Daily Archives: March 3, 2018

9-YEAR-OLD PAKISTANI GIRL SCALES 5,000M PEAK IN HUNZA

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A nine-year-old Pakistani girl has become the youngest to scale the 5,765-metre-high Quz Sar Peak in Pakistan’s Shimshal Valley, Hunza, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported.

Hailing from Abbottabad, Selena Khawaja in her first detailed interview told Gulf News she has a special love for peaks.

The nine-year-old said she felt great on reaching the summit on Feb 21.

Selena was accompanied by her father, Yousaf Khawaja, expedition guide Wazir Baig, porter Arif Baig and other team members during the expedition. It took them more than 10 days, of which seven were dedicated to the hike.

Selena who has been titled “Mountain Princess” by Pakistan’s mountaineer community, has now set her eyes on three peaks: Mingling Sar (6,050 metres), followed by Spantik Peak (7,027 metres) and then the Broad Peak (8,051 metres) which is the 12th highest mountain in the world.

In 2019, when she will be 10, Selena aims to become the youngest girl to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Source: Nam News Network

Sharif’s Party Reportedly Gains Control Of Pakistani Senate

Reports from Pakistan say the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party gained control of parliament’s upper house in a secret ballot on March 3.

Pakistan’s national and provincial parliaments were voting on March 3 in Senate elections that are seen as a test of the PML-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan’s Geo TV and other local media report that candidates backed by the PML-N won 15 of the 52 Senate seats up for grabs, overtaking the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as the largest group in the upper house.

PPP candidates reportedly won 12 seats.

“PMLN now the single largest party in Senate as well,” tweeted Sharif’s daughter and presumed political heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who won a seat in the capital, Islamabad, said the senate victory vindicates Sharif’s political “narrative” with voters.

Pakistani political analysts say that by working with allied politicians in the Senate, PML-N should have de facto control of the 104-seat chamber.

However, official results will not immediately show how well PML-N has done because some candidates were barred from running under the party’s banner.

PML-N party officials say those candidates, running as “independents,” are expected to pledge their allegiance to PML-N if they are elected to the Senate.

Lawmakers in the country’s four provincial assemblies � Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan — and the National Assembly were electing the 52 senators from among more than 130 candidates.

The vote came as Sharif’s PML-N is in disarray after the Supreme Court in July 2017 disqualified Sharif from office due to corruption charges.

His party then changed the country’s laws to allow him to resume his role as its leader.

Pakistan’s election commission (ECP) rejected his nomination as head of the party but said that the party’s lawmakers could contest the March 3 vote by lawmakers as independent candidates.

PML-N’s leaders have been beset by corruption allegations, including against Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Rare Triumph For Tajikistan’s IRPT, As Leader Removed From Interpol’s ‘Red Notice’

There was something of a victory for the embattled Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) on March 2 when the IRPT’s leader, Muhiddin Kabiri, announced that Interpol had taken his name off its wanted list.

It was a rare triumph for the IPRT, which just two weeks earlier saw one of its members in exile (as so many are) forcibly and extrajudicially returned from Istanbul to Tajikistan, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The removal of Kabiri from the Interpol Red Notice list is also a sign international law enforcement organizations are being more diligent in ascertaining whether requests from governments to declare their citizens wanted are genuine concerns for safety or political vendettas.

IRPT spokesman Mahmudjon Faizrahmonov welcomed the news of the removal of Interpol’s Red Notice against Mr. Kabiri, a peaceful and moderate politician, and said Interpol’s decision was a setback for the Dushanbe government’s efforts to portray its opponents as militants and terrorists.

Militants and terrorists is exactly how the Tajik government has described the IRPT, at least recently. The party was banned in September 2015 and not long after declared an extremist group.

That came after 18 years of fairly successful coexistence between the government and the IRPT. The two were combatants during the 1992-97 civil war, but the conflict ended with a peace deal that gave places in the government to the IRPT and its wartime allies.

The IRPT was the only registered Islamic party in Central Asia. The IRPT spoke against radical Islamic groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Iraq and Syria.

This stance by the IRPT was valuable to the secular government of President Emomali Rahmon since the Islamic party’s authority to speak out against extremism, like the extremism in neighboring Afghanistan, resonated far more loudly and credibly with Tajikistan’s population than that of the government or state-appointed clerics.

