Ahead of Pakistan presidential polls, authorities raid house of opposition candidate — party

Ahead of Pakistan presidential polls, authorities raid house of opposition candidate — party
Mahmood Khan Achakzai, chairman of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami party, arrives before the start of the voting process by newly-elected lawmakers to appoint Pakistan's new prime minister at the Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 3, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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Ahead of Pakistan presidential polls, authorities raid house of opposition candidate — party

Ahead of Pakistan presidential polls, authorities raid house of opposition candidate — party
  • Achakzai’s party announces nationwide protests against alleged raid at Quetta residence which authorities deny 
  • Sunni Ittehad Council, backed by ex-PM Khan’s PTI, have fielded Achakzai as candidate against coalition’s Zardari

LAHORE: The party of Mahmood Khan Achakzai, who is the opposition’s nominee for president, said on Monday police had raided the leader’s residence in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta a day earlier, vowing to launch protests over what it called a government-backed crackdown against political opponents. 

Achakzai, 75, is the chief of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) from the southwestern Balochistan province and was nominated by Imran Khan, the jailed leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, to contest against former president Asif Ali Zardari, the presidential nominee of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. In Parliament, Achakzai would be supported by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), the new home of PTI-backed independent lawmakers.

The PTI had complained of a state-backed crackdown against the party in the run-up to Feb. 8 general elections and says the polls were rigged and results manipulated to keep the PTI and its loyalists out of the government. Opposition parties, including the PTI, have staged nationwide protests against the alleged rigging, which the election commission denies. 

The raid on Achakzai’s house took place on Sunday night and is being widely linked to a speech he made in the inaugural session of the National Assembly on Friday in which he called on parliament to declare that the country’s powerful military establishment should not interfere in politics. 

For several years, the military has denied it meddles in politics. But it has in the past directly intervened to topple civilian governments and to manage political matters from behind the scenes even when it is not directly ruling. No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full five-year term since the country was born in 1947. 

“Achakzai has submitted his nomination papers for the next presidential election against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) backed presidential candidate, Asif Ali Zardari,” Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, PkMAP central secretary-general, told Arab News, condemning Sunday’s raid and calling it a reaction by “powerful forces” who did not want to see the supremacy of parliament in Pakistan. 

“Hence the newly elected coalition government started these non-political acts against their opponents.”

He said PkMAP had called nationwide protests against the raid on Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s residence “because PkMAP has a long history of struggle for the supremacy of the parliament.” 

Speaking to reporters on Sunday night, Balochistan’s Caretakter Information Minister Jan Achakzai denied police had raided the PkMAP chief’s house but that the district administration had carried out an operation to retain control of a plot of land in front of Achakzai’s residence which been seized by a land-grabber. 

He said a guard, who was part of the PkMAP’s security team, resisted the operation, causing local police to arrest him. 

“There is no truth to reports that a raid was conducted at the house of elderly politician, presidential nominee and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai, or that the sanctity of his house was violated,” the minister added. 

The Sunni Ittehad Council party, backed by ex-PM Khan’s legislators, nominated Achakzai as their candidate for the presidential election, scheduled for Mar. 9. 

The president in Pakistan is elected through an electorate that comprises legislators from both houses of Pakistan’s parliament, the Senate, and the National Assembly, as well as the country’s four provincial assemblies.

Elected for a five-year term, the president is a ceremonial head of state that has limited powers while the prime minister, who heads the government, has the executive powers to manage the country’s affairs.


Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people

Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people
Updated 14 April 2024
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Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people

Government in Pakistan’s Balochistan to revise security plan after gunmen kill nine people
  • Gunmen killed nine bus passengers near Noshki district last week, alleging they were spies from the Punjab province
  • Outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for attack, offering no evidence in support of its claim

ISLAMABAD: The government in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has decided to revise security plan for the province, it said on Sunday, a day after the killing of nine people in the restive region.
The decision was made at a meeting to review law and order in the province following the killing of nine people, who hailed from the eastern Punjab province, after they were abducted by gunmen from a bus on a highway near the Noshki district.
The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack in the restive Balochistan province, which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting for independence.
Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti presided over the law-and-order meeting to review the situation after the tragedy, Bugti’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
“It was decided to revise the security plan to prevent such incidents in the future,” the statement read.
The meeting was attended by Provincial Police Chief Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, Balochistan Chief Secretary Shakeel Qadir Khan and other senior civilian and military officials.
“This war against terrorism is not only for security forces,” the chief minister was quoted as saying. “Politicians, civil armed forces, bureaucracy, judiciary, media all have to fight this war.”
Bugti said they would fight this war through a “common plan of action,” asking officials to ensure payment of compensation to the families of the victims.
The mineral-rich province of Balochistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by the BLA and other groups, which demand independence from the central government in Islamabad. The militants usually target police forces and soldiers or infrastructure.
Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency, violence in Balochistan has persisted and the bus attack is the latest incident in the restive region.


