Afghan FM’s visit to Pakistan ‘significant,’ says Pakistan’s Kabul envoy

Afghan FM’s visit to Pakistan ‘significant,’ says Pakistan’s Kabul envoy
Afghanistan’s interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is making a reciprocal visit to Pakistan after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Kabul on Oct. 21. (Arab News/File)
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Updated 10 November 2021

Afghan FM’s visit to Pakistan ‘significant,’ says Pakistan’s Kabul envoy

Afghan FM’s visit to Pakistan ‘significant,’ says Pakistan’s Kabul envoy
  • Top-level delegation to accompany Amir Khan Muttaqi to Islamabad today

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Wednesday to discuss bilateral ties, trade and economic cooperation, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
This will be the first visit of a senior Afghan official to Pakistan since the Taliban seized control on Aug. 15.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Kabul last month, announcing that a Taliban delegation would soon visit his country to address bilateral issues and further strengthen relations between the two sides.
“A senior delegation led by FM Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi will travel to Pakistan on Nov 10,” the Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “Delegation will discuss enhancing ties, economy, transit, refugees & expanding facilities for movement of people, & will include Ministers & working groups from Finance & Trade Ministries.”
While Islamabad has not formally recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers, it is among a handful of countries that have retained their diplomatic presence in Kabul. Confirming the visit, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmed Khan called it extremely significant, noting that the visit comes at a time when Afghanistan is facing several economic and humanitarian issues.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are close neighbors who cherish an important relationship which is rooted in common border, history, culture and religion,” he told Arab News.
“It is an important visit in the current scenario when Afghanistan faces serious economic issues that can lead to a major humanitarian disaster,” he continued.
Khan said Pakistan’s foreign minister had led a high-level delegation to Kabul on Oct. 21 to figure out how his country could meaningfully assist Afghanistan.
“At that occasion, we also invited the Afghan side to visit Islamabad to discuss bilateral contacts by focusing on humanitarian engagement, trade, transit and people-to-people movement between the two countries,” the Pakistani envoy said.
Salman Bashir, a former Pakistani foreign secretary, told Arab News that the visit of the Afghan foreign minister reflected a deepening engagement between the two countries.
“The Afghan side is also trying to mobilize regional efforts for its socioeconomic development,” he said, adding that the world needed to recognize that the Taliban had emerged as a dominant force and established their government in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has dealt with everyone who established a government in Kabul in the past and will establish formal relations with this government as well,” he noted.
“In a way, Pakistan has already recognized them (unofficially) as we have an ambassador in Kabul who meets the Taliban officials,” Bashir continued. “Their foreign minister is going to be visiting us not as a member of the Taliban movement but as a senior official of his country.”
Rustam Shah Mohmand, an Afghan affairs expert who also served as Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul, said the visit of the Afghan official could pave the way to the formal recognition of the Taliban government by Pakistan.
“Pakistan has no other option than to recognize the Taliban government,” he said. “They may do it after a few months but eventually that is the only option.”
Mohmand said that the postponement of Pakistan’s decision over the issue was providing other countries with an “excuse” and creating distrust between Islamabad and Kabul.
“Other countries present it as an excuse that a neighbor (of Afghanistan) with over two million Afghan refugees has not recognized the Taliban government,” he said. “It provides them with a justification of why they should not do it either.”
Mohmand added that visa issues, border management and trade concerns were also likely to be discussed during the meeting.

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Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria

Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria
Updated 12 January 2022

Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria

Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria
  • Among the new rules are special approvals from the Pakistani and Syrian authorities
  • Every year, hundreds of Pakistanis travel to Iraq and Syria for pilgrimage

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has issued new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria, the Ministry of Religious Affairs announced on Thursday.

Every year, hundreds of Pakistanis visit Syria and Iraq for pilgrimage.

After months of travel suspensions over coronavirus fears, pilgrimage travel resumed in April last year. 

Among the new travel rules are special approvals from the Pakistani and Syrian authorities, including a no objection certificate (NOC).

“Before leaving for Syria, you must obtain a group visa from the Syrian Immigration Authority and obtain a NOC from the Pakistani Embassy in Damascus,” the ministry said in a notification.


Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge

Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge
Updated 07 January 2022

Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge

Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge
  • Judicial Com­mis­sion of Pakistan on Thursday approved elevation of Lahore High Court Justice Malik to the Supreme Court
  • Malik's elevation has been marred by controversy, with many within legal community arguing against her for reasons of seniority

ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Com­mis­sion of Pakistan (JCP) on Thursday approved the elevation of Lahore High Court Justice Ayesha A. Malik to the Supreme Court, making her the first woman judge in the country’s history to serve at the apex court.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed chaired the JCP meeting during which Malik's elevation was approved by a majority of five votes against four, Pakistani media reported. This is the second time that the JCP held a meeting to decide on Malik's elevation. A lack of consensus during a meeting last September had forced the commission to reject her elevation.

During that meeting, four members of the eight-member JCP had opposed the proposal to elevate Justice Malik – the fourth most senior judge of the LHC – while an equal number had supported the move. 

“At the time, the Supreme Court Bar Association President Abdul Latif Afridi had called a countrywide protest to express anger over, what the legal fraternity perceived was the disregard of the seniority principle in the appointment of judges to the apex court,” Dawn said. 

Indeed, Malik's elevation has been marred by controversy, with many within the legal community arguing against her promotion for reasons of seniority.

Earlier this week, the Women in Law Pakistan initiative issued a statement with respect to the seniority debate on Malik's appointment, saying the idea that seniority was a legal requirement was a “myth” and arguing that there was no such requirement in the law and constitution.

“At least 41 times judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court without them being most senior,” the initiative said. “There is, therefore, no such custom either. ‘Seniority’ is at best a mere demand of some members of the Bars at the moment and has no legal basis.”

