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London proposes tougher rules for app-based taxi firms like Uber

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 09:02

LONDON: London’s transport chiefs announced plans on Wednesday to tighten control on private hire vehicles (PHV), a move that could hit app-based ride-hailing firms such as Uber.

Drivers of the city’s famous black cabs have argued Uber bypasses local licensing and safety laws and amounts to unfair competition.

They have staged a number of high-profile protests, including go-slow demonstrations that have brought traffic in the centre of London to a standstill.

A protest earlier this month at London’s City Hall led to a scuffle that resulted in arrests for assault and aggravated trespass and the suspension of a meeting where Mayor Boris Johnson was answering questions.

Read: China’s Uber-style taxi app raises $2 billion

“In recent years the private hire industry has grown exponentially and technology has also developed rapidly,” said Garrett Emmerson from Transport for London, which has issued the proposals that will now go out for a 12-week consultation.

Under the plans, firms would have to provide a booking confirmation at least five minutes before a journey starts and let allow cabs to be booked up to seven days in advance.

They could not show vehicles for immediate hire via an app and must specify the fare prior to the booking being accepted.

“These bureaucratic new rules will not improve your ride,” said Jo Bertram, Uber’s Regional General Manager, UK, Ireland and Nordics. “They’re designed to address the concerns of black cab drivers, who feel under pressure from increased competition.

But the answer is to reduce the onerous regulations cabbies face today, not increase them for everyone else.” An online petition set up by Uber against the proposals has already attracted 86,000 signatures.

Unlike black cabs, which can be flagged down in the street and use a meter to calculate fares, San-Francisco based Uber, backed by heavyweight investors including Goldman Sachs  and Google, allows customers to book and pay for a taxi using an app on their smartphones.

It also provides a second app for drivers to calculate the cost of a journey.

Uber has provoked a backlash in cities across the globe, with the mayor of Rio de Janeiro saying on Tuesday he would ban its use in the city while a taxi drivers protest jammed the centre of Bratislava on Monday.

The European Commission has launched a study of Uber to address a number of legal disputes including German and Spanish court bans and a new French law on taxis. The RMT union, which represents some London black cab drivers, welcomed the proposals.

“This is a step in the right direction towards tightening up controls on the PHV sector and apps like Uber but the union recognises we need to continue to fight for full implementation and a rigorous system of monitoring and control to make this work,” RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said.

Other private hire companies also backed the move. “We and others have been saying for some time that new app-based entrants have been playing fast and loose with the law and public safety,” said Mike Galvin, Head of Regulatory Affairs for taxi firm Addison Lee.

The post London proposes tougher rules for app-based taxi firms like Uber appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Petrol, diesel prices to remain unchanged in October

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 08:55

The government decided on Wednesday to let petroleum product prices remain unchanged during the month of October.

Addressing a press conference, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that he had spoken to the prime minister about the matter before reaching the decision for the unchanged prices.

Dar also shared that the Oil and Gar Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had suggested decreasing petrol prices by Rs0.15 and diesel prices by Rs2.68. However, the finance minister, with the approval of the prime minister, decided otherwise.

On August 31, the government increased gas prices by 3.8% and decreased the petrol prices by 3.9%.

The current price of petrol will now stand for the next month at Rs73.76 per litre, whereas diesel prices are Rs82.04 per litre.

The post Petrol, diesel prices to remain unchanged in October appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Lebanon arrests 40 Palestinians believed leaving for Europe

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 08:39

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces arrested 40 Palestinians on Wednesday as they tried to leave by boat from the northern city of Tripoli for a journey toward Europe, the National News Agency said.

The group, which included men and women, was aiming to reach Germany and had come from the large, long-established Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon’s south, NNA said. The boat’s owner was also detained.

There was no immediate comment from Lebanese justice authorities, but it is an offense to enter Tripoli’s port area without a security clearance or ferry ticket.

In the past three months thousands of Syrian refugees from the neighbouring country’s civil war have been leaving Tripoli on passenger ferries toward Turkey with the aim of reaching Europe, which is struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Lebanon has taken in over 1 million Syrian refugees, one of the highest number per capita in the world, and has increasingly become a transit point for Syrians trying to reach the European Union via Turkey.

