Pakistan bans public gatherings in largest province as ex-PM Khan’s party announces protests

Pakistan bans public gatherings in largest province as ex-PM Khan’s party announces protests
In this file photograph, taken on February 11, 2024, Pakistan police patrol in Lahore. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Pakistan bans public gatherings in largest province as ex-PM Khan’s party announces protests

Pakistan bans public gatherings in largest province as ex-PM Khan’s party announces protests
  • Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party called for nationwide protests on Friday to demand his release from prison
  • Punjab government imposes ban on public gatherings, rallies, protests, sit-ins and demonstrations for seven days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Punjab government imposed a ban on all kinds of public gatherings throughout the province on Friday after jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for nationwide protests to demand his release.
In a video statement earlier this week, PTI leader and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser urged Khan supporters to come out on the streets across the nation on Friday to demand Khan’s release from prison.
The former prime minister has been in jail since August 2023 after he was convicted by a local court on corruption charges. Khan denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated to keep him and the PTI away from Pakistani politics.
“It has been observed that in view of the prevailing law and order situation and security threats, any gathering/ assembly is likely to provide soft targets to terrorists and miscreants,” a notification issued by the Punjab Home Department said.
“Which not only pose serious security threats but is also likely to cause threat to public at peace and order as well as inconvenience to public at large.”
The notification said the government was imposing Section 144, which empowers the administration to ban any activity in the general interest of the public for a specific time period, across Punjab for a period of seven days.
The notification said assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, processions, demonstrations, protests and other such activities have been prohibited across the province effective immediately.
PTI leader Raoof Hasan criticized Punjab government’s “shameful” decision in a post on social media platform X.
“It reflects how mortified they are of the person of @ImranKhanPTI & his vision of an independent & sovereign Pakistan where its people would become the true arbiters of their fate,” Hasan wrote.
Khan’s tensions with the government and Pakistan’s powerful military came to a head on May 9 2023 when angry supporters took to the streets and attacked government and military installations following his brief detention in a land corruption case.
The move sparked a nationwide crackdown launched by the government against Khan’s party which saw several PTI leaders and supporters rounded up in jails. Many Khan aides announced parting ways with him following the crackdown on his party. Pakistan’s military announced it would try those involved in the May 9 violence in military courts.
Khan initially said the protests were a natural reaction by his supporters but later distanced himself from it, blaming Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for instigating the riots. Pakistan’s military and government rubbished his allegations.


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

Anti-terrorism efforts being made ‘controversial’ by ‘political mafia’ — Pakistan army 
Updated 6 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 11 min 51 sec ago
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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. 


Noose tightens around Imran Khan’s party as information secretary arrested in Islamabad

Noose tightens around Imran Khan’s party as information secretary arrested in Islamabad
Updated 36 min 9 sec ago
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Noose tightens around Imran Khan’s party as information secretary arrested in Islamabad

Noose tightens around Imran Khan’s party as information secretary arrested in Islamabad
  • Raoof Hasan arrested from Islamabad secretariat, PTI Chairman Gohar Khan released after brief detention 
  • PTI social media accounts show police cars and dozens of officers surrounding party’s Islamabad office

ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of jailed former premier Imran Khan were arrested on Monday from the party’s Islamabad office, according to party officials and visuals widely shared on social media.

PTI official social media accounts shared videos of dozens of policemen surrounding the party’s Islamabad secretariat on Monday morning, while visuals of party Information Secretary Raoof Hasan being led away by police were widely distributed on social media. 

Zulfi Bukhari, Khan’s key adviser on media, confirmed to Arab News that Hasan and PTI Chairman Gohar Khan, who is also Khan’s lawyer, had both been arrested but that Gohar was later released. 

“Barrister Gohar has been released,” Bukhari told reporters in a text message as the party shared visuals of police lining up outside its office. 

It was unclear what the charges are against Hasan but his arrest comes after those of several other PTI members in the last few days, including the party’s top media manager Ahmed Waqqas Janjua. 

Bukhari said Janjua has been presented before an anti-terrorism court today, Monday, and was remanded into police custody for seven years. According to the PTI, the investigating officer said explosives were recovered during Janjua’s arrest and links with outlawed organizations would be probed.

Bukhari said Janjua’s remand had been challenged by the party’s lawyer and would be heard today or tomorrow, rejecting that any explosives or weapons were found on him during his arrest. 

The federal government of PM Shehbaz Sharif last week announced plans to ban the PTI 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. 

The convictions against him 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 PMLN party in coalition with other parties. 


Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root
Updated 22 July 2024
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Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root
  • Pakistan skipper Babar Azam speaks to former South African batting icon AB de Villiers
  • Azam says he does not think much about the future, focuses on living in the moment 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s T20 captain Babar Azam recently said he seeks guidance from international batting greats and colleagues Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson to learn about their mindset and how they approach different situations in cricket to improve his own performance. 

Azam is counted among one of the world’s best batters in modern-day cricket. The right-handed batter has scored 3,898 runs from 52 Test matches, 5,729 runs from 117 ODIs and 4,145 runs from 123 T20Is. Azam has also scored 31 centuries for Pakistan in all three international formats and is frequently compared with top batters around the world such as Kohli, Williamson, Root and others. 

Former South African batter AB de Villiers interviewed Khan for his YouTube channel in June before the T20 World Cup kicked off. However, the South African icon shared the full interview on Saturday in which he spoke to the Pakistani captain about his goals, achievements and how he handles pressure situations. 

“When overseas players come [to Pakistan], youngsters engage them and learn because international players are playing lots of leagues and they share that experience with everyone,” Azam told de Villiers. 

“When I was young, I always talked with you, learn from every single player. I am always talking to Kane [Williamson], [Joe] Root, Virat [Kohli],” he added. 

The Pakistani captain said he tries to learn how these players approach the game, what is their routine and how they manage their self-belief.

“So when you speak to good players they give you good advice that helps you a lot,” Azam explained. 

When asked what his goals and dreams for the future were, Azam said he was living in the moment mostly. 

“Honestly, I’m just thinking day by day,” he said. “I’m not thinking about where I am going. I’m just playing my game and enjoying myself every single time. I just love to play cricket.”

 The Pakistani captain, however, has been heavily criticized recently by fans and critics alike for Pakistan’s lackluster performance in the T20 World Cup 2024. The green shirts, under Azam’s leadership, failed to beat minnows USA and India, crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages of the tournament last month. 

Former cricketers and cricket commentators have asked Azam to resign as captain, with some even calling for his ouster from the international T20 squad.