China says ready to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation after deadly Pakistan suicide attack

China says ready to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation after deadly Pakistan suicide attack
Security officials inspect the wreckage of a vehicle which was carrying Chinese nationals that plunged into a deep ravine off the mountainous Karakoram Highway after a suicide attack near Besham city in the Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on March 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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China says ready to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation after deadly Pakistan suicide attack

China says ready to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation after deadly Pakistan suicide attack
  • On Mar. 26, suicide bomber hit a convoy of Chinese engineers working on Dasu hydropower project 
  • Five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack in northwestern Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD: Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong has said Beijing was ready to enhance counter-terrorism and security cooperation between the two nations, Radio Pakistan reported on Tuesday, two weeks after the killing of five Chinese nationals in a suicide attack in Pakistan’s northwest.

On Mar. 26, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project at Dasu in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver.

The assault was the third major attack in little over a week on China’s interests in the South Asian nation, where Beijing has invested more than $65 billion in infrastructure projects as part of its wider Belt and Road initiative. 

“China stands ready to work hand-in-hand with Pakistan to defeat the evil attempt at disrupting our cooperation,” Jiang was quoted as saying in a report published by state-run Radio Pakistan. 

“We are also ready to work with Pakistan to safeguard development with security and to promote security with development … We should take the promotion of international security as a support, and further enhance China-Pakistan counter-terrorism and security cooperation.”

Jiang said all countries needed to “work together in addressing various security challenges for win-win results.”

He expressed hope that Pakistan would speed up the investigation of the Mar. 26 attack and bring the perpetrators to justice. 

“We should take economic security as foundation, and continue to promote the building of an upgraded version of CPEC,” Jiang said. “For this purpose, China stands ready to further strengthen counter-terrorism and security cooperation with Pakistan, to maintain high pressure and rigorous operation, so as to decisively strike the terrorism.”

The Mar. 26 bombing followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.

Dasu, the site of a major dam, has been attacked in the past, with a bus blast in 2021 killing 13 people, nine Chinese among them, although no group claimed responsibility, like the Mar. 26 bombing.
 
Pakistan is home to twin insurgencies, one mounted by religiously-motivated militants and the other by ethnic separatists who seek secession, blaming the government’s inequitable division of natural resources in southwestern Balochistan province.

Chinese interests are under attack primarily by ethnic militants seeking to push Beijing out of mineral-rich Balochistan, but that area is far from the site of the Mar. 26 bombing. 


Pakistan’s Hajj mission enforces ‘zero tolerance policy’ for negligence by assistants

Pakistan’s Hajj mission enforces ‘zero tolerance policy’ for negligence by assistants
Updated 19 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Hajj mission enforces ‘zero tolerance policy’ for negligence by assistants

Pakistan’s Hajj mission enforces ‘zero tolerance policy’ for negligence by assistants
  • Hajj is one of five pillars of Islam, required to be undertaken by every able Muslim at least once
  • Pakistan is due to send as many as 550 Hajj assistants to Saudi Arabia by the end of this month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Hajj mission has enforced a “zero tolerance policy” for negligence on the part of hundreds of assistants appointed to facilitate local pilgrims during the annual pilgrimage, Pakistani state media reported on Sunday, citing a senior official.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year. Of them, 63,805 pilgrims will be performing the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest would be accommodated by private tour operators, according to the Pakistani religious affairs ministry.
This year, Pakistan is due to send 550 Hajj assistants and 400 doctors and paramedical staff to Saudi Arabia to make sure the whole process, including their food, transportation and accommodation in the Kingdom, is managed efficiently.
“Zero tolerance policy is being observed for supporting staff (Mouvineen) in their duties to serve the intending pilgrims,” the Radio Pakistan broadcaster quoted Asghar Ali Yusufzai, the Pakistan Hajj mission director for accommodation and transport of pilgrims, as saying at a press conference in Makkah.
“An effective system has been put in place to evaluate the performance of Hajj supporting staff and service providers, who are duty-bound to serve intending Pakistani Hajj pilgrims.”
Yusufzai emphasized that the policy applied to both Pakistan-based assistants or contractors, who were hired to provide accommodation, food and transportation to Pakistani pilgrims.
The Hajj mission has rented 141 residential buildings in three localities, including Al-Azizia, Batha Quraish and Al-Naseem neighborhoods, according to the official.
More than 270 latest buses have been arranged for the movement of Pakistani pilgrims from the airport to their accommodations, for five-time prayer in the Grand Mosque and for other Hajj-related travel between Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah.
Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage that has been in practice for over 1,400 years. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime, if they are financially and physically able. This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.
In the first phase of Pakistan’s pre-Hajj flight operation, a total of 34,316 Pakistanis reached Madinah by May 23 through 146 flights, according to Pakistani authorities.
As many as 114 flights will be transporting another 34,422 Pakistanis to Jeddah till June 9.


