Counting underway for by-polls; PTI leading in Karachi’s constituencies, ANP ahead in Peshawar

Counting is underway after polling ended at 5pm on Sunday for by-elections held in three national and provincial assemblies constituencies in Karachi and Peshawar amidst strict security.

According to the provisional results made available by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is looking strong on the two constituencies being contested in Karachi. However, it is likely to lose the PK-71 seat in Peshawar to Awami National Party’s candidate.

The three seats were left vacant after the PTI candidates, who were elected on them in the July 25 general elections, tendered their resignations.

Arif Alvi, who was elected from NA-247, resigned after being elected the country’s president. Imran Ismail, who had won from PS-111 (Karachi South), gave up his seat after being appointed as the Sindh governor, while Shah Farman resigned from PK-71 Peshawar after being named the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Results

According to the unofficial results tabulated through ECP’s Result Transmission System (RTS) in Karachi’s NA-247 the results from 190 out of 240 polling stations has been compiled.

PTI’s Aftab Siddiqui is ahead with 24,763 votes and MQM’s Sadiq Iftikhar is following him with 10,983 votes.

PPP’s Qaisar Khan Nizamani has 8,654 votes to his name.

In PS-111, results have been tabulated from 45 out of 80 polling stations and PTI’s Shehzad Qureshi has the lead with 6,733 votes while PPP’s Muhammad Fayyaz Pirzada is in second place with 2,660 votes.

In Peshawar’s PK-71, the results from all 86 polling stations have been received by the ECP and ANP’s Salahuddin has won with 11,224 votes, while PTI’s Zulfiqar Khan lost with 9,755 votes.

President Arif Alvi casts vote

President Arif Alvi cast his vote in Karachi’s NA-247 Constituency. The president also urged the nation to cast their vote in the by-polls. “Vote for which ever party you want to vote for but it is your duty to come out and cast your vote,” he said.

President Arif Alvi talking to media after casting his vote.— DawnNewsTV

President Arif Alvi talking to media after casting his vote.— DawnNewsTV

He said he cast his vote for his favourite candidate but refused to name the person.

A total of 858,866 male and female voters were eligible to cast their ballots in today’s by-polls for the National Assembly constituency of ,NA-247 Karachi, and the provincial assembly seats PS-111 Karachi and PK-71 Peshawar.

The time period of campaigning for the by-polls had ended at 12 midnight on Friday. Candidates were barred from holding rallies, corner meetings or conducting door-to-door campaign after the deadline.

NA-247

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 240 polling stations were set up in NA-247, which has a total of 546,451 registered voters.

More than 900 members of the polling staff performed duties during the by-poll in the constituency, which comprises areas of Defence, Clifton, Old City, Kharadar, Ranchhore Line etc.

Twelve candidates are in the run for the seat. Besides PTI’s billionaire foreign-qualified candidate Aftab Hussain Siddiqui, prominent contenders are Sadiq Iftikhar of the MQM-P, famous TV artist Qaiser Khan Nizamani of PPP, Arshad Vohra of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Ali Nawab of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek and seven independent candidates.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and PML-N are not contesting the by-election.

Governor Sindh Imran Ismail casts his vote in Karachi.— DawnNewsTV

Governor Sindh Imran Ismail casts his vote in Karachi.— DawnNewsTV

In the July 25 general elections, Arif Alvi had bagged over 91,000 votes — over 65,000 votes more than the runner-up — against the candidates of TLP, MQM-P and MMA who received 24,680, 24,146 and 22,780 votes, respectively. MQM-P’s heavyweight candidate Dr Farooq Sattar had come third after TLP’s Zaman Ali Jafery.

PS-111

Eighty polling stations were established in the Sindh Assembly constituency of PS-111. The constituency has 178,965 registered voters.

According to ECP, 80 presiding officers and 320 assistant presiding officers were to perform duties during the polling.

Fifteen candidates filed their nomination papers for the by-election including PTI’s Shehzad Qureshi, PPP’s Fayaz Pirzada and MQM-P’s Jahanzaib Mughal.

PK-71

Five candidates were in the running for by-polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly constituency PK-71, Peshawar-VI, for which polling was held at 86 polling stations.

The constituency has a total of 133,461 registered voters including 79,846 men and 53,615 women.

A total of 307 polling booths, including 118 for men and 119 for women voters, were set up in the provincial assembly constituency.

The main contest is expected between PTI candidate Zulfiqar Khan and ANP’s Salahuddin.

Three independent candidates — Dildar Khan, Abdul Kareem Khan and Fazle Haq Kohe Damani — also tried their luck in the polls.

In the general elections, Shah Farman had contested on two seats, PK-71 and PK-74. He had lost on PK-74, but won PK-71. He had received 17,309 votes whereas the runner-up, Siffatullah of PML-N, had received 9,202 votes.

PTI candidate Zulfiqar Khan is the brother of Governor Farman.

Security officials and election staff shift polling material from a government school on Kohat Road, Peshawar, for by-elections on PK-71 being held on Sunday (today). — White Star

Security officials and election staff shift polling material from a government school on Kohat Road, Peshawar, for by-elections on PK-71 being held on Sunday (today). — White Star

The local police had declared 51 of the 86 polling stations highly sensitive because these are situated close to the former tribal areas.