The small eastern Mediterranean country has also long hosted tens of thousands of Palestinians who live in camps like Ain al-Hilweh that developed after Lebanon absorbed refugees from the war of Israel’s creation more than 60 years ago.

The post Lebanon arrests 40 Palestinians believed leaving for Europe appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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Kashmir, India and terrorism to remain focus of Nawaz’s UN speech, say analysts

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 08:29

KARACHI: Foreign policy experts believe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address at the 70th UN General Assembly on Wednesday, which comes amid rising tensions with neighbouring India and Afghanistan, will focus on the war against terrorism and regional relations.

Read: Nawaz-Kerry meeting: Pakistan conveys concern over Indian ceasefire violations

Speaking to The Express Tribune, former ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand said the premier was likely to talk about the global war on terror in the region and Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the country’s tribal areas, Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and recent tensions with India.

“PM Nawaz, I assume, will also speak about the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor and its broader benefits to the entire region,” Mohmand stated, adding that he may also take this opportunity to tell his global audience how his government is working for the social and economic welfare of people.

“I expect he will share with the world how his government plans to deal with the energy crisis and what he is doing to increase the literacy rate,” the former ambassador said.

Stressing the need to improve relations with India for the development of the country, Mohmand said Pakistan’s limited resources must be allocated for the betterment of people.

“If relations with India are not improved, the 68-year-long history of our existence will repeat for the next 68 years and nothing will change,” he emphasised. “Nations do not progress in such circumstances,” he added.

Acknowledging the importance of regional cooperation, former Pakistan high commissioner in the United Kingdom Abdul Kader Jaffer said the prime minister must use this platform to further the agenda of peace.

Read: PM Nawaz urges UN chief for plebiscite in Kashmir

“Regional harmony is of utmost importance; all countries must work together to resolve their issues through dialogue and not through threats,” Jaffer said.

“The world is changing fast and everyone is turning nuclear; we have had two world wars before us and we cannot have the third one,” he expressed concerns, calling on leaders to realise what’s at stake. “We need to learn to coexist; this world is for everyone,” he said.

Professor of political science at LUMS Rasul Bakhsh Rais, meanwhile, said the premiere would speak about India but the test here would be how careful he is with language.

“The diplomatic language should be such that Pakistan tells the world about India’s involvement in Balochistan, Karachi and other parts of the country but not in a confrontational style,” he suggested.

“There is pressure within the country from political and religious groups to highlight the Kashmir issue and the military would also like PM Nawaz to talk about it at the forum,” he added.

Rais further went on to add that Prime Minister Nawaz would discuss, in a more aggressive and assertive manner than previous occasions, Pakistan’s role for peace in the region and the world in the form of peacekeeping missions.

Read: In meeting with Ban, PM makes a pitch for UN Kashmir resolutions

“He will highlight the toll of terrorism on the country and the sacrifices Pakistan has rendered,” he said.

The post Kashmir, India and terrorism to remain focus of Nawaz’s UN speech, say analysts appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Sussanne Khan denies wedding rumours, criticises Indian press

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 08:26

MUMBAI: Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan’s ex-wife, Sussanne Khan, has denied reports that she is set to marry again. A successful entrepreneur, she says such gossip “hurts” as “families and human feelings” are involved.

Sussanne, an interior designer, decided to issue a statement in light of media reports around her rumoured wedding to “one of Hrithik’s close friends”.

Several newspapers in India have been stating that Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal — who was believed to be a key reason behind the Hrithik-Sussanne split — is that “close friend”. Earlier this week, it was reported that Sussanne and Arjun were spotted at a coffee shop in Mumbai.

Photo: Google

Following all the ensuing media speculation, Sussannne issued a clarification, saying, “Persistent speculation in the media has made me realise that idle Bollywood gossip mongers, who are influential, are insistent on spreading rumours and lies about me.”

“Stories are fabricated on upcoming weddings and meetings in coffee shops. There are families and human feelings involved and it hurts people when false gossip is passed off as true. I am a single working mother and take tremendous pride in the way I live.”

A mother of two, Sussanne is the daughter of veteran actor Sanjay Khan and Zarine Khan. 

Photo: Google

Hrithik and Sussanne dated for four years before tying the knot in 2000, following the success of the actor’s debut film Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai . The couple called it quits in December 2013, just a few days before their 13th anniversary.

