Pakistan to buy more electricity from neighboring Iran

Pakistan to buy more electricity from neighboring Iran
Men work on electric pylons along the roadside in Karachi on May 30, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 August 2023
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Pakistan to buy more electricity from neighboring Iran

Pakistan to buy more electricity from neighboring Iran
  • Iran exports around 100 megawatts of electricity to the areas of Pakistan that border it
  • Pakistan, Iran opened Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line at border crossing in May

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will buy more electricity from neighboring Iran, the country’s finance ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, less than a week after the two states signed a five-year trade deal with a target of $5 billion.

Pakistan and Iran share a 959-kilometer frontier that begins at the Koh-i-Malik Salih mountain and ends at Gwadar Bay in the Gulf of Oman. Trade volume between the two countries currently stands at approximately $2 billion, and Iran exports around 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the areas of Pakistan that border it.

In May this year, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Raisi jointly inaugurated the Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line at a border crossing between the two states, aiming to bring an additional 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity from Iran to the South Asian country, especially to sustain China-backed development projects on Pakistan’s southwestern Gwadar port.

“The economic coordination committee (ECC) has considered a summary from the ministry of energy (power division) regarding a contract with Tanavir Iran for the purchase of 104 MW of electricity,” a statement from the finance ministry said, referring to Iran’s state-owned energy company.

The ECC approved the amendments in the contract with Tanavir related to the extension of the tariff for the existing supply of 104 MW from Iran’s Jakigur district to Pakistan’s Mand town which started in January 2022 and will continue until the end of December 2024.

The amended contract, the statement said, included the tariff agreed for an additional supply of 100 MW through the Polan-Gabd Transmission Line from March 16, 202, to December 31, 2024.

Last week, Iran’s foreign minister Dr. Hossain Amir Abdollahian signed a five-year trade agreement with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to enhance exchanges in the energy sector between the two states.
 


Pakistan court rules ex-PM Khan’s trial to continue in jail, allows media access

Pakistan court rules ex-PM Khan’s trial to continue in jail, allows media access
Updated 27 sec ago
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Pakistan court rules ex-PM Khan’s trial to continue in jail, allows media access

Pakistan court rules ex-PM Khan’s trial to continue in jail, allows media access
  • Khan and his close aide Shah Mahmood Qureshi are charged with leaking state secrets
  • Trial previously held behind closed doors in jail, now media, public, family to get access

Islamabad: A Pakistani judge ruled on Tuesday the trial of prime minister Imran Khan in a case in which he is accused of leaking state secrets would be held in jail but members of the public and media would have access.

Khan, who is the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is being held at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, serving a three-year sentence in a separate case in which he was convicted in August of failing to disclose assets earned from the sale of state gifts while he was PM from 2018-2022. Khan is also accused in a number of other cases, including what has come to be called the cipher case, in which he has been indicted for leaking official secrets and using them for political gains.

The government had announced in August that the trial in the cipher case would be held in jail for “security reasons,” and a special court had since been conducting the trial on the prison premises, with no members of the public or media allowed. Last week, however, the Islamabad High Court declared the confidential proceedings illegal, following appeals by Khan’s lawyers that their client would not be given a fair trial behind closed doors. 

Public hearings in the matter began last Thursday at the Judicial Complex in Islamabad, but Khan did not appear and the case was adjourned until Nov. 28, with the court directing the ex-premier, and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who has also been indicted in the case, to appear in person on that date.

Khan and Qureshi, who have both pleaded not guilty, were not brought to the court on Tuesday when the judge ruled that the trial would continue in jail but media and the public would be allowed access to the court proceedings. Five family members of each suspect would also be allowed to attend the hearing.

The next hearing has been set for Dec. 1 at Adiala Jail.

“The jail officials are saying that he [Khan] cannot be presented,” the judge remarked after reviewing a report submitted by Adiala jail authorities. 

Lawyers representing Khan and Qureshi objected to the report and urged the court to implement its previous order that the duo be presented in court.