The ECP had said that personnel of army and civil armed forces would be deployed inside and outside all the polling stations from Oct 19 till Oct 22.

Earlier today, some violations of the ECP’s code of conduct were reported as anti-PTI announcements were made from mosques.

Subsequently, the commission took notice of the announcements and directed Additional Assistant Commissioner Shahbaz to submit a detailed report in this regard. The official visited the relevant mosques and warned the prayer leaders against such conduct.

He said that the announcements were a violation of the code of conduct and that action would be taken against those involved.

According to the ECP spokesperson, when an ECP team visited him, the prayer leader of the mosque said that only one announcement made from the mosque urged people to go out and vote.

Facilitation centre set up

The ECP set up a facilitation centre to assist voters regarding the by-elections in the three constituencies.

The facilitation centre was functional between 8am and 6pm. Residents will be able to seek details of results of by-polls in their constituencies after 6pm.

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All parties should unite to present motion against PTI govt’s incompetence, says Zardari

Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday said that the incumbent government has shown its incompetence in a very short span of time and now “all political parties should unite and present a motion against the government’s failure”.

While addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Zardari said that a principle-based decision will have to be made to correct the direction in which the country is currently heading.

“The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is calling peoples’ servants to answer questions in investigations, the same has happened in the time of former president Pervez Musharraf,” he said.

Answering a question, Zardari said he did not make any remarks about the NAB chairman, rather he raised questions about the latter’s thinking and manner of work.

Without naming anyone, the former president said that when some people are given charge of an important office, their manners change completely.

“When I became the president I transferred all powers to the parliament,” he recalled, “But Nawaz Sharif did not like any of our policies.”

Speaking of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), Zardari said he was still facing the cases formed against him during PML-N’s government.

The former president claimed he did not take any advantage of NRO but said that parties like MQM and people like Nawaz Sharif may have taken advantage of it.

Zardari claimed the people’s party gave China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and many other programmes to Pakistan during their tenure.

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Islamabad woman arrested for allegedly abusing, threatening police officials in viral video

A woman in Islamabad was arrested on Sunday for allegedly abusing, threatening and misbehaving with police officials at an entry point to the Diplomatic Enclave after her vehicle, which was missing a number plate, was stopped by police.

The incident came to the notice of law enforcement and government officials after a video of the back-and-forth between the woman and police officers went viral on social media on Saturday.

The viral video showed the woman furiously yelling, using abusive language and hurling threats at police officials who had stopped her at the checkpoint because her car did not have a number plate.

She repeatedly asked the police to provide a “genuine reason” as to why she had been stopped, and even pressured the police officers to permit the vehicle to enter the Diplomatic Enclave, a highly sensitive and secure location in Islamabad, where government buildings, foreign missions and offices are located.

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A case was subsequently registered against the woman at the Secretariat Police Station under Sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation).

She was arrested from a local housing society today and shifted to a police station for women. She was later sent to jail on judicial remand.

According to police officials, she is a doctor by profession and her husband serves in the Pakistan Army’s medical corps.

Police officials said that she came to Gate-1 of the Diplomatic Enclave in a black Honda car which did not have the number plate. When the police officials saw a car without a number plate they intercepted it.

Upon inquiry, she introduced herself and said she was heading towards the US Embassy, the police stated. She was, however, denied entry because according to the Standard Operating Procedure, vehicles without a number plate are not allowed to enter the Diplomatic Enclave.

Police said the woman then lost her temper and began threatening the officials with dire consequences and using foul language.

Later, she also produced the car’s number plate, police said, adding that she also made a call and handed her cellphone over to one of the policemen at the entry point.

Police said that the man she had called introduced himself as an embassy official and asked the policeman to allow her to enter the enclave but he refused. The woman left the area after the heated argument with police officials.

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi also took notice of the woman’s behaviour with police officials and reminded citizens that no one is above the law. He directed officials to take action as per the law and asked police to submit a report on the matter.

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3 Kashmiri fighters, 6 civilians die in IHK amid battle, clashes

Violence across India-held Kashmir left at least 14 people dead on Sunday, police and military officials said, including six civilians who were killed when an explosion detonated among a crowd protesting against Indian rule.

Thousands of demonstrators, some hurling stones, marched on a village in southern Kulgam town where Indian government forces were battling an unknown number of suspected Kashmiri fighters.

Three suspects were shot dead in the exchange but a subsequent explosion at the scene killed five demonstrators, said Inspector General of police Swayam Prakash Pani.

“Protestors ignored warnings and soon overwhelmed the site, where five died after being hit when leftover explosives went off,” he told AFP.

A sixth civilian injured in the explosion later died at a hospital in Srinagar.

Moreover, As the fighting raged, anti-India protesters tried to reach the site of the standoff. They threw stones at government forces hoping to help the trapped armed Kashmiris escape. Indian forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters, leaving at least 30 injured.

Mobile telephone services were suspended in the area as protests spread to other areas including Srinagar, where police used tear gas to disperse angry crowds.

