Political talks by Pakistan’s Imran Khan-led opposition shouldn’t be perceived as ‘anti-army’ — aide

Supporters of Pakistan's jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan hold his poster as they celebrate after he was aquitted of leaking state secrets following a court verdict in Karachi on June 3, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Political talks by Pakistan’s Imran Khan-led opposition shouldn’t be perceived as ‘anti-army’ — aide

  • Jailed ex-PM Khan had vowed not to hold talks with his political rivals or army
  • Aides say Khan has now okayed talks with political rivals on way forward

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s confidant Mehmood Khan Achakzai said on Thursday political talks approved by the ex-premier with the coalition government should not be perceived as “anti-army.”

Khan, who is jailed in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail since August after being convicted on corruption and other charges, had vowed not to hold talks with his political rivals and rejected the possibility of any “deal” with the incumbent government or the military, a major player in Pakistan’s tumultuous politics.

However, earlier this week, local media reported Khan had accepted a Supreme Court judge’s advice to engage in a dialogue with his rival political parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), which heads the coalition government in the center, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a main coalition partner. 

Khan was ousted as Pakistan’s prime minister in April 2022 via a parliamentary vote of no confidence. The former premier alleged the vote was orchestrated by Washington in cahoots with his political rivals, whom he accused of colluding with then Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, now retired, to remove him from power. All the accused deny the charge.

“The political talks should never, never be perceived as anti-army,” Achakzai said on Thursday during an interview with a local Pakistani media outlet, accepting that Khan had now given the go-ahead for talks.




Mahmood Khan Achakzai, chairman of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami party, arrives at the Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 3, 2024. (AFP/File)

The sole purpose of the talks led by him would be to “let bygones be bygones” and strive for a solution together with the entire political elite, Achakzai said, adding that the solution would not be perfect but would “at least move toward perfection.”

When asked if the PML-N and PPP chiefs, PM Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari respectively, were willing to join political talks, Achakzai said: 

“We are striving for supremacy of the Constitution. If they don’t want to come, don’t, but there will come a time when they won’t be able to leave their houses.”

Political tensions in Pakistan came to a head last year on May 9 when allegedly angry supporters of Khan attacked military and government installations in many parts of the country. The attacks were in response to Khan’s brief arrest from the Islamabad High Court earlier the same day. 

Subsequently, the government launched a crackdown on Khan’s Pakistane Thereek-e-Insaf party, rounding up hundreds of its leaders and supporters across the country. The party has distanced itself from the attacks, rejecting the government’s allegations that it instigated them. Some prominent leaders of Khan’s party remain incarcerated.


England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred

Updated 5 sec ago
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England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred

  • Brook’s dashing 109 helped lay foundation for England’s 241-run win over West Indies 
  • Twenty-five-year-old has five centuries now, with his first four 100s scored abroad

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: England’s Harry Brook has no intention of letting success go to his head following a first Test century on home soil.
Brook’s dashing 109 helped lay the foundation for England’s 241-run win over the West Indies at Trent Bridge, a result that put the hosts 2-0 up in a three-match series ahead of this week’s finale at Edgbaston.
The 25-year-old Brook has now scored five Test hundreds, with his first four centuries scored abroad against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Brook’s average of 62.54 after 23 innings is the highest since Australia hero Don Bradman, widely considered to be Test cricket’s greatest batsmen, among players with over 1,000 runs in the format.
“I’ve only just started,” said Brook. “That could definitely fluctuate either way. I’ve not even played 25 innings in Test cricket yet so I won’t be getting ahead of myself.
“I’ll just keep enjoying playing Test cricket. Hopefully I can keep it that high but if not, so be it.”
At Trent Bridge, Brook shared a stand of 189 with Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root, who also scored his first Test century of the season.
Brook, whose 363 runs against Australia last year, helped draw the Ashes, said while he was glad to learn from Root, he was also determined to stay true to himself as well.
“I want to be my own batter, I want to be Harry Brook, not anybody else.”
But he added: “Rooty has just gone eighth in the all-time Test runs list, so I’d be stupid to not be tapping into his cricket knowledge.
“I was glad to get it (the hundred) on the board, being my first in England.
“I was nearly getting to the spot where I thought, ‘God, I need a hundred in England’. I didn’t get a big one in the Ashes last year, but I was happy with my performances.”
Brook withdrew from the Indian Premier League earlier this year following the death of his grandmother, having previously pulled out of England’s five-Test tour of India in January due to personal reasons. He later revealed his grandmother was “ill and didn’t have long left.”
And it was his grandmother Pauline, one of his biggest supporters, who was uppermost in Brook’s mind when he reached three figures in Nottingham.
“It was the first (century) with family there and obviously loads more English fans as well, it was a very nice moment.
“I’m not a massive celebrator at a hundred, I just try to soak it all in. I did it all for my grandma.
“As soon as I got it, it was just like, ‘Yes, a hundred’. But a couple of moments later I got a bit emotional inside, I just didn’t show it. I was thinking about her.”
England have four Tests left to play this season, with Sri Lanka arriving for a three-match campaign starting in August.
And for Brook, an in-demand multi-format player, Test cricket is still the pinnacle.
“I want to play every Test match I can for England,” he said. “Test cricket and playing for England is my priority.”