“It was their [jail authorities] responsibility to present the suspect [Khan] in the court,” Salman Safdar, who is representing Khan, said.

Safdar also rubbished reports by intelligence agencies that there was a threat to Khan’s life, saying it was the state’s responsibility to provide him security.

“If there are security threats, then please adjourn this hearing for an indefinite period,” Safdar urged the court. “The accused should be granted bail if the jail authorities could not present him here for the trial.”

Qureshi’s lawyer also argued that it was “court’s responsibility to get its [production] orders implemented”:

“If the court orders are not implemented, you [the judge] have the authority to send the government officials to jail.”

Khan had been appearing in courts prior to his August arrest protected by his personal security guards. But he has also sought exemptions from personal appearances, often citing threats to his safety.

Khan, arguably the most popular politician in the country, has not been seen since he was arrested in August. Before that, he would regularly address his millions of followers via social media and hold massive public rallies and protest marches.

The cipher case relates to an alleged diplomatic correspondence between Washington and Islamabad that Khan says was proof that his ouster as PM in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April 2022 was part of a US conspiracy to remove him. Washington has repeatedly denied Khan’s accusations.

A special court was formed on Aug. 21 under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, to adjudicate the case through in-camera proceedings. Khan and Qureshi were indicted in the case last month.

Last week, the Pakistan government also approved Khan’s jail trial in a separate case of a £190 million settlement with a property tycoon.

Khan is currently being held at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail where he is serving a three-year jail sentence.


Ex-PM Khan’s party says facing crackdown in stronghold province ahead of Pakistan elections

Ex-PM Khan’s party says facing crackdown in stronghold province ahead of Pakistan elections
Updated 28 November 2023
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Ex-PM Khan’s party says facing crackdown in stronghold province ahead of Pakistan elections

Ex-PM Khan’s party says facing crackdown in stronghold province ahead of Pakistan elections
  • Police confirm clashes with PTI ahead of political convention last week, cases filed against hundreds of supporters
  • Caretaker government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province says “no ban on any political party to hold rallies”

DIR LOWER: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan has said it is facing a crackdown in its stronghold province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ahead of general elections scheduled in February, with police confirming clashes at a recent political convention and the subsequent arrests of dozens of PTI supporters.

The party says the crackdown in the northwestern province is part of a wider clampdown that began after May 9, when Khan supporters took to the streets in nationwide protests, ransacking military installations and government and private properties following the ex-PM’s brief arrest by an anti-corruption agency. Pakistan’s army and the then government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif responded fiercely, accusing Khan’s supporters of terrorism and vowing to punish the alleged perpetrators, including through trials in army courts. 

Thousands of PTI supporters, including top party leaders, were subsequently arrested and many remain in jail. A legion of senior PTI leaders also abruptly announced they were quitting the party or leaving politics, which they were widely believed to have done under pressure from the military establishment, which denies interfering in politics.

Khan himself has been embroiled in a tangle of political and legal battles since he was ousted as prime minister in April last year in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He has not been seen in public since he was jailed for three years in August for not declaring assets earned from the sale of state gifts during his tenure in office from 2018 to 2022.

Khan says the cases are politically motivated and part of a larger plan to keep him and the PTI out of elections. As things stands, Khan, as a convict, is barred from contesting any elections under Pakistani law.

But the PTI, like other political parties, has started election activities though it alleges it is being kept from holding corner meetings and political conventions, especially in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the party ruled from 2013-23.

On November 25, a clash was reported between police and PTI supporters on their way to attend a workers convention in Wari, a union council in Upper Dir.

“PTI supporters were adamant to attend the workers convention and the police were not allowing them, which resulted in the clash,” General Secretary of the PTI in Upper Dir, Imran Saeed, told Arab News, adding that policemen were stationed at checkpoints across Dir Upper and Dir Lower to stop people from reaching the venue of the convention in the village of a former member of the national assembly, Sahibzada Sibghat Ullah.

Saeed said two PTI members were injured in the clash and dozens were arrested by the police.

