Pakistan Cricket Board drops ex-captain Salman Butt from selection panel after backlash

Pakistan Cricket Board drops ex-captain Salman Butt from selection panel after backlash
Former Pakistani cricketer Salman Butt addresses a news conference in Lahore on April 17, 2013. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 December 2023
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Pakistan Cricket Board drops ex-captain Salman Butt from selection panel after backlash

Pakistan Cricket Board drops ex-captain Salman Butt from selection panel after backlash
  • The PCB announced the appointment of Butt as consultant to Pakistan chief selector on Friday
  • The 39-year-old was sentenced to prison in 2011 in a spot-fixing scandal, banned for 10 years

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has dropped ex-cricketer Salman Butt from its panel of consultants for team selection, Chief Selector Wahab Riaz announced Saturday, following backlash over Butt's appointment. 

The PCB announced the appointment of Butt along with Kamran Akmal and Rao Iftikhar Anjum as consultants to Riaz on Friday, amid a reshuffle in the national side and the board’s management.  

Pakistanis took to social media and strongly criticized the PCB for the appointment of Butt, who was sent to prison in 2011 and banned from playing for 10 years for his part in a conspiracy to bowl deliberate no-balls during a 2010 Test match against England at Lord's. 

Speaking at a press conference at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, Riaz said it was his decision to appoint Butt his consultant as he understood cricket. 

"Salman Butt's name has now been withdrawn," he said, adding that there was no pressure from anyone. 

"I took the decision to make Salman Butt a consultant. Now, I am also taking the decision to remove Salman Butt." 

Butt represented Pakistan in 33 Tests, 78 ODIs and 24 T20Is. He made 5,209 runs spanning the three formats with 11 international centuries. He was in the T20 World Cup winning squad in 2009. 

His appointment came as part of a reshuffle that began amid Pakistan's poor show at the World Cup that saw the national side crashing out of the showpiece tournament even before the semi-final stage. Pakistan finished fifth in the 10-team World Cup tournament that culminated last month, with Australia lifting the trophy for a record sixth time. 

Following below-par performance of the team, Babar Azam resigned from the captaincy in all formats and Shan Masood was made test captain. Shaheen Afridi was appointed as skipper of T20 side.  

Riaz was appointed Pakistan’s chief selector last month, after Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down in October following allegations of a conflict of interests, while former captain Mohammad Hafeez was named as team director, who will also be the head coach of the team on the twin tours of Australia and New Zealand. 

The PCB last month also appointed former international players Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal as bowling coaches for the national team. 


Major Pakistan parties reach consensus to form coalition government after Feb. 8 indecisive vote

Major Pakistan parties reach consensus to form coalition government after Feb. 8 indecisive vote
Updated 20 February 2024
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Major Pakistan parties reach consensus to form coalition government after Feb. 8 indecisive vote

Major Pakistan parties reach consensus to form coalition government after Feb. 8 indecisive vote
  • The agreement between ex-PM Sharif’s PML-N and Bhutto-Zardari’s PPP is expected to end days of political uncertainty
  • Sharif’s PML-N party bagged 75 seats, while the PPP secured 54 seats in Feb. 8 election that failed to present a clear winner

ISLAMABAD: Former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari announced on Tuesday that his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had reached an agreement with three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to form a coalition government after this month’s national election in Pakistan failed to present a clear winner.

The PML-N bagged 75 seats in the National Assembly, lower house of Pakistan parliament, while the PPP managed to grab 54 seats in the Feb. 8 national election, according to official results.

The agreement between the two major political parties is expected to end days of political uncertainty in the South Asian country that is facing an economic meltdown and security challenges.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, Bhutto-Zardari confirmed that Shehbaz Sharif, the PML-N president and a former premier, would be their joint candidate for prime minister, and his father, Asif Ali Zardari, will be the candidate for president.

“The numbers of Pakistan Peoples Party and Muslim League-Nawaz have been completed and God willing, we will now act on government formation,” he said. “It is hoped that God willing, Shehbaz Sharif sahib will soon become the prime minister of the country once again.”

He said they all prayed for the success of the new government, which faces a daunting task of reviving the struggling $350 billion South Asian economy.

Pakistan is currently treading a tricky path to economic recovery under a caretaker government after it narrowly escaped a default in June last year, thanks to a last-gasp $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

However, the current IMF program expires next month and the new government will have to quickly secure another bailout to keep the economy afloat.

Speaking on the occasion, Shehbaz thanked the PPP for its support for the government formation.

“With the help of the PPP, we have the required numbers to form the government,” he said, promising to support Zardari in his bid for the presidency.