Elsewhere, fighting near the de facto border dividing the contested Himalayan region between India and Pakistan also left three soldiers and two unidentified fighters dead.

Many in Kashmir support rebels who have been fighting for decades for independence or a merger with Pakistan, which like India also claims the territory in full.

India has some 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. Popular unrest has been rising since 2016 when a charismatic young Kashmiri leader was shot dead by Indian forces. More than 100 civilians died in subsequent weeks of protest.

Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died in the decades of fighting across Indian Kashmir.

Pakistan condemns martyrdom of Kashmiri youth

Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur has condemned the “martyrdom of nine Kashmiri youth by Indian troops in the latest act off state terrorism in Kulgam district of occupied Kashmir”, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

In a statement, the minister has drawn the attention of world community towards the worst atrocities carried out by the Indian security forces on innocent Kashmiris.

“The world conscience should raise its voice on this barbaric treatment,” the minister said, adding that Pakistan will continue to expose the true face of India on all international forums.

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‘We don’t know where the body is,’ says Saudi FM on Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunday the kingdom did not know where the body of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi was, despite ,admitting to the killing, and calling it a “tremendous mistake.”

Speaking in an interview on Fox News, Jubeir said the Saudi leadership initially believed Khashoggi had left its consulate in Istanbul, where he was last seen on October 2.

But following “reports we were getting from Turkey,” Saudi authorities began an investigation, which discovered he was killed in the diplomatic mission.

“We don’t know, in terms of details, how. We don’t know where the body is,” Jubeir said, adding that the Saudi public prosecutor had put out orders to detain 18 individuals, “the first step in a long journey.”

He termed the killing a “tremendous mistake” but one which the US-Saudi relationship would eventually overcome.

“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority. There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” Jubeir told Fox News.

“That is unacceptable in any government. These things unfortunately happen. We want to make sure that those who are responsible are punished and we want to make sure we have procedures in place to prevent it from happening again. “

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Fast bowler Mohammad Abbas shoots to third in Test rankings

Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Abbas rose to number three in the Test bowling rankings on Sunday following his 17 wickets in the series against Australia in the United Arab Emirates.

The 28-year-old took 10 for 95 to help Pakistan to ,their biggest Test win, — a 373-run hammering of Australia — in the second Test in Abu Dhabi on Friday, giving them a 1-0 series win. He took seven wickets in the drawn first Test in Dubai.

The new International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings see Abbas shoot to third from 14th and he is now behind only England’s James Anderson and South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada.

Abbas has taken 59 wickets in his 10 matches and became the joint second-fastest Pakistani to take 50 wickets during the second Test — a mark he shares with legendary paceman Waqar Younis and Shabbir Ahmed.

Pakistan’s leg-spinner Yasir Shah was the fastest to reach 50 wickets, taking just nine Tests.

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Medical examination of minor domestic worker confirms brutal torture

A medical examination of ,minor domestic worker Kinza, has confirmed that she has suffered torture allegedly by her employers, Major Ammara Riaz and Dr Mohsin Riaz, who the police say are on the run as a case has been registered against the couple, DawnNewsTV reported on Sunday.

According to the medical report released by Benazir Bhutto Hospital, Rawalpindi, an examination was done to investigate the extent of the injuries suffered by the 11-year-old house servant.

Results from the ultrasound revealed that there were swelling and tenderness in Kinza’s abdominal region and her chest and ribcage are also tender to the touch.

Kinza’s left shoulder and left arm were tender and “not moving on their own”, as reported by the medical-legal officer (MLO) in the report. Moreover, her neck had multiple old wound marks determined to be caused by fingernails; no bruises or swelling, however, were observed, the report read.

The report further stated that she had a mark on her right cheek and her right eye had slight damage to the cornea. Kinza’s head also has a deep cut on her left side which is “bleeding actively” according to the MLO’s report.

The findings mentioned above are all consistent with Kinza’s account of the torture which she reported in a video that ,surfaced on Twitter, on Saturday. The report confirms that there is evidence of torture carried out 15-20 days ago using “knife, belts and persons standing on her straight with full weight multiple times”.

Case registered against Major Ammara and her husband

A case has been registered at Airport police station against Major Ammara Riaz and her husband Dr Mohsin Riaz on the complaint of the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau and they will be tried under the Child Protection Act, Rawalpindi City Police Officer (CPO) Abbas Ahsan said during a press conference later in the day.

Accompanying the CPO were Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Umar Jahangir and SSP Operations Ali Akbar Shah.

“We found out about Kinza through social media. Rescue 15 service also received a call on October 19 from Colonel Sajjad [a neighbour] who registered a complaint against the suspects,” CPO Ahsan said.

“Our team reached the location last night to recover Kinza,” he said while narrating the events which took place a day earlier.

He said the ASI who has been suspended for not filing a report will also face departmental inquiry by the police.

“We will always take action whenever we receive information about any such incident,” he assured all those in attendance at the press conference.

When asked by DawnNewsTV, what is being done for the countless children being abused in shops and homes everywhere, DC Jahangir sought to end the press conference and only remarked: “The media will always be updated through press conferences regarding whatever actions are taken by the police in this regard.”

