Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Midterm polls govt’s way to ensure absolute majority: Rabbani

KARACHI: Former Senate chairman Senator Raza Rabbani has said that the idea of midterm elections in the country is being floated to ensure that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) gets absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Addressing a press conference in the Sindh Assembly building here on Friday, he said: “It seems Imran Khan, who doesn’t have absolute majority right now, will be handed the desired majority in the house through the midterm elections.”

He said the government lacked a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and it seemed the government “would be given” such a majority through the midterm elections. “What dynamics and forces have compelled him [the prime minister] for new elections that early?” he asked.

He said that it was unfortunate that the jurisdiction of judiciary and other institutions was not being respected as defined in the Constitution. “In my opinion, at present there is a serious crisis of governance in the country. Unfortunately, the mechanisms for judiciary, executive and legislative, as defined in the Constitution, were neither being acted upon accordingly, nor were they being respected,” he regretted, adding that every institution was interfering in the other’s constitutional jurisdiction.

Mr Rabbani said the country was on the verge of an economic disaster and parliament had become virtually crippled.

“No one knows on what preconditions we are getting the loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and on what interest? Neither the people of this country nor parliament is being taken into confidence over such a crucial deal,” he said.

He said it was high time that parliament was strengthened to deal with challenging times. He deplored the waning influence of the Council of Common Interests and demanded that the government announce the new National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.

“The NFC Award was not awarded during dictatorships and such negative tradition should not be followed by democratic governments,” said Senator Rabbani.

He said the Senate should be empowered to allow for any delays in the NFC Award, adding that any cuts in the award would not be in the interest of less populous provinces.

Mr Rabbani proposed an amendment to Article 57 of the Constitution to make chief ministers members of the Senate so that they could raise issues involving their provinces before members of the upper house.

He also proposed that a senator of necessity become a resident of a province from where he or she was being elected. Senator Rabbani also demanded mandatory approval by the Senate for the federal budget.

He said the country could not be rescued from persisting crises until parliament and federation were strengthened “no matter how heavy loans we get”.

He said the 18th Amendment was not a divine book and could be amended. However, he expressed his concern that plans were afoot to interfere in provincial subjects like health and education by the federal government through ordinances.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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ISPR chief reflects on nation’s fault lines, says Pakistan is at ‘watershed of history’

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday reflected upon the nation’s “fault lines” and mentioned that over the past 70 years Pakistan has suffered due to “weak economy, lack of governance, flaws in judicial and education systems, and religious extremism”.

Addressing a news conference in Rawalpindi, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have fought wars, tackled terrorism, rendered sacrifices — our economy suffered from it — but today we are at a watershed of history from where the situation can be turned towards betterment.”

Ghafoor recalled that the country has passed through tough times, “we lost half of our country, suffered economic crises and faced terrorism, but over the past few years, we have been moving towards betterment”.

The ISPR chief also raised concerns over the increasing ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary by the Indian forces, saying 55 civilians have been martyred due to Indian cross-border aggression this year — the highest in history. He said that Indian forces were deliberately targeting civilians across the LoC.

Ghafoor highlighted that Pakistan has taken several positive initiatives for peace with India, the latest one being the groundbreaking of Kartarpur corridor. The ISPR chief, while regretting that the initiative was negatively presented in India, hoped that India (in time) will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”.

He informed the audience that the corridor will be constructed in six months after which 4,000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit the Kartarpur daily. “It will be a one-way corridor from the Indian side to Kartarpur, and the Sikh pilgrims will remain restricted to Kartarpur,” the spokesperson said.

Giving an overview of the domestic security situation, the ISPR chief said law and order situation has greatly improved across the country. “Incidents of terrorism and other crimes like abduction and extortion have greatly decreased in erstwhile Fata, Balochistan, and Karachi,” he said.

Moreover, a total of 2,200 ferraris have laid down their weapons in Balochistan during the past three years. Ghafoor further urged the disgruntled elements in Balochistan to “relinquish their violent path and join the national mainstream”.

Military wants to deal with PTM politely, says Ghafoor

While discussing the matter of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), the military’s spokesperson said that the PTM had made three demands — clearance of landmines, reduction in security check posts and recovery of missing persons.

“In 2016, there were around 469 check posts [in erstwhile Fata] but as of today their number has been reduced to 331,” Ghafoor said, adding that further reduction in the number of check posts was directly related with the security situation across the western border [in Afghanistan]. “The cross-border threat is still there; we are building a fence along the border,” he said.

Talking about the clearance of landmines from the area, the ISPR chief revealed that 43 teams of military engineers were currently working in Fata districts and have cleared landmines from 44 per cent of the war-torn area.

Furthermore, Ghafoor said that 4,000 out of 7,000 pending cases of missing persons have been settled, while “the process is underway in the remaining cases”.

When asked why the army has not reacted against the ‘strong’ criticism levelled by the PTM, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have engaged with them politely because we understand that they are our Pakistani brothers who have suffered a lot from terrorism and then faced a lot of administrative inconvenience during the subsequent military operation.”

“They are our people, they are hurt and have suffered losses, but still they haven’t resorted to violence till now, therefore we have dealt with them politely,” said Ghafoor.

“But now they are heading in a direction where the situation might arise that they cross a ‘line’ […] we request them not to cross that line where the state is compelled to use authority to control them [PTM]”.

The ISPR chief also urged the media to play its “effective role in projecting a soft image of Pakistan as it did to shape public opinion against terrorism”.

Responding to a question about the reported heavy military build-up by India, he said Pakistan was a “confident and responsible nuclear-capable state and any misadventure from India will be responded in a befitting manner”.

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Malala Yousafzai to receive Harvard award for activism

Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai is being honoured by Harvard University for her work promoting girls’ education.

Harvard’s Kennedy School says Yousafzai will be awarded the 2018 Gleitsman Award at a ceremony on Thursday.

Yousafzai became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was recognised for her global work supporting schooling for all children.

