Public holiday across Pakistan on 26th anniversary of 1998 nuclear tests

This file photo dated 29 May, 1998 shows a view of the Chaghi district hill in Chattar, some 30 to 35 kilometers from the site of nuclear blasts that Pakistan carried out in the Chaghi test zone in southwestern Baluchistan province. (AFP/File)
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Updated 28 May 2024

Public holiday across Pakistan on 26th anniversary of 1998 nuclear tests

  • Pakistan began program to obtain nuclear weapons after its war with India in 1971 war that led to creation of Bangladesh
  • Army sees its nuclear weapons as essential to offset the conventional superiority of its much bigger neighbor India

ISLAMABAD: A public holiday was announced across Pakistan today, Tuesday, on the 26th anniversary of the South Asian nation conducting nuclear tests in May 1998, shortly after neighboring archrival India conducted similar tests.
Pakistan began a program to obtain nuclear weapons after its war with India in 1971 war that led to the division of the country and the creation of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan. The army sees its nuclear weapons as essential to offset the conventional superiority of its much bigger neighbor.
India sees its own nuclear weapons as a deterrent against Pakistan and China, which defeated it in a border war in 1962.
Pakistan tested nuclear weapons on May 28, 1998, shortly after India announced it had done so. Both countries faced international sanctions as a result, although India has since won effective recognition as a nuclear power following an accord negotiated with the United States. Neither Pakistan nor India have signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The nation is observing Youm-e-Takbeer today with national zeal and fervor in remembrance of successful nuclear tests conducted on this day in 1998 that made the defense of the country invincible,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said. 
“The day made Pakistan the seventh nuclear nation of the world and the first Muslim state having the nuclear arsenal in its defense stockpile to exercise deterrence for peaceful purposes.”
Radio Pakistan said Prime Minister Shehnaz Sharif had announced a public holiday today “for making Pakistan’s defense impregnable.”
India has much stronger conventional armed forces than Pakistan, but it is widely believed that both countries have comparable nuclear arsenals.
Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 130-140 warheads, according to a 2018 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
They are comparable in the sense that both have the capability to strike each other’s territories and cause immense damage and massive loss of life.
In a 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, US Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats said, Pakistan “continues to develop new types of nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer-range ballistic missiles,” noting that “the new types of nuclear weapons will introduce new risks for escalation dynamics and security in the region” 
The Defense Intelligence Agency appeared to tone down its language slightly in its 2021 and 2022 Worldwide Threat Assessments, stating that “Pakistan very likely will continue to modernize and expand its nuclear capabilities by conducting training with its deployed weapons and developing new delivery systems…” but not explicitly noting inherent escalation risks.
At a Democratic congressional campaign committee reception in 2022, US President Joe Biden said Pakistan may be “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as the country has “nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”
Sharif, then serving his first term as PM, rejected the comments as “factually incorrect and misleading” and said Pakistan had proven to be a “most responsible nuclear state” over the past decades, with its nuclear program managed through a “technically sound and foolproof command and control system.”

“Pakistan has also consistently demonstrated responsible stewardship of its nuclear-weapons capability, marked by a very strong commitment to global standards, including those of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) on non-proliferation, safety, and security,” a press release from Sharif’s office said. 

Pakistan’s Punjab bans public gatherings as ex-PM Khan’s party calls for protests

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistan’s Punjab bans public gatherings as ex-PM Khan’s party calls for protests

  • Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party called for nationwide protests on Friday to demand his release from prison
  • Punjab government imposes ban on public gatherings, rallies, protests, sit-ins and demonstrations for seven days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Punjab government imposed a ban on all kinds of public gatherings throughout the province on Friday after jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for nationwide protests to demand his release.
In a video statement earlier this week, PTI leader and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser urged Khan supporters to come out on the streets across the nation on Friday to demand Khan’s release from prison.
The former prime minister has been in jail since August 2023 after he was convicted by a local court on corruption charges. Khan denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated to keep him and the PTI away from Pakistani politics.
“It has been observed that in view of the prevailing law and order situation and security threats, any gathering/ assembly is likely to provide soft targets to terrorists and miscreants,” a notification issued by the Punjab Home Department said.
“Which not only pose serious security threats but is also likely to cause threat to public at peace and order as well as inconvenience to public at large.”
The notification said the government was imposing Section 144, which empowers the administration to ban any activity in the general interest of the public for a specific time period, across Punjab for a period of seven days.
The notification said assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, processions, demonstrations, protests and other such activities have been prohibited across the province effective immediately.
PTI leader Raoof Hasan criticized Punjab government’s “shameful” decision in a post on social media platform X.
“It reflects how mortified they are of the person of @ImranKhanPTI & his vision of an independent & sovereign Pakistan where its people would become the true arbiters of their fate,” Hasan wrote.
Khan’s tensions with the government and Pakistan’s powerful military came to a head on May 9 2023 when angry supporters took to the streets and attacked government and military installations following his brief detention in a land corruption case.
The move sparked a nationwide crackdown launched by the government against Khan’s party which saw several PTI leaders and supporters rounded up in jails. Many Khan aides announced parting ways with him following the crackdown on his party. Pakistan’s military announced it would try those involved in the May 9 violence in military courts.
Khan initially said the protests were a natural reaction by his supporters but later distanced himself from it, blaming Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for instigating the riots. Pakistan’s military and government rubbished his allegations.

