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‘Second life’: Helicopters rescue the stranded from Pakistan valleys

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  • Up to 200,000 people are stranded in remote Pakistan valleys.
  • Army and govt helicopter missions have rescued hundreds of panicked tourists and locals.
  • Deputy commissioner for Swat says stricken tourists have made up majority of evacuations.

SAIDU SHARIF: Up to 200,000 people are stranded in remote Pakistan valleys after the unrelenting floods of the past week — with helicopters the only way of reaching them.

Unprecedented rain in the Swat Valley turned rivers into raging torrents that washed away roads and bridges, cutting off tourists and residents from nearby towns, even as the water receded.

Army and government helicopter missions have rescued hundreds of panicked tourists and locals — some urgently needing medical help.

“It feels like I have got a second life,” said tourist Yasmin Akram, a diabetic who was airlifted to Saidu Sharif’s airfield from the Kalam valley with her 12-year-old daughter and husband.

The traffic police officer watched in despair as the hotel they fled in the middle of the night was swallowed by the Swat river, taking with it a young boy.

“I witnessed this all with my own eyes,” she said. “Since then I haven’t slept.”

Her husband, dazed from exhaustion, said he ran out of medication for his kidney condition after Kalam was cut off.

“When I arrived here it was like being given a new life,” said Muhammad Akram, an official with the Punjab government.

Their two adult sons were left behind, with priority given to the sick, women and children.

The stunning Swat Valley, known locally as the “Pakistani Switzerland”, is a popular tourist spot because of its majestic mountains, lakes and rivers.

‘Challenges are immense’ 

Junaid Khan, the deputy commissioner for Swat, told AFP that stricken tourists have made up the majority of evacuations.

Government officials and doctors have been airlifted into the valleys to identify those most in need of rescue.

Locals are willing to stay behind if food and medical supplies are guaranteed, said Khan.

Thousands of food aid packages have already been delivered — some dropped from the back of a helicopter when crowds of people reaching for the aircraft made it impossible to land.

“We’ve reached areas that no other organisations and aid groups have been able to,” Khan said at Saidu Sharif’s airfield, where some of the rescue missions are being coordinated.

Locals are hurrying to create makeshift landing pads for the helicopters — with the first established on grounds surrounding a mosque in Mankyel.

It could be days before roads leading to the mountains and valleys are repaired.

“The challenges are immense but the hope is very high in this region which has seen the worst of earthquakes and floods,” said Khan.

So far 21 deaths have been reported in the area’s valleys — mostly as a result of collapsed houses — but a handful of people were washed away by floods.

A helicopter supplied by the provincial government’s chief minister — not built for rescue missions — has helped to pull more than 350 people from villages, carrying up to double the recommended number of passengers.

Army helicopters have collected hundreds more.

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government contests Imran Khan and Qureshi’s exoneration in the cipher case

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On Thursday, the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court contesting the exoneration of former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the well-known cipher case.

Citing procedural and jurisdictional issues, the Ministry of Interior has appealed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) ruling.

In hearing the cipher case, the High Court allegedly overreached its power, arguing that judges cannot change laws where Parliament has not expressly passed legislation.

Despite receiving government-funded legal representation, the petition emphasized Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s lack of cooperation during the trial, submitting 65 separate motions and neglecting to cross-examine witnesses.

The petition contended that in order for a retrial to satisfy legal standards, the High Court should have ignored important evidence that was given during the trial. It requests that the appeals contesting the IHC’s June 3 acquittal be given a hearing date by the Supreme Court.

Case history

The cipher issue concerns a supposed diplomatic document that disappeared from Imran Khan’s custody. The cipher allegedly contained threats from the US to remove Khan from office, according to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and several aides, including Asad Umar, are named in the First Information Report (FIR) submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in accordance with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act.

The then-foreign secretary received a diplomatic cipher from Washington on March 7, 2022, according to the FIR. The lawsuit claims that by manipulating the data for their own benefit, Khan and Qureshi put the safety of the country at risk. It alleges that on March 28, 2022, Khan secretly met at his Bani Gala home and gave his Principal Secretary, Muhammad Azam Khan, instructions to change the content of the cipher to his advantage, jeopardizing national security.

The document asserts that Khan still has custody of the cipher, jeopardizing Pakistan’s encrypted messaging systems and possibly helping foreign forces, which would be detrimental to the nation. A complaint has been filed by the FIA’s Anti-Terrorism Wing against Khan, Qureshi, and other individuals for improper use of state secrets and unapproved possession of the cipher.

Acquittal by the Islamabad High Court

In the cipher case, on June 3, the IHC cleared Khan and Qureshi when Justice Aamir Farooq issued a succinct ruling in their favor. Their sentences were appealed in the case, which has since been a source of political and legal controversy, leading to their acquittal.

This acquittal and the ongoing legal and political struggles surrounding the cipher case are highlighted by the government’s subsequent move to contest it.

With potentially huge ramifications for the parties involved and the larger political scene, the Supreme Court’s decision over whether to hear the appeal will be keenly scrutinized.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urges political stability in order to accelerate economic expansion.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, emphasized on Thursday how important political stability is to Pakistan’s economic development and how the nation cannot prosper without it.

His concern was that export growth had not progressed, and he emphasized that stability in the current climate is vital to draw investments and carry out the necessary reforms.

In his criticism of the tax system, Abbasi brought up the erratic nature of tax laws and the transient nature of the most recent tax slab implementation. Insisting that difficult choices are unavoidable for economic recovery, he emphasized the necessity of designing a tax system that is equitable and does not burden the people.

Furthermore, arguing that the effectiveness of organizations like the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is essential for economic governance and transparency, Abbasi urged for changes within these and other organizations.

Abbasi, in his discussion of more comprehensive fiscal plans, suggested that the National Finance Commission (NFC) award be reviewed again and that power distribution companies (DISCOs) be decentralized to the provinces.

In order to reduce inefficiencies and corruption at the provincial level, he recommended looking into ways to share the cost of defense spending and decentralize the management of energy resources.

In closing, Abbasi emphasized that Pakistan’s economic trajectory will stay stagnant unless comprehensive changes are implemented immediately. To move the nation towards sustainable progress, he urged policymakers to give stability and structural reforms first priority.

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Through in-app QR payments, Zindigi and SBP streamline transactions involving sacrificial animals.

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With its in-app QR code payment system based on Raast, Zindigi—powered by JS Bank—has elevated the convenience of cashless payments for the procurement of sacrificial animals to a whole new level for Eid ul Adha.

This program uses QR code payments to streamline transactions for sacrificed animals for the general public and traders. It is a component of the State Bank of Pakistan’s Raast quick payment service.

This feature enables users of Zindigi and users of any digital banking apps or wallets to safely and easily make payments at certain cattle markets throughout Pakistan using Zindigi QR. The consumer must scan the QR code of the livestock merchant and pay the transaction amount in order to complete the payment.

In order to further financial inclusion and digital innovation in Pakistan’s developing economy, Zindigi and the State Bank of Pakistan have partnered. Both organizations are committed to improving the efficiency and accessibility of financial services, especially on holidays such as Eid ul Adha, by utilizing the most recent developments in fintech.

One of the most important steps toward promoting financial inclusion and economic empowerment at the local level is the integration of livestock markets into the digital economy. Farmers and retailers may take charge of their financial operations and help realize the larger goal of an inclusive digital Pakistan by adopting digital payments.

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