Pakistan advocates expansion of UN Peacebuilding Commission’s activities to Afghanistan, Kashmir 

Pakistan advocates expansion of UN Peacebuilding Commission’s activities to Afghanistan, Kashmir 
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses a session at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations headquarters in New York City, US, on April 17, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 25 July 2023
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Pakistan advocates expansion of UN Peacebuilding Commission’s activities to Afghanistan, Kashmir 

Pakistan advocates expansion of UN Peacebuilding Commission’s activities to Afghanistan, Kashmir 
  • The commission was established in 2005 to promote peacebuilding efforts in countries emerging from conflict
  • Pakistan says the PBC only has half the financial resources that it requires to cover the peacebuilding ‘growth industry’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan urged the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) to expand its activities to places like Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir during a debate at the General Assembly, reported the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency on Tuesday.

The PBC was established in 2005 to promote peacebuilding efforts in countries emerging from conflict or facing challenges related to peace and stability. It also tries to bridge the gap between the immediate post-conflict response, carried out by peacekeeping operations and humanitarian agencies, and the longer-term development efforts of the UN’s development agencies.

Pakistan’s permanent representative to the world body, Ambassador Munir Akram, described peacebuilding as “a growth industry” during the debate, saying the PBC only had half of the financial resources that it required.

“The PBC’s coverage is not universal,” he said. “Significant situations such as in Afghanistan and in Jammu and Kashmir are not among those addressed by the Peacebuilding Commission.”

Afghanistan emerged out of prolonged conflict that began in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and ended when the international forces pulled out of that country in August 2021.

Ever since the war-ravaged state has faced an acute shortage of resources to manage its economy or feed its people.

Pakistan has repeatedly urged the international community to adopt a policy of constructive engagement with the Taliban administration in Kabul without compromising on the human rights situation in that country.

Officials in Islamabad have also raised alarm over the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir after New Delhi decided to revoke the special constitutional status of the only Muslim-majority state under its rule to integrate it with the rest of the Indian union.

Pakistan has frequently criticized its neighboring state and nuclear arch-rival for adopting “oppressive policies” toward the Kashmiri people and altering the demographic situation in the territory through the settlement of Hindus.

Ambassador Akram said the PBC should get bottom-up information and analysis from the government, from its resident coordinators, and other stakeholders on country-specific situations.


Two Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman

Two Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman
Updated 12 sec ago
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Two Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman

Two Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman
  • Attack took place near Shi'ite mosque in Wadi al-Kabir, a district east of Omani capital city of Muscat
  • Police have not confirmed motive for rare attack in one of the most stable countries in the Middle East

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ambassador to Oman Imran Ali said on Tuesday two Pakistanis were among four killed in what he described as a “terrorist attack” near a Shi'ite mosque in Wadi al-Kabir, a district east of the Omani capital of Muscat. 

The Royal Oman Police have confirmed the attack and said four people had been killed but given no motive nor said who was suspected of being behind the assault, a rare breach of security in one of the most stable countries in the Middle East.

“Two Pakistanis are killed and another 30 are injured in the attack,” the envoy told Arab News by telephone from Muscat.

Videos shared by the embassy in Oman showed the ambassador visiting the injured in hospital. 

“This is my message to the Pakistani community that in this emergency situation, please don't go towards Wadi al-Kabir, that area is cordoned off,” Ali said in a video message from a hospital. “If anyone has injured relatives, kindly please don't give up on your patience.”

He said he had visited up to four hospitals and the injured people he had met were in “relatively” stable condition. 

“People in their homes, please stay safe, and don’t go there [towards Wadi al-Kabir] because our information is that the emergency situation is still ongoing,” the ambassador concluded.

A handout from the embassy said the “terrorist” attack by “unknown assailants” took place around 11pm on Monday night on the Imam Bargah Ali bin Abu Talib in Wadi al-Kabir. Authorities evacuated people from the area following the attack and started an operation around 230am.

“Assailants have taken worshippers hostages while reportedly [there are] several casualties; authorities have cordoned off the area,” it added. “Hostage evacuation has started now. Military units have reached.”

The Pakistani embassy's Facebook page said emergency had been imposed at the Khulla Hospital, Nahida Hospital and Royal Hospital, which Ambassador Ali had visited. 

The attack comes during the Islamic month of Muharram when Shi'ite Muslims commemorate the seventh-century battlefield martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).


Pakistan army says attack on cantonment ‘orchestrated’ from Afghanistan, eight soldiers killed 

Pakistan army says attack on cantonment ‘orchestrated’ from Afghanistan, eight soldiers killed 
Updated 44 min 38 sec ago
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Pakistan army says attack on cantonment ‘orchestrated’ from Afghanistan, eight soldiers killed 

Pakistan army says attack on cantonment ‘orchestrated’ from Afghanistan, eight soldiers killed 
  • Military says group of ten militants had tried to enter cantonment in the city of Bannu in early hours of Monday
  • Security forces thwarted their movement, forcing militants to ram explosive-laden vehicle into perimeter wall 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Tuesday an attack on a cantonment in the northwestern city of Bannu had been orchestrated by militants based in neighboring Afghanistan, confirming that eight soldiers had been killed in the assault.

