Pakistan International Airlines wants more flights to UK ahead of travel ban

Pakistan International Airlines wants more flights to UK ahead of travel ban
A passenger walks through the arrivals hall at London’s Heathrow Airport. (AFP)
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Updated 06 April 2021

Pakistan International Airlines wants more flights to UK ahead of travel ban

Pakistan International Airlines wants more flights to UK ahead of travel ban
  • Since Friday’s announcement of ban, Pakistan International Airlines has flown nearly 900 passengers back to UK

ISLAMABAD: National flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), has asked the UK government to allow four additional flights to Britain ahead of an April 9 travel ban on people from four countries, including Pakistan.

From 4 a.m. on Friday, Pakistan, Kenya, the Philippines, and Bangladesh will be put on a UK red list, joining around three dozen other nations mainly in Africa, the Middle East, and South America, amid fears over the spread of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variants.

On Monday, PIA spokesperson, Abdullah Hafeez Khan, told Arab News: “People are desperately trying to go back to the UK before April 9. We have requested four additional flights to the UK and we sincerely hope that we will get permission by today or tomorrow.

“By now we have operated three flights and we have transported nearly 900 passengers (to Britain),” he said, adding that PIA planned to operate four more flights to the UK until Wednesday. “We are hopeful to accommodate 1,000 more passengers.”

Khan noted that the Pakistani airline would be able to fly another 1,000 passengers to the UK if the British government gave permission for extra flights.

British Pakistanis form one of the largest expat communities in the UK. Days before the start of Ramadan, when many of them travel to be with their families for the holy month and Eid, travelers from Pakistan have been told they will be denied entry and have to pay for expensive 10-day UK hotel quarantine at designated sites.

Pakistan’s planning minister, Asad Umar, recently said that the UK government’s decision to ban the entry of Pakistanis was based on politics, not science.

“Every country has a right to take decisions to safeguard the health of their citizens. However, the recent decision by the UK government to add some countries, including Pakistan, on the red list raises legitimate questions whether choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy,” he added.

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UK parliament declares genocide in China’s Xinjiang, raises pressure on Johnson

UK parliament declares genocide in China’s Xinjiang, raises pressure on Johnson
Updated 7 min 43 sec ago

UK parliament declares genocide in China’s Xinjiang, raises pressure on Johnson

UK parliament declares genocide in China’s Xinjiang, raises pressure on Johnson
  • So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain
  • Ministers say any decision on declaring a genocide is up to the courts

LONDON: Britain’s parliament called on Wednesday for the government to take action to end what lawmakers described as genocide in China’s Xinjiang region, stepping up pressure on ministers to go further in their criticism of Beijing.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government again steered clear of declaring genocide over what it says are “industrial-scale” human rights abuses against the mainly Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang. Ministers say any decision on declaring a genocide is up to the courts.
So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain, but a majority of lawmakers want ministers to go further.
Beijing denies accusations of rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Lawmakers backed a motion brought by Conservative lawmaker Nusrat Ghani stating Uighurs in Xinjiang were suffering crimes against humanity and genocide, and calling on government to use international law to bring it to an end.
The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next.
Britain’s minister for Asia, Nigel Adams, again set out to parliament the government’s position that any decision on describing the human rights abuses in Xinjiang as genocide would have to be taken by “competent” courts.
Some lawmakers fear Britain risks falling out of step with allies over China after the Biden administration endorsed a determination by its predecessor that China had committed genocide in Xinjiang.


Suicide bomb kills five at Pakistan hotel hosting Chinese ambassador

Suicide bomb kills five at Pakistan hotel hosting Chinese ambassador
Updated 22 April 2021

Suicide bomb kills five at Pakistan hotel hosting Chinese ambassador

Suicide bomb kills five at Pakistan hotel hosting Chinese ambassador
  • Pakistani Taliban group claims responsibility for assault against high officials
  • China condemns attack; Balochistan home minister refuses to confirm envoy was target 

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: A blast that killed five people and injured 11 at a luxury hotel in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, in Balochistan, on Wednesday night was a suicide attack, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Thursday.

The Serena Hotel Quetta, located next to the Iranian consulate in the city and the provincial parliament building, had been hosting China’s ambassador to the country, Nong Rong, whilst on a visit to Balochistan.

“It was a suicide attack. The bomber detonated his vest from inside (his) car,” Ahmed said, adding that the attacker had yet to be identified. “Around 60 to 80 kilograms of explosive was used in the attack.”

The Chinese ambassador was not at the hotel during the attack, Ahmed continued. “He was staying somewhere else and he is safe.”

Zia Ullah Langau, home minister Balochistan, declined to confirm if the Chinese ambassador was the target of the assault, saying investigations were ongoing. Quetta’s police deputy inspector general, Azhar Akram, added: “Our security was on high alert, and we are assessing all aspects.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it “strongly condemns” the bombing.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant group fighting to overthrow the government, claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it was carried out “on high officials, including police officers.”

Designated a terrorist group by the US, the TTP has been in disarray in recent years, especially after several of its top leaders were killed by US drone strikes in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mineral rich Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by local nationalists who want a larger share of the region’s resources.

The province, Pakistan’s largest but also its most impoverished, is home to the recently-expanded Gwadar deep water port, a flagship part of China’s $65 billion investment in the Pakistani section of its Belt and Road Initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project.


