Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif bolsters political support in Pakistan’s southwest ahead of national polls

Special Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif bolsters political support in Pakistan’s southwest ahead of national polls
Former Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif (center), speaks during a PML-N party meeting in Quetta on November 15, 2023, as part of party's election campaign ahead of national polls in February next year. (Photo courtesy: Facebook/PML-N)
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Updated 15 November 2023
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Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif bolsters political support in Pakistan’s southwest ahead of national polls

Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif bolsters political support in Pakistan’s southwest ahead of national polls
  • Dozens of local tribesmen and political leaders have joined the PML-N during Sharif’s two-day trip to Balochistan
  • The southwestern Pakistani province has gained political significance since the implementation of CPEC project

QUETTA: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has managed to whip up significant political support in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province during his first visit to the volatile but strategically significant region, confirmed his party on Tuesday, as election activity begins to pick momentum ahead of the national polls in February.

Balochistan is a resource-rich but impoverished Pakistani federating unit that has started featuring in the country’s politics a great deal more since its emergence as a key node in a multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project that promises greater prosperity through regional connectivity.

Faced with armed militancy and separatist sentiment in the region, Pakistani authorities have tried to manage Balochistan’s political landscape and even appointed some of its provincial leaders to top national posts in the current caretaker setup.

Sharif’s two-day visit to the area is viewed as an attempt to strengthen his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party’s election prospects ahead of other major factions in the country.

“Dozens of prominent political personalities in Balochistan including the ex-chief minister of the province Jam Kamal Khan Aliyani and former federal ministers Sardar Fateh Muhammad, Muhammad Hassani and Dostain Khan Domki have become part of the PML-N,” Sharif’s party said in a statement issued on X.

“If the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is given another chance to run the country, we will ensure that Balochistan gets its due position because the development of Balochistan has always been important to the party,” it added.

No central or provincial PML-N leaders replied to Arab News’ phone calls or messages.

Some political analysts said Sharif’s visit to Balochistan was based on his attempt to clinch the support of “electables,” or politicians with significant control of their respective constituencies, before the rival Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

“Politicians with tribal influence in Balochistan remain inclined toward mainstream political parties,” Irfan Saeed, a political analyst from the province, told Arab News on Wednesday. “Now they are joining the PML-N as the political wave has turned in favor of Nawaz Sharif.”

“The PML-N leader wants to win the support of political and tribal leaders in Balochistan before the PPP manages to do that,” he continued. “Earlier this year, the situation seemed to be in PPP’s favor when politicians decided to join the party.”

Speaking to Arab News, secretary general of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Manzooor Kakar said a delegation headed by the faction’s president Nawabzada Khalid Khan Magsi met Sharif to discuss a possible political alliance in the province and at the center.

“The former prime minister emphasized a joint political venture to steer the country out of its present crisis,” he informed. “The Balochistan Awami Party is ready to make a political alliance with any party for the development and prosperity of the province.”

Abul Rahim Ziaratwal, the secretary general of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party told Arab News it was too early to discuss any political alliance with anyone, though he said a delegation of his party leaders had met Sharif who was visiting Balochistan after a long time.

“We had a coalition with the PML-N in Balochistan from 2013 to the beginning of 2018,” he added. “Later, our party jointly worked against former prime minister Imran Khan’s government under the Pakistan Democratic Alliance.”

A delegation of the National Party, which has a strong political influence in Balochistan’s Makran division, also met Sharif at an upscale hotel in Quetta to discuss an alliance with the PML-N.

“We have good political relations with the PML-N and both parties have expressed the will to work together in future,” Ali Langove, the National Party spokesman, told Arab News.

“The issues in Balochistan can only be addressed if the masses are allowed to elect their representatives rather than ruled by selected leadership,” he added.


Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to visit China in May — state media

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to visit China in May — state media
Updated 7 sec ago
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Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to visit China in May — state media

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to visit China in May — state media
  • The development comes amid efforts to restore China’s confidence in Islamabad regarding various projects
  • Scaled-back CPEC projects, attacks on Chinese nationals have lately strained ties between the two countries

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will visit China in May to restore Beijing’s confidence in Islamabad with regard to various projects, Pakistani state media reported on Saturday, citing a senior official.
Beijing is investing over $65 billion in energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major segment of its Belt and Road Initiative designed to give China a shorter, more secure trading route to the Middle East and beyond, while also boosting Pakistan’s economy.
Since its initiation in 2013, CPEC has seen tens of billions of dollars funnelled into massive transport, energy and infrastructure projects. But the undertaking has also been hit by Pakistan struggling to keep up its financial obligations as well as attacks on Chinese targets by militants.
Rana Mashhood, chairman of Prime Minister’s Youth Program, said PM Sharif wanted to make Pakistan a partner in economic development, which was why he was striving to bring investment from Pakistan’s friendly countries.
“From May 14, the Prime Minister will make an official visit to the People’s Republic of China, which will restore the confidence of the brotherly neighboring country and the CPEC project will move toward success quickly,” Mashhood was quoted as saying by the state-run APP news agency.
The comments came during his visit to China Window, a Chinese cultural center, in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. On the occasion, Mashhood visited different galleries at the center, signed the friendship wall and recorded his comments in the visitor’s book.
Beijing has been one of Islamabad’s most reliable foreign partners in recent years, readily providing financial assistance to bail out its often-struggling neighbor. In July last year, China granted Pakistan a two-year rollover on a $2.4 billion loan, giving the debt-saddled nation much-needed breathing space as it tackled a balance-of-payments crisis.
But ties have been strained by numerous hurdles in recent years, including scaled-back CPEC projects and attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan. In the latest attack, five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan on March 26.
Mashhood appreciated the establishment of the Chinese cultural center in Peshawar and said it would be a pivotal hub for further enhancing the bond between Pakistan and China, according to the APP report.
Recognizing the importance of foreign languages for the country’s youth, the official said he had instructed relevant institutions to initiate language programs tailored to meet the diverse needs of different countries.
“He specifically mentioned plans to include the Chinese language in the programs offered by the National Commission for Technical and Vocational Training,” the report read.


Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90

Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90
Updated 17 min 24 sec ago
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Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90

Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90
  • Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13
  • Spinners Abrar Ahmed, Shadab Khan doubled pressure as New Zealand were dismissed for their second lowest against Pakistan

RAWALPINDI: Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Amir led a destructive Pakistan attack to bowl out an under-strength New Zealand for a paltry 90 in their second Twenty20 clash in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13 as the visitors were bowled out in 18.1 overs after being sent in to bat.
Amir retired from international cricket in 2020 after he was dropped from the team, the second break in his career after he was banned for five years in a spot-fixing scandal in 2010.
Spinners Abrar Ahmed (2-15) and Shadab Khan (2-15) doubled the pressure as New Zealand were dismissed for their second lowest total against Pakistan in the game's shortest format.
Mark Chapman (19), Cole McConchie (15), Dean Foxcroft (13) and Tim Seifert (13) were the only batsmen to reach double figures.
The first of five-match series was washed out after just two deliveries, also in Rawalpindi, on Thursday.
Both teams are preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in June in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand are missing a host of their top players due to playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League, unavailability and injuries.


Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting

Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting

Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting
  • The country has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing scores of people, destroying property
  • Experts say Pakistan is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani province has issued a flood alert due to glacial melting and warned of heavy loss of life, officials said Saturday.
The country has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing scores of people and destroying property and farmland. Experts say Pakistan is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change.
In the mountainous northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has been hit particularly hard by the deluges, authorities issued a flood alert because of the melting of glaciers in several districts.
They said the flood could worsen and that people should move to safer locations ahead of any danger.
“If timely safety measures are not taken, there is a possibility of heavy loss of life and property due to the expected flood situation,” said Muhammad Qaiser Khan, from the local disaster management authority.
Latest figures from the province said that 46 people, including 25 children, have died in the past five days due to rain-related incidents.
At least 2,875 houses and 26 schools have either collapsed or been damaged.
The southwest province of Baluchistan has also been battered by rainfall. It said it had limited resources to deal with the current situation but if the rains continued, it would look to the central government for help.
In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point inundated one-third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damage.
Pakistan’s monsoon season starts in June.


Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities

Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities
Updated 20 April 2024
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Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities

Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities
  • By-elections will be held on 21 national, provincial seats in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces
  • Pakistan’s national polls in Feb. were marred by mobile service shutdown, result delays, leading to rigging allegations

ISLAMABAD: The provincial government in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province has requested for the suspension of mobile phone services in 13 cities during the by-elections on Sunday, according to the Punjab home department.
By-elections on 21 national and provincial seats in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan provinces are scheduled to be held on April 21. Electioneering in these constituencies came to an end at midnight on Friday, according to a deadline set by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
In a letter to the interior ministry, the Punjab government requested suspension of mobile phone services in Talagang, Chakwal, Kallar Kahar, Gujrat, Ali Pur Chatha, Zafarwal, Bhakkar, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Sadiqabad, Kot Chutta and Dera Ghazi Khan.
“I have been directed to request that mobile Internet services may kindly be suspended on 21st April, 2024 for maintaining law and order situation and to avoid any untoward incident [in the aforementioned areas],” a section office of the Punjab home department wrote in his letter to the interior ministry.
The seats, which are up for grabs in Sunday’s by-polls, were left vacant due to postponement of polls or were vacated by lawmakers, who won multiple seats, in national election in February.
The request by the Punjab home department comes amid expectations of a fierce competition between candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and rival political groups.
Pakistan’s national election on Feb. 8 was marred by a mobile service shutdown and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged and drawing concern from rights groups and foreign governments.
Several political parties, including Khan’s PTI, and candidates had held protests and challenged many of the results before the ECP. However, the outgoing caretaker government and the ECP had denied allegations of any systematic rigging of the vote.


Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’

Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’
Updated 20 April 2024
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Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’

Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’
  • In the past, Baloch separatists have claimed responsibility for attacks on Chinese nationals in the Pakistani port city
  • However, Friday’s suicide attack on a van was the first incident in Pakistan that appeared to target Japanese nationals

KARACHI: The suicide attack on Japanese nationals in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi could be a case of “mistaken identity” as no group has claimed responsibility for it, a senior police officer said on Saturday.
The Japanese nationals were traveling on Friday in a Hiace van to an industrial area, where they worked at Pak Suzuki Motors, when the suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near the van, according to police.
A police team escorting the vehicle returned fire after coming under attack, killing an accomplice of the suicide bomber. Officials said one of the attackers was identified as Sohail Ahmed, a resident of Panjgur district in the southwestern Balochistan province.
However, Ghulam Nabi Memon, the provincial police chief, said no militant group had accepted responsibility for the attack and it seemed they didn’t intend to attack the Japanese.
“For now, it seems to us to be a case of mistaken identity,” Memon told Arab News. “We are reviewing security protocols. The police and intelligence agencies are making efforts [to arrest the perpetrators].”
In the past, Baloch separatists have claimed responsibility for attacks on Chinese nationals in the Pakistani port city. However, this is the first time that the Japanese have come under such an attack.
A police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Arab News that police suspected the attack was carried out by the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). The group has claimed several attacks, including the ones on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, Karachi Stock Exchange, and a suicide attack on Chinese teachers at Karachi University.
A BLA spokesperson didn’t respond to Arab News request for a comment on the attack.
Hours after the attack, Baloch activists shared videos on X, claiming raids were conducted on the homes of their supporters in Karachi.

A police officer, who requested anonymity, confirmed that raids were made to arrest the perpetrators and facilitators of the incident, but declined to share if any arrests were made.
“All I can share is that we are going in the right direction and an important breakthrough will be made soon,” he said.
On Friday, a police handout said the provincial police chief had chaired a high-level meeting, wherein he emphasized the need to establish a dedicated unit for the protection of Chinese nationals.
The police chief also stressed strict implementation of the standard operation procedures (SOPs) regarding the security of foreign delegates and regular issuance of security adviseries by authorities.
“Further discussions centered on enhancing security measures for all Chinese residents, experts, staff, and other foreign guests/delegates in Sindh,” the handout read.
In recent weeks, militants have targeted Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major segment of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which will connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy through a network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan.
In March, five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in northwest Pakistan, when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the bus carrying them to Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked.