PM Sharif expresses condolences over Pakistani Hajj pilgrims’ deaths due to extreme heat

PM Sharif expresses condolences over Pakistani Hajj pilgrims’ deaths due to extreme heat
Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on June 18, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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PM Sharif expresses condolences over Pakistani Hajj pilgrims’ deaths due to extreme heat

PM Sharif expresses condolences over Pakistani Hajj pilgrims’ deaths due to extreme heat
  • Pakistani official this week confirmed nine pilgrims had died due to extreme heat in Saudi Arabia
  • Sharif directs authorities to make arrangements for pilgrims’ bodies to be brought to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday expressed condolences over the deaths of multiple Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia due to the heat wave, his office said days after 1.5 million people performed the annual Islamic pilgrimage in the Kingdom.

A senior official of the Pakistan Hajj Mission (PHM) confirmed on Wednesday that nine Pakistani pilgrims had died in Saudi Arabia due to extreme heat as of June 18. 

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed condolences over the martyrdom of Hajj pilgrims in Makkah,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.

“The prime minister prayed for patience for the relatives of the Hajj pilgrims.”

The PMO said Sharif spoke to Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, Religious Affairs Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain and Pakistan’s ambassador to the kingdom about the situation of the country’s Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

“Arrangements should be made to send the bodies of the martyred pilgrims to Pakistan,” the prime minister told authorities, according to the PMO. It added that Sharif directed Pakistan’s religion ministry and consulate to provide all necessary facilities to the pilgrims.

He also directed Pakistani officials to ensure pilgrims admitted to hospitals in Saudi Arabia are provided access to every medical treatment, the PMO said.

Pakistan established two hospitals and 11 dispensaries in Makkah and Madinah to provide health care to the country’s pilgrims during the Islamic pilgrimage.

Hussain on Wednesday thanked Saudi authorities for ensuring “exemplary” arrangements for Hajj despite the sizzling heat in Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani minister pointed out the Saudi authorities had taken several measures to mitigate the heat by setting up water sprinklers and a distribution system for cold water and beverages.

He also noted that mobile health units and dispensaries had been established in all the major areas to ensure the health of the pilgrims.
 


Pakistan-origin Shabana Mahmood is UK’s first Muslim woman Lord Chancellor

Pakistan-origin Shabana Mahmood is UK’s first Muslim woman Lord Chancellor
Updated 43 min 25 sec ago
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Pakistan-origin Shabana Mahmood is UK’s first Muslim woman Lord Chancellor

Pakistan-origin Shabana Mahmood is UK’s first Muslim woman Lord Chancellor
  • 43-year-old barrister has been a Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood since 2010
  • Mahmood’s family roots are from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, she graduated in 2002 from Oxford 

ISLAMABAD: Shabana Mahmood, a British-Pakistani MP from Birmingham, was sworn in this week as the United Kingdom’s new Lord Chancellor at a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, becoming the first Muslim woman to head the Ministry of Justice as the Secretary of State for Justice. 

A member of the Labour Party, the 43-year-old barrister has been an MP for Birmingham Ladywood since 2010 and previously held various shadow junior ministerial and shadow cabinet positions under leaders Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, and Keir Starmer between 2010 and 2024.

“I must say what an honor it is to take my own oath as Lord Chancellor today,” Mahmood, 43, said in a speech on Monday as she was sworn in. “There once was a little girl in Small Heath, one of the poorest areas of Birmingham who worked behind the till in her parents’ corner shop ...

“I hold this office in the very highest regard. I do so not just as a former barrister, but as the child of immigrants. My parents weren’t steeped in Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights – as I would one day be. But they did have a strong sense, arriving here in the UK from rural Kashmir, that this country was different: That there are rules, some written and some not, that we abide by.”

Speaking about her inspirations, Mahmood mentioned Elwyn-Jones who served as Lord Chancellor for five years between 1974 and 1979.

“I certainly hope to emulate his longevity. It is said that he was the first Welsh speaking Lord Chancellor for centuries,” she said. “I wonder what he would’ve made of the first Lord Chancellor to speak Urdu.

“I’ve carried the weight of many identities in this career. It is a privilege, but also a burden … So, at the very least, I hope my appointment shows the next little girl in Small Heath, or wherever she may be that, in this country, even the oldest offices in the land are within reach of us all.”

Mahmood concluded by quoting Chapter 4 Verse 135 of the Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For Allah can best protect both.”

“This is the fundamental articulation of how we, as Muslims, view justice in how we deal with the world,” Mahmood said. “It places justice above all else,” the justice secretary said. 

With roots in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir in Pakistan, Mahmood was born in 1980 in Birmingham and lived from 1981 to 1986 in Taif, Saudi Arabia, where her father was working as a civil engineer on desalination. After that, she was brought up in Birmingham where her mother worked in a corner grocery shop that the family had bought after returning to England. Her father became chair of the local Labour party and as a teenager, Mahmood helped him with campaigning in local elections.

Mahmood graduated in 2002 from Lincoln College, University of Oxford and went on to complete the Bar Vocational Course at the Inns of Court School of Law in 2003 after receiving a scholarship. As a barrister, her specialism is in professional indemnity.


Pakistan Navy conducts sea training of Saudi officers and cadets

Pakistan Navy conducts sea training of Saudi officers and cadets
Updated 16 July 2024
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Pakistan Navy conducts sea training of Saudi officers and cadets

Pakistan Navy conducts sea training of Saudi officers and cadets
  • 96 Royal Saudi Naval Forces trainees from King Fahad Naval Academy completed comprehensive sea training
  • Pakistan has close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, training for Saudi army

KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy said on Tuesday it had conducted a sea training exercise for officers and cadets of the Royal Saudi Navy Forces, describing the collaboration as a testament to the two nations’ mutual commitment to enhancing military capabilities and strategic cooperation.

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training for the Saudi armed forces. Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers, sailors and pilots.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long enjoyed robust collaboration in military training. Saudi Navy Officers and Cadets frequently undergo training at various PN training units, Ships & Naval Squadrons,” the Pakistan Navy said in a statement shared with media. 

The picture shared by the Pakistan Navy on July 16, 2024, shows officers and cadets of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) attending a sea training exercise. (Pakistan Navy)

“In a recent episode, 96 x Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) trainees from the King Fahad Naval Academy completed comprehensive sea training. They went through modules of tactics, weapon handling, combat training, navigation, naval operations and seamanship. A familiarization tour to Naval Aviation was also arranged.”

The statement added that the collaboration underscored the “multifaceted defense relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.”

The picture shared by the Pakistan Navy on July 16, 2024, shows officers and cadets of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) attending a sea training exercise. (Pakistan Navy)

“It serves as a testament to the mutual commitment to enhance military capabilities and strategic cooperation, reflecting a shared vision for sustained military excellence and cooperation,” Pakistan Navy said. 


Four Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman

Four Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman
Updated 16 July 2024
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Four Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman

Four Pakistanis killed, 30 injured in ‘terrorist attack’ near mosque in Oman
  • Attack took place at Shiite mosque in Wadi Al-Kabir, a district east of Omani capital city of Muscat
  • Omani police have not confirmed motive for rare attack in one of most stable countries in Middle East

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday four Pakistanis had been killed in what it described as a “terrorist attack” near a mosque in Wadi Al-Kabir, a district east of the Omani capital of Muscat. 

The Royal Oman Police have confirmed the attack but given no motive nor said who was suspected of being behind the assault, a rare breach of security in one of the most stable countries in the Middle East.

“According to the latest information received from the Omani authorities, four Pakistanis were martyred as a result of gunshots in the dastardly terrorist attack on the Ali bin Abi Talib mosque in Wadi Kabeer area in Muscat,” the foreign ministry said. “Another thirty Pakistanis are under treatment in hospitals.”

Videos shared by the embassy in Oman showed Pakistan’s ambassador to Oman Imran Ali visiting the injured in hospital. 

“This is my message to the Pakistani community that in this emergency situation, please don’t go toward Wadi Al-Kabir, that area is cordoned off,” Ali said in a video message recorded at a hospital. “If anyone has injured relatives, kindly please don’t give up on your patience.”

He said he had visited up to four hospitals and the injured people he had met were in “relatively” stable condition. 

“People in their homes, please stay safe, and don’t go there [toward Wadi Al-Kabir] because our information is that the emergency situation is still ongoing,” the ambassador concluded.

A handout from the embassy said the “terrorist” attack by “unknown assailants” took place around 11pm on Monday night on the Imam Bargah Ali bin Abu Talib in Wadi Al-Kabir. Authorities evacuated people from the area following the attack and started an operation around 230am.

“Assailants have taken worshippers hostages while reportedly [there are] several casualties; authorities have cordoned off the area,” it added. “Hostage evacuation has started now. Military units have reached.”

The Pakistani embassy’s Facebook page said emergency had been imposed at the Khulla Hospital, Nahida Hospital and Royal Hospital, which Ambassador Ali had visited. 

