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One dead, dozens feared missing after Goa bridge collapses

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:33

PANAJI, INDIA: One person died and several others were feared missing after a bridge collapsed in the popular Indian tourist state of Goa, police and reports said late Thursday.

Dozens of people had gathered on the bridge to watch emergency services attempt to rescue a man who had jumped into the Sanvordem river in Curchorem in Goa’s south when it collapsed under the weight.

Goa: Around 50 people fell of Portuguese-era Zuari footbridge. Incident happened when police was rescuing a youth who jumped off the bridge. pic.twitter.com/ZtHJSJdsg2

— ANI (@ANI_news) May 18, 2017

“A lot of people came to witness the developments from the bridge and the structure collapsed. We managed to save nearly 20 to 25 people and have recovered one body so far,” Goa police sub-inspector Ravindranath Pednekar said.

Wedding hall collapses in Sri Lanka, injuring 20

Some who fell had managed to swim to safety but Pednekar said he was unable to confirm local media reports that up to 30 people were still missing, adding that “search operations are ongoing”.

Indian media reported that the accident occurred around 6.30pm and that the bridge was built during Goa’s time as a Portuguese colony, which ended in 1961.

The post One dead, dozens feared missing after Goa bridge collapses appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Shut up or pack up, NA speaker tells independent lawmaker

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:07

ISLAMABAD: Controversy over Fata reforms led to an ugly scene in the National Assembly when the otherwise calm speaker threatened to use security to remove an independent MNA representing the tribal areas.

The head of Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Mahmood Khan Achakzai made remarks on the floor of the House on Thursday saying that implementing Fata reforms might stir an international controversy as the FCR was an agreement signed between the British Raj-era government of India and the Afghan government.

Scuffle breaks out between PTI, PML-N lawmakers in National Assembly

The remarks sparked a protest by Members from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party, and independents from Fata.
National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq tried in vain to bring order in the house.

Fata MNA Shah Ji Gul Afridi attempted to convey his observation over the issue without a mic, drawing the speaker’s ire.

“If you do not calm down I will throw you out [of the house],” Sadiq eventually said after several directions to maintain order in the House.

Afridi, who is a strong supporter of Fata reforms, told The Express Tribune that he wanted to put forward Fata’s point of view when the protests started.

“The speaker threatened to remove me from the house after disorder began. I was just trying to speak on the issue because I am a representative of the area. But instead of giving me a chance to speak I was threatened,” he said.

I was ready to raise this issue but I had no opportunity to do so as the session was prorogued,” he added while promising to bring up the issue again in the next session.

Earlier, the question-hour session was postponed to discuss the reforms. Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz was scheduled to issue a policy statement on the firing in Chaman by Afghan forces earlier this month.

Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah strongly criticised the lack of consensus among the government’s allies on Fata reforms. The opposition parties also expressed reservations on the replacement of FCR Law by the Riwaj law.

The post Shut up or pack up, NA speaker tells independent lawmaker appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

PTI blames PM Nawaz for ICJ stay on Jadhav execution

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 12:43

Hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a temporary stay on the execution of convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) issued a statement blaming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the ‘unfavourable’ outcome and asked him to clear his position in parliament.

Raising suspicions over the recent meeting of Indian business tycoon Sajjan Jindal with PM Nawaz, PTI Central Information Secretary Shafqat Mehmood on Thursday made a demand for the premier to disclose all details of his ‘secret’ meetings with Jindal, who is known to be a friend of Indian PM Narendra Modi.

In the statement, the PTI has raised a series of questions, seeking an explanation from the incumbent prime minister on the Indian response on the Jadhav issue.

ICJ orders Pakistan not to execute Jadhav until its final order in case

“PM Nawaz should appear before the house to explain why Pakistan did not appoint an ad hoc judge as it had a right to and why the Foreign Office did not take legal advice before initiating correspondence on the issue,” Shafqat Mehmood questioned.

Last week, India had challenged Jadhav’s sentence in the ICJ after a military court sentenced him to death in April. No date has been set for his execution. Jadhav is a former Indian navy officer who was arrested in Balochistan in March 2016.

The PTI also sought further explanations from the PML-N government. “Why the government has selected a lawyer who has not a single international law case reported from the UK Supreme Court and what was the reason to engage London Queen’s Counsel (QC) who was based in Qatar?”

Lawyer who fought Jadhav’s case at ICJ charged INR1: Swaraj

As if they are not enough, the PTI official went on to press the premier to clarify why his government assigned the task to a lawyer who has never argued a case independently before the International Court of Justice and what compelled his government to send a first-year associate from the Attorney General’s office instead of AG himself. Seeking a reply on why the government did not submit a written defence before May 15, Shafqat Mehmood said, “Today’s decision is a clear outcome of the rendezvous of Nawaz Sharif and his Indian friend Jindal.”

