FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case

Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, left, and US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. (AFP photos)
Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, left, and US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. (AFP photos)
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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. 


Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister

Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister
Updated 15 April 2021

Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister

Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister
  • Muhammad Younus Soomro, a TLP lawmaker in Sindh Assembly, said he would use his legal options to retain his seat in parliament
  • TLP Karachi chief warns he will disown his party chief and members of central consultative body if they did not call off the protests

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan's federal cabinet has approved the interior ministry's recommendation to outlaw the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious party whose supporters have been holding nationwide protests since Monday, a senior government minister told a news conference on Thursday, adding that the government would take the case to the Supreme Court to ensure the dissolution of the religious party. 

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced on Wednesday that his ministry would send a proposal to the federal cabinet to impose a ban on TLP for killing two policemen, attacking law enforcement forces and disrupting public life through nationwide protests. 

The demonstrations erupted in major Pakistani cities and quickly turned violent after Saad Rizvi, the religious party’s head, was arrested on Monday after he threatened to launch a major campaign against the government if it did not expel France’s envoy to Islamabad over blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) printed in a French publication. 

"We have proscribed [the TLP] and the notification for that will be issued shortly," said federal interior minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed. "Tomorrow, we will send another summary to the cabinet to file a reference in the Supreme Court since we are moving toward [TLP's] dissolution." 

Muhammad Younus Soomro, a TLP lawmaker in the Sindh Assembly, said he would use his legal options to retain his seat in parliament. 

“We'll see our options once the notification [regarding the ban] is issued,” Soomro said while distancing himself from the TLP protests. 

On Thursday, the TLP chief in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, Allama Razi Hussaini, also warned that he would disown his party chief and members of the central consultative body if they did not call off the protests.

“If the party’s central Shura and Saad Hussain Rizvi Sahib continue to show stubbornness and insist that they do not want to resolve this issue through talks, the nation will be disappointed and we will have no association with the TLP leadership,” he announced in a video message.

The TLP gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections, campaigning to defend the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. The party also has a history of staging protests and sit-ins to pressure the government to accept its demands. 

In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day protest and sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was removed from the text of a government form. 

In the 2018 elections, the party managed to win two seats in the Sindh Assembly from Karachi and got a female member elected on a reserved seat of the assembly. 

Commenting on the government’s move to ban TLP, legal experts said the government was required to refer the matter to the Supreme Court within fifteen days of making a declaration to ban a political party while presenting its reasons for doing so.

“The Supreme Court may decide on the government’s reference in a week or ten days and its decision will be final,” Justice (retired) Shaiq Usmani told Arab News. 

He said the law regarding the dissolution of a political party was “very clear” and if the apex court upheld the government’s declaration against the TLP, “the party shall stand dissolved forthwith.” 

Legal experts said the three elected TLP members in the Sindh Assembly could retain their seats by resigning their party membership and publicly announcing their dissociation with the TLP before a final Supreme Court decision. 

“If the TLP lawmakers dissociate themselves from the party before the apex court’s verdict, they will be able to complete their constitutional term as independent members in the house,” Ashtar Ausaf Ali, a former attorney-general of Pakistan, told Arab News. 

He said if a member of the parliament or provincial assemblies was disqualified in case of the dissolution of a party, they could not run for electoral office or a legislative body for four years from the date of their disqualification from being a lawmaker. 

“There is no ambiguity in law,” Ali said, “and it’s up to the party lawmakers now as to what they choose in case of the dissolution of their party.”


Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks

Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks
Updated 09 April 2021

Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks

Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks
  • Khan said rising “vulgarity” was responsible for an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence, during a live broadcast last Sunday
  • Arslan Khalid, the prime minister’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News Khan "never engaged in victim blaming"

ISLAMABAD: Civil society activists organized a protest at the National Press Club on Thursday, demanding an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for a recent statement on sexual violence against women, where he said wearing the veil, the traditional Islamic head covering, would protect women from sexual assault and not lead men into temptation.
In a statement that has caused outrage among activists and opposition politicians, Khan said rising “vulgarity” was responsible for an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence.
Members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have said Khan’s statement was misinterpreted and misunderstood.
Arslan Khalid, the prime minister’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News the prime minister had “never engaged in victim blaming,” adding that certain segments of his interview were lumped together, causing “misunderstanding.”
“Initially, he spoke about how the government had put in place robust rape laws to deal with the rising cases of sexual assault,” Khalid said in a phone interview. “And then, in a different context, he spoke about society, mentioning pardah [veil] which is not just a piece of cloth for women but also [a symbol of] respect.”
“People understand it as being specific to women, but it applies to both genders,” Khalid said. “It is about respecting other people’s space, about yourself when you interact with others.”

Protestors gather at the National Press Club in Islamabad to demand an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for his controversial remarks regarding rising sex crime cases in the country on April 8, 2021. (AN photo)

Asked what the prime minister meant when he spoke about “vulgarity” giving rise to sexual assault cases, ruling party senator Faisal Javed Khan said the PM could not be accused of victim-blaming.
“He did not put the responsibility on the victims [of sexual violence] or what they were wearing when he used that word,” Khan said in a phone interview. “Nowhere did he explicitly say that. He said that the root cause was the presence of such media being readily available on phones which everyone has, and we need to fight this together as a society.”
The government issued an official statement on Wednesday saying Khan’s comments had been “distorted to mean something that he never intended.”
“The Prime Minister said that our strict anti-rape laws alone will not be able to stem the rise in sex crime,” the statement said. “The whole society has to fight it together.”
Major clerics and religious bodies also announced their support on Thursday for PM Khan’s statement, saying “obscenity and nudity played a key role behind instances of molestation and abuse” and the prime minister’s stance would be “lauded” at Friday congregation prayers around the country.
But women’s rights activists say they were dismayed.
“The prime minister needs to have some gender awareness,” said Farzana Bari, an organizer of Thursday’s protest. “How can a head of a government make such irresponsible statements which are indirectly creating sympathy for rapists? This is why we are here since we demand something better from him and the state.”
Bari said Khan’s comments reflected a lack of understanding about crimes of sexual violence.

