Tag Archives: Nawaz

Ties with Kabul: Afghan president to ‘share his vision with PM Nawaz’

ISLAMABAD: In apparent signs of thaw in Pakistan-Afghan relations marred by a serious trust-deficit, the new Afghan president has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan to ‘share his vision’ for ties between the two neighbours, officials said on Sunday.

The invitation was delivered to President Ashraf Ghani, who took over from Hamid Karzai earlier this month, by PM’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz during a daylong trip to Kabul on Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement. President Ghani accepted the invitation and would visit Islamabad in the ‘very near future’.

President Ghani told Aziz that there was a historic opportunity to transform Pak-Afghan relations into a ‘warm and mutually beneficial’ relationship and expressed his keenness to share his vision for Pak-Afghan ties over the next five years with Prime Minister Nawaz.

“A new chapter has been opened in relations between the two countries today and I’m confident this will pave the way for close cooperation,” President Ghani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Afghan presidential palace. He underscored the need for better trade relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and called for more bilateral exchanges and talks to enhance cooperation in economic and security areas.

At the same time, the Afghan president called for ending the traditional ‘blame game’ between the two countries. “The time has come for practical steps for the establishment of peace… our countries should no longer depend on only issuing statements about peace,” he added. “We should stop trading accusations and bring about an atmosphere of trust.”

Promoting peace and stability is one of the priorities of Ghani’s government and it will not hesitate to take serious action to achieve this objective, the presidential palace’s statement said. “We will never let Afghanistan turn into a safe haven for terrorists.”

Sartaj Aziz conveyed felicitations on the peaceful transfer of power and formation of the national unity government in Afghanistan. He underscored Prime Minister Nawaz’s desire to build a comprehensive and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan, marked by trust, understanding and close cooperation, and the premier’s belief that the two countries had a historic opportunity to move in that direction.

Aziz also underlined the importance of bilateral mechanisms for interaction at different levels in political, security and economic realms. He said Pakistan would fully support and facilitate Afghan efforts for peace and stability. He also emphasised the importance of enhanced trade and economic relations as well as regional connectivity for trade and energy.

Both sides agreed to hold bilateral meetings to enhance cooperation on security and economic issues. They also discussed Pakistan’s role in the peace and stability in Afghanistan and regional issues.

Apart from his meeting with President Ghani, Aziz also called on Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and conveyed Premier Nawaz’s cordial greetings and invitation to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient date.

Appreciating the invitation, Abdullah said both sides must work closely to realise the opportunities to build a close, cooperative relationship. Matters relating to peace and security, trade and economic cooperation and regional cooperation were also discussed.

Aziz held separate meetings with Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani and National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar. Apart from bilateral and regional matters, the discussions focused on the preparatory work for the President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan.

Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have remained tense over the past few months due to a growing trust-deficit between the two neighbours over the issue of dealing with militancy. Both countries accused each other for supporting proxies to create instability in each other’s country.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.

Show of power in Karachi: Bilawal asks Nawaz to embrace ‘Bhuttoism’


Kicking off his political career with a massive rally at the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam on Saturday, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, hit out at all political rivals calling them to give up ‘Ziaism’ and embrace ‘Bhuttoism’.

“The problem with the PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] government is that the spirit of [former military dictator] Ziaul Haq still dominates its policies,” the scion of the Bhutto family said, addressing the mammoth crowd of PPP activists who had poured into Karachi from across the country. “I urge Nawaz Sharif to embrace Bhuttoism and practice good governance in order to strengthen democracy and save the country.”

Maintaining that his grandfather and PPP’s founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, laid down the foundations of true democracy in Pakistan, Bilawal said: “It is interesting that even his [ZA Bhutto’s] enemies take oath under the Constitution my grandfather had framed in 1973.”

Bilawal added that there were only two political forces in the country: “On one side, you have Bhuttoism and on the other, you have the fans of dictatorship who want to perpetuate the status quo… you will find the latter walking in the footsteps of General Zia and General Musharraf.”

