Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Pakistan vows to respond 'forcefully' to any destabilisation attempt

Reaffirming its commitment to eliminate all terrorists “without distinction,” top Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi warned of a forceful response to any attempt to destabilise parts of Pakistan or to attack its territorial integrity.

“Let me be clear: we will be relentless in rooting out terrorism, whosoever its sponsors, external or internal,” Ambassador Lodhi told the UN Security Council on Monday.

“Any effort to destabilise parts of our country or to attack its territorial integrity will be responded to forcefully,” the Pakistan envoy said in a debate on the situation in Afghanistan.

Acknowledging that terrorism remained a common challenge, she told the 15-member council that Pakistan had condemned the recent rise in violence in Afghanistan, including the “atrocious” attack on the Afghan parliament, and reaffirmed Islamabad's commitment to cooperation with Kabul in fighting the scourge.

Ambassador Lodhi spoke after the quarterly briefing by Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), in which he urged the international community to work towards lasting peace and reconciliation by facilitating direct talks between the Afghan government and armed groups.

The country continues to need the support of the international community and the sustained attention of the Council, he stressed.

In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi said Pakistan would play a constructive role in promoting peace and security in Afghanistan that could best be achieved through a process of national reconciliation undertaken and led by Afghans themselves.

“We welcome the first, tentative steps taken in recent months to advance the reconciliation process. We hope these steps will lead soon to direct talks as well as de-escalation of violence.”

“Pakistan will do everything possible to encourage this process. Success will require reciprocal accommodation and above all, strategic patience,” the Pakistani envoy added.

Ambassador Lodhi affirmed enhanced engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan based on the principles of non-interference, preventing the use of territory to attack the other country and treatment of each other's enemies as common enemies, as agreed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the Pakistani premier's recent visit to Kabul.

Outlining activities relating to the Heart of Asia process that Pakistan co-chaired, she stated that sustainable peace in Afghanistan would lead to regional stability.

She also welcomed the Afghan government's commitment for the return and reintegration of the large population of refugees hosted by Pakistan and hoped for continued Unama assistance in that regard.

Explore: 'Pull factors' can help re-integrate Afghans returning from Pakistan: Sartaj

Ambassador Lodhi called for more focused action with international support to stem the illicit drug trade.

The destinies of Afghanistan and Pakistan are intertwined, she said, adding that Pakistan would help the Afghan people in whichever way it could to reach the goal of lasting peace.

CM Sindh surfaces as 500 perish in blistering heat

In an unusual measure, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah in his first speech addressing the heatwave that has claimed over 500 lives in his province directed schools, colleges and government offices Tuesday to close as an apparent means to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted by extreme weather.

"We are closing offices, schools and colleges not just in Karachi but throughout Sindh," Shah said in the Sindh Assembly today. "Offices that offer essential services like hospitals will remain open."

Over the weekend, the top man of the Sindh province was in Larkana on a two-day visit for the birth anniversary of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) late chairperson Benazir Bhutto. Shah returned to Karachi Monday and issued a late night directive to the managing director at the Karachi water board to ensure supply and distribution free of charge in areas where there is a water deficit this Ramazan.

Shah also ordered all provincial administration departments against switching on air conditioners in offices till 11 AM and vowed that strict action will be taken against those who fail to comply.

During the assembly session, however, the minister was not entirely informed about the progress made by provincial authorities assisting those affected by extreme weather.

"I want to inform you that a disaster management [system] already exists, not just for rains and storms but for such situations as well... they must have done their work. Non-government organisations must have also done their work," the chief minister said, adding that he was away for two days and is not equipped with the latest emergency relief information.

He said that his government in the past has published emergency hotline numbers in newspapers, and can do so again.

"There have been deaths before, during everyone's time,” he said, not naming any political party. “Whose names should I take? I don't want to get into a controversy," Shah said in the assembly.

Heaping blame on K-Electric
"Definitely the overall opinion, be it of the House or outside the house, or newspapers, it has been said that because of electricity more deaths have occurred," he said today.

"The electricity department is handled by the central government and their private organisation has an agreement with the federal government, not us."

He added that he made several attempts to contact K-Electric owners in Dubai, who assured him that they will invest in Karachi but lamented that the situation at hand suggests that they have not spent anything. "Like businessmen, they have taken advantage of the situation and exploited it."

Last night, the CM also directed authorities at Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to open heatstroke relief centres in various parts of Karachi and provide assistance to those affected by the heatwave.

Sindh Rangers had already set up 10 heatstroke centres in Karachi and a few in other affected areas of the province a day earlier, when the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sent a letter to the Karachi corps commander requesting assistance.

Over 500 die as temperatures soar
According to latest hospital and rescue services reports, the number of deaths caused by Karachi's extreme heatwave have risen to an astounding 520.

The death toll at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPC) increased to 250 on Tuesday, whereas Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Civil Hospital saw more than 80 bodies of those that perished in the heat.

Other hospitals such as Lyari General Hospital recorded 17 deaths.Private hospitals across the city also saw a rise in the number of deaths today such as Liaqat National Hospital, where the toll rose to 25.

Hundreds of heatstroke victims are reported to be in hospitals undergoing treatment.

According to the Met Office, Karachi was among the hottest places in the province as mercury shot up to 43 degree Celsius on Monday. The maximum temperature in the city on Tuesday is expected to range between 42 and 44 degree Celsius. Rainfall with fast winds is expected in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas division and Sukkur division in the evening.

On Monday, the maximum temperature in Sukkur, Chhor, Dadu, Larkana, Rohri and Nawabshah was 43 degree Celsius; in Jacobabad, Mithi and Moenjodaro 42 degree Celsius; in Badin, Thatta and Padidan 41 degree Celsius; and in Hyderabad 40 degree Celsius.


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