Registered Afghan refugees among hundreds arrested in police crackdown in south Pakistan

Registered Afghan refugees among hundreds arrested in police crackdown in south Pakistan
In this file photo, taken on January 30, 2021, a police vehicle enters the central prison in Karachi. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 September 2023
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Registered Afghan refugees among hundreds arrested in police crackdown in south Pakistan

Registered Afghan refugees among hundreds arrested in police crackdown in south Pakistan
  • The crackdown on Afghan nationals began on Saturday following militant infiltration from Afghanistan into Chitral district
  • Police have acknowledged making 293 arrests, as an Afghan diplomat seeks time for unlawful inhabitants to return home

KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s southern Karachi port city have arrested hundreds of Afghan nationals in the last few days for allegedly residing unlawfully in the country, though a senior diplomat from Afghanistan and a human rights activist have said that many of those apprehended possessed valid documents.
Pakistani authorities initiated the crackdown on Saturday, making some speculate it was in response to reported militant infiltration from Afghanistan into the country’s Chitral district where four security personnel were killed in a gunbattle that took place on Thursday. The incident prompted Pakistan to issue a demarche to the Afghan charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge “strong protest over the incident.”
According to a spokesperson for the Karachi police, 293 Afghan nationals were booked under the Foreigners Act during the three-day crackdown.
Moniza Kakar, a lawyer and human rights activist, took to social media to voice concerns, saying that Afghan refugees had been arrested by the police who also confiscated their proof of registration (PoR) cards.
“Alarming situation in Karachi as 150+ Afghan refugees, many registered, face arrests with reported confiscation of their registration cards by police,” she wrote on X messaging platform. “Mass arrests of Afghan refugees in Karachi is based on their racial profiling. Urgent action needed to protect refugees’ rights.”

Kala Khan, an Afghan refugee born in Muslim Bagh, Balochistan, said he had been living in Karachi for the past 35 years, but he was arrested, along with eight others, despite being in possession of the PoR cards.
“The police took copies of our PoR cards and registered a case against us,” he told Arab News while he was brought to the court on Tuesday. “They demanded a bribe, and as we were unable to provide it, they proceeded with the case, taking our cards from us.”
The Karachi police spokesperson and SSP East Irfan Bahadur did not respond to the request for a comment related to the allegation.
Syed Abdul Jabbar, Consul General of Afghanistan in Karachi, said his office had formally communicated its concern to Pakistani authorities.
“When we contacted the federal authorities in Islamabad and provincial authorities in Sindh, they assured us that no registered Afghan refugees would be arrested,” he continued. “However, the police are continuously arresting registered Afghan refugees.”
Jabbar urged Pakistani authorities not to arrest registered Afghan refugees, adding: “Those who don’t possess document should be given time to travel back to their country.”
When contacted, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the foreign ministry spokesperson, suggested contacting the interior ministry for an official response. However, the caretaker interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti, did not respond to requests for a comment.


Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence

Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence
Updated 14 sec ago
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Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence

Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence
  • Interior ministers of Pakistan, Iran agree on joint action plan to deal with “terrorism,” says state media 
  • Both representatives agree to ensure effective border management, prevent smuggling and trafficking of drugs 

ISLAMABAD: The interior ministers of Pakistan and Iran on Monday decided to ban “terrorist organizations” in their respective countries, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report, as both countries move to bolster strained ties during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s ongoing visit to Pakistan. 

Pakistan and Iran have had a history of rocky relations despite a number of commercial pacts, with Islamabad being historically closer to Saudi Arabia and the United States. Pakistan and Iran are also often at odds over instability on their shared porous border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged airstrikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Ahmad Vahidi, met in Islamabad on Monday to discuss bilateral issues and matters of mutual interests. 

“Pakistan and Iran on Monday decided in principle to ban terrorist organizations in their respective countries,” the APP said.

“The two sides agreed on a joint plan of action to deal with the menace of terrorism being a common problem, with further improving mutual support and exchange of intelligence information.”

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Ahmad Vahidi, meet in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 22, 2024. (PID)

The two representatives decided to sign a security agreement regarding their decision “at the earliest,” the state-run media said. 

Naqvi and Dr. Vahidi also decided to increase cooperation in border management and take steps to prevent smuggling and trafficking of drugs.

“Minister Naqvi said that smuggling was a cause of economic loss for both countries and its prevention through border management would help promote mutual trade,” the APP said. “The two sides also agreed to activate the border markets as soon as possible.”

