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‘Suo motu notices to be taken sparingly,’ says Justice Khosa at full court reference for CJP Nisar

A full court reference in honour of the retiring Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, is being held in Court No. 1 of the Supreme Court.

The ceremony in Islamabad is being attended by all Supreme Court judges — with the exception of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah — as well as Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Kamran Murtaza, retired senior judges as well as senior journalists, among others. Justice Nisar’s family is also in attendance.

While addressing the gathering, Justice Nisar said the top court has passed many landmark verdicts. “First is the ,Gilgit-Baltistan’s verdict,.”

“Supreme Court took notice of the scarcity of water in the country. The entire nation ,gave donations, to solve the crisis. Second issue the court picked up was ,that of population growth,,” he said.

“[Judiciary] worked for the rights of the downtrodden, granted overseas Pakistanis the right to vote and gave every person the right to live with dignity. Court also took notice of private hospital charges, issuance of national identity cards by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to transgenders.

“The court also took ,notice of Tayyaba torture case, as well as the issue of children working as domestic servants.

“[I] tried to return the respect given by the people and tried to solve the issues plaguing sectors of health and education, both of which are rights granted to citizens by the Constitution.

“The role of a judge is never easy, I am aware that the decisions we make shape not just the day to day lives of individuals, but have the potential to mould the lives of generations to come.

“Fear has no place in a judge’s life, nor does the fear of opposition bring so much as a wrinkle on his forehead, for his only duty is to the Constitution and the people for whom he stands as a beacon of justice

“I worked within the code of conduct for judges and it has been my honour to have served the nation.”

The CJP thanked his fellow judges; “those who have laid down their robes and those who grace the bench with me today, for always extending their unqualified support to me in all my efforts in dispensing justice and for working tirelessly round the clock”.

“I am also grateful to the employees of the Supreme Court and particularly each and every member of my staff, all of whom have invested long hours with me.

“I am highly indebted to my beautiful family [...] I would not be here today if it were not for you all.”

‘Suo motu notices to be taken sparingly’

Addressing the full court reference, chief justice-designate Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said that he had been working alongside Justice Nisar for 20 years but will now have to part ways as per the law.

He said that the outgoing chief justice had faced many constitutional, societal and political challenges during his tenure and headed the judiciary in “very difficult circumstances”.

Justice Nisar’s services for humanitarian causes will be remembered, he added.

Outlining his plan for his upcoming tenure as top judge, Justice Khosa said that he will ensure the quick dispensation of justice.

Referring to Justice Nisar’s efforts to raise donations to build the Diamer-Bhasha dams, Justice Khosa said that he too he wanted to build a dam. “I will build a dam against fake cases, against pending cases,” he promised.

“Currently there are 1.9 million cases pending in courts. Three thousand judges cannot dispense of so many cases,” Justice Khosa noted.

“I want to build a dam against false witnesses as well,” he said, adding: “The power to take suo motu notices will be used sparingly.”

“I also want to pay off the country’s loans — I will will pay off the loans of cases that have been pending for years.”

Speaking on the role of other courts, the SC judge said: “The trial of a civilian in a military court is considered wrong across the world. It is said that military courts take less time to issue verdicts. Civilian courts should try to resolve cases in a short period of time. High courts should exercise powers within their jurisdiction.”

“When has the judiciary interfered in the matters of other institutions?” Justice Khosa asked. “Army and intelligence agencies should not interfere in civilian matters.”

“The job of the parliament is to legislate, not provide development funds. Transfers and postings are not among the parliament’s duties either.”

PBC’s Vice Chairman Murtaza, while speaking at the ceremony, said that Justice Nisar had availed the authority granted to judiciary under ,Article 184(3) (Original jurisdiction of Supreme Court),. Murtaza said that while he was one of the opponents of Article 184(3), he had no doubts about the intentions of Justice Nisar. However, Murtaza said, the “matter of Article 184(3)’s limitations must be resolved”.

Murtaza lauded Justice Nisar’s “extraordinary” service as chief justice and wondered if the Supreme Court, as an institution, would be able to continue performing in a similar manner. He stressed the need for the introduction of institutional reforms.

“Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a very capable person,” Murtaza declared.

President of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Amanullah Kanrani also addressed the ceremony and said that recently “the judges’ tone has become so harsh that it distracts the court and lawyers from their basic purpose”.

“Lawyers are not given a chance to present facts and arguments,” he said. He further said that the “huge amount of suo motu cases” leads to a delay in the proceedings of other petitions. Kanrani also suggested that the appellants be allowed to appeal against the verdicts passed in suo motu cases.

The SCBA president also said that “informal remarks” passed by judges and lawyers during court proceedings affect the “minds of petitioners”. Kanrani insisted that there was a need to hold judges accountable.

Justice Nisar’s legacy

Justice Nisar was ,sworn in as the top judge, on Dec 31, 2016. After he hangs up his robes today, Justice Khosa ,will take over the reins of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, tomorrow when he will be administered the oath by President Arif Alvi.

Earlier in the day, after adjourning a hearing of his last case, Justice Nisar said he was “thankful to everyone”.

“I spent more than 20 years in judiciary. I always tried to issue verdicts in accordance with the law and regulations,” he said.

Among Justice Nisar’s retirement plans are to ,open a “free legal clinic”,. “I will offer free legal assistance to the oppressed, poor and helpless people at my free legal clinic,” he had disclosed, stressing that the country belongs to the disadvantaged populace as much as it does to those from the more privileged sections of society.

Herald’s ‘Person of the Year 2018′: ,Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, for judging too much,

The outgoing chief justice passed several landmark judgements during his tenure as top judge — including ,the verdict in the Aasia Bibi case, last year. He also headed the bench which decided that disqualification handed down under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution ,would be for life,.

The defining feature of his tenure, however, may be his judicial activism and frequent suo motu notices. Justice Nisar created headlines not just in the courtrooms, but by visits all over the country — to hospitals, filtration plants, lower court rooms and even prisons. Everywhere that the chief justice went, the cameras followed.

He also set up a ,fund for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, and initiated a campaign to raise awareness about population control.

At the full court reference that was held for his predecessor, former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Nisar in his address — which many believed was an insight into his plan of action as top judge — had declared that the ,judiciary will not tolerate corruption, in any form.

