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Italy catches ‘top mafia fugitive’ after 20 years on the run

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 10:04

ROME: One of Italy’s most wanted mafia bosses was arrested on Sunday after two decades on the run, fleeing a life sentence for murder, the authorities announced.

Ernesto Fazzalari, 46, was captured in the early hours of the morning in an appartment in a remote part of the southern region of Calabria, home to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta organised crime syndicate.

Fazzalari was the second most-wanted mafia fugitive after “superboss” Matteo Messina Denaro, a suspected leader of the Sicilian mafia, Cosa Nostra.

On the run since 1996, Fazzalari was convicted in absentia in 1999 of mafia association, kidnapping, illegal possession of weapons and a double homicide linked to a bloody 1989-91 feud which left 32 people dead in his home town of Taurianova.

Decriminalising cannabis would hurt Islamic State, Mafia: Italy prosecutor

His arrest was hailed by the government as a significant victory for the state in its battle against what is now considered Italy’s most powerful mafia group.

“Thank you to the judges and the forces of order. Viva l’Italia,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wrote in a tweet.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano described Fazzalari as “one of the most important fugitives and a leading underworld figure.”

He added: “This shows that you cannot run from justice. These are the kind of victories that encourage and support us in the difficult but winnable fight against organised crime.”

Notoriously ruthless, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra thanks to the wealth it has amassed as the principal importer and wholesaler of cocaine produced in Latin America and smuggled into Europe via north Africa and southern Italy.

That trade is worth billions and previous police operations have indicated that the ‘Ndrangheta has well-established links with Colombian producer cartels, Mexican crime gangs and mafia families in New York and other parts of North America.

The organisation is made up of numerous village and family-based clans based in Calabria, the rural, mountainous and under-developed “toe” of Italy’s boot.

The name ‘Ndrangheta comes from the Greek for courage or loyalty and the organisation’s secretive culture and brutal enforcement of codes of silence have made it very difficult to penetrate.

A series of arrests in late 2014 and early 2015 confirmed that the organisation had expanded its Italian operations outside Calabria by buying up dozens of legitimate business across the wealthier north of the country, largely to launder cocaine profits.

Those arrests also providing an unprecedented glimpse into the group’s shadowy culture with police secretly filming a quasi-religious initiation ceremony in which new “wise brothers” swear an “oath of poison” in which they vow to kill themselves rather than betray a fellow clan member.

There are dozens of ‘NDrangheta fugitives still at large despite regular arrests in Italy and around the world.

One alleged don, Rocco Zito, 87, was shot dead in Canada in January, Switzerland arrested 15 convicted ‘Ndrangheta fugitives in March and last month the owner of a popular pizzeria in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen was unmasked as convicted Calabrian drugs smuggler Rocco Gasperini, 73.

Two mobsters who stayed in their homeland were arrested in January “living like animals” in a Calabrian mountain bunker with a cache of sub-machine guns, rifles and pistols.

Giuseppe Ferraro and Giuseppe Crea were hiding from gangster enemies as well as the authorities. In 2013 one of their associates, Francesco Raccosta, was killed by being fed alive to hungry pigs in revenge for his assassination of a rival boss.

The post Italy catches ‘top mafia fugitive’ after 20 years on the run appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistani bodybuilder hits back at critics after finishing fourth

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 09:07

Pakistani athlete Salman Ahmad, who clinched the Mr Musclemania title in Las Vegas last year, responded to his critics after he came fourth in Musclemania Pro competition on Saturday.

Ahmad said he felt disappointed at how his countrymen commented on social media after he failed to win the competition.

In a video message on his Facebook page, the athlete responded to his critics by saying that Pakistanis should support their fellow national, who is competing on an international stage.

“I did my best and worked hard to reach where I am today,” he said. “Not everyone knows what we go through when we maintain our diet carefully for six months at a time.”

Mr Musclemania’s dilemma: Abandon his passion or Pakistan?

However, Ahmad still thanked his supporters for their prayers and urged people not to hurt his image as he has worked hard towards building one.

“I would like to thank all those who prayed for me and supported me,” he said. “And, I can only request people back home to not tarnish my reputation and my image.”

Ahmad was alone in the crowd last year when he became the first Pakistani to win the Musclemania world bodybuilding title in Las Vegas, unable to afford an entourage of managers, coaches, promoters like his fellow competitors.