In response to a query, CPO Ahsan said that Kinza had not complained of sexual assault, complaining only of being beaten by her employers, however, a complete medical checkup will be done to ascertain all the facts.

Kinza’s story

A young girl hired as a domestic worker in Rawalpindi was allegedly tortured by her employers for over a year, it emerged on Saturday.

The case, a grim reminder of the infamous ,Tayyaba torture case, of 2016, came to light through a series of videos ,shared on Twitter, in which the child can be seen narrating her ordeal.

The child named Kinza, an 11-year-old per her own estimate, had said in the videos that she was employed as a domestic worker at the residence of Ammara Riaz, a major in the Pakistan Army, and her husband Mohsin Riaz, who is a doctor by profession. The house is located in Wilayat Colony, Scheme III, Chaklala.

The girl, who managed to escape the house, accused her employers of starving her and torturing her with wires, belts and ropes for over a year. She further said she was kicked and stomped on while she slept.

When asked by the videographer to describe how she has been mistreated, she explained that she was not fed properly by the family she lived with, and when she stole food out of hunger, she was administered inhumane beatings.

In the video, Kinza showed injuries that she had sustained, including her bloodshot, black eyes as well as multiple wound marks on her arms, neck and head.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari took notice of the case on Saturday and said the ministry was “keeping a close eye [on the matter] to ensure justice for the little girl”.

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Suspected ride-hailing service driver who ‘harassed’ Karachi woman released on bail

A city court on Sunday released on bail a suspected ride-hailing service driver who was arrested a day earlier for allegedly harassed a woman. The driver has denied the charges.

On Saturday, a woman travelling from Gulshan-i-Iqbal to Saddar jumped out of her car near a five-star hotel on the Sharea Faisal. In her statement, she claimed she had ,jumped out of the moving vehicle, as the driver was allegedly harassing her.

City Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Dr Samiullah Soomro said a police party had rushed to the spot and taken both the driver and the woman to a police station, where the driver was arrested on charges of harassment.

SSP Soomro added that the Saddar police had registered an FIR against the driver on the woman’s complaint under ,Section 354, (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The court today ordered the driver’s release against bail worth Rs10,000.

Both Careem and Uber have denied that the driver is associated with either of their companies.

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Zulfi Bukhari moves court to get his name out of ECL

ISLAMABAD: Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, the special assistant to the prime minister on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, has submitted a petition to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that has sought removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

The interior ministry, on a request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), had placed Mr Bukhari’s name on the ECL since he is facing an inquiry about “accumulating assets beyond known sources of income”.

Initially, the interior ministry instead of putting his name on the ECL had put it on the black list to restrict his movement.

In a separate petition, Pakhtun rights activist Gulalai Ismail asks the court for retrieval of her passport and travel documents which were confiscated by FIA

Mr Bukhari, popularly known as Zulfi Bukhari, is a close friend of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Even though his name was on the ECL, he managed to go to Saudi Arabia before the general elections as the interior ministry had lifted the travel ban on him within a few minutes as he was accompanying Mr Khan to perform Umrah.

Then Mr Bukhari challenged putting of his name on the black list before the IHC. The court removed his name from the list, but allowed the interior ministry to proceed on NAB’s request for placing him on the ECL.

In his recent petition, Mr Bukhari argued before the court that he “is a British citizen of Pakistani origin…and is currently at Islamabad…his spouse and children are domiciled [in UK] and where his business interests are managed from”.

The petition said that Mr Bukhari was cooperating with the investigation team, but “was shocked and dismayed to learn” that his name was placed on the ECL.

According to the petition, Section 3 of the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981, provides for a right of review for any order made by the federal government, however, such a review only creates an illusory remedy.

Interestingly, Mr Bukhari criticised his own government as the petition went on to say, “the petitioner filed a representation and review petition…despite passage of about two months, the review petition of the petitioner has neither been put up for the cabinet, nor decision has been taken thereon by the federal government”.

It requested the court to direct the interior ministry to remove his name from the ECL.

Gulalai’s petition

In a separate petition, Pakhtun human rights activist Gulalai Ismail also requested the IHC to remove her name from the ECL.

In her petition, Ms Ismail sought retrieval of her passport and travel documents which the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had confiscated upon her arrival in Pakistan on October 12 when she was also briefly detained at FIA’s office in Sector G-13 of Islamabad.

According to the petition, Ms Ismail is the chairperson of non-governmental organization “Aware Girls”. She has received national and international acclaim for her work of empowering women in Pakistan.

The petition said that FIA on October 12 detained Ms Ismail upon her return from the UK in connection with her alleged association with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and “delivering anti-state speech”.

The petitioner, however, claimed that she is a patriotic lady and never indulged in anti-state activities.

Ms Ismail said the federal government placed her name on the ECL and the FIA confiscated her passport without giving her an opportunity of hearing.

She requested the court to order removal of her name from the ECL and direct the FIA to return her passport.

The IHC single member bench will hear the petition next week.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018

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Shahbaz used NA floor for NAB’s media trial: Imran

ISLAMABAD: Declaring the opposition as a “gang of criminals”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday accused Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz ,Sharif of using the floor of the house to malign, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Talking to two groups of foreign journalists and local TV anchors on Saturday, Mr Khan stated in categorical terms that his government’s campaign against corruption would continue at all costs and that he would not succumb to any pressure.

