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

This photo, taken and shared by Haider Saeed on May 24, 2024, shows ex-PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party office after Capital Development Authority razed ‘encroached’ parts during an anti-encroachment drive in Islamabad. (Photo courtesy: X/@haidersaeedpti)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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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.


Shahid Afridi expresses solidarity with Palestinians after pro-Israel group shares photo from Manchester event

Updated 20 min 36 sec ago
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Shahid Afridi expresses solidarity with Palestinians after pro-Israel group shares photo from Manchester event

  • Afridi says he thought it was ‘just a selfie’ with fans after the group said he stopped to offer support for hostage release
  • Pakistani cricketer asks the group to delete the post, says he prays for peace and freedom for the people of Palestine

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi expressed solidarity with Palestinians on Wednesday after a pro-Israel group shared his photograph taken with its members in Manchester, United Kingdom, in a social media post, saying that he stopped to offer support for its calls for the release of Israeli hostages from Gaza.
Over 200 Israelis were taken hostage by Hamas in an attack on October 7 which the group said was in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
The incident was followed by Israeli airstrikes and ground invasion of Gaza that led to the killing of over 37,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, along with the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure in the area.
While the international community has widely viewed Israel’s response to the Hamas attack as disproportionate, several pro-Israel groups have continued to protest worldwide while demanding the return of the hostages from Gaza.
“Imagine strolling down a street in Manchester (UK) and so-called fans approach you for a selfie,” Afridi said on social media platform X. “You oblige, and moments later, they upload it as some form of Zionist endorsement.”
“Unbelievable,” he continued. “Please don’t believe everything that is uploaded.”
The Pakistani cricketer said it was “truly heartbreaking” to see how Palestinians were targeted by Israel in Gaza.
“Thus, any photo or association shared by in Manchester does not reflect my support for any situation where human lives are at stake,” he said.
Afridi noted he took pictures with fans everywhere, adding that this situation was no different.
“I pray for peace, I pray for an end to this war, I pray for freedom,” he said.

Afridi’s picture was shared by a group called North West Friends of Israel, featuring him with two of its top officials during a street demonstration, where people holding placards can be seen in the background.
One of the group’s officials is also seen holding pro-Israel pamphlets in the frame, which demand the release of hostages.
Afridi later criticized the group, saying he thought it was “just a selfie” with fans.
“I do not endorse your Tweet,” he added. “As a Muslim I pray for peace across the world. Please delete this post as it’s not accurate!”

 
The group, however, claimed that the picture was taken by Afridi’s own camera with hostage placards and leaflets.
“You spoke to us of your own FREE will and posed for a selfie with hostage leaflets to support our cause,” it said. “It’s hugely disappointing you have caved in to those who would oppose the release of innocent babies, children, women and men held hostage by the terrorists of Hamas.”

 


Pakistan announces post-Hajj operations, praises Saudi officials for ‘exemplary’ arrangements amid heat

Updated 20 June 2024
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Pakistan announces post-Hajj operations, praises Saudi officials for ‘exemplary’ arrangements amid heat

  • Chaudhry Salik Hussain says Saudi authorities had set up water sprinklers, arranged for distribution of beverages
  • He says there were mobile health units and dispensaries in all the major areas to ensure the health of pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Chaudhry Salik Hussain announced to start Pakistan’s post-Hajj operations on Wednesday while applauding the Saudi government for making “exemplary” arrangements for pilgrims even in scorching heat.
Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, took place during this week, with over 1.5 million people from across the world performing its rituals in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
Muslims across the world also celebrated Eid Al-Adha for three days after the pilgrims spent a day in Arafat where they also attended the Hajj sermon.
“Despite the severe heat, the Saudi government’s Hajj arrangements were exemplary,” Hussain said during a consultation meeting at the Pakistan Hajj Mission in Makkah. “We are starting the post-Hajj operation.”
The meeting reviewed the overall situation during the annual Islamic pilgrimage this year.
The Pakistani minister pointed out the Saudi authorities had taken several measures to mitigate the heat by setting up water sprinklers and a distribution system for cold water and beverages.
He also noted that mobile health units and dispensaries had been established in all the major areas to ensure the health of the pilgrims.
Hussain responded to reports of the absence of Pakistani Hajj assistants in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah by saying the assistants were present at specific intersections but had to move due to overcrowding in the area.
As the rush normalized, however, he said they were sent back again to guide Pakistani pilgrims.
The meeting highlighted the importance of comprehensive training to deal with the rush of transport in the holy sites, the possibility of losing the way and coping with the severity of the weather.


