Serving Pakistani general appointed to head National Database and Registration Authority

Serving Pakistani general appointed to head National Database and Registration Authority
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An undated file photo of Lt. Gen. Muhammad Munir Afsar. (Photo courtesy: National Defense University)
Serving Pakistani general appointed to head National Database and Registration Authority
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Policemen guide residents as they line up in a queue outside the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) office for new registrations and biometric verification under the governmental Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme for families in need during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Peshawar on May 4, 2020. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 October 2023
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Serving Pakistani general appointed to head National Database and Registration Authority

Serving Pakistani general appointed to head National Database and Registration Authority
  • NADRA has in the past been largely headed by civilians, retired government, police and military officers
  • Afsar was currently serving as army’s Inspector General Communication and Information Technology

ISLAMABAD: A serving Pakistani general was on Monday appointed to head Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), which regulates government databases and statistically manages the identity data of all citizens of Pakistan.

NADRA is responsible for issuing computerized national identity cards (CNICs) to Pakistani citizens and securing their national identities from being stolen or misused. In the past, the body has been largely headed by civilians as well as retired government, police and military officials.

“The federal government has been pleased to appoint Lt. Gen. Muhammad Munir Afsar as Chairman NADRA,” a ministry of interior notification said.

Afsar was serving as the army Inspector General Communication and Information Technology and Commander of Pakistan Army Cyber Command before being appointed NADRA chief. He has substantial experience in IT-related technical development and management within the army as well as during his service with Pakistan’s mission to the United Nations.

Afsar holds an MPhil in Public Policy and National Security Management, and is a specialist in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), with an MS in GIS and remote sensing. He is currently pursuing a PhD in remote sensing from NUST Islamabad, focusing on the detection of plant diseases through the integration of remote sensing and artificial intelligence. 

In the past he has also served as a Military Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Officer at the UN.

As a major general, Afsar was the Director General of the DG Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and Intelligence (C41) Directorate, responsible for the overarching management of IT.


At SCO foreign ministers moot, FM Dar highlights Pakistan’s location as trade and transit hub

At SCO foreign ministers moot, FM Dar highlights Pakistan’s location as trade and transit hub
Updated 11 sec ago
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At SCO foreign ministers moot, FM Dar highlights Pakistan’s location as trade and transit hub

At SCO foreign ministers moot, FM Dar highlights Pakistan’s location as trade and transit hub
  • The SCO is a major trans-regional organization and its member states collectively represent nearly half of world population
  • Dar apprises the SCO meeting of Pakistan’s priorities, including promoting connectivity, poverty alleviation and cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Ishaq Dar, Pakistan’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, on Tuesday addressed a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers in Kazakhstan, where he highlighted Pakistan’s geostrategic location as a trade and transit hub, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.
Dar arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan on Monday to represent Pakistan at the two-day meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers. Founded in 2001, the SCO is a major trans-regional organization spanning South and Central Asia, with China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan as its permanent members.
The meeting comes at a time when Pakistan is making rigorous efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment with a number of countries and has aimed to enhance its role as a pivotal trade and transit hub connecting the Central Asian republics with the rest of the world, leveraging its strategic geographical position.
Addressing the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting, Dar explained Pakistan’s priorities as the current Chair of SCO Council of Heads of Government (CHG), including promoting connectivity, development of transport links, youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and enhanced practical cooperation among SCO member states.
“The Deputy Prime Minister said that Pakistan’s geostrategic location offers an ideal trade and transit hub for the SCO region,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. “He underlined the significance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional connectivity and economic integration.”
CPEC, part of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, is a $65 billion network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan that aims to connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy.
The project spans several phases, each with distinct goals and impacts on the region. The first phase began in 2015 and mainly focused on building critical infrastructure, particularly in the transportation and energy sectors. The second phase expands the focus to include industrial cooperation, agricultural development and the promotion of social and economic development.
The second phase is also expected to include the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), efforts to boost green energy production like hydropower and solar energy, and initiatives to modernize agriculture and increase exports.
On a visit to China this month, Dar said Pakistan and Beijing needed to finalize modalities for other countries to be part of the multi-billion-dollar corridor as Islamabad seeks to attract foreign investment into Pakistan.
“As we embark on phase two of CPEC we look forward to developing corridors of growth, livelihood, innovation, green development, and inclusivity to carry forward our shared vision of making CPEC an inclusive and transparent project,” Dar said. “We also need to finalize the modalities for third party participation in CPEC.”
Pakistan, faced with low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, has been pushing for an increase in bilateral trade and investment, with Islamabad seeing a flurry of high-level exchanges from diplomats and business delegations in recent weeks from Saudi Arabia, Japan, Azerbaijan, Qatar and other countries.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to rid the South Asian country of its chronic macroeconomic crisis through foreign investment and efficient handling of the economy.


