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Updated: 5 days 17 hours ago

Interpol nets key suspect in deadly Baldia factory fire

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 23:40

KARACHI: Interpol and Thailand police have arrested Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, who is suspected of starting a devastating factory fire in Karachi four years ago that killed dozens of workers. A former sector in-charge of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Rehman had reportedly jumped ship earlier this year to join the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP).

Abdul Rehman, 46, was detained at a hotel in the red light district of Nana in Bangkok on Friday evening, said Thailand’s Interpol chief. “Thai Interpol tracked this suspect following an arrest warrant sought by the Pakistani authorities,” Major General Apichart Suriboonya told AFP. “He will be repatriated as soon as Pakistan is ready,” he added.

Main suspect behind Baldia factory fire arrested in Bangkok

Some 260 workers were burnt to death when a fire swept through the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. Initially, the fire was believed to be an accident, but the case took a dramatic turn on February 7, 2015 when the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) claimed that the MQM was behind the deadly conflagration.

Quoting MQM worker Rizwan Qureshi, also a suspect in the case, the JIT said that a ‘well-known party senior official’ had asked the factory owner for Rs200 million in extortion though his frontman in August 2012 and when the owner refused, his factory was burnt down.

The report, submitted to the Sindh High Court in February 2015, said Qureshi on June 22, 2013 had also spoken about the alleged role of two other suspects – Abdul Rehman and Hammad Siddiqui – in the fire. Fearing their arrest, Rehman and Siddiqui had fled to Dubai in December 2013.

Rehman’s wife and police confirmed that after fleeing the country, the two suspects had stayed together for a year. However, when the report containing their names as ‘extortionist who set the Ali Enterprises garment factory on fire over non-payment of money’ surfaced, they parted ways.

“Rehman moved to Malaysia where he lived until recently,” his wife, Samina Bano, told The Express Tribune by phone. “I don’t know where he [Siddiqui] went. My husband never talked about him.”

She said that around a month ago her husband moved to Thailand ‘in search of work’. “We [the family] were in contact with him through the internet. On Friday, we heard the news that he was arrested. We called the hotel he was staying in and they confirmed the arrest.”

Baldia factory fire case: JIT member summoned again by ATC

Though Rehman and Siddiqui were not formally wanted in the case at the time they went abroad but a source said they had come to know about the incriminating statement of Qureshi, which actually became the basis for their implication.

Karachi police chief AIG Mushtaq Mehr told The Express Tribune that Rehman would extradited in a couple of days. “A team will leave for Thailand after completing necessary legal formalities,” he said.

Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said those involved in the deadly fire would not be spared and would be smoked out from wherever they were hiding. “The Baldia factory fire was one of the worst incidents that have ever taken place in the city in which innocent male and female labourers were burnt alive,” he said in a statement.

PSP denies Rehman is a member

According to his wife, Abdul Rehman had joined the PSP. “He joined the party from outside the country after its formation in March,” Bano said. However, the PSP denied Rehman was its worker.

PSP Chairman Mustafa Kamal told media in Lahore that his party had nothing to do with the person arrested in Bangkok. The party also dismissed a membership form containing his picture, name and other details as fake. (With additional input from AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Sick while flying: CAA chief visits Saudi pilot

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:19

Civil Aviation Authority Director General Air Marshal (retd) Asim Suleiman along with Air Vice Marshal Usaid Ur Rehman Usmani, Additional DG CAA, visited Captain Khatab Nawaf of Saudi Arabian Airlines at Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. The delegation presented a bouquet to the pilot. The pilot of the Saudi Airline got sick while flying over Pakistan from Lucknow to Jeddah and had made an emergency landing of flight number SV 891 at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Lack of maintenance: No duty roster for road workers in K-P

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:18

PESHAWAR: More than 2,200 workers assigned for road maintenance across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are working without a proper attendance mechanism and duty schedule.

The issue came up at a recent meeting of the communication and works department.

According to the minutes of the Nov 16 meeting, the chairman and adviser to the chief minister on C&W affairs Akbar Ayub Khan was briefed about issues left unaddressed over the past many years.

