Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony

Special Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony
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Pakistan's religious Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam-Fazl party supporters protest against alleged rigging in country's national poll in Karachi on February 24, 2024. (AN Photo)
Special Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony
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Police fire tear gas to disperse the supporters of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam–Fazl party, as they protest against the alleged skewing in Pakistan's national election results, in Karachi on February 24, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 24 February 2024
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Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony

Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony
  • Political workers of different parties staged hours-long blockade of a central thoroughfare despite tear gas shelling
  • Jamaat-e-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance and Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam raised rigging allegations after Feb. 8 polls

KARACHI: Several Pakistani parties on Saturday announced they would observe February 27 as “black day” in response to Sindh police firing tear gas at political workers protesting suspected rigging in the general elections earlier this month, as the newly elected lawmakers joined the inaugural session of the provincial legislature.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) bagged the highest 84 seats in the southern Sindh province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which secured 28 seats, while 14 seats went to independents. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) religious party and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) won two seats each.
Supporters of the JI, GDA, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s South zone to protest the alleged manipulation of the Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in the release of constituency results.
Hundreds of police personnel were deployed to prevent opposition supporters from advancing toward the Sindh Assembly building. The GDA and JUI-F were en route to the Karachi Press Club when clashes broke out between their workers and the police, resulting in stone-pelting and tear gas shelling.
“I strongly condemn the police shelling over the JUI-F workers,” Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, the JI chief, said at a joint protest with the GDA. “We will observe February 27 as black day against election rigging and police torture on political workers.”
Rashid Soomro, a JUI-F leader, also confirmed development.
“Our peaceful workers were beaten and subjected to shelling as we attempted to reach the press club,” he said.
Political workers belonging to the protesting parties also blocked a main thoroughfare, Shahrah-e-Faisal, for several hours during the day.
Earlier, the outgoing speaker of the Sindh Assembly, Agha Siraj Durrani, administered oath to the newly elected lawmakers amid heavy security around the building.
“I do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan, that as a member of the provincial assembly of Sindh, I will perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully, in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the law and the rules of the assembly, and always in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan,” Durrani said as he read out the oath to the lawmakers.
“May Allah Almighty help me and guide me.”
In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.
Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.
The oath-taking ceremony came a day after the PPP nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again, Syed Owais Shah for the role of speaker, and Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.
“We will not only compete with the governments of other provinces but also with the Center in performance,” Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a former foreign minister and the PPP chairman, said at a meeting of newly elected party lawmakers in Karachi.
The PPP chairman announced that his party would forge a working relationship with all opposition parties in Sindh and address their legitimate grievances, according to a PPP statement. He urged the newly elected lawmakers to play their role in resolving the people’s problems in their respective constituencies.
“Be my eyes and ears,” Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying. “You play the role of a bridge between the people of your constituency and me; you are my ambassador to the people.”


Army announces joint inquiry after videos of soldiers clashing with police surface in Pakistan

Army announces joint inquiry after videos of soldiers clashing with police surface in Pakistan
Updated 4 min 27 sec ago
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Army announces joint inquiry after videos of soldiers clashing with police surface in Pakistan

Army announces joint inquiry after videos of soldiers clashing with police surface in Pakistan
  • The army says the ‘unfortunate incident’ in Bahawalnagar was promptly addressed by both state institutions
  • The top cop in Punjab also blames social media ‘propaganda’ for blowing the incident out of proportion

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army announced to carry out a joint inquiry with police on Friday after a series of videos showing its soldiers beating up cops in Bahawalnagar district emerged on social media in the last few days.
A brief statement issued by the military’s media wing, ISPR, mentioned the “unfortunate incident” without providing further details.
According to the information available in the public domain, however, there was a brawl between the uniformed personnel belonging to both institutions after a soldier’s relative was arrested by the police without the necessary paperwork.
“An unfortunate incident occurred in Bahawalnagar recently, which was promptly addressed and resolved through collaborative efforts of military and police authorities,” the ISPR said. “Despite this, certain factions with vested motives started fanning vitriolic propaganda on social media to create divisions between state institutions and government departments.”
“To ensure a fair and deliberate inquiry, and to determine responsibility for violation of laws and misuse of authority, a joint inquiry comprising security and police officials will be conducted for ascertaining the facts and apportioning responsibility,” it added.
Similar incidents have also been recorded in the past where the army officials roughed up police personnel.
In September 2016, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police registered a complaint against army officials accused of beating four Motorway Police employees after the latter issued them a traffic ticket for reckless driving.
Earlier this week, police in Punjab, where Bahawalnagar district is located, described the social media videos as “fake propaganda” earlier this week after the incident was “taken out of context and exaggerated.”
Punjab Inspector General Police Dr. Usman Anwar also blamed the social media for blowing the incident out of proportion, saying this had benefited the country’s enemies who were trying to create the impression that Pakistani state institutions were at odds.
He noted there were no differences between the army and the police, adding the two sides had taken steps to address the issue as soon as it happened.


