Pakistan, China sign 15 agreements on a range of bilateral issues

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, left, and China's Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 November 2018

Pakistan, China sign 15 agreements on a range of bilateral issues

  • Islamabad reaffirms its support in combating terrorism
  • Both countries dismiss growing propaganda against CPEC

ISLAMABAD: With an aim to consolidate their strategic partnership and all-weather friendship, Pakistan and China signed 15 agreements on Sunday covering a range of bilateral issues, as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to the country, a joint statement said.

The statement added that building a closer China-Pakistan community in the new era was the pillar of the continued relationship between the “iron brothers.” 

Pakistan, on its part, reaffirmed its support in safeguarding China’s sovereignty and security, while enhancing cooperation against the “three evils” of extremism, terrorism and separatism, the statement said.

Dismissing the growing propaganda against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, both Beijing and Islamabad expressed their determination to protect the initiative against all threats, while agreeing to speed up progress along the Gwadar port. “Both sides reviewed the early phase of the CPEC and reaffirmed their complete consensus on the future trajectory of CPEC, timely completion of on-going projects and joint efforts for realization of its full potential,” the statement added.

They also agreed to task the CPEC’s Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) with formulating ideas to explore new areas of cooperation. “It was decided that the eighth session of the JCC will be held in Beijing before the end of the year. 

The two sides announced the setting up of a working group on socio-economic development, to assist with livelihood projects in Pakistan,” the statement added.

The two sides discussed ways to boost Pakistan’s industrial capacity through joint ventures, including steps to take concrete measures in addressing the trade imbalance. “These would include an exchange of trade missions, broadening market access for agricultural and ICT products, and simplifying customs, quarantine and phytosanitary procedures,” the statement said.

Pakistan and China acknowledged the need to conclude the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement as early as possible and further enhance defense cooperation, maintain high-level visits and exchanges between relevant departments of the two countries’ armed forces,  while making full use of the China-Pakistan Defense and Security Consultation mechanism to deepen cooperation in military exercises and technology.

Islamabad applauded Beijing’s efforts in combating corruption with successful results, while expressing an interest to imbibe and apply similar practices in Pakistan as well. 

Acknowledging the fact that China was a popular choice for Pakistanis — with more than 25,000 students enrolled across universities in the country —  China, on its part, said that it would offer additional scholarships for students from the neighboring country. 

To facilitate this process, the two countries discussed methods to establish a committee to encourage youth exchange programs and ensure cooperation in the area. 

Additionally, they reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the purpose and principles of the UN Charter, in terms of promoting international peace and security and safeguarding the contemporary world order.

Khan is visiting China on the invitation of Prime Minister Li Keqiang. During his visit, he also called on President Xi Jinping and a coterie of other officials.

Anti-Muslim sentiment emerges after Sri Lanka attacks

Updated 25 April 2019

Anti-Muslim sentiment emerges after Sri Lanka attacks

  • Intelligence officers ignored warnings, says Islamic body
  • There have been reports of attacks on Muslim homes and businesses

COLOMBO: The people of Dharga Town, Sri Lanka, are familiar with violence and loss. In 2014, anti-Muslim riots killed four, injured dozens and a left behind a trail of torched homes and businesses.
Now, almost a week after deadly terror attacks devastated the tropical island, the Muslims in Dharga Town are afraid following Daesh’s claim for the bombings.
“At the end of the day, we have to think about what they (the terrorists) are going to get from this. What have they gained? They’ve lost everything,” 38-year-old businessman M. Imthias told Arab News outside Meera Masjid. “We’ve already been through this, and we know the pain, fear, and emotions they (the Catholics) are going through.”
The Daesh claim, issued through the group’s AMAQ news agency, was made after Sri Lanka said two domestic extremist groups with suspected links to foreign militants were thought to be behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels. More than 350 people were killed and around 500 were wounded in the Easter Sunday violence.
Muslims in Dharga Town fear that efforts to rebuild after the 2014 violence are in vain. Anti-Muslim sentiments are emerging and are fueled by remarks from government officials, such as Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena saying the bombings were retaliation for last month’s New Zealand mosque bloodshed.
There have been reports of attacks on Muslim-owned shops, homes, and a mosque in Sri Lanka. There have also been renewed calls to ban the burqa, citing security reasons and Islamist extremism.
But there is also anger toward the National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ), the group initially identified as being responsible for the attacks. Dharga Town residents told Arab News they believed the perpetrators carried out the attacks for personal reasons, not religious ones, as Islam forbids suicide.
The mood in the town is sombre. Shutters are drawn across windows and stores, including supermarkets, are closed. Men gather in small groups along the road, and the area has an increased military presence. People say perpetrators of the assault should face the death penalty.
Around 20 people in Dharga Town belong to the Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaath (SLTJ), a faction unpopular with the wider Muslim community. Six SLTJ members were arrested on Tuesday afternoon. The mosque — a shack-like structure — did not open for prayers afterwards. Dharga Town residents opposed the SLTJ establishing a community in the area because of their orthodox ways.
“They wanted to build a mosque, but we didn’t allow it. In the end, they built that place with the iron sheets, and conduct their prayers there,” a village elder, who did not wish to be identified, told Arab News. “If they come for prayers, or engage with us in anything, they always try to push their beliefs on us. What they call Islam is completely different from what we practice.”
The NTJ was ostracized by the All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulema (ACJU), Sri Lanka’s highest body of Islamic scholars. The organization relayed its suspicions about the NTJ to authorities.
“On Jan. 3, we visited intelligence officers and handed over files with all the details of the perpetrators urging them to take necessary action to stop the NTJ. This was completely ignored,” an ACJU scholar said.
The situation in Sri Lanka remains tense, with nightly curfews and reports of bomb threats. There is also confusion after the Defense Ministry said the NTJ was not behind the attacks, leaving the public afraid about the possibility of another splinter group.
But there are calls for calm, too.
“There is no such anger among us,” Sister Manuja, who survived the St. Sebastian Church bombing, told Arab News. The Catholic community would not seek vengeance, she added. “We are very quiet, very simple people.”