The attack comes during the Islamic month of Muharram when Shiite Muslims commemorate the seventh-century battlefield martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).


10 soldiers killed in two separate militant attacks in northwest Pakistan — army 

10 soldiers killed in two separate militant attacks in northwest Pakistan — army 
Updated 16 July 2024
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10 soldiers killed in two separate militant attacks in northwest Pakistan — army 

10 soldiers killed in two separate militant attacks in northwest Pakistan — army 
  • Eight soldiers killed while blocking militants from entering military cantonment in Bannu on Monday
  • Two soldiers, five civilians killed in militant attack on Rural Health Center in Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD: Ten soldiers and five civilians were killed in two separate attacks in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Monday and Tuesday, the army’s media wing said, blaming insurgents based in Afghanistan for one of the assaults.

Pakistan has witnessed a spike in militant attacks in recent years, with many of them taking place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders Afghanistan. Islamabad blames the surge mainly on militants from the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, and other groups that it says operate 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.

In the first attack, the army said a group of ten militants had tried to enter a cantonment in Bannu in the early hours of July 15, Monday. 

“The attempt to enter the cantonment was effectively thwarted by the security forces personnel, which forced the terrorists to ram an explosive laden vehicle into perimeter wall of the cantonment,” the statement said.

Eight soldiers were killed in the ensuing blast which also led to the collapse of a portion of the outer wall and damaged nearby infrastructure.

“In the ensuing operation, own troops effectively engaged the terrorists as a result of which all ten terrorists were sent to hell,” the army said. “This timely and effective response by the security forces prevented major catastrophe, saving precious innocent lives.”

The military said the attack had been carried out by the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, a TTP faction, saying it operated from Afghanistan and had used Afghan soil to ‘orchestrate’ attacks inside Pakistan in the past as well. 

“Pakistan has consistently raised its concerns with Interim Afghan Government, asking them to deny persistent use of Afghan soil by the terrorists and take effective action against such elements,” the statement said. 

“Pakistan Armed Forces will keep defending the motherland and its people against this menace of terrorism and will take all necessary measures as deemed appropriate against these threats emanating from Afghanistan.”

In a second attack early on Tuesday morning, militants opened fire at staff at a Rural Health Center in KP’s Dera Ismail Khan district, killing two women health workers, two children and a guard. 

“Security Forces in vicinity were immediately mobilized for clearance operation in RHC and in ensuing fire exchange, own troops effectively engaged the terrorists as a result of which three terrorists were sent to hell,” the army said. 

“However, during intense fire exchange, Naib Subedar Muhammad Farooq (age 44 years, resident of District Narowal) and Sepoy Muhammad Javed Iqbal (age 23 years, resident of District Khanewal) paid the ultimate sacrifice and embraced Shahadat [martyrdom].”


Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’

Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’
Updated 16 July 2024
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Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’

Washington says banning of political party in Pakistan of ‘great concern’
  • Government has announced it will pursue ban on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of jailed ex-PM Imran Khan
  • PTI says ban yet another attempt by weak governing coalition to squash Khan and PTI’s political popularity

ISLAMABAD: The United States State Department said on Monday it was following reports of the Pakistan government’s plans to ban the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of ex-premier Imran Khan, adding that outlawing any political party was of “great concern” to Washington.

Information Minister Ataullah Tarar announced on Monday the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was planning to ban the PTI and move the country's top court to press treason charges against Khan.

“We’ve seen the reports and the statements made by the government,” a State Department spokesperson told reporters in response to a question. 

“Our understanding is this is the beginning of a complex process, but certainly the banning of a political party is something that would be of great concern to us.”

Tarar has said the decision to ban the PTI was based on the "proven" charge of the party receiving foreign funding, which is illegal in Pakistan, rioting by its supporters last year that targeted military properties and because Khan had leaked, for political gains, state secrets by disclosing the contents of a classified diplomatic cable in what has come to be popularly called the cipher case.

Other reasons included that Khan's party had lobbied in Washington to get the US House of Representatives to support a resolution calling for a probe into Pakistan's elections and Khan had written to the IMF for an election audit before approving a new bailout loan.

The PTI has said the announcement of the ban was yet another attempt by the weak governing coalition to squash Khan and his party’s political popularity.

Jailed since August, Khan was last week acquitted, along with his third wife, on charges that they married unlawfully but he will not be freed after authorities issued new orders to arrest him.

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 denies political interference. His popularity has grown since his ouster and jailing and the candidates he had backed won the most seats in Feb. 8 general elections.