Pakistan’s finance minister briefs PM Sharif ahead of key US talks for new IMF loan deal

Pakistan’s finance minister briefs PM Sharif ahead of key US talks for new IMF loan deal
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan’s finance minister briefs PM Sharif ahead of key US talks for new IMF loan deal

Pakistan’s finance minister briefs PM Sharif ahead of key US talks for new IMF loan deal
  • Muhammad Aurangzeb is scheduled to reach Washington tomorrow to attend the IMF, World Bank spring meetings
  • IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva has confirmed Pakistan has approached her organization for yet another loan program

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday to discuss Pakistan’s economic strategy ahead of his meetings with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials in the United States with an aim to get a fresh loan for the country.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva confirmed this week Pakistan was in discussions with her organization on a potential follow-up loan program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement (SBA). The country reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF following the second and final review carried out under the SBA and is expected to receive a tranche of $1.1 billion toward the end of this month.
The finance minister is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Sunday where he will attend the IMF and World Bank spring meetings and discuss the possibility of securing another $6-8 billion deal.
According to a statement released by the finance ministry, Aurangzeb briefed the prime minister about the performance of his ministry during the meeting.
“The finance minister informed the prime minister about his upcoming visit to the United States,” it said. “He discussed with the prime minister his scheduled meetings with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other organizations during the visit.”
“The overall economic situation of the country was also discussed in the meeting,” the statement added.
The IMF chief recognized Pakistan’s commitment to the structural economic reforms during an event at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
However, she also noted that some important issues, including the tax base and overall economic transparency, were yet to be addressed by the Pakistani authorities.
Earlier this week, the Asian Development Bank forecast a 1.9 percent growth in Pakistan during the current fiscal year, though it also warned of 25 percent inflation during the same period.
 


Unidentified gunmen kill nine passengers in Pakistan’s restive southwest

Unidentified gunmen kill nine passengers in Pakistan’s restive southwest
Updated 13 April 2024
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Unidentified gunmen kill nine passengers in Pakistan’s restive southwest

Unidentified gunmen kill nine passengers in Pakistan’s restive southwest
  • Gunmen stopped a bus in Balochistan and separated passengers belonging to Punjab after checking ID cards
  • Police in Nushki district say they pursued the armed men who fired rocket-propelled grenades and escaped

QUETTA: A group of unidentified gunmen stopped a passenger bus traveling from Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, to Taftan, a town bordering Iran, and killed nine passengers from Punjab province after checking the ID cards of people onboard in southwestern Pakistan, confirmed a senior police official on Saturday.
The incident happened on Friday night near the mountainous Nushki district of Balochistan province which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting for independence.
While no group has claimed responsibility of the attack, Baloch nationalists have long complained of political marginalization and economic exploitation, accusing the Pakistani government and Punjab province of monopolizing profits from Balochistan’s rich natural resources.
Pakistani administrations have denied such allegations in the past, pointing out they have launched several development initiatives in the province to improve the lives of the residents of Balochistan.
Speaking to Arab News, a senior police official in Nushki said the armed men intercepted a passenger bus at the Quetta-Taftan Highway.
“They off-boarded nine passengers after checking their ID card near Sultan Charahi, and took them away to the nearby mountains before shooting them from point-blank range,” Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Allah Bukhsh said. “Police and law enforcement agencies pursued the terrorists who fired RPG [rocket-propelled grenades] on security forces and escaped. But hunt for these terrorists is underway.”
Baloch separatists have also targeted Punjabi laborers working in the province in the past. At least 10 of them had been killed in Balochistan’s Turbat district during two separate attacks last year in October.
A key armed separatist faction, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has intensified attacks in the region over the past two months following the February 8 general elections in Pakistan. The group launched coordinated attacks on the country’s key strategic installations in Gwadar and Kech districts during this period.
“Earlier on Friday, the terrorists also attacked a vehicle driven by the brother of an elected member of the provincial assembly from Nushki, Ghulam Dastagir Badini, and busted his vehicle’s tire,” the police officer added. “The vehicle fell down into a ditch killing one man and injuring four others.”
Chief Minister Balochistan Sarfaraz Bugti condemned the killings of passengers and asked law enforcement agencies to pursue people involved in the incident.
“We will not forgive these terrorists who are enemies of Pakistan and seek to sabotage peace in Balochistan,” he said in an official statement released by his office.
 


Meet Saad Haroon, comedian who took a chance on laughter being the best medicine for Pakistan 

Meet Saad Haroon, comedian who took a chance on laughter being the best medicine for Pakistan 
Updated 13 April 2024
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Meet Saad Haroon, comedian who took a chance on laughter being the best medicine for Pakistan 

Meet Saad Haroon, comedian who took a chance on laughter being the best medicine for Pakistan 
  • Haroon created Pakistan’s first English-language comedy TV show and improv comedy troupe BlackFish
  • Haroon says laughter is “cathartic” in Pakistan, a country steeped in pressing issues like militancy and poverty 

ISLAMABAD: It was a dark time in Pakistan when stand-up comedian Saad Haroon returned home after completing his education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2001. 