Earlier, Sussanne spoke out against rumours of Arjun Rampal being the reason behind her split with Hrithik, and had said that nobody was to be blamed. ”There is no reason. Sometimes you have to do this because of a situation,” she had stated at an event.

The post Sussanne Khan denies wedding rumours, criticises Indian press appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Russia carries out first air strikes in Syria: US

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 08:14

MOSCOW: Russia launched its first air strikes in Syria on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin won parliamentary permission to use force abroad, the United States said.

A US official said the strike was near the city of Homs in what is Moscow’s first engagement in a distant theatre of war since the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Russia’s deepening engagement in Syria comes as Putin and US President Barack Obama push rival plans on ways to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria and on the future role of the country’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.

“They gave us a heads-up they were going to start striking in Syria,” a US defence official said. “It was in the vicinity of Homs.”

The Russian defence ministry declined to immediately confirm the strikes.

President Vladimir Putin had just hours earlier won permission from the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, to deploy troops abroad.

“The Federation Council unanimously supported the president’s request,” the Kremlin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said.

He said the decision to launch air strikes was taken after Assad asked Russia for military support.

Ivanov, a former defence minister, declined to give details of the operation, saying only it would be limited in duration and ruling out ground operations by Russian troops.

Damascus confirmed Assad had requested military assistance from Russia.

Putin is seeking to muscle his way back onto the world stage after months of Western isolation following Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine and support for a separatist insurgency in the east of the ex-Soviet country.

Russia is later Wednesday to preside over a special UN Security Council meeting on countering terrorist threats that is bound to produce a sharp difference of views between Moscow and Washington.

Addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time in a decade, Putin on Monday proposed a broad UN-backed coalition to fight IS militants and clashed with Obama on the future of Assad.

Washington and its allies blame Assad for the mayhem in Syria, where four years of bloodshed have killed more than 240,000 people.

France meanwhile said it has launched a probe into Assad’s regime for alleged crimes against humanity, saying it was forced to act in the face of “systematic cruelty”.

The French investigation is largely based on evidence from a former Syrian army photographer known by the codename “Caesar,” who defected and fled the country in 2013, bringing with him some 55,000 graphic photographs.

France, which is part of the US-led coalition against IS, carried out its first air strikes against the extremists’ positions in Syria on Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the bombs killed at least 30 extremists, including 12 child soldiers.

Russia argues that the West should support Assad in his fight against the extremists.

But Washington says the Syrian leader must go if the Islamic State group is to be defeated.

The Pentagon says Russia has in recent weeks sent warplanes and other military hardware to north-western Syria — along with at least 500 troops — in what many fear is an attempt to keep the war-torn country’s president in power.

Moscow’s proposal has exposed differences among Washington’s European allies, with some siding with Obama and others saying Moscow should have a greater role in fighting Islamic State.

Russia’s military involvement in Syria will be Moscow’s first engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.

Putin had also sought permission from the council to deploy military forces in Ukraine ahead of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the council’s international affairs committee, said Russia’s forces would be working in close coordination with Syria’s army and stressed Moscow would not be sucked into a protracted conflict.

Ivanov said that by moving to launch air strikes in Syria, Russia was acting in the national interest, to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from crossing its borders.

“We are not talking about achieving some foreign policy goals, satisfying someone’s ambitions — what our Western partners regularly accuse us of.”

But many analysts accused the Kremlin of a short-sighted approach.

Alexander Konovalov, head of the Strategic Analysis Institute, said Russia was guided by a desire to end its diplomatic isolation and may not fully realise long-term consequences of a military involvement in Syria.

“We were coming to Afghanistan for six months and stayed there for 10 years,” he told AFP, referring to a conflict that killed over 14,000 Soviet troops between 1979 and 1989.

According to a recent poll by the respected Levada Centre, 69 per cent of Russians are against Moscow’s deployment of troops in Syria, with just 14 per cent in favour.

Wednesday’s news set social networks alight, with many commentators predicting dire consequences for Russians. “Hide your sons,” one Russian, Zaira Abdullaeva, wrote on Facebook.

The post Russia carries out first air strikes in Syria: US appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

ECP halts implementation of PM’s Kissan package

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 07:57

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday halted certain parts of Nawaz Sharif’s Rs341 billion Kissan package — a controversial relief package announced by the PM ahead of local government elections in Sindh and Punjab.

