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The Times of India
Tackle cow vigilantes, moral police with iron hand: Yogi to officials
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:06:00 GMT
Taking a serious note of cow vigilantes and moral police taking over the government’s initiatives of banning illegal slaughter and starting anti-Romeo squads, UP CM Adityanath Yogi on Thursday issued instructions to senior officials to tackle such elements with an iron hand. more...
UP exam: Men dictated answers from window
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:34:50 GMT
District education officer, Mathura, Indra Prakash Singh said he has issued notice to 35 schools in Mathura, asking them to "give in writing" that cheating has not taken place at their centres. He said if he gets any evidence of cheating, such schools would be blacklisted for five years. more...
Private carriers may bar Shiv Sena MP from flying
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 05:11:40 GMT
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Why should I apologise?: MP who beat AI staffer
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 05:44:18 GMT
The Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who beat up a 60-year-old Air India staffer yesterday, said today he won't apologize and doesn't need to, ANI reported."I will not apologize, why should I? First ask him (AI victim) to apologize then we will see," an unrepentant Gaikwad said today, according to ANI. more...
Can spot Romeos by the look in their eyes: Cops
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:23:29 GMT
Sitting in an “anti-Romeo” police jeep, a TOI team joins two women and two male constables whose sole task through the day is to be on the lookout for “miscreants” and to prevent crimes against women. more...
HCL hiring kids straight out of high school
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 01:36:13 GMT
HCL Technologies Ltd, India's fourth-largest software services exporter, is poaching young talent -and in the process looking to possibly pip competitors who offer college placements -by hiring students straight out of high school and training them to be IT professionals. more...
Are Indians in UK getting 'fake' deportation calls?
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 04:48:10 GMT
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Will Virat Kohli play 4th Test in Dharamshala?
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 02:59:37 GMT
Kohli chose to skip the customary knock at nets on Thursday and restrict himself to under-arm throws, cutting a sprightly figure at the customary pitch meeting with curators. more...
IITs told to shut centres, courses with few takers
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:24:57 GMT
The ministry of human resource development has told all centrally funded technical institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Technology, to close centres and end courses which have seen a decline in the number of applicants in the past three years. more...
This wearable can track your ECG
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 04:44:54 GMT
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Times cartoonist hunt: Celebrate toon-tonic wizard
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:28:54 GMT
For decades, millions of TOI readers had a familiar ritual. After picking up the newspaper, their eyes would reflexively move towards their fondest front-page spot. In a few seconds, they would invariably break into a smile. You Said It, the iconic pocket cartoon by the legendary RK Laxman, would set the tenor of their day. more...
Delhi temperatures shoot up 13 degrees in 10 days
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:18:01 GMT
Light jackets have given way to T-shirts in the span of a week as weather in the capital has transitioned unusually rapidly from late winter to summer this year. Delhi saw a whopping 13-degree rise in maximum tempe ratures in the past 10 days, with spring disappearing almost as soon as it arrived. more...
No need to worry about H-1B visas curbs: Govt
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 23:53:35 GMT
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said regarding H-1B and L1 visas for professionals, four bills have come to the US Congress but they haven't been passed. She said the govt is in talks with the US at the highest level to ensure that the interests of Indian people or the IT industry are not affected. more...
Rs 150 fee for commercial vehicles at Delhi’s T1
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:23:07 GMT
All commercial vehicles entering the arrival area of Indira Gandhi International Airport's domestic terminal (T1C) will have to pay a one-time fee of Rs 150 with immediate effect. Commercial vehicles are already charged an entry fee of Rs 150 at Terminal 3 of the airport. more...
UP: Kalash, Swastika adorn Muslim wedding invite
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 01:16:20 GMT
Amid rising menace of intolerance, a rural Muslim family in Ballia district has set a new precedent by sending invites to its relatives and friends that carry Hindu religious markings. more...
Adv: 5 ways to become an ace mobile photographer
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:51:06 GMT
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Lesbian partner slaps notice on woman after harassment
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:30:00 GMT
A city-based advocate got a peculiar case, where the a woman approached him to send a legal notice to her lesbian live-in partner for her alleged harassment over several years. more...
Trump's top India ally has Bengaluru link
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:07:11 GMT
One evening in February, a cavalcade of 10 vehicles made its way through a narrow road in Devanahalli and came to a halt at the entrance to Jade Garden, a tony, gated villa community in Sadahalli village, about 5km from the Bengaluru airport. more...
The Dawn News - Home
Pakistan hosts Afghan Taliban leaders to peace talks
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:37:31 +0500
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani officials have hosted seven Taliban leaders in Islamabad to try and press them into peace talks ahead of a multination meeting in April in Moscow, according to two Taliban officials. Islamabad has been under international pressure to try and bring Taliban leaders, who have lived in Pakistan since their rule in Afghanistan was overthrown in the 2001 US invasion, to some form of negotiations with Kabul. However, successive attempts have faltered and failed. Last year Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States met to jumpstart the peace process but that effort faltered after a series of deadly Kabul attacks that Afghanistan blamed on militants hiding in Pakistan. China, Russia and Pakistan are behind the initiative of the April meeting in Moscow. Afghanistan will attend the meeting as will Iran and India. Washington has not said whether it would attend. The Two Taliban officials who talked to AP said the militant leaders used the Islamabad gathering, which took place last week, to press their own demands, including that Pakistan free Taliban figures from its jails. The two officials, who were familiar with the Islamabad meeting, spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals by Pakistani authorities who have not confirmed the meeting. The international community has stepped up efforts to find a peaceful solution to Afghanistan’s protracted war with the Taliban as security across Afghanistan deteriorates and the Islamic State group threatens to expand its foothold in the region. Despite their refusal to talk to the Afghan government, Taliban officials have held meetings with many others travelling several times to China, opening talks with Russia and Iran, and also attended conferences in Japan and in Europe. Apparently, the missions have had some success as both Moscow and Beijing have indicated they’d be willing to see names of the Taliban leaders removed from the United Nations’ terror list, a long-standing demand of the Taliban for participating in talks. The Taliban attending the Islamabad meeting were led by Mullah Muhammed Abbas, who took part in direct talks with the Afghan government in July 2015 in Pakistan. Those talks abruptly ended as an announcement emerged that Taliban founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had been dead for two years. Others at the meeting included former Taliban higher education minister Amir Khan Muttaqi; former vice and virtue minister Mullah Muhammed Turabi; Mullah Saaduddin from the so-called Quetta shura or council, and Mullah Daud who represented the so-called Peshawar shura. A figure known by only one name, Yahya, a senior member of the Haqqani network that is allied with the Taliban, also attended as did Latif Mansour, secretary of the Taliban leadership council.Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
Document reveals Gillani authorised Haqqani to issue visas to Americans
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:34:32 +0500
ISLAMABAD: Two days after Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz claimed that the interior ministry had in 2010 empowered the then ambassador of Pakistan in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, to directly issue diplomatic visas to Americans without clearance of relevant authorities, a document reveals the authorisation originated from the office of then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani. “The prime minister has been pleased to decide that the Ambassador in Washington will be empowered, with immediate effect, to issue visas valid up to one year without Embassy having to refer each aforementioned visa applications to the concerned authorities in Pakistan. The Pakistan embassy in US would issue these visas under intimation to the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad,” a letter issued with the signatures of the then prime minister’s principal secretary Nargis Sethi reads. The date of the issue of the letter is July 14, which had perhaps mistakenly mentioned by Mr Aziz as the date of a letter issued by the interior ministry. Then interior minster Rehman Malik’s spokesman has already denied issuance of any such letter by the interior ministry that time. The letter reads: “Under the existing visa policy for official US visitors to Pakistan, the Ambassador in Washin­gton is empowered to issue entry visas for restricted periods to US officials who have been recommended in writing by the concerned US authority i.e the department of state and whose duly completed application forms, it is clearly indicated for what purposes they intend to travel to Pakistan.” Mr Aziz had informed the Senate on Tuesday that the change in the policy had led to a quantum jump in the number of visas and 2,487 Americans had been issued diplomatic visas in just six months. He, however, left many questions unanswered and did not reveal who reversed the policy and when and even did not mention if it had been done at all.Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
