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Army rules out leaning towards ‘any political party, ideology’



In his maiden press conference after assuming the post of Director-General (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry Tuesday reiterated the army’s stance that it does not have a leaning towards any political party or ideology as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) calls on the establishment for intervening in politics.

“The Pakistan Army is a national army. All political parties are respectable for us […] but we do not lean towards any political party or ideology,” the ISPR DG said while addressing the presser at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

The army’s spokespersons have repeatedly denied that the military is leaning towards anyone as political parties blame each other for having the establishment’s backing.

“If any army was used to further a specific political ideology anywhere in the world, it led to anarchy,” the ISPR DG said and called upon Pakistan’s political leadership to support the military’s professional thinking. 

The ISPR DG added that the government and the military have constitutional and non-political ties — a stance that the army has long stood by. “This non-political relationship should not be given a political colour.”

With several retired army men supporting PTI, the ISPR DG said that the veterans’ organisations should not become political as their purpose was to ensure veterans’ welfare and highlight their issues. 

Indian propaganda

During his presser, Major General Chaudhry said India’s propaganda still continues against Pakistan as he slammed the neighbouring nation for ceasefire violations.

The ISPR DG said that India had committed several ceasefire violations along the LoC this year and Pakistan had also taken down six Indian spy quadcopters. 

He noted that Pakistan had taken United Nations observers to the Line of Control (LoC) several times, while India had not done the same.

“India’s aggressive designs and baseless allegations cannot change history. India cannot change the historical status of Kashmir. If India plans any adventure, Pakistani forces will give a strong response.”

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir visited the LoC on his first tour after becoming army chief, he recalled. 

“Pakistan has fought the war against terrorism for two decades. Every Pakistani soldier is devoted to faith, piety and jihad in the cause of Allah.”

Referring to Operation Swift Retort in 2019 — in which Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace and arrested an Indian pilot on the ground — the military spokesperson said that Pakistan could defend its territory. 

Pakistan’s situation holds importance in India’s internal matters, he said, adding that the Indian government talks about Pakistan’s politics also to divert attention from its own problems. 

India has been conducting false flag operations and propaganda against Pakistan, he iterated. “Some local elements advance India’s agenda knowingly or unknowingly,” he said without elaborating. 

Report to SC based on ‘ground realities’

In response to a question, he said the Ministry of Defence had already given a briefing to the Supreme Court regarding the deployment of troops for elections, which was based on “ground realities”.

The defence ministry briefed the apex court last week on why the government could not provide army personnel for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — and the report has not been made public yet.

The government has repeatedly maintained that the polls cannot take place not only due to the ongoing economic turmoil, but also due to terrorism threats, and with the army busy in counterterrorism operations, it could not allocate security forces for elections.

To a question about what was in the report that the defence ministry had submitted to the top court, Maj Gen Chaudhry said that had there been a need to make the briefing provided to Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial public, then it would have already been disclosed.

“Those talks were held just between the institutions,” he said.

“It is not in the interest of the nation, country, and the army to push the armed forces into politics,” the military’s spokesperson remarked, a position that his predecessors have also maintained.

The ISPR DG added that it is the government’s prerogative to summon the Pakistan Army under Article 245 for election security or during natural disasters.

Terrorism situation

At the start of the news conference — his first after taking over the post — he said the purpose was to elaborate on the army’s professional activities, including analysing its counterterrorism operations. 

“The contacts between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch [insurgent] organisations and foreign intelligence agencies has been proven.”

Pakistan’s civil and military agencies took great steps against terrorists, he said. 

Giving a breakdown of the menace of terrorism during the current year, he said 436 incidents had occurred, in which 293 people were martyred and  523 injured. 

During this period, security forces conducted 8,279 intelligence-based operations (IBOs), in which 1,535 terrorists were killed. Around 70 IBOs were being conducted daily, he added. 

“There is no no-go area in Pakistan,” he emphasised. However, terrorists were still disturbing the country’s peace.