In powerful display of solidarity, disabled Pakistanis rally in Karachi to demand ceasefire in Gaza

In powerful display of solidarity, disabled Pakistanis rally in Karachi to demand ceasefire in Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024
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In powerful display of solidarity, disabled Pakistanis rally in Karachi to demand ceasefire in Gaza

In powerful display of solidarity, disabled Pakistanis rally in Karachi to demand ceasefire in Gaza
  • The rally, jointly organized by the Disabled Welfare Association and Jamaat-e-Islami, called for boycott of Israeli products
  • Protesters with disabilities said those who were not disabled had no excuse to not come out in support of Palestinian people

KARACHI: Hundreds of persons with disabilities on Sunday rallied in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urged people with no disabilities to come out onto the streets for the cause, in a powerful display of solidarity with the Palestinians amid Israel’s war.
The war broke out in Gaza after Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,100 people, in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.
Israel launched a retaliatory offensive, widely viewed as disproportionate, in which more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have lost their lives, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Sunday’s rally in Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi was jointly organized by the Disabled Welfare Association (DWA) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) religio-political party.
“If all our persons with disabilities can participate in such gatherings, then why those, who are not disabled, are not coming out of their homes,” said Shaina Ali, who attended the rally in a wheelchair.
“They are not even sparing the women and children there,” she said, urging Pakistanis to completely stop using Israeli products.
She praised the Western world for coming out in large numbers in support of the Palestinians.
“We are sitting here hoping for good from other countries,” Ali said, questioning fellow Pakistanis, “What are you doing for Gaza?“
Dr. Rahat, a disabled elected councilor of the JI, said people with disabilities sent out a strong message against the “genocide” of the Palestinians by coming out in large numbers.
“Our presence in large numbers here shows that every Pakistani is out there to support the people of Palestine who are faced with genocide,” he said, addressing the attendees.
Rehan Gohar, a DWA official, said these persons with disabilities had come out to support Gaza in the face of Israel’s war.
“Our message to the Muslims of Gaza is that they should not lose hope,” he said, urging Muslims around the world to unite for Palestine.
Noor-ul-Ain, a 14-year-old protester, said she was out on the street so that the Palestinian Muslims could get their just rights.
“In Palestine, they are also martyring children. Our effort is to make sure our voices reach there so that the [Palestinian] Muslims can get their rights,” she said.
“The rulers must stop Israel’s war.”
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.


Pakistan conveys ‘deep appreciation’ to Norway for decision to recognize Palestine as a state

Pakistan conveys ‘deep appreciation’ to Norway for decision to recognize Palestine as a state
Updated 26 May 2024
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Pakistan conveys ‘deep appreciation’ to Norway for decision to recognize Palestine as a state

Pakistan conveys ‘deep appreciation’ to Norway for decision to recognize Palestine as a state
  • Ireland, Spain and Norway this week said they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28
  • The additions would bring the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday held a telephonic conversation with his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Store and conveyed his “deep appreciation” for Norway’s landmark decision to recognize the State of Palestine, Sharif’s office said.
The prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway announced on Wednesday they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.
During his conversation with PM Store, Sharif emphasized the importance of the two-state solution as the key to lasting peace in the Middle East and expressed his hope that Norway’s decision would encourage other countries to follow suit, paving the way for a full membership of the United Nations (UN) for the State of Palestine.
“This principled decision by Norway would send a strong message of hope and solidarity to the brave Palestinian people who have been enduring Israel’s brutality and suffering over seventy-five years of occupation and oppression,” Sharif was quoted as saying by his office.
The Pakistan premier welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision on Friday to order Israel to stop its assault on Gaza and Rafah, and called for its “full and effective implementation.”
The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative.
During Sunday’s conversation, both Pakistani and Norwegian prime ministers reiterated their commitment to strengthening bilateral ties in various sectors, including trade, investment, education, and renewable energy.
“They also recognized the important role played by Norwegians of Pakistani origin in creating a vital connection between Pakistan and Norway and contributing to the economic development of both nations,” Sharif’s office said.
“The two leaders agreed to remain in touch and to meet soon, possibly on the margins of the UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] session later this year.”
The Pakistan premier also extended an invitation to PM Store to undertake an official visit to Pakistan at his earliest convenience.


Pakistan asks Afghanistan to hand over militants involved in Dasu attack on Chinese nationals

Pakistan asks Afghanistan to hand over militants involved in Dasu attack on Chinese nationals
Updated 26 May 2024
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Pakistan asks Afghanistan to hand over militants involved in Dasu attack on Chinese nationals

Pakistan asks Afghanistan to hand over militants involved in Dasu attack on Chinese nationals
  • Five Chinese workers were killed in the attack on Mar. 26 while they were on way to Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s northwest
  • Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi says militants operating in Afghanistan have been specifically compromising security of Chinese nationals

