Bangladesh says will coordinate with UN over Rohingya return

A relocated Rohingya refugees family waits to get allotted a temporary shelter at Balukhali refugee camp, 50 kilometres from, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in this Jan. 17, 2018 photo. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Bangladesh says will coordinate with UN over Rohingya return

DHAKA: Bangladesh on Sunday sought to reassure the international community that a planned repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to conflict-scarred western Myanmar would be “voluntary” and in coordination with the United Nations.
In a briefing to foreign diplomats, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H Mahmood Ali insisted that the operation to return some 750,000 refugees who fled unrest and a military crackdown in Myanmar would involve the UN’s refugee agency.
“In order to ensure that the return is voluntary, Bangladesh has incorporated provisions for involvement of UNHCR and other relevant international organizations in the entire return process,” he said at the meeting in Dhaka.
Plans by Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate the refugees, who face desperate conditions in overcrowded camps near the countries’ shared border, are due to begin within days and last for two years.
But they have been met by angry protest among the Rohingya refugees, with many left traumatized by atrocities including murder, rape and arson attacks on their homes.
Rights groups and the UN have said any repatriations must be voluntary.
They have also expressed concerns about conditions in Myanmar, where many Rohingya settlements have been burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.
UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee is currently visiting the camps in southeastern Bangladesh where around a million of the Muslim minority are now living.
Ali said Bangladesh wanted to “ensure that the agreements facilitate safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return,” the minister said, according to a statement.
He said Myanmar would involve the Red Cross in the repatriation process, adding that it has agreed to allow India, China and Japan to help rebuild homes and villages in Rakhine.
Western diplomats attending the briefing emphasised safe conditions for the repatriation.
“The Rohingya that I have met in the camp do not want to go back to a situation that will be dangerous to them,” US ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat told reporters after the briefing.
“They do not want to go back to uncertainty. And why would any of us want them to go back to uncertainty. Again the conditions have to be safe and acceptable,” she said.
The repatriation deal does not cover the estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees who were living in Bangladesh prior to October 2016, driven out by previous rounds of communal violence and military operations.


Pakistan’s national airline to formally invite newlywed British royals to visit

Updated 22 May 2018
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Pakistan’s national airline to formally invite newlywed British royals to visit

  • Formal invitation letter will be delivered to the British High Commission, PIA spokesperson tells Arab News
  • Pakistan International Airlines hopes that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will visit the northern areas of the country, just as Princess Diana did in 1991

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will formally invite Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the newlywed British royal couple, to visit the scenic northern areas of the country, the airline’s spokesman told Arab News on Monday.
“We have prepared the official draft of the invitation that will be delivered to the British High Commission in Pakistan on Tuesday,” said Mashood Tajwar, the spokesperson of the country’s national flag carrier.
“We are offering them to visit and enjoy the beauty of the northern areas of Pakistan on behalf of our managing director,” he added, saying that the royal couple would also enjoy the warm hospitality of the people of Pakistan.
In an apparent marketing move, PIA had earlier invited the newlyweds via a Twitter message to experience the splendor of the country’s northern areas, reminding them of Princess Diana’s four-day solo trip to the region in September 1991.
The princess had visited Peshawar and Chitral where she was presented with the area’s traditional cap, adorned with a beautiful feather, and an embroidered coat.
PIA also posted a picture of her wearing Gilgit-Baltistan’s traditional dress and sitting with two local children. The airlines offered to send the royal couple one of its aircraft if they accepted the invitation.
“We watched the Royal Wedding and remembered Princess Diana and her trip to the northern areas of Pakistan, and we thought how wonderful it would be for the newlyweds to visit our northern splendors as well. So, Prince Harry and Princess Meghan, we are ready, just let us know when,” PIA tweeted.
The invitation drew mixed responses on social media.
Some people expressed their readiness to welcome the royal couple, with some saying it was a nice gesture.
But others lambasted the airline for what they thought was its poor performance. “By the time they get to Lahore, the royal couple will have their first child,” mocked one social media user.
The country’s loss-making national flag carrier is aggressively working towards rebuilding its public image. However, it has been losing around Rs45 billion ($389.3 million) per year and its accumulated losses are estimated to be about Rs316 billion.
Recently, the Economic Coordination Committee approved a Rs20 billion bailout package for PIA — the fifth of its kind in one-and-a-half years.
The government has developed a strategic business plan to improve the performance of the airlines. The plan will prioritize segregation of non-core functions from core functions, product improvement, route rationalization, and cost reduction/optimization. It will also develop HR capability and modernize its IT systems.
PIA has refurbished its fleet of 32 aircraft. It has also abandoned unprofitable routes and increased the number of flights on profitable routes such as Saudi Arabia and China.