Pakistan PM says ‘Afghan citizens’ helping suicide bombers

Pakistan PM says ‘Afghan citizens’ helping suicide bombers
Security personnel examine the site of a bomb blast in Bajaur district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on July 31, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2023
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Pakistan PM says ‘Afghan citizens’ helping suicide bombers

Pakistan PM says ‘Afghan citizens’ helping suicide bombers
  • Pakistan has seen rise in attacks in areas bordering Afghanistan since Taliban came to power
  • Islamabad says Pakistani Taliban militants operate freely from Afghanistan but Kabul denies the charge

ISLAMABAD: Militants behind a spate of suicide attacks in Pakistan were being helped by “Afghan citizens” across the border, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said, days after a deadly bombing at a political gathering near the countries’ shared frontier.

Sharif stopped short of accusing Afghanistan’s Taliban government of knowingly allowing attacks from its soil, but he did say Pakistan militants were operating from “sanctuaries” in the neighboring country.

Islamabad has previously said fighters from the Pakistan Taliban were operating freely from Afghanistan — a charge Kabul routinely denies.

Sharif’s remarks late Tuesday followed a security briefing and a visit to victims of Sunday’s blast, which killed 54 people and wounded dozens more at a gathering of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) political party workers in Khar.

The attack was claimed by the Pakistan chapter of the Daesh group, who have a bloody rivalry with the Taliban.

“The Prime Minister noted with concern the involvement of the Afghan citizens in the suicide blasts,” a statement from Sharif’s office said.




This handout picture taken on August 1, 2023, shows Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (3R) meeting a blast victim along with Pakistan's army Chief General Syed Asim Munir (2L) at a military hospital in Peshawar. (PID/AFP)

It noted there was “liberty of action available to the elements hostile to Pakistan in planning and executing such cowardly attacks on innocent civilians from the sanctuaries across the border.”

Since the Taliban surged back to power in Afghanistan two years ago, Pakistan has witnessed a dramatic uptick in militant attacks focused on its western border regions.

Taliban authorities have consistently pledged not to let Afghan territory be used by foreign militants to stage attacks — a key part of the accord that saw US-led forces leave after a 20-year occupation.

Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Wednesday that the Khar attack was a “criminal act.”

“Such incidents should be prevented where they are happening and being coordinated,” he said.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is very serious about preventing its soil from being used against anyone, and we won’t allow anyone to create a sanctuary here.”

A UN Security Council report in May said Afghanistan’s Taliban did not consider the Pakistan Taliban a domestic threat, “but rather as part of the emirate,” adding that the group had a “safe operating base” there.

In January, investigators blamed a mosque blast that killed more than 80 police officers on a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban.

The Daesh group named, but did not give the nationality of the suicide bomber it said carried out Sunday’s attack. Pakistan police have not confirmed any details of the bomber.

But investigators said a Daesh bombing that killed 64 people at a Shiite mosque in northwest Pakistan last year was carried out by an Afghan exile who had returned home to prepare for the attack. Sharif’s office said the “interim Afghan government should undertake concrete measures toward denying its soil to be used for transnational terrorism.”


Eid tourism in northwestern Pakistan surged by over 360 percent this year as inflation eases

Eid tourism in northwestern Pakistan surged by over 360 percent this year as inflation eases
Updated 31 sec ago
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Eid tourism in northwestern Pakistan surged by over 360 percent this year as inflation eases

Eid tourism in northwestern Pakistan surged by over 360 percent this year as inflation eases
  • Inflation in Pakistan fell to 20.7 percent in March, the country’s lowest in 23 months, data showed
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Galiyat area saw highest number of tourists, 237,500, from April 10-14 last week

ISLAMABAD: Eid tourism in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province surged by over 360 percent this year, with over 580,000 tourists visiting the area’s scenic spots during the five-day holidays last week, data released by the provincial tourism authority on Monday showed, as inflation eases in the economically troubled country. 

Poor weather conditions and soaring inflation led to a staggering 74 percent decline in the number of tourists that visited KP last year during the Eid holidays, as per official figures, when over 125,000 tourists visited the province. The northwestern province is home to many picturesque locations and scenic spots such as Swat Valley, Malam Jabba, Abbottabad, Kaghan, and Shogran that Pakistanis from all over the country visit during the Eid holidays. 

