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.


Pakistani court issues notices to information ministry, telecom authority over X ban

Pakistani court issues notices to information ministry, telecom authority over X ban
Updated 21 sec ago
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Pakistani court issues notices to information ministry, telecom authority over X ban

Pakistani court issues notices to information ministry, telecom authority over X ban
  • X first went down on Feb. 17 when a government official confessed to manipulating votes in last month’s election

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani high court on Tuesday issued notices to the country’s information ministry and its telecommunication authority on a plea challenging the ban on social media platform X, local media widely reported. 

X first went down on Feb. 17 when a government official confessed to manipulating votes in Pakistan’s Feb. 8 general election. The admission came as former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other political parties staged protests countrywide, alleging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rigged elections, which it denies. 

Pakistani authorities remain tight-lipped about the ban, with Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi saying last week the government did not impose any ban on the platform. 

X’s disruption has raised widespread concerns about the state of democratic freedoms in the country, with the United States and several international organizations urging Pakistan to provide unhindered Internet access and leading digital rights activists calling the blockade a “blatant violation” of civil liberties. 

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took up a plea challenging X’s restriction, Pakistani English language newspaper Dawn reported. Lawyers Sardar Masroof and Amna Ali appeared before the court on behalf of the petitioner, an Islamabad resident named Ehtisham Abbasi. The judge asked if X was accessible for Pakistani users to which Masroof responded that it has been banned since Feb. 17. 

“Subsequently, the IHC issued notices to the respondents, including the information ministry and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), and adjourned the hearing till next week,” Dawn said. Other Pakistani media also widely reported on the development. 

The ban continues to remain in force despite a Sindh High Court (SHC) order on Feb. 21, in which the court ordered the PTA to restore X and other social media platforms in the country. The SHC is holding a contempt of court hearing against the PTA for allegedly violating the high court’s orders on restoring X. 

Before the latest blockade, Pakistan experienced multiple Internet disruptions in recent weeks that made social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram inaccessible. Recent occurrences were on Jan. 20, Jan. 7, and Dec. 17, when Khan’s PTI party was holding virtual events. The government had blamed those disruptions on “technical glitches.”

Such shutdowns have previously had a devastating impact on Pakistan’s economy. The day after Khan’s arrest in May last year, Reuters reported that point-of-sale transactions routed through Pakistan’s main digital payment systems fell by around 50 percent according to the region’s two largest payments system operators, 1LINK and Habib Bank Limited.

According to the Internet Society’s monitor Pulse, it is becoming an increasingly common tactic for governments to shut down the Internet on a national or sub-national level to either control civil unrest, stem the flow of misinformation, sway the results of general elections or to gain strategic advantages in territories with ongoing wars.


Pakistan invites UAE’s business community to invest in energy, agriculture, IT sectors

Pakistan invites UAE’s business community to invest in energy, agriculture, IT sectors
Updated 58 min 4 sec ago
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Pakistan invites UAE’s business community to invest in energy, agriculture, IT sectors

Pakistan invites UAE’s business community to invest in energy, agriculture, IT sectors
  • Over 100 Pakistani, UAE businesspersons attended a business conference in Dubai on Monday 
  • Both countries enjoy “exemplary relationship,” says Pakistan’s Ambassador to UAE Faisal Tirmizi

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Faisal Niaz Tirmizi invited Emirati businesspersons to invest in key economic sectors of the South Asian country, including agriculture, information technology and energy, Pakistan’s consulate general in Dubai said on Tuesday. 

Over 100 Pakistani and Emirati businesspersons attended the “Business Opportunities Conference Dubai” held in Dubai on Monday. The conference explored potential areas for business collaborations between the two countries and featured detailed panel discussions by business experts. 

“We deeply encourage business-to-business collaboration among the business community of Pakistan and UAE,” Tirmizi was quoted as saying by the consulate general at the event. “We warmly invite Emirati investors to invest in Pakistan’s real estate, energy, agriculture, I.T and other sectors.”

