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Amnesty Urges Pakistan To Allow Construction Of Islamabad’s First Hindu Temple After Halt

Amnesty International has urged Pakistan to allow the construction of a Hindu temple in the capital, Islamabad, that was halted amid opposition to the project from religious and political circles.

“Everyone has a right to freedom of religion or belief, a right that is guaranteed in Pakistan’s constitution and its international obligations,” the London-based human rights watchdog tweeted on July 7.

Halting the construction of the Hindu temple “is an unconscionable act of bigotry that must be reversed immediately,” it added.

The government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved plans in 2017 to build Islamabad’s first Hindu temple, with a crematorium, a community hall, and parking spaces.

The government of the current prime minister, Imran Khan, earlier this year approved a grant of Rs100 million (nearly $600,000) for the construction of the Shri Krishna Madir temple, but Muslim clerics and politicians, including the chief of the PML-Q party, an ally of Khan, said they strongly opposed the move.

Last week, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) halted construction of the boundary wall at the site saying it did not have an approved building plan. The move came after part of the wall was allegedly demolished by fundamentalists opposed to the project.

The government later said it was seeking advice from Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a body of Islamic scholars, on whether state money can be used for the construction of the temple.

Mainly Muslim Pakistan is home to an estimated 8 million Hindus, including some 3,000 in Islamabad.

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university scandal investigation completed, security man fired

The Balochistan High Court has been informed that investigation into the university CCTV video harassment scandal has been completed, Dawn news reported.

During the hearing of the case, lawyers representing the university informed the division bench comprising Chief Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel and Justice Nazeer Ahmed Langove that former security in-charge of Balochistan University Saifullah has been sacked as he was found involved in the CCTV video scandal.

The lawyers appeared on behalf of the university and informed the court that action against former vice chancellor Dr Javed Iqbal, former registrar Tariq Jogezai, former chief security officer Mohammad Naeem and former transport officer Mohammad Sharif would be discussed during a meeting of the registrar and secretary of university syndicate, Dawn report said.

The additional advocate general told the court that the national and provincial assemblies had passed laws against harassment in government departments and universities but the committees to implement the legislation were yet to be constituted.

The court ordered to hold the meeting between the registrar and secretary of university syndicate within two weeks and submit a progress report.

It is to be noted that in October last year, a harassment scandal in the University of Balochistan Quetta took considerable attention of students, their parents and government officials.

Different student associations staged protests across Balochistan against the harassment scandal which uncovered by a government investigation agency, FIA.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which was testing the case for weeks, found that male and female students were being harassed through “shocking” recordings of them. These recordings were recorded utilizing at least six cameras that were subtly installed at different spots within the university campus by the authorities.

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Pakistan National Airline’s Operations Suspended In EU Over ‘Dubious’ Pilots

The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended the authorization for Pakistan’s national flag carrier to operate in Europe for six months.

The EASA said in a statement on June 30 it had suspended state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and a smaller private Pakistan airline “in view of the recent investigation reported on in the Pakistani Parliament which revealed that a large share of pilot licenses issued in Pakistan are invalid.”

The announcement follows last week’s grounding of 262 Pakistani airline pilots, including a third of PIA pilots, whose licences the country’s aviation minister termed “dubious.”

PIA said in a statement that EASA suspended PIA’s authorization to operate in the EU member states “effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal against this decision.”

The carrier “sincerely hopes that with reparative and swift actions taken by the Government of Pakistan and PIA management, earliest possible lifting of this suspension can be expected,” a statement said.

A PIA spokesman quoted the EASA as telling the company “it is still not sure” if all the remaining pilots are properly qualified, and “they have lost their confidence” in the airline.

Flights to Britain, which is no longer in the EU, will not be affected by EASA’s decision, Khan said.

PIA had not been flying to Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the airline recently resumed bookings for five European capitals, including Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona, and Milan.

It said that passengers booked on PIA flights to Europe will have the option to extend their bookings to a later date or get a full refund.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said during a June 24 parliamentary session that an inquiry had found 262 pilots — out of a total of 860 active pilots in Pakistan — had obtained their licenses through cheating and having others take exams for them.

The pilots in question included 141 at PIA, while the remaining pilots were working for private airlines and charter services.

However, PIA said the government list showed discrepancies, claiming that 36 of the 141 had either retired or moved out.

The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) also raised doubts about the list, saying it included names of qualified pilots.

The scandal emerged after a PIA Airbus A320 crashed in Karachi on May 22, killing 97 people, following a resumption of domestic operations.

Investigators blamed the plane’s two pilots and air-traffic controllers.

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Pakistani rupee hits an all-time low after the Stock Exchange attack

The Pakistani rupee has depreciated to an all-time low exchange rate against the US-Dollar after the Pakistan Stock Exchange attack in Karachi.