Decision in Reko Diq case not final ruling, says AG
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:37:31 +0500
ISLAMABAD: Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf on Thursday claimed that the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) — a World Bank-funded tribunal — had accepted Pakistan’s evidence against the international firm over the terminated Reko Diq mining contract.However, he contended that ICSID had declined Pakistan’s request to dismiss financial claims by the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) over the termination of a multimillion dollar mining lease in Balochistan, adding that the case would therefore proceed.“The order by the tribunal of March 20 states that the tribunal has admitted Pakistan’s evidence on the record,” Mr Ausaf explained in an announcement issued by the AG’s office, admitting that the tribunal had not dismissed the TCC’s claims. Ashtar Ausaf says WB-funded tribunal has turned down govt request to dismiss TCC’s $400m claim Pakistan had adopted the plea that the agreement/mining licence at Reko Diq was procured through corrupt means and, therefore, the claimant (TCC) cannot ask for damages.The tribunal took up the dispute between Pakistan and the TCC after the latter’s application was rejected by the Mining Authority of Balochistan.The Supreme Court, in January 2013, had declared void the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement, signed between the Balochistan government and Australian mining company BHP in 1993. After the decision, the BHP sold its stakes in the venture to TCC.TCC had invoked the jurisdiction of ICSID against the prospective Reko Diq Minerals Licence, claiming a loss of investment amounting to $400 million. the TCC is a Canadian and Chilean consortium of Barrick Gold Corporation and Antofagasta PLC, formed to explore gold and copper at Reko Diq — a small desert town in Chagai, Balochistan, that sits over the Tethyan copper belt and is known for having the fifth largest deposits of gold and copper in the world.The AG explained that the recent ICSID tribunawl order was not a final order or award in the matter of TCC versus Pakistan. “It is part of a series of orders issued at the end of each distinct phase of the hearing,” the AG explained, adding that the tribunal’s order had been issued at the end of a phase where Pakistan presented evidence of alleged corruption by TCC and its representatives.In Sept 2015, Pakistan had filed an application requesting the tribunal to dismiss the claims by TCC on grounds of corruption. Pakistan presented detailed evidence of corrupt practices by TCC in relation to its investment in the Riko Diq project, the AG stated.This order brings to an end the “corruption” phase and it will now proceed with the “quantum” phase.Explaining further, the AG stated that in this phase, the claimant (TCC) will now present its case for the value of compensation it seeks for terminating the licence.Pakistan will rigorously contest any amount claimed by the claimant, AG said, adding that the final liability, if any, would be determined at the end of quantum phase.The ICSID system, he explained, also provided for “annulment” of an award and other remedies and options were available to Pakistan within and outside of international arbitration, which it continues to consider fully.Pakistan reserves the right to challenge the validity and enforceability of any order passed by ICSID tribunal, he said.Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
Ceasefire violations decreased since ‘surgical strikes’, claims India
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:34:32 +0500
NEW DELHI: The Indian government has told the Rajya Sabha that ceasefire violations and casualties on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border have come down since September when it says its troops carried out surgical strikes inside Azad Kashmir against militant targets, The Hindu has said. Pakistan has denied any crossing of the LoC by Indian troops. The government was replying to a question whether terrorist activities had increased after the so-called surgical strikes. “The ceasefire violations by Pakistan have come down post-surgical strikes. There were 228 ceasefire violations at the LoC in 2016 and 221 at the IB [International Border]. However, till February 2017, there have only been 22 ceasefire violations and six on the IB,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said. “The civilian casualties and injuries in 2017 have been zero at the IB and the LoC, whereas in 2016, there were 13 civilian casualties and 83 injured on the LoC and eight casualties on the IB and 74 were injured. Five BSF jawans lost their lives and 25 were injured along the IB,” the minister said. While Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the government of not giving a full reply, Home Minister Rajnath Singh disagreed with him. He said there were 110 terrorist incidents in three months before the surgical strikes and 87 in the three months after them. Also, 34 security personnel were killed before and 19 after, whereas the civilian casualties were seven earlier and six afterwards. Mr Singh put the onus on Pakistan for the resumption of dialogue, saying it should end what he called “cross-border terrorism”. “Pakistan should at least make a beginning and say it is willing to talk and end the terrorist activities,” he said. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury asked why there was no movement on a dialogue with all stakeholders in India-held Kashmir despite an all-party delegation led by the government calling for it. Mr Singh said that he had visited Kashmir thrice and had let it be known that he was willing to meet anyone there. “You know the reality. Please say it. Sharad Yadavji and Sitaram Yechuryji had at the time of the delegation tried but had to return,” he said. He said job opportunities for Kashmiri youth had increased.Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
IS recruiting in Pakistan, Afghanistan, says US
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:34:32 +0500
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has warned that the militant Islamic State (IS) group wants to recruit young people from Pakistan, Afgha­nistan and Iraq and has stepped up its efforts in those places.Speaking at the 10th Global Coalition ministerial meeting on IS in Washington on Wednesday, Mr Tillerson also hinted at establishing a safe zone in the Middle East for sheltering Syrian refugees.“The United States will increase pressure on ISIS and Al Qaeda and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through ceasefires, to allow refugees to return home,” he said. Mr Tillerson said that since the United States and its allies had broken their back in the Middle East, IS militants were moving to other regions to recruit fighters. “Today, … Daesh (IS) is resorting to many terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and many other places in Europe in order to send a message that they are still standing and they want for those young people to go fight in its ranks,” he said.The 68-member global coalition against the IS is the largest in history and 23 of its partners have over 9,000 troops in Iraq and Syria to back the effort to defeat IS militants. Since Pakistan is not a member, it did not attend the ministerial conference.Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, who represented his country at the meeting, urged the US to send more forces to help battle the Taliban and the Islamic State extremists. Addressing a Washington think-tank, he blamed Pakistan for most of the troubles his country was facing and urged the coalition partners to use their influence to persuade Islamabad to stop alleged cross-border terrorist attacks.Pakistan says it has already eliminated terrorist hideouts on its side of the border but blames Afghanistan for continuing to shelter TTP terrorists. Mr Rabbani welcomed a recent call by US General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, for a few thousand more troops to help Kabul defeat the militants.The Trump administration has not yet said if it will respond positively to Gen Nicholson’s appeal. Some 8,400 US troops are already deployed in Afghanistan, in the 16th year of the war and there are plans to increase that number to 15,000 to 20,000. “We stand confident that the new US administration … will remain strategically engaged” and will make “an appropriate decision considering the prevailing security challenges still facing us”. He said Afghanistan had now stopped asking Pakistan to deliver Taliban to the peace table. Instead, “we want Pakistan to take action against the Taliban leadership. They should not support violence in Afghanistan.”At recent briefings in Washington, Gen Nicholson said that almost 70 per cent of IS fighters in Afghanistan were Pakis­tani Taliban who joined the group after they were forced out of their country. He acknowledged that although the United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years now, a dozen terrorist groups were still operating there. The IS in the Pak-Afghan region identifies itself as Islamic State Khorasan and many IS fighters came from Orakzai tribal agency, the US general said.Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
