President awards state’s highest honour to Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff

Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Asif Sandila arrived in the Maldives yesterday (October 9) at the invitation of Maldives Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam.

President Mohamed Waheed awarded the Admiral with the ‘Nishaan Muleege Sharafge Izzaiy’ (‘Order of Distinguished Rule of Muleege’) – one of the highest ranking honors conferred by the state – in recognition of his dedicated efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. The award was previously established in honour of Al-Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen.

When the tsunami hit the Maldives on December 26, 2004, Admiral Sandila was the Mission Commander of two Pakistani Naval Ships, P.N.S Tariq and P.N.S Nasr, which were on a goodwill visit to the country.

As the initial responders to the “critical situation” the Pakistani naval ships took “prompt action” conducting search and rescue operations, evacuating citizens and tourists from affected islands, conducting the initial damage assessment, and providing critical food and relief supplies to devastated islands in the aftermath tsunami, said the President’s Office.

“At the time of the worst ever natural disaster in the recent history of Maldives, Admiral Sandila proved above and beyond the call of duty to be a source of exemplary service and dedication which was symbolic of the long standing fraternal relation between the Maldives and Pakistan,” said President Waheed during this morning’s (October 10) award ceremony.

Admiral Sandila is also scheduled to meet with Minister of Defence and National Security Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim during his two day official visit and will depart from the Maldives tonight, according to local media.

Past Pakistani controversy

In November 2011, the allegedly “idolatrous” Pakistani monument erected for the SAARC summit was set on fire by a group of people in Hithadhoo, Addu City after two young men toppled the monument during an earlier protest.

The monument, which featured engraved symbols of Pakistan’s ancient civilisation and a bust of the country’s founder Mohamed Ali Jinah, had been removed by the Addu City Council the previous week but was replaced back on its plinth with a cover ahead of the unveiling ceremony.

A member of the Pakistani delegation at the unveiling ceremony explained to Minivan News that the monument represented artifacts of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation and were not specifically religious symbols.

Following the first attempt to vandalise the monument, a second member of the Pakistani delegation told Minivan News that they approached the Maldives’ Foreign Ministry over the incident but was informed by an official that it had not occurred, and was a rumour spread by the opposition.


Protesters knock over “idolatrous” Pakistani SAARC monument

A group of protesters on Wednesday night knocked over the SAARC monument designed by Pakistan, during a demonstration over that “idolatrous” carvings engraved on the monument.

The monument, which was erected at Hithadhoo in Addu City ahead of the SAARC Summit and features pagan symbols of ancient civilisation of Pakistan and a bust of the country’s founder Mohamed Ali Jinah, was removed by the Addu City Council on Tuesday night but placed back with a cover the next day ahead of today’s unveiling ceremony.

An eyewitness to Wednesday night’s incident told Minivan News that two men from the protesting group ran up to the monument near the Power Park in Hithadhoo and knocked it over.

One of the men was reportedly taken into custody. A police media official in Addu City however could not confirm the arrest but said the incident was being investigated.

The eyewitness claimed the group was led by an opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) member, who tried to restrain the protesters.

The group was protesting the engravings of pagan symbols, he explained, which they contended could be considered objects of worship and demanded its immediate removal.

He added that there were two police officers stationed at the monument when it was knocked over, who were later reinforced by riot police. The monument was placed back and covered shortly after the incident.

Opposition parties, including the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, have condemned the government for over the incident and accused the current administration of pursuing an agenda to introduce freedom of religion in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, two opposition MPs were arrested last night at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport while attempting to take down SAARC banners featuring allegedly Christian imagery.

The monument, designed and approved by the Pakistani government, was officially unveiled by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at 6pm today. A sizable crowd of Hithadhoo residents gathered at the area with Maldivians and Pakistani flags and took photographs after the event.

Monuments representing the culture and religion of the eight SAARC nations have been placed across Addu City for the summit, which were unveiled by the heads of state and government over the past two days.