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Nawaz still enjoys significant public support: PEW survey

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:13

Even as thousands of protesters, respectively led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, descended on Islamabad against the Nawaz Sharif led government, a survey by the Pew Research Centre shows that the under fire premier enjoys significant public support.

According to the report, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif enjoys 64% favourable opinion, slightly lower than the 66% he enjoyed just a few weeks before the May 2013 elections. In contrast, 32% viewed him unfavourably.

These are among the major findings from the latest survey in Pakistan by the Pew Research Center, based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 1,203 respondents from April 15 to May 7, 2014. The sample covers approximately 82% of the country’s adult population.

Imran Khan, who has been demanding that the premier resign to pave way for a transparent investigation into the reports of rigging in the 2013 elections, was seen favourably as well with 53% reviews against 24% negative reviews. However, the PTI chief’s ratings have slipped by 17% since elections last May.

The mood surrounding the current political and economic situation in the country, while less than happy, it is more positive than in recent years. While only 25% of the respondents were satisfied with the way things are in Pakistan, this is more than 8% who felt that way in 2013. Those who were optimistic about the economy have more than doubled since last year, rising from 17% to 37%. And 36% expect the economy to improve further in the next 12 months.

Pakistan, which has seen four military led governments, 87% of the respondents believe that the army is having a good influence on the nation. Up from 79% near the May 2013 elections.

The poll found little support for extremist groups in Pakistan, against whom the army launched an operation in June. Only 8% gave the Taliban a positive rating and just 12% said they have a favorable opinion of al Qaeda.

India still the biggest enemy

When asked to rate the greatest threat facing their country , 51% of Pakistanis pointed towards India.

Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) expressed an unfavorable view of India, while only 13% give it a positive rating.

At the time of the survey, conducted before results for the recent Indian national elections were announced, 62% of Pakistanis did not know enough about India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say whether they had confidence in his ability to do the right thing in world affairs. Just over a third (36%) said they have little or no confidence in Modi to do the right thing in world affairs, while only 1% expressed confidence in Modi.

US still viewed unfavourably

Negative views of the United States and Obama still prevail in Pakistan. Only 14% give the US a favorable rating, and just 7% have confidence in President Barack Obama.

Still, the percentage of Pakistanis voicing a negative views of the US and Obama has declined slightly over the last few years.

Very few Pakistanis give President Barack Obama a positive review. Only 7% say they have confidence that Obama will do the right thing in world affairs. While half (52%) of all respondents lack confidence in the American leader, unchanged from 2013, but that perception was down from a peak of 68% in 2011. Fully 41% offer no opinion about Obama.

Drone strikes remain unpopular too. Two-in-three Pakistanis oppose US drone attacks, while just 3% approve and 30% offer no opinion.  Two-thirds of Pakistanis also believe that drone strikes kill too many innocent people, and only 21% think they are necessary to defend the country from extremist groups. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) say the drone strikes are being conducted without the approval of Pakistan’s government.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

'MQM unit member' arrested in London in connection with Imran Farooq murder

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 07:27

KARACHI: Scotland Yard on Wednesday arrested a 30-year-old man in connection with the murder of Dr Imran Farooq, a former leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

A spokesperson for the Scotland Yard confirmed to The Express Tribune that the suspect was arrested from East London this morning. He is currently being kept in custody where he is being interrogated. The suspect is reportedly a British Pakistani, but Scotland Yard did not confirm the nationality of the suspect.

He is said to be an MQM UK unit member, party officials told The Express Tribune.

The suspect is the second man to be arrested in the case so far. Last June, the Scotland Yard arrested a nephew of MQM chief Altaf Hussain, 52-year-old man Iftikhar Hussain. He was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and is currently on bail.

Further, in May, Scotland Yard released pictures of two suspects allegedly involved in the murder of Farooq.

Scotland Yard claimed that the two suspects, identified as Mohsin Ali Syed and Mohammed Kashif Khan Kamran, were believed to be in Pakistan and had traveled to London on student visas. They are also believed to be residents of Karachi.

Farooq, 50, was a former leader of MQM and had lived in London in self-imposed exile from 1999. He was on his way back from work when he was attacked outside his home in Edgware, north London, in September 2010. A post-mortem gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma to the head. A kitchen knife and a house brick used in the attack were recovered at the scene.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Anyone intending to derail democracy will be challenged: PM

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 04:56

ISLAMABAD: Addressing the National Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear on Wednesday that anyone intending to derail democracy would be challenged by Parliament and all democratic forces in the country.

In his speech to the National Assembly, the prime minister appreciated the parliament’s resolve to uphold the constitution and democratic values, adding that the parliament is the true representative of 200 million Pakistanis.