It was also decided that Iran would extend all possible facilities to Pakistani pilgrims who visit Karbala in Iraq for the Arbaeen pilgrimage. The Iranian interior minister invited Naqvi to visit Iran to assess the arrangements. 

Both sides also agreed to waive fines imposed on their nationals imprisoned in each other’s country.

Raisi arrived in Islamabad on Monday for a three-day visit to Pakistan, accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation of cabinet members and businesspersons. The two countries signed eight accords and memorandums of agreement in trade, technology, health, culture, information and judicial matters. Both countries agreed to enhance bilateral trade to $10 billion. 

The Iranian president met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Syed Asim Munir on Monday. He is scheduled to visit Pakistan’s southern port city Karachi, also its commercial hub, on Tuesday and meet the country’s provincial leadership there. 


Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi
Updated 36 min 26 sec ago
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Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi
  • Pakistan’s maritime affairs minister says UAE’s investment an important “breakthrough” that has increased interest of other players
  • Multi-purpose terminal will handle grains, fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, says official of company operating terminal

KARACHI: Pakistani and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials performed the groundbreaking of a $175 million Bulk and General Cargo terminal on Monday, describing it as an “important breakthrough” for the South Asian country in the maritime sector. 

Under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement between Pakistan and the UAE earlier this year, a new 25-year concession agreement was signed between AD Ports Group and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in Feb. 2024 to outsource operations of the bulk and general cargo terminal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Karachi Gateway Terminal Multipurpose Limited (KGTML), a joint venture between AD Ports Group, as a majority shareholder, and Kaheel Terminals, a UAE-based company, will develop, operate and manage the Bulk and General Cargo Terminal, berths 11 to 17 at Karachi Port’s East Wharf. The move is expected to enhance Karachi’s position as a key player in the maritime industry.

Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Pakistan’s minister of maritime affairs, unveiled the KGTML plaque at Karachi Port on Monday, describing the UAE’s investment as a “very important breakthrough” which has increased the interest of other players in the maritime sector.

“This investment from Abu Dhabi Ports is very important for Pakistan, it is a breakthrough,” Sheikh told Arab News at the sidelines of the event. “It is the first investment in terminal and following this, there are many other companies who are also interested in Pakistan.”

The minister shared that Maersk Line, the largest owner and operator of US flag vessels, has also expressed interest in investing in Pakistan.

“We are looking forward to investment from other companies like, you see, other shipping lines,” Sheikh said. “We are having a meeting (on Apr. 25) with Maersk Line and we are also expecting (investment).”

Khurram Aziz Khan, KGTL’s chief executive officer, said AD Ports plans to invest about $157 million for the bulk terminal’s development, adding that it would handle all kinds of bulk cargo.

“This is basically a multi-purpose terminal which will not only handle grains but also fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, dirty or clean cargo as well,” Khan told Arab News.

“We are making a long-term investment to make it a regional hub not only for containers but also for the multi-purpose facilities,” Khan explained, adding that the project, once completed, will also save the time and cost of doing business.

He informed that AD Ports has an overall plan of investing about $395 million in the development of the container and cargo terminal.

“We have an overall plan of $220 million investment in the container terminal and $175 million of investment in the multi-purpose bulk terminal,” the KGTL chief said.

AD Ports Group also presented Sheikh a cheque for the upfront fee payment amounting to $50 payable to KPT as per the terms outlined in the Agreement for Outsourcing of Operations of Bulk and General Cargo Terminal.

Abdul Aziz Baloshi, chief executive officer of Fujairah Terminals, AD Ports Group, said the group was expanding its operations in Pakistan.

“Progress will be made through investment in the supply chain,” Baloshi said at the event. “Karachi port is the future of Pakistan and Pakistan is included in our priority list in the region.”

UAE’s Consul General Bakheet Atiq Al-Remeithi said Emirati investors are interested in investing on a large scale in Pakistan. He said their areas of interest included ports and shipping, railways, and other infrastructure.

“Apart from port investments, investments will be made in railway infrastructure, export zones, and other sectors,” Al-Remeithi shared.

 The port operator hoped that the facilities will help Pakistan become the regional hub for handling export and import of cargoes from Central Asian countries.

The agreement for the construction of the Bulk and General Cargo terminal at the Karachi port was based on the concession agreement secured by AD Ports Group to develop, operate and manage container terminal at berths 6-10 at Karachi port’s East Wharf in June 2023.

AD Ports Group had signed a 50-year concession agreement with KPT to secure the terminal’s operations. 


Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides

Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides
Updated 23 April 2024
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Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides

Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides
  • Windstorms and lightning may affect human lives, crops, loose structures, vehicles and solar panels
  • Met Office asks tourists to avoid unnecessary travel, farmers to manage crops accordingly on Apr. 24-29

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) on Monday said a fresh spell of rains was likely to hit parts of Pakistan this week, warning of flash floods and landslides in the country’s western regions.

A westerly wave is likely to enter western parts of the country on April 24 and grip most upper parts on April 26, according to a statement issued by the PMD.

As a result, rains, wind- or thunderstorms are expected in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir between April 24 and April 29.

“Isolated/moderate to heavy rainfall may generate flash flood in local nullahs/Streams of Balochistan specially (Noushki, Pishin, Harnai, Zhob, Barkhan, Gwadar, Kech and Awaran) on 26th & 27th April, while Dir, Swat, Chitral, Manshera, Kohistan and Kashmir on 27th and 28th April,” the statement read.

“Possibility of landslides in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Murree, Galiyat, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan may affect the vulnerable locations from 27th to 29th April.”

During this period, the Met Office said, windstorm and lightning could affect human lives, crops, loose structures like electric poles, vehicles and solar panels.

“Farmers especially in wheat harvested areas are advised to manage their crops keeping in view the weather conditions,” it added.

“Tourists are advised to avoid unnecessary traveling particularly from 26h to 29th April.”

Pakistan has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing at least 78 people and destroying property and farmland. Experts say the country is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change.

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.


Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport

Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport

Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport
  • The initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure
  • Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under government scheme have already been availing facility in Islamabad

KARACHI: Saudi authorities have approved the expansion of the Makkah Route initiative, which is aimed at facilitating Pakistani Hajj pilgrims, to the Karachi airport, Pakistani officials said on Monday.

The statement came a day after a two-member delegation from Saudi Arabia visited the Jinnah International Airport in the southern Pakistani city to inspect facilities and discuss arrangements for the pilgrims.

Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster.

Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme have been availing this facility at the airport in Islamabad for the last couple of years and the government wanted the initiative to be extended to other cities as well.

“The Saudis have okayed Jinnah International Airport Karachi,” Saifullah, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), told Arab News.

Gulzar Soomro, director at the Hajj directorate in Karachi, confirmed the development, saying a contract had also been awarded to a company to design the project.

A spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Islamabad could not be immediately reached for confirmation.

During the visit to the Karachi airport on Sunday, the two-member Saudi delegation showed particular interest in the entry process for intending pilgrims and the allocation of immigration space, according to the PCAA. It came weeks after Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry announced completion of a survey for the Makkah Route initiative at the Karachi airport.

The South Asian country expects more than 60 percent of pilgrims performing Hajj this year to benefit from the initiative. People opting for the private Hajj scheme can also avail the facility, given the tour operators providing them services have contacted the Pakistani religious ministry for the purpose.

Saudi Arabia last year restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and abolished the upper age limit of 65 years. More than 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023, while the rest used private tour operators.

This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.


Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi

Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi

Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi
  • Karachi, the country’s commercial hub, has reported nearly one murder every other day since the start of this year
  • At least 18 killings, including that of an army major, occurred during muggings in the holy fasting month of Ramadan

KARACHI: The government in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Monday decided to intensify its efforts against rampant street crime, following the killing of dozens of people in muggings and other violent crimes in the provincial capital this year.

The decision was made at a law and order meeting held at the Chief Minister’s House, which was attended by members of the provincial cabinet, top bureaucrats, provincial and city police chiefs, Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar and Sindh Rangers Director-General Maj Gen Azhar Waqas.

The development comes after the killing of at least 57 people in Karachi, the country’s commercial hub and home to roughly 30 million people, averaging nearly one murder every other day since the start of this year, according to a tally collected from media reports.

At least 18 of the killings, including that of an army major who was assigned with the Coast Guard, occurred during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The officer was shot by muggers on March 30 and died after being hospitalized for a week.

“Meeting has decided to take measures to monitor the sale of stolen or snatched mobile phones and vehicles as spare parts or in their complete form in the markets of Karachi,” read a statement issued from the CM House after the huddle.

Officials informed the participants that the police had 467 encounters with criminals this year, in which 67 suspects were killed, 489 were injured and 1,766 were arrested.

Additionally, the police were directed to revamp Madadgar-15 service for reporting crimes.

“The Home Minister announced that an additional 168 vehicles, including 120 motorbikes, would be deployed to enhance the police force’s capabilities,” the statement read.

“The Chief Minister instructed the Inspector General (IG) of police to initiate the E-tagging of repeat offenders.”