KARACHI: Sixty-two Pakistanis languishing in prisons of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were brought back home via special flight on Tuesday after Prime Minister Imran Khan intervened and arranged funds for their repatriation.
“On my instructions, funds were arranged & a special flight brought back 62 prisoners from KSA today, so they could be back with their families for Eid,” Mr Khan tweeted and posted their picture.
“Helping Pakistanis in prisons abroad & assisting in their return to Pakistan is my govt’s commitment to our people,” the tweet added.
For repatriation of over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners languishing in KSA jails, Islamabad and Riyadh had signed a prisoner transfer agreement in May.
Earlier in February 2019, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had visited Islamabad and agreed to free 2,107 Pakistani prisoners after Mr Khan drew his attention towards their plight. Later in October, an official of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation had informed the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development that 579 Pakistani prisoners had been released by Saudi Arabia under the royal clemency.
وزیر خارجہ مخدوم شاہ محمود قریشی کی تاشقند میں وسطی و جنوبی ایشیا رابطہ کانفرنس کے موقع پر، کویتی وزیر خارجہ شیخ احمد ناصر المحمد الصباح کے ساتھ ملاقات
دوران ملاقات دو طرفہ تعلقات ،مختلف شعبہ جات میں دو طرفہ تعاون کے فروغ سمیت باہمی دلچسپی کے امور پر تبادلہء خیال
پاکستان اور کویت کے درمیان یکساں مذہبی اور ثقافتی بنیادوں پر استوار گہرے برادرانہ تعلقات ہیں۔ پاکستان، اپنی جغرافیائی اقتصادی ترجیحات پر توجہ مرکوز کیے ہوئے ہے۔ پاکستان اور کویت کے مابین تعلیم، سائنس، ٹیکنالوجی، کلچر اور فوڈ سیکورٹی کے شعبوں میں دو طرفہ تعاون کے فروغ کے وسیع مواقع موجود ہیں، مخدوم شاہ محمود قریشی
دونوں وزرائے خارجہ نے پاکستان اور کویت کے درمیان تعاون کیلئے مشترکہ کمیشن بنانے کی تجویز پر بھی تبادلہ ء خیال کیا
مجوزہ طور پر اس مشترکہ کمیشن کی سربراہی پاکستان اور کویت کے وزرائے خارجہ مشترکہ طور پر کریں گے
دونوں وزرائے خارجہ نے پاکستان اور کویت کے مابین اعلیٰ سطحی روابط کے فروغ کی ضرورت پر زور دیا
• Imran invites Karzai to conference • Afghan flag removed from Friendship Gate • Additional troops deployed along the border
QUETTA: Pakistan sealed its border with Afghanistan on Wednesday after Taliban militants wrested control from Afghan forces of the border town of Wesh that sits opposite the Pakistani border town of Chaman.
According to sources in Chaman, the Taliban seized control of Wesh after heavy fighting on Tuesday night even though Afghan government forces used helicopter gunships in an attempt to defend their positions.
“The Friendship Gate at the Pak-Afghan border has been closed from both sides, which stopped all kinds of traffic and human movement at the border,” the sources said.
They said the Taliban militants had removed the national flag of Afghanistan from atop the Friendship Gate and other places in Wesh and hoisted the Taliban’s standard instead.
“Wesh Mandi, which has great importance for Afghan trade with Pakistan and other countries besides business activities, has been captured by the Taliban,” an official of the Chaman administration told Dawn, quoting reports pouring into his town.
Pakistani authorities put their forces on high alert along the border and deployed additional troops to the frontier region in an effort to avert untoward incidents, the sources said.
A large number of Afghan nationals, including women and children, have been stranded in Chaman due to the closure of the Pak-Afghan border from the two sides.
However, despite heavy gunfight overnight no one has been brought over to Chaman for treatment so far.
“Around 500 Afghans including patients who came for treatment to Chaman earlier are now waiting to return to their hometowns in Afghanistan,” the official sources said, adding that due to the closure hundreds of trucks and long-body vehicles carrying transit goods and other items for Afghanistan also got struck at Chaman.
“No vehicle or person is allowed to cross the border from both the sides,” a Levies Force official said.
The situation in Chaman was normal on Wednesday but last night there was a lot of panic as loud explosions were heard throughout the night, said a resident.
Video released by the Taliban showed their white flag with verses flying in place of Afghanistan’s flag above the Friendship Gate at the border crossing between Wesh and Chaman, added Reuters.
“After two decades of the brutality of Americans and their puppets, this gate and the Spin Boldak district were captured by the Taliban,” a fighter said to camera.
“The strong resistance of the Mujahideen and its people forced the enemy to leave this area. As you can see, that’s the Islamic Emirate flag...”
The crossing, in the Spin Boldak district south of Afghanistan’s main southern city Kandahar, is the landlocked country’s second busiest entry point and main commercial artery between its sprawling southwest region and Pakistani seaports. Afghan government data indicate that the route is used by 900 trucks a day.
Afghan officials said government forces had pushed back the Taliban and were in control of the district. But civilians and Pakistani officials said the Taliban remained in control of the border crossing.
The Taliban have in recent days seized other major border crossings in Herat, Farah and Kunduz provinces in the north and west. Control of border posts allows the Taliban to collect revenue, said Shafiqullah Attai, chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment in the capital Kabul.
The Islamist militants, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until their ouster in 2001 by the US forces following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, have since been fighting to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul.
US President Joe Biden has announced he is pulling out all US troops by August, and American forces left their main base in the country two weeks ago. Emboldened Taliban have been making a fresh push to surround cities and capture territory.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan late on Wednesday night telephoned former Afghan president Hamid Karzai inviting him and other leaders to an international conference on Afghanistan to be organised by Pakistan soon.
In a tweet, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the prime minister reassured Mr Karzai that Pakistan would make all out efforts for restoration of peace in the neighbouring country.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told his Chinese counterpart that preliminary investigation into the bus tragedy near Dasu hydropower project in the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was not a consequence of a terrorist attack, according to a statement on China's foreign ministry website.
The statement, issued on Thursday, said Qureshi met Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation-Council of Foreign Ministers in Dushanbe on Wednesday.
In the meeting, the statement added, Yi stressed the immediate arrest of and severe punishment for perpetrators in case the incident was a terrorist attack.
Qureshi, however, said the initial probe showed that the incident was not a terrorist attack.
"He [Qureshi] said preliminary investigation shows that it's an accident and no background of terrorist attacks has been found," the statement read.
According to the statement, Yi urged for a probe into the incident and told Qureshi that "the Chinese side is shocked by the serious Chinese casualties in Pakistan today (Wednesday), hoping that the Pakistani side could quickly find out its cause, conduct rescue and treatment work at all costs, deal with the aftermath in time, and prevent similar incidents from happening again".
The statement further quoted the Chinese foreign minister as saying that if the incident was "a terrorist attack, the criminals must be immediately arrested and severely punished".
"Lessons should be learned from the incident, and the security measures for China-Pakistan cooperation projects should be further strengthened to ensure the safe and smooth operation of all projects," he stressed.
Qureshi said China was Pakistan's "most important friend and most reliable partner, and China's loss is Pakistan's loss," according to the statement.
"Pakistan will spare no effort to rescue and treat the wounded, thoroughly investigate the truth of the incident, lose no time in sharing the progress of the investigation with China, and do its utmost to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel in Pakistan," the statement quoted him as saying.
Thirteen people, including nine Chinese nationals, two personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and two locals, were killed and 28 others sustained injuries when a coach carrying them to an under-construction tunnel site of the 4,300-megawatt Dasu hydropower project fell into a ravine in the Upper Kohistan area after an explosion on Wednesday.
According to eyewitnesses, three vehicles were on their way to the Dasu dam site in a convoy after picking up Chinese labourers in the morning from Barseen camp — some eight kilometres from Dasu district headquarters of Upper Kohistan — via the Karakoram Highway when the blast occurred.
Sources privy to the investigation said a Chinese national was missing and a search for his whereabouts was under way.
“After the explosion, the coach fell into the riverside but the two other vehicles, a coaster and a jeep, remained safe in the incident,” one of the eyewitnesses said.
There were conflicting reports about the cause of the tragic incident.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) said “leakage of gas” caused by a “mechanical failure” resulted in the blast in the bus after which it plunged into the ravine.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had termed the incident a "bombing".
The official statement issued by the Chinese embassy said the bus was “hit by blast on its way to the construction site”.
The statement did not elaborate on the cause of the blast, but it advised the Chinese living in Pakistan to “stay on alert, pay close attention to the local security situation, strengthen security protection, take strict precautions, and stop going out unless necessary”.