The secretary ECP said the package was a violation of the code of conduct of the commission as it was announced at a time that could heavily influence voters.

The election body has halted three parts of the package and their implementation till December 3. The three points include:

1) Rs5,000 per acre to the farmers to the extent of 12.5 acres

2) 2% deduction in rate of interest for rice and cotton growers

3) Rice from Rs2,000 to Rs4,000 in production index units of agricultural lands

The prime minister’s package was announced on September 15 according to which farmers would receive Rs341 billion in grants, subsidies and loan advances from the government, in a bid to spur sluggish growth in one of the country’s main economic sectors.

On September 22, election authorities had sought assurance from the government that the relief package for farmers would not be used in any way to influence voters in the forthcoming local government elections.

Read: ECP questions timing of PM’s Kisan package ahead of LG polls

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other opposition groups had approached ECP with apprehensions about intent of government for introducing packages when schedule for local government elections in Punjab and Sindh was already announced.

The post ECP halts implementation of PM’s Kissan package appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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Woman, child drown as migrant boat sinks off Greece’s Lesbos

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 07:53

GREECE: A migrant woman and a child drowned off the Greek island of Lesbos after their boat sank, police said Wednesday, adding 45 other passengers had been rescued.

The Greek harbour police did not give the victims’ ages or nationalities and it was not clear if the two were related.

According to testimony from the survivors, 49 people were on board the dinghy when it capsized in the Aegean Sea off the northern coast of Lesbos.

Read: Migrant boat heading to Greece from Turkey sinks, 13 dead

Twenty-year-old Nilofa Ghonami, an Iranian-born Afghan woman, told AFP that the boat they were sailing in — which was only supposed to hold 14 people — had broken in half.

“There was water (in) the boat and all the people stand up in one group and the middle of the boat broke and all the people went to the sea,” the survivor said.

“Turkish police saw us and didn’t help us, a second boat coming from Turkey to Greece saw us and (called) the Greek police who helped us,” she said.

“We were two hours in the sea, it was very hard,” said Ghonami, who was studying to become an engineer in Iran

“In Iran, we are just living, we are not alive. I want to improve my level of living,” she said.

The island of Lesbos has become one of the main points of entry to the EU for thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Asia arriving from Turkey which lies just eight nautical miles away.

Read: Four children missing after migrants’ boat capsizes off Greece

Some 515,000 people have reached Europe via the Mediterranean this year, figures from the UN refugee agency UNHCR show, many of them undertaking perilous journeys in inflatable dinghies.

Nearly 3,000 others have died or disappeared during the crossing, the UNHCR said earlier this week.

More than half of those entering Europe are fleeing the conflict in Syria.

The post Woman, child drown as migrant boat sinks off Greece’s Lesbos appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Here’s a look at Facebook’s fancy new workplace in Singapore

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 07:45

Moving into a new place is always exciting and stressful in equal measure. Will everyone in the family like it there? Will there be a weird neighbour upstairs playing the trombone at 4am?

A huge touch-enabled screen provides real-time information on users by country, trending topics and more. PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

Facebook probably has little reason to complain about its new Singapore HQ. Located at the South Beach Tower, just minutes away from the Suntec City commercial hub, the social media behemoth has commandeered four floors of this latest addition to Singapore’s skyline.

The office maintains fully-stocked kitchens on all floors for when the employees get the munchies (the beer taps are there strictly for after hours!). PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

It’s probably not too much of a surprise to say that the office is all sorts of comfy. There are adjustable desks that can convert from sitting to standing. (There’s even one of those vaunted treadmill desks for those people who feel their desk is slowly killing them.)

Instagram posts by notable local artists showcased on the wall. PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

Bright, open spaces are surrounded by large windows that overlook the lion city.

Wood panels against gray concrete make the place cozy while maintaining that industrial, unfinished feel. PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

At the same time, exposed concrete and ceiling fixtures such as ventilation systems reflect Facebook’s philosophy of having completed just 1% of its goals – thus the sense of an unfinished building.

