Tag Archives: Islamabad

Pakistan convoy attack claim 14 lives.

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Violence in the northwestern districts of North Waziristan and South Waziristan, once home to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been on the rise this year, with a series of gun attacks and bombings targeting security forces.

Unidentified gunmen killed at least 14 people in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan on Thursday after ambushing a convoy of vehicles travelling on a major highway towards the country’s largest city Karachi.

The vehicles were travelling to Karachi from the port town of Gwadar when they were ambushed near the small town of Ormara, about 250km (155 miles) west of their destination, a security source said.

The dead included security forces personnel who were accompanying the convoy, he said. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The bodies of those killed were shifted to a nearby naval base, local officials told Al Jazeera.

Zia Langove, provincial home minister in Balochistan, confirmed the details of the attack but put the death toll at 15. He added the ambush involved at least seven assailants armed “with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons”.

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“The attack was carried out by between seven and eight attackers who fired at the convoy with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. They escaped from the area,” he said.

Langove said the convoy of vehicles was carrying employees of the state-owned Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited. He said there were several wounded survivors but did not specify an exact figure.

The highway was temporarily shut down following the attack, as security forces launched a search operation in the area.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the incident was similar to previous assaults by armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups on convoys on the same stretch of highway.

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In April last year, at least 14 people were killed when gunmen attacked their vehicles in the same area as Thursday’s attack.

That attack was claimed by the Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups who demand independence from Pakistan.

BRAS and its allies regularly carry out attacks targeting security forces and civilians across Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, the country’s largest and least developed region.

In July, at least eight soldiers were killed and five others wounded when armed ethnic Baloch gunmen attacked a security forces convoy in the Panjgur area, about 160km (99 miles) north of the site of Thursday’s attack.

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In a separate development, at least six Pakistani soldiers were killed when in improvised explosive device attack on their vehicle convoy near the northwestern town of Razmak, in North Waziristan district, on Thursday, Pakistan’s military said in a brief statement.

The military did not provide any further details on that attack.

The area was once virtually ruled by the TTP and its allies, as well as local armed groups, but a large scale Pakistani military operation launched in 2014 killed thousands of fighters and displaced the TTP’s leadership and command structure into neighbouring Afghanistan.

Since then, the military has moved in to take control of the districts, with Pakistan’s parliament passing a landmark law in 2018 to merge the erstwhile “tribal districts” with the country’s constitutional and administrative mainstream.


#Newsworthy…

Eid-el-kabir: Pakistani PM warns against possible COVID-19 hike

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Imran Khan’s warning comes as Pakistan registers its lowest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases in three months.


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned citizens to continue to strictly follow government guidelines on limiting interactions, warning of a possible new surge in cases after the Islamic holy day of Eid al-Adha later this week.

Khan’s warning came as the country registered its lowest single-day rise in cases in almost three months, according to the latest government data released on Tuesday.

Pakistan saw COVID-19 cases rise by 936, the lowest single-day rise since April 29. It has recorded a total of at least 275,000 cases, according to official data, with nearly 6,000 deaths.

Khan addressed the nation from his office in the capital Islamabad on Monday, exhorting citizens to continue to follow social distancing protocols so that the economy could be further reopened.

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“If we have to impose a lockdown again, it will affect our economy greatly … We will find it hard to find employment for our people,” he said.

Since July 2, the number of active coronavirus cases has dropped dramatically, driven mainly by a surge in recoveries and lower rates of new infections. Currently, the country has 26,834 active cases, according to official data.

The mortality rate stands at 2.16 percent, consistent with other countries in the region and far lower than many European or North American countries.

“Our intensive care beds, our oxygenated beds … the pressure has greatly reduced on them,” said Khan.

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“The way we are seeing the trends going, it is Allah’s grace … that today Pakistan is among those few countries that has managed to control the spread of this virus.”

A man wears a mask while selling cows for Eid al-Adha at a cattle market in Peshawar, Pakistan [Fayaz Aziz/Reuters]

Averting a ‘second wave’
Khan warned, however, that public gatherings around Eid al-Adha – when Muslims sacrifice animals, distribute their meat to the poor, and gather with extended families and friends – and during Muharram, a month of mourning and mass religious gatherings for Shia Muslims, could lead to a spike in infections.

“The world now knows that as your cases drop, if you are not careful, then your cases can rise once again,” he said, giving the example of a “second wave” of cases in Spain, Australia and Iran.

“Today, I want all Pakistanis to listen to my words carefully: […] you must understand that these two events, of Muharram and Eid, if we are not careful, then our cases can rise again. That will damage us greatly.”

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Also on Monday, the provincial government in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, imposed a surprise complete lockdown, closing all businesses and shops other than grocery stores and pharmacies until August 5.

Punjab province’s Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said the move was made to control possible spread of the virus during Eid al-Adha.

“The lockdown announced today is to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases post-Eid al-Adha,” she said. “To keep the curve flat, keeping in mind the lack of SOPs followed by the public, this step is unavoidable to protect all of us.”

