US, Sindh province launch $9 million initiative to combat tuberculosis in Pakistan 

US, Sindh province launch $9 million initiative to combat tuberculosis in Pakistan 
In this handout photograph, taken and released by US Embassy in Pakistan, official sign agreement as US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome and Sindh Minister for Health and Population Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho launched a collaborative initiative in Karachi on May 23, 2024, aimed at addressing tuberculosis, a significant health challenge in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: US embassy)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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US, Sindh province launch $9 million initiative to combat tuberculosis in Pakistan 

US, Sindh province launch $9 million initiative to combat tuberculosis in Pakistan 
  • TB cases have risen in Pakistan by 42.5 percent in last three years with 47,000 people dying of the illness in 2023
  • TB remains world’s leading infectious disease killer, Pakistan ranks fifth among high TB burden countries

KARACHI: US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome and Sindh Minister for Health and Population Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho launched a collaborative initiative on Thursday aimed at addressing tuberculosis (TB), a significant health challenge in Pakistan. 
TB cases have risen in Pakistan by 42.5 percent in the last three years with 47,000 people dying of the illness in 2023, according to official data, undermining the government’s plans to stamp out the disease by 2035 in the face of inadequate resources for screening and treatment.
Despite being preventable and treatable, TB remains the world’s leading infectious disease killer, sickening 10.6 million people and taking 1.3 million lives annually. Pakistan ranks fifth among high TB burden countries. 
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) leads the US government’s global TB efforts, working with partners around the world including Pakistan, prioritizing local community involvement and recognizing its critical role in ensuring sustainable and effective outcomes.
“Funded by USAID, the newly launched program, named the Tuberculosis Local Organization Network (TB-LON), is an investment of $9 million over five years,” the US embassy said in a statement.
“Its primary goal is to provide expert guidance and resources for Pakistan to effectively tackle TB. Through direct engagement with affected communities and individuals, the program will tailor solutions to meet specific needs. TB-LON will treat more TB cases in Sindh and significantly reduce the number of people affected by the disease.”
“Tuberculosis is not just a disease affecting millions in Pakistan; it’s an illness that disrupts lives, livelihoods, and communities,” Blome was quoted in the statemet as saying. 
“Pakistan ranks fifth among countries with the highest rate of TB, but I am proud to say, we are changing that with this groundbreaking $9 million initiative that will provide expert guidance and resources to help eradicate TB, exemplifying our constant commitment to the resilient people of Sindh.”
 Dr. Pechuho expressed appreciation for the ongoing support from the US government and reaffirmed the Sindh government’s commitment to enhancing health care services. 
“We are confident that our joint efforts in addressing critical health challenges will bring a positive change in the lives of people of Sindh,” she added, emphasizing the importance of joint efforts in addressing critical health challenges.
In Pakistan, TB cases registered an increase from 272,990 in 2020 to 474,981 in 2023, with a treatment success rate of more than 90 percent, according to official data. The disease killed 48,000 people in 2021, 46,000 in 2022, and 47,000 people in 2023. Currently, there are a total of 608,000 TB cases registered with the National TB Control Program, according to data collected by Arab News in April this year.


Pakistan police raid headquarters of ex-PM Khan party, arrest official over ‘anti-state propaganda’

Pakistan police raid headquarters of ex-PM Khan party, arrest official over ‘anti-state propaganda’
Updated 46 sec ago
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Pakistan police raid headquarters of ex-PM Khan party, arrest official over ‘anti-state propaganda’

Pakistan police raid headquarters of ex-PM Khan party, arrest official over ‘anti-state propaganda’
  • Videos shared online showed policemen surrounding PTI party secretariat in Islamabad, leading away Information Secretary Raoof Hasan
  • Pakistan’s interior ministry says the raid was conducted on the basis of initial investigation and analysis of the party’s digital content

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s police on Monday raided the headquarters of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in Islamabad and arrested a top official of the party for involvement in anti-state propaganda, the interior minister said.
PTI social media accounts shared videos of dozens of policemen surrounding the PTI secretariat in Pakistan’s federal capital of Islamabad and leading away PTI Information Secretary, Raoof Hasan.
Pakistan’s interior ministry confirmed Hasan’s arrest and said the Islamabad police and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided the PTI digital media wing based on initial investigation and analysis of party’s digital content.
“The PTI is involved in anti-state propaganda,” the interior ministry said in a statement. “A JIT [joint investigation team] is being constituted [to investigate the allegations].”

Women police officers taking the arrested female workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from the party's headquarters into police van after a security raid in Islamabad on July 22, 2024. (AFP)

Authorities also briefly detained PTI Chairman Gohar Khan, who is also Khan’s lawyer, on Monday but released him later, Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, Khan’s key adviser on media, told Arab News.
The raid at PTI headquarters and the arrest of the party’s information secretary comes days after several other PTI members, including the party’s top media manager Ahmed Waqqas Janjua, were arrested by authorities.
An anti-terrorism court on Monday remanded Janjua into police custody for seven days after the investigating officer said he was found in possession of explosives during the arrest and they wanted to probe his alleged links with outlawed organizations, according to the PTI and Janjua’s lawyer.
Pakistan’s Information Minister Ataullah Tarar last week said the government planned to ban the PTI, days after the Supreme Court made a crucial ruling in the party’s favor that dealt a huge blow to the government.
Khan has been jailed for nearly a year, but this month an Islamabad judge overturned his illegal marriage conviction while the Supreme Court awarded PTI more parliamentary seats — a move set to make them the largest party in the National Assembly.

Policemen make way for prison van after a security raid at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's headquarters in Islamabad on July 22, 2024. (AFP)

Both cases were considered a major blow to the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who has been leading a weak coalition since the February 8 election.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) described the attempt to ban the PTI as “an enormous blow to democratic norms” and said it “reeks of political desperation.”
“If pushed through, it will achieve nothing more than deeper polarization and the strong likelihood of political chaos and violence,” HRCP Chairman Asad Iqbal Butt said in a statement.
Khan, who says the cases against him have been orchestrated to prevent his return to power, remains languishing in jail on fresh charges of inciting protests and graft.
A United Nations panel of experts this month found that Khan’s detention “had no legal basis and appears to have been intended to disqualify him from running for political office.”


Pakistan welcomes Omani investors’ visit Islamabad this week amid push for economic cooperation

Pakistan welcomes Omani investors’ visit Islamabad this week amid push for economic cooperation
Updated 35 min 1 sec ago
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Pakistan welcomes Omani investors’ visit Islamabad this week amid push for economic cooperation

Pakistan welcomes Omani investors’ visit Islamabad this week amid push for economic cooperation
  • Pakistan, faced with low forex reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, this month reached a staff-level agreement with IMF for $7 billion loan
  • The South Asian country is making desperate attempts to boost foreign investment to cut its reliance on foreign debts to support its $350 billion economy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan welcomes the visit of a delegation of Omani investors to Islamabad this week, the Pakistani deputy prime minister said on Monday, amid the South Asian country’s push to boost trade and foreign investment.
The statement came after Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s telephonic conversation with Omani FM Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Albusaidi.
The two leaders reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, ranging from political, economic and defense cooperation to people-to-people exchanges, according to the Pakistani foreign office. 
“The Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister welcomed the forthcoming visit of a delegation of Omani investors to Pakistan later this week, geared toward exploring areas of mutually beneficial economic cooperation,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
“The two leaders also shared views on a range of regional and international issues of mutual interest.”
Pakistan, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, this month reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $7 billion loan.
The South Asian country is making desperate attempts to boost foreign investment to cut its reliance on foreign debts to support its $350 billion fragile economy. In recent months, there has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Japan, Azerbaijan, Qatar and other countries.
During the conversation, Dar and his Omani counterpart also discussed an attack on Imam Bargah Ali bin Abu Talib in Wadi Kabir in Muscat that killed six people, including four Pakistanis, and injured dozens of others on July 15.
Dar emphasized the importance of concerted action to combat militancy in all its forms and manifestations and extended Pakistan’s full support to Oman in this regard, according to the Pakistan foreign office. 
He appreciated Oman’s support in repatriation of bodies of the mosque attack victims to Pakistan and taking care of the injured Pakistani nationals.


Anti-terrorism efforts being made ‘controversial’ by ‘political mafia’ — Pakistan army 

Anti-terrorism efforts being made ‘controversial’ by ‘political mafia’ — Pakistan army 
Updated 33 min 9 sec ago
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Anti-terrorism efforts being made ‘controversial’ by ‘political mafia’ — Pakistan army 

Anti-terrorism efforts being made ‘controversial’ by ‘political mafia’ — Pakistan army 
  • Government has announced launching new counterterrorism operation which has been rejected by opposition, incluidng Khan’s PTI
  • Head of army’s media wing labels anti-military narrative work of “digital terrorists” who will be dealt with through the law, regulations

ISLAMABAD: A spokesman for the Pakistan army said on Monday anti-terrorism efforts, including a new “comprehensive” operation announced by the government, were being “politicized” to the detriment of the country’s national interests, in veiled comments against the party of jailed ex-premier Imran Khan.

Pakistan last month announced it would launch a new “multi-pronged” operation called Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, that would not only eliminate militants though military and intelligence actions but also deter extremist thinking through socio-economic uplift.

The campaign has so far been rejected by opposition parties, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former prime minister Khan, on the grounds that opposition parties and parliament were not consulted.

Pakistan has seen a massive surge in militancy in recent months, with daily attacks on security forces and assassinations of police and government officials. Islamabad blames the attacks on militants operating out of Afghanistan. Kabul denies that it allows its territory to be used by insurgents and says Pakistan’s security woes are a domestic issue.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry said the Azm-e-Isjtehkam operation had been “politicized” by what he described as a “political mafia.”

“Why did a mafia, a political mafia, and an illegal mafia say that they would not let this [campaign] happen?” Chaudhry said, adding that opponents of the operation had tried to make it “controversial” and paint it as a purely military operation in which thousands would be displaced. 

“Azm-e-Istehkam is a comprehensive and integrated counter-terrorism campaign, not a military operation as it is being presented,” he added. “This is a comprehensive campaign against terrorism, which won’t just root out terrorism but which will lift up all of society … and the stakes are very high here.”

He said 137 officers and soldiers had been killed in anti-terror operations this year and security forces had conducted 22,409 intelligence-based operations. Together, the armed forces, police, intelligence agencies, and other law enforcement agencies were conducting more than 112 operations daily, the general said. 

Despite the army’s sacrifices, he said “digital terrorists” were using “fake news and propaganda” to spread lies about the army and its intentions. He was answering a question about the army’s decreasing popularity in Pakistan.

“This is digital terrorism,” Chaudhry said. “The physical terrorist also attacks law enforcement agencies and the army, and the digital terrorist also attacks the army. They are doing the same thing.”

“Digital terrorists,” the spokesman said, would be deterred through laws, regulation and monitoring. 

Chaudhry’s veiled comments about the PTI and Khan came days after the federal government of PM Shehbaz Sharif announced plans to ban the party 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. He has led an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the army and independent analysts say has succeeded in denting its popularity in a nation that has been ruled by the military for nearly half its history. 

The convictions against Khan 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 PML-N party in coalition with other parties. 


Pakistan calls for strengthening OIC cooperation to tackle pressing water, food and energy crises

Pakistan calls for strengthening OIC cooperation to tackle pressing water, food and energy crises
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan calls for strengthening OIC cooperation to tackle pressing water, food and energy crises