The meeting was attended, among others, by C&W Secretary Muhammad Asif Khan, Chief Engineer Central Muhmmad Ayub Khan, Chief Engineer East Ijaz Ahmad Ansari, Superintending Engineer Headquarters North Ghulam Yazdani, Director of Planning and Development Shakir Habib and Executive Engineer Highways Division Aziz Khatak.

Documents obtained by The Express Tribune showed that a large number of these workers, known as ‘road repair men’, were working in offices and houses of both serving and retired government officers.

“The absence of road repair men is creating an embarrassing situation and road edges and kerbs and drains are not being maintained properly, creating problems for the public,” the minutes of the meeting quoted the chairman as saying.

Subsequently, official attending the meeting decided that no maintenance workers would be allowed to work for government officers and all such repair men and workers would be recalled to join their original duties.

“Salaries of those who fail to rejoin their duties should be withheld … Their services should be terminated after serving show-cause notices on them.”

Road inspectors were also asked to ensure proper attendance of such workers or else they would face strict disciplinary action.

The meeting agreed to prepare fresh lists of road porters that should be submitted with the office of the secretary C&W. “The lists must contain biographical data of the porters.”

Furthermore, it was decided that funds would be released for providing uniforms and tools for the road repair workers.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Online management: K-P has 1,340 IT labs in schools

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:17

PESHAWAR: There are currently 1,340 IT labs in schools across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the provincial government has introduced an online management system in schools, the provincial minister for elementary and secondary education said on Saturday.

Muhammad Atif Khan was addressing an e-conference at the Sarhad University Peshawar. Previously, the number of IT labs in educational institutions stood at 179.

He also said that the provincial government had introduced an online action plan for ensuring teachers’ attendance.

Highlighting the PTI government’s efforts for initiating information technology education in educational institutions, he said that modern education was essential for ushering in an era of prosperity.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, he said, has assigned the highest priority to education, adding that it had achieved a record number of achievements in this field.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Workers’ convention: Altaf has a history of inflammatory remarks

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:14

KARACHI: Altaf Hussain’s August 22 speech was not the first inflammatory address made by the MQM founder, senior deputy convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-Pakistan) Amir Khan said on Saturday. Altaf had made similar declarations before as well, he claimed.

Amir, who bolstered MQM-Pakistan’s stance over disavowal of the party founder for making controversial remarks, lashed out at the leadership in London for creating hurdles in their way.

Speaking to a general workers’ convention in New Karachi, he said that Dr Sattar’s August 23 step had saved the party from being banned because anti-Pakistan slogans and seditious remarks were unacceptable. “We can’t tolerate such remarks,” he maintained.

Criticising Wasay Jalil, Mustafa Azizabadi, Muhammad Anwar and others leading MQM’s London faction, he said that they were unable to withstand hard times. He said that Jalil had fled abroad a day after the MQM headquarters was raided by Rangers last year. “(Jalil) is a social media king though,” he remarked.

Accusing Azizabadi of reaping financial gains for himself and his family, he said that he was the biggest ‘courtier’ of all times. “He owns tens of houses in a row in Landhi while his brother is an employee at Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.”

He said that Anwar through his brother, Chunnu Mamoo, a fugitive wanted by the authorities in land grabbing and terror financing cases, acquired millions from ‘china-cutting’ schemes in the city. “And they call us [MQM-Pakistan] traitors.”

Abuse of power admitted

Admitting that the party misused the power it enjoyed during the Musharraf regime, he said: “People feared us because of this abuse of power, people feared going to the party’s sector and unit offices as if they were going to police stations.”

He said that party workers who visited MQM-Pakistan’s programmes to further the pro-London agenda may continue to do so. “We do not need to answer them.”

He also urged his colleagues and party activists to mend their ways and focus on making Karachi a better place to live.

He said that party workers who did not agree with MQM-Pakistan’s policies should stop following them. “We are not like Pak Sarzameen Party which forces people to join it,” he said, adding that soon the chapters of PSP and Haqiqi would be shut down.

According to him, some people wanted to create a clash on December 9 – the day the party commemorates as Youm-e-Shuhada. “We will not visit Yadgar-e-Shuhada if the authorities do not allow us.”