Pakistani bodybuilder crowned Mr Musclemania in Las Vegas

Apart from bodybuilding, he also holds a Masters in Human Resource Management from the University of Punjab.

The post Pakistani bodybuilder hits back at critics after finishing fourth appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Bus fire kills 30 in central China

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 08:40

BEIJING: At least 30 people were killed when a large bus burst into flames after crashing into the side of a road in central China on Sunday, state media said.

A total of 56 people were on board the bus which crashed in Hunan province, the official Xinhua news agency reported, suggesting casualties could rise.

21 injured passengers have been sent to hospitals, Xinhua said, adding that the driver of the bus had been detained.

Video posted online by state broadcaster CCTV showed thick black smoke billowing from the vehicle, as passengers appeared to stand nearby.

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Local officials believe that an oil leak caused by the bus crashing into a roadside guard rail may have caused the fire, Xinhua said.

The cause of the crash remained unclear.

Traffic accidents are common in China, with more than 250,000 people dying each year on the country’s roads, according to the World Health Organization.

Long-distance buses are popular in China as a cheap way of travelling between cities and competition between bus firms can be fierce.

China has seen repeated bus fires in recent years which have caused multiple fatalities.

At least 38 people were killed in 2014 when a van carrying inflammable liquid hit a bus on a highway in Hunan province, state media reported.

In 2010 a shuttle bus carrying steel factory workers in eastern China burst into flames, killing 24 passengers.

Several such incidents were deliberate arson attacks, according to officials.

An arsonist who injured more than 30 people by setting fire to a bus in the Chinese city of Hangzhou was executed last year, authorities said.

In 2013 a suicidal man started a fire on a vehicle in Xiamen in the eastern province of Fujian that killed 47 people, including himself.

There were no indications that the fire on Sunday was deliberate. Xinhua said rescuers were searching the charred frame of the bus.

The post Bus fire kills 30 in central China appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Islamic State fighters launch new attacks in eastern Afghanistan

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 08:28

JALALABAD, AFGHANISTAN: Heavy fighting between Afghan forces and Islamic State fighters has killed dozens of people, officials said Sunday, raising fears the militant group is staging a comeback months after Kabul said they had been defeated.

The fighting began late on Friday in the Kot area of the Rodat district in eastern Nangarhar province after a contingent of IS fighters attacked police check posts, provincial governor Salim Khan Kunduzi said.

The interior ministry in a statement said at least 18 fighters had been killed and more than 40 others wounded so far, though Kunduzi placed the number of IS fighters killed as high as 36 and said at least a dozen security forces personnel and civilians had also died.

Haqqani commander killed in Afghanistan  

Scores of people have been forced out of their homes, according to local officials.

IS fighters began making inroads into Afghanistan in late 2014, winning over sympathizers, recruiting followers and challenging the Taliban on their own turf, primarily in the country’s east.

But in March, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that the Islamists had been defeated following a months-long military operation.

The US military estimates between 1,000 and 3,000 IS fighters are in Afghanistan, mostly comprised of disaffected Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, as well as Uzbek militants and locals.

Earlier this month the US President Barack Obama ordered the US military tackle the resurgent Taliban more directly — in tandem with Afghan allies, ratcheting up a 15-year conflict he had vowed to end.

Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on ceasefire at Torkham border

On Saturday the US military carried out its first air strikes against Taliban targets under the newly approved rules, which mean US troops can now work more closely with local fighters in striking the Taliban.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the strikes occurred in southern Afghanistan, but he did not provide additional details.

The post Islamic State fighters launch new attacks in eastern Afghanistan appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Leonardo DiCaprio joins hands with Hindu nationalist group to ban beef

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 07:55

Leonardo Di Caprio’s star power is being used by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu nationalist group to ban beef.

The Chief of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat is all set to take the campaign to an international platform by organising a massive rally in the UK with more than ten thousand Hindus attending, and the Wolf of Wall Street star is in full support.

Leo giving a speech at the United Nations against carbon emissions. PHOTO: DAILYMAIL

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While the RSS’ step toward banning beef in India is driven by religious factors, DiCaprio’s concern is towards animal rights and the environment.

The Great Gatsby star has become an influential figure in raising awareness about the climate change crisis.

Leo being vegan, has also produced a new cut of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, which features how animal agriculture is a fundamental cause of environmental damage.

Leo has raised his voice on global issues at large. PHOTO: MTV

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Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin group and David Attenbourough, a naturalist are also joining hands with the RSS and will be attending the anti-beef movement alongside Leo.

The rally will take place at the golden jubilee event on July 31.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments. 

The post Leonardo DiCaprio joins hands with Hindu nationalist group to ban beef appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Opinion: Boring, boring Euro 2016

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 07:38

KARACHI: The first day of the round of 16 of this year’s European Championships highlighted the dark side of such competitions where the stakes are so high and the pressure is so immense that it forces teams to follow a Jose Mourinho-esque brand of football rather than the one which got these teams to the Euro finals in the first place.

While many would have hoped that the boredom was limited to the Wales v Northern Ireland match, they were in for a rude awakening as Portugal and Croatia literally made Louis van Gaal’s brand of football under Manchester United look like the best thing that ever happened to football.

Their match was the first game in any major competition since 1980 that did not see a single shot on target in normal time, while Wales needed an own goal by Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley to get past the round of 16.

PHOTO: AFP

Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in Euro 2016 last 16

The most excitement anyone got on the day was from the spirited Switzerland side, who propelled by the industrious Xherdan Shaqiri, gave Poland a run for their money and had it not been for Granit Xhaka’s missed penalty, the party in Switzerland would not have stopped till the quarter-finals this weekend.

Poland took the lead in the 39th minute through Jakub Blaszczykowski and what a deserved lead that was as the Poles had played remarkably well throughout the first half. Except for the confused skipper Robert Lewandowski, who could be forgiven for maybe trying to do too much, the entire Poland team was having the game of their lives. They were confident on the ball, were passing well and even got the goal to show for their efforts.

Simply put, they were well above their Swiss counterparts in terms of the quality of football they were displaying and had no reason to adopt the ‘park the bus’ strategy they adopted in the second half.

Euro 2016: Poland beat Switzerland on penalties

The result of this anti-footballing strategy? A hapless display by Poland, who by opting not to play their natural brand of football, gave Switzerland the chance to get comfortable on the ball and really dictate the game.

While it can be argued that the Swiss found the equaliser through Shaqiri’s individual brilliance and that had it not been for that otherworldly strike Poland would have gone on to win in normal time, this can’t be farther from the truth.

PHOTO: AFP

The Swiss were getting closer to finding the net and would have found it based on the sheer determination and quality football they were displaying.

The Poles could have avoided that had they opted to play their brand of football but instead they chose to follow a tried and tested path for success, the Greek way of getting their hands on a major trophy.

While this strategy may certainly achieve results, it is incapable of leaving behind a legacy.

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The same was the case in the Portugal-Croatia game where both sides were comfortable with letting the other team play with the ball while they sat back and waited for a mistake from their opponents for an opportunity to counter.

The point is that both Croatia and Portugal have enough quality at their disposal too woo everyone with their game. Yet, their respective managers opted to not fully utilise their team’s talents and the result was one of the worst footballing displays in recent history.

This year’s European Championships have provided some breathtaking moments of football but they have been extremely rare. Teams are more interested in playing the ‘Beautiful Game’ with a more chess-like mindset, based on moves and counter moves, rather than the way it was meant to be played — pervaded with passion, determination and a desire to enthral all.

The post Opinion: Boring, boring Euro 2016 appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Khabardar’s Naseer Bhai passes away

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 07:32

Famous TV personality Naseer Bhai, who was associated with Express News’ programme Khabardar, has passed away.

According to Express NewsMuhammad Naseer, also known as the ‘music encyclopedia of songs produced between 1950 and 1980’, had been ill for some time and was moved to a Lahore-based hospital where he died during treatment on Sunday.

Khabarnaak fame , the adorable ' Naseer Bhai' has passed away. Please say a little prayer for him. #Devastated

— Maria Memon (@Maria_Memon) June 26, 2016

Ohhh naseer bhai surely I will miss you had a quality time spent with you in past Inalila ee waaa ina elh rajioon.. pic.twitter.com/cCdXFqWyQu

— ZainabJamil (@ZainabJamilReal) June 26, 2016

The 61-year-old host was famous for his sharp memory of vintage movie songs, producers, singers and other relevant information.

