Pakistan police busted an organ trafficking ring run by a disgraced doctor and a motor mechanic, who conducted at least 328 illegal kidney transplants, authorities said.Fawad Mukhtar -- a doctor already arrested five times for malpractice -- used the unnamed mechanic as a surgical assistant and anaesthetist on vulnerable patients lured from hospitals, according to a police probe.The chief minister of Punjab province Mohsin Naqvi said transplants were conducted in private homes, at times without the patient's knowledge, with kidneys sold for up to 10 million rupees ($35,000) each.The arrested eight-man gang was said to be operating across eastern Punjab province as well as in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, causing at least three fatalities."The facts and figures that have come to us make the heart tremble," Naqvi said during a press conference on Sunday night."There are a lot more transplants and illegal surgeries than this. These are the ones that we have confirmed."Pakistan outlawed the commercial trade of human organs in 2010, imposing a decade-long jail term and steep fines in hopes of curbing sales to overseas clients by exploitative middlemen.In January, Punjab police busted another organ trafficking ring when a missing 14-year-old boy was found in an underground lab after having his kidney removed.
Blasts hit two mosques in provinces bordering AfghanistanFirst kills 52, second five; officials expect toll to riseLatest of surge of attacks in run-up to elections in JanuarySuicide bombings ripped through two mosques in Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 57 people and injuring dozens more, police and health officials said.No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, one of which was reported to have trapped dozens under rubble.A surge in militant attacks in Pakistan's western provinces has cast a shadow on election preparations and public campaigning in the run-up to January's general elections, but until now the attacks had mostly targeted security forces.The first blast, in Mastung in the southwestern province of Balochistan, killed at least 52 people, according to district health official Abdul Rasheed, and injured another 58, many of them seriously."The bomber detonated himself near a police vehicle near Madina Mosque, where people were gathering for a procession," added senior police official Munir Ahmed.The second attack, in neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killed five people at a mosque, according to rescue officials. The roof collapsed, broadcaster Geo News said, trapping about 30 to 40 people under the rubble.The attack involved two explosions, one of which was at the mosque gate and the other in the compound, an official said."Luckily one blast was at the gate so worshippers were able to exit the mosque; as a result the casualties are low," said the deputy commissioner of Hangu district, Fazal Akbar.Both provinces border Afghanistan and have suffered attacks in recent years by militants aiming to overthrow Pakistan's government."Bodies were strewn in pieces at the site and the injured were crying for help," said Munir Ahmed Shahwani, at the site of the Balochistan bombing.He said people were looking for loved ones who had planned to take part in the procession: "I saw at least 25 bodies on the spot, which included small children."A deputy superintendent of police was among those killed as he oversaw security arrangements in the area, police said. Television showed hundreds of people helping the injured into ambulances.The gathering, in which people were carrying flags and banners, was at a mosque belonging to the Barelvi sect.Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar, in Saudi Arabia for the religious pilgrimage of Umrah, condemned the blasts and called for full support for victims.Kakar heads a caretaker government meant to oversee general elections scheduled for the last week of January.Militant attacks have surged since 2022 when a ceasefire broke down between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).The TTP, responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan since its formation in 2007, denied responsibility for Friday's blasts.TTP also denied involvement in a Peshawar police mosque bombing in January that killed 100 people, but a faction of the umbrella group later claimed the attack.In July, more than 40 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at a religious political party's gathering. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for that attack.
The owner and operator of a stricken cable car that dangled over a Pakistan ravine for more than 12 hours have been arrested after repeatedly ignoring safety warnings, police said Thursday.Six teenage boys were among eight people left stranded hundreds of feet in the air when two of the three chairlift cables snapped on Tuesday, leading to a daring rescue mission that brought them to safety."The cables being utilised were of subpar quality, and the machines were also in need of overhauling," Tahir Ayub Khan, a senior police official in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told AFP."The initial notice was issued to the owner in June, followed by a second notification served in August."He said the owner had received directives to refurbish the machinery, enhance the quality of the chains and obtain a safety certificate from the local administration."Both the cable car operator and the owner have been arrested by the police for an investigation into the disaster," Khan said.Amjad Ali, another police official, confirmed that the arrests were made on Wednesday.The six children had been on their way to school accompanied by two adults when the chairlift broke down Tuesday morning midway through its journey above the remote Allai Valley."Some of the children were so frustrated and were considering to jump down, but the elder passenger gave us confidence," 15-year-old Rizwan Ullah told AFP on Wednesday."When the cable car was twisting, we were terrified and we started reciting the Koran and gave confidence to each other not to jump down."In a daring rescue operation, military helicopters plucked the first child from the chairlift and brought the student to safety after flying several sorties in the area.Rescuers then used the cable keeping the gondola from plunging into the valley as a zipline to rescue the seven others stranded late into Tuesday night.Cable cars that carry passengers -- and sometimes even cars -- are common across the northern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Gilgit-Baltistan, and are vital in connecting villages and towns in areas where roads cannot be built.Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar issued a directive for all chairlifts in mountainous areas to be inspected and for those that are not "safety compliant" to be immediately closed.In 2017, 10 people were killed when a chairlift cable broke, sending passengers plunging into a ravine in a mountain hamlet near the capital Islamabad.
