Pakistan’s opposition parties join hands on Kashmir crisis

In this May 23, 2007 file photo, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman can be seen addressing a gathering in Karachi. (Reuters)
Updated 20 August 2019

Pakistan’s opposition parties join hands on Kashmir crisis

  • Say the government failed to effectively advocated Kashmir issue at global forums
  • Term extension in the army chief’s tenure a routine matter

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s opposition parties on Monday vowed to stand with the people of Indian-administered Kashmir in the face of New Delhi’s two-week long security clampdown and communications blackout in the territory.
“We condemn the Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir in the strongest possible terms and urge it to lift the curfew and other restrictions immediately,” Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of politico-religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), said in a press conference after chairing a multiparty conference of the opposition bodies.
Representatives of mainstream and other opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) attended the conference convened to discuss the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir after New Delhi stripped the territory of special status earlier this month.
India’s revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir blocks the state’s right to frame its own laws and allows non-residents to buy property there. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government argues that the old laws prohibiting people from outside Kashmir from buying property, settling there and taking up government jobs had hindered development in the valley.
“We hold our rulers responsible for the current state of Kashmir,” Rehman said while lambasting the government for what he called an “irresponsible attitude” toward the Indian actions against Kashmiris.
However, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – leaders of two of Pakistan’s major opposition parties – could not attend the multiparty conference. A PML-N spokesperson said that Sharif could not attend the conference due to pain in his back while Zardari is visiting Gilgit-Baltistan to hold public rallies.
Commenting on their absence, Special Adviser to Prime Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said the PML-N and PPP leadership had ditched Rehman by not showing up.
“Maulana [Fazlur Rehman] should better raise voice for Kashmiris as these fake coins [the PPP and PML-N leaders] are of no use,” she said in a twitter post.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from colonial power Great Britain in 1947. They came close to another one in February after a deadly attack on Indian police by a Pakistan-based militant group resulted in airstrikes by both countries. Pakistan denies state complicity in the attack and has since launched a widespread crackdown against violent and banned organizations within its borders.
Last week members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) met in over five decades to discuss the critical situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, urging both Islamabad and New Delhi to refrain from taking any unilateral action.
Prime Minister Khan welcomed the UNSC’s decision to discuss tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir. “I welcome the UNSC meeting to discuss the serious situation in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” Khan tweeted after the talks in New York.
“Addressing the suffering of the Kashmiri people & ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body,” he added on Twitter.
The opposition parties, however, said the government has not raised the issue at international forums effectively. “We assure Kashmiris that we are with them through thick and thin,” Rehman said. “We will fight their case at every forum across the globe,” he added.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”