Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA
Prime Minister of Pakistan Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 22, 2023. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 22 September 2023
Follow

Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA
  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar welcomes Saudi-Iranian normalization, calls for two-state solution for Palestine
  • Premier says global powers should convince India to accept offer of mutual restraint on strategic weapons

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday called for action to halt militant attacks from neighboring Afghanistan, endorsed Saudi Arabia and Iran’s diplomatic rapprochement, and advocated a two-state solution as the path to enduring peace in Palestine.
Kakar achieved a historic milestone as the first caretaker prime minister of his country to address the annual United Nations General Assembly session in New York, where he tackled global issues ranging from extremist violence and relations with India to the escalating challenges of climate change and Islamophobia.
“Pakistan’s first priority is to prevent and counter all terrorism from and within Afghanistan,” he told representatives of UN member states. “Pakistan condemns the cross-border attacks by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), Daesh and other groups operating from Afghanistan.”
The prime minister’s statement follows a dramatic surge in militant violence in Pakistan, mainly in regions bordering Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul in August 2021.
Attacks in the first half of this year rose by 80 percent compared with the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.
“We have sought Kabul’s support and cooperation to prevent these attacks,” the prime minister said. “We are also taking necessary measures to end this externally encouraged terrorism.”
Kakar reiterated his country’s position that peace in Afghanistan was a “strategic imperative” for Pakistan, while sharing international concerns with respect to its neighbor, particularly those related to the rights of women and girls.
“We advocate continued humanitarian assistance for the destitute Afghan population in which Afghan girls and women are the most vulnerable, as well as the revival of Afghan economy and implementation of the connectivity projects with Central Asia,” he said.
Discussing Pakistan’s relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor, the prime minister said his country desired “peaceful and productive” relations with all neighbors, including India.
“Global powers should convince New Delhi to accept Pakistan’s offer of mutual restraint on strategic and conventional weapons,” he said, adding that Kashmir provided the key to peace between the neighboring states.
Pakistan and India both rule parts of the disputed Himalayan region while claiming it in full. They have fought two wars over the mountainous territory, and their forces frequently exchange fire across a 740 km (466 mile) line of control, the de facto border separating the two parts of Kashmir.
“We must counter all terrorists without discrimination, including the rising threat posed by far-right extremist and fascist groups, such as Hindutva-inspired extremists threatening genocide against Indian Muslims and Christians,” he said.
“We also need to oppose state terrorism, address the root cause of terrorism, such as poverty, injustice and foreign occupation, and distinguish genuine freedom struggles from terrorism.”
The prime minister proposed the creation of a committee of the general assembly to oversee the balanced implementation of all “four pillars of the global counter terrorism strategy.”
He also applauded the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, while commenting on the overall strategic situation in the Middle East.
“Pakistan welcomes the progress made toward ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. In particular, we warmly welcome the normalization of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Focusing on the Palestine issue, Kakar mentioned continued “Israeli military raids, air strikes, expansion of settlements and eviction of Palestinians.”
He said: “A durable peace can be established only through a two-state solution, and establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state within the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds as its capital.”
The prime minister also mentioned the “age-old phenomenon” of Islamophobia, saying the problem had grown dramatically in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US, and could be seen in the negative profiling of Muslims and public burnings of the Qur’an.
“The narratives advocating a clash of civilizations have done considerable harm to humanity’s progress,” he said. “Such ideas have bred extremism, hatred and religious intolerance, including Islamophobia.”
Kakar welcomed legislation initiated by Denmark and contemplated by Sweden to ban desecration of the Islamic scripture.
“Pakistan and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries will propose further steps to combat Islamophobia, including the appointment of a special envoy, creation of an Islamophobia data center, legal assistance to victims and an accountability process to punish Islamophobic crimes,” he said.
Discussing the climate change issue, Kakar said Pakistan looked forward to fulfilling the climate commitments made at COP28 by developed countries to provide over $100 billion in annual climate finance.
“Pakistan’s triple food finance fuel challenge is a prime illustration of the impact of COVID conflict and climate on developing countries,” he said, adding that Pakistan was one of the countries worst hit by climate change.
Flooding in Pakistan last year submerged one-third of the country, killed 1,700 people, displaced over 8 million others, destroyed vital infrastructure and caused over $30 billion damage to the economy, Kakar said.
“We are gratified by the commitment of over $10.5 billion for the Pakistan’s comprehensive plan for recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction with resilience,” he said.
“Specific projects are being submitted to ensure timely funding. I hope our development partners will accord priority to the allocation of funds for our recovery plan which costs $13 billion.”


Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule

Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule
Updated 3 sec ago
Follow

Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule

Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule
  • Incumbent Paul Kagame has won more than 93% of the vote at each of the three previous elections
  • Kagame is running against two other candidates, Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana
KIGALI: Voters in Rwanda lined up at polling stations on Monday to elect their next president, with 66-year-old incumbent Paul Kagame, who has ruled the central African country for nearly a quarter of a century, expected to cruise to victory.
Kagame has won more than 93 percent of the vote at each of the three previous elections. Eight candidates had applied to run against him, but only two were retained in the final list validated by the electoral commission.
The others, including Kagame’s most vocal critics, were barred for various reasons that included prior criminal convictions.
At the Rwandexco polling center in the capital Kigali people started queueing 90 minutes before polls opened.
Voter Barimukije Pheneas said he had chosen to re-elect Kagame, who is praised for rebuilding the country in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide by prioritizing development and putting in place effective social services.
“We voted smoothly without any crowding, and we are happy,” Pheneas said. “I voted for Paul Kagame because he has achieved a lot for us; he united us.”
Kagame is running against two other candidates, Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana, who also challenged him at the last poll in 2017.
He is looking to win the endorsement of the more than 9 million eligible voters, who are also electing members of parliament. Provisional results are expected by July 20.
Motorcycle taxi driver Karangwa Vedaste said the voting process was calm and peaceful.
“I voted for a leader I trust. The one I voted for is a secret in my heart. We will share it when he wins,” Vedaste said.
Kagame won nearly 99 percent of the vote in the 2017 poll, which followed a constitutional change removing term limits that would have prevented him from standing again.
He has won acclaim for transforming Rwanda into a thriving economy but has also faced criticism from rights activists and Western nations for muzzling the media, stifling opposition and backing rebel groups in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda’s government has denied all the accusations against it, and while campaigning, Kagame promised continued development and stability.
Its human rights record was thrown into the spotlight when Rwanda struck a migration deal in 2022 with the UK to receive thousands of asylum seekers. Britain’s new government has said it would scrap the deal.

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever
Updated 58 min 18 sec ago
Follow

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever
  • “Would you like some water? Turn off the tap!” one public service announcement in Athens implores; another daily spot urges the capital’s residents to not fill their bath all the way to the top

ATHENS: After Greece’s warmest winter and earliest heatwave on record, authorities are sounding the alarm over the risk of dire water shortages in the heat of the Mediterranean summer.
“Would you like some water? Turn off the tap!” one public service announcement in Athens implores; another daily spot urges the capital’s residents to not fill their bath all the way to the top.
Already, there are signs that habits may need to change.
At the beginning of July, the Mornos reservoir around 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Athens, the main water source for the Attica region surrounding the capital, levels were down 30 percent from the same period last year.
And overall reserves for Attica were down by nearly a quarter over the same period, according to the water utility company EYDAP.
Home to more than a third of Greece’s population, the region of 3.7 million inhabitants was recently placed on “yellow alert” by EYDAP, which urged people to reduce consumption to keep reserves at a sustainable level.
Across Greece’s islands, which tend to rely on wells and desalination plants to meet water needs, the problem is even more acute.
Added pressure comes from the millions of tourists who flock to the country’s beaches each summer, swelling the local populations.
On some islands suffering from overtourism, the demand for water in summer “is sometimes 100 times greater than in winter,” Nikitas Mylopoulos, a professor of water resource management at the University of Thessaly, told AFP.
Mylopoulos said the problem of mass tourism was being compounded by poor water management.
At the end of June, a month-long state of emergency was declared for the Dodecanese island of Leros.
The island’s council noted malfunctions at the desalination plant, alleging “poor maintenance in the past.”
Other islands threatened by water scarcity include Sifnos in the Cyclades, Chios in the north Aegean and Lefkada and Corfu in the Ionian Sea.
Sifnos’s mayor, Maria Nadali, has criticized “the over-consumption of water for swimming pools and watering large gardens.”
On Lefkada, Michalis Makropoulos, a local resident and author, denounced a “deplorable” situation where “the water was cut off at the end of June for four consecutive days.”
In a local newspaper article, he blamed the problem on “years of mismanagement by the municipal authorities” and the “uncontrolled development of tourism without adequate infrastructure.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis traveled to Lefkada in July to announce “one of the largest water supply projects in Greece to cover the needs.”
The water shortfalls have been made worse by intense heat, which scientists say is at least in part a result of human-driven climate change.
The mildest Greek winter on record has been followed by higher average temperatures this spring.
Last month, the country’s earliest-ever heatwave resulted in the hottest June since 1960, with temperatures reaching 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country.
The heat has also sparked an increase in wildfires, with more than a thousand recorded last month, more than double the number in the same month last year, authorities say.
The head of the water utility EYDAP, Charalambos Sachinis, has said a “special plan” had been drawn up “to deal with extreme water shortages,” including investments of around 750 million euros ($819 million).
Elissavet Feloni, a hydrologist at the National Technical University of Athens, said the company was also planning to tap Lake Yliki, around 85 kilometers northwest of Athens, as an additional emergency source alongside the main Mornos reservoir.
“However, this is an energy-intensive solution because the water has to be pumped up, whereas the Mornos stream has a natural gradient,” she said.
“For better water management, a central body needs to be set up to develop a comprehensive approach to resources across the country,” she said.


Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception

Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception
Updated 15 July 2024
Follow

Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception

Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception
  • Youngest son of Mukesh Ambani married Radhika Merchant, daughter of pharma tycoons, with a price tag running into the millions
  • Ambani, who owns Reliance Industries conglomerate, is the world’s ninth-richest man with net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes

MUMBAI: A wedding reception on Sunday wrapped up the monthslong celebrations as the youngest son of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, married his longtime girlfriend with a price tag running into the millions.
The newlyweds were cheered by friends and relatives at Mumbai’s Jio World Drive — a convention center built and owned by the Ambani family — as part of the “Mangal Utsav” (a festival of Bliss), which marked what many have dubbed as the wedding of the year.
Anant Ambani tied the knot with Radhika Merchant, daughter of pharma tycoons Viren and Shaila Merchant. The wedding rituals, including exchanging garlands by the couple and walking around the sacred fire, began Friday and were completed early Saturday.
Former British Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Tony Blair, as well as Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, American wrestler and actor John Cena, Bollywood superstars Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan were among the celebrities who attended the ceremonies on Friday and Saturday.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi blessed the newlyweds at a Saturday reception organized by the Ambanis, highlighting the billionaire’s rising clout.
“This is the final and the most auspicious ceremony and the last wedding in our family,” The Times of India newspaper quoted Mukesh Ambani. The Ambanis didn’t say how much they spent on the festivities that have been going on for months.

Indian actor Shahrukh Khan, second left, shares a light moment with his family as they pose for a picture during the blessing ceremony of newlywed couple Anant Ambani son of billionaire Mukesh Ambani's and his wife Radhika Merchant at Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai, India, on July 13, 2024. (AP)

During a three-day pre-wedding celebration in March, Rihanna and Akon performed for a star-studded 1,200-person guest list.
A four-day European cruise in May featured on-deck concerts from the Backstreet Boys and Pitbull, followed by a masquerade ball where Katy Perry sang. At last week’s traditional music night in Mumbai Justin Bieber belted out his music hits.

The Antilia mansion, house of billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is lit up ahead of his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant's wedding in Mumbai, India, on July 10, 2024. (AP)


The groom’s father, Mukesh Ambani, is the world’s ninth-richest man, with a net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes. He is the richest person in Asia. His Reliance Industries is a conglomerate reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests that include petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story family compound in Mumbai worth $1 billion. The building contains three helipads, a 160-car garage and a private movie theater.
The groom, 29-year-old Anant, oversees the conglomerate’s renewable and green energy expansion. He also runs a 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) animal rescue center in Gujarat state’s Jamnagar, the family’s hometown.
The bride, also 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and is the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare, according to Vogue.
Ambani’s critics say his company has relied on political connections during Congress Party-led governments in the 1970s and ‘80s, and under Modi’s rule since 2014.
 


Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river

Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river
Updated 15 July 2024
Follow

Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river

Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river
  • Rescuers were able to find the bodies in different locations on the riverbanks
  • The buses swept away Friday morning near Simaltal, about 120 kilometers west of Katmandu

KATMANDU: Rescuers have recovered a total of seven bodies from the river that two buses full of people were swept into by a landslide, officials said Monday.
Rescuers were able to find the bodies in different locations on the riverbanks as the search continues for the missing buses and people on board.
Government administrator Khima Nanda Bhusal said the bodies were identified and relatives contacted. Three of the dead are Indians and the remaining four are Nepali nationals.
The buses were on the key highway connecting Nepal’s capital to southern parts of the country when they were swept away Friday morning near Simaltal, about 120 kilometers west of Katmandu.
The first body was recovered Sunday some 50 kilometers from where the buses fell.
Weather conditions improved Saturday and search teams were able to cover more ground in the hunt for the missing buses and passengers. Heavy equipment had cleared much of the landslides from the highway, making it easier to reach the area as rescuers expanded their scope toward the southern region from where the first body was found, Bhusal said.
The government has imposed a ban on passenger buses traveling at night in the areas where weather warnings are posted, according to the Home Ministry.


Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants

Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants
Updated 15 July 2024
Follow

Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants

Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants
  • Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947
  • New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other

NEW DELHI: Soldiers in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir have killed three suspected militants, the army said, the latest incident in an uptick of attacks in the disputed northern territory.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947.
The Indian army’s Chinar Corps said late Sunday that three people were killed in an “anti-infiltration operation” in Kashmir’s Kupwara district, with “weapons and other war-like stores” seized.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full and have fought three wars for control of the Himalayan region.
New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other.
Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels.
Earlier this month, gunmen ambushed an army convoy killing five soldiers, and two other soldiers and six suspected militants were killed in separate incidents.
In June, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in the southern Reasi area.
It was one of the deadliest attacks in years and the first on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir since 2017, when gunmen killed seven people in another ambush on a bus.