Military helicopters and zipline experts on Tuesday rescued eight people, including six school children, trapped for hours in a stricken cable car high above a remote Pakistan valley.The daring rescue began with a helicopter plucking two children to safety after almost 12 hours in the air as daylight faded, but the chopper was forced back to base in the dark.Then rescuers used the cable keeping the gondola from plunging into the valley as a zipline to rescue the rest of those stranded late into Tuesday night."The rescue operation has been completed. The two adults were the last to be rescued," Bilal Faizi, from the Pakistan emergency service Rescue 1122.The military confirmed the rescue efforts had successfully concluded.A video of the first rescue showed a teenager in a harness hanging at the bottom of a swinging rope under a helicopter as crowds cheered with relief.Rescuers set up a temporary camp on a mountaintop and were providing first aid, Faizi said.The six children had been on their way to school when the chairlift broke down at around 7am (0200 GMT) midway through its journey, hanging above the lush green Allai valley.Residents used mosque loudspeakers to alert neighbourhood officials of the emergency and hundreds of people gathered on both sides of the ravine -- hours away from any sizeable town -- to watch the drama unfold.Several military helicopters had earlier in the day flown sorties and an airman was lowered by a harness to deliver food, water and medicine, Rehman, the official, told AFP."Great team work by the military, rescue departments, district administration as well as the local people," caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar posted on X.He earlier issued a directive for all chairlifts in mountainous areas to be inspected and for those that are not safe to be immediately closed.Earlier in the day, as the rescue operation unfolded, headmaster Ali Asghar Khan told AFP by phone that the children were teenage boys and students at his government high school Battangi Pashto."The school is located in a mountainous area and there are no safe crossings, so it's common to use the chairlift," Khan said."The parents are gathered at the site of the chairlift. What can they do? They are waiting for the rescue officials to get their children out. We are all worried."Abid Ur Rehman, a teacher from another school in the area, said around 500 people had gathered to watch the rescue mission."Parents and women are crying for the safety of their children," he told AFP.Syed Hammad Haider, a senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial official, said the gondola was hanging about 1,000 to 1,200 feet above the ground.Cable cars that carry passengers -- and sometimes even cars -- are common across the northern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Gilgit-Baltistan, and are vital in connecting villages and towns in areas where roads cannot be built.In 2017, 10 people were killed when a chairlift cable broke, sending passengers plunging into a ravine in a mountain hamlet near the capital Islamabad.
At least 18 people burned to death on Sunday when an overnight bus smashed into another vehicle carrying diesel in eastern Pakistan, officials said.The accident took place on a motorway at around 4:30 am (2330 GMT on Saturday) near the town of Pindi Bhattian in eastern Punjab province."Within five minutes, the whole bus was engulfed in flames. Eighteen people burned alive whereas 16 others were injured, of whom four are critical," senior police officer Fahad Ahmed told AFP on the phone."It seems that the driver of the bus dozed off."The Suzuki open-back van was carrying drums of diesel and petrol.Ramshackle highways, lax safety measures and reckless driving contribute to Pakistan's dire road safety record.Passenger buses are frequently crammed to capacity and seatbelts are not commonly worn, meaning high death tolls from single vehicle accidents are common.In January, at least 40 people died when a bus plunged off a bridge in southwestern Pakistan and burst into flames.