The ISPR DG further said that 137 security officials have been martyred so far this year while 117 have been wounded. “The war against terrorism that Pakistan has fought is unprecedented and will continue till the last terrorist is eliminated,” he asserted. 

“Terrorist organisations and their facilitators’ have no ideology,  religion or faith. They attack mosques, police, religious scholars, mediapersons and citizens,” he said. 

He also expressed sadness that the police were blamed for any terrorist incident no matter how small. The police had given countless sacrifices, he said. 

Peshawar mosque attackers trained in Afghanistan

Referring to the suicide attack on a mosque in Peshawar in January, which claimed the lives of over 70 people, the ISPR DG said the blast was carried out by the banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar on the TTP’s orders.

“The attacker belonged to Afghanistan. The facilitators have been arrested. These terrorists were trained in different areas of Afghanistan.”

The masterminds of an attack on the Karachi police chief’s office have also been arrested, he said, adding that the terrorists had taken Rs3 million to carry out the attack. 

“No individual or group will be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” he stressed. “Attempts to sabotage CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and other projects are being thwarted. All projects are being provided complete security.

“Different social welfare programs have been announced after slashing the army’s budget. The navy and airforce have also participated in relief activities.”

The ISPR DG said the army had reviewed its expenditures in view of the country’s economic situation. “Petroleum, ration and non-operational movement are being reduced.

“The journey towards permanent peace has begun.”

Border situation

Maj Gen Chaudhry further said around 3141 kilometre-long border has been fenced along the frontiers with Afghanistan and Iran to prevent infiltration of terrorists.

He said 98% border with Afghanistan and 85% with Iran has been fenced, while 85% of forts along the Afghanistan frontier and 33% with Iran have been completed.

He further said that 65% of erstwhile tribal areas have been cleared of land mines.

The ISPR DG added that it isn’t possible to completely seal the border between the two countries, and in the local context, Pakistan is home to over five million Afghan refugees, while the movement of people between the borders of the two states was substantial.

“On an annual basis, around 20,000 people cross the Pak-Afghan borders,” he said, noting that the local authorities were in talks with the interim Afghan government over border management.

Socio-economic uplift

Highlighting measures for the socio-economic uplift of the people, the ISPR DG said that 3,654 projects are being completed at a cost of Rs162 billion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while 95% of the affected population has returned to homes.

He said that around 14,000 people have been given jobs in Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps under Youth Employment Scheme.

Similarly, over 1,200 students are getting an education in various institutions.

‘Army used to improve agriculture’

The military’s spokesperson added that with the growing population, Pakistan also faces a food security challenge.

“Governments in developed countries also use the army to improve agriculture. In this regard, the federal and provincial governments will decide what Pakistan Army’s role will be,” he said.

The Punjab government has allocated over 45,000 acres of land to the Pakistan Army for a “Corporate Agriculture Farming” project in the shape of a “joint venture” to enhance the crop yield in order to ensure food autarky.

However, officials in the Punjab government were prompted to issue a clarification and provide a rationale for allocation of land to the Pakistan Army.

A senior government official, on the condition of anonymity, said: “From the onset, it should be clear that the ownership of the land remains with the Punjab government.”

“The Pakistan Army is only providing a management structure; the corporate sector and local farmers will also be involved in the cultivation process,” he added.


India cannot deny visas to Pakistani cricket fans as per ICC laws: FM Jilani




  • Interim FM says PCB to take up matter of fans’ visas with ICC.
  • “There is absolutely no question of CPEC being rolled back”.
  • Jilani says Pakistan’s policy on Palestine-Israel remains same. 

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani has stressed that India cannot deny visas to Pakistani cricket fans as the International Cricket Council (ICC) rules bind the host countries to cater to the demand. 

It is pertinent to mention here that a delay in the issuance of visas for the national cricket squad and staff by India had put Pakistan’s participation in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 — starting October 5 — in jeopardy as the Men in Green couldn’t travel to the neighbouring country until last night.

