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PTI to hold protests against increase in electricity tariffs on Wednesday

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:48

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has announced to hold anti-government across Pakistan against a recent increase in electricity tariff, Express News reported.

He was addressing the ‘Azadi’ March in the federal capital on Monday.

Imran said the PTI will protest in all districts headquarters on Wednesday.

The PTI chief said the country was being ruled by just 400 families, and that he will expose all those who had looted the country.

Imran further demanded that the prime minister and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar reduce petroleum prices by at least Rs15 to reflect the fall in international prices of petroleum.

Urging both PM Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Zardari to declare their wealth, he said the sit-in could end the day that happens.

“I will end the sit-in the day both of them declare their actual assets.”

Imran also addressed Pakistan Peoples Party chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

“Bilawal, I will accept you as a leader when you ask your father Asif Zardari and your ‘uncle’ Nawaz Sharif to declare their assets,” he said. “Speeches don’t make you a leader.”

About the party’s rally in Gujrat on Friday, Imran said,
“Our Friday’s rally will be the biggest in the history of Gujrat.”

Ban on Mubashir Luqman, private TV channel

Imran condemned the 15-day ban imposed on anchor Mubasher Luqman and a private television channel by PEMRA on Monday, and invited the show host to conduct his programme from atop his container.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

NA adopts resolution congratulating Malala

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:41

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution congratulating Malala Yousafzai for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Radio Pakistan reported.

The resolution was moved by the Minister for Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir. The NA resolution also lauded Malala’s struggle and efforts for the promotion of girls’ education.

“This House congratulates Malala Yousafzai, the daughter of Pakistan for winning laurels for the country and the nation. This House salutes her and appreciates her services for education of girl child and courage she manifested,” reads the resolution.

The 17-year-old Malala along with India’s Kailash Satyarthi were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work promoting children’s rights.

Malala is the youngest person to be awarded the prestigious annual prize.

Mechanism to ensure uninterrupted CNG supply

Parliament was informed on Monday that a mechanism is under consideration to ensure uninterrupted CNG supply to consumers.

During the Question and Answer hour, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi informed the House that under a proposal, CNG dealers would be allowed to import LNG and supply it to consumers on regular basis.

Expressing the hope that after completion of LNG terminals, gas would start arriving in Pakistan within three months, Abbasi said that the government was planning to import two billion cubic feet of LNG in four years.

Responding to a question, the minister said total recoverable oil reserves in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are 126 million barrels besides 1,334 billion cubic feet of gas.

Election petitions

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed said all election petitions are expected to be disposed of by the end of the year.

Out of the 403 election petitions that were filed after the last year’s general election, 317 petitions were disposed off by the election tribunals while 86 are still pending.

The House was further informed that the Karakoram Highway damaged near Attabad village in Hunza Valley in a landslide, will be restored by the end of July next year.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

SC tells Sindh, Punjab to complete local govt legislation by Oct 30

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:29

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday gave provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh till October 30 to complete legislation to authorise the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out delimitation process.

The three judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk was hearing a case relating to local government elections on Monday.

During the course of hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Asam Butt informed the court that the federal government has issued two Ordinances about the matter.

Additional Advocate General (AAG) Punjab Razaq A Mirza submitted that an ordinance has been issued which will be tabled before the Provincial Assembly on Monday.

Similarly, AAG Sindh Mir Qasim informed the court that a bill has already been tabled in the Provincial Assembly.

Later on Monday, the Sindh Assembly passed a law to handover delimitation powers of union councils to the election commission.

LG elections in K-P

The three member bench also sought reports form ECP and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government in a month regarding steps taken for holding local body elections in the province.

Muhammad Akram Sheikh, counsel for ECP submitted that the poll body would require at least five months for making the required preparation as well as arrangement for biometric systems to hold polls in K-P.

The counsel further informed the court that a meeting had been held between ECP and the provincial authorities to ensure local bodies elections in the province.

Sheikh further contended that the commission will not be able to complete the delimitation process for LG elections in Sindh and Punjab in 45 days, suggesting that the poll body would require at least six months.

The court observed that the ECP’s plea for deferment of local body polls in K-P would be heard once Sindh and Punjab completes legislation.

The hearing of the case was then adjourned until October 30.

When the bench reconvenes on October 30, it is will also take up the matter of a permanent Chief Election Commissioner being appointed.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Army chief departs for Indonesia

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 08:55

RAWALPINDI: Army chief General Raheel Sharif on Monday left for Indonesia on a three-day official visit, according to an Inter Services Public Relations statement.