As a teen in Pakistan, she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She later founded the nonprofit Malala Fund to support her work.

Harvard officials say her story has inspired a generation of boys and girls to follow in her footsteps.

Now 21, Yousafzai is a student at Oxford University in England.

The Gleitsman Award provides $125,000 for activism that has improved quality of life around the world.

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Gwadar port may be gateway to landlocked Central Asian states, says Balochistan CM

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has said that Gwadar Port can serve as the gateway for the landlocked Central Asian states by providing them access to maritime routes and a trade corridor for doing business with all countries of the world.

According to a statement issued by the Balochistan government, the chief minister was speaking at a meeting of heads of the Regions Forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) states in Chelyabinsk city of Russia on Wednesday.

“Pakistan and China are working together to develop the Gwadar Port to facilitate connectivity, trade and investment in the region and beyond,” he added.

The SCO comprises eight member states: Pakistan, China, Russia, India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Four other states have observer status in the organisation.

The SCO’s major objectives include strengthening mutual confidence and good neighbourly relations, promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture, education, energy, transportation, tourism and environmental protection.

Prime Minister Imran Khan nominated Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan to represent Balochistan and Pakistan in the forum, while Punjab minister Mian Mohammad Aslam Iqbal, Kamran Khan Bangash, special assistant to the KP chief minister, and Aamir Shoakat, SCO director, accompanied the Pakistani delegation.

The chief minister said that in the integrated world, regional organisations such as the SCO played an important role in coordinating actions and polices to ensure security, peace and development in the region.

“We are highly appreciative of the Russian Federation and Chelyabinsk region for bringing us together at this important platform,” he said, adding that “we would specially thank Mr Dubrovsky, Governor of Chelyabinsk region, for taking this initiative to host the first meeting of the forum”.

“I invite you all to come and visit Balochistan or send your investors to explore possibilities for investment for mutual benefit and cooperation in the province. My government stands ready to extend all possible facilities to all investors,” Mr Khan said.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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PM reiterates Pakistan’s ‘abiding interest’ for Afghan peace in meeting with US envoy Khalilzad

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday reiterated Pakistan’s “abiding interest” in achieving lasting peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan through a political settlement.

The premier gave the reassurance during a meeting a with the US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who called on Khan at the Prime Minister House.

Khalilzad conveyed good wishes by President Donald Trump to Khan, saying the “US leadership looked forward to working with Pakistan in furthering the shared goal of peace through a political settlement in Afghanistan”, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

During the “courtesy call” by the US envoy, Prime Minister Khan recalled his personal commitment to the cause of regional peace, the press release said.

He welcomed the letter written to him by President Trump seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in ending the 17-year-old Afghan conflict, as well as Washington’s “assurance to work with Pakistan on this shared objective”.

Khan also emphasised the importance of boosting regular bilateral engagement in priority areas especially trade, investment, education, health and social sector development, the statement said.

Ambassador Khalilzad is on his ,third visit to Pakistan, since he took charge of the office dealing with peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in September. He accompanied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Islamabad just a day after his appointment and later visited the country again in October. His planned visit in November was cancelled because of scheduling issues.

Despite reservations over his appointment, Pakistan extended full support to him because of its principled position about supporting efforts for peace in Afghanistan and secondly to capitalise on the shift in the Trump administration’s policy towards negotiations with the Taliban.

In a major gesture to Washington in October after Khalilzad’s visit, Pakistan had ,set free former Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar,. Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal had on that occasion said that Baradar was released “at the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan”.

There was, however, a brief hiccup afterwards due to Trump’s interview and a twitter exchange with Prime Minister Khan in which the US president questioned Pakistan’s contributions in the fight against terrorism, saying it did not “do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us”.

However, in an effort to salvage the situation, Khalilzad’s Islamabad trip was preceded by a ,letter from President Trump, to Prime Minister Khan in which he sought Pakistan’s help for the peace process and at the same time acknowledged that Pakistan suffered from terrorism. The letter managed to set a positive tone for the special envoy’s visit.

Khalilzad had on Monday met with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and held delegation-level talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on the Afghanistan issue.

“Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest,” Qureshi had tweeted after his meeting with the US envoy.

Khalilzad had in an interview before he embarked on his latest trip to the region said that he had been reassuring Pakistani leaders that the US was “not seeking an Afghanistan as the result of a political settlement that’s hostile to them”. He said that it was time for Pakistan to “play a positive role” for peace in Afghanistan.

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Only PM can rein in ‘disastrous’ population growth, says CJP at symposium

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday termed unbridled population growth as the “most disastrous issue” for Pakistan, and regretted that the “menace” was not given any attention in the past 60 years.

He made the remarks while addressing a symposium in the capital on the alarming population growth in Pakistan.

“Our water reserves and resources are depleting, but our mouths [to feed] are increasing,” he said while addressing the event that was attended by several high-profile personalities, including judges and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar addresses the symposium. — DawnNewsTV

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar addresses the symposium. — DawnNewsTV

CJP Nisar called on the prime minister to probe why no dam had been built in Pakistan in the past 40 years and why the country was facing such an “alarming” situation.

“Today we have no water management in Pakistan. Water is life, without water we cannot conceive a life,” he said.

The top judge said that the apex court had created a task force which presented its recommendations after holding a few sessions but added that “that was the extent of their power”.

“The judiciary does not have any mechanism to act on these recommendations,” he said. “The only person who can get any implementation done is the prime minister,” he said.

He said the Supreme Court has played its part in amplifying and understanding human rights and now it was the Executive’s job to take them forward.

Justice Nisar said the burden on the judicial system did not go back to just the past five to seven years but it was centuries old.

“The tools have to be given to us by the parliament,” he said, regretting that so much time had passed but laws had not been updated.

“Perhaps the time has come to stop boycotting the parliament and sit in the parliament and [start doing] our actual duty,” he said.

CJP Nisar said models used by other countries to restrain their population growth were before the country and that they just needed to be implemented and awareness needed to be created.