To a question, Shehbaz said decisions regarding appointments on different constitutional positions like the Senate chairman, speaker and provincial governors would be made after consultation.

In his brief comments, Zardari said they made the alliance for the sake of the country and its future generations.

“We reassure everyone our struggle is for Pakistan and future generations,” he said.

While the announcements are expected to end political uncertainty regarding the government formation, fears still loom large of some political instability in the future as independent candidates, most loyal to jailed former premier Imran Khan, have the highest 101 seats in the National Assembly, but they cannot form the government on their own, having run as individuals and not a party.

To form the government, a party or a coalition needs at least 169 members in the 336-member National Assembly to elect a prime minister.

To keep its chances of returning to power alive, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party this week said that independent candidates backed by it would join the minority Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party to secure reserved seats for women and minorities in Pakistan parliament, which are only allotted to political parties based on their representation in the assembly.

Since his ouster, Khan, who remains in jail on a slew of charges, has waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the country’s powerful military, which he blames for his removal in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April 2022. The ex-premier has lately refused to share power with Sharif’s PML-N and the Bhutto-Zardari-led PPP.

Speaking at the presser, Bhutto-Zardari said the Sunni Ittehad Council party would not have the required numbers in parliament to form the government. The assertion was echoed by PM’s candidate Shehbaz.

According to Pakistan’s constitution, a session of parliament has to be called by Feb. 29 after which a vote for the new prime minister will take place.


Pakistani forces kill militant in restive northwest — military

Pakistani forces kill militant in restive northwest — military
Updated 20 February 2024
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Pakistani forces kill militant in restive northwest — military

Pakistani forces kill militant in restive northwest — military
  • The militant was killed in an intelligence-based operation in Dera Ismail Khan district
  • The military said it was combing the area to neutralize any other threats present there

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces on Monday killed a militant in an operation the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Pakistani military said.

The intelligence-based operation was conducted in Dera Ismail Khan district, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing.

“The killed terrorist remained actively involved in numerous terrorist activities against the law enforcement agencies as well as target killings of innocent civilians,” the ISPR said in a statement.

A sanitization operation was being conducted to neutralize any other threats in the area, it added.

Pakistan’s northwestern and southwestern regions that border Afghanistan have witnessed a surge in militancy in the last more than a year. The attacks particularly increased in the run-up to Feb. 8 national elections.

At least five policemen were killed in a bomb blast and firing on a patrol in the Kulachi area of the same district on the election day.

The attacks initially spiked after the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile, months-long truce with the government in Islamabad in Nov. 2022.

The subsequent rise in militancy last year prompted Islamabad to order all illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans, to leave the country.


Rescue teams reach site of deadly Afghanistan landslide close to Pakistan border

Rescue teams reach site of deadly Afghanistan landslide close to Pakistan border
Updated 20 February 2024
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Rescue teams reach site of deadly Afghanistan landslide close to Pakistan border

Rescue teams reach site of deadly Afghanistan landslide close to Pakistan border
  • Snowfall overnight Sunday caused rubble, earth and snow to rip through the village of Nakre in Nuristan province, killing at least 25
  • Images on social media from the site showed dozens of men standing between giant fallen boulders, using bare hands to remove rocks

KABUL: Rescue teams on Tuesday reached the remote valley where a landslide buried dozens of people in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial official said, after responders were slowed by snow and blocked roads.

Snowfall overnight Sunday caused rubble, earth and snow to rip through the village of Nakre in mountainous Nuristan province, killing at least 25 people.

“There were no facilities yesterday but today there is the military’s equipment,” said provincial information and culture head Jamiullah Hashimi.

“The rescue operation might speed up. The biggest problem is that the fallen rocks are huge and the area is mountainous,” he told AFP.

Images circulating on social media from the site showed dozens of men standing between giant fallen boulders, using their bare hands to remove rocks and dig out the piled earth.

Disaster ministry spokesman Janan Sayeq said his ministry, the public works ministry and non-governmental groups had reached the area with medical teams and other equipment.

On Monday, he put the death toll at 25 people but warned it could rise.

Hashimi said 16 bodies had been pulled from the rubble and around ten more people were still buried, presumed dead.

Another 10 people had been injured and about 20 houses were damaged or destroyed, he added.

Nuristan province, which borders Pakistan, is mostly covered by mountainous forests and hugs the southern end of the Hindu Kush mountain range.

Mountainous areas of Afghanistan have long been vulnerable to landslides and floods, but in recent years risks have increased due to deforestation and drought, worsened by climate change, experts say.