Number of cases could be higher
Preliminary seroprevalence studies suggest that the rate of coronavirus infection in Pakistan is far higher than official figures suggest, but that most of those infected exhibit no symptoms and suffer few ill-effects.

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According to one such study, conducted by multinational pharmaceutical firm Getz Pharma among office workers, healthcare workers and contacts of coronavirus patients in the southern city of Karachi, the number of cases in Pakistan could be far higher than officially reported.

The study, conducted using antibody tests, showed that among the 24,210 people tested, 17.5 percent held antibodies for the virus, indicating they were either currently carrying it or had recovered from it.

People wear protective masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a cattle market set up for Eid al-Adha in Peshawar, Pakistan [Muhammad Sajjad/AP]

Extrapolating based on the specific demographics of the categories of those tested, the study suggests the number of total cases in the country could be as high as 4.2 million, 15.2 times the number recorded by the government.

Pakistan’s testing regime has come under criticism in recent days, the rate dropping rapidly from a June 19 hight of 31,681 tests to between 18,000 and 25,000 in the last month.

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On Monday, Pakistan conducted 19,610 tests, registering a test-positive rate of 4.8 percent. Government officials point to the latter figure as a sign that the testing is at an adequate level.

Last week, Dr Zafar Mirza, head of Pakistan’s health ministry, cited a lower number of patients seeking treatment or tests at hospitals as the prime reason for the lower rates of testing.

On Monday, Khan said his government had plans to further reopen the country’s struggling economy, but that depended on how the period over Eid and the month of Muharram goes.

“If you are careful in Eid, and [in] Muharram … then we will get an opportunity to reopen restaurants and tourism,” he said. “And then … we need to reopen our universities, our schools and our colleges.”


#Newsworthy…

Pakistani journalist ‘goes missing’ in Islamabad

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Matiullah Jan, known for his criticism of Pakistan’s powerful military, was last seen outside a school in the capital.


Islamabad, Pakistan

Rights groups have demanded information on the whereabouts of a prominent Pakistani journalist, known for his criticism of the country’s powerful military, after he reportedly disappeared on Tuesday.

Police said Matiullah Jan was last seen outside a government school in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Tuesday morning.

“He came here to the government girls school in the G-6 [neighbourhood], where his wife is a teacher, to drop her off,” said Nasrullah, an officer investigating the case. “His car is still standing here.”

“We are investigating the case presently, and no formal charges have been filed yet.”

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Jan’s wife Kaneez Sughra, 42, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) she heard sounds of a scuffle outside the school, but she had not thought seriously about it at the time.

“The school is closed and there are no children here, but we do have a little work there to write letters or other administrative work, so I was there.”

Sughra said Jan dropped her at the school at 10am local time (05:00 GMT), and asked to be picked up three hours later. Around an hour later, she heard the scuffle outside the gate.

“I could hear that something was going on outside, but I couldn’t hear my husband’s voice. What I heard was for four or five seconds. Then at 1.15pm (08:15 GMT) when I called him, he was not answering.”

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Sughra said she went outside the school and saw their car was still standing where Jan had left it. “The car was unlocked and the keys were in it. You could see from the state of the car that he was removed forcibly.”

Pakistani Information Minister Shibli Faraz acknowledged the abduction in a press conference held in Islamabad. Faraz was speaking after a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“I assure you that, while I do not have all of the details, this much is clear that he was kidnapped,” said Faraz. “We will try our best that today we find out where he is and what steps be taken to recover him. It is obvious that this is the duty of the government, and the government will fulfill its duties.”

Threats from many actors
Journalists in Pakistan are under threat from a variety of actors, with rights groups decrying increasing government and military censorship, intimidation and harassment of journalists in recent years.

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Rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Matiullah Jan during an interview in 2019 with Reuters news agency at his office in Islamabad [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Since 1992, at least 61 Pakistani journalists have been killed in connection with their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“We are extremely concerned for the fate and wellbeing of Matiullah Jan,” said Amnesty International shortly after the reported disappearance.

“He has been the subject of physical attacks and harassment for his journalism. The authorities must establish his whereabouts immediately.”

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The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded the government “immediately ensure the safe recovery of journalist Matiullah Jan”.

“We are deeply concerned at increasing attempts to control the media, suppress independent voices, and curb political dissent, thereby creating an environment of constant fear,” said Mehdi Hasan, HRCP’s chairperson.

“Matiullah Jan has stood courageously by the people of Pakistan striving to realise their constitutional and fundamental rights… Mr Jan’s abduction is an act of cowardice and warrants immediate redressal.”

Last year, an investigation (known to Noble Reporters Media) uncovered a sustained campaign of censorship through widespread distribution disruptions and intimidation in Pakistan, allegedly committed by Pakistan’s military and civilian governments.

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Jan, known for his outspoken political commentary, had become increasingly critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government since 2018, when he resigned from hosting a news television talk show on television station Waqt News.

He has also singled out the country’s military, which has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 73-year history since independence, for particular criticism, often using tongue-in-cheek YouTube videos to poke fun at senior military and civilian officials.

Last week, the country’s Supreme Court issued a contempt of court notice to Jan over a tweet in which he had criticised the judiciary.


#Newsworthy…