At UN, Pakistan calls on world to join hands to protect Markhor population 

Updated 14 min 9 sec ago
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At UN, Pakistan calls on world to join hands to protect Markhor population 

  • Markhor, a large mountain goat with distinctive horns, is Pakistan’s national animal 
  • Markhors offer opportunities to bolster economy, tourism growth, says Pakistani envoy 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday called on the international community to join hands to conserve the South Asian country’s national animal Markhor, given the important role it plays in the overall ecosystem. 

The Markhor is a large, wild goat with distinctive spiral horns found in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. They are usually found at heights of 8,000-11,000 feet, but during the winter months, descend to between 5,000-6,000 feet. 

Markhors are hunted for sport in Pakistan’s mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region, where its hunting license fee is one the highest in the world. 

“Pakistan has urged the world community to espouse collaborative efforts for the conservation of the Markhor,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said. Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, Munir Akram, said the animal holds special significance for Pakistan considering it is the country’s national animal.

Akram was speaking at a UN side event organized by the Tajikistan Mission to the UN. The event was held in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme and International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

“Markhors offer a significant opportunity to bolster the economy, foster conservation efforts and promote sustainable tourism and economic growth,” Akram was quoted as saying by the APP. 

He noted that while the population of Markhors was declining globally, in Pakistan the animal was increasing steadily due to the government’s proactive conservation programs and community engagement policies. 

He said currently, there were somewhere between 3,500 to 5,000 markhors in Pakistan. 

“In Pakistan’s experience, strengthening community governance structures and promoting local ownership over sustainable natural resource use is a crucial first step to building more capacity for wildlife management activities,” Akram said. 

He pointed out that under Pakistan’s trophy hunting policy, local communities are trained to monitor and manage Markhor populations and trophy hunts independently. These communities retain 80 percent of the trophy permit fees, creating strong incentives for conservation, leading to significant livelihood improvements and community development projects, he said. 

Akram noted that proceeds from the trophy hunts were also spent on enhancing Markhor breeding spaces and habitats.


Pakistan police arrest man for chopping off donkey’s legs in fresh animal brutality case 

Updated 24 July 2024
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Pakistan police arrest man for chopping off donkey’s legs in fresh animal brutality case 

  • Donkey’s owner says local landlord punished animal for wandering into his property in Muzaffargarh city 
  • Animal abuse caught spotlight last month when landlord allegedly chopped off camel’s leg in Sanghar district

KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province on Wednesday arrested a man on charges of chopping off a donkey’s legs after it strayed into his employer’s land, highlighting the latest case of animal brutality in the country. 

Animal abuse in Pakistan caught the spotlight last month when a local landlord in the southern Sanghar district was accused of chopping off a camel’s leg after it strayed into his fields for grazing. The story, which triggered uproar on mainstream and social media, led to the camel being transported to an animal shelter in Karachi for treatment. Six suspects were arrested by the police. In another incident in the southern Umerkot district last month, a camel was found dead with its legs amputated. 

