Iranian president arrives in Pakistan for three-day visit to bolster ties

Update Iranian president arrives in Pakistan for three-day visit to bolster ties
Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif greets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on his three-day official visit in Islamabad, Pakistan April 22, 2024. (PM Office)
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Updated 22 April 2024
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Iranian president arrives in Pakistan for three-day visit to bolster ties

Iranian president arrives in Pakistan for three-day visit to bolster ties
  • Ebrahim Raisi arrives in Islamabad with high-level delegation and “large” team of businesspersons, says foreign office
  • Raisi’s visit to Pakistan takes place amid surging Middle East tensions following Israel’s airstrikes against Iran last week

ISLAMABAD: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Islamabad on Monday for a three-day visit to the country, Pakistan’s foreign office said, with his trip aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries amid surging tensions in the Middle East.

The Iranian president arrived in the federal capital with his spouse, a high-level delegation of cabinet members and a team of businesspersons. He was welcomed at the Islamabad Airport by Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Housing and Works Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Iran Mudassir Tipu.

Raisi’s visit takes place days after Iran and Israel exchanged drone and missile strikes, escalating tensions in the already volatile Middle East.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi at the Prime Minister’s House,” Sharif’s office said in a statement. “Both representatives exchanged good wishes for one another.”




Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 22, 2024. (Government of Pakistan)

Raisi was presented with a guard of honor by a Pakistan Army contingent upon his arrival at the Prime Minister’s House. Sharif and the Iranian president then planted a sapling at the Prime Minister’s House to mark the annual Earth Day. 

The Iranian president also met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, during which the two agreed to enhance cooperation in various areas. “They also discussed regional and global developments and affirmed commitment to peace and constructive dialogue for resolving regional challenges,” the foreign office said. 




This handout photograph taken and released by the Pakistan Foreign Office on April 22, 2024, shows Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (R) speaking with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar (L) during their meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Pakistan's Foreign Office)

During his visit from April 22-24, the Iranian head of state is scheduled to meet Pakistan’s prime minister, president, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker, the foreign office said in a statement on Friday, adding that he would also visit Karachi and Lahore cities to meet the country’s provincial leadership.

Raisi’s visit will be the first by any head of state to Pakistan after the contentious elections of February 2024.

Pakistan and Iran are often at odds with each other over instability on their shared porous border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged airstrikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties.

“The two sides will have a wide-ranging agenda to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties and enhance cooperation in diverse fields including trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign office said.

Discussions would also focus on regional and global developments as well as bilateral cooperation to combat “terrorism,” the statement added.

“Pakistan and Iran enjoy strong bilateral ties anchored in history, culture and religion,” the foreign office said. “This visit provides an important opportunity to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran relations.”


Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees

Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees
Updated 13 sec ago
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Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees

Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees
  • Peshawar High Court ordered Pakistani authorities not to deport these people seeking asylum in the country
  • Afghan musicians, transgender persons fled their country due to fear of persecution after the Taliban’s return

PESHAWAR: A lawyer representing undocumented musicians and transgender people from Afghanistan said on Saturday he was hopeful a recent court verdict would make his clients’ lives easier in Pakistan after they fled their country due to fear of persecution in the wake of the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.
A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court, comprising Justices Ijaz Anwar and Waqar Ahmad, instructed the Pakistani authorities not to “harass” these musicians while hearing their petition pending further proceedings.
It also issued an order prohibiting the forced repatriation of these individuals seeking asylum in Pakistan until the court issued its final directive.
The Afghan Taliban imposed a ban on music soon after taking over the capital city of Kabul over two years ago, considering it against the principles of Islamic Shariah.
The musicians filed a case in the Peshawar High Court last October to prevent their return to Afghanistan, following a massive deportation drive for unregistered foreigners initiated by Pakistani authorities citing security reasons.
“The recent development offers hope for Afghan artists and transgender people who fear persecution if they are deported to Afghanistan,” Advocate Mumtaz Khan told Arab News on Saturday.
He noted that many Afghan musicians were detained and harassed by the police due to a lack of documentation.
“The situation of Afghan musicians has remained dire,” he continued. “They cannot move freely or hold public concerts.”
Khan maintained these people had fled their country to save their lives where the Afghan interim administration officials had been arresting and beating musicians.
According to official documents prepared by the home and tribal affairs department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 354,255 unregistered foreigners have been repatriated via the northwestern Pakistani province that shares its border with Afghanistan since September 17.
The international community, including the United States and various UN agencies, has urged Pakistan not to deport vulnerable Afghan nationals, expressing concerns over risks to their lives amid ongoing human rights challenges in the neighboring state.
Speaking to Arab News, Faiz Muhammad Sakhi, a former musicology professor at the Kabul University who fled to Pakistan after the Taliban takeover, said his sons had been arrested by the police due to their lack of documents.
“I’m currently trying to secure their bail through court,” he said.
“Our lives are not very good in Pakistan,” he continued. “Neither can we go back to Afghanistan. I hope the recent court order will lessen our difficulties in this country.”


Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy

Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy
Updated 25 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy

Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy
  • Shehbaz Sharif calls it a ‘grave mistake’ only to expect the armed forces to deal with the issue of militant violence
  • He asks the provinces to play their role, saying it was their joint responsibility after the eighteenth amendment

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday emphasized the necessity of developing a strong and comprehensive response to the challenge of militant violence in Pakistan, saying it was not possible for a “soft state” to strengthen its economy since it tends to lose confidence of potential investors.
Sharif made the observation while addressing the National Action Plan’s Apex Committee, a high-level forum that includes members such as the army chief, provincial chief ministers and heads of major civil and military law enforcement agencies.
The committee oversees and coordinates comprehensive national efforts to combat militant and other security threats within the country.
The prime minister’s statement comes just a day after senior Chinese politician Liu Jianchao said in Islamabad that Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining the confidence of investors from his country.
Liu’s statement reinforced concerns raised by authorities in Beijing following several attacks on Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan, including a suicide bombing in March this year that killed five of them.
“For sustainable development in Pakistan, stability and the rule of law are essential,” said the prime minister. “It is our collective responsibility to enforce the writ of the state with full force and without exception.”
“A soft state can never earn the confidence of investors, whether they are domestic or foreign,” he continued. “Therefore, a healthy and strong economy cannot be envisaged in an unstable state plagued by terrorism.”
Sharif maintained fighting militant violence was the joint responsibility of all institutions of the state.
“We have very easily left this matter to the officers and soldiers of our armed forces,” he added. “The provinces and governments have completely absolved themselves of this responsibility. This is the dangerous approach that has developed over the past years.”
The prime minister noted this was not the way Pakistan could “end terrorism.”
“After the 18th amendment in the constitution, the provincial governments have a significant role in this effort and have also been provided resources,” he said. “Therefore, I expect that the provinces will play an active part in combating terrorism. Together, God willing, we will eradicate this scourge.”
He said it was important for everyone to take the ownership of the war against militancy, adding that leaving it to just one institution of the state would be a “grave mistake.”
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s interior minister Mohsin Naqvi also held a meeting to review the security measures for foreign nationals, particularly the Chinese workers in the country.


‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 

‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 
Updated 22 June 2024
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‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 

‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 
  • IED blast targeted vehicle carrying security forces in Kurram district in northwestern province
  • Top officials attend funeral of Sepoy Haroon William, Christian soldier who was killed in latest blast 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Saturday the sacrifice of Pakistan army soldiers killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in northwestern Pakistan this week wouldn’t go to waste, as he vowed to continue the South Asian nation’s ‘war against terrorism.’
The IED blast targeted a vehicle carrying security forces personnel in Kurram district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Pakistan army’s media wing said in a statement. 
The blast comes amid a rise in terror attacks mostly claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, an ally of the Afghan Taliban but a separate group, which has stepped up its assaults in the region since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021. Pakistan says the TTP uses Afghan soil to launch attacks in Pakistan, a charge that Kabul denies. 
On Saturday, Sharif and other top government and military officers including the army chief attended the funeral prayers in Islamabad of Sepoy Haroon William, a Christian soldier who was killed in the Kurram IED blast. 
“The army’s history is filled with such sacrifices. In yesterday’s unfortunate incident, Haroon William sacrificed his life for the motherland,” Sharif said as he addressed the funeral service. “Me, army chief and everyone hail their sacrifice for the nation, I believe this sacrifice will not go to waste.”
A day earlier, Sharif had vowed to continue “the war against the menace [of terrorism] till its complete elimination.”
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent years, predominantly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In January 2023 militants killed at least 101 people, mostly police officers, when a suicide bomber disguised as a policeman attacked a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar. In another major attack, five Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide bombing on their convoy in March.
Earlier this month, a report by the provincial counter-terrorism department (CTD) said 65 police officials were killed and 86 wounded in 237 incidents of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past five months. Police had killed 117 militants and arrested 299 others in a series of operations, the report added. 
Pakistani authorities often say Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are providing shelter to TTP fighters across the two nations’ shared border. The Afghan Taliban government insists it doesn’t allow anyone to use Afghan soil for violence in another country. The TTP has also said it is not using Afghan soil to target troops in Pakistan.


Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes

Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes
Updated 22 June 2024
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Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes

Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government bans public vaping in Peshawar district for 60 days
  • Sale of e-cigarettes prohibited within 100 meters of educational, health facilities 

PESHAWAR: Hinting at a complete ban on vaping devices, Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has imposed interim measures prohibiting the public use of e-cigarettes, vapes and nicotine products in Peshawar district for 60 days, according to a notification issued earlier this month.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists e-cigarettes as harmful and while their long-term health effects are not fully known, they do generate toxic substances, some of which are known to cause cancer and increase the risk of heart and lung disorders.

“It is requested to order the following interim measures till the complete ban on e-cigarettes, vapes, and nicotine pouches by the KP government to safeguard the health of people from the devastating impact to the extent of Peshawar,” the city’s deputy commissioner said in a notification dated June 13. 

“This order shall come into force forthwith and shall remain enforced for 60 days unless modified or withdrawn.”

The interim measures include a ban on the usage, advertisement and sale of e-cigarettes, vapes and nicotine pouches in public places and on public transport. Additionally, nicotine products cannot be sold within 100 meters of any education or health facility or parks. The sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 21 has also been banned. 

The notification said violators of the order would be punished under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which relates to disobedience of orders promulgated by a public servant.

In 2019, the US reported 18 deaths due to a mysterious lung illness linked to e-cigarettes.

The WHO says high quality epidemiology studies consistently demonstrate that e-cigarette use increases conventional cigarette uptake, particularly among non-smoking youth, by nearly 3 times. 

“Evidence reveals that these products are harmful to health and are not safe. However, it is too early to provide a clear answer on the long-term impact of using them or being exposed to them,” according to the WHO website. 

Besides causing cancer and increasing the risk of heart and lung disorders, electronic delivery systems have also been linked to a number of physical injuries, including burns from explosions or malfunctions, when the products are not of the expected standard or are tampered with by users, the WHO says. 


Over 620,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year

Over 620,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year
Updated 22 June 2024
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Over 620,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year

Over 620,000 Afghans expelled from Pakistan since deportation drive launched last year
  • Almost 14,000 Afghan nationals repatriated in last ten days
  • These included 5,014 men, 4,087 women and 4,714 children

ISLAMABAD: A deportation drive targeting illegal foreigners living in Pakistan is continuing, with more than 13,000 Afghan nationals expelled over the last ten days, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said on Saturday, bringing the total number of Afghans deported to over 620,000.

The government launched a deportation drive last year after a spike in suicide bombings which the Pakistan government, without providing evidence, has blamed on Afghan nationals. Islamabad also says Afghans are involved in smuggling, militant violence and other crimes. 

A cash-strapped Pakistan navigating record inflation, alongside a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program last year, had also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

“Repatriation of illegal Afghan nationals continues and so far, 620,981 Afghans have returned to their country,” Radio Pakistan said in its tally on Saturday. 

“Between 11th to 21st of this month [June], total 13,815 Afghans returned to their country including 5,014 men, 4,087 women and 4,714 children.”

Until the government initiated the expulsion drive last year, Pakistan was home to over four million Afghan migrants and refugees, of which around 1.7 million were undocumented, as per government figures. 

Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan.

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the “Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan” with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk.

In phase two of the “repatriation plan,” around 600,00 Afghans who held Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three is expected to target those with UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

In April, the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) issued a notification validating the extension of the PoR card till June 30 this year.

Before the deportation drive, people used to daily cross the Pak-Afghan border back and forth for business and personal purposes.

The drive has led to a spike in tensions between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. The Taliban deny militants are using Afghan soil to launch attacks, calling Pakistan’s security challenges a domestic issue.