Dr Sattar agreed with his assertions and said that elements who wanted to split MQM should realise that it “was and will always remain a single unit”.

Reminding the audience that the authorities had resorted to similar tactics in 1992, but they failed to execute their plan.

MQM-Pakistan, he said, would secure “more National Assembly and Sindh Assembly seats in the next general elections”.

Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hasan also spoke on the occasion.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Democratic transition: Pakistan’s political power structure in a flux

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:13

For a country mired in conflicts, it is natural that the country would have greater civil-military convergence and for the establishment to be actively involved in public policy.

However, this power structure has undergone several changes over the years owing to different factors such as a changed external environment, domestic security, economic situation, challenges in its major relationships, and democratic transition and transformation.

This was stated by Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, director of the School of Politics and International Relations at the Quaid-e-Azam University and co-editor of the book

“Pakistan’s Democratic Transition: Change and Persistence”.

The book was launched by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in Islamabad on Saturday.

Rafiq, who is a doctoral candidate at University of Oxford, said that the indicators of the changing political power structure include increased political participation, indictments, voices against social evils, support to accountability, and social mobility. This changing political landscape makes the idea of another coup not impossible, but certainly more expensive.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Within 24 hours: Three spurious drug manufacturers sealed

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:11

RAWALPINDI: As part of a province-wide crackdown on spurious and illegal drug manufacturers, health officials in Rawalpindi have shut down as many as three factories in the past 24 hours and arrested at least two men.

Officials of health department, along with local police units raided factories in different parts of the city on Friday and Saturday recovering manufacturing machines being used and medicines produced.

According to available details, Divisional Drug Controller Naveed Anwar, Area Drug Inspector Jawad Ahsan, Assistant Commissioner Khalid Goraya, and Rawat police raided the Hemazone Factory in the Rawat Industrial Area on Saturday.

The factory, sprawled over an area of about four kanals, was raided at around midnight between Firday night and Saturday morning.

A health official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that when they went to the factory, it was locked from the outside. The official, who did not wish to be named, said that the factory often remained locked from outside during the day when it is supposed to be operating.

During the raid, officials said they had recovered a sachet manufacturing machine, a tablet manufacturing machine, a tablet packing machine, a syrup machine, and drugs worth millions of rupees from the factory.

The official claimed that when the factory was raided it was locked from outside. Moreover, the official said factory often remained locked from outside at day time. The police arrested two men working in the factory and seized hundreds of thousands of tablets.

At least two people were arrested from the factory who told officials that the unit was owned by a Quetta native called Fiaz. The men further said that the medicines manufactured in the factory were usually sold in Peshawar and Quetta.

Earlier on Friday, the health department had raided and sealed two drug related establishments including Al-Jadeed Homeo Laboratory, located on Liaqat Road, and Bioroots Laboratory, located in the Rawat Industrial area on Friday. Owners of these two establishments were booked.

Anwar, the divisional drug controller, explained to The Express Tribune that around 50 drug manufacturing units operate in Rawat. He added that they had raided the two units in the area after receiving tip-offs about illegal activities there.

Responding to a question on the sudden surge in raids on spurious drug manufacturing factories in the city, Anwar explained that the raids took place after the Punjab government issued special orders to crackdown against illegal manufacturing units.

He added that drug inspectors from the Pakistan Drugs Regulatory Authority are primarily responsible to regulate drug manufacturing units and to keep check against illegal manufacturers. However, the drug controller complained that federal inspectors had been inactive for a while.

The drug controller noted that owners of these unauthorised manufacturing units had been booked under the Drugs Act.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Crackdown: Police arrest 60 criminals in capital

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:09

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad police on Saturday said they had launched a crackdown against criminals and professional alms-seekers in the capital.

Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Islamabad Sajid Kiani had directed officials to specially focus on apprehending professional beggars.

Following his orders, Islamabad police launched search operations in different parts of the capital in which 49 suspected criminals and 10 proclaimed offenders along with two professional beggars were arrested.

Further, police said they had impounded 211 bikes as well as seven vehicles which were being driven without proper documents during in the last 24 hours.