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

Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 
Updated 14 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.


Saudi Arabia likely to invest $1 billion in Reko Diq project — Pakistani state media

Saudi Arabia likely to invest $1 billion in Reko Diq project — Pakistani state media
Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia likely to invest $1 billion in Reko Diq project — Pakistani state media

Saudi Arabia likely to invest $1 billion in Reko Diq project — Pakistani state media
  • Located in Pakistan’s Balochistan, Reko Diq contains one of biggest copper, gold deposits in world
  • The project has the potential to produce a large amount of these precious commodities for decades

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia is likely to invest $1 billion in Reko Diq copper and gold mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistani state media reported on Sunday.
Located in the Chagai district, Reko Diq contains one of the biggest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world, with the potential to produce a large amount of these precious commodities for decades.
The project is owned 50 percent by Canada-based Barrick Gold Corporation, 25 percent by three federal state-owned enterprises, 15 percent by Balochistan on a fully funded basis, and 10 percent by Balochistan on a free carried basis, according to Barrick.
“A Saudi investment of up to one billion dollars is likely next month in the Reko Diq Copper Gold project located in Chagai district in Balochistan,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“Special Investment Facilitation Council is trying to remove obstacles in this regard.”
Pakistan set up the SIFC, which also includes its army chief, in June last year with the sole purpose of reviving the frail economy, dented by low foreign exchange reserves, currency depreciation and record inflation.
In the subsequent months, Islamabad signed a number of bilateral agreements with brotherly countries in the Middle East during high-level engagements by caretaker PM Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar and Army Chief General Asim Munir.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will soon constitute a committee comprising finance ministry officials and all stakeholders in order to ensure smooth completion of the Saudi investment, according to the Radio Pakistan report.
“Following this investment, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign agreements for further investment in the mining sector,” the report read.


Pakistan pacer Ihsanullah leaves for England for assessment of elbow injury

Pakistan pacer Ihsanullah leaves for England for assessment of elbow injury
Updated 14 April 2024
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Pakistan pacer Ihsanullah leaves for England for assessment of elbow injury

Pakistan pacer Ihsanullah leaves for England for assessment of elbow injury
  • The fast bowler sustained the injury in April last year following a white-ball series against New Zealand
  • At the time, the PCB did not believe the injury was severe and the initial treatment reportedly worsened it

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan fast bowler Ihsanullah left for England on Sunday for a crucial appointment with esteemed orthopedic surgeon, Professor Adam Watts, regarding his elbow injury, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said.
The pacer sustained the injury in April last year following a white-ball series against New Zealand. At the time, the PCB did not believe the injury was severe and the initial treatment, including gym and weight work, reportedly worsened it.
Ihsanullah’s appointment is scheduled for Monday, according to the PCB. Professor Watts specializes in hand and wrist surgery, shoulder and elbow procedures, sports injuries, and trauma surgery.
“Ihsanullah’s franchise, Multan Sultans, has collaborated with the PCB to secure this appointment,” the cricket board said in a statement. “The PCB, as Ihsanullah’s parent body, will cover all expenses for his treatment and rehabilitation.”
The PCB said it would provide further updates after the assessment and diagnosis by Professor Watts.
Since April 2023, there had been almost no official updates on Ihsanullah’s injury. His case received media attention this month, when Ali Tareen, owner of Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Multan Sultans, accused the PCB of failing to provide “appropriate treatment” to the player.
Tareen said the franchise had borne considerable expenses for the pacer’s treatment and he would likely require another surgery.


Pakistani man among six killed in Sydney knife attack — community groups

Pakistani man among six killed in Sydney knife attack — community groups
Updated 14 April 2024
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Pakistani man among six killed in Sydney knife attack — community groups

Pakistani man among six killed in Sydney knife attack — community groups
  • Faraz Tahir was killed by a knife-wielding man who also killed five women
  • The 40-year-old suspect was previously diagnosed with mental health issues

SYDNEY: A 30-year-old Pakistani man was named on Sunday as the security guard killed in a weekend knife attack in a Sydney shopping mall, according to two local community groups.
The Australian Pakistani National Association and Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said Faraz Tahir was killed by a knife-wielding man who also killed five women.
On Sunday evening, members of the Muslim community held a silent vigil for the man, who is said to have moved to Australia last year.
“He quickly became an integral part of our community,” a statement said.
The Australian Pakistani National Association encouraged the community to “stand together in solidarity, offering support and prayers to those grieving and affected by this heartbreaking loss.”
As the attack unfolded on Saturday, online social media accounts falsely reported that the attack was linked to ideological or religious groups or events in the Middle East.
Police have named the assailant as 40-year-old itinerant man Joel Cauchi who was previously diagnosed with a mental health issue.
New South Wales police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said there was no evidence to suggest Cauchi was “driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise.”