The statement added that the army chief is visiting Indonesia on the special invitation of Indonesian defence authorities.

“During his visit, the COAS is scheduled to meet senior military leadership of Indonesia,” it said.

The army chief was seen off at PAF Base Nur Khan by senior military officials.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

11 dead, 31 injured as passenger coach collides with truck in Lasbela

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:54

QUETTA: At least 11 people were killed, while 31 sustained injuries when a passenger coach collided with a truck in the Uthal area of Lasbela district on Monday morning.

According to Uthal police, a passenger coach en route to Karachi from Quetta tried to overtake another Karachi bound coach, when it collided with a truck coming from the opposite direction.

Drivers in both vehicles died on the spot, police said.

After the accident, rescue workers also rushed to the spot and the dead and injured were shifted to the state-run hospital in Uthal. Some of the injured were also transported to Karachi as their condition was critical.

The dead have been identified as residents of Quetta, while some others are being kept at the local morgue for identification.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

PM disqualification case: SC rejects plea seeking recusal of Justice Khawaja

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:23

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has rejected a plea of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seeking the recusal of Justice Jawwad S Khawaja from the prime minister’s disqualification case.

Justice Khawaja is currently heading a three-member bench hearing the case regarding the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over allegedly making a ‘false statement’ in Parliament.

On October 1, PTI leader Ishaq Khan Khakwani, through his counsel Irfan Qadir, moved an application in the apex court, requesting that Justice Khawaja recuse himself from the case.

However, The Express Tribune has learnt that the SC registrar’s office rejected the PTI leader’s plea for the recusal, stating the “application contains contemptuous language”.

With the bench set to take up the disqualification case tomorrow (Tuesday), Khakwani moved another application today, challenging the SC’s objection over his plea for recusal.

The fresh application contended that the SC registrar did not mention the parts in the earlier application that they termed contemptuous. “In the absence of such a mention, the impugned order (registrar order) is devoid of the grounds or the legal foundations on which the same could be passed in law,” it states.

Further, the applicant stated that keeping in view the circumstances, he filed the plea for recusal in the best interest of justice.

He went on to argue that his application did not include anything that could be termed contemptuous since the relevant documents which go on to establish the contents of the recusal application are appended.

Khakwani told The Express Tribune that they have requested the court to hear his plea for the recusal of Justice Khawaja from the bench tomorrow (Tuesday) once again.

He went on to elaborate on his party’s reservations over the senior judge’s inclusion in the bench for the case. According to him, the reservations were further fortified when on September 29, when the PM’s disqualification came up for hearing Justice Jawwad expressed his displeasure that the case was called but the applicant was not present in court.

“This unexpected and uncalled for unpleasantness coupled with the facts has made it all the more necessary for the applicant to seek recusal of Justice Jawad S Khawaja from the titled case,” Khakwani said in his application.

The application also stated that it was also a well-known fact that members of the bench and the bar had expressed reservations over some of Justice Khawaja’s judgments

“The applicant is aware that he cannot choose his own judge; however, the applicant has the right to object to a particular judge when there is serious apprehension on his part that justice may not be done or the applicant may not get a fair trial,” it said.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Sindh Assembly adopts local government bill

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:08

KARACHI: In line with the Supreme Court decision on March 20, the Sindh Assembly on Monday passed a law to handover delimitation powers of union councils to the election commission.

After this legislation, the provincial election commission will carry the delimitation process by prescribing limits of union councils, union committees, wards in municipal committees, town committees and corporations before holding the local government election.

“As per Article140 of the Constitution, it is the provincial government’s discretion to make the delimitation of union councils.  But we are now handing over these powers to the election commission complying with the decision of the SC,” Sindh Law Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro said while moving the Sindh local government amendment bill 2014.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah while briefing the session said his government had finished the delimitation process a few months ago and wanted to hold LG elections, but MQM and a few other parties challenged it which caused delays in holding the election.

As the bill was moved to make the law, a few members from the opposition raised objections for not providing them with copies of the bill.

“You are violating the rules of the assembly, the bill cannot be passed within a few minutes. The members of this August House should either be given two days or the bill should be referred to a standing committee to review it,” Pakistan Muslim League-Functional parliamentary leader Nand Kumar said.

Mandhro was of the view that the assembly, with the permission of the speaker, can relax the rules and pass the resolution.

“The apex court has given us a deadline of two days. We cannot wait for further deliberation on this minor amendment to the law which has already been passed with the consultation of various stakeholders in 2013,” Mandhro said.

