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GB govt decides to call in army to ensure peace, maintain law and order



The Gilgit-Baltistan government has decided to call in the army to ensure peace in the region and maintain the law and order situation, it emerged on Saturday.

The decision was arrived at during a meeting of the Parliamentary Peace Committee — the apex body headed by the chief minister that decides on matters related to law and order — held yesterday.

The authorities also decided to deploy personnel of Rangers, GB scouts and Frontier Corps in big cities across the region.

However, state-run APP later quoted a GB Home Department statement as saying that the “situation in Gilgit Baltistan is completely peaceful and the news and speculations circulating in the media regarding the deployment of the Pakistan Army are baseless”.

“The services of the Pakistan Army and civil armed forces have been procured to maintain peace and order at Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain,” the clarification cited by APP said, adding that special measures were taken for the security of the procession routes and Imambargahs, as practiced in the past.

The developments come after panic and unrest spread in the region following protests in Diamer’s Chilas.

The protesters blocked the Karakoram Highway and the Babusar Pass road for three days demanding the arrest of a religious leader from Skardu for allegedly passing controversial remarks.

Protest demonstrations were also held in Astore, Gilgit, however, they were called off after the registration of a first information report against religious leader Agha Baqir Al-Hussaini.

In reaction to it, a markets and transport strike was observed in Skardu with protesters also blocking main roads, including the Juglot-Skardu road.

Subsequently, the GB government had decided to deploy the Karakoram Task Force and police personnel on the KKH, Juglot-Skardu Road and Babusar Top to ensure the safety of passengers and the movement of vehicles.

Yesterday, a meeting of the Parliamentary Peace Committee was held in Gilgit to discuss the law and order situation in the region. It was presided over by GB Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan and attended by a number of ministers, the GB chief secretary, the home secretary, the police chief and members of intelligence agencies.

Checkposts established in various areas of Gilgit-Baltistan on Saturday. — Photo by author

According to a handout issued by the GB Information Department, it was decided in the meeting that legal action would be taken against those who insult the beliefs and holy personalities of any religion in public meetings.

“It was decided in the meeting that the army will be called in in light of the overall situation of the region and for maintaining peace. Besides this, Rangers, GB Scouts and FC personnel will be posted in the big cities.

“The government will take all measures to maintain law and order and continue tourism activities in any situation. In this regard, the Gilgit-Baltistan Home Department has immediately imposed Section 144 on illegal gatherings and blocking roads,” it stated, adding that strict action would be taken against violators.

The government has also urged the citizens to cooperate with the administration by displaying “unity and harmony”.

“We believe that people will reject miscreants who are trying to create an atmosphere against brotherhood and peace in the region,” the press release said, adding that law enforcement agencies were determined to give a “befitting response” to such elements.

It added that the GB government was keeping a close watch on “those who propagate hatred through social media and other means”.

Meanwhile, the Special Communications Organisation (SCOM) — a public-sector organisation working under the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication to develop, operate and maintain telecom services in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan — said mobile internet services in GB have been stopped and downgraded to 2G.

It said that decision was taken on orders of the government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. has reached out to PTA for comment.


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Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens



Former US president Donald Trump will appear in a New York court on Monday as a civil fraud trial against him and two of his sons kicks off, with the case threatening the Republican’s business empire as he campaigns to retake the White House.

In Monday’s case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his sons Eric and Don Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire.

Trump said late Sunday he planned to be present for the start of the trial on Monday morning.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” the 77-year-old wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This whole case is a sham!!!”

In addition to this civil case, Trump also faces several major criminal proceedings in the months ahead.

He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on criminal hush money charges, and later in a Florida federal court, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favor.

In the New York civil case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organisation executives lied to tax collectors, lenders, and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.


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At least 38 injured in police station fire in Egypt’s Ismailia



A huge fire broke out at a police headquarters in the Egyptian city of Ismailia on Monday, injuring at least 38 people, according to local media.

No fatalities were immediately reported but the building is staffed by soldiers at all hours and hospitals were placed on alert.

Footage on local media showed smoke rising from the entirely blackened multi-storey building.

