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Pakistan

2,179 people diagnosed with coronavirus in Sindh

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KARACHI:

Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah shared on Sunday that 2,179 people were diagnosed with coronavirus overnight, of the total 9,244 samples tested on the day.

Shah added that 435,393 samples have been tested to date in Sindh, of which 80,446 have been positive, which constituted around 18.4 per cent of the total.

The CM apprised that the testing capacity in the province has been stretched to 12,000 a day, courtesy of the laboratories established in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Gambat and Sehwan, which have been functional for the last month.

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According to Shah, Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences in Hyderabad could conduct 2,000 tests, Syed Abdullah Shah Institute in Sehwan 100, Gambat Institute 300 and Ghulam Mohammad Maher Medical College in Sukkur could screen 100 samples.

Moreover, the chief minister stated that 26 more people succumbed to the contagious disease overnight, taking the death toll to 1,269 in the province. He claimed that the government has curbed the mortality rate by spreading awareness among the masses.

Shah added that 34,654 people were currently infected by the virus, of whom 33,110 were in home isolation, 88 were quarantined at isolation centres and 1,456 were being treated at different hospitals. He added that 655 patients were in critical condition and 94 of them have been put on ventilators.

Meanwhile, he said that 1,079 more patients had recovered from the contagious disease, pushing the number of recovered people to 44,523 – around 55.5 per cent of all those affected.

Furthermore, the provincial capital saw 1,406 new Covid-19 cases. He presented the district-wise breakup, saying 555 were diagnosed with the virus in East, 358 in South, 171 in Korangi, 138 in Central, 109 in West and 75 in Malir district.

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Separately, Sukkur had 86 new cases, Hyderabad 54, Ghotki 40, Khairpur 38, Jamshoro 26, Mirpurkhas 22, Thatta 19, Larkana 17, Sanghar 14, Naushero Feroze 12, Matiari 12, Shikarpur 12, Shaheed Benazirabad nine, Umerkot eight, Dadu seven, Kashmore and Tando Allahyar three each, and Jacobabad one.



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Pakistan

Imran urges CJP Isa’s attention towards PTI’s ‘victimization’

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ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan wrote to Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday, seeking affirmative action against the political victimization of his party, and abductions, and disappearances of its workers.

In a seven-page document, Imran emphasized the need to assert Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, which safeguards the ‘right to liberty, to associate, assemble, and speak’ on account of their political affiliation.

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‘Set up commission’

The PTI chief urged in his letter that a commission be established to further investigate the disappearances of PTI journalists and political workers.

“These disappearances or abductions, quite apart from the arbitrary arrests, have spread fear through society and are a grotesque affront to the claim that Pakistan is a country ruled by a constitution and a set of laws,” the letter noted.

“Today, the power to prosecute and arrest is being used in a blatant attempt to engineer and skew the political landscape of the country,” Imran wrote.

Lifting media ban

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Adding more, he said that all political parties, along with the PTI, should be allowed “coverage without any restriction or discrimination”.

Read Imran names temporary successor

It is noteworthy to mention that the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has banned the former prime minister’s speeches and live broadcasts.

In a six-page document, PEMRA noted that, “Therefore, the competent authority, i.e., Chairman PEMRA, hereby prohibits the broadcast or rebroadcast of the speech(s) or press talks (recorded or live) of Mr Imran Khan on all satellite TV channels with immediate effect.”

May 9 riots

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Referring to the May 9 riots, Imran argued that a large number of women arrested in Lahore were a “tragic indictment of law enforcement”. He said that these women were imprisoned for six months, with further re-arrests when bail was already granted in one case,

The PTI chief particularly highlighted Punjab, Khyber-Paktunkhwa, and Islamabad authorities for their ‘maltreatment’.

His letter further maintained that any worker affiliated with the PTI is “being targeted through the registration of multiple and successive criminal cases so as to ensure continued imprisonment”.

Imran said party workers were being re-arrested, as he demanded the conduct of a fair trial against them.

“…the apex court cannot be unaware of the phenomena of the disappearances of individuals affiliated with the PTI or those connected with the government led by PTI between august 2018 and April 2022. These persons have re appeared and made press conferences that are clearly tutored”.