He added, “The impression is gaining ground that the government deliberately adopted an irresolute and fragile strategy in this matter.”

Pakistan at the ICJ

While criticising PM Nawaz, PTI leader argued, apprehensions regarding the ICJ decision came true. “Secluded decisions, shrouded national security and defence policies are lethal for the country.”

He went on to say that the national security, defence and foreign affairs demand more subtlety and austerity. “Consultation and national consensus on issues of sensitive nature can abate vulnerability.”

Earlier, taking to Twitter following the ICJ order, PTI’s senior leader Dr Shireen Mazari also hit hard at the PML-N government, claiming she had already known what the outcome of the today’s judgement would be.

As I had predicted in my earlier tweets the ICJ decision was a foregone conclusion. We did not have to go to ICJ to begin with but we did

— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) May 18, 2017

She also tweeted:

We did not explain our appeal and review system to show there was no urgency – we simply said he wld be executed in August 2017! Delib game https://t.co/Xp9cihcjhD

— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) May 18, 2017

The post PTI blames PM Nawaz for ICJ stay on Jadhav execution appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Scientists achieve milestone in quest to produce blood cells

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:57

PARIS: Scientists on Wednesday unveiled two methods for coaxing stem cells into blood cells, a long-sought goal that could lead to new treatments for blood disease, including leukaemia.

In separate experiments reported in Nature — one with mice, the other transplanting human stem cells into mouse bone marrow — researchers demonstrated techniques with the potential to produce all types of blood cells.

“This step opens up an opportunity to take cells from patients with genetic blood disorders, use gene editing to correct their genetic defect, and make functional blood cells,” said Ryohichi Sugimura, a doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of one of the studies.

If proven safe, the proof-of-concept methods could also lead to a “limitless supply of blood” by using cells from universal donors, he added.

Unproven stem cell therapy causes three women to go blind in US

Human embryonic stem cells — generic cells which, as the embryo develops, gradually differentiate — were first isolated in 1998.

A decade later, scientists figured out how to generate another type of all-purpose cell from human skin, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS. These were successfully used to make neurons and heart cells.

But the goal of creating blood-forming stem cells in the lab remained out-of-reach.

Sugimura and colleagues devised a three-step process to achieve that breakthrough.

They began by inducing both embryonic stems cells and iPS to morph into a form of embryonic tissue that — in a natural process — gives rise to blood stem cells. This had been done before.

In the second crucial step, they experimented with dozens of proteins known to control gene expression, especially during the formative process of embryo growth.

Scientists create first artificial mouse ’embryo’ from stem cells

They found that five of these so-called transcription factors, working together, yielded the elusive blood stem cells — the starter kit for white and red blood cells, platelets, macrophages and all the other cell types of which blood is composed.

Finally, they transplanted these human blood stem cells into the bone marrow of live mice.

Within a few weeks, several kinds of human blood cells had formed, and were circulating in the rodents.

“We are now able to model human blood function in so-called ‘humanised mice’,” said George Daley, head of a research lab at Boston Children’s Hospital and the main architect of the experiment.

“We’re tantalisingly close to generating bona fide human blood cells in a dish,” he added in a statement.

In the second study, a team led by Shahin Rafii at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City used adult mouse cells as their starting material, and then guided them through several steps — including exposure to some of the same gene-activating proteins — to create mature blood stem cells in a petri dish.

Taken together, the two experiments “represent a milestone” in stem cell development, said Carolina Guibentif and Berthold Gottgens, researchers at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute in England who did not participate in the work.

Reprogramming cells can ‘reverse’ ageing, scientists say

“The ability to manufacture HSCs” — haematopoietic, or blood, stem cells — “in the laboratory holds enormous promise for cell therapy, drug screening and studies of leukaemia development,” they wrote in a commentary, also published by Nature.

A key concern, they noted, was the possible risk associated with using transcription factors that may themselves be linked to the early stages of leukaemia.

How these cocktails of catalysing proteins are inserted into developing tissue is of particular concern.

But new techniques of ultra-precise gene-editing, they added, could soon render such potential problems obsolete.

The post Scientists achieve milestone in quest to produce blood cells appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pro Wrestling Entertainment makes history in Karachi

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:16

KARACHI: When World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) aired Stone Cold’s “Austin 3:16” promo in the 1990s, it proved an instant hit in the world of professional wrestling and is still fondly remembered by wrestling aficionados.

When The Undertaker retired Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 26, it again made for an iconic moment, something that hasn’t been topped since.

While those memorable events were staged thousands of miles away in a foreign land, one particular piece of wrestling history took place right here in our city of Karachi, thanks to Pro Wrestling Entertainment (PWE).

From here on, May 17 will be remembered as the night when professional wrestling set foot in Pakistan.

