Tag Archives: Pakistan

Thousands of Russians scramble to leave Thailand as sanctions bite

CHONBURI: Nearly 60 elephants enjoy­­ed a huge fruit banquet at a Thai botanical park on Sunday as the Southeast Asian country marked its annual Elephant Day.

Elephants are a source of national pride and cultural identity for Thailand and are used for labor, transport, and battlefield triumphs by warriors and kings.

The event is commonly observed in various other parts of the country, but due to the pandemic and economic woes, some have scaled-down celebrations this year.

At Nong Nooch Tropical Garden in eastern Chonburi province, elephants were treated to two tons of fruits and vegetables laid out on an eight-metre-wide table.

With the absence of foreign tourists for a long time, the buffet and some visitors brought some joy to the heavyweights.

“Of course, they get bored because they get used to being with people. That’s why you see our elephants are very friendly to everyone,” said Kampon Tansacha, president of Nong Nooch Tropical Garden.

“People enjoy seeing elephants, give them food, especially bananas that they like and they look all healthy and happy”.

Animal rights groups have long been calling for the elephant camps in Thailand to end animal shows and rides, branding the shows as a form of animal abuse.


Iranian missiles rain down on ‘strategic Israeli center’ in Iraq

ARBIL: Iran claimed responsibility for a missile strike on Sunday on the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, saying it targeted an Israeli “strategic center” and warning of more attacks.

Authorities in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said 12 ballistic missiles rained down on Arbil in a pre-dawn cross-border attack targeting US interests that slightly wounded two civilians and caused material damage.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed they fired the projectiles, claiming they were targeting sites used by Israel, a top ally of the US.

A “strategic centre for conspiracy and mischiefs of the Zionists was targeted by powerful precision missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, the Guards said in a statement.

Revolutionary Guards had vowed to avenge the death of two officers in an attack in Syria they blamed on Israel

There was no immediate reaction from Israel. Kurdish authorities insisted that the Jewish state has no sites in or anywhere near Arbil, and accused Iran of repeatedly targeting the autonomous region without international censure.

Iran holds considerable influence over the federal government in Baghdad, and Iraq is home to a dwindling number of US troops who lead a coalition against the militant Islamic State group.

Washington has routinely blamed rocket and drone attacks on its interests in Iraq — including sites in Kurdistan — on pro-Iran groups who demand the departure of the remaining troops. But cross-border missile fire is rare.

A correspondent in Arbil said he heard three explosions before dawn.

Taxi driver Ziryan Wazir said he was in his car when the missiles struck. “I saw a lot of dust, then I heard a very loud noise. The windows of my car exploded and I was injured in the face,” he said, his head swathed in white gauze and a bloodied scar running the length of his cheek.

Sunday’s missile assault comes nearly a week after the Guards vowed to avenge the death of two of their officers killed in a rocket attack in Syria they blamed on Israel. Iran backs the government in Syria’s civil war. Israel, the Guards said at the time, “will pay for this crime”.

The Kurdistan Regional Government accused Iran of “targeting (the) Kurdistan Region multiple times” in a statement on Twitter.

The Guards, in their statement, said: “Once again, we warn the criminal Zionist regime that the repetition of any mischief will face harsh, decisive and destructive responses.”

Arbil’s Governor Oumid Khouchnaw told a news conference that along with the taxi driver, a farm custodian was also injured.

Speaking before Iran claimed the attack, he dismissed as “baseless” any notion of Israeli sites in and around Arbil.

“We’ve been hearing for some time that Israeli sites are present,” he said. “There are no Israeli sites in the region.”

He said the missiles fell into vacant lots but that buildings and homes were damaged. The interior ministry in Arbil said a “new building” housing the US consulate in a residential suburb of the city was the target of the attack.

Kurdistan24 television channel, located near the US consulate, posted images on social networks of its damaged offices, with collapsed sections of false ceiling and broken glass.

Washington said there was “no damage or casualties at any US government facility”.

“We condemn this outrageous attack and display of violence,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The US embassy in Baghdad said “Iranian regime elements” who claimed responsibility “must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty”.