Pakistan rebukes India for objecting to CPEC projects in disputed Kashmir region

Updated 12 min 41 sec ago
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Pakistan rebukes India for objecting to CPEC projects in disputed Kashmir region

  • India accused Pakistan, China of implementing these projects on its ‘sovereign territory’ in the Himalayan region
  • Pakistan says India ‘misleading’ the world, calls Kashmir internationally recognized dispute under UN resolutions

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan asked India not to “mislead” the international community about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Wednesday, criticizing New Delhi’s reaction to a joint statement issued by Beijing and Islamabad earlier this month that made references to the disputed Himalayan territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The statement was released by the two countries after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif concluded his five-day visit to China in which he held a number of high-profile meetings with the top Chinese political leadership along with the investors and members of the business community.
Among other things, the statement called for peace and stability in South Asia by resolving all outstanding disputes while mentioning Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian external affairs ministry said in response that the region constituted an “integral and inalienable” part of India, adding that no other country had the right to comment on its status.
India also accused Pakistan and China of implementing various CPEC projects on its “sovereign territory under forcible and illegal occupation by Pakistan.”
“India has no right to object to the references made to Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan-China Joint Statement of 8 June 2024,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement. “It is an established fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally-recognized disputed territory. The dispute has been on the agenda of the UN Security Council for over seven decades.”
“The relevant Security Council resolutions clearly stipulate that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations,” it added. “In that backdrop, the Indian claims over Jammu and Kashmir are totally unfounded and misplaced.”
The foreign office said India “should not mislead the international community” about CPEC while calling it a “flagship developmental endeavour” agreed upon by two sovereign nations.
“Instead of making baseless claims about CPEC, India should implement, at the earliest, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir,” it continued.
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.


Pakistanis sacrifice animals worth $1.8 billion on Eid Al-Adha as charities cut reliance on hides

Updated 20 June 2024
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Pakistanis sacrifice animals worth $1.8 billion on Eid Al-Adha as charities cut reliance on hides

  • Pakistan’s exports of leather products declined from $677 million to $624 million from July 2023 to May 2024, statistics bureau says
  • The decline affected prices of animal hides and Eid Al-Adha now provides 20 percent of the raw materials to the country’s leather industry

