US denies leaving military equipment in Afghanistan amid fears weapons with Pakistani Taliban

US denies leaving military equipment in Afghanistan amid fears weapons with Pakistani Taliban
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 17, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 September 2023
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US denies leaving military equipment in Afghanistan amid fears weapons with Pakistani Taliban

US denies leaving military equipment in Afghanistan amid fears weapons with Pakistani Taliban
  • Pakistani PM has said US military equipment left in Afghanistan had enhanced the fighting capabilities of TTP
  • Four soldiers killed in northern Pakistan on Wednesday by militants the army said carried “latest weapons”

ISLAMABAD: A top US official said on Wednesday no military equipment had been left behind by American forces in Afghanistan, in response to a question about reports that $7 billion worth of weapons reportedly were abandoned in the war-torn country when US forces withdrew in August 2011.
The comments by John Kirby, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication, came days after Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said US military equipment left behind during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was now “emerging as a new challenge” for Islamabad as it had enhanced the fighting capabilities of the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP, which has been fighting the Pakistani state since 2007, has intensified attacks on security forces since late last year and are a separate but allied group of the Afghan Taliban.
The remarks also came on the same day four Pakistani soldiers were killed during an attack on two military check posts by a “large group of terrorists” that the army said was equipped with “latest weapons.”
“There was no equipment left behind by American forces,” Kirby said in response to a question at a press briefing.
“The equipment that people are saying the Americans left behind, that was equipment that was transferred well in advance of our departure to the Afghan National Security Forces. … because that was part of the mission that our troops were involved in Afghanistan to do in the first place, which was to train up and to support Afghan national security forces as they took charge of security in their country.”
Kirby said as the Taliban advanced on Kabul and other places throughout the country after the US withdrawal, the Afghan National Security Forces, and not the US, abandoned that equipment.
Speaking to foreign media journalists at his office on Monday in Islamabad, Kakar did not provide evidence to support his allegation that the TTP were using American weapons but called for a “coordinated approach” to tackle the challenge of the leftover equipment.
“We are not accusing the US of anything that we would need to share evidence (for),” Kakar said when asked if Pakistan had presented evidence to Washington that its military equipment was now being used against Pakistan.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan two years ago was widely viewed as “chaotic,” with Afghan security forces, built and trained at a two-decade cost of $83 billion, collapsing quickly and completely after, and the Afghan Taliban capturing an array of modern military equipment.


Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks

Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks
Updated 24 sec ago
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Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks

Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks
  • Pakistan’s government will negotiate long-term program with IMF after its short-term program expires this month
  • Shehbaz Sharif takes over the reins of a country facing an overlapping security, economic and political crises
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed his team to prepare an action plan to revive Pakistan’s economy and proceed with talks on an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), state-media reported on Tuesday, as the South Asian country scrambles to avoid a macroeconomic crisis by clinching a long-term bailout program with the international lender. One of the foremost challenges facing Sharif and his government would be to negotiate a long-term bailout program with the IMF, as Pakistan’s short-term program expires this month. Pakistan’s fragile $350-billion economy is in desperate need of external financing to shore up its foreign exchange reserves and escape a looming macroeconomic crisis. Hours after he was swearing-in ceremony, the Pakistani premier chaired an hours-long meeting in which he tasked authorities to devise an action plan to revive Pakistan’s economy, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. The finance secretary provided a detailed briefing of the country’s economic situation in the meeting. “We have got the mandate to improve the economy and this is the top priority of our government,” Sharif was quoted as saying by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) in a report. “PM Shehbaz directed for immediate initiation of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding its Extended Fund Facility,” the report said. Sharif said Pakistan’s loss-making state-owned institutions would be privatized so that they do not become a “burden” on the economy. “PM Shehbaz asked all the banks and financial institutions to prepare strategies for the promotion of small and medium businesses so that the youth could be helped stand on their own feet,” the report said. The prime minister also directed reducing the size of the government by merging or closing institutions that were “no longer needed.” The prime minister described the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a hybrid government body established to attract international investment in Pakistan’s key economic sectors, as a “very important step” in bringing about economic stability in the country. He said the SIFC would be further strengthened by his government. For Pakistan, committing to a new IMF program, however, will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery. This would limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth. Inflation touched a high of 38 percent with record depreciation of the rupee currency under Sharif’s last government from April 2022 to August 2023, mainly due to structural reforms necessitated by the IMF program. Pakistan continues to be enmeshed in economic crisis with inflation remaining high, hovering around 30 percent, and economic growth slowing to around 2 percent. PM Sharif will have to contend with Pakistan’s economic crisis at a time when the country is wracked with political instability. Pakistan’s controversial Feb. 8 national polls were marred by controversy and allegations of vote-rigging, denied by the country’s election regulator. Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has led nationwide protests against the alleged rigging. The PTI has vowed to continue protests across the country until its mandate is not recognized. Meanwhile, the South Asian country faces mounting attacks from militant outfits in the country, especially the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP have increased attacks in Pakistan since a fragile truce between them and the state broke down in November 2022.