According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was present in both meetings, besides discussing the political situation in Pakistan, the prime minister also talked about the state of economy and apprised the journalists about the steps being taken by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to steer the country out of crisis.

PM says bureaucrats are creating hurdles; poverty alleviation package to be unveiled next week

Mr Chaudhry quoted the prime minister as saying the government would not strike any deal with the opposition over the issue of corruption and no corrupt person would be spared. “A lot of politicians are criminals. We have enough evidence [to ensure] criminals won’t escape,” Mr Khan added.

“I will not spare any thief or a criminal,” the minister quoted Mr Khan as having stated during his interaction with the media. The prime minister declared that those who had brought the country to the present state would not be spared.

Mr Khan was of the view that the opposition leader had used the floor of the assembly to carry out “media trial” of NAB.

Reacting to the opposition’s protest over the arrest of the opposition leader and PML-N president, Mr Khan said that Shahbaz Sharif was trying to become Nelson Mandela — a former South African president and peace activist who had to spend 27 years in prison due to his political struggle.

While speaking during the opposition-requisitioned session of the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif had assailed NAB for alleged ‘political victimisation’ and disclosed details of his interrogation by the watchdog alleging that there was an ‘unholy alliance’ between the ruling PTI and NAB.

The PML-N president, who had been allowed to attend the sitting on the production order of Speaker Asad Qaiser, in his nearly 80-minute speech, had also alleged that he had been offered to become approver in cases against former foreign minister and PML-N stalwart Khwaja Asif.

Mr Sharif, who had been brought to Islamabad for the session only a day after an accountability court in Lahore had extended his remand for two weeks in the Ashiyana housing scam, also alleged that he was being kept in a windowless cell with no light and air passage and that he had been arrested without any charges in a “crude manner”. He claimed that the NAB chairman had signed his arrest orders in the first week of July and the orders were used just before the recent by-elections. According to Fawad Chaudhry, the prime minister at one stage called Shahbaz Sharif “fake Mandela”.

Civil bureaucracy

The PM, the information minister said, complained that the civil bureaucracy was creating administrative hurdles in the way of the government.

Mr Khan said most of the bureaucrats had been appointed by the previous PML-N government and his government was not getting “fullest cooperation” from them. He expressed the hope that the situation would improve and the bureaucracy would take some time to change.

About the ongoing criticism of the government for seeking foreign loans, Mr Khan said that approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package was not a big issue. The problem was the conditions attached to it, he added. He said the government was making every effort to negotiate a deal with the IMF so that its conditions would not have any direct impact on the less privileged.

“The country would make an economic comeback in the next six to eight months,” Mr Khan was quoted to have stated.

Mr Chaudhry said the premier also disclosed in the meeting that the government would announce next week a special programme aimed at alleviation of poverty and to provide support to the marginalised segments of society.

According to the information minister, the PM said efforts were under way to reduce line losses through improvement in the power distribution system. He said the government was also taking steps to improve investments and to bring foreign remittances through legal banking channels.

Published in Dawn, October 21st , 2018

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NBP urges SC to allow sugar mills to resume work

ISLAMABAD: The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) on Saturday approached the Supreme Court with a plea to order constitution of a committee for operating eight sugar mills in Sindh, owned by the Omni Group, to prevent default on payment to sugar cane farmers or banks.

The crushing season will begin in November and if the mills do not start operation immediately it will not only hit cane growers but also render the NBP and other banks unable to recover the loans given to the group, argued senior counsel S. Naeem Bokhari in an application moved on behalf of the Omni Group of Companies.

Take a look: ,Millions withdrawn from Omni Group’s ‘frozen’ accounts, FIA tells SC,

According to the applicant, the banks would have no other option but to sell plants, machinery, buildings and land of the entities to recover the loans in such case.

At a time when the national economy has already slowed down, non-crushing of sugar cane in the eight mills would aggravate the situation, the applicant argued.

Says banks would have to sell plants, buildings and land to recover the loans

The application was submitted to a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, which was seized with a money laundering case through fake accounts worth Rs35 billion.

Recently, the court had appointed a special Joint Investigation Team, headed by Additional Director General of Federal Investigation Agency Ahsan Sadiq, to probe if the eight sugar mills were owned by the Omni group or held as “Benami”.

On Aug 15, Khawaja Anvar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed of the Omni Group of Companies and Husain Lawai, former chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange, were arrested by the FIA on the SC premises in the fake accounts case.

The apex court later also rejected their applications and ordered the FIA to shift them to the prison from hospital where they had been under medical treatment.

In its application, the NBP explained the relationship between the Omni Group and the NBP in wake of a fifth report filed by the JIT and reported ‘negligence’ on part of bankers.

The bank explained that the Omni Group became its client/customer in 2003 by opening accounts and availing various financing facilities. The relationship continues till date as the group continued to pay mark-up regularly till March 2018 when the company accounts were blocked by the FIA through its order of July 31.