Muhammad Naseer: The man who knows Indo-Pak film music like the back of his hand

Naseer Bhai was more than just another face on television. Having memorised the lyrics of all Indian and Pakistani songs produced between 1950 and 1980, he was indeed a veritable encyclopedia of nearly three decades worth of music.

In an interview with The Express Tribune, he had revealed “I worked as a song recorder for nearly four decades to earn a living. This was during a time when there were no radios or tape recorders,” recalled Naseer, “I was young back then and my memory was quite sharp.”

Rest in Peace, Naseer bhai.

The post Khabardar’s Naseer Bhai passes away appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

French court rejects drug suspect’s bail payment in hundreds of smelly banknotes

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 07:28

A suspected drugs dealer facing trial in France tried to pay his half-million-euro ($559,000) bail in cash – but he ended up back behind bars after prosecutors objected to a payment in 1,000 banknotes smelling of glue.

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A public prosecutor explained to the court in Lyon his surprise when 29 people turned up to produce the payment on the suspect’s behalf in envelopes filled with large-denomination banknotes.

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The 30-year-old suspect was ordered back to jail until his trial in September on drug dealing charges, despite his lawyer’s plea that the bail order did not stipulate payment had to be made by cheque.

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The attempted payment prompted the court to order a separate money-laundering inquiry. It was not clear whether the banknotes would be returned to those who proffered them.

The post French court rejects drug suspect’s bail payment in hundreds of smelly banknotes appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Junooniyat: Nothing to be obsessed about

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 07:27

Junooniyat is a lackluster, oft-seen love story, which offers no freshness and not even the zing expected in a romance. It thus appears boring and mediocre.

Captain Jahan Bakshi (Pulkit Samrat), while on an investigative operation, meets a college student Suhaani (Yami Gautam) from Amritsar, who is swimming in a restricted area.

PHOTO: DNAINDIA.COM

Several scenes later, the inevitable happens. They fall in love. Predictable? Extremely. And that is the downfall of Vivek Agnihotri’s love saga Junooniyat. It is not even handled in an unusual or interesting manner to give a fillip to an ordinary story. On the contrary it smacks of amateurishness.

There is no element of surprise, no interesting twists and not even a heart-wrenching love story which tugs at your heart strings. The opposition to their love story seems weak and inconsequential. The couple is sensible, practical and perhaps the very antithesis of what lovers should be.

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Their “junooniyat” or obsession is clearly missing. There is no madness in their love story and consequently, no magic.

With the quintessential ingredients of weddings, railway platform scene, “runaway bride”, songs and the archetypical Army guy, Junooniyat becomes tedious to watch. There is a feeling of deja vu throughout.

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The screenplay too is a staid fare, with songs thrown in intermittently, to make it seem frothy and entertaining, and to showcase the romance, but it fails to uplift the film. It is lazily crafted, and the characters are flimsy and lack depth.

The dialogues, touted to be full of poetry as well, seem bland and uninspiring.

The direction by Vivek Agnihotri disappoints, as it appears staged and theatrical. It is almost formulaic, as if set in a mould.

PHOTO: INDIANEXPRESS.COM

Pulkit Samrat walks through his role of the Captain in the Army, adding nothing to his character. It is almost as if you are watching a stereotypical Army guy of Bollywood – well mannered, suave and confident. Perhaps he cannot be blamed for the lack of originality in writing.
Yami Gautam too breezes through Suhaani effortlessly, as it is her oft-seen avatar. After her promising debut film, she sadly seems to have fallen into a rut of standard, one-dimensional roles.

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Gulshan Devaiah as the NRI Yash Khurana, is competent and delivers. His delivery of “Hey, you crying, any dukh?” elicits a chuckle.

Hrishitaa Bhatt as Mishti, is her usual self, adding nothing to her character.

The music offers nothing spectacular, in spite of a medley of songs on various occasions.

With moderate production values, the sets and production designs seem forged.

Overall, Junooniyat is bland, insipid fare which would not even appeal to die-hard romantics.

The post Junooniyat: Nothing to be obsessed about appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Unrest in Balochistan: Restoring peace top priority, says Zehri

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 06:52

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri on Saturday said his government was giving top priority to restoring peace and fighting back all acts of terrorism with full force.

