Main Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing closed after forces trade fire

Special Main Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing closed after forces trade fire
A general view shows trucks parked along a road after a landside blocked the road near Pakistan's Torkham border town on April 18, 2023. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 06 September 2023
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Main Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing closed after forces trade fire

Main Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing closed after forces trade fire
  • A Pakistan Frontier Corps personnel sustained injuries during the exchange of fire, police official says
  • Disputes linked to 2,600-km border have been a bone of contention for the neighbors for decades

PESHAWAR: The main Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan was closed on Wednesday after clashes between the border forces of the two countries left a member of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) injured, a senior police official confirmed. 

The Torkham border point is the main point of transit for travelers and goods between Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan. The crossing has been closed several times in recent years, including a closure in February that saw thousands of trucks laden with goods stranded on each side of the border for days. 

Disputes linked to the 2,600 km (1,615 miles) border have been a bone of contention between the neighbors for decades. 

Naheed Khan, a police officer posted at the border crossing, confirmed Pakistan and Afghanistan’s border forces exchanged fire for several hours after the clash began on Wednesday morning. 

“The firing has now ceased but one FC official suffered injuries and rocket shells from the Afghan side landed close to the custom’s offices, which caused no big damage,” Khan told Arab News.

He said the clash was triggered by the Afghan forces’ action of digging a trench and constructing a post near the border. 

Zarqeeb Shinwari, a Pakistani customs clearing agent, said both sides pounded each other’s locations with heavy and small weapons.

“Following the hours-long exchange of fire, hundreds of families of Bacha Mina, a small town in the Torkham on the Pakistani side, left their homes and shifted to the adjacent Landi Kotal town to avoid casualties,” he added.

He said hundreds of heavy vehicles, containers, and thousands of passengers were stuck on both sides of the borders which remained closed for people and traffic following the clash. 

Shinwari said business communities on both sides of the border were fed up with the frequent border closures, adding that travelers and passengers suffered the most during such instances.

“We were fearing that gunbattles could cause [a massive] fire because LNG containers are parked on both sides of the border,” Shinwari said. 

“Tensions on the border sides negatively impact trade activities. We want Pakistani and Afghan officials to settle their disputes once and for all to avoid losses to businesses,” he added.


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 2 min 39 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.


Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people

Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people
Updated 14 April 2024
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Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people

Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people
  • Gunmen killed nine bus passengers near Noshki district last week, alleging they were spies from the Punjab province
  • Outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for attack, offering no evidence in support of its claim

ISLAMABAD: The government in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has decided to revise security plan for the province, it said on Sunday, a day after the killing of nine people in the restive region.
The decision was made at a meeting to review law and order in the province following the killing of nine people, who hailed from the eastern Punjab province, after they were abducted by gunmen from a bus on a highway near the Noshki district.
The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack in the restive Balochistan province, which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting for independence.
Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti presided over the law-and-order meeting to review the situation after the tragedy, Bugti’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
“It was decided to revise the security plan to prevent such incidents in the future,” the statement read.
The meeting was attended by Provincial Police Chief Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, Balochistan Chief Secretary Shakeel Qadir Khan and other senior civilian and military officials.
“This war against terrorism is not only for security forces,” the chief minister was quoted as saying. “Politicians, civil armed forces, bureaucracy, judiciary, media all have to fight this war.”
Bugti said they would fight this war through a “common plan of action,” asking officials to ensure payment of compensation to the families of the victims.
The mineral-rich province of Balochistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by the BLA and other groups, which demand independence from the central government in Islamabad. The militants usually target police forces and soldiers or infrastructure.
Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency, violence in Balochistan has persisted and the bus attack is the latest incident in the restive region.