Later, the speaker moved the bill in the house for which the assembly voted in favour of unanimously.

Earlier, MQM members had boycotted the session by submitting their application seeking the opposition seats inside the house.

“We have parted ways with the government and cannot sit on treasury benches,” MQM deputy parliamentary leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan said while leaving the house with 51 other members.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

SC gives green light to OGDCL privatisation

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 05:48

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the government to privatise Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL), Radio Pakistan reported.

Hearing the OGDCL case, the apex court in an interim order directed that OGDCL shares be sold out to companies with higher bids.

Notices in this regard have also been issued to the concerned parties by the court and the hearing of the case has been adjourned for three weeks.

In a concise statement submitted before the Supreme Court on Saturday, the federal government said that if the privatisation of 10% shares of the OGDCL was not completed, Pakistan would be exposed to ‘great financial loss’.

The government requested the top court to dismiss the petition of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government against the privatisation of OGDCL. “It would be an irretrievable loss which would affect future prospects of foreign investments,” said the statement by Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana.

The federal government has alleged that the K-P government is attempting to create the impression of a national economic crisis, which simply doesn’t exist.

Since the PHC passed the restraining order, the value of OGDCL’s share has depreciated by about Rs20, it added. “If this uncertainty continues there is great likelihood that the share value will further depreciate. The loss already suffered on this account runs into 100s of millions of rupees.”

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Bereft of security, union councils postpone anti-polio campaigns

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 03:38

KARACHI: Due to a lack of security, 42 union councils have postponed their anti-polio campaigns, Express News reported on Monday. 

Union councils are faced with a lot of difficulty in beginning of these campaigns as without adequate security, campaign workers are often targeted.

The campaign was meant to take place in 75 city union councils, but has been postponed altogether.

A doctor in one of the union councils, Dr Sageer Ahmed, said that under no circumstances would campaign workers continue with their work if they are bereft of security and protection.

The National Institute of Health reported two new polio cases from Khyber Agency and South Waziristan on Thursday.

With the two new cases, the total number of cases in the country this year has hit 209.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas leads with the most number of cases at 138, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa at 43. There are 19 cases in Sindh and six in Balochistan, while three children were diagnosed with the virus in Punjab.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

JUI-F’s Haideri says PTI, PAT harming democracy

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 02:32


Federal state minister Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri has accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI)  and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT)  of attempting to subvert the democratic process in the country. Speaking to the media in Hyderabad on Sunday, Haideri said the two parties were out to destroy the nascent democracy.

“The politicians forcing the PM to resign at gunpoint will end up disappointed,” he said. “The nation should now realise these politicians’ objectives, especially after the disclosures made by former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg.”  Haideri, who is also general secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazlur Rehman, said that his party will stand as a bulwark in the way of realisation of PTI chief Imran Khan’s agenda. Drawing attention towards the issue of border attacks by the Indian military, he urged the PTI and PAT to rise above their political differences and play their part in national defence.

The JUI-F leader welcomed the Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s entrance in practical politics through his October 18 rally in Karachi. However, he said despite his political lineage, the young politician has a long way to go before becoming a leader of the people. “Bilawal’s advisers are advising him to make charged speeches like Imran Khan,” he observed.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Regulation of medicines: Herbalists fear for their livelihoods in wake of new laws

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 02:13

KARACHI: Hakims, herbalists, homeopaths and manufacturers of various alternative medicines have voiced serious concern over the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan’s (DRAP) directives to regulate their medicines according to the laws designed for allopathic medicines. 

Pakistan Tibbi Conference senior vice-president Hakim Dr Zahid Ashraf told The Express Tribune that they fully supported the formulation of laws for Tibb-e-Unani (Eastern system of medicine) and homeopathy. “We have been requesting the government for the last 30 years to formulate laws for traditional medicines,” said Dr Ashraf. “We prepared nine drafts that were presented in the National Assembly, but could not be passed into laws.”

Pakistan Tibbi Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PTPMA) secretary for South zone, Muhammad Abdul Qayyum explained why. “We cannot evaluate herbal medicines on the parameters of allopathic pharmaceutical drugs.” In response to a question regarding the concerns of the conventional medical industry, Qayyum said that all the senior officials of the DRAP were pharmacists. In their academic pursuits, they have never studied anything about Tibb-e-Unani system of medicine. “How can they prepare rules for a system they know nothing about?” he questioned.