Waqar Ahmed Khan, the district police office in Dir Upper, confirmed the arrests and clashes and said a police case had been filed against 188 people for violating a ban on public gatherings imposed this month under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure CrPC, which empowers district administrations to issue orders in the public interest that may place a ban on an activity for a specific period of time. Such a ban is enforced by the police who register cases under section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code for violations of the ban.

The district police officer said 74 people had been arrested and nine police reports filed, while three civilians and three policemen were injured in the clashes. Among those charged in the police reports are former MPA Fazal Hakeem from Swat, former MPA Liaqat Ali Khan from Dir Lower, former MNA Gul Zafar Khan from Bajaur, Khan’s lawyer Muhammad Afzal Marwat and former MNA Junaid Akbar from Malakand.

In Swat, another district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, police said 36 people had been arrested and cases had been filed against more than 2,400 people for violating Section 144 on Nov. 26.

“NOT A GOOD THING FOR DEMOCRACY“

While the PTI says its political activities are being disrupted and its supporters intimidated through arrests, other political parties have been campaigning freely in the province.
 
The Pakistan Peoples Party held a workers’ convention and the party’s chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, addressed a large public gathering in Dir Upper on Nov. 21. The Pakistan Tehreek Insaf Parliamentarian party organized a rally in Lower Dir on Nov. 24 while the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F held a rally in Peshawar, the provincial capital, on Nov. 17.

Irfan Saleem, the Deputy Secretary of Information PTI-KP, said it was “unfair” that his party’s political activities were being blocked under the “pretext” of Section 144 while other political parties were free to carry on with their campaigns.

“Leaders and workers from the PTI were arrested in Dir Upper, Lower Dir and in Swat on the pretext of violating Section 144,” he told Arab News. “We want free and fair elections and that the voice of the public is heard.”

“We will use the rights given to us by the constitution and we will conduct peaceful rallies,” he added.

Feroz Jamal Kakakhel, the caretaker Information Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, denied that the PTI was being blocked from campaigning, saying Section 144 had been imposed in view of rising militant attacks in the province in recent months.

“There is no ban on any political party to hold political rallies,” he said. “There is a law-and-order situation in the province and the district administration has imposed section 144 in the larger public interest.”

But independent political analysts warned about the legitimacy of an election in which the PTI was not allowed a “level playing field” and fair competition.

 “To stop only one political party from conducting political rallies is not a good thing for democracy,” analyst and journalist Tariq Waheen said, “and will have bad consequences for the upcoming polls.”


Pakistan’s Imran Khan denied court-ordered public trial — lawyer

Pakistan’s Imran Khan denied court-ordered public trial — lawyer
Updated 28 November 2023
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Pakistan’s Imran Khan denied court-ordered public trial — lawyer

Pakistan’s Imran Khan denied court-ordered public trial — lawyer
  • Open trial denied despite high court orders, government submits reports on threats to Khan’s life
  • Court rules retrial in jail open to public and media, Khan in the past cited life threats to seek exemptions

ISLAMABAD: Jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was denied an open court trial on Monday as ordered by a high court after the government submitted reports citing threats to his life, his lawyer said.
The court hearing the case later said Khan’s trial on the charge of leaking state secrets will be held in jail premises but will be open to media and the public, the lawyer said.
The Islamabad High Court had ruled last week that holding Khan’s trial inside jail premises on security concerns was illegal, and ordered it restarted in an open court.
Khan has denied the charges against him.
The 71-year-old former cricket star has been embroiled in a tangle of political and legal battles since he was ousted as prime minister. He has not been seen in public since he was jailed for three years in August for unlawfully selling state gifts while in office from 2018 to 2022.
Khan had been appearing in courts prior to his August arrest protected by his personal security guards. But he has also sought exemptions from personal appearances, often citing threats to his safety.
“Jail reports have been submitted citing that Imran Khan has life threats according to various intelligence and police reports,” said the lawyer, Naeem Panjutha, in a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
A special court has been conducting the trial in prison since Khan was indicted on the charges last month.
The charges against Khan relate to a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in the United States last year, which Khan is accused of making public.
The graft conviction has put a five-year bar on Khan to contest elections. He denies any wrongdoing and has said all the charges against him, including the graft case and the leak of the cable, were cooked up at the behest of the military to block him from the Feb. 8 general election.
The military has dismissed Khan’s allegations.
The election is shaping as a fight between Khan’s party and that of another ousted former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Both leaders had fallen out with the military, which has ruled directly or overseen civilian governments since Pakistan’s creation in 1947.