Take a look: ,In search of a legacy,

“The act of corruption by state actors is a complete fraud on the exercise of their power may it be the executive or judicial limbs of the state,” Justice Nisar had observed and cautioned that it should be very clearly understood that besides cleaning ‘‘our own house of corruption, the judiciary would play its role in the eradication of corruption from other limbs of the government’’.

Justice Nisar’s judicial career

Justice Nisar has been a judge of the apex court since Feb 18, 2010. Before that he was a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

Before being appointed as a judge, he was member of the Supreme Court Bar Associa­tion and Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). He was elected as secretary general of the LHCBA in 1991.

Explore: ,Judicial overreach?,

Born on Jan 18, 1954, in Lahore, Justice Nisar did his matriculation from the Cath­edral High School, Lahore, graduation from the Gover­n­ment College, Lahore, and bac­h­elor of law from the Uni­versity of Punjab in 1979-80.

He joined the legal profession as an advocate on May 2, 1980. He was enrolled as an advocate of the high court in 1982 and advocate of the Supreme Court in 1994.

He was elevated as the judge of the high court on May 22, 1998, and of the Supreme Court on Feb 18, 2010.

Justice Nisar specialised in civil, commercial, tax and constitutional laws and appeared in a large number of important constitutional cases both in the LHC and the Supreme Court.

He was appointed as the federal law secretary on March 29, 1997, when he became the first member of the bar to be appointed to the important position.

Justice Nisar represented Pakistan in an international conference held at the Wilton Park, United Kingdom, on the subject of “Pakistan and India at Fifty”.

He led a Pakistani delegation to a conference in Manila on the subject of “Asia Region Transitional Crimes”. He also attended conferences in Switzerland and Norway.

He had also been a part-time lecturer at the Punjab Law College and Pakistan College of Law, where he taught civil procedure code and the Constitution.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 17, 2019 at 9:26 am

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PAC subcommittee decides in principle on forensic audit of IIA project

ISLAMABAD: With the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) saying it needs six months to determine the law under which to file a reference, a subcommittee of the Public Accounts Committee has decided in principle to carry out a forensic audit of the Islamabad International Airport.

The subcommittee, which is led by PTI MNA Syed Fakhar Imam, has also directed the auditor general to determine whether delays in the project were caused by the contractor or the government.

The audit department has said it is quite capable of carrying out the audit as it is already auditing a private firm on Supreme Court orders, but would officially consent after a week.

NAB tells subcommittee it needs six months to determine the law under which to file a reference

While discussing delays in the escalation in cost for the airport from Rs37 billion to Rs105bn, the subcommittee was informed that the PAC has already referred some audit objections to NAB. However, a NAB official said the bureau would need six months to determine under which law it should file its reference, for which it will also consult with law experts at universities.

PML-N MNA Rana Tanveer Hussain said the six month wait would be too long, adding: “When you want to file references or take action against politicians you don’t even take a month to do it.”

Pakistan Engineering Council Chairman Jawed Salim Qureshi intervened in the discussion and said that in other countries, forensic audits are used to fix responsibility in such cases.

He added that here, government departments “ try to accept responsibility to protect the contractor from fines”.

Forensic audits investigate why a project was delayed and who was responsible, he said, adding: “It is inquired from the government department if it asked the contractor why the project was delayed and what the contractor’s reply was.”

Mr Qureshi also alleged that the project cost was deliberately stated to be Rs37bn instead of Rs81bn so “small and incompetent companies would be able to win the contract”.

Audit Works (Federal)Director General Mohammad Azhar told the subcommittee earlier that four inquiries have been conducted over delays in the completion of the airport.

“The ground-breaking of the project was held on April 7, 2007, and the project had to be completed within 30 months. However, at the time of the ground-breaking ceremony, the design of the project was not ready and even the PC-I was not approved. Even after 18 months, work on the runway was done again as work done at the time of the ground-breaking was destroyed,” he said.

Mr Azhar said that while the initial cost of the project was Rs37bn, a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) report had revealed that a number of components were not included in the project. The realistic cost of the project, he said, was Rs81bn.

“However even that price escalated and reached over Rs105bn. We have raised a number of objections and even the FIA report shows that our objections were correct,” he said.

An Aviation Division official attributed the increase in cost to the decision to upgrade technology, and the foreign exchange conversion rate.

The official said the SC took note of the issue in September 2013, after which retired Lt Gen Shahid Nawaz carried out an inquiry and a review committee, headed by Shamsul Mulk, also looked into the matter.

The IIA project was conceived of in 1984, and the procurement of land near Fateh Jang began the same year. Land was bought for Rs30,000 per kanal to Rs500,000 per kanal, averaging Rs70,000 per kanal.

A stone-laying ceremony was held in 2004, and construction began without the approval of any design. Construction projects were also awarded at the same time to 17 contractors.

The initial Rs37bn PC-I was approved in 2008, which did not include the fuel system, radar and radio control building, aprons for planes, sewerage treatment plant, electricity or the availability of water.

In order to resolve the issue of water availability, it was decided to build two dams – Ramma and Kassana – at a cost of approximately Rs1.7bn to provide 3.3 million gallons of water per day.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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‘NAB will not arrest PPP leaders at the whim of a federal minister’

A day after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for what he implied was ,leniency on part of the watchdog,, the bureau clarified on Wednesday that it would never arrest anyone merely at the whim of a minister.

On Tuesday, the minister had told reporters at the residence of PTI’s Haleem Adil Shaikh in Karachi that he was surprised as to why NAB was not arresting Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah despite the fact that their names had appeared in the joint investigation team (JIT) report as “key suspects”.

Take a look: ,NAB chairman should appear before parliament, demands Zardari,

“It’s quite unfortunate that the performance of NAB is not satisfactory and moving at a slow pace,” he had said, adding that, “Zardari and Faryal Talpur have held the people of Sindh hostage while Murad Ali Shah facilitated all their wrongdoings despite holding a key office in the province and all this is documented in the JIT report. Despite all these facts [they] have not been arrested yet, which is quite surprising.”

NAB in today’s press release rejected the impression that it was moving at a slow pace. In a statement, the watchdog said it has so far not received written orders from the Supreme Court in this regard and that it will devise its strategy as per the apex court’s orders.

Moreover, the bureau announced it has decided to write to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to acquire content of news items pertaining to the “statements of a minister regarding a case being followed by NAB”.