“I am hopeful that with good intentions, we will reach our dream in a few years,” the top judge said.

Problems exist due to ‘short-term thinking’: PM

Prime Minister Imran Khan began his address by thanking the top judge for inviting him to the event. “I am glad I am not being presented in courtroom number one,” he joked.

Speaking at the day-long symposium, Khan expressed “the nation’s resolve to address the population growth in the country”, reported ,Radio Pakistan,.

Addressing CJP Nisar, the premier said that the steps that the top judge had taken should have been taken by democratic governments instead.

PM Imran Khan speaks at the symposium. — DawnNewsTV

PM Imran Khan speaks at the symposium. — DawnNewsTV

“The democratic governments unfortunately only used to think about five years,” he said, adding that nothing could be accomplished in that time span for major issues.

“We are in these problems because of a short-term thinking,” Prime Minister Khan regretted.

The premier recalled the family planning campaigns shown on television in the 1960s, saying those were very “effective”.

He said that people were under the impression that (formerly) East Pakistan had been a burden on the country’s population, but today Bangladesh had gotten ahead of Pakistan because of their long-term thinking.

“As the population continues to grow, our food security will be affected,” he cautioned.

Prime Minister Khan thanked the CJP for raising the matter of population growth which he called a very “serious issue”.

He said the government has formed task forces to address population growth, adding that he was glad that all provincial chief ministers were on board for the initiative.

Khan noted that the delivery system of contraceptives in the country was an issue but what was actually needed was an ambition to resolve the problem.

“There is a big role for the ulema,” he said, citing examples of Iran and Bangladesh where population control campaigns were done from mosques. The premier said Pakistan too needed to involve its mosques in the campaign.

‘Singularity of narrative’

The event is being attended by provincial chief ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, ministers and other officials including Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider.

Former senator Javed Jabbar, while addressing the symposium, acknowledged former president Ayub Khan’s contribution, noting that while he may not have been a democratically elected leader, credit should be given to him for highlighting family planning.

“Why have we forgotten the narrative [in the last fifty years]?” he asked. “There needs to be a singularity of narrative.”

Renowned religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jamil observed that the problem in Pakistan was “illiteracy” and stressed the importance of education to bring population growth under control.

He noted that while the symposium was being held in Islamabad, the problem is more prevalent in rural areas.

Vice-president of the Population Council, John Bongaarts, the first speaker of the event, highlighted the levels of contraceptives used in Pakistan as compared to other countries in the region such as Bangladesh and India.

Furthermore, he presented the benefits of family planning programmes, adding that this was an extremely important event for Pakistan.

Co-chair of the World Health Organisation High-Level Independent Commission on Non-communicable diseases, Dr Sania Nishtar, while addressing the symposium, said “today is a landmark day” and remarked that the “stellar show of strength” of various stakeholders was “critical” to the cause.

A documentary on population dynamics was presented at the event.

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‘PM has the right to appoint anyone as his aide’: Zulfi Bukhari submits reply in disqualification case

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday, during the hearing of a petition seeking the disqualification of prime minister’s aide Syed Zulfikar Ali Bukhari — aka Zulfi Bukhari — said that if appointments are made on the basis of nepotism, then the court will interfere.

The petition — filed by Muhammad Adil Chattha from Lahore and Mirza Abdul Moiz Baig from Karachi — has ,raised objections over Bukhari’s appointment, as the prime minister’s special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development on account of his dual nationality.

“The court cannot change its decisions because someone is upset,” remarked Chief Justice Nisar.

Earlier, Bukhari submitted his reply in the case, arguing that he held a British nationality because he was born there and got a Pakistani citizenship later. Bukhari gained his secondary education from a private school in Islamabad, where he studied from the age of 13 to 18. His family, the reply said, hails from Attock.

The prime minister, Bukhari said in his reply, had the right to appoint anyone as his aide.

The reply further said that Article 62 and 63 was only applicable to members of the Parliament and Bukhari was not a lawmaker.

Bukhari noted said that the top court had granted overseas Pakistanis the right to vote. “To grant them [overseas Pakistanis] the right to vote but bar them from contributing to the country’s development raises a question mark.”

He also argued that if Pakistan can seek aid from international organisations like the International Monetary Fund, why can’t it employ the services of Pakistanis holding dual nationality.

The hearing was adjourned until Dec 24 due to the absence of Chattha’s lawyer who is currently abroad for medical treatment.

Bukhari is also facing an inquiry by the National Accountability Bureau for allegedly owning offshore companies in British Virgin Islands and assets beyond his known sources of income.

On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ,reserved its verdict on Bukhari’s petition, seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

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Govt submits ‘brief’ ToR before poll rigging panel, opposition seeks time till Dec 13 to respond

A sub-committee formed by the special parliamentary committee probing allegations of rigging in the July 25 general elections on Monday issued the government’s 33-word long terms of reference (ToR) and handed them over to the opposition.

The sub-committee had met on Monday under the chairmanship of its convenor, Education Min­ister Shaf­qat Mahmood. PPP’s Nav­eed Qamar, PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah and MQM-P’s Barrister Moh­ammad Ali Saif also attended the meeting.

According to the government’s brief ToR, the parliamentary committee will hold an inquiry to determine that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) organised and conducted the 2018 general elections “honestly, justly, fairly clean and in accordance with law and guarded against corrupt practices”.

The opposition has asked for time till December 13 to respond to the government’s proposal.

The sub-committee had been formed on ,Nov 10, to finalise the ToRs of the rigging inquiry.

During the last meeting of the sub-committee, ,the opposition parties had submitted a 10-point ToR, raising crucial questions over the conduct of polls.

The ToR was prepared by the PPP and endorsed by all other opposition parties, including the PML-N.

Talking to media persons following today’s session, Mehmood maintained that the “general elections were transparent, according to the law and constitutional requirements”.

The minister noted that the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) and the European Union had published reports vindicating the conduct of the elections, and said the opposition parties were “only trying to make the elections controversial and political”.

