Pakistan reviews measures to protect Chinese workers as visiting dignitary raises concerns

Pakistan reviews measures to protect Chinese workers as visiting dignitary raises concerns
In this screengrab, taken from a handout video released by Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, Pakistan Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi chairs a review security measures meeting for foreigners in Pakistan in Islamabad on June 22, 2024, day after senior Chinese official highlighted Pakistan’s security challenges, saying they were undermining investor confidence. (Photo courtesy: MOI)
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Updated 22 June 2024

Pakistan reviews measures to protect Chinese workers as visiting dignitary raises concerns

Pakistan reviews measures to protect Chinese workers as visiting dignitary raises concerns
  • Liu Jianchao, a prominent Chinese minister, said this week Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining investor confidence
  • Killing of five Chinese nationals in suicide bombing in March has put the spotlight on the security of Chinese workers in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi held a meeting on Saturday to review security measures for foreigners in Pakistan, particularly Chinese workers who have been the target of several recent militant attacks.

The killing of five Chinese nationals in a suicide bombing on their convoy in northwest Pakistan on March 26 has put the spotlight on the security of Chinese workers, many of whom work on road, infrastructure and development projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship of the Belt and Road scheme.

During a visit to Islamabad on Friday, Liu Jianchao, a prominent Chinese minister, said Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining investor confidence. The following day, Saturday, the Pakistani interior minister chaired a meeting to review the “overall security situation in the country.”

“The meeting reviewed the measures taken to protect foreigners, especially Chinese citizens,” the interior ministry said in a statement. “Naqvi directed strict adherence to the SOPs of the security plan … emphasized that the formulated plan should be regularly monitored at every level.”

The minister called on relevant security and intelligence agencies to keep “close coordination to thwart the nefarious designs of anti-national elements.”

“There is no room for negligence in the implementation of the security plan,” the statement quoted Naqvi as saying.

Addressing the 3rd Meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism (JCM) in Islamabad on Friday, Liu said security threats were the “main hazards” to CPEC cooperation. 

“As people often say, confidence is more precious than gold. In the case of Pakistan, the primary factor shaking the confidence of Chinese investors is the security situation,” the official said in rare public comments by Beijing on Pakistan’s security challenges. “Without security, the business environment cannot really improve.”

The March 26 attack on the Chinese convoy en route to a hydropower project in Dasu was the third major one in a little over a week on China’s interests in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged over $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects as part of its wider Belt and Road initiative.

The Mar. 26 bombing followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, including the deep-sea port of Gwadar, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.

Dasu, the site of a major dam, has been attacked in the past, with a bus blast in 2021 killing 13 people, nine Chinese among them, although no group claimed responsibility, like the Mar. 26 bombing.

Pakistan is home to twin insurgencies, one mounted by religiously-motivated militants and the other by ethnic separatists who seek secession, blaming the government’s inequitable division of natural resources in southwestern Balochistan province.

Chinese interests are mostly under attack primarily by ethnic militants seeking to push Beijing out of mineral-rich Balochistan.

PM Sharif directs Pakistan’s tax authority to bring ‘wealthy’ citizens into tax net

PM Sharif directs Pakistan’s tax authority to bring ‘wealthy’ citizens into tax net
Updated 18 July 2024

PM Sharif directs Pakistan’s tax authority to bring ‘wealthy’ citizens into tax net

PM Sharif directs Pakistan’s tax authority to bring ‘wealthy’ citizens into tax net
  • Sharif chairs important meeting on reforms in Pakistan’s tax agency, Federal Board of Revenue
  • Pakistani PM says FBR reforms to enhance country’s revenue, says tax refund system will be improved