KARACHI: Pakistani Muslims have sacrificed more than 6 million animals worth around Rs500 billion ($1.8 billion) during the three-day Eid Al-Adha festival, according to estimates shared by Pakistani tanners on Wednesday, with charities cutting their reliance to generate revenues.
Muslims celebrate three-day Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, by slaughtering animals such as cattle and goats and sharing their meat among family and friends and the poor. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, on God’s command.
This year 6.8 million animals, including 2.9 million cows, 3.3 million goats, 385,000 sheep, 98,700 camels and 165,000 buffalos, were sacrificed, according to preliminary data compiled by the Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA). The value of their hides was estimated at Rs8.4 billion ($30 million). 
“Our estimates show that this year animals worth Rs500 billion ($1.8 billion) have been slaughtered across Pakistan,” Agha Saidain, a member of the PTA central executive committee who prepared the data, told Arab News.
He, however, said that nearly 40 percent of the hides, a basic raw material for leather products, have been wasted due to the hot weather and a lack of proper handling.
“Eid provides about 20 percent of raw material required by the [Pakistani] leather industry, but this year the ratio will further decline due to wastage,” Saidain added.
Pakistani charities as well as religious and political organizations, which used to heavily rely on animal hides on Eid Al-Adha for their revenue generation, say the revenue stream has almost lost its value due to a decline in demand and prices of hides.
“In the past when dollar used to be [equal to] Rs60 in Pakistan, the hide used to be Rs4,500 and now when dollar is around Rs300, the hide is being sold for Rs950,” Maulana Bashir Ahmed Farooqui, founding chairman of Saylani Welfare International Trust (SWIT), told Arab News.
“It has lost its value drastically.”
The SWIT, one of the largest charity organizations in Pakistan, provides three meals a day to 200,000 destitute people daily in addition to extending basic humanitarian aid services to 400,000 deserving people on a daily basis, according to Farooqui. The charity, which prides itself with serving people in about 63 aspects of life, has an annual budget of around Rs13 billion ($47 million).
“Out of Rs13 billion, the organization collects skins and hides worth about Rs20 million, because skins and hides have no value now,” he said. “There was a time when traders would struggle to buy them months before and would pay asking prices even in advance.”
Pakistan’s exports of leather products declined from $677 million to $624 million from July 2023 to May 2024, according to the country’s statistics bureau. A surge in demand for artificial leather globally is one of the key factors behind this decline.
As a result, many Pakistani charities have been forced to look for alternative fundraising sources and methods to support their operations.
“Once skin and hides were a 100 percent source to fund organization’s operations, but now this source of revenue meets about 2-3 percent of the expenditures,” Qazi Sadaruddin, a director at Al-Khidmat Foundation, told Arab News.
In the past, the collection of animal skins and hides worth billions of rupees also led to violence in Pakistan’s commercial capital of Karachi, but this has stopped now.
“The incidents of snatching of skins started when Edhi Foundation was targeted by ethnic groups involved in the activity,” said Professor Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a historian, while referring to a major social welfare organization operating across Pakistan.
He adding the act of snatching hides used to be a source of undocumented revenue, which these groups adjusted in extortion money.
Khan said the situation improved since the government took strict action and implemented regulatory measures in addition to launching an operation against militants in Karachi several years ago. Besides, he added, the business was no more attractive due to almost no demand for the commodity.
“Now the cost of collecting skins and hides is more than the prices,” Khan said. “As it lost market value, it lost the attraction.”
In Pakistan, Eid Al-Adha significantly boosts the livestock sector, involving more than 8 million rural families. The festive period sees an increase in demand for animals, which in turn provides economic opportunities to rural communities.


Italian coast guard searches for migrants, including Pakistanis, missing after boat capsize

Updated 19 June 2024
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Italian coast guard searches for migrants, including Pakistanis, missing after boat capsize

  • A fishing vessel was the first to respond on Monday after the boat capsized and rescued 11 people, one of whom later died
  • The partially submerged boat was still in view, but the commander of the search operation said no bodies were in sight

MILAN: The Italian Coast Guard was searching by sea and from the air on Thursday for dozens of people missing when a boat capsized and partially sank earlier this week in the perilous central Mediterranean, 195 kilometers (120 miles) off the Calabrian coast, officials said.
The partially submerged boat was still in view, but the commander of the search operation said no bodies were in sight.
A fishing boat was the first to respond on Monday after the boat capsized and rescued 11 people, one of whom later died. Six bodies have also been recovered, and survivors say some 60 more are missing.
Survivors reported that the boat motor had caught fire, causing it to capsize off the Italian coast some eight days after departing from Turkiye with about 75 people from Iran, Syria and Iraq on board, according to the UN refugee agency and other UN organizations. They included more than 20 children.
A spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders said the survivors have suffered both psychological and physical trauma, and “remained very confused.”
“They have been hospitalized ... and don’t yet know who in their families is alive and who died at sea,’’ said Cecilia Momi, in charge of the group’s humanitarian affairs. “Entire families are destroyed. Some lost a wife, some lost a child, a husband, a friend, a nephew.”
In another incident Monday, the charity rescue ship Nadir rescued 51 people from Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh and transported them to Lampedusa. Another 10 people on the same smugglers boat were found suffocated to death on the lower deck.
The deaths bring to over 800 people who have died or went missing and are presumed dead crossing the central Mediterranean so far this year, an average of five dead a day, the UN agencies said.
The International Red Cross said that the incidents are “another testament to Europe’s failing approach to migration and asylum, which prioritizes walls and deterrence over humane welcome.”