Dawn – FO rejects ‘mischievous’ Indian media reports linking Pakistan to Afghanistan temple (Gurdwara) attack

Naveed Siddiqui

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan. 07 April 2020. Pakistan on Tuesday rejected reports circulating in the Indian media that linked Pakistan’s security agencies to an attack on a gurdwara in Afghanistan last month.

At least 25 people were killed in the attack on a Gurdwara in Afghanistan’s capital on March 25 where worshippers were offering morning prayers. The attack had been claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

According to a report by Indian publication India Today, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Saturday arrested Abdullah Orakzai alias Aslam Farooqi, the mastermind behind the attack, who they claimed had ties to Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The India Today report also added that Orakzai alias Farooqi enjoyed “close relations” to the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Responding to these allegations, the Foreign Office in a statement said it rejected the “officially-inspired reports” and termed the move “mischievous and condemnable”.

Terming these news reports part of a “well known smear campaign against Pakistan”, the FO spokeswoman said these were “patently designed to malign Pakistan”.

“Seeking to implicate Pakistan in this terrorist attack is part of the desperate attempts India is making to divert attention from its own unacceptable actions and state-terrorism in India-occupied Jammu & Kashmir.”

The FO said Pakistan remained “confident that such Indian ploys will not succeed in misleading the world community”.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1547182/fo-rejects-mischievous-indian-media-reports-linking-pakistan-to-afghanistan-temple-attack

Dawn – Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday said India’s ruling Bhartya Janata Party (BJP) was facing imminent defeat in New Delhi polls due to premier Narendra Modi’s contentious moves concerning new citizenship laws.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 10 February 2020. Addressing a gathering of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) in Islamabad, the foreign minister said several countries that had deepened their ties with India, were reevaluating their relationships after the government’s questionable moves in occupied Kashmir and its introduction of discriminatory laws.

“However, while it it true that everyone speaks of ethics and doing the right thing, their actions are always in line with safeguarding their own economic interests.”

He further said that India’s economic growth has halved since the BJP came back into power. “We are worried that India may try to stage a Pulwama-like false flag operation to move its own peoples’ focus on Pakistan, instead of on its own economic situation,” Qureshi said.

Speaking of economic growth and stability, Qureshi said, “The world will take Pakistan seriously when we are financially stable.

“That is why I am here today, so that we can come up with ways for the foreign ministry to facilitate the finance ministry and other ministries in establishing contact with other countries and forging better ties with them.

“This will help us learn from them and also work with them,” Qureshi said while adding that Pakistan has seen deindustrialisation in recent years.

“The question is about when this process started. If industries are shutting down now, something must have happened in the past few years to have triggered the process. No one sets an industry up with the feasibility of a year or six months in mind, they think years ahead of time.

“However, I am not here to place blame or play politics, I am here to find a way forward,” the foreign minister said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1533610/modis-bjp-facing-defeat-in-delhi-polls-due-to-contentious-citizenship-laws-fm-qureshi

Dawn – To defuse palm oil row, Davos diplomacy likely between India – Malaysia

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 18 January 2020. Trade ministers from India and Malaysia are likely to meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos next week amid a palm oil spat between the two countries, a Malaysian government spokesman told Reuters on Friday.

Hindu-majority India has repeatedly objected to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaking out against its recent policies which critics say discriminate against Muslims.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, is the second-biggest producer and exporter of palm oil and India’s restrictions on the refined variety of the commodity imposed last week have been seen as a retaliation for Mahathir’s criticism of New Delhi’s actions.

India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal denied on Thursday that the government was trying to hit out at Malaysia in particular.

The row between the countries, nevertheless, pushed benchmark Malaysian palm futures to its biggest weekly decline in more than 11 years on Friday.

No agenda has been set for the proposed meeting between Goyal and his Malaysian counterpart Darell Leiking on Friday, the spokesman for Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry said, adding that the request for a meeting had come from India.

An Indian government source said a meeting was indeed likely with Leiking. A spokeswoman for India’s trade ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Malaysia did not want to escalate the palm spat with India by talking of any retaliation for now, after Mahathir’s media adviser called for tighter regulations on Indian expatriates and products. Malaysia instead wants to rely on diplomacy.

