Pakistan and Qatar participate in joint aerial exercise Zilzal II to promote interoperability

Pakistan and Qatar participate in joint aerial exercise Zilzal II to promote interoperability
In this handout photograph, taken and released by the Directorate General Public Relations Pakistan Air Force, contingents from Pakistan Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force pose for a group photo during the opening ceremony of joint aerial exercise Zilzal II in Qatar on January 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy: PAF)
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Updated 10 January 2024
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Pakistan and Qatar participate in joint aerial exercise Zilzal II to promote interoperability

Pakistan and Qatar participate in joint aerial exercise Zilzal II to promote interoperability
  • Pakistan’s J-10C will compete with Eurofighter jets of Qatar’s air force in first-ever face-off in an aerial exercise
  • Zilzal II seeks to simulate a near-realistic aerial warfare scenario to assess the operational readiness of both forces

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is poised to conduct Zilzal II, a joint aerial exercise with Qatar’s Emiri Air Force in the Arab state, aimed at ensuring interoperability between the two allied nations and capitalizing on opportunities for shared professional learning, said a PAF statement released on Wednesday.

The inaugural edition of Zilzal, conducted in 2020, focused on strengthening the existing defense partnership between the two countries. Zilzal II, building on this foundation, seeks to simulate a near-realistic aerial warfare scenario, providing a crucial opportunity for the air forces of the two countries to assess their operational readiness in real time.

“During the exercise, PAF’s newly inducted state-of-the-art J-10C fighter aircraft will flex its muscles against Eurofighter jets of the Qatar Emiri Air Force in their first-ever face-off in an aerial exercise,” the official statement informed, while describing the successful induction and operationalization of J-10C fighter jets and their participation in international exercises in a short span as a “remarkable achievement.”

The statement added that Zilzal II would serve as a platform to foster greater understanding, cooperation and friendship between the Pakistan Air Force and Qatar’s Emiri Air Force, contributing to regional stability and security.


Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations

Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations
Updated 22 June 2024
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Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations

Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations
  • ‘Save Gaza Campaign’ wanted Pakistan to formally protest to envoys of the countries supporting Israel
  • Two activists were killed and four others injured when a speeding car had an accident at their protest site

ISLAMABAD: A group of pro-Palestine protesters in Pakistan’s federal capital, Islamabad, decided to call off their sit-in after holding a meeting with Federal Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Saturday.
The activists belonging to the Save Gaza Campaign set up their camps near the high-security Red Zone to express solidarity with the people of Palestine who have been targeted by the Israeli war machine since Oct. 7, 2023.
The protesters stayed in the area for nearly 40 days, asking the Pakistani authorities to take practical steps, such as formally protesting to the envoys of the countries supporting Israel, to help the people of Gaza.
“Every Pakistani feels the same about Palestine as they do in their heart,” the interior minister said while referring to the Save Gaza Campaign activists after successful negotiations with the group. “And what they are saying, definitely, there is nothing in it that we object to. Pakistan is already playing its role [to demand a ceasefire]. But we have also promised them [the activists] that we will act on their suggestions.”
“My request to them, which they have agreed to, is that they are going to end their sit-in,” he added.
Last month, the Save Gaza Campaign activists decided to hold their ground after an accident involving a speeding vehicle killed two of them on the roadside and injured four others.
Naqvi also mentioned the incident while praying for the deceased activists and promising quick justice in the case.
Israel has killed over 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them women and children, since the beginning of the war.
While the conflict followed a surprise attack by Hamas, which said it was retaliating to the deteriorating condition of Palestinians under occupation, Israel’s response was widely viewed as disproportionate, bordering on genocide.


Police say two people arrested in southern Sindh for stealing mobile tower, scrap partially recovered

Police say two people arrested in southern Sindh for stealing mobile tower, scrap partially recovered
Updated 22 June 2024
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Police say two people arrested in southern Sindh for stealing mobile tower, scrap partially recovered

Police say two people arrested in southern Sindh for stealing mobile tower, scrap partially recovered
  • The unique incident took place in Larkana earlier this month on June 7, and the stolen tower valued about $7,196
  • The owner of the land where the tower was installed says he had not been paid rent by the company for six months