Winding up debate on the annual budget on the floor of the Balochistan Assembly, the chief minister said law and order had improved markedly. He said his government would not bow down before terrorists and vowed “to fight back to defeat the forces of terror.”

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“We will not be blackmailed,” Zehri told the house with a firm voice. He said the provincial government would not allow negative forces to gain ground in any field and “we will frustrate their evil designs,” adding that the government is ready to pay any cost for restoring public order.

Zehri thanked the opposition for ending their boycott and participating in the budget debate extensively. The chief minister said he was committed to take along all forces, including the opposition, during the remaining tenure of his government in a spirit reconciliation and democracy.

He said when he took over, there was a sense of insecurity in the province. “However, gradually we have brought the situation under complete control.” “Target killings have been eliminated,” the chief minister informed the house with confidence. He said there were some incidents here and there, but they had no impact on the overall law and order situation.

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Referring to the provincial budget, Zehri said his government had presented a best and balanced budget. “We prepared the budget while remaining within out limited resources,” he added.

Referring to rural development, the chief minister said the government had allocated Rs1 billion each to all divisional headquarters for uplift and the district headquarters were given Rs200 million each for development and improving basic services and facilities.

He expressed serious concern over the rising cost of administration or non-development expenditure, listing some of the major expenses on the non-development sector.

Malik demands Rs500b for Balochistan

Former Balochistan chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, terming the annual budget good, urged the federal government to announce a Rs500 billion special package for speedy economic development of the province.

Speaking on the floor of the provincial assembly during the budget discussion, the National Party’s parliamentary leader applauded Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and his team for presenting a good budget.

“Balochistan has a share of Rs40-50 billion in the Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) that is not enough for its economic growth. They should announce a Rs500 billion package for Balochistan,” Dr Malik said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Boy accidentally shoots sister in DI Khan

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 23:33

DI KHAN: A nine-year-old girl died after she was accidentally shot by her brother in Shor Kot village of DI Khan on Wednesday.

A police official told The Express Tribune eight-year-old Rizwan was playing with his father Ramazan’s pistol and accidentally pulled the trigger. As a result, his older sister Aqsa Bibi was hit by a bullet and died.

“At this stage, it is difficult to conclude what exactly happened,” the police official said. “However, initial reports suggest it was an accident.”

Separately, two people were shot dead while another was injured during an exchange of fire between members of two rival families in Shah Alam area of Wana in South Waziristan Agency.

An official of political administration told The Express Tribune two people died while a passer-by was injured. “The incident was triggered by a land dispute,” he said.

Snappy jaws

In another incident, a dog bit a woman and her daughter in Kari Khaisur village of DI Khan. A resident of the village told The Express Tribune, a woman and her six-year-old daughter were attacked by a dog at their house. They were administered first-aid and subsequently shifted to the hospital.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Raw material: Tractor industry calls for cut in import duty

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:34

LAHORE: The government’s decision to reduce the general sales tax to 5% on tractors was a longstanding demand of the tractor industry and farmers, said Al-Ghazi Tractors CEO Mohammad Shahid Hussain, adding the reduction would go a long way in reviving the tractor industry.

He said the step would help the farmers with an increase in farm mechanisation. The decision to reduce sales tax will spur growth and stabilise the industry by increasing sales and securing jobs.

Sales tax revisions in the past have been a major issue for the tractor industry. Since its imposition, Pakistan recorded a negative growth in terms of tractor sales in the last five years.

However, Hussain revealed that the industry had given further suggestions, which needed to be adopted and the overall situation should be made conducive for the tractor industry and positive for sustainable growth, thus ensuring the desired mechanisation at farms.

One of the suggestions is related to the anomaly between input tax and output tax.

To solve the outstanding issue, the CEO said they had made suggestions in their budget proposals calling for a reduction in the rate of input tax on the purchase of components (local and imported) by tractor manufacturers to match the output rate.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Dichotomy: Rift with Kabul linked to ‘dual policy’, says Babar

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:30

ISLAMABAD:  

Dichotomy in state policy towards militants has brought Afghanistan and Pakistan close to a dangerous collision, said PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.

Speaking at a seminar on Pak-Afghan relations on Wednesday, he said that Pakistan refuses to acknowledge that the Taliban ideology on both sides of the Durand Line is to destroy modern state structures.