A prominent human rights activist and a former lawmaker were arrested overnight, police said Sunday, after they rallied against enforced disappearances in Pakistan.Lawyer Imaan Mazari-Hazir and politician Ali Wazir on Friday appeared at the first protest in months to be staged by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), which fights for the rights of ethnic Pashtuns."Both of the accused were wanted for investigation. All the proceedings will be carried in accordance with the law," police in the capital Islamabad said, without giving details of the charges.A PTM spokesman told AFP that dozens more members have also been detained since the protest.PTM was launched to fight against what it says are military excesses committed during anti-terrorism operations in the country's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where most Pashtuns live.The military has denied the accusations.Up to 3,000 people attended the protest in Islamabad, where both Mazari-Hazir and Wazir gave speeches condemning harassment against Pashtuns and called for missing people to be returned."You are being stopped as if you are the terrorists, while the (Pakistan) Taliban have taken over your homes again," Mazari-Hazir told the crowds in a video posted on social media.She repeated the party's slogan, "It's the uniform behind terrorism".Shireen Mazari, the country's human rights minister under former prime minister Imran Khan, said her daughter had been taken from her home in Islamabad by plainclothes women who did not present warrants."My daughter was in her night clothes and said 'let me change' but they just dragged her away," Shireen Mazari posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.Wazir is a PTM founding member who has long been an outspoken critic of the military and their clearance operations in the former tribal areas that border Afghanistan.He was part of the outgoing government, representing the PTM, which dissolved earlier this month and has been arrested many times.Both appeared at court in Islamabad on Sunday."It's unacceptable and points to a larger, more worrying pattern of state-sanctioned violence against people exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement.Amnesty International called on the government to release Mazari-Hazir."If Imaan has been detained for her participation at this jalsa, she must be immediately and unconditionally released as this would be a violation of her rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression," the rights group said.
The vice-chairman of jailed Pakistani former prime minister Imran Khan's party was arrested on Saturday, a spokesman said, part of a widening crackdown on the former ruling party.Authorities have made widespread arrests targeting Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in recent months, crushing his grassroots power by rounding up thousands of his supporters as well as senior leaders.Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who served as Khan's foreign minister, was arrested in the capital Islamabad shortly after giving a press conference in which he slammed authorities for delaying elections."He was arrested from his residence by Islamabad police. We don't have any further details yet," a PTI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.Khan, a former international cricket star turned politician, was jailed earlier this month after being convicted of graft in one of the more than 200 cases he has faced since being ousted as PM in a no-confidence vote in April 2022.The three-year sentence disqualifies him from taking part in elections, although many politicians - including outgoing prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and his brother former premier Nawaz Sharif - have in the past had convictions overturned to make a comeback.Sharif's shaky coalition government that replaced Khan dissolved parliament earlier this month, with a caretaker government led by little-known politician Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar sworn in to lead the country until elections.Elections are due within 90 days according to the constitution, but there has been speculation for months that they would be delayed as the government and military grapple to stabilise a country facing overlapping security, economic and political crises.Data from the latest national census was finally published earlier this month, and the outgoing government said the election commission needed time to redraw constituency boundaries.
Opposition leader says Kakar, a surprise pick, was its candidateCaretaker PM to pick cabinet after being sworn into officeImran Khan's party calls on Kakar to hold free, fair pollsPakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and opposition leader Raja Riaz agreed on Saturday to name Senator Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar as caretaker premier to oversee elections, the Prime Minister's office said.Kakar, 52, a little-known politician from the southwestern province of Balochistan, will name a cabinet and head a government to steer the nation through economic and political crises until a new government is elected."The prime minister (Sharif) and leader of opposition have jointly signed the advice which will be sent to the president for approval," the statement said.President Arif Alvi approved Kakar's appointment, the president's office said in a statement.Under Pakistan's constitution, a neutral caretaker government oversees national elections, which must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the parliament's lower house - which in this instance means early November.The choice of caretaker prime minister has assumed greater importance because the candidate will have extra powers to make policy decisions on economic matters, while the elections may be delayed by up to six months.The Election Commission has to draw new boundaries for hundreds of federal and provincial constituencies and, based on that, it will give an election date.Riaz told broadcaster Geo News that he believed elections would take place in February next year, and not as scheduled before November.Kakar, who Riaz said was the opposition's candidate for premiership, has been serving a six-year term in Pakistan's Senate since 2018, but his selection came as a surprise as he had not even been mentioned earlier as a prospective candidate.His mineral-rich home province of Balochistan is Pakistan's largest by size, but smallest by population, and has been a hotbed of violent nationalist insurgency for decades.Kakar is listed as an independent politician by the Senate, but is reported by local media to be a part of the Balochistan Awami Party, which is widely considered to be close to the country's powerful military.The military continues to have a huge role behind the scenes in Pakistan. It has ruled the country directly for over three decades of its 76-year existence, and wields significant power in politics.Political analysts say that if the caretaker set-up stretches beyond its constitutional tenure, a prolonged period without an elected government would allow the military to consolidate control.The party of former prime minister Imran Khan, who is currently in jail and barred from contesting elections for five years following his conviction for corruption, expressed hope that Kakar would ensure free, fair and credible elections."If there are questions over the credibility of elections, there will be no political stability, which is critical for economic certainty," former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is currently leading Khan's party, said in a TV interview.Economic stabilisation is the top challenge with the $350 billion economy on a narrow recovery pathafter an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout averted a sovereign debt default. Economic reforms have already fuelled historic inflation and interest rates.Political uncertainty is a factor after Khan's jailing and ban. There was no violence following his arrest, unlike in May when his supporters went on the rampage , but his continued detention will raise questions about the credibility of the election.