Plight of Pakistan’s tallest woman
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:34:48 +0500
TOBA TEK SINGH: Zainab Bibi, Pakistan’s tallest woman and a former holder of the ‘world’s tallest woman’ title in Guinness Book of World Record in 2003, has been suffering from diabetes and osteoporosis diseases.She told reporters in her house in Rajana, 14 kilometres from Toba, that her height started increasing when she was 15. Now she is 45 years old. She said when she was 22, her height was 7’ 2. Zainab has five sisters and belongs to a poor family. She is still single, as, according to her, her height was a hurdle in her marriage. In 1998, she became a known figure when she appeared in PTV’s Neelam Ghar programme and in 2003 she was declared world’s tallest woman by Guinness Book of World Record. She has visited 15 countries, including the UK, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia. Through public appearances in the country and abroad, she earned money. Back in 2008, she sought asylum in the UK on political grounds, but her plea was turned down. She said when she was in exile in Saudi Arabia, she had met Nawaz Sharif there who had promised a monthly stipend and other measures to meet her needs after coming into power. She said she was just reminding Mr Sharif of his own words. She said she was spending her days by using insulin and was even unable to go to hospital as she cannot travel by a bus or a rickshaw due to tallness and in critical illness she was forced to hire an ambulance to reach hospital. One of her sisters sells Pakoras outside the house and she bears Zainab’s needs. She urged the prime minister and the chief minister to help her get treatment and meet expenses. Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
British police name Khalid Masood, 52, as London attacker
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:10:40 +0500
The attacker who killed three people near parliament in London before being shot dead was named on Thursday as British-born Khalid Masood, who was once investigated by MI5 intelligence officers over concerns about violent extremism.The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued by its Amaq news agency, but did not name Masood and gave no details. It was not clear whether the attacker was directly connected to the militant group.Police said Masood, 52, was born in the county of Kent in southeast England and was most recently living in the West Midlands region of central England."Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement."However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH (grievous bodily harm), possession of offensive weapons and public order offences."Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament the attacker had once been investigated by the MI5 intelligence agency over concerns about violent extremism, but was a peripheral figure.Police said Masood had never been convicted of a terrorism offence. His first conviction was in 1983 for criminal damage and his last one was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.During five minutes of mayhem in the heart of London on Wednesday, Masood sped across Westminster Bridge in a car, ploughing into pedestrians. He then ran through the gates of the nearby parliament building and fatally stabbed an unarmed policeman before being shot dead. Police arrested eight people at six locations in London and Birmingham in the investigation into the attack, which May said was inspired by a warped Islamist ideology.The Enterprise rental car company said the vehicle used in the attack had been rented from its Spring Hill branch in Birmingham, which is located in the West Midlands."An employee identified the vehicle after seeing the license plate in an image online. We ran another check to verify, and immediately contacted the authorities," said company spokesman John Davies.About 40 people were injured in the attack, of whom 29 remain in hospital, seven in critical condition.May visited some of the wounded in hospital on Thursday, her spokesman said. She also chaired a meeting of the government's crisis response committee, and spoke to several leaders of countries whose nationals were caught up in the attack."Lone-wolf attack" The bloodshed in London took place on the first anniversary of attacks that killed 32 people in Brussels, and resembled IS-inspired attacks in France and Germany where vehicles were driven into crowds.The dead were Masood, two members of the public, and Keith Palmer, the 48-year-old policeman stabbed by Masood."He will be deeply missed. We love him so much," Palmer's family said in a statement. He was married with a five-year-old daughter.It was the deadliest attack in Britain since 2005, when 52 people were killed by Islamist militant suicide bombers on London's public transport system. Police had given Wednesday's death toll as five but revised it to four on Thursday.The casualties included 12 Britons, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese, one American and two Greeks, May said."My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with all those who have been affected by yesterday's awful violence," Queen Elizabeth said in a message.US tourist Kurt Cochran was named as one of the dead in a Facebook post by family member Shantell Payne."With a heavy heart I must pass the sad news of our beautiful brother, father, husband, son and friend Kurt Cochran, he could not overcome the injuries he received in the London terror attacks," Payne wrote.Her post said Cochran's wife, Melissa Payne Cochran, was in hospital with a broken leg and rib and a cut on her head.US President Donald Trump paid homage to Cochran in a tweet, calling him "a great American".A government minister was widely praised for trying to resuscitate Palmer, walking away from the scene with blood on his hands and face.Many have been shocked that the attacker was able to cause such mayhem in the heart of the capital equipped with nothing more than a hired car and a knife."This kind of attack, this lone-wolf attack, using things from daily life, a vehicle, a knife, are much more difficult to forestall," Defence Minister Michael Fallon told the BBC.Three French high-school students aged 15 or 16 and on a school trip to London with fellow students from Brittany were among the injured.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault traveled to London to show solidarity and met some of the other students who were on the school trip and their families.He told reporters the lives of the three youngsters were not in danger. Ayrault later attended the session in parliament where May spoke. more...
Pakistan, Afghanistan working for regional stability, says US
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:34:32 +0500
WASHINGTON: In its first reaction to the situation in the Pak-Afghan region, the Trump administration said on Thursday that Islamabad and Kabul were both working cooperatively towards increased stability in the region. A spokesperson for the State Department pointed to recent efforts for decreasing tensions between the two countries when asked for comments on Pakistan’s decision to reopen the border crossings.“We welcome the reopening of the border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and credit both governments for their continuing efforts to work cooperatively towards increased stability in the region,” the spokesperson said.Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary appreciated the US response to the reopening of the border and stressed the need for bilateral efforts to stop cross-border terrorist attacks. “A border that is managed effectively is in the interest of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bilateral cooperation in this regard can help stop the cross-border movement of terrorists,” Mr Chaudhary said.Pakistan closed crossings at the 2,600km-long porous border immediately after the Sehwan shrine bombing last month. On Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered reopening of the crossings as a goodwill gesture and hoped that Kabul would address Pakistan’s concerns about terrorist sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border.The prime minister’s order followed an ice-breaking meeting between Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar in London last week. Britain hosted the meeting between the two neighbouring countries. The United Nations welcomed the border reopening soon after it was announced and urged both governments to facilitate trouble-free movement of their citizens across the border.The Trump administration, however, issued a delayed and cautious welcome as it has not yet announced its policy for the Pak-Afghan region. Although now in its third month, the new administration has not yet filled the two key posts at the State Department that deal directly with the region, that of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia and the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.The United States routinely condemns terrorist attacks on both sides of the border but usually avoids commenting on disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan other than urging both to reduce tensions.Also, US drones continue to target the Taliban militants on both sides of the border. Their latest victim was Qari Mohammed Yasin, a ‘commander’ of the so-called Punjabi Taliban who was involved in several high-profile terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.Ambassador Chaudhary, while talking to the media in Washington, said that Pakistan wanted better border management to end attacks. “We need to ensure that cross-border movement is restricted to citizens only,” he said. “Terrorists must be stopped.” To achieve this target, he suggested regular contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr Chaudhary said Pakistan was always willing to facilitate transit trade for Afghanistan but it also wanted to make sure that this facility was not exploited by terrorists. “No country has been more generous than Pakistan in facilitating transit trade,” he added.Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017 more...