“Governments come and go, prime ministers come and go,” the prime minister said. “But keeping faith in democracy and the constitution is what ensures that democracy survives.”

“Nine out of ten parties, with diverse ideologies, have voted in favor of the resolution,” he said, adding that there was no precedence of this in the history of Pakistan.

The prime minster said that he had taken an oath to protect the Constitution, and that he would never betray this duty, reiterating his commitment to uphold and protect the constitution.

The prime minister also thanked all political parties, lawyers, journalists, civil society, businesspersons and minorities who supported the resolution.

He assured the House that the government will keep working on development and progress.

2008 elections

“My nomination papers and those of Shabaz Sharif were rejected,” said the prime minister, while giving his party’s example in the 2008 general elections. “Yet we campaigned and accepted the election results open heartedly.”

“We did not cry foul even though we had a legitimate concern since the party’s chief was unable to submit nomination papers,” he added.

“The PPP won more seats in the 2008 elections; we accepted their right to be in power and supported it,” he said.

The prime minister said that when he went to see Imran Khan at the hospital soon after the 2013 election victory, Imran congratulated him and assured he would play his role in a ‘constructive opposition’ and would support the agenda of economic progress.

“I met the MQM delegation this morning and we agreed on the policy of reforms in the country,” the premier added. He reiterated that the 33-member committee will play a crucial role in bringing electoral reforms.

The PM reiterated that the economy has suffered immensely due to the protests and the prevailing political situation in the country. “Would anyone want our credit rating to go back to negative?” he asked rhetorically.

The prime minister added that there should also be debate on why and how the current political crisis developed, while handing it over to Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique to brief the House on the negotiations with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Khyber agency clash: Four ‘militants’ killed in retaliatory fire

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 00:10


Four suspected militants were killed in a clash with security forces in the Ghundi area of Jamrud tehsil, Khyber Agency on Tuesday.

Security officials in the area said the bodies of four militants were found near Malak Khowar, which were handed over by the political administration to Civil Hospital, Jamrud, for identification. However, their identities could not be ascertained till the filing of this report.

Security officials conducted a raid on a house late Monday night where militants opened fire on them. They retaliated against the firing in which four militants were killed while some of them managed to escape.

A search operation was also launched early Tuesday morning in which more than two dozen suspected people were arrested.

Separately, a resident of Sor Kamar was gunned down by assailants in another incident. The victim, Janas Khan, was on his way home with his friends when armed men ambushed his car and shot him.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Militant factions: 70 TTP commanders break away to form new group

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 00:04


Seventy key commanders broke away from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to form a new militant faction, namely Jamaatul Ihrar, to fill the vacuum created by the TTP, according to a video message by the group’s chief Maulana Qasam made public on Tuesday. “Our party will work like the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he says in the video message.

The eight-member central shura of Jamaatul Ihrar includes Qari Shakil and Omar Khalid Khurasani from Mohmand Agency, Qari Ismael from Khyber Agency, Maulvi Mansoor from Orakzai Agency, Abdullah from Bajaur Agency, Maulana Yaseen from Swat and Mufti Misbah from Peshawar. Qari Ehsanullah Ehsan has been named spokesperson for the group.

In the video message, Qari Shakil expresses anger over the disintegration of the TTP, saying that “due to personal interests on the part of some individuals, the TTP has failed in achieving its goals.”

Factions have existed within the TTP’s ranks since its formation in 2007. Mullah Nazir from South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan refused to join the group and after TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed, Hakeemullah Mehsud and Mufti Waliur Rehman formed factions. After Hakeemullah was killed in a drone attack on November 1, 2013, the TTP formally divided into two groups. Infighting between the Said Khan alias Sajna group and Sheheryar Mehsud group left scores of fighters dead on both sides.

The TTP is now led by Mullah Fazlullah, with Sheikh Khalid Haqqani serving as his deputy. However, sources say militants from North and South Waziristan are reluctant to work under either leader.

South Waziristan was the TTP’s headquarters until 2010 when it shifted to North Waziristan. With the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014, however, the group has shifted its network to Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Electoral reforms: ECP seeks 120 days for holding polls

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 23:54


The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed the enactment of a law to enhance the timeframe for conducting elections from 60 days to 120 days – in both cases whether assemblies complete terms or are dissolved prematurely.

This was one of the recommendations submitted by the ECP on Tuesday to the parliamentary committee, constituted to propose electoral reforms for the next elections. The proposed reforms require constitutional changes and amendments in various laws.

Under the existing provision of Article 224 of the Constitution, the ECP has to conduct elections within 60 days in case a seat falls vacant or assemblies complete their tenure.

ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan – who gave a briefing to the parliamentary committee – said the increased timeframe of 120 days would help the ECP conduct better scrutiny and would grant more time for each activity in the election schedule once it is notified.

Besides other recommendations, the ECP has also asked the authorities to conduct fresh delimitation of constituencies for the next elections using GIS after conducting fresh population census.

It has also asked parliament to conduct legislation to enable overseas Pakistan to exercise their right of vote from the countries of their current residence. It said a draft bill in the regard is already pending with Senate Committee on Law and Justice.

The ECP’s 316 recommendations and proposed draft for a set of legislations also include proposals for legislation to introduce of biometric system.

The ECP has said it also wants to introduce voting through Electronic Voting Machines in the next general elections scheduled in 2018.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Dancing, singing: IHC throws out plea seeking ban on live coverage of PTI sit-in

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 20:35

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday threw out a petition seeking a ban on live coverage of dance and singing at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) sit-in.

Justice Athar Minallah dismissed the petition filed by Shuhada Foundation of Pakistan Trust (SFPT) declaring it non-maintainable and frivolous.

The judge imposed a fine of Rs5,000 on the petitioner and directed to deposit the amount with Amna Masood Janjua’s Defence of Human Rights Organisation that is pursuing missing persons’ case.

The petition filed through Tariq Asad advocate contended that PTI’s sit-in has virtually turned into a musical concert that starts in the evening and ends after midnight with performances of top singers and celebrities in between the speeches of PTI leaders. Break in leaders’ speech is followed by songs and dances.

The petitioner said the trick is to attract a larger number crowd during the evening as the people visit the sit-in venue along with their families for fun and entertainment.

“A large number of participants are male and female teenagers who are not even registered voters but come to the venue with friends to enjoy an evening of fun,” the petition said. The petitioner alleged that some private TV channels are telecasting the dances of girls and boys in such a way that it is injuring the feelings of the citizens.

The petitioner prayed the court to direct Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to stop its live coverage. However, Justice Minallah described it wastage of the court’s time.

The trust, led by Hafiz Ehtisham of Lal Masjid (red mosque), was set up in 2013 and has been pursuing a case against former President Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for his role in the murder of Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and his mother.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Grants; Over 4,000 ICT scholarships awarded in six years

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 20:27


The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (MOIT) has awarded more than 4,200 scholarships worth Rs3.3 billion to students of underserved areas under its National Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Scholarship Programme.

Of the total scholarships awarded over the last six years to students of underprivileged areas of four provinces, Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), 1,125 students have graduated.

The National ICT R&D Fund, an executing department, has announced the Prime Minister’s National ICT Scholarship Programme-2014, with an aim to develop human resource capacity in the fields of ICT in Pakistan. The programme provides fully funded four-year undergraduate degree scholarships in ICT related disciplines in the leading ICT universities of the country.

Tests to award the scholarships will be held on August 31.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Forgotten: Critically injured PTI supporter gets no love from party

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 20:19

ISLAMABAD: Coming to Islamabad for a ‘Naya Pakistan’ with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s rally from Lahore, Sajid Hussain has been battling for life in an intensive care unit at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).

Hussain suffered injuries when a bus carrying PTI marchers from Lahore turned over near Shakarparian Chowk. Hussain’s uncle Sajid Jehangir, 35, was among the two who died in the accident. His cousin Ali Raza, 21, was also seriously injured. Raza has now has been shifted to Lahore.

The 21-year-old Hussain is a resident of Punjab Society, Bandya Wala Pul, Lahore. A plumber by profession, he is a son of a retired school teacher who cannot come to see him due to his own poor health.

Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (SZAB) Medical University Vice-Chancellor Prof Javed Akram said Hussain underwent a five-hour surgery after his stomach, large intestine, spleen and liver were severely damaged in the accident. His both legs have also been fractured. “We are making best efforts to save him.”

“On Sunday, the doctor told me to call mother to Islamabad to see him because his condition was serious,” said his elder brother Sabir Hussain.

No PTI official has visited Hussain. He has not received even a ‘get well soon’ message from the party he had come to support. PTI President Javed Hashmi is admitted a few yards from Hussain. Party office bearers visit Hashmi every day. But still, the family’s support for Imran Khan is unflinching.

“Hussain belongs to a poor family. That is why he is ignored by the party which had brought him to Islamabad. Had he been born into a wealthy family they would have come to enquire about his health too,” said Zaryak Baig, a well-wisher of Hussian who is living with his family in the hospital. “The party has not announced financial assistance for the family.”

“We get food from the hospital cafeteria and spend night on the floor outside the surgical ICU. We have no other place to go to,” said Sabir Hussian.

The boy’s mother Sajida Parveen said, “I tried to stop him from going with the ‘Azadi March’ but he did not listen to me. He was very enthusiastic.”