“The testing methods for herbal medicines, which usually contain raw materials of plants, animals and minerals, are extremely complex,” Qayyum explained. “The DRAP has asked us to test Tibb-e-Unani medicines by European, British or US pharmacopoeia methods. More importantly, the herbs available in Pakistan are different from the ones available in Europe or USA.” He added that the Tibb-e-Unani formulations found no mention in European or US pharmacopoeias. “In such a scenario, how do they expect us to test our medicines by European standards?”

Moreover, DRAP requires Tibb-e-Unani, homeopathic and alternative medicine manufacturers to establish their own laboratories. A small testing laboratory would require an approximate investment of Rs40 to Rs50 million.  “How can a small manufacturer, with an annual turnover of less than Rs5 million, afford to make such a large investment?” he asked. He advised the government to establish a laboratory so that medicines could be tested there.

Herbalists believe that DRAP authorities should learn from India, where Ayurvedic and Unani medicines have been regulated for several decades. The effective mechanism has placed Ayurvedic medicines in the global market. Today, India is one of the largest exporters of traditional medicines and related products. DRAP authorities, instead of devising policies to encourage production and export of traditional medicines, are focused on closing down the industry, he lamented.

“It is feared that small manufacturers in the country will not be able to fulfill the requirements of the SRO-412,” said Hakeem Mukhtar Barkati, who has been associated with the Pakistan Tibbi Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Council (PTPMC) for the last 17 years and has been running his clinic in Liaquatabad since 1952. “Over 100,000 shopkeepers will be directly affected because of not getting the licence due to unnecessary restrictions,” he added.

The DRAP was formulated through an Act that was drafted and presented by Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan in the Senate in 2012. It was not active then, but now we are all set to implement it, said the prominent industrialist, Khan, at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club recently. Thereafter, the DRAP had published advertisements in newspapers, asking all medicines manufacturers to register their products by October 1, 2014.

“The manufacturers of Tibb-e-Unani, homeopathic and alternative medicines are unnecessarily worried as they are only being asked to register their medicines,” said the senator. The idea was to register all medicines in order to weed out unethical practices. The deadline has now ended but Senator Khan had no clue how many medicines were registered.

For Qayyum, however, the policies of DRAP were unfavourable for the traditional and herbal medicines industry. “Such policies will mean the end of traditional medicines and their place will be taken over by the multinational pharmaceutical industries,” he complained. The herbalists’ body has also filed a petition against the DRAP in the Sindh High Court.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Swimming free: Indus dolphin population on the rise, say experts

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 02:08


Despite facing threats such as industrial waste, sewage, illegal fishing and the addition of poisonous chemical to the water, the population of the Indus blind dolphin is said to be increasing in the River Indus.

According to the last survey done in 2011, the number of blind dolphins inhabiting the river between the Chashma and Kotri barrages was 1,505.

The Indus dolphin is a rare species of freshwater river dolphins found in the River Indus. According to experts, this sightless mammal uses echolocation, or biological sonar, for navigation and to hunt for food.

Imran Malik, the World Wildlife Fund’s senior project officer in Sukkur, told The Express Tribune that during the super-flood of 2010, most of the blind dolphin population was washed away towards the Kotri Barrage. He added that the life of these dolphins is endangered when it slips into an offshoot of the barrage – something they often do in search of food during the annual closure of the canals every January. “A couple of years ago, fishermen added poisonous chemicals to the river after the floods subsided, causing extensive damage to the marine life, especially the blind dolphin,” Malik explained. “After that, the WWF collaborated with the provincial wildlife and fisheries departments to launch an awareness campaign in this regard.”

According to Malik, there are 1,452 blind dolphins in the River Indus, out of which 96 were recorded between the Chashma and Taunsa barrages, 465 between the Taunsa and Guddu barrages, 857 between the Guddu and Sukkur barrages and 34 between the Sukkur and Kotri barrages. He added that only two dolphins were found between the Jinnah and Chashma barrages in the 2001 survey, so no survey was conducted here in 2011.

“Hot water released from the Guddu thermal power station, industrial waste released by factories in Ghotki district and Sukkur, the release of sewage by residents on the riverbanks and the addition of chemicals for fishing are the main threats faced by the dolphin here,” said Taj Mohammad Shaikh, the deputy conservator of the wildlife department in Sukkur. “The range between the Guddu and Sukkur barrages has been declared a protective area to shield the rare mammal.”

Shaikh claimed that the continuous awareness campaign had helped people learn about the importance of marine life, adding that no incidents of adding poisonous chemicals in the river or canals had been reported in the last two to three years.

