Crowd in Pakistan’s northwest kills man accused of burning Qur’an – police

Plainclothes police officers examine the burnt furniture which were torched by a Muslim mob in an attack, in Madyan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on June 21, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Crowd in Pakistan’s northwest kills man accused of burning Qur’an – police

  • The mob took the man away from a police station in Swat where he had been detained for his protection
  • The police say they fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowd, but it further angered the people

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Holy Qur’an was slain and burned Thursday by a crowd that removed him from a police station where he had been detained for his protection, authorities said.

“On the evening of the 20th, locals in the Madian area detained a man, alleging he had burned the Qur’an. The police intervened, rescued him, and took him to the local police station,” a police source in Swat told AFP, noting the man was not from the area.

But the crowd, urged on by local mosques, converged on the police station and pelted it with stones.

“To disperse the angry mob, police fired warning shots into the air, which further incited the crowd. The mob overpowered the police, dragged the man out, and beat him to death with sticks,” the source said.

Later, some people poured oil on his body and set it ablaze, the source added.

A local official confirmed the incident, saying: “After killing the man, the enraged protesters started stoning the police, forcing them to abandon the station.”

The situation in the area remained tense, with protesters blocking the main road, according to the official.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence.

In late May, a Christian accused of burning pages of the Holy Qur’an was also lynched by a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab region, before succumbing to his injuries in early June, according to police.

Also in Punjab, in February 2023, a crowd beat to death a Muslim accused of having desecrated the holy book.


Pakistan arrests Al-Qaeda leader, files case over plans to sabotage government installations

Updated 27 sec ago
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Pakistan arrests Al-Qaeda leader, files case over plans to sabotage government installations

  • Amin ul Haq is considered a close associate of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks
  • Counter-Terrorism Department has accused Haq of planning to sabotage important installations in Punjab

LAHORE: Pakistani counter-terror officials have arrested an Al-Qaeda leader, Amin ul Haq, describing him as a close associate of the dead Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in the most populous province of Punjab said it had registered a legal case against ul Haq, accusing him of having planned sabotage targeting important installations in the province.

“In a significant breakthrough in the fight against terrorism, CTD, in collaboration with intelligence agencies, successfully apprehended Amin ul Haq, a senior leader of Al-Qaeda,” the department’s spokesperson added in a statement.

Bin Laden was killed in 2011 during a US raid on his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.


Kashmiris mark ‘Accession to Pakistan Day’ amid renewed calls for right to self-determination

Updated 19 July 2024
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Kashmiris mark ‘Accession to Pakistan Day’ amid renewed calls for right to self-determination

  • Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been a flashpoint between arch-rivals Pakistan and India since independence in 1947
  • Both countries rule parts of the Himalayan territory but claim it in full and have fought two out of three wars over the disputed region

ISLAMABAD: Kashmiris in parts of the world are observing the “Accession to Pakistan Day” today, Friday, with a renewed pledge to continue struggle for their right to self-determination, Pakistani state media reported.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since their independence from British rule in 1947. Both countries rule parts of the Himalayan territory but claim it in full and have fought two out of three wars over the disputed region.

On July 19, 1947, Kashmiri representatives had unanimously passed the resolution of Kashmir’s Accession to Pakistan during a meeting of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference in Srinagar. The resolution called for the accession in view of aspirations of Kashmir people and their religious, geographical, cultural and economic proximity to Pakistan.

The Accession to Pakistan Day is observed by Kashmiris every year to renew their pledge to complete the merger. The Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) government has announced a public holiday on the occasion to facilitate the masses to participate in the special programs.

“Wide-scale programs have been chalked out to observe the day throughout Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK),” Pakistani state-run APP news agency reported.

Pakistan calls for the right of self-determination for the people of Indian-administered Kashmir and urged New Delhi to hold a plebiscite in line with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

The day is being observed at a time when the part of the territory administered by New Delhi has been witnessing an uptick in violence.

Four Indian soldiers were killed and at least six others were wounded in gunbattles with militants in Indian-administered Kashmir, a senior police officer said this month. Prior to that, two soldiers and six suspected militants were killed in two separate gunbattles in the Kulgam district, police said.

Separatist groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the separatists, a charge denied by Islamabad.


Canadian team certifies aviation security protocols at Karachi airport — Pakistan civil aviation

Updated 19 July 2024
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Canadian team certifies aviation security protocols at Karachi airport — Pakistan civil aviation

  • This was the fifth international evaluation of Pakistan’s aviation security system in recent months
  • Pakistan’s aviation protocols have faced significant scrutiny since a 2020 fake pilot license scandal

KARACHI: A two-member Canadian team on Thursday certified aviation security protocols at Pakistan's largest airport in the southern port city of Karachi, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said.

The Canadian team comprising inspectors Barbara Durette and Abdel Tahir, from Transport Canada — a Canadian government entity responsible for policies and services of road, rail, marine and air transportation — began its aviation security assessment at Jinnah International Airport earlier this week under the supervision of Pakistan's Aviation Security Director Air Commodore (retired) Shahid Qadir.

The team evaluated various security measures, including passenger and baggage screening, perimeter protection, cargo and catering security, as well as security protocols for direct flights to Canada, according to the PCAA. It also monitored security measures for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights to Toronto, assessing access control, aircraft protection, security searches and related procedures.

