Court orders issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to over 100 Afghan spouses of Pakistanis

Special Court orders issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to over 100 Afghan spouses of Pakistanis
This photo taken on November 23, 2023 shows Afghan refugees leaving the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Azakhel Voluntary Repatriation Centre in Nowshera. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 December 2023
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Court orders issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to over 100 Afghan spouses of Pakistanis

Court orders issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to over 100 Afghan spouses of Pakistanis
  • POC provides all rights to foreigners married in Pakistan, except to vote, contest polls or to get a passport
  • Around 109 Afghans nationals had approached the Peshawar High Court seeking the Pakistan Origin Cards

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has approved applications of more than a hundred Afghan nationals, who are married to Pakistanis, seeking Pakistan Origin Cards (POCs) and ordered authorities to process their applications once they fulfill legal formalities and rules, lawyers said on Saturday. 

Based on their marriages with Pakistanis, around 109 Afghan nationals had filed petitions in the court seeking POCs, which are issued by Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to foreigners married to Pakistani citizens and allows them all rights except the rights to vote, contest election or to get a passport. 

A two-member bench of the PHC, headed by Justice Waqar Ahmad and Justice Sayed Arshad Ali, gave the order on Friday after hearing arguments of lawyers representing the petitioners, the federal government and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). 

“This is a partial judgment and a written verdict will be released in the next few days,” Advocate Sanaullah Khan, an additional attorney general who represented the federal government, told Arab News. 

"The judgment directed the federal government to proceed with their (Afghan spouses) cases to issue them POCs provided that the petitioners fulfill established rules." 

The development amid a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following Islamabad’s directive for all undocumented foreigners to leave the country by November 1. Many of the Afghans have since gone underground, fearing for their lives upon return to a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. 

Pakistan has long been home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees and around 1.7 million of them were undocumented, according to official estimates. Hundreds of thousands more arrived after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in 2021, joining the large number living in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of the neighboring country in 1979. 

Advocate Saifullah Muhib Kakakhel, who appeared before the court on behalf of the petitioners, said most of his clients neither had passports nor other documents as they were born in Pakistan. 

“After hearing arguments from all the sides, the august court allowed these cases of issuing POCs to Afghan spouses, making them entitled to enjoy all benefits except Pakistani passport and right to vote,” Kakakhel said. "It was a short verdict and the detailed judgement will come later." 

He said that NADRA Rules (POC) 2002 provided for the grant of residence permits to spouses of Pakistani citizens and denying it would be a "clear violation of their basic rights." 

Advocate Shahid Imran Gigyani, who represented NADRA, said one of the conditions for a foreigner to get the POC was that they must have a passport of their country of origin, but in this particular case, most of the petitioners had no documents at all.  

He said he had argued before the court that these petitioners did not fall under the category of foreigners. 

“Our main contention before the court was that there is a huge difference between refugees and foreigners. A refugee can’t claim that right (POC) because they’re already given refugees’ rights, which is defined in Geneva Convention 1951,” Gigyani said.  

"But a foreigner is an individual who has a valid passport, visa and entry and exit rights." 

More than 370,000 Afghans have left Pakistan since Islamabad ordered them to leave in early October and said many of them had been involved in militant attacks and other offences. 

Khan Muhammad Babar, an Afghan national and a focal person at Peshawar's Afghan Commissionerate that provides humanitarian assistance to Afghan refugees, welcomed the judgement, saying the move would facilitate thousands of Afghan spouses and their children, who have been living in Pakistan for decades. 

“Though the petition mentions 109 spouses only, but as per my information there are over 1,400 such cases,” he said. "This decision is a ray of hope for many Afghan spouses that their children will ultimately get some sort of recognition, identity and homeland at least." 

Babar said the move by Pakistan to expel undocumented foreigners had put millions of Afghans in trouble, alleging that they were being "harassed" by Pakistani authorities. 

“As per our assessment, Pakistani authorities have so far expelled almost 470,000 Afghan refugees via Torkham and Chaman, the two main border crossings in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Balochistan provinces,” he said. 

“Those residing illegally or without valid documents should be expelled, but in a dignified manner. Secondly, Pakistan should facilitate those refugees who have valid documents.”


AI’s relentless rise gives journalists tough choices

AI’s relentless rise gives journalists tough choices
Updated 6 sec ago
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AI’s relentless rise gives journalists tough choices

AI’s relentless rise gives journalists tough choices
  • Generative AI has been opening new frontiers as well as raising concerns for a year and a half
  • Media professionals agree their trade must now focus on tasks offering the greatest ‘added value’

