Pakistan election won’t end strife, warns rights warden

Pakistan election won’t end strife, warns rights warden
In this photograph taken on January 24, 2024, broadcast journalist and co-chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Munizae Jahangir presents her current affairs show on a news channel in Islamabad. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 January 2024
Follow

Pakistan election won’t end strife, warns rights warden

Pakistan election won’t end strife, warns rights warden
  • Pakistan has been ruled by martial law periodically since the country was created in 1947
  • Pakistan will open booths to more than 125 million voters for national elections on February 8

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s preeminent rights activist describes the upcoming election as a messy melodrama staged by an emboldened military, unlikely to bring down the curtain on a cast of crises plaguing the country.

Millions of people will vote in polls in less than two weeks, in a campaign marred by allegations of pre-vote rigging with the opposition heavily suppressed.

“I don’t see Pakistan’s problems going away after this election,” said Munizae Jahangir, co-chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

“We’re headed toward the next mess that nobody will know how to fix,” she told AFP last week in the capital Islamabad.

The lacklustre election campaign feels like a sideshow compared to the backstage drama between jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan and the military kingmakers who once backed him.

Khan was ousted in 2022 in a parliamentary no-confidence vote he claims was orchestrated by the country’s powerful generals.

“They have a schizophrenic relationship with Imran Khan,” Jahangir said of the military brass.

“Nobody can predict what the military is going to do because they first make up all these leaders and then they demolish them.”

Jahangir hails from a family that for decades has faced down threats to check abuses of power.

In 1986 her mother Asma Jahangir — who died in 2018 — co-founded the HRCP, today a globally respected watchdog.

Described as Pakistan’s “moral compass,” the human rights lawyer set up the first legal aid cell for women and minorities, winning landmark cases that were sometimes met with violent threats.

She was ordered under house arrest in 2007 by Pervez Musharraf — Pakistan’s last military ruler who suspended the constitution and detained hundreds of critics.

“She had a way of collecting people and in a way strategizing to push the military back to the barracks and create more civilian space for the politicians,” Jahangir said of her mother.

Pakistan has been ruled by martial law periodically since the country was created out of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Although Pakistan is now in its longest period of civilian government, political parties still require the backing of the armed forces, euphemistically dubbed “the establishment,” to clinch power.

Khan was arrested in August after heaping scorn on generals over his 2022 ousting and accusing them of plotting an assassination bid that left him wounded.

His party has been severely hobbled in the election campaign, subjected to media censorship and barred from holding rallies.

But his four-year premiership was criticized by the HRCP for curbing freedom of expression, failing to rein in enforced disappearances and what Jahangir described as a “not-so-secret campaign to punish anyone who dared to differ with it.”

“He clapped the military on when they subjugated the opponents and took away their fundamental rights, he didn’t realize that this could happen to him as well,” Jahinger said.

“It’s very difficult to roll back the military and to take back civilian space when you have ceded so much of it.”

Despite the drawbacks, Jahangir is clear about the need for an election, with polling day already delayed by months under a caretaker government considered a puppet of the military.

“To say that this is a sham election, I think it’s going a bit too far,” she said. “Simply because any election is good for Pakistan right now.”

Pakistan, with a burgeoning middle class and young population, will open booths to more than 125 million voters on February 8.

“We would obviously prefer an election where everybody is allowed to contest and all political parties are given a level playing field, but at the same time it is only an election that can bring up questions,” she said.

In Pakistan, the questions are many.

The economy is still reeling after Islamabad came to the brink of default last year, militancy is on the rise with deaths in 2023 hitting a six-year high and climate change is ravaging the country by fueling more frequent droughts and floods.

Civil society is battling against enforced disappearances, attacks against religious minorities and an epidemic of gender-based violence.

The HRCP this month warned it is “deeply concerned by the overall deterioration in human rights, which needs urgent attention.”

But regardless of the outcome of the election, few expect the next government to be able to address these burning issues.

“That weak government will not be able to challenge the military,” said Jahangir. “That’s why the military wants a weak government in Pakistan.”