An internal staircase, adorned with the work of a local artist, connects the four floors comprising the Singapore HQ. PHOTO: TECH IN ASIA

The post Here’s a look at Facebook’s fancy new workplace in Singapore appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

France’s Sarkozy disowns ally over ‘white race’ comments

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 07:42

PARIS / RACISM: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday removed one of his staunchest allies from his conservative party’s list for December regional elections, punishment for saying France was a “white race” country that must stay that way.

After four days of silence over the latest outburst from outspoken lawmaker Nadine Morano, Sarkozy said her comments harmed The Republicans party’s image and could not stay without consequences.

The case illustrates the challenge posed to Sarkozy in his bid to unite a divided party which is struggling in particular to decide its line on immigration under pressure from an increasingly popular far-right National Front.

Sarkozy himself has taken a tough line on immigration as he seeks to secure his party’s ticket for the 2017 presidential elections, but he has stayed clear of such comments on race.

Morano told French TV on Saturday evening: “France is a Judeo-Christian country … of white race, which is attracting foreigners. I want France to remain France. I don’t want France to become Muslim.”

The 51-year-old EU lawmaker from eastern France, one of Sarkozy’s closest supporters for years and a former minister, insisted she had said nothing wrong.

Read: France will take in 24,000 refugees over next two years: Hollande

Sarkozy aides said on initially that he disagreed with her comments but did not plan any sanctions.

However, as the controversy grew on Wednesday and local officials asked for her departure, he decided to cut her from the party’s list of candidates.

“Her latest comments do not correspond to what France is or to the values supported by The Republicans,” Sarkozy said in a statement. “All those who seek to attract publicity that harms The Republicans’ credibility must understand there will be consequences.”

Her eviction from the party’s election ticket is set be rubber-stamped by its election committee at a date that has not been announced yet.

Equality between citizens regardless of race and religion is such a deeply ingrained principle in France that statistics based on ethnicity are illegal.

At the same time, as a diverse country that hosts Europe’s largest Muslim population, ethnicity and immigration have become important political issues.

The post France’s Sarkozy disowns ally over ‘white race’ comments appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Multan heist: Cricketer Sohaib Maqsood’s home burgled

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:39

Thieves took away cash, foreign currency, cell phones, jewellery and valuables from cricketer Sohaib Maqsood’s home in Nasheman Colony of Multan in the early hours of Thursday.

Maqsood, a promising batsman, has left for Zimbabwe with the national team. His house was looted when other family members were out shopping for Eid.

Police have registered a case and started investigations. According to SHO Bahauddin Zakariya police station, the family of Sohaib Maqsood had gone to market for shopping at night when the thieves burgled his house and decamped with four tolas of gold ornaments, Rs50,000 in cash, watches and mobile phones. Family members told the police that when the returned home around midnight, the door lock was broken and the home had been ransacked.

The burglars took their time in checking every wardrobe, suitcase, drawer and cabinet, they said lamenting loss of hard-earned money.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Speeding car: Four members of family die in crash

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:38

HYDERABAD: Four members of a family were killed when their car collided with a coach on Indus Highway in Jamshoro, on Wednesday. The police identified the deceased as 65-year-old Khadija, wife of Gul Muhammad Soomro, her 45-year-old son, Saleem Raza Soomro, and her two grandsons, 20-year-old Waseem Raza Soomro and eight-year-old Ahmed Raza Soomro. The injured, Fahmida Soomro, 40, Naeem Raza Soomro, 17, and Fiza Soomro, 15, were shifted to Civil Hospital, Hyderabad. The family lived in Hyderabad and was travelling to their village in Dadu to celebrate Eidul Azha, said the police. The coach driver managed to flee but the police impounded the vehicle.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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PTI mulls action against seven party members

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:36

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has issued show-cause notices to seven of its parliamentarians for violating party discipline in the recent local government elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But it has so far stopped short of taking decisive action against them.

The party had issued notices to former K-P PTI president Senator Azam Swati, MNA Shehryar Khan Afridi and K-P MPAs Yaseen Khalil, Ziaullah Bangash, Imtiaz Qureshi, and Arif Yousaf.

Subsequently a committee was formed comprising PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Secretary Information Naeemul Haq, Additional Organiser Saifullah Niazi and Provincial Organiser Fazal Muhammad Khan. Sources say all seven members, who were issued the notices, have appeared before this committee in person.

