Joint investigation team arrests 23 in mob lynching case in Pakistan’s Swat valley

Police officers examine burnt vehicles 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 23 June 2024
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Joint investigation team arrests 23 in mob lynching case in Pakistan’s Swat valley

  • The incident happened when a local tourist was accused of desecrating the Holy Qur’an by people
  • Pakistan’s defense minister urges parliament to protect people and minorities against such violence

ISLAMABAD: A 10-member joint investigation team (JIT) has been formed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police after a local tourist was lynched to death in Swat over an accusation of desecrating the Holy Qur’an, confirmed officials on Sunday, noting that 23 suspects have been arrested based on the incident’s CCTV footage.
The tourist, Muhammad Suleman, who belonged to Pakistan’s Sialkot city, was dragged from a local police facility by a mob on Thursday before being tortured, killed and set on fire on suspicion of burning the pages of the Islamic scripture.
According to a notification seen by Arab News, the JIT includes senior police officials along with members of the Counter Terrorism Department, Special Branch and Intelligence Bureau to uncover the facts of the incident and bring those involved to justice.
“The JIT has started systematically collecting evidence, working along modern scientific and technical lines, including performing forensic analysis of the CCTV footage,” Superintendent of Police Hazrat Khan, who is leading the team, told Arab News. “We have also recorded statements from eyewitnesses and are adopting other investigative means.”
Khan said the team was investigating the matter from all possible angles to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime do not evade justice.
Asked about the details of the incident, he said that as soon as the accused was brought to a local police station on the fateful day, a large number of people stormed the building and damaged property and vehicles.
He confirmed the mob took the accused, killed him and then burned his body.
“So far, 23 people have been arrested, and efforts are underway to arrest more of the individuals involved,” he added.
The suspects in the case are facing several charges, including premeditated murder, rioting, unlawful assembly, use of deadly weapons and obstructing public servants in the discharge of their duties.
Giving details of the damages to the police station caused by the enraged mob, the police spokesperson in Swat, Nasir Iqbal, said that two motorcycles, five personal vehicles and one police mobile were set on fire.
He informed the building had also been damaged and ransacked by people.
Iqbal said all arrested individuals were local residents, and no political leader had been found involved in the incident.
“In the police report, 49 people were named after being identified through CCTV footage, and over 2,000 others were listed as unknown suspects,” he added.
Asked about reports of police negligence while dealing with the situation, he said no inquiry had been initiated against the Station House Officer (SHO) of the police precinct that came under attack.
He also maintained that all details of the case would be mentioned in the JIT report which was still investigating the matter.
The incident also came up for discussion in the National Assembly of Pakistan where the defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, said on Sunday it was parliament’s responsibility to take a clear stance on the issue.
“It is the responsibility of this parliament to unanimously stand and protect the people and minorities against such violence,” he said during his speech.
The minister added that no one should exploit the incident for political purposes, adding that Islam prohibited the killing of innocent people in the name of religion.
“No evidence of blasphemy has been found against those who were killed across the country in different incidents by mobs and, in many cases, people leveled such allegations to settle personal scores,” he continued.
Speaking to Arab News, security expert Syed Kaleem Imam emphasized the need to build police capacity to handle such sensitive situations and to educate the community to prevent such incidents.
“There are standard operating procedures in place to handle such crimes, but unfortunately, the police often struggle to control the mob or secure the accused due to a lack of understanding of the situation,” Syed Kaleem Imam, former inspector general of police, said.
“There should be more mock exercises for community policing to help the law enforcers deal with such incidents at every level,” he continued, adding that police officials faced undue inquiries and feared for their jobs when they resorted to the use of force in such emergency situations.
Imam also noted the government should stop pandering to popular sentiment and take proper action against such crimes, committed in the name of religion.
“There should be no administrative leniency toward criminals,” he emphasized. “The government should also sensitize the community through mosques and tell them that if anyone commits such crime [of blasphemy], they should be dealt with by the police. The locals should be made to refrain from using loudspeakers at the mosques to spread messages in such sensitive situations.”