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’
Updated 33 min 40 sec ago
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Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’
  • This year’s list featured 100 entries, with 104 women from 27 different sectors and 28 nationalities
  • The banking and financial services sector led the list with 26 entries, followed by health care and others
ISLAMABAD: Forbes, an American business magazine, has named two Pakistanis in its list of the Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’ for the year 2024. This year’s list featured 100 entries, with 104 women from 27 different sectors and 28 nationalities, according to Forbes. The banking and financial services sector led the list with 26 entries, followed by health care with 13, and investments and technology with six entries each. There were 35 newcomers to the list, from 15 different sectors. Shaista Asif, co-founder and group chief executive officer (CEO) of PureHealth Holding health care network in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was ranked 4th on the list. She co-founded the health care corporation in 2006 and was appointed group CEO in Dec. 2023. Her group’s initial public offering (IPO) raised a total of $986 million by offering 10 percent of its issued share capital on the first market of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) in Dec. 2023. The IPO was oversubscribed by 483 times in the retail tranche and by 54 times in the professional subscriber tranche, according to Forbes. “In January 2024, the group acquired the UK’s largest independent operator of hospitals, Circle Health Group, for $1.2 billion before debt,” the American magazine reported. “PureHealth acquired Sheikh Shakbout Medical City, the U.A.E.’s largest health care complex, valued at $600 million with revenues of $585.4 million.” Shazia Syed, another Pakistani and the Unilever general manager for North Africa, Levant and Iraq, secured 9th position on the list for her extensive experience working at several corporations. “Syed assumed her current role in 2021 and is also the Arabia Senior Customer Development Lead. She joined Unilever in 1989. She also sits on the board of United Bank Limited in Pakistan, is a member of the Board Risk & Compliance Committee, and is the chairperson of the Board Audit Committee,” Forbes wrote. “She previously sat on the boards of Pukka Tea and Pepsi Lipton, was the president of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and was the director of the Pakistan Business Council.”

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations
Updated 04 March 2024
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Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations
  • Sweden has a growing defense industry with Saab making the Gripen fighter jet, the Global Eye surveillance aircraft and anti-tank weapons
  • Top 10 destinations for Swedish arms exports includes the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India and Norway

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 to reach 1.6 billion euros as the Russia-Ukraine war drove a search for weaponry, a government agency said Monday.

Most of the exports went to European Union countries and 39 countries which Sweden cooperates with, the Swedish Inspectorate for Strategic Products (ISP) said in a statement.

Sweden has a growing defense industry with Saab making the Gripen fighter jet, the Global Eye surveillance aircraft and anti-tank weapons.

“The degradation of the security situation and the continuing rearmament in the world means that the Swedish defense industry can expect many orders for a long time,” said ISP director general Carl Johan Wieslander in a statement.

“Swedish military equipment is attracting great interest, particularly in Ukraine,” he added.

Turkiye also benefited from Swedish arms, according to ISP, with exports in 2023 worth four million Kronor (356,000 euros).

In 2019, Stockholm introduced restrictions on arms sales to Ankara in response to Turkiye’s military incursion into Syria.

The embargo was lifted following negotiations between the two countries during Sweden’s NATO accession process.

“The resumption of arms exports to Turkiye clearly shows that Sweden places greater importance to NATO membership than to respecting human rights, democracy and international law,” said the peace and disarmament NGO Svenska Freds in a statement.

“The arms industry wants to present itself as a contributor to freedom and democracy, but Swedish arms companies also export (their products) to undemocratic regimes, countries that violate human rights and international law,” the NGO added.

