‘Heads must roll’: Pakistan ex-stars, media slam T20 World Cup exit

Pakistan's Mohammad Amir reacts after India hit four during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group A cricket match between India and Pakistan at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York on June 9, 2024. (AFP/file)
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Updated 15 June 2024

‘Heads must roll’: Pakistan ex-stars, media slam T20 World Cup exit

  • The 2009 champions were knocked out after rain abandoned USA-Ireland match
  • They suffered a shock defeat to first-timers USA before losing to arch-rivals India

KARACHI: Pakistan’s ex-stars and media blamed team discord and biased selection for the Asian cricket powerhouse’s humiliating first-round exit from the Twenty20 World Cup.
The 2009 champions were knocked out after the USA-Ireland match was abandoned because of rain — the earliest-ever elimination from a T20 World Cup for Pakistan.
They suffered a shock defeat to first-timers USA before losing to arch-rivals India. Pakistan’s only win was against Canada.
“Pakistani players think that if they don’t perform well, the coaches will be sacked, and nothing will happen to them,” former captain Wasim Akram said during a broadcast after the defeat to India.
“It is time to keep the coaches and change the entire team.”
Throughout the tournament, the team was dogged by allegations of internal discord and that some players were in the squad because of favoritism and not merit.
Fans and analysts also criticized the team’s management for not picking the right players for the World Cup.
Former player Kamran Akmal said Shadab Khan was chosen to play because he is close to captain Babar Azam, and that meant leaving out leg-spinner Usama Mir, the top wicket-taker in this year’s Pakistan Super League.
“When you select players based on friendship, you’ll get these results,” Akmal told AFP. “Mir should have been in the squad... That was a big injustice.”
Reports of discord over the swap also marred Pakistan’s warm-up for the World Cup. They lost to Ireland, lost 2-0 to England and drew 2-2 against a depleted New Zealand.
“Some poor administrative and selection decisions in the run-up to World Cup resulted in the team’s inability to progress,” said the English-language newspaper The News.
The 2024 edition marked a dramatic fall for Pakistan from the last World Cup two years ago, when they reached the final.
“I am disgusted and will not watch the World Cup any more,” said Mohammad Asim, a Pakistani fan.
“The team selection was biased and based on friendship,” said the 19-year-old university student.
And Salim, a taxi driver, said the team was “finished” after losing to a new side like the USA.
Pakistan are due to host next year’s Champions Trophy, and there are calls for a major shake-up in the team and the management.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Mohsin Naqvi — who is also the country’s interior minister — said changes were imminent.
“Pakistan team needs a major surgery,” he told local media after the India defeat.
“We must endeavour to make the Pakistani cricket team one of the best in the world. The nation does not expect such a disappointing performance.”
But one former captain said the board is part of the problem.
“Before we shift the blame to the players, first the PCB and its governing body needs to be sacked,” Rashid Latif wrote on the social media platform X.
“These are the people responsible for selecting the players. Heads must roll, but would they?”

Police release chairman of Pakistan’s leading rights body after brief detention

Updated 32 min 43 sec ago

Police release chairman of Pakistan’s leading rights body after brief detention

  • Chairman Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asad Iqbal Butt says police questioned him about his ties to Baloch rights movement
  • Pakistani state has denied allegations by rights activists and politicians it is involved in enforced disappearances of people in Balochistan 

KARACHI: The chairperson of a leading rights body in Pakistan said he was detained by police in Karachi on Thursday who questioned him for raising his voice for the people of oppressed communities, particularly those from Balochistan. 

Asad Iqbal Butt, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) told Arab News police officials arrived at his house around noon on Thursday and took him to meet the Station House Officer (SHO) at Karachi’s Gulberg Police Station. 

Butt said the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) at the Gulberg station asked him whether he frequently visited Quetta to organize the Baloch rights movement. 

“I explained that the movement organizes itself and we support them when they face injustice, as we do for oppressed people of any ethnicity,” Butt said. 

Enforced disappearances is an enduring issue in Pakistan where relatives, politicians, and rights activists say many people who have gone missing, especially in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, have been abducted by Pakistani security forces on the pretext of fighting militancy.

