Watch | Transnational killings | The legal rights and wrongs

This week, we are looking at the legal wrongs and rights of transnational killings- and the sometimes confusing stand of the government. To recap the developments this week:

British Newspaper Guardian reported this week that Indian intelligence agents are believed to have orchaestrated up to 20 killings of alleged Khalistani separatist and Jihadist terrorists in Pakistan. In the article the MEA denied the charge, and cited External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s previous statement that “targeted killings is not India’s policy”

However, in campaign statements and an interview by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the government appeared to be accepting the charges

PM Modi also repeated his 2019 slogan of “Ghar mein ghus ke marenge” for terrorists- or “We will kill them in their homes”

Diplomatic Fallout:

The immediate diplomatic fallout of the remarks came from Pakistan, where the MFA has already accused India of the killing of 2 men in Pakistan earlier this year, and said “India’s assertion of its preparedness to extra-judicially execute more civilians, arbitrarily pronounced as ‘terrorists’, inside Pakistan constitutes a clear admission of culpability.” However, given the poor state of relations with Pakistan, this is unlikely to be an issue for New Delhi

The U.S. State department declined to comment on the story, but the larger question is, will the assertions by the government be used by the U.S. Justice department, who is expected to begin the trial this summer of Nikhil Gupta, a man the FBI claims hired hitmen against Khalistani separatist Pannun in New York last year at the behest of senior Indian intelligence officials

And Canada, that is yet to provide evidence of its claims, continues to say it is pursuing the involvement of Indian government agents in the killing of Khalistani Separatist Nijjar outside Toronto last year. PM Trudeau doubled down on the claims in a public hearing this week

So what is the international law that operates here? In fact there are three laws:

1. International Human Rights Law – that derives from the Universal declaration on Human Rights- guaranteeing every citizen’s right to life and liberty

2. International Humanitarian Law- which sets down principles of protecting non-combatants during armed conflict- saying they must be protected, and that states have certain obligations even during war or self-defence operations

3. United Nations Charter or Chapter VII on Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression- Article 51, Which says nothing impairs the right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations

On this week’s Parley at The Hindu, I asked two experts, former Ambassador Rakesh Sood, and analyst Dr. Tara Kartha, on whether there is a double standard for India and where the line on targeted transnational killings should be drawn?

Rakesh Sood: There is no clear definition in international law of targeted killings in that sense, but what has happened conventionally, is that let’s say there is an individual who is internationally designated as a terrorist, which means it will be he or she will be designated as a terrorist under the UN, United Nations Security Council, designation designation is number one, number two. On top of that, there is a very clear sense that it is very difficult to get hold of this person, or get the person extradited. Or in any way brought to face judicial proceedings. And add to that, a third factor that if it is felt that the person continues to remain engaged in terrorist activity and so therefore, a state feels that it is preferable and to use lethal force in a pre emptive fashion, in a manner in which it is precise. So that it does not pause you know, additional damage or does not. You know, collateral, collateral damage or kill other people, innocent people etc, etc. Then, that is seen in common parlance, that is what is called a targeted killing

Tara Kartha:  I think there are massive double standards because you’ve had the sort of targeted killings has come out from what post 911 when they use drone strike, they used every kind of attack, not just in Afghanistan, but you remember George Bush is called to the world and we will attack you wherever you are because it’s self-defence. So the antenna What shall we say the underlying criteria for any such attack targeted attack killings is self-defence. And it is allowed by the UN because the UN Charter says you have article 51 says you have a right individual right of self defence now the thing is, if since we are talking in relation to the Guardian story and zoom, is that the problem with that article is it it brings in assassinations, targeted killings, and extrajudicial killing all in the same basket in the same article, which is strange. Each one has a different legal connotation to it.

WV Take: There is no question that global powers set different standards for themselves and for other countries like India. India’s rise in the world thus far has come on the backs of a moral principle and when it comes to transnational operations, maintaining distance and deniability. If the government wants to go public with its assertions- it must ensure India has the diplomatic heft to deal with the consequences, which could escalate.

WV Reading Recommendations:

1. Enemies Known and Unknown: Targeted Killings in America’s Transnational War by Jack McDonald

2. No Easy Day: The First hand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen

3. Blood For Blood Hardcover 50 years of the Global Khalistan Project by Terry Milewski

4. The Killing in the Consulate by Jonathan Rugman

5. Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars by Chris Woods

6. Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetrical World by Claire Finkelstein

7. Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by Ronen Bergman

Script and Presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Gayatri Menon and Shibu Narayan

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The ‘generals’ elections’ that turned against Pakistan’s military

Pakistan’s 2024 general elections were dubbed the “most rigged” in the country’s history, with the popular Imran Khan barred from running and the military seen as backing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. That was before results showed Khan-backed independent candidates leading the race. The stage appears to be set for a turbulent period after an irate electorate reacted to the military’s perceived meddling in politics – again.

Voters in the 2024 Pakistani general elections manoeuvred sheaves of ballot papers offering a profusion of symbols including tables, chairs, apples, airplanes, calculators and kitchen appliances. But there was no cricket bat on the ballot. 

With former cricket star and prime minister Imran Khan behind bars, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was banned from using its signature icon in a country where symbols are important tools for the electorate because of high illiteracy rates. This forced PTI-backed candidates to run as independents, each using different symbols that stretched ballot papers and the national imagination.

The country’s real power-wielder, however, was not on the ballot paper, and Pakistanis were never given a symbol or say on the issue.

The 2024 general election was dubbed the most rigged in Pakistan’s history, with wags on social media calling it the “generals’ election”, referring to the all-powerful military in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.

The consensus ahead of the vote was that regardless of who forms a government, the army would continue to rule the roost. The newly elected civilian administration would simply have to follow the rules of the Pakistani power game to survive.

In the course of its 76-year history, Pakistan has developed a system that some scholars call a “hybrid regime” featuring a mix of civilian politics and military interference in electoral democracy. The tacit agreement sees the generals controlling defence and foreign policies, leaving domestic socioeconomic issues to the politicians.

But the hybrid model has been changing in recent years, putting Pakistan in dangerous terrain. And the man widely believed to be calling the shots in the military has done little to inspire national confidence.

Prospect of a ‘chatterbox’ parliament

With Khan losing military support, and his party stymied at the poll, the military’s chosen candidate, veteran politician Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party was expected to snag an outright win.

An outright Sharif win would see the dynastic Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto – going into opposition. It would see the two establishment parties once again dominating Pakistani politics.

But after a surprisingly strong showing by PTI-backed independent candidates, who led the national election results, Sharif changed tack on Friday, declaring he would form a coalition government.

“We don’t have enough of a majority to form a government without the support of others and we invite allies to join the coalition so we can make joint efforts to pull Pakistan out of its problems,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif, center, addresses supporters in Lahore, Pakistan, February 9, 2024. © K.M. Chaudary, AP

Under Pakistan’s electoral rules, victorious independent candidates can join any party in the 336-seat National Assembly. With the imprisoned Khan facing nearly 200 legal charges ranging from corruption to leaking state secrets, experts predict the popular former cricketer-politician is likely to remain behind bars for several years.

The results of Thursday’s vote point to fractious political period ahead, warns Ayesha Siddiqa, senior fellow at King’s College, London, and author of “Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy”. “If there are many independents in parliament, it will make the house a chatterbox,” she noted. “It will be an unruly, funny kind of parliament with everyone going for each other’s jugulars.”

Khan’s fall from military grace

Overseeing the political turbulence is the man at the helm of the military, Pakistani army chief General Asim Munir. This comes as the country faces major economic and security crises.

Khan may be behind bars, but he remains a political force. The former cricketer-politician maintains that the myriad legal charges against him are politically motivated. Most Pakistanis, including Khan’s opponents, do not disagree. A weak judiciary means Pakistan is ranked 130th out of 142 countries on the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law index.

A poster of Imran Khan on display at his party office in Islamabad, February 9, 2024.
A poster of Imran Khan on display at his party office in Islamabad, February 9, 2024. © Anjum Naveed, AP

Since General Munir was appointed army chief in November 2022, Khan’s legal woes have multiplied. At times, they have taken an absurdly personal turn.

Relations between the two men have been acrimonious since Khan was elected prime minister in 2018 and replaced Munir as chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) spy agency with a loyalist, according to Pakistani media reports.

Read morePakistan army chief’s deepening rift with Imran Khan

On February 3, just days before the election, a Pakistani court sentenced Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to seven years in jail in a case related to their marriage, which it declared “un-Islamic”.