LARKANA, Sindh: Police in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province have arrested two suspects in connection with the theft of a private company’s mobile phone tower in Larkana district, an official statement informed Saturday, saying that part of the scrap of the stolen tower had been recovered.
The statement said a case had been registered at the Naudero Police Station in Larkana following a complaint filed by the regional security manager of Telenor Pakistan about the theft of the tower.
“The suspect nominated in the case, along with a scrap dealer, was caught and arrested,” the statement continued. “Some of the stolen material was also recovered.”
It added that investigations had revealed the tower had not been used for nearly six months.
The statement mentioned that Muhammad Rakhiyal Abro, the owner of the private land where the tower had been installed, said after his arrest that the mobile company had not paid rent to him or salary to the watchman during this period.
“Rakhiyal said individuals claiming to be Telenor company’s employees approached him about a week ago, saying the company had decided to shut down and remove the tower,” it said.
A police official informed a portion of the scrap of the stolen tower had been recovered and a scrap dealer, Saadullah Brohi, had been taken into custody.
“The recovered scrap weighs around 20 maunds [746.5 kilograms], while an equal amount of scrap remains to be recovered,” Station House Officer of Naudero Police, Shahid Memon, told Arab News.
According to the police complaint, the incident occurred earlier this month on June 7, and the stolen tower valued about Rs2 million ($7,196).


Pakistan PM mourns death of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences

Pakistan PM mourns death of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences
Updated 22 June 2024
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Pakistan PM mourns death of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences

Pakistan PM mourns death of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences
  • Dr. Sheikh Saleh Al-Shaibi was born in Makkah and secured a doctorate in Islamic Studies
  • His family was assigned by the Prophet (PBUH) himself to be the caretaker of the Ka`aba

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday expressed grief and offered condolences over the passing of Dr. Sheikh Saleh Al-Shaibi, the guardian and key bearer of the Holy Ka`aba, who died earlier in the day.
Dr. Al-Shaibi, who was born in Makkah and secured a doctorate in Islamic Studies, initially worked as a university professor and published several books on religion and history.
He belonged to a family that has served as the caretaker of Ka`aba, the black cubical structure at the heart of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, since the city was conquered by the first Muslim community under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
“Dr. Sheikh Saleh Al-Shaibi had the unique honor of being the key bearer of the Ka`aba and every Muslim is proud of his fate for having such an honor,” Sharif said in a condolence message reported by Radio Pakistan.
He prayed for the high rank for the deceased in the afterlife and patience for the bereaved family.
Dr. Al-Shaibi became the caretaker of the Ka`aba in 2013 after his uncle, Abdul Qader Taha Al-Shaibi, passed away.
The Prophet (PBUH) had handed the key to the Ka`aba to his ancestor, Uthman Ibn Abi Talha, in the eighth year of hijra and ordered that the honor should forever remain in his family.


Lawyer says Pakistan high court order halting deportation of Afghan artists offers ‘hope’

Lawyer says Pakistan high court order halting deportation of Afghan artists offers ‘hope’
Updated 22 June 2024
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Lawyer says Pakistan high court order halting deportation of Afghan artists offers ‘hope’

Lawyer says Pakistan high court order halting deportation of Afghan artists offers ‘hope’
  • Peshawar High Court orders Pakistani authorities not to deport Afghan musicians, transgender people seeking asylum
  • Afghan musicians, transgender persons fled their country due to fear of persecution after the Taliban’s return to power in 2021

PESHAWAR: A lawyer representing undocumented musicians and transgender people from Afghanistan said on Saturday he was hopeful a recent court verdict would make his clients’ lives easier in Pakistan after they fled their country due to fear of persecution in the wake of the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.
A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court, comprising Justices Ijaz Anwar and Waqar Ahmad, instructed the Pakistani authorities not to “harass” these musicians while hearing their petition pending further proceedings.
It also issued an order prohibiting the forced repatriation of these individuals seeking asylum in Pakistan until the court issued its final directive.
The Afghan Taliban imposed a ban on music soon after taking over the capital city of Kabul over two years ago, considering it against the principles of Islamic Shariah.
The musicians filed a case in the Peshawar High Court last October to prevent their return to Afghanistan, following a massive deportation drive for unregistered foreigners initiated by Pakistani authorities citing security reasons.
“The recent development offers hope for Afghan artists and transgender people who fear persecution if they are deported to Afghanistan,” Advocate Mumtaz Khan told Arab News on Saturday.
He noted that many Afghan musicians were detained and harassed by the police due to a lack of documentation.
“The situation of Afghan musicians has remained dire,” he continued. “They cannot move freely or hold public concerts.”
Khan maintained these people had fled their country to save their lives where the Afghan interim administration officials had been arresting and beating musicians.
According to official documents prepared by the home and tribal affairs department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 354,255 unregistered foreigners have been repatriated via the northwestern Pakistani province that shares its border with Afghanistan since September 17.
The international community, including the United States and various UN agencies, has urged Pakistan not to deport vulnerable Afghan nationals, expressing concerns over risks to their lives amid ongoing human rights challenges in the neighboring state.
Speaking to Arab News, Faiz Muhammad Sakhi, a former musicology professor at the Kabul University who fled to Pakistan after the Taliban takeover, said his sons had been arrested by the police due to their lack of documents.
“I’m currently trying to secure their bail through court,” he said.
“Our lives are not very good in Pakistan,” he continued. “Neither can we go back to Afghanistan. I hope the recent court order will lessen our difficulties in this country.”