Generations of Pakistanis have grown up watching wrestling on their television screens and wishing they could witness such spectacles live in their cities. That decades-old dream has finally come true.

PWE’s first event in Karachi was held at KMC Sports Complex with a dozen international stars performing live for the local audience.

Pro-wrestling can give cricket competition in Pakistan: Badshah Pehlwan Khan

I, being a huge wrestling fanatic, arrived at the venue hours in advance when the ring was still being set up. This is when I realised: “This is it! It’s finally happening. Pro wrestling has come to Pakistan.”

The euphoria was so strong that I couldn’t help but watch the lights, metal rails, ropes and other everyday simplicities with my mouth agape.

The show finally began with the wrestlers coming out for their introductions. Wade Barrett, Carlito, Badshah Pehlwan Khan, Xtreme Fury, Starbuck, Prince Zefy, Bernard Vandamme, Adam Flex Maxted, Angel’s Bombita, Tiny Iron, Mickey and Betty Trash, The Omen, Yacine Osmani, Fabio Ferrari, Aaron Rammy, Audrey Bride and Tim Tango all were given raucous reception.

Unsurprisingly, Barrett, Carlito and Khan drew the biggest cheers from the awestruck crowd.

The two former WWE stars had the crowd in the palm of their hands. The charged-up Karachi crowd, in reciprocation, gave the stars from foreign shores an unforgettable welcome, which was evident by the smile on Barrett’s face.

Ex-WWE stars among 25 wrestlers coming to Pakistan this May

In all, seven matches were held among different competitors, but more than the happenings of inside the ring what transpired outside was more interesting. The crowd screamed their lungs out and at times it seemed that the proverbial roof might come off.

“This is awesome, we want wrestling,” some chanted in approval, while others showed their gratitude, yelling “Thank You Badshah” and “Thank You Barrett.” Those whose throats had run dry trying to get their voices through to the wrestlers, resorted to singing and dancing along theme songs.

In the main event, Khan and Carlito faced off, with Barrett acting as the special guest referee. As the match neared its climax, Carlito drew his famous prop — an apple — took a bite and attempted to spit it in Khan’s face.

Having anticipated the disgusting chewed-up fruit attack, Khan got out of the way just at the right time, leaving the unfortunate Barrett and his face exposed.

An understandably irked Barrett, in retaliation, hit Carlito with his finisher Bull Hammer, allowing Khan to capitalise and win the match. With that, it became clear as to who will be PWE’s main asset as well as the primary contender to become Pakistan’s first-ever World Heavyweight Champion.

PHOTO: Ayesha Mir

PWE debut in Karachi did have some minor issues, with sound and ropes being the main areas that need improvement. However, it’s nothing that can’t be resolved before the crew does it all over again on May 19 in Lahore and May 21 in Islamabad.

Pakistan all set to hold first ever pro-wrestling event today

After all, the night in Karachi had all the basic ingredients such as passion, entertainment, athletic manoeuvres and above all, quality wrestling. And no matter what ‘Bad News’ Barrett’s name might imply, PWE was nothing but good news.

The post Pro Wrestling Entertainment makes history in Karachi appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

UK elections: thirty Pakistani-origin candidates in the run

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:11

As many as 30 candidates of Pakistani origin will be contesting the June 8 elections in the United Kingdom, BBC Urdu reported.

According to lists released by different political parties, the Labour Party has given more tickets to Pakistani-origin men and women than any other party.

The Labour Party has 14 Pakistani-origin candidates to represent it in the elections. These include Shabana Mahmood, Khalid Mahmood, and Perry Barr in Birmingham, Yasmin Qureshi in Bolton, Naseem Shah and Imran Hussain in Bradford, and Rosena Allin-Khan in Tooting.

There is no ‘Mayism’, May says

Amongst others, the Liberal Democrats have nine Pakistani-origin candidates, the ruling Conservative Party has six, while the Scottish National Party has one British-Pakistani to represent it during the election.

Labour Party candidate Shabana Mahmood. PHOTO: TWITTER/@ShabanaMahmood

Labour Party candidate Yasmin Qureshi. PHOTO: TWITTER/@Yasmin Qureshi

London has the highest number of Pakistani candidates, with seven contesting in various constituencies.

Also interesting is the fact that Labour has chosen women candidates for 41 per cent of the seats. Moreover, as many as 50 members of various minority groups will also be representing the party.

Britain’s Labour Party unveils ‘radical’ election manifesto

The ruling Conservatives have women candidates for 29 per cent of the seats, including incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May. The Lib Dems have 30 per cent, while the Scottish National Party has 33 per cent.

Some 11 Pakistani-origin women candidates will be representing major political parties of the country in the upcoming polls.

On Thursday, the ruling party announced its manifesto, including a number of curbs on businesses, which contrast with the free-market approach taken by Thatcher, regarded by many Conservatives as their most successful leader since World War Two, Reuters reported.

