ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistan on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia following complaints by expat Pakistani laborers working in the kingdom who said their embassy had mistreated them. Ambassador Raja Ali Ejaz was ordered home pending an investigation into his work and that of six other employees of the Pakistani Embassy in Riyadh. Complaints against them had come from multiple expat laborers over recent months, said Syed Zulfikar Bukhari, an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Bukhari did not detail the nature of the complaints except to say that the workers alleged the embassy staffers had mistreated them. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it “attaches high importance to the welfare of Pakistani nationals overseas” who represent one of the country’s “greatest assets.” “There is zero tolerance for lapses in public service,” the ministry said.
Hours earlier, Khan told a gathering on government plans to introduce new incentives for expat laborers whose remittances are a huge boost to Pakistan’s economy that he had ordered action against Ejaz. Khan did not elaborate and only said that in some cases, embassy staff had tried to extort money from laborers. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long enjoyed close and friendly relations. The kingdom is also the main supplier of oil to Pakistan.
The federal government on Thursday formally banned the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), whose supporters staged three days of violent protests across the country this week after the arrest of their leader.
A notification declaring TLP as a proscribed organisation was issued by the Ministry of Interior shortly after the federal cabinet approved a summary to ban the party.
The notification said the federal government "has reasonable grounds to believe that Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan is engaged in terrorism, acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public, caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies and innocent by-standers, attacked civilians and officials, created wide-scale hurdles, threatened, abused and promoted hatred, vandalised and ransacked public and government properties including vehicles and caused arson, blocked essential health supplies to hospitals, and has used, threatened, coerced, intimidated, and overawed the government [and] the public and created sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large".
"Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 11B(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, the Federal Government is pleased to list Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan in the First Schedule to the said Act as a proscribed organisation for the purposes of the said Act," it added.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad earlier, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced that the government would also take measures for TLP's dissolution, saying a separate summary will be moved in the cabinet in this regard tomorrow. He said after the summary's approval in the next two to three days, a reference will be filed in the Supreme Court for the party's dissolution.
The minister said the government had "tried its best" to resolve matters through negotiations but TLP's "intentions were very horrifying. They did not want to step back from their agenda for April 20 at any cost."
He lauded the services of police and other law-enforcement personnel to restore peace, saying as many as 580 police personnel had sustained injuries and at least 30 cars had been destroyed during the violence.
The government had announced it would move to ban the TLP, whose leader had called for the expulsion of the French ambassador, on Wednesday. Saad Rizvi was detained hours after making his demands, bringing thousands of his supporters to the streets in cities across Pakistan.
Two police officers died in the clashes, which saw water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets used to hold back crowds.
Speaking alongside Rashid, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said he had been engaging with the TLP for the past two years and it was the government's effort to bring it into the system as a "mainstream political party".
He said the government had never backtracked from its commitment to present a resolution in the National Assembly, adding that it was proposing a draft whose diplomatic repercussions would be minimum and which would not push the country into an international crisis.
While negotiations were underway in this regard, Qadri said, the government found out through informed sources that the TLP was also making "full preparations" to stage a sit-in at Faizabad in Islamabad on April 20.
He said the party had issued a call to its workers to gather at its former chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi's grave and then stage a long march towards Faizabad. "They did not need or have the moral standing to issue such a [call] without the negotiations having concluded," the minister added.
He said the government had even offered to form a parliamentary committee that along with the TLP could produce a draft with consensus, but that the TLP leadership did not agree to this either and were insistent that only their demands be met.
"It is not the job of governments and states to plead and request but as an elected democratic government, we made full efforts through negotiations and requests to somehow make them understand and convince them."
Referring to Rizvi's arrest, the minister said political leaders, religious leaders and business personalities were regularly arrested but "the kind of reaction shown [by TLP] cannot in any way be called moral or religious."
"We understand that the protection of Namoos-i-Risalat is the responsibility of Pakistan being the most important member of the Islamic world and it will do the same on every forum of the world."