“We pretend that while Afghan Taliban are trying to drive out foreign forces the Pakistani Taliban are seeking to destroy the state itself,” he said. It is this dichotomy in state policy that has led the two closest neighbours on the path of dangerous collision.

“Of course, Molvi Fazlullah must be neutralised, but so must the successors of Mullah Mansoor in Pakistan,” he said.

The successors of Mullah Mansoor are more likely to be found in well-secured compounds in Quetta than in the refugee camps.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Govt likely to present own bill on honour killing

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:29

ISLAMABAD: The government has hinted at presenting its own legislation on honour killings after a similar bill introduced in the previous government was allowed to lapse.

“The government is planning to make the state the plaintiff of the victims of honour killing, as opposed to a family member,” said Federal Minister for Human Rights Kamran Michael during an interaction with journalists on Wednesday.

In 2014, former Senator Sughra Imam of the PPP had tabled the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2014, which aimed to make the crime non-compoundable so that a convicted person could not escape culpability by being ‘forgiven’ by the victim.

The bill was passed by the Senate in March 2015 but lapsed in the National Assembly later that year. This year, the bill was taken up by Senator Farhatullah Babar on behalf of the former senator in the joint session of parliament but the session was overshadowed by the controversial PIA bill.

Earlier in the press conference, the minister said the government had taken notice of the growing incidents of honour killings and violence against women and the Ministry of Human Rights was undertaking various administrative and policy initiatives.

“[These include] formulation of national policy guidelines on gender-based violence, establishment of new crisis centres for women and standardization of existing services at district level, legislation of Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013 and effective operationalisation of Women in Distress and Detention Fund,” he added.

He said presently Family Protection and Rehabilitation Centre for Women (FPRCW) is working to protect women against all kinds of violence and discrimination and offering free medical aid, free legal aid, psycho-social counseling as well as a shelter home to support victims of violence.

“The ministry is also conducting studies to review all discriminatory legislation against women,” he added.

He said a comprehensive programme to raise awareness on human rights issues, focused on the rights of women, children, minorities and persons with disabilities, has been finalised with a budgetary support of Rs250 million in the financial year 2016-17.

Michael said a Plan of Action on Human Rights was approved by prime minster in February 2016, under which a National Task Force with federal and provincial representation has been notified. “This task force will soon review the implementation status of the action plan,” he added.

He mentioned a helpline (1099) that has been made functional to offer legal advice and redressal assistance to victims of human rights violations.

“National Commission for Human Rights is also functioning with a broad mandate under the NCHR Act, 2012 which provides the commission powers to take suo moto action on the incidents of human rights violations,” he added.

The minister pointed out that the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act,2016 has been recently enacted, increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven years to 10 years.

“Meanwhile, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Child Protection Bill, 2016, providing protection and care to children in the ICT from all forms of physical or mental abuse, National Commission on the Rights of the Child Bill, 2015 and the Juvenile Justice System Bill, 2016  for social-reintegration of the child offenders, are under process of legislation,” he added.

About international commitments, he said Pakistan has ratified seven core Human Rights Conventions and efforts are underway for implementation of Core Human Rights Conventions at the grassroots level.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Karachi operation: Rangers vow indiscriminate action

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:26

KARACHI: Following the attack on Qawwal Amjad Sabri and the abduction of Sindh High Court Chief Justice’s son, the paramilitary Rangers have announced strict indiscriminate action against all terrorists and militant wings involved.

While the Rangers are busy in Karachi operation, the force sees the need of greater efforts to control the law and order in the port city. In a high-level meeting at the Rangers Headquarters in Karachi on Wednesday evening, the recent law and order situation in the city was reviewed.

According to a Sindh Rangers spokesperson, Director General  Rangers Major-General Bilal Akbar and other senior commanders decided to undertake comprehensive investigations into the recent incidents of terrorism and target killings in the city.

During that meeting, it was resolved that strict and indiscriminate action will be taken against terrorist and militant wings [of political parties] involved in the incidents,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Meeting in Prague: Czech wants Pakistan to train officers

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:24

RAWALPINDI: The Czech Republic has expressed an interest in Pakistan Army training its officers.

This was expressed in a meeting between Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and senior Czech government and military leaders.

Gen Raheel Sharif landed in Prague on Wednesday on a day-long visit of the Czech Republic.

