Pakistani forces kill militant in restive northwest — military

Pakistani forces kill militant in restive northwest — military
Pakistan Army personnel patrol stand guard outside a distribution center of polling materials in Peshawar on February 7, 2024. (AFP/File)
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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.


Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 

Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 
Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 

Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 
  • Visit comes days after Pakistan, Saudi Arabia reaffirmed commitment to expedite $5 billion investment
  • Pakistan state media on Sunday said Saudi Arabia would invest $1 billion in Reko Diq mining project 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will arrive in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries, the Pakistani foreign office said.
The Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.
“The visit takes place essentially to expedite follow up on the understanding reached between Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and HRH Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during their recent meeting in Makkah Al Mukarramah to enhance bilateral economic cooperation,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
“This visit is aimed at lending positive impetus to enhanced bilateral cooperation and mutually rewarding economic partnership.”
The Saudi delegation comprises the foreign minister, minister of water and agriculture, minister of industry and mineral resources, deputy minister of investment, and senior officials from the Saudi energy ministry and the Saudi Fund for General Investments, according to the Pakistani foreign office.
The Saudi delegation is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and counterpart ministers, as well as the army chief and members of the apex committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, set up last year to oversee all foreign investments. 
The Saudi government has not yet commented on the visit or its agenda. 
Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing it oil on deferred payment and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.
On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the Reko Diq copper and gold mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.


Muslim World League secretary-general meets key Pakistani religious leader, scholars in Islamabad

Muslim World League secretary-general meets key Pakistani religious leader, scholars in Islamabad
Updated 15 April 2024
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Muslim World League secretary-general meets key Pakistani religious leader, scholars in Islamabad

Muslim World League secretary-general meets key Pakistani religious leader, scholars in Islamabad
  • Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the right-wing JUI-F party, other religious scholars
  • Dr. Al-Issa arrived in Pakistan on April 7 to promote bilateral relations between Islamabad and Riyadh, and to promote interfaith harmony 

ISLAMABAD: The secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa met prominent Pakistani religious leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman and other Pakistani religious scholars in Islamabad on Monday, Rehman’s party said, as the MWL official’s nine-day visit to the country concludes today. 

Dr. Al-Issa arrived in Islamabad on April 7 on a nine-day trip aimed at fostering interfaith harmony, strengthening bilateral ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He heads the MWL, a Makkah-based non-governmental organization that represents followers of Islam around the world.

During his visit to Pakistan, Dr. Al-Issa delivered the Eid Al-Fitr sermon at the Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad last week in which he called on Muslims to keep Palestinians close to their hearts and in their prayers.

Rehman, who heads the right-wing Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl (JUI-F) party, met Dr. Al-Issa at the house of Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan, the JUI-F said in a statement. 

“We welcome Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and his honorable delegation,” Rehman was quoted as saying by the JUI-F. 

The JUI-F leader said thousands of madrassahs or religious seminaries were being run by Pakistani scholars in the country. He added that Pakistani scholars have played a prominent role in awakening the Muslim community. 

“Pakistani scholars have a longstanding spiritual and brotherly relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Rehman was quoted as saying by the JUI-F. 

Speaking on the Gaza crisis, Rehman criticized the Jewish state for its relentless military campaign and said that the “brutality” against Palestinians cannot be ignored. 

“Zionist Israel has the patronage of international powers where human rights are being trampled and children, women and the elderly are being killed,” he said. “The Palestinian situation demands unity from us and the entire Muslim Ummah is looking toward Saudi Arabia in this regard.”

During his visit to Pakistan, Dr. Al-Issa visited the Ali bin Abi Talib Orphanage in Islamabad to spend time with the orphans there on Eid Al-Fitr. On Saturday, he attended the foundation laying ceremony of the Seerat Museum in Islamabad. The museum, the first of its kind, would exhibit relics related to the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). 


Pakistan Eid tourism surged by over 360 percent amid easing inflation — provincial data

Pakistan Eid tourism surged by over 360 percent amid easing inflation — provincial data
Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan Eid tourism surged by over 360 percent amid easing inflation — provincial data

Pakistan Eid tourism surged by over 360 percent amid easing inflation — provincial data
  • Inflation in Pakistan fell to 20.7 percent in March, the country’s lowest in 23 months, data showed
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Galiyat area saw highest number of tourists, 237,500, from April 10-14 last week

ISLAMABAD: Eid tourism in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province surged by over 360 percent this year, with over 580,000 tourists visiting the area’s scenic spots during the five-day holidays last week, data released by the provincial tourism authority on Monday showed, as inflation eases in the economically troubled country. 

Poor weather conditions and soaring inflation led to a staggering 74 percent decline in the number of tourists that visited KP last year during the Eid holidays, as per official figures, when over 125,000 tourists visited the province. The northwestern province is home to many picturesque locations and scenic spots such as Swat Valley, Malam Jabba, Abbottabad, Kaghan, and Shogran that Pakistanis from all over the country visit during the Eid holidays. 