It is against Interpol’s constitution for individuals to be targeted because of their political or religious beliefsbut this has not stopped authoritarian governments like Tajikistan targeting political exiles.

— Edward Lemon, Columbia University’s Harriman Institute

But the IRPT’s places in government gradually dwindled and the party lost its last two seats in parliament in elections on March 1, 2015, that some, including the IRPT, calimed were rigged. That June, the party had its registration taken away and when the allegedly renegade Deputy Defense Minister Abdulhalim Nazarzoda supposedly rebelled in early September 2015, Tajik authorities quickly connected Nazarzoda to the IRPT.

For the record, Nazarzoda was with the opposition during the civil war, but he left not long after the conflict began and only returned after it was over. He had been in the Tajik military since just after the war ended and had been a high-ranking officer since 2005, so there were questions about his strange decision to start an insurrection and even more questions about his purported ties to the IRPT.

Such questions did not matter to Tajik authorities, who then banned the IRPT and declared it an extremist group, just like Al-Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State militant group.

Kabiri was outside the country at the time, but 14 senior members of the party who were in Tajikistan after the party was declared an extremist group were arrested and given lengthy prison terms, including two life sentences, following what HRW called a flawed trial. Dozens, at least, of other IRPT members were also imprisoned and the Tajik government asked Interpol to place many of the IRPT leaders and members outside the country on the international wanted list.

But while Kabiri is free, there are concerns that IRPT member Namunjon Sharipov faces a real risk of torture and other ill-treatment in Tajikistan, according to HRW.

Sharipov is a high-ranking member of the IRPT from Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region. Since August 2015, he has been living in Istanbul, where he operated a teahouse, but on February 20 he called RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, to say he had voluntarily returned to Tajikistan.

Sharipov said he planned to visit the northern town of Isfara and then return to Istanbul in about a week, but as of early March there was no word he had flown back to Turkey.

HRW said in its report about Sharipov that his son explained that on three consecutive days starting on February 2, the consul of the Tajik Consulate in Istanbul visited Sharipov at the teahouse, encouraging him to return voluntarily to Tajikistan.

Turkish police detained Sharipov on February 5. Family members were able to see him several times, but on February 16 he was apparently put on a plane to Dushanbe.

Sharipov’s family and lawyer say Sharipov is being detained in Tajikistan and was forced to make statements like the one to Ozodi. HRW noted, On several previous occasions, Tajik activists who have been forcibly returned to the country have been forced to make such statements to the press under duress.

Kabiri and Sharipov’s fates are different, but the sort of ordeals they have gone through were described in a report John Heathershaw and Edward Lemon authored in October 2017.

The authors said the Tajik government targets exiles by placing them on international wanted lists through Interpol and regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

However, there are also cases when exiles are forcibly transferred, or rendered, back to their home country.

Lemon, currently a postdoctorate fellow at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, told Qishloq Ovozi: It is against Interpol’s constitution for individuals to be targeted because of their political or religious beliefsbut this has not stopped authoritarian governments like Tajikistan targeting political exiles.

Lemon said, Interpol has been reforming. In 2015, it announced that it would no longer issue Red Notices for those with confirmed refugee status. But Lemon added, Even after having a Red Notice delisted, not all national police agencies will remove your file from their own national databases and governments can also continue to target individuals by issuing ‘diffusions,’ arrest requests sent directly to member states without being reviewed by Interpol.

The Tajik government now calls the IRPT an extremist group, but when the IRPT was registered it was the second largest political party in Tajikistan with some 40,000 members and likely more than twice that many supporters. And it was a genuine opposition party.

With no strong opposition party remaining in Tajikistan, President Rahmon has made some interesting moves.

The IRPT was officially banned on September 29, 2015.

In December 2015, Tajikistan’s parliament, which was by then completely packed with members from pro-presidential parties, voted to give Rahmon the title of founder of peace and national unity � leader of the nation.

Rahmon’s daughter Ozoda was appointed chief of the presidential staff in January 2016.

In May 2016, a referendum was held on changes to the constitution that struck presidential terms limits — Rahmon is currently serving his fourth term — and lowered the eligibility age for a presidential candidate from 35 to 30. Rahmon’s eldest son, Rustam Emomali, turned 30 in December.