The watchdog was referring to Fawad Chaudhry as he had said on multiple occasions that NAB should withdraw the case against Prime Minister Imran Khan and that it should also apologise in this regard.

The statement read that NAB would examine the entire issue as to why it was being asked to shut and withdraw the case. The anti-corruption watchdog will also examine the issue under the NAB law if the statements were tantamount to attempts to manipulate NAB proceedings, it added.

“NAB rejects all types of pressures and assures that all investigations are carried out as per the law and the Constitution to uphold the requisites of justice,” the statement read.

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Mohmand Dam inauguration ceremony postponed again

The much-awaited inauguration ceremony of the Mohmand Dam ,scheduled for Sunday, was postponed for at least the second time this month, government officials said.

The ceremony for the dam was ,to be held on January 2, but was rescheduled until today due to a controversy that emerged following the award of the contract of the hydropower project.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed to DawnNewsTV that the ceremony today had been postponed.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani said a new date would be announced after consultation with Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who would attend the inauguration ceremony.

Durrani ruled out the impression that the project’s inauguration had been delayed due to any controversies. He said the tender for the project was awarded in the PML-N government’s tenure and the incumbent government had no role in the matter.

Chief Justice Nisar had last week taken offence over not being informed about the rescheduling of the ceremony and had said he may not attend.

Justice Nisar has paid close attention to the issue of water scarcity and had ordered the ,creation of the Dam Fund, in July last year ? a fund that appeals to the general public and overseas Pakistanis for donations for the construction of the Mohmand Dam and the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

The top judge’s initiative was later joined by the prime minister. Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, according to State Bank of Pakistan data in December 2018.

Justice Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan were to be the chief guests of today’s event.

Mohmand Dam contract controversy

The dam contract was ,awarded on a single-bid basis to a consortium, of three companies led by Descon, a company previously owned by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, in which he and his family members ,currently hold ownership stakes,.

A second contestant for the bid, a consortium comprising the Frontier Works Organisation, Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered, some top-ranking national contractors cited by Dawn said earlier.

The award of the bid to the Descon-led consortium raised questions about a possible conflict of interest and the process of the award.

Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda claimed the controversy around the award of the dam’s contract has been created “on the agenda of international powers”.

He said that Dawood had already resigned from the company before the bidding was held on July 18 ? before the new government came to power. He added that the PM’s adviser had nothing to do with the contract and had no way to influence the bidding process.

Descon only holds 30pc of shares in the consortium and the bids were evaluated by technical experts comprising Nespak, an Australian company, and another foreign firm, according to Vawda.

Wapda Chairman Hussain said that it was coincidental that the single bidder’s price was also almost the same as estimated by the government and insisted there was no conflict of interest in the award of the contract to a company having links with a sitting cabinet member.

Although Hussain agreed that Descon was linked to Dawood, he maintained it had nothing to do with the bidding conducted by Wapda and dismissed the notion that he or the body was facing pressure over the groundbreaking of the project.

Abdul Razak Dawood in a statement also explained that he had founded and headed Descon like several other business ventures, but had disclosed all his business associations in writing to the prime minister and resigned from these positions before joining the government to ensure transparency and avoid conflict of interest.

The Mohmand Dam project

The construction of the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam ? which will be situated on the Swat river in the Manda area ? is said to be imperative to resolve the problems of water scarcity and electricity shortfall in the country.

A sum of Rs2bn has been allocated for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.

Work on the dam will ,begin this month, and is expected to be complete within five years. It will have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and generate 800 megawatts of electricity. It will also irrigate 16,000 acres of land and increase agricultural production in the area.

The completion of the project will require 8,668 acres of land mostly in Mohmand tribal district and some parts of Bajaur and Malakand.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 13, 2019 at 5:25 pm

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SC imposes Re1 per litre charge on mineral water, beverage firms

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has imposed a levy on companies selling mineral water and beverages at ,a rate of Re1 for every litre of surface water, extracted by them. The revenue so collected will go to the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams fund.

Authored by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the judgement also required the provincial governments as well as the Islamabad Capital Territory administration to set up separate and distinct accounts to receive the amounts collected under the water charges. The amounts will then be deposited in the SC-created dams fund.

The judgement was issued on a suo motu case pertaining to selling by the companies of water extracted from underground sources without any charge as well as the quality and fitness of the same for human consumption.

The apex court made it clear that the funds so collected would not be diverted in any circumstances to any other purpose other than construction of dams and water-related activities. However, once the dams are constructed, the provincial governments, subject to the order of the apex court, will be at a liberty to utilise the funds collected in the accounts, the judgement said.

The apex court also constituted a special committee, headed by Prof Dr Mohammad Ahsan Siddiqui and comprising representatives of the provincial chief secretaries, director generals of the federal and provincial environmental protection agencies (EPAs) and others, to devise a mechanism for calculation, collection and monitoring of the recovery of water charges from all major industries consuming surface or groundwater. The industries include the energy sector, pulp and paper, cement, sugar, ethanol refineries, textiles, garments, tanneries, petroleum refineries, petrochemical industries and fertilisers.

Amount collected under the water charges to be deposited in the SC-created dams fund

A similar levy has already been imposed on the cement industry.

The committee after consultations will suggest imposing water tariff on these industries, the SC order said.

The apex court directed the federal and provincial governments to ensure installation of foolproof and state-of-the-art metering mechanism at every extraction unit within a period of 30 days. Close-circuit cameras will also be installed at the respective premises of the companies involved in the extraction of groundwater or utilisation of surface water for their business. The extraction will be monitored closely by the respective EPA on a daily basis, the verdict said.

In order to counter environmental impact, the Supreme Court ordered the mineral water and beverage companies to start tree plantation programmes to fulfil their corporate social responsibility. “We expect each company to plant/arrange the plantation of 10,000 trees per annum,” the court said, adding that a comprehensive programme would also be put in place to gradually phase out plastic bottles.

In the meantime, it said, it would be ensured that the plastic used for making bottles was certified by competent laboratories as being fit for human consumption.

The bottled water companies are also required to provide a chart highlighting milestones for meeting all the objectives spelt out in the order and will furnish monthly compliance/progress reports with the implementation bench being constituted under the judgement for its perusal and appropriate orders.

“The respective food authorities and the special committee also enjoy the authority to conduct surprise inspections at any time of the factory premises and water bottling/beverage facilities to ensure strict and faithful compliance of this order,” the Supreme Court said.