However, the committee has yet to finalise what action, if any, to take against these members. It is expected that the committee will convene a meeting in the coming days to deliberate over a decision.

Meanwhile, K-P Chief Minister Parvez Khattak, who was perturbed at the behavior of some party members, has said that the party may approach the Election Commission (ECP) to request disqualification of these seven members.

The PTI had formed local governments in only nine of the 23 districts in the province and Khattak argued that they would have secured more seats had some of their members followed party policy to back PTI’s candidates.

Swati is accused of buying votes in intra-party elections before requesting a party ticket for his brother in Mansehra. PTI denied his request, and the seat was lost to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with Swati accused of supporting a rival party.

Afridi is accused of not backing PTI’s candidate in Kohat.

During the LG polls, 10 councillors were elected in Town-III Peshawar but they did not part take in voting. PTI councillors also failed to vote in Takht-i-Nusrati tehsil of Karak. In Charsadda three councilors did not vote.

In Buner district, 11 PTI councillors did not vote. One of them went on to compete against the party’s candidate. In Malakand district two women candidates did not cast their votes. In Abbottabad district the PTI had 11 members, including three who were directly elected, but they did not vote for the party candidate.

Rifts deepen

The show-cause notices may, however, worsen the situation for the party in K-P where some workers were already aggrieved over how party tickets had been awarded during the local government elections.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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RUSTLERS: Balochistan govt fails to stop cattle smuggling

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:35

Director General of Livestock Balochistan Ghulam Hussain Jaffer said that the provincial authorities are unable to control smuggling of cattle to the neighbouring countries because the federal government still holds on to the permit to export livestock.

“Despite devolution of powers to the provinces under the 18th Amendment, the federal government is yet to give power to the province for exporting cattle,” he told The Express Tribune.

There is a huge shortage of sacrificial animals in Quetta and nearby districts after a sudden surge in cattle smuggling.

Many people lodged their complaints about the hike in the prices and shortage of animals in the provincial capital.

Jaffer said that after the 18th Amendment the powers of exporting cattle are still with the Ministry of Commerce in the federal government which is cause of the huge smuggling.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Top court’s verdict: Malls can’t be built on public playgrounds

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:35

The top court has banned construction of shops and shopping centres on public playgrounds and directed a supermarket chain owner to clear out an amenity plot in Karachi.

The Supreme Court had already rejected the review petitions, filed by Makro-Habib, Army Welfare Trust (AWT) and others, against the court’s earlier ruling, wherein Makro-Habib was directed to close down its Lines Area outlet in the port city within three months and restore the 4.9 acres, on which the structure was built, to its original state of a playground.

The lease for the land was issued for 90 years at the annual rent of Rs6,020. On July 31, 2006, the AWT transferred the land to Makro-Habib by way of sub-lease for an initial term of 30 years after receiving an advance rent of Rs100 million based on a variable annual amount of at least Rs17.5 million and a maximum equivalent to one per cent of the annual turnover of the outlet.

In 2009, the apex court had taken suo motu notice of the matter on the basis of an article by now-deceased columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, authoring the written order regarding the dismissal of Makro-Habib’s plea, observed that investments should be made on land that has been legally acquired, and that if anybody chooses to do so on public land, he cannot complain that his investment has been wasted.

The order also stated that the federation assails the determination by the court that the government had no legal authority to grant lease hold rights of the said land to the AWT and the lease dated December 19, 2002 in favour of the AWT is without lawful authority; as a result, it is cancelled.

But the bench remarked that the review jurisdiction is not meant to permit the rehearing of the case as has been sought, adding that since the contention that has been advanced before the court had already been considered and was specifically incorporated by the bench in the judgment, the federation cannot be permitted to repeat the same.

The court has also rejected the federal government’s argument that if the lease executed in favour of the AWT is cancelled, the property would revert to the centre and the court should not have directed that its possession be handed over to the City District Government Karachi (CDGK).

“Once a conscious and deliberate decision on both points of fact and law has been made, no exception can be taken; therefore, the review petition on this ground too fails,” added the verdict.

Regarding the objection of Makro-Habib’s counsel over the SC’s suo motu proceedings in this case, the order stated that if a matter is of public importance and requires the enforcement of fundamental rights, the provision of jobs will be completely irrelevant.

