Leaders of Iran, Turkiye, China congratulate Shehbaz Sharif for winning Pakistani PM election

Leaders of Iran, Turkiye, China congratulate Shehbaz Sharif for winning Pakistani PM election
(FILES) Pakistan's former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference in Lahore on February 13, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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Leaders of Iran, Turkiye, China congratulate Shehbaz Sharif for winning Pakistani PM election

Leaders of Iran, Turkiye, China congratulate Shehbaz Sharif for winning Pakistani PM election
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expresses confidence in Sharif’s ability to steer Pakistan on a path of prosperity, says state media
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping says China and Pakistan will continue “traditional” friendship and cooperation under Sharif’s leadership

ISLAMABAD: The heads of state of China, Iran and Turkiye on Monday congratulated Shehbaz Sharif for winning the election for the office of Pakistan’s prime minister, vowing to strengthen their bilateral relations with the South Asian country under a new leader. 

Pakistan’s lower house of parliament on Sunday elected Sharif as prime minister for a second time, putting him back in a role he had stepped down from ahead of general elections on Feb. 8. 

Sharif, 72, secured a comfortable win over Omar Ayub of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which features members of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, on Sunday. He secured 201 votes from Pakistani legislators while Ayub polled only 92. 
 
“Prime Minister-elect Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif receives a congratulatory telephone call from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement on Monday. 

“President Erdogan warmly congratulated Prime Minister-elect on his election as Prime Minister of Pakistan and expressed confidence in his ability to steer Pakistan on a path of progress and prosperity.”

The foreign office said Sharif thanked Erdogan for his congratulatory message and underscored the significance of the brotherly ties between the two countries. “The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further advance bilateral cooperation and collaboration in all fields,” the statement added. 

Hours after he had won the prime minister’s election on Sunday, the Chinese premier and president both congratulated Sharif. 

“President Xi Jinping in his message expressed the confidence that under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif Pakistan would be able to make new and greater achievements in the cause of national development and progress,” the state-run Radio Pakistan reported. 

He stressed China and Pakistan would continue their “traditional” friendship and cooperation in various fields, the state media said. 

“Chinese Premier Li Qiang has also sent a congratulatory message to the newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif,” Radio Pakistan added. 

Separately, Pakistan’s Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar congratulated Sharif on his election victory, hoping his administration would usher in prosperity for the South Asian country. 

“Congratulations to @CMShehbaz on being elected as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan,” Kakar wrote on social media platform X. “May your tenure bring prosperity, progress, and unity to our beloved nation. Amen.”

Sharif, who served previously as prime minister after ex-PM Imran Khan was ousted from office via a parliamentary vote in April 2022, will have several challenges to deal with. His main role will also be to maintain ties with the military, which has directly or indirectly dominated Pakistan since independence. Unlike his elder brother, who has had a rocky relationship with the military in all his three terms, the younger Sharif is considered more acceptable and compliant by the generals, most independent analysts say.

Sharif also takes over at a time when the new government will need to take tough decisions to steer the country out of financial crisis, including negotiating a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The current IMF program expires this month. A new program will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery, but which will limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth.

Although defense and key foreign policy decisions are largely influenced by the military, Sharif will have to juggle relations with the US and China, both major allies. He is also faced with dealing with fraying ties with three of Pakistan’s four neighbors, India, Iran and Afghanistan. Pakistan is also facing a troubling rise in militancy, which Sharif’s government will have to immediately tackle.


Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy

Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy
Updated 10 min 1 sec ago
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Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy

Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy
  • Forty-nine cadets from “friendly countries” graduate from Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, says army
  • The PMA provides initial training to Pakistani cadets and recruits from friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army awarded the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Overseas Gold Medal to a Saudi cadet in recognition of his performance, as a fresh batch of local and international cadets graduated from the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) on Saturday, the army’s media wing said. 

General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, was the chief guest at the passing out parade of the 149th PMA Long Course at the academy in Kakul. General Metin Gürak, the chief of the Turkish general staff who is on an official visit to Pakistan, was the guest of honor at the ceremony. 

Gen. Mirza reviewed and spoke to cadets at the parade while General Gürak presented the awards to the distinguished cadets, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. 

“The Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Overseas Gold Medal was awarded to Friendly Country Senior Under Officer Fahad Bin Aqil Al Towarqi Al Fallaj from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the ISPR said. 

The army’s media wing said 49 cadets from “friendly countries” also graduated at the ceremony. The coveted Sword of Honour was awarded to Academy Senior Under Officer Muhammad Nauman Abdullah. 