SSP Kiani said that the purpose of the search operation was to ensure high vigilance. He urged citizens to remain vigilant and inform police in case of any suspicious activity around them.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Mountain festival: Capital’s girls scale rock walls in Margalla

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:08

ISLAMABAD: Maham Tariq scrambled up the jagged rock face at the Jasmine  Corner of the Daman-e-Koh in the Margalla Hills National Park as dozens of other young climbers gathered underneath, watching in awe the technique being employed by her to make it to the top.

The strenuous exercise was part of a rock climbing event on Saturday to kick off the 6th annual Pakistan Mountain Festival, held to commemorate International Mountain Day.

The week-long festival has been organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan), and Saturday’s rock climbing event at Daman-e-Koh was organised in collaboration with the Adventure Club.

The event was held to allow youngsters to explore their potential and to challenge themselves in a rough environment. While those having experience with climbing tried to clamber up the rock face, those who were new were given the basic lessons on climbing.

After expertly managing her way up the rock face, Tariq said rock climbing helps boost her confidence and prepare her for untoward situations.

Saba Nazir, one of the climbers, said that parents  usually do not allow their daughters to take up sports such as rock climbing , adding that girls should be given equal opportunities play all types of sports.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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G-B expects 1.2m tourists next year

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 19:06

The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government expects at least 1.2 million tourists to visit the scenic resorts of the region rich with natural beauty.

“Around one million tourists visited G-B during the season that concluded in September and we are expecting atlest 1.2 million visitors next year,” said the G-B Minister for Tourism Sports and Culture Fida Khan.

The regional government in consultation with authorities in Islamabad is formulating polices to promote tourism industry in G-B, the minister said talking to Radio Pakistan.

Tourism is the main source of income of G-B which is endowed with pristine natural beauty of lofty mountains. “Tourist facilitation and information centres will be set up at Gilgit and Skardu airports and in all districts to help guide the visitors,” he said.

The G-B government has decided to put in an extra effort to promote cultural events of the region. Calendar of events would be implemented and steps will be taken for development of sports and culture, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2016.

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Execution suspended: PHC grants reprieve to five convicts

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:57

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday halted the execution of five militants who were handed down death sentences by military courts for attacking security forces and killing civilians.

A two-judge bench comprising PHC Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Khan suspended their death sentences while hearing writ petitions against their execution.

The petitions were filed by the relatives of Fazal Ali, Muhammad Wali, Tera Gul, Khial Jan and Payu Jan through their lawyers Khalid Anwar and Barrister Mian Tajjamul. They were accused of being active members of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Islam. The bench issued notices to the federal government to submit record of the case at the next hearing.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the chief of army staff on November 23 confirmed the death sentences of 10 terrorists, including five for offences relating to attacks on security forces, killing of civilians and security forces personnel as well as the destruction of educational institutions.

They were involved in heinous offences related to terrorism, including killing of innocent civilians, slaughtering of Captain Jonaid Khan, Captain Najam Riaz Raja, Naik Shahid Rasool and Lance Naik Shakeel Ahmed of SSG, the ISPR had said.

It added that all these terrorists were active members of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Islam and involved in creating unrest in the country through subversive activities.

Fazal Ali was an active member of the TTP, the ISPR said, adding he was involved in attacking law-enforcement agencies and the armed forces which resulted in the deaths of Havildar Munir Ahmed and Sepoy Sajid Khan and injuries to several soldiers. He was also found in possession of firearms and explosives.

About Tirah Gul and Muhammad Wali, it said they were active members of Lashkar-e-Islam. They were involved in attacking law-enforcement agencies and the armed forces which resulted in the deaths of Havildar Noor Mast, Naik Farman Ali, Naik Shabbir Akhtar, Sepoy Humayun, Sepoy Fakhar Alam and Sepoy Ismail while causing injuries to many other soldiers.

The ISPR said Khial Jan was an active member of Lashkar-e-Islam and was involved in attacking law-enforcement agencies which resulted in the deaths of a civilian Abdullah, Khyber Khasadar soldier Sameed Khan and injuries to several other soldiers. Payo Jan was an active member of Lashkar-e-Islam. He was involved in attacking the armed forces which resulted in the death of Sepoy Qasim Raza, the ISPR said.