The verdict was widely criticised by legal experts as a “disgrace” and a “damning blot” on Pakistan’s judiciary.

Sharif rises again

When he stood for elections in 2018, Khan was widely seen as the military’s candidate, “handpicked, groomed and installed” by the generals. But that was until Khan fell out with the army in a fate shared by Sharif, the politician widely tipped to be Pakistan’s new prime minister.

Khan and Sharif’s reversal of fortunes reflects the dramatic shift in Pakistani politics, which has been likened to a “Game of Thrones”. In 2017, Sharif was ousted as prime minister when he attempted to institute civilian oversight of the military. After he was hit with a slew of corruption charges, Sharif went into self-imposed exile abroad to avoid serving sentences. Khan at that time was viewed as the army’s favourite son.

But as the country spiralled into political turmoil last year, with Khan’s supporters storming army residences and bases in unprecedented displays of disaffection with the military, Sharif was back in the generals’ favour.

After four years of exile, Sharif returned to Pakistan last October.  Within weeks of his return, his convictions were overturned, leaving him free to seek a fourth term in office.

A businessman and former chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, Sharif has a record of pursuing economic growth and development. During his previous stints as prime minister, the billionaire politician sought closer trade ties with India, Pakistan’s giant neighbour and arch-foe.

Sharif’s return to Pakistan was widely viewed as a sign that the military was seeking a safe pair of hands to handle the country’s crippling economic crisis. But over the past few months, the military has been increasingly encroaching on the economic turf.

Army takes top seat on economic council

More than seven decades after independence, Pakistan is facing its worst economic crisis. Inflation has hovered around 30 percent, sending the currency, the rupee, into freefall. Last year, the impoverished South Asian nation narrowly escaped a sovereign debt default when the IMF approved a $3 billion bailout package.

While it was provided a band-aid from the brink, Pakistan still has to tackle major structural problems since it is seeking a new IMF bailout programme after the current arrangement expires in three weeks.

As the crisis deepened last year, Pakistan established an apex economic body, the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), to coordinate economic and fiscal policies. 

The formation of the SIFC was touted as a key move to raise international investor confidence and uphold democratic governance. But then the army secured a top seat at the economic policy table, raising eyebrows in fiscal circles with the announcement that the co-chair of the new SIFC was none other than army Chief General Munir.

When ‘dangerous duffers’ call the shots

The 2024 vote saw the army playing an exceptionally heavy card, even by Pakistani standards. The tactic appeared to have failed, with voters overcoming the odds to elect PTI-backed candidates. But this could spell a period of further turbulence, analysts warn.

“Assuming most of the independent candidates are PTI, if [Sharif’s] PML-N has to form a government, it will have to form a coalition,” said Siddiqa. “The weaker the coalition, the stronger [the] military.”

The military’s meddling in politics has long earned the wrath of Pakistani democratic rights defenders. Nearly 15 years ago, one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers, the late Asma Jehangir, created a stir when she called the country’s military leaders “duffers” on a live TV show.

Jehangir subsequently modified her monicker to “dangerous duffers”, noting that the term implied the military top brass was “not only incompetent, but incapable of learning”. 

The latest election has shown that Jehangir’s verdict still holds, according to Siddiqa.    

“They haven’t changed that much, they’re still dangerous duffers because they think they have a role in governance,” she said. “But the military is a strong pole, and so are the political parties. With this election, the political parties are back in play. It now depends on how they conduct themselves.”

In the past, Pakistan’s political parties have formed common cause with the army in a bid to unseat rivals. The lack of civilian unity to relegate the military to the barracks has enabled the generals to periodically meddle with the ballots. Following Thursday’s vote, social media sites were awash with messages by Pakistanis calling for dialogue and national unity. If their calls are ignored, it will not be for the first time in Pakistan’s troubled history.

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Polls close in Pakistan after millions vote in election marred by violence

Millions of Pakistanis voted Thursday in an election marred by rigging allegations, with authorities suspending mobile phone services throughout the day and the country’s most popular politician in jail.

At least seven officers were killed in two separate attacks targeting election security details, and officials reported a string of minor blasts in southwestern Balochistan province that wounded two people.

Pollsters predicted a low turnout from the country’s 128 million eligible voters following a lacklustre campaign overshadowed by the jailing of former prime minister Imran Khan, and the hobbling of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party by the military-led establishment.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is expected to win the most seats in Thursday’s vote, with analysts saying its 74-year-old founder Nawaz Sharif has won the blessing of the generals.

Adding to concerns about the integrity of the vote, authorities announced just before polls opened that they had suspended mobile telephone services across the country “to maintain law and order” after two blasts on Wednesday that killed 28 people.

Nighat Dad, a lawyer who runs the not-for-profit Digital Rights Foundation, said the outage “is an attack on the democratic rights of Pakistanis”.

“Shutting down mobile phone services is not a solution to national security concerns. If you shut down access to information you create more chaos”.

Voters in Pakistan rely on a text messaging service to confirm the polling station where they are registered.

Forty-year-old Abdul Jabbar said the internet disruption stopped him and his wife from using the service. 

“Other PTI supporters helped us to trace it in the end,” he told AFP.

Khan’s party calls decision to suspend mobile service a ‘betrayal’

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0300 GMT) and were due to close at 5:00 pm. They were guarded by armed security forces.

“My only fear is whether my vote will be counted for the same party I cast it for. At the same time, for the poor it does not matter who is ruling — we need a government that can control inflation,” said Syed Tassawar, a 39-year-old construction worker

First-time voter Haleema Shafiq, a 22-year-old psychology student, said she believed in the importance of voting.

“I believe in democracy. I want a government that can make Pakistan safer for girls,” she told AFP in Islamabad.

In the central city of Multan, Ayesha Bibi said the next government must provide more schools for rural women. 

“We came here by foot and then on a tractor trailer. It was a very difficult and hard journey,” said the housewife. 

More than 650,000 army, paramilitary and police personnel were deployed to provide security for an election already marred by violence.

Five security personnel were killed Thursday in an attack in Kulachi in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a police official said, adding that a separate mortar attack on a polling station in the province caused no casualties.

In Balochistan province, two security officers were killed and nine wounded by a blast near a polling station in Lajja town, another official said. 

The Balochistan port city of Gwadar saw 14 “minor blasts”, injuring two people, police official Zohaib Hassan said. 

On Wednesday, at least 28 people were killed and more than 30 wounded by two bomb blasts outside the offices of candidates in the province in attacks claimed hours later by the Islamic State group.

Read moreDeadly twin blasts target Pakistani candidate offices on eve of election


Justifying the mobile phone shutdown, an interior ministry spokesman said “security measures are essential to maintain law and order situation and to deal with potential threats”.

The foreign ministry said land borders with neighbours Iran and Afghanistan would also be closed to all traffic Thursday as a security measure.

The election figures are staggering in the nuclear-armed nation of 240 million people — the world’s fifth-most populous.

Nearly 18,000 candidates are standing for seats in the national and four provincial assemblies, with 266 seats directly contested in the former — an additional 70 reserved for women and minorities — and 749 places in the regional parliaments.

Tables turned

Thursday’s election has a similar air to the 2018 poll, but with the tables turned. 

Then, it was Sharif who was disqualified from running because of a string of convictions for graft, while Khan swept to power with the backing of the military, as well as genuine support. 

As he cast his vote at a school in Lahore Thursday, Sharif denied that he had made any deal with the military to rule.

“Actually I have never had any problems with the military,” he said.

The history of Pakistan elections is chequered with allegations of rigging but also favouritism, said Bilal Gilani, executive director of polling group Gallup Pakistan.

“It’s a managed democracy that the military runs,” he said.

Read moreRevolving door politics? Shadow of military looms over Pakistan elections

Unlike the last poll, however, the opposition party has had its name removed from ballots, forcing PTI-selected candidates to run as independents.

Khan, a former international cricketer who led Pakistan to victory in the World Cup in 1992, was last week sentenced to lengthy jail terms for treason, graft, and an illegal marriage.

A PTI official told AFP that Khan had been allowed a postal ballot from Adiala Jail.

Analysts say the character assassination shows how worried the military is that PTI-selected candidates could still prove a decisive factor in Thursday’s vote.

If Sharif does not win a ruling majority, he will most likely still take power via a coalition with one or more junior partners — including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), another family-run dynasty now led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Whoever wins takes over a deeply divided country, observers say, with the economy in tatters.