The implementation bench will take up the matter on Jan 31.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019

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Police point finger at London in Ali Raza Abidi’s murder probe

KARACHI: While not ruling out extremism as a motive, the police authorities on Wednesday hinted at narrowing down the scope of investigation into ,last month’s murder of Ali Raza Abidi,, former MNA and leader of a faction of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, when they claimed to have found leads suggesting that the party’s London- and South Africa-based members were in the city to execute the job.

Talking to reporters after seeing former Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair at his residence in Defence Housing Authority, SSP South Pir Mohammed Shah said that the probe into Mr Abidi’s killing had made some headway and the investigators were close to knowing the motive and people behind his assassination.

“We are gradually moving forward in that [Abidi’s killing] case,” he said. “We are excluding people and groups who cannot be suspected of their involvement in the incident. But definitely there are credible reports that people of the London group, or you can say the South African group, are here in the city. Every government agency is doing its job and adding its inputs. Considering the history of violence in Karachi, we cannot rule out extremism and terrorism as a possible motive, but there are other actors as well who are taken into account.”

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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Asad Umar vexed by bureaucrats’ lack of preparation

ISLAMABAD: Amid a 24 per cent shortfall in cotton production this year, Finance Minister Asad Umar gave vent to his irritation over repeated presentation of half-baked ideas before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet and returned issues of duty-free import of cotton and revival of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to relevant ministries.

The ECC meeting had been called on Tuesday with only one item on the agenda — tax and duty-free import of cotton — and took up a presentation on PSM revival from Hubco as an additional item, but the presentation did not satisfy the finance minister who presided over the session.

Read: ,Exploring new taxes,

A source present in the meeting said the finance minister was visibly irritated when bureaucrats making the presentation were unable to answer elementary questions. They were asked to specify the benefit to Pakistan’s economy of allowing duty-free import of cotton, as well as quantify the revenue loss as a result of the measure. The bureaucrats from the textile ministry failed to satisfy him, to which he is said to have retorted “what kind of a joke is this, you people don’t come prepared even though there is a single agenda item!”

Returns proposal for duty-free cotton import to ministry

An official handout issued after the meeting said that “[t]he committee noted that detailed trade and revenue related data was required, which was not made part of the proposal,” and added that “relevant ministries were directed to fill the data gaps so that an informed decision could be taken in the matter”.

Mr Umar noted that when a ministry was seeking a major decision, it should have also included in its summary as to what would be the impact of imported cotton on the textile industry and how its duty-free import would affect the revenue stream of the Federal Board of Revenue, an official said.

Explore: ,Can Finance Minister Asad Umar prop up the equity market?,

The meeting was informed that the Cotton Crop Assessment Committee in its last meeting in September estimated that the cotton crop for 2018-19 would be around 10.78 million bales of 170kg, showing a decrease of 9.7pc, compared to the last year, and a decrease of 24pc against the initially fixed target of 14.37m bales. Further, 9.62m bales had already arrived in ginning factories as of Dec 15 and almost 95pc of the cotton had been lifted from farmers.

The textile division reported that Pakistan had been a net cotton importer since 2001. On top, domestic cotton is of short to medium staple length and, therefore, long and extra long staple cotton has to be imported for production of finer yarn counts for subsequent transformation into high value-added finished products.

It said the import of cotton had remained duty free till the slab of 0pc was abolished in 2014-15 and customs duty of 1pc was imposed along with 5pc sales tax. Later, 1pc slab was made 2pc and then 3pc along with 2pc additional duty to make it 5pc i.e. currently cotton is subject to 3pc customs duty, 2pc additional customs duty and 5pc sales tax.

Prime Minister’s Package of Incentives for Exports announced on January 10, 2017, provided a number of facilitations to the textile sector, including withdrawal of customs duty and sales tax on imported cotton with effect from January 16, 2017.

However, the Finance Division later moved a summary to the ECC to re-impose the customs duty and sales tax on imported cotton. The ECC constituted a committee and on the recommendation of the committee duties were re-imposed from July 15, 2017, in view of domestic cotton arrival.

The customs duty and sales tax were withdrawn again on January 8, 2018, on the request of textile division. However, the customs duty and sales tax were re-imposed on July 15, 2018, on the request of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research.

It was reported that textile industry consumed around 12m to 15m bales per annum and sustainability and viability of spinning industry was totally dependent on performance of the domestic crop. Textile industry had to meet this shortage from import of cotton from other countries.

The impact of duties are induced in the price of domestic cotton, resulting in increase in cost of doing business for the entire textiles value chain, especially for the export-oriented sector, in highly competitive international markets. Therefore, the textile division proposed that similar to last two years decision, customs duty, additional customs duty and sales tax on imported cotton may be withdrawn immediately.

PSM revival

Sources said a brief presentation by chief executive officer of Hub Power Company Khalid Mansoor did not offer conclusive solutions, but some initial observations and desired that the expert group he was leading should be given time until the end of March to come up with proposals about the future of PSM.

The committee noted the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation had removed the PSM from the privatisation list on October 31 and the expert group given 45 days to finalise a revival plan for the country’s largest industrial unit. The timeline had expired last month and now a 3-month extension was being sought.

It was also reported that the board of directors had not yet approved the appointment of Mr Mansoor-led expert group or allowed sharing of record and data despite instructions from the government on December 1, 2018. The board had thrice cancelled its meeting since then.

Mr Mansoor, who has previously worked with Finance Minister Umar in Engro Corporation, was asked to complete its task at the earliest.

A statement said the ministry of industries shared progress on the action plan with the meeting. “The committee directed that the plan of action should be prepared in a cohesive manner, taking on board the PSM Board of Directors/Management and submitted for final approval as per the given timelines.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019

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SC to hear NAB’s appeal against suspension of Nawaz, Maryam sentences on Jan 14

The Supreme Court will hear the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeal against the ,suspension of sentences, handed to Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz — in the Avenfield reference — next week on January 14.

The appeal will be heard by a five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

The accountability court in July last year had announced the verdict in the Avenfield properties corruption reference filed by NAB, handing the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and 1 year for not cooperating with the bureau.

His daughter was given 7 years for abetment after she was found “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father” and 1 year for non-cooperation with the bureau.

The father and daughter upon their return to Lahore on July 13 were arrested by NAB authorities and shifted to Adiala jail.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) in September, however, granted them bail after suspending their sentences.