“We don’t have modern techniques to count the dolphins, so a 10 per cent variance is acceptable; the WWF has also accepted the results of the wildlife department’s survey,” said Mir Akhtar Talpur, the in-charge of the Indus Dolphin Conservation Centre in Sukkur, explaining the difference between the WWF survey and the wildlife department survey.

According to Talpur, the blind dolphin has a lifespan of up to 30 years, reaching adolescence around the age of 7. Its breeding season lasts from April to June, he went on, and it carries its calf in the womb for nine to 10 months. The mother feeds the calf for three months, after which it starts hunting for food on its own, he said. He claimed that the biggest Indus dolphin rescued so far measured eight feet and two inches, weighing more than 100 kilograms.

“The policy of issuing fishing licences for a mere Rs110 for the entire year should be reviewed, because it is damaging marine life,” he believed. “When fishermen poison the water, it not only harms the larger fish such as the dolphins, but also kills juvenile fish and damages biodiversity.” He stressed the need to work together to save rare species from extinction.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Poor show: Teachers call for dissolution of PEC

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 01:05

RAWALPINDI: With the continuous poor performance of students in government schools, teachers and educationalists have turned to pin the blame on Punjab Examination Commission (PEC), demanding its dissolution.

The PEC, established back in 2005, was formed as an autonomous body which was to enhance performance of the teachers and students in the government schools through multi-dimensional assessment, analysis, research, observations and interviews, Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) provincial general secretary Rana Liaquat said.

“It had to train teachers and examine students’ learning achievements particularly of grade V and VIII on district, tehsil and union council level,” he added.

An official of the Rawalpindi education department, wishing not to be named, said PEC was to print papers, conduct examinations, prepare results, evaluate the result and make reports of students.

“It was supposed to compile an annual report highlighting weaknesses of students of every school on union council level,” he said adding that the PEC was then supposed to train teachers in the specific subject and appoint them in that specific school.

“But unfortunately, even after nine years neither has the commission prepared a report nor has it trained teachers,” he said.

Centralisation of PEC

The commission was established on the recommendations of a report prepared by foreign education consultants and bureaucrats. “The report suggested setting up an elementary board constituting of a team of technical staff comprising subject specialists, educationalists and researchers, who can collect data, analyse it and highlight the weaknesses on basis of the data,” the official said.

It was further decided that the authority would be devolved to districts where such teams would work but instead of devolving the power to district wings it decentralised the body and set up its office in Lahore by engaging teachers in the process as opposed to educationalists and researchers.

“This move undermined the main role of the PEC,” Dr Bashir Gondal, a retired educationist claimed saying that the data sent by teachers to the main office was assessed and show cause notices were issued for teachers performing badly.

“So to escape the departmental action, teachers have started changing the results in their favour,” he said. He said the data collected has no authenticity and cannot be used as provincial indicators. “If you don’t have authentic data, you cannot take a right decision,” he said.

Outer interference

Another blow to the commission was served by the undue political interference in the commission which forced the increase in seats for DMG group officers.

“Currently Nasir Iqbal Malik, a DMG group officer, heads the commission and gets a hefty salary of Rs0.3 million,” said that official. “Besides, officers from the same group have been appointed in the teachers training wing.” Dr Gondal revealed.

He said DMG officers have no know-how of education, about how schools are run, students’ psyche and teaching philosophy. He said only educationists, teachers and researchers in the field of education can assess, observe, and analyse student performance.

“The DMG officers are just giving presentations at donors’ meetings on the data which is collected by and compiled by lower staff of PEC,” he said.

Staff not regularised

The PEC staff comprises 25 members hired on contract in 2005-06. No recruitment has been made since then. “Now the provincial government has decided to increase the strength to 74 which is sanctioned this year but the decision has yet to be implemented,” the official said.

Shifting the responsibilities back to EDOs

Earlier, examination of grade V and VIII was conducted by district education departments. Every school would prepare its own papers, conduct examinations of the students, which was not helpful in collecting a uniform data and students and teachers’ weaknesses.

PEC’s responsibility was to print uniform papers and prepare results. But the PEC now has asked the EDOs to print papers, conducted examinations and prepare results. “If the job has to be done by EDOs there is no need for PEC,” said Dr Gondal.

PEC spends Rs550 million annually on examinations which is now conducted by the education department. Besides, around 2.7 million children appear across the province. The commission has prepared and sent a report to chief minister saying that everything was okay.

“Instead of highlighting faults and improving it performance, the commission has covered up its weaknesses,” said Dr Gondal.