Answering a question, Rashid suggested the expulsion of the French ambassador could not be done because it would have "complicated" matters with the European Union.
He said action would be taken against the people who had been booked for violence and that there would be "no concessions".
Asked by a reporter about the possibility that the TLP could re-surface under a different name after the ban, Rashid said it was a valid concern. "We are trying to find a solution for this as well," he added, suggesting that the government would aim to target individuals as well.
In response to another question, Rashid said: "All French citizens are safe here. There is no threat."
He said a resolution will no longer be introduced in the National Assembly which the TLP had demanded.
Govt moves to ban TLP after reign of terror
During the past three days, half a dozen people including police officials have been killed and scores of people injured after protests broke out in different cities against Rizvi's detention.
Interior Minister Rashid had announced the decision to ban the TLP on Punjab government’s recommendation under the anti-terrorism law.
A senior police official had quoted sources in the government as saying that authorities had started backdoor talks with the TLP to reach a ‘settlement’ but said it would have a ‘devastating and demoralising effect’ on the police force that had sustained injuries and even deaths just to ensure the writ of law.
Most of the highways, motorways and thoroughfares blocked for the past few days were cleared by law-enforcement agencies in a joint operation by Wednesday evening, while police high-ups said a final operation would be launched during the night to clear all remaining roads as well.
Talking to media in Sargodha on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said it was the responsibility of the state to ensure protection of public against riots and also establish the writ of the state. Therefore, he added, the government had decided to ban the TLP in the larger interest of the public and state.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that the government is inviting the world's attention towards investment opportunities in Pakistan through economic diplomacy, Radio Pakistan reported.
He expressed the views late on Sunday at a dinner hosted in his honour at the Pakistan House in Berlin. The foreign minister is currently on a two-day official visit to Germany.
"Pakistan has transformed its geographical political priorities into geographical economic priorities," he said.
Qureshi said Pakistan is an emerging market of 220 million people where plenty of investment opportunities exist.
He said the government is providing all possible facilities, including e-visas, to foreign investors and welcomed German entrepreneurs and companies to invest in Pakistan.
Earlier, the foreign minister met with Speaker of Christian Democratic Union of Germany Nils Schmid. In a tweet, Qureshi said the two discussed the European Union, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and investment opportunities in special economic zones.
They also discussed developments in South Asia and the key role being played by Pakistan in Afghanistan.
Qureshi also met Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser and discussed areas of potential investment in Pakistan as well as transfer of technology, specifically in the power sector. "Welcomed Joe to visit Pakistan to take these opportunities further," he said.
The foreign minister also met Dr Gunter Mulack, the director of the German Orient Institute and former ambassador to Pakistan.
"Discussed the enhancement and promotion of the relationship between Pakistan and Germany and what we could do together for greater academic and economic diplomacy," he said.
FM arrives in Berlin
Qureshi on Sunday arrived in Berlin along with members of his delegation on a two-day official visit.
Upon arrival at the airport, the foreign minister was received by Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Dr Muhammad Faisal, senior officials of the German Foreign Office, and senior members of Pakistan embassy, a press release said.
Talking to media after his arrival, the foreign minister said more than 100,000 Pakistanis had been living in Germany and playing a positive role for both countries. Qureshi said Pakistan wanted to expand economic ties with Germany.
According to the Foreign Office spokesperson, Qureshi was undertaking an official visit to the country on the invitation of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
This year, Pakistan and Germany are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Both countries plan to undertake a number of activities in this context.
Pakistan and Germany have been collaborating closely on regional matters and at the multilateral fora. Germany is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the EU.
The foreign minister’s visit to Germany is part of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Pakistan in March 2019.
Prime Minister Imran Khan testing positive just two days after receiving the first dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine has once again set forth a flurry of questions on vaccine protection, which could also be used as fodder by the many vaccine doubters in the country.
Here, we look at what the science and experts tell us on the time it takes for vaccine protection to kick in and the extent to which vaccines guarantee protection from the virus.
Dr Javed Akram, member of the federal government’s Scientific Task Force on Covid-19 and Vice Chancellor University of Health Sciences, while taking to Dawn.com, said it was not uncommon for people to get infected just after vaccination.
“The fact is that antibodies start developing five to seven days after getting the first shot of vaccine. After two weeks, antibodies reach to protective levels but it takes 28 days to reach [their] optimum level.
“Despite that, it cannot be said that a person has become fully protected from virus as no vaccine has 100 per cent efficacy. Around 80pc efficacy rate [for Sinopharm] means that a person, despite getting fully vaccinated, can be infected with virus but they will develop minor symptoms and there will be fewer chances of death.”
Experts in the UAE, where Sinopharm is among the main vaccines being employed, corroborate Dr Akram’s stance.
“For the vaccines to build up immunity, it takes a couple of weeks after the second dose,” Dr Muhammed Shafeeq, Specialist-Pulmonology at Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, told Khaleej Times.
Dr Anthony Thomas, Director Diagnostic Division and Pathologist with Prime Healthcare Group, also noted that “the efficacy of the [Sinopharm] vaccine varies from 75 to 85 per cent” and thus immunity is not assured in everyone.
That means even after two weeks of being fully vaccinated, there are slim chances of contracting the virus as no vaccine is a 100pc effective. For Sinopharm, which has an average efficacy of close to 80pc, this means there are chances that one out five people will still not be protected.
For other vaccines, such as Moderna and Pfizer, which have higher efficacies of close to 95pc, one in 20 people will still remain unprotected.
Can inactivated vaccines cause the virus?
Dr Akram also confirmed that vaccines could not infect people with Covid-19, adding that “inactivated vaccines don’t have transmission potential.”
He said PM Imran's positive test had no connection to the vaccine shot he received 48 hours ago.
“I believe that premier was already infected with the virus but symptoms could not be developed as incubation period of virus is 7 to 10 days. It will be next to impossible to test and trace from whom he was infected as positivity rate of virus has reached to around 10 percent in Pakistan and over 3,000 people are being infected daily,” he said.
Sinopharm and several other Chinese jabs are what are called inactivated vaccines, which means they use a variant of the coronavirus to help the body learn how to fight the actual virus. But since these coronaviruses are “inactivated” they can no longer replicate.
Inactivated viruses have been used to create vaccines successfully for more than a century now, and a few examples include vaccines for the poliovirus, rabies and hepatitis A.
“Inactivated vaccines don’t have transmission potential. While we were doing trial of Cansino Bio, at UHS Lahore, as many as 112 volunteers developed Covid-19 but it did not mean that they were infected due to the vaccine.
“All of them were already infected and that is why we have decided that during a new trial, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will be held,” Dr Akram, who supervised the clinical trial of Cansino at UHS and is National Principle Investigator for clinical trials of another Chinese vaccine, said.
Dr Faisal Mahmood, head of infectious diseases at Aga Khan University, also said that it is not possible to contract Covid-19 after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine as it contained an inactivated form of the virus.
"Getting the coronavirus [after being vaccinated] is not possible," he said. He added that the vaccine begins to work two to four weeks after being administered the second dose.
He stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan had begun showing symptoms two days after being vaccinated which meant that the vaccine had not had sufficient time to protect him against the virus.
Global experts weigh in
Experts across the globe agree that the human body needs “two to three weeks” to build an immune response once the vaccine is administered – irrespective of which vaccine has been taken.
Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading expert from the US, said partial immunity is achieved about two weeks after the first shot of two-dose vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.
He said once the second shot is administered, then close to two weeks later there is “a ten-fold increase in neutralising antibodies”.
trol (CDC) also corroborates this and states the following on its website in regards to when people are considered “fully vaccinated”:
“People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.”