Inflation is galloping at nearly 30 percent, the rupee has been in free fall for three years and a balance of payments deficit has frozen imports, severely hampering industrial growth.


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As Pakistan goes to elections, farmers want climate change action, not words

Tending to his wilting wheat crop after months of drought and smog, Pakistani farmer Aamer Hayat Bhandara said his biggest hope for the general election is that whoever wins makes good on a flurry of campaign promises to tackle climate change. Pakistan goes to polls on February 8.

The two frontrunners – the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – have both proposed similar climate policies in their manifestos, highlighting growing concern about the effects of global warming after devastating 2022 floods.

Changing climate patterns

“The smog and absence of rain for three consecutive months robbed crops of sunlight…and caused rust — or fungal infection — on wheat,” said Mr. Bhandara, 38, a farmer in Punjab province and co-founder of the Agriculture Republic think-tank, which represents small- and medium-scale farmers.

He said changing climate patterns had shortened winters and stretched summers, with heatwaves impacting his rice and corn crops, while untimely rains and hailstorms have battered his wheat harvests. That made the parties’ promises for climate action – from boosting renewable energy to investing in early warning systems for floods and heatwaves – welcome reading for him and other farmers at the sharp end of climate change.

“The pledges are wonderful,” Mr. Bhandara said. “Heightened climate action not only holds the potential to ease economic pressures but also to generate employment opportunities.” He added, however, that “the crux of the challenge is to translate these policies into action”.

Pakistan produces less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but ranks 8th among countries most vulnerable to extreme weather linked to climate change, according to the latest edition of the Global Climate Risk Index.

Homes are surrounded by floodwaters in Sohbat Pur city, a district of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, Aug. 29, 2022.
| Photo Credit:

The floods in 2022 killed more than 1,700 people, displaced 8 million and destroyed about a million homes and livelihoods across the country of 220 million – fuelling calls for the Government to prioritise the fight against climate change.

Politicians promise to fight climate change

Outlining his party’s plans to overhaul Pakistan’s development model to stabilise its troubled economy, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told Reuters this month his strategy would put “the threat of climate change front and centre”.

He said the PPP also aims to ensure global funds exceeding $10 billion pledged last year to help Pakistan rebound from the floods are used to fight climate change.

Similarly, the PMLN has vowed to use the funds to implement the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework, dubbed 4RF, a recovery strategy to build long-term climate resilience and adaptation developed with international organisations.

The party’s proposals also include strict enforcement of environmental protection laws, upgrading brick kilns to fight air pollution, and planting native tree species to curb the use of fertilisers, reduce soil erosion and save water, among others.

Party president Shehbaz Sharif has described climate change as a “development, economic, human and national security issue”.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), left in disarray by the jailing and election ban on its leader Imran Khan last month, has not released its manifesto yet.

Implementation is key, say activists

Economists warn that a lack of adequate measures to fight the effects of climate change could deal another blow to a cash-strapped economy already grappling with historic inflation and an unstable rupee.

A 2022 World Bank report highlighted Pakistan’s staggering financial requirements to combat climate-induced disasters, estimating a $300 billion gap in available funds.

Without urgent action, climate change could shave off one-fifth of GDP, it said.

But Ahmad Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer and activist, said the frontrunners’ election manifestos neglected the economic effects of climate change. “The transformative effects that [the] climate crisis brings to our economy such as the effects on the market economy of agriculture, coastal resources, energy, forestry, tourism, and water are overlooked,” he said. Authorities often fail to implement their policies, he added.

Despite Government pledges to boost clean energy, Pakistan’s renewable energy growth has lagged — rising from 0% of total power generation capacity in 2010 to 5.7% in 2023, while the global average went from 2% to 12% over the same period.

Part of the challenge stems from the fact that critical sectors such as agriculture, water, transport, energy, urban development and forestry fall under provincial government control.

“Climate governance necessitates a tailored, province-specific approach rather than a federal, one-size-fits-all strategy,” Mr. Alam said by phone from the city of Lahore.

Others have voiced concern that the party manifestos pay scant attention to communities displaced by climate-related disasters or those in climate hotspots including low-lying coastal areas and mountainous regions threatened by glacial melting.

‘We risk losing everything’

But environmental activists and farmers have broadly welcomed the focus on climate issues for the first time in this year’s election campaign.

In a village near Chichawatni in Pakistan’s cotton-growing belt, farmer Jawwad Nawaz, 32, said the PMLN’s manifesto represents “a lifeline for the agricultural community”, adding that he hopes the proposed policies translate into tangible support for farmers.

Lahore-based climate activist Mawra Muzaffar said she had seen progress in Sindh province under the PPP that showed what could be achieved — from growing mangroves to importing electric buses. The PMLN’s vows to boost the use of clean energy in agriculture through solar panels are realistic and feasible, she said. “Moreover, it talks about a 10% reduction in carbon emissions, which if achieved will be very important,” she added.

In his village in Pakpattan district, Bhandara said the success of such policies must go hand-in-hand with climate adaptation measures for farmers.

His think-tank, and Digital Dera, a tech startup, is calling for the establishment of a national fund for research, innovation, resilience, and financial security for farmers. “Farmers need support for adaptation, and the Government must bear the cost of these measures,” he said, calling for urgent action to implement such policies.

“We can’t afford to waste time when it comes to climate change…Otherwise, we risk losing everything – including our food security and livelihoods,” he said, before hurrying off to meet an election candidate visiting his village.

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Pakistan recalls ambassador to Iran after air strike that killed 2 children

Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Tehran on Wednesday, a day after Iran launched airstrikes on Pakistan that it claimed targeted bases for a militant Sunni separatist group. Islamabad angrily denounced the attack as a “blatant violation” of its airspace and said it killed two children.  

Tuesday’s strike on Pakistan’s restive southwestern Baluchistan province imperilled diplomatic relations between the two neighbours, but both sides appeared wary of provoking the other. Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant attacks. 

The attack also threatened to further ignite violence in a Middle East unsettled by Israel’s ongoing war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Iran launched strikes late Monday in Iraq and Syria over an Islamic State group-claimed suicide bombing that killed over 90 people earlier this month. 

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, announced that Islamabad is recalling the country’s ambassador to Iran over the strikes.

“Last night’s unprovoked and blatant breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty by Iran is a violation of international law and the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations,” she said in a televised address

Baloch added that Pakistan asked the Iranian ambassador, who was visiting Tehran when the attack took place, not to return. Iran did not immediately acknowledge Pakistan’s decision.

China on Wednesday urged Pakistan and Iran to show “restraint” after the strike. 

“We call on both sides to exercise restraint, avoid actions that would lead to an escalation of tension and work together to maintain peace and stability,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing.

“We consider both Iran and Pakistan as close neighbours and major Islamic countries,” she said.

Iranian state media reports, which were later withdrawn without explanation, said the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard targeted bases belonging to the militant group Jaish al-Adl, or the “Army of Justice.” The group, which seeks an independent Baluchistan and has spread across Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, acknowledged the assault in a statement shared online.

Six bomb-carrying drones and rockets struck homes that the militants claim housed children and wives of their fighters. Jaish al-Adl said the attack killed two children and wounded two women and a teenage girl. 

Videos shared by the Baluch activist group HalVash, purportedly from the site, showed a burning building and two charred, small corpses. 

A Pakistani intelligence report said the two children killed were a 6-year-old girl and an 11-month-old boy. Three women were injured, aged between 28 and 35. The report also said three or four drones were fired from the Iranian side, hitting a mosque and other buildings, including a house.

Jan Achakzai, a spokesperson for Baluchistan province, also condemned the attack.

“Pakistan has always sought cooperation from all the countries of region – including Iran – to combat terrorism,” “This is unacceptable and Pakistan has a right to respond to any aggression committed against its sovereignty.”

A senior Pakistani security official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to reporters, said Iran had shared no information prior to the strike. He said Pakistan reserved the right to respond at a time and place of the country’s choosing and such a strike would be measured and in line with public expectations. 

Read moreIslamic State group claims responsibility for deadly Iran bombings

“The dangerous precedent set by Iran is destabilising and has reciprocal implications,” the official said.

However, there were signs Pakistan was trying to contain any anger over the strike. The country’s typically outspoken and nationalistic media covered the attack Wednesday with unusual restraint. 

Iranian state media meanwhile continued not to address the strikes, instead discussing a joint naval drill held by Pakistan and the Iranian navy in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday. Pakistani officials acknowledged the drill, but said it came earlier than Iran’s strikes.

