Murad Ali Shah, a Stanford graduate, secures third term as chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh

Murad Ali Shah, a Stanford graduate, secures third term as chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh
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Syed Murad Ali Shah speaks on the assembly floor after being elected the chief minister of Sindh province in Karachi, Pakistan on February 26, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Government of Pakistan)
Murad Ali Shah, a Stanford graduate, secures third term as chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh
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Newly elected members elect speaker and deputy speaker at the provincial legislature of Pakistan's Sindh Assembly in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 25, 2024. (@TalalChandio/File)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Murad Ali Shah, a Stanford graduate, secures third term as chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh

Murad Ali Shah, a Stanford graduate, secures third term as chief minister of Pakistan’s Sindh
  • Shah was first elected as chief minister in 2016 midterm and in 2018 for a period of five years
  • He bagged 112 votes, while his opponent, Ali Khurshidi, from the MQM-P secured only 36 votes

KARACHI: The provincial assembly in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province elected on Monday Murad Ali Shah, a professional engineer and banker who graduated from Stanford University, as the chief minister of the province for the third term.

Shah, whose father Abdullah Shah also served as the chief minister, was first elected for the top provincial office in 2016, when his party removed veteran politician, Qaim Ali Shah, from the post after criticism over his way of administering the province. In 2018, Shah was again elected as the chief minister after his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won majority in the province. He served on the post until August last year.

In the Feb. 8 national election, the PPP once again bagged the highest 84 provincial seats and nominated Shah as the candidate for CM’s office. In Monday’s election, he secured 112 votes in the 168-member House, while his opponent, Ali Khurshidi, from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) secured 36 votes.

After being elected as the CM, Shah said he would take along all political parties, including the MQM-P that fielded a candidate against him, and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and ex-PM Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) opposition parties.

“We are never scared of criticism, no one is perfect... if you don’t criticize, then how we will learn,” he said, addressing Khan-backed independent candidates in the House. “I want to thank people on both sides [treasury and opposition] and also the people of this province.”

Shah promised to address the “immediate challenges” of militancy, rampant street crime and bandits hiding in riverine areas of the province, saying it would be a priority of his government.

The newly elected chief minister of Sindh is a seasoned politician with a diverse background in engineering and finance.

Born in the provincial capital of Karachi in August 1962, Shah acquired his early education from the St. Patricks High School and a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the NED University of Engineering and Technology. He pursued dual Masters of Science degrees in Civil-Structural Engineering and Engineering Economic Systems from Stanford University in California.

Shah has an extensive experience of working in both public and private sectors in Pakistan, UK, Kuwait, and the US from 1986 to 2002. He worked as an engineer at multiple positions before becoming an investment banker at prestigious institutions like Citibank and the Gulf Investment Corporation.

In 2002, Shah ventured into politics and has since excelled in navigating the tricky arena, winning five provincial assembly elections and holding key provincial portfolios like revenue, irrigation, finance, energy and planning and development.

His election to the CM’s office came two days after the provincial assembly in Sindh held its inaugural session, amid protests by opposition parties over alleged rigging of the election. On Sunday, Shah’s party had Owais Qadir Shah and Anthony Naveed elected as speaker and deputy speaker of the House.


Pakistan election was ‘biggest robbery’, says ex-PM Imran Khan

Pakistan election was ‘biggest robbery’, says ex-PM Imran Khan
Updated 8 sec ago
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Pakistan election was ‘biggest robbery’, says ex-PM Imran Khan

Pakistan election was ‘biggest robbery’, says ex-PM Imran Khan
  • These were first remarks made by former PM, who is incarcerated in Rawalpindi’s central jail 
  • Khan was allowed by top court to plead petitions he filed against amendments to anti-graft laws

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that February’s national election was stolen from his party, describing it as the “biggest robbery of a public mandate.”

Khan, speaking in the Supreme Court via video link from Adiala jail in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, said he was being held in solitary confinement.

His remarks were the first to be heard in open court since he was jailed in August.