A separate Indian government source said it was important for New Delhi also to talk things out with Malaysia.

“We too have a lot to lose in Malaysia, there are 2 million Indian-origin people there,” the source said.

There were a total of 117,733 Indian nationals registered as foreign labour in Malaysia as at June 2019, accounting for nearly six per cent of the total foreign workforce in the country. Ethnic Malaysian-Indians are the third-largest community in the Southeast Asian country.

Another reason for frosty ties between the countries is the continued presence of controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in Malaysia, said one of the sources.

Naik, who faces charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, has lived in Malaysia for more than three years and has permanent residency in the country. He denies the Indian accusations.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to talk to the media.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1529093/to-defuse-palm-row-davos-diplomacy-likely-between-india-malaysia

Scroll.in – ‘Ready to hold referendum in PoK, let people of Kashmir decide what they want,’ says Pakistan PM

Imran Khan invited people from all parts of the country to visit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and assess the human rights situation there.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 17 January 2019. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said Islamabad is willing to hold a referendum in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to give people the right to decide whether they want to remain in the country or be independent.

“Let the people of Kashmir decide what they want,” he said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. “Pakistan is ready for a referendum or a plebiscite. Let them decide whether they want to remain with Pakistan or to be independent. We are all for it.”

He said people from all parts of the country are invited to visit PoK to assess the human rights situation in the region. “Azad Kashmir holds free and fair elections and it elects its own government,” Khan said. “Like any other administration, they have their problems.

But as I said, let us invite observers from all over the world. I assure you that they can go to the Pakistan side of Kashmir but won’t be allowed on the Indian side.”

Khan lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led government and compared the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to that of the Nazis. “Just as the Nazi ideology was built on hatred for minorities, the RSS ideology is also based on hatred for Muslims and other minorities, including Christians,” he said.

The prime minister said India has been taken over by an extremist ideology known as “Hindutva” and alleged that the country is also run by extremists. “It is a tragedy for India – and for its neighbours – that the country has been taken over by the RSS, an organisation which also assassinated the great Mahatma Gandhi,” Khan claimed.

“A nuclear-armed country is being run by extremists, and Kashmir has been under siege for over five months.”

He said the situation in Kashmir received little international attention, claiming that commercial interests are more important for Western countries.

“India is a big market and that is the reason behind the lukewarm response to what is happening to some 8 million people in Kashmir, as well as to minorities in India,” he said.

Khan also spoke about the Citizenship Amendment Act and said it was “blatantly against minorities”. He pointed that these matters were raised when he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and later she issued a statement in November that the situation in Kashmir is “not sustainable”.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have ratcheted up since New Delhi abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 and divided it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India for Kashmir since Independence, did not take the decision well. Pakistan responded by suspending trade with India, downgrading bilateral ties and sending back its envoy. It also approached several international bodies, including the United Nations.

https://scroll.in/latest/950197/ready-to-hold-referendum-in-pok-let-people-of-kashmir-decide-what-they-want-says-pakistan-pm

The News – Pakistan summons Indian envoy to protest ‘baseless allegations against Sikh community’

Islamabad – Capital Territory – Pakistan, 07 January 2020. Pakistan summoned the Indian Charge d’Affaires Tuesday to protest against “motivated and mischievous allegations” by New Delhi on a dispute that occurred at Nankana Sahib.

On Friday, dozens of demonstrators had protested over alleged unjust treatment of police in a case involving the marriage of a young couple, which was portrayed as a communal issue by the Indian media.

According to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Director General (South Asia & SAARC) Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri summoned the Indian envoy to convey Pakistan’s strong rejection of Indian allegations of “attack”, “vandalism” and “desecration” of the holy Gurdwara Nankana Sahib.

“The DG (SA&SAARC) underscored that the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees equal rights to all its citizens and the Government is committed to protecting the rights of minorities, with zero-tolerance against any discrimination,” read the statement.