PEC Chief Executive Officer Nasir Iqbal Malik was not available for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Border skirmishes: Pakistan offers to de-escalate tension with India

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 00:58


Pakistan has expressed its willingness for early restoration of ‘peace and tranquility’ along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary with India, as the two countries on Sunday again traded fire after a two-day hiatus.

As part of diplomatic efforts to defuse the situation, Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz spoke to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, according to a statement issued by the foreign ministry.

Aziz briefed the UN chief on the “frequency and intensity of unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing along the LoC and Working Boundary by Indian armed forces over the past few weeks. He underlined the need for early restoration of a ceasefire in the disputed territory.

Over a dozen Pakistani civilians have been killed, while many other injured since the clashes erupted between the two nuclear armed-neighbours on October 2. Both countries accuse each other for triggering the latest hostilities.

Aziz said Pakistan was fully united and determined to thwart any aggression, and had responded to India’s provocations with utmost restraint and responsibility. “India should be advised to adopt a mature and reasonable approach, and refrain its armed forces from acting irrationally,” he was quoted as saying in the foreign ministry statement.

The prime minister’s adviser said there must also be a way forward for resolving outstanding disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, in the interest of durable peace in the region.

He said peaceful settlement of disputes was a cardinal principle of the UN Charter to which Pakistan was deeply committed. “However, progress required cooperation of both sides. Rejecting bilateral dialogue and denying international engagement and legitimacy were unhelpful and counter-productive,” he emphasised. Aziz also underlined the important role of the United Nations to help address the situation and prevent further escalation.

Appreciating the work of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), Aziz noted that its role should be further strengthened to facilitate more effective monitoring and reporting of ceasefire violations.

The UN’s engagement would add to its credibility in managing crisis situations, he added. “The UN should not be inhibited by non-cooperation of one side.”

In his remarks, the UN chief expressed his concern over the escalation of violence along the LoC and deplored the loss of lives.  He emphasised the importance of both sides taking necessary steps to de-escalate the situation and resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations, the statement said.

While Aziz raised the issue with the UN chief, Indian forces again resorted to ‘unprovoked firing’ in Pukhlian sector on the Working Boundary near Sialkot.

Pakistan forces effectively responded to the Indian firing, says a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). According to Rangers’ officials, a civilian, Muhammad Khan, resident of Janglora village in Bajwat sector, received minor injury due to firing by India’s Border Security Force.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

MQM stages walkout from Sindh Assembly

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 00:20

KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmakers staged a walkout from the ongoing Sindh Assembly session on Monday in protest of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Express News .

Statements made by PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto — at the PPP rally in Karachi — criticising MQM chief Altaf Hussain prompted the Muttahida to quit the PPP-led coalition government.

Bilawal had also said Altaf and his party were responsible for ruining Karachi.

Earlier in the day, MQM lawmakers had submitted their resignations to  Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan.

The resignations were submitted under the leadership of senior MQM lawmakers Faisal Subzwari and Syed Sardar Ahmed to the Sindh governor at the Governor House, according to our correspondent Hafeez Tunio.

A meeting with the Sindh Assembly speaker has commenced in which MQM representatives are present.

Further, the MQM also submitted a separate application to the Sindh Assembly requesting the allotment of seats in the opposition bench.

Subzwari, while addressing the media, said, “We did not give any strong statement, but the MQM has faced enough verbal abuse.”

He also addressed the issues of Karachi, saying, ”Karachi is a city which faces significant problems, and the PPP has been unsuccessful in eliminating them.”

“The MQM had decided to join the Sindh government because urban areas were being ignored. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started the quota system, the ratio of the urban and rural widened,” Subzwari said in criticism of the PPP.

Khawaja Izharul Hassan of the MQM said, “The MQM has faith in negotiations. If we come into the government by winning the elections, we will only serve our people.”

“Local elections have never taken place in the history of PPP,” Hassan said while addressing the media.

The MQM on Sunday quit the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government in Sindh in protest of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s ‘unsavoury remarks’ about its chief Altaf Hussain at Saturday’s rally.

Sindh CM responds to MQM’s reaction

Responding to MQM’s criticism, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, while addressing the Sindh Assembly, spoke of his government’s achievements and said the provincial government is the first one to arrest militants.

“In Karachi over 250 PPP workers were killed, who killed them?” Shah questioned.

“We want Sindh to develop and there should be no differences or divisions in the province.”

Further, he questioned how many people have been inducted in the KMC and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board in a veiled allegation to MQM’s corruption.