Tirmizi said over 60 percent of Pakistan’s population comprised people who were younger than 30 years old, adding that the country of 241 million people offers immense opportunities for investment in diverse fields. He said Pakistan and the UAE enjoy an “exemplary relationship” and that the Pakistani diaspora has contributed significantly to the UAE’s progress and development.

Dr. Abdulrahman Hassan Al Muaini, the assistant undersecretary for intellectual property rights sector at the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, welcomed Pakistani delegates at the conference. 

“He [Al Muaini] highlighted that UAE and Pakistan offer immense potential and opportunities for business communities of both the countries,” the Pakistani consulate general said. “He hoped for positive outcomes from the ongoing interactions between the businessmen of both the countries.”

Pakistan and the UAE are close allies, with the Gulf nation being Pakistan’s third-largest trade partner after China and the United States. It is also viewed as an ideal export destination by policymakers in the South Asian country due to its geographical proximity with Pakistan.

In January, Pakistan and the UAE signed multiple agreements worth over $3 billion for cooperation in railways, economic zones and infrastructure at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. 

The UAE is also home to an estimated 1.8 million Pakistani expatriates and, after Saudi Arabia, is the second-largest source of remittances for the South Asian nation. 
 


Pakistan’s UN envoy calls for International Peace Conference to end Israeli aggression in Palestine

Pakistan’s UN envoy calls for International Peace Conference to end Israeli aggression in Palestine
Updated 05 March 2024
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Pakistan’s UN envoy calls for International Peace Conference to end Israeli aggression in Palestine

Pakistan’s UN envoy calls for International Peace Conference to end Israeli aggression in Palestine
  • Pakistan’s top UN diplomat Munir Akram warns of mass starvation in war-ravaged Gaza
  • Israeli defense forces have killed over 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza since October last year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top diplomat at the United Nations on Tuesday called for an International Peace Conference on Palestine to halt Israeli aggression in Gaza, saying that the conference’s aim should be to demand implementation on the UN’s resolutions that seek a two-state solution in the Middle East. 

The development takes place amid the latest push for peace in Gaza, as envoys from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States hold talks with Hamas to end hostilities in the Middle East. Israel has so far not taken part in the discussions. 

Israel’s war in Gaza since October last year has killed over 30,000 Palestinians, which includes women, children and the elderly. The Jewish state has ignored angry calls from Muslim countries around the world, the UN and peace activists, to halt military offensives in Palestine. 

Ambassador Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, urged the international community to uphold its responsibility in ending Israeli aggression “immediately.” Akram was addressing the 193-member UN General Assembly as the acting chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the UN. 

“Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Islamic countries, has called for convening an International Peace Conference on Palestine, aimed at implementing UN resolutions on the restoration of Palestinians’ inalienable rights to self-determination within a two-state solution,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

Akram deeply regretted the US decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution last month that demanded a ceasefire in the Middle East, saying that the world has followed the “monumental and unending” sufferings of the people of Palestine since last year. 

“This situation has resulted in the colossal loss of lives and wanton destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and religious sites in Gaza, due to the incessant attacks by the Israeli occupying power on the territory,” he said. 

The Pakistani ambassador said there was an imminent threat of mass starvation in Gaza, which he said was caused by inadequate food supplies and essential services for Palestinians living in the densely populated territory. 

“Notwithstanding the foregoing efforts by the various actors within the United Nations as well as members of the international community, there are ominous signs of even greater dangers ahead,” he noted. 

Pakistan does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The South Asian country has consistently accused Israel of genocide and called for an independent Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. 


India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM

India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM
Updated 05 March 2024
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India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM

India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM
  • Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in for a second time as Pakistan’s prime minister on Monday after a contentious election 
  • Pakistan’s relations with India have been fraught since 2019 after New Delhi unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s special status

ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, congratulated Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday, a day after Sharif was sworn in as the country’s 24th premier following a contentious election. 