Pakistan said the motivated reports by India including one about the ‘target killing’ of a Sikh youth in Peshawar were false. Mr Chaudhri urged India to stop pointing fingers at Pakistan and accused New Delhi of attempting to use the allegations to hide the atrocities it was committing in occupied Kashmir.

He urged India to ensure “repeated instances of desecration, hate crimes and mob lynchings” do not take place against minorities and their places of worship.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had condemned the incident and demanded a report on the matter.

The prime minister, in a series of tweets, said that the Nankana incident was “against his vision and will find zero tolerance and protection from the government including police and judiciary”.

“The ongoing attacks across India on Muslims and other minorities is this: the former is against my vision and will find zero tolerance and protection from the government including police and judiciary,” PM Imran tweeted.

The main culprit accused of orchestrating the demonstration near the Sikh holy site in the small town of Nankana Sahib in Punjab was arrested late on Sunday for his role in the affair, according to a representative of the provincial government.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/595033-pakistan-summons-indian-envoy-to-protest-baseless-allegations-against-sikh-community

The News – Saudi Shura council members meet PM and president, assure support on Kashmir

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 06 December 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi met with the Saudi Shura Council members on Friday, where in the meeting with the latter, the KSA delegation reiterated support for Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Saudi Shura Council Chairman Dr Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh met with the president in Islamabad. Dr Al-Sheikh said that efforts are underway to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.

During the meeting with the top government officials, matters of mutual interest between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were discussed. The president said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have brotherly relations and share common stance on regional and international issues.

He also said that 2.3 million Pakistanis settled in the Kingdom are contributing to the socio-economic development of Saudi Arabia.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/579516-pm-imran-president-meet-saudi-shura-council-members

Dawn – Mob besieges Dawn offices in Islamabad

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 03 December 2019. A few dozen unidentified people on Monday staged a protest outside Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.

The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage.

They prevented the employees from entering or leaving the building and demanded a written apology. Some of the protesters also misbehaved with the newspaper as well as Dawn TV employees when they arrived at the office.

Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.

After lengthy negotiations with the newspaper management in the presence of an assistant commissioner, the protesters finally agreed to disperse after hurling warnings.

Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by leaders of various political parties, parliamentarians and journalist bodies.

Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar has also taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6. He had also sought details of the action taken by the police against those who had besieged the media house.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the incident, saying that “no one should be allowed to attack media outlets in the name of protest”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari demanded “action against the crowd which attacked the newspaper office and vowed to side with the journalist fraternity”.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb called for a high-level investigation into the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators.

In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said it was imperative to set a precedent by awarding strict punishment to those who attacked the newspaper office so that it should act as a deterrent in future.

“Such actions are unacceptable in any civilised society,” she said, pledging that the people, politicians and media will join hands in the fight against such elements.

National Party (NP) Punjab president Ayub Malik termed it as an “attack on media freedom”. He also called for strict action against the “unidentified persons” for holding the newspaper employees hostage. He asked the government to identify the people with the help of video footages available on social media.

Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) also condemned the incident.

Newly-elected president of the PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi demanded an inquiry.

The incident, they said, was an eye opener for the government and must not be ignored.

NPC President Shakil Qarar, in a statement, said working journalists would not allow curbs on press freedom, and asked the government to take steps for the protection of media persons.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1520079/mob-besieges-dawn-offices-in-islamabad

Dawn – Supreme Court asks government to explain legality of internment centres

Nasir Iqbal

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 16 November 2019. The Supreme Court questioned the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa about the functioning of internment centres without authorisation for three months last year during the hearing of a petition on Friday against the KP-Action in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who heads a five-judge Supreme Court bench, cautioned Attorney General Anwar Mansoor a number of times that he must satisfy the court about the legality of the matter. Otherwise, he warned, it would cause problems to the government.

And in a lighter vein the chief justice told the AG that he needed to “do more”.

The Attorney General retorted that “in Pakistan we always have to do more”.

The joint challenge to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ordinance, brought by PPP stalwart Farhatullah Babar, rights activists Afrasiab Khattak, Bushra Gohar and Rubina Saigol, seeks scrapping of the ordinance since it “impinges upon fundamental rights”.