Pakistan's outgoing prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and the leader of the opposition will on Thursday meet to pick a caretaker leader to oversee a general election due by November, a government official said.Sharif and opposition leader Raja Riaz will meet in the afternoon, said the official in the prime minister's office, who declined to be identified pending the announcement of the meeting.Under the constitution, the two have three days to reach agreement on a caretaker. If they can't, the decision will go to a parliamentary committee, and if it can't, then the Election Commission of Pakistan will decide.The lower house of parliament was dissolved on Wednesday, three days before the end of its five-year term on Aug. 12.A general election in the South Asian country of 241 million people should be held in 90 days but it could be delayed for several months because the election commission has to redraw the boundaries of hundreds of constituencies based on a new census data.Any delay could fuel public anger and add to uncertainty in the nuclear-armed country, analysts say.Sharif led a coalition government of nearly a dozen parties after they voted out his predecessor, Imran Khan, whose party won the last election in 2018, in a no-confidence vote in parliament last year.The former cricket star has been at the heart of months of political turmoil since he was ousted, raising new worries about stability. He has since been jailed in connection with a graft case and has, as a result, been barred from taking part in an election for five years.
A Pakistani high court on Wednesday turned down an appeal by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan that his conviction on corruption charges be suspended, his lawyer said, suggesting it was unlikely he would be released on bail anytime soon.Khan, 70, has been at the centre of political turmoil since he was ousted last year as prime minister in a no-confidence vote, raising concerns about Pakistan's stability as it grapples with an economic crisis.He has been barred from holding any public office for five years since he commenced a three-year prison sentence on Saturday on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts acquired by him and his family during his 2018-2022 tenure.The court asked the concerned authorities to respond to Khan's plea to be moved to an A-class jail cell in a prison in Rawalpindi, which has better facilities that he is entitled to as a former prime minister, his lawyer Naeem Panjutha said outside the court.The case was adjourned for an indefinite time, Panjutha said, adding; "Our request to suspend the conviction wasn't accepted."The court will issue a written order later in the day.Khan, who has denied any wrongdoing, was arrested at his Lahore house and is currently in a prison near Islamabad.