“My party is being victimized. There have been gross human rights violations,” Khan said. “The February 8 election was the biggest robbery of a public mandate.”

The Election Commission has denied the election was rigged.

Khan, a 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, was jailed on corruption charges. He is also fighting dozens of other cases.

He and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) say the charges were politically motivated to thwart his return to power.

Candidates backed by Khan won the most seats in February’s election but fell short of a majority required to form a government. His opponent Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister in a coalition government with several other parties.

Khan was allowed by the top court to appear and plead petitions he had filed against amendments in the country’s anti-graft laws, which he claims were made to favor corrupt politicians.

The court, however, turned down his request to live-stream the proceedings. It said it was not a public interest case, according to a Reuters reporter inside the court room.

Khan has previously been speaking to a select group of reporters who are allowed to cover his closed-door trials conducted inside the jail.

His aides have been conveying his messages after visiting him and his social media accounts remain active, but it is unclear who is operating them.

He has faced numerous cases since his ouster in 2022 in a parliamentary vote of confidence, which he alleged was backed by the powerful military after he had fallen out with the army generals.

The army denies the accusations.


Close to 600,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year

Close to 600,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year
Updated 30 May 2024
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Close to 600,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year

Close to 600,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year
  • Radio Pakistan says 13,206 Afghan nationals repatriated over last ten days
  • Islamabad blames Afghans for militant violence, smuggling, other crimes

ISLAMABAD: The repatriation of illegal foreigners living in Pakistan continues with more than 10,000 Afghan nationals expelled over the last ten days, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said on Thursday, bringing the total number of those deported close to 600,000. 
The government launched a deportation drive last year after a spike in suicide bombings which the Pakistan government, without providing any evidence, says were carried out by Afghan nationals. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling, militant violence and other crimes. 
A cash-strapped Pakistan that was navigating its record inflation, alongside a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program last year, had also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.
“590,445 Afghans have so far been repatriated to Afghanistan,” Radio Pakistan said on Thursday. “According to the latest statistics, 13,206 Afghan nationals returned to their country over the last ten days.”
Until the government initiated the expulsion drive last year, Pakistan was home to over four million Afghan migrants and refugees out of which around 1.7 million were undocumented. 
Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan. 
In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the “Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan” with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk.
In phase two of the “repatriation plan,” around 600,00 Afghans who held Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three was expected to target those with UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
In April, the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) issued a notification validating the extension of the POR card till June 30 this year.
Before the deportation drive, many people used to cross the Pak-Afghan border back and forth for business and personal purposes daily. The main entry points into Afghanistan are the borders in the Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces.
The deportation drive had led to a spike in tensions between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. The Taliban deny militants are using Afghan soil to launch attacks, calling Pakistan’s security challenges a domestic issue.


Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix

Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix
Updated 30 May 2024
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Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix

Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix
  • Practitioners believe crystals release stress, induce relaxation, promote energy balance within the body
  • Crystal healing still considered pseudoscience, no peer-reviewed studies that prove alternative therapy’s efficacy

