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Pakistan says needs Afghan cooperation for probe into envoy’s daughter’s kidnapping



(Last Updated On: July 20, 2021)

Pakistan said on Monday it was waiting for information from the Afghan government in an investigation into the brief kidnapping of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad after Afghanistan raised questions over the credibility of the probe.

Silsila Alikhil, 26, the daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, told Pakistani police she was assaulted and held for several hours by unknown assailants on Friday, following which Kabul pulled out its diplomats from Islamabad.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are waiting for them to come and give their point of view; to say anything now would be premature,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference on Monday in Islamabad.

Qureshi said Afghanistan should not have pulled out its ambassador and senior diplomats from Pakistan.

Earlier on Monday, Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar complained to Qureshi about the remarks of a senior Pakistani minister, according to a statement from Afghanistan’s ministry of foreign affairs.

“Atmar said unprofessional remarks and premature judgments could strongly affect bilateral relations and the credibility of the ongoing, and still incomplete, investigation,” it said.

On Sunday night, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, to whom the Islamabad police reports, told Pakistani television channel Geo News that the probe so far had not shown that Alikhil was kidnapped.

“I want to tell the entire nation, this is an international racket, an international conspiracy,” he had said.

The Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences state hospital where Alikhil was treated had confirmed she had swelling and rope marks on the wrists and ankles as well as swelling in the brain’s rear occipital region.

Islamabad’s top police official, Inspector General Qazi Jamil-ur-Rehman, told reporters on Monday that more than 350 people were working on the case, and more than 700 hours of footage from more than 300 CCTV cameras had been examined.

Rehman said police had traced and questioned four men who drove taxis Alikhil took that day, but so far we’re not able to pinpoint when the kidnapping took place.

The incident has further eroded already frosty relations between the two neighbors at a time when Taliban insurgents have taken over territory in Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdraw.

Even the Taliban, whom Kabul alleges is supported by Pakistan – which Islamabad denies – expressed concern at the incident.

“We urge the government of Pakistan to step up its efforts to arrest and punish the perpetrators so that such acts do not give rise to hate between the two nations and the spoilers don’t have ground to misuse it,” a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, wrote on Twitter.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20



(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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Pakistan fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan: officials



(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

Military officials in the eastern zone told Ariana News on Monday that clashes broke out between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Pakistani forces on Sunday night in the Sarkano district of Kunar province, close to the Durand Line.

Officials said that Pakistani forces fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan, but that no casualties were reported.

Hamdullah Hamdard, the spokesman for the 1st Border Battalion of the Eastern Zone, said that IEA forces also fired several rockets back at Pakistani forces.

“Clashes erupted between Taliban (IEA) and Pakistani forces in Sarkano district of Kunar province. The clashes continued until 9:00 pm. The cause of the clashes was because of the attack by Pakistani forces. In response, Taliban (IEA) forces also fired rockets towards them, and maybe they suffered casualties. Our forces and people did not suffer casualties,” added Hamdard.

IEA officials said recently they are establishing 32 new check posts along the Durand Line to counter Pakistani attacks.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years



(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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