The prison selected by the government to detain former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, convicted of graft, is a lowly and distant facility that houses hardened criminals and does not have facilities that political prisoners are entitled to, his party and lawyers said on Monday.It is a dramatic fall from the luxurious lifestyle that Khan, the charismatic cricketer-turned-politician, has along been associated with in Pakistan and abroad as a sporting icon and national hero.Following his conviction on Saturday, Khan was to be sent to Rawalpindi's Adiala jail according to an arrest warrant seen by Reuters, but he was moved to District Jail Attock instead, about 80 kilometres west of Islamabad."He feels he has been brought to this jail purposely because there are no 'A-class' or 'B-class' facilities here," one of Khan's lawyers, Nameem Panjutha, said after meeting him on Monday, referring to the higher class cells that have more facilities for inmates.Attock jail, established in 1905 during British colonial rule of the subcontinent, covers 67 acres, with a built structure of 17 acres, according to the facility's website. It is overcrowded, housing more than 800 prisoners against an authorised accommodation of about 530, the government website says.Attock jail is not as high-profile or central as other larger prisons such as Adiala jail, where several former prime ministers have been kept in Pakistan's 76-year history in which no elected premier has completed a full term.Panjutha said Khan was being kept in a cramped cell, but Gulzar Butt, a retired jailor who served at Attock, told Reuters that the cells in the prison have been modified in recent years to all measure the same 10 foot by 12 foot (3x3.7 metres) size.While the prison is low-key, officials and witnesses say the security of the prison has been ramped up since Khan was moved there.Inside, Khan's lawyers say he is facing testing conditions."It is a small room which has got an open washroom where he said there were flies in the daytime and insects in the night," Panjutha said.He said there was no air conditioning in an area known for high temperatures and humidity during the summer and monsoon months, adding that Khan was spending his time praying and reading the Koran - the Muslim holy book.Khan, the lawyer added, has no access to television, which his lawyers say he is entitled to given that he is a former prime minister. He was being given basic jail food, including lentils and bread, Panjutha said.The information minister of Punjab, which controls the prison, and the chief of the jail, did not respond to requests for comment on the lawyer's allegations.It's a sudden fall for 70-year-old Khan, who grew up in an affluent family in Lahore, Pakistan's second-biggest city, studied at the University of Oxford, and later developed a playboy reputation in London in the late 1970s as his cricket career flourished.Khan has two homes in Pakistan - one a sprawling hilltop mansion in Islamabad and another a luxurious home in the most affluent area of Lahore.He has been convicted of misusing his 2018-2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($490,000).Butt, the retired jailor, said prisoners were categorised into A, B or C at the jail. If a prisoner was deemed to be important, provincial authorities could send instructions to the jail administration."The superintendent would then give the prisoner a separate cell, allow his family to provide him food, assign unarmed guards for his safety and provide him with a few prisoners with a good record to serve him ... Mostly, prominent people get B class," Butt said.A prisoner can also, on special request, get an air-conditioner installed in the cell at their own expense after approval from the provincial authorities, and would also have to foot the electricity bill themselves, Butt added.Khan's legal team said they are applying for better conditions for the former prime minister.
Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan's lawyers were on Monday attempting to launch legal challenges against his three year-sentence for graft that has ruled him out of contesting national elections.The former international cricket star was arrested at his home on Saturday and taken to jail for charges he has previously said are politically motivated.His lawyers have so far been denied access to him at Attock Jail, established 100 years ago on the outskirts of historical Attock city, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the capital, Islamabad.On Monday, petitions were being filed in Islamabad and Lahore High Courts demanding power of attorney for the jailed former leader, which would allow lawyers to challenge his conviction.A petition has also been filed to request that Khan be held in an 'A-class' cell, more comfortable than other quarters and usually reserved for VIP inmates.At a court hearing Khan did not attend Saturday, a judge found him guilty of graft in relation to gifts he received while prime minister and sentenced him to three years in jail.Anyone convicted of a criminal offence is disqualified from contesting elections in Pakistan, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Sunday that parliament would likely be dissolved on Wednesday -- days ahead of the end of its natural term.This would give the incoming interim government until mid-November to hold an election, but there is already speculation it could be delayed following the release Saturday of the country's latest census data.Law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told a local television channel that constituencies would have to be redrawn according to the new census, warning there could be a delay to polls of up to two and a half months.Khan's arrest and detention for three days in connection with the same case in May sparked deadly violence when his supporters took to the streets in the tens of thousands, clashing with police.But a massive crackdown by the authorities that saw thousands of PTI supporters rounded up - some still in prison - and a muzzling of the press has vastly diminished his street power, even if his popularity remains high.
Pakistani former Prime Minister Imran Khan's lawyers could not reach him on Sunday after he spent the night in a jail near the capital following his arrest the previous day on a corruption conviction, a spokesperson said.Khan was taken by police from his home in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday and transferred to the jail just outside Islamabad, where a court had convicted him of charges arising over the sale of state gifts. The conviction likely means the cricket star-turned-politician will be disqualified from running in a national election."Attock prison is a 'No Go' area for (his) legal team as well as locals in the vicinity," said Naeem Haider Panjotha, Khan's spokesperson for legal affairs, adding they were unable to take him food or arrange the signing of legal documents.Pakistan's information minister referred a request for comment on Khan's access to his lawyers to provincial authorities in Punjab, where the jail is located. Punjab's top information official could not immediately be reached for comment.It was not clear whether Khan would appear in court on Monday, after a trial court's surprise weekend decision sentencing him to three years in prison.The arrest was the latest in a series of blows that have weakened Khan's political standing, after he fell out with Pakistan's powerful military and his party splintered.His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said it had filed appeals in higher courts over the decision.The nationwide reaction was largely quiet, a contrast to widespread violent clashes that plunged the country into turmoil after Khan's several-day arrest in May, despite calls by his party on Saturday for nationwide peaceful protests.Thousands of Khan's aides and supporters have been arrested since May, according to the interior minister. Many pro-Khan parliamentarians were also arrested and have distanced themselves from Khan, with some resigning from politics.His arrest came days before the government was expected to dissolve parliament, which would normally lead to elections by November. But the government decided on Saturday to use the latest census as part of election procedure, potentially delaying the vote.Britain's foreign office said on Saturday it was closely monitoring the situation and supported democratic principles. Pakistan's government denies Khan's arrest was related to the election.Legal experts say the conviction means Khan would likely be disqualified form politics for five years.His vice chairman, former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has taken the helm of PTI in his absence.