The Pakistani state denies involvement in enforced disappearances. 

Butt said the police official accused him of having ties to the Baloch people. The HRCP chief said he responded to the DSP by telling him that he had ties to “oppressed people of every ethnicity, region, and religion.”

“I believe I was taken to police station because HRCP issued a strong statement on the Bannu issue,” Butt said, referring to last week’s shooting at a peace rally in Bannu that triggered a stampede, killing at least two and injuring 20 others. 

He said another reason for his detention could be that the HRCP is trying to prevent people from Karachi’s Lyari area, who wanted to attend an upcoming protest rally for “missing persons” in southwestern Gwadar city, from being detained by police. 

“They feared I would speak out, and HRCP’s support carries weight when it speaks,” he said. 

Karachi police officials did not respond to a request for a comment. 

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia agree to enhance cooperation in IT and cybersecurity 

Updated 25 July 2024

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia agree to enhance cooperation in IT and cybersecurity 

  • Pakistan’s IT minister urges Saudi envoy to facilitate Pakistani companies in traveling, visa issues 
  • Much of the growth in Pakistan’s IT sector is driven by the work of tech startups and freelancers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s IT Minister Shaza Fatima Khawaja and Saudi envoy Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki on Thursday discussed enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the fields of information technology and cybersecurity, state-run media said. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close cooperation in various fields, including information technology. Pakistan recorded monthly IT exports of $257 million in February 2024, which were 32 percent more than in the same month last year. 

Dozens of Pakistani IT firms presented their innovative ideas and products at the LEAP tech exhibition in Riyadh from March 4 to 7, helping them secure lucrative deals with Saudi companies and pushing Pakistan’s IT exports to higher figures. 

Khawaja met Malki, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan, in Islamabad on Thursday to discuss bilateral cooperation in IT, telecommunication and cybersecurity. 

“Minister of State for IT Shaza Fatima said Pakistan intended to boost its relations with Saudi Arabia in the field of IT and Telecommunication,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said. 

The minister urged Saudi Arabia to facilitate Pakistan’s IT firms, registered with the Pakistan Software Export Board, in securing visas to the kingdom.

“Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed Ahmad Al-Malki said that Saudi Arabia will fully cooperate with Pakistan in the field of IT and Telecommunication,” APP said. 

“He also ensured to support and facilitate Pakistani tech companies in getting visa and traveling.”

Pakistan’s market for computer software has also seen steady growth for the past several years, with the total size of the software sector at approximately $3.2 billion. The US is Pakistan’s largest market for IT, accounting for 54.5 percent in the 2023 financial year, according to the International Trade Administration.

Pakistan’s IT sector consists primarily of software development and IT-enabled services for data centers, technical service/call centers, and telecom services, with 60 percent serving international customers. Much of the growth is driven by the work of freelancers and tech start-ups.

Pakistan says has ‘taken note’ of UK parliamentarians demanding ex-PM Khan’s release

Updated 25 July 2024

Pakistan says has ‘taken note’ of UK parliamentarians demanding ex-PM Khan’s release

  • Members of Khan’s party on Tuesday spoke at British parliament about his incarceration, censorship in Pakistan
  • Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson urges members of Britain’s parliament to promote “positive” bilateral ties

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson on Thursday said it has “taken note” of the discussions that took place at the British parliament this week where lawmakers demanded former prime minister Imran Khan be released from prison. 

The UK parliament held a hearing on Tuesday that saw over a dozen British parliamentarians listen to members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party speaking about his incarceration, deteriorating law and order as well as growing censorship in Pakistan.

The event, jointly hosted by Conservative Peer Lord Daniel Hannan and British-Pakistani Labour MP Naz Shah, was attended by former Tory home secretary Priti Patel, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Labour MP Naushaba Khan, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon and others.

The hearing resolved that the parliamentarians will call on British PM Keir Starmer and State Secretary David Lammy for the UK government to take note of a recent United Nations report into Khan’s incarceration and demand his release from prison, Khan’s PTI party said.

During a weekly press briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the hearing was a private event in a side room of the House of Lords, adding that it was organized by a “political party.”