‘Not a single default in 15 years’

Between 2003 and 2018, the NBP said it earned around Rs7 billion as a mark-up from the Omni Group with not a single default or write-off.

The applicant also cited the names of different sugar mills and other entities believed to be owned by the Omni Group such as Tando Allah Yar Sugar Mills (Pvt) Ltd, Ansari Sugar Mills Ltd, Bawany Sugar Mills Ltd, Khoski Sugar Mills (Pvt) Ltd, Naudero Sugar Mills (Pvt) Ltd, New Dadu Sugar Mills (Pvt), Dadu Energy (Pvt) Ltd, Larr Sugar Mills (Pvt) Ltd, Chamber Sugar Mills (Pvt) Ltd etc.

The NBP said there were regular withdrawals and deposits in a normal course of business in the accounts of the Omni Group before the accounts were blocked. The withdrawals related to general working capital requirements of the companies, the applicant added.

Published in Dawn, October 21st , 2018

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Polling underway for second round of by-polls on NA-247, PS-111, PK-71

Polling is underway for by-elections in three national and provincial assemblies constituencies in Karachi and Peshawar amidst strict security.

A total of 858,866 male and female voters are eligible to cast their ballots in today’s by-polls for the National Assembly constituency of ,NA-247 Karachi, and the provincial assembly seats PS-111 Karachi and PK-71 Peshawar.

The three seats were vacated after the candidates elected on them in the July 25 general elections tendered their resignations. All three of the winners belonged to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Arif Alvi, who was elected from NA-247, resigned after being elected the country’s president. Imran Ismail, who had won from PS-111 (Karachi South), gave up his seat after being appointed as the Sindh governor, while Shah Farman resigned from PK-71 Peshawar after being named the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The time period of campaigning for the by-polls had ended at 12 midnight on Friday. Candidates were barred from holding rallies, corner meetings or conducting door-to-door campaign after the deadline.

NA-247

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 240 polling stations have been set up in NA-247, which has a total of 546,451 registered voters.

More than 900 members of the polling staff will perform duties during the by-poll in the constituency, which comprises areas of Defence, Clifton, Old City area, Kharadar, Ranchhore Line etc.

Twelve candidates are in the run for the seat. Besides PTI’s billionaire foreign-qualified candidate Aftab Hussain Siddiqui, prominent contenders are Sadiq Iftikhar of the MQM-P, famous TV artist Qaiser Khan Nizamani of PPP, Arshad Vohra of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Ali Nawab of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek and seven independent candidates.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and PML-N are not contesting the by-election.

In the July 25 general elections, Arif Alvi had bagged over 91,000 votes — over 65,000 votes more than the runner-up — against the candidates of TLP, MQM-P and MMA who received 24,680, 24,146 and 22,780 votes, respectively. MQM-P’s heavyweight candidate Dr Farooq Sattar had come third after TLP’s Zaman Ali Jafery.

PS-111

Eighty polling stations have been established in the Sindh Assembly constituency of PS-111. The constituency has 178,965 registered voters.

According to ECP, 80 presiding officers and 320 assistant presiding officers will perform duties during the polling.

Fifteen candidates have filed their nomination papers for the by-election including PTI’s Shehzad Qureshi, PPP’s Fayaz Pirzada and MQM-P’s Jahanzaib Mughal.

PK-71

Security officials and election staff shift polling material from a government school on Kohat Road, Peshawar, for by-elections on PK-71 being held on Sunday (today). — White Star

Security officials and election staff shift polling material from a government school on Kohat Road, Peshawar, for by-elections on PK-71 being held on Sunday (today). — White Star

Five candidates are in the run for by-polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly constituency PK-71, Peshawar-VI, for which polling is being held at 86 polling stations.

The constituency has a total of 133,461 registered voters including 79,846 men and 53,615 women.

A total of 307 polling booths, including 118 for men and 119 for women voters, have been set up in the provincial assembly constituency.

The main contest is expected between PTI candidate Zulfiqar Khan and ANP’s Salahuddin. Three independent candidates — Dildar Khan, Abdul Kareem Khan and Fazle Haq Kohe Damani — are also trying their luck in the polls.

In the general elections, Shah Farman had contested on two seats, PK-71 and PK-74. He had lost on PK-74, but won PK-71. He had received 17,309 votes whereas the runner-up, Siffatullah of PML-N, had received 9,202 votes.

PTI candidate Zulfiqar Khan is the brother of Governor Farman.

The local police have declared 51 of the 86 polling stations highly sensitive because these are situated close to the former tribal areas.

The ECP has already notified that personnel of army and civil armed forces shall be deployed inside and outside all the polling stations from Oct 19 till Oct 22.

Facilitation centre set up

The ECP has set up a facilitation centre to assist voters regarding the by-elections in the three constituencies.

The facilitation centre will function between 8am and 6pm. Residents will be able to seek details of results of by-polls in their constituencies after 6pm.

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Work on water issue shouldn’t be seen as intrusion, says CJP

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar said on Saturday the Supreme Court was highlighting the issue of water security because it was the court’s duty to enforce the fundamental rights as guaranteed under the Constitution.