In addition to the petition, the larger bench is also seized with the federal government’s appeal against the 17 October 2018, Peshawar High Court (PHC) decision holding the ordinance as ultra vires. The verdict also held as illegal the provincial government’s decisions to continue with laws in the erstwhile Pata and Fata.

The issue cropped up when it came to the notice of the court that the 25th Constitution Amendment came into effect on May 31 last year after removal of Article 247 (7) from the Constitution and merger of both the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) with KP.

Prior to the 25th Amendment, the tribal areas were administered under Article 247 of the Constitution, authorising the president to make regulations for peace and good governance in Fata and Pata.

Later the KP Assembly adopted the Action in Aid of Civil Powers Regulations giving protection to internment centres and other actions taken by the armed forces to deal with terrorism.

The law had also mentioned Fata even though the 25th Amendment had merged both Pata and Fata in KP.

Realising the mistake, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa promulgated the KP-Action In Aid of Civil Power Ordinance on 04 January this year by giving a retrospective effect to the law from September 2018 and by removing other deficiencies like mentioning of Fata in the earlier regulations.

But the Supreme Court was concerned why the ordinance ignored the period from 31 May 2018, when the 25th Amendment came into effect and provided protection only from September.

During the hearing, Justice Gulzar Ahmed regretted that the federal government granted some rights to the people of Fata and Pata through the 25th Amendment, but the provincial government took away those rights.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed that the amendment had done much more than merging Fata and Pata with KP since it had introduced democracy in the erstwhile tribal areas by giving them representation in the assemblies.

The chief justice asked whether the constitution makers provided any transition clause in subsequent laws because after the 25th Amendment the legislature knew well about the mechanism and arrangements under which the internment centres function and that all these systems have to be taken care of by the provinces. Otherwise, the arrangement will be rendered unconstitutional.

The attorney general read out the regulation to establish facilities afforded to interned persons, e.g. visits by family members, letters after 15 days, clothing, imparting skills and rehabilitation.

Anwar Mansoor said he would produce a video at the next hearing to show how internment centres functioned and how international organisations like Unicef were working with them.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked whether the government had evidence that the people being interned were non-state actors.

“No country in the world accepts them any longer since they have no allegiance to any country, except the organisation for which they are working,” Justice Ahmed observed.

The AG said that there were certain things which he cannot disclose.

But the chief justice wondered whether the list of missing persons had been shared with the commission on enforced disappearances. He explained to the AG that the court was not seized with the performance of internment centres, but with the legal status of the arrangement.

Attorney General Mansoor replied that the state had to be protected by taking extraordinary steps and “we have saved the country from miscreants”.

“I will try to convince the court that internment centres are not unconstitutional,” the AG said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1517012/sc-asks-govt-to-explain-legality-of-internment-centres

Dawn – Foreign Office regrets India’s refusal to avail concessions for Sikh pilgrims

Baqir Sajjad Syed

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 08 November 2019. The Foreign Office on Thursday regretted that the Indian government had decided against availing “concessions” announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan for Sikh pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Gurdwara on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak.

“As a special gesture, Pakistan announced concessions on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak to facilitate pilgrims. This has been refused by India in blatant disregard of Sikh sentiments,” FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal tweeted.

“If India does not wish to avail these facilitative measures for pilgrims, it is India’s choice,” he said.

The spokesman’s reaction came after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that the visit by Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur Gurdwara via the newly established corridor would be conducted in accordance with the agreed bilateral agreement governing the corridor’s operations.

MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar was quoted by Indian media as saying: “Sometimes they say passport is needed, other times it is not needed. We think there are differences between their Foreign Office and other agencies. We have a memorandum of understanding (MoU), it hasn’t been changed and as per it passport is needed.”

Spokesman says government was working on other initiatives for promoting religious tourism

Dr Faisal, earlier at his weekly media briefing, said that Pakistan government had as a “special gesture” waived off the passport requirement and the 10-day advance intimation for the pilgrims coming to the shrine. Moreover, $20 service charges per pilgrims were also waived off for 09 and 12 November.

