Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest

Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest
Pakistani army soldier stand guard on a border terminal in Ghulam Khan, a town in North Waziristan, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on January 27, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest

Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest
  • Security in regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months
  • Five Japanese nationals narrowly escaped a suicide bombimg on their vehicle last week

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Monday it had killed eleven militants in two different operations in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, amid a surge in terror attacks in the South Asian country. 

Security in areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months. Attacks, some claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) Islamist militant group, have risen, mostly targeting police and security officials, while separatist groups have also launched attacks in the country’s southern and southwestern regions.

Five Japanese nationals narrowly escaped a suicide bombing on their vehicle last week, while unknown gunmen killed two customs officers on Sunday, following the killing of five other customs officials in the area in recent days.

“An intelligence-based operation was conducted in Dera Ismail Khan District on reported presence of terrorists. During conduct of the operation, after an intense fire exchange, ten terrorists were successfully neutralized and sent to hell,” the military’s media wing said

“In another encounter in North Waziristan District, own troops effectively engaged the terrorists’ location as a result of which one more terrorist was sent to hell.”

The army said the militants had been involved in “numerous terrorist activities in the area against security forces as well as the innocent civilians.” The two operations took place on April 21-22. 

The current rise in attacks has escalated tensions between Pakistan and the Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban administration. Pakistan, saying militants have been using Afghan territory to launch attacks, has called on the Taliban to take action and carried out an airstrike last month on Afghan territory.

The Taliban have denied allowing the use of Afghan soil for militancy and said Pakistan’s security issues are a domestic issue for Islamabad.


Pakistan heat wave to ‘intensify’ from May 23 onwards — chief meteorologist

Pakistan heat wave to ‘intensify’ from May 23 onwards — chief meteorologist
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Pakistan heat wave to ‘intensify’ from May 23 onwards — chief meteorologist

Pakistan heat wave to ‘intensify’ from May 23 onwards — chief meteorologist
  • Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, has announced school closures from May 25-31 due to heat wave
  • KP, Balochistan provinces, Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan regions to witness higher than average temperatures

KARACHI: A heat wave is expected to hit parts of Pakistan starting today, Monday, Pakistan’s chief meteorologist said, warning that it will “intensify” from May 23 onwards in the South Asian nation at the searing edge of climate change.

Pakistan’s disaster management authority warned last Thursday temperatures in certain areas of Pakistan’s southern Sindh and eastern Punjab provinces could surge to 40 degrees Celsius between May 15-30. On Sunday, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) warned of an “intense” heat wave in the southern districts of Punjab, with severe risk identified in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from May 21 to May 27.

Heatwaves, which occur in summer, are caused by slow-moving high-pressure systems leading to prolonged high temperatures. The World Meteorological Organization defines a heat wave as five or more consecutive days during which the daily maximum temperature surpasses the average maximum temperature by 5 °C (9 °F) or more.

“Heatwave conditions are expected from today over Sindh, except Karachi, and the plain areas of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces,” Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz, the chief meteorologist at the Met Department, told Arab News. 

“Maximum temperatures are expected to remain 4-6 degrees Celsius above average until May 22 and then intensify from May 23rd with temperatures 6-8 degrees above average,” he said, urging citizens to exercise caution.

Pakistan experienced its first severe heat wave in June 2015 when temperatures as high as 49 degrees Celsius struck the country’s south, causing the deaths of about 2,000 people from dehydration and heatstroke. A heat wave in Sindh’s provincial capital of Karachi that year alone claimed 120 lives. 

Increased exposure to heat, and more heat waves, have been identified as one of the key impacts of climate change in Pakistan, with people experiencing extreme heat and seeing some of the highest temperatures in the world in recent years. The South Asian country of more than 241 million, one of the ten most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts, has also recently witnessed untimely downpours, flash floods and droughts.

Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.

Dr. Sarfaraz said other than Karachi, the rest of Sindh province would remain in the grips of scorching heat this month.

“While Karachi will not face a heat wave, the rest of the province and the plain areas of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be in the grip of the heatwave from today,” he said.

“In Jacobabad, the hottest city of the [Sindh] province, the temperature is expected to reach 50 degrees Celsius during this wave.”

Jacobabad is considered one of the hottest places in the world, with temperatures rising to 50 degrees Celsius between May and August, forcing nearly half the city’s 200,000 people to leave for cooler cities and towns, officials say. 

The federal capital of Islamabad, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces and the Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan regions would also see temperatures 4 to 6 degrees Celsius above average from May 21-27, Dr. Sarfaraz said. 

SCHOOLS CLOSURES 

Separately, the Punjab government announced on Monday it would close public and private schools from May 25-31. 