RAWALPINDI: The PTI leader Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari aka Zulfi Bukhari on Friday sent a Rs1 billion defamation notice to Rawalpindi Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah over mentioning his name in Rawalpindi Ring Road Project scam.
In May, when the scam emerged, the Punjab government removed six mid-career officers including commissioner and deputy commissioner over their alleged involvement in bringing about changes in the Ring Road alignment.
The provincial government ordered an inquiry which confirmed that changes had been made to the actual plan of the Rawalpindi Ring Road to benefit some influential personalities including Zulfi Bukhari and Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.
These changes had increased the cost of the project by Rs25 billion.
As the controversy deepened, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari resigned from his position and Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan rejected the allegation and offered to quit politics if corruption charges against him proved.
On Friday, in a tweet, Zulfi Bukhari stated: “As promised, I will not stand and watch lies propagate. I’ve officially taken Commissioner Rawalpindi Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah to court for #RingRoadReport where he’ll have to prove:” Why he wrote in the report I ‘augmented’ influence without any proof”. “Let nation and courts hear reasons behind the allegation!”
He also shared the defamation notice issued by Zulfi’s lawyer Mustafa Aftab A. Sherpao, asking Gulzar Hussain Shah to submit his reply within 14 days; retract the statement attributed to Zulfi in the report; openly seek apology from him, and also issue a rebuttal of the statement attributed to the plaintiff.
The notice stated: “Defamatory statement made by you in the report against our client have defamed and traduced the reputation of our client. We, therefore, call upon you to forthwith and in any event within fourteen (14) days of the date of this legal notice: withdraw, recall and retract the said defamatory statement (and any other defamatory imputations) made by you in the report.”
The government of Punjab on Saturday renewed its guidelines against Covid-19, deciding to set up special counters at places frequented by people – such as wedding halls, cinemas and hotels – to check Covid-19 vaccination certificates of visitors.
"Those violating the standard operating procedures (SOPs) will face action as per law," said Sarah Aslam, Punjab Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department Secretary, in a statement issued today.
The provincial government also decided to establish a control room to monitor the implementation of SOPs at restaurants, wedding halls, cinemas and hotels.
The new SOPs are being introduced in view of the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases countrywide.
Earlier, the NCOC had confirmed the presence of different variants of coronavirus in Pakistan, including the Delta variant, first discovered in India, the Beta variant that was first detected in South Africa, and the Alpha variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom.
The NCOC had said that these variants were detected in Pakistan in May and June.
The government’s Covid-19 portal indicates the number of daily Covid-19 cases dropped from four digits to three digits on June 25. The daily cases being reported remained close to the 900 mark till June 27 and further fell to 735 on June 28.
However, the number of cases started going up again gradually and doubled in just one week. The positivity rate, which stood at less than 2 per cent in June, crossed 3pc after a gap of 20 days on Wednesday.
Aslam said the new guideless were being adopted in line with the directives of the NCOC issued a day ago.
Underlining that special SOPs have been devised for hotels, restaurants, wedding halls, gyms and cinema halls, she said counters would be set up at all such places to check vaccination certificates of people.
She also called upon all traders to ensure inoculation of their staff against the coronavirus.
Under the new directives, she said no restaurant will be allowed to operate dine-in facility after 11.59pm, while only 50 per cent occupancy will be permitted at all eateries. Similarly, no more than 200 guests will be allowed at wedding halls.
The provincial health secretary insisted that vaccination was the only solution to protect people from the dangerous “Delta variant” of the Covid-19.
Emphasising that Covid-19 vaccines were available at inoculation centres in “sufficient quantity” across the province, the secretary urged people to get themselves vaccinated and adhere to the precautionary measures laid by the government for safety of the masses.
A day ago, the NCOC announced that unvaccinated people will not be allowed to travel by air starting August 1.
In its review of the measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, particularly in view of the spread of the Delta variant, which it termed “extremely dangerous”, the NCOC also declared it mandatory for adult students to get themselves vaccinated by August 31.
The NCOC had also held a special meeting of the provincial chief secretaries two days ago to discuss measures for controlling violations of pandemic-related SOPs.
During the meeting, the federating and administrative units were directed to take strict action against violators of the SOPs and expedite vaccination process so that herd immunity could be achieved at the earliest.