Two paramilitary soldiers killed in northwest Pakistan by militants ‘infiltrating from Afghanistan’ — police

A Pakistani soldier stands guard near the Line of Control, de facto border between India and Pakistan at Salohi village in Poonch district of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on April 26, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 June 2024

Two paramilitary soldiers killed in northwest Pakistan by militants ‘infiltrating from Afghanistan’ — police

  • Police say clashes reported on Saturday in different locations in Lower Dir but situation now “under control”
  • Islamabad says militants use safe havens in Afghanistan to launch attacks inside Pakistan, which Kabul denies

PESHAWAR: Two soldiers from Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps had been killed in two days of clashes between local security forces and militants who had allegedly infiltrated from neighboring Afghanistan into Pakistan’s northwestern border regions over the weekend, police said.

Islamabad blames an ongoing surge in militant attacks on Afghanistan, saying Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train insurgents to launch attacks inside Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban rulers in Kabul say rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.

The TTP pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Mazhar Iqbal, a district police officer in Lower Dir, told Arab News clashes were reported on Saturday in different locations in the district but the situation was now “under control.”

“Backed by police, FC has been carrying out clearing operations,” Iqbal said on Sunday. “We have no reports of exact number of casualties on either side as of yet … The situation has now returned to normalcy. Security forces and police have started patrolling to thwart any untoward incident.”

A report issued by police in Dir yesterday, Saturday, said two FC soldiers had been killed and another injured in the clashes.

“Both sides are locked in intense fire and a search and strike operation is underway in mountainous areas by police and security forces,” the report said, adding that helicopter gunships were pounding militant hideouts in Lower Dir district on the Pakistani side.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper and other media outlets also reported infiltration by militants from the Afghan side via the Shahi border area at Lamotai Top, Suripao and Safarai forest.

“According to locals, members of the banned TTP, hailing from Lower Dir and Swat districts, often use the Shahi and Binshahi route to enter into Lower Dir and move further toward Swat,” Dawn said.

The Pakistan army and FC have not yet commented on the latest clashes. 

The TTP is responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan, including on security forces, churches, schools and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, who survived the 2012 attack after she was targeted for her campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women education.

Pakistani forces were able to effectively dismantle the TTP and kill most of its top leadership in a string of military operations from 2014 onwards in the tribal areas, driving most of the fighters into neighboring Afghanistan, where Islamabad says they have regrouped. Kabul denies this.

Viral teen from Pakistan’s Hunza Valley aims for the stars with Coke Studio hit

Updated 8 sec ago

Viral teen from Pakistan’s Hunza Valley aims for the stars with Coke Studio hit

  • Coke Studio Season 15 came to a close with “Mehman,” featuring Noorima Rehan, Zebunnisa Bangash and Nizam ud Din Torwali
  • Rehan, 18, shot to fame last year with YouTube cover of Asha Bhosle song, has also performed virtually at King Charles coronation 

SHIGAR, Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistani teenager Noorima Rehan first shot to fame last year after a video of her crooning famed Indian singer Asha Bhosle’s iconic song ‘In Aankhon Ki Masti’ became a viral hit. She was subsequently chosen to virtually join a star-studded lineup of performers at King Charles III’s coronation concert in May 2023. 

But the best was still to come.

Now, the 18-year-old from Hunza Valley in Pakistan’s picturesque northern Gilgit-Baltistan region is attracting both local and international attention with her debut on the latest season of Coke Studio, the longest-running annual TV music show in Pakistan.

Coke Studio Season 15 came to a close with the release of its eleventh and final song, “Mehman” — which translates to guest — featuring Rehan as well as the powerful vocals of Zebunnisa (Zeb) Bangash, a Pakistani singer-songwriter from Lahore, Punjab, and Nizam ud Din Torwali from the remote town of Taip Se Ban in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The song has been viewed almost 5 million times on YouTube since its release two weeks ago.

“My family supported me, my father supported me, and the community of Hunza and Gilgit supported me,” Rehan, who is the eldest of five siblings and also a professional ice hockey player, told Arab News in an interview. “So, I don’t think I faced a barrier that led to a gap between me and my passion for music.”

Noorima Rehan poses for a photograph with her parents at Shigar Fort, located in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan region, on July 11, 2024  (AN Photo) 

She also credited her family’s passion for music for her success and interest in the field. 

“My mother’s voice is very good and she sings very well. Even my father, brother and sisters sing quite well. However, no one [from my family] has pursued music as a profession. So, I am the only one who has chosen music as a career.”

Rehan, who will soon start an undergraduate degree in sociology at Islamabad’s Iqra University on a scholarship, said she got her chance on Coke Studio after the show’s producer Zulfikar Jabbar Khan, popularly known as “Xulfi,” came across her Asha Bhosle rendition on YouTube. 

“Xulfi Bhai approached me [after watching the clip], which led to my journey with Coke Studio,” Rehan said. 


A press release by Coke Studio described Mehmaan as a multi-artist collaboration that spoke to the “idea of hospitality, not just on Earth but also from a higher, more divine plane. The song speaks to those seeking answers and guidance from the sublime and its abundant wisdom.”

Rehan said for her, the song felt like her, Bangash and Torwali were “dreaming together” of a return to Eden. 

“This was my first time with them, and I had to record in a very short period,” she said. “But before that, they had shared the lyrics and melody with me and I practiced .... then I went there and after a little jamming session, we recorded the song.”

Rehan described being a “little nervous” at the outset since she had never recorded professionally before but found the Coke Studio team “very kind and helpful.”

“For me, the most interesting part of this journey was Nizam [Torwali],” she recalled. “I met him there. He was different and couldn’t speak Urdu. So, I tried from my side to help him. He was kind of funny. So, I enjoyed a lot while working with him.”

It was also a fan girl moment for her to sing alongside Bangash, a well-established artist already. 

“From listening to her songs to performing with her was a big thing,” Rehan said. “She is very calm, kind with a humble personality. She helped me a lot in the whole journey.”

Rehan’s father Rehan Shah, a local politician and gemstone dealer, said his daughter had made the family name “proud.”

“We want to thank God she has been getting opportunities. And working with Coke Studio at such a young age is a proud movement for us,” Shah told Arab News. “Talent is hidden in a child. But the main thing is how do we support them and provoke their talents. We have been supporting her and will definitely support her in the field of music in the future also.

“In our society, girls are a soft target in fields like music and there is no exception for Noorima as well. You have to face criticism because a girl is singing songs. But we will fight against this social pressure and always support our children.”

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

Updated 23 min 30 sec ago

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

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

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 57 min 32 sec ago

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.”