“In view of the surge in temperature and heat wave in the province, all public and private schools shall remain closed for seven days with effect from 25th May 2024 to 31st May 2024,” a notification from the provincial education department on Monday read, adding that exams could be conducted during these days with necessary precautions in place. 

Punjab Education Minister Rana Sikander Hayat shared the notification on social media platform X, saying the safety of children would always remain the government’s “priority.”

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. 

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people and affecting over 33 million, a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are yet to be rebuilt.


Pakistan government says won’t take ‘unilateral’ decision on new digital media authority 

Pakistan government says won’t take ‘unilateral’ decision on new digital media authority 
Updated 52 min 57 sec ago
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Pakistan government says won’t take ‘unilateral’ decision on new digital media authority 

Pakistan government says won’t take ‘unilateral’ decision on new digital media authority 
  • Government drafting new law for social media platforms, including setting up digital rights body
  • Digital rights activists fear new authority could be used to stifle criticism and quell freedom of speech

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar said on Monday the government had no intention to pass legislation “unilaterally” to set up a new digital media authority, reassuring journalists that all stakeholders would be consulted in the process.

The government initiated consultations this month over a new draft law aimed at regulating social media platforms, including by setting up a new digital rights protection body, prompting concerns from rights activists that the council would be used to stifle criticism and freedom of speech.

The popular social media platform X has been blocked in Pakistan for over three months after widespread allegations of election manipulation and calls for protests in the wake of Feb. 8 general polls.

Earlier this month, the government launched a new National Cybercrimes Investigation Agency to probe electronic crimes and confirmed that it was working on a draft law to regulate social media content.

“The government has no intention of unilateral legislation regarding the establishment of Digital Media Authority,” state-run Radio Pakistan said in report quoting Tarar after he met a delegation from the National Press Club Islamabad.

“He said all journalist organizations and press clubs will be taken into confidence on the matter.”

Last week, ruling party Senator Afnan Ullah Khan told Arab News the government was working on a draft law to regulate social media content “as we want to curb disinformation and hate speech being spread through these platforms.”

“A committee led by the federal law minister is discussing the draft law as we have to ensure people’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression as well,” he added, ruling out concerns the government wanted to muffle its rivals and critics.

Khan said the draft law would be tabled in parliament for debate within four weeks.

“Opposition parties or any parliamentarian can object to any clause of the bill once it is presented in parliament for vote,” he said.

“We want to protect digital rights of our users instead of imposing any restrictions, but at the same time we want those to be prosecuted who violate the law by inciting hate speech and pedaling disinformation, or any content against the national security,” he added.

The draft law may propose the establishment of a digital rights protection authority to ensure effective enforcement of laws, Khan said but “all this will be disclosed to the media and public once the bill is tabled in parliament for discussion.”


Pakistan’s Punjab closes schools for seven days amid heat wave warning

Pakistan’s Punjab closes schools for seven days amid heat wave warning
Updated 20 May 2024
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Pakistan’s Punjab closes schools for seven days amid heat wave warning

Pakistan’s Punjab closes schools for seven days amid heat wave warning
  • Schools will be allowed to conduct examinations as scheduled with necessary precautions in place
  • Disaster management authority said last week heat wave would hit Sindh, Punjab provinces in May and June 

ISLAMABAD: Public and private schools in Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province will remain closed from May 25-31 due to a heat wave expected to last until the end of the month, the provincial education department said on Monday. 

Pakistan’s disaster management authority warned last Thursday temperatures in certain areas of Pakistan’s southern Sindh and eastern Punjab provinces could surge to 40 degrees Celsius between May 15-30. On Sunday, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) warned of an “intense” heat wave in the southern districts of Punjab, with severe risk identified in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from May 21 to May 27.

“In view of the surge in temperature and heat wave in the province, all public and private schools shall remain closed for seven days with effect from 25th May 2024 to 31st May 2024,” a notification from the provincial education department read, adding that exams could be conducted during these days with necessary precautions in place. 

Punjab Education Minister Rana Sikander Hayat shared the notification on social media platform X, saying the safety of children would always remain the government’s “priority.”

The PDMA’s Sunday statement urged citizens to take precautionary measures. 

“Avoid exertion and exercise in strong sunlight,” it said. “Do not step out of the house unnecessarily. Wear light colored cotton clothes.”

Increased exposure to heat, and more heat waves, have been identified as one of the key impacts of climate change in Pakistan, with people experiencing extreme heat and seeing some of the highest temperatures in the world in recent years. The South Asian country of more than 241 million, one of the ten most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts, has also recently witnessed untimely downpours, flash floods and droughts.

Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. A deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, claimed 120 lives in 2015.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people and affecting over 33 million, a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are yet to be rebuilt.
 