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“Without the intervention of the apex court in halting the widespread arrests and abductions that are presently underway, there is no possibility of a fair general election being conducted on February 8, 2024, Imran concluded.



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Pakistan

Long wait for freedom: Afghan refugees in limbo

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ISLAMABAD:

Abdullah was a well-known public figure in Afghanistan, a journalist and university lecturer respected by his readers and students.

In Pakistan, however, he is laying low — worried about being caught in a deportation dragnet and after two years still waiting to be evacuated to the West.

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He fled Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power in August 2021 on the advice of US officials and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), fearing retribution from the new authorities who, as a militant group, had a history of targeting journalists.

The 30-year-old crossed into Pakistan along with an estimated 600,000 other Afghans, with tens of thousands promised asylum in third countries.

But more than 345,000 Afghans have returned to their country or been deported since Pakistan in October ordered undocumented migrants or those who have overstayed their visas to leave.

Afghan refugees waiting for their turn at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Centre in Nowshera. PHOTO: AFP

Afghan refugees waiting for their turn at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Centre in Nowshera. PHOTO: AFP

“For fear of the police, I haven’t left this room for 15 days,” said Abdullah, using a pseudonym for security reasons.

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“If I could have led a normal life in Kabul, I would have become a street vendor or shopkeeper. I would have preferred that to my current situation.”

Rights groups have said many Afghans have been left in limbo — their visas expired because of delays in Pakistan’s registration system. Thousands are trapped in an interminable relocation process established by Western nations, which has significantly slowed.

Abdullah has a valid visa, but said armed police have twice raided his home.

More than 345,000 Afghans have returned to their country or been deported since Pakistan in October ordered undocumented migrants or those who have overstayed their visas to leave. PHOTO: AFP

More than 345,000 Afghans have returned to their country or been deported since Pakistan in October ordered undocumented migrants or those who have overstayed their visas to leave. PHOTO: AFP

“In Kabul, I was a journalist and university teacher. Here I’ve lost my identity,” he told AFP from an apartment in Islamabad.

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Since fleeing Afghanistan he has exchanged only two or three e-mails with US officials.

RSF has arranged an interview for him at the French embassy in Islamabad.

Ahmed, a former British army interpreter in Afghanistan, was approved for evacuation two years ago yet remains stuck in an Islamabad hotel room paid for by the UK’s diplomatic mission.

“I have been here more than 700 days,” the 32-year-old said bitterly.

“I don’t know the reason why the UK Government is doing injustice with me, why I have been stuck here. I need a life, I need education and I want to build my new home,” said Ahmed, also using a pseudonym.

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Many Afghan refugees, migrants and asylum seekers feel forgotten by the world, which has turned its attention to other crises, such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. PHOTO: AFP

Many Afghan refugees, migrants and asylum seekers feel forgotten by the world, which has turned its attention to other crises, such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. PHOTO: AFP

His Pakistan visa expired over a year ago, and he fears being deported to Afghanistan, even though Islamabad has pledged not to kick out people in his situation.

“When I text my caseworker, he’s telling me: ‘Be patient, be patient, be patient’,” he told AFP.

“The worst word is ‘Be patient’,” said Ahmed, who is also supported by Sulha Alliance — an association campaigning for Afghan interpreters who worked with the British army.

Trucks carrying Afghan refugees in Nowshera, Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Trucks carrying Afghan refugees in Nowshera, Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

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Many Afghan refugees, migrants and asylum seekers feel forgotten by the world, which has turned its attention to other crises, such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

While Britain has welcomed 21,500 Afghans as part of its resettlement programmes for former employees and people at risk, 70 percent of them arrived when Kabul was evacuated by the chaotic airlift that coincided with the Taliban takeover.

Only 175 people have been resettled in the first six months of 2023, according to the Migration Observatory, which analyses UK Home Office statistics.

The United States has taken in 90,000 Afghans since August 2021 — again, the majority from the evacuation of Kabul.