The special concessions, which were announced by the prime minister through Twitter, were formally conveyed by the Pakistan government to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and the government of India.

The government is expecting around 10,000 Sikhs to visit the gurdwara on the occasion of the opening of the visa-free corridor on 09 November. These include Sikhs coming from India via the corridor, those coming through Wagah border crossing, and Sikhs living in other parts of the world coming here for the occasion.

In reply to a question relating to visas for Sikhs coming through other routes, the spokesman said: “Our missions abroad are also fully facilitating visa requests from Nanak Naamlevas”.

Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, he said, had been issued a visa and would be warmly welcomed at the opening ceremony. Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had first shared the idea of opening Kartarpur Corridor with Mr Sidhu when he last year visited Pakistan for attending PM Imran Khan’s inauguration.

Later, Mr Sidhu also came for the groundbreaking ceremony of the project.

According to Indian media, the invitation card issued by the Pakistan government to Mr Sidhu carries serial number ‘0001’.

Dr Faisal said the government was also working on a number of other initiatives for promoting religious tourism. “Sikhs / Nanak Naamlevas, Hindus and Buddhist Monks have various holy sites in Pakistan and we are trying to tap this potential of religious tourism,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to APP, the FO clarified that the passport waiver for Kartarpur pilgrims would extend up to one year as a special gesture on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Mr Faisal was responding to a question in connection with a statement by the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations in which he termed passport a must requisite for Indian pilgrims using Kartarpur corridor.

“This is the formal position of Foreign Office and the ISPR statement is also in line with it,” he said.

Asked if Pakistan would like to open similar corridors with Kargil and Ladakh to facilitate meeting of families living across the border, he said Pakistan had no objection on opening of more passages, however India’s hesitation in holding discussions on several matters was a major hurdle in that.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1515580/fo-regrets-indias-refusal-to-avail-concessions-for-sikh-pilgrims

Tolo News – Thousands continue sit-in; Pakistan Prime Minister won’t resign

Rehman accuses Khan of bad governance and demands the government follow Islamic laws.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 05 November 2019. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, who galvanized tens of thousands of followers to march on Islamabad, met Monday with opposition politicians and agreed to continue their sit-in even after a deadline he imposed for the Prime Minister to resign passed without Imran Khan stepping down.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s followers, many of them students of his religious schools, started out last week from the southern port city of Karachi, marching to Islamabad where they have since camped out on the city’s outskirts for three days.

Rehman accuses Khan of bad governance and demands the government follow Islamic laws. Khan has ignored the protesters’ demands, saying he won’t be driven from power. But he has allowed Rahman’s rally to go on, provided it remain in its designated area.

The firebrand cleric delivered a late-night speech Monday before a crowd of thousands, saying the opposition had agreed the sit-in should continue, but that no other action was agreed upon.

That includes following through on Rehman’s threats to have protesters march on the so-called Red Zone, which is home to Pakistan’s government, the prime minister’s residence and foreign embassies. Rehman said the opposition would decide when the protest would end.

Authorities have stepped up security in the capital and brought in large shipping containers to block roads and protect the Red Zone.

Bilal Bhutto-Zardari, the co-leader of the left-leaning Pakistan People’s party, once led by the late Benazir Bhutto, has said his party will not join Rehman in the sit-in. While his party supports Rehman’s call for Khan to resign, it is not ready to take part in the sit-in, he said, without elaborating.

Rehman has come under attack by human rights activists who have criticized his fiery speeches as well as his refusal to allow women at his protest march. Even women journalists were barred from the rallies until an outcry forced him to relent.

Rehman’s radical religious schools have provided men for both the Afghan Taliban militant group and the anti-government Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

In his speeches, Rehman has attacked the minority Ahmadi sect, and Ahmadi homes and places of worship are often targeted by Sunni militants who consider them heretics. There are about half a million of Ahmadis in Pakistan, which has a population of 220 million and which declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974.

Rahman has also staunchly defended a controversial blasphemy law that carried a death sentence for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam.

https://tolonews.com/world/thousands-continues-sit-pakistan-prime-minister-won%E2%80%99t-resign