The counsel for Fazal Ali submitted that he was a student and elders of a local jirga handed him over to security forces in 2009. He was then shifted to an internment centre, where relatives met him several times. Their family members came to know through the media that he was awarded death sentence by a military court.

Tera Gul, Muhammad Wali, Khial Jan and Payo Jan counsels also argued that their family members claimed that they were picked up by security forces on January 2016 from different areas in the Khyber tribal area.

Their relatives also came to know through media reports that they had been awarded death term by military courts and the army chief had confirmed their sentences on November 23, 2016.

The military courts were set up following the December 16, 2014 carnage at the Army Public School in Peshawar.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Growing concern: Dry spell likely to trigger water shortages, PMD

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:55

ISLAMABAD: The current dry weather affecting most parts of the country is likely to continue till January next year, a top official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department said on Thursday.

The PMD official also warned that the dry spell would further aggravate the water shortage in the country.

Vice president of the Asia-Pacific region of World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Dr Ghulam Rasul told The Express Tribune that since September this year, Pakistan has not received a good amount of rainfall. Neither “good showers” nor “snowfall” is expected in the Northern Areas till January next year. “Though there will be light to moderate rain at isolated places but it will be just enough to fulfil the need,” he said.

Pakistan will have a dry winter in which due to clear skies the day will be warmer and nights will be colder, he said.

“Though PMD has been highlighting the possibility of acute water shortage in the country in the coming months, the authorities concerned have largely ignored these warnings. The severity of the situation will have an impact on the economy as it will affect winter crops. In addition, there will also be a rise in health issues,” he said.

Dr Rasul said that the situation is ‘alarming’.

“At present, however, the water shortage is expected to have an impact on winter crops but in the coming months it is expected that people will face a shortage of drinking water also.”

Soon the water being used from reservoirs for irrigation purposes will be over, according to him. “People will then start pumping groundwater in excessive amounts which will result in its depletion and later cause severe drinking water shortage,” he said.

The continuous stability in the weather condition will also result in extreme weather events like smog which plays a major role in causing flu, watery eyes, chest infections, among others, he said.

Dr Rasul said that earlier Pakistan had faced severe drought-like situation in 2001 when it prolonged for a year and then in 2009 which extended for three to six months.

Meanwhile, according to the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) officials considering the current ongoing dry spell in the country and water scarcity in the rivers and reservoirs it is expected that the country will face acute water shortage than the earlier announced 17 per cent for Rabi season.

However, if there is no rain till February the situation might worsen as reservoirs will reach a dead level, according to IRSA officials.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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PakTurk schools: Turkey sent replacement teachers, PHC told

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:53

PESHAWAR: The deputy attorney general told the Peshawar High Court on Thursday that the Turkish government has sent teachers to Pakistan to replace Turkish expatriates currently working under the PakTurk Foundation.

Besides, the majority of Turkish expatriates are on administrative positions and not teachers; therefore, their deportation would not affect students’ academic session, Deputy Attorney General Musarratullah said.

He stated that the deportation of the Turkish expatriates was prerogative of the federal government and the government was not bound to extend their visas.

When the hearing commenced on the petitions filed by the parents of students of PakTurk Schools, the counsel for the federal government prayed before the division bench headed by PHC Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel to vacate the stay order.

However, the chief justice did not accept the request and remarked that he would not vacate it until hearing all parties to the petitions as the counsel for the parents Advocate Qazi Muhammad Anwar was not present on the occasion.

Requesting dismissal of the petitions, the DAG stated that the Islamabad High Court has already dismissed a similar petition.

He argued that the deportation of the teachers was a policy matter and their non-deportation has been affecting Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The petitioners’ counsels argued that the teachers were being deported without showing them any reasons to which the DAG replied that the federal government was not bound to do this.

He said that visas of most of the teachers have expired in September and were ordered by the Ministry of Interior to leave within six days.