Military parade in capital marks Pakistan Day celebrations
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:36:12 +0500
(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, "script", "facebook-jssdk")); Pakistan Day was celebrated on Thursday across the country with national zeal and fervour.The nation commenced celebrations for Pakistan Day with a pledge to make the country stronger by wiping out the menace of terrorism, achieving sustainable economic growth and political stability.The day marks the historic Lahore Resolution of 1940, when the All-India Muslim League demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent.The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in provincial capitals. The gun salute early on Thursday morning. The highlight of the day is the joint military parade, which was held at Parade Ground near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad.President Mamnoon Hussain was the chief guest at the event. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sohail Aman and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif witnessed the parade.The ceremony commenced with the singing of the national anthem, after which the president observed the parade from a jeep.Chinese and Saudi troops and a Turkish military band also featured at the event.The military parade resumed in 2015 after a gap of seven years and was seen as a manifestation of the military's show of strength in the wake of a shocking attack in 2014 on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, which left 150 dead, including 132 schoolchildren. PM Nawaz Sharif and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif wait for the arrival of President Mamnoon Hussain. —AFP President Mamnoon Hussain rides a horse-drawn carriage escorted by presidential guards. —AFP Chinese, Saudi troops march in parade Contingents of Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers held a march-past and a salute to the president of Pakistan. Saudi troops participate in the march-past.— DawnNews Special Services Group commandos march during Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad. —Reuters Troops of the parade included contingents of the 18 Punjab Regiment, 21 Frontier Force Regiment, 10 Northern Light Infantry Regiment, Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Air force, 760 Mujahid Battalion, Frontier Corps Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Rangers Punjab, Pakistan Police (represented by the Islamabad Police), Tri Services Lady Officers, Tri Services Armed Forces Nursing Services, Boy Scouts, Pakistan Girl Guides, Special Services Group, and President Bodyguards.The parade also included marches by the Saudi Special Forces, who were represented by the Saudi Land Forces, as well as the Tri Services People's Liberation Army of China.Turkish military band 'Mehtar' performed in their traditional costume and played various tunes including 'Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan'. Formed in 1299, Mehtar is considered one of the oldest bands in the world. Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops march at the parade. Turkish military band performs at the parade. Al Khalid and Al Zarrar tanks roll in Al Khalid tank regiment enters the parade venue.— DawnNews Pakistan Army tanks, including the Al Khalid and Al Zarrar, presented gun salutes to the chief guest.During the parade radars systems and other weapons equipped with military technology were also presented. Pakistani tanks take part in the parade.— DawnNews The NASR missile, which hosts a 60 kilometre range; the Shaheen missile with a range of 900km; the Ghauri missile system, which can hit targets of up to 1,300km in range; and the Babur cruise missile were also rolled out in the parade. With a highly precise guidance system and the capability to reach targets 2,750km away, the Shaheen-III missile was also showcased during the event.Army Aviation fly-past PAF Sherdils perform manoeuvres.— DawnNews Various aircraft belonging to Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force performed a fly-past and demonstrated aerobatic feats for the audience present.AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, Fennec helicopters, Skyraiders, Mi-17 transport helicopters and Puma transport helicopters were part of Army Aviation's fly-past contingent.Army Aviation's fly past was followed by an aerobatic performance by the PAF's Sherdils. JF-17 Thunder and a F-16 fighter from the storied No.9 Squadron of the PAF wowed the audience.Paratroopers wow the crowd A paratrooper jumps from 10,000 feet.— DawnNews Thirteen skydivers from the three armed forces jumped with the national flag and the flags of the three services, landing comfortably on the ground.The participating paratroopers represented the three services, with jumpers from the Shahbaz team of the Army's Special Services Group leading the jump, followed by the Sea Eagle team from Pakistan Navy and the Shahpar team from PAF. The divers jumped from a height of 10,000 feet. Parade celebrates Pakistani culture A cultural parade featuring people and floats from Pakistan's four provinces Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir was presented during the ceremony.The parade showcased the local cultures of the four provinces, while models of historical regional landmarks were presented on the floats. Azad Kashmir is featured during the cultural parade. Pakistan ready for dialogue with India: president President Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain, in his address at the ceremony, said Pakistan's nuclear power would ensure regional peace and stability.The president also urged the international community to play a role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute."We are ready for dialogue with India and want to resolve the incomplete agenda of the division of the subcontinent, in accordance with the UN resolutions on Kashmir," he added.President Hussain said India's irresponsible behaviour had been 'jeopardising the peace of the region'. President Mamnoon Hussain addresses the ceremony.— DawnNews Speaking on terrorism, he hailed the role of Pakistan's security forces and said that Operation Raddul Fassad will continue till the elimination of remaining terrorists in the country.He said Pakistan has emerged as a strong economic power in the region, and thanked China and other friendly countries for their cooperation.The president noted the presence of troops from the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and also highlighted that troops from Saudi Arabia were also participating in the ceremony.Chief of Air Staff leads fly-past Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sohail Aman led a fly past of PAF jets over the parade venue to honour President Mamnoon Hussain. Military jets perform a fly-past.— DawnNews Change of guard in Lahore Change of guard at Iqbal's mausoleum.— DawnNews A change of guard ceremony was held at the mausoleum of Dr Allama Iqbal in Lahore.PAF personnel paraded and saluted Iqbal's tomb. Air Commodore Salman Mehboob was the chief guest at the ceremony.Flag ceremony at Wagah border more...
President hosts investiture ceremony to recognise individuals' services to Pakistan
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:46:22 +0500
President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday evening conferred national awards to Pakistanis and foreigners who have made exceptional contributions to the country. The leaders of all three armed forces were in attendance at the investiture ceremony, hosted at President House in Islamabad as part of national celebrations on Pakistan Day.One officer and one solider were conferred the Tamgha-i-Jurrat (Medal of Courage) in the ceremony.Nine soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty were awarded the Sitara-i-Basalat (Star of Good Conduct).Additionally, 69 Tamgha-i-Basalat, 21 Imtiazi Asnad, 23 Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), 112 Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Military) and 138 Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Military) were conferred on officers and personnel of the Pakistan Army, Navy and the Air Force in different ceremonies across the country.Other honours conferred at the ceremony included the Hilal-i-Shujaat, Sitara-i-Pakistan, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Tamgha-i-Pakistan, Tamgha-i-Shujaat, Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, Tamgha-i-Khidmat and the Pride of Performance award.Elsewhere, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Eng Iqbal Zafar Jhagra conferred eight civil awards at a ceremony held at Governor House, Peshawar. Jhagra conferred one Sitara-I-Imtiaz, four Pride of Performance awards and three Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in recognition of the achievements of Pakistanis residing in the province.Simultaneously, officials of the Punjab government conferred presidential awards to 23 civilians, including five Sitara-i-Imtiaz awards and 18 Pride of Performance awards. Three Sitara-i-Imtiaz awards, five Pride of Performance awards and one Tamgha-i-Imtiaz were awarded in Sindh, and five Pride of Performance awards were conferred in Balochistan.Recipient of the Hilal-i-Shuja'at Mr. Muhammad Tahir Rai for GallantryRecipients of the Hilal-i-Imtiaz Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf for contributions in the field of BiologyProf. Dr. Wasim Ahmad for contributions in the field of BiochemistryMr. Tariq Ahmad for contributions in the field of Mechanical Engineering Recipient of the Sitara-i-Pakistan H.E. Mr. Leif Holger Larsen (late) for his services to PakistanRecipient of the Sitara-i-Shuja'at Brigadier Khalid Farid for gallantryRecipient of the Sitara-i-Imtiaz Mr. Habib Fida Ali (late) for contributions in the field of ArchitectureProf. Dr. Syed Ather Enam for contributions in the field of MedicineMr. Mohsin Raza for contributions in the field of MusicUstad Rais Khan for contributions in the field of Art (Sitar Playing)Prof. Dr. Halil Toker for contributions in the field of LiteratureDr. Luca Maria Olivieri for services to PakistanMr. Yang Wei for services to PakistanMr. Mushtaq Kassim Chhapra for public serviceMr. Raees Ahmed for contributions in the field of Art (Violinist)Recipients of the Pride of Performance Dr. Khalid Sharif for contributions in the field of MedicineProf. Dr. Muhammad Qasim Bughio for contributions in the field of LiteratureMr. Sarfraz Mahmood alias Sarfraz Shahid for contributions in the field of LiteratureMr. Khurshid Ahmad Nadeem for contributions in the field of Literature (Journalism)Mr. Alamgir Anwar Shaikh for contributions in the field of Sports (Snooker)Mr. Rashid Ahmed Aslam for public serviceRecipient of the Tamgha-i-Pakistan Mr. Muhieddine El-Tannir Services to PakistanRecipients of the Tamgha-i-Shuja'at (Posthumous) Malik Muhammad Younas Shaheed for gallantryMr. Ajmal Khan Shaheed for gallantryMr. Hazrat Ghani Shaheed for gallantryMr. Muhammad Zeeshan Shaheed for gallantryMr. Abdul Wajid Khan Shaheed for gallantryRecipients of the Tamgha-i-Shuja'at Mr. Fazli Naeem for gallantryMr. Liaqat Ali for gallantryBrig Imran Mushtaq for gallantryRaja Shah Baz Khan for gallantryLt Col Aamir Naveed Hussain for gallantryMr. Zahid Jamal for gallantryMr. Muhammad Iqbal for gallantryRaja Umer Khattab for gallantryMr. Aziz Ullah Khan for gallantrySyed Bilal Ahmad for gallantryMr. Riaz Ahmed Shaheed for gallantryRecipients of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz Prof. Naweed Imam Syed for contributions in the field of ScienceProf. Dr. Bushra Mirza for contributions in the field of Science (Biochemistry)Dr. Javed Kiyani for contributions in the field of MedicineDr. Bromely Peter for contributions in the field of MedicineMr. Darius Mirza for contributions in the field of MedicineProf. Dr. Khalida Soomro for contributions in the field of MedicineDr. Rashid Ahmed for contributions in the field of Medicine (Radiology)Mr. Muhammad Hameed Shahid for contributions in the field of LiteratureProf. Chen Jidong for services to PakistanMr. Shahrome Safdar Khattak for public serviceMr. Muhammad Mushtaq Ahmad for public serviceRecipient of the Tamgha-i-Khidmat Mr. Ifthikhar Aziz for services to Pakistan more...
At Pakistan Day celebration in New Delhi, hopes for improved ties with India
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:21:17 +0500
Pakistan on Thursday expressed hope that its ties with India will improve in the near future and the "primary" issue of Kashmir will be resolved amicably. Speaking at a ceremony to mark Pakistan Day at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on Thursday, Pakistan's top envoy in India, Abdul Basit, said Pakistan has always tried to maintain cordial relations with all of its neighbours, including India."We hope that our relations will improve," he said, expressing optimism that roadblocks in Indo-Pak ties will be eliminated."We will resolve all of our issues peacefully, especially the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which is the primary issue for Pakistan-India [ties]... we will resolve it according to the will of the Kashmiri people."The high commissioner said Pakistan is certain that the freedom struggle of the Kashmiri people will eventually succeed."History is witness [to the fact] that freedom movements can be suppressed temporarily but they cannot be quashed permanently," he said.On the occasion of Pakistan's Republic Day, he said March 23 required its citizens to affirm their pledge to not hesitate in giving any sacrifice for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan.Basit said last week that apart from terrorism, other issues like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek had also impacted Pakistan's ties with India. These are the core issues required to be dealt with simultaneously, he had said at the time. more...
PIA calls for government help in price war with Gulf airlines
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:46:09 +0500
The beleaguered foreign chief executive of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is calling for help from the government in fighting a price war with deep-pocketed Gulf airlines, including putting restrictions on the number of flights they can operate in its home market.German chief executive Bernd Hildenbrand was earlier this month put on the Exit Control List, effectively barring him from leaving the country, while the government investigates the cost of an aircraft leasing deal.Hildenbrand, who denies any wrongdoing, said the majority state-owned airline is losing about Rs3.1bn per month while market share continues to rise for the likes of Emirates Airlines and its Abu Dhabi-based neighbour Etihad Airlines, attracted by the potential growth in demand in a nation of nearly 200 million people."For us, it is very difficult to compete with the emirates," Hildenbrand said, conceding that Middle Eastern-carriers offered better and cheaper services, whereas PIA is struggling to modernise its 35-plane fleet due to a lack of funds.PIA therefore needs help from the government, including possibly putting "some limitations on the open-sky policy", he said, alluding to the aviation's service agreements with other countries.In comparison, Hildenbrand said the bilateral trade agreements of some other countries and blocs were more restrictive, citing Canada, which has limited the number of flights for Etihad and Emirates. "Even European countries don't open up completely," he added."I am not against competition, but unlimited competition is also not possible." Hildenbrand said PIA's total debt stood at Rs186bn at the end of 2016 and has appealed to the authorities to help nurse the airline back to profitability.However, it would take at least three years to return the company to profitability and to truly transform PIA's fortunes would take even longer."What went wrong in 25 years you don't change in half a year. Impossible," he said. more...
Irsa closes three canals in Punjab to divert additional water towards Sindh
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:11:18 +0500
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has decided to provide Sindh with additional supply of around 4,000 to 5,000 cusecs of water, DawnNews reported on Thursday. Irsa officials have closed down Panjand, Taremo and TP link canals to divert the additional flows to Sindh. The spokesperson for Sindh chief minister confirmed to the media that Irsa officials have assured the provincial government that Sindh will start receiving additional water flows in next two days.The authority took the decision after detailed consultations with the Punjab government. To provide the additional water to Sindh province, the authority has closed down three canals in Punjab. The Sindh government had been hitting hard against the federal government over the shortage of water flows.Earlier on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had demanded of the federal government that the management of water distribution from the Mangla and Tarbela dams be given to Sindh and Balochistan on a rotational basis since the Water and Power Development Authority was not reliable as far as fair distribution of irrigation water was concerned.The chief minister had stated at a press conference that the shortage of water would hit the province badly since early sowing took place in Sindh because of the weather conditions. He was also critical of the ‘unfair attitude’ of the federal water and power ministry for creating hurdles in installing power plants and transmission and distribution system.On the other hand, earlier this month, the Balochistan Assembly passed a resolution against alleged stealing of water by Sindh under the Irsa agreement.The continued stealing of water by Sindh remains a major problem for farmers in Jaffarabad and Naseerabad districts, the resolution stated.A Balochistan MPA Mohammad Khan Lehri, who tabled the resolution had alleged that as per the agreement, Sindh was responsible for providing 2,500 cusecs of water during the growing season. He, however, claimed that since 1991, Balochistan was being denied the share as per the Irsa pact. more...
11 year old 'tortured and illegally confined' in Karachi's Defence area rescued
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:37:00 +0500
Karachi police on Thursday rescued an 11-year-old boy working as a domestic servant in a house in Karachi's Defence Housing Authority (DHA) area, officials said. The minor was recovered with visible marks of torture on his body, they added.Darakhshan police raided a house located on Khayaban-e-Shamsheer in DHA and arrested owner of the house over charges of illegally confining and torturing the 11-year-old boy, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Karachi-South Saqib Ismail Memon told Dawn.SSP Memon said the 11-year-old was recovered in "bad condition".The senior officer said a complaint had been brought forward by the boy's father, Mohammed Ishaq, who accused Rizwan of preventing the 11-year-old from meeting his family in his hometown in Badin.He also alleged that the owner was subjecting his son to maltreatment The police then conducted an investigation and raided Rizwan's house, recovering Ishaq's son.The boy was sent to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for a medical examination. more...
PIA looks to capitalise on electronics ban on US-bound flights
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:28:47 +0500
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Wednesday seemed to be looking at grabbing some market share from its Middle Eastern competition. In a Twitter post, the national flag carrier reminded prospective passengers that it remains unaffected by a recent ban on passengers carrying electronic items on US and UK-bound flights. "Did you know? You can carry your laptop/tablets onboard US bound #PIA flights," the airline tweeted. Earlier this week, the US had announced a ban on large electronic devices such as laptops or cameras on board flights from up to a dozen Middle East nations.Passengers flying to the United States from 10 airports will be allowed only cellphones and smartphones in the passenger cabins, senior Trump administration officials said. Larger electronic items must be checked.The electronics ban affects flights from international airports in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.The rules took effect early Tuesday morning and airlines will have until 3am Saturday to implement them or face being barred from flying to the United States, the officials said.Following suit, the British government also banned passengers flying directly to Britain from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey from taking laptops and tablet computers into the plane cabin. more...
Tharparkar police free 66 peasants 'held in bonded labour'
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:25:46 +0500
At least 66 persons reportedly held in bonded labour were recovered on Wednesday from Tharparkar's Kaloi town, police told Dawn. The Kaloi station house officer (SHO), Karim Dad Mangrio, said police, acting on court orders, raided a farmhouse owned by former MNA Arbab Zakaullah and recovered at least 66 peasants reportedly held in bonded labour. A local, Mandhro Kolhi, had approached the Sindh High Court's Hyderabad Bench seeking help in rescuing 94 persons from his community, including women and children. He claimed the people were being forced to work the former MNA's land for the last two years.Kolhi also alleged that Zakaullah had not been paying the peasants from the harvest their due share for the work they were doing. The 66 peasants were produced in court Wednesday evening, where the court ruled in their favour, liberating them from bonded labour.Rebuffing allegations, the former MNA accused Kolhi and his supporters of fabricating the story, claiming it was all a "drama" as the peasants had taken a loan from him and refused to pay it back. SHO Mangro said more raids are underway to recover the remaining 28 persons Kolhi had named in his application.He further said that this was the first "private jail" of its nature busted by Tharparkar police in the recent history of the desert region. more...
Saudi Arabia executes convicted Pakistani 'drug trafficker'
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:32:54 +0500
Saudi Arabia executed two convicted 'drug traffickers', including a Pakistani national, on Thursday, Saudi state media reported.The Saudi Press Agency named the two men as a Saudi Arabian national Nasser Harshan and Pakistani national Namtallah Khasta Qul.Both were put to death Thursday after being convicted of drug trafficking in the kingdom.SPA said Harshan was a repeat offender found guilty of dealing hashish. Qul was found guilty of dealing heroin.Most Saudi executions are carried out by beheading with a sword, in what the ministry says is a deterrent.The latest executions have increased the number of prisoners killed in the kingdom to 20 so far this year.More than 150 people were executed last year in Saudi Arabia, according to London-based rights group Amnesty International.Amnesty reported 158 death penalties in the country for 2015, the highest annual rate in the past two decades.Among those executed last year was Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a high-profile figure behind a string of Shia protests in 2011 demanding reform in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. more...