“Our chairman even spoke of reconciliation to join hands and serve the nation,” the chief minister said, referring to PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech which offended MQM workers.

MQM criticises PPP leaders’ speeches

Muttahida leader Khawaja Izharul Hasan announced that his party has officially parted ways with the Pakistan Peoples party.

“We have requested the speaker to allot us seats on the opposition benches,” he said, while addressing the media in Karachi after walking out from the Sindh Assembly session.

Censuring PPP leaders’ speeches in the assembly, Hasan said, “The leaders did not respond to the issues raised by us and only spoke about the money they have spent on projects.”

“The chief minister should not talk about money spent on the projects but rather tell us where the projects are,” he said, adding, “No one in Sindh can see any development projects.”

Reiterating that they never spoke of the division of Sindh, Hasan said MQM chief Altaf Hussain has advised that administrative units should be made all over Pakistan.

The MQM leader reaffirmed the party’s support to the police and Rangers in the Karachi operation.

In response to Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah’s claim that 250 PPP workers have been killed in Karachi, Hasan pointed out, “PPP workers’ killings is the CM’s fault; he is responsible for home affairs.”

“Three sitting MPAs of the MQM have also been killed in CM Sindh’s tenure,” Hasan further said.

The party leader lashed out at Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, who said, in a veiled reference to the MQM, that some party members were responsible for supporting target killers. Hasan said that Memon was in fact responsible for making gangs and distributing weapons.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Public health: Measles fight hamstrung by resource crunch

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 04:17


The Balochistan government has been making tall claims about its renewed focus on health and education, yet it is dragging its feet over the release of its due share out of a total amount of Rs137 million needed to launch a campaign against measles.

This communicable disease has so far killed 13 children in Balochistan this year, while at least 480 cases have been reported across the province.

There has been no campaign against measles in Balochistan since 2012. And that campaign too was a poorly launched one that did not have the desired effect.

Predictably, there was an outbreak of measles in 2013. The disease killed 43 children and affected 789 others in 2013. There has been just 16 per cent coverage against the nine preventable diseases in the immunisation campaign across Balochistan to date.

According to the Balochistan Health Department, in merely 16 per cent children are fully immunized against the nine preventable diseases — measles tuberculosis, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, meningitis, hepatitis B, influenza and measles. The situation in Balochistan, compared to the other three provinces, is precarious.

In Balochistan, 111 children out of 1,000 live births die before reaching the age of five years, and 97 of these children die before reaching the age of one year. A majority of the children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.

The Global Alliance for Vaccine (GAVI) has committed to arrange 52 per cent of the share (for the present campaign that will cover children aged six months to five years, while the provincial government has to arrange 48 per cent of the share. But GAVI will withdraw its share if the government fails to allocate its due amount, reveal sources.

When The Express Tribune contacted the health department, it said that the government will release the amount soon, pointing out a funding crunch.

“The immunisation programme had been drastically affected after the 18th Amendment, because such programmes were funded earlier by the federal government, and ran under a project for a specific period,” said Health Secretary Arshad Bugti, adding that the international donors release funds after the government announces its share regarding immunisation campaigns.

He said that the law has been enacted in this regard and government will soon release the amount.

“The health department will soon launch an immunisation campaign against measles; there has been no campaign due to the lack of funding,” he told The Express Tribune.

Balochistan is the only province which could not arrange its share for measles campaign while the other three provinces have already allocated the amount.

The PC-1 was developed and submitted but has not been approved because the funds that had to be arranged from the non-development sector are not there.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistan urges UN to play role in defusing LoC tension

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 03:11

NEW YORK: Pakistan’s permanent representative to United Nations urged the body to play its role in defusing tension on the Line of Control (LoC), Radio Pakistan reported on Saturday. 

Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in New York today and informed him about the situation on LoC and the Working Boundary.

Khan urged UN to play its role to end ceasefire violations which have killed at least 12 Pakistanis since October 6.

Unprovoked Indian firing has triggered an exodus of people from the villages near the border.

Clashes occur regularly along the LoC as well as the Working Boundary. However, the latest shelling has been unusual in its intensity and frequency.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Power deal with China: Govt balks at plea for special payment guarantees

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 02:55

Hours before a high-level delegation is set to leave for China, Islamabad has turned down Beijing’s demand for extraordinary payment guarantees to protect its investment in the power sector.

The move follows Beijing’s reluctance to sign power purchase agreements due to the government’s inability to resolve the circular debt issue.