Recalling the attack on his mother Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming caravan at Karsaz on October 18, 2007, the Oxford graduate said the forces working against ‘Bhuttoism’ were afraid of a woman who had challenged dictatorship and sought to bring about democracy in Pakistan.

“I’m ready to face the consequences… I would prefer to die, but I cannot give up my mother’s mission,” Bilawal said from atop his bombproof container, the same one that had saved his mother’s life seven years ago on the same day.

He added that anti-democratic forces constantly worked again PPP’s mission, “either in the shape of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) or Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), or through actions such as the hanging of ZA Bhutto and the assassination of Benazir.”

Talking about protest sit-in of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against rigging in the May 2013 general elections, the PPP chairperson said, “We, democratic people, want to bring change through votes rather than by derailing democracy the same way as the PNA had toppled my grandfather’s elected government in 1977.”

Calling Imran a ‘puppet opposition leader’ propped against Prime Minister Nawaz’s ‘puppet government’, Bilawal urged him to give up ‘politics of sit-ins’ and work for the betterment of internally displaced people (IDPs) and victims of the recent floods across the country.

“Where is Insaf [justice] in Tehreek-e-Insaf… Imran Khan promised to root out corruption in 90 days, but failed to do so… he promises to build Naya Pakistan, but he can’t even deliver a Naya Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P),” Bilawal said. “The PTI wants to establish its writ in Lahore the same way Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has established its writ in Karachi.”

His statement prompted some emphatic PPP supporters to chant ‘Go Imran, Go’ alongside ‘Go Nawaz, Go’.

The PPP leader also hit out at the MQM, saying that despite holding the health portfolio in the Sindh government for the last 20 years, the party had failed to deliver even basic health facilities. “If any deadly virus breaks out here now, the people of Sindh will make MQM’s life miserable… even I won’t be able to save the MQM,” he said.

Accusing MQM of leaving Karachi in ruin, Bilawal said the city would gain ‘true independence’ in 2018.

Responding to chants by supporters, Bilawal said, “I am rebel, I am a Bhutto,” and announced that the party will be re-organised after Youm-e-Tasees (foundation day) on November 30. “We will hold a meeting of our party office bears and bring drastic changes in the party. We will do whatever you want,” he said.

Bilawal claimed there was a ‘script’ being enacted to bring about a civil war in Pakistan, much like Iraq and Syria. “A new script has been written after the murder of [al Qaeda chief] Osama Bin Laden. An office of militant organisation opened up in Peshawar. All democratic forces in Pakistan should join hands to foil this conspiracy,” he said.

Regarding the issue of Kashmir, he said the Indian government and media were trying to malign PPP’s image and muzzle its voice since it is “the only Pakistani party whose voice is heard around the world.”

The PPP chairperson also criticised the judiciary, saying that while it was very active in punishing people like Aasia Bibi for blasphemy, it kept mum when it came to militants. “Whenever our competent officers take action against extremists, the judiciary orders their transfer,” he said, adding that if judges were afraid, they ought to sit at home.

PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, former premiers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and senior party leaders Aitzaz Ahsan, Fahmida Mirza and Makhdoom Amin Fahim also spoke at the rally.

Zardari admitted that past elections had been stolen, but urged protesting quarters to look forward rather than engaging in a blame game. “We [PPP] want to save democracy, but they call us pro-government,” he said. He added that Imran had once supported the referendum of a dictator. The former president also urged MQM chief Altaf Hussain to join hands with him for a better Pakistan, not weaken it.

Aitzaz Ahsan, meanwhile, stressed the need to induct new blood in the party and requested Bilawal to do so.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2014.

Guardians of the sea: PM Nawaz vows to boost maritime defence


Pakistan desires peace and tranquillity both within and outside its borders to meet much-needed socio-economic development goals, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday.

At the inauguration ceremony of the new building of Pakistan Naval War College (PNWC) in Lahore, Sharif said, “Pakistan will never compromise on its sovereignty. We cannot afford to be distracted in fulfilling our national objectives.”