The post UK elections: thirty Pakistani-origin candidates in the run appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

JPP, Ajoka Theatre roll out radio series to highlight flaws in Pakistani legal structure

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 10:59

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) has launched an eight-part radio series titled Qaid Kahani in collaboration Ajoka Theatre to tell fictionalised accounts of real life stories from Pakistani gallows.

The episodes can be listened to on the organisation’s official website at www.jpp.org.pk.

These stories have been narrated in a way that every story humanises the death row to erode the hatred, taboo and vengeance seen through the eyes of society towards this vilified group.

Each 15-minute episode underscores an element that encapsulates the country’s faulty legal infrastructure.

The series fuses reenactments, narration, poetry, song, interviews and case histories to tell these accounts.

JPP aims to humanise the non-profit’s demonised clients who either face the death penalty or were executed in the past.

It also hopes to alter the view of the death penalty as it is currently administered in Pakistan.

The radio series is being touted as a novel form of public advocacy.

The post JPP, Ajoka Theatre roll out radio series to highlight flaws in Pakistani legal structure appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Roger Ailes, former Fox News chief who changed cable news, dead

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:56

NEW YORK: Roger Ailes, former chief executive of the US-based Fox News Channel, has died, a source told Reuters on Thursday.

Ailes resigned from Fox News last July following allegations of sexual harassment, marking an abrupt end to his 20-year reign over America’s most lucrative and powerful cable news channel for conservatives.

Ailes was 77, according to the website of Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

Fox News calls anchor an ‘opportunist’ over her harassment claim

Ailes’ widow, Elizabeth Ailes, confirmed his death in a statement on the Fox News website.

“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning,” she wrote.

“Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many. He was also a patriot, profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise —and to give back.”

Brian Kilmeade, a Fox News host, said on the channel that Ailes “helped build Fox News Channel into the powerhouse it is today.”

The post Roger Ailes, former Fox News chief who changed cable news, dead appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Two killed in retribution in Okara as family feud persists

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:01

MULTAN: Two persons were shot dead in Okara on Thursday in a suspected revenge attack by a family that lost two of their own at the hands of victims’ family.

According to sources, Ahmad Ali’s family was asleep in their home on Wednesday night when Saddi, Abbas, Zahoor, and five unidentified armed accomplices broke into the residence and opened fire on the family members.

Shahzad and Manzoor were both hit and died on the spot.

SHO Police Station Saddar Aziz Cheema said that there was bad blood between the two families.

Family feud? IHC judge’s nephew killed in Rawalpindi

Cheema added that the motive behind the crime was to get revenge for the alleged murders of relatives of the suspects.

A few months ago, two men from the Saddi family had been murdered by the victims’ family, he added.

The local police have registered a case and an investigation into the incident is underway.

No arrests had been made till the filing of this report.

The post Two killed in retribution in Okara as family feud persists appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Wedding hall collapses in Sri Lanka, injuring 20

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 08:53

COLOMBO: A multi-storey wedding venue collapsed during construction in Sri Lanka on Thursday, injuring at least 20 workers and leaving three others missing, police and hospital officials said.

Labourers were working on the roof of the grand seven-level structure in Colombo when it came crashing down, pinning tradesmen beneath falling slabs of concrete.

A search was underway for three people missing since the accident, police in the capital said, while 20 others pulled from the ruins with injuries were taken to hospital.

Wall collapse kills 24 at Indian wedding

Construction worker Weerakoon Banda, 42, said he was on the ground level when there was a “huge bang”.

Sri Lankan firemen and rescue workers look for survivors after a seven-story building collapsed during construction in Colombo on May 18, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

“I was trapped under concrete beams, but I could managed to crawl out to safety, but a colleague of mine is still missing,” he told AFP while being treated for a leg injury in hospital.

Rescue operations were hampered by heavy monsoon rains that began shortly after “The Excellency” reception hall collapsed, police said.

Construction accidents are rare in Sri Lanka but concerns have been raised about building standards from a building boom in the aftermath of the civil war.

The post Wedding hall collapses in Sri Lanka, injuring 20 appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Maryam Nawaz draws ire for calling Panama Papers ‘crap’

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 16:41

Maryam Nawaz Sharif raised a furore on Twitter over calling Panama papers ‘crap ‘ and saying it had been trashed in the rest of the world.

Panama is crap. Trashed in the rest of the world. Those relying on it to bring down NS wil bite the dust Insha'Allah https://t.co/j17LCdlfvV

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) May 2, 2017

The prime minister’s daughter went on to say that those relying on the papers to bring down Nawaz Sharif would bite the dust.

To add insult to the injury Mayram said the Panama Papers were never about corruption.

