Afghanistan Restarts Direct Flights to China After 3 Years

The Taliban have announced the resumption of direct flights between Afghanistan and China after a gap of three years, saying it would help boost bilateral economic and political relations.

The first weekly passenger flight of the national flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines left Kabul on Wednesday for Urumqi, the capital of the western Chinese border province of Xinjiang. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the air operation in early 2020.

The Taliban deputy minister for transport and civil aviation, Ghulam Jilani Wafa, hailed the resumption of the air service while addressing reporters at the airport in the Afghan capital.

“These flights would directly impact enhancing economic, political, and commercial ties between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and China,” Wafa said, using the official title for the Taliban’s unrecognized government.

Taliban deputy minister for civil aviation, Ghulam Jilani Wafa, hailed the resumption of Afghan flights to China, May 24, 2023. (Official Afghan TV Screenshot)

No country, including China, has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, mainly over human rights concerns and restrictions imposed on women’s access to education and work.

China has stepped up engagements with its conflict-ravaged neighbor since the Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021, when all United States-led Western troops closed out their involvement in the Afghan war and departed the country after almost two decades.

On Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador to Kabul, Wang Yu, told Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi that Beijing “has maintained normal relations with Afghanistan and is willing to strengthen it.”

Muttaqi’s office said the Chinese diplomat promised his country would facilitate increased Afghan exports to China and expedite “preliminary work” on the Mes Ainak mines, which contain Afghanistan’s largest copper deposits.

Chinese ambassador to Kabul, Wang Yu, met with Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, May 23, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Taliban FM).

The Taliban’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has said it hopes for Chinese investment in the site, which is about 40 kilometers southeast of the Afghan capital.

In April, the ministry reportedly talked with a Chinese company about a potential $10 billion deal to extract lithium but offered no further details. The South Asian nation has an estimated untapped mineral deposit of about $1 trillion, including iron ore, copper, lithium, gold, gemstones, and hydrocarbon resources.

In January, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Wang jointly announced a contract with a Chinese company to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin in the northern provinces of Afghanistan over the next 25 years.

The deal would bring about $540 million in Chinese investment and would create an estimated 3,000 jobs, according to Taliban officials. China reportedly will build a refinery in Afghanistan to process the oil.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang attended a trilateral dialogue with the Taliban and Pakistan in Islamabad earlier in May, and he agreed to extend Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan.

Islamabad has received billions of dollars in Chinese investment, building major economic infrastructure projects, such as roads, power plants, and ports. The collaboration — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC — is the BRI’s flagship project. Both countries say they are set to link it to Afghanistan to promote regional connectivity.

The Chinese foreign ministry recently released an 11-point policy statement regarding Afghanistan. It emphasized the need for the Taliban to ensure “moderate and prudent” governance in Afghanistan through an “open and inclusive” political structure, while urging the international community to enhance engagement with Kabul.

The statement also expressed hope the de facto Afghan authorities would fulfill their “commitment in earnest” to effectively combat terrorism.

In exchange for its economic outreach, China primarily seeks assurances from the Taliban to prevent the spread of extremism from Afghanistan into Xinjiang and beyond and ensure the security of Chinese nationals.

Beijing has long alleged that extremists linked to the anti-China East Turkestan Islamic Movement use sanctuaries on Afghan soil to wage cross-border terrorism.

China’s deepening engagement with Afghanistan apparently stems from its interest in mineral extractions and to further its own influence in the broader region.

Source: Voice of America

Punjab Expands Scope of E-Filing and Office Automation System

The Punjab Chief Secretary, during the Secretaries’ Conference held at the Civil Secretariat, issued instructions to implement the e-filing and office automation system (EFOAS) in the offices of divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners.

The conference, focused on reviewing the progress of the paperless working system, also discussed pending inquiries and pension cases.

Recognizing the transformative potential of IT, the chief secretary highlighted the ongoing efforts to introduce reforms aimed at enhancing governance and service delivery.

To further this agenda, he announced that the e-filing system, already successfully implemented in South Punjab, would be extended to all divisional and deputy commissioner offices. The chief secretary emphasized the importance of completing the training of officers in all departments regarding the paperless system by June 15.