Mehmood said that according to Clause 218 of the Constitution, the government has suggested the “finest” ToR, which “covered all aspects of the opposition’s demands”.

“The finest investigation will be conducted while staying within the ambit of the Constitution,” he added.

Responding to a question regarding the legal status of the parliamentary committee, Mehmood said a reference in this regard was sent to the committee’s chairman, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, who then forwarded it to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for further action.

Govt doesn’t want to make progress, says PPP leader

While speaking to the media, PPP’s Qamar said that from the government’s methodology it was clear from the very first day that they do not want progress on the matter.

“ToR is a simple issue,” he said, adding, “the government has basically penned down its constitutional responsibility as the ToR.”

Qamar added that in their suggestions, the government had made the ToR “very short”.

“The government wants a better case to escape [the matter], but the opposition will not let them escape,” he alleged.

“All opposition parties will be in mutual consultation about the situation,” he said.

PML-N’s Sanaullah added that the very fundamental thing was that the elections were not transparent and that the political parties had not been given a level playing field.

He said that their suggestion was to boycott the parliament but PPP had not agreed and chosen the way of holding parliamentary committee investigations instead.

“The committee has been formed but the government wants a way to escape somehow,” he said, adding that if the way through parliamentary committee was stopped the other way was to protest.

He added that the government and opposition’s ToR should be sent to a central committee which should take the final decision on the matter.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - December 3, 2018 at 6:25 pm

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‘Poll rigging’ panel to discuss opposition’s terms of reference today

ISLAMABAD: The third meeting of the special parliamentary committee formed to probe alleged rigging in the July 25 general elections will be held on Monday (today) to discuss the proposed terms of reference (ToR) submitted by the opposition parties for the functioning of the committee.

The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held on Nov 28, but it was postponed as all ministers were attending the groundbreaking ceremony of the opening of Kartarpur Crossing for the Sikh community on that day.

Though the opposition parties have submitted their ToR, the government members of the committee are still questioning legal status of the parliamentary committee in the light of Article 225 of the Constitution.

During the last meeting of the sub-committee constituted by the main committee under the convenership of Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood, the opposition parties had submitted a 10-point ToR raising crucial questions over the conduct of the polls.

The ToR was prepared by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and endorsed by all other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Briefing reporters after the last meeting of the sub-committee, its convener had said some treasury members had questioned legal and constitutional status of the main committee in the light of Article 225 of the Constitution, prompting him to write a letter to the head of the main committee, Pervez Khattak, seeking his legal opinion on the issue, but he had not received any response so far.

Mr Mehmood, however, said they had decided to continue their work without waiting for the response as the government did not want to give an impression that it was running away from investigations into poll rigging allegations.

However, he said, Article 225 of the Constitution needed a clear interpretation and that a serious question had been raised whether the parliament or any other institution could hold investigations in the presence of this article.

Article 225 of the Constitution titled “election dispute” states, “No election to a House or a provincial assembly shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such tribunal and in such manner as may be determined by Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament).”

On the other hand, the opposition members criticised the government for questioning legal status of the committee, alleging that the ruling party was now running away from its commitment given on the floor of the house by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Shafqat Mehmood said that he had still not received any response from Pervez Khattak on his letter.

Responding to a question, he said the ruling party members had also prepared a draft of ToR, but it would be given final shape in a meeting to be held before the committee’s proceedings. In the committee’s meeting, the members would also make deliberations on the opposition-submitted ToR.

Through the ToR, the opposition wants the committee to find answers to key questions like “who made the decision to post army officials inside and outside the polling stations, under what law and to what effect?; Why were polling agents removed from polling stations arbitrarily even though they had authorisation forms from the candidates? and why did the Result Transmission System (RTS) or the Result Management System (RMS) fail?”

According to the opposition, the committee should also probe whether “the Election Act 2017 and the rules made accordingly were implemented in letter and spirit by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other state authorities” and “was the election commission allowed to work independently and had complete autonomy to carry out the elections in accordance with the constitution and law?”

The committee, the opposition suggests, should also evaluate if “all political parties were provided a level playing field in terms of freedom to its candidates?”

Similarly, the opposition parties want to know “how many results were declared after midnight and why were the reasons in writing not given in each case as per law?”

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018

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‘State capacity biggest hurdle to foreign investment’

KARACHI: The PTI government has placed a great deal of emphasis on attracting foreign investment into Pakistan, and has taken trips to Saudi Arabia, Malyasia, the UAE and China in an effort to spur investor interest.

“We have found tremendous interest in Pakistan in all these countries,” says Haroon Sharif, chairman of the Board of Investment (BoI) who has the job of coordinating between the investors and the government. “The biggest hurdle for us is surely the weak capacity of the state to deal with private sector investors and find a way to deliver on their needs.”

He tells Dawn that the state lacks the experience to structure transactions, and it is primarily for this reason that international commitments made by the government come under frequent suspicion locally.

The lead route to get investments into the country is through construction of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), he says, though other government-to-government deals are also in the works.

“We are welcoming investments from multiple countries for these zones,” he tells Dawn, adding that pace of work needs to be expedited. “They are being developed by the provinces,” he says, adding “and BoI is keen to get them up and running as soon as possible. The major hurdle is uninterrupted supply of utilities, mainly power but also gas and water.”

There is currently not enough power in the country to cater to large investments envisioned for these zones, he says, and adds that the possibility of using captive power for the zones is something that he is proposing. This puts the federal government in a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. Captive power becomes feasible if there are plants ready for offtake, but investors will be reluctant to set up plants if a clear supply of reliable power is not available. “We can explore some options like starting construction on captive power at the same time as the plants begin coming up,” he says.

Out of the four SEZs being built under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor umbrella, he says the one in Faisalabad is nearly complete, while that in Rashakai, KP, is in the final stage of getting approval for go-ahead. “Within one year they should be in a position to offer plots of land for investors,” Haroon says. Thus far, they have received 952 applications from various parties, but it is not clear how many of them are looking to set up a plant in the zone and how many are just real estate investors.