The President’s Gold medal was awarded to Company Senior Under Officer Muhammad Abdullah Javed of the 149th PMA Long Course, the army’s media wing said. 

“Since its inception, PMA has remained the cradle of leadership and center of excellence for cadets joining the premier institution of Army,” Gen. Mirza was quoted as saying by the ISPR. 

“Over the years, PMA has also trained scores of foreign cadets whose brilliant performance in their respective Armies stands testament to the professional ethos of PMA.”

 The PMA in Kakul, Abbottabad, provides initial training to Pakistan Army cadets and recruits from friendly countries, including Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy fraternal relations, leading the two countries to cooperate in trade, defense and other vital sectors. 

The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the cash-strapped South Asian country’s largest source of remittances. 


Pakistan to hold by-elections on 21 national, provincial assembly seats on Sunday 

Pakistan to hold by-elections on 21 national, provincial assembly seats on Sunday 
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistan to hold by-elections on 21 national, provincial assembly seats on Sunday 

Pakistan to hold by-elections on 21 national, provincial assembly seats on Sunday 
  • Polling will be held on seats vacated by candidates or where polling was postponed due to various reasons 
  • Polling will take place on seats vacated by PM Shehbaz Sharif, Chief Ministers Maryam Nawaz and Ali Amin Gandapur

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will conduct by-elections on 21 national and provincial seats on Sunday, state-run media reported on Saturday, marking the country’s first major electoral exercise since the contentious general elections of Feb. 8. 

The by-elections would be held on the national and provincial assembly seats that were vacated by candidates following the Feb. 8 elections. 

Polling on Sunday is scheduled to be held on five National Assembly seats, 12 Punjab Assembly seats, two Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly seats and two Balochistan Assembly seats. 

“Polling will start at 8:00 in the morning and it will continue till 5:00 p.m. without any break,” Radio Pakistan said. 

Polling for NA-8 Bajaur and PK-22 Bajaur were postponed on Feb. 8 after the murder of a candidate, Rehan Zeb Khan. Polling will also be held in NA-44 Dera Ismail Khan, where the National Assembly seat was vacated by Ali Amin Gandapur, who retained his provisional assembly seat to become KP’s chief minister. 

Similarly, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif vacated her NA-119 seat in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, choosing instead to keep the PP-159 constituency that she also won. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif won elections on two provincial and National Assembly seats. He left the NA-132 Kasur and Lahore’s PP-158 and PP-164 seats vacant, preferring to retain the NA-123 Lahore constituency. 

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari won two National Assembly seats. He retained the NA-194 Larkana constituency, leaving the NA-196 seat in Qamber Shahdadkot vacant.

Pakistan’s Feb. 8 elections were marred by delayed results, a countrywide shutdown of mobile phone services and rigging allegations. Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) accused Pakistan’s election regulator of manipulating the results of the elections, claiming in reality it had won over 180 National Assembly seats. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected the PTI’s allegations, saying polling results were delayed due to the shutdown of mobile phone services countrywide. Pakistan’s caretaker administration had said the mobile services were suspended due to security reasons, rejecting rigging allegations by Khan’s party.

Independent candidates backed by Khan secured the highest number of seats in the National Assembly. However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly, as a court decision prevented Khan-backed candidates from contesting polls with the PTI’s symbol. 


Death toll from heavy rains in northwestern Pakistan rises to 46

Death toll from heavy rains in northwestern Pakistan rises to 46
Updated 20 April 2024
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Death toll from heavy rains in northwestern Pakistan rises to 46

Death toll from heavy rains in northwestern Pakistan rises to 46
  • Forty-six casualties include 25 children, 12 men and nine women, says Provincial Disaster Management Authority
  • Heavy rains and lightning strikes have killed at least 36 people in Pakistan’s Punjab and Balochistan provinces since April 12

Peshawar: The death toll from rain-related incidents in northwestern Pakistan rose to 46 on Saturday, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Saturday, while the number of injured climbed to 60. 

“As many as 25 children, 12 men and nine women are among those who died in rain-related incidents during the last eight days,” the report said about heavy rains that began in the province last Friday, April 12. 

The number of injured has risen to 60, which includes 33 men, 16 children and 11 women, the PDMA said. 

The current spell of showers is likely to continue till April 21, the PDMA said this week. The provincial government has released Rs110 million to be distributed among the affected families and dispatched aid, including tents, kitchen kits, blankets, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and mattresses, to the affected areas, according to the authority.

As the rains are expected to continue intermittently until April 21, the PDMA said it had already a letter to all district administrations to remain alert and take precautionary measures.