According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, upon arriving at the Czech Defence Ministry, Gen Raheel was presented with a guard of honour. The army chief then held separate meetings with the Czech Chief of General Staff General Josef Becvar and Deputy Defence Minister Jakub Landovsky.

“Issues of mutual interest, military-to-military [relations] and defence cooperation were discussed,” Lt Gen Bajwa said. Both the Czech CGS and deputy defence minister expressed special interest in training of their officers by the Pakistan Army.

Gen Raheel had stopped over in Prague after completing a two-day tour of Germany. The visits follow similar visits to Pakistan by the Czech CGS earlier in 2016.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

No country for young men

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:11

Last year, in a study published by columnist Felix Marquardt, Pakistan was named among nations which are considered the ‘worst’ for people under the age of 25. Using data from organisations such as the World Bank, UNESCO and OECD, the team of researchers used 59 indicators to rank 64 countries based on surveys on optimism among the youth, measuring health, educational opportunities and access to employment.

The result seemed hardly surprising as Pakistan ranked among the worst alongside Russia, Egypt, Brazil, Mali and South Africa, whereas Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands were classed as youth-friendliest countries. Still, many argue about the results of the study itself and demand a clearer picture of the parameters used in it.

Generally, it is a positive approach to critically scrutinise studies, rather than taking them at face value. However, we don’t really require a study to look at how bad things are for young people here. For someone like me, who falls in the same age bracket as the study, all I have to do is look around at my peers to find the answers. And ironically enough, there aren’t many people to look towards because most of my classmates, friends, and colleagues have already left the country.

A year on since graduation, most of my university friends are either already living abroad or are in the process of leaving for someplace else. Most of them are doing this for higher education because for those who want to pursue higher studies, going abroad is the best option. With a plethora of fields available for students and opportunities for tuition funding in places like the United States and Germany, there hardly seems any point in staying back in Pakistan.

And for those opting for employment here, we find that there is a general lack of job opportunities, and even then, a lack of chances of growth within an organisation, if we are lucky enough to find work.

These problems might seem trivial now with the country embroiled in issues of security and corruption, however, the future of Pakistan would be bleak if they are not addressed in a timely manner – before there are no educated and competent future generations left to serve the nation.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

 

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

No headway in search for top judge’s son

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:09

KARACHI: It’s been two days since the lawyer son of Sindh’s top judge was ‘kidnapped’ from a posh neighbourhood of the provincial metropolis. Police are as clueless as they sound, though a massive search is under way for Advocate Avais Ali Shah, the son of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. Advocate Avais was seized in broad daylight by four gunmen from outside Agha’s Supermarket in Clifton Monday noon.

Incensed by the ‘kidnapping’ and subsequent failure to locate Advocate Avais, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah suspended SSP District South Dr Muhammad Farooq and Clifton SP Amjad Hayat. Though no reason was cited for the suspension of the two senior police officials, a source said they had been informed about the kidnapping on time, but they didn’t order immediate action. Interestingly, SSP Dr Farooq is also part of a nine-member special team, investigating the kidnapping.

Meanwhile, law enforcers have stepped up the search which has so far yielded the arrest of nearly 50 suspects. They haven’t been able to trace a white-coloured Axio car believed to have been used by the kidnappers donning police caps.

Speculations are rife that Advocate Avais might have been kidnapped by outlawed militant or sectarian extremist groups. And investigators say they are questioning some terror suspects in custody to find a possible clue. “We are also questioning the Da’ish-inspired group of Saad Aziz because we believe some offshoot of this group might have kidnapped Advocate Avais to avenge (the arrest and conviction of) their accomplices,” one official privy to the investigation told The Express Tribune.

Investigators believe the ‘kidnappers’ might have shifted Advocate Avais outside Karachi or that they are continuously changing locations. The Sindh police chief has sought help from his counterparts in other provinces. He said eyewitnesses didn’t report the incident to police on time.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

 

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistan questions US commitment to Afghan peace process

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:05

ISLAMABAD: Questioning America’s commitment to the Afghan peace process, Pakistan warned that those seeking a renewed recourse to military-oriented solution need to think through its consequences.

“Is it (US) ready to invest in war rather than peace in Afghanistan?” asked Pakistan’s Ambassador to United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi while speaking in the quarterly debate on Afghanistan at the UN Security Council (UNSC) in New York on Wednesday.

