Pakistan cricket talks mend captaincy crisis after Afridi row — PCB

Pakistan cricket talks mend captaincy crisis after Afridi row — PCB
This handout photograph taken and released by Pakistan’s Cricket Board (PCB) on April 1, 2024, shows PCB Chairman Mohsin Naqvi (L) meets with cricketer Shaheen Shah Afridi (R) during his visit Pakistan team fitness camp being conducted by trainers from the Pakistan Army in Kakul, Abbottabad eastern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (AFP)
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Updated 01 April 2024
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Pakistan cricket talks mend captaincy crisis after Afridi row — PCB

Pakistan cricket talks mend captaincy crisis after Afridi row — PCB
  • The crisis developed following a PCB statement saying Afridi had ‘nothing but respect’ for returning skipper Babar Azam
  • Afridi, replaced by Azam on Sunday, insisted he had not made comments backing his replacement that were quoted by PCB

KARACHI: Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Mohsin Naqvi on Monday held crisis talks to resolve the row after sacked captain Shaheen Shah Afridi denied quotes backing his successor.

Afridi, replaced by Babar Azam as skipper on Sunday, insisted he had not made comments backing his replacement that were quoted in a PCB statement.

On Monday, the PCB said Naqvi “held a meeting with the selection committee to talk about the team’s selection ahead of the New Zealand T20I series.”

“The meeting was also attended by captain Azam,” the PCB added without mentioning any separate meeting with Afridi.

However, sources confirmed to AFP any confusion after Afridi’s statement denial had been removed and the former captain was shown shaking hands with Naqvi in a picture released by the PCB.

Twenty-nine Pakistan players are attending a training camp at army base Kakul in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province ahead of a five-match T20I home series against New Zealand starting from April 18.

The crisis developed following a PCB statement saying Afridi had “nothing but respect” for returning skipper Azam.

Azam stepped down in November last year after Pakistan crashed out of the 50 over World Cup in the first round in India.

“I will try to help him on and off the field. We are all one,” Afridi was quoted as saying on the PCB’s website on Sunday.

But a source close to Afridi denied he had signed off on the statement that implied a harmonious transfer of the top job.

The source added Afridi resented being replaced after being in charge for just one Twenty20 series.

“This is not Shaheen’s statement and he has contacted PCB to clarify this,” the source told AFP.

Fast bowler Afridi was in charge for Pakistan’s 4-1 loss in a Twenty20 Series in New Zealand in January.

Afridi also captained Lahore Qalandars as they finished last in the T20 Pakistan Super League that ended two weeks ago.

Naqvi, also Pakistan’s interior minister, has re-organized the selection committee in a bid to improve results in the forthcoming World Cup, also aiming to hire foreign coaches for the team.

Following the New Zealand series, Pakistan will play three T20Is in Ireland and four in England.

The T20 World Cup takes place in the United States and West Indies in June.


Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad

Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad
Updated 28 sec ago
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Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad

Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as top leaders arrested in Islamabad
  • PTI Chairman Gohar Khan and Secretary Information Raoof Hasan arrested from Islamabad secretariat 
  • PTI social media accounts show police cars and dozens of officers surrounding party’s Islamabad office

ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of jailed former premier Imran Khan were arrested on Monday from the party’s Islamabad office, according to party officials and visuals widely shared on social media.

PTI official social media accounts shared videos of dozens of policemen surrounding the party’s Islamabad secretariat on Monday morning, while visuals of party Information Secretary Raoof Hasan being led away by police were widely distributed on social media. 

Zulfi Bukhari, Khan's key advisor on media, confirmed to Arab News that Hasan and PTI Chairman Gohar Khan had both been arrested. 

A lawyer for the PTI also said Gohar Khan was under arrest.

“I have just received a call from the party office that 300/400 police have come to the office and arrested Chairman PTI Barrister Gohar and Secretary Information Raoof Hasan,” Ali Ijaz Buttar said, calling the development a display of the “law of the jungle.”

It was unclear what the charges are against Hasan and Gohar but their arrests come after those of several other PTI members in the last few days, including the party’s top media manager Ahmed Janjua. 

The federal government of PM Shehbaz Sharif last week announced plans to ban the PTI and moved the country's top court to press treason charges against Khan. 

Khan came to power in 2018 and was ousted in 2022 after what is widely believed to be a falling out with Pakistan's powerful military, which had helped propel him into office. The army denies political interference.

Since his ouster, the PTI founder and his party have faced an ever-widening state-backed crackdown and Khan himself has been in jail since August last year. He was acquitted earlier this month in one of the last standing convictions against him but was not freed after authorities issued new orders to arrest him in another case involving riots by his followers in May last year. 

Khan, arguably the country’s most popular politician, says all legal cases are motivated to keep him out of politics and dent the popularity of the PTI. 

The convictions against him had ruled him out of Feb. 8 general elections, which all candidates from his party were forced to contest as independents after the election commission denied the party its iconic symbol of a cricket bat on technical grounds. Despite the setbacks, Khan-backed candidates won the most seats in the polls but could not form the government, which is now being led by Sharif's PMLN party in coalition with other parties. 


Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root
  • Pakistan skipper Babar Azam speaks to former South African batting icon AB de Villiers
  • Azam says he does not think much about the future, focuses on living in the moment 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s T20 captain Babar Azam recently said he seeks guidance from international batting greats and colleagues Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson to learn about their mindset and how they approach different situations in cricket to improve his own performance. 

Azam is counted among one of the world’s best batters in modern-day cricket. The right-handed batter has scored 3,898 runs from 52 Test matches, 5,729 runs from 117 ODIs and 4,145 runs from 123 T20Is. Azam has also scored 31 centuries for Pakistan in all three international formats and is frequently compared with top batters around the world such as Kohli, Williamson, Root and others. 

Former South African batter AB de Villiers interviewed Khan for his YouTube channel in June before the T20 World Cup kicked off. However, the South African icon shared the full interview on Saturday in which he spoke to the Pakistani captain about his goals, achievements and how he handles pressure situations. 

“When overseas players come [to Pakistan], youngsters engage them and learn because international players are playing lots of leagues and they share that experience with everyone,” Azam told de Villiers. 

“When I was young, I always talked with you, learn from every single player. I am always talking to Kane [Williamson], [Joe] Root, Virat [Kohli],” he added. 

The Pakistani captain said he tries to learn how these players approach the game, what is their routine and how they manage their self-belief.

“So when you speak to good players they give you good advice that helps you a lot,” Azam explained. 

When asked what his goals and dreams for the future were, Azam said he was living in the moment mostly. 

“Honestly, I’m just thinking day by day,” he said. “I’m not thinking about where I am going. I’m just playing my game and enjoying myself every single time. I just love to play cricket.”

 The Pakistani captain, however, has been heavily criticized recently by fans and critics alike for Pakistan’s lackluster performance in the T20 World Cup 2024. The green shirts, under Azam’s leadership, failed to beat minnows USA and India, crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages of the tournament last month. 

Former cricketers and cricket commentators have asked Azam to resign as captain, with some even calling for his ouster from the international T20 squad. 
 


Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy
Updated 22 July 2024
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Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy
  • Traders, residents were protesting against Pakistan’s strict passport and visa policy at Chaman crossing with Afghanistan since Nov. 2023
  • Balochistan official says protesters have accepted the government’s passport and visa policy, however, protest spokesperson says otherwise 

QUETTA: A body of local tribesmen and traders on Sunday called off its nine-month-long sit-in protest against the government’s strict visa policy in the southwestern Chaman town bordering Afghanistan, with its spokesperson saying the decision had been taken after the government accepted its demands and released detained protesters. 

Pakistan’s interim government last year tightened its travel policy for citizens of all neighboring countries following deadly attacks in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and southwestern Balochistan provinces. Pakistan shares a 2600-kilometer porous border with Afghanistan which lies through KP and Balochistan. The Chaman border crossing is one of the key border crossings between the two countries in Pakistan’s Balochistan that connects with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. 

Since Pakistan’s independence from British India, Islamabad has been practicing a relaxed travel policy for residents living in border towns on either side. Local tribesmen and traders in Pakistan’s border areas could previously cross into Afghanistan through Chaman by showing their National Identity Cards. Afghan nationals in Kandahar, meanwhile, were allowed to enter Pakistan after showing their Afghan national identity document, also known as “Tazkira.”

But the Pakistani government in October 2023 announced a strict policy that allows only residents of Chaman and Kandahar to cross the border by showing their proof of residence. The rest of the citizens from both countries were required to have passports and visas to travel across the border. Furious traders in Pakistan had opposed the move, saying the strict policy would hamper their economic activities as daily over 15,000-20,000 people use the border crossing to travel between the two countries. They staged a sit-in protest for nine months at the border crossing, causing trade between the two countries to remain at a standstill. 

Raja Athar Abbas, Chaman district’s deputy commissioner, said organizers of the sit-in protest had agreed to follow the government’s visa policy. 

“There will be special areas for laborers depending on daily wages through the border trade and only they can travel with their National Identity Cards,” he told Arab News on Sunday.

Malik Inayat Kasi, former Balochistan home minister and tribal elder who addressed the protesters on Sunday, said the government had succeeded in addressing a key issue of the province. 

“The protesters have accepted the passport and visa policy at the Chaman border that was announced by the Government of Pakistan,” he told Arab News. 

However, Olas Yar, the spokesperson of the protesters, said the sit-in had been called off after the provincial government had accepted all of their demands and released detained protesters who were charged with various crimes. 

“Today we have ended our protest after Mr. Kasi assured us that the government has accepted all of our demands,” Yar told Arab News. 

He said the protesters will observe the situation during the next two days, warning that if the government does not allow them access to border markets in Afghanistan under the previous conditions, they will protest again. 