Factory worker Lubna Babar was made redundant at the beginning of the year, a victim of a crisis in the Pakistan textile industry that has seen it lose ground to more nimble Asian competitors."When you lose your job, your life comes to a close," the 43-year-old from Lahore told AFP."We've been working in factories for years... the day you get sacked, the story ends there."Pakistan's industrial manufacturing sector -- like elsewhere in the world -- has suffered from the slowdown in global consumption and the rise in energy costs following the outbreak of war in Ukraine.But the difficulties of the textile sector, which accounts for 60 percent of Pakistan's exports, are compounded by the critical state of the economy and months of political chaos.In Pakistan, the industry was buoyed at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, when it was freed of restrictions earlier than regional rivals India and Bangladesh and benefited from government financial aid, including slashed energy rates.In 2022-2023, however, textile exports fell by 15 percent to $16.5 billion."Two years ago, we were on a very high growth trajectory... we were confident that our exports this year would go to $25 billion," said Hamid Zaman, managing director of Sarena Textile Industries."Unfortunately, when you have political instability and things are not clear, and the policies of the government are reversed, this whole thing has gone into a tailspin," he told AFP.The political chaos started in April last year, when Imran Khan was dismissed as prime minister by a vote of no-confidence.His attempts to parlay popular public support into a movement to force an early election saw him arrested in May, leading to violence that only ended with a massive crackdown on his party and its supporters.He was convicted of graft on Saturday and sentenced to three years in jail.- Factories shutting down -The textile and clothing sector employs around 40 percent of the country's 20 million-strong industrial workforce.The main export markets are the US, EU, the UK, Turkey, and the UAE, supplying cotton fabrics, knitwear, bed linen, towels, and ready-made garments to global brands such as Zara, H&M, Adidas, John Lewis, Target and Macy's.But many factories have closed in recent months -- at least temporarily -- or are no longer running at full capacity."Perhaps 25 to 30 percent of all textile factories have closed. It is estimated that perhaps 700,000 jobs have been lost in the last year or year and a half," said Zaman.Babar felt this keenly, having looked for work at other factories -- but they were also laying off employees."They said they were no longer receiving orders from abroad," she said. After devastating floods in the summer of 2022, cotton production in Pakistan fell to an all-time low.The textile industry was unable to compensate by buying from abroad because of a freeze on imports imposed by the government to preserve its forex reserves.Thousands of containers filled with raw materials and machinery essential for the country's industries were held up for months in the southern port of Karachi.Textile companies also saw the cost of capital rise significantly, contending with interest rates of more than 20 percent as the central bank sought to curb record-breaking inflation.- 'Not a solution' -Pakistan finally managed to consolidate its foreign exchange reserves with the approval in mid-July of a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and additional assistance from China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."But that's not a solution, it's just getting deeper and deeper into debt," said Kamran Arshad, managing director of Ghazi Fabrics International."The only way forward is enhancing Pakistan's exports and creating an environment that is investor-friendly that would incentivise industrial production and activity," he added.One of the conditions of the IMF bailout was an end to subsidies on energy, leading to a sharp rise in the cost of electricity, which affects the competitiveness of textile companies."Our biggest challenge going forward is having energy prices that are substantially higher than those of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China," said Arshad."We're not asking for subsidies. Realistically we are asking for regionally competitive energy prices."In the face of these challenges, the country's textile manufacturers have lost customers globally."Pakistan's overall market share in the textile and garment industry was nearly 2.25 percent about two years ago. Now it's down to around 1.7 percent," said Aamir Fayyaz Sheikh, CEO of Kohinoor Mills.Sheikh sees some hope if the political situation settles following an election due before the end of the year."After the elections there will be more political clarity and that will help bring more economic stability," he said.But for ordinary workers like Babar, there is little light at the end of the tunnel."Life is getting harder every day," said the mother of three."We cook once and make it last for two days. And if we don't have any food, we make do, without complaining."
Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was found guilty of graft Saturday and sentenced to three years in jail, state TV said, in a case involving gifts he received while premier."Judge Humayun Dilawar announced that involvement in corrupt practices has been proven," Pakistan TV said.Khan was not present for the hearing at the Islamabad High Court, and the judge ordered his arrest.Khan is facing over 150 cases brought against him since being ousted in April last year -- charges he says are politically motivated.Khan's legal team said they would be filing an immediate appeal."It's important to mention there was no chance given to present witnesses, neither was time allotted to round up arguments," a member of the team said.
More than 130 injured in blast, police sayPakistan PM calls bombing an attack on democratic systemPakistani Taliban condemn bombing in statementAt least 42 people were killed and over 130 injured when a suicide bomber set off explosives at a political rally in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday, police and rescue officials said.The blast took place at a gathering of the conservative Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party, known for its links to hardline political Islam, in the former tribal area of Bajaur, which borders Afghanistan.An emergency has been declared in the hospitals of Bajaur and adjoining areas where most of the injured were taken, said district police officer Nazir Khan. The critically injured were transported from Bajaur to hospitals in the provincial capital Peshawar by military helicopters.A statement from Rescue 1122, a first-responder service, put the death toll at 42.Khan said the explosion, at a JUI-F workers convention in Khar town of Bajaur, had left more than 130 injured, many seriously.The provincial police chief Akhtar Hayat told Reuters the explosion was caused by a suicide bomb.Pakistan has seen a resurgence of attacks by militants since last year when a ceasefire between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamabad broke down. A mosque bombing in Peshawar killed over 100 people earlier this year.While the TTP and its associated groups have been behind a majority of attacks in Pakistan in recent months, the group distanced itself from Sunday's attack, which its spokesman condemned.The TTP pledges allegiance to, but is not directly a part of, the Taliban in western neighbour Afghanistan. Pakistan's security forces say the TTP have sanctuaries in Afghanistan, which the Taliban run-administration there denies.Afghanistan's administration condemned the explosion in a statement by their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.The TTP are not the only militant group to carry out attacks in the area, which has also been hit by a local chapter of the Islamic State.The targeted party, the JUI-F, is a major ally of the coalition government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, which is preparing for national elections to be held by November.Sharif condemned the blast, calling it an attack on the democratic process of Pakistan. He vowed that those responsible would be punished.The US Embassy in Islamabad and former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the explosion in posts on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Teenager Amanullah Khan teeters on his tiptoes, daubing towering camels with festive henna patterns to entice Eid al-Adha customers at a market near the Pakistan capital.Hundreds of farmers have camped at livestock markets between Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi for two weeks, hoping to sell animals ahead of the annual holy festival starting Thursday in Pakistan.But with rampant inflation -- reaching a record 38 percent in May -- markets are attracting smaller crowds.Khan's cousin Zakaria brought 18 camels to market after good profits last year but has sold only one so far."People's purchasing power is over. Customers are not coming to the market, and those who come prefer to return empty-handed due to the high prices of the animals," Zakaria, 21, told AFP.During the festival, Muslims around the world will slaughter an animal -- a goat, sheep, bull or camel -- keeping a third for themselves before giving a third to friends and relatives, and a third to charity.The ritual commemorates the readiness of Ibrahim -- Abraham in the Christian and Jewish faiths -- to sacrifice his son to show obedience to Allah.The centuries-old festival is guided by tradition, but this year many middle-class Pakistanis will not be able to perform a sacrifice."Our income is the same but the prices are sky-high. From where would we get that much money?" buyer Ali Akbar, a 46-year-old builder, asked.Another customer, Zerak Ali, had come to enquire about the price of a camel, which can cost up to one million rupees ($3,500)."It is worth 700,000 for you," Zakaria barters. But 56-year-old shopkeeper Ali leaves, leading his two grandsons towards the enclosure housing cheaper bulls.Camel sacrifice is not common in Pakistan, but some wealthier buyers prefer the animal because 11 families can share its meat, according to Islamic rules.More than 250 camels have been brought to the Islamabad market, along with thousands of bulls, cows, goats and sheep.Bulls cost up to 500,000 rupees, while the price of goats ranges from 50,000 to 150,000.Eating into Zakaria's profits are market taxes, rising fodder and truck rental prices, as well as staff wages."I will lose millions of rupees this year," he glumly predicts.Bakht Zaman, a farmer from Mardan district in Pakistan's northwest, brought 10 camels to market and has so far sold only one for 500,000 rupees."The value of the Pakistani rupee has fallen," says buyer Haq Nawaz. "Who will buy such expensive animals?"
