Pakistan News

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday promised to cooperate with the Pakistan government on its concerns about the presence of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters and sanctuaries on its soil after Islamabad delivered a stark warning on the issue.

The Foreign Office in a statement issued after a day-long trip by a delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif to Kabul said growing TTP and IS-K threat was discussed and “the two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism”.
The delegation among others included ISI Chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Foreign Secretary Asad Majid, Special Envoy on Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and Pakistan’s chargé d’affaires in Afghanistan Obaid Nizamani, who has been here since the gun attack on him on Dec 3.
The visit took place days after the TTP gunmen raided the police headquarters in Karachi in which four people including three security personnel lost their lives. Earlier a suicide bomb explosion in Peshawar mosque on Jan 30 claimed nearly 100 lives. The TTP was blamed for the mosque attack as well.
Defence minister, ISI chief meet Afghan Taliban leadership; both sides discussed growing TTP, IS-K threats: FO
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in TTP violence since peace talks between the militant group and the government began to falter in the later half of last year. The TTP formally ended ceasefire on November 28 and since then 58 attacks have been claimed by the group in which 170 people died.
Many of these attacks were planned and directed by the TTP leadership based in Afghanistan.
A senior Pakistani official, while talking to Dawn, on the background said the delegation delivered a pointed message to the Taliban officials that Afghanistan-based TTP elements must be reined in.
The visiting delegation had met Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar Akhund, Defence Minister Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Afghan leaders have in the past always rejected the allegations that TTP used their country’s soil for attacks in Pakistan, but the official said this time they surprisingly agreed to cooperate on the issue. “Probably they realised the gravity of the situation,” he further said.
The details of the cooperation against the TTP would be worked out in subsequent meetings between the two sides at the experts and technical level.
The two sides in their meetings also discussed the broader issues of counter-terrorism and border security cooperation.
Afghan Taliban, meanwhile, said the two parties had discussed economic cooperation, regional connectivity, trade, and the state of bilateral relations.
Mullah Baradar urged Pakistan not to allow “political and security concerns to affect business or economic matters”.
The official, who spoke on background, said the delegation linked progress on all these ideas for enhacing bilateral cooperation to Afghan Taliban addressing the concerns about TTP presence in their country.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2023

ISLAMABAD: A day after President Dr Arif Alvi unilaterally announced the date for general elections to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it would announce poll schedule only after the ‘competent authority’ fixes date.
At a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, the commission said it has been taking, and will continue to take all decisions as per law and constitution without succumbing to any kind of pressure.
The meeting noted that the ECP remains ready to hold elections within ninety days, but stressed that the
constitution nowhere says the date for elections is to be appointed by the commission. It, however, said the commission was bound to announce schedule and hold elections after the ‘competent authority’ announces it.
In recent days, the ECP has taken a firm position that the president has no role in announcement of date for general elections to the provincial assemblies, it decided on Tuesday to consult the Attorney General for Pakistan and legal experts on the matter.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the electoral watchdog said a meeting with the AGP and legal experts — the names of whom are still under discussion — has been called for Feb 22. In a move that was condemned by the government as “unconstitutional and illegal”, President Dr Arif Alvi had on Monday unilaterally fixed April 9 as the date for elections to the provincial assemblies of KP and Punjab.
The development had come hours after the ECP reaffirmed its decision not to consult President Alvi on dates for elections to the two provincial assemblies.
A senior ECP official, when contacted, said the president under the constitution acts in most of the matters on the advice of the prime minister and had no authority to issue directions to constitutional bodies such as the ECP.
Official says president can only act on PM’s advice, has ‘no authority to direct Election Commission’
The Section 57 of the Elections Act, 1997 being referred to president’s power was related to the situation where the national and the provincial assemblies complete their terms together, he said, adding that in any case, any section of any law cannot supersede a constitutional provision.
He said under Article 105(3) of the constitution, it is for the governor to appoint a date for general elections to a provincial assembly within ninety days of its dissolution. He said there was no delay on part of the ECP, which had already proposed dates for the general elections in letters to the two governors asking them to appoint dates for the electoral exercise, and later had also sent them reminders.
The official said that Article 48 (5) says, “Where the President dissolves the National Assembly, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), he shall appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of the dissolution, for the holding of a general election to the assembly and appoint a caretaker cabinet.”
He said that Article 105 (3) allows governor to announce date in province if he had dissolved the provincial assembly. But the Punjab Assembly was not dissolved by the governor, after his refusal to dissolve the assembly, the provincial assembly got dissolved after 48 hours, he added. This particular matter related to the governor is sub-judice and the court would decide about it not the president, he insisted. Article 105(3) says, “Where the Governor dissolves the Provincial Assembly, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), he shall appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of dissolution, for the holding of a general election to the Assembly and (b) appoint a caretaker cabinet.”
The official said the ECP was of the considered opinion that the president’s move of fixing a date for the provincial assemblies was ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘illegal’, therefore, the ECP was not bound to act on it. He believed consultation with the attorney general and legal experts would only fortify the ECP’s position.