She recalled that before leaving for Islamabad Hussain’s last sentence was, “I am going to support my leader to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’. For that, I might have to stay there for a week or a month, but you do not worry. I will be back.”

On Tuesday, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique , Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Deputy Convener Farooq Sattar, MQM’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Babar Ghauri, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad and Shireen Mizari of PTI visited Javaid Hashmi who has been admitted to Pims.

According to Pims spokesperson Dr Ayesha Eshani, Hashmi’s health is improving. His blood test reports are clear. Hashmi had left the hospital in the afternoon to attend a party meeting, to be back late night.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

IMCG convocation: 159 graduates enjoy fruits of their labour

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 20:17


About 159 students of Islamabad Model College for Girls, F-6/2 were awarded degrees and shields on Tuesday for outstanding performance in B.Sc, B.A and BS computer science.

The fifth annual convocation and prize distribution ceremony was held in the well-decorated college auditorium.

Minister of State for the Capital Administration and Development Division Barrister Usman Ibrahim was the chief guest.

He addressed the audience and congratulated the degree holders and their parents. He appreciated the results IMCG, F-6/2 has shown throughout its history and said that the students owe their success to the institution and its staff.

Over 150 students were also awarded prizes consisting of shields and certificates for best result in academics and showing good performance in co-curricular activities.

About 15 students were awarded with Role of Honour, while four were awarded gold medals. As many as 90 teachers were awarded with certificates on producing 100% results in session 2010-12 and 2011-14.

Principal Rehana Rasheed stated that the institution was started as middle school in 1984 and reached the status of a degree college within a short span of time in 1991. “In 2006, we successfully started Bachelor of Science and the four years BS Hons. programme in Computer Science in affiliation with University of the Punjab,” she added.

Ibrahim stated that the students graduating from this college should owe their success to their hardworking teachers.

“You are going to enter
in your practical life and I am sure that you would use your intelligence and knowledge for the betterment of this country,” said the minister.

On a lighter note, the state minister added that the age of this institution and age of his political career was the same, and he wished it the best of luck and prayed for its success.

In the end, he congratulated and bid farewell to the outgoing principal for successfully completing her tenure at the college.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Minority rule: Supremacy of constitution will ensure protection of minority rights, says Singh

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 20:16

ISLAMABAD: A minority representative from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa believes that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s struggle is for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution and when the Constitution is implemented in letter and spirit, the rights of minorities will also be protected.

“Our fight is for the supremacy of the Constitution. Minorities have the same issues that are being faced by a common man in this country,” says PTI MPA Dr Sardar Soran Singh. However, he clarifies, “Addressing minorities’ issues isn’t the agenda of this sit-in.”

Speaking with The Express Tribune, the minister, who is also the special assistant to the chief minister for minority affairs, said that minorities were not disappointed by the fact that Imran Khan’s speeches during the ‘Azadi March’ have not broached issues that minority groups face in Pakistan. “The Constitution protects the rights of everyone. It doesn’t distinguish on the basis of religion, cast, creed and colour,” he said.

People should understand PTI’s struggle as it is solely for the betterment of the masses and to end issues ranging from education, health, unemployment, women empowerment, and corruption to child labour and so on.

“Where in the Constitution does it say that people should not raise their voice against corruption, rigging, scarcity of electricity, water and poverty?” he says, referring to those who are critical of the party’s long march. “What law permits the killing of 14 innocent people by using state machinery?” The sit-in would end if the government could prove that acts like this were legal and constitutional, he said.

When asked why the crowd at the sit-in in Islamabad grew during the evening, he replied, “The leaders are only human and they need rest after staying on stage for several hours.” He added that the crowd was only there for Imran Khan and said, “God forbid, if Imran Khan falls sick, who will lead us?”

When asked about a large number of Sikh supporters from Swat and Buner who reportedly expressed disappointment over the party leadership’s apathy and left the sit-in venue, Dr Singh responded, “I have been here since the very first day. You can check my hotel bills and see that I haven’t left the rally for even a day. But we can’t force anyone to stay and those who have left must have some important things to do.”

“We wish to make institutions so strong that they no longer depend on persons or personalities,” said Dr Singh when asked who was in charge during his absence from K-P. “Institutions should keep functioning even if the people here are replaced,” he concluded.

With regards to allegations of rigging in the 2013 polls, Dr Singh said that had there been no rigging, there would be more minority seats in the assemblies.

Defending the PTI’s demand for the PM’s resignation, he said that if Nawaz Sharif were to step down for 30 days, it would ensure the fairness and impartiality of the investigation process. The PM’s temporary resignation would be a superficial change, however, as ‘the PML-N government will be in a position to influence the investigation’, Dr Singh said. “You know why the PM is not ready to resign,” he says, “Because they rigged the elections.”