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday tasked the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to increase its revenues by speeding up reforms, bringing “wealthy” people into the tax net and avoiding putting additional burden on the poor, as Islamabad seeks to enhance its revenues and avoid putting pressure on the poor. 
Pakistan last month passed a tax-heavy budget with an ambitious tax revenue target of 13 trillion rupees ($47 billion) for fiscal year 2025, a near 40 percent jump from the last fiscal year. The budget was instrumental in convincing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to enter into a $7 billion loan program with Pakistan. 
Pakistan’s opposition parties and government allies have criticized the tax-heavy budget, accusing authorities of overburdening the poor with taxes. PM Sharif’s government has vowed to carry out gradual fiscal consolidation, broaden Pakistan’s existing tax base and improve tax administration and debt sustainability while protecting the vulnerable.
The Pakistani prime minister chaired a meeting related to the FBR’s reforms and digitization in Islamabad on Thursday where he was informed that 4.9 million people who can afford taxes have been identified through modern technology. 
“The prime minister instructed to bring the wealthy and well-off people among these 4.9 million individuals to the tax net on a preferential basis and no additional burden should be put on the poor,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said. 
During the meeting, the Pakistani prime minister noted that the FBR had unearthed a fraud of Rs800 billion in tax refunds during the last four months, saying it reflected “positive results” by the authority. 
Sharif said the country’s tax refund system will be further improved, adding that reforms in the FBR can enhance the country’s revenue. 
“The Prime Minister said that the unnecessary delay in implementing several projects regarding the reforms in FBR is regrettable,” Radio Pakistan said. 
Sharif was told that the FBR’s trader-friendly mobile application has registered 150,000 retailers since April 1, 2024. He urged authorities to continue consultations with retailers to make this system more effective.

Pakistani religious party vows to continue pro-Palestine sit-in protest until demands are met

Pakistani religious party vows to continue pro-Palestine sit-in protest until demands are met
Updated 18 July 2024

Pakistani religious party vows to continue pro-Palestine sit-in protest until demands are met

Pakistani religious party vows to continue pro-Palestine sit-in protest until demands are met
  • Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan supporters remain camped at Faizabad Interchange connecting Islamabad, Rawalpindi since last week 
  • TLP protesters demand Pakistan government officially boycott Israeli products, send aid to Gaza and declare Israeli PM a “terrorist”

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani religious party on Thursday vowed to continue its large pro-Palestine sit-in protest at a key junction connecting the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi until its demands are not met, as residents suffer traffic disruption. 
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), known for its hard-line stance on blasphemy laws, has previously staged sit-ins at the Faizabad Interchange. The presence of large numbers of protesters in the area significantly disrupts traffic, forcing drivers to take longer, alternative routes between the two cities.
The TLP workers, led by their young leader Saad Rizvi, took out a protest rally from Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi to Faizabad last Saturday before deciding to set up a protest camp at the interchange.
The TLP has asked the government to officially boycott Israeli products and send food and medical aid to Palestinians suffering Israel’s relentless military campaign in Gaza. They have also called on Pakistan’s government to declare Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “terrorist.”
“We are engaged with the government regarding our demands for the people of Palestine but no agreement has been reached yet,” Sajjad Saifi, a member of the TLP’s Shoura or consultative council, told Arab News over the phone.
“We will continue our dharna [sit-in] till all three of our demands are fully met.”
Saifi said TLP chief Rizvi was leading the party’s protest, adding that over 50,000 of their supporters were camped at the Faizabad Interchange. 
“If the government accepts our demands, it will earn a huge respect in the Muslim world,” he said.
Israel’s war on Gaza has so far claimed at least 39,000 lives, many of them women and children. The casualties have sparked anger and protests worldwide, including in Pakistan, where the country’s civil society and political factions have consistently led pro-Palestine rallies. 
When asked why the party decided to stage a sit-in protest nine months into the war, Saifi said the TLP had mobilized the public since October last year through rallies across Pakistan. 
 “Tens of thousands of our supporters have been waiting for the leadership’s call to join the dharna in Islamabad,” he said. 
“We are doing it for a cause, for the people of Palestine. We don’t have any political agenda to achieve through this dharna.”
The large number of protesters at the Faizabad Interchange have effectively blocked the Islamabad Expressway, causing difficulty for commuters and creating gridlocks in the area.
When asked about the protest and the inconvenience being caused to the public, Information Minister Attaullah Tara said: 
“Don’t worry, we are on it.”
Political analysts called on the government to initiate strict action against the outfit to disperse them from the interchange. 
“Freedom of movement is a basic right of the public, therefore the government and the Supreme Court should take notice of the dharna and initiate measures to disperse the protesters,” political analyst Adnan Rehmat told Arab News. 
“If the government fails to initiate action against the TLP, it clearly means the state has surrendered before the outfit that doesn’t believe in any law and the constitution.”
Political science professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais agreed. 
“There is no rationale behind the TLP’s sit-in as Pakistan has already dispatched food and medicines to the people of Gaza,” Rais told Arab News. “It is unfortunate the government is silent over the mess and taking no steps to disperse them.”

Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed walks free after court declares her arrest ‘illegal’

Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed walks free after court declares her arrest ‘illegal’
Updated 18 July 2024

Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed walks free after court declares her arrest ‘illegal’

Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed walks free after court declares her arrest ‘illegal’
  • Javed has been in jail since last year on charges of inciting people to violence over Khan’s brief arrest in May 2023
  • Islamabad High Court earlier this week ordered her release from prison, directed authorities not to arrest her again

ISLAMABAD: Sanam Javed, a leading activist of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party finally walked free on Thursday after an Islamabad court declared her arrest “illegal” and allowed her to relocate to her home in Punjab province, her lawyer confirmed. 
Khan’s arrest in a graft case on May 9, 2023, saw hundreds of his supporters allegedly pour into the streets across the country, ransacking military and other properties. Thousands, including Javed, were arrested in the aftermath and some were tried by military courts after the authorities promised to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice.
Javed has been in detention for over a year, facing charges in a dozen cases since the riots on May 9, 2023. 
Thursday’s decision by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) followed the earlier relief Javed received on Monday when the high court ordered her release and instructed police and other law enforcement agencies not to arrest her again.
“The IHC has declared the arrest of Javed illegal and forbade to arrest her again in any case registered till today (July 18),” her lawyer Ali Ashfaq told Arab News.
Balochistan Police this week sought Javed’s arrest in a similar case registered last year after which her father, Javed Iqbal Khan, filed an application in the IHC challenging the legality of her detention.
In his judgment, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb stated that Pakistan’s attorney-general (AGP) assured the court that “Javed shall not be arrested in any case” and that the Balochistan Police shall not press its request before Islamabad’s court for Javed’s transfer to Balochistan. 
The judgment also said Javed is at liberty to travel to her home in Punjab. However, Justice Aurangzeb warned the PTI activist that she ought to exercise utmost caution and discretion in her social media statements. 
Ashfaq said Javed was arrested in 12 different cases, 11 of which were registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Of these, seven were registered in Lahore, three in Sargodha, and one in Gujranwala.
He said the court also questioned the legality of numerous police cases based on a single allegation leveled in different locations.
“On July 15, the court ordered that she should not be removed from the jurisdiction of Islamabad and should not be arrested in any other case,” he said.
Ashfaq said the court had asked the AGP to appear in person and justify that everything that had been done was according to law.
“Today, I received a message from the Attorney General about half an hour before the court session and met him in his office, where he assured me that to resolve this issue, Javed would not be arrested anywhere in Pakistan,” Ashfaq added.
He said authorities have assured him that police cases against Javed in Islamabad and Balochistan would be quashed.
“While four police cases have been discharged, in the other eight cases she is on bail and we will face trial proceedings in the concerned courts,” he said.
The PTI says it has been facing a crackdown and mass arrest of its members for standing by Khan, who has been in jail since August last year. Pakistani authorities deny the allegations.
Last week, Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were arrested by Pakistani authorities in a case involving the illegal sale of state gifts, after a court accepted their appeals against a ruling that they had violated the country’s marriage law and ordered their immediate release.
Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years in prison and fined in February by a court that ruled their 2018 marriage broke the law. Bushra was accused of not completing the waiting period mandated by Islam, called “Iddat,” after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan.
The ex-premier has been in jail after being convicted in four cases since last August. Two of the cases have since been suspended and he was acquitted in a third, so the Iddat case was the only one keeping him in prison.
Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says the cases against him are “politically motivated,” aimed at keeping him from returning to power. Pakistani authorities deny this.

