TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied extended the state of emergency until Jan. 30, 2023, the official gazette said on Friday.
Pakistan’s position on Palestine has not changed — foreign minister
- Statement comes amid US-sponsored efforts to normalize Israeli relations with Muslim states
- Pakistan does not recognize Israel and has repeatedly called for an independent Palestinian state
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani foreign minister Jalil Abbas Jilani said on Thursday Pakistan’s position on Palestine had not changed, amid US-sponsored efforts to normalize Israeli relations with Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia.
Israel has moved closer to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco following a US-driven diplomatic initiative in 2020 which pushed for normalization of relations. Expectations that Israel might normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s two holiest shrines, were ratcheted up last week after the Saudi crown prince said in an interview the two countries were moving steadily closer to normalizing ties.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and has repeatedly called for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
“The position of Pakistan on Israel and Palestine was the same yesterday and is the same today, and it will always be the same in the future as well,” the Pakistani foreign minister told reporters.
“Our policy is linked to the rights of Palestinian people,” Jilani added.
“The issue of Palestine’s right to self-determination is the same as Kashmiris and if we say that it is the same for the Palestinians and Kashmiris then it becomes part of our national interest to support both.”
Pakistan and Gulf Cooperation Council sign ‘preliminary’ free trade agreement
- FTA was signed by GCC Secretary General and Pakistani Commerce Minister in Riyadh
- GCC Secretary General calls the pact “historic, important turning point in cooperation”
KARACHI: Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have signed a “preliminary” free trade agreement (FTA), the GCC announced late on Thursday, saying the pact came in recognition of the importance of strengthening trade relations and economic cooperation with countries and international blocs.
The preliminary FTA was signed by the Secretary General of the GCC, Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi, and Dr. Gohar Ejaz, Minister of Commerce of Pakistan, on Thursday at the headquarters of the General Secretariat in Riyadh.
Last year, both sides held technical-level talks to examine the possibility of signing the free trade agreement that could help Pakistan boost its exports to the six-country bloc, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait. In March this year, a delegation of senior Pakistani diplomats met top GCC officials in Riyadh to discuss the agreement’s modalities. Last week, the foreign minister of Pakistan also met the GCC Secretary General and called for the “early conclusion” of the FTA.
“This historic economic agreement represents an important turning point in cooperation and would contribute to growth and prosperity in a way that serves the common interests of both sides, as it emphasises the vital importance of close cooperation between countries to strengthen economic relations,” Albudaiwi said after the signing ceremony.
“GCC countries are moving forward with the file of free trade negotiations with other countries, aiming to open and enhance the prospects for trade and economic cooperation for the Council member states regionally and internationally.”
The signing of the FTA comes as Pakistan is pushing to pitch an improved business climate and its potential for foreign direct investment in a range of sectors. In June the South Asian nation set up a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) — a civil-military hybrid forum — to fast-track decision making and promote investment from foreign nations, particularly Gulf countries.
The council has identified five sectors as priority, namely agriculture, mining, information technology, defense production and energy, as Pakistan deals with a balance of payments crisis and requires billions of dollars in foreign exchange to finance its trade deficit and repay its international debts in the current financial year.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani said the SIFC forum had become “extremely popular” among international investors and was attracting interest from Middle Eastern countries.
“There are a lot of MOUs and agreements which are in the works, and we are expecting delegations from respective GCC countries very soon,” Jilani said, adding that agreements would be finalized in the fields of agriculture, information technology, mines, and minerals, energy, and defense production, mostly as joint ventures.
Pakistan investigators say ex-PM Khan, over 900 others ‘guilty’ in dozen cases
- Charge sheet submitted before anti-terror court against Khan aides and supporters in cases related to May 9 riots
- Khan’s brief arrest on May 9 in a graft case saw hundreds of his supporters ransack military and other properties
ISLAMABAD: Joint investigation teams set up to probe street violence following the brief arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in May have declared over 900 people, including the ex-premier and other senior members of his party, prime suspects in a dozen cases and on Thursday submitted charge sheets against a number of the accused in an anti-terror court, police said.
Khan was arrested briefly on May 9 in a graft case that saw hundreds of his supporters pour into the streets across the country, ransacking military and other properties. Thousands were arrested in the aftermath as the military and the government said both the perpetrators and instigators of the violence would be brought to justice. Khan is now in jail serving a three-year sentence in a separate corruption case.
DIG Operations Imran Kishwar told media Khan and over 900 other leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party as well as activists nominated in May 9 cases had been “declared guilty of serious offenses.”