The decision to treat the Chinese investors at par with other investors was taken in a meeting of a Committee constituted by prime minister to resolve issues related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Power Projects.

Officials revealed that Beijing had requested a special reserve fund for its investors to pay them within 30 days of power purchase. The move was designed to stave off circular debt.

“The Committee was of the view that framework of investment in the power sector under the current power policy provides adequate guarantees for domestic and foreign investors on the basis of a level playing field,” a handout issued by the Ministry of Finance stated.

Officials further revealed the committee also rejected the demand of Chinese investors to waive off duties on imported coal that will be used to run the power plants. China is also demanding tax rebates, which is not acceptable to the government, they added.

The decision came hours before a Pakistani delegation is set to leave for Beijing to discuss the modalities of power purchase agreements ahead of PM Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China. The delegation is expected to convince Chinese investors to bring investment under the present regime, said the officials.

Clarifying the government’s position, a senior official of ministry of finance said “Except once, we have never defaulted on our obligations, therefore Chinese investors should not worry about payments of power purchases.”

He said the circular debt was because of delay in payments.

Pakistan offers one of the best investment regimes in the world but chronic energy shortages, security problems and red-tapism has kept the foreign investors at bay. Under the present investment regime, both the investment in power sector and rate of return are protected. China plans to setup about 10,000 megawatt power plants in Pakistan.

Earlier in a meeting, safeguarding the investment by foreign companies similarly was the priority of the government, he added.

Assuring the Chinese investors of a conducive environment, the minister said his country would continue to pursue investor-friendly policies, adding that energy projects were the prime feature of the Pak-China Corridor and would be facilitated in every possible manner.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Warming up: Aziz to visit Kabul to invite Afghan president

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 02:39


The prime minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will be visiting Kabul on Sunday to deliver a formal invitation to new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to visit Pakistan, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

Aziz, who would be visiting Kabul as a special envoy of the prime minister, would hold discussions with regard to the timing and preparations of the visit of the Afghan president, it added in a statement.

Aziz would also meet with the Afghan National Security Adviser and exchange views on bilateral and regional issues. According to the foreign ministry, the visit was part of Pakistan’s substantive engagement with the new Afghan leadership.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been tense over the past few months due to growing mistrust between the two neighbours on the issue of dealing with militant threat. With the formation of the new unity government in Kabul, Pakistan is hoping that relations between the two countries would normalise.

Meanwhile, at a weekly news briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam welcomed the recent development regarding CASA-1000 project, hoping the agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan would help further promote regional connectivity.

Talking about the ongoing tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary, the spokesperson urged India to sit on the negotiating table to discuss all bilateral disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Guardians of the sea: PM Nawaz vows to boost maritime defence

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 02:28


Pakistan desires peace and tranquillity both within and outside its borders to meet much-needed socio-economic development goals, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday.

At the inauguration ceremony of the new building of Pakistan Naval War College (PNWC) in Lahore, Sharif said, “Pakistan will never compromise on its sovereignty. We cannot afford to be distracted in fulfilling our national objectives.”

The premier added the country is going through defining moments in its history as its armed forces battle extremism and militancy. He expressed hope the naval college would continue to foster relations with foreign militaries by training officers from friendly countries and spreading maritime awareness amongst academic circles.

Lauding Pakistan Navy’s role in defending the country, Sharif said a well-equipped navy is integral for the country’s security and economic prosperity. “Despite  resource constraints, the government will work towards strengthening Pakistan’s maritime defence,” he added.

The PM further said sea routes are the jugulars of world trade and any disruption in the waters had the potential to disrupt global economy and impact global security. “We must always remain cognizant of our effective role in the maritime affairs of this region.”

Appreciating the navy’s indigenous construction of warships, Sharif said he said he felt proud of the force for taking the initiative of constructing large warships and potent fast attack crafts through the revival of the Karachi shipyard. He also praised the navy for developing a national maritime policy which is slated to be completed soon.

Speaking about his economic initiatives, Sharif said the government was working towards making Gwadar Port fully functional at the earliest and developing the Gwadar-Kashgar link, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor portfolio. According to Sharif, some of the most important projects include the construction of an airport, expressway link and a powerhouse in Gwadar.

Earlier, the PM unveiled the foundation plaque of the new PNWC building. The  83,254 square feet building has an auditorium, central hall, 10 syndicate rooms, five war-gaming rooms, three faculty clusters, two conference rooms, a library and several meeting rooms.

The inauguration was attended by Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, Punjab Chief Secretary Navid Akram Cheema and Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera.  

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

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