Pakistan’s disaster management authority launches WhatsApp channel as rains threaten floods, landslides 

Pakistan’s disaster management authority launches WhatsApp channel as rains threaten floods, landslides 
Updated 18 July 2024

Pakistan’s disaster management authority launches WhatsApp channel as rains threaten floods, landslides 

Pakistan’s disaster management authority launches WhatsApp channel as rains threaten floods, landslides 
  • “Tayyar Pakistan” or Ready Pakistan will provide real-time alerts, updates and preparation tips to users, says state media
  • Pakistan’s disaster management authority has warned of flash floods, landslides due to heavy monsoon rains this month 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top disaster management authority has launched an official WhatsApp channel titled “Tayyar Pakistan” or Ready Pakistan to provide real-time alerts, updates and preparation tips for emergencies, state media reported on Thursday, as the country braces for heavy monsoon rains this month. 
The South Asian country is recognized as one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change effects. Unusually heavy rains in June 2022 triggered flash floods in many parts of the country, killing over 1,700 people, inflicting losses of around $30 billion, and affecting at least 30 million people.
Scientists and experts attributed the floods to the adverse effects of climate change. Pakistan also suffered a severe heat wave last month, which saw temperatures in some regions rise to above 50 degrees Celsius.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has warned that heavy monsoon rains are likely to trigger landslides, mudslides and flash floods in many parts of the country. 
“As part of ongoing efforts, an official WhatsApp channel ‘Tayyar Pakistan’ has been launched by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA),” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported. 
“It is dedicated to providing real-time disaster alerts, updates, and preparedness tips.”
The statement said people can stay informed about potential hazards, receive timely notifications and take proactive steps to protect themselves and their communities through the WhatsApp channel. 
Earlier this week, the NDMA issued a glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF) alert for Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the mountainous northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan.
It also launched the “Pak NDMA Disaster Alert” mobile app to ensure “effective community engagement and timely risk communication” as Pakistan braces for heavy downpours this monsoon season.
Pakistan’s prime minister this month formed a high-level government committee to deal with potential emergencies that can arise due to heavy rains.

Bodies of Pakistanis killed in Muscat mosque attack to be brought back today

Bodies of Pakistanis killed in Muscat mosque attack to be brought back today
Updated 18 July 2024

Bodies of Pakistanis killed in Muscat mosque attack to be brought back today

Bodies of Pakistanis killed in Muscat mosque attack to be brought back today
  • Four Pakistani nationals were among six killed when gunmen opened fire at Shia Mosque in Oman this week
  • All four Pakistani nationals to be brought back to the country today via Pakistan International Airlines’ flights

KARACHI: The bodies of four Pakistani nationals killed in a mosque attack in Muscat this week will be brought back to the country today, Thursday, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson confirmed. 
Six people were killed when three gunmen, all brothers and of Omani nationality, opened fire on people in a Shia Muslim mosque in Muscat on Monday evening. 
The six people killed by the gunmen were four Pakistani nationals, an Indian, and a police officer responding to the attack, which militant group Daesh later claimed responsibility for. Pakistan described the assault as a “terror attack” while Oman police said the gunmen were “influenced by misguided ideas.”
“The bodies of the Pakistanis martyred in the Muscat attack will arrive in Pakistan today via PIA flights,” a spokesperson of the airline said in a statement. 
It said Sulaiman Nawaz’s body will reach Lahore via PIA flight PK 230 at 5:00 p.m. while Syed Qaiser Abbas Bukhari’s body will be brought back to the country via PIA flight PK226 from Muscat to Karachi. From there, it will be flown to Lahore by flight PK 302, the spokesperson said. 
Ghulam Abbas and Hasan Abbas’ bodies will reach Islamabad from Muscat by PIA flight PK 292 at 1:00 p.m., the spokesperson said. 
“All steps have been taken to hand over the bodies of the martyred to their relatives immediately after they return to Pakistan,” the spokesperson said. 
Daesh’s operations have indicated the group is attempting a comeback after it was crushed by a US-led coalition following its occupation of large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate.
It also inspired lone-wolf attacks in the West.
Any inroads in Gulf Arab oil producers such as Oman would raise fears in Washington and the region which has long viewed militant groups as a major threat.
Dozens of people at the mosque in Oman were wounded with around 30 people treated at local hospitals, including for gunshot wounds.
Monday evening marked the beginning of Ashura, an annual period of mourning, which many Shia Muslims mark publicly, to commemorate the 7th-century death of Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 
The attack was largely unprecedented in Oman, where most of its citizens follow the Ibadi Muslim faith that shares many similarities with mainstream Sunni Islam. Oman has a small but influential Omani Shia population. 
Like other Gulf countries, there is a large and significant foreign workforce in Oman too.
Additional inputs from Reuters