In a post-September 11 world, it was a nation divided over whether Pakistan should be involved in the United States’ war on terror or not. The war in neighboring Afghanistan led to a sudden rise in the number and scale of terror attacks in the country. The conflict in the region also hit major sectors of the economy, and trading activities were widely disrupted. And as Haroon would find out in the years to come, things would only get worse and laughter would turn out to be the best medicine.

“Little did I know that I would need a lot of comedy over the years because we’ve been dealing with kind of a situation after situation,” Haroon, now one of Pakistan’s best-known English language comedians, told Arab News in an interview in Karachi. “And I was like, ‘Okay, I can use comedy to really make people feel better’.”

The undated file photo shows Pakistani comedian Saad Haroon. (Photo courtesy: Saad Haroon)

Haroon is the creator of the first ever Pakistani improvizational comedy troupe “BlackFish” and was the first Pakistani stand-up comedian to perform in English in cities across Pakistan in his tour, “Saad Haroon: Very Live.” He has many other accolades to his name, including being voted the “Second Funniest Person in the World” during the first Laugh Factory worldwide competition held in 2014. 

But carving a niche as a comedian in Pakistan — and that too in the English language which is spoken by less than five million people in a country of 241 million — was no easy task. The learning curve was improvizational, with Haroon and his peers trading cassette tapes of international comedians to learn the tricks of the trade. And given the political chaos around him, it was no surprise that Haroon quickly turned to political satire, using comedy to make people laugh but also to make them understand the complexities of life.

“I could wax eloquent about these very difficult things that have been happening and it was fun and it was good,” he said, adding that political satire was “cathartic” and a “coping mechanism.”

“And sometimes the audience finds it fun. Sometimes they find it incredibly dark and it’s still rewarding.”

But does he ever get into trouble with his jokes?

“Well, my job is to push those boundaries and sometimes I don’t censor myself and I get in trouble,” Haroon said, recalling the backlash he received for writing a song named “Burqa Woman.”

“BLASKFISH”

Venturing into a full-time career as a comedian as far back as 2002, Haroon became aware of many sad realities about Pakistan’s creative industry, including that there were no quality writers. 

“Because there’s not much art, it means that we don’t actually have a system to create that art, which means we don’t have writers,” the comedian said. 

That’s why improvizational comedy became the answer.

“I was like, ‘Okay, if you don’t have writers, how do we do comedy without writers? Let’s do improv’.”

Thus was born BlackFish in 2002, but that was not without its challenges, not least of them the language barrier and the inability to generate money. 

“I think we charged a whopping Rs100 [36 cents] per ticket,” Haroon joked. “So, I couldn’t pay anyone in the troupe. I would collect the money in the kitty and then we’d go for dinner sometimes.”

Blaskfish continued for a few years before Haroon quit and started doing solo stand-up comedy shows.

Next Haroon created and hosted the first ever English language comedy television show in Pakistan called The Real News in 2007.

“That was political satire and people in Pakistan, we love making fun of politicians because you know, there’s no saving grace about it,” Haroon explained. 

Another major achievement was when in October 2014, he was voted the second funniest person in the world, securing 59,213 votes in the Laugh Factory competition.

“I think winning that second funniest person in the world award was amazing,” Haroon recalled. “And it was kind of amazing what it made other people in Pakistan feel like because they had something.”

For Haroon, art is important in Pakistan because conventional careers like becoming a doctor, engineer or lawyer are not for everyone.

“We all really need money, but we all really need to laugh a little bit as well,” he said. “And so, I’ll go down with this ship laughing even if you don’t.”


Search on in northwest Pakistan for four who went missing while bathing in canal, boating

Search on in northwest Pakistan for four who went missing while bathing in canal, boating
Updated 12 April 2024
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Search on in northwest Pakistan for four who went missing while bathing in canal, boating

Search on in northwest Pakistan for four who went missing while bathing in canal, boating
  • A boat capsized in Kund Park in the Nowshera district on Thursday and seven people submerged as a result of it
  • In another incident in Charsadda, six people went under water while bathing in Khayali canal, three were rescued

ISLAMABAD: A search operation was underway for four people who went missing while boating and bathing at recreational spots in different districts of Pakistan ‘s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Rescue 1122 service said on Friday.

A boat capsized in Kund Park in the Nowshera district on Thursday and seven people submerged as a result of it. Of them, six were rescued, according to Rescue 1122.

In another incident in Charsadda, six people went under water while bathing in Khayali canal and the rescuers three of them. Three were still missing.

“An operation by Rescue 1122 is ongoing in search of the four missing persons,” a Rescue 1122 spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. “One person in Kund and three in Charsadda are missing.”

The incidents occurred as a large number of people visited recreational spots on the second day of Eid Al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Muslims around the world offer special prayers on Eid morning, spend time with loved ones, organize lavish meals and go for recreational activities during the three-day religious festival.

The Rescue 1122 spokesperson said teams of divers had already been deployed at picnic and recreational spots on account of Eid.

“Rescue 1122 diving teams have rubber boats and all other equipment,” the spokesperson added.