ISLAMABAD: While gemstones have long been cherished for their ornamental value, a growing number of Pakistanis are turning to them for healing purposes, with practitioners claiming stones “emit radiations” that help foster mental and bodily wellness.
Pakistan has significant gemstone reserves, particularly in its northern and northwestern regions, which include a variety of high-quality stones such as peridot, aquamarine, topaz, ruby and emerald. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also spoke in favor of granting industry status to the country’s gemstone sector, citing their economic potential following a 47 percent increase in the export of pearls and precious stones to China last year.
But many stones have other uses and can be used in therapy and placed at precise points on and around the body to release stress, induce relaxation and promote energy balance within the body.
Scientifically however, gemstone therapy is still considered a pseudoscience and there are little to no peer-reviewed studies that prove the method’s efficacy. 
“When clients come to me, I analyze their names and numerology to understand their traits,” Syed Khurram Abbas Naqvi, a gemstone healer in the capital, told Arab News this week. “Using this insight, I recommend specific gemstones to amplify strengths and alleviate concerns.”
Naqvi said more and more people were beginning to believe in the healing properties of stones, arguing that they emitted subtle energies or vibrations that influenced the wearer’s well-being and energy. Wearing a gemstone enhanced the lifespan and function of human cells, leading to better health, improved decision-making and overall well-being, he said.
“When examining agate, one finds it contains silicon dioxide, while turquoise comprises ammonia oxide along with elements such as copper, magnesium, iron, phosphate, and CsO3 [caesium ozonide],” Naqvi added.
“The radiation emitted by these stones is believed to bolster bodily strength. For instance, silicon dioxide can help regulate blood pressure, while bloodstone may assist in controlling blood pressure in men and opal is reputed to mitigate aggression in women.
“My priority is to provide high-quality, pure stones because their radiation power is stronger and more effective.”
“PROFOUND EFFECTS”
Authentication of stones is vital for the business which depends on experts who specialize in telling real stones from fake ones.
“Clients seek our certification due to the high financial stakes and risk of fraud in the industry,” Faizan Jamshed, an internationally qualified gemologist who manages his own jewelry testing lab in the federal capital, said. “Our rigorous lab testing and certifications are vital for insurance and client trust.”
He added that a gemstone’s effectiveness for healing was closely tied to its genuine nature and purity.
“While untrained individuals may perceive all stones similarly, experts can discern substantial value discrepancies,” he said.
Naqvi added that the “color, carat, cut and clarity” of a stone were vital for gemstone therapy to work.
“The clearer, larger and purer the stone, the stronger its radiation power, resulting in more profound effects.”
But while many people remain skeptical of gemstone therapy, there are takers for the healing method who believe the right stone can do miracles and significantly change lives.
Amir Shehzad Haidari, an accountant with a local company, said he suffered for years from low energy before turning to gemstone treatment.
“Despite feeling lethargic and unmotivated, I chose gemstone healing over medical assistance,” he told Arab News. “Wearing quartz infused me with energy and tranquility.”
Muntasir Abbas, a travel agent, said he sought out gemstone healing to find relief against depression. 
“Family problems had me deeply depressed,” he said. “After traditional treatments failed, a friend recommended gemstone healing. Initially skeptical, I decided to try it. Within two to three months of wearing the suggested stone, I noticed significant improvements in my emotional state.”


After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space
Updated 4 min 37 sec ago
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After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan launches modern communication satellite into space
  • PAKSAT MM1 will help usher in digital era by providing Internet to country’s remote areas, national space agency says
  • Satellite launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center to be broadcast live from Suparco centers in Islamabad, Karachi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan launched its latest modern communication satellite, the PAKSAT MM1, into space on Thursday, weeks after its ICUBE-Qamar (ICUBE-Q) entered lunar orbit.
ICUBE-Q was launched into space on May 3 aboard China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission from Hainan, China. A major milestone in Pakistan’s space exploration efforts, the satellite successfully entered the moon’s orbit on May 8, and shortly after began transmitting the first images to earth.
The Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), the national space agency, now plans to launch another communication satellite with Chinese assistance.
“Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission will launch a new satellite PakSat MM1 on Thursday from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said.
“The satellite PakSat MM1 has been conceived keeping in view the growing needs of the country in the broad spectrum of communication and connectivity ... Based on advanced communication technologies, PakSat MM1 will play a pivotal role in the socio-economic uplift of the country and will prove to be a stepping stone in the transformation of the country into Digital Pakistan.”
Earlier this week, state media said the satellite would help usher in a digital era in Pakistan by helping provide Internet to remote areas, as per Suparco officials.
The launch ceremony would be broadcast live from Suparco’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi.
Established in 1961, Suparco manages Pakistan’s space program, enhancing the nation’s capabilities in satellite communications, remote sensing and meteorological science.
Chang’e 6 is a planned robotic Chinese and Pakistani lunar exploration mission that is attempting Beijing’s second sample return mission and aims to obtain the first-ever soil and rock samples from the lunar far side and return them to earth. The samples will contain material ejected from the lunar mantle and will be used to provide insight into the history of the moon, earth, and the solar system.
The primary phase of the mission is expected to last about 53 days. Around 100 students from Pakistan’s Institute of Space Technology (IST) contributed to developing the ICUBE-Q satellite.


Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
Updated 30 May 2024
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Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
  • Army says adversaries are using Afghanistan to target security forces and civilians inside Pakistan
  • In veiled reference to ex-PM Khan and his party, army says will defeat “politically motivated digital terrorism” 

ISLAMABAD: The top commanders of the Pakistan army met on Thursday and discussed ‘serious concerns’ about cross-border attacks they said were orchestrated by militants using safe havens in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as the use of social media by “politically motivated” internal actors to sow discord between the military and the public.
The views were expressed at the 83rd Formation Commanders Conference held at the military’s GHQ headquarters in Rawalpindi and attended by Army Chief General Asim Munir, all corps commanders, principal staff officers and formation commanders of the Pakistan army.
In a press conference held earlier this month, Pakistan’s military had said a suicide bombing in March that killed five Chinese engineers was planned in neighboring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was an Afghan national. Previously also, the government and army have blamed militants harboring in Afghanistan for a surge in attacks in Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have soured in recent months as Islamabad says Kabul is not doing enough to tackle militant groups targeting Pakistan. In March, Pakistan also carried out airstrikes targeting militants on Afghan territory. The Taliban have rejected Islamabad’s accusations, saying Pakistan is responsible for its own security challenges.
Since late last year, Pakistan has expelled almost half a million undocumented Afghan nationals, saying the majority of suicide attacks against its security forces were carried out by Afghans, a charge Kabul rejects.
“The forum expressed serious concerns over continued cross-border violations from Afghanistan and terrorism being orchestrated using Afghan soil, noting that Pakistan’s adversaries were using Afghanistan to target Security Forces and innocent civilians inside Pakistan,” a statement from the army said after the corp commanders’ meeting on Thursday.
Talking about internal challenges, the statement, in a veiled reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, said “politically motivated and vested digital terrorism” had been unleashed by “conspirators duly abetted by their foreign cohorts against state institutions.”
“[It] is clearly meant to try to induce despondency in the Pakistani nation, to sow discord among national institutions, especially the Armed Forces, and the people of Pakistan by peddling blatant lies, fake news, and propaganda,” the statement said. 
“However, the nation is fully cognizant of their ugly and ulterior motives and surely the designs of these nefarious forces will be comprehensively defeated.”
The military remains the country’s most powerful institution and has for decades had a huge role in making and breaking governments. Khan accuses the military of a crackdown on him and his party, which the army denies.
Although Khan is widely believed to have been brought to power in 2018 with the backing of the army, he fell out with top generals and by April 2022 was ousted from the PM’s office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He has since led a defiant campaign against the army, which he accuses of working with his political rivals to unseat him. 
Tensions between Khan and the army reached a crescendo on May 9 last year when alleged supporters of the PTI attacked and damaged government and military installations. Hundreds of PTI supporters and leaders were arrested following the riots and some continue to remain behind bars as they await trial. The army has also initiated military court trials of at least 103 people accused of involvement in the violence. Many close Khan aides have since deserted him, due to what is widely believed to be pressure from the army, which denies interfering in politics.
“The planners, perpetrators, abettors, and facilitators of 9th May need to be brought to justice for the collective good of the country, and that without swift and transparent dispensation of justice to the culprits and establishing the rule of law, stability in the country will ever remain hostage to the machinations of such elements,” the army statement concluded. 
Khan and the PTI say the May riots have been used as a ruse by political rivals and the military to crack down on the party, which is arguably the most popular in Pakistan. Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with the violence. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges, saying he was in detention when the violence took place.
Khan was also handed four court convictions ahead of Feb. 8 general elections, which ruled him out of the polls as convicted individuals cannot run for public office under Pakistani law. Khan says all the cases are motivated to keep him away from politics.