Taliban criticize Pakistan’s plan to expel Afghan nationals, say refugees not causing security problems

Taliban criticize Pakistan’s plan to expel Afghan nationals, say refugees not causing security problems
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid speaks during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 7, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 October 2023
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Taliban criticize Pakistan’s plan to expel Afghan nationals, say refugees not causing security problems

Taliban criticize Pakistan’s plan to expel Afghan nationals, say refugees not causing security problems
  • Pakistan blamed Afghan nationals for carrying out a majority of suicide attacks in its cities, asking illegal immigrants to go
  • Zabiullah Mujahid says Pakistan should continue to ‘tolerate’ Afghan refugees until they voluntarily decide to leave the country

ISLAMABAD: A senior official in Kabul on Wednesday criticized Pakistan’s decision to start expelling illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans, from next month amid mounting security concerns, saying that refugees from his country were not responsible for causing militant violence in Pakistani cities.

Pakistan has hosted a significant number of Afghan refugees for several decades, with their influx beginning in 1979 following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and continuing through various conflicts that afflicted the war-ravaged state.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans also traveled to Pakistan since the US-led international forces left the neighboring country and the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021. While Pakistan hosts some 1.5 million registered refugees, more than a million others are estimated to be residing in the country unregistered.

Pakistan’s interim interior minister said on Tuesday Afghan nationals were involved in 14 out of 24 suicide bombings that took place in Pakistan since the beginning of this year, asking all foreigners residing illegally in the country to leave by the end of the month.

“The behavior of Pakistan against Afghan refugees is unacceptable,” Zabiullah Mujahid, Afghan government’s official spokesman, said in a social media post. “The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan.”

“Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems,” he continued. “As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them.”

Pakistan witnessed a surge in extremist attacks, particularly in its two western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, following the 2021 Taliban return to power in Kabul.

The recent spike in violence also owed to the breakdown of a fragile truce between the government and the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant network, whose leadership is said to be based in Afghanistan, last November.

Pakistan lost over 60 people in two suicide bombings that targeted a mosque and a religious congregation on Friday, prompting the government to ask all illegal immigrants to leave by November 1 or face forced expulsion.
 


More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan

More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan
Updated 13 April 2024
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More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan

More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan
  • The deaths occurred in Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur, Dera Bugti and Pishin
  • Authorities advise masses to stay at safe places during bad weather, avoid unnecessary travel

ISLAMABAD: More than 20 people were killed by lightning strikes amid heavy rains and thunderstorms in Pakistan’s Punjab and Balochistan provinces, authorities said on Saturday.
The death toll from lightning strikes in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar districts has risen to 17, according to the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
PDMA Director-General Irfan Ali Kathia has directed deputy commissioners of these districts to provide best medical care to the injured persons.
“I am extremely sorry for the loss of human lives,” DG Kathia was quoted as saying by the PDMA. “Financial assistance will be provided to the families of the deceased.”
He said combating natural calamities was only possible through joint efforts and instructed all civic bodies to stay alert.
“The public is requested to stay in safe places during bad weather,” the official said. “Avoid unnecessary travel.”
In the southwestern Balochistan province, at least eight people were killed in similar incidents in Surab, Dera Bugti, Pishin and other areas, according to local media reports.
Rains, thunderstorms and gusty winds hit Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa (KP) provinces on Friday. Intermittent showers continued in these regions on Saturday.
In KP’s Lower Chitral district, a man died after roof of a house collapsed amid heavy rain, according to provincial authorities. The rains triggered landslides in multiple areas in the country’s northwest.
Pakistan has been prone to natural disasters and consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries from the effects of climate change.
Last month, 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 PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image

Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image

Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image
  • MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa arrived in Islamabad on April 7 on a nine-day trip
  • The visit is aimed at fostering interfaith harmony and strengthening Saudi Arabia-Pakistan bilateral relations

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday met with Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and lauded him for his valuable contributions for the promotion of true image of Islam around the world, PM Sharif’s office said.
Dr. Al-Issa arrived in Islamabad on April 7 on a nine-day trip aimed at fostering interfaith harmony and strengthening Saudi Arabia’s bilateral relations with Pakistan. The MWL is a Makkah-based non-governmental organization that represents followers of Islam around the world.
In his meeting with the MWL secretary-general in Islamabad, PM Sharif thanked Dr. Al-Issa for visiting Pakistan on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr and conveyed his best wishes for King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“He [Sharif’s] also acknowledged the critical role of Muslim World League in developing unity among the Muslim Ummah, advocating for Muslim causes around the world and in spreading the message of peace, tolerance and inter-faith harmony,” the PM’s office said in a statement.
“Extending his best wishes to the Secretary General for the success of his ongoing visit, the Prime Minister assured him of Pakistan’s continued support and partnership with the Muslim World League.”
Sharif underscored that Pakistan attached utmost importance to its strong fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia that were rooted in common faith, shared values and culture, according to the statement. The MWL secretary-general praised the prime minister for his commitment and efforts to further strengthen ties between the two countries.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the top destination for remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing the South Asian country oil on deferred payment facilities and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its foreign exchange reserves.
During his ongoing visit to Pakistan, Dr. Al-Issa has delivered the Eid Al-Fitr sermon at the Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad and visited an orphanage in the Pakistani capital, where he shared the joy of Eid Al-Fitr with orphaned children.
In his sermon, Al-Issa called on Muslims to keep Palestinians close to their hearts and in their prayers as they celebrated Eid. He also spoke about the responsibility of Muslims to use their actions to project Islam in its true light.


Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy

Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy

Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy
  • Pakistan has been struggling with a balance of payments crisis, record inflation and steep currency devaluation
  • To cut its energy import bill, Islamabad is looking for cheaper imports and alternate ways for power generation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has signed a $200 million agreement with a Chinese firm for the conversion of a thermal power plant on solar energy, Pakistani state media reported on Saturday.
The agreement, which was realized through Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), would help upgrade an existing thermal power plant to a 300-megawatt solar power plant, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The project will generate 400 million units of electricity per year at a significantly lower cost, reducing the cost from forty-five rupees to fourteen rupees per unit,” the report read.
“The project will eliminate the need for Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO).”
The conversion of the project on solar energy is estimated to save $44 million annually due to a reduction in import bills and offer attractive returns to stakeholders.
Cash-strapped Pakistan lacks adequate resources to run its oil- and gas-powered plants and imports most of its energy needs. The South Asian country is struggling with a balance of payments crisis, record inflation and steep currency devaluation.
In order to deal with the problems, Islamabad is currently looking to secure cheaper energy imports and find alternate ways to lessen the cost of power generation.


Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival

Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival
Updated 13 April 2024
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Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival

Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival
  • Sikhs are small minority based in Punjab region divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan, Hindu-majority India
  • The Baisakhi festival marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year and symbolizes renewal and spiritual rejuvenation

ISLAMABAD: More than 3,000 Sikh pilgrims arrived in Pakistan from India on Saturday to celebrate the Baisakhi harvest festival, Pakistani state media reported.
Sikhs are a small minority based in the Punjab region that is divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India, but several Sikh holy sites ended up being in Pakistan after the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947.
Baisakhi, the spring harvest festival primarily celebrated in Punjab and northern India, marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year and symbolizes spiritual rejuvenation, with celebrations centered around Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, some 45 kilometers northwest of Islamabad.
“Over three thousand Sikh yatrees [pilgrims] from India arrived [in] Pakistan through Wagha border today,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported. “The officials of Evacuee Trust Property Board received the yatrees.”

Sikh pilgrims chant slogans before leaving for Pakistan to celebrate ‘Baisakhi’, a spring harvest festival, in Amritsar on April 13, 2024. (AFP)

The shrine in Hasan Abdal is one of Sikhism’s holiest sites and it is believed that the handprint of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, is imprinted on a boulder there.
Vaisakhi is also meant to mark the day when Gobind Singh, the 10th and final guru of Sikhism, established the discipline of Khalsa, through which the faithful can aspire to the ultimate state of purity.
During their stay in Pakistan, Sikh pilgrims will be visit their religious places in Hasan Abdal, Nankana Sahib, Narowal, Eminabad and Badami Bagh in Lahore, according to the report.
The EPTB has finalized all arrangements for the pilgrims, including accommodation, security and transport.

Sikh pilgrims chant slogans before leaving for Pakistan to celebrate ‘Baisakhi’, a spring harvest festival, in Amritsar on April 13, 2024. (AFP)

 


Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank

Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank

Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank
  • The bond, which was launched in 2014 and repaid on Friday, was maturing this month
  • It comes as Islamabad struggles with balance of payments crisis, currency devaluation
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central bank has repaid $1 billion in Eurobonds, it said on Saturday, a scheduled payment ahead of the South Asian nation seeking a long-term bailout from the International Monetary Fund. The bond, launched in 2014 and repaid on Friday, was maturing this month. “The payment was made to the agent bank for onward distribution to the bond holders,” the central bank said in a statement. Islamabad has been struggling with a balance of payments crisis, record inflation and steep currency devaluation since an IMF standby arrangement averted a sovereign default. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is due to leave on Sunday for Washington to attend the IMF-World Bank spring meeting, where he will start negotiations for Pakistan’s 24th long-term IMF bailout. Aurangzeb briefed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif about the new IMF program on Friday, the government said in a statement. The IMF standby arrangement of $3 billion Islamabad secured last summer expired on Thursday. Its final tranche of $1.1 billion is expected to be released after the multilateral lender’s board meets later this month. The two sides have spoken in recent weeks about negotiating the longer-term bailout to continue with necessary policy reforms to rein in deficits, build up reserves and manage soaring debt servicing. Pakistan is in discussions with the IMF for a potential follow-up program, the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday.