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
This combination of photos, created on May 26, 2024, shows Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) speaking at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh on April 28, 2024 and Jonas Gahr Store (right), Prime Minister of Norway, speaking at The New York Times Climate Forward Summit 2023 at The Times Center on September 21, 2023 in New York City. (REUTERS/AFP/File)
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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’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM

Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM
Updated 5 sec ago
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Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM

Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM
  • KP government providing all possible facilities to foreigners leaving Pakistan voluntarily, says CM Ali Amin Gandapur
  • Pakistan launched deportation drive last year after spike in bombings it blamed on Afghan nationals without evidence

ISLAMABAD: The government in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province has repatriated over 300,000 foreign nationals since last year, Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur said this week according to state media, as Pakistan continues its deportation drive that it says is aimed at expelling “illegal immigrants” from the country. 

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.

Pakistan’s state broadcaster Radio Pakistan confirmed last week Islamabad had deported over 620,000 Afghan nationals in total since last year’s deportation drive. 

“More than three hundred thousand foreigners from the province have been repatriated to their native countries,” Gandapur told a delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday, according to Radio Pakistan. 

The KP chief minister assured the delegation that the provincial government was providing all possible facilities to foreigners who are voluntarily leaving for their countries. He said the KP government is willing to provide health care facilities to Afghan nationals if the UNHCR issues health cards for them. 

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.

Earlier 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.


Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism

Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism
Updated 19 min 4 sec ago
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Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism

Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism
  • PM Sharif says new military operation to instill new spirit and drive in implementation of National Action Plan
  • Calls on stakeholders to appreciate “positive step,” demands end to “unnecessary debate” over the issue 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this week clarified that the government’s new anti-terrorism operation will not be a large-scale military operation that would cause people to be displaced, amid growing opposition by Pakistani political parties who accuse authorities of not taking them into confidence on the matter. 

Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, campaign after a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP) that was attended by senior military leaders and top government officials from all provinces, including the PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

However, the PTI and Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), two key political parties in the militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, have rejected the military operation. Leaders of both parties have called on the government to take lawmakers into confidence about the new operation. 

In a statement released by his office on Monday night, Sharif said Operation Azm-e-Istehkam is being “misunderstood” and compared to previous military operations such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Rah-e-Nijat. He said militants in these operations were killed for creating “no-go areas” in the country and for challenging the writ of the state, adding that they caused massive displacement of the population. 

“There are currently no such no-go areas in the country as the ability of terrorist organizations to carry out large-scale organized operations inside Pakistan has been decisively defeated by past armed operations,” Sharif was quoted as saying. 

“Therefore, no large-scale military operation which would require population displacement is being contemplated,” he added. 

The statement clarified that Operation Azm-e-Istekam is a multi-domain, multi-agency and national vision to bring about sustainable peace and stability in the country. 

“Its objective is to instill a new spirit and drive in the ongoing implementation of the revised National Action Plan, which was launched after a national consensus in the political arena,” the statement added. 

The PMO said the operation would mobilize military operations that have already been launched against militants and aim to eliminate them out of the country for good. It said this would ensure a secure environment for the country’s economic progress and prosperity. 

Sharif said everyone should welcome this “positive step” by the government, saying it had been taken with collective wisdom and after forming a political consensus among various stakeholders. He called for putting an end to “unnecessary debate” on the issue. 

Speaking to a private news channel on Sunday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said a consensus was reached on the new military operation between all stakeholders during the apex committee’s meeting last week. He said the decision to launch Operation Azm-e-Istehkam had not been “finalized.”

“It will go through the process,” Asif said. “It will go to the cabinet [for approval] then it will be presented in the house and the house will be briefed on it.”

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent months, many of them claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group that now rules Afghanistan. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Islamabad blames the recent uptick in attacks on Afghanistan, saying TTP leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.


PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 

PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 
Updated 24 June 2024
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PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 

PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 
  • Says will utilize all state resources to protect polio workers taking part in vaccine campaigns
  • Pakistan reported fifth polio case of this year in the southwestern city of Quetta

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reiterated his government’s resolve to eradicate polio in Pakistan in a meeting with philanthropist Bill Gates, the PM Office said on Monday, assuring the utilization of all state resources to protect polio workers carrying out vaccine campaigns.
Pakistan reported its fifth polio case this June. The infectious disease has been eliminated in developed nations but persists in parts of India, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least 11 policemen have been killed this year while on security duty during vaccination campaigns which are frequently targeted by militants. 
“The prime minister briefed on a strong and focused strategy to address the rising threat of polio virus infections and the necessary steps to completely eradicate the disease from Pakistan,” the PM Office said in a press release on Monday. “He reiterated the government’s firm commitment to polio eradication, stressing that it is a top priority.”
The statement said the prime minister would personally oversee national efforts being carried out for the eradication of polio.
“Mr Gates also expressed confidence that with continuous vaccination and the government’s strong commitment, there would be significant progress in the polio eradication campaign,” the PM Office added. “Both parties agreed to continue working together not only on polio eradication but also on strengthening the health system across all provinces.”
PM Sharif also accompanied Gates to the National Emergencies Operations Center (NEOC) which monitors the polio eradication campaign.
Many Pakistanis, particularly those residing in the conservative tribal areas, consider the polio vaccination a Western campaign aimed at sterilizing the country’s population. In 2012, the local Taliban had ordered a ban on immunization against polio in some tribal districts. Dozens of polio workers have been killed in the country in the line of duty.


Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat

Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat
Updated 24 June 2024
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Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat

Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat
  • Pakistan’s wheat production during 2023-24 stood at 31.4 million tons compared to 28.2 million tons last year
  • National Food Security and Research Ministry official says no decision had yet been taken to allow wheat export

KARACHI: Exporters have sought permission from the government this week to export surplus wheat to neighboring and Gulf countries to stabilize local markets following a bumper crop in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s wheat production during 2023-24 stood at 31.4 million tons compared to 28.2 million tons last year, posting a growth of 11.6 percent. According to official data, the country has over 36 million tons of wheat stock including carry-forward stock. The local consumption of wheat is estimated to be around 32.2 million tons this year. 

“We have sought permission to export a million tons in the first phase including half a million tons un-milled and half a million tons in the form of by-products,” Muzammil Chappal, Chairman of the Cereal Association of Pakistan (CAP), told Arab News on Monday.

“Our members are ready to commence exports of wheat products through land and sea routes immediately and ensure no shortage locally.”

The CAP chairman, who also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in this regard earlier this month, said due to surplus production, Pakistan had the capacity to export 250,000 tons of flour and fine flour each and 500,000 tons of wheat.

“Currently, there are 3.92 million tons of surplus wheat in the country and that is why the farmers are not getting good prices,” Chappal said, adding that the move would help stabilize the local wheat market and also alleviate the suffering of farmers due to a high yield and low prices. 

Chappal said exporters were engaged in talks with the government, highlighting that exporting surplus wheat would give a chance to farmers to sell at good prices and also earn foreign exchange for the country. He listed all Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates as potential markets for Pakistani wheat.
 
An official of the National Food Security and Research Ministry said no decision had yet been taken to allow wheat exports as a committee formed by the government was still assessing wheat stock levels in the country.
 
“No decision has been taken to allow the export of wheat from Pakistan,” he said. “A committee has been formed to assess the stock situation of the country.” 
 
The South Asian nation has not allowed exports of wheat from Pakistan since the financial year 2019-2020 due to domestic supply concerns to ensure stable supply as wheat is crucial for national food security.
 
Earlier in May, peasant unions in Pakistan had strongly protested against the wheat crisis, which they say has been deliberately created by the former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakr and some bureaucrats.

Pakistani farmers had announced a nationwide protest over the wheat import crisis, demanding the government stop wheat imports that had flooded the market at a time when they expected bumper crops.

They had said the import of wheat in the second half of 2023 and the first three months of this year had resulted in excess amounts of the commodity in the country, leading to reduced prices. 

Later, PM Sharif also took notice of the matter and formed a committee under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to address farmer grievances.
 
Official data shows that Pakistan spent over $1 billion to import 3.5 million tons of wheat during the July-May period of the current fiscal year.
 
Wheat has a 9 percent share in agriculture and 2.2 percent of the GDP is harvested in Pakistan from April to June, with peak vegetation development occurring between late March and early February. 


Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation

Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation
Updated 24 June 2024
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Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation

Controversy grows over Pakistan’s new anti-terrorism operation
  • Key Imran Khan aide says campaign cannot be approved without discussion with stakeholders
  • PTI-backed opposition has rejected the operation saying it was not discussed in parliament

KARACHI: Controversy grew on Monday over a new anti-terrorism operation announced by the federal government as the chief minister of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said the campaign could not be approved without a discussion with stakeholders. 

Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, campaign after a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP) that was attended by senior military leaders and top government officials from all provinces, including PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

However, the PTI-backed opposition has rejected the operation, saying it was not discussed in parliament.

“This operation cannot take place without discussions,” Gandapur told media outside Adiala Jail where PTI founder Imran Khan has been incarcerated since last year. 

“There is no clarity in this operation. What is the plan? We will obviously engage in talks when the Inter-Service Public Relations issues an official plan detailing where and how the operation will be carried out and when the plan sketch comes to light.”

Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), also rejected the operation. 

“They announced Operation Azm-e-Istehkam but this is an Operation Adm-e-Istekham (Absence of resolve) that will make Pakistan more weak,” Rehman said.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent months, many of them claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group that now rules Afghanistan. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Islamabad blames the recent uptick in attacks on Afghanistan, saying TTP leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.

The announcement of Azm-e-Istehkam has also come on the heels of a top Chinese official raising concerns that Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining investor confidence.