Rustam Emomali was appointed mayor of Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, in January 2017.

And the Norway-based religious rights group Forum 18 just reported on February 26 that during 2017, 1,938 mosques were in 2017 forcibly closed and converted to secular uses.

Likely none of these recent changes would have gone uncontested if there had been a strong opposition party still present in Tajikistan.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

PAKISTANI SECURITY FORCES THWART MAJOR TERROR BID IN BALOCHISTAN, 6 TERRORISTS ARRESTED

ISLAMABAD, Pakistani security forces Friday thwarted a major terrorist bid in southwestern Balochistan Province and apprehended six terrorists during multiple operations, the military said.

An army statement said that paramilitary frontier corps carried out intelligence-based operations in different parts of Karbala and Pishin areas of the province.

At least 500 kg of explosive materials have been recovered from the possession of the arrested, a statement from the army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations said.

The paramilitary frontier corps also recovered arms and ammunition from the possession of the suspects, including explosive jackets, sub-machine guns and improvised explosive devices. Mines and tools of communication were also seized during the operation.

The operations were part of the ongoing operation “Radd-ul-Fassad” in Balochistan Province, a military offensive against the “latent threat of terrorism” across the country, which was launched in February 2017.

Source: Nam News Network

PAKISTAN HOLDS SENATE ELECTION, RULING PML-N LIKELY TO TOP POLLING

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan held elections for its Senate to elect 52 members of the house for the next six years on Saturday amid strict measures to ensure transparency, the Election Commission said.

According to a statement from the Election Commission of Pakistan, at least 135 candidates, including 110 men and 25 women, are competing for the 52 Senate seats from all the four provinces of the country, northwest Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the capital of Islamabad.

As many as 20 candidates are contesting against 12 seats from eastern Punjab province, 33 against 12 seats from southern Sindh province, 27 against 11 seats from northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 25 against 11 seats from southwest Balochistan province, 24 against four seats from FATA and six against two seats from Islamabad.

Among the candidates, 20 are from the Pakistan People’s Party led by Pakistan’s former Pakistani President Asif Zardari, 14 from the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement, 13 from Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, 65 independents and others.

Among the 65 independent candidates, 23 contestants are nominated by ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who were prohibited by the Supreme Court last week to contest the elections on their party tickets. Some local media reports said that 131 candidates are competing now after four candidates have withdrawn from the elections in favor of some other runners.

Pakistani political analysts believed that the PML-N-backed independent candidates are likely to top in the Saturday’s Senate elections by winning more seats than its rivals.

Aslam Khan, a senior political analyst and renowned Urdu columnist, told Xinhua that the PML-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has a very strong position to outnumber rivals and take a majority in the upper house of the parliament.

The analyst said that the PML-N would win at least 15 seats in the elections as it has more than a two-thirds majority in eastern Punjab province assembly and in the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament.

In Pakistan, the 342-member National Assembly and four provincial assemblies are the Electoral College for the Senate. Members of the National Assembly will also elect senators for Islamabad and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The contestants from provinces will be elected by members of provincial assemblies respectively while the aspirants from Islamabad and FATA will get votes from the members of the National Assembly.

If the PML-N wins 15 seats, its total number of senators in the upper house will rise to 33, more than any other party in the house.

Pakistan’s Senate comprises 23 members from each province, eight from FATA and four members from Islamabad. The Senate elections are held after every three years to elect half seats that have completed their six-year term. The last elections were held in 2015 and the next will be conducted in 2021.

The polling is being held in four provincial assemblies and at the National Assembly in Islamabad. The polling process will continue from 9:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) until 4:00 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) without any break.

Source: Nam News Network

CM Punjab congratulates PML-N-backed victorious Senate candidates

Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has congratulated the PML-N-backed Senate candidates for their victory in the Senate elections.

In his congratulatory message, he hoped that the newly-elected senators will utilize their energies for supremacy of the constitution, rule of law and strengthening of the democratic system.

Shahbaz Sharif said results of the Senate elections have proved that the PML-N is the largest political party of the country and it lives in the hearts of the people.

Source: Radio Pakistan