Russia opens consulate in Peshawar

1 / 3
Guests stand in honor of the national anthems of Russia and Pakistan at the inaugural ceremony. (AN photos)
2 / 3
Russian Ambassador Alexey Yurievich Dedov (second from right in the first row) at the inaugural ceremony. (AN photos)
3 / 3
Russian Ambassador Alexey Yurievich Dedov addressing the inaugural ceremony of the first Russian consulate in Peshawar. (AN photos)
Updated 19 February 2018
0

Russia opens consulate in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Russia on Monday inaugurated its consulate in the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
At the inauguration ceremony in Peshawar, Russian Ambassador Alexey Yurievich Dedov said his country and Pakistan have enjoyed 70 years of diplomatic relations.
Recent developments, including visits of Pakistani premiers to Russia, show that bilateral ties are improving, he added.
“Trade between the two countries has reached $541 million, and we want this to grow further. We need to give an additional push to the current dynamics,” he said, adding that the consulate is aimed at promoting bilateral friendship and cooperation in various sectors.
Mohammed Arshallah Khan, Russia’s honorary consul for KP, said the two countries are “natural allies” by geography and culture. “We need to give this a helping hand to make this friendship long-lasting,” he added.
In his address at the ceremony, KP Gov. Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said Russia “has had highs and lows in diplomatic relations with Pakistan,” and the inauguration of the consulate “is a new chapter” in those relations.
Former Pakistani Ambassador to Russia, Khalid Khattak, also addressed the ceremony, welcoming the consulate’s opening and expressing hope that it will promote bilateral ties.
Provincial Assembly members Shah Farman, Atif Khan and Sardar Hussain Babak were also present.
Dr. Sarfaraz Khan, director of the Area Study Center (Russia, China and Central Asia) at the University of Peshawar, told Arab News: “The opening of the consulate shows the paradigm shift in Pakistan’s policy.”
He added: “In the current situation, the US and India are allies. Meanwhile, an alliance is growing between Pakistan, China and Russia.”
Both the federal Pakistani government and KP’s provincial government are interested in closer ties with Russia under the prevailing circumstances, he said.
“Pakistan and Russia carried out joint military exercises in Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan) and also in Russia in 2017. The KP government has also signed an agreement with Russia to set up an oil refinery in Karak district. These activities show growing relations between Russia and Pakistan.”


Relief as Maldives strongman concedes defeat

Updated 17 min 35 sec ago
0

Relief as Maldives strongman concedes defeat

  • The Maldivian people have decided what they want,” President Abdulla Yameen said
  • He said he would hand over power when his term ends on November 17 and ensure a smooth transition

COLOMBO: The strongman leader of the Maldives on Monday conceded defeat in the presidential election, easing fears of a fresh political crisis in the archipelago at the center of a battle for influence between India and China.
“The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results from yesterday,” President Abdulla Yameen said in a televised address to the Indian Ocean nation a day after the joint opposition candidate unexpectedly triumphed.
“Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him,” Yameen said.
He said he would hand over power when his term ends on November 17 and ensure a smooth transition in the 1,200-island nation, popular with foreign tourists for its white sands and blue lagoons.
Solih’s victory was a major surprise, with Yameen’s main political rivals either in prison or in exile, media coverage of the opposition sparse and monitors and the opposition predicting vote-rigging.
There had been concerns Yameen might not accept the result given what happened after the last election in 2013.
The Supreme Court annulled that result after Yameen trailed former president Mohamed Nasheed — giving Yameen time to forge alliances and win a second round of voting that was postponed twice.
Results released by the electoral commission showed Yameen on 41.7 percent of the vote, well behind Solih on 58.3 percent — the only other name on ballot papers.
The final official result will take up to a week to be published.
Yameen stayed quiet overnight after the outcome became clear. But signs grew Monday that he would throw in the towel, with a foreign ministry statement saying Solih had won and state media showing him claiming victory.
Nearly 90 percent of the 262,000 electorate turned out to vote, with some waiting in line for more than five hours.
Celebrations broke out across the archipelago on Sunday night, with opposition supporters waving yellow flags of Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and dancing in the streets.
On Monday the situation was calm.
The US State Department, which had warned of “appropriate measures” if the vote was not free and fair, had called on Yameen to “respect the will of the people.”
Regional superpower India said the result marked “the triumph of democratic forces.” But China was yet to comment, with Monday being a public holiday there.
Beijing loaned Yameen’s government hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects like the new “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” from the airport to the capital Male, which opened in August.
The loans stoked fears among Western countries and India about China’s growing influence under its “Belt and Road Initiative” stretching from Asia into Africa and Europe.
Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen but struggled for visibility. The local media was fearful of falling foul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.
In February Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency, alarming the international community, in what was seen as an attempt to block a push by his opponents in parliament to impeach him.
A crackdown saw former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — Yameen’s half-brother — jailed along with the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court justice.
Independent international monitors were barred from Sunday’s election and only a handful of foreign media were allowed in to cover the poll.
The government had used “vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and to intimidate and imprison critics,” some of whom had been assaulted and even murdered, according to Human Rights Watch.
Solih pledged on Twitter before the election that he would open investigations into the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, missing since 2014, and the fatal stabbing of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017.
He promised also to repeal anti-defamation legislation and “ensure press freedom.”
Foreign monitors said Yameen’s supporters failed to carry out any large-scale fraud thanks to intense international and local scrutiny from civil society groups.
“In the face of massive pressure, they had to abandon their plans,” Rohana Hettiarachchi of the Asian Network for Free Elections told AFP.