Raheel Sharif leads Saudi military alliance on two-day Pakistan visit

Raheel Sharif leads Saudi military alliance on two-day Pakistan visit
Former army chief Raheel Sharif calls on Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ in Rawalpindi on Monday. (ISPR)
Updated 11 February 2019

Raheel Sharif leads Saudi military alliance on two-day Pakistan visit

Raheel Sharif leads Saudi military alliance on two-day Pakistan visit
  • Meets army chief General Bajwa, discusses regional peace and stability
  • Aides deny visit has anything to do with upcoming tour of Saudi crown prince

ISLAMABAD: General Raheel Sharif, former Pakistan army chief and head of a Saudi-led, 41-country counterterrorism alliance, is on a two-day visit to Pakistan to meet senior military and civilians leaders, his aides said on Monday.
The media wing of the Pakistan army said Sharif called on Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed “regional peace and stability.” No further details of the meeting were shared in the statement. 
In 2015, Saudi state news agency SPA said a new Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition would be established, and based out of Riyadh, it would “coordinate and support military operations” against terrorism. Sharif was formally appointed to head the alliance in January 2017.
Local media reported on Sunday night that Sharif would hold key meetings with top leaders while in Pakistan, including Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoood Qureshi, Army Chief Bajwa and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat.
The Pakistani foreign office could not be reached for comment on the agenda of Sharif’s meetings. 
But a senior foreign office official confirmed that a delegation of the coalition was in Islamabad for talks with top military and political leaders. He declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the record.
Defense analyst and close aide to Sharif, retired Lt. Gen. Amjad Shuaib, also confirmed that Sharif was leading a delegation for talks in Pakistan.
“The delegation of the Islamic Military Coalition led by General Raheel will interact with parliamentarians to address their concerns and questions about the Yemen conflict, besides having meetings with top civilian and military leadership,” Shuaib said.
Sharif’s appointment as the leader of the Saudi-led military alliance last year had sparked debate over what impact the move would have on Pakistan’s foreign policy, and particularly how it would affect a unanimous parliamentary resolution on Yemen calling for “neutrality in the conflict.”
Then defense minister Khurram Dastagir had informed Senate that the alliance would not take part in “unrelated military operations.”
During a visit of a Pakistani Senate delegation to the Islamic coalition’s headquarters in the Saudi capital of Riyadh last year, Sharif was reported by the Senate Secretariat to have said: “The Islamic military coalition was not formed to take action against any country, nation or sect. The primary objective of this institution is to counter terrorism and eliminate it.”
Sharif aide Shuaib also said the visiting delegation would seek “Pakistan’s support in intelligence sharing on terrorism, training of the coalition’s troops and purchase of arms and ammunition from Pakistan.”
Another close Sharif aide, who declined to be named, said the delegation would not be discussing security or other arrangements related to the upcoming visit of crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman later in February.
“Raheel Sharif’s visit has nothing to do with the crown prince and his visit,” the aide said. “That is not at all in the mandate of the military coalition’s work.”

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case
Updated 30 January 2021

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case
  • The Pakistani foreign minister says his country wants economic partnership, regional connectivity
  • The two officials discuss Afghanistan, other areas of bilateral interest during a phone call on Friday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday it was important and in the mutual interest of the two countries that justice was served in the Daniel Pearl case through legal means. 

According to an official handout circulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Qureshi had a telephone conversation with the American official in which he congratulated the new US state secretary on assuming his office and highlighted the steps the government had taken in the kidnapping and murder case of the Wall Street Journal reporter. 

The foreign minister told the American official that Prime Minister Imran Khan was pursuing a new vision for his country that placed premium on forging economic partnership, building a peaceful neighborhood, and enhancing regional connectivity. 

He also underscored Pakistan’s commitment to a comprehensive partnership with the United States based on convergence of interests on a wide range of issues. 