“Even the stealers and hackers (read originators) didn’t say it was. Losers in imminent danger of being swept away in 2018 pounced upon the conspiracy hatched by evil minds.”

Panama papers were never about corruption. Even the stealers & hackers (read originators) didn't say it was. Losers in imminent danger 1/2

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) May 2, 2017

Of being swept away in 2018 pounced upon the conspiracy hatched by evil minds.

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) May 2, 2017

The comments from the PM’s daughter not only drew ire from local politicians but also from foreign critics.

 

If #PanamaLeaks was a four-letter word, what is the SC adjudicating? Why did PM address the nation on it?Why did Iceland PM resign?

— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) May 2, 2017

#PanamaIsNotTrash, it has exposed your family's offshore properties that were bought with the laundered money @MaryamNSharif

— PTI KP (Official) (@PTIKPOfficial) May 2, 2017

shahi khandan pichley chand din sey kuch ziada hi pareshan nahee nazar a rahey? seem to be shooting themselves in the foot on a daily bases

— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) May 2, 2017

Trashed in the rest of the world? ICYMI: ~150 investigations, audits & investigations #PanamaPapers in ~80 countries https://t.co/wUVbDrL0NP https://t.co/1Xx1a6ueC4

— Frederik Obermaier (@f_obermaier) May 2, 2017

Journalism isn't about bringing down a govrnmt. It's about telling the truth. Like it or not. (& #panamapapers isn't only abt Pakistan, btw) https://t.co/u6XzgZjjce

— Bastian Obermayer (@b_obermayer) May 2, 2017

Now is this mere "crap"? After Iceland PM, Maltese PM in trouble over PanamaLeaks revelations! https://t.co/dbEJGbhVd3

— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) May 2, 2017

The post Maryam Nawaz draws ire for calling Panama Papers ‘crap’ appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

DG ISI quietly visits Kabul to discuss intelligence-related issues

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 15:05

ISLAMABAD: The head of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency on Tuesday quietly visited Kabul as part of efforts by the two estranged neighbours to reset their ties particularly in the field of intelligence cooperation.

This was the first visit by Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar as Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and came at a time when relations between Islamabad and Kabul are at their lowest.

The news of ISI chief’s likely visit to Kabul was first given by Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, who led a high-level parliamentary delegation to Afghanistan over the weekend. On his return, the speaker told reporters that the ISI chief is expected to visit Kabul this week.

There was no official confirmation from either side about the visit, as well as his engagements in Kabul. Afghanistan’s Tolo news reported that the ISI chief was in Kabul to improve bilateral military and intelligence cooperation.

NA Speaker in Afghanistan: Kabul urged to work with Islamabad

The ISI chief’s trip came on the heels of a high-level Pakistan Army delegation led by Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt Gen Bilal Akbar visited Kabul.

Afghan authorities were conveyed that Pakistan Army had control in all areas on Pakistan side of the border and shall not allow its soil to be used against Afghanistan.

“Terrorists are common threat and shall be defeated,” the official statement quoted Gen Bilal as saying.

The flurry of visits by senior military and intelligence officials were part of efforts by the two sides to defuse their months old tensions primarily due to serious differences on fighting the militant groups. Both sides accused the other for hands-off approach to certain militant outfits.

Afghanistan has long held the view that Pakistan is still harboring Afghan Taliban on its soil, a charge strongly rebutted by Islamabad.

April 13 US bombing killed 13 RAW agents in Afghanistan: FO

In fact, Pakistan has its own reservations by Afghan authorities to take on TTP and affiliates, which have been responsible for some of the deadly terrorist attacks.

In confessional video statement released by ISPR, Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former spokesperson of TTP, revealed that the outlawed terrorist group was being funded by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

His statement, according to Pakistan, further vindicated its stance that Indian state agencies were involved in sponsoring terrorists attacks in the country.

The post DG ISI quietly visits Kabul to discuss intelligence-related issues appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

President Trump advocates US government shutdown

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 14:17

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump took the unusual step of advocating a shutdown of the US government on Tuesday, after Republicans and Democrats reached a budget deal that ignored key White House demands.

After Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress jettisoned his promise to build a border wall and cut environmental spending, the embattled president lashed out, saying maybe the government should not be funded at all.

Previous shutdowns have cost the US economy tens of billions of dollars and seen federal services grind to a halt, as thousands of non-essential personnel are temporarily laid off.

Trump’s outburst came amid a rocky few days for his young presidency.

His latest crack at health care reform is also faltering in Congress and a series of presidential media interviews have roiled markets, allies and – thanks to controversial comments about the American Civil War – some historians.

But Trump appeared especially angered by the perception that the White House and the Republican majority on Capitol Hill had been rolled in a deal with Democrats to fund the government until September.

“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” Trump tweeted, lamenting the need for bipartisan compromise.