It also affected the Pakistan team’s schedule ahead of the showpiece event as they couldn’t gather in Dubai for a “team-bonding trip”. 

“As per ICC rules, providing visas to the fans is mandatory,” the foreign minister made the remark during a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday. 

He added that Pakistani fans must get Indian visas and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will take up the matter with the ICC. 

Travel between the two arch-rivals is usually an issue for players as well due to the diplomatic tensions between the governments.

Pakistan and India haven’t played bilateral series in any format since 2012-13. Pakistan last toured India for the ODI and T20I series.

‘Pakistan enters second phase of CPEC’

While answering a question about the progress of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), FM Jilani said that Pakistan has entered the second phase of the mega developmental programme, which is a very transformational and important project for the country.

“There is absolutely no question of it being rolled back,” he added.

The second phase of the mega project, the interim foreign minister said, would involve the upgradation of railways and agriculture, technical cooperation, information technology (IT) cooperation and many other areas.

He stressed that “only progress” will be seen in CPEC in days to come.

While talking about the Pakistani delegation’s visit to the United States, Jilani said that Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar made a key address at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and attended various significant sessions, including a meeting on the epidemic diseases.

The FM said that the caretaker PM also had a busy schedule on his New York visit, during which he presented his stance on the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

“We told the world clearly about the right of self-determination of Kashmir and human rights violations going on there,” he added.

‘Absolutely no change in policy over Palestine’

Moving on to the Palestinian conflict, the interim FM said that major human rights violations are taking place in Palestine. “The Palestinian issue should be resolved as per the wish of Palestinian people.”

He also said that there is no change in Pakistan’s foreign policy as far as Palestine is concerned and the maintains the same position on the matter. “Pakistan will not imitate other countries on Israel but will protect its own interests.”

He added, “We want the establishment of a free and independent state of Palestine.”

Responding to a question about Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that not only Pakistan but the entire world has concerns about the terrorist attacks that took place in the past few weeks.

He said that the good thing is that there is a dialogue going on with the Taliban government and Islamabad has emphasised that Afghanistan is responsible for stopping the attacks on Pakistan originating from Afghan soil.

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Media defenders seek parties’ commitment to press freedom ahead of polls




  • Media organisations call for freedom of expression, protection of journalists. 
  • Impunity for crimes against journalists, media is very high in Pakistan, they say. 
  • PPP, PML-N, PTI, JI among other parties that were delivered joint letter. 

ISLAMABAD: As the general elections approach, media organisations in Pakistan Tuesday launched an appeal to the key mainstream and regional political parties involved in the election campaign to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom. 

Pakistan’s leading press clubs, national and provincial unions of journalists, Paris-based global media watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network called on heads of contesting parties to pen their commitment to defending the freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their party manifestos.

“Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,” said the joint letter on Thursday.

Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 report stated that there were “no convictions in 96% of journalist killings in the past 10 years,” the letter added. 

“Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus, denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information – the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A.”

Karachi Press Club, Lahore Press Club, Quetta Press Club, National Press Club, Islamabad, Peshawar Press Club, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Karachi Union of Journalists, Punjab Union of Journalists, Balochistan Union of Journalists, Khyber Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Freedom Network, Reporters Without Borders and TV journalist Hamid Mir co-authored this joint letter.

“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. Pakistan’s press clubs along with journalists’ unions, press freedom organisations and editors bodies for electronic media, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them,” it mentioned. 

The statement recalled that traditionally, political parties were strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan. “Journalistic institutions such as press clubs and unions of journalists remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, of which journalism is an important tool used to exercise the right,” the statement said.

“We ask these federal and regional political parties to take our call into consideration and state unambiguously that they will support press freedom, the right to reliable information and the defence of journalists, that they will end impunity for crimes against media through Pakistan’s legal framework and that they will bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists,” they emphasised. 

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttehida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Baluchistan Awami Party, Baluchistan National Party (Mengal group), Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), Hazara Democratic Party and National Party were delivered this joint letter to seek their commitment to defending press freedom if they are elected to national and provincial parliament in the forthcoming general elections.