Pakistan has witnessed a spike in militant attacks in recent years, with many of them taking place in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Islamabad blames the surge mainly on militants from the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, and other groups that it says operate out of Afghanistan. Kabul denies that it allows its territory to be used by insurgents and says Pakistan’s security woes are a domestic issue.

In a statement sent to reporters, the media wing of the army said a group of ten militants had tried to enter a cantonment in Bannu in the early hours of July 15, Monday. 

“The attempt to enter the cantonment was effectively thwarted by the security forces personnel, which forced the terrorists to ram an explosive laden vehicle into perimeter wall of the cantonment,” the statement said.

Eight soldiers were killed in the ensuing blast which also led to the collapse of a portion of the outer wall and damaged nearby infrastructure.

“In the ensuing operation, own troops effectively engaged the terrorists as a result of which all ten terrorists were sent to hell,” the army said. “This timely and effective response by the security forces prevented major catastrophe, saving precious innocent lives.”

The military said the attack had been carried out by the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, a TTP faction, saying it operated from Afghanistan and had used Afghan soil to 'orchestrate' attacks inside Pakistan in the past as well. 

“Pakistan has consistently raised its concerns with Interim Afghan Government, asking them to deny persistent use of Afghan soil by the terrorists and take effective action against such elements,” the statement said. 

“Pakistan Armed Forces will keep defending the motherland and its people against this menace of terrorism and will take all necessary measures as deemed appropriate against these threats emanating from Afghanistan.”


Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’

Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’
Updated 16 July 2024
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Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’

Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’
  • Government has announced it will pursue ban on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of jailed ex-PM Imran Khan
  • PTI says ban yet another attempt by weak governing coalition to squash Khan and PTI’s political popularity

ISLAMABAD: The United States State Department said on Monday it was following reports of the Pakistan government’s plans to ban the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of ex-premier Imran Khan, adding that outlawing any political party was of “great concern” to Washington.

Information Minister Ataullah Tarar announced on Monday the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was planning to ban the PTI and move the country's top court to press treason charges against Khan.

“We’ve seen the reports and the statements made by the government,” a State Department spokesperson told reporters in response to a question. 

“Our understanding is this is the beginning of a complex process, but certainly the banning of a political party is something that would be of great concern to us.”

Tarar has said the decision to ban the PTI was based on the "proven" charge of the party receiving foreign funding, which is illegal in Pakistan, rioting by its supporters last year that targeted military properties and because Khan had leaked, for political gains, state secrets by disclosing the contents of a classified diplomatic cable in what has come to be popularly called the cipher case.

Other reasons included that Khan's party had lobbied in Washington to get the US House of Representatives to support a resolution calling for a probe into Pakistan's elections and Khan had written to the IMF for an election audit before approving a new bailout loan.

The PTI has said the announcement of the ban was yet another attempt by the weak governing coalition to squash Khan and his party’s political popularity.

Jailed since August, Khan was last week acquitted, along with his third wife, on charges that they married unlawfully but he will not be freed after authorities issued new orders to arrest him.

Khan came to power in 2018 and was ousted in 2022 after what is widely believed to be a falling out with Pakistan's powerful military, which denies political interference. His popularity has grown since his ouster and jailing and the candidates he had backed won the most seats in Feb. 8 general elections. 


Experts say ban on Imran Khan’s party ‘unlikely’ to be approved by Pakistan top court

Experts say ban on Imran Khan’s party ‘unlikely’ to be approved by Pakistan top court
Updated 16 July 2024
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Experts say ban on Imran Khan’s party ‘unlikely’ to be approved by Pakistan top court

Experts say ban on Imran Khan’s party ‘unlikely’ to be approved by Pakistan top court
  • Article 17 of constitution says government has to refer decision to ban a party to Supreme Court for final decision
  • Experts say ban announcement latest effort by a weak governing coalition to squash Khan’s political popularity

ISLAMABAD: The federal government’s plans to push for a ban on former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was “unlikely” to be sanctioned by the Supreme Court and could be seen as a latest attempt to dent the popularity of the ex-premier and his party, political observers said this week.

Pakistan’s federal government announced on Monday it was planning to ban Khan’s political party and move the country’s Supreme Court to press high treason charges against him. The decision to ban the PTI was based on what Information Minister Ataullah Tara said was the “proven” charge of the party receiving foreign funding, which is illegal in Pakistan, rioting by its supporters last year that targeted military properties and because Khan had leaked state secrets by disclosing the contents of a classified diplomatic cable for political gains in what has come to be popularly called the cipher case. 

Under Article 17 of the Pakistani constitution, “should the Federal Government declare any political party as acting against these interests, it must refer the matter to the Supreme Court within fifteen days for a final decision.”

Several analysts Arab News spoke to agreed that it was unlikely that the decision to ban the PTI would be upheld in court and reflected an attempt by the federal government to assert its authority after a general election marred by accusations of rigging against the broadly popular PTI. The party won more seats than any other in the election despite what it says is a crackdown on its candidates and supporters and has become ever-more popular since Khan was ousted in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in 2022.