The CDC further notes that since it takes a few weeks for immunity to build, it is possible to get infected with Covid-19 a few days before or after getting the first vaccine shot. “This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.”
Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah. PHOTO: COURTESY/MOFA.GOV.KW
Kuwait will lift a ban on work visas for Pakistan, announced Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday as the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister begins his two-day official trip to Islamabad from Thursday.
Kuwait had banned work visas for Pakistan in 2011 and despite attempts by previous governments the restrictions could not be lifted. In March 2017, the then government had also announced the lifting of the ban by Kuwait during the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the oil-rich country. However, the decision was never implemented.
According to the interior minister, Kuwait would start issuing work visas to Pakistanis once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
The formal announcement, sources said, is expected during the visit of Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, who would be visiting Pakistan on March 18-19.
He will be accompanied by a delegation comprising senior officials from the Kuwaiti Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, Interior, and Trade and Industry, said a foreign office statement.
The statement said the visit of the Kuwaiti foreign minister comes in the backdrop of the bilateral meeting held with Foreign Minister Qureshi on the sidelines of the 47th Session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Niamey, Niger, in November 2020. The two foreign ministers agreed to work closely towards further strengthening and expanding bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
To follow-up on the two Foreign Ministers’ understanding, Kuwait’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs visited Pakistan in January 2021 and held consultations in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development and Economic Affairs Division, as well as the Board of Investment.
During the visit, besides having wide-ranging talks with Foreign Minister Qureshi, the Kuwaiti foreign minister will call on other dignitaries.
“Pakistan accords high importance to its fraternal ties with Kuwait, which are firmly rooted in shared faith and values. The bilateral relationship is marked by high-level visits and growing cooperation across myriad fields. During the global pandemic, the two countries collaborated closely in the health sector and food security,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafiz Chaudhri said in the statement.
He said Pakistan acknowledged the positive role of the Kuwaiti leadership in building bridges among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Pakistan also stands in solidarity with the State of Kuwait in the efforts to strengthen unity among Muslim countries.
The visit of the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister will provide further impetus to the positive momentum in bilateral exchanges and deepening mutual cooperation, he added.
This Women's Day we're honouring the strong women who are making our communities safer for everyone, especially women, to live and thrive in. One such icon is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s first woman District Police Officer (DPO), Sonia Shamroz, who recently joined the Chitral police.
Growing up, her family made sure nothing was unachievable for Shamroz and her four sisters. Years later, that encouragement propelled Shamroz on her path to become the first woman DPO in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Women make up less than two percent of the overall police force in Pakistan with the percentage even lower in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While this speaks volumes about Shamroz's determination, it also gives us an idea of the challenges she must have faced on her journey to the top.
Always fond of pursuing the road less travelled, Shamroz grew up in a family that had no members working for the government. Early on, she had the opportunity to study at Army Burn Hall College. “The discipline and the uniform then inspired me and became one of the reasons I appeared for the CSS exam,” she told Images.
Appearing for the exam and acing it was the easy part; it was the journey that came afterwards that was challenging. Shamroz was the first woman with a child and train to be a police officer but thanks to a supportive husband and in-laws, who took care of her daughter during her training, she was able to complete her training. Her first assignment was as an assistant superintendent of police in Mansehra, which was a huge learning opportunity for her.
“Initially people would be confused and sceptical to see a woman in the police but my efforts and work gave them confidence in me. In Mansehra, I visited crime scenes and we caught criminals, which really changed the way the public perceived women police officials.”
Shamroz has also served in Oghi and Abbottabad as well as being the principal of the Police Training School in Mansehra. She was then chosen as a Chevening Scholar to study Violence against Women and Conflict at York University in the United Kingdom.
She is one of several women police officers to take part in a training session on disaster response arranged by the United Nations Development Programme Pakistan Amn-o-Insaf Programme, which is actively working to increase women’s representation in law enforcement through advocacy, training and creating conducive and enabling environments for women officers to thrive.