However, petitioners’ counsel Khalid Tanveer Rohila asked how could the teachers could be deported in the middle of the academic year. Trying to explain urgency of the matter, the chief justice interrupted Rohila and said that the urgency would be decided after hearing the parties concerned to the case.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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‘Harsh behaviour’: Peshawar nazim may face no-trust move

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:52

PESHAWAR: At least 40 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) members have agreed to move a no-confidence motion against Peshawar District Council Nazim Muhammad Asim Khan for his “harsh and arrogant attitude”.

Citing the Peshawar nazim’s condescending attitude, a member of PTI’s district chapter, Rehman Afzal, confirmed that at least 40 PTI members had decided to move against him for antagonizing not just party members but also his constituents.

According to him, as many as 45 opposition members had also assured PTI of their support for the move.

He said that the district nazim had not yet released development funds amounting to Rs2 million set aside in the budget for fiscal year 2015-16 for all district level representatives.

“The Nazim is so arrogant that he does not have time to meet with members of the city council,” Afzal said, adding that because of his harsh behavior, departments devolved under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act of 2013, were defying his orders.

He said that the situation would be discussed in a meeting convened by the chief minister on Friday (today).

According to rules, at least 92 votes are required in the district council for removing the Nazim. The number of chagrined members ready to move against the nazim falls short by barely five votes.

Officers privy to the development said that more members would be required to carry through the motion.

Khalid Waqas Chamkani, a JI member, told The Express Tribune that his party supported the incumbent Nazim because the JI considered him to be a real representative of the people.

When asked about the issue of funds, he said that it was not such a big issue at all.

Leader of the Opposition in District Council Saeed Zahir said that a 40-member PTI delegation, led by Rehman Afzal, had met him and both sides had pledged to support the no-trust move.

A PTI member, who is opposed to the move, told The Express Tribune that Afzal, who is leading the campaign against the sitting nazim, had developed some personal issues with the nazim.

He rubbished Afzal’s claim that he had the support of 40 members of his party.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

 

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Back to work: In debrief, Nisar offers assessment of Britain tour

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:49

ISLAMABAD: Fresh from his 17-day visit to Britain, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday plunged headlong into work, resuming activities and calling on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The interior minister spent the day discussing matters pertaining to national security and apprising PM Nawaz in detail about the meetings he held with the British officials.

Chaudhry Nisar also informed the premier about his health on which the latter expressed satisfaction over his complete recovery.

The minister had returned to Pakistan on Wednesday after completing 17 days of his visit to UK.

Chaudhry Nisar had left for England on an official visit on November 13. His visit to the UK had comprised of two parts—the first being his official visit of three-days in which he held meeting with the senior officials including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and National Security Adviser Mark Lyall Grant.

Relations with Britain, the security situation, immigration matters and other issues were discussed during these meetings.

Moreover, matters pertaining to the reference of the Pakistani government against MQM founder Altaf Hussain, and investigation into Dr Imran Farooq murder case were also discussed during his meeting with his UK counterpart.

In his meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who hosted a luncheon in his honour, Nisar discussed with him the regional situation. He was of the view that India by closing its doors for talks had put regional security at risk.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and former prime minister David Cameron also held a meeting in London during this tour.

Later he underwent two major surgeries for his hernia and eyes at UK medical facilities.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Jhang by-poll: Masroor Jhangvi beats PML-N man by almost 13,000 votes

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:48

FAISALABAD: Independent candidate Maulana Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, the son of the founder of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan Haq Nawaz Jhanghvi, won the PP-78 Jhang by-election on Thursday, defeating his PML-N rival candidate Haji Azad Nasir Ansari by a margin of close to 13,000 votes

According to unofficial results, Maulana Jhangvi got 48, 563 votes while the PML- N candidate, Haji Nasir, secured 35, 669 votes. PPP’s Sarfraz Rabbani managed to bag 3,832 votes while and Sheikh Arfa Majeed received 2,800 votes.

Rangers and Army personnel supervised the polling and the process was completed without any disturbance.

This seat had fallen vacant after a Supreme Court decision that disqualified PML-N’s Rashida Yaqoob for concealing assets.

Yaqoob was elected in the 2013 general elections and the runner-up Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Saeed Ludhianvi, the chief of the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), challenged her election.