Bashir Ahmed, a resident of Punjab’s Muzaffargarh city, said his donkey suffered severe leg injuries after wandering onto the property of local landlord Khalil Jatoi on Monday. Local police arrested Sajjad Hussain, Jatoi’s employee, in connection with the crime. 

“We have arrested Sajjad Hussain, who has been nominated in the case,” Muhammad Saleem, the investigating officer, told Arab News. “He will be produced before the court soon.”

Police filed a complaint against Hussain under Section 429 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which prescribes imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine or both, for anyone who “commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal or animals.”

However, Ahmed said the prime suspect was Jatoi, whom he said remains at large and was pressurizing him to drop the charges.

“While his employee Sajjad has been arrested, Khalil Jatoi has not yet been apprehended and he is threatening me to withdraw the case,” Ahmed alleged.

Ahmed said he used to sell fruits and vegetables on a cart that was pushed by the donkey.
 
Arab News could not independently verify whether Ahmed had received threats or not and Jatoi could not be reached for comment. The landlord has also not been nominated in the police complaint.

As per the complaint, Ahmed found the back legs of the donkey chopped off. The complaint also mentioned an eyewitness, Azfal Hussain, who informed police that Hussain had wounded the donkey.

Ahmed said the animal, which was undergoing medical treatment arranged by the provincial government, was the only source of his income for a family comprising five people. 

“I’m hurt not only financially but emotionally as well since I’ve been caring for the donkey,” Ahmed added.

Pakistan’s existing animal cruelty laws, rooted in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1890, prohibit various forms of animal cruelty, including beating, overdriving, and mutilation. The legislation also prescribes penalties for breaches of these anti-cruelty provisions, which can include fines and imprisonment, though these are not always effectively enforced.

And despite the laws, officials themselves poison hundreds of dogs yearly in an effort to curb a population of strays that attack thousands of people.


Protesters in northwestern Pakistan demand judicial inquiry into Bannu rally shooting

Updated 24 July 2024
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Protesters in northwestern Pakistan demand judicial inquiry into Bannu rally shooting

  • At least two were killed, 20 injured in northwestern Bannu city last week after gunfire triggered stampede at peace rally
  • Pakistan’s military spokesperson blamed “negative elements” in the march, accusing them of resorting to firing, pelting stones

Peshawar: The president of a 45-member committee leading a large sit-in protest in Pakistan’s northwestern Bannu on Wednesday called for a judicial inquiry to probe a shooting incident that killed at least two people in the city last week. 

Thousands took part in a rally in Bannu last Friday to protest the government’s announcement to launch a new military operation against militants in the country. Participants of the rally demanded peace and an end to militancy in the country, which has killed thousands of people in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and displaced hundreds of thousands. 

Tensions flared when at least two persons were killed and more than 20 injured after gunfire triggered a stampede at the rally, prompting thousands to stage a sit-in protest that continues to date.

Local residents and some Pakistani politicians accused security forces of shooting at the rally. Pakistan’s military spokesperson earlier this week rejected the allegations at a press conference, saying that “some negative elements” had joined the march and resorted to firing, pelting stones and chanting anti-state slogans.

“We demand a clear and transparent judicial inquiry through the Peshawar High Court into this incident,” Nasir Khan Bangash, president of the 45-member Bannu Aman Jirga and a senior member of the Bannu Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News. 

He rejected the military spokesperson’s allegations that the government’s efforts to launch a new military operation, “Azm-e-Istehkam” or Resolve for Stability, was being politicized. Bangash said the rally’s main was to demand peace. 

“The protest wasn’t political. Apart from white flags, there were no other flags [of other political parties] in the peace march,” Bangash said.

He said protesters wanted police to be empowered to deal with miscreants in the province, adding that they would not accept any military operations in KP. 

Arab News reached out to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, for its reaction to Bangash’s statement but did not get a response till this report was filed. 

’COMPREHENSIVE CAMPAIGN’

Past military operations have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed countless lives and livelihoods in Pakistan’s KP province, sparking a civil rights movement by ethnic Pashtuns.