Senior Chinese official says Pakistan’s security challenges undermining investor confidence

Updated 54 min 55 sec ago

Senior Chinese official says Pakistan’s security challenges undermining investor confidence

  • Liu Jianchao raises concern over the issue after several Chinese workers were targeted by militants in the country
  • The Chinese official also asks political parties to work together and deal with complex challenges facing Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A senior Chinese official on Friday identified Pakistan’s internal security deficit as a major challenge undermining investor confidence while addressing the 3rd Meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism (JCM), which brought together representatives of all major Pakistani political parties.
Liu Jianchao, a prominent Chinese political figure, serves as the Minister of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, a key position that involves managing relationships with various political organizations around the world.
He arrived in Pakistan on Thursday night to co-chair the JCM meeting, focusing on the progress and future direction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Liu voiced concern over Pakistan’s internal security situation, as militant groups in the region have targeted Chinese nationals working on various CPEC projects around the country in recent years.
“We need to improve security and the business environment,” he said while addressing the forum. “Security threats are the main hazards to CPEC cooperation. As people often say, confidence is more precious than gold. In case of Pakistan, the primary factor shaking the confidence of Chinese investors is the security situation.”
“Without security, the business environment cannot really improve,” he continued, adding this may undermine development in the longer run.

Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar (right) meets a senior Chinese Communist Party leader Liu Jianchao in Islamabad, Pakistan on June 21, 2024. (@ForeignOfficePk/X)

Earlier, Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar told the meeting the CPEC enjoyed full political support in his country while members of several rival political factions sat around the conference table.
However, the Chinese official also urged Pakistani politicians to work together to deal with the complex challenges facing the country.
“In the turbulent world of rising uncertainties, stability within a country is essential for the development of that country,” he noted. “Faced with complex internal and external challenges, Pakistan is navigating carefully the turbulent rivers and treacherous shores. Only when all political parties in a country join hands to ensure political and social stability can there be sustainable development.”
Liu also mentioned the “Western social media,” saying it had a huge impact on younger generation and was eroding the foundations of China-Pakistan friendship.
He pointed out the strategic nature of relationship between the two countries had yet to translate into mutual understanding and affinity between their people, emphasizing exchange programs on multiple levels to foster greater friendship.
The Chinese official said his country wanted to upgrade CPEC and take it to the next level of development to benefit the people of the region.
He praised Pakistani law enforcement agencies for capturing suspects who have “so badly sabotaged” the security situation in the country.
He also expressed optimism that the two sides would continue to cooperate with each other, adding that Pakistan would remain a major destination for Chinese businesses and investors in the coming years.
Liu’s trip to Islamabad comes only days after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif concluded his five-day visit to China where he met with the top political leadership along with a number of investors and representatives of top technology companies.
The two countries principally agreed to usher CPEC into its second phase, expanding beyond the initial focus on infrastructure and energy to include broader economic and social development goals.
The new phase emphasizes rural revitalization, agricultural modernization, industrialization and green development, among other things.

Balochistan to present budget 2024-25 today

Updated 21 June 2024

Balochistan to present budget 2024-25 today

  • Provincial government announced last week that budget layout will exceed Rs850 billion
  • Balochistan ministers also announced increase in government salaries in FY25 budget 

ISLAMABAD: The government in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province is set to present its annual financial budget 2024-25 today, Friday, state-run media confirmed.
State broadcaster Radio Pakistan said Balochistan Finance Minister Mir Shoaib Nosherwani will present the budgetary proposals in the provincial assembly at 4:00 p.m.
“Balochistan budget for next fiscal year will be presented in provincial assembly in Quetta on Friday,” Radio Pakistan said.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Quetta on Sunday, Balochistan’s Planning and Development Minister Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Finance Minister Nosherwani announced that employee salaries would see a 25 percent increase for grades 1 to 16, a 20 percent increase for grades 17 to 22, and a 15 percent increase in pensions in the upcoming budget.
Both ministers said the budget layout would exceed Rs850 billion while the federal budget allocated Rs58 billion for the southwestern province under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) head for the upcoming fiscal year.
Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, which shares porous borders with Afghanistan and Iran, has been wracked by an insurgency launched by ethnic Baloch militants for decades.
Baloch nationalists have long accused the Pakistani government of monopolizing profits from Balochistan’s abundant natural resources, saying it has led to political marginalization and economic exploitation.
However, Pakistani administrations have denied these allegations, citing several development initiatives launched in the province to improve local living conditions.

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

Updated 21 June 2024

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

Updated 21 June 2024

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.