Senate rejects bill seeking long-demanded public hangings of rapists in Pakistan

Senate rejects bill seeking long-demanded public hangings of rapists in Pakistan
Updated 20 February 2024
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Senate rejects bill seeking long-demanded public hangings of rapists in Pakistan

Senate rejects bill seeking long-demanded public hangings of rapists in Pakistan
  • Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami party tabled the bill which was rejected by 24 against 14 votes
  • Members of former PM Nawaz Sharif’s, former FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s and other parties opposed the proposal

ISLAMABAD: The Senate, upper house of Pakistan parliament, has rejected a bill seeking public hangings of rapists and sex offenders, which has been a longstanding public demand in the South Asian country.

Thousands of rape cases are reported in Pakistan annually and only a negligible percentage of sexual assault or rape cases results in convictions in the South Asian country, according to rights groups.

Women and children rarely speak out after violent assaults, fearing the shame it would bring on them and their families in the deeply conservative Muslim country of more than 241 million.

Pakistanis have long demanded public execution of rapists and sex offenders to keep potential offenders from committing such crimes against anyone.

On Monday, Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islami religio-political party tabled a bill in the Senate seeking public hanging of such offenders, but it was rejected by a majority of members.

“My bill to publicly hang rapists was rejected by the Senate by 24 votes [in opposition to the bill] against 14 [in favor],” Khan said on Twitter.

“In Pakistan, 12 children are sexually assaulted every day. If you carry out five public hangings in Islamabad and four provincial capitals, I guarantee that our boys and girls will be safe.”

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) parties completely opposed the bill, according to Khan.

Some parliamentarians of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also voted in opposition of the bill.

In a statement, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman opposed the proposal to introduce public executions for rapists through amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, calling it a “counter effective measure” in deterring sexual crimes.

“The Peoples Party has always had a principled stance against the death penalty, whether public or private. While the PPP staunchly condemns rape as a heinous and grave crime, calling for the death penalty or public executions, as seen in various countries, have not proven to be effective in deterring sexual crimes,” she was quoted as saying.

“We must prioritize enhancing prosecutions and investigations rather than resorting to barbarism and violence within society.”

Rehman noted that there had been attempts at public executions during former military ruler Zia-ul-Haq’s regime in Pakistan, which failed to reduce the crime.

“If public hanging is advocated for one crime, it will be demanded for other offenses as well. The PPP focuses on the importance of addressing the prevailing anger toward violence and sexual crimes through comprehensive measures, including improved funding for the police, enhanced criminal investigations, and better training for officers handling rape cases,” she said.

“There is a need for a nuanced and well-thought-out approach to address crimes against women, focusing on comprehensive legal reforms and cultural changes rather than resorting to public executions. In contemporary 21st-century society, we cannot revert to medieval practices, as public executions to eliminate crimes; instead, they will have other detrimental effects on society.”


X disrupted in Pakistan for third day

X disrupted in Pakistan for third day
Updated 20 February 2024
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X disrupted in Pakistan for third day

X disrupted in Pakistan for third day
  • The platform was downed on Saturday night when a senior official made a public admission of vote manipulation on Feb. 8
  • The application remained disrupted in the capital Islamabad as well as the mega cities of Lahore and Karachi on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD: Social media platform X was disrupted across Pakistan for a third day on Tuesday, after a general election marred by allegations of rigging.

The platform was downed on Saturday night when a senior government official made a public admission of vote manipulation in the February 8 polls.

“X has been inaccessible in Pakistan (since Saturday), because it is used by the public to protest,” Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist told AFP.

AFP staff reported that the app remained disrupted in the capital Islamabad as well as the mega cities of Lahore and Karachi on Tuesday.

Pakistan’s telecommunications and interior ministries did not respond to requests for comment.

Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party called for nationwide protests after the admission of vote rigging on Saturday, with a small number of supporters taking to the streets in urban areas.

PTI defied a months-long crackdown that restricted its campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents, with PTI-backed candidates gaining more seats than any other party.

But it has been unwilling to enter a coalition with its opponents, paving the way for the PML-N party to form the next government.

Mobile Internet services were cut across the country on polling day, with the interior ministry citing security reasons.

The blackout, coupled with a long delay in issuing results, gave rise to allegations of rigging.

PTI also faced online censorship in the build up to the election.

Pakistani Internet freedom watchdog Bytes For All recorded four separate hours-long social media shutdowns in January — cutting off access to TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube while Khan’s PTI live-streamed to its supporters.

Blackouts were blamed on “technical difficulties” by the government.

The party’s main website was also blocked in January and, within hours, a seemingly perfect duplicate appeared — except that it contained disinformation meant to confuse voters.