“We will announce re-elections in K-P if any party stages a sit-in and proves rigging in the province,” he added.

Elaborating on PTI’s performance in K-P, he said the quota for minorities in government jobs was only 0.5 percent during the tenures of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and Awami National Party, equal to one out of every 200 posts. He said PTI has increased the quota to three percent after coming into power in the province. A separate quota has been allocated for female minority students in engineering and medical colleges and scholarships totaling Rs1.6 million have also been approved for them, he added.

Additionally, special packages worth Rs2.5 million were announced and the cash amount was handed over to widows belonging to Sikh, Hindu, Christians, Kalash and others minority communities before their annual religious festivals. He added that the PTI government has allocated Rs2.5 million for the construction of Shamshan Ghat in Buner.

After spending 14 months in power, Singh was unable to state the number of worship places of minorities falling in the province. He said district coordination officers were responsible for gathering this information but have yet to do so. He also promised that the issue of domiciles for internally displaced persons from the Sikh community from Khyber and Kurram agencies, still pending after two years, would be discussed with the K-P governor soon.

The federal government is producing electricity at the cost of Rs18 per unit from the Nandipur power project but is not ready to build dams in K-P, even though they would reduce the cost of production to Rs2 per unit, Dr Singh claimed. “They are not building dams because that will end their commission. I assure you that there will be no commission in the ‘new Pakistan’,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Constitution Avenue: Work at government office comes to a standstill

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 20:16


The sit-ins on Constitution Avenue may not be affecting government’ stance but it has taken toll on the offices that fall in the area and surrounding.

It has been more than two weeks since the sit-ins started in the capital — first in Aabpara and on Kashmir Highway, and then another week in the Red Zone. Activities in government offices have almost come to a halt as employees are finding it difficult to get to work.

Entry points towards the Red Zone have been blocked by containers, which the government terms a ‘deterrent to security threats’, while members of the protesting parties refer to it as a tactic to keep out potential participants.

All the building’s main entry and exit points for government buildings along Constitution Avenue are occupied by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and security officials from outside Islamabad.

Khalid Jamil at the Federal Tax Ombudsman office added that their office work was going at snail’s pace. “First PAT workers used to sit outside our entry gate and ask for water and places to pray, now it is police officials asking the same,” Jamil added. He commented that they could not send even send files to the nearby Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) building as it was surrounded by PAT workers.

An FBR official commented that though they are facing problems, they are using Ataturk Avenue to get in-and-out of office.

Staff numbers in the Evacuee Trust building, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Information Technology were also less than on routine working days.

“Half of our staff could not come to office due to the closure of access routes,” said National Vocational and Technical Training Commission Chairperson Khalid Hanif.

A government clerk said that he had finally gotten to office on Tuesday after finding a way through, only to learn that his salary has been docked for absences during the past week.

Most of the clerical and administrative staff at Ministry of Science and Technology was absent as well. An official said on the condition of anonymity that the district government’s “bizarre” traffic plan had made getting to work from Rawalpindi “maddening”.

Staff at the Election Commission of Pakistan had also been absent for the last week, and the numbers sat the office were still quite meagre on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court on Monday also ordered that Constitution Avenue be cleared as it was difficult for judges to get to the building.

Members of parliament are also using alternative routes behind the presidency after PAT workers besieged because of last week’s siege of the main gate by PAT workers. The main gate of establishment and cabinet divisions are also being protected by heavy contingents of police and rangers, while barbed wire was also put on the grills of the building.

The situation at Pak Secretariat is no different as most of the lower cadre staff come from Rawalpindi. Employees using public transport have to get off at stops near Lal Masjid in G-6 or Super Market in F-6and and walk the remaining five-odd kilometres.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

PM Nawaz, army chief agree to resolve crisis ‘expeditiously’

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 17:00


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif have agreed to ‘expeditiously’ resolve the ongoing political crisis triggered by the anti-government protest sit-ins of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in the federal capital.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office, Gen Sharif called on the premier and both discussed the overall security environment, including the prevailing political situation. “There was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest,” said the statement.

Due to the continuing sit-ins on the Constitution Avenue, the army chief had to use a helicopter to reach the Prime Minister House. Sources familiar with the meeting said that the prime minister briefed the army chief about his government’s efforts for a political solution to the stalemate with PTI chairman Imran Khan and PAT leader Dr Tahirul-Qadri.

According to them, the army chief voiced his concerns over the persisting stalemate in talks between the government and the protesting parties. He reportedly said that an early solution to the issue was important to prevent the situation from worsening.