“Foreign Minister Qureshi told Secretary Blinken that peace in Afghanistan through a negotiated political settlement was one of the fundamental convergences between the two countries,” the official handout said. “It was essential to have reduction in violence leading to ceasefire and to work towards securing an inclusive political solution in Afghanistan. Pakistan had facilitated the Afghan peace process and remained committed to working with the United States as a partner for peace.” 

The foreign ministry’s statement added that Secretary Blinken recalled US-Pakistan cooperation over the years and noted that the two countries had a range of areas to engage on. He also acknowledged the sacrifices of the people of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. 

The two officials agreed to remain engaged and work together on advancing their bilateral agenda and promoting common interests in the region and beyond. 

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 
Updated 19 October 2020

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 
  • Fisherfolk forum says government plan to allow Chinese to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could render millions jobless 
  • Federal government says bottom trawling will not be allowed under new fishing policy

KARACHI: A pressure group that represents Pakistani fishermen has said a government plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters could threaten the survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.
Last month, 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi, unleashing fear among local fishermen who say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 
Bottom trawling - dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish - stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
The coastal line of Sindh and Balochistan is 1,050 km long, Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told Arab News last week, saying around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. 
A new fishing policy is expected but yet to be revealed by the government, he said. 
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved but before that they [China] have brought these trawlers,” Shah said, calling the arrival of the Chinese vessels at Karachi port last month ‘illegal.’ 

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that both fishermen's representative bodies and provincial government bodies opposed, calling it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.
Fears about foreign fishing companies eating up local communities are not new.
For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Balochistan province - a flagship of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - have protested against foreign trawlers. 
Tensions first began to mount when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to various foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.
But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, told Arab News the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.
“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”
Pakistan divides its sea into three zones, where zone-3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles) is controlled by the federal government. Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of the provinces Sindh and Balochistan and between 12 to 20 nautical miles the sea is declared a buffer zone. 

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Oct. 6, 2020. (AFP/File)

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in zone-3 and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.
The Fishermen's Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.
Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at roughly $450 million.
“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society, told Arab News.
“Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats,” Berr said. 
He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.
But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.
“We will...also oppose its [trawlers’] operations in zone-3 because they will just wipe out sea-life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.
In 2016, a survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.
“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.” 
Tens of thousands of fishing boats are registered in Pakistan, he said, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.
“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.” 

Pakistan rejects 'baseless' Armenia claims

Pakistan rejects 'baseless' Armenia claims
Updated 17 October 2020

Pakistan rejects 'baseless' Armenia claims

Pakistan rejects 'baseless' Armenia claims
  • Reiterates to "stand by the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan"
  • Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians

LONDON: Pakistan has denied its involvement in the ongoing Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, following a claim by the Armenian prime minister that Pakistani troops were fighting alongside Azerbaijani troops.

In an official statement released on Saturday, the Pakistani foreign office said it regretted Armenia’s decision to resort to “irresponsible propaganda” and that it would continue to “stand by the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan.”

The defense ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said on Friday it had recorded another 29 casualties among its military, pushing the military death toll to 633 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted on Sept. 27.

The fighting has surged to its worst level since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed.

Also on Friday, there were growing signs that a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreed upon last week to allow sides to swap detainees and bodies of those killed had all but broken down.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Read the Pakistani statement in full below…

We have seen the transcript of Armenian prime minister’s interview on Oct. 15 with Russian TV referring to some unsubstantiated reports alleging involvement of Pakistani special forces alongside the Azerbaijani army in the ongoing conflict.

We categorically reject these baseless and unwarranted comments. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has also clarified his stance on the matter stating that Azerbaijani forces are strong enough to defend their homeland and do not need the help of foreign forces.

It is regrettable that leadership of Armenia, to cover up its illegal actions against Azerbaijan, is resorting to irresponsible propaganda, which it must stop.

For our part, we wish to make clear that Pakistan has consistently extended diplomatic, moral and political support to Azerbaijan. Pakistan will continue to stand by the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan and support its right of self-defence against any aggression.

We believe that long-term peace and normalization of relations between the two parties would depend on the complete and comprehensive implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions and withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijani territories.