Trump also called for a change in rules that require 60 votes in the Senate to pass such measures – a threshold that makes party compromise necessary.

“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We… either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%,” Trump tweeted.

That would substantially change US politics, making budgets more partisan and poisoning what is left of inter-party cooperation.

His view appeared to be backed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who said: “I think the Democrats cleaned our clock. There are things in this bill that I just don’t understand. This was not winning from the Republican point of view.”

Trump could, if he wished, veto the Republican-Democrat deal, which is still being finalised in Congress and has yet to land on his desk.

But in later Rose Garden comments, Trump appeared once more to embrace the agreement, calling it a “clear win” for the American people and a “victory under the radar” for Republicans.

“We didn’t do any touting like the Democrats did,” Trump said, flanked by a trophy-winning Air Force sports team.

Echoing Republican allies, Trump described the deal as “a very important thing for the men and women of the United States military.”

The $1.2 trillion agreement would increase military spending by $25 billion, or 4.5%, above fiscal year 2016 levels.

It also funds an authorised 2.1% pay raise for the military.

Republicans have also hailed the $1.5 billion in funding for non-wall security efforts along the nearly 3,218km border with Mexico.

Democrats decried Trump’s call for a shutdown.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said “bipartisanship is best summed up by the Rolling Stones, ‘you can’t always get what you want’.”

The post President Trump advocates US government shutdown appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Ruckus in K-P Assembly over PTI lawmaker’s remarks about women members

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 13:30

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly witnessed an uproar on Tuesday evening when a member of the treasury passed obscene remarks about women lawmakers of the opposition bench.

During a discussion on water-related issues, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) minister for Public Health Engineering Shah Farman said, “There are 36 departments in the government but if the women (lawmakers) had only water-related issues in their constituencies then they should meet me alone.”

The remarks caused a ruckus in the House, forcing the deputy speaker to adjourn the sitting without completing the agenda.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker Nighat Orakzai asked Farman to apologise and retract his remarks. However, instead of apologising, Farman told the Orakzai “look at your ugly face” when the latter protested against the former’s remarks.

It began when the lawmakers were protesting against the non-allocation of funds for women members and those belonging to minorities. According to Orakzai, the incumbent government had limited development funds to male lawmakers and those belonging to treasury benches.

Uproar in assembly over minister’s sexist outburst

“We were assigned developmental schemes in the umbrella projects but now we are not getting any schemes for the constituencies implemented due to lack of funds,” she said.

The lawmakers walked in front of government benches holding placards against unequal distribution of developmental funds and ignoring women in the funds.

The government faced severe criticism from the opposition benches when a PPP lawmaker Fakhar Azam told the house that district Nowshera’s share in the developmental funds was more than the collective funds earmarked for the seven southern districts including Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Kohat, Hangu and Karak.

Nowshera alone, he added, had been given Rs4.56 billion developmental funds while all the seven southern districts received only Rs3billion. He further said that 9 districts – where the government had majority of votes – had been given Rs16.52 billion, while the rest of the 16 districts had been given only Rs5.46 billion funds.

The post Ruckus in K-P Assembly over PTI lawmaker’s remarks about women members appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

CCI approves Rs177.6 billion flood protection plan

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 13:04

ISLAMABAD: With an eye on the high toll of natural calamities, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) has approved a Rs177.6 billion for the National Flood Protection Plan Phase-IV, of which 50 per cent will be provided by the federal government and the rest pooled from provincial governments.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired the 31st meeting of CCI on Tuesday, while the chief ministers of all four provinces were in attendance.

According to a notification issued by the PM Office, the plan that spans 2015-16 through 2025-26 aims at developing an integrated flood management system by focusing on reservoir operations, flood forecasting and early warning, flood risk zoning, watershed management, flood proofing and insurance, disaster management, and other non-infrastructural measures.

Over the past few years, the Federal Flood Commission has been issuing warnings about the high magnitude of climate change impact including floods. According to the commission, the overall damages incurred in the last six years due to floods alone is almost equivalent to the total flood damages incurred in the previous 60 years.

Three-year data: Monsoon flooding claimed 1,029 lives

Floods are among the most devastating natural disasters and are generally caused by heavy concentrated rainfall in catchments during the monsoon. According to official figures, flash flooding triggered by torrential rain led to 1,029 deaths in the monsoon season over the last three years. In the same period – 2014 to 2016 – another 1,297 people were injured and 4.5 million affected by flash floods.

The plan the CCI has approved has been dubbed the need of the hour and had been pending with the CCI since February 2016. In Tuesday’s meeting, all provinces agreed that the frequency and intensity of floods and corresponding damages have increased manifold, making it imperative to have an integrated and innovative approach to flood protection.

The 10-year plan has been formulated by the Ministry of Water and Power using World Bank funding.