The corruption watchdog had subsequently filed an appeal — ,which was accepted by the SC, — in which it contended that the IHC had failed to appreciate that, through its order, it had seriously prejudiced the case of the prosecution by holding that the trial court judgement suffered from obvious and glaring defects and infirmities and that the convictions and sentences handed down to the accused might not be sustained ultimately.

Nawaz’s appeal against Al-Azizia

Earlier today, a two-member IHC allowed the former prime minister’s request for the early hearing of his appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference. The court directed that it be fixed for hearing within ten days.

Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani also set a petition ,seeking the suspension of Sharif’s ­sentence, for hearing.

Barrister Munawwar Duggal had on Tuesday filed an application seeking the immediate hearing of the appeal against the ,verdict announced by an accountability court, in the reference on December 24 last year.

In the application, the defence counsel pointed out that the winter vacation had ended and, therefore, the appeal against the conviction might be fixed before the available bench.

Another IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Farooq had on Jan 7 taken up Sharif’s petition seeking the suspension of his sentence. The bench, however, pointed out that since the appeal against the conviction in the Al-Azizia-Hill Metal Establishment had neither been fixed nor taken up, the petition for suspension of the sentence could not be entertained at this stage.

The IHC on Tuesday, however, released an order deciding to take up the petition.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik had on Dec 24 convicted Sharif in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills Company (ASCL) and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) reference and ,awarded him seven years imprisonment, and fined him Rs1.5 billion and $25 million.

Sharif ,filed a 61-page appeal against the verdict, through Haris who pointed out certain ‘extraneous’ factors which accountability judges never consider while imparting judgements in routine cases.

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Gas supply to Karachi’s CNG sector will resume at 8pm tonight, says petroleum minister

Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Saturday promised that the gas supply will soon be restored in Sindh adding that the Karachi’s compressed natural gas (CNG) sector will see a resumption of gas supply by 8pm.

Addressing a press conference along with Sindh Governor Imran Ismail in Karachi, the petroleum minister said, “Supply of gas to Karachi’s CNG sector will resume tonight at 8pm.” From Sunday onwards, the industries across Sindh will receive 50 per cent supply, moreover, maximum possible relief will be provided to the CNG sector in the coming days, the minister said.

“The current gas crisis occurred [due to some technical faults], it was not created. I came to Karachi on the instructions of the prime minister and held talks with all the stakeholders,” the petroleum minister explained.

Sarwar Khan said he had come to Karachi to resolve the gas supply issue and will be departing at 9pm after supply is restored.

On Tuesday, the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had announced that it was ,stopping the supply of gas, to the CNG sector and captive power plants as it was not getting the required pressure and amount of gas for distribution due to a technical fault being experienced at some gas fields.

Subsequently, Karachiites suffered a ,serious transport crisis, on Wednesday when a majority of the public transport vehicles stayed off the roads because of suspension of gas supply to CNG stations by SSGC.

Owners of public transport who did bring their vehicles out on the roads despite the CNG closure charged hefty fares from people who had no option but to pay.

Transporters said that it was almost impossible for most of them to bring their vehicles on the roads after the SSGC’s announcement on Tuesday that the situation was unlikely to change in the days to come.

Apart from transporters, the Sindh government had also reacted strongly against the SSGC’s move and called it a ,violation of the Constitution,.

“The SSGC move is against Article 158-B of the Constitution,” said Sindh Transport Minister Syed Owais Qadir Shah in a statement. “The federal government has no right to suspend supply to CNG stations in Sindh which produced the largest quantity of gas.”

Sindh Minister for Energy Imtiaz Shaikh had said the federal government’s decision to stop gas supply to the captive power plants in the province was bound to ,cause unemployment and stir an industrial crisis,.

Shaikh said at an emergency press conference in his office that the federal government’s attitude towards Sindh, which contributed 70 per cent to the country’s total gas production, was tantamount to unleashing oppression on the people of the province.

The minister said that gas loadshedding was a serious matter on which the prime minister had taken another U-turn. On Sunday, the premier had promised Karachi-based industrialists of an end to the loadshedding but soon after, the supply to the captive power plants was stopped, creating a big crisis which would affect a number of factories, he added.

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PM orders inquiry as gas crisis bites

ISLAMABAD: A crisis in the gas sector proliferated across the country on Wednesday as gas shortages forced industry closures across Punjab and Karachi, and even domestic consumers in many parts faced outages. Later at night, Prime Minister Imran Khan took personal notice of the situation and summoned Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar, who blamed the management of two gas companies — SSGC and SNGPL — following which the premier ordered an inquiry into “specific allegations against the managing directors”.

The prime minister was informed by the petroleum minister that drop in gas production in the south fields of Kunnar Pasakhi and Gambat caused problems in Karachi, and faults in gas compressors at Nawabshah and Saran created shortages in the north.

“SNGPL did not report gas demand and supply shortfall in December accurately to the government, and SSGCL failed to inform the government about faults in the compressors in a timely manner,” a statement issued by the PM Office said.

The inquiry is to be conducted by a committee headed by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) chairperson Uzma Adil Khan. Additionally, three directors general of the petroleum division Qazi Saleem, Shahid Yousaf and Imran Ahmad will call any expert witness to assist in the proceedings.

Widespread industry shutdowns prompt outcry

“The specific allegations against the managing directors of SNGPL and SSGCL include negligence in reporting of facts to the ministry or incompetence to deal with operational issues, withholding of information from the government and overall systematic governance failure of SNGPL and SSGCL,” according to a notification issued by the petroleum division.

The committee is required to submit a report to the prime minister within 72 hours.

Industries in Lahore had their gas cut off late on Tuesday night and were told it would be back in 24 hours. Likewise, industries in Faisalabad had been cut off by 10pm on Tuesday and were also told to expect restoration of supply in 24 hours. But late on Wednesday night, as restoration time drew near, industry leaders in both cities told Dawn that they were told to wait another six to eight hours before full resumption of supply.

Karachi industrialists reacted strongly to the notices that were served on them the day before, alerting them of imminent disconnection. Several groups met separately to chart an appropriate response, eventually reaching out to the established trade bodies like the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, SITE Association of Industry, the Bin Qasim Association of Trade and Industry and the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry. All groups issued separate statements during the day, calling for immediate resumption of supply and pointing to government’s mismanagement of the gas sector and growing losses in transmission as some of the factors behind the crisis.