The most important fundamental right was the right to life which could not be ensured without water, said the chief justice and added that enforcement of fundamental rights should not be viewed as intrusion into others’ domain.

Chief Justice Nisar was speaking at the closing ceremony of the two-day international symposium on “Creating a Water-Secure Pakistan”, which was organised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in collaboration with the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan here.

“The quality of life in this part of the world will deteriorate further… if we fail to conserve it [water] today,” he said, adding that he was not willing to “destroy the country’s future” by sitting idle.

Declaration adopted at symposium calls for setting up of task force on water

The chief justice said that all Pakistanis should express their love for the country by working hard just as our founding fathers, including Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, did.

He regretted that government representatives, who should have attended the symposium in large numbers, had wasted a good opportunity to learn from the submissions made at the event.

The Islamabad Declaration, which was adopted at the symposium, expressed deep concern over the amount of water currently present in Pakistan and pointed out that the per capita availability of surface water had declined from 5,260 cubic metres per year in 1951 to about 1,000 cubic metres in 2016, according to the national water policy.

The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources had already declared that the country “may run dry by 2025” if corrective measures were not taken soon, said the document.

According to the declaration, investments should be made for enhancing water supply (through dams and reservoirs) and better utilisation of groundwater should be ensured by adopting appropriate technologies (like recycling, desalination and water harvesting). Similarly, consumption of water should be managed properly through the principles of mutual trust among the provinces.

The International Water Law should be taken advantage of by consistently putting forward the country’s perspective before various world forums. Pakistan’s strategy regarding implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty should be revisited to bolster the country’s case.

The document urged the government to introduce water accounting based on modern data collection methods to assess the water availability situation and build trust among the provinces regarding water apportionment.

Effective salinity and sedimentation management techniques should be adopted to protect the country’s agricultural land and the storage capacity of dams and reservoirs. Numerous small and large dams and reservoirs should be constructed on a priority basis.

According to the declaration, innovative solutions regarding storage facilities for low gradient plains (coastal, barani and desert areas, etc) should be adopted. Also, the Indus Basin irrigation network should be extended which would bring several million acres of land under irrigation.

The document said it was no longer feasible to allow unfettered access to the valuable resource of water. Therefore, a fair water pricing model should be formulated and implemented by the competent regulatory institution.

The Indus Basin, one of the largest contiguous irrigation systems in the world, is facing challenges from climate change, population explosion, outdated agricultural practices, financial crunch and other factors that need to be addressed immediately.

Steps should be taken to set up and establish an appropriate Indus Basin Authority through a legal instrument having the mandate to ensure the basin’s integrity with all the requisite powers, resources and enforcement mechanisms, said the declaration.

Pakistan should set up a powerful task force on water, it said, adding that agriculture income tax be levied and recovered across the board, the declaration added.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018

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PPP, PML-N slam govt for gas price hike

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday lashed out at the government’s recent decisions, including ,increase in the gas price,, warning that these policies could lead to an “economic meltdown” in the country.

In a statement, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the present government seemed totally clueless about the economy.

“This government has no sense of direction when it comes to the economy. Those who claimed that they will break the begging bowl and announced that they will not go to the International Monetary Fund are now asking for the biggest loan in Pakistan’s history,” said the PPP chairman.

Opposition parties say the ‘anti-public’ decision will deprive people of basic commodities

He said when the PPP came to power in 2008 it had faced the worst economic crisis but it still managed to keep the inflation rate low as “the PPP does not believe in putting the poor at risk”.

“The current government has given us nothing but inflated prices of basic necessities,” he added.

The PPP chairman questioned the government’s intentions as the “only thing the PTI government has done is to make the lives of the nation more difficult”.

“Those who claimed that they will give relief to the nation are actually snatching away the rights of the poor people. It is apparent that PM-select has done no homework,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

He pointed out that the government’s policies could lead to an economic meltdown as there was a probability that inflation rate would go up to 14 per cent.

He said Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan was turning out to be a nightmare for the people of Pakistan.

“This government has promised to build five million homes but it seems as if they will take away everything from the poor,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb termed the government’s recent decision to increase gas prices another “anti-public act”.

In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said the people had not had even a second’s respite since Mr Khan’s party had come to power as continuous trend of increase in prices of essential commodities had made life of masses, especially the vulnerable segments of society, miserable.

She said the 60-day performance of the ruling coalition had proven beyond doubt their inability to deal with national and public issues.

She said the rulers lacked capacity to take prudent decisions for the betterment of the economy, trade, industry and foreign relations; rather the country continued to be on the downslide mode since the ‘Niazi government’ had taken charge.

The PML-N spokesperson said further increase of gas prices would not only deprive labourers and workers from their bread and butter, it would also result in the slowdown of economic activities, which already are showing a negative trend.

She said the voters had rejected the government’s anti-people and anti-poor policies in the recent by-elections, which was a clear indication of distrust of the public but the rulers paid no heed to their cries and continued to burden those who are already bearing most of the burden.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018

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Balochistan opposes Islamabad’s decision to cut NFC share

QUETTA: The Balochis­tan government has decided to oppose the Centre’s decision to reduce share of all the four provinces in the next National Finance Commission (NFC) Award to be able to provide three per cent share to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The financial managers of the Balochistan government were of the opinion that after the move to merge Fata into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there was no justification to allocate additional 3pc share in the NFC award for Fata.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s share will be enhanced after the merger due to the increase in area and population of the province in the last census,” a senior official of the finance department told Dawn, adding that Balochistan would strongly plead its stance on the issue.

Sources said the federal government’s decision would get approval without consensus of all the provinces. “The given shares to the provinces in the 7th NFC award could not be reduced as it had constitutional cover,” they said.

In the past, none of the chief ministers and financial mangers of Balochistan compromised on the constitutional share of the province.

In the 7th NFC award the then Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani had pressed for Balochistan’s demands that had resulted in an increase in the share of the province.

Almost all political parties of the province, including Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Awami National Party (ANP), Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), National Party, Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), have strongly opposed the decision of the federal government.

They suggested that the federal government should give three per cent share to Fata from its own share if it desired to do so.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018

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Iran seeks army chief’s help over kidnapped guards

ISLAMABAD: Iran’s top military commander Maj Gen Mohammad Hossein Bagheri on Saturday phoned Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and urged him to intensify efforts for search and rescue of kidnapped Iranian border guards.

In his conversation, Gen Bagheri asked Gen Bajwa to take “decisive and urgent” steps for the recovery of the abducted guards, according to Iranian media. In this regard he referred to an agreement between the militaries of the two countries for ensuring normality along the Pak-Iran border.

Take a look: ,Iranian forces shell border villages,

Twelve Iranian guards were kidnapped by militants on Tuesday from a post in Mirjaveh region close to the border. Jaish al-Adl, a terrorist group operating in the region, had claimed responsibility for their kidnapping.

Iranian leaders believe the militants moved the guards to Pakistan after taking them hostage.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had on Wednesday called his Pakistani counterpart and had requested for early recovery of the guards.

The heads of military operations of the two armies have been coordinating the search effort. Air surveillance has been stepped up and additional troops have been deployed near the area where the incident took place.

The Iranian commander further asked Gen Bajwa to enhance troop presence along the border to ensure normality and prevent illegal crossing of the frontier.

The Iranian media quoted Gen Bajwa as having expressed the hope that efforts made by Pakistani law enforcement agencies would soon lead to the recovery of the hostages.

Meanwhile, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, called on Gen Bajwa and discussed matters of mutual interest, including regional security, with him, adds APP.

A press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations quoted the army chief as saying during the meeting that Pakistan would keep contributing positively towards regional peace and stability.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018

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Next IMF programme to be Pakistan’s last, Asad Umar tells stockbrokers

Finance Minister Asad Umar on Saturday claimed that Pakistan’s economy is already on the road to recovery and that the next IMF programme that the government is pursuing will be its last.

Umar made those remarks during a question and answer session following his meeting with a delegation of stockbrokers at the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi.

Following a tumultuous couple of weeks for the bourse, the finance minister had met the traders today to allay their concerns about the market and the economy.

“There is tremendous growth in the stock market,” Umar told the market representatives, but agreed that “measures need to be taken in order to improve the market’s [recent performance]“.

“We will work for the betterment of the capital market and improve the overall atmosphere for investment,” the minister promised, but stressed that the stock market’s fortunes are directly linked with the economy’s health.

“If the economy will grow, the market will grow.”

The finance minister defended his policies aimed at curbing imports, saying: “The country was heading rapidly towards bankruptcy. I have to save 210 million Pakistanis.”

Umar explained that had he not taken swift measures to curb imports, the rupee “would have been devalued by 100 or even 200 per cent instead of just 27 per cent”.

“Right now, we have an $18 billion deficit and $9bn of debt repayment [due] this year, which brings the total to $27bn … we cannot afford that,” he said. “Of course, segments of the society will have to bear this pain but if I ignore this financing gap then the consequential pain will be far greater than that [arising from] our current policies.”

“After taking monetary and fiscal measures, in my opinion, our financing gap for this year will be around $12b. That sum we are trying to solve through a package, which will include one-time inflows as well as elements of trade financing.”

“This is a massive gap; we should never have reached this point. Having said that, you will see healthy growth in our exports this year. The first quarter’s data shows that exports are up, imports are down and remittances have grown by 13 per cent — all the fundamentals are moving in the right direction.

“In my opinion, year 3 [of the incumbent government] will be our break-even point, and after that you will see growth,” Umar predicted, adding that the “19th [the next] IMF programme will be Pakistan’s last.”

Regarding traders’ short-term concerns, the minister said that while “trading is a good thing, we also have to stay within our resources.” Furthermore, he said that while he understands the traders’ concerns, he is “more worried about the interests of the 210m Pakistanis”.

The finance minister also observed that some importers “have made substantial sums from devaluation in the past 12 months by selling inventory they had purchased on old prices”.

The finance minister told his audience that while the new policies may seem tough, they have already started mending the economy. “The economy’s fever has started subsiding,” he said.

“Our average monthly current account deficit for May, June and July was $2bn. The numbers for August and September have not been released yet but according to my estimates it should be down to $1bn. This is half of what we used to [incur] and it shows that issues are coming under our control.”

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