Pakistan calls for strengthening OIC cooperation to tackle pressing water, food and energy crises
  • Pakistan hosts three-day conference on water, energy, food and ecosystems for OIC member states in Islamabad
  • Participants urge academia, decision-makers to join hands to solve common challenges faced by member states 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Senate Chairman Yousaf Raza Gillani on Monday stressed the need to strengthen collaboration among the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries to tackle the common challenges of water, food and energy scarcity faced by member states for the sake of future generations. 
Gillani expressed these views during the 25th Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) conference on “Water-Energy-Food Ecosystem Nexus for the Security of OIC countries” in Pakistan’s capital. The OIC is the second-largest inter-government organization after the United Nations, with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. It is considered globally as the collective voice of the Muslim world and seeks to safeguard and protect its interests. 
The three-day conference, jointly organized by the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) and the IAS, featured delegates and scientists from over 13 OIC member countries. Participants discussed challenges faced by member states related to water, energy, food, and ecosystems, exploring ways to improve collaborative efforts.
“The definition of national security is evolving beyond traditional military threats to include a broader range of issues,” Gillani said as he addressed the conference’s inaugural session. “As the modern discourse now also encompasses threats to water, food, energy and environment as matters of national security.”
The former Pakistani prime minister said enhancing cooperation between OIC nations was imperative to address and resolve common challenges.
“This vision demands sharing of expertise, resources and scientific innovations to build up collective resilience and response since the challenges we face transcend national borders and require concerted action,” he said. 
Gillani lamented that these crises were acute in OIC countries, where rapid population growth, urbanization and environmental degradation were putting immense pressure on natural resources.
He urged the Parliamentary Union of OIC Member Countries (PUIC) to proactively push sustainable development agendas through legislative interventions. 
“The PUIC members also need to promote science diplomacy by initiating collaborative initiatives and sharing of good practices between parliaments, friendship groups and relevant committees which can be a game changer in our common endeavor to enhance national food, water, energy and environmental security,” Gillani said. 
’DON’T NEED TALKS’
IAS President Professor Adnan Badran said OIC countries were not doing enough to address climate change effects and ensure a healthy planet for future generations.
“The most common problem in the OIC countries is the synergy of water, energy, food security, and ecosystem,” Badran noted. He called on all OIC member states to focus on these problems and resolve them through scientific research.
He lamented that there wasn’t a bridge between decision-makers and academia in OIC countries as everyone was working alone.
“I think those silos, we have to melt them down and integrate and have integrated policies,” Badran said. “[As] people they need water, they need energy, they need food security they don’t need talks.”
Pakistan’s former climate change minister, Senator Sherry Rehman, said OIC countries need to make integrated and collective efforts to revive Mother Nature so that it can survive and be nurtured for future generations.
“We need to balance our relationship with nature and our patterns of consumption,” Rehman stressed. “Let’s take care of our own region, recognizing that we are all interconnected as environmental issues have no boundaries,” she added. 


Pakistan reverses decision to deny passports to asylum seekers

Pakistan reverses decision to deny passports to asylum seekers
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan reverses decision to deny passports to asylum seekers

Pakistan reverses decision to deny passports to asylum seekers
  • Pakistan’s government last month announced it would not issue passports to citizens seeking asylum or living on asylum abroad
  • Government reverses earlier decision, vows to fast-track clearance of backlog of passports for overseas Pakistanis 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government announced on Monday it had reversed its earlier decision to deny passports to individuals who had sought asylum or were already living abroad on asylum, a press release said. 

Pakistan’s Directorate General of Immigration and Passports last month announced the government would no longer issue passports to Pakistanis who were seeking asylum abroad. According to local media reports, the directorate said that even the National Identity Cards of asylum-seekers would be blocked. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar chaired a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss important issues related to overseas Pakistanis. The meeting was attended by the foreign secretary, the secretary of interior and senior officials of the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.

“The meeting discussed in detail the recent policy decision that was taken vide circular dated 5 June 2024 for not issuing passport to any individual who had sought asylum or already living on asylum abroad,” a press release by the government said. “It was decided to reverse the policy decision with immediate effect and to withdraw the circular of 5 June 2024.”

Participants of the meeting also discussed issues relating to delays in the issuance of passports to Pakistanis living abroad, the press release said. The officials briefed Dar about the government’s ongoing efforts to streamline the process of issuing passports.

“It was decided that the Ministry of Interior and IMPASS will take immediate necessary steps to upgrade the infrastructure/equipment within the next 45 days and to fast-track the clearance of the entire backlog relating to the issuance of passports to overseas Pakistanis,” it added. 

Naqvi last month took notice of complaints that it took overseas Pakistanis as much as four months to get their normal passports, while the urgent ones were being issued in one-and-a-half months, according to a report published by the Radio Pakistan broadcaster.

Naqvi had told officials to ensure that normal passports were issued within 30 days and the urgent ones were issued within a week, saying the policy would be applicable to all Pakistani missions abroad.