By late Wednesday night, some industry leaders told Dawn that they had been reassured by the SSGC that the outage would not last beyond Friday.

In its letter sent to the industry across the city, the SSGC did not give any specific reasons for the shortfall, saying simply that they were facing “a continuous short supply of gas from different gas fields”.

Speaking to Dawn, an SSGC spokesperson said the Kunnar Pasakhi field had developed a fault and claimed that supply to the export-oriented industry and power generators was normal.

In a written statement sent to reporters, the petroleum division said the SSGC was getting 1200mmcfd (million cubic feet per day) indigenous gas these days, compared to 1280mmcfd in December last year. This shortfall of 80mmcfd was due to natural depletion of indigenous gas reserves. The total shortage on these two counts worked out at 130mmcfd when compared to last year.

“Another 100mmcfd additional gas is consumed by the domestic sector from December onwards, due to the onset of winter”, bringing the size of total shortfall to 230mmcfd, a source in the petroleum division told Dawn.

“To overcome the problem, and to ensure adequate supply to domestic and commercial sectors, gas to captive power plants of all general industries, excluding the zero-rated and rice export industries, will remain shut with immediate effect till further notice,” the SSGC letter to the industry stated.

Oil refineries have been reporting a crisis-like situation since last month owing to filling to capacity of their furnace oil storages and warning that they would be compelled to reduce production capacity.

The matter was repeatedly discussed by the cabinet committee on energy comprising almost all economic ministers. Informed sources said condensate from a series of hydrocarbon fields had been processed at site and transported to refineries. A couple of processing plants at the gas fields were out of order and refineries were least interested in lifting condensate because of their furnace oil storage constraints.

This was partially confirmed by the petroleum division. It said that “gas supplies from three fields namely Kunnar, Pasakhi and Gambat have been reduced by 50mmcfd, from November 22, 2018, as a consequence of curtailment due to condensate storage problem at the fields and refineries”.

Meanwhile, a ray of hope emerged from two LNG terminals in Karachi. Engro Elengy’s CEO told Dawn that his terminal would be up and running by Thursday morning after a routine maintenance shutdown.

And Pakistan Gas Port Ltd reported that it was operating at full capacity, pumping 650mmcfd of gas into the SSGC system. It was reported that eight RLNG shipments would be arriving in time according to the schedule while efforts have been expedited for the revival of domestic gas production.

The petroleum division said the SSGC had issued notices to industries with captive power in October 2018 that it would not be able to provide gas in December–February period to ensure supply to domestic consumers in view of the above gas shortfall of 230mmcfd. The captive power customers were told under their agreement to make alternate fuel arrangements.

The SSGC also started reducing gas supply to the power sector in the first phase and issued notices to captive power customers (other than zero-rated) to curtail consumption by 50 per cent. However, the captive power sector was reluctant to cooperate.

As a result, the SSGC was constrained to stop supply of gas to CNG stations from Dec 10 and captive power units of general industry were served notices on Dec 11 for complete closure, according to the source in the petroleum division.

The petroleum division said that although compressor units of the SSGC system were out of service due to technical reasons, moving RLNG upcountry to Sui Northern was not a problem and had no impact on the SSGC system. “As soon as gas supplies from the fields are reclaimed and the situation is stabilised, gas supplies from the system will be restored,” the petroleum division said.

In the National Assembly, PPP members Abdul Qadir Patel and Naveed Qamar criticised the government for violating Article 158 of the Constitution that promised first right of gas supply to the province where it was produced, but the CNG and industry in Sindh was suffering.

The petroleum minister said the gas companies had already sought interpretation of Article 158 from the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018

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Govt finds gaps in security at non-CPEC projects, businesses

RAWALPINDI: The government has found serious gaps in the security arrangements for businesses and residences owned by Chinese nationals after a review following the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi.

Sources said the provincial intelligence centre had observed that security for Chinese diplomats and officials as well as offices, residences and business sites in Punjab needed to be reviewed on an urgent basis.

The exercise aimed to examine the available security arrangements made by the concerned authorities, find lapses and make improvements to the security arrangements for projects unrelated to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The intelligence agency’s field staff conducted a survey of the projects, checked and reported on various parameters and submitted a comprehensive report identifying flaws and suggestions.

The report indicated that security arrangements at projects, businesses, offices and residences were unsatisfactory, and gaps were observed in the security audit that needed to be addressed on a priority basis due to the existing security situation.

According to sources, Chinese workers and experts are working on 102 development projects across Punjab, including 41 in Lahore, 17 in Sheikhupura, 11 in the Rawalpindi division, eight in Gujranwala, eight in Sargodha, six in Faisalabad, four in Bahawalpur, three in Sahiwal, three in D.G. Khan and one in Multan.

In addition to the projects, there are Chinese nationals have 152 residences, 131 businesses and 101 offices in the province.

There are 130 residences in Lahore, 10 in Faisalabad, four in Sahiwal, four in Multan, three in Bahawalpur and one in Sheikhupura. There are 117 businesses in Lahore, seven in Gujranwala, six in Faisalabad and one in Multan, and 86 offices in Lahore, 14 in Faisalabad and one in Multan.

One of the security gaps detailed in the report was a lack of an 8ft boundary wall with 2ft of razor wire at 315 points in the province. One point in Rawalpindi also lacks a boundary wall with razor wire.

CCTV cameras were not installed at 102 out of 486 points, while search lights were lacking at 236 points and 413 did not have alarm systems.

There were 52 points that lacked police and private security, metal detectors were not found at 315 points, 406 lacked walk-through gates and 418 lacked a bottom-view mirror.

The audit also revealed that 445 points lacked pop-up barriers, 41 did not have communication systems between security personnel and 391 did not have watch towers.

There were no rehearsal of contingency plans at 437 points, and a police escort was not available during the movement of Chinese experts at 278 points.

The report suggested that officials deployed for the security of Chinese nationals should be briefed and placed on high alert.

All divisional police chiefs have been directed to visit all the projects operating in their respective jurisdictions and submit reports, following the findings of the security audit.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

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SSGC stops gas supply to CNG sector, captive power plants

KARACHI: The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) announced on Tuesday that it was stopping supply of gas to the compressed natural gas (CNG) sector and captive power plants.