Pakistan court grants bail to opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif

Pakistan court grants bail to opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif
Updated 22 April 2021

Pakistan court grants bail to opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif

Pakistan court grants bail to opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif
  • Shahbaz Sharif is the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly
  • His Pakistan Muslim League party quickly hailed the ruling by the court in the eastern city of Lahore

LAHORE: A Pakistani court granted bail on Thursday to the country’s opposition leader, about seven months after he was arrested by an anti-graft body over alleged involvement in money laundering.
Shahbaz Sharif is the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. His Pakistan Muslim League party quickly hailed the ruling by the court in the eastern city of Lahore. It described the case against him as “fake.”
Shahbaz Sharif is the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, who served three times as Pakistan’s prime minister. He has been living in exile in London since 2019, after he was released on bail to seek medical treatment abroad.
Nawaz Sharif hasn’t returned home since, and the government is seeking his extradition.

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Unequal commemoration of British Empire troops due to ‘pervasive racism’

Unequal commemoration of British Empire troops due to ‘pervasive racism’
Updated 22 April 2021

Unequal commemoration of British Empire troops due to ‘pervasive racism’

Unequal commemoration of British Empire troops due to ‘pervasive racism’
  • Investigation: Up to 350,000 Middle Eastern, African casualties may not be commemorated by name or at all
  • Commission: “This was not right then and must not be allowed to remain unaddressed now”

LONDON: Hundreds of thousands of predominantly Asian and black soldiers who died fighting for the British Empire have not been formally commemorated in the same way as their white comrades because of decisions underpinned by “pervasive racism,” according to an investigation.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) discovered that at least 116,000 — but potentially as many as 350,000 — Middle Eastern and African casualties may not be commemorated by name or at all.
The CWGC is expected to issue a formal apology for the unequal treatment of those unnamed soldiers, as well as up to 54,000 African and Asian soldiers who were commemorated “unequally” compared to their white comrades.
The Imperial War Graves Commission, later renamed the CWGC, was founded in 1917 to commemorate men and women of the British Empire who lost their lives in World War I, and was defined by the principle of equality of treatment in death.
Everyone who dies in military service is supposed to be commemorated identically, with their names engraved on a headstone or memorial.
The commission’s findings, seen by The Guardian, quote racist statements — such as a 1920s governor saying “the average native … would not understand or appreciate a headstone” — as evidence that soldiers were treated differently if they came from Commonwealth countries.
“The report highlights that, in certain circumstances, those principles so rigidly adhered to for all who fell in Europe were applied inconsistently or abandoned in the more distant corners of the globe when applied to the non-European war dead of the British Empire, in the immediate aftermath of World War One,” the commission said.
“The commissioners acknowledge that this was not right then and must not be allowed to remain unaddressed now. Those identified in the special committee’s report deserve to be remembered as much today as they did 100 years ago.”
The special committee noted that many of the decisions surrounding burial and commemoration were influenced by a lack of information, opinions of colonial administrators, or other errors.
“Underpinning all these decisions, however, were the entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes,” it said. 
Claire Horton, director general of the CWGC, said: “The events of a century ago were wrong then and are wrong now. We recognize the wrongs of the past and are deeply sorry and will be acting immediately to correct them.”
Troops recruited from Britain’s vast empire played important roles in various battles throughout World War I.
Units such as the Egyptian Expeditionary Force suffered thousands of casualties in the British campaign against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, and ultimately contributed to the allied powers’ victory.


EU preparing legal case against AstraZeneca over vaccine shortfalls — sources

EU preparing legal case against AstraZeneca over vaccine shortfalls — sources
Updated 22 April 2021

EU preparing legal case against AstraZeneca over vaccine shortfalls — sources

EU preparing legal case against AstraZeneca over vaccine shortfalls — sources
  • The drugmaker cut COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union
  • Under the contract, the company had committed to making its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver to the EU 180 million vaccine doses in the second quarter

BRUSSELS: The European Commission is working on legal proceedings against AstraZeneca after the drugmaker cut COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union, sources familiar with the matter said.

The move would mark a further step in an EU plan to sever ties with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker after the company repeatedly cut supplies to the bloc, contributing to major delays in Europe’s vaccine rollout.

The news about the legal case was first reported on Thursday by Politico. An EU official involved in talks with drugmakers confirmed the EU was preparing to sue the company.

“EU states have to decide if they (will) participate. It is about fulfillment of deliveries by the end of the second quarter,” the official said.

The matter was discussed on Wednesday at a meeting with EU diplomats, the official and a diplomat said. Politico, citing five unnamed European diplomats, reported that a majority of EU countries at the meeting said they would support suing the company.

“What matters is that we ensure the delivery of a sufficient number of doses in line with the company’s earlier commitments,” a spokesman for the EU Commission said. “Together with the member States, we are looking at all options to make this happen.”

There was no immediate response from AstraZeneca on Thursday to a request for comment.

Brussels in March sent a legal letter to the company in the first step of a potential legal procedure.

When the deadline for a reply expired this month, a spokesman for the Commission said the matter was discussed in a meeting with AstraZeneca but the EU was still seeking further clarification from the company on “a number of outstanding points.”

The spokesman did not elaborate, but details of the letter published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera show the EU was seeking clarification on what it deemed a delayed application to the EU regulator for approval of the vaccine.

Brussels also questioned how AstraZeneca spent over 224 million euros ($270 million) granted by the EU in September to buy vaccine ingredients and for which the company had not provided sufficient documents confirming the purchases.

Under the contract, the company had committed to making its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver to the EU 180 million vaccine doses in the second quarter, for a total of 300 million in the period from December to June.

But the company said in a statement on March 12 it would aim to deliver only one third of that. The EU letter was sent a week after that statement.

Under the contract, the parties agreed that Belgian courts would be responsible to settle unresolved disputes.

The EU has already decided not to take up an option to buy 100 million extra doses of AstraZeneca under the contract, an EU official said, after supply delays and safety concerns about very rare cases of blood clots linked to the vaccine.