In the southwestern Balochistan province, heavy rains have killed 15 people since Friday and triggered flash floods in several areas, according to provincial authorities.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said climate change had become a “challenge” for the provincial government.

“Current rains are unusual which were never reported in a thousand years,” he told reporters on Friday. “The government has been helping the masses with available resources and our teams have reached all districts to help the people affected by rains and floods.”

Pakistan has received heavy rains in the last three weeks that have triggered landslides and flash floods in several parts of the South Asian country.

The eastern province of Punjab has reported 21 lighting- and roof collapse-related deaths, while Balochistan, in the country’s southwest, reported 10 deaths as authorities declared a state of emergency following flash floods.

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.


US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan’s missile program

US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan’s missile program
Updated 20 April 2024
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US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan’s missile program

US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan’s missile program
  • US State Department announces sanctions against three Chinese companies and one based in Belarus
  • State Department says companies supplied missile-applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic, long-range missile programs

ISLAMABAD: The US State Department announced this week it has imposed sanctions on three Chinese companies and one Belarus-based company for supplying items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program. 

As per a press release, the State Department announced sanctions against China-based companies Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited, Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co. Ltd, Granpect Company Limited and the Belarus-based Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant. 

“These entities have supplied missile‐applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program, including its long-range missile program,” a press release issued late Friday stated. 

The State Department said Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant had worked to supply special vehicle chassis to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program. 

“Such chassis are used as launch support equipment for ballistic missiles by Pakistan’s National Development Complex (NDC), which is responsible for the development of Missile Technology Control Regime Category (MTCR) I ballistic missiles,” it said. 

Washington alleged Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited supplied missile-related equipment, including a filament winding machine, to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program that was also destined for NDC. 

“Filament winding machines can be used to produce rocket motor cases,” the State Department said. 

It said the Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co. Ltd. supplied missile-related equipment to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program, including stir welding equipment. 

It said the company’s supplies were likely destined for Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), which develops and produces Pakistan’s MTCR Category I ballistic missiles.

It further said Granpect Company Limited worked with SUPARCO to supply equipment for the testing of large-diameter rocket motors. 

“In addition, Granpect Co. Ltd. also worked to supply equipment for testing large-diameter rocket motors to Pakistan’s NDC,” it added. 

The sanctions mean all property and interests in property of the companies in the US or in possession or control of American citizens are blocked and must be reported to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the State Department said. 

They also mean that all transactions by American citizens, or those within (or transiting) the US that involve any property or interests in property of the companies, are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or exempt.

Pakistan has so far not responded to the US State Department’s action. 


Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback

Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback

Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback
  • Amir played his first T20 international match for Pakistan on Thursday after a nearly four-year hiatus
  • Pacer says he feels his body is fitter compared to 2019 when he last played for Pakistan in a World Cup 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir said this week he has set his sights on the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024, as he gears up to mark his return to international cricket after a nearly four-year hiatus. 

The 32-year-old pacer played his first match on Thursday against New Zealand in Rawalpindi but did not bowl a single delivery as rain suspended play during the first over of the match. 

Amir, one of Pakistan’s most prolific fast bowlers, retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side. He changed his mind last month and decided to restart his career, which had also been stalled by a spot-fixing ban in 2010.

“The way the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) management brought me back, it is for a short-term goal, the [T20] World Cup,” Amir told PCB Digital in an interview on Friday. “And that is the biggest goal.”

The left-arm pacer pointed out that Pakistan had played in the semifinal of the T20 World Cup 2021 and competed in the final of the T20 World Cup in 2022. However, it had failed to “cross the line” and become world champions on both occasions. 

“If that happens [Pakistan win the World Cup] it would be a huge achievement for me, to be a part of that team,” he said. 

Amir said he feels he is much fitter compared to 2019 when he last represented Pakistan in a World Cup tournament.

“See, you cannot express yourself properly in the ground until you’re fit,” he said. “So I feel the way my body feels fresh right now, I can chip in more and prove beneficial to the team via my performance.”

The pacer credited his wife and children for helping him stay positive. 

“She makes sure that all my focus is on cricket,” he said. “I think that always gives me energy and helps me to face whatever I have to.”

Pakistan face New Zealand in the second T20 fixture of the five-match series in Rawalpindi today, Saturday. The two sides will lock horns in Rawalpindi on April 21 before meeting for the remaining two fixtures in Lahore on April 25 and 27. 

Teams:

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Usman Khan, Abrar Ahmed, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi

New Zealand: Michael Bracewell (captain), Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi