ISLAMABAD: The residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were inconvenienced by the unannounced blackout of mobile phone services in the name of security and Parade Day rehearsals on Sunday.
While internet services were not shut, phone calls could not be made as mobile signals remained down from 6am till noon.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not share details about the suspension of services.
A PTA official requesting anonymity explained that it was the same exercise as last year and the year before that.
“Security agencies do not announce suspension of services to maintain security. Announcing it defeats the purpose of securing the parade ground where personnel of joint armed forces rehearse for the military parade on March 23,” he said.
According to the official, security concerns were higher this year given the series of attacks across the country last month.
“Phone services are expected to be suspended again during the final rehearsals and certainly on March 23,” he said.
While residents said they were expecting it, they were nonetheless thankful that phone services were not suspended every day two weeks prior to the Parade Day celebrations like it used to be a few years ago.
Hafeezuddin, however, was annoyed. “Road blockades and jammed phones are nuisances and we do not want it even if it’s once a year. People cannot make calls if there are health emergencies or children have exams. Such events should be held outside cities where people are not inconvenienced,” said the retired government servant. Imran Khalid, a businessman, said: “Traffic diversions were already a problem and no phone signals made the matters worse.”
It was not just PTA that declined to share information even cellular mobile operators were not as forthcoming.
According to an official of Mobilink, as always the notice to suspend services originated from the PTA on the last minute and its details were confidential.
An official of Ufone said he was not aware of what he called a ‘blanket’ outage across Islamabad with the spillover effects in Rawalpindi.
“The government can direct operators to suspend both mobile signals as well as 3G and 4G services for security reasons up to March 23,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017
Weeks after former president Pervez Musharraf launched his career on mainstream media, the Bol Network announced that former president Asif Ali Zardari will also be appearing on a weekly show as a political analyst.
According to a promotional video shared by Bol Network on twitter, the new show is called Pakistan Khappay with President Asif Ali Zardari and will be aired every Sunday at 9:30pm.
In the first episode of the show that was aired on March 19, Zardari appeared live from Bilawal House in Karachi, responding to questions posed by the anchor.
The former president spoke of the challenges Pakistan is facing in the international arena and regretted that the government had failed to appoint a foreign minister.
"If the government does not have a foreign minister, then, I believe, there is no concern for Pakistan's position on the the global stage and the numerous challenges the country is facing," Zardari said.
During the episode the former president also spoke about Pak-US relations and said that "if someone takes the responsibility to hold dialogue with [America]," the relations can be improved.
When questioned about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Zardari said that Prime Minister Nawaz Shairf has not been able to understand the project, adding that "it is not a project of building roads".
Earlier, during the first episode of his show with Bol TV, 'Sab Se Pehle Pakistan with President Musharraf,' which was aired on Feb 26, Musharraf had responded to the anchor's questions from Dubai — where he is currently living in self-exile.
Musharraf's show airs on Sundays at 8pm.
ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Marking the revival of bilateral engagement at the institutional level after two years, a 10-member Indian delegation led by Indian Indus Water Commissioner P.P. Saxena arrived on Sunday for two-day talks on the designs, disputed by Pakistan, of three controversial water projects being built on river Chenab.
The water experts of the two sides at the level of Permanent Indus Commission last met in May 2015 in New Delhi and could not hold mandatory annual meetings since then despite repeated requests by Islamabad.
The two sides would not discuss the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects on which Pakistan is seeking international court of arbitration (ICA) through the World Bank, a senior official told Dawn. He explained that the World Bank was at the advanced stage of appointing an ICA, hence not on the bilateral agenda.
The teams led by Mr Saxena and Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Beg would open formal talks on Monday before leaving for Lahore in the evening where the talks would conclude on Tuesday. The visiting delegation would leave for New Delhi the same day.
The officials said that Pakistan had raised objections to the designs of three projects on Chenab it considered being built by India in violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. These include Pakul Dal of 1,000MW, Miyar of 120MW and Lower Kalnai of 48MW.
The two sides will exchange data on river flows and try to finalise the schedule of future meetings and tours of inspections by Pakistani water engineering experts to the various rivers and project sides across the Line of Control.
An official said that Pakistan’s objections to the three projects led the Indian side to agree on putting them on the agenda of the meeting. He said Pakul Dal, a mega project with a proposed generation capacity of 1,000MW, would be built on Chenab and would be able to store nearly one million acres feet of water. The project design envisaged its filling every monsoon season between mid-June and end-August.
Pakistan would seek details of the project and engineering designs and raise specific questions and objections and expect the visiting delegation to satisfy the hosts with envisaged changes.
Officials said the two sides had previously scheduled their annual meeting in September last year with systematic delays caused by New Delhi when Prime Minister Modi declared unilateral suspension of talks and announced speeding up hydropower projects on Pakistani rivers.
An official said India was entitled to store about 3.6m acres feet on Pakistani rivers and almost one-fourth of that quantity could be exploited through Pakul Dal.
In addition, Pakistan has also objected to the design of the 120MW Miyar hydropower project on Miyar Nullah — a major tributary of Chenab on its right bank. The project involves a barrage, head race tunnel, surge shaft, penstocks and tail race channel.
The Miyar project has the capacity to discharge about 61.35 cusecs of water. Islamabad’s objections on the project relate to the barrage height, intake height, head and tail race channels and discharge levels.
Likewise, the 48MW Lower Kalnai project would also be located on river Chenab and impact Pakistan’s water rights, an official said.
Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — had been allocated to India and the western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan, except for certain non-consumptive uses for India.
