTI supporters and leaders were arrested following the riots and many continue to remain behind bars as they await trial. The military has also initiated army court trials of at least 103 people accused of involvement in the violence. Many close Khan aides have since deserted him, due to what is widely believed to be pressure from the army, which denies interfering.
Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April 2022, has been in jail since last August and convicted in four cases. He and the PTI say the May riots have been used as a ruse by political rivals and the military to weaken the party, which is arguably the most popular in Pakistan. Khan also says all cases against him are politically motivated and accuses the country’s powerful military and his political rivals of trying to keep him out of politics, an allegation they both deny.


Pakistan considers changing women’s passport policy amid row over including husband’s name

Updated 24 May 2024
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Pakistan considers changing women’s passport policy amid row over including husband’s name

  • NADRA allows women to retain father’s name on CNICs but passport authorities mandate changing to husband’s name 
  • Lawyer Khadija Bukhari has petitioned court saying women be allowed to retain father’s name whether married or divorced 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government is considering modifying its passport policy for married and divorced women, a senior official said on Thursday, after a lawyer petitioned a local court against the requirement to include the husband’s name on the travel document. 
Lawyer Khadija Bukhari has pointed out the contrition in the policies of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the Directorate General Immigration & Passports (DGIP) regarding married women.
The former allows women to retain their father’s name even after marriage while updating their marital status on their Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC), but the passport authority has made it mandatory to change the name from father to husband. However, because the passport is made on the basis of NADRA data, a woman who has not switched to her husband’s name on her CNIC must get a new CNIC made reflecting the change before she can be issued a new passport.
Speaking to Arab News, Bukhari said she had her husband’s name included in her CNIC data in order for their marriage to be registered with NADRA, but later decided to retain her father’s name in the second column of her CNIC.
“So, there was no problem with that. But once I went to the passport office when my passport expired, they said, ‘We cannot renew your passport because your CNIC has not been updated’,” she told Arab News.
“By that it was meant that ‘You’re supposed to be wife of someone, you cannot remain a daughter if you want to get a passport. So first go back to NADRA, get your CNIC changed and reflect that you are the wife of someone and then we will process your application’.”
Bukhari argued that if NADRA didn’t have a problem with women retaining their father’s name then why did the passport authority have a separate policy. 
Immigration and Passports Director-General Mustafa Jamal Kazi told Arab News it was currently a “legal requirement” for a married woman to have her husband’s name on her passport as the document was used internationally and must comply with international agreements, unlike NADRA-issued CNICs that were used only in Pakistan.
“These rules are driven through the act of parliament and secretary interior has constituted a committee under his chairmanship to solve this issue. The committee will look into the passport policy concerning the condition of a married woman’s passport bearing her husband’s name instead of her father’s name,” Kazi said. 
“The committee was tasked with addressing discrepancies between the policies of the National Database and Registration Authority and the passport issuing authority regarding married women.”
Kazi said the solution to the problem, which he also intended to present to the government committee, was to add another column to the passport to include the name of a woman’s ex-husband, the father of their children, in case of divorce.
“We need all the details in our database because for international verifications different countries send the data of Pakistani citizens to us and we need to verify from every aspect,” he said. 
“Therefore, we need all the information and concealing facts can cause problems for them [women] at a later stage.”


IMF, Pakistan make significant progress on new loan, IMF mission says

Updated 24 May 2024
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IMF, Pakistan make significant progress on new loan, IMF mission says

  • The IMF has opened discussions with Pakistan on a new loan program after Islamabad last month completed a short-term $3 billion program
  • An IMF team, led by mission chief Nathan Porter, concluded discussions with the authorities on Thursday after arriving in Pakistan on May 13

ISLAMABAD: An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission and Pakistan have made significant progress toward reaching a staff-level agreement for an extended fund facility, the global lender said on Friday.
The IMF has opened discussions with Pakistan on a new loan program after Islamabad last month completed a short-term $3 billion program, which helped stave off a sovereign debt default.
An IMF team, led by mission chief Nathan Porter, concluded discussions with the authorities on Thursday after arriving in Pakistan on May 13, the lender said in a statement.
“The mission and the authorities will continue policy discussions virtually over the coming days aiming to finalize discussions, including the financial support needed to underpin the authorities’ reform efforts from the IMF and Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral partners,” Porter said.
Pakistan is likely to seek at least $6 billion under the new program and request additional financing from the IMF under the Resilience and Sustainability Trust.
Ahead of the discussions, the IMF had warned that downside risks for the Pakistani economy
remained exceptionally high.
“The authorities’ reform program aims to move Pakistan from economic stabilization to strong, inclusive, and resilient growth,” Porter added.