"The [Canadian] team expressed gratitude to PCAA for hosting them and commended the airport's security protocols for aligning with international standards and best practices," the PCAA said in a statement on Thursday.

This was the 5th international evaluation of Pakistan’s aviation security system in recent months. The PCAA earlier said it had successfully passed all previous inspections, including an inaugural assessment by the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (UAE-GCAA) of Islamabad and Karachi airports that concluded on July 5.

Pakistan’s aviation protocols have faced significant scrutiny since 2020 following a scandal wherein approximately 262 out of 860 active pilots were said to have obtained fake licenses, leading to the grounding of around 150 pilots from the PIA and other carriers.

This revelation came in the wake of the tragic crash of PIA flight 8303 in Karachi, resulting in the suspension of PIA’s operations in the European Union (EU) and other regions and prompting calls for regulatory reforms to improve safety standards and transparency.


Talks with government continue as Pakistani religious party’s pro-Palestine sit-in enters seventh day

Updated 34 min 29 sec ago
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Talks with government continue as Pakistani religious party’s pro-Palestine sit-in enters seventh day

  • Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan supporters have camped at Faizabad Interchange connecting Islamabad and Rawalpindi
  • TLP supporters demand the Pakistani government officially boycott Israeli products, send aid to Gaza and declare Israeli PM a ‘terrorist’

ISLAMABAD: A pro-Palestine sit-in by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) religious party entered its seventh day on Friday, with the party saying that it was in talks with the government regarding its demands.

The TLP has asked the government to officially boycott Israeli products and send food and medical aid to Palestinians suffering Israel’s relentless military campaign in Gaza. They have also called on Pakistan’s government to declare Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “terrorist.”

The demands were laid after TLP supporters, led by its young leader Saad Rizvi, rallied from Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi to Faizabad Interchange that connects it with Islamabad last Saturday before deciding to set up a protest camp there. Known for its hard-line stance on blasphemy laws, the party has previously staged sit-ins at the key interchange, significantly disrupting traffic.

The TLP said several of its members have been part of negotiations with a government team, which comprises Information Minister Ataullah Tarar, Adviser to PM on Political Affairs Rana Sanaullah, Islamabad inspector-general and deputy inspector-general.

“TLP negotiations with the federal government are still ongoing,” the party said in a statement on Thursday night.

Israel’s war on Gaza has so far claimed at least 39,000 lives, many of them women and children. The casualties have sparked anger and protests worldwide, including in Pakistan, where the country’s civil society and political factions have consistently led pro-Palestine rallies.

Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters.” Since the beginning of Israel’s war in October 2023, the South Asian country has dispatched several aid consignments, repeatedly raised the issue at various forums and demanded the world stop Israeli military actions in the Palestinian territory.

The large number of protesters at the Faizabad Interchange have effectively blocked the Islamabad Expressway, causing difficulty for commuters and creating gridlocks in the area.

Earlier, Sajjad Saifi, a member of the TLP’s consultative council, told Arab News that over 50,000 of their supporters, led by party chief Rizvi, were camped at the Faizabad Interchange.

“We will continue our dharna [sit-in] till all three of our demands are fully met,” he said.

Asked why the party decided to stage a sit-in protest nine months into the war, Saifi said the TLP had mobilized the public since October last year through rallies across Pakistan.

“Tens of thousands of our supporters have been waiting for the leadership’s call to join the dharna in Islamabad,” he said. “We are doing it for a cause, for the people of Palestine. We don’t have any political agenda to achieve through this dharna.”

Asked about the protest and the inconvenience being caused to the public, Information Minister Tarar said on Thursday: “Don’t worry, we are on it.”


Pakistan’s population expected to double by 2025, says census data

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan’s population expected to double by 2025, says census data

  • Pakistan fifth-largest country in the world with population of 241.9 million people, says census data
  • Pakistan records highest population growth rate in South Asia at 2.55 percent, according to census

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has recorded the highest population growth rate in the region, the detailed results of last year’s population census revealed on Thursday, warning that the country’s population is expected to double by 2025. 

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) launched the detailed results of the seventh Population and Housing Census 2023 on Thursday. The report provides comprehensive data crucial for the development of urban and rural areas, and effective disaster response.

Addressing a ceremony to launch the report in Islamabad, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal highlighted that Pakistan was the first country in South Asia to conduct a digital census last year.

As per the census results, Pakistan is now the world’s fifth most populous country, housing 241.49 million people. Of these, 51.48 percent are males and 48.51 percent are females

“The census data shows that the current population growth rate is 2.55 percent which is the highest in the region and if it continues, the country’s population will be doubled by 2050,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said. 

The report said the average number of family members in Pakistan is 6.30 while the dominant religion in the country is Islam, representing 96 percent of the population.

The age-wise distribution of the population shows 36.47 million people are aged under five years, 97.53 million under 15 years, 62.58 million between 15 to 29 while 190.27 million are aged below 40 years. 

“Literacy indicators show 61 percent of Pakistan’s population aged ten years and above is literate,” Radio Pakistan said. 

Speaking at the occasion, Iqbal acknowledged that fellow South Asian countries India and Bangladesh had outperformed Pakistan in several sectors. 

“We are not behind them in intelligence and ability,” he said. “But if we do not open our eyes, we will not be even counted in the global competition.”

The minister stressed the need for peace and political stability, highlighting the importance of continuity of policies for at least ten years. 

“If we do not keep pace with the world, we will become irrelevant,” he warned.