Pakistani tribesmen call off sit-in, reject Ghani’s support of their protest

The killing of a young media star, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in an alleged police encounter, in Karachi, Pakistan, has uncorked festering anger. (AFP/file)
Updated 11 February 2018

Pakistani tribesmen call off sit-in, reject Ghani’s support of their protest

ISLAMABAD/KABUL: Pakistan’s tribesmen, who have been protesting since Feb. 1 to seek justice for Naqeebullah Mehsud, have formally announced they will call off their sit-in after the government assured them in writing it will fulfil their demands within a month.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has accepted two out of five demands put forth by the tribesmen including the arrest and bringing the accused Rao Anwar to justice as soon as possible, and clearance of land mines from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The PM has, however, apparently not acknowledged three demands that included an end of what they have described as extrajudicial killings of tribal people in Karachi and other parts of the country; recovery of all missing tribal people and presenting them in court; and ending curfews in tribal areas after any untoward incident.
“Genuine grievances raised by jirga members from different quarters would also be addressed as soon as possible,” the prime minister assured the tribesmen in the written promise.
Rao Anwar, who is accused in the killing of 27-year-old aspiring model Mehsud in a staged encounter in Karachi last month, is still at large despite a suo moto notice by the Supreme Court.
“We are ending our sit-in, but we have given a one-month deadline to the authorities and if, during this period our demands are not met, we will come again,” protest organizer Noor Rehman told Arab News.
Addressing protesters outside the National Press Club this evening, the prime minister’s adviser on political affairs, Amir Muqam, said that India and other countries have been propagandizing against Pakistan due to the sit-in; therefore, it immediately should be called off.
The chief spokesman of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday said that he hopes the protest by group of tribesmen in Islamabad will turn into a “civil move” against extremism which has become an obstacle against development because the region has fallen victim to terrorism.
“The world, media, and civil society need to back this historical move,” Shah Hussein Murtazawi told Arab News.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday voiced his support in favor of the protest in Pakistan by ethnic Pashtuns.
A social media savvy group of young Pashtuns organized a sit-in in Islamabad, creating the hashtag #PashtunLongMarch.
“I fully support the historical #PashtunLongMarch in Pakistan. The main purpose of which is to mobilize citizens against fundamentalism and terrorism in the region,” Ghani said in a tweet.
“I hope #PashtunLongMarch will also succeed in uprooting and eradicating terrorism from their region. The historical importance of this march traces back to the great proponent of non-violence, Bacha Khan, whose philosophy was based on a non-violent ideology,” he added.
Khan was a national hero of the Pashtuns and pushed for the reunion of millions of people of the ethnic group, separated by British colonialists from ancient Afghanistan under a deal with a former Afghan ruler.
Ghani urged the media to help the protesters present their demands, calling the march as “a wake-up call against fundamentalism.”
Pakistani tribesmen, who were holding the long march to seek justice for Naqeebullah Mehsud, found Ghani’s statement uncalled for.
“We are patriotic Pakistanis and cannot allow anyone to interfere in our internal issues,” Mehmood Khan Mehsud, a tribal elder who is supporting the protest, told Arab News.
“The Afghan president should try to put his own house in order by cracking down against militants instead of poking his nose in Pakistan’s internal affairs,” he suggested.
He said their protest was apolitical and they were just struggling to get justice for Mehsud.
“Ashraf Ghani has tried to incite the tribal people against our government and we condemn it with one voice,” said another tribal leader Samiullah Burki.
“We have rendered invaluable sacrifices in the war against terrorism and continue to do so to make Pakistan a peaceful and prosperous country,” he said.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 10 August 2020

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”