Precise data on Afghans in Pakistan awaiting resettlement abroad is not available, but British media have reported that more than 3,000 Afghans are in Islamabad awaiting evacuation, while the German foreign ministry said 1,500 Afghans approved for asylum are still in Pakistan or Iran.

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About 20,000 people recommended for asylum by US officials, NGOs and American media outlets are waiting in Pakistan for their cases to be examined, according to Refugees International.

Despite assurances from the government that legitimate cases will not be deported, there are exceptions.

Last month, seven members of one family waiting to be reunited with a relative in Spain were deported, according to the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees.

Read also: Afghans driven from Pakistan rebuilding lives from ‘zero’

Women’s rights advocate Afsaneh, who arrived in March 2022 when the Taliban authorities began rounding up activists, lamented the “state of uncertainty”.

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The 38-year-old’s children were not allowed into the school system and the visa for one of them has not been extended.

“It’s near to two years… but still my case is not processed,” said Afsaneh, whose name has also been changed by AFP.

“It’s delayed by Pakistan and by the embassies, who are not taking serious action about those who are facing threats and risks,” she said.

Afsaneh has applied to Germany, Spain and Canada for asylum, but only the latter has kept in touch.

The crackdown by Pakistan authorities does seem to have pushed some Western nations to speed up procedures.

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At the end of October, Britain resumed evacuation flights that had been interrupted for several months.

“If they (the international community) want to support the Afghan people, they should prove it in action,” pleads Munisa Mubariz, 33, a women’s rights activist who hopes to leave for Canada soon.

“They should implement their commitment and their plan and their promises to these refugees.”



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Pakistan

‘Some forces’ pull back leaders with progressive vision: Zardari

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Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday asserted that ‘some forces’ hinder the progress of leaders with a vision for advancing the country. He however expressed his confidence in the people of Pakistan, emphasising that he does not succumb to fear in the face of such forces.

Addressing a rally in Quetta to mark the party’s 56th foundation day, he said that Balochistan was the heart of Pakistan, a term usually referred to Lahore, lamenting that Islamabad and other provinces fail to recognise it as such.

Zardari affirmed his party’s commitment to rectifying this perception while acknowledging the significance of winning hearts of the people of Balochistan to achieve this goal.

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He stated that the PPP would empower the people of Balochistan, ensuring their ownership of the province’s resources, including gas, petrol, and minerals. He underlined that the rights to these resources belong solely to the people of Balochistan, with no claim by others.

The former president highlighted the challenges faced by Balochistan and emphasised the need to address the grief prevalent in the province.

He pledged that the PPP would make Balochistan the master of its own destiny, ensuring that all resources, whether gas, petrol, or minerals, benefit the local population. Zardari promised equitable distribution of water resources across all provinces.

Turning his attention to his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the veteran politician commended former foreign minister for elevating Pakistan’s dignity at a young age. He called for support for Bilawal, envisioning him as a leader of the youth, guiding the nation towards prosperity.

Zardari concluded by asserting the need to groom Bilawal as a leader for today and tomorrow, saying that he would try to transfer his ‘wisdom’ to his son.

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Bilawal fires broadside at PML-N

Speaking on the occasion, Bilawal took aim at his political opponents, asserting that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had earned the moniker “mehangai [inflation] league”, calling the former coalition partners a showbaaz (braggers) of Pakistani politics.

Bilawal said that 70% of the country’s population comprises youth, highlighting his own youthful identity. In an apparent reference to former prime minister Imran Khan, who is considered popular among the youth, the former foreign minister said that he would represent the youth himself, not any khiladi (player).

Bilawal credited his father Asif Ali Zardari for burying the politics of hatred and revenge, marking the beginning of a new era.

He said that his party would bring a new “charter of economy” if brought to power, criticising the PML-N-led government in failing to curb inflation despite holding the finance ministry.

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Urging the youth to reject divisive politics, Bilawal expressed regret that Islamabad failed to recognise the significance of Balochistan in Pakistan.

He called for a new vision and politics in Pakistan, signalling the PPP’s intention to initiate a fresh style of politics to empower the people in facing economic challenges.

 



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