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

This photograph taken on January 9, 2024 shows Afghan burqa-clad women and children refugees deported from Pakistan, in a counselling room at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP/File)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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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).
 


Ten fan parks to broadcast iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash— ICC 

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Ten fan parks to broadcast iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash— ICC 

  • Fan parks in New York, Birmingham, Rawalpindi, New Delhi and South Africa to broadcast India-Pakistan match on June 9
  • Political tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan make their cricket rivalry one of sports’ fiercest ones 

ISLAMABAD: Cricket fans in India, Pakistan, the United States and South Africa would be able to enjoy the iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash on June 9 in ten different fan parks in their countries, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said this week. 

The ICC has announced that this year’s World Cup matches will be broadcast in fan parks where people will watch the action live on huge screens with live entertainment including DJs, food and drink outlets, cricket ambassadors and family activities. In total, 23 matches will be shown across 16 fan parks in five countries next month. 

Political tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan make their cricket matches a spectacle to watch for millions of fans across the globe. Diplomatic rows between the two countries mean they only play each other in other countries and only at international tournaments. Both haven’t played each other in a bilateral series since several years. 

Pakistan captain Babar Azam will lead his side against Rohit Sharma’s India on June 9 in New York as both Group A teams lock horns in the ICC T20 World Cup fixture. The match will be broadcast in several fan parks across the world, the ICC said. 

“Ten different fan parks will show the Group A game between India and Pakistan, including Cedar Creek Park, Seaford, New York hosted by Nassau County, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Arena in New Delhi, India and Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Pakistan,” the ICC said in a statement on Saturday. 

In New York City, the Oculus World Trade Center is one of the standout venues, with the fan park showing 18 matches on 10 different dates, including the highly anticipated final on June 29.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring communities together through broadcasting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in a record number of fan parks,” ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley said in a statement. 

“These parks are designed to make the sport more accessible and enjoyable, allowing fans of all ages to experience a T20 World Cup like never before,” Tetley added.

Pakistan beat India by 10 wickets during their T20 World Cup clash in 2021 but the blue shirts exacted revenge on their traditional rivals next year, beating Pakistan by four wickets courtesy of a fighting half-century by former Indian skipper Virat Kohli. 


Pakistan reports third polio case of 2024 from southwestern Balochistan province

Updated 54 min 28 sec ago
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Pakistan reports third polio case of 2024 from southwestern Balochistan province

  • Virus detected in stool samples from child in southwestern Killa Abdullah district, says state media 
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan remain only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities reported the third poliovirus case of the current year on Saturday, state-run media reported, as Islamabad struggles to contain the crippling disease despite nationwide vaccination and awareness campaigns. 

The latest polio case was reported from Pakistan’s southwestern Killa Abdullah district on Saturday, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. The virus was detected in stool samples collected from a child in the Darozai union council of Killa Abdullah district, the report said, adding that he had developed symptoms of paralysis on April 20.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“It is incredibly tragic that another child has been affected by polio this year in Balochistan,” Dr. Malik Mukhtar Ahmed Bharath, coordinator to the prime minister on national health services, said. 

Dr. Bharath said polio is a terrible disease that affects not only the life of the child but their family as well. He said the government was bringing vaccines to the citizens’ doorsteps, urging them to avail the opportunity. 

“I urge families to understand the risk this disease poses to children and make sure that they vaccinate all their children under the age of five when the polio worker shows up to their homes,” he said. 

This is the third polio case of the year reported from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and the first reported from Killa Abdullah after three years.

Last year, six polio cases were reported in the country which included four from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and two from the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in KP, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population.

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 


Pakistani students praise teachers, landlords for ‘timely’ rescue during Kyrgyzstan mob violence

Updated 26 May 2024
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Pakistani students praise teachers, landlords for ‘timely’ rescue during Kyrgyzstan mob violence

  • Teachers stayed with students in hostels to protect them from rioters while landlords took many to safety
  • Many students say they will resume their studies in Bishkek after their semester break ends in September

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani students evacuated from Kyrgyzstan after recent riots and violence against foreign nationals on Saturday lauded “tremendous and timely” support from their teachers and landlords, saying that they rescued and saved their lives.
Last week, violent riots erupted in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, following the emergence of online videos showing a brawl between local and Egyptian students of medical sciences. The mobs mostly targeted the hostels of medical universities and private lodges of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
Around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in different institutes in Kyrgyzstan and nearly 6,000 of them were studying in Bishkek, according to Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in the Central Asian country. The Pakistan government has evacuated thousands of students stranded in Bishkek by arranging special flights following the riots.
“We are alive today due to tremendous, effective and timely support of our teachers and landlords shortly after the violence,” Bilal Ahmad, a fourth-year medical student from Vehari district in Punjab province, told Arab News on phone. “Our teachers stayed with us in the hostel the whole night to protect us from the mob.”
Ahmad said when the situation normalized in Bishkek, local elders and officials apologized to the students for the violence. “They shared their mobile numbers with us to call them in any emergency,” he added.
Social media platforms were abuzz with different videos and photos showing the mob attacks against the international students in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz miscreants barged into hostels to attack foreign students without discrimination. Five Pakistani students were injured as a result, according to the Pakistan embassy, one of them seriously.
“We locked our doors and windows and reinforced them with cupboards, tables and chairs to prevent the miscreants from entering,” Asadullah Khan, a third-year medical student from Quetta, told Arab News.
“We switched off lights of our rooms and prayed to Allah … We called our landlord and she immediately responded and rescued us from there,” he said, adding that she took around nine students to her residence in her own car on the gloomy night.
Khan said that members of local communities, teachers and other university staff had cooperated with the students in the difficult time. “They brought us food, water and biscuits and stood by us against their own people,” he continued.
He also informed the local community and teachers had widely circulated audio and video messages of apology to international students, including Pakistanis, a day after the violence, promising to do everything to hold all the criminals accountable.
Khan said his parents were worried about his safety, fearing that they may not let him resume his studies in Bishkek after the semester break ended in September.
“My parents are pushing me to migrate to a local medical college in Pakistan to complete my studies,” he added. “I have invested my three years and a lot of money, so let’s see when the education resumes.”
Some students said the situation was completely under control in Bishkek days after the violence, as the local police and paramilitary took charge of the security of hostels and private apartments where international students were residing.
“I will go back to resume my studies since I can’t waste my time,” Anjum Rasheed, a final year medical student from Peshawar, told Arab News. “The days of the violence are over now, and local Kyrgyz community has repeatedly apologized to the students for the unfortunate incident.”
“Our teachers and other staff of the university had been extremely cooperative during the mob attack, and there is no reason for us to quit the studies,” he said, adding that one of his teachers rescued him from the hostel and took him to a shelter arranged by a human rights organization in the city.
He also noted that a local family transported him with a couple of other students to the airport for their flight back to Pakistan.


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.