Indian rescuers say very close to reaching 41 men trapped in tunnel

Indian rescuers say very close to reaching 41 men trapped in tunnel
Updated 28 November 2023
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Indian rescuers say very close to reaching 41 men trapped in tunnel

Indian rescuers say very close to reaching 41 men trapped in tunnel
  • Rescuers just six or seven meters away from workers trapped in a collapsed highway tunnel in the Himalayas for over two weeks
  • vMen have been getting food, water, light, oxygen and medicines through pipe but efforts to dig tunnel to reach them frustrated by snags

SILKYARA: Rescuers in India are just six or seven meters (20-23 feet) away from 41 men trapped in a collapsed highway tunnel in the Himalayas for more than two weeks, and are confident of drilling through to reach them on Tuesday, officials said.
The men, low-wage workers from India’s poorest states, have been stuck in the 4.5 km (3 miles) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed on Nov. 12.
So-called rat miners, brought in on Monday to drill through the rocks and gravel by hand after machinery failed, made good progress overnight, officials said.
“About 6 or 7 meters are left,” said Deepak Patil, a senior officer leading the rescue, adding that more than 50 meters of an estimated 60 meters of debris had been bored through.
“Sure, 100 percent,” he said when asked if the men could be reached on Tuesday.
The men have been getting food, water, light, oxygen and medicines through a pipe but efforts to dig a tunnel to reach and rescue them with drilling machines have been frustrated by a series of snags.
Rescuers on Monday brought in the “rat miners,” experts at a primitive, hazardous and controversial method used mostly to get at coal deposits through narrow passages. Their name comes from their resemblance to burrowing rats.
The tunnel is part of the $1.5 billion Char Dham highway, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most ambitious projects, aimed at connecting four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890- km network of roads.
Authorities have not said what caused the cave-in but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.


Illegal to be involved in ‘political and electoral activities,’ Pakistan warns Afghans living in the country

Illegal to be involved in ‘political and electoral activities,’ Pakistan warns Afghans living in the country
Updated 28 November 2023
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Illegal to be involved in ‘political and electoral activities,’ Pakistan warns Afghans living in the country

Illegal to be involved in ‘political and electoral activities,’ Pakistan warns Afghans living in the country
  • Says Afghans involved in funding candidates, electoral activities in Pakistan to be deported “regardless of legal status”
  • Tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom lived in Pakistan for decades, have left under government’s deportation policy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has said it was illegal for Afghans living in the country to support or be involved in any political or electoral activities ahead of general elections scheduled for February next year, warning the migrants of expulsion if they did not comply.

Islamabad last month announced it would expel over a million undocumented migrants, mostly Afghans, amid a row with Kabul over charges that it harbors anti-Pakistan militants. Since the announcement of the deportation drive on Oct. 3, tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for decades, have had to leave the country, and authorities are rounding up many more in raids across the country.

“Afghan nationals residing in Pakistan are cautioned that it is illegal to support or provide funding to any candidate for political and electoral activities in Pakistan,” the interior ministry said in a statement on Monday. “Any Afghan citizen involved in such activities will be deported regardless of legal status in Pakistan.”

In the 1980s, millions of Afghans fled to neighboring Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers witnessed a spike after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

Even before he expulsion drive began, Afghans have long complained about constant harassment due to the lack of citizenship rights for those who have spent decades living and working in Pakistan. 

Human rights activists have for years called for Afghans born in the country to be given nationality in accordance with Pakistani law, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the country, except for children of diplomats and enemy aliens.