“We have taken note of the discussions that took place,” she said. “As we have said on several occasions, it is important that members of legislative bodies contribute to promoting positive dynamics in bilateral relations and contribute to developing mutual understanding and mutual respect between Pakistan and the home country.”

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.

A UN panel of experts this month found that Khan’s detention “had no legal basis and appears to have been intended to disqualify him from running for political office.”

Khan’s PTI party secured the largest number of seats in parliament in the February general election despite what it says is a military-backed crackdown that aims to keep him out of power. It also won nearly two dozen extra parliament seats after a court ruling last week.

Pakistan court sets aside ex-PM Khan’s physical remand in May 9 riots cases

Updated 25 July 2024

Pakistan court sets aside ex-PM Khan’s physical remand in May 9 riots cases

  • Anti-terrorism court in Lahore last week granted police Khan’s 10-day physical remand 
  • Khan, wife to remain in prison due to another reference which accuses them of “misusing powers” 

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani high court on Thursday set aside a physical remand of former prime minister Imran Khan in a dozen new cases related to the May 9, 2023 riots, his lawyer confirmed.

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore last week granted police a 10-day physical remand of the former prime minister in a dozen fresh cases related to the May 9, 2023 attacks, when angry Khan supporters attacked military installations and government buildings across the country in response to his brief arrest. 

Khan had approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) on July 18, challenging his physical remand in the cases and requesting the court to declare it null and void. 

“The physical remand granted has been declared null and void,” Khan’s lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha said in a video message. “This will prove to be a major setback for those who got elected through Form 47s,” he added, referring to the government. 

Khan was convicted in four cases ahead of a February national election and has been in jail since August last year, but all of the sentences against him, the last of them in a case in which he and his wife were convicted of violating Pakistan’s marriage laws, have since been overturned or suspended. 

Earlier this month, however, hours after being acquitted in the marriage case, a fresh corruption reference was filed against Khan and his wife by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The new reference is related to the alleged “misuse of power in acquiring Toshakhana gifts.”

Khan and his wife are charged in the Toshakhana case with selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000) in state possession, which he received during his 2018-2022 premiership. The gifts included diamond jewelry and seven watches, six of them Rolexes — the most expensive being valued at 85 million rupees ($305,000).

Pakistani media widely reported on Sunday that an accountability court had approved an eight-day physical remand each for Khan and Bushra in the new NAB reference. 

Khan and his wife are expected to remain in prison due to their remand in the Toshakhana reference, which they have challenged at the Islamabad High Court. 

Pakistan’s finance minister in Beijing to seek debt relief, say sources

Updated 25 July 2024

Pakistan’s finance minister in Beijing to seek debt relief, say sources

  • Minister to discuss reprofiling of $15 billion energy sector debt with China, say sources
  • China has set up over $20 billion worth of planned energy projects in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb on Thursday arrived in Beijing to open talks on power sector structural reforms suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two government sources said.

He held a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, they said, and added that the finance minister together with Power Minister Awais Leghari is leading a delegation, which will take up several proposals with the Chinese side, including reprofiling of nearly $15 billion energy sector debt.

The countries, which share a border, have been longtime allies.

Rollovers or disbursements on loans from China have helped Pakistan meet its external financing needs in the past.

Pakistan’s finance ministry, junior Finance Minister Ali Pervaiz Malik, and the Chinese finance ministry didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

Both the finance and power ministers told Reuters in interviews last week that they will be discussing the power sector reforms in their Beijing visit, though they did not specify the timing.

China has set up over $20 billion worth of planned energy projects in Pakistan.

The reforms has been suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which this month agreed on a $7 billion bailout for the heavily indebted South Asian economy.

Pakistan’s power sector has been plagued by high rates of power theft and distribution losses, resulting in accumulating debt across the production chain — a concern raised by the IMF.

The government is implementing structural reforms to reduce “circular debt” — public liabilities that build up in the power sector due to subsidies and unpaid bills — by 100 billion Pakistani rupees ($360 million) a year, Leghari has said.

Poor and middle-class households have been affected by a previous IMF bailout reached last year, which included raising power tariffs as part of the funding program that ended in April.