Saudi Arabia expressed “solidarity” with Iraq and support for any measures “to protect its security and stability”.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said he “strongly” condemned the attack in the neighbouring country, and had been in touch with his Iraqi counterpart.

Iraq saw a surge in rocket and armed-drone attacks at the beginning of the year. It coincided with the second anniversary of the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport.

Soleimani, killed alongside his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, headed the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm.

In late January, six rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport, causing no casualties.

PM should not have reacted publicly against the EU, says Tarin

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin on Wednesday said Prime Minister Imran Khan should not have reacted “publicly” against the European Union in his recent speech where he lashed out at the bloc’s ambassadors for their “undiplomatic” statement asking Pakistan to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking during a public rally in Vehari last week, the prime minister had questioned if the EU had called out India for its actions in occupied Kashmir, which went against international law.

“Has anyone of you severed trade relations with India or objected to its unlawful actions,” the PM asked EU representatives, adding, “are we slaves and act according to your wishes.”

The premier was referring to a letter penned by 23 EU envoys last week, urging Pakistan “to join them in condemning Russia’s actions [in Ukraine] and to voice support for upholding the UN Charter and the founding principles of international law”.

Objecting to that press release, the Foreign Office had said: “We took note of that and in a subsequent meeting with a group of ambassadors, we expressed our concern about that because it was not the way diplomacy should be practiced”.

During a press conference in Islamabad today, in response to a question by a journalist who asked if the PM’s comments could have a negative impact on Pakistan’s trade with the bloc, the finance minister said, “I don’t think we should worry about what they [EU] will do.”

Tarin recalled that the EU representatives had sent a letter to Pakistan, asking it to vote against Russia, adding that “our prime minister just shared his sentiments on it”.

He recalled that the EU had remained silent on India’s violations of UN resolutions and international law and that “Pakistan had just abstained from voting [in the UNGA session on Russia].”

Defending the premier for his remarks, Tarin said they [the EU] should not tell Pakistan what to do and that it was the right of the prime minister to protect his country and its prestige.

“He just reacted publicly, which may be, he should not have done,” the minister added.

He maintained that Pakistan had an independent foreign policy that stipulated that no country should violate the other’s sovereignty and that disputes be settled peacefully.

‘IMF should not have problems with relief package’

To another question, the finance minister said the government also held discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a recent relief package that was announced by the PM.

“We conversed only about what was necessary,” Tarin said.

He added Pakistan neither was increasing its fiscal deficit nor taking any loan to provide relief to people. He said the government announced subsidies for people due to improvement in revenues of late.

He explained that the government extracted some amount from allocations for Ehsaas Programme, Covid-19 budget, adding that “we also had dividends from state-owned enterprises”. He said there were multiple areas from where the government gathered finances to formulate the relief package.

“I do not think they [IMF] should have any problem with that,” the minister insisted.

He said it was not a concern of the IMF but “it is the responsibility of the government to apprise them of such decisions including looming political instability as well.”

Ukrainians flee encircled cities as refugees top two million

KYIV: Desperate civilians fled besieged cities in Ukraine on Tuesday as fresh fighting raged between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

On the 13th day of the conflict the number of refugees flooding across Ukraine’s borders to escape towns devastated by shelling and airstrikes passed two million, the UN said.

Buses streamed out through an evacuation corridor from the northeastern city of Sumy — where 21 people were killed in airstrikes overnight — while civilians on foot took an unofficial escape route out of the bombarded Kyiv suburb of Irpin.

But Ukraine accused Russia of attacking a corridor from the beleaguered southern port city of Mariupol, where aid workers said tens of thousands were living in “apocalyptic” conditions.

Kyiv has branded the corridors a publicity stunt as many of the exit routes lead into Russia or its ally Belarus. Both sides accuse each other of ceasefire violations.

US President Joe Biden said Ukraine would “never be a victory” for Putin, as he announced the measures targeting the energy sector that props up the Russian economy and its war effort.

The Pentagon estimated that between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers had been killed so far. Russia said on March 2 that 498 Russian troops had been killed in Ukraine.

Russian troops are slowly encroaching on Kyiv despite intense efforts by outgunned Ukrainian forces and moving faster through the east and north of the country.