As per figures shared by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development Project (KITE), a provincial initiative by the provincial government to develop tourism in KP, 583,452 tourists in total visited the province from April 10-14. 

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s tourist spots remained tourists’ first priority during Eid holidays,” the KP Culture and Tourism Authority said in a statement. “During the five days [April 10-14], over 583,000 tourists visited the tourist spots of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

According to a breakdown shared by KITE, Galiyat saw the highest number of visitors with over 237,500 visiting the area during the five days while 151,900 visited Malam Jabba. As many as 92,470 tourists visited Kumrat Valley while 77,372 toured Naran and Kaghan areas, the data showed. 

Pakistan’s inflation last year peaked at 36.4 percent during April 2023 while food inflation surged to 49.1 percent. The South Asian country’s inflation outpaced price gains even in Sri Lanka as its currency depreciated and Pakistan hiked fuel and energy prices to comply with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

In March 2024, however, Pakistan’s inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell to 20.7 percent, its lowest in 23 months. However, the country continues to face significant financial challenges, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a weak national currency.


8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 

8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 
Updated 11 min 31 sec ago
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8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 

8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 
  • Four children, three men and a woman were among the eight casualties, says provincial disaster management authority 
  • In latest press release, Pakistan’s Met Office warns of floods and landslides in country’s northern areas due to heavy rain

PESHAWAR: Eight people have been killed and 12 others injured in the past three days due to rain-related incidents in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, a report by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Sunday, as the meteorological department warned of floods and landslides in the country’s northern parts. 

Heavy rains and snowfall last week damaged hundreds of houses and bridges and shut off road and rail routes in several areas of Pakistan, especially in KP. As per the PDMA’s latest report, four children, three men and one woman were among the eight casualties while the 12 injured included four women, six men and two children. 

It said that 85 houses were affected in various districts of the province when their walls and roofs collapsed due to heavy rain. Of these, 15 houses were destroyed while 70 were damaged.

“Due to heavy rain, accidents and financial losses were reported in various districts such as upper and lower Dir, lower Chitral, Swat, Bajaur, Shangla, Mansehra, Mohmand and Malakand,” the report. 

It added that KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur had directed the relevant district administrations and institutions to provide immediate assistance to the affected families and instructed them to ensure the provision of best medical facilities to those injured in rain-related incidents.

The PDMA said it is in contact with the district administrations throughout the province and has instructed them to speed up relief operations. 

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) issued a press release on Monday warning that heavy rains could cause floods in the streams and rivers near Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Murree, Galyat, Naran and Kaghan areas. It also warned that the showers can cause landslides in the areas surrounding River Kabul. 

Separately, over 20 people were killed last week in lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab and southwestern Balochistan provinces amid heavy rains and thunderstorms in the two provinces. 

Pakistan has been prone to natural disasters and consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries due to the effects of climate change.

In March, heavy rains in Pakistan’s Balochistan triggered urban floods in Gwadar and Kech districts, destroying nearly 100 homes and killing at least five people.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people. Over 33 million people were affected by the floodwaters — a staggering number close to the population of Canada.

Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools as well as thousands of kilometers of roads and railways still need to be rebuilt.


Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report

Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report
Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report

Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report
  • Debt-for-nature swaps refers to when poorer countries have debt written off in return for protecting ecosystems
  • Swaps could provide $100 billion for fight against climate change, new report by British non-profit organization says

LONDON: Debt-for-nature swaps, where poorer countries have debt written off in return for protecting ecosystems such as barrier reefs or rainforests, could provide $100 billion for the fight against climate change, a new report has calculated.

The UK-based, non-profit International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) based the estimate on the possibility of debt swaps in many of the 49 less developed countries seen as most at risk of debt crises.

Belize, Ecuador, Barbados, Gabon and Cabo Verde have all done such swaps in recent years and Laura Kelly, the director of IIED’s sustainable markets research group, said many of those in debt distress and also often most threatened by global warming, were looking at them.

The IMF and World Bank, whose figures the analysis is based on, estimate the countries focused on collectively owe $431 billion, mostly to wealthier governments, the IMF itself and pension and hedge funds.

At the same time, these countries received less than $14 billion in climate finance according to OECD figures from 2021, which is significantly less than they need to limit climate change or at least adapt to it.