“In conclusion, we may add that vide the judgment of December 18, 2009, Makro-Habib was granted three months to remove its structure and installations from the playground, restore it to the same condition as existed on the date of the sub-lease and hand over its vacant possession to the CDGK. However, Makro-Habib continued to be in possession for a further period of six years, during which period the citizens of Karachi continued to be deprived of their playground,” said the top court.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Eid message: President, PM lay stress on spirit of sacrifice

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:33

As the nation celebrates Eidul Azha on Friday, President Mamnoon Hussain has urged Pakistanis to remember the soldiers who have sacrificed their today for the nation’s tomorrow.

In his Eid message issued on Thursday, Hussain said that by laying down their lives for the country, our soldiers had been immortalised in history. “We should also remember the invaluable sacrifices of our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of the fight against terrorism.”

He said Pakistanis need to set practical examples of sacrifice in their lives because this spirit helps resolve all issues effectively. “We should share our joyous moments with the poor and those recovering from natural disasters.”

Nawaz celebrates Eidul Azha in London

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered the Eidul Azha prayer at the London Central Mosque in the Islamic Cultural Centre on Thursday. He was received by Dr Ahmad Al-Dubayan, director general of the cultural centre.

Sharif was accompanied by PM’s Special Assistant Syed Tariq Fatemi, Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK Syed Ibne Abbas, officials of the high commission and a large number of Pakistanis.

The premier, together with the Pakistani community, prayed for peace, progress and prosperity of the country and the unity of the Muslim Ummah, said a press release issued by the Pakistan High Commission.

After the prayers, PM Sharif mingled with the expatriate community and extended Eid greetings to them.

Later, addressing the media, the prime minister extended his heartiest Eid wishes to the nation. In his message, he emphasised on the need of national unity in the face of challenges faced by Pakistan.

Sharif said the nation needs to rise above its personal, sectarian and political interests to eliminate extremism. “We should work towards the unity of Pakistanis as well as the Muslim Ummah the world over.”

He said this is the basis of Islamic teachings. “If we devote our intent of sacrifice on true objectives, this would promote mutual harmony, brotherhood, tolerance and equilibrium in our beloved country.”

The premier said sacrifice means devoting oneself to upholding high moral values. “Slaughtering sacrificial animals is an apparent aspect, but the real spirit lies in fostering the essence of sacrifice, which invigorates the nation. This is the basic lesson behind the act of sacrifice.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Unusual patterns: Climate change behind weather anomalies: PMD

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:33

GILGIT / ISLAMABAD: With Karachi coming out of a scorching heat wave and mountains in Kalam receiving the season’s first snowfall, experts believe the anomalous weather pattern in Pakistan is the work of climate change.

In Punjab also, rainfall in the catchment areas of Jehlum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej rivers has been recorded over 200 millimetres in the past three days.

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Director General Dr Ghulam Rasul said different parts of the country were experiencing weather conditions unusual for this time of the year.

“Summer is just coming to an end. Though winter season has not yet started in the country, mountains adjacent to Kalam in Swat Valley have already received the first snowfall which is very rare in Pakistan,” he said.

These areas receive usually the first snowfall either at the end of October or during the first week of November. “Even autumn has not started yet then how can we call this snowfall as the first one of the winter season,” he wondered.

Rasul said there were chances the mercury might rise to the 30s after the snowfall in Swat. “It has become difficult to predict weather patterns due to these uncertain trends under the influence of climate change,” he added.

Such weather variations, he said, are mostly caused when tropical air mass and temperate air mass mix or, simply put, the interaction of hot and cold air systems.

But the PMD official ruled out the possibility of any more floods that were feared after heavy downpours in Punjab. “Pakistan is no more under the threat of flooding for which alerts were issued a few days ago,” he said. “The rain did not cause flood as it was of low intensity with a longer duration.”


In Gilgit, however, heavy showers triggered landslides, blocking traffic on the Karakoram Highway, and also between Gilgit and Skardu. Authorities were able to clear the roads in eight hours.

Rain and snow lashed Gilgit for over 24 hours, lowering the temperature considerably, heralding dawn of winters in the mountainous region.

A man was killed and three others sustained injuries as the vehicles they were travelling in were hit by a landslide near Chilas town in Diamer district. The injured persons were in critical condition, said Diamer DC Usman Ahmed.