People in these countries “pay a high price” for flourishing arms industry, it said.

The top 10 destinations for Swedish arms exports are the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Norway, France and the Czech Republic.


Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples

Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples
Updated 04 March 2024
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Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples

Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples
  • The 900-year-old Katas Raj temples are one of the holiest sites in South Asia for Hindus
  • Thousands of Indian Sikhs and Hindus come to Pakistan to visit their holy sites annually

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi said on Monday it had issued 112 visas to a group of Indian Hindu pilgrims to visit the Katas Raj temples in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province from March 6 till March 12.

The 900-year-old Katas Raj temples, one of the holiest sites in South Asia for Hindus, form a complex of several temples connected to one another by walkways that surround a pond named Katas that Hindu sacred texts say was created from the teardrops of Shiva as he wandered the Earth inconsolable after the death of his wife Sati.

The complex is located in the village of Katas in Punjab’s Chakwal district, some 110 km (70 miles) south of the capital Islamabad.

“Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Saad Ahmad Warraich, wished the pilgrims a spiritually rewarding yatra and safe journey,” the Pakistani high commission said in a statement.

Under the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, each year thousands of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to attend various religious festivals and occasions.

“The issuance of pilgrimage visas to them is in line with the Government of Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating visits to religious shrines and promoting interfaith harmony,” the high commission added.

Non-Muslims make up only a little over three percent of Pakistan’s more than 241 million population.

In 2021, Pakistan opened the Kartarpur corridor as a visa-free crossing, allowing Indian Sikhs to visit the temple just 4km (2.5 miles) inside Pakistan where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak died in 1539.

Many Sikhs see Pakistan as the place where their religion began as Nanak was born in 1469 in a small village near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.


Pakistan poll regulator denies Khan-backed party reserved seats in parliament

Pakistan poll regulator denies Khan-backed party reserved seats in parliament
Updated 04 March 2024
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Pakistan poll regulator denies Khan-backed party reserved seats in parliament

Pakistan poll regulator denies Khan-backed party reserved seats in parliament
  • Khan’s PTI party couldn’t contest election under its electoral symbol, a cricket bat, which was denied on technical grounds
  • The PTI subsequently struck an alliance with another party, the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), in a bid to secure reserved seats

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday denied the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party, joined by independent lawmakers loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, a share of parliamentary seats reserved for women and minorities.

In Pakistan, there are 70 seats reserved for women and non-Muslims in the 336-member National Assembly that are given to political parties on the basis of general seats won by them in national elections.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party couldn’t contest the Feb. 8 election under its iconic electoral symbol, a cricket bat, which was denied over violation of electoral laws of the country.

Consequently, PTI members contested last month’s election as independents and the party later struck an alliance with the SIC in a bid to claim its share of the reserved seats.

“In light of clear provisions of Article 51(6)... SIC is not entitled to claim for the quota for reserved seats for women and non-Muslims due to having non curable legal defects and violation of mandatory provision of submission of party list for reserved seats which is the requirement of law,” the ECP said in its decision.

The verdict came shortly after Shehbaz Sharif, who ousted Khan in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April 2022, took oath as prime minister for a second term.

Khan-backed candidates secured more seats than any other party in the polls, but they were outnumbered by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party after it forged an alliance with ex-foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other smaller groups.

The PTI said it would challenge the ECP decision in court.

“Article 51 of the Constitution, states that the National Assembly cannot be deemed complete without the allocation of reserved seats for women and minorities, proportionate to each political party’s representation,” it said.

“[An] incomplete National Assembly, devoid of reserved seats for women and minorities, is not mandated to function if 23 PTI-backed members are denied their constitutional rights under a dubious scheme.”

Khan’s PTI claims the election was brazenly rigged to prevent its victory, an allegation denied by the ECP and the caretaker government that oversaw the vote.

Analysts say the ECP, by allotting the remaining reserved seats to other political parties, has made things “controversial” in an already polarized political environment.

“This is a major blow for a party that did win the highest number of National Assembly seats despite its symbol being taken away just before the elections,” Mehmal Sarfraz, a political analyst, told Arab News.

“While the prime minister extends an olive branch to the opposition, such verdicts will lead to an even charged atmosphere inside parliament rather than bringing the temperatures down.”