She condemned the May 21 US drone strike in Naushki district of Balochistan which killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, describing it as an ‘unacceptable and blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and of the UN charter and international law’.

The ambassador also reacted sharply to allegations made by the Afghan representative, calling these unjustified, untrue and gratuitous.

Lodhi, instead, pointed out how the international community was well aware of, and has acknowledged, Pakistan’s contribution and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

While expressing Pakistan’s readiness to support a genuine Afghan peace process, Lodhi warned that her country will not tolerate violations of its sovereignty and its territorial integrity, “from whatever source”.

She demanded to know whether the international community wants negotiated peace or a military solution in Afghanistan.

Referring to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report on Afghanistan, the Pakistani envoy said it reinforces the firm international consensus that, ‘Only by a negotiated political agreement will Afghans achieve sustainable peace’.

She reiterated that based on this belief in a negotiated peace, and in response to requests from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan agreed to facilitate the first-ever direct peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Afghan Taliban in Murree in June 2015.

Calling these talks a ‘promising start’, Ambassador Lodhi regretted that days before the second round, in which the two sides were to also consider a de-escalation of violence, the talks were scuttled by leaking reports of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar’s death.

Ambassador Lodhi also pointed to Pakistan’s concerted efforts that led to the establishment of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in which Afghanistan, the US, China and Pakistan tried to revive Afghan peace efforts.

This process, Ambassador Lodhi lamented, was undermined by last month’s US drone attack.

This strike, she said, dealt “a blow to the Afghan peace process” and added to the intensity and complexity of the Afghan conflict.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

NA passes budget with majority vote

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 21:03

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday passed spending bill of Rs4.4 trillion in addition to amending tax laws while also offering bonanza to parliamentarians in shape of increase in their salaries.

After a marathon debate spanning over two weeks, the lower house of parliament passed Budget 2016-17 with a majority vote. The house also passed Rs261 billion supplementary budget that the government spent beyond the statutory limit set by the National Assembly for the outgoing fiscal year.

The government rejected every single amendment proposed by the opposition parties particularly on excluding Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act from the finance bill. However, the government said it had incorporated the proposals of upper house of parliament.

“This budget is a continuation of our economic journey and our next target is to enhance the GDP growth rate,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said in his concluding remarks after the passage of the bill.

The minister did not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to his leadership particularly Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who underwent a heart surgery last month and presided over mandatory cabinet meeting through video link.

Though majority of the MPs were least interested in the laborious proceedings, they were united when it came to increase in their salaries. Dar said the issue would be taken up with the prime minister upon his return in line with the recommendations of the standing committee and consensus of the house.

In this regard, amendment in finance bill has been moved which empowers the “government to revise salaries and allowance of the MPs through a notification.”

Dar also responded to the points raised by the opposition particularly the PPP over delay in the NFC award. He justified the delay by saying that there was also an instance when an NFC award remained in place for 17 years.

The minister urged for the opposition’s support while saying, “You will have to agree with us that we will make the life of non-filers difficult.”

He said the rationale of provinces about the Input Tax on purchases of raw material was not justified as they are not ready to pay but eager to get if Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has to make them payments. The provinces would have to behave themselves, he added.

He said the ratio of direct taxes was 42.4 per cent and that the withholding tax was also a direct tax. “I will not withdraw withholding tax,” he insisted.

China-Pakistan Corridor

Responding to concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Dar clarified once again that $35 billion out of $45 billion would be spent on electricity projects by private sector.

Dar said the secret behind success of India, China and Singapore was Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), adding that

Swiss Accounts

The minister clarified that he never said that the $200 billion of Pakistanis sitting in Swiss banks would be brought back to help end all the issues the country is facing.

“We should keep in mind what happened with the United States and other countries in such cases. The Swiss never returned them their money,” he added.

However, he said, in addition to bilateral talks with Swiss authorities, government was trying to join the OCED—a multilateral treaty of which around 100 countries are signatory. “This treaty will exchange information with the member countries and it will start functioning from July 2017,” he said.

Earlier, the opposition demanded increase in direct taxes and to end indirect taxes including withholding taxes besides seeking inclusion of the rich in tax net.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016. 

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Categories: Pakistan & World News