Another 25 men, mostly employees of the forest department, got stuck in Deosai Plains after heavy snowfall cut off the world’s highest plateau from the rest of the region.

The PMD said the temperature in the area had plummeted to 5 degrees Celsius.

“This is the beginning of winters,” said Majeed, a resident of Skardu. “If rains continue, we will have to brace for an unusually early and prolonged winter, which otherwise starts from October every year.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Coercive measures: India shuts internet in Kashmir on Eid

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:31

The Indian government on Thursday ordered to close internet in the Kashmir valley for 40 hours during Eidul Azha.

In a notification issued on Thursday evening, the government asked telcos to shut down all kinds of internet in the valley including mobile SIM based data spectrums and broadband connectivity (which powers wireless WiFi internet).

“In view of the apprehension of misuse of data services (GPRS/2G/3G) by anti-national elements, which is likely to cause deteriorations in law and order situations,” explained a notification signed by Srinagar police chief S J M Gillani.

The notification asked service providers to shut down data services in the valley from 5 am on eid morning on Friday to 10pm on Saturday, September 26. The move comes as the ruling coalition remains divided over a controversial ban on beef in the valley, Times of India reported. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to strictly implement the ban, but its local coalition partner, the PDP, opposes it.

“No one can suppress religious freedom. If something is “halal” (allowed) in a religion, why should there be a ban on it? The Supreme Court, in its recent judgment, has also said that meat ban cannot be forced down people’s throat,” PDP leader Peer Mansoor said.

“There is no ban in other states like Uttar Pradesh. So why ban it here? People have the right to eat what their religion permits… Even our chief minister and party president can eat beef if they like to and if their health permits.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Felicitations: Kerry wishes Muslims Eid Mubarak

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:30

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday extended eid greetings to Muslims around the world.  “We congratulate the nearly three million Muslims – including thousands of Americans – who are performing Hajj this year in fulfillment of one of the fundamental pillars of their faith,” he said in a statement. He noted that Eidul Azha provides an opportunity for renewed spirituality, prayer, and reflection, and for families and friends to gather in celebration and thanks for the many blessings of God. But added that it is also a time for charity and for helping those who are less fortunate including the many adults and children forced to flee violence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

The refugee crisis; the power of social media

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:28

They ran in the dark towards the Austria-Hungary border. Some had flashlights. Some scampered through the shadows. Some were registered under UN regulations, others were not. They did not know where they were going and they did not know what would happen to them. They ran, hungry, thirsty and blind.

This was the scene when a train of refugees stopped in Hungary and the refugees were ‘escorted’ to the border by the Hungarian police. It’s enough to make humanity scream.

The refugee experience in disparate regions of Europe is quite varied. Besides bodies washing up on beaches and being forced to run in the dark, there is a section of Syrian refugees which has made use of social media to make the migratory journey somewhat more organised. CNN’s Ivan Watson noted that Syrian youth is making use of the internet, Facebook in particular, to issue distress calls while they’re at sea. They have the phone numbers of the Greek and Turkish police and once they arrive at their desired destination, they know exactly where to go and what to do.

The UN, Germany, and Europe as a whole, have been hailed as the saviours of refugees. However, the silent saviour has been the social media. There are various Facebook pages that provide crucial information to refugees, which include instructions on what they should carry during their journey and which officials they should contact. There are numerous groups on Facebook such as the ‘Syrian Refugee Helpers in Istanbul’, which allow volunteers and activists to gather on a single platform and organise their efforts effectively in order to cater to the needs of refugees.

Social media has allowed the world to evolve into a global community. People from all over the world are getting in touch with European volunteers on Twitter and are flying in from Libya, Jordan and the US to help refugees in whatever manner they can. The traditional media has also been in step with their journey. This provides an interesting opportunity for European officials who are struggling to identify and register refugees. Why not incorporate the help of social media websites, such as Facebook, to reach out to refugees and issue announcements, information and warnings? Why not delineate, through the use of social media, the safest routes of travel? Why not warn refugees against high tides and instruct them on ways to stay alive at sea. Why not create an online platform for refugees and volunteering families to get in touch with each other?

It’s 2015. We can do more. We should do more.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News