“This move will probably backfire as it is the Supreme Court that will finally decide … and if the court does not see robust, solid evidence in support of declaring it unlawful, which I do not think they have, then probably the government will not succeed,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (PILDAT) think tank, told Arab News.

“I do not think this will materially affect the PTI as long as there are people supporting the party, as long as there are people who love the party, who stand beside it.”

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, a former close Khan aide, agreed. 

“The move is highly unlikely to succeed as under Article 17, government recommendations have to be approved by the SC and the likelihood of its approval is almost null,” he said. 

“BAD OPTICS”

The ban announcement comes in the wake of the PTI winning a number of important legal battles. Among four cases in which Khan was convicted and has been jailed since August last year, two have been suspended by courts since and he has been acquitted in the others, though new cases have since been brought against him. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says all cases against him are motivated to keep him out of politics and behind bars.

Last week, the PTI also won a major victory when the Supreme Court declared that the party was eligible for over 20 extra reserved seats in parliament, which has stripped the governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, of its two-thirds majority in parliament, weakening an already fragile government that is widely believed to lack mass popular support.

All PTI candidates contested the Feb. 8 elections as independents after the party was barred from the polls on the technical grounds that it did not hold genuine intra-party polls, which is a legal requirement. Subsequently, they won the most seats in the national election, 93, but the election commission said independents were ineligible for their share of 70 reserved seats — 60 for women, 10 for non-Muslims — distributed among political parties in proportion to the number of seats they win in general polls. This completes the National Assembly’s total strength of 336 seats. 

The reserved seats were then distributed among other parties, mostly those in the ruling coalition, a decision Khan’s party appealed. On Friday the Supreme Court ruled that the PTI was indeed a political party for the purposes of the election and entitled to reserved seats. The court has now given the PTI 15 days, starting July 12, to submit its list of candidates entitled to the reserved seats and asked independent candidates to formally declare their allegiance to the PTI. 

Experts said the announcement of the ban could also be seen as the government’s way to discourage successful independent candidates from rejoining Khan’s party. 

“The government may be hoping that because of this announcement, some of the PTI members who currently have to give their affidavit, whether they will join the PTI or not — 41 of them in the National Assembly and about 60 in the Provincial Assemblies — they will get the message that if the party is declared unlawful by the Supreme Court, then they will also stand disqualified,” Mehboob from PILDAT explained, referring to a law that parliamentarians from a particular party stand disqualified if their party is banned. 

Mazhar Abbas, a senior journalist and longtime observer of Pakistani politics, was doubtful a ban on the popular political party could hold. 

“In any adverse situation, the PTI can come out with a new name with a more aggressive posture,” he said.

Chaudhry, the former Khan aide, also cautioned that a ban would weaken the government further as the public, already stirred up over what they saw as a rigged election and trumped-up cases against Khan, would see the ban a “an attempt to sabotage democracy and against the constitution.”

Political analyst Zoya Tariq warned a ban on the PTI or any other political party would have “serious repercussions” for the country.

“This is bad optics and will set a very wrong precedent as all political decisions in a democratic country should be made by the people,” she told Arab News. “It is the moral duty of the current government to take action to maintain stability in the country.”

“This [ban announcement] has caused no worry to PTI,” PTI spokesman Zulfi Bukhari said in a video message to reporters. “It has only demonstrated what we have been trying to say earlier that there is absolute fascism in Pakistan, there is an undeclared martial law in Pakistan.”
 


Four Pakistani soldiers, five insurgents killed in coordinated attacks at military facility

Four Pakistani soldiers, five insurgents killed in coordinated attacks at military facility
Updated 42 min 45 sec ago
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Four Pakistani soldiers, five insurgents killed in coordinated attacks at military facility

Four Pakistani soldiers, five insurgents killed in coordinated attacks at military facility
  • Suicide bomber detonated explosives-laden vehicle and other insurgents opened fire near outer wall of Bannu Cantt
  • Most attacks in the region have been claimed by TTP which has stepped up assaults on security forces in recent months

PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle and other insurgents opened fire near the outer wall of a military facility in northwestern Pakistan early Monday, killing at least four soldiers and wounding dozens, including civilians, officials said.

There was no immediate comment from the military about the attack that happened in Bannu, a city in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.

However, four local security officials said all five attackers had been killed.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

However, a local police official Tahir Khan said security forces quickly responded to the “coordinated attack” and foiled an attempt by the insurgents to enter the sprawling military facility in the city of Bannu which mainly houses offices of the military and homes of security forces.

He also said army helicopters and ground forces were still reaching the area to track more militants.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks, mostly in the northwest, in recent years.

In January 2023 militants killed at least 101 people, mostly police officers, when a suicide bomber disguised as a policeman attacked a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Most attacks in the region have been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban who have stepped up assaults on security forces across the country in recent months.

Pakistani Taliban — who are known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP — are a separate group but an ally of the Afghan Taliban. TTP has stepped up its attacks on security forces since the Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in 2021.