In addition to expanding the EFOAS, the chief secretary issued instructions to expedite the resolution of pending departmental inquiries and pension cases. He stressed that inquiries should not remain unresolved for more than six months, and retired government employees should receive their pensions without any delays.

During the meeting, the Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Faisal Yusuf, provided a briefing on the EFOAS and other IT reforms. It was reported that pending inquiries and pension cases were being given priority, and more than 4,100 employees had been promoted to higher grades in the past month by promotion boards and departmental committees.

Source: Pro Pakistani

FIA Clears Over a Dozen Pilots Accused of Having Fake Licenses

In a recent development, the Aviation Sub-Committee, led by Senator Salim Mandviwala, convened a crucial meeting to discuss the cancellation of licenses of 50 pilots on grounds of fraudulent activities.

The meeting, focused on civil aviation matters, was attended by representatives from the Directorate General (DG) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who shed light on the ongoing situation.

The DG informed the committee that licenses of 50 pilots had been canceled due to fraudulent practices. However, some of the affected pilots have taken legal action by approaching the court against the cancellation of their ATPL.

The DG clarified that out of the 50 canceled licenses, 16 pilots have been cleared of any wrongdoing after investigation by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The FIA registered FIRs in 34 cases related to these license cancellations.

It is important to note that all ATPLs have been canceled on the directive of the Cabinet, according to the DG. The DG further stated that as per CAA rules, if a pilot is found unfit, all travel history associated with their license should be canceled.

In addition to the ATPL cancellations, the DG also mentioned the cancellation of Commercial Pilot License (CPL) in some cases. This raised concerns among aviation experts, including Senator Salim Mandviwala, who questioned the rationale behind canceling CPLs along with the ATPLs.

However, CAA’s Review Board has recently made a decision to restore CPLs for certain pilots against whom no FIR had been filed. This step comes after a three-year period of pending cases due to legal proceedings. The DG emphasized the need for the Review Board to thoroughly review the remaining cases and reinstate deserving pilots.

The issue of grounded pilots was also brought up during the meeting. It was highlighted that currently, 34 pilots remain grounded due to license cancellations. Senator Mandviwala emphasized the importance of the Review Board’s prompt action in reviewing these cases and reinstating pilots who meet the necessary criteria.

Source: Pro Pakistani

Strict Operation Launched in Rawalpindi Against Encroachments

Rawalpindi City Traffic Police (CTP) and Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi (MCR) have launched an anti-encroachment operation to maintain traffic flow. The departments are undertaking this exercise on the DIG Traffic Punjab Mirza Faran Baig’s orders.

Bara Market, Imperial Market, Liaquat Road, Raja Bazar, and other areas were cleared by CTP and MCR. The authorities confiscated wheelbarrows and luggage that were found hindering traffic.

According to details, 80 vehicles and motorcycles received CTP tickets for blocking traffic. Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Taimoor Khan said that the encroachment mafia operation will continue without discrimination.

He added that the department has deployed additional traffic police officers to remove the encroachments daily. Encroachment mafias will be monitored by the zonal personnel in charge.

CTP and MCR have requested cooperation from the masses in the implementation of the law on the roads. The departments have also warned of strict action against the people causing obstructions in the flow of traffic.

Source: Pro Pakistani

Rawalpindi Extends Pillion Riding Ban Due to Security Threats

Due to a tumultuous law and order situation, the Rawalpindi administration has implemented Section 144 throughout the district, and banned pillion riding on motorcycles. According to media reports, the ban is in response to reports of a possible security threat reported by a law enforcement agency.

Initially, the ban was supposed to end by May 21 in certain areas. However, according to the latest update, the district administration has extended it till 28th May. During this time, all political and religious gatherings, as well as the display of weapons, are prohibited.

Pillion riding on motorcycles is also prohibited in the city. Although, women, children, and military personnel will be exempt from the ban. Aside from that, the use of loudspeakers is also prohibited.

The authorities have asked for citizens’ help in ensuring that the law is properly enforced. They warned those who did not comply with harsh legal consequences, including jail time.

Source: Pro Pakistani