ISLAMABAD: Supp­or­ters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will take to the streets in Punjab’s provincial capital today (Wednesday) to kick off the ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ wherein “more than 200 supporters” would court arrest.
In preparation for the drive, the social media wing of the PTI remained busy throughout the day, with party workers and leaders sharing messages motivating supporters to become part of the “phase-wise” court arrest drive.
“Fill up prisons and shatter the idols of fear,” said PTI chief Imran Khan in a video message on Twitter. In an apparent bid to muster up support for the movement, the former ruling party also took out rallies in multiple cities, including Faisalabad, Kasur, and Sheikhupura, on different pretexts.
In Lahore, PTI central provincial president Yasmin Rashid chaired a meeting to take stock of the situation in light of the court arrest drive to be launched today. The top brass of the PTI, however, will not give up their freedom on day 1.
Section 144 imposed in Lahore; Sana says govt will arrest miscreants, not ‘women and poor workers’
Some mid-tier leaders, including former Punjab governor Umer Sarfraz Cheema, Senator Waleed Iqbal, former provincial minister Murad Raas along with more than 200 workers would court arrest in the first phase of the movement.
According to ARY News, the opening day of the movement would start with a meeting to honour the party members at 12:30pm. After the meeting, the party supporters would march towards The Mall — where Section 144 is imposed — via Jail Road to give themselves up for arrests. In case, the government refused to detain the PTI activists, the rally will morph into a sit-in at Charing Cross in front of the Punjab Assembly.
After Lahore, Peshawar will witness the launch of the court arrest drive on Feb 23. Rawalpindi will follow on Feb 24, Multan on Feb 25, Gujranwala on Feb 26, Sargodha on Feb 27, and Sahiwal on Feb 28. Faisalabad will join the movement on the first day of March.
Senator Ejaz Chaudhry, who is the focal person of the Jail Bharo Tehreek, appeared confident about the success of the movement and said the party had sought 200 volunteers for the first day of the drive but more than 2,000 have signed up for the drive. He said those party leaders, who would contest the upcoming by-polls on the PTI platform, would not become part of the drive.
Speaking to the media, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said the party and its top brass were ready for the court arrest movement. “Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar insisted that they would give themselves for arrest on the first day of the movement,” he said, adding that for now the leadership thinks that the party should move forward with a strategy.
Mr Chaudhry said the PTI’s drive would test the capacities of the prisons and the police stations as hundreds of workers have come forward on the call of the party chief.
As he termed it a “unique event” in the history of Pakistan, Mr Chaudrhy said that no political party had ever “dared” to start a movement where its workers and leaders would volunteer for arrests. The PTI leader said this movement is against human rights violations, sky-rocketing inflation, and the deal with the International Monetary Fund.
Asad Umar, a central party leader, in a brief interview shared on PTI’s Twitter handle said that the movement was aimed at gaining freedom for the nation. The PTI supporters would give up their “individual freedom” for the 220 million people of this country.
“In my personal opinion, the date for election would be announced before things would go to that stage,” he added. Mr Umar, however, did not mention if he would go to jail today.
‘Miscreants’ to be arrested
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the PTI’s arrest drive was aimed at creating political instability and a law and order situation in the country. The PTI is seeking media attention by creating a drama through the ‘court arrest drive’, APP quoted him as saying.
The meeting decided that the miscreants would be arrested and the law and order would be ensured in the country at all costs.
“The arrest of women and poor workers would be avoided,” the participants agreed. The minister said the record of miscreants would be maintained and their activities would be mentioned in their character certificates issued by the police.
A day earlier, the Punjab government imposed Section 144 on The Mall, Gulberg Main Boulevard as well as outside the Punjab Civil Secretariat and its adjoining roads to prohibit all kinds of assemblies, sit-ins and processions.

RAWALPINDI: Under Saudi Arabia’s new protocol for passengers leaving the country with pets, they must first seek permission from that country’s government to ship their animals abroad, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Sunday.
He said that according to a notif­­ication issued by the Saudi government, airlines must inform passengers in advance about the new rules for shipment of pets.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation’s (GACA) notification reads: “Airlines must inform passengers that it is necessary to submit import/export applications for animals through the new electronic link (, before travelling.”
It further said airlines must not ship animals, including those accompanied by their owners, without obtaining a permit from the ministry of environment.
Failure to comply with the circular issued by GACA is an explicit violation of the Saudi government’s order, the notification added. “Legal procedures will be initiated against violators held responsible.”

