ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that he had “constructive engagement” with his counterparts in Iran, the United States and Arab countries on efforts to defuse tensions and promote peace in the Middle East.
Mr Qureshi made the statement through his official Twitter account after returning to the country early on Sunday.
“[I] visited Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, US and Qatar on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directive. Had constructive engagement with counterparts on efforts to defuse tensions & promote peace in [the] ME. Pakistan’s message I took to all; We stand for peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Through another tweet, Mr Qureshi said that during his visit to the US, he got the opportunity to meet Secretary General of the UN António Guterres and during the meeting, he apprised him of the situation in India-held Kashmir.
“[I] also met UNSG @antonioguterres in NY [New York] where I underscored the critical importance of the international community’s continued attention to the suffering of Kashmiris under Indian occupation and for this to be resolved in line with UN resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people.”
Islamabad wants Trump to discuss Kashmir issue with Indian leaders
Earlier, while reviewing his US visit with journalists at the Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, Mr Qureshi stated that Pakistan wanted US President Donald Trump to discuss the Kashmir issue with Indian leaders if he visited New Delhi next month.
The foreign minister said US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross would soon visit Pakistan with a delegation of American businessmen to explore investment possibilities.
“I discussed this with Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo on Friday and he assured me that Secretary Ross will soon visit Pakistan with a delegation,” Mr Qureshi said.
Mr Pompeo’s response to Pakistan’s request for reviewing travel advisories was also “positive”, he added.
US travel advisories depict Pakistan as a country not safe for tourists, which hampers Islamabad’s efforts to promote tourism.
Mr Qureshi said Pakistan wanted President Trump to raise the Kashmir issue in New Delhi because the situation in the occupied valley remained grave.
“Curfew in the valley entered its sixth month. Human rights violations continue. Media restrictions are unchanged. Pellet guns are still used. People are disappearing. Women are dishonoured,” he said.
The foreign minister noted that India arranged a guided tour of some New Delhi-based diplomats to the selected areas in held Kashmir to hide the real situation.
“But we want President Trump to discuss the real situation with the Indian leaders,” he said.
Mr Qureshi pointed out that the UN Security Council held two meetings on Kashmir in the past five months, negating India’s claim that this was an internal matter.
“It is an unresolved issue, which needs the attention of world leaders like President Trump,” he said.
“I told Secretary Pompeo, please take notice of this as the situation can get worse,” he added.
On Iran, he said, Secretary Pompeo acknowledged Pakistan’s positive role. “I told them clearly that Pakistan is not playing a mediatory role. Our objective is de-escalation. We want to avoid a new war in the region.”
He said Pakistan was against this war because it would have a “negative impact on the country, region and the world. Oil prices will go up, which will have an adverse impact on Pakistan’s economy”.
Asked who would Pakistan side with if there’s a war, he said: “We told them we can be partner for peace, not war.”
The Iranian leaders, he said, told him that they wanted to improve their relations with all countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The leaders in Tehran, he said, had identified “Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain as areas of differences” and told him that they wanted talks with Arabs on this issue.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan will not participate in the upcoming Kuala Lumpur Summit, a statement by the Prime Minister's Office of Malaysia confirmed on Tuesday.
The statement said Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad received a call from Imran yesterday (Dec 16). "Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his regrets for not being able to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit," said the statement.
"Dr Mahathir appreciates Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call to inform of his inability to attend the summit where the Pakistani leader was expected to speak and share his thoughts on the state of affairs of the Islamic world.
"Dr Mahathir would also like to correct some misinformation as was reported in Pakistan Today that alleged Dr Mahathir as saying that the KL Summit was intended to be a platform to replace the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation," added the statement.
According to sources within the Foreign Office, no official from Pakistan will attend the summit.
The summit, which is being participated by over 400 Muslim leaders, intellectuals, scholars and thinkers from 52 countries, will begin on Dec 18 in Kuala Lumpur, while the foreign leaders will meet on Dec 19 to explore new and workable solutions for problems afflicting the Muslim world. It is believed that Imran Khan had contributed to the idea of the summit during his trilateral meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir bin Mohamad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session. Mahatir and Erdogan are the driving force behind the new forum.
A day earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan had told reporters that a decision on Prime Minister Imran’s participation in the event would be taken on Wednesday (Dec 18) after his return from the ongoing overseas trip to Bahrain and Switzerland.
“The priorities, the national priorities are linked to national narrative and national interest,” Dr Awan explained, adding that the premier would hold consultations with all stakeholders before taking a decision on this matter. The decision would be taken in the light of his other engagements as well, she said, adding that discussions on the issue were, as of now, continuing within the government.
According to a diplomatic source, the reconsideration has been prompted by Saudi reservations. Imran had last Saturday travelled to Riyadh to assuage kingdom’s concerns and reportedly reassured Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman that his participation in the event would not be at the cost of Saudi interests. No reason from the government, however, has yet come forward.
KARACHI: A day after the special court handed death sentence to retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for high treason, the former military dictator broke his silence on Wednesday evening and expressed his gratitude to the armed forces and the people of Pakistan for remembering his services for the nation.