The SSGC said it was not getting the required pressure and amount of gas for distribution due to a technical fault being experienced at some gas fields.

,Gas shortage: consumers start feeling ‘heat’ of winter,

To add to this, a sharp drop in temperature in Quetta has increased gas demand in that city, which is also affecting the supply of natural gas there.

CNG Dealers Association, Pakistan Petroleum Association to protest outside SSGC building today

To ensure uninterrupted supply of gas to its domestic and commercial consumers, the SSGC is discontinuing supply to the CNG sector and captive power plants till further notice.

It was stressed by the SSGC that the industry would not be affected by this decision and would continue to receive normal supply of gas.

In reaction to the move, chairman of the CNG Dealers Association and Pakistan Petroleum Association Abdul Sami Khan has called for a protest demonstration of CNG dealers outside the SSGC building on Wednesday (today) at 9am.

Sindh Minister for Energy Imtiaz Shaikh said the federal government’s decision to stop gas supply to the captive power plants in the province was bound to cause unemployment and stir an industrial crisis.

Mr Shaikh said at an emergency press conference in his office that the federal government’s attitude towards Sindh, which contributed 70 per cent to the country’s total gas production, was tantamount to unleashing oppression on the people of the province.

The minister said that gas loadshedding was a serious matter on which the prime minister had taken another U-turn. Only two days ago, the premier had promised Karachi-based industrialists of an end to the loadshedding but the very next moment the supply to the captive power plants was stopped, creating a big crisis which would affect a number of factories, he added.

He said he had also recorded his protest by drawing attention of the federal minister for petroleum to the first right of Sindh on the gas it produced and urged the prime minister to take notice of the decision to stop supply to the captive power plants and order its restoration.

In reply to a question, Mr Shaikh said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government was afraid of the Pakistan Peoples Party and victimising its leaders. “Our leaders have been given notices by the National Accountability Bureau once again… but such tactics cannot overawe the PPP. We are not afraid of them,” he added.

Meanwhile, the supply of re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) to industrial units in Punjab has been suspended for 24 hours after the Engro-owned Elengi LNG terminal started observing a shutdown schedule due to routine maintenance.

“Keeping in view the considerable reduction in RLNG supplies due to one-day outage of Engro Terminal for undertaking maintenance activities, RLNG supplies to the Punjab industry and CNG sectors shall remain suspended for next 24 hours starting from 0000hrs on December 12 and ending at December 13 (12am),” said a press release issued on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

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Chinese investors given another extension for two CPEC projects

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday gave another extension to Chinese investors for achieving financial close of two major power sector projects worth $2.2 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The projects given extensions include 4000MW Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line and 300MW Gwadar Coal Power Project.

At a meeting of the Private Power & Infrastructure Board (PPIB) presided over by Power Minister Omar Ayub Khan, the $1.7bn Matiari-Lahore line was given a three-month extension to achieve financial close with a fresh deadline of Feb 28, 2019.

Deadlines for financial close of Matiari-Lahore transmission line and Gwadar coal project now in February and August next year

The contractors were earlier given a six-month extension in financial close in March this year which ended on Dec 1. The new deadline was approved on assurance that commercial operation date (COD) of the project would remain unchanged at Mar 31, 2021. The delay was caused in firming up transmission line service agreement, finalisation of loan-related matters with the State Bank of Pakistan and problems in land leases.

“Keeping in view the importance of much needed +660kV High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line Project which is specifically designed to provide power evacuation for Thar coal-based power projects, the board has agreed to allow extension in letter of support (LoS) for achieving financial close,” said an official statement.

It was explained that it was the first HVDC line in the country and also the first private sector transmission project under CPEC which had achieved substantial progress. “Such extensions would not compromise the completion date of the project which is March 2021,” the statement said.

A special purpose vehicle (SPV) — Pak Matiari-Lahore Transmission Company Ltd (PMLTCPL) owned by three Chinese firms — was given a 25-year licence for the construction of 878-kilometre line by the power regulator in February this year.

The SPV is owned by two Hong Kong-based companies: Zhong Cheng Xin International Ltd holding with a stake of 69.98 per cent and Zhong Zhuo Ye International Ltd 30pc. Both the entities are wholly owned by State Grid International Engineering Ltd, a 100pc subsidiary of China Electric Power Equipment and Technical Company, which in turn is 100pc owned by State Grid Cooperation of China.

The SPV is required under the licence to achieve COD of the line by Mar 1, 2021 and will be empowered under the licence to run it for 25 years. The project is expected to be completed at a cost of $1.7bn and the government is extending a series of tax concessions for it.

Likewise, the 300MW Gwadar coal-based power project was given a nine-month extension to achieve financial close until August 2019. The project has seen repeated delays in the past and saw changing investor portfolio.

Informed sources say the project still had many issues to resolve: contractors faced difficulties in land acquisition which has mostly been settled now but would require cost adjustments in the tariff while some delays were also caused due to environmental issues and internal management.

They added that there were still uncertainties over the project even though Pakistani authorities have been pushing for its completion to ensure uninterrupted power supply to Gwadar port and allied establishments. The board allowed a nine-month extension in its letter of intent until August 2019.

The PPIB said these extensions will enable sponsors to obtain tariff from the power regulator and LoS from PPIB, leading to financial close and help start construction to ensure much needed electricity to Gwadar to promote business for newly developed port, boost socio-economic activities and start the Special Economic Zones and Export Processing Zones in Gwadar.

These activities will create employment opportunities and develop social facilities under Corporate Social Responsibility, the PPIB stated.

Ayub told board members that his ministry has taken the challenge of controlling theft and losses as well as overhauling transmission and distribution systems to remove bottlenecks in the supply of electricity to consumers.

He said sustainability in the system was only possible by bringing transparency in power system, induction of indigenous and renewable energy and introduction of new technology in transmission and distribution systems.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

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KP chief minister summoned by NAB for questioning in Malam Jabba forest land case

The National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter has summoned KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for questioning in an investigation regarding the lease of a vast piece of forest land in Malam Jabba, a scenic hill station in Swat valley, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.

The chief minister has been asked to appear before the bureau’s investigation team on December 17, NAB KP spokesperson Salma Begum said, adding that Khan was the tourism and sports minister during the time that the land was leased out.

She said NAB KP had also sent notices to senior minister for tourism and sports Mohammad Atif Khan and Senator Mohsin Aziz to appear before the bureau on Friday in the same case.