Despite the sound of nearby shelling in Irpin, seen as a critical point for the advance on the capital, civilians fled in icy wind and thick snowfall, reporters saw.

People waited in a long line to cross over the Irpin river on makeshift walkways of planks and mangled metal, after the Ukrainians blew up the bridge leading into the capital to hamper any Russian advance.

“I didn’t want to leave, but there’s nobody left in the homes around us, no water, no gas and no electricity,” Larissa Prokopets, 43, said.

She said she was leaving after several days spent “hiding in the basement” of her home, which kept “shaking” due to bombardment nearby.

Russia had refused calls for a humanitarian corridor in Irpin and the nearby suburbs of Bucha and Gostomel “although we had everything ready for this”, Ukrainian interior ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said.

Evacuations had however begun in Sumy, near the Russian border and 350km east of Kyiv, where Russia had formally declared a humanitarian corridor, officials said.

Dozens of buses had already left in the direction of Lokhvytsia, to the southwest, with the corridor designed to evacuate civilians, including Chinese, Indians, and other foreigners, officials said.

Ukraine’s defense ministry also accused Russia on Tuesday of violating a ceasefire to ease a days-long blockade of Mariupol, describing it as “genocide”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced what he called un-kept promises by the West to protect his country, and renewed calls for a no-fly zone that leaders have so far dismissed.

“It’s been 13 days we’ve been hearing promises, 13 days we’ve been told we’ll be helped in the air, that there will be planes,” Zelensky said on a video broadcast on Telegram.

Global outrage mounted over the invasion and the plight of civilians caught up in the bloodshed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Mariupol residents faced “atrocious” conditions and were running out of food, water and medical supplies.

“The bottom line today is that this situation is really apocalyptic for people,” ICRC head of media Ewan Watson said in Geneva.

At least 474 civilians have been killed since the start of Russia’s assault on its ex-Soviet neighbor, according to the UN, although it believes the real figures to be “considerably higher”. The onslaught has created a huge refugee crisis for European countries that have taken in Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, particularly Poland. “It doesn’t stop,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said as he announced that two million people had fled.

Security in place as PPP long march arrives in the capital today

ISLAMABAD: The capital police have agreed to provide security cover to the participants of the PPP long march which is expected to reach Islamabad on Tuesday (today), PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said on Monday.

Mr. Khokhar had submitted an application to the capital police chief on March 4, seeking security arrangements at Rawat but received no response.

The senator told Dawn that he later expressed concern in a tweet after which SSP Operations Mohammad Faisal informed him that security had been provided to the participants at Rawat. A tent village is also established at Rawat for 50,000 people, Mr. Khokhar added.

About 40,000 to 60,000 people are taking part in the long march, he said.

Participants will reach D-Chowk via Islamabad Expressway by 4pm, says senator

“We will reach Rawat around midnight. The route of the march was changed from Murree Road to Islamabad Expressway due to the Test match being played in Rawalpindi. We are committed to reaching D-Chowk by 4pm on Tuesday (today),” he said.

Meanwhile, sources in the police said a contingent of paramilitary troops along with Punjab, KP and Islamabad police would be deployed in the capital, including in Red Zone.

Verbal permission was given to the PPP to set up a stage at D-Chowk. However, the same was denied to organisers of different rallies planned in connection with the International Women Day on Tuesday.

The long march of the PPP will enter the capital from Rawat and move on the expressway and Jinnah Avenue to reach D-Chowk, the police said, adding those coming to the capital from the KP side will use Srinagar Highway to reach D-Chowk.

Containers were being put on D-Chowk at Constitution Avenue side to seal the area to avoid entry of the participants of the long march. Besides, containers are also being put at Serena Chowk and Kashmir Chowk.

Police and paramilitary troops, including anti-riot units, will be deployed on Aga Khan Road and Constitution Avenue, they said, adding paramilitary troops were being deployed inside the Red Zone and around important installations.

Traders of Blue Area are likely to close their businesses on Tuesday due to the PPP march.

Roads leading towards the National Press Club are also likely to be sealed by putting containers due to the rallies to be taken out by women rights activists.

The organisers of the rallies had sought permission but the same were denied