In a video that showed him lying on a medical bed, Mr Musharraf also said that he would decide his future course of action after consulting his legal team.
“I have faith in Pakistan’s judiciary that they will provide me justice and keep in view the supremacy of law,” he said in a feeble voice.
However, he did not say whether he was considering returning home to challenge the special court’s verdict.
Following the Tuesday verdict, the Inter-Services Public Relations issued a statement saying “The decision has been received with lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan armed forces. An ex-army chief, chairman joint chief of staff committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor”.
Delegation of MQM-P meets Musharraf and assures him of full support
Mr Musharraf said that he had heard the news of the verdict on television. He regretted that it was a decision in which neither the defendant nor his lawyer was allowed to contest the charges.
Earlier in the day, a delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan called on the former military dictator in Dubai and assured him of the party’s full support.
The MQM-P, a former ally of Gen Musharraf and the current partner of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, had already termed the special court’s judgement “extremely regrettable” and wondered whether the decision was connected to his “ethnic identity” as no such action had been taken against other military dictators.
A statement issued by the MQM-P on Wednesday said Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, who is also deputy convener of the party’s coordination committee, along with coordination committee member and former MNA Hyder Abbas Rizvi called on Gen Musharraf in Dubai and inquired after his health. Mr Rizvi is currently residing in the United Arab Emirates.
“The delegation of the MQM coordination committee has informed the former president of their resolve to go to any length against the regrettable decision of the special court,” the statement said, adding that Gen Musharraf expressed his gratitude to the MQM-P leadership.
The delegation also prayed for early recovery of the former president, the statement concluded.
MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari tweeted that the delegation also praised the services of Gen Musharraf for the country and Karachi.
Mr Rizvi told a private news channel that their meeting took place at a local hospital. However, he said he was not aware whether Gen Musharraf was admitted to the hospital or not.
The Karachi mayor had about three months ago met Gen Musharraf in Dubai, but at that time the MQM-P leadership declared it as Mr Akhtar’s personal engagement and even asked him to explain as to why he met the former president without informing the party.
It is worth nothing all other factions of the once unified MQM, including London-based Altaf Hussain’s, disgruntled leader Dr Farooq Sattar’s and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party, also came out in support of Gen Musharraf and rejected the court’s decision against him.
Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2019
Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday termed a recent statement by Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat an "effort, as usual, to divert world attention from widespread protests" over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
In a recent statement, Rawat had said that the situation at the restive Line of Control (LoC) can "escalate any time".
"We (Indian army) have to be prepared for the spiralling of the escalatory matrix," Rawat was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
"Provocative statements and preparations for escalation along LoC by Indian COAS appear to be an effort, as usual, to divert world attention from widespread protests in India against CAB," Ghafoor tweeted. "Pakistan Armed Forces shall befittingly respond to any Indian misadventure or aggression."
Rawat's statement came two days after a teenage boy was martyred after Indian troops shelled two different sectors along the LoC in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Two other civilians were injured from the indiscriminate shelling.
India is currently facing widespread protests after the Bharatiya Janata Party passed the controversial CAA. The Act makes it easier for non-Muslims from the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who settled in India prior to 2015 to gain Indian citizenship.
Thousands of people have protested, saying the law is anti-Muslim and the latest in a series of measures by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government to marginalise the community. At least six people have died in clashes between protesters and security forces. The government, in order to quell the protests, imposed internet bans and curfews.
Singer and host Rabi Pirzada appeared in public for the first time since personal photos and videos of a sexual nature were leaked and shared widely two weeks ago, saying two people have been arrested for the crime by the Federal Investigation Agency’s cyber-crime wing
Clad in black clothes and reciting verses of repentance from the Quran, Rabi said that while she herself had “disobeyed” God, those who shared her videos “will be punished in this life and the hereafter, because Allah’s grasp is severe.”
Rabi also thanked women who came out in her support, but distanced herself from some of them, saying she doesn’t believe in the message of body positivity and autonomy of the #MeraJismMeriMarzi hashtag they rallied behind. Instead, she said her “body is subject to the wishes of God.”
She also reiterated that she is leaving the entertainment industry behind — she announced her exit earlier this month — adding that she will not be returning after a period of laying low as others have in the past.
She also said she won't be completely leaving art behind though, and from now on will only perform Sufi kalam or religious-oriented music, and choose different, non-figurative subjects to depict in her visual art. To this effect, she also shared photos of progress on a new watercolour painting of the Kaaba and Masjid Al Haram.
The death toll from a fire in three bogies of a Tezgam train near Liaqatpur city jumped to 62, while many remain under critical condition, Rahim Yar Khan district government said on Thursday.
Women and children are also amongst the victims — none of whom have been identified yet. The dead and injured are being shifted to DHQ Hospital in Liaqatpur. Some of the injured have also been shifted to Bahawal Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur due to their critical condition.
The train was bound from Karachi to Rawalpindi, Radio Pak reported. The fire was caused by a cylinder blast that occurred in the morning when passengers were preparing their breakfast, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid said and added that they belonged to a tableeghi jamaat who were headed towards Raiwand. Many people saved their lives by jumping off the train, the minister said.