FOREIGN Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that mixed signals from the Pakistan side were responsible for the Afghan Taliban’s inaction against the outlawed TTP.
In an interview with German broadcaster DW Urdu, the foreign minister said the previous government was asking the interim Afghan government to facilitate reconciliation with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and had plans to resettle the militants in Pakistan. But every Pakistani was demanding that terrorists who were involved in heinous attacks such as the Army Public School massacre could never be “our friends”, he added.
Earlier in an interview with CNBC, the foreign minister blamed the PTI government for negotiating with terrorists without any precondition. Calling it a “policy of appeasement,” the foreign minister said it blew up in Pakistan’s face.
“Unfortunately, following the fall of Kabul, the government that preceded ours started negotiating with these very same terrorist groups and without preconditions such as disarming,” the foreign minister told CNBC on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Bilawal says Imran’s ‘policy of appeasing’ terrorists ended by PDM-led govt
However, he added that the new government and the military leadership have “put a full stop to the policy of appeasement”.
“Those people who don’t accept Pakistan and don’t accept the Constitution, I don’t think negotiating with them is in the interest of Pakistan or its people,” he told DW Urdu.
The PPP chairman added that the withdrawal of western forces has given space to various terrorist groups in Afghanistan which have caused immense challenges for Pakistan.
“We have a very porous border [with Afghanistan] that the new government doesn’t have the capacity to man,” he told CNBC.
“We are confident that we’ll be able to take on the terrorist groups that are functioning within Pakistan.”
He added that till the terrorist threats emanating out of Afghanistan are add­ressed, Pakistan will be in a high-risk security phase.
Pakistan still hopes some action would be taken against the outlawed groups and Afghanistan has been told that this issue can affect bilateral relations between the two countries, he told DW Urdu.
Imran’s political future
When asked about the political future of former prime minister Imran Khan, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he “never says never in politics”.
In his interview with CNBC, the foreign minister said if Mr Khan strives to pursue a democratic path and commits to play a constitutional role, he can have a future.
The foreign minister added that Mr Khan’s ouster through a vote of no-confidence motion was the first time parliament removed a prime minister in a democratic way.
However, since his ouster, Mr Khan has been asking the army for help in getting back to power, the foreign minister said.
He added that the former army chief had said in a speech that the military used to intervene in politics and now they want to step away. “If the military says it wants to change its controversial conduct constitutionally, it should be welcomed.”
The PPP chairman told CNBC that “our opposition thinks that the military should play its role in politics. They want the military to help them bring them back to power.”
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said widespread devastation of standing crops due to flood, combined with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine had impacted Pakistan’s economy.
On Pakistan’s ability to honour its debt repayments, the foreign minister said there should be no doubt about Pakistan’s ability to live up to its economic commitments even though recent events have thrown the economy off track.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari told DW Urdu that Pakistan was taking a number of steps to solve the economic crisis.
The minister added that Pakistan was looking to export manpower to earn forex reserves and also resume trade talks with the US. Moreover, countries in the Middle East and China have shown a willingness to help Pakistan but it is contingent upon the arrangement with the IMF, the minister told DW Urdu.

KARACHI: Pakistan must ensure that its high earners pay taxes and only the poor get the subsidies if it wants to function as a country, the International Mone­­tary Fund’s (IMF) managing director has said.
“My heart goes to the people of Pakistan. They have been devastated by the floods that affected one-third of the population of the country,” Kristalina Georgieva told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Friday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
“What we are asking for are steps Pakistan needs to take to be able to function as a country and not to get into a dangerous place where its debt needs to be restructured,” she said.
“I want to stress that we are emphasising two things. Number one, tax revenues. Those who can, those that are making good money [in the] public or private sector need to contribute to the economy. Secondly, to have a fairer distribution of the pressures by moving subsidies only towards the people who really need it,” she said.
“It shouldn’t be that the wealthy benefit from subsidies. It should be the poor [who] benefit from them,” she said, adding that IMF was very clear that it wanted the poor people of Pakistan to be protected.
The IMF chief’s statement came days after two sides could not reach a deal earlier this month and a visiting Fund delegation departed Islamabad after 10 days of talks but said negotiations would continue. Pakistan is in dire need of funds as it battles a wrenching economic crisis.
Talks centre around reaching an agreement on a reforms agenda under the country’s $6.5 billion bailout programme, which it entered in 2019. An agreement on the ninth review of the programme would release over $1.1bn.
Meanwhile, foreign exchange reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan have fallen to around $3bn, barely enough to cover three weeks of controlled imports. A resumption of the IMF programme would also unlock other avenues of funding for Pakistan.
The IMF has earlier said in a statement that both sides have agreed to stay engaged and “virtual discussions will continue in the coming days to finalise the implementation details” of the policies, including the tax measures, discussed in Islamabad.
The government is in a race against time to implement the tax measures and reach an agreement with the IMF.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday tabled the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2023, in both houses of the parliament, outlining tax measures to raise an additional Rs170bn in the next four and a half months to meet the last prior actions agreed upon with the IMF.
The IMF has given a deadline of March 1 to Pakistan for implementing all these measures. However, the bulk of tax measures worth Rs115bn was already implemented from Feb 14 through statutory regulatory orders.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2023
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At least 14 members of a wedding party, including women and children, were killed and 46 injured late Sunday night, after a bus overturned on the Lahore-Islamabad motorway near Kallar Kahar.
The bus hit two other cars and a truck on the opposite track. According to the police, the wedding party was going back to Lahore from Islamabad when their bus veered off the road apparently due to a tyre burst.
Motorway police spokesperson Ayesha told that 13 wounded persons are in critical condition. “All of them have been moved to hospitals in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.”
The spokesperson said that 49 people were aboard the bus and the police were suspecting negligence by the driver as the reason for the accident and further investigations were under way.

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