“We have declared them prime accused in 12 out of the total 14 cases registered under the anti-terrorism act and other charges at Lahore’s various police stations… [and] challans [charge sheets] have been submitted in the ATC,” he said.
Among those against whom there was “sufficient evidence” were Khan, former Punjab governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, former provincial ministers Mian Mehmoodur Rashid and former health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid. Fashion designer and Khan supporter Khadija Shah, PTI activist Sanam Javed, and other followers of the ex-PM were also nominated in the cases, Kishwar said.
Evidence against them was based on reports received from the national electronic media regulator, the Federal Investigation Agency, and military authorities, the official added.
Digital and photogrammetric evidence as well as voice messages of the suspects “confirmed the allegations” leveled against them in over a dozen cases lodged at different police stations in Lahore, Kishwar said.
On Thursday, the prosecution submitted challans in an anti-terrorism court (ATC) against leaders and hundreds of supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party for being “guilty” of multiple charges in cases involving the May 9 riots, including an attack on the corps commander’s residence in Lahore.
Special Prosecutor Syed Farhad Ali Shah told Dawn challans had been filed of suspects interrogated by the police, presented before a trial court, and subsequently sent on judicial remand in the cases. The investigation against Khan, he said, was “still incomplete” as he had not been taken into physical remand in any of the May 9 cases, nor had the court summoned him yet due to his arrest in other cases.
In the challans filed before the court, the prosecution alleged the violent protests were part of a planned conspiracy against the state: “400 pieces of video evidence, including speeches of the PTI chairman, proved that the attacks on military installations and premises in cantonment areas were pre-planned.”
Charges of mutiny and waging war against the state have been included in all cases and reports from the FIA and intelligence agencies have also been attached to the challans. As many as 368 suspects, including party leaders, have been challaned in the attack on the corp commanders residence alone.
The then government of PM Shehbaz Sharif had called in the army to help end deadly unrest in the wake of the arrest of Khan in a land fraud case, after his supporters stormed military buildings and other private and public properties.
The 70-year-old former cricket star has been at the center of a political crisis since he was ousted in a parliamentary vote of confidence in April 2022. The worst economic conditions in Pakistan in decades have compounded the crisis.
Khan was imprisoned on Aug. 5 after being sentenced to three years jail for being guilty of ‘corrupt practices’ in the sale of state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
The conviction has also barred him from contesting elections for five years.
ADB unveils capital moves to boost lending by $100 bln over a decade for Asia-Pacific
- World Bank said on Thursday it was proposing new capital measures to add over $100 billion in new lending
- This is on top of $50 billion yielded by previous measures including use of debt-like hybrid capital
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) unveiled new capital reforms on Friday that will unlock $100 billion in new financing capacity over 10 years as the lender expands its development and anti-poverty mission to tackle climate change and other global crises.
The Manila-based lender said it was adjusting its risk appetite and reducing its minimum-level of capitalization in a way that preserves its top tier AAA credit rating while allowing it to expand its lending commitments by nearly 40 percent to about $36 billion annually.
ADB’s move to stretch its balance sheet follows similar measures announced by the World Bank earlier this year that will yield a $50 billion increase in lending over a decade. But the ADB’s effort will yield twice the new lending on an “apples to apples” comparison, ADB Managing Director General Woochong Um told Reuters in an interview.
ADB has traditionally taken a more conservative approach, maintaining a higher risk-adjusted capital ratio than the World Bank and other multilateral development banks, said Roberta Casali, vice president for finance and risk management.
So as ADB took a more “granular” approach to analyzing risks, and adjusting downward estimates of unexpected losses, the lender had more room to squeeze new lending from its capital structure than some other banks had, Casali said.
Aiding the effort — and providing some comfort to credit ratings agencies — is the creation of a new, $12 billion Countercyclical Lending Buffer fund that can be used to aid ADB member countries in times of unexpected crises, helping to stabilize them and help avoid loan losses.
The World Bank said on Thursday it was proposing new capital measures that would add more than $100 billion in new lending over a decade on top of the $50 billion yielded by previous measures. These include use of debt-like hybrid capital and increased use of loan portfolio guarantees.
Discussions on expanding lending to fight climate change, pandemics, food insecurity and fragility will be a dominant topic at World Bank-IMF annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco Oct. 9-15.
But with an estimated $3 trillion in annual climate transition financing needs in developing countries, far more capital, private sector participation and innovation will be needed, ADB officials said.
“At the end of the day, developing Asia needs trillions of dollars, so we need to go from billions to trillions,” Um said. “All of us — the World Bank, ADB — need to do everything we can to squeeze as much money as possible from our balance sheets.”