Theft through skimming devices: Pakistani banks being told to upgrade ATM technology
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:06:08 +0500
KARACHI: After the second arrest of Chinese nationals in less than a year for allegedly stealing data of banks from their ATMs through skimming devices, initial findings made by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) suggest that the use of “obsolete technology” by the banks for ATMs and decades-old security system at ATM booths makes them an easy target for “an organised foreign group,” officials said. The situation has prompted the FIA to ask the State Bank of Pakistan to ask banks to enhance security measures for their ATMs that can include introduction of biometric features for the use of service. “We have been coordinating with the State Bank on this matter,” said an official of the FIA’s cybercrime cell. “We have made three arrests [all Chinese nationals] in two operations within a year and we have evidence of presence of more men of the same origin who are still actively operating in Karachi. The first case in the city was reported in June last year after the arrest of a Chinese national but the recent arrests show that the scam goes on unchecked by the banks.” The FIA arrested two Chinese nationals last week for allegedly stealing data of a private bank through skimming devices at one of its ATM booths. The arrest came after the bank’s management approached the agency for its assistance when they observed suspicious activity of two foreign nationals at one of its ATM booths. After days of surveillance and investigation, the FIA arrested the Chinese nationals — Zhong Xianming and Zhong Xianquan — and seized the skimming devices. The official said that though the crime started surfacing in Karachi last year, dozens of such complaints had already been registered in different cities of the country. “The two suspects arrived in Pakistan in January 2017,” the official said. “A Chinese national is already in jail on the same charges but despite that others are arriving here for the same job. It means that Pakistani banks are an easy target for this foreign group as our ATMs don’t have advance security features.” He said that the theft of bank data through skimming devices was an old trend in the world but due to advance technology and additional security features used by the banks around the globe it was no more effective in a majority of the countries. “But in Pakistan, it’s still quite effective,” the official said. “That is why we have approached the State Bank so that it could guide banks in this regard. The existing technology for the machines and conventional security system for ATM booths cannot guarantee safety any more. The banks need to introduce the latest technology for their machines and strengthen surveillance system at their ATM booths.” He said that the banks could be asked by the State Bank to monitor footage of CCTV cameras installed at their ATM booths after regular intervals and report it to the FIA in case of any suspicious activity. “Security guards at the ATM booths should also be trained to smell suspicious activity and report that to the bank administration immediately,” he added.Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
Indian President Mukherjee greets Pakistanis on national day
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:43:17 +0500
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday took to Twitter to greet the Pakistani nation and the government in connection with national day celebrations. "Greetings to (the) government and people of Pakistan on their national day," tweeted Mukherjee.He further wrote, "India is committed to building ties with Pakistan in an environment free from terror and violence." The greetings were extended as the nation celebrates the 77th Pakistan Day with national zeal and fervour. The day marks the historic Lahore Resolution of 1940, in which the All-India Muslim League had demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent.Earlier, President Mamnoon Hussain in his address at the main celebration and parade ceremony in Islamabad had said, "We are ready for dialogue with India and want to resolve the incomplete agenda of the division of the subcontinent, in accordance with the UN resolutions on Kashmir." more...
High-powered committee on K-Electric to review Nepra’s decision
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:06:17 +0500
ISLAMABAD: Soon after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with a high-profile Chinese delegation, a special ministerial committee went into an emergency huddle to seek review of multi-year tariff announced by the power regulator for K-Electric (KE) to avoid flight of prospective Chinese investment.The delegation led by Wang Binghua, chairman of State Power Investment Corporation of China — the parent company of KE’s new buyer Shanghai Electric — called on the prime minister on Wednesday.“They (Chinese) told the prime minister that the tariff model announced early this week by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) did not provide incentive for fresh investment and hence unacceptable,” a participant of the meeting told Dawn. “They think the new tariff model has evaporated profitability.” Regulator earlier cut KE’s tariff by Rs3.50 per unit for seven years The power regulator on Monday cut KE’s multi-year tariff by Rs3.50 per unit for the next seven years, transferred efficiency gains to consumers, allowed return on assets to the operator and provided for open-access to new electricity service providers. This entailed about Rs48 billion annual saving to consumers and the government through lower subsidy allocations.The prime minister constituted a high-powered committee to look into the matter and settle in a manner that was conducive to fresh investment. The committee comprised Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and prime minister’s principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad.The committee immediately gathered at the office of the power minister to deliberate on the issue. “Chinese investment could be at stake,” a cabinet member told Dawn after the meeting, saying the Shanghai Electric Power Company (SEP) was entering the power transmission and distribution system with a substantial investment.The minister declined to comment if the committee had reached a conclusive decision, saying “review (of the Nepra decision) could be the possible option”. He also did not say if the government would seek review of the regulator’s decision or it would support the private entity to go for review or reconsideration application.The Shanghai Electric, which entered into a $1.77 billion deal with Abraaj Group for KE’s 66.4pc majority takeover, previously told the federal government it planned $9 billion investment by 2030 for system upgrade and capacity addition in generation, transmission and distribution network.It had reported that it will introduce technologies and equipment that help reduce transmission and distribution losses like it had done in Estonia — cutting system losses from 14pc to 9pc within a year. The introduction of remote technologies can eliminate the possibility of electricity theft through the so-called kunda system that was where the Chinese investor was banking its profitability model.The government quarters are upbeat about the SEP’s entry into Pakistan’s energy market, seeing it as a long-term, non-divorceable relationship replacing a short-term transactional arrangement with Abraaj.Off late, the settlement of dues payable by the Abraaj Group to Sui Southern Gas Company and electricity supplier Central Power Purchasing Agency / National Transmission and Despatch Company estimated cumulatively at around Rs138 billion and Abraaj’s counter claims were already appearing as a stumbling block. The initial clearance by the corporate watchdog for the share transfer has already expired a few days ago and the parties concerned had planned to seek an extension.An official statement quoted the prime minister as saying that his government had given top priority to the power sector to help it meet industrial, commercial and domestic requirements because of shortages. He felicitated Mr Wang on the groundbreaking of 1,320-megawatt coal-based power project in Balochistan as a joint venture between the Chinese company with local partners Hub Power Company and the Balochistan government.Mr Sharif said Pakistan provided a conducive business environment for foreign investment with its strategic location as Asia’s premier trade, energy and transport corridor with a huge consumer market. “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not only a framework of regional connectivity, but a journey towards economic regionalisation,” the premier said.Nepra said early this week that K-Electric’s previous tariff, announced originally in 2002, became effective in 2009 due to delayed sale of Karachi’s integrated utility and then its resale to the Abraaj Group, and expired on June 30, 2016.The new tariff would now become effective from the date of its notification by the federal government, legally required within 15 days unless challenged for review or reconsideration. It will remain effective until 2023.The regulator said private operators had about 12 years to earn efficiency gains through reduction losses that were not shared with the consumers and hence the company had now become profitable. The time was therefore up for allowing return on assets like other companies. The KE management did not like the new structure and said it would go against the consumers. Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
Swaraj wants ‘abused’ Indian wife to return from Pakistan
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:12:20 +0500
NEW DELHI: Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has directed the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to renew the passport of an allegedly abused Indian woman married to a Pakistani man, and facilitate her return, reports said on Wednesday. They said Mohammadi Begum, who hails from Telangana, was living with her husband in Sialkot. She complained to her parents that she was being harassed and beaten up by her husband and in-laws and that she wanted to come back to India. The woman’s father Moham­mad Akbar appealed to Ms Swaraj who, in turn, asked officials of the Indian High Commis­sion to meet Ms Begum. On Monday, Ms Swaraj posted on Twitter that the officials met Ms Begum and she had expressed her desire to return to India. Following this, Telan­ga­na’s Majlis Bachao Tehreek spokesperson Amjed Ullah Khan posted the video of a telephone conversation between Ms Begum and her mother, in which she allegedly said she was beaten up and threatened by her husband for informing the Indian mission. Mr Khan also mentioned that Ms Begum’s husband married her by claiming that he was an Omani national but has been keeping her in ‘captivity’ in Pakistan for the past 15 years. “Mohammadi Begum said that she has faith in Allah and the Indian government, especially in Smt Sushma Swaraj, MEA and the Indian Embassy officials in Pakistan, that they had assured her that as soon as her passport is renewed she will be transferred to Mumbai and then to Hyderabad,” Mr Khan said. It was not clear if the woman has retained her Indian nationality or become a Pakistani citizen.Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