Premier Nawaz informed the army chief that the government had no intention to use force against the participants of the sit-ins while he also vowed to ensure the security of key state institutions.

On August 19, the army had issued a rare public statement on the political issue and urged both sides to resolve the issue through dialogue in the best national interest.

Insiders disclosed that the issue of the appointment of next chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also came under discussion. The current spy chief, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, will relinquish the office after his retirement in October this year. A source disclosed that the appointment of new DG ISI is expected within the next few days.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Model Town tragedy: LHC upholds FIR order against PM, 20 others

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 16:59


The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday upheld a sessions court decision and directed the police to register a murder case against the prime minister, Punjab’s chief minister and 19 other officials in connection with the killing of over a dozen Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers outside the Central Secretariat of Minhajul Quran International at Lahore’s Model Town on June 17.

The court dismissed petitions of four federal ministers belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) against the August 16 judgment of an additional district and sessions judge on a petition filed by Jawad Hamid, administration director of the Minhajul Quran Secretariat.

The petitioner had requested the court order registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against 21 officials – including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.

In a short order, Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa of the LHC observed that the petitioners failed to establish their case. However, Justice Bajwa directed the police to complete investigations before arresting any accused nominated in the application.

Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali had filed the petitions against the sessions court order.

During the hearing, Minhajul Quran’s counsel Mansoorur Rehman Afridi claimed that the police had deliberately ignored evidence and statements of eyewitnesses and lodged a one-sided FIR on the complaint of a police official. He said the FIR registered by the police had no value in the eyes of law.

The head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), Additional IG Arif Mushtaq, also appeared and submitted a report to the judge in his chamber. The petitioner’s counsel, Azam Nazir Tarar, argued that Minhajul Quran and PAT leaders, including Dr Tahirul Qadri, expressed distrust over the police and didn’t join investigation into the incident. Nobody turned up on behalf of the Minhajul Quran or PAT, despite several invitations by the police and a JIT made by the government for an impartial investigation into the Model Town tragedy.

The petition filed by the Minhajul Quran before the sessions court was politically motivated, Tarar said, adding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others named as suspects in the application had no link with the incident. He also argued that an ordinance whereby Sub-section 6 was added to  Section 22-A and 22-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure had lapsed and the sessions court no longer enjoyed the power to order registration of an FIR.

Similarly, Punjab’s Advocate General Hanif Khatana argued that the sessions court had passed the impugned order without viewing the investigation reports of the JIT and police. He also said that the petition filed by the Minhajul Quran Secretariat was politically motivated and based on misconception. The judge, however, dismissed these petitions.

Meanwhile, Justice Bajwa also dismissed a petition, filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Zubair Niazi, demanding the implementation of the sessions court’s order. The judge observed that the petitioner was not the aggrieved party in the case.

The BBC quoted the legal team of the Minhajul Quran as saying that they would obtain attested copies of the court order and take them to the Faisal Town police station and ask them to register the FIR. According to legal experts, action could be taken under the Police Order against the police if they refuse to lodge the case. And they could face up to three years in jail.

The counsel for Minhajul Quran, Mansoor Afridi, told journalists outside the court that the law prevailed and the culprits of the Model Town killings would be broaught to justice. “The police have to implement the court order,” he added. “There is no justification for seeking legal opinion after the Lahore High Court decision.”

On the other hand, sources told Daily Express that soon after the LHC announced its ruling PML-N leaders joined their heads in Islamabad and Lahore to discuss the legal, constitutional and technical aspects of the order. After these brainstorming sessions, the federal ministers decided to file an intra-court appeal against the decision.

Copy of the LHC order has been obtained by our correspondent Asad Kharal and can be viewed below:

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Model Town clash: JIT report suggests police FIR be quashed

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 15:43


Representatives of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the clash in Lahore’s Model Town between police and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in June have recommended that the FIR registered by police earlier should be quashed as PAT has not accepted the FIR as legitimate and no witnesses have come forward to record their statements. They added that the police have ‘hidden facts’, The Express Tribune has learned.

In a one-page dissent note attached to the 32-page JIT report, two JIT representatives further stated that the chain of command has not been properly interrogated. Comprising 10 members, the JIT team is headed by Additional Inspector General Special Branch Dr Arif Mushtaq Chaudhry. The other nine members include representatives of the ISI, MI, IB, police, Special Branch and Counterterrorism Department.

The JIT report states that there are many ‘inconsistencies’ found when the statements of the officials concerned in the incident are compared. Officials ranging from constables to the DIG were interviewed during the investigation. Additionally, the record of issuance of weapons and bullets did not match the record and statements of police officials.