Pakistan, Turkiye set new goal to enhance bilateral trade volume to $5 billion 

Pakistan, Turkiye set new goal to enhance bilateral trade volume to $5 billion 
Updated 24 min 39 sec ago
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Pakistan, Turkiye set new goal to enhance bilateral trade volume to $5 billion 

Pakistan, Turkiye set new goal to enhance bilateral trade volume to $5 billion 
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on two-day visit
  • Pakistani and Turkish FMs says current $1 billion trade volume does not reflect potential

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Türkiye on Monday set the goal of enhancing bilateral trade volume to $5 billion, vowing to hold a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) meeting in Islamabad in the “very near future.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a two-day official visit amid Pakistan’s efforts to boost foreign investments and better manage its $350 billion economy. 

The South Asian nation has seen a flurry of foreign visits in recent weeks, including by the Iranian president, Saudi foreign minister, a delegation of top Saudi companies as well as officials from Qatar, China, Japan and Central Asian countries, among others. 

On Monday, Pakistan and Turkiye engaged in delegation-level talks focusing on trade, investment, connectivity and defense ties, with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar representing Pakistan and Foreign Minister Fidan leading the Turkish delegation.

“We are taking measures to increase our trade to reach $5 billion and planning to hold the next session of the bilateral trade talks in the coming days,” Dar said at a joint media stakeout, without specifying a time period in which the new trade target would be achieved.

“We are planning to hold an HLSCC meeting in Islamabad in the very near future which would carry out a comprehensive review of our ongoing cooperation, including a holistic review of our bilateral, strategic, and economic framework.

“With each passing day, trade, investment and defense relations, as well as people-to-people contacts constitute the basis of our ongoing bilateral cooperation.”

Speaking at the press conference, Fidan said Pakistan held “major strategic and economic importance” due to its location bordering China and the Arabian Sea, positioning it at a junction of energy-rich countries and major economies.

He endorsed Dar’s statement that current bilateral trade volume of $1 billion did not reflect potential and should be enhanced to $5 billion:

“We have taken a principal decision in order to broaden our relations not only in trade but also in defense ... Pakistan is our strategic partner, and our cooperation supports regional stability and safety as well. I would like to once again highlight that we stand with Pakistan in their combat against terrorism.”

Dar also highlighted the history of Pak-Türkiye collaboration on defense projects.

“Pakistan and Turkiye are working on various joint ventures and continue to support each other to defend our territorial sovereignty and fight against terrorism in all its manifestations,” the Pakistani official added. “Our two countries have always supported each other on core issues and have assisted each other in the fight against terrorism.”

Pakistan narrowly averted default last summer, and its economy has stabilized after the completion of the last IMF program, with inflation coming down to around 17 percent in April from a record high 38 percent last May.

It is still dealing with a high fiscal shortfall and while it has controlled its external account deficit through import control mechanisms, it has come at the expense of stagnating growth, which is expected to be around 2 percent this year compared to negative growth last year.

The South Asian is also in negotiations with the IMF for a new, longer-term program of at least $6 billion. 


Pakistan rebuilds girls school bombed by suspected militants, classes start today

Pakistan rebuilds girls school bombed by suspected militants, classes start today
Updated 20 May 2024
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Pakistan rebuilds girls school bombed by suspected militants, classes start today

Pakistan rebuilds girls school bombed by suspected militants, classes start today
  • Two girls schools were bombed in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province this month
  • Pakistan witnessed multiple attacks on girls schools until 2019, especially in Swat Valley

ISLAMABAD: The federal education ministry has rebuilt a school bombed by suspected militants last week in Pakistan’s northwest and it will open for classes today, Monday, state-run APP news agency reported.

Two girls schools were bombed in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province this month. The first attack targeted the only girls school in the town of Shawa on May 8 while the second school was bombed in an overnight attack last week in the neighboring South Waziristan district.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, suspicion is likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who have targeted girls schools in the province in the past, saying women should not be educated.

The TTP group was evicted from northwest Pakistan’s Swat and other regions in recent years after successive military operations and believed to be harboring in neighboring Afghanistan. The TTP are a separate group but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan in 2021. The Taliban takeover of Kabul has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, Islamabad says.

“Tomorrow (Monday), we celebrate the resilience of our daughters and the nation’s commitment to education,” APP said, quoting the education ministry, adding that 120 girls would be back to the classroom on Monday morning.

“This act symbolizes resilience, defiance against extremism, and a firm commitment to providing education for all, especially for the daughters of the nation.”

Similar attacks also took place in May last year when two government schools for girls in Mirali were blown up. No loss of life was reported in the incidents.

Pakistan witnessed multiple attacks on girls schools until 2019, especially in the Swat Valley and elsewhere in the northwest where the Pakistani Taliban long controlled the former tribal regions. In 2012, the insurgents attacked Malala Yousafzai, a teenage student and advocate for the education of girls who went on to become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.