The premier added the country is going through defining moments in its history as its armed forces battle extremism and militancy. He expressed hope the naval college would continue to foster relations with foreign militaries by training officers from friendly countries and spreading maritime awareness amongst academic circles.

Lauding Pakistan Navy’s role in defending the country, Sharif said a well-equipped navy is integral for the country’s security and economic prosperity. “Despite  resource constraints, the government will work towards strengthening Pakistan’s maritime defence,” he added.

The PM further said sea routes are the jugulars of world trade and any disruption in the waters had the potential to disrupt global economy and impact global security. “We must always remain cognizant of our effective role in the maritime affairs of this region.”

Appreciating the navy’s indigenous construction of warships, Sharif said he said he felt proud of the force for taking the initiative of constructing large warships and potent fast attack crafts through the revival of the Karachi shipyard. He also praised the navy for developing a national maritime policy which is slated to be completed soon.

Speaking about his economic initiatives, Sharif said the government was working towards making Gwadar Port fully functional at the earliest and developing the Gwadar-Kashgar link, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor portfolio. According to Sharif, some of the most important projects include the construction of an airport, expressway link and a powerhouse in Gwadar.

Earlier, the PM unveiled the foundation plaque of the new PNWC building. The  83,254 square feet building has an auditorium, central hall, 10 syndicate rooms, five war-gaming rooms, three faculty clusters, two conference rooms, a library and several meeting rooms.

The inauguration was attended by Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, Punjab Chief Secretary Navid Akram Cheema and Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera.  

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.

PM Nawaz to attend APEC meeting in China next month

ISLAMABAD: PM Nawaz Sharif has been invited by President Xi Jinping to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Informal Leaders’ meeting in Beijing next month.

Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong called on PM Nawaz Sharif on Friday and conveyed Xi’s invitation to him, said an official handout.

The PM expressed his gratitude on receiving President Xi’s invitation, saying he looked forward to his visit to Pakistan, which he believed would take Pak-China relations to a higher level.

Weidong said the Chinese president welcomed the prime minister to attend the host-partners dialogue to be held in APEC meeting in Beijing next month, and will visit Pakistan at an early and mutually convenient date.

Matters of mutual interest were discussed, while PM Nawaz also appreciated Chinese efforts in rehabilitation of flood victims and the IDPs.

According to officials, PM will visit China in the first week of November to sign various projects including energy related projects worth billion.

The Chinese president was supposed to visit Pakistan in September but could not get a security clearance owing to the anti-government protests in the federal capital.

An annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting is attended by the heads of government of all APEC members. The location of the meeting rotates annually among members, and this time it’s going to be held in Beijing.

High-level huddle: Premier Nawaz mulls series of national security measures


A high-level meeting on national security was held in the federal capital on Thursday to discuss various internal and external threats posed to the country and devise strategies to tackle them, an official handout said.

Although the handout did not add much about its agenda, sources told The Express Tribune that the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid particular attention to tensions with India along Pakistan’s eastern frontier, the likelihood of terrorist activity in Muharram against the backdrop of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the announcement by certain Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) factions to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and the implementation of the National Security Policy.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, army chief General Raheel Sharif, outgoing Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General (DG) Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, his designated successor Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry attended the meeting, along with other senior civil and military officials.

Tensions with India

Sharing details of the meeting, sources said participants, while reviewing the tense situation with India along the LoC and the working boundary, agreed to raise the issue at all international forums. They said the Foreign Office was directed to effectively highlight ceasefire violations by India at all such platforms.

At least 12 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in ‘unprovoked’ firing on Pakistani territory by Indian forces.

While Pakistani officials have repeatedly said they have responded ‘befittingly’ to ceasefire violations by India, participants of the meeting also agreed that the tensions should be resolved through dialogue, according to sources.

Muharram and Operation Zarb-e-Azb

While reviewing possible threats in the month of Muharram – which starts on October 24 – participants of the meeting acknowledged it was hard to predict what sort of danger existed against the backdrop of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, sources said. They also said it was unclear whether or not militants would be able to launch attacks on Muharram processions in the wake of the ongoing military offensive in North Waziristan.