A Punjab government spokesperson clarified that the report was received and has been deemed ‘inconclusive’. A request was made to the High Court for the provision of the missing documents so that the report may be reviewed. A committee has been constituted to carry out a detailed analysis of the report and make recommendations.

The JIT pointed out nine police officials, noting their names, ranks and the nature of their weapons. These officials were ex-SHO PS Sabza Zar Inspector Sheikh Amir Saleem, Sub Inspector Elite Force Hafiz Athar Mehmood, Head Constable Elite Force Muhammad Naveed, Head Constable Elite Force Khurram Rafique, SP Security Suleman Ali Khan, ex-SHO PS Shadman Sheikh Asim, Constable Elite Force Nisar, Driver/Constable Ubaid and Constable Riaz Baber.

The report adds that there is no record to establish if there was firing from the Minhajul Quran Secretariat. Police, hospital and other records have been examined but some police officials were reluctant to record statements, the report says. Some relevant records have also not been provided to the JIT, according to the report.

Of the nine accused, four accused police officials – Sheikh Amir Saleem, Hafiz Athar Mehmood, Muhammad Naveed and Khurram Rafique – have been arrested and investigations have been completed in their cases. SP Security Suleman Ali Khan, Sheikh Asim, Nisar, Ubaid and Riaz Baber are still at large. The JIT directed SHO Police Station Faisal Town to obtain warrants for these five officials.

The Investigation Officer also received an application from PAT, submitted by Director PAT Muhammad Jawad Hamad and a writ petition lodged by Advocate Nauman Atiq.

In its application, PAT claimed that during the crackdown on the party’s headquarters, DIG Operation Lahore continuously took orders from some higher authority. According to SP Security, he had not called the Elite Force and Mujahid Force but according to the Mujahid Force’s record, and the Elite Force in-charge, they were called on the SP Security’s orders.

According to the Elite Force in-charge, 469 rounds of SMG and 59 rounds of G3 Rifle were fired during the clash. However, he subsequently told the JIT that SP Elite Abdul Raheem Sherazi had ordered him to change the record.

The police operation started at 12:30 am between June 16 and 17, but PAT workers were killed between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm on June 17, the JIT report stated.

Commissioner Lahore Division Rashid Mehmood informed the JIT that the decision to remove the barricades around the party secretariat was taken in a meeting chaired by Rana Sanaullah, the law minister at the time, on June 16, the JIT stated.

Copy of the report can be found below:

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Model Town clashes: LHC upholds order to register FIR against PM, Punjab CM

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 10:39

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday upheld a sessions court’s decision to register FIRs against the PML-N’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the Model Town tragedy, while dismissing a petition from four PML-N federal ministers against the decision.

In his short order, Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa observed that the petitioners failed to establish their case. However, the judge directed the police to complete investigations before arresting any person named in the Minhajul Quran Secretariat application.

Earlier, a sessions court had ordered police to register murder cases against 21 federal and provincial authorities including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. However, Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali challenged the order in the Lahore High Court.

During the course of hearing, Minhajul Quran’s counsel Mansoorur Rehman Afridi said police had deliberately ignored substantial evidences and statements of eyewitnesses and lodged a one-sided FIR on the complaint of a police official.

Further, Afridi said the FIR registered by the police had no value in the law, adding a bench of Sindh High Court had ordered a third FIR to be registered in the same case.

The joint investigation team (JIT)’s head additional Inspector General Arif Mushtaq also appeared and submitted a report to the judge in his chamber.

Petitioner’s counsel Azam Nazir Tarar argued that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leaders including Dr Tahirul Qadri refused to join the investigations. Tarar added nobody turned up on behalf of the Minhajul Quran or PAT despite several invitations by police and the joint investigation team (JIT), made by the government for an impartial investigation of the June 17 clashes.

Further, Tarar alleged the petition filed by the Minhajul Quran before the sessions court was politically motivated. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others named as suspects in the application of Minhajul Quran had no link with the incident,” he said.

Tarar also argued that an ordinance whereby sub-section 6 was added to section 22-A and 22-B of Cr.P.C. had lapsed and the session’s court no longer enjoyed the power to order lodging of an FIR.

Advocate General Punjab Hanif Khatana said the sessions court passed the order without viewing investigation reports of the joint investigation team and police.

However, the LHC dismissed the petitions while also dismissing a petition demanding implementation of the sessions court’s order filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Zubair Niazi. The judge observed that the petitioner was not the aggrieved party in this case.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

TTP commanders form new splinter group

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 10:08

ISLAMABAD: Senior leaders of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have launched a splinter group over their “frustration at internal fighting, lack of coordination and mistrust among the leaders,” a leader of the new group said on Tuesday.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar is the second group formed after a powerful faction of the Mehsud faction of TTP parted ways with the group few months ago.