According to NAB sources, the contractor of the Malam Jabba ski resort, said to be a relative of Atif and Aziz, was a member of the lease awarding committee.

Former KP chief minister Pervez Khattak, former chief secretary Amjad Ali Khan and the prime minister’s principal secretary Azam Khan have already recorded their statements in the case.

Official sources said a total of 275 kanal of forest land was leased out to a private firm in Malam Jabba after bypassing legal formalities.

“Leasing out forest land is illegal and our team is investigating the hands behind the illegal lease,” an official told DawnNewsTV.

When contacted, KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said the chief minister had not received any notice from NAB summoning him in the Malam Jabba case. He added that the chief minister will “fully follow the law”.

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Two Chinese nationals arrested in raid at illegal alcohol factory in Islamabad

Two Chinese nationals were arrested by police after a raid at an illegal alcohol factory in Islamabad’s sector F-10/4 area, a police spokesperson said on Sunday.

The two suspects were producing as well as selling alcohol of various brands. ? Photo courtesy of Islamabad Police

The two suspects were producing as well as selling alcohol of various brands. ? Photo courtesy of Islamabad Police

Large quantities of beer of various brands, as well as machinery to brew the alcohol were recovered from the house where the manufacturing unit had been established.

The two suspects were producing as well as selling alcohol of various brands, the police spokesperson told DawnNewsTV. They were arrested after they failed to present a licence or permit to run the brewery.

A first information report (FIR) was registered against the duo under Section 3/4 of Prohibition (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979 at the Shalimar police station.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Waqaruddin Syed congratulated the police team that carried out the raid on Saturday over their performance.

He directed all officers to continue the crackdown against drug peddlers and added that such individuals, who are set on disrupting the peace in society, should not be dealt with leniently.

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US report highlights murky world of ‘contractors’ in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period, says an official US announcement released in 2010.

The announcement — highlighted by The Nation, the oldest US weekly, in May 2010 — solicits bids from private war contractors to secure and ship US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Among the duties the contractors were required to perform was “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

The solicitation notice — almost completely ignored by the Pakistani media — also underlines the enormity of the task: “There will be an average of 5,000” import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments”.

The terms of the contract indicate that US personnel were directly involved in these operations, although a bulk of the force was hired locally, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ninety American contractors were among the 65,000 people killed in Pakistan in 17 years, it says

A May 25, 2010 article in The Nation, by journalist Jeremy Scahill, points out that among the firms listed by the US Department of Defence as “interested vendors” were an Afghan firm tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of a former Afghan defence minister, Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani firm with links to Blackwater, a private security company based in the US.

Although often highlighted in the US media, the mysterious world of private contractors drew little attention in Pakistan until recently, when a report by the Brown University’s Costs of War Project mentioned that 90 American contractors were among the 65,000 people killed in Pakistan in the last 17 years.

The activities of private contractors in Pakistan did not receive much attention in the US media either, mainly because the death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq were much higher.

According to the Brown University report, a total of 7,820 private American contractors have been killed since 2001. Of them 3,937 were killed in Afghanistan, 3,793 in Iraq and 90 in Pakistan.

For most Pakistanis, even 90 contractors are far too many as the number makes them realise that hundreds of private American contractors have been operating in their country without their knowledge.

But the 2010 solicitation expla­ins why the United States had to hire a large number of private contractors in Pakistan. It identifies “current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active invol­vement” as the main reasons for hiring private contractors.

Defining a contractor’s functions, the solicitation states: “The contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information.”

Although no official statistics are available about the total number of American contractors deployed in Pakistan, in 2012 the US Central Command informed Congress approximately 137,000 contractors were working for the Pentagon in the greater Middle East region that includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Of that total, 40,110 were US citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the US nor the country in which they were working.

“These numbers do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the US State Department,” journalist David Isenberg wrote in the Time magazine on October 9, 2012.

According to the US Department of Defence data, at the peak of their deployment (2008-2011) contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan represented 52 per cent of the total force, averaging 190,000 contractors to 175,000 uniformed personnel.

Focusing on the situation in Pakistan, journalist Antony Loewenstein, wrote in an Australian publication in April 2012 that in Pakistan “private security is a state within a state”.

He wrote that a total of 62 retired military officials were running these private companies and at least half of them “had been arrested and then released for corruption and working for the Americans”.

According to him, “the most revealing company name” on the 2012 list was G4S Wackenhut Pakistan. G4S is a British behemoth in the security industry with a troubling human rights record.

A January 2010 report of the Foreign Policy (news site) also covers the period when private security was its peak in Pakistan. It notes that in 2010, the top UN security official, Gregory Starr, the former head of US State Department Security, advocated an increase in the use of private security firms in Pakistan.

The report notes that the UN “accelerated its move toward hired guns” in Pakistan after the Taliban launched an attack against a UN residence in October 2009, killing five UN employees.

The report also identifies some of the companies active in Pakistan in that period, including Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy, Dyncorps and Aegis. Most of them have now hired local partners.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Man held for ‘maligning’ ex-wife on social media

TOBA TEK SINGH: The Federal Investigation Agency cyber crime wing has arrested a man for creating fake WhatsApp and Facebook accounts in the name of his ex-wife and posting obscene pictures to malign her.

According to the FIA’s Faisalabad cyber crime wing in-charge Shoaib Haroon, the suspect, Waqar Mahmood, a resident of Chichawatni, was arrested on the complaint of his former wife who resided in Garh Mohalla locality of Gojra.

He said during interrogation the suspect confessed to have created six fake WhatsApp and two Facebook accounts on his mobile phone for maligning his ex-spouse.

He said the complainant was divorced by the suspect who also hurls threats at her.

FIA booked the suspect under sections 20, 21 and 24 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

DIES: A man died and three others were injured critically on Thursday when two motorcycles collided with each other and then hit by a tractor-trolley on Thursday near Chak 309-GB on Pirmahal-Khikha road.

Chuttiana police said Zaman and Luqman, both residents of Chak 309-GB were on a motorcycle when it collided with another motorbike on which Wasim and Imran Ali of B-Block, Pirmahal, were riding.

After the collision, both the bikes were ran over by a tractor-trolley. As a result, all the four men were seriously injured. They were rushed to the DHQ hospital, where Zaman succumbed to his injuries.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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