“Eventually the zone will have to become a one-stop shop to be successful,” he says, where banks should be available as well as labour and all other requirements for investment. That will take time.

Beyond Faisalabad and Rashakai, he says Dhabeji in Sindh is also moving along, albeit slowly. “They are now starting their bidding to find a developer,” the chairman tells Dawn. Provincial governments lack the resources to build these zones, he says, and they are looking for partners who will be interested in a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) arrangement on it. “The concern in that is that if Chinese partners go for BOT, then they might close the zones to Chinese companies only.”

Gwadar, however, will take time, he says. “The government of Balochistan is still working on it. Our biggest interest is in Gwadar is in the refinery.” That project had its beginnings in the trip to Saudi Arabia taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan, though it is far too early at this stage. “At the moment it is early days, I am still trying to finalise the memorandum of understanding, even the feasibility has not begun yet.”

One question mark hanging over the refinery project is what the Saudis intend to do with the refined oil output. The location is far from areas where traffic is heavy, so the output will need to be transported a great distance to reach the market. “That is up to them to figure out, whether to use a pipeline to Karachi, but certainly tankers will cost a great deal for this purpose,” says Sharif.

“I’m sure the Saudis are looking at this as an investment proposition, but there is a strategic interest as well,” he adds. The Kingdom is trying to diversify its investments, for example it putting up a $44 billion refinery in India.

“I need to build capacity of state institutions to absorb foreign investments. When investors show interest, the state needs to put technical expertise on the table. Request for proposals have to be drawn up, roadshows put up, financial modelling has to be done. Since the state has been doing investment on its own for so long, it has no capacity to deal with private sector partners as such.”

Foreign investors have shown solid interest to come to Pakistan, he says. “Now it is up to the government how we facilitate them, and how we close the transactions.” He says he has ten proposals from Malaysia alone, “very serious companies that want to come to Pakistan, from education and halal meat to agri business and IT. Can we offer the deal to them? Can we close the deal?”

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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MQM-P hints at reviewing 18th Amendment if ‘constitutional violation’ continues

KARACHI: Accusing the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government of violating the Constitution, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan on Saturday hinted at reviewing the landmark 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Speaking at a press conference at the party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad, senior deputy convener Amir Khan said that the Sindh government was interfering in the affairs of autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations in Sindh in violation of the Constitution and directives of the apex court.

“The appointment of pro-chancellors in the public-sector universities of Sindh by the provincial government is aimed at controlling the professional universities and to ruin their academic standards like that of schools and colleges in Sindh,” he said. He alleged that after the 18th Amendment the grant of Karachi University and other universities in Sindh had been considerably slashed.

He said that the Supreme Court had ruled that the organisations could not be run on an ad-hoc basis, but the Sindh government was making temporary appointments in the educational boards of the province, particularly Karachi’s intermediate and secondary boards, only to get its “illegal acts” done by the said officials.

The senior MQM-P leader said that his party believed that the present Sindh government was violating the Constitution. “We demand that Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar take suo motu notice and constitute a high-powered joint investigation team to take corrupt elements to task.”

The party also demanded that the Sindh government take back legislation through which it had given the powers of the governor to the chief minister. Mr Khan deplored that houses in Karachi were being razed while Banigala was being regularised.

He said the MQM-P would stage a protest demonstration on Sunday (today) at Nagan Chowrangi in North Karachi against an acute shortage of water as well as demolition of legal houses and businesses.

Sattar presser

Also on Saturday, disgruntled MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar held a press conference with people affected by the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the city.

“Do you want us to demand rehabilitation of MQM founder Altaf Hussain in politics? People are left with no option except to look at him [Hussain] as their only saviour,” he said.

He criticised the government and said that its 100-day plan had failed because of wrong policies and planning.

“This is a conspiracy to shut trade and industry in Karachi. The governor, chief minister and mayor should tell the nation at whose behest they are shutting down legal businesses of the people in Karachi,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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PM Imran Khan orders demolition of walls of Punjab Governor House

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday ordered the demolition of the walls of Punjab Governor House, in a follow-up to his promise in his ,first address to the nation, of turning the Prime Minister House and governor houses into public spaces.

Education minister Shafqat Mehmood had ,announced, in September that the Governor House in Lahore will be opened to the public. The promise was fulfilled when the building was ,opened by the PTI government, later that same month.

Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan confirmed the prime minister’s instructions to tear down the walls at a press conference held after a meeting of the Punjab cabinet.

He remarked that the Governor House walls “were there to put fear in the hearts of people”.

Chohan said such institutions had always remained inaccessible with people considering it unthinkable to just walk in.

“Governor House is not a historical building. It is an office,” he stressed.

Chohan revealed that Prime Minister Khan had instructed Chief Minister Usman Buzdar that the walls be brought down. He said the steps to this end will be taken within the next 48-72 hours.

The education minister had earlier said that the schools and vocational training institutes located inside the compound of the Punjab Governor House, which is spread over 700 kanals, will be separated and the gubernatorial office itself would be converted into a museum and an art gallery. The property’s grounds will be opened to the public as a park, which will include a small zoo.

Provincial departments’ performance

Briefing the media about the cabinet meeting, the information minister said a detailed briefing was given by cabinet members to the prime minister regarding the performance of their departments and their future targets.

He said Khan urged the provincial cabinet to expedite efforts for the economic and social uplift of the common man. Additionally, Chief Minister Buzdar was given instructions to monitor the performance of the provincial departments.

The minister said that the “effects” of the previous committees’ actions and their “accomplishments” were there for everyone to see and vowed that no person shall be given undue favours any more.

He said the expenditure of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat had been reduced from Rs55 billion to Rs7-8 billion, whereas the Prime Minister’s Secretariat witnessed savings of Rs18 billion.

Chohan said the ministers had also been asked to provide a 2-page summary of what they had achieved and what they have targetted to achieve.

He said the prime minister had spoken to the Price Control Committee regarding inflation and the rise in prices of commodities and how prices can be better controlled.

Prime Minister Khan also expressed reservations regarding transfers and postings across the province, Chohan said.

He said an event will be hosted between December 8 and 10 regarding the provincial government’s performance which will unveil the achievements of each department.

Every minister will share his or her ministry’s performance with the people through press conferences between December 10 and 20, Chohan added.

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PM Khan puts greater focus on ‘future plans’ in 100-day review speech

Prime Minister Imran Khan put a greater focus on his government’s plans ahead rather than analyse the tasks already accomplished, at a special event held at the Jinnah Convention Centre in Islamabad on Thursday to review his first 100 days in power.

Khan, who was the last of an assortment of speakers at the event attended by government functionaries, began by thanking First Lady Bushra Bibi for putting up with his tough schedule, adding that “I have taken just a single day off in the first 100 days”.

He said the policies adopted by his government in the first century of days in power were inspired by the state of Madina.

Read: ,First 100 Days Of PTI In Government – Performance Report,

“In Madina, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) adopted policies that were based on compassion; all policies were made for the poor,” he said. “The tax system of Zakat was established where money was collected from the rich and redistributed to the downtrodden.”

PM Khan delivers his speech. — DawnNewsTV

PM Khan delivers his speech. — DawnNewsTV

A major contributing factor to the “downtrodden’s” plight, the prime minister said, is corruption, and explained why he took a hardened stance against the practice.

“The difference between developed and underdeveloped countries is corruption,” he said. “We have so many assets but we are still behind, and our institutions are in shambles — all because of corruption.

“I did not know the extent of theft and corruption until I came to power. Every day something new comes up.”

Among the measures taken by the government in its first 100 days, the PM said, were:

  • Strengthened the FIA to curb money laundering

  • Signed agreements with 26 countries [to share information and recover assets]

  • Created a task force to improve the situation of government hospitals

  • Recovered Rs350 billion worth of land as part of the anti-encroachment drive

  • Lodged FIRs against bigwigs involved in power theft

  • Allotted land to build shelters for poor people in Rawalpindi and Lahore

The prime minister dedicated a sizable portion of his speech outlining his future plans, saying: “Four million children will be provided nourishment in order to reduce stunted growth, whereas the Benazir Income Support Programme will be expanded.”

PM Khan vowed to equip farmers with modern technology.

“Small farmers are left behind because they do not have the technology, knowledge and money,” he said. “We have to provide them the latest machinery and subsidies so they can purchase [latest] machinery.”

The premier said that Pakistan’s fisheries exports are “non-existent despite water resources”, adding that “a private party has done a pilot project through which shrimp farming can be done”.

He also floated the idea of “caged fishing, especially in Balochistan” which he said has “so much potential; we can export as well”.

Regarding the water crisis, PM Khan offered a “low-cost and quick” solution.

“Bhasha Dam will take time as it’s a huge project,” he said. “We found out that if we retain water in canals etc, it will conserve more water.”

PM Khan labelled the “nationalisation of industries in the 1970s” a “wrong decision”, stressing the importance of the creation of wealth in growing economies.

“Investments cannot come until investors make money,” he explained. “People must be given a chance to make money.”

The prime minister talked up Pakistan’s geographical location and population demographics, which he said make the country an attractive market for foreign investors.

He urged the expansion of the tax net, explaining that low tax collection leads to inflation. “How is it that only 72,000 people show their income above Rs200,000?” he wondered.

PM Khan said that Pakistan’s tourism industry has great potential, adding that a task force has been formed to promote the country’s religious and ecological tourism.

The prime minister gave an overview of the planned legal forms, for which he credited Law Minister Farogh Naseem.

As part of the reforms, he said, “civil courts will have to decide cases within a year and a half”.

“Legal aid authority will provide legal help to people who cannot afford to hire one,” he vowed.

PM Khan said he “is aware that our salaried class is under pressure” due to inflation but assured that “I am doing whatever i can to [take you out of this problem].”

Earlier, Senator Faisal Javed had formally opened the event with a brief intro before making way for recitation of the Holy Quran.

Minutes later, the senator reclaimed the rostrum before a video highlight of the prime minister and the federal government’s first 100 days in power was played for the audience.

PM took a U-turn on my advice: Umar

Finance Minister Asad Umar delivers his speech. — DawnNewsTV

Finance Minister Asad Umar delivers his speech. — DawnNewsTV

Finance Minister Asad Umar used a cricketing analogy to describe his job, saying “I was sent in to bat when the ball was swinging and seaming both.

“I get asked whether I am scared but I have not been unsure even for a single minute” that the party manifesto will be implemented.

The finance minister said that the PTI government “inherited a deficit of S2 billion” which he said has already been “reduced by S1bn”.

Umar explained the government’s decision to also seek alternate channels instead of solely relying on the International Monetary Fund to plug the financing gap.

“Economists are asking me why I did not just close my eyes and sign IMF contract,” he said. “We will not hide behind the IMF. If we [sign a deal], we will do so on our terms, and we will not lie to the people even if the truth is bitter.”

The minister revealed that it was upon his advice that the PM reneged on his promise to not travel abroad in the first 100 days.

“I take credit for telling the PM that ‘you will have take a U-turn on your promise to not travel for 100 days because this was in favour of the country.’” he recalled. “So he agreed and toured different countries.”

Umar defended his taxation and pricing policies, explaining that the tariffs were hiked only of those commodities that are used by the affluent section of the society.

“I am not saying that all problems have been solved and Pakistanis are not facing any problems but in the past 100 days we have set the direction.”

Foreign Minister Qureshi talks of ‘improvement in international relations’

Foreign Minister Qureshi delivers his speech. — DawnNewsTV

Foreign Minister Qureshi delivers his speech. — DawnNewsTV

Speaking on Pakistan’s international relations, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan’s case at global level was not heard before — something he said his ministry was trying to address.