Without her family’s support and these value adding experiences and training, Shamroz would not have come this far. She recently joined the Chitral Police as a DPO but what’s more remarkable is what she has been accomplishing ever since she took office.
According to her, Chitral has two major issues: the first is a high suicide rate with a majority of the victims being women. She feels that the women there feel suppressed, lack opportunities and have no one to complain to. A lot of young girls commit suicide especially when they are forced to marry someone they don’t want to or are facing domestic violence. Instead of seeking a solution, they end their lives. The second issue is the prevalence of ‘down district marriages’, in which men from lower districts and other provinces come to North Chitral and marry younger girls, often by paying off their parents.
To overcome these problems, Shamroz has operationalised three gender responsive desks (GRDs) at model police stations established by the UNDP’s Amn-o-Insaf Programme with support from European Union in Lower Chitral. She appointed women officials at these desks to encourage women to come and discuss their problems instead of committing suicide.
Shamroz also trained her staff on gender responsive policing to change the environment of police stations and encourage women to freely visit to report violations. Since operationalising these desks in January, over 100 cases have been successfully solved.
A social worker working in Lower Chitral, who chooses to remain anonymous, told Images that she was getting a lot of harassment calls from different numbers and couldn’t figure out what to do. “Finally I decided to get in touch with the newly set up women desk at the Chitral Police Station and DPO Sonia and officer Dilshad Pari investigated the matter. In a short time, they found the culprit and punished him.”
This is one of the many cases that have been solved at the Gender Responsive Desks in Lower Chitral but more importantly, these cases are strengthening women’s belief that they will get justice if they speak up.
“It has only been two months of making these efforts and there has only been one case of suicide. My team has successfully saved a few cases from the site when some women were trying to jump in the river, counselled them and resolved the issue,” Shamroz told Images.
She believes that increasing women’s representation in law enforcement is crucial. Women make up almost half of Pakistan's population and in order to facilitate women complainants, more women must be included in the police force. “Currently, we don’t have enough women in the force to cater to women complainants and hear them out, let alone work towards solving their cases and challenges,” explained Shamroz.
She added that one of the most effective ways to increase women representation in law enforcement is to give them senior leadership roles, so young girls can look up to them, be inspired and follow the same route. “When I joined the force, I didn’t have many examples to look up to, but I hope the few of us who have got on this path can change that for the next generation.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Hassan Shoukry, on Wednesday agreed to strengthen ties between Pakistan and Egypt through increased cooperation in trade and other sectors, APP reported.
Both foreign ministers discussed matters of mutual interest in a meeting in Cairo, where Qureshi had arrived on Tuesday on a two-day visit.
Qureshi told Shoukry that Pakistan considered Egypt an important country of the Arab world, adding that both countries enjoyed "historic religious, cultural and brotherly relations", according to the APP.
He also informed Shoukry of Prime Minister Imran Khan's policy to enrich economic relations with African countries. Before leaving for Cairo on a two-day visit on Tuesday, Qureshi had said that Egypt was known as the "Africa's gateway".
During Wednesday's meeting, Shoukry also lauded Pakistan's efforts for peace in Afghanistan, while Qureshi told him about India's hostile activities against Pakistan which the latter said were a "danger for peace and stability of the region".
Qureshi thanked Shoukry for the warm welcome he received in Egypt. The foreign minister also extended an invitation to Shoukry to visit Pakistan, which the latter accepted.
In a tweet later, Qureshi said that it was a "pleasure" to meet Shoukry and added: "[I] look forward to hosting FM Shoukry in Pakistan".
"The relationship between Pakistan and Egypt is one of mutual trust and cooperation," Qureshi said in his tweet. "FM Shoukry and I discussed ways to grow our ties, with greater people to people contact, trade and sustained engagement."
FM Qureshi also met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on Wednesday and discussed Pakistan’s shifting emphasis from geo-politics to geo-economics.
The foreign minister also met members of the Egyptian business community during his trip.