Elsewhere on the agenda

According to sources familiar with the meeting, the CCI also gave the last opportunity to Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhry to discuss the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in light of the 18th Amendment.

The issue has been pending with CCI for the last three years. A CCI sub-committee headed by Iqbal is supposed to mull the role of the central HEC and provincial HECs in the post-18th Amendment scenario and make recommendations to the CCI for a final decision. However, insiders say the provinces, especially Sindh, have shown little interest in resolving the issue and keep sending lower-grade officers for the meetings.

Special panel: Senators oppose placing CCI under ministry

The Tuesday meeting tasked Iqbal with ensuring that the crucial issue is resolved soon lest the provinces start discrediting degrees issued in other provinces after the formulation of their respective provincial HECs.

The council was briefed on the completion of consultations on National Forest Policy 2015 with all provinces and it also expressed satisfaction over the 6th population and housing census under way in the country.

The Ministry for Water and Power informed the CCI that issues regarding the settlement of net hydel profit between Wapda and Punjab have been settled wherein Wapda has issued a Rs38.12 billion promissory note in favour of Punjab.

Under the 18th Amendment, it is mandatory to hold a CCI session after every 90 days. The last meeting was held in December.

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German defence minister scraps US trip over soldier scandal

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 12:57

BERLIN: Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen scrapped on Tuesday a US trip to deal with a scandal over a far-right soldier who allegedly plotted an attack while posing as a Syrian refugee.

Police last Wednesday arrested the 28-year-old army lieutenant, identified as Franco A, who had created a false identity as a Damascus fruit seller, complete with a spot in a German refugee shelter.

Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, have taken over the investigation against the soldier, whose case came to light after he was caught with a loaded gun at the Vienna airport in February.

Von der Leyen on Sunday harshly criticised the armed forces for leadership failures, attitude problems and for tolerating rightwing extremists, as well as sexual abuse cases, in its ranks.

The scandal widened when it emerged that the lieutenant had expressed rightwing extremist views in a 2014 academic paper, but that no disciplinary action was taken against him.

German minister blames ‘weak’ army leadership after racism case

Von der Leyen criticised “a misunderstood esprit de corps” that had led superior officers to “look the other way”.

Soldiers have reacted angrily, accusing her of collectively tarring them while failing to take responsibility herself.

Now the minister has called off a scheduled US visit and instead plans to visit on Wednesday the Franco-German base near Strasbourg where the suspect had been stationed.

“The minister’s priority is to clear up the ongoing case around lieutenant A,” the defence ministry said.

On Thursday, she plans to meet about 100 high-ranking military personnel in Berlin to discuss ways to reform the armed forces.

The military intelligence service is currently investigating around 280 cases of suspected far-right sympathisers in the forces.

The lieutenant was first temporarily detained in February by Austrian police after he tried to retrieve a loaded, unregistered handgun he had hidden in a toilet at Vienna airport.

This sparked an investigation in which a fingerprint check threw up an even bigger surprise – the suspect had in December 2015 created a false identity as a Syrian refugee.

The soldier, who has an Italian father and German mother, had pretended to be a Damascus fruit seller named “David Benjamin” – ostensibly a Catholic with Jewish roots who had fled the Islamic State militant group.

The Bild newspaper has reported that police found a “death list” compiled by the suspect, including anti-fascist leftwing activists.

Police have also arrested an alleged co-conspirator, a 24-year-old student identified by the media as Mathias F.

German army officer pretended to be Syrian refugee, planned terrorist attack

Von der Leyen and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, in charge of refugee issues, have vowed to clear up the embarrassing case, which led the Social Democrats’ secretary general Katarina Barley to label the two ministers a “security risk” for Germany.

And the Social Democrats’ parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann attacked de Maiziere over the “incredible” case, in which a light-haired applicant who spoke no Arabic was nonetheless registered as a refugee.

He said he worried what other “serious mistakes” had been made as authorities registered a mass influx of one million asylum-seekers since 2015.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Villagers kill leopard in AJK’s Leepa valley

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 12:35

MUZAFFARABAD: Villagers on Tuesday killed a leopard in the Mandal area of Leepa Valley in Hattian Bala district, some 100 kilometres away from the capital city of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

The villagers said they killed the big cat with the help of police in self-defence.

Deputy Commissioner Hattian Bala Hamid Kayani told The Express Tribune that the leopard had killed five cattle heads in different villages of Leepa in half an hour before straying into the residential areas.

“The villagers tried their best to scare the big cat away but it became more violent and started charging at them,” he added. “In the end, the villagers sought help from the local police who then killed the leopard to save human lives.”

Army airlifts supplies to Leepa Valley

The director of AJK’s Wildlife and Fisheries Department, Nayeem Iftikhar Dar, said he has ordered an inter-departmental inquiry into the killing of the big cat.