Pakistan condemns Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp, calls it ‘blatant defiance’ of ICJ ruling

Pakistan condemns Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp, calls it ‘blatant defiance’ of ICJ ruling
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan condemns Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp, calls it ‘blatant defiance’ of ICJ ruling

Pakistan condemns Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp, calls it ‘blatant defiance’ of ICJ ruling
  • Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 people on Sunday and ‘numerous’ others were trapped under debris
  • Gaza’s Health Ministry said women and children made up most of the dead and dozens of wounded

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemns Israeli bombardment of tents for displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah that killed dozens of people, the Pakistani Foreign Office said on Monday.
Palestinian health workers said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 people on Sunday and “numerous” others were trapped in flaming debris. Gaza’s Health Ministry said women and children made up most of the dead and dozens of wounded.
The attacks came two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month.
“Targeting of individuals who were displaced earlier because of Israeli bombardment and were sheltered in a refugee camp, is yet another breach of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupation forces,” the Pakistani Foreign Office said in a statement.
“The attack is also a blatant defiance of the additional provisional measures of 24 May 2024 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah in conformity with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and the worsening humanitarian conditions faced by civilians.”
The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The war on Gaza broke out after Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,100 people, in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.
Israel launched a retaliatory offensive, widely viewed as disproportionate, in which more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have lost their lives, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
“Pakistan reiterates its demand for immediate and unconditional implementation of the orders of the ICJ of 24 May 2024. Measures must be taken to fully protect civilians in Gaza and the Israeli occupation forces must be held accountable for the Gaza genocide,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said further.
“We call on the UN Security Council to play its role in preventing Israel from any further attacks against the civilians in Rafah and taking effective measures to protect the people of Gaza.”
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.


Eight killed as jeep plunges into ravine in northwest Pakistan

Eight killed as jeep plunges into ravine in northwest Pakistan
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Eight killed as jeep plunges into ravine in northwest Pakistan

Eight killed as jeep plunges into ravine in northwest Pakistan
  • The incident occurred in the northwestern Shangla district after the driver lost control of the vehicle
  • Road crashes are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed, roads are in poor condition

ISLAMABAD: Eight people, including women and children, were killed after a jeep plunged into a ravine in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, rescue officials said.
The incident occurred in KP’s Shangla district, when the driver lost control of the vehicle and it fell into the ravine, according a spokesperson of the Rescue 1122 service.
As a consequence, four women and three children were killed on the spot, while one person was injured who was shifted to the district headquarters hospital.
“A rescue team recovered bodies of the victims and handed them over to relatives,” the Rescue 1122 spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said the injured person later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
Road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural areas, are in poor condition. In the country’s mountainous north, such tragedies are frequently reported.
In March, at least 20 people were killed and over a dozen others were injured after a bus plunged into a gorge in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region.


Pakistan’s Rauf says injury lay-off a ‘blessing in disguise’

Pakistan’s Rauf says injury lay-off a ‘blessing in disguise’
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan’s Rauf says injury lay-off a ‘blessing in disguise’

Pakistan’s Rauf says injury lay-off a ‘blessing in disguise’
  • The 30-year-old fast bowler made an encouraging return to competitive cricket, taking 2-34, in the second match against England on Saturday
  • Rauf insists Pakistan, the 2009 T20 world champions, are optimistic ahead of their opening match at this year’s global showpiece against US

LONDON: Pakistan paceman Haris Rauf believes the three months he spent on the sidelines injured with a dislocated shoulder could yet prove a “blessing in disguise” as he gears up for the Twenty20 World Cup.
The 30-year-old fast bowler made an encouraging return to competitive cricket, taking 2-34, in the second match of Pakistan’s warm-up series against T20 world champions England in Birmingham on Saturday.
“I was injured the last few months but if you believe in yourself, then the layoff can be a blessing in disguise,” he told a pre-match press conference in Cardiff on Monday ahead of the third T20.
“Because you have time to recover and reassess your game-plans. I felt good coming back to cricket. When you play for your country, it makes you very proud.”
As for the mental and physical strain of returning from injury for a fast bowler, Rauf said: “It’s hard. It’s a struggle during your rehab, and it’s difficult when you come back to maintain that pace and accuracy. But if you believe in yourself, it makes things easier. When I wasn’t in the team and rehabbing, I had a lot of time to think about my game and work on myself.
“Thankfully I’m back now, and the World Cup is coming up.”
Rauf’s return at Edgbaston could not prevent Pakistan suffering a 23-run defeat by England as they fell 1-0 behind in the four-match series with two to play following a washed-out opener.
But Rauf insisted Pakistan, the 2009 T20 world champions, remained in optimistic mood ahead of their opening match at this year’s global showpiece against co-hosts the United States in Dallas on June 6.
“When you lose a game it hurts, but as a team, we are confident,” he said. “We feel we can beat any opposition on any day. We’ve done it in the past, too. When you make mistakes you learn and try not to repeat those mistakes. We’re looking to play better in the next few games and make a comeback.
“The camp is relaxed. We’re enjoying ourselves. We’re trying to follow our game-plans and execute them well. The results haven’t often been in our favor recently but if you stick to your plans they can sometimes follow.”