The initiative made a reference to Article 175-A(3) of the Constitution which “speaks of seniority only in relation to the appointment of the Chief Justice of Pakistan,” adding that as per Article 177 (2) of the Constitution, to be eligible for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, a person must be a citizen of Pakistan and have been a judge of the high court for five years or an advocate of the high court for 15 years.

“Absence of the words, ‘the most senior’ in Article 177 for appointment of Judges of the SC shows that seniority of a Judge in the High Court is not an essential condition for their appointment as a Judge of the SC.”


IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry
Updated 28 November 2021

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry
  • The global lending agency provided $1.4 billion to Pakistan last year to mitigate the negative economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak
  • The ministry says the IMF acknowledged there was no embezzlement in the utilization of the COVID-19 fund

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance ministry said on Saturday the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had expressed satisfaction over the country’s utilization of COVID-19 fund after an audit report of the urgently procured supplies related to the disease was shared with it.

Last year, the international financial institution provided $1.4 billion to Islamabad to meet its balance of payment requirements stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, though it also required the government to conduct an ex-post audit of its utilization.

The ministry published the audit report on its website on Friday to fulfil an IMF condition, making the local media say some Rs40 billion of irregularities had been found in the COVID-19 budget.

Responding to the claim, the ministry said the auditor general of Pakistan had discussed the report “in detail” with the IMF in June and during the recently concluded sixth review for a multibillion-dollar bailout package.

“The IMF was fully satisfied that there was no case of fraud and embezzlement,” it said in a statement.

The ministry informed a majority of paragraphs and observations included in the report related to procedural shortcomings due to emergency procurements.

“The IMF was further informed that divisions/organisations have noted those shortcomings and taken remedial measures,” it added.

The ministry admitted it had published the report on the website as a “prior action under the recently completed 6th review” of the IMF extended fund facility.

It said the report had already been presented to parliament and was therefore in public knowledge.

“The government strongly believes in and is committed to transparency and accountability,” it continued.


Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment

Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment
Updated 27 November 2021

Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment

Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment

ISLAMABAD: The city administrator of Karachi said on Friday the country's seaside metropolis needed entertainment while asking its residents to enjoy the experience of a new drive-in cinema that was launched later in the day.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has set up the Sunset Cinema near the Beach View Park where it plans to screen critically acclaimed movies on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

"Our #Karachi needs familiar entertainment," said Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui, the city administrator, in a Twitter post. "Keeping #COVID19 & [Karachi] weather in mind, KMC has initiated a Drive-In Cinema experience with #sunsetcinema. Starting from tonight. Do check it out!"

 

 

Karachi is frequently described as Pakistan's commercial capital and makes significant contribution to the national economy.

However, the provincial administration of Sindh imposed strict coronavirus restrictions in the city to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in recent months.

The lockdowns particularly affected businesses and shopping centers, bringing about significant disruption in the lives of Karachi's residents.

The Sunset Cinema is likely to provide some relief to the people of the city since its management seeks to provide entertainment at affordable rates by running the place on a no-profit-no-loss basis.


Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis

Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis
Updated 17 November 2021

Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis

Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis
  • The country’s foreign minister calls it a ‘historic day’ that will help ensure transparent elections in Pakistan
  • The opposition protests the passage of the law, vows to challenge it in the country’s top court

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government called it a “historic day” after a joint session of parliament on Wednesday allowed the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections in 2023 and granted the right to vote to overseas nationals amid uproar and protest by opposition parties.
The government convened a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly to get about 29 draft bills passed through majority vote. However, the opposition members ripped the copies of the agenda along with the proposed legislations before walking out of the session in protest.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has advocated the use of EVMs in the forthcoming general elections as part of its electoral reforms despite reservations by opposition factions and the country’s election regulatory authority.
While the Election Commission of Pakistan and the opposition believe a hasty use of these devices can undermine free and fair elections, the government maintains they can put an end to repeated rigging allegations in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan along with other treasury members welcomed the passage of the bill on Wednesday by thumping desks and chanting slogans in the house. The opposition members tried to move amendments which were rejected by the government through majority vote.
“Today is a historic day,” said foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while delivering a speech on the floor of the house. “The EVMs are being introduced to bury evil and vicious designs.”
The opposition factions, however, vowed to challenge “the controversial and black law” at every forum including the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“Today is the black day for parliament,” Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said. “A rigged government is imposed on us, and now they want to impose the EVMs on us.”
The opposition leader termed the electronic voting machines as “evil and vicious” while accusing the government of trying to steal the next elections by deploying them at polling stations across the country.
He also urged the speaker to defer the joint session to build consensus of all parliamentary parties on electoral reforms by holding “comprehensive and meaningful” consultations with the opposition.
Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also asked the government to develop a consensus before passing the law related to changes in the electoral system to ensure that the next electoral contest did not become controversial.
He said the opposition would not accept the next election results if the government passed the law by bulldozing the regular proceedings of the house.
“I don’t accept these election reforms,” he said. “We will challenge this law at every forum including the Supreme Court.”
Foreign minister Qureshi, however, dismissed the opposition’s claims while addressing the joint parliamentary session.
“We don’t want to bulldoze the legislation process,” he said. “We had reached out to the opposition [for consultation on electoral reforms], but they didn’t pay any heed.”
He maintained the electronic voting machines would help make the next elections “more transparent” in a country where people often doubt election results.
He also added the overseas Pakistanis were an asset to the country and the government wanted to involve them in the “policy and decision-making processes” by granting them the right to vote.
The joint parliamentary session also granted the right to appeal to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and passed the Banking Services Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
The opposition claimed the latter piece of legislation was passed on the direction of the International Monetary Fund.