“Our neighbour wanted to weaken Pakistan,” he said. “We could not present Pakistan’s case before the world because we did not have a lawyer.

“We decided that we would make our foreign office more interactive and started cultural diplomacy. We decided to take guidance and advice from former diplomats. We will also create a specialised foreign office, [and appoint] trained personnel.

“You will be happy to know that in 100 days we have had 16 multilateral engagements.”

The foreign minister said that the first thing on the PTI government’s foreign agenda was to have better relations with Afghanistan.

Qureshi also discussed Pakistan’s bilateral relations with India, saying: “Tensions with India are not hidden from anyone but our approach is people-centric and we need peace for people to prosper. We need peace in order to speed up the development of our country.

He reminded the audience that “Imran khan said he will take two steps for every 1 step India takes” but regretted that “they refused to engage even after the letter written to Narendra Modi”.

PTI did in 100 days what others did not in 10 years: PM’s adviser

Mohammad Shahzad Arbab, the PM’s Adviser on Establishment, was the first speaker of the event.

“I remember when we talked about the 100-day agenda, our friends had warned us that we were setting a trap and creating difficulties for ourselves,” he said. “I admit that they were right but we wanted to rise above political point scoring.”

The adviser to the PM reminded the audience that the PM’s 100-day agenda was about setting the direction of the government.

Arbab claimed that the PTI government “held regular cabinet meetings, adopted austerity and held itself accountable”.

“We have posted our performance on our website so people can give their feedback,” he said, adding: “Thirty-four promises were related to reforms [of which] we have completed 18 successfully. Work on the rest is underway.

“When we say these plans are ‘complete’ we mean that they are ready for launch.”

The adviser to the PM recounted the measures taken by the federal government in several sectors, including repatriation of laundered wealth, local government reforms and economic steps to boost the local industries.

Arbab shed light on the government’s flagship housing scheme, which he said “would create homes for the poor and also create jobs”.

The adviser claimed that “the business circle has welcomed our decision to separate tax collection from the FBR”.

He touched upon the progress made on a variety of PTI promises, including “social reforms, water policy, primary education as well as the 10 billion tree tsunami plan”.

Arbab discussed the government’s measures on the education front, including the planned conversion of the PM House into a university.

The adviser also talked about the promises which he said remain incomplete thus far, including the formation of a new province for the south Punjab region.

He, however, said that the party remains committed to the cause and will soon “form a separate secretariat” for south Punjab.

Arbab gave an update on the KP-Fata merger, saying that the development plans for tribal areas are close to being finalised.

The adviser termed Balochistan as “Pakistan’s backbone” and assured that measures are being taken to end the province’s “feeling of alienation”.

Arbab claimed that “in 100 days we have achieved what they [past governments] did not in past 10 years”.

“In the past, parties would forget their agenda after coming into power. In my 36 years of service, I have not seen the dedication with which this government has worked towards its agenda.”

PM Khan is going to make some important announcements during the ceremony, according to Radio Pakistan, and take the nation into confidence over the government’s achievements.

While opposition parties are ,terming the 100-day performance of the government, as “unimpressive, ridiculous and full of lies and U-turns”, the ruling party leaders are boasting the period with “remarkable achievements”, claiming that the country has been put on the right track.

Some three months before the July 25 general elections, PTI chairman Imran Khan had ,unveiled his party’s ambitious “agenda”, outlining the party’s commitments for starting work within the first 100 days of forming government after the polls.

Read: ,Jury out on PTI’s performance amid claims, counterclaims,

The salient features of the agenda were expeditious merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bifurcation of Punjab and reconciliation with estranged Baloch leaders.

The 100-day agenda also contained a plan for introducing a development package for Karachi and a programme for alleviation of poverty, besides a number of steps for improvement of economy.

Presenting the salient points of the economic policy of the PTI government, Asad Umar, now finance minister, had promised that the government would create 10 million jobs, revive manufacturing, rapidly grow small and medium enterprises sector, facilitate private sector to build five million houses, reform tax administration and transform state-owned-enterprises.

Explore: ,Imran unveils ambitious agenda for first 100 days of govt,

Later, speaking at the first formal press conference after the elections and before assuming the charge as finance minister, Umar had said that offering any relief or subsidy to the people during first 100 days was like giving lollipops. He said the first 100 days would also not see a decision that would change the destiny of the nation, but a clear direction on what “we promised and where we are headed for stock-taking”.

The opposition parties allege that the government has totally failed to deliver at almost all the fronts, particularly economy and law and order situation. According to the opposition, the government has not done its homework properly.

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Kalasha culture listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage

ISLAMABAD: The Suri Jagek practice of Pakistan’s indigenous Kalasha people has been approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) for inclusion in this year’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), it emerged on Wednesday.

The nomination was accepted by the Unesco’s Inter-governmental Committee for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage during its 13th session being held in Port Louis, Mauritius. The 2018 list also includes cultural heritage in Kenya, Algeria, Cambodia, Syria, Egypt and Azerbaijan.

The 24-member committee’s session, which began earlier this week and will conclude on Saturday, discussed several issues that are important for the safeguarding of living heritage around the world and approved the 2018 list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

The Unesco committee accepted Pakistan’s nomination that “as a ruling custom, integral to the formation of the traditional luni-solar calendar dictating times for festivals, feasts and social events, as well as animal husbandry and agriculture of the Kalasha and Muslim community residing in the three valleys, consider Suri Jagek to be an integral part of their Intangible Cultural Heritage”.

A first exclusive inscription for 2003 Convention for Pakistan — the other two being Nauroz and Falconry shared with neighbour countries in the region — Suri Jagek (literally, observing the sun) is a Kalasha meteorological and astronomical practice carried out in December on the winter solstice and is based on the observation of the sun, moon and stars in reference to the local topography.

The practice and enactment of Suri Jagek lies predominantly in the Hindu Kush range with the local topography providing visual cues to observe the rising and setting of the sun behind ascribed geographical locations from observatories called Suri Jagaekein located in villages of the three Kalasha valleys — Mumuret (Bumburet), Biriu (Birir) and Rukmu (Rumbur).