Pakistan has been witnessing an uptick in militant violence in its northwestern and southwestern regions, particularly after the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile truce with the government in November 2022. The militant group, which is said to have sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan, is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban.

The recent attacks also prompted authorities in Pakistan last year to ask all illegal immigrants to leave the country by November 1, 2023. Islamabad says it has so far deported over 620,000 Afghan nationals who were living in the country illegally and has vowed to continue doing the same. 


Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims
  • Pakistan’s religion ministry says it facilitated pilgrims in food, transportation and accommodation
  • Ministry says it introduced new measures this Hajj such as Pak Hajj app and free SIM cards for pilgrims

Islamabad: Pakistan successfully concluded its post-Hajj operations 2024 on Sunday, the religion ministry said, during which over 160,000 pilgrims from the country performed the annual Islamic pilgrimage this year. 

Out of Pakistan’s total quota of 179,210 pilgrims, around 160,000 from the country performed Hajj this year through both the government scheme and private tour operators. The annual Islamic pilgrimage was held from June 14-19 during which millions of pilgrims from all parts of the world arrived in Saudi Arabia. 

In a statement on Sunday, Dr. Mirza Ali Mehsood, senior joint secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) congratulated Pakistani pilgrims on their safe return and completion of Hajj rituals. He thanked the MoRA staff, Hajj Moavineen or assistants, and the Pakistani Hajj Medical Mission for their relentless efforts in facilitating pilgrims during the post-Hajj phase. 

 “Moavineen and ministry staff, comprising officials and officers of grade 7-21, are deployed to serve these guests of Allah in the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah,” Dr. Mehsood said. “They are required to take care of guests of Allah. We should shun our arrogance, status, and authority while serving the Guests of Allah.”

The MoRA official said the duty to serve pilgrims must be taken as a “rank-less” assignment, adding that one does not know when they would ever be blessed with such an opportunity again hence they should make the most of it. 

Zia Ur Rehman, the director of Hajj in Madinah, praised the operation’s success, saying that MoRA facilitated Pakistani pilgrims in food, accommodation and transportation. 

“He noted that due to demolition and new construction, it was very difficult to get accommodations in Markazia Madinah, but with our efforts, we arranged all accommodations for Pakistani pilgrims in Markazia, a significant achievement,” MoRA said. Rehman shared that 66,000 Pakistani pilgrims had visited the Riaz ul Jannah, the area between the pulpit and the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madinah. 

MoRA said it had introduced several new initiatives this Hajj, which included the launch of the Pak Hajj app, free SIM cards for pilgrims, and the appointment of Hajj Moavineen who qualified after passing the National Testing Service (NTS) exam. He said these initiatives greatly assisted Pakistani pilgrims throughout their holy journey.

“Jamil-ur-Rehman, Assistant Director, praised the Pak Hajj app as a successful and unique initiative that kept pilgrims in constant contact with the ministry,” the statement said. “The app provided access to complaints, training materials, accommodation details, flight schedules, and other services, greatly aiding pilgrims throughout their journey.”

Mushtaque Asghar, another MoRA official, said 36,900 complaints were received through the Pak Hajj app out of which 34,979 were successfully resolved. 

PIA CONCLUDES OPERATIONS

Pakistan’s national airline also announced in a statement it had concluded its post-Hajj operations on July 21. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said its Hajj operations kicked off on May 9 and continued till June 11 while the post-Hajj operations commenced from June 20 and lasted till July 21. 

“A total of 143 flights were operated in the post-Hajj operations out of which 61 went to Jeddah and 82 to Madinah,” the airline’s spokesperson said in a statement. “A total of 34,663 pilgrims returned to their pilgrims after performing their rituals.”

Of these, 19,278 were pilgrims who had performed the Hajj through the government scheme and 14,754 through the private tour operators, the airline said. 
 


Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push

Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push
Updated 22 July 2024
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Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push

Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push
  • There has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states recently
  • Pakistan hopes to enhance its role as pivotal trade and transit hub connecting landlocked Central Asia to the rest of the world

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rasit Meredow will arrive in Pakistan on a three-day visit today, Monday, Pakistani state media reported, amid Islamabad’s efforts to boost trade with Central Asian states.

Pakistan hopes to leverage its strategic geopolitical position and enhance its role as a pivotal trade and transit hub connecting the landlocked Central Asian republics with the rest of the world.

In recent months, there has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states, including meetings with leaders from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

FM Meredow will hold extensive talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and call on Pakistani leadership during the visit, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported on Sunday.

“Talks between the two sides will cover all aspects of bilateral relations,” the report read. “They will also exchange views on regional and global developments.”

Located in a landlocked but resource-rich region, Central Asian countries need better access to regional markets including Pakistan, China, India, and the countries of West Asia.

Islamabad is seeking to bolster trade and investment relations with allies to stabilize its fragile $350 billion economy as it faces an acute balance of payment crisis amid soaring inflation and surging external debt.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects in Pakistan, also presents a strategic opportunity for Central Asian states to transport their goods more easily to regional and global markets.