The cause of the blaze, which broke out at the headquarters of the Ismailia Security Directorate before dawn, is not yet known.

Of 26 wounded who were transferred to a local hospital, 24 had suffered from “asphyxiation” and two from burns, local media reported citing the health ministry.

Twelve more were treated at the scene.

The health ministry deployed 50 ambulances to the scene, which were joined by military emergency services including two planes, according to state media.

Deadly fires are a common hazard in Egypt, where fire codes are rarely enforced and emergency services are often slow to arrive.

In August 2022, a fire caused by a short circuit killed 41 worshippers in a Cairo church, prompting calls to improve the country’s infrastructure and the response time of the fire brigade.

In March 2021, at least 20 people died in a fire at a textile factory in the capital, while in 2020, two hospital fires killed 14 people.


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Annual inflation rises to 31.4pc amid high energy prices



Pakistan’s annual inflation rate rose to 31.4 per cent in September from 27.4pc in August, statistics bureau data showed on Monday, as the country reels from high fuel and energy prices.

The country is embarking on a tricky path to economic recovery under a caretaker government after a $3 billion loan programme approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July averted a sovereign debt default, but with conditions that complicated efforts to rein in inflation.

On a month-on-month basis, inflation climbed 2pc in September, compared to an increase of 1.7pc in August. Reforms required by the IMF bailout, including an easing of import restrictions and a demand that subsidies be removed, have already fuelled annual inflation, which rose to a record 38pc in May.

Food inflation remained elevated at 33.1pc with the year-on-year increase in non-perishable food items at 38.4pc and 4.37pc for perishable food items.

Annual consumer inflation in urban and rural areas increased to 29.7pc and 33.9pc year-on-year, respectively.

Meanwhile, the highest year-on-year increase was recorded in the categories of alcoholic beverages and tobacco (87.45pc), recreation and culture (58.77pc), furnishing and household equipment maintenance (39.32pc) and non-perishable food items.

Index-wise increase in inflation YoY (in descending order)

  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco: 87.45pc
  • Recreation and culture: 58.77pc
  • Furnishing and household equipment maintenance: 39.32pc
  • Non-perishable food items: 38.41pc
  • Miscellaneous goods and services: 36.42pc
  • Restaurants and hotels: 34.3pc
  • Transport: 31.26pc
  • Housing and utilities: 29.7pc
  • Health: 25.28pc
  • Clothing and footwear: 20.55pc
  • Education: 11.12pc
  • Communication: 7.42pc
  • Perishable food items: 4.37pc

Interest rates have also risen to their highest at 22pc, and the rupee hit all-time lows in August before recovering in September to become the best performing currency following a clampdown by authorities on unregulated FX trade.

On Friday, the ministry of finance said in its monthly report that it anticipated inflation remaining high in the coming month, hovering around 29-31pc due to an upward adjustment in energy tariffs and a major increase in fuel prices.

The report added that inflation was, however, expected to ease, especially from the second half of the current fiscal year that starts on Jan 1.

On Saturday, the government cut petrol and diesel prices from a record high, after two consecutive hikes. The finance ministry cited international prices of petroleum products and the improvement in the exchange rate, following the clampdown on unregulated FX trade.

Inflation has been elevated, hovering in double digits, since November 2021.
The country targeted inflation at 21pc for the current fiscal year, but it averaged 29pc during the first quarter.

Worsening economic conditions, along with rising political tensions in the run-up to a national election scheduled for November, triggered sporadic protests in September, with many Pakistanis saying they are struggling to make ends meet.

Analysts said the inflation reading was in line with market expectations.

Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited, a Karachi-based investment company, said inflation appeared to have peaked for the current fiscal year and would subsequently recede.

“The higher reading is mainly due to the low base effect which was also mentioned in the last monetary policy statement. Going forward, in the next few months, we expect inflation to ease to around 26-27pc,” said Fahad Rauf, head of research at Ismail Iqbal Securities, a Karachi-based brokerage firm.

Rauf said higher inflation statistics should not impact monetary policy.


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