Pakistani politicians condemn Houthi targeting of Saudi civilians

This composite image shows the damage on a building caused by falling debris from a Houthi drone that was shot down by Saudi Air Defense Forces over the city of Abha on Friday. (SPA photo)
Updated 10 March 2019
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Pakistani politicians condemn Houthi targeting of Saudi civilians

  • Arab Coalition air defenses shot down a drone fired by Houthis from Yemen toward the city of Abha
  • Five people injured by wreckage from the aircraft, which ‘showed characteristics of Iranian manufacturing’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s major political parties on Saturday condemned a Houthi attempt to target civilians in the southwest Saudi city of Abha, a day after the Royal Air Defense Force shot down a Houthi drone 230 km north of the Yemen border.

Omar Sarfraz Cheema, the ruling party’s central information secretary, told Arab News: “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf strongly condemns this incident, as it is against international law and the UN charter to target civilians in any conflict.”

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already urged the Houthis to engage in “meaningful dialogue” with Saudi Arabia to resolve the conflict.

“This is a divisive issue for the whole Muslim world and should be resolved through negotiations,” he said.

The civil war in Yemen has pitted the Houthis against the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014, and the Saudi-led coalition intervened on the government’s side the following year, accusing Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, including drones and missiles.

Since the beginning of the four-year conflict, the Houthis have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi Arabia with most intercepted by the Saudi military. In recent weeks, tensions between warring parties rose after the stalling of a UN-led peace deal.

The attempted attack has been met with unified condemnation across all party lines in Pakistan.

Raja Mohammed Zafarul Haq, of the PML-N and leader of the opposition in the Senate, said that Houthi rebels were trying to undermine the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia “with the complicity of some other countries.”

Naveed Chaudhry, a senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, said Houthi rebels should understand the human cost of the conflict and abide by recent UN agreements.

“It is better if the conflict is resolved at the OIC level to the satisfaction of all relevant stakeholders,” he said. “It is a historic fact that Pakistan has always stood by the Kingdom and will continue to do so to protect the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.”

Pakistan’s foreign office has in the past condemned the Houthis for their missile and rocket attacks on Saudi territory, reiterating full support and solidarity to protect the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia and its two holy cities.

After Friday’s attack, Dr. Mohammad Faisal, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson, told Arab News, “We have always condemned such incidents.”


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 43 min 12 sec ago
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.