PERUGIA: The rise of artificial intelligence has forced an increasing number of journalists to grapple with the ethical and editorial challenges posed by the rapidly expanding technology.
AI’s role in assisting newsrooms or transforming them completely was among the questions raised at the International Journalism Festival in the Italian city of Perugia that closes on Sunday.
AI tools imitating human intelligence are widely used in newsrooms around the world to transcribe sound files, summarise texts and translate.
In early 2023, Germany’s Axel Springer group announced it was cutting jobs at the Bild and Die Welt newspapers, saying AI could now “replace” some of its journalists.
Generative AI — capable of producing text and images following a simple request in everyday language — has been opening new frontiers as well as raising concerns for a year and a half.
One issue is that voices and faces can now be cloned to produce a podcast or present news on television. Last year, Filipino website Rappler created a brand aimed at young audiences by converting its long articles into comics, graphics and even videos.
Media professionals agree that their trade must now focus on tasks offering the greatest “added value.”
“You’re the one who is doing the real stuff” and “the tools that we produce will be an assistant to you,” Google News general manager Shailesh Prakash told the festival in Perugia.
The costs of generative AI have plummeted since ChatGPT burst onto the scene in late 2022, with the tool designed by US start-up OpenAI now accessible to smaller newsrooms.
Colombian investigative outlet Cuestion Publica has harnessed engineers to develop a tool that can delve into its archives and find relevant background information in the event of breaking news.
But many media organizations are not making their own language models, which are at the core of AI interfaces, said University of Amsterdam professor Natali Helberger. They are needed for “safe and trustworthy technology,” he stressed.
According to one estimate last year by Everypixel Journal, AI has created as many images in one year as photography in 150 years.
That has raised serious questions about how news can be fished out of the tidal wave of content, including deepfakes.
Media and tech organizations are teaming up to tackle the threat, notably through the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, which seeks to set common standards.
“The core of our job is news gathering, on-the-ground reporting,” said Sophie Huet, recently appointed to become global news director for editorial innovation and artificial intelligence at Agence France-Presse.
“We’ll rely for a while on human reporters,” she added, although that might be with the help of artificial intelligence.
Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which has expanded its media rights brief to defending trustworthy news, launched the Paris Charter on AI and journalism late last year.
“One of the things I really liked about the Paris Charter was the emphasis on transparency,” said Anya Schiffrin, a lecturer on global media, innovation and human rights at Columbia University in the United States.
“To what extent will publishers have to disclose when they are using generative IA?“
Olle Zachrison, head of AI and news strategy at public broadcaster Swedish Radio, said there was “a serious debate going on: should you mark out AI content or should people trust your brand?“
Regulation remains in its infancy in the face of a constantly evolving technology.
In March, the European Parliament adopted a framework law aiming to regulate AI models without holding back innovation, while guidelines and charters are increasingly common in newsrooms.
AI editorial guidelines are updated every three months at India’s Quintillion Media, said its boss Ritu Kapur.
None of the organization’s articles can be written by AI and the images it generates cannot represent real life.
AI models feed off data, but their thirst for the vital commodity has raised hackles among providers.
In December, the New York Times sued OpenAI and its main investor Microsoft for violation of copyright.
In contrast, other media organizations have struck deals with OpenAI: Axel Springer, US news agency AP, French daily Le Monde and Spanish group Prisa Media whose titles include El Pais and AS newspapers.
With resources tight in the media industry, collaborating with the new technology is tempting, explained Emily Bell, a professor at Columbia University’s journalism school.
She senses a growing external pressure to “Get on board, don’t miss the train.”


Pakistan’s Rizwan completes fastest 3,000 T20I runs

Pakistan’s Rizwan completes fastest 3,000 T20I runs
Updated 8 min 48 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Rizwan completes fastest 3,000 T20I runs

Pakistan’s Rizwan completes fastest 3,000 T20I runs
  • Pakistan took a 1-0 lead in the five-match series against New Zealand with the first game washed out
  • This was Rizwan’s 79th Twenty20 innings, beating his skipper Babar Azam and Indian great Virat Kohli

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan became the fastest batsman to complete 3,000 runs in Twenty20 international cricket during the second match against New Zealand in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
The 31-year-old reached the milestone when he reached 19 during his innings of 45 not out which helped Pakistan chase down a modest 91-run target in 12.1 overs for a seven-wicket victory.
This was Rizwan’s 79th Twenty20 innings, beating his skipper Babar Azam and Indian great Virat Kohli who both completed 3,000 runs in 81 T20I innings.
Rizwan is the eighth batsman to score 3,000 or more runs in Twenty20 internationals with Kohli top of the charts with 4,037 in 117 matches.
Pakistan took a 1-0 lead in the five-match series with the first game washed out after just two balls, also in Rawalpindi, on Thursday.


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

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to visit China in May — state media
Updated 20 April 2024
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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.


Pakistan trounce depleted New Zealand in second T20

Pakistan trounce depleted New Zealand in second T20
Updated 59 min 34 sec ago
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Pakistan trounce depleted New Zealand in second T20

Pakistan trounce depleted New Zealand in second T20
  • Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13
  • Rizwan finished with 45 not out with a six and four boundaries to ensure Pakistan chased down a modest target in 12.1 overs

RAWALPINDI: Left-armers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Amir shared five wickets to rock New Zealand for a paltry 90 before Mohammad Rizwan anchored the chase to help Pakistan win the second Twenty20 clash Saturday in Rawalpindi.
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.
Rizwan finished with 45 not out off 34 balls with a six and four boundaries to ensure Pakistan chased down a modest target in 12.1 overs and take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
The first match, also in Rawalpindi, was washed out after just two deliveries on Thursday.
New Zealand did fight back with wickets of Saim Ayub (four), Babar Azam (14) and debutant Usman Khan (seven) but Muhammad Irfan Khan (run-a-ball 18) partnered Rizwan in an unfinished 36-run stand to seal victory.
Ayub hit a boundary off the first ball of the innings before giving a return catch to pacer Ben Lister off the next while Azam was stumped off rival skipper Michael Bracewell and Usman bowled by spinner Ish Sodhi.
Earlier Amir -- returning to international cricket after nearly four years -- jolted New Zealand in the opening overs.
Amir retired abruptly 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.
Chapman hit three boundaries in his 16-ball knock.
New Zealand's lowest T20I total against Pakistan is 80, made at Christchurch in 2010.
Fast bowler Naseem Shah, also playing his first match since injuring his shoulder in September last year, took 1-27 in four overs.
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.
The remaining matches are in Rawalpindi on Sunday followed by the last two in Lahore on April 25 and 27.


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.