“We have eight watchers in Leepa Valley and if they could not save the endangered leopard then they will have to face the music,” he added. “Leopard is one of the big cats found in the Himalayas region and is living in the upper reaches of Neelum and Leepa valleys.”

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EU to end internal Schengen border controls by November

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 12:33

BRUSSELS: EU countries that imposed border controls inside the passport-free Schengen area because of the migrant crisis should end them by November, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and non-EU Norway, which introduced the ID checks in 2015, would be allowed one final six-month extension, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

“The time has come to take the last concrete steps to gradually return to a normal functioning of the Schengen area,” he said of the passport-free area named after a town in Luxembourg and was to be a symbol of free movement in the bloc.

“Schengen is one of the greatest achievements of the European project. We must do everything to … protect it,” Avramopoulos said in a speech.

More than a million people sought asylum in Europe’s rich north in 2015, mostly in Germany but also in large numbers in Sweden, straining the capacity of countries to cope.

EU against ‘hard border’ between N. Ireland, Republic: Juncker

A contentious deal with Turkey to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Greece and the overland route to Germany, in return for EU funds, has reduced flows to a trickle, although thousands of
migrants still try to reach Europe from Libya via sea routes.

The Swedish government said on Tuesday it would remove ID
checks on journeys from Denmark into Sweden. However, its policy was not immediately clear after it said it would also maintain surveillance cameras and x-raying vehicles passing over the border.

Germany has argued it needs the controls despite the fall in
migrants coming through Greece and the Western Balkans to combat the threat of militancy in Europe.

British EU residents concerned about Brexit’s impact – survey

Under EU rules, the countries were allowed to impose the emergency controls for up to two years in September 2015.

The EU executive approved six-month extensions of controls
at the German-Austrian border, at Austria’s frontiers with
Slovenia and Hungary and at Danish, Swedish and Norwegian
borders. Norway is a member of Schengen but not the EU.

EU governments must now agree to the recommendations.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Militant recruitment of Jordanians at lowest ebb -senior official

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 12:11

AMMAN: Recruitment of Jordanians by militant groups to fight in Syria and Iraq has fallen to its lowest level during the current conflict, following a tightening of anti-terrorism laws and surveillance, a senior Jordanian official said.

Some 900 Jordanians are fighting in the two neighbouring countries for Islamic State and al Qaeda and their offshoots, the official told Reuters on Tuesday. But they mostly left Jordan, a staunch US ally, in 2013 and 2014, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Numbers joining the ultra-hardline groups have dropped as better intelligence has enabled Jordanian security forces to arrest radicalised youths before they could leave the country, while prison sentences for militant activities were stiffened in 2014, he said.

But authorities have also sought to avoid tough punitive measures that might turn would-be militant sympathisers or first-time offenders into hardline fundamentalists, the official said.

Jordan’s borders with both Syria and Iraq have been tightly sealed and the few who have left since 2014 have mainly gone through third countries, security sources say.

“As a neighbour …the (recruitment) figures should have been much higher under different circumstances,” the official said, adding that far fewer fighters had come from Jordan than from some other countries that did not share borders with Iraq and Syria.

Jordan plays a prominent role in the US led coalition against Islamic State, providing military, logistical and intelligence support, Western diplomats and regional intelligence sources say.

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QWP Charsadda general secretary resigns from party

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 11:38

SHABQADAR: The general secretary of Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) in Charsadda and Shabqadar nazim Zafar Ali Khan has resigned from the party.

Announcing the decision in the Shabqadar tehsil municipal administration office on Tuesday, Khan said he was resigning from the party and the general secretary post because the burden of party work was preventing him from giving enough time to Shabqadar.

Khan won both district and tehsil seats in 2015’s local government elections and was nominated for nazim by the QWP, a coalition partner in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.

QWP poised to become PTI’s right hand in coalition

He did not reveal what he plans to do next but did say he would consult with his peers and make an announcement of his future strategy next month.

Although Khan did not indicate which party he might join in the future, there is speculation that he might be meeting Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman next week in Peshawar and that his resignation announcement came after JUI-F asked him to quit QWP.

Local political analysts said Khan has had personal differences with QWP for a while now and he had been struggling to form a bloc against the QWP chief in Shabqadar, who will contest against him in the 2018 elections.

Party woes: Former JUI-F MPA resigns over alliance with QWP

Khan has neither accepted not denied the speculations. However, his close friends said he had been approached in the past by Awami National Party but declined because he held a grudge against ANP veteran leader Masoom Shah whom he has defeated in local elections held in Battagram union council.

Meanwhile, after JUI-F member Zahid Khan’s  recent shift to ANP, analysts believe that JUI-F and ANP would form a coalition in Charsadda to give tough competition to Aftab Sherpao on NA-8 and Sikandar Sherpao on PK-21 in the upcoming general elections.

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