Sharif secured a comfortable win on Sunday over Omar Ayub of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party, which is backed by former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. He secured 201 votes from Pakistani legislators while Ayub polled 92.

Pakistan’s outgoing president, Dr. Arif Alvi, administered the oath of office to Sharif on Monday. The Pakistani prime minister has since then received congratulatory calls from world leaders, including the Saudi crown prince, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

“Congratulations to Shehbaz Sharif on being sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” Modi wrote on social media platform X. 

Al-Thani also felicitated Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s prime minister for a second time through a cable, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

“The emir, who sent a cable of congratulations to the prime minister, wished him success and for further development and growth of bilateral relations, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency,” the report said. 

The disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan since 1947, when the two countries gained independence from British colonial India following a violent partition of the sub-continent. 

The picturesque valley is administered in parts by both countries, though they claim it in full. A sliver of the territory is also held by China. Pakistan and India have fought three full-scale wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971. Two of these wars were over Kashmir. 

India accuses Pakistan of supporting a decades-old armed rebellion in the part of Kashmir that is under its authority. Pakistan denies the allegation and calls for a plebiscite for the people of the region. Islamabad says it provides only diplomatic support for the region’s struggle for self-determination.

Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India in August 2019 after New Delhi scrapped the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir, which gave it semi-autonomy. 

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister and his older brother, Nawaz Sharif, are seen as close to New Delhi by political analysts. Sharif’s older brother, who was elected Pakistan’s prime minister thrice, had sought to build economic and trade ties with India during his previous tenures. 

In 2014, Nawaz Sharif traveled to New Delhi as Pakistan’s prime minister to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony. Modi, in return, made a surprise trip to Pakistan a year after taking office to attend a Sharif family wedding in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. 
 


Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today

Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today
Updated 05 March 2024
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Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today

Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today
  • Both sides to face each other at Rawalpindi pitch, known to offer little assistance to bowlers
  • Table-toppers Multan Sultans have already qualified for the Pakistan Super League 2024 playoffs

ISLAMABAD: Table-toppers Multan Sultans will lock horns with the “Yellow Storm” Peshawar Zalmi today, Tuesday, in match number 21 of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 clash at Rawalpindi. 

Zalmi will look to shrug off Monday night’s defeat at the hands of Islamabad United as they face much tougher opponents in the Sultans today. Skipper Muhammad Rizwan’s side has won six out of the seven matches it has played in this year’s PSL. The only loss suffered by the Sultans was at the hands of Zalmi, when the two sides met on Feb. 23. 

“Thank you, Zalmi fans, for the incredible support at the Pindi Cricket Stadium,” Zalmi wrote in an Instagram post. “Looking forward to your continued energy in our enxt game against the Sultans.”

The Rawalpindi pitch is known for offering little assistance to the bowlers, and a lot to the batters. In Saim Ayub, skipper Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Rovman Powell, Haseebullah Khan and Mohammad Haris, Zalmi has a lot of firepower within its ranks to set an imposing target for the Sultans. 

However, the Sultans have a balanced side with impressive spinners and explosive batters at their disposal. The side opens with batters Usman Khan and Rizwan, with Reeza Hendricks, Tayyab Tahir and Iftikhar Ahmed available as impressive batting options for the squad. 

David Willey, Usama Mir and Mohammad Ali have proven to be useful talents in the bowling department, winning games after putting the opposition under pressure.

The Sultans have 12 points from seven matches and have already qualified for the playoffs. Zalmi, on the other hand, have seven points from seven matches with a net run rate of -0.480.

 The match will commence at 7:00 p.m.

Playing XIs (probable)

Multan Sultans: Muhammad Rizwan (captain), Dawid Malan, Reeza Hendricks, Yasir Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, David Willey, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Ali, Shahnawaz Dahani

Peshawar Zalmi: Saim Ayub, Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Haris, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Rovman Powell, Asif Ali, Aamer Jamal, Luke Wood, Mohammad Zeeshan, Waqar Salamkheil, Salman Irshad