According to the details, the Pakistani currency dropped from the previous exchange rate of 45.58 to 45.64 against the UAE dirham – a significant drop for the large-scale trade. Following the Stock Exchange attack, the rupee once again recovered to its former value.

The Pakistani rupee depreciated by 0.3% against the US dollar, settling at 167.6. The rupee had been sustaining a constant drop in the past five weeks against the American dollar. The Stock Exchange attack in Karachi on Monday exacerbated the drop resultantly, the rupee hit an all-time low value against the dollar.

On Monday, four armed personnel stormed the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi at 10 a.m. The security guards intervened and attempted to stop the attackers. A confrontation broke out between the guards and the attackers and resultantly, the four attackers and six persons from the stock exchange died. The Baloch Liberation Army later claimed responsibility of the attack and said that it had aimed to seriously maim the Pakistani economy.

Related: Gunmen attack Pakistan’s stock exchange, BLA claims responsibility

The Covid-19 pandemic had already strained the struggling Pakistani economy. Due to the ensuing lockdown, business and trade were stymied that which took a considerable toll on the economy. The ongoing depreciation of the rupee is another premonition for the struggling Pakistani economy.

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Behind the lenses

Baloch students have been under protest for the last fifteen days against the unavailability of the internet for online classes in Balochistan. The first protest camp was set up in Sindh’s largest city Karachi and later similar camps were set up across Balochistan for their demands of internet connectivity and other facilities for the students.

On the 24th of June, student alliances in Quetta tried to hold a demonstration in front of Balochistan High Court but unlike what they planned, they were subjected to humiliation and faced aggression by the police force as tens of male and female students were arrested after being beaten up and dragged on roads, and that all happened in front of cameras.

Within a few minutes, video footages of the students being beaten up by the police went viral and a region-wide hashtag trend succeeded in gaining the attention of rights organizations as well as other activists and politicians. Under the immense pressure, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan confessed his helplessness in a Tweet and said that the orders of the arrest did not come from the provincial government (but somewhere else).

However, this raises a few questions about whether the provincial government controls the security apparatus in Balochistan or some other powers? If police force, which is not even infamous for its brutalities unlike the Frontier Corps (FC), can do something as heinous as beating up young female students in front of the camera, that too in the capital city Quetta, what would have been happening behind the camera in other parts of Balochistan?

Perhaps the answer lies in a 2010 news published in Pakistan’s daily newspaper, Dawn. The news draws a grim picture of indiscriminate firing by the security forces (Frontier Corps) on students during a protest rally in Khuzdar city of Balochistan. As a result of the firing, two students died on the spot, Ali Dost and Saddam Baloch, whereas, four others sustained injuries including a student named Liaqat Ali, lost one of his limbs.

This one incident was reported in Pakistani media, but many more go unnoticed. This not only answers CM Jam Kamal that who ordered the arrest of students in Quetta but also answers why the internet facilities in Balochistan remain suspended after half a decade. The mindset continues to prevail among the security establishment of Pakistan that whatever happens in Balochistan, must stay in Balochistan.

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Genocide is the only option in Balochistan – Pakistani Minister declares

A Pakistani minister in Balochistan, who is de-jure head of security apparatus in the region, has declared that genocide is the only option to resolve security crisis in Balochistan.

Home Office Minister, Sarfaraz Bugti, made the shocking comments on Sunday while talking to tribal elders in Pakistan House in Dera Bugti.

Mr. Bugti’s statement, released through news agency INP, was published late on Sunday in many mainstream Pakistani daily newspapers including Nawa-i-waqt Lahore, Daily Azadi, and Daily Jasarat.

Mostly such statements are released by the press teams of the ministers and politicians to news agencies themselves.

According to details, The Pakistani minister told tribal elders and other delegations that Baloch armed groups have challenged the writ of state and have compromised the security conditions. To establish long-lasting peace in the region for a prosperous Pakistan, the only option is to commit a full-scale genocide against the dissidents.

He claimed that the government has already succeeded in clearing many areas in Balochistan, however, a long-lasting solution has to be sought.

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Stock Exchange Attack: BLA released detailed statement

In a detailed statement released to the media, Baloch Liberation Army’s (BLA) spokesperson, Jeehand Baloch, claimed the responsibility of an attack on Karachi Stock Exchange and claimed that the attack was carried out by its Majeed Brigade, which carries out sacrificial attacks.

Jeehand Baloch said that the attack was aimed at targeting Pakistan’s economy which is built on the seventy-two years exploits of Balochistan and genocide of Baloch people and his organization see Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) as a base and symbol of exploitative machinery of Pakistan.

