Speaker, deputy speaker elected for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan provincial assemblies in Pakistan

Special Speaker, deputy speaker elected for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan provincial assemblies in Pakistan
The screengrab taken from a video shared by PTI shows the newly-elected speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly, Babar Saleem Swati (right), administering the oath to deputy speaker Suraiya Bibi in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 29, 2024. (PTI)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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Speaker, deputy speaker elected for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan provincial assemblies in Pakistan

Speaker, deputy speaker elected for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan provincial assemblies in Pakistan
  • Babar Saleem Swati won 89 out of 106 votes against his rival who got 17 votes
  • Suraiya Bibi becomes first women ever to be elected as deputy speak of KP assembly 

QUETTA: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly on Thursday elected lawmakers backed by former prime minister Imran Khan as the new speaker and deputy speaker of the provincial legislature, a day after it held its first session following general elections earlier this month. 

Independent candidates backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party swept provincial polls in Feb. 8 elections, bagging over 90 of 111 general seats on which voting was held. Since independent candidates cannot form a government, PTI loyalists have joined the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) to make their government in the province for a third consecutive term.

Khan’s PTI previously ruled the province from 2013 to 2023. 

Babar Saleem Swati, who became the custodian of the house, contested as the SIC candidate for the post.

“PTI’s Babar Saleem Swati has been elected speaker [KP] assembly by getting 89 votes,” Khan’s party said on X. 

Another Khan-backed candidate, Suraiya Bibi, was elected deputy speaker, the first woman ever elected to the post in KP. 

Separately, in Balochistan province, PML-N’s Abdul Khaliq Achakzai was elected as speaker and Ghazala Gola Begum from the PPP as deputy speaker of the legislature in the southwestern province. 

Candidates backed by Khan won the most National Assembly seats, 93, in the elections but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have agreed to an alliance to form a coalition government. The Sunni Ittehad Council party backed by Khan alleges that the election was rigged against them and has called for an audit of the polls. 

No single party won a majority.


After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today
Updated 55 sec ago
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After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today
  • 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 will launch its latest modern communication satellite, the PAKSAT MM1, into the space today, Thursday, state media reported, 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 49 min 41 sec ago
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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.


Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment
Updated 30 May 2024
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Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister meets deputy PM amid Pakistan’s push for increased trade, investment
  • Pakistan is interested in LNG supplies from Azerbaijan, views the relationship as significant for its energy security
  • The two countries have also grown stronger ties in recent years in other areas including defense, trade and culture

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov held a meeting with Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday amid a flurry of diplomatic activity between the South Asian state and the Central Asian region, as Pakistani authorities strive for greater trade and investment to boost their ailing economy.
The relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan have been growing stronger in recent years, particularly in the areas of defense, energy and trade. Last year, the two countries signed an agreement related to the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Azerbaijan to Pakistan at discounted rates to bolster Pakistan’s energy reserves and help address its energy challenges.
On the defense front, military cooperation also deepened with joint military exercises and Azerbaijan’s interest in purchasing JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from Pakistan, reflecting a robust partnership aimed at enhancing their strategic and security capabilities.
Politically as well, the two nations continue to support each other’s key territorial and diplomatic stances on international platforms, reinforcing their political collaboration and mutual geopolitical interests.
“Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov @Bayramov_Jeyhun has arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad,” the foreign office said in a social media post. “He was received by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar @MIshaqDar50.”
“They will hold comprehensive talks on bilateral and regional issues,” it added.

 
The visiting dignitary arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Wednesday night and is expected to meet Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his stay in the country.
Pakistan, which has witnessed a prolonged economic crisis, has sought financial assistance from international lenders and friendly nations. More recently, its officials have shown a greater interest in generating trade with other nations and are seeking foreign investment to reform the economy over the long term.
This month, Pakistani officials announced the United Arab Emirates would invest $10 billion in various sectors, with hopes of securing additional funds from other parts of the Gulf region.
Relations with Azerbaijan are viewed as important for the country’s energy security, as Pakistani officials seek to generate more economic activity in the country in the foreseeable future.


476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims

476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims
Updated 30 May 2024
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476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims

476 Pakistani Hajj assistants arrive in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims
  • This year Pakistan chose 550 individuals to assist local pilgrims during Hajj pilgrimage
  • Four hundred and fifty-seven assistants are in Makkah, 19 in Madinah, says official

ISLAMABAD: Four hundred and seventy-six Hajj assistants or “Moavineen” have arrived in Saudi Arabia to assist pilgrims in the cities of Makkah and Madinah weeks before the annual Islamic pilgrimage begins, a Pakistan Hajj Mission official confirmed on Wednesday.
Pakistan selects hundreds of doctors and assistants each year to facilitate local pilgrims in Saudi Arabia during Hajj. These assistants provide Pakistani pilgrims with guidance regarding the pilgrimage, the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah as well as logistical support and medical aid if necessary.
Pakistan chose 550 individuals this year as volunteers to assist pilgrims during Hajj. In a first, candidates had to pass the National Testing Service (NTS) exam to qualify for the service.
“Five hundred and fifty support staff have been selected this year through the third-party NTS after conducting written and physical tests,” Pakistan’s director-general of Hajj, Abdul Wahab Soomro, told Arab News.
“Total 476 support staff have reached Saudi Arabia till date and out of these, 457 are performing duties in Makkah and the remaining 19 are presently posted in Madinah,” he added.
Soomro said 297 individuals have been assigned building management duties while 101 are responsible for transportation.
“Forty-five have been assigned food responsibilities, seven are in the mission’s control office, four are in the inspection cell, two are in the departure cell and one is in the lost and found cell in Makkah,” he said.
Soomro said the assistants’ deployment would be changed as per the requirements.
More than 41,000 Pakistani pilgrims have arrived in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah since May 9, Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has confirmed.
The month-long pre-flight Hajj operation is expected to last till June 9.
Around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both the government and private schemes, with this year’s pilgrimage expected to run from June 14-19.


Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials

Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials
Updated 30 May 2024
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Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials

Four Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region — officials
  • The incident happened in Balochistan after a vehicle carrying a group of Pakistanis was targeted
  • Pakistani officials say it is unclear why the Iranian border security guards decided to open fire

QUETTA: Iranian border guards opened fire at a vehicle carrying a group of Pakistanis, killing four people and wounding two others in a remote area in the southwest, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
The incident happened near the border village of Mashkel in Balochistan province on Wednesday, local police said. Government administrator Sahibzada Asfand said it was unclear why the Iranian forces opened fire.
Local police say the bodies of the four men had been handed over to their families.
There was no immediate comment from Tehran or Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
Security forces on both sides often arrest smugglers and insurgents who operate in the region. Pakistan in tit-for-tat strikes in January targeted alleged militant hideouts inside Iran, killing at least nine people in retaliation for a similar attack by Iran.