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Pakistani biryani: a spicy recipe for delectable debate




Karachi: Eying each other across a stream of traffic, rival Pakistani biryani joints vie for customers, serving a fiery medley of meat, rice and spice that unites and divides South Asian appetites.

Both sell a niche version of the dish, steeped in the same vats, with matching prices and trophies commending their quality.

But in Karachi, where a biryani craze boomed after the creation of Pakistan, it is the subtle differences that inspire devotion.

“Our biryani is not only different from theirs but unique in the world,” says restaurateur Muhammad Saqib, who layers his “bone marrow biryani” with herbs.

“When a person bites into it he drowns in a world of flavours,” the 36-year-old says.

Across the road, Muhammad Zain sees it differently.

“We were the ones who started the biryani business here first,” the 27-year-old claims, as staff scoop out sharing platters with a gut-punch of masala.

“It´s our own personal and secret recipe.”

Both agree on one thing.

“You can´t find biryani like Pakistan´s anywhere in the world,” says Saqib.

“Whether it´s a celebration or any other occasion, biryani always comes first,” according to Zain.

International cuisine

British colonial rule in South Asia ended in 1947 with a violent rupture of the region along religious lines.

Hindus and Sikhs in newly created Pakistan fled to India while Muslim “Mohajirs” — refugees — went the other way.

India and Pakistan have been arch-rivals since, fighting wars and locked in endless diplomatic strife. Trade and travel have been largely choked off.

Many Mohajirs settled in Karachi, home to just 400,000 people in 1947 but one of the world´s largest cities today with a population of 20 million.

For Indian food historian Pushpesh Pant, biryani served in South Asia´s melting-pot cities such as Karachi is a reminder of shared heritage.

“Hindus ate differently, Nanakpanthis (Sikhs) ate differently, and Muslims ate differently, but it was not as if their food did not influence each other,” he told AFP from the city of Gurugram outside Delhi.

“In certain parts of Pakistan and certain parts of India, the differences in flavours and foods are not as great as man-made borders would make us think.”

Every Karachi neighbourhood has its own canteens fronted by vendors clanking a spatula against the inside of biryani pots.

The recipe has endless variations.

The one with beef is a favourite in Islamic Pakistan, while vegetarian variants are more popular in largely Hindu India.

Chicken is universal. Along coastlines, seafood is in the mix.

And purists debate if adding potatoes is heresy.

“Other than that, there is Pulao Biryani which is purely from Delhi,” says 27-year-old pharmacist Muhammad Al Aaqib, describing a broth-stewed variation.

“My roots lead back to Delhi too so it´s like the mother of biryanis for us.”

“Perhaps every person has a different way of cooking it, and their way is better,” says 36-year-old landlord Mehran Khoso.

´No secret ingredient´

The origins of biryani are hotly contested.

However, it is generally accepted the word has Persian roots and it is argued the dish was popularised in the elite kitchens of the Mughal Empire, which spanned South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries.

In spite of that pedigree, its defining quality is permutation.

Quratul Ain Asad, 40, spends Sunday morning cooking for her husband and son, Mohajir descendants of a family that arrived in Karachi from the Indian town of Tonk in 1948.

But at the dinner table, they feast not on an heirloom recipe but a TV chef´s version with a cooling yoghurt sauce and a simple shredded salad.

Asad insists on Karachi´s biryani supremacy.

“You will not like biryani from anywhere else once you´ve tasted Karachi´s biryani,” she says.

“There is no secret ingredient. I just cook with a lot of passion and joy,” she adds. “Perhaps that´s why the taste comes out good.”

Cooked in bulk, biryani is also a staple of charity donations.

At Ghazi Foods, 28-year-old Ali Nawaz paddles out dozens of portions of biryani into plastic pouches, which are delivered to poor neighbourhoods on motorbikes.

A minute after one of those bikes stops, the biryani is gone, seized by kids and young adults.

“People pray for us when they eat it,” says Nawaz. “It feels good that our biryani reaches the people.”

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