India eyes deal to repair Afghan aircraft, deepening military ties
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:17:44 +0500
India is considering whether to pay for repairs to grounded helicopters and transport planes from Afghanistan's air force, signalling a willingness to step up military assistance for Kabul that has irked Pakistan in the past.India estimates it would cost close to $50 million for new parts and repairs to 11 grounded Soviet-made Mi-35 helicopters and seven transport aircraft, after sending a team of experts to assess the Afghan air force's needs last year, the Indian ambassador to Kabul told Reuters.Afghanistan has repeatedly asked India to increase military assistance, as it struggles to fight Afghan Taliban insurgents who have taken swathes of territory since most foreign troops left the country in late 2014.New Delhi's readiness to provide more military help, while limited, underlines its desire to help Kabul as other regional powers including Russia and China look to increase their influence in Afghanistan."We have been looking at the scale of the challenge the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) faces, particularly in one segment, close air support," ambassador Manpreet Vohra said in an interview in Kabul this week."We are trying to see how we can help. They have a large number of attack helicopters and transport aircraft grounded for want of spares, for expiry of certification," he said.India will decide whether to approve the proposal after final costing is done within a few months.Most of Afghanistan's small air force dates from the Soviet era, but sanctions against Russia mean Western donors that fund the military cannot pay to get grounded aircraft flying again.India is not bound by such restrictions, but aside from the transfer in 2015 to Afghanistan of four attack helicopters, New Delhi has been reluctant to commit direct military support, saying it does not have the resources and prefers to help Kabul with development aid.Close relations Under the agreement with Afghanistan, India would pay for the transportation of the aircraft to Russia or other former Soviet states where the planes were manufactured and must be fixed according to licensing agreements, as well as for new parts and repairs, Vohra said.The ambassador is due to meet the Afghan air chief in the next few weeks.Russia's federal service for military-technical cooperation did not respond to a request for comment.India enjoys close relations with Afghanistan, and both accuse common neighbour Pakistan of not doing enough to stop Islamist militants operating on its territory.Pakistan has previously warned that India should not be allowed to use Afghan soil to create instability in Pakistan.India has been one of Afghanistan's biggest allies in the war against the Taliban, training thousands of security personnel, but was not included in the first round of recent Russia-led talks to reboot a stalled peace process.Afghan and US officials are increasingly worried that any deepening of ties between Russia and the Taliban could complicate the security situation, and analysts say India risks being sidelined in future talks.Moscow has said its contacts with the Taliban are aimed at ensuring the safety of its citizens and encouraging peace talks.Russian government officials have said that Afghan troops, backed by US special forces, have not done enough to stem the spread of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, according to Afghan and US officials.Vohra said India would back Afghanistan at the next round of talks, scheduled for April, in arguing that the Taliban remained the biggest threat to the country.He said India remained a close partner of Afghanistan's, pointing to an additional $1 billion aid pledge announced last year and the completion of a nearly $300m hydroelectric dam. more...
India’s contracted players get double raise
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:06:24 +0500
NEW DELHI: The Indian cricket board on Wednesday doubled the salaries of its contracted players while retaining former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the top pay bracket.Players holding a Grade A contract will now get an annual retainer fee of $3.05 million instead of the previous $1.71m they were getting since November 2015.Dhoni, who gave up the limited overs captaincy in January, held the Grade A contract with his successor Virat Kohli and a few other top Indian players for a period ending September 2017.Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored a double century in the drawn game against Australia in Ranchi, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and opener Murali Vijay were the new additions to the top of the three grades.The cash-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) also hiked the retainer fee for Grade B and C players while increasing the match fee across formats.Players will now get $23,000 for a Test match, $9,000 in a One-day International and earn $4,000 for a Twenty20 game.The decision to restructure the central contracts and match fees was taken by the BCCI in conjunction with the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA).Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
NAB deputy chairman sent on 'voluntary leave' following corruption charges
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:05:24 +0500
A few days after he was booked for graft, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday sent Imtiaz Tajwar, deputy chairman of the body, on voluntary leave, a spokesperson at the bureau confirmed.The deputy chairman will not be returning to his post till charges against him have been cleared, the spokesperson said.Earlier this week, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered a case against the deputy chairman on corruption charges.The first information report (FIR) against Imtiaz Tajwar was registered under Section 5(2)47 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for misuse of authority and corruption while he had the additional charge of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).Tajwar, who was serving as additional secretary with the ministry, was given the additional charge of Nadra after Tariq Malik resigned as its chairman. He remained Nadra’s acting chairman for over a year.According to the statement, the ministry approved registration of the FIR and the FIA registered the case after completing an inquiry.The FIA investigation revealed that Tajwar had allegedly paid visa fees of his children and purchased expensive gifts for his relatives and sacrificial animals from ‘ill-gotten’ money. more...
Govt bulldozes inquiry body law through NA
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:06:02 +0500
ISLAMABAD: Despite being embarrassed twice over its failure to ensure quorum, the government on Wednesday ignored two opposition walkouts in a bid to bulldoze a new law on inquiry commissions through the National Assembly.Just a day after the entire opposition joined hands with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to ensure the passage of the 23rd amendment to reactivate military courts, politicking in the lower house returned to the lowest common denominator — the rule of the majority — as the ruling party took full advantage of its numbers to drown out the opposition.But it was not all smooth sailing for the government as first blood went to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah. He assailed the treasury on several fronts: the decline in the country’s exports, the unjust distribution of water resources among provinces, the lack of development spending in south Punjab and the racial profiling of Pakhtuns.But his primary thrust remained the sanctity of the federation and the government’s attitude towards parliament. “[Your] prime minister says he has learnt a lot from history. Khaak seekha hai? Why, then, are you so fed up with this parliament?” Opposition leader warns PML-N not to disrespect federation and parliament; two walkouts, suspensions fail to deter treasury Without waiting for anyone to respond, the opposition leader announced a walkout as he wrapped up his diatribe. While the opposition benches were emptying, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) whip Aijaz Jhakrani pointed out a lack of quorum. Proceedings remained suspended for over 30 minutes as the treasury scrambled to fill seats.When the sitting resumed, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi called on the parliamentary secretary for finance to move the Public-Private Partnership Authority Bill 2017. But when he tried to club all 28 clauses rather than going for a clause-by-clause reading, PPP’s Naveed Qamar warned the deputy speaker not to “try and bulldoze the bill”.This ushered in a brief detente, which came apart when Mr Abbasi denied Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Shireen Mazari the opportunity to voice her concerns regarding certain clauses. This proved too much for the opposition, which began to agitate while the bill was being passed.The din was largely ignored by the treasury benches, leading PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi to remark how quickly the government had forgotten their support in passing the military courts amendment just a day earlier.The deputy speaker also paid no heed to PTI’s Mussarrat Ahmed Zeb, who rose in her seat to point out quorum during the reading of the bill. While she was perfectly audible from the press galleries, it was at least 15 minutes before she was handed the mic by Mr Abbasi.This second interruption seemed to catch the government off guard. It was clear that the treasury did not have the required numbers for quorum, and despite support from five Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) legislators, the government side was still short of the 86-mark in the 342-member house.Ministers Zahid Hamid, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Sheikh Aftab, Riaz Pirzada and Abdul Qadir Baloch could be seen frantically urging more members to show up. Mr Hamid, in particular, appeared incensed by the delay and could be heard exclaiming that they were short just one member.All this time — maybe 15 minutes or more — Mussarrat Zeb remained on her feet, repeatedly asking the chair if they wanted to keep waiting for more people to show up. The house was then suspended again to allow for more members to arrive.In time, ministers Baleeghur Rehman and Sardar Yousaf made their way to the house, while more government members streamed in from the galleries. In the intervals, PML-N wits Rana Mohammad Hayat Khan and Mian Abdul Mannan kept spirits up by hurling friendly taunts at fellow members and the ministers trying to ensure maximum attendance.Then, around 35 minutes after Ms Zeb pointed out a lack of quorum, the deputy speaker walked in without his robe, with Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on his heels.With quorum requirements met and the seasoned speaker at the helm, the government scythed through the remaining agenda, passing the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act 2017 in no time and proroguing the sitting sine die.The bill was introduced by the PML-N after then chief justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali refused to form a “toothless” inquiry commission on Panamagate under the erstwhile Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956. The bill, which has already been passed by the National Assembly once, came back to the lower house after the Senate made certain amendments to it, binding the government to make public the report of any commission constituted under the law. It now merely needs the president’s signature to become law.Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