Protestors gather at the National Press Club in Islamabad to demand an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for his controversial remarks regarding rising sex crime cases in the country on April 8, 2021. (AN photo)

Renowned women’s rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the prime minister’s statement betrayed a “misogynistic” mindset.
“He has gone beyond the pale, absolutely, of what is acceptable,” she told Arab News.
Abdullah said Khan not only owed an apology to women but also to Pakistani men.
“To say that men cannot control themselves and resist the temptation of women without a veil in the public is to imply that men cannot control their ‘rapist tendencies,’” she said.
The demands made by activists for an apology in Thursday’s protest were also mirrored by opposition leaders like Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
“Blaming vulgarity for the rise in rape cases is ridiculous as this removes the onus of responsibility from the rapist,” she said in a written message. “Rape is an act of violence where the rapist wants to establish his power and authority. A person’s body and autonomy are violated. Is the PM telling the women of this country that it is their fault if they get raped?“
Muhammad Zubair, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) politician, had the same query.
“His analysis is not just completely wrong, but it is dangerous for the prime minister of a country to suggest that the blame [for sexual assaults] falls on women and the way they dress up,” he told Arab News over the phone. “Victims of rape can be as young as 5 or 6 years of age … How can you blame them or imply that they somehow provoked men into committing such act of violence?“
“Without question, there must be an apology,” Zubair added.


Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated

Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated
Updated 22 March 2021

Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated

Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated
  • In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 79 health workers have died while saving others from COVID-19
  • Provincial government approved a compensation fund for medics in April last year

PESHAWAR: The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa apologized on Sunday for delaying compensation to families of health workers who lost their lives while saving others from COVID-19. 

With 79,245 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,208 related deaths, the northwestern province of Pakistan has one of the highest coronavirus mortality rates in the country.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government approved a compensation fund in April last year, but families of 78 health workers, including 48 doctors, who died of COVID-19 while on duty have not been compensated yet, according to Provincial Doctors Association (PDA) data.

"We apologize for any delay. All (families of) frontline health workers who died of COVID-19 on the line of duty will be compensated with their pension issues resolved," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra told Arab News. 

PDA president Dr. Ameer Taj told Arab News said he had sent two letters to the provincial health secretary and director general of health "months ago" to expedite the disbursement of compensation fund, but there has been no progress.

"We're left with no option but to go to court of law to get our legitimate right," he said, adding that the health department was "inefficient and dysfunctional" at a time when the country is struggling with the pandemic.  

"The deceased health workers have many issues such as schooling of their children. Delay in the financial package is really a source of concern for us all."

According to PDA information secretary Dr. Salim Yousafzai, only one family, of Dr. Muhammad Javed who died of COVID-19 in Peshawar in April last year, had been redressed for the loss.

Dr. Nasir Inayat, a medical practitioner at Khyber Teaching Hospital’s nephrology department, said his uncle Dr. Hidayat Ullah Khan died of the virus in July last year but no help for his family had arrived from the government.

"We're hearing of a financial package, but we haven’t received any aid. My late uncle has two sons who study in university and I’ve to bear their expenses," he said.

According to Minister Jhagra, all the paperwork needed to compensate the deceased doctors' families would be ready next week. 

Provincial Health Secretary Imtiaz Hussain Shah told Arab News that those "qualified" for compensation would be paid Rs7 million ($45,000). He did not specify, however, who would qualify and how many families would receive the funds.


Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal

Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal
Updated 13 March 2021

Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal

Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal
  • The University of Lahore said the pair had acted 'in violation of university rules'
  • The couple has refused to apologize, saying they have done nothing wrong

LAHORE: A university in deeply conservative Pakistan expelled two students who embraced after getting engaged on campus, after a video of the incident spread on social media this week.

In the clip, a female university student gets down on one knee and proposes to her boyfriend; the couple can then be seen hugging and holding bouquets of flowers as onlookers cheer them on and film the scene.

The University of Lahore said the pair had acted "in violation of university rules."

It added in a statement on Friday that they had failed to appear before a disciplinary hearing and were later expelled for "serious infraction of the code of conduct."

Public displays of affection between couples -- whether married or not -- are viewed as culturally and religiously unacceptable.

Many women in patriarchal Pakistan find it hard to defy tradition, with much of the society still operating under a strict code of honor.

The couple has refused to apologize.

"We did nothing wrong, and we are not sorry for this," Hadiqa Javaid tweeted.

"Can anyone explain to us what wrong we did by proposal in public in University of Lahore?," her fiance Shehryar Ahmed said, adding that couples had previously proposed to each other on campus.

They said they had received online threats for the show of affection.

Condemning the university's decision, the Progressive Students' Collective union on Saturday tweeted that "moral policing in universities has become a norm lately."

Some universities in Pakistan have barred female students from wearing jeans, tank-tops or makeup, while others regulate interactions between male and female students.

Earlier this week, the organizers of Pakistan's International Women's Day rallies said they had received death threats after a "vicious smear campaign" saw doctored images of the event circulate online.

The annual rallies calling for women's rights have received a fierce backlash since they first began in Karachi in 2018, including legal challenges to have them banned.


'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 29 March 2021

'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.”