Pakistan urges Microsoft users to update software as global tech outage eases after disruption

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan urges Microsoft users to update software as global tech outage eases after disruption

  • Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says the global IT outage was caused by a ‘faulty update’ from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike
  • The outage also raised concerns that many organizations are not well prepared to implement contingency plans when an IT system goes down

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Friday urged Microsoft clients to update software from official support portal to restore tech services after a global computer system outage sparked widespread disruptions.
Services from airlines to health care, shipping and finance started coming back online late Friday after the outage was resolved, and companies were dealing with backlogs of delayed and canceled flights and medical appointments, missed orders and other issues that could take days to resolve.
A software update by global cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, one of the largest operators in the industry, triggered systems problems that grounded flights, forced broadcasters off air and left customers without access to services such as health care or banking.
PTA, which regulates Internet in Pakistan, said the significant global IT outage was caused by a “faulty update” from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike, impacting thousands of Windows machines worldwide.
“This outage also affected consumers of Microsoft in Pakistan. The fault forced affected PCs (personal computers) and servers into a recovery boot loop, preventing proper startup. Some Internet services are also affected because of this,” it said in a statement.
“The fault was identified, isolated and a fix is provided by Crowdstrike, as per Crowdstrike’s website. Clients are now suggested to update the software from their support portal to restore services.”
CrowdStrike is not a household name but it is an $83 billion company with more than 20,000 subscribers around the world including Amazon.com and Microsoft. CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz said on social media platform X that a defect was found “in a single content update for Windows hosts” that affected Microsoft customers.
“We’re deeply sorry for the impact that we’ve caused to customers, to travelers, to anyone affected by this, including our company,” Kurtz told NBC News.
CrowdStrike has one of the largest shares of the highly competitive cybersecurity market, leading some industry analysts to question whether control over such operationally critical software should remain with just a handful of companies.
The outage also raised concerns that many organizations are not well prepared to implement contingency plans when a single point of failure such as an IT system, or a piece of software within it, goes down. But these outages will happen again, experts say, until more contingencies are built into networks and organizations introduce better back-ups.
- With additional input from Reuters


Pakistan IT exports increased by nearly $300 million in June amid growth push

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan IT exports increased by nearly $300 million in June amid growth push

  • Pakistan is trying to navigate a prolonged economic crisis by actively pursuing foreign investments and enhanced trade opportunities
  • It has lately encouraged its IT sector and facilitated collaboration with a number of nations, including Saudi Arabia, China and Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports rose by nearly $300 million in the month of June, the country’s state minister for IT said on Friday, amid a push for the growth of IT sector.
Pakistan is trying to navigate a prolonged economic crisis by actively pursuing foreign investments and enhanced trade opportunities, while it has also reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $7 billion loan.
Pakistan has lately encouraged its IT sector and facilitated collaboration with a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, China and Qatar, to boost IT exports in the South Asian nation of 241 million.
“Pakistan’s export remittance of ICT services increased by $298 million in June 2024,” State Minister for IT Shaza Fatima said in a statement. “IT exports have increased by 32.44 percent compared to June last year.”
From July 2023 to June 2024, Pakistan’s IT exports reached $3.223 billion, compared to $2.596 billion in the same period of the previous financial year, according to the minister.
Government measures are in progress to increase IT exports of the country.
“Thanks to the government’s ease-of-doing-business measures, our IT exports are increasing,” she said.
“The IT industry is striving to increase IT exports with the full support of SIFC (Special Investment Facilitation Council), IT ministry, Pakistan Software Export Board.”


Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes

  • Local traders of the commodity set $5 billion of export target before government introduced new tax regime
  • National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce will take up the issue in its forthcoming meeting next week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani rice traders on Friday warned the government of a possible reduction in their exports to $2 billion, against the ambitious $5 billion target, blaming the new tax regime expected to make them pay a larger share of their earnings than in the past.
The country’s rice exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China, Malaysia and other countries reached $3.9 billion in the last fiscal year, a noticeable improvement compared to the previous year’s $2.1 billion, reflecting an upward trajectory.
For the current fiscal year, Pakistani rice traders have been eyeing $5 billion. However, they say this might not happen due to the government’s decision to replace the Final Tax Regime with the Hybrid Tax Regime, which would double the tax rates and force exporters to file returns each month.
The Final Tax Regime refers to a system where specific sources of income, such as dividends, have final tax deductions made at the source, meaning no further tax is payable. In contrast, the Hybrid Tax Regime applies to businesses or individuals with multiple income streams, combining final taxed income with additional taxable income, requiring more meticulous filing of returns and higher overall tax rates.
“This new tax regime will leave us uncompetitive in the international market,” Chela Ram Kewlani, Chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. “This will automatically result in a drop in our rice exports to $2 billion as we have already been doing business at record high markup rates and electricity costs.”
He said the new tax regime would open the door for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the country’s tax collection body, to audit their business, resulting in “corruption and harassment” of rice exporters.
“There is a clear contradiction in the government’s statements and actions,” he said. “They want to boost the exports, but at the same time they want to burden the sector with heavy taxes.”
Kewlani said, besides the new tax regime, the government would levy 10 percent super tax if the exports of a trader went beyond Rs4 billion ($14.4 million).
He informed the exporters held a meeting with Federal Minister for Finance Muhammad Aurangzeb last week to discuss the issue, though it did not yield their desired results.
“You are aware of the economic situation, so the government has no option but to levy additional taxes on the rice exports,” he said while quoting the finance minister.
Muhammad Jawed Hanif, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Commerce, said he was aware of the challenges posed by additional taxes, adding the committee would discuss the matter in its next meeting.
“We have a meeting on July 24 wherein we will discuss these rice export issues,” he told Arab News.
“All issues related to exports will be on my priority list as the country badly needs foreign exchange through increased exports of our products,” he added.


Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance

  • The court said earlier this month ex-PM Khan’s PTI was eligible for reserved seats for women and minorities
  • ECP dismissed PTI’s criticism asking its top official to step down while accusing him of bias against the party

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulatory body said on Friday it would enforce the Supreme Court’s verdict in a case involving the reserved seats for women and minorities in national and provincial legislatures, adding it had asked its lawyers to determine if there were areas where it needed the court’s further guidance.
The country’s top court delivered a major decision in favor of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, saying it was eligible for reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies, even as it put pressure on the fragile coalition currently ruling the federation.
PTI candidates were forced to contest the February 8 general polls as independents after the party was stripped of its election symbol of the cricket bat by the top court for not holding proper intra-party elections. While these candidates won the most general seats, the ECP ruled they were not entitled to the reserved seats since they were meant for political parties.
Subsequently, these seats were allocated to other political factions, mostly from those in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling coalition. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision while criticizing the ECP for misconstruing its decision related to the election symbol by depriving PTI of its reserved seats.
“The election commission has decided to implement the Supreme Court’s decision,” the ECP said after holding a meeting to discuss the verdict. “However, the election commission has instructed its legal team to immediately identify any points of the Supreme Court decision that pose implementation challenges so that further guidance can be sought from the court.”
It also responded to PTI’s criticism, which called for the top ECP official to step down following the Supreme Court’s verdict, accusing him of harboring a bias against the party.
“The election commission did not validate PTI’s intra-party elections, which PTI contested on various forums, and the election commission’s decision was upheld,” it said.
It pointed out that PTI lost its election symbol for the same reason.
“Therefore, any accusations against the election commission are highly inappropriate,” it added.
Pakistan’s ruling coalition criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, with some of its members pointing out the court gave relief to PTI, though it had not originally filed the case.
However, the Supreme Court said in its decision that “PTI was and is a party,” despite its earlier verdict depriving it of election emblem right ahead of the general polls.


Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection

  • PNS Yarmook is equipped with latest weapons and equipment, capable of dealing with multifaceted threats
  • It will also be used for ‘naval diplomacy’ during its deployment period and visit various ports around the region

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has deployed a warship for regional maritime security and to protect commercial vessels arriving at its ports, according to a statement released by the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), on Friday.
The development comes as the country plans to upgrade its southern port facilities to strengthen its economy by bolstering trade with countries worldwide.
Pakistan has also offered the landlocked Central Asian states access to its harbor in Karachi while aiming to increase its capacity for handling incoming and outgoing cargo.
“The Pakistan Navy has deployed the warship PNS Yarmook on a regional maritime security patrol in the Indian Ocean,” the ISPR said in a statement. “Equipped with modern helicopters, PNS Yarmook will ensure the safety of commercial vessels arriving at and departing from Pakistani ports.”
The statement said the warship would participate in joint operations and exercises with friendly countries in addition to its own operations.
PNS Yarmook will also be part of “naval diplomacy” and visit various regional ports during its deployment.
“This ship is equipped with the latest weapons and equipment, capable of dealing with multifaceted threats and conducting extensive maritime operations,” the ISPR continued.
“Pakistan Navy warships regularly perform duties on regional maritime security patrols,” it added.