Sindh CM asks Centre to ensure transparency in population census
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:06:36 +0500
KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah asked the federal government on Wednesday to ensure the ongoing population census was transparent, efficient, and foolproof, or else it would be hard for the people to consider the gigantic exercise credible.He said this while speaking to reporters after unveiling the plaque of PET-CT Scanner Service at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation’s (SIUT) Mehrunissa Medical Complex Korangi.The ministers for health and education, Dr Sikandar Mandhro and Jam Khan Shoro, accompanied him. Expressing his concerns over the issue, he said his government had written a letter to Islamabad with certain suggestions, but, “sorry to say, I have received no response from there”.Mr Shah said the population census was an extremely significant task and it needed to be accomplished with transparency.“I just want them [the census authorities] to count each and every individual; otherwise, after four months people would be complaining that they had not been counted,” he said. “These complaints may affect the credibility of the census.”Nutrition programme CM Shah said he had established an organisation to address the issue of poor nutrition profile which caused stunting and other problems in children.“All the donor agencies are on board and with their support the Sindh government is going to launch a comprehensive nutrition programme for mothers and [newborns],” he said.Replying to a question, he said the healthcare delivery system at government hospitals had been improved through support and monitoring.“We have provided medicines at our hospitals and made other facilities such as X-ray, lab tests etc functional,” he said. He added that the experience of public-private partnership in running health facilities had caused a noticeable difference.The chief minister said vacant positions of all the universities operating in the public sector had been filled through competitive process, except at the Dow University of Health Sciences, which had been challenged in court. The positions for controllers of examination had also been advertised in the national press. He informed the media that chairmen of educational boards had also been appointed. “We are working to improve educational and administrative atmosphere in our universities,” he said.Earlier, addressing the unveiling ceremony of the PET-CT scanner, Mr Shah said Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi was doing a commendable job.“I am ready to give you a cheque right now if you tell me how much funds you need to complete this project,” he said. Mr Shah said his mission was to serve the people of Sindh in need of health facilities, which was the chief reason behind his decision to declare a ‘health emergency’ in the province.“When people like legendary Prof Adib Rizvi are with me, I am sure I would be able to succeed in my mission,” he said.Mr Shah said the PET-CT scanner project was being established at a cost of Rs80 million and on the recommendation of Dr Rizvi he was going to establish 10 similar projects across Sindh.Dr Rizvi briefed the chief minister on the project, saying the SIUT provided medical treatment to more than three million patients last year, 46 per cent of whom were residents of Sindh. Besides, it operated 5,000 cases of transplantation. “Our OPD service runs round the clock,” he said.Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
Achakzai, Fazl meet PM day after opposing military court bills
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:12:20 +0500
ISLAMABAD: A day after opposing the key government bills seeking revival of military courts in the National Assembly, Pakhtun­khwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman held separate meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday.Official handouts issued by the PM Office said that “matters of national significance and current political situation of the country came under discussion”. Although there was no mention of military courts in the handouts, sources in the government said the purpose of the meetings was to address the grievances of the two parties and make another effort to woo the allies on the issue as the constitutional amendment bill is still pending before the Senate for approval.When contacted, Mr Achakzai refused to share the details of his meeting with the prime minister, saying he considered it inappropriate to disclose the conversations held in such meetings. The PkMAP chief, however, hinted that he had also discussed the issue of Pakistan-Afghanistan ties during the meeting.Mr Achakzai said it was his considered opinion that terrorism could only be eliminated with the support of people. He said that small nations like Sindhis, Pakhtuns, Balochs and Seraikis were not “conquered people” and were living in a federation under a social contract.The PkMAP chief said he believed that if democracy was allowed to function in a transparent manner in Pakistan and Afghanistan for five to 10 years, ties between the two countries would improve and they could become very good friends.He regretted that nobody knew as to who had made the decision to close the country’s borders with Afghanis­tan. Such decisions, he added, should be made through parliament.The government had managed to get the key bills seeking reinstatement of the military courts passed from the National Assembly, but without the support of the JUI-F and the PkMAP.Three members of the PkMAP led by Mr Achakzai and independent Jamshed Dasti had voted against the bills whereas the JUI-F members had decided to abstain from the voting, thus foiling the government’s efforts for their unanimous adoption.The PkMAP members had opposed the bills considering them against the democratic norms and the JUI-F members, who had earlier agreed to support the bills, decided at the last moment to abstain after rejection of its amendments calling for removal of the words “religion or a sect” in the clauses referring to terrorist groups. Despite repeated attempts, no one from the JUI-F could be contacted for comment.The handout about the prime minister’s meeting with Mr Achakzai stated that “the ongoing development and welfare schemes in Balochistan were also discussed in the meeting”, be­sides discussion on national issues.It quoted the prime minister as saying during the meeting that development and progress of Balochistan was the priority of the federal government, which was evident from the unprecedented uplift projects initiated in the province over the past three years. The people of Balochistan, he said, would be “the prime beneficiaries of our major development initiatives, including China-Pakistan Economic Corri­dor and Gwadar port”. Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...
Nisar deplores Sindh CM’s threat to ‘throw out’ federal bodies
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:06:02 +0500
ISLAMABAD: Bristling at the Sindh chief minister’s threat to “throw out” federal institutions from his province, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Wednesday that such an irresponsible remark was not becoming of a chief minister, as he had no power to remove federal institutions from the province. “The Constitution determines their jurisdiction and these institutions will continue to function,” he told a press conference. The recent exchange of barbs between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) occurred after Sharjeel Memon, a PPP leader, was briefly detained by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at Islamabad airport on Saturday. Soon afterwards, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah issued a statement in which he threatened to “throw out federal institutions heavily influenced by politics”. “The provincial government will not tolerate wrong actions of federal institutions,” he said, adding that the Sindh government would send the institutions packing if they continued to play politics. Ambassadors of Muslim countries invited to formulate joint strategy on blasphemous content on social media Mr Nisar recalled that the incumbent NAB chairman had been appointed after consultation with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. When the PPP was in power, it had not bothered to consult him [the then leader of the opposition] on the appointment of the NAB chairman, he added. Replying to a question, he said former Sindh information minister Sharjeel Memon posed as a hero even as he faced corruption charges. Instead of providing evidence in his defence, he had hurled allegations against the federal government, the interior minister said. On the availability of blasphemous content on social media, he said that he had made it clear that strict measures would be taken if service providers were unable to solve the problem. “Nothing is more important than our faith.” The minister said he had invited the ambassadors of Muslim countries in Pakistan on Friday to formulate a joint strategy on the issue. Commenting on the spot-fixing scandal, he said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PBC) would work together to investigate the involvement of Pakistani cricketers in spot fixing (during the Pakistan Super League). The FIA and the PCB will hold a meeting and decide how to proceed together on the matter. He said the extent of gambling and the number of cricketers involved in the scam were yet to be determined. Mr Nisar said he had also asked the FIA to broaden the scope of investigation and include bookies in it. He said there had been many match-fixing incidents attributed to Pakistan in the past and in one such incident, three Pakistani cricketers had been sent to jail. It was in the interest of justice to take the case to its logical conclusion as the people involved had brought Pakistan a bad name, he added. Mr Nisar said the FIA did not need to write or apply to anyone to initiate an investigation, and would investigate the matter thoroughly. He said a high court had already issued directives for an inquiry into the matter. He said the government would seek legal assistance from other countries to root out the crime.Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2017 more...

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