The aim of IIED’s report is to encourage a drive for more debt swaps at the upcoming IMF and World Bank Spring meetings which start later this week.

Kelly said countries that could benefit included Pakistan, Sri Lanka and The Gambia in West Africa, which is at “huge risk” of sea level rise she stressed and needs to invest heavily in flood prevention and wetland preservation.

Ghana too, which like Sri Lanka is now restructuring its debt, is another obvious candidate. One of its key exports, cocoa beans used for chocolate, could thrive if more is done to protect its vital rainforests.

“For governments (that do debt swaps) it creates some fiscal space, but also it helps to achieve outcomes in terms of climate and nature that have global impact,” Kelly said, adding that many countries were interested in potentially doing them.


Pakistan investigating death of suspect in 2013 killing of accused Indian spy

Pakistan investigating death of suspect in 2013 killing of accused Indian spy
Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan investigating death of suspect in 2013 killing of accused Indian spy

Pakistan investigating death of suspect in 2013 killing of accused Indian spy
  • Accused Indian spy Sarabjit Singh died in 2013 after inmates attacked him in a Lahore prison
  • Pakistan has previously accused India’s intelligence agency of being involved in killings inside Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistani authorities are investigating the shooting death of a man suspected in the killing of accused Indian spy Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore prison in 2013, a police official said Saturday.

Pakistan has previously accused India’s intelligence agency of being involved in killings inside Pakistan, saying it had credible evidence linking two Indian agents to the deaths of two Pakistanis last year.

The man who died in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Saturday was Amir Tamba. He was a suspect in the death of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national who was convicted of spying in Pakistan and handed a death sentence in 1991.

But Singh died in 2013 after inmates attacked him in a Lahore prison. His fate inflamed tensions between the two South Asian nuclear-armed rivals.

Tamba was accused of being involved in Singh’s death but was not convicted.

The deputy inspector general of police in Lahore, Ali Nasir Rizvi, said gunmen entered Tamba’s house and shot him. They fled the scene on a motorbike. Officials from Pakistan’s army and intelligence agency reached the site and removed Tamba’s body, taking it to the city’s Combined Military Hospital.

Rizvi said a case had been lodged against unidentified assailants but gave no further information about the case, including a possible motive for the attack.

There was scant coverage of Tamba’s death in Pakistan’s media. However, Indian outlets were quick to report on the shooting. There was no immediate comment from the Indian authorities.

Singh was arrested in 1990 for his role in a series of bombings in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 people. His family said he was innocent.

Last year, both the United States and Canada accused Indian agents of links to assassination plots on their soil. India dismissed the allegation of its involvement in the killing in Canada as “absurd.”

In the case involving the US, India’s foreign ministry said it had set up a high-level committee to investigate the accusations, adding that the alleged link to an Indian official was “a matter of concern” and “against government policy.”


Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings

Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings
Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings

Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings
  • The development comes amid Islamabad’s efforts to reach an agreement with the IMF for a new bailout program
  • Pakistan remains in need of external financing to shore up its reserves to escape another macroeconomic crisis

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, has arrived in Washington D.C. to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, Pakistani state media reported late Sunday.

The development came amid Islamabad’s efforts to reach a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a new loan program by the end of the current fiscal year in June.

Pakistan successfully completed a final review of its current $3 billion IMF deal this month, clearing the way for the disbursement of a final tranche of nearly $1.1 billion.

However, the South Asian country remains in desperate need of external financing to shore up its foreign exchange reserves and escape yet another macroeconomic crisis.

“During his stay in US, the Finance Minister will meet IMF and World Bank officials,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported. “Meetings with international media and think tank representatives are also included in the Finance Minister’s schedule.”

On Friday, Aurangzeb met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to discuss Pakistan’s economic strategy ahead of his meetings with IMF and World Bank officials.

“He discussed with the prime minister his scheduled meetings with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other organizations during the visit,” the Pakistani finance ministry said.

“The overall economic situation of the country was also discussed in the meeting.”

Last week, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva confirmed Pakistan was in discussions with her organization on a potential follow-up loan program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement (SBA).

The IMF chief recognized Pakistan’s commitment to structural economic reforms during an event at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. She, however, noted that some important issues, including the tax base and overall economic transparency, were yet to be addressed by Pakistani authorities.