“We have formed a new group,” former TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, who has also joined the new group, told The Express Tribune by the phone from an undisclosed location.

Explaining the reasons behind the formation of the new group, Ehsan said, “There was infighting. There had been no coordination and organisation. Lack of trust was another serious problem that forced us to launch our own group.”

Qasim Khorasani, a founding member of TTP and head of the group in Malakand, has been nominated as chief of the new faction, Ehsan said.

He also claimed that the head of the TTP ‘Shura”, Qari Shakil Ahmad has also joined the new outfit. Shakil led the TTP delegation in peace talks with the government.

Omar Khalid Khorasani, the incumbent chief of the TTP Mohmand tribal region, is also part of the breakaway faction.

He further claimed that the group has support from the TTP’s Mohmand, Bajaur, Peshawar, Charsadda and Orakzai groups.

Referring to the Afghan Taliban, the spokesperson said, “Our group will work on the pattern of Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate.”

Ehsan said the new group will not include all those who were responsible for what he called weaknesses in the ranks of the TTP.

TTP is facing division at a time when the militant group is in disarray due to the ongoing military offensive in North Waziristan. Most TTP leaders have fled the region and are believed to have moved across the border into Afghanistan or other tribal regions.

The military says the operation in the tribal areas has killed nearly 700 local and foreign Taliban militants.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

PM, army chief to resolve ongoing crisis 'expeditiously'

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 06:19

ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the army chief on Tuesday, a source in his administration said, as a political deadlock over mass protests for the government’s resignation showed no signs of resolution.

“The meeting took place at the Prime Minister’s House,” said the administration source, who asked not to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif discussed the political situation and other matters, the source added.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the PM House said: “There was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest.”

No other details were immediately available. The army could not be reached for comment.

Protesters led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and PAT chief Tahirul Qadri have vowed to occupy the capital, Islamabad, until Sharif resigns – a demand the premier has rejected.

Thousands of Khan and Qadri supporters are now camped out in the heart of Islamabad – the so-called “Red zone” – but the gathering is peaceful and security forces protecting the key installations have not used force to disperse them.

Sharif has a difficult relationship with the army: his last term in office ended in 1999 when then army chief General Pervez Musharraf launched a coup to usher in a decade of military rule.

Relations with the military soured further when Sharif’s government prosecuted Musharraf last year for treason, angering officers who see the army as Pakistan’s saviour and despise politicians as corrupt and inefficient.

Government officials and protest leaders have been in sporadic talks since last week to find a peaceful way out of the crisis but Khan has refused to back down unless Sharif quits.

Qadri, for his part, has given the government another deadline to quit by the middle of this week, saying otherwise circumstances might be “uncontrollable”.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

MQM clarifies Altaf's call to stay indoors was directed towards Islamabad residents

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 03:29

KARACHI: A Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader told The Express Tribune on Tuesday that the party chief Altaf Hussain’s statement urging people to remain indoors was directed towards residents of Islamabad.

Altaf had asked the public to remain indoors on Tuesday after 12 pm as he feared bloodshed would break out amongst protesters and the government. The MQM leader clarified, on the condition of anonymity, that Altaf’s warning was particularly for those in Islamabad.

He said that the government had deployed a huge force of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) around the sit-in protestors in the capital last night, claiming that Altaf’s statement had averted an attack on them.

“Altaf Hussain wants the issue to be resolved through peaceful means and through negotiations,” the party leader stated.

Meanwhile, following Altaf’s request of staying indoors,  panic spread in Karachi with people stocking up groceries and parents not sending their children to schools. The MQM leader also said that he could foresee a martial law coming under the cover of the Constitution.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

If shelling occurs, then we will reply in kind: BJP President

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 02:35

KARACHI: In light of the cross-border firing that most recently killed five people, including three Pakistani civilians, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah said in a televised speech that India will give a “befitting reply” to any shelling that occurs, reported the Times of India.

Shah was visiting the RS Pura district in Jammu, which was affected by the shelling. Shah, Modi and the BJP had come under fire by Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Indian Kashmir, for not doing enough for the people affected.

The rest of Shah’s speech focused on castigating Abdullah for his own response to the violence. “Have you or your representatives even visited the affected areas?” Shah said, addressing Abdullah. “Do the job that has been given to you, even if it is for just a few days,” he said, encouraging the audience to oust the chief minister in the next election.

Despite a decade-long ceasefire in place, violence has flared recently along the Pakistan-India border, in the areas close to Sialkot. India recently cancelled a high-level meeting between the two countries scheduled for August 25th in Delhi after Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit decided to meet with All Parties Hurriyet Conference leaders before it.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

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