Pakistani defence analyst Syed Muhammad Ali said the government would weigh any potential retaliation carefully.

The country’s air defence and missile systems are primarily deployed along the eastern border to respond to potential threats from India. But it might consider taking some measures to respond to such strikes from its western border with Afghanistan and Iran, Ali said.Jaish al-Adl was founded in 2012, and Iranian officials believe it largely operates in Pakistan.

The group has claimed bombings and kidnapped members of Iran’s border police in the past. In December, suspected Jaish al-Adl members killed 11 people and wounded eight others in a nighttime attack on a police station in southeastern Iran. Another recent attack killed another police officer in the area.

In 2019, Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing targeting a bus that killed 27 members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Iran has suspected that Sunni-majority Pakistan is hosting insurgents, possibly at the behest of its regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia. However, Iran and Saudi Arabia reached a Chinese-mediated détente last March, easing tensions. Pakistan, meanwhile, has blamed Iran in the past over militant attacks targeting its security forces. 

Iran has fought in border areas against militants, but a missile-and-drone attack on Pakistan is unprecedented. 

It remains unclear why Iran launched the attack now, particularly as its foreign minister had met Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister the same day at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

After the Islamic State group bombings this month, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry alleged the two bombers involved in the attack had traveled from Afghanistan into Iran through its southeastern border at the Jalg crossing – meaning they had traveled through Baluchistan.

Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, as well as Iran’s neighbouring Sistan and Baluchestan province, have faced a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists for more than two decades. They initially wanted a share of provincial resources, but later initiated an insurgency for independence.

Iran’s attack on Pakistan came less than a day after Iranian strikes on northern Iraq that killed several civilians. Iraq recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations and summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad on Tuesday in protest. Iran separately struck Syria as well.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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The Hindu Morning Digest: December 31, 2023

With announcement of new notification, Census to be delayed till at least October 2024

The deadline to freeze the administrative boundaries of districts, tehsils, towns, and municipal bodies, among others, has been extended till June 30, 2024, a senior government official told The Hindu. This means that the decennial Census exercise, initially scheduled to be begin in 2020, will now be postponed till at least October 2024 as it usually takes about three months after the boundaries are set to identify and train the enumerators.

Ayodhya airport takes off ahead of January 22 Ram Temple consecration ceremony

The world awaits the Ram Temple consecration ceremony on January 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on Saturday in Ayodhya, adding that no stone will be left unturned to develop the holy place. Given the security arrangements that would be in place, the Prime Minister requested people to visit the temple city only after the consecration ceremony. 

Punjab Police form SIT to investigate Nicaragua ‘human trafficking’ case

The Punjab Police set up a Special Investigation Team on Saturday to probe a suspected human trafficking case related to Indian passengers on an aircraft run by Romania’s Legend Airlines, originally destined for Nicaragua, but detained in France. Though the passengers have now returned to India, no victim has yet come forward to register any case.

PM Modi visits 10th crore beneficiary of Ujjwala scheme in Ayodhya

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit on Saturday to the Ayodhya home of Meera Manjhi, the tenth-crore beneficiary of the PM Ujjwala Yojana, and had tea at her residence during his one-day tour of the temple city.

Launched in May 2016 to provide subsidised LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households, the Ujjwala scheme aims to empower women, protecting their health and reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.

BJP president releases commemorative stamp on 200 years of Indian origin Tamils in Sri Lanka

BJP President J.P. Nadda on Saturday released a commemorative stamp on 200 years of arrival of Indian-origin Tamils in Sri Lanka. BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit chief K. Annamalai said that PM Narendra Modi has always considered Sri Lanka, “our civilisational twin” and has been instrumental in supporting the country with humanitarian and financial aid during its times of distress.

The release of the commemorative stamp has strengthened this commitment of unwavering support to the Indian-origin Tamils living in Sri Lanka, a statement released by the Sri Lankan govt. said.

In biggest election year ever, politics may have impact on India’s foreign policy the most

Domestic policy, rather than geopolitical events, could be a major factor in foreign policy in 2024, given that more than a fourth of the world, in terms of population and number of countries, will go to vote during the year. For India, which will hold the world’s largest election, the diplomatic calendar and focus will be decided by countries in the neighbourhood, global powers and major countries in the Global South, all of which will hold parliamentary or presidential elections next year.

Centre releases draft guidelines to make Railways more user-friendly for persons with disabilities

The government has released draft guidelines on accessibility of railway stations, facilities in trains for persons with disabilities, highlighting the need for integrating technology-enabled features such as text-to-speech and user-friendly pictograms. The Department of the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) has asked stakeholders and the public to give their comments, objections and suggestions by January 29 on the proposed guidelines to create a more user-friendly environment.

India seeks extradition of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed from Pakistan

India has asked Pakistan to extradite Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind and a United Nations-proscribed terrorist, who is wanted by Indian probe agencies in a number of terror cases. India also took note of reports of Saeed’s son Talha Saeed standing for elections in Pakistan and said the “mainstreaming” of radical terrorist outfits in that country is nothing new and that it has been part of its state policy for a long time.

Singapore envoy praises tripartite pact with ULFA faction

The peace pact signed with the pro-talks faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) will pave the way for investment into the northeastern region, the High Commissioner of Singapore Simon Wong has said. The envoy had earlier in November observed that products of Assam have a ready market in Singapore.

This is the first response from a foreign representative on the pact that was signed on Friday under which a time-bound programme would be made by the Home Ministry to fulfil the demands of the ULFA and a committee would be constituted to monitor its progress.

6.5 magnitude earthquake shakes part of Indonesia’s Papua region, no immediate reports of casualties

A powerful earthquake shook Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua early Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.5 quake was centered 162 kilometers (101 miles) northeast of Abepura, a subdistrict in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province. It happened at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency said there was no danger of a tsunami but warned of possible aftershocks as the earthquake was centered in land.

British actor Tom Wilkinson, known for ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Michael Clayton’, dies at 75

Tom Wilkinson, the Oscar-nominated British actor known for his roles in “The Full Monty,” “Michael Clayton” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” has died, his family said. He was 75. A statement shared by his agent on behalf of the family said Wilkinson died suddenly at home on Saturday. It didn’t provide further details.

China eases visa application for U.S. tourists

China will simplify visa applications for tourists from the United States from Jan. 1, cutting the documents required, according to a notice on Friday on the website of the Chinese embassy in Washington. The move is the latest by China to revive tourism and boost the world’s second-largest economy following a slump during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major blow to Imran Khan as Pakistan’s top poll body rejects his nomination papers from two seats

In a major blow to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ahead of the February 8 general elections, Pakistan’s top poll body on December 30 rejected nomination papers of party founder and former Prime Minister Imran Khan and several of his stalwart colleagues on what they described as “flimsy grounds”.

Finance Minister meets heads of PSBs, reviews financial performance

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharman on Saturday held a meeting with heads of public sector banks and reviewed their financial performance. During the meeting, concerns related to cyber security and the risks on the financial sector were discussed, sources said. Issues related to fraud and wilful defaulters and progress on the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL) also came up for discussion.

India in South Africa | Rohit Sharma focuses on Mukesh during net session, Jadeja goes full tilt

It was an optional session at the Supersport Park but for India skipper Rohit Sharma, skipping the nets wasn’t an option. Outfoxed by South African pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada in both innings of the opening Test, Rohit was present as skipper and batter in equal measure during a two-hour session.

The Indian captain was focussed on facing Mukesh Kumar, who bowled only to Rohit for at least 45 minutes.

Dominic Thiem survives qualifying and a brush with venomous snake at Brisbane International

Former U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem had a brush with one of Australia’s most venomous snakes during a qualifying match at the Brisbane International on Saturday The former world No.3 was a set down to 20-year-old Australian James McCabe in a first round qualifying match when fans courtside spotted the snake.

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#Hindu #Morning #Digest #December

Making water the engine for climate action

Much progress has been made on water security over recent decades, yet for the first time in human history, our collective actions have pushed the global water cycle out of balance. Water is life: it is essential for health, food, energy, socioeconomic development, nature and livable cities. It is hardly surprising that the climate and biodiversity crises are also a water crisis, where one reinforces the other. Already, a staggering four billion people suffer from water scarcity  for at least one month a year and two billion people lack access to safely-managed drinking water. By 2030, global water demand will exceed availability by 40 percent. By 2050, climate-driven water scarcity could impact the economic growth of some regions by up to 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product per year.