Pakistan set to launch multi-mission communication satellite on May 30 with Chinese support

Pakistan set to launch multi-mission communication satellite on May 30 with Chinese support
Updated 11 min 28 sec ago
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Pakistan set to launch multi-mission communication satellite on May 30 with Chinese support

Pakistan set to launch multi-mission communication satellite on May 30 with Chinese support
  • Suparco describes the scheduled launch as a stepping stone in transforming the country into a ‘digital Pakistan’
  • The satellite will also play a role in the socio-economic uplift of the country due to the communication technologies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national space agency on Tuesday announced its plan to launch a multi-mission communication satellite, PAKSAT MM1, from China next week, describing the initiative as a “hallmark of technological cooperation” between the two countries.
Earlier this month on May 3, the Pakistani satellite iCUBE-Qamar (ICUBE Q) was launched aboard China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission from Hainan, China. A major milestone in Pakistan’s space exploration efforts, the satellite successfully entered the moon’s orbit on May 8, and shortly after began transmitting the first images from lunar orbit.
The Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) now plans to launch the communication satellite with Chinese assistance on May 30.
“PAKSAT MM1 was conceived keeping in sight the growing needs of the country in the broad-spectrum of communication and connectivity,” Suparco said in a statement, adding the device will play a crucially important role in the socio-economic uplift of the country due to its advanced communication technologies.
The statement further noted the communication satellite would serve as a stepping stone in the country’s transformation into a “digital Pakistan.”
The statement also informed the launch ceremony would be broadcast live from Suparco’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi.
Established in 1961, Suparco manages Pakistan’s space program, enhancing the nation’s capabilities in satellite communications, remote sensing and meteorological science.


Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media

Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media
Updated 21 May 2024
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Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media

Over 570,000 Afghans expelled since Pakistan deportation drive began last year — state media
  • 9,685 Afghan nationals returned to Afghanistan in last ten days, Radio Pakistan says
  • Government says deportations not targeted at Afghans but all those living illegally in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Over half a million Afghans living in Pakistan have been repatriated to their home country since the government launched a deportation drive last year, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said on Tuesday, with almost 10,000 returning in the last ten days.

Until November last year before it began the deportation drive, Pakistan was home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom were undocumented, according to the government. Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The expulsion drive started after a spike in suicide bombings last year which the Pakistan government — without providing evidence — said mostly involves Afghans. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling and other militant violence and crime. At the time, cash-strapped Pakistan, navigating record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

At the same time, Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan. 

“9,685 more illegal Afghan nationals returned to their country over the last ten days,” Radio Pakistan reported. “The [total] figure of illegal Afghan returnees has reached 577,239.”

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the ‘Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan’ with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk.

In phase two of the ‘repatriation plan,’ around 600,00 Afghans who hold Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three is expected to target those with UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

The deportation drive has led to a spike in tensions between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. 

Islamabad accuses Afghans of being behind a spate of recent suicide attacks in the country and accuses the Taliban of harboring such militants. The Taliban deny the allegations and say Pakistan’s security issues are a domestic issue. 
 


Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave

Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave
Updated 21 May 2024
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Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave

Weather forecasters warn Pakistanis to stay indoors ahead of new heat wave
  • Health officials say hospitals have been instructed to set up emergency heatwave response centers to treat people
  • Doctors say heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises quickly amid sweltering heat

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan on Tuesday urged people to stay indoors as the country is hit by an extreme heat wave that threatens to bring dangerously high temperatures and yet another round of glacial-driven floods.

Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, is shutting all schools for a week because of the heat, affecting an estimated 18 million students.

“The sweltering heat will continue this month,” said Zaheer Ahmed Babar, a senior official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department. He added that temperatures could reach up to 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit) above the monthly average. This week could rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country, Babar said.

It’s the latest climate-related disaster to hit the country in recent years. Melting glaciers and growing monsoons have caused devastating floods, at one point submerging a third of the country.

Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall, according to the national weather center. Last month’s heavy rains killed scores of people while destroyed property and farmland, experts say the country witnessed heavier rains because of climate change.

Pakistan is still trying to recover from $30 billion in losses caused by devastating climate-induced floods that killed 1,739 people in 2022.

According to health officials, hospitals were instructed to set up emergency heatwave response centers so that those affected by the scorching temperatures could be quickly treated.

Doctors say heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises quickly because of sweltering heat, potentially causing some to fall unconscious. A severe heatstroke can cause disability or death.

Some areas in Pakistan are also currently facing hours-long power outages.

“We were without electricity for hours on Monday,” said Ibrar Abbasi, who lives on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Scientists have long warned that climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and certain agricultural practices, will lead to more frequent and prolonged bouts of extreme weather, including hotter temperatures.

Babar said another intense heat wave will hit the country in June, when the temperature is likely to reach 45 degrees (113 Fahrenheit). He said people should drink a lot of water and avoid unnecessary travel. Farmers and other livestock owners should take measures to protect their animals during extreme heat, he said.

However, many people, especially laborers and construction workers in the impoverished nation, ask how they can stay indoors as their families will suffer if they don’t work.

“I am not feeling well because of the stifling heat, but I have to work,” said Ghulam Farid, who owns a small general store in Sheikhupra, a city in Punjab province.

Construction workers were seen sitting near a road on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, hoping to get a job. Among them was Mohammad Khursheed, 52, who said he has noticed a change in the patterns of seasons.


Pakistan calls for ‘adequate’ Muslim representation amid debate on UNSC reforms

Pakistan calls for ‘adequate’ Muslim representation amid debate on UNSC reforms
Updated 21 May 2024
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Pakistan calls for ‘adequate’ Muslim representation amid debate on UNSC reforms

Pakistan calls for ‘adequate’ Muslim representation amid debate on UNSC reforms
  • UNSC reform has been a contentious issue since intergovernmental negotiations first started in 2009
  • Ambassador Munir Akram says UNSC expansion should not be done hastily or without consensus

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top diplomat at the United Nations on Tuesday reiterated the demand by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that Muslim countries have ‘adequate representation’ in any future expanded Security Council.

UNSC reforms have been a contentious issue since Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) began in 2009, with little progress due to deep divisions among member states. The crux of the debate revolves around whether to add new permanent members, whether such members should possess veto power, and how to ensure fair regional representation.

The Group of Four comprising Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, seek permanent seats but are facing opposition from the Uniting for Consensus group, which includes Pakistan and argues against new permanent seats while calling for a new category of renewable memberships.

“Today at IGN meeting, I reiterated OIC’s demand that any reform of UN Security Council, which doesn’t ensure adequate representation of Muslim Ummah, will not be acceptable to the Islamic world,” Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram said in a social media post.

“This position is in line with an agreement on equitable representation of all groups,” he added.

According to the state-owned APP news agency, Akram said the issue of UNSC expansion had also come up for discussion at the recent Islamic Summit in Gambia which issued a communique, saying efforts to expand the 15-member body should not be subjected to artificial deadlines and should be made with consensus.

The UNSC currently has five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 non-permanent members elected to serve for two years. 

The OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the UN.