Nabila Aslam, a Railways official, told DawnNewsTV that the passengers must have "hidden the gas cylinder in their clothes" while boarding the train, as carrying one was strictly against the rules.
Rescue 1122 teams have extinguished the fire and are now carrying out a cooling and search operation under the supervision of Ahmed. Army troops including doctors and paramedics were also dispatched to assist rescue teams in the operation, a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations said.
An Army helicopter was also dispatched from Multan in order to rescue the injured, the ISPR statement added further.
Prime Minister Imran Khan extended his condolences to the families of the victims and directed authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured, Radio Pak said.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari extended "prayers and condolences" to families of the victims of the "terrible Tezgam train tragedy".
In a tweet, Mazari regretted that the "tragedy [...] could have been avoided but ever since I can recall while travelling by train no baggage check or restrictions enforced. Tragic."
An inquiry has been launched in the incident, APP quoted a senior official of the Railways Ministry as saying.
The incident comes over three months after a train collision in Sadiqabad between passenger train Akbar Express and a freight train killed more than 20 and injured more than 80 people.
In June, three people were killed when a passenger train, the Jinnah Express, hit a freight car near Hyderabad. At the time, Rashid had accepted responsibility and sought an apology from the nation.
"I accept responsibility for this accident and seek an apology from the nation. Such a portfolio is not important for me as I have become federal minister for the eighth time. And I will resign whenever I feel burden on my conscience," the minister had said at the time.
ISLAMABAD: While giving a four-month lifeline, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020 and until then the country will remain on the ‘grey list’.
The Paris-based FATF reviewed measures taken and progress made by almost 15 countries, including Pakistan, vis-à-vis anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) in its five-day plenary, which concluded on Friday. Representatives from 206 countries and jurisdictions around the world took part in the meeting. The Pakistani delegation was led by the Minister for Economic Affairs, Hammad Azhar.
At the end of the meeting, three countries — Iceland, Mongolia and Zimbabwe — were added to the grey list, while Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ethiopia were removed from the list as they have adequately complied with the FATF recommendations.
The news is not that good in the case of Pakistan as the global watchdog warned of action in case significant and sustainable progress is not made across the full range of action plan by the next plenary scheduled for February 2020, a statement issued by the FATF said. The action, it added, could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan.
Finance ministry reaffirms commitment to implementing watchdog’s action plan
“To date, Pakistan has only largely addressed five of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan,” the note further said.
While noting recent improvements, the FATF again expressed serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its TF (terror financing) risks, including remaining deficiencies in demonstrating a sufficient understanding of Pakistan’s transnational TF risks, and more broadly, the country’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in the light of TF risks emanating from the jurisdiction.
The FATF places those countries on its grey list which are not taking measures to combat terror funding and money laundering. Placement on the grey list is a warning for a country that it may be put on the blacklist in case of its failure to take effective measures against money laundering and terror financing.
In 2012, Pakistan was placed on the grey list and remained till 2015. The country was put on the list again on June 29, 2018. Pakistan was given 15 months for implementation of the 27-point action plan, with a warning that in case of failure the country would be added to the blacklist — a list of the countries branded as uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding.
Currently, only Iran and North Korea are on the blacklist.
Since June last year when Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to working with the FATF and APG (Asia Pacific Group) to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and address its strategic counterterrorism financing-related deficiencies, Islamabad has made progress towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including the recent development of its ML/TF risk assessment, according to the FATF statement.
Soon after the FATF announcement, the finance ministry in a statement on Friday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to implementing the FATF action plan.
The FATF meeting considered Pakistan’s progress report on the action plan and its APG mutual evaluation report (MER).
But the finance ministry claimed that the plenary meeting decided to maintain status quo on the FATF action plan and allow the usual 12-month observation period for the APG MER. The Pakistani delegation also held sideline meetings with various delegations and briefed them on the progress made by Pakistan on the FATF action plan and steps taken for strengthening its AML/CFT framework, the finance ministry’s statement said.
At the plenary, Pakistan reiterated its political commitment to completing its action plan and implementing AML/CFT reforms. At the end of five days, the FATF reminded Pakistan that it should make progress on its earlier commitments, the global watchdog’s statement said. Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including by adequately demonstrating its proper understanding of the TF risks posed by terrorist groups, and conducting supervision on a risk-sensitive basis, it added.
It said Islamabad demonstrated that remedial actions and sanctions were applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions had an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. Moreover, competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services (MVTS).
The authorities will identify cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency; improving inter-agency coordination, including between provincial and federal authorities on combating TF risks; law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities.
It further said that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and enhancing the capacity and support for prosecutors and the judiciary and demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all 1,267 and 1,373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, including preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services.
The FATF said Pakistan is demonstrating enforcement against TF violations including administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases; demonstrating that facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons are deprived of their resources and the usage of the resources.
But the statement said that all deadlines in the action plan have now expired.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019