Pakistan initiates ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’ in national security drive amid escalating militant violence

Pakistan initiates ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’ in national security drive amid escalating militant violence
Updated 22 June 2024
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Pakistan initiates ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’ in national security drive amid escalating militant violence

Pakistan initiates ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’ in national security drive amid escalating militant violence
  • The counterterrorism drive was announced after PM Sharif warned ‘soft states’ failed to gain investor confidence
  • Shehbaz Sharif called it a ‘grave mistake’ only to expect the armed forces to deal with the issue of militant violence

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced its plan to launch a comprehensive counterterrorism campaign, Operation Azm-e-Istehkam — or Resolve for Stability — after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif led a meeting of the civilian and military leadership to review the ongoing security situation in the country.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks since a proscribed armed network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), called off a fragile ceasefire with the government in November 2022. Much of the violence was witnessed in the country’s western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which share a border with Afghanistan where the TTP leaders have reportedly found sanctuary.
While the militants have primarily targeted Pakistani civilians and security forces, they have also threatened the national economy by attacking Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure development projects under a multibillion-dollar regional connectivity framework, causing concern in both Beijing and Islamabad.
The Central Apex Committee of the National Action Plan, a high-level forum that includes the army chief, provincial chief ministers and heads of major civil and military law enforcement agencies, convened to discuss the situation before deciding to launch the campaign.
“The Prime Minister approved a reinvigorated and re-energized national counter-terrorism campaign through launching of Operation AZM-E-ISTEHKAM, with consensus of all stakeholders including the Provinces, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, symbolizing the national resolve to eradicate extremism and terrorism from the country,” said a statement released after the meeting.
“In the politico-diplomatic domain, efforts will be intensified to curtail the operational space for terrorists through regional cooperation,” it added. “The renewed and full blown kinetic efforts of the armed forces will be augmented by full support from all Law Enforcement Agencies, empowered by effective legislation to address legal voids that hinder effective prosecution of terrorism-related cases and award of exemplary punishments to them.”
The statement said the campaign would also be complemented by socioeconomic measures aimed at addressing the genuine concerns of people and creating an environment that discourages extremist tendencies.
It would also leverage the information space to promote a unified national narrative in support of the efforts to eradicate militancy from the country.
“The forum reiterated that the fight against extremism and terrorism is Pakistan’s war and is absolutely essential for the nation’s survival and well-being,” the statement informed. “The forum resolved that no one will be allowed to challenge the writ of the state without any exception.”
It noted that the apex committee participants also reviewed measures to ensure foolproof security for Chinese nationals in Pakistan.
INVESTOR CONFIDENCE
Earlier, the prime minister emphasized the necessity of developing a strong and comprehensive response to the challenge of militant violence in Pakistan, saying it was not possible for a “soft state” to strengthen its economy since it tends to lose confidence of potential investors.
He made the observation only a day after senior Chinese politician Liu Jianchao said in Islamabad that Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining the confidence of investors from his country.
Liu’s statement reinforced concerns raised by authorities in Beijing following several attacks on Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan, including a suicide bombing in March this year that killed five of them.
“For sustainable development in Pakistan, stability and the rule of law are essential,” the prime minister said. “It is our collective responsibility to enforce the writ of the state with full force and without exception.”
“A soft state can never earn the confidence of investors, whether they are domestic or foreign,” he continued. “Therefore, a healthy and strong economy cannot be envisaged in an unstable state plagued by terrorism.”
Sharif maintained fighting militant violence was the joint responsibility of all institutions of the state.
“We have very easily left this matter to the officers and soldiers of our armed forces,” he added. “The provinces and governments have completely absolved themselves of this responsibility. This is the dangerous approach that has developed over the past years.”
He noted this was not the way Pakistan could “end terrorism.”
“After the 18th amendment in the constitution, the provincial governments have a significant role in this effort and have also been provided resources,” he said. “Therefore, I expect that the provinces will play an active part in combating terrorism. Together, God willing, we will eradicate this scourge.”
Sharif said it was important for everyone to take the ownership of the war against militancy, adding that leaving it to just one institution of the state would be a “grave mistake.”
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s interior minister Mohsin Naqvi also held a meeting to review the security measures for foreign nationals, particularly the Chinese workers in the country.