Pakistan strongly condemns Houthi drone attack on Saudi Aramco facilities

Smoke billows from an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq about 60km (37 miles) southwest of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province on Sept. 14, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 September 2019

Pakistan strongly condemns Houthi drone attack on Saudi Aramco facilities

  • Foreign office says such acts of sabotage cannot be condoned
  • Pakistan’s political leaders say the country is ready “to take any step” for the safety and security of Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday issued a strong condemnation of the drone attack on two Saudi oil processing facilities, Buqayq and the Khurais oil field, which had caused fire and damage.
Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the two facilities in the kingdom’s Eastern province on Saturday, the group’s military spokesman said on Al-Masirah TV.
“Such acts to sabotage and disrupt commercial activities causing fear and terror cannot be condoned,” a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office said.
“Pakistan reiterates its full support and solidarity with the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any threat to its security and territorial integrity,” it further stated.
PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, who is leader of the opposition in the Senate, told Arab News that Pakistan was “ready” to safeguard Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty.
“Saudi Arabia has the right to act in self defense,” Haq said. 
“Pakistan is ready to take any step for the safety and security of Saudi Arabia,” he said and added that countries who “claim to be friends of Saudi Arabia should stand by it to stop such attacks on the sovereignty...of the country.”
Latif Khosa, Former Governor of Punjab province and a central leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, told Arab News that it was increasingly dangerous that militant groups like Houthis had got their hands on drones.
“World powers should support Saudis against such militant groups,” Khosa said.
He added that Pakistanis had “special respect for Saudis” and that the kingdom could bank on Pakistan.
The broadcaster, Al-Masirah TV, said the Houthis had deployed 10 drones against the sites in Abqaiq and Khurais, and the group pledged to widen the range of its attacks on Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition fighting them in Yemen.
Dr. Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, Director International Affairs of Pakistan's religious-politico party, Jamat-i-Islami, said the attacks must be condemned across the table.
“All the countries of the region, whether they are friends of Saudi Arabia or have differences with them, should condemn this militant attack which cannot be justified in any case,” he told Arab News.
Khalid Rehman, Director General of the Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad, said it was unfortunate that the Houthis were spreading unrest in Yemen and attacking sovereign countries.
“The whole Muslim world should join hands with Saudi Arabia to stop such evil forces and to bring peace in Yemen as well as the region,” Rehman said.

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

Updated 14 September 2020

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

  • Leaving corporate security behind, Maria Soomro has traveled solo around the country since the pandemic began
  • She documents her travels and uses YouTube and Instagram to provide tips on how to solo travel as a woman

RAWALPINDI: A few months ago, while doing a stable job in the banking sector, Maria Soomro decided to act on her gut instinct and leave behind the monotony and routine of her daily life to follow her dream of hitchhiking around Pakistan. 

30-year-old Soomro hails from Karachi and has been working in the banking sector since completing her university education. The corporate job gave her 40 days of annual leave which she utilized for travel, though she felt that something was missing. 

“I wasn’t fully able to immerse myself in enjoyment or the experience,” she told Arab News over the phone while traveling through Gilgit-Baltistan. “When I travel, I go to remote villages, off-the-beaten-path type places and get to know the locals, actually spend some time understanding where I am and who I am surrounded by. Five or 15 days don’t allow for that.” 

The idea of spending time doing what she loved as opposed to sitting at a desk kicked Soomro into high-gear. “I opted to turn the documenting of my travels, which I had been doing since 2015 on Instagram (@MariaSoomro_) and eponymous YouTube channel, into my full-time job.” 

Maria Soomro smiles for the camera in a ride she hitched near Burzil Pass, part of the historic caravan route between Srinagar and Gilgit on her Instagram page on September 11, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

In March of this year, Soomro headed out on her hitchhiking journey. Being a solo female traveler in Pakistan is a steadily growing trend, though a woman who hitchhikes is almost unheard of.

 “Budget traveling is my focus. The largest chunk of your budget ends up being spent on accommodation and transportation, and both of these things can be covered when you’re hitchhiking,” said Soomro. 

But her travel ethos is another reason hitchhiking was so attractive. To her, there is no better way than this to know the places one is traveling through. 

“This is a shortcut to get to know local communities, be it Pakistan or another country. When you ask for a lift, you get a special introduction to their home, their points of view, and you learn from them,” she said, adding that one can build contacts as a bonus who can be assets to solo travelers. 

Soomro estimates that her hitchhiking adventure has allowed her to meet over 300 people, all of whom, she maintains, contact through social media. “The more people you meet the more stories you hear and the more people you can share your own story with,” said she. 

Maria Soomro shares tips and tricks on solo travel including how to keep one's tent from blowing away in a shot she shares from Golden Beach, Balochistan, on her Instagram page on June 14, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

Instead of merely asking for a lift, Soomro has taken each ride as an opportunity to educate on what hitchhiking is, why she is doing it, and why she is traveling Pakistan. 

“It’s not very common here and I want to change that. The general consensus is that Pakistan is not safe, in particular for women, to travel alone.” 

When asked about how safe she has felt while traveling, Soomro said she follows “her gut instinct, assessing each ride” but also stressed the importance of “being prepared,” such as carrying personal protection equipment like pepper spray and knife. 

“My advice to Pakistanis who want to follow into my footsteps would be to take time to understand this kind of travel first and do not go straight for hitching,” she said. “Travel in groups and learn the areas you want to visit, know how roads work and, like any other passion, take time to educate yourself.” 

Soomro is doing her part in educating travel hopefuls on her YouTube channel and Instagram page with tips on how to hitchhike, where to go, and how to pitch a tent to withstand winds and what type of rides to expect around the country at present. 

“There are very few people who follow their passion in the world, and I am one of those crazy people since I thought I could do it,” said Soomro. “I am a free bird and travel is a part of me. I can’t imagine my life without this.”