However, the ancient observatories like Suri Jagaekein are under threat with increased construction within the Kalasha valleys. Suri Jagaekein of certain villages such as Balanguru in Rumbur and Guru in Birir provide obstructed views of the rising sun due to built structures and visual impairment from trees, respectively.

Such factors resulted in a lack of awareness among the younger population regarding the cultural significance and utilitarian benefits associated with Suri Jagek. There is a complaint among community members that the curriculum taught along with the pedagogy used in schools has perpetually alienated them from their own culture.

Inscriptions on the list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding’ require a safeguarding plan prepared by the state party with the participation and involvement of the communities.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2018

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PM Khan breaks ground on new campus of Sialkot’s ‘first university’

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday laid the foundation stone of a new campus of the Government College Women University in Sialkot.

The new campus will be spread on 200 acres and will be built at a cost of Rs1.627 billion.

The campus, expected to be completed after two-and-a-half years, will feature an administration block, an academic block and a students residence, besides other amenities.

Addressing a ceremony held in connection with the groundbreaking, Prime Minister Khan stressed the importance of building quality institutions of higher learning.

He said the United States had not been a superpower 100 years ago but it made rapid progress at the turn of the 20th century because the country started producing more university graduates than any other nation.

“There is a very strong correlation between higher education and the rise of a country,” he said.

The premier said the countries that are advancing in all spheres around the globe owe their success to their knowledge economy, and cited the example of Singapore.

“A tiny country like Singapore has exports worth $330 billion while Pakistan, with a population of 210 million, has exports of hardly $24 billion,” Khan said. He noted that the annual budget of a university in Singapore is greater than that of all Pakistani varsities combined.

The prime minister said he was surprised to learn from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Usman Dar that “this is the first university that has been constructed in Sialkot”.

He said Pakistan’s burgeoning population could become its advantage if people were directed towards attaining higher education in fields like IT and artificial intelligence.

“The nations that progress are the ones that invest in their people and the more you invest in people’s education, the more a nation progresses,” Khan said.

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Pakistan among countries with least spending in social sectors: UN

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations has placed Pakistan in the group of Asia-Pacific countries that spend the least on social protection, education and healthcare.

According to the ,‘Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific 2018,’ report published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) on Tuesday, other countries in the group are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal and Timor-Leste.

With the exception of Timor-Leste, it said, all other countries in the group spent around five per cent of their GDP on the three social sectors, which was below the regional average of nine per cent of GDP.

Most of these countries were also all low-income states, many of which had seen human and other resources depleted by conflicts and natural disasters. The main challenge for this country grouping, it noted, was to gather political will and public support for significantly boosting investments in people.

The report said that while the Asia- Pacific region had made considerable achievements in primary education — with primary school net enrolment rates above 90pc in almost every country — gross enrolment rates for secondary education varied widely, being as low as 45pc in Cambodia and Pakistan.

Developing countries in the Asia- Pacific region only spent about 3.7pc of GDP on social protection, compared to the world average of 11.2pc. This under-investment, the report noted, was the reason why 60pc of the population in the Asia-Pacific region had no protection if they fell ill, had a disability, and became unemployed, pregnant or old.

The report stated that overall the region needed additional investments of $281 billion per year to match the global spending levels as a share of GDP on the three social sectors. More than two thirds of the additional spending would need to be directed to social protection programmes alone, it added.

According to the report, about 1.2 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region still live on less than $3.20 a day. Out of the 1.2bn, 400 million are estimated to live in extreme poverty, below the threshold of $1.90 a day. Of these, almost two-thirds live in South Asia, particularly in India.

To accelerate progress towards ending poverty, governments needed to boost the amount of public spending on social protection, education and healthcare, the report said.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2018

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Government aims for a uniform education system under new policy framework

Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training on Tuesday launched National Education Policy Framework 2018 under the first 100-day plan of the government.

The education ministry in its framework has identified four key areas it shall be focusing on: improving the quality of education, enrolment of out of school children, introducing a uniform education system, and skill development of the youth.

The framework was formally launched today by Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood in a ceremony held in Islamabad.

The minister vowed to resolve the above-mentioned challenges over the course of the next five years and revealed that a National Task Force had been established to identify key areas for development of education.

“We consulted with donors, NGOs, and experts in the formulation of the framework,” he said adding that an Inter-Provincial Ministers Conference was also arranged during which the education policy was discussed with representatives of the different provinces.

The minister said that the government was all set to bring back into the fold more than 20 million out of school boys and girls.

Currently, he said, there are three kinds of educational systems existing in the country: madressah system, public school system and English-medium or private school system. Under the new education policy, a uniform education system will be introduced with a uniform syllabus “to bring unity among the nation”.

Explore: ,Uniform education?,

He also laid emphasis on the government’s efforts in bringing improvements to the quality of education, adding that a market-oriented education would be provided to students so that they can find jobs easily. In the same vein, the minister underlined the need for skills development saying that it was the only way for the socioeconomic development of the country.

He said that the country faces a shortfall of middle schools due to which students are unable to continue their studies after having completed primary education. To counter this, middle-school classes will be held following primary school class timings so that the need for middle schools can be met, he explained.

To tackle the growing need for teachers, the government also plans on launching a Smart Schools System under which online lectures will be delivered in schools facing a lack of teaching staff, said Minister Mahmood.

Smart classrooms will be established in every school of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), he said adding that the use of technology was the need of the hour.

An Educational Volunteer Programme would also be initiated to fulfill the demand for teachers, he said and added that under this programme the educated youth will be given the opportunity to extend their services voluntarily to teach children.

The education minister said that the government will also increase the number of non-formal schools to achieve the task of maximum enrolment.

He said a dialogue had been initiated to create consensus among the different educational systems.

Later, the minister also launched an out of school children campaign in the federal capital. By signing the admission documents, he enroled six students of the federal capital into schools established near their residences.

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