On November 11, a two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court restrained both Rashida Yaqoob and Maulana Akram from contesting the by-poll.

Mr Ahamd Saeed Ludhianvi challenged the decision before the full bench of the LHC, contending that he did not know about the FIRs registered against him when he had filed nomination papers.

Although the full bench of the LHC on November 29 (Monday) allowed Maulana Mohammed Ahmad Ludhianvi, the chief of the banned ASWJ, to contest the by-election yet he opted to continue support of Independent candidate Maulana Masroor Jhangvi.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Orange Line Train: Punjab govt in a tangle over disparate reports

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:47

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government may find itself in trouble when the Supreme Court resumes proceedings of the Rs45 billion Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project case after international experts submitted contradictory environmental assessment reports.

Both international experts were appointed by the Supreme Court.

The report compiled by Prof Robin Coningham raised several objections over the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) report, which allowed the Punjab government to launch the project.

Messrs Typsa-Asian Consulting Engineers (Pvt) Ltd endorsed Nespak reports and observed that the firm’s findings were complete from a structural point of view.

The Supreme Court on October 14 appointed a commission comprising technical experts for re-verifying Nespak report ‘Vibration Analysis of Viaduct Evaluation of Effects on Heritage Buildings’, in which it was established that there was no threat to any of the five heritage buildings either during the construction of viaducts or during the operation of the electric train.

The commission comprised Messers Typsa-Asian Consulting Engineers and Prof Robin Coningham. Prof Coningham’s report observed that the train route contravened clause 22 of the Antiquities Act of 1975, which stated that no new construction could be undertaken within a distance of 200 feet of a protected immovable antiquity.

It also stated that the train route flouted clause 23 of the same act, which barred the placing of neon signs or other kind of advertisements, including posters, commercial signage and poles near the protected immovable antiquity.

According to this report, Nespak’s 2015 report did not contain any physical or technical evaluation of the stability of the five monuments, adding that it also lacked data regarding the nature of subsoil between viaduct piers and monuments.

“These failings should be mitigated by commissioning a comprehensive and credible interdisciplinary heritage impact assessment.”

The commission also observed that Nespak’s report also failed to take into account the effects of vibrations on two additional buildings likely to be affected by the project. These included the remaining Mughal reservoir which forms part of the Shalamar Gardens and protected by the Antiquities Act of 1975 and the Lakshmi building, protected under the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance of 1985.

Meanwhile, Messrs Typsa Asian Consulting Engineers (Pvt) Ltd endorsed report compiled by Nespak, stating that the approach adopted by Nespak was conservative that resulted in higher than actual vibration velocities. Nespak, it stated, had rightly concluded that there would be no adverse effect on any of these sites.

Messrs Typsa-Asian Consulting Engineers (Pvt) Ltd also concluded that the Nespak reports complied with international codes and standards and the results were correct.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Panel scrutiny: PTI has another sugar axe to grind

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:46

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has decided to bring an eight-year-old case of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills on the agenda of a parliamentary panel after the corporate sector regulator has confirmed that it wrote to the UK authorities seeking information about a suspected financial transaction by the company.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) had taken up the issue of the suspected Rs680 million transaction by the Chaudhry Sugar Mills with the UK financial authorities, said its commissioner on Thursday.

Tahir Mehmood was responding to a question raised by MNA Asad Umer of the PTI during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family own the sugar mills. Umer inquired whether the SECP had ever taken up the issue of the suspected financial transaction by the Chaudhry Sugar Mills with the UK authorities.

“It is an old issue and we had written a letter, but we could not get the requisite information,” said Mehmood.

The commissioner said it was an issue of the suspected Rs680 million financial transaction of 2008. He, however, clarified that the regulator never launched a formal investigation against the company.

Chaudhry Sugar Mills officers had explained the case well, and after that the SECP decided to close the matter, said Mehmood. He said the UK authorities did not provide the requisite information on the grounds that it would not share information about politically-exposed persons.

The PTI lawmaker asked the SECP to present the response of the UK authorities and other details of the case in the next meeting.

However, committee chairman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh of the PML-N said the documents could only be sought if the matter was brought on the agenda. Umar would now formally move a request to put the issue on the agenda of the meeting.