Pakistan temperatures cross 52°C in heatwave

Pakistan temperatures cross 52°C in heatwave
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan temperatures cross 52°C in heatwave

Pakistan temperatures cross 52°C in heatwave
  • Extreme temperatures throughout Asia over the past month were made worse most likely as result of human-driven climate change
  • In Mohenjo Daro, a town in Sindh known for archaeological sites dating back to 2500 BC, temperatures rose as high as 52.2°C

MOHENJO DARO: Temperatures rose above 52 degrees Celsius (125.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, the highest reading of the summer and close to the country’s record high amid an ongoing heatwave, the met office said on Monday.
Extreme temperatures throughout Asia over the past month were made worse most likely as a result of human-driven climate change, a team of international scientists have said.
In Mohenjo Daro, a town in Sindh known for archaeological sites that date back to the Indus Valley Civilization built in 2500 BC, temperatures rose as high as 52.2 C (126 F) over the last 24 hours, a senior official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Shahid Abbas told Reuters.
The reading is the highest of the summer so far, and approached the town’s and country’s record highs of 53.5 C (128.3 F) and 54 C (129.2 F) respectively.
Mohenjo Daro is a small town that experiences extremely hot summers and mild winters, and low rainfall, but its limited markets, including bakeries, tea shops, mechanics, electronic repair shops, and fruit and vegetable sellers, are usually bustling with customers.
But with the current heatwave, shops are seeing almost no footfall.
“The customers are not coming to the restaurant because of extreme heat. I sit idle at the restaurant with these tables and chairs and without any customers,” Wajid Ali, 32, who owns a tea stall in the town.
“I take baths several times a day which gives me a little relief. Also there is no power. The heat has made us very uneasy.”
Close to Ali’s shop is an electronic repairs shop run by Abdul Khaliq, 30, who was sat working with the shop’s shutter half down to shield him from the sun. Khaliq also complained about the heat affecting business.
Local doctor Mushtaq Ahmed added that the locals have adjusted to living in the extreme weather conditions and prefer staying indoors or near water.
“Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. We have witnessed above normal rains, floods,” Rubina Khursheed Alam, the prime minister’s coordinator on climate, said at a news conference on Friday adding that the government is running awareness campaigns due to the heatwaves.
The highest temperature recorded in Pakistan was in 2017 when temperatures rose to 54 C (129.2 F) in the city of Turbat, located in the Southwestern province of Balochistan. This was the second hottest in Asia and fourth highest in the world, said Sardar Sarfaraz, Chief Meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department
The heatwave will subside in Mohenjo Daro and surrounding areas, but another spell is expected to hit other areas in Sindh, including the capital, Karachi — Pakistan’s largest city.


Body of 15-year-old Pakistani hiker found on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills — police

Body of 15-year-old Pakistani hiker found on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills — police
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Body of 15-year-old Pakistani hiker found on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills — police

Body of 15-year-old Pakistani hiker found on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills — police
  • The boy had gone for a hike on Trail-5 along with six of his classmates at around 7am on Saturday but did not return
  • Police say his body was found in a ditch on Margalla Hills, further investigation is underway to ascertain the cause

ISLAMABAD: The body of a 15-year-old boy, who had gone missing while hiking with friends last week, was found near a Margalla Hills hiking trail on Monday, the Islamabad police said.
The boy had gone for a hike on Trail-5 along with six of his classmates at around 7am on Saturday, but never made it back, according to a police report.
The mother of the young student tried to search him after one of his friends called her to inquire about his return on Saturday evening.
After trying to locate him for hours, the mother lodged a missing complaint with the police.
“After a long search operation, the body of the youth who went missing on Margalla trail was found in a dangerous ditch,” the Islamabad police said in a statement on Monday. “It seems that the boy lost his way and fell into the ditch.”
The deceased’s family was present on the site along with police officials and the search team, according to the statement.
“Further investigation is underway and post-mortem of the body will be conducted to cover all aspects,” it read.
The Pakistani capital of Islamabad has seven hiking trails that stretch several kilometers on the Margalla Hills, which are part of the Himalayan foothills and have an area of 12,605 hectares.
These trails are frequented by hundreds of people on a daily basis and are famous with picnickers.