The Pakistan army was able to effectively dismantle the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, and kill most of its top leadership in a string of military operations from 2014 onwards in the country’s tribal areas, driving most of the fighters across the border into Afghanistan, where Islamabad says they have regrouped. Kabul denies this.

Islamabad says the new surge in violence is because Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are not doing enough against militants using its soil to launch attacks on Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue and it does not allow militants to operate on its soil.

Fears of more displacement have been raised after the government announced last month it would launch the Azm-e-Istehkam operation.

In his press conference this week, military spokesman Lt. Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry clarified that the campaign was not meant to be a full-scale military operation.

“This is a comprehensive campaign against terrorism, which won’t just root out terrorism but which will lift up all of society,” he said.


Ex-Pakistan PM’s party lawmakers continue hunger strike in Islamabad for his release

Updated 43 min 31 sec ago
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Ex-Pakistan PM’s party lawmakers continue hunger strike in Islamabad for his release

  • Over two dozen lawmakers of Khan’s party have staged hunger strike outside Parliament House in Islamabad to demand his release
  • Khan’s party leaders vow to continue hunger strike for “as long as necessary,” resist any government move to ban the PTI

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers belonging to former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Wednesday continued their hunger strike to demand his release from prison, vowing to “take on” the government’s plan to ban the party. 

Over two dozen PTI lawmakers, including the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub, have been holding a hunger strike outside the Parliament House in Islamabad since Tuesday to press for Khan’s release from prison. 

Khan has been in jail since August last year, even though all four convictions handed down to him ahead of a parliamentary election in February have either been suspended or overturned.

After being acquitted on the last of those four convictions, authorities rearrested Khan and his wife in an old corruption case on charges of selling state gifts unlawfully. He also faces an accusation of inciting his supporters to attack military installations in May last year. Khan denies all the accusations.

The hunger strike also takes place after Information Minister Ataullah Tarar announced on July 15 that the government plans to ban the PTI over the “proven” charge that the party received foreign funds from sources illegal in Pakistan, and because of rioting by its supporters last year that targeted military installations. 

“I think that we have to just laugh it off,” Ayub told Arab News from the PTI’s hunger strike camp, reacting to the government’s announcement to ban the party. 

He was sitting with other lawmakers of the party who held Khan’s portraits and placards inscribed with the words “Release Imran Khan.”
“They [the government] can’t beat us in the political arena, so they have resorted to this,” Ayub added. “We will take them on.”

The government’s announcement to ban the PTI came following the Supreme Court’s recent verdict in which it accepted the PTI as a legitimate political party and awarded it reserved seats for women and minorities in parliament. The verdict was a blow to the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government, causing it to lose its two-thirds majority in Pakistan’s parliament.

Ayub said the PTI had organized the hunger strike to not only demand Khan’s and his wife’s release from prison but also to protest against soaring inflation and militancy in the country.

“This hunger strike is geared toward or targeted toward getting Prime Minister Imran Khan, his wife and first lady Bushra Bibi and all our politically imprisoned prisoners who were imprisoned because of their political beliefs of supporting Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said.

He described the government as an “illegal” one, holding it responsible for rising inflation and militancy in the country. Ayub called for fresh elections to overcome these crises. 

“This is a token hunger strike, and we will continue this as long as is necessary,” he vowed. 

‘DRAMA’

Meanwhile Senator Talal Chaudhry, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, described the PTI’s hunger strike as a “drama.” 

He accused the PTI of always conspiring to weaken the country, saying that the party was always protesting whether through hunger strikes or “conspiracies to shut down Pakistan.”

“They will not get anything through these strikes,” he said. “What sort of a hunger strike is this that it begins after lunch and ends before the evening tea?“

The rise in tensions between the government and the PTI takes place after police raided the headquarters of Khan’s party in Islamabad earlier this week. 

The PTI’s senior media manager Ahmed Waqas Janjua and its information secretary Raoof Hassan were arrested by authorities on accusations they were pushing an “anti-state narrative” to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty.

“The recent crackdown is because the government has lost all, I would say, legitimacy in the eyes of the people,” Ayub said. “They don’t have anything to offer.”