Meike van Ginneken, Water Envoy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Right now, the world’s first Global Stocktake is assessing the progress being made toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and global leaders are convening at COP28 in Dubai to agree on a way forward. We have a critical opportunity to catalyze global ambition and recognize that water is how climate change manifests itself. While wealthier, more resilient nations may be able to manage the devastating impacts of climate change, these same challenges are disastrous for lesser developed, more vulnerable communities.

Rainfall, the source of all freshwater, is becoming more erratic. Changes in precipitation, evaporation and soil moisture are creating severe food insecurity. Droughts trap farmers in poverty, as the majority of cultivated land is rain-fed. Extreme drought reduces growth in developing countries by about 0.85 percentage points. Melting glaciers, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion jeopardize freshwater supplies. Floods destroy infrastructure, damage homes and disrupt livelihoods. The 2022 Pakistan floods affected 33 million people and more than 1,730 lost their lives, while 2023 saw devastating floods in Libya among other places.  

Now more than ever, it is urgent that we work together to make water the engine of climate action. Already, many countries are investing in technology and climate-resilient water infrastructure. Yet, we need more than technology and engineering to adapt to a changing climate. To advance global water action, we must radically change the way we understand, value and manage water with an emphasis on two necessary measures.

First, we need to make water availability central to our economic planning and decision-making. We need to rethink where and how we grow our food, where we build our cities, and where we plan our industries. We cannot continue to grow thirsty crops in drylands or drain wetlands and cut down forests to raise our cattle. In a changing climate, water availability needs to guide where we undertake economic activity.

In a changing climate, water availability needs to guide where we undertake economic activity.  

Second, we must restore and protect natural freshwater stocks, our buffers against extreme climate events. Natural freshwater storage is how we save water for dry periods and freshwater storage capacity is how we store rainwater to mitigate floods. 99 percent of freshwater storage is in nature. We need to halt the decline of groundwater, wetlands and floodplains. But our challenge is not only about surface and groundwater bodies, or blue water. We also need to preserve and restore our green water stocks, or the water that remains in the soil after rainfall. To reduce the decline of blue water and preserve green water, we need to implement water-friendly crop-management practices and incorporate key stakeholders, such as farmers, into the decision-making process.

Addressing the urgency of the global water crisis goes beyond the water sector. It requires transformative changes at every level of society. National climate plans such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans are key instruments to make water an organizing principle to spatial, economic and investment planning. Much like the Netherlands did earlier this year when the Dutch parliament adopted a policy that makes water and soil guiding principles in all our spatial planning decisions. Right now, about 90 percent of all countries’ NDCs prioritize action on water for adaptation. NDCs and National Adaptation Plans are drivers of integrated planning and have the potential to unlock vast investments, yet including targets for water is only a first step.

To drive global action, the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan co-hosted the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, bringing the world together for a bold Water Action Agenda to accelerate change across sectors and deliver on the water actions in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. To elevate the agenda’s emphasis on accelerating implementation and improved impact, the Netherlands is contributing an additional €5 million to the NDC Partnership to support countries to mitigate the impacts of climate change, reduce water-related climate vulnerability and increase public and private investments targeting water-nexus opportunities. As a global coalition of over 200 countries and international institutions, the NDC Partnership is uniquely positioned to support countries to enhance the integration of water in formulating, updating, financing and implementing countries’ NDCs.

One example showcasing the importance of incorporating water management into national planning comes from former NDC Partnership co-chair and climate leader, Jamaica. Jamaica’s National Water Commission (NWC), one of the largest electricity consumers in the country, mobilized technical assistance to develop an integrated energy efficiency and renewables program to reduce its energy intensity, building up the resilience of the network, while helping reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. With additional support from the Netherlands, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with Global Water Partnership (GWP)-Caribbean, the government of Jamaica will ensure the National Water Commission is well equipped for the future. Implementation of climate commitments and the requisite financing to do so are key to ensuring targets like these are met.

Water has the power to connect. The Netherlands is reaching out to the world.

Water has the power to connect. The Netherlands is reaching out to the world. We are committed to providing political leadership and deploying our know-how for a more water-secure world. As we look towards the outcomes of the Global Stocktake and COP28, it is essential that we make water the engine of climate action. 

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#Making #water #engine #climate #action

Pakistan and China: CPEC’s journey from glittering ambition to virtual stall

The story so far: Seeking urgent funds to the tune of $65 billion via infrastructure investment, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar,on October 20, completed a five-day trip to Beijing. He was also attempting to allay China’s demands regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the ambitious infrastructure project spearheaded by Beijing from 2015 that has reached an impasse due to disagreements over the Gwadar port in Balochistan.

Meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Mr. Kakar pledged that Islamabad would ‘not allow anything’ to undermine ties with Beijing, Pakistani publication Dawn reported. Terming the China-Pakistan partnership as ‘made in heaven’, he assured that Islamabad ‘blindly trusted China’ and was committed to CPEC and peace in the region.

Signing over 20 agreements with China, Mr. Kakar aims to boost his cash-starved nation’s coffers as Islamabad heads to another election in January 2024. The inked pacts include speedy development of the Gwadar port and its auxiliaries to facilitate regional connectivity, keeping the Khunjerab border (dividing China’s Southern Xinjiang and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)‘s Gilgit-Baltistan) open throughout the year, construction of the New Gwadar International Airport, the Pakistan-China Friendship Hospital, a desalination plant and other projects.

Attempting to break the impasse , Mr. Xi sought effective security measures to protect the hundreds of Chinese workers and engineers working on CPEC infrastructure projects from Pakistan-based militant attacks. CPEC, a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is set to receive a lion’s share of the 350-billion-yuan ($47.9 billion) financing windows to be set up by China Development Bank and the Export–Import Bank of China.

The move comes just a month after Beijing refused to further expand cooperation with Islamabad in areas of energy, water management, and climate change under CPEC.

Origins of CPEC & agreements signed

The original idea for bilateral investment in infrastructure projects in Pakistan began in 2001 when China agreed to finance the construction of Gwadar port and the Makran Coastal Highway which connected Gwadar and Karachi. Soon the port became functional and Hong Kong-based China Overseas Ports Holding Company began freight operations from there.

This success gave way to a bigger ‘economic corridor’ project when then Chinese President Li Keqiang visited Islamabad in 2013 and met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to kickstart China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR)— an initiative to revive the 15th century trade route connecting China to West Asia and Europe via land and sea. Apart from Pakistan, Mr. Li had visited India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to rope them into OBOR.

CPEC routes from Pakistan’s Gwadar port in PoK to China’s Kashgar in Xinjiang district

CPEC — one of OBOR’s largest investments — was formally launched in 2015 during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit to Pakistan. Signing over 50 projects worth $45 billion, China set up the ‘Silk Road Fund’ to invest in CPEC projects planned till 2030. The main project was establishing the corridor connecting Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan to China’s Kashgar in south-western Xinjiang region.

Apart from this connecting corridor, a number of power projects including the 720MW Karot hydropower project and several special economic zones are to be developed under CPEC. Existing facilities of Thar coal-fired power plants (1980 MW) will also be improved using the $33.79 billion ear-marked in the Silk Road Fund for energy projects. Other power projects to be developed are— imported coal power plants at Port Qasim (1,320MW), Gwadar-Nawabshah natural gas pipeline, wind farm at Jhimpir (260 MW), solar park in Bahawalpur (900 MW), and two Thar coal mining blocks.

File photo: A general view of Gwadar port in Gwadar, Pakistan, October 4, 2017.

File photo: A general view of Gwadar port in Gwadar, Pakistan, October 4, 2017.
| Photo Credit:

Short-term projects are the Havelian-Islamabad link of the Karakoram Highway ($930m), Gwadar International Airport ($230m), Gwadar port ($66m), and a fibre optic project ($4m), while existing projects to be upgraded are the 1,681-km-long Peshawar-Lahore-Karachi railway line ($3.7billion) and Lahore Mass Transit system ($1.6 billion).

The Silk Road Fund, which manages the investment, is being financed by a consortium of Chinese banks including China Exim Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and the China Development Bank. The projects themselves are undertaken by various Chinese firms in collaboration with Pakistani companies. For example, United Energy Pakistan Wind Power constructed the Jhimpir wind project with the China Development Bank Corporation financing it.

Teething troubles

The CPEC had teething troubles in 2016 as several projects ground to a halt over confusion on funding, contractor selection, delay in bidding process, differences over tax exemption, and obtaining of no-objection certificates (NOC) from ministries and military for key energy projects.