Pakistan's national assembly has passed legislation limiting how long lawmakers can be disqualified from office, a state spokesman said on Tuesday, paving the way for exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's return to politics.Sharif served as Pakistan's prime minister three times – the last before being ousted over graft allegations in 2017.The Supreme Court barred him from politics for life and he was later sentenced to seven years in jail.In 2019 he was granted medical bail and flew to Britain, where he has remained ever since, continuing to steer the family-run Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) party from behind the scenes.His brother Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister last year, and the country is due to hold fresh general elections no later than October.Yesterday a government spokesman said that the acting president had signed into law an amendment which says courts can only disqualify parliamentarians "for a period not exceeding five years".The spokesman said Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani served as acting president in signing the bill on Monday, in the absence of President Arif Alvi, who is abroad on the Hajj pilgrimage."The ruling PML-N and its coalition partners want to bring Nawaz Sharif back," political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP. "The bill has been passed to achieve this objective.""Nawaz Sharif will be the main campaigner for the PML-N in the next election," he added. "His return will be very helpful for the party politically, but it's not clear whether he himself will contest the election."Sharif still faces the graft case which saw him sentenced during the tenure of his successor, Imran Khan, who won power pledging to undo the corruption which has historically plagued the country.However, in Pakistan, legal cases which tangle politicians in opposition are regularly wound back once their party regains office.Shehbaz Sharif ousted Khan last April via a no-confidence vote.However, he is at the head of a shaky coalition of parties, while Khan remains widely popular in the countdown to polling.Khan has been calling for snap elections, but his campaign has become bogged down in dozens of legal cases.Last month he was briefly arrested on graft charges in Islamabad, sparking deadly unrest during which supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party poured onto the streets and clashed with police.In the aftermath of his release following three days in custody, the PTI has been targeted by a crackdown with thousands of arrests, reports of intimidation and muzzling of the press.Khan says his party is being suppressed by the government, led by the PML-N, and the powerful military establishment.
At least 350 Pakistanis were on an overloaded boat that capsized and sank in open seas off Greece last week, Pakistan's Interior Minister said on Friday, promising to arrest and prosecute the human smugglers responsible.The fishing boat with a capacity of 400 people had over 700 people on board when it sank on June 14, Rana Sanaullah told the country's parliament, adding that a total of 281 Pakistani families had contacted the government to seek help. Another 193 Pakistani families have taken DNA tests to try to identify those who died in one of Europe's deadliest shipping disasters in recent years, he said.Hundreds of people from countries including Egypt, Syria and Pakistan were crammed on the 20- to 30-metre-long fishing boat when it sank about 80km from the southern Greek town of Pylos. Pakistan's economic meltdown in recent months has spurred more people to risk their lives to reach Europe in search of a better future.Pakistan said it has arrested several human traffickers and their agents who told authorities that their ring leader was based in Libya.These human smugglers had charged around $8,000 a person to take them to Europe illegally through the sea route after flying legally to Dubai, Egypt and Libya, authorities said.A high level inquiry is underway to identify and arrest those involved in the human smuggling, Sanaullah said, adding that Pakistan is also working to recommend amendments to the law to plug loopholes and ensure conviction in such cases.Not a single human trafficker has been convicted for over five years, he said, citing data, adding that this was mostly due to victims' families agreeing pardons in exchange for money.
Two Pakistani army soldiers were killed Monday during an exchange of fire with gunmen northwest Pakistan.The Army said in a statement that its forces clashed with militants in the Waziristan area. As a result, two soldiers and three militants were killed and two other militants were wounded, Radio Pakistan reported.Two Pakistani army personnel were killed yesterday during an exchange of fire with militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province northwest Pakistan.Pakistani forces have been working for years to eliminate armed groups in mountainous borders who occasionally launch attacks against security and civilians.