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Sunday demanded the Afghan interim government to hand over Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants involved in a suicide attack that killed five Chinese nationals and their driver in Pakistan’s northwest in March.
China is a major ally and investor in Pakistan but both separatist and other militants have attacked Chinese projects and personnel in recent years, including five Chinese workers who perished in the suicide attack on Mar. 26 while they were on their way to the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Dasu hydropower project falls under the ambit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative through which it has pledged more than $65 billion for road, rail and other infrastructure developments in the South Asian nation of 241 million people.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Naqvi said Pakistan’s relations with China were very important and both countries supported each other economically, politically and diplomatically, however, the cross-border threat from Afghanistan was becoming increasingly dangerous for regional security.
“We want good relations with Afghanistan, but this is only possible if they too support us and won’t let their soil be used for terrorism against us,” he said. “It is important that these terrorists present there, they [Afghan government] must arrest them, hold a trial against them or hand them over to us.”
The Dasu assault in March was the third major one in a little over a week on China’s interests.
It followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.
Naqvi said militants operating in Afghanistan were specifically compromising the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan.
“Pakistan has raised this issue with the interim Afghan government and pressed them to rein in these terrorists operating there, but so far we are not receiving any positive results,” he said, adding that Islamabad was making “all-possible arrangements” to ensure the security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s counter-terrorism chief Rai Tahir, who was also present at Sunday’s presser by Naqvi, said authorities had arrested 11 militants who were involved in the Dasu suicide bombing that killed five Chinese engineers. The investigation and evidence showed the militants had been taking instructions from TTP leaders in Afghanistan, he said.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in its western regions that border Afghanistan, particularly after the TTP called off its months-long, fragile truce with the Pakistani government in November 2022.
Last year, Islamabad ordered all illegal immigrants to leave Pakistan by Nov 1, triggering an exodus of foreigners, mostly Afghans, from the country.
Pakistan brushed off calls from the United Nations (UN), rights groups and Western embassies to reconsider the expulsion plan and said many of these Afghan nationals had been involved in militant attacks and in crimes that undermined the security of the country. Kabul denies the accusations and says Pakistani security is a domestic problem.


Saudi-based Pakistani group recruits over 2,500 volunteers to facilitate Hajj pilgrims this year

Saudi-based Pakistani group recruits over 2,500 volunteers to facilitate Hajj pilgrims this year
Updated 26 May 2024
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Saudi-based Pakistani group recruits over 2,500 volunteers to facilitate Hajj pilgrims this year

Saudi-based Pakistani group recruits over 2,500 volunteers to facilitate Hajj pilgrims this year
  • The Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group comprises thousands of expatriates living in the Kingdom who facilitate pilgrims each year
  • The PHVG offers guidance, wheelchair services, and other facilities to pilgrims during Hajj days irrespective of their nationalities

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group (PHVG), a Saudi Arabia-based group of Pakistani expatriates, has recruited more than 2,500 volunteers to assist pilgrims during this year’s annual Hajj pilgrimage, a senior PHVG official said on Sunday.
Established in 2011 with only 85 volunteers, the PHVG has expanded over the course of 12 years and currently includes thousands of members, who volunteer during Hajj pilgrimage every year. The group works in close coordination with the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah and the Pakistan Hajj Mission.
The PHVG assists and provides guidance to pilgrims during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina Valley, and the Saudi cities of Azizia and Makkah from the 10th till 12th of the Islamic holy month of Dhu Al-Hijjah, when Hajj activities reach their peak.
“The PHVG registered and verified 2,838 volunteers for Hajj 2024 operation and also has around 100 key volunteers in our three regions (Hejaz, central and eastern parts of the Kingdom) who are engaged year-round for all the preparations for the guests of Allah,” Ashraf Ali Khan, the PHVG central coordinator, told Arab News.

Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group official briefs Pakistani volunteers during a training session to facilitate Hajj pilgrims in Jeddah on May 15, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group)

The PHVG started its registration campaign on February 9 that ended on May 10, according to the official. The organization used print, electronic, and social media to register Pakistani volunteers from all over the Kingdom.
“Any Pakistani legally present in the Kingdom can become a volunteer and they also need to be registered on the Saudi social services website for further permissions,” Khan said, adding all volunteers were required to complete two mandatory training sessions and an online exam before the final selection.
The official said his organization trained volunteers using audiovisual training sessions and instructed them on the Mina map reading and the usage of its mobile application, PHVG Hajj Navigator.

Pakistani volunteers attend a training session to facilitate Hajj pilgrims in Jeddah on May 15, 2024, ahead of annual Hajj pilgrimage. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group)

“The volunteers are neither allowed to perform Hajj nor compensated for their services as they are devoted to helping and guiding pilgrims to seek the reward and pleasure from Allah,” he added.
The volunteers mainly help Hajj pilgrims in five different areas, including providing training through videos and presentations, according to the official.
Along with this, volunteers also provide guidance in Mina, especially through translation, to pilgrims who come from around the world, and guide them to their tents, hospitals and assist them with wheelchairs.
“Additionally, we offer Tawaf-e-Ziyara to pilgrims who fall ill during the pilgrimage,” Khan said. “Each sick pilgrim is accompanied by two volunteers who escort them from the hospital and return them after completing the Tawaf.”

Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group official briefs Pakistani volunteers during a training session to facilitate Hajj pilgrims in Jeddah on May 15, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Hajj Volunteers Group)