Chaudhry Nisar, meanwhile, briefed the meeting’s participants about steps his ministry has taken to ensure that peace is not disrupted during the month, the sources added.

TTP’s allegiance to IS

While pondering on the TTP’s recent announcement to pledge allegiance to the IS movement in Iraq and Syria, participants of the meeting agreed the move would spell trouble for the region.

However, according to sources, the participants pointed out that the local militants’ efforts to ally with IS was not organised and coordinated at this stage. This, they said, provided an opportunity to smash any possible IS foothold in the country. The participants added that failure to take solid steps in this regard would allow the TTP-IS nexus to organise itself.

National security policy

Sources said stakeholders have expressed their disappointment over the implementation of the National Security Policy.

Meanwhile, participants of the meeting also discussed other geostrategic, regional and global matters.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2014.

Not associated with PM Nawaz, PML-N or police: Gullu Butt

LAHORE: Shahid alias Gullu Butt, the handlebar-mustached vandal accused of damaging public property during Model Town riots, denied being associated with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Speaking to reporters in Lahore after appearing before an anti-terrorism court (ATC), Butt – who is allegedly a PML-N activist and a local hoodlum – said that he has no relation to any political party or  police.

Video footage has shown Butt smashing cars during clashes between Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers and the police outside the Minhajul Quran International Secretariat on June 17. He broke windscreens and windows of private vehicles with a club in the presence of police officials, who did not do anything to stop him.

Addressing the media today, Butt said that he was a social welfare worker.

When a reporter said that the incident made Butt famous, the vandal replied that he does not want such publicity, adding that it was hurting the country’s image.

“I am so upset mentally because of this, and therefore cannot comment on whether I want to join politics or not,” Butt remarked, when questioned whether he would enter politics.

Telephonic contact: Khursheed Shah, PM Nawaz discuss appointment of CEC

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah discussed the appointment of chief election commissioner (CEC) on Wednesday via telephone, Express News reported.

According to sources, Shah expressed his point of view regarding the Supreme Court deadline.

The top court on October 14 gave the federal government two weeks to appoint a permanent CEC, or else it will withdraw its judge, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who is currently serving as acting CEC.

The government and the opposition wish to keep the post vacant until the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms completes its work.

Following the 18th constitutional amendment, the prime minister must consult the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and reach a consensus on a nominee for the position. In case they fail to agree on one name, both must propose three names each to a specially constituted parliamentary committee which can then pick out one name.

The ruling PML-N and the opposition PPP held several rounds of talks on the matter last year and earlier this year. Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar heads the 33-member parliamentary committee on electoral reforms and had been involved in these talks with Shah on behalf of the prime minister. During these consultations, many names, including that of Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, came up for consideration. However, the process came to an abrupt end. The Supreme Court has now given the government two weeks to complete the process.

A similar deadline was given earlier this year when the court asked the government to fill all important vacant posts, including that of CEC, by March this year.

Since the appointment of CEC comes under constitutional provisions, any changes would require an amendment to the Constitution, requiring a two-thirds approval from the National Assembly and Senate, separately.

Second installment of Rs25,000 to be given to flood victims from Oct 20: PM Nawaz

JHANG: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday announced that the second installment of Rs25,000  will be given to people affected by the floods from October 20.

While addressing flood victims in the Jandiana area of Jhang district, the premier lauded everyone’s patience and emphasized his responsibility as well as that of his government to continue working until all victims were rehabilitated.

“We will work day and night for you and I will keep visiting until you are all able to stand up on your feet again,” the premier said.

PM Nawaz expressed his concern for the flood victims and outlined his government’s efforts to attain normality once again.

“I can feel the hard times you have been through and all the emotions you must be feeling. My heart beats with you and you are all in my prayers. May Allah be with you all,” the prime minister stated.

The premier went on to inform locals that all of Pakistan’s helicopters had been used in rescue work and thousands of people were saved. He also explained that all the damages were being measured, and after evaluating all the costs, work will begin.