He said that the purpose of attacking Pakistani economy’s backbone at KSE was a message to Pakistan that the economy which is based on the exploitation and blood of Baloch, no matter how secure Pakistan keep it, Balochs are capable of attacking it anywhere.

“Not only Pakistan but China is also involved in every step of exploitation of Balochistan’s resources. We had warned China to cease her expansionist and exploitative ambitions. In order to stop China from advancing, Majeed brigade has already attacked Chinese Engineers in Dalbandin, Chinese consulate in Karachi and an attack of Chinese delegates at PC hotel Gwadar. China holds about 40% equity in the Pakistan stock exchange through the Shanghai stock exchange, Shenzhen stock exchange and China financial future exchange. That is why the attack was not only aimed at Pakistan’s but also an attack on Chinese economic interests and if China continues to take part in Balochistan’s exploitation they will face more attacks”, added Jeehand.

Identifying the KSE attackers, Spokesperson said that the attackers were from BLA’s Majeed Brigade which carries sacrificial attacks. Operation commander Salman Hammal alias Notak R/O Mand town of Turbat, Tasleem Baloch alias Muslim R/O Dasht town Turbat, Shehzad Baloch alias Cobra R/O Paroom town of Panjgoor and Siraj Kungur aliasYagi, R/O of Shapuk town of Turbat took part in the operation. They will be remembered in history an eternity. The young men were aware of the fact that national freedom and prosperity cannot be achieved without sacrifices and they followed the path of General Aslam Baloch to achieve that purpose.

“Targeting the civilians is not a part of our war-philosophy and unlike our enemy, we do not measure the rate of success by counting the innocent lives taken but our success resides in targeting the defenders of the exploitative scheme and all its symbols. During the KSE attack, there were clear-cut orders for the attackers do not target civilians, neither use high explosives which could jeopardize the lives of civilians, we instead chose the day when there were almost no civilians in the premises of the main building. Our fidayeen (Sacrificial attackers) accomplished their mission with the least casualties to the civilians lives”. Further added Jeehand Baloch.

Jeehand Baloch further said that Sindi and Baloch nations share a common history with Sindhi nation. We had the complete support of Sindhi nation in today’s attack and it shows their strong historical bonds and the common purpose of achieving independence of their homelands.

“ BLA wants to clear it to everyone that we will keep attacking Pakistani forces, it all the economic and exploitative interests, and also the powers like China who give helping hands to Pakistani’s exploitative schemes. Majeed Brigade’s Baloch fighters are ready to hit the enemy targets harder. If Pakistan does not end the occupation of Balochistan and China its exploitative schemes, they will be attacked more intensly” warned Jeehand Baloch.

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Pakistanis not permitted to enter EU as borders set to reopen

In another major blow to Pakistan’s economic revival efforts, the country has not been included in the draft list of 54 countries that will benefit from the reopening of the European Union external borders, which is expected to happen by the beginning of July.

Surprisingly, India was named on the list despite being the fourth most coronavirus infected country in the world with cases over 545,000 and more than 16,000 deaths.

The United States, which has the most Covid-19 cases in the world and is experiencing a surge in new infections, also failed to make it to the list as the EU countries believe that the US failed to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Euro News citing sources said that EU officials failed to agree on a common list of the countries that would definitely be banned from entering the block upon the border reopening but managed to create a list of the countries with a better epidemiological situation, the citizens of which will be able to enter Europe by the end of next week.

The same sources have also confirmed that citizens of Brazil, Qatar, the US and Russia will only be able to enter Europe at a later date when the epidemiological situation in these countries improves.

‘Smart lockdowns’ are Europe’s best hope

The countries that made it to the list included: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Australia, Bahamas, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mauritius, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Paraguay, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zambia.

An EU diplomat said the bloc’s executive commission had proposed three criteria for allowing in passengers from third countries, including the epidemiological situation of that country, but EU member countries would have to determine what the relevant measurements and thresholds should be.

“There’s no list [of countries], just a list of criteria,” another EU diplomat told Reuters.

The second diplomat said member states were considering using a country’s rate of infection per 100,000 people to decide whether to allow in passengers, but had not yet agreed at what threshold to set this criteria. The threshold would also need to account for factors influencing the reliability of this data, such as a country’s Covid-19 testing capacity.

Earlier this month, the European Commission recommended that the bloc gradually reopen its borders to non-EU travellers from July and use three criteria to decide which countries to allow visitors from: countries should have Covid-19 under at least as much control as the EU average, have containment measures during travel, and be willing to let in EU visitors.

In March, when cases were rising in Europe, US President Donald Trump had banned most EU citizens from entering the United States in a bid to curb the outbreak there, angering EU officials.

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