Gwadar port – one of the key CPEC projects – faced multiple issues, starting with water supply. The Rs. 11.2-billion project to supply, treat and distribute water to the port by connecting the Swad and Shadikaur dams was delayed as the port authorities were unclear if the project’s funding was via a grant, an interest-free loan or a commercial loan from China. This project is currently in its final phase of construction.

Similarly, the Rs.9.9-billion project to upgrade the Pak-China Friendship Hospital had faced a delay in the commissioning of the feasibility report, cost estimation, and supply of equipment for the existing 50 beds. As of date, only one of the six medical blocks with 50 beds each is functional.

300 MW Gwadar coal-fired power plant plan

300 MW Gwadar coal-fired power plant plan

Other projects like the 600 MW Gwadar coal-fired power plant, the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan, the 1320 MW coal-fired plant at Port Qasim, and the 1320MW Sahiwal Coal Power Project too ran into financial issues over uncertainty about project funding. Power projects were also faced with additional issues of synchronisation with the National Power Grid, which the National Transmission and Dispatch Company was hesitant to allow. While the Sahiwal and Port Qasim plants became operational between 2017 and 2019, the Gwadar power plant has stalled as Pakistan seeks to use domestic coal as fuel while China has insisted on using imported coal.

Hydropower projects like the Sukki Kinari Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Karot project in Punjab and the Kohala Project in PoK ran into issues over slow land acquisition by the respective State governments. All of the above projects are currently under the final phase of construction and are scheduled to be completed by 2024.

These projects are financed by commercial Chinese loans and are insured by the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) against non-payment, guaranteed by the Pakistan government. Additionally, Sinosure levies a 7% debt servicing fee, a yearly varying interest, and financing fee, making the entire project a huge economic burden on the debt-ridden nation. Several power and infrastructure experts have argued that the high costs incurred in construction will diminish any gains from increased power production.

Opposition from locals & militants

The biggest thorn in CPEC’s side is the intense protests by locals in Balochistan against the Gwadar port city project. Land acquisition by the China Overseas Ports Holding Company for the port project, which spans 2,90,000 acres, has been difficult in the face of stiff opposition by the local residents. Fearing loss of local livelihoods such as fishing, and resisting the use of unskilled Chinese labour instead of Pakistani locals, Baloch residents have refused to sell land to the Chinese for building the port. Moreover, Gwadar port has been leased to the China Overseas Ports Holding Company by Pakistan government, with Beijing reaping 91% of the profits while Islamabad gains only 9%. This has also led to rise in anti-China sentiments among Baloch locals.

Complicating issues further, the Pakistani government has resorted to grabbing lands from locals, forcing them to resettle elsewhere. This has led to a rise in insurgency in Balochistan led by the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Baloch Republican Army (BRA), and the Baloch Republican Guards (BRG), which seek independence for the district. These militant groups has carried out several attacks on Pakistani Army officials providing protection to Chinese workers.

Similarly, in Sindh province, locals see CPEC as an attempt by the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan army to infringe on Sindh locals’ land and rights. Insurgent and separatist outfit Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) too has joined the Balochi insurgents in attacking Chinese workers and Pakistan army, viewing CPEC as an attempt to block local access to the Gwadar and Badin ports.

Local residents and rescue workers gather at the site of bus accident, in Kohistan Kohistan district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. A bus carrying Chinese and Pakistani construction workers on a slippery mountainous road in northwest Pakistan fell into a ravine Wednesday, killing a dozen of people, including Chinese nationals, and dozens were injured, a government official said

Local residents and rescue workers gather at the site of bus accident, in Kohistan Kohistan district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. A bus carrying Chinese and Pakistani construction workers on a slippery mountainous road in northwest Pakistan fell into a ravine Wednesday, killing a dozen of people, including Chinese nationals, and dozens were injured, a government official said

The two Thar coal fields, the Lahore-Karachi highway, the Karachi-Peshawar high speed rail link and the Hyderabad-Multan-Havelian Dry Port have also been hindered by attacks, civilian protests and slow land acquisition.

Recently in August, two militants were killed after they attacked a convoy carrying Chinese workers to Gwadar port. While no Chinese national was hurt in this attack, three Chinese academics and their Pakistani driver were killed in April 2022 by a suicide bomber in Karachi University. Similarly in 2021, five people were killed at a luxury hotel in Quetta hosting the Chinese Ambassador. The attack was claimed by ,Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is active in South Waziristan. In another attack in 2021, 12 people – including nine Chinese workers – were killed in a bomb blast on a bus carrying staff to the Dasu dam site.

India’s opposition to CPEC

Since its inception, India has opposed CPEC as most of its projects run through areas in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Cutting through Gilgit-Baltistan, CPEC projects link Balochistan to China’s Xinjiang region. New Delhi has always maintained that PoK was an integral part of India and has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.

Moreover, since the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan, they have expressed an interest in joining CPEC — a bid to tap into the mineral-rich Balochistan and also strengthen its ally TTP. India has vehemently opposed this move, stating that “a proposed participation of third countries in so called CPEC projects directly infringes on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Disagreements between China andPakistan

In November 2017, China and Pakistan differed over one of CPEC’s biggest projects, the $14-billion Diamer Basha Dam, with the project ultimately being cancelled. Islamabad stated that China had imposed harsh conditions for financing the project — total ownership of the construction, and operation and maintenance of the dam along with approval for another operational dam.

Photo of Karakoram Highway in PoK

Photo of Karakoram Highway in PoK

A month later, China stopped funding three road projects — the 210-km Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob Road worth Rs 81 billion, the 110-km Khuzdar-Basima Road worth Rs 19.7 billion, and the 136-km Karakoram Highway worth Rs 8.5 billion — over suspicions of corruption. Though the funds had been cleared by the 6th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting, China stopped the funding stating that ‘new guidelines’ for the release of the funds would be issued.

In a retaliatorymove, in May 2018, the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee ordered an inquiry into China Overseas Ports Holding Company (Pakistan) — the lessee of Gwadar port — claiming that it had been operating without valid security clearance. The port construction, already slow due to local resistance, virtually stalled. Chinese authorities tried directly contacting Balochi leaders, snubbing the Pakistan government itself. Defence experts see this subversion as Beijing’s attempt to establish a military or naval base in Gwadar to gain a strategic advantage over India.

China also complicated the Gwadar port issue by insisting on Yuan as a legal tender in the region, though not in rest of Pakistan. This demand was refused twice by the Pakistan Central Bank, which later allowed Yuan to be used for bilateral trade and investment activities.

In 2022, China refused to further expand cooperation with Pakistan in the areas of energy, water management, and climate change under CPEC. According to the minutes of the 11th JCC meeting, this was owing to the “challenges that both the sides are facing in deepening the economic ties.” Moreover, Beijing did not agree to measures proposed by Islamabad in energy, water management, climate change and tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, PoK and the coastal areas. Beijing also refused to set up a new joint working group on water resources management and climate change and a 500kv transmission line from Hub to Gwadar to link the city to the national grid.

Pakistan caretaker PM Anwaar ul Haq meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 19, 2023

Pakistan caretaker PM Anwaar ul Haq meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 19, 2023

Beijing also refused several other proposed ventures including a South-North gas pipeline project, an underground gas storage project, a national seismic study for sedimentary areas, joint exploration, development, and marketing of metallic minerals, and a policy framework for coal gasification for fertiliser projects based on Thar coal. On the other hand, Islamabad has conceded to forgo usage of Thar coal in the 300MW Gwadar Power Plant and use imported coal instead, delivering a major blow to its own energy security and ballooning current deficit. It has also promised to ensure timely exchange of U.S. dollars for CPEC power projects to buy necessary fuels.

Impasse and road ahead

With the recent visit to Beijing by caretaker PM Anwaarul Haq Kakar, Islamabad is attempting to restart funding for its key projects. Apart from vowing to keep the Khunjerab border open throughout the year, both sides are yet to find any breakthrough on the issues dragging down the progress of the CPEC. While Mr. Kakar and Mr. Xi reviewed the progress of the New Gwadar International Airport and the Pak-China Friendship Hospital, the development of Gwadar port itself remains unresolved. With Pakistan polity going through churn, China will await a new administration’s arrival next year to revive CPEC again.