PML-N’s Talal Ahmad Chaudhry apprehended that the information might be used for political purposes. Mian Abdul Manan of the PML-N suggested that the SECP should share the details of all such cases with the standing committee instead of singling out a company related to the prime minister.

According to an article written by Dr Ikramul Haq, the prime minister had shown salary income from the Chaudhry Sugar Mills in tax years 2011 and 2012 in which he claimed 2.1 million shares valuing at Rs16 million.

Haq wrote that the PM virtually controls this entity. In his article, ‘Tough Times for PM’, the writer states that the PM has declared even remunerations from the Chaudhry Sugar Mills while holding the office of the prime minister of Pakistan.

The standing committee also took a briefing on the inquiry status of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Bangladesh scam worth Rs18.5 billion. The committee showed its displeasure over the performance of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with regard to delay in the investigation against the officials involved in the scam.

NAB Director Ghulam Farooq informed the committee that the bureau would soon complete the investigation launched in April. However, the committee was not satisfied with the response, saying NAB had given similar assurances earlier.

The standing committee sought an interim report of the NAB’s investigation in its next meeting.

The committee also raised the issue of The Express Tribune story in which it was reported that the sitting president of the NBP, Syed Iqbal Ashraf, was also under investigation in the scam.

The NBP president denied that he was being investigated by NAB. The committee directed NAB officials to submit whether the NBP president was under investigation in any manner in its next meeting.

NAB was investigating the sitting NBP president on allegations of providing shelter to the main accused in the $185 million fraud case in the bank’s Bangladesh operations, according to the official documents available with The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

PPP’s 49th Foundation Day: Bilawal vows to restore Baloch belief in democracy

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:44

LAHORE: Only a few Baloch politicians have reached clandestine deals with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while the rest of Balochistan’s population is being kept in the dark about key decisions, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari claimed on Thursday.

He was speaking at a gathering of his party’s representatives from Balochistan who arrived here to attend the PPP’s 49th Foundation Day celebrations.

Criticising the Balochistan government led by PML-N for being loyal to the ‘Raiwind throne’, he said that his party would restore the Baloch people’s confidence in democracy.

He claimed that the PPP would emerge as the dominant political force in the 2018 general elections in Balochistan, he said that after coming to power in the province, his party would nominate an ethnic Baloch as chief minister.

Reiterating concerns over ignoring the rights of smaller provinces in massive development projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said CPEC was a buzzword across Punjab but no progress was visible in this regard in other provinces.

Bilawal announced that his party would expand its network, setting up political wings at the tehsil level in Balochistan.

Baloch representatives presented Bilawal a traditional turban on the occasion.

PPP leaders and workers continued to arrive here at the Bilawal House to join in the Foundation Day celebrations.

Addressing journalists outside the Bilawal House, president of PPP Sindh and provincial minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said that the prime minister was instinctually resorting to the politics of the ‘90s. He recalled that it was Nawaz Sharif who had first raised the slogan of Jag Punjabi Jag’ in that era.

Criticising Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Khuhro said PTI’s immature and hasty politics had strengthened the government’s hand.

Responding to a question, he said that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) wanted to revert to the local government system that was in vogue during the Musharraf regime in Karachi.

Dictators, he said, had always tried to disband the PPP, but failed to do so because the PPP was in reality people’s party in which all decisions were made by the public.

He pointed out that people who had quit the party had themselves become relics of the past. “The PPP is still intact and very much here,” he asserted.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Roundtable on SDGs: Parliament, media have critical roles to play, says minister

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:43

ISLAMABAD: Parliament and media have to play important roles to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Thursday.

The state minister stressed the need for a more effective media role in oversight and implementation of social sector projects. She was speaking as chief guest at the inaugural session of a two-day National Roundtable on SDGs for Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) in Islamabad.

The minister said that the targets set in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could not be achieved as parliament and media could not play any constructive role in creation of awareness among the masses.

Marriyum said that objective of the course is to guide the media persons about the SDGs importance.

Under the GSP Plus, she said, journalists would be provided training and added she has also talked to European Union ambassadors for capacity building of media professionals.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News