Earlier, the Indian delegation arrived in Lahore through Wagah. It was received by officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and Pakistan Indus water commission office.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017
Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday assured Qatar that Pakistan will cooperate with country on cyber security, defence production and ease of travel, said the Inter-Services Public Relations in a statement.
The army chief, who is on an official visit to Qatar, thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar for appreciating Pakistan Army's role in the ongoing fight against terrorism and assured him of all possible cooperation in "desired fields".
Qatar's premier also hailed the army's contributions towards establishing regional peace and lauded it for its professionalism. He showed interest for joint training and field exercises, expressing desire to learn from Pakistan Army's expertise in the security domain.
He said that people of Qatar greatly value the people of Pakistan and trust their time-tested commitment for working in Qatar and sought assistance for the upcoming Football World Cup in Qatar, including provision of manpower.
General Bajwa also visited Ahmed Bin Mohamed Military College where a Pakistani tri-services contingent of 166 members is imparting training. He also toured the Qatar Emiri Guard Headquarters and met Major General Hazza Bin khalid Al Shahwani.
PESHAWAR: Pakistan Army has moved heavy artillery towards the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman and Torkham districts, security officials said on Monday.
The move came just two days after the military decimated camps of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Jamaatul Ahrar (JA) faction on the Torkham border opposite Mohmand and Khyber tribal regions. The group, which claims to be behind the recent wave of terrorist attacks, has found safe haven in Afghanistan, according to the Pakistani security establishment.
Security sources said their forces have resolved to restrict illegal border movement and any attempt to breach border security will be responded to with full force. Security forces have stepped up patrolling in the areas along the Afghan border, while security has been put on high alert in North and South Waziristan agencies.
The stringent border checks were implemented after a week of deadly attacks by terrorists left dozens of people dead and injured in different cities of Pakistan, prompting a pledge of ‘revenge — immediate revenge’ from Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Security forces have also indefinitely closed the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A QUIET retirement it has not been. In the weeks since former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif retired from the military, barely a day has gone by without Gen Sharif or events connected to him being in the news.
Now has come perhaps the biggest surprise: the recently retired army chief is rumoured to have been selected to lead a so-called Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism created by the ambitious, young Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman.
To the extent that the IMAFT is a large bloc of Muslim-majority countries — 39 at the latest count, according to Saudi authorities — focused on combating international terrorists, the retired general with his vast counter-insurgency and counterterrorism leadership skills could be an excellent choice as leader.
The Muslim world, wracked by terrorism across great swathes, needs a coherent and coordinated approach to fight the great threats that stalk its lands. And yet, there is remarkably little known about the Saudi initiative that he has reportedly signed up for.
Two sets of questions are of urgent importance. The first concerns the IMAFT generally. While Saudi officials have touted the broad membership of the alliance, little is known about the role each country is to play.
More importantly, with several countries still outside the fold, what are the ultimate intentions of the Saudi royal family? Is there a realistic scenario for the participation of all Muslim-majority countries or will a sectarian colour be imposed on the alliance? Specifically, with Iran and Saudi Arabia at odds over a number of issues in the Middle East, will Riyadh permit the involvement of Tehran and its allies in the IMAFT?
If not, how will it work towards its self-professed goal of fighting terrorism irrespective of sect and wherever the threat is to be found? It could be a fresh disaster for the Muslim world if the Saudi-Iranian rivalry fuels the creation of a new military alliance in the name of fighting terrorism.
For Pakistan, the challenges are specific. In April 2015, after the Saudi regime had demanded Pakistan contribute to a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen against the Houthis, parliament here took the historic and correct decision of declining to authorise the government to send troops to Yemen.
While Gen Sharif is no longer a serving army chief and his decision to join the IMAFT is somewhat independent of the Pakistani state, the fact remains that his high-profile leadership of the alliance will be associated with Pakistan.
The government and current military leadership, therefore, must publicly restate or clarify important foreign policy and national security parameters. Specifically, it must be publicly assured that the April 2015 decision taken by parliament will not be contravened and that any Pakistani contribution to the IMAFT will be for specific and clearly identifiable reasons. Clarity and honesty are needed if the alliance is to succeed.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017
Newly-appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday said that Pakistani troops will respond to ceasefire violations by Indian troops along the Line of Control (LoC) with 'full force', according to a statement released by Inter-Services Public Relations.
During a visit to the 10 Corps Rawalpindi and troops at forward locations along the LoC, Gen Bajwa said, "Each violation of any kind must be responded to with full force in the most effective manner."
The Army chief was briefed on the security situation at the LoC "in view of recent violations and escalation by Indian troops and Pakistan's own response," the ISPR said.
The COAS said India's 'aggressive posture' aims solely to divert the world's attention away from 'atrocities' being committed by Indian troops in held Kashmir.
Gen Bajwa said the Kashmir issue will have to be resolved in line with United Nations resolutions keeping in view the aspirations of the Kashmiri people in order to achieve lasting regional peace, ISPR said.
The Army chief appreciated the operational readiness of troops and the 'befitting response' given to 'unprovoked Indian firing' across the LoC. Gen Bajwa directed troops to keep the highest level of vigil at all times.
The Army chief's statements come at a time tensions between Pakistan and India are running high following an alleged 'surgical strike', unrest in Kashmir and the Uri army base attack in September.
Since then there have been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing in Kashmir, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including of civilians.
In November, at least nine people were killed and 11 others wounded when Indian troops targeted the passenger coaster in Azad Jammu and Kashmir near the LoC. A total of three soldiers and 10 civilians were killed, and 18 others injured in cross-border firing and shelling.