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England vs Pakistan Live Score Updates, World Cup 2023: Jonny Bairstow Departs For 59, England 2 Down vs Pakistan | Cricket News

ENG vs PAK Live Score Updates: England opt to bat© AFP

ENG vs PAK, World Cup Live Updates:Haris Rauf has provided Pakistan with a major breakthrough as he dismissed Jonny Bairstow for 59. Currently, Ben Stokes and Joe Root are standing unbeaten at the crease for two-down England against Pakistan. England skipper Jos Buttler won the toss and opted to bat against Pakistan in their last league match of ODI World Cup 2023 on Saturday in Kolkata. Nothing less than a miracle will help Pakistan as they face a near-impossible task of making the semifinals by winning an unthinkable margin, while a charged-up England will look to qualify for the Champions Trophy. (Live Scorecard | Points Table)

World Cup 2023 LIVE Updates: England vs Pakistan Live Score | ENG vs PAK Live Score, Straight from Kolkata

  • 15:49 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: 3 runs off the over

    Haris Rauf bowls an excellent over and controls the flow of runs. In the previous over, he leaks only three runs as Ben Stokes and Joe Root aim for boundaries in the coming overs. 

    ENG 128/2 (23 overs)

  • 15:28 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: OUT

    OUT!!! Haris Rauf has provided Pakistan with a major breakthrough as he dismissed Jonny Bairstow for 59. Bairstow tries to steal a boundary but Agha Salman takes a brilliant catch at the covers. Second wicket gone for England. 

    ENG 108/2 (18.2 overs)

  • 15:25 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: 4 runs off the over

    Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root are standing solid for England. In the previous over of Shadab Khan, the duo scores four runs as they aim for some more boundaries in the coming overs. 

    ENG 106/1 (18 overs)

  • 15:20 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: FOUR

    FOUR!!! Poor fielding from Pakistan gifts a boundary to Jonny Bairstow. The English opener plays a terrific shot off Mohammad Wasim Jr’s delivery towards the deep backward point, where Fakhar Zaman miserably fails to stop it from going for a four. 

    ENG 100/1 (16.1 overs)

  • 15:13 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Bairstow hits 50

    Jonny Bairstow takes a single off Shadab Khan’s delivery and brings up his half-century. It is his 17th half-century in the ODI format and he brings it up in 52 balls. Terrific batting from Bairstow. 

    ENG 96/1 (16 overs)

  • 15:04 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: OUT

    OUT!!! Iftikhar Ahmed has provided Pakistan with their first breakthrough as he dismissed Dawid Malan for 31. The ball hits the edge of the bat and goes up in the air as wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan takes a brilliant catch. 

    ENG 82/1 (13.3 overs)

  • 14:57 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: 5 runs off the over

    Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow are standing solid for England. In the previous of Iftikhar Ahmed, the duo scores five runs as England are at a dominating position. Bairstow is also inching closer towards his half-century. 

    ENG 79/0 (12 overs)

  • 14:51 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: 4 runs off the over

    Pakistan finally take a sigh of relief as Iftikhar Ahmed bowls an economical over and controls the flow of runs. In his previous over, he leaks only four runs as Pakistan desperately aim to break the crucial partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan. 

    ENG 72/0 (10 overs)

  • 14:44 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Back-to-back fours

    FOUR!!! Dawid Malan smashes two back-to-back boundaries off Shaheen Afridi’s delivery. The first one comes after he gets on top of the bounce and pulls it over mid-wicket for a boundary. The second one comes after drives it through cover-point to find the fence. 

    ENG 67/0 (8.3 overs)

  • 14:37 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: SIX

    SIX!!! Jonny Bairstow hits a huge six off Shaheen Afridi’s delivery. Bairstow makes a good use of the pace and bounce as he smashes it hard towards the third man for a huge maximum. England are looking in good touch in the first seven overs. 

    ENG 49/0 (7 overs)

  • 14:34 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: FOUR

    FOUR!!! Jonny Bairstow continues to show his dominance as he gets another boundary off Shaheen Afridi’s delivery. Bairstow makes no mistake and smashes it hard through the covers as the fielder fails to stop it from going for a four. 

    ENG 42/0 (6.2 overs)

  • 14:31 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Rauf expensive for Pakistan

    FOUR!!! After leaking another five runs from wide, Haris Rauf gets hit for a boundary by Dawid Malan. The English opener patiently waits for the delivery and then hammers it hard towards the mid-wicket and steals four runs. 

    ENG 38/0 (6 overs)

  • 14:26 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: FOUR

    FOUR!!! Jonny Bairstow hits a boundary off Shaheen Afridi’s delivery. Bairstow stand firmly on his place and then places a shot towards the square leg as the ball goes past the boundary line for a four. 

    ENG 25/0 (4.2 overs)

  • 14:22 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: England gain momentum

    After a slow start, England finally open their arms as Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan start dealing in boundaries. In the previous over of Haris Rauf, the duo scores 13 runs, which include two boundaries from Bairstow and one boundary from Malan. 

    ENG 21/0 (4 overs)

  • 14:12 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Good comeback from Haris

    After leaking five runs on the very first delivery, pacer Haris Rauf makes a good comeback. In the rest of the over, he concedes only one more and that also from a wide ball. Pakistan need to get their first wicket at the earliest, in order to build pressure on England. 

    ENG 6/0 (2 overs)

  • 14:08 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: England off the mark

    England get off the mark in style as Haris Rauf concedes five extra runs. Beginning the second over, Rauf throws a wide, which dodges wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan and goes across the boundary line for a four. 

    ENG 5/0 (1 over)

  • 14:05 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Maiden over

    Shaheen Afridi has provided Pakistan with an excellent start. In the first over, he bowls a maiden as Pakistan eye some early wickets. On the other hand, Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan aim for some momentum in the coming overs. 

    ENG 0/0 (1 overs)

  • 14:01 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: We are underway

    The ODI World Cup 2023 match between England and Pakistan begins. For England, Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan have started the proceedings while Shaheen Afridi will be bowling the first over for Pakistan. 

  • 13:54 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Time for national anthems

    Players of both the teams are out on the field for their respective national anthems. The ODI World Cup 2023 match between England and Pakistan will begin in few minutes. 

  • 13:43 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: England’s Playing XI

    England (Playing XI): Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler(w/c), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Gus Atkinson, Adil Rashid

  • 13:41 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Pakistan’s Playing XI

    Pakistan (Playing XI): Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam(c), Mohammad Rizwan(w), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Haris Rauf

  • 13:38 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Here’s what Babar Azam said at the toss

    We wanted to bat first, but toss is not in our hands. We have good bowlers and we would look to bowl them out cheaply. We have one change – Hasan Ali is not playing and Shadab Khan comes in his place.

  • 13:37 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Here’s what Jos Buttler said at the toss

    We gonna bat first. Looks a good wicket, looks dry. We are going with the same team today. We are playing well together and would look to justice to ourselves. Emotional day for him, he has been great for us.

  • 13:33 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Toss

    England skipper Jos Buttler won the toss and opted to bat against Pakistan in their ODI World Cup 2023 match on Saturday in Kolkata. 

  • 13:13 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: England eye Champions Trophy berth

    For defending champions England, the World Cup title defence dream may have been over for quite a sometime now but the Jos Buttler-led side will aim to finish inside top-8 to make the cut for the 2025 Champions Trophy. As things stand, it’s a four-way race with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands also in the mix with England.

  • 13:09 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Qualification scenario for Pakistan

    New Zealand’s net run-rate boosting five wicket-win over Sri Lanka has virtually shattered Pakistan’s semifinal hopes. The 1992 champions now have to beat England by an improbable margin. New Zealand’s NRR is +0.743 while Pakistan’s is +0.036, and for the Babar Azam-led side to eclipse the former to qualify as the fourth side, it has to win by around 287 runs batting first. While chasing, Pakistan need to win with 284 balls to spare. 

  • 13:09 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Daunting task for Pakistan

    Nothing less than a miracle will help Pakistan as they face a near-impossible task of making the semifinals by winning an unthinkable margin, while a charged-up England will look to qualify for the Champions Trophy. 

  • 12:30 (IST)

    ENG vs PAK Live Score: Hello

    Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the ODI World Cup 2023 match between England and Pakistan, straight from Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Stay tuned for all the live updates. 

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Why is Pakistan deporting Afghan migrants and refugees? | Explained

The story so far: On October 31, the Torkham Crossing — five kilometres west of Khyber Pass, on the border connecting Pakistan’s Peshawar with Afghanistan’s Jalalabad — saw a sudden influx of at least 24,000 Afghan refugees packed in trucks and convoys, with whatever luggage they could take from demolished homes. Some crossed over, while others were stranded, unclear about where to go.

