Stranded Pakistanis to return from India on July 9

A woman wears a protective face mask as she walks along a road, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Karachi, Pakistan July 7, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 July 2020

Stranded Pakistanis to return from India on July 9

  • The Indian government on Monday asked local authorities to assist the movement of Pakistani nationals

ISLAMABAD: A group of 82 Pakistanis stranded in India due to COVID-19 travel restrictions will return to Pakistan on July 9, the Pakistani Foreign Office said on Tuesday.

The Indian government on Monday asked local authorities to assist the movement of Pakistani nationals to the Attari-Wagah border crossing from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

The Pakistani government has also directed one of its paramilitary forces, known as the Rangers, to help repatriate Indian citizens via Wagah, while following “necessary health security protocols.”

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said: “We are expecting our stranded nationals to return on July 9.” She added that 114 Indian nationals would be repatriated to India that day, while 82 Pakistanis would cross back into Pakistan.

About 500 Pakistanis stranded in India have returned home through the Attari-Wagah crossing since March 20, according to the Foreign Office. It said the process will continue until all remaining nationals have returned.

“In these extraordinary times defined by the pandemic, Pakistan believes that international cooperation and collective action as one big human family is the need of the hour,” Farooqui said.

“On our part, we have cooperated within the region and beyond to facilitate our own nationals and those visiting Pakistan from abroad to repatriate them as smoothly as possible,” she added.

Archrivals for decades, relations between India and Pakistan have been particularly strained since August 2019, when Pakistan suspended almost all trade and transport ties with its neighbor following India’s decision to revoke autonomy and statehood for Kashmir, a territory also claimed by Pakistan.

Neither country has a permanent ambassador in place. In the last month, tensions have risen after country accused the other of illegally detaining and torturing its diplomats.

In May, India expelled two Pakistani diplomats after they were held for alleged spying — claims Islamabad called “baseless”.

Last month India said it would expel half of the staff in the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi over further spying allegations, prompting Pakistan to threaten an equal response.

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Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”