“Houses are now starting to be built and together we will bring an end to this,” he announced.

He also appreciated the efforts of the district administration for its relief efforts.

Militants paid heavy price for terrorism in Pakistan: PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Terming his visit to Miramshah a moving experience, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said he was thrilled to see what the armed forces have achieved so far in operation Zarb-e-Azb.

PM Nawaz was addressing the participants of National Security Committee convened to discuss the internal and external security situation of Pakistan.

“We saw a mosque which was used for brainwashing young minds, rooms where people were trained for terrorism and weapon depots,” he said, as he narrated his experience. PM Nawaz became the first elected prime minister to visit North Waziristan Agency.

Paying rich tribute to those fighting terrorists in the Agency, the premier said the terrorists have paid a heavy price for what they had been doing in the area.

PM Nawaz also extended his condolences to the families of deceased soldiers and offered government assistance.

Nawaz makes landmark war zone visit


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday visited the troubled North Waziristan Agency (NWA) to get firsthand account of the ongoing military offensive against militants in a move likely to shore up his political standing in the face of ongoing anti-government protests.

Nawaz became the first prime minister to visit North Waziristan, which was considered a hotbed of several local and foreign militant outfits. During his unprecedented trip, the PM was received by army chief General Raheel Sharif in Miranshah, the main administrative town of the agency.

Nawaz was also accompanied by Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (K-P) Governor Mehtab Ahmed Khan, Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Federal Minister for State and Frontier Regions Lt General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch.

In the past, the civilian leadership was criticised for showing lack of will to travel to the frontline of Pakistan’s battle against extremism.

Nawaz’s visit has come at a time when his 16-month rule is facing the toughest challenge yet due to the ongoing protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and their continued sit-ins in the federal capital.

However, his move to visit troops on the ground in North Waziristan is likely to strengthen his position and may help ease reported friction with the military leadership.

On a daylong trip, the prime minister was given a detailed briefing by the General Officer Commanding Major General Zafarullah Khan about the ongoing operation, codenamed ‘Zarb-e-Azb’.

Nawaz was informed that 80% of the area of the NWA had been cleared of terrorists. Over 1,000 militants were so far killed while close to 100 security officials had lost their lives, he was told.

The premier was informed that Mirali, Degan, Boya and Datakhel areas had been completely cleared. The command and control centre of the terrorists had been destroyed and a huge quantity of arms and ammunition recovered.

Prime Minister Nawaz also visited Miranshah Bazar. He inspected the central hideout of terrorists which was housing their command and control system. He was also shown weapons recovered from the hideouts.

Speaking to officers and Jawans, Nawaz described the ongoing fight against terrorism as a ‘battle of survival’ for Pakistan. He said Pakistan would become a peaceful country as a result of the ongoing operation against terrorists.

Paying rich tributes to the army for successfully fighting a difficult war to secure Pakistan’s future and make the country safe and peaceful, Nawaz insisted that the country was winning the battle.

He also gave credit to the army chief for ‘successfully’ leading his troops in this difficult time. The PM announced that areas cleared of terrorists would be rebuilt on modern lines.

Later, addressing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Bakkakhel, he said a comprehensive programme would be devised to rebuild infrastructure, houses and other facilities in the affected areas.

“The government will make available necessary resources for reconstruction work in terrorism affected areas,” he said, adding that youth of the area would be imparted necessary skills to earn their own livelihood.

The PM also paid rich tributes to the IDPs and said they had left their homes for the sake of peace and in interest of the country.

Directive to federal agencies

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed all the federal agencies to implement Citizen Feedback Monitoring Programme (CFMP) – to improve service delivery, fight petty corruption, enhance citizen trust and communicate state responsiveness.

An innovative programme, the CFWP was first implemented in the province of Punjab and is based on proactive approach, aimed at creating a response based nexus with the identified beneficiaries of various services, an official statement said.

The Cabinet Division has been asked to oversee its implementation across the federal agencies and to regularly brief the Prime Minister’s Office on progress.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2014.