The mass exodus was triggered by an order from Pakistan’s interim government asking ‘illegal refugees’ to leave the country by October end, or face deportation. The new anti-immigrant policy comes beforethe general elections next year, when hyperinflation, political instability and rising crime rates are expected to dominate voter issues.

The United Nations called the decision a ‘human rights catastrophe’ which, if not stopped, will put hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled persecution in neighbouring Afghanistan at ‘grave risk.’

Afghan nationals with their belongings gather as they head back to Afghanistan, after Pakistan gives last warning to undocumented immigrants to leave, at the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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Who is Pakistan deporting?

A few days before the October 31 deadline, Pakistan’s acting interior minister Sarfraz Bugti told reporters, “There will be no compromise against illegal refugees… We are going door to door, and we have done geofencing. We will detain and deport them.”

‘Them’ here refers to the almost 17 lakh people living in Pakistan with no legal documentation, a large number of whom are Afghans who sought refuge in the country after fleeing persecution in a war-stricken Afghanistan. Human rights agencies estimate that about 60% of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are undocumented, and say the decision will worsen the trend of arbitrary detentions and harassment Afghan migrants have faced over the last two years.

Almost two lakh refugees have ‘voluntarily’ complied with the October expulsion orders, Mr. Bugti said, some using the Torkham stretch while others used the Chaman crossing in Balochistan. The exodus started as a trickle, with authorities seeing 300 people a day at the outset; this has now increased to more than 10,000 arrivals per day, aid agencies said. Authorities reportedly demolished the houses of Afghan nationals living in illegal settlements, leaving many stranded and fearing arrest. Rights groups allege the police have harassed and illegally detained all migrants, with or without documentation, under the guise of implementing its new anti-immigration policy.

Pakistan’s Afghan refugee population

Government figures show Pakistan is home to about 40 lakh refugees and migrants. As of June this year, Afghan refugees number above 13 lakhs, forming a large chunk of the immigrant pool.

The migration of Afghan nationals to Pakistanhappened in waves. The most recent wave was in August 2021 after the Taliban came to power, compelling some six lakh people to flee persecution in their home country. The starting point of steady migration along this route dates back to 1979 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan; families fled to neighbouring Pakistan andbuilt lives, livelihoods and families there. “I was born and raised in Pakistan. All my siblings were born here…Pakistan is now home, not Afghanistan, and we will be refugees there,” Mir Agha, a 23-year-old who was forcibly deported, told The Guardian this week.

Afghan refugees require a Proof of Registration (PoR) card to legally remain in Pakistan. The route to a PoR is, however, barricaded by an onerous bureaucratic regime, paperwork and interminable delays. Many find their visas have expired while undergoing the registration process. Amnesty International flagged that the delayed process and expired visas amplify the legal vulnerability of Afghan refugees.

During the current exodus, Mr. Agha’s proof of refuge card issued by the UNHCR was “scissored by the police” after arrest, he told a reporter. As things stand, Afghan nationals in Pakistan are caught in an “impossible situation,” as Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for South Asia, has previously highlighted. People were uprooted and forsaken by a home they had been born into, and a home they had sought out of necessity. “Their ambiguous legal status and arduous processes for asylum or third-country relocation have made them even more vulnerable,” she added.

The UNHCR in February 2023 renewed its non-return advisory, first issued in August 2021, barring a forced return of Afghan nationals and asylum seekers whose claims were rejected. The alarm bells ring louder for minorities, women and journalists who are being forced to return to a country languishing under the Taliban regime. “This would particularly put women and girls in grave danger as they would be exposed to persecution and other serious human rights violations simply because of their sex and their gender. For an overwhelming majority of them, living and studying in Pakistan may be their only chance of gaining a formal education,” Amnesty International said in a statement. Since August 2021, the Taliban has imposed bans on young and unmarried women from accessing health centres, schools and universities, public spaces, or pursuing means of employment.

Also vulnerable are those who worked for the U.S., the U.K. and other Western countries before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Currently, two Afghan families awaiting transfer are suing the British government for not doing enough. Washington has asked Islamabad “to ensure the protection of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, including those in the U.S. resettlement and immigration pipelines,” per an NPR report.

Afghanistan’s fragility compounds the refugees’ struggle. Taliban’s human rights violations aside, food insecurity, earthquakes and economic woes further ail the nation. Philippa Candler, the UNHCR representative in Pakistan, told the BBC that a series of devastating earthquakes have “heavily” impacted the situation. “On top of that, winter is approaching so it’s not the best season to have people going back to a country that is already in a very fragile situation,” she said.

The Taliban has criticised the decision and asked for more time; in the meantime, it has prepared temporary refugee camps equipped with water, food, and health facilities and said it would help refugees find jobs, per media reports.

“Afghan refugees’ lives and rights are at stake due to the collective failure of the Pakistan Government and the international community to share the responsibility for their protection. This is simply unacceptable.”Deprose Muchena, senior director of Amnesty

Is the deportation legal?

The Dawn reported that some human rights activists and politicians challenged the “mass deportation” before the Supreme Court this week. The forceful detention and harassment are illegal, unconstitutional and violative of people’s fundamental rights, their petition argues. The government has “failed to distinguish between birthright citizens and illegal immigrants,” as the law grants those born in Pakistan a claim to birthright citizenship, it says. For others, it has urged the Court to allow aid agencies to expeditiously process registration applications.

Rights groups have also urged Pakistan to “stop the crackdown against, and harassment of, Afghan refugees across the country” in keeping with international legal obligations. Under the principle of non-refoulment, the United Nations specifies that countries are forbidden from directly or indirectly forcing people from returning to a place of persecution, “where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm” and this principle “applies to all migrants at all times, irrespective of migration status.” 

Why did Pakistan announce deportation?

Pakistan says it is operating from a place of self-preservation — to protect its economy and national security. The cash-strapped government has struggled to stabilise a collapsing economy, as a depreciating rupee, plummeting foreign exchange reserves and inflation add to people’s woes. Critics fear Pakistan’s worsening political crisis — marked by a power tussle between the military and civilian government — will further stir the economic pot. The present caretaker government, led by interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, is expected to remain safe from any fallout from contentious immigration or economic policies, as Mr. Kakar is perceived to be “closer” to the military.

Hameed Hakimi, an associate at Chatham House, told a media outlet, “From a domestic socio-political and security environment point of view, this is the time for the state to show that it’s doing something about it. And the refugees seem to be a natural target….”

While announcing the deportation, Mr. Bugti also linked the migrant population with crimes and drug trafficking. “There have been 24 suicide bomb attacks since January this year and 14 of them were carried out by Afghan nationals,” he said. Terror-related incidents peaked in 2022 and 2023, with deadly suicide bombings in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region and a mosque in Peshawar. Mr. Bugti implied a linear relationship between the flow of Afghan nationals and crime rates; however, analysts attribute the violence to Pakistan’s ‘dual policy’ of supporting some terror groups for geopolitical goals. The “terror triad”, as researcher Imtiaz Gul called it in an article, plays out between Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the ethnic Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) — with Pakistan tailoring its war on terror depending on the militant group. Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban regime has also deteriorated as the TTP leadership, which plotted the Peshawar attacks on Afghan soil, enjoys freedom in Afghanistan.

Research has made tenuous links between refugee intake and crime rates: a 2021 study highlighted that it is often the host countries’ attitudes about foreigners and the economic conditions that shape domestic terrorism risks.

Also Read | Pakistan’s internal challenges, shifting dynamics

Political analysts argue that Afghan refugees are being ‘scapegoated’ for the government’s collective failure to take responsibility for Pakistan’s economic and security woes. “To deflect blame from the challenges that the government or the country overall is facing, they always raised the issue of illegal immigrants chiefly from Afghanistan,” Mr. Hakimi noted. This ‘blame game’ is used as a fig leaf, indicating that “the country’s problem largely arises from neighbouring countries instead of focusing internally on their own government’s policies.”

Pakistan had previously censured Western countries for a lack of effort and initiative to support Afghan refugees for their return. Rights groups and aid agencies note that in addition to the government, the international community has also defaulted on its responsibility to protect refugees who find themselves at the centre of Pakistan’s turbulent triad of economics, security and politics.

Fortyt-seven-year-old Khair Muhammad, who was “harassed” and forced out of his rented house in Dina, told Al Jazeera: “I am tired. How many times do I have to move countries to protect myself and my family?”

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