‘Prison for Muslims’: Indian father and son flee religious persecution, seek refuge in Pakistan
- Mohammad Hasnain and his son say they were attacked by Hindu groups multiple times before they fled India via UAE and Afghanistan
- Indian nationals are now living in an Edhi Foundation shelter under police supervision, no comment from Indian High Commission yet
KARACHI: An Indian Muslim and his son who fled their home country citing religious persecution and arrived in Pakistan earlier this month have appealed to the government not to deport them and allow them to stay under “any restrictions.”
Journalist Mohammad Hasnain, 65, and his son Ishaq Amir, 31, a technician at an Indian company, hail from Jamshedpur, an industrial city located in the state of Jharkhand bordering West Bengal. Their journey to Pakistan involved flying from New Delhi to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on September 5, where they got visas for Afghanistan and then flew onwards to Kabul and subsequently to Kandahar. Finally, they paid a driver a little over $200 dollars to drive them across the border to Chaman in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, where they arrived on Sept. 14.
The two are now living at a shelter in Karachi, and say they left their country out of “helplessness” over repeated attacks by Hindu extremists.
Rights groups allege mistreatment of Muslims, some 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, under Narendra Modi, who became prime minister in 2014. In reports on human rights and religious freedom, the US State Department has also raised concerns over treatment of Muslims, Hindu Dalits, Christians and other religious minorities in India while also listing a crackdown on journalists.
Activists point to a 2019 citizenship law described as “fundamentally discriminatory” by the United Nations human rights office for excluding Muslim migrants, an anti-conversion legislation challenging the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief, and the 2019 revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status. There has also been demolition of Muslim properties in the name of removing illegal construction and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when Modi’s BJP party was in power in that state. Attacks by cow vigilantes are also on the rise.
“You can consider that India is like a prison for Muslims, you can eat, drink, and dress up but you don’t have freedom of any kind, you are considered a second-class citizen,” Hasnain told Arab News from the Karachi shelter where he is staying. “If some injustice happens to you, there is no one to listen to you, the police won’t listen, the courts won’t listen.”
Hasnain, who was the editor of an Indian weekly publication ‘The Media Profile,’ was also targeted for his journalism.
“It’s common for journalists to provide commentary on government policies, every journalist does it,” he said, holding up a copy of the publication he worked for. “Every journalist talks about the poor conditions in an area. I also used to write about the injustices faced by Muslims due to their religion. This used to rile them [Indian government] up.”
Amir, the son, said he had been beaten up by right-wing Hindus three times, in 2018, 2019 and 2020. In 2021, he said both father and son were beaten up.
“I filed formal complaints in the company, but there was no reaction, no action taken,” Amir said of the attacks that took place at his workplace.
“Instead, the reaction always seemed to be directed at me. I endured beatings, heard abusive slogans, and was even forced to chant derogatory slogans against Pakistan and Islam. If we answer them, we will get thrashed and if we don’t, then we have to live with our heads down.”
Once in Pakistan, the father and son met police officials who advised them to seek refuge at a shelter run by the Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest charity organization. They are now living there under the supervision of two policemen, and are not allowed to leave the premises.
Asked about the pair’s legal status, deputy inspector general (DIG) of police Asad Raza directed Arab News to speak to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). An FIA spokesperson said the agency had nothing to do with the Indian nationals since they were being handled by police officials. The Indian High Commission did not respond to emails seeking comment about the case.
Asked what they would do if the Pakistani government refused to grant them asylum, Hasnain said the pair would be out of options.
“We just want to be given refuge, we are not demanding anything else,” he said. “You [Pakistan government] can impose any restrictions you want, give us any punishment you desire, do whatever you want, we have no complaints. All we seek is permission to live in this country … I can only make one request: where 250 million people are living, please spare a place for two more.”
Hasnain denied he and his son were seeking refuge in Pakistan at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to tarnish India’s reputation or had arrived in Pakistan on an espionage mission.
“I refute both claims,” Hasnain said. “Neither the Indians have sent us here nor the Pakistanis brought us under their patronage.”
Asked why he opted for Pakistan and not Bangladesh, which is closer to his hometown and where he would have received a visa more easily, the journalist pointed to New Delhi’s influence over the administration in Dhaka.
“It would have been like falling out of the frying pan and into the fire,” he said. “If the Indian government were to someday ask for our return, the Bangladeshis would hand us over within a second.”
Amir, whose father separated from his mother several years ago, didn’t even tell his mother before fleeing India.
“Now that we have come here, all that we hope for is mercy,” he said. “We seek refuge.”