As per figures shared by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development Project (KITE), a provincial initiative by the provincial government to develop tourism in KP, 583,452 tourists in total visited the province from April 10-14. 

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s tourist spots remained tourists’ first priority during Eid holidays,” the KP Culture and Tourism Authority said in a statement. “During the five days [April 10-14], over 583,000 tourists visited the tourist spots of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

According to a breakdown shared by KITE, Galiyat saw the highest number of visitors with over 237,500 visiting the area during the five days while 151,900 visited Malam Jabba. As many as 92,470 tourists visited Kumrat Valley while 77,372 toured Naran and Kaghan areas, the data showed. 

Pakistan’s inflation last year peaked at 36.4 percent during April 2023 while food inflation surged to 49.1 percent. The South Asian country’s inflation outpaced price gains even in Sri Lanka as its currency depreciated and Pakistan hiked fuel and energy prices to comply with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

In March 2024, however, Pakistan’s inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell to 20.7 percent, its lowest in 23 months. However, the country continues to face significant financial challenges, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a weak national currency.


8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 

8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 
Updated 15 April 2024
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8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 

8 killed, 12 injured in three days as heavy rains batter northwestern Pakistan 
  • Four children, three men and a woman were among the eight casualties, says provincial disaster management authority 
  • In latest press release, Pakistan’s Met Office warns of floods and landslides in country’s northern areas due to heavy rain

PESHAWAR: Eight people have been killed and 12 others injured in the past three days due to rain-related incidents in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, a report by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Sunday, as the meteorological department warned of floods and landslides in the country’s northern parts. 

Heavy rains and snowfall last week damaged hundreds of houses and bridges and shut off road and rail routes in several areas of Pakistan, especially in KP. As per the PDMA’s latest report, four children, three men and one woman were among the eight casualties while the 12 injured included four women, six men and two children. 

It said that 85 houses were affected in various districts of the province when their walls and roofs collapsed due to heavy rain. Of these, 15 houses were destroyed while 70 were damaged.

“Due to heavy rain, accidents and financial losses were reported in various districts such as upper and lower Dir, lower Chitral, Swat, Bajaur, Shangla, Mansehra, Mohmand and Malakand,” the report. 

It added that KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur had directed the relevant district administrations and institutions to provide immediate assistance to the affected families and instructed them to ensure the provision of best medical facilities to those injured in rain-related incidents.

The PDMA said it is in contact with the district administrations throughout the province and has instructed them to speed up relief operations. 

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) issued a press release on Monday warning that heavy rains could cause floods in the streams and rivers near Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Murree, Galyat, Naran and Kaghan areas. It also warned that the showers can cause landslides in the areas surrounding River Kabul. 

Separately, over 20 people were killed last week in lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab and southwestern Balochistan provinces amid heavy rains and thunderstorms in the two provinces. 

Pakistan has been prone to natural disasters and consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries due to the effects of climate change.

In March, heavy rains in Pakistan’s Balochistan triggered urban floods in Gwadar and Kech districts, destroying nearly 100 homes and killing at least five people.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people. Over 33 million people were affected by the floodwaters — a staggering number close to the population of Canada.

Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools as well as thousands of kilometers of roads and railways still need to be rebuilt.


Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report

Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report
Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report

Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report
  • Debt-for-nature swaps refers to when poorer countries have debt written off in return for protecting ecosystems
  • Swaps could provide $100 billion for fight against climate change, new report by British non-profit organization says

LONDON: Debt-for-nature swaps, where poorer countries have debt written off in return for protecting ecosystems such as barrier reefs or rainforests, could provide $100 billion for the fight against climate change, a new report has calculated.

The UK-based, non-profit International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) based the estimate on the possibility of debt swaps in many of the 49 less developed countries seen as most at risk of debt crises.

Belize, Ecuador, Barbados, Gabon and Cabo Verde have all done such swaps in recent years and Laura Kelly, the director of IIED’s sustainable markets research group, said many of those in debt distress and also often most threatened by global warming, were looking at them.

The IMF and World Bank, whose figures the analysis is based on, estimate the countries focused on collectively owe $431 billion, mostly to wealthier governments, the IMF itself and pension and hedge funds.

At the same time, these countries received less than $14 billion in climate finance according to OECD figures from 2021, which is significantly less than they need to limit climate change or at least adapt to it.

The aim of IIED’s report is to encourage a drive for more debt swaps at the upcoming IMF and World Bank Spring meetings which start later this week.

Kelly said countries that could benefit included Pakistan, Sri Lanka and The Gambia in West Africa, which is at “huge risk” of sea level rise she stressed and needs to invest heavily in flood prevention and wetland preservation.

Ghana too, which like Sri Lanka is now restructuring its debt, is another obvious candidate. One of its key exports, cocoa beans used for chocolate, could thrive if more is done to protect its vital rainforests.

“For governments (that do debt swaps) it creates some fiscal space, but also it helps to achieve outcomes in terms of climate and nature that have global impact,” Kelly said, adding that many countries were interested in potentially doing them.