Posts Tagged ‘Khyber’

Top court’s powers extended to Gilgit-Baltistan, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday, while giving a written order regarding the ,constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), and the grant of fundamental rights to its citizens, ruled that the powers of the top court also extend to the region.

The written order also states that no part of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan can be abolished or amended without proper legislation.

A seven-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had on January 7 ,reserved its verdict, regarding a set of petitions challenging the Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009, as well as the right of the citizens of the area to be governed through their chosen representatives.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 was earlier opposed by protesters hailing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who demanded that GB should be declared a part of Pakistan instead of being administered through presidential orders.

The proposed reforms draft states that the federal government intends to grant GB the status of a provisional province, “subject to the decision of the plebiscite to be conducted under the UN resolutions”, with all privileges provided by the Constitution.

The move, however, would require an amendment in the Constitution, which needs a two-thirds majority in the parliament and “would take time”. Therefore, as an interim measure, the government plans to give such fundamental rights to GB residents as enjoyed by the people of any other province.

Today’s order clarified that no changes will be made to the current state of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir and that the constitutional status of these areas shall be determined through a referendum. It further said that this process should take place within 14 days.

The order said that India and Pakistan are responsible for giving more rights to the [people of] the areas under their control and until the referendum happens, Pakistan is bound to give Gilgit-Baltistan as many rights as possible. The order also pointed out that several administrative offices have already been created in the area under the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018.

Gilgit-Baltistan courts hold the right to review the law-making done by the Gilgit-Baltistan Council. However, these courts do not hold constitutional rights within Pakistan.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan will be able to challenge the appellant court’s decisions in the Supreme court of Pakistan.

The SC has also given the suggestion regarding changes to be made in the presidential ordinance and also clarified that the president of Pakistan can enforce the Order upon the proposal of the federation.

However, it has also been made clear that the 2018 Order cannot be amended. If the Parliament makes any changes to this order they can be “examined on the touchstone of the Constitution”.

The order further said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have the same rights as the people of Pakistan.

Upon hearing the court’s order, members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Council thanked the chief justice and asked him for the order’s Urdu translation to also be released.

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Islamabad, Kabul agree on prisoner exchange

PESHAWAR: Afghan Ambassador Shukrullah Atif Mashal on Tuesday claimed that Kabul and Islamabad had agreed to work out a mechanism for swapping prisoners, who had either completed their prison terms or were granted bail but couldn’t be freed due to certain reasons.

Addressing refugees here, the ambassador said the prisoners’ issue had come under discussion during a recent visit of foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Kabul.

He said both sides had agreed on the exchange of prisoners.

Mr Mashal said the Afghan embassy’s team would visit various prisons in Pakistan for identification of prisoners.

“Many prisoners arrested in pity nature offences in the two countries should be released,” he said.

The ambassador said a 10-member team of Afghan government would visit prisons in Pakistan to find out prisoners, who had either completed their jail terms or were granted bails but couldn’t be released.

Afghan ambassador says mechanism to be developed for swapping detainees, who have served jail terms or got bail

He said he would also inspect prisons.

Mr Mashal said the Afghan government would facilitate Pakistani officials to inspect jails in Afghanistan to identify Pakistani prisoners, who couldn’t be freed due to some reasons.

The envoy, who assumed the charge in Islamabad around three weeks ago, didn’t explain whether the deal will be applicable to prisoners detained on charges of subversive activities and other heinous crimes in the two countries.

Both countries have yet to sign extradition or prisoner exchange treaties.

Earlier, during a brief chat with media, the Afghan ambassador failed to come up with a reply when asked about media reports that Afghan Taliban leader Hafez Mohibullah has been detained in Peshawar.

He said efforts were under way for peace in Afghanistan.

“We are here to work for peace in Afghanistan,” he said declining to comment on the detention of the Taliban leader.

The ambassador was very apprehensive about ill-treatment of Afghan nationals at the hands of Pakistani security personnel at Torkham border-crossing point and said the issue had been discussed with Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

He said he would visit Torkham to review situation and would discuss the matter with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman and Corps Commander Shaheen Mazhar Mahmood today (Wednesday).

Mr Mashal said Afghan citizens coming to Pakistan were lined up at the entry gate for hours.

“We don’t need verbal promises. They (Pakistanis) should fulfil the promise of friendship, which they have been making,” he insisted.

The envoy said Pakistani authorities had promised to facilitate the entry of Afghan travelers at Torkham. He said he had proposed to make separate arrangements for women, elders and ambulance service at Torkham border to prevent mess and keep them from long wait.

Mr Mashal complained that every Afghan visa applicant was paying $200 outside Pakistani diplomatic mission in Kabul. He said the issue needed to be resolved.

The ambassador said officials of Pakistani missions in Kabul and Jalalabad were not involved in the illegal practice.

He said he had asked General Bajwa to increase the number of visas for Afghans and allow other consulates in Afghanistan to facilitate visa seekers.

Pakistani mission in Kabul issues 300 to 350 visas to Afghan nationals on a daily basis.

Mr Mashal expressed concern about the reports of the officials receiving bribes from Afghan truckers transporting goods under the Afghan Transit Trade.

He said ‘malpractices’ of the police and personnel of other law-enforcement agencies had a negative impact on the bilateral trade and therefore, Pakistani government should take measures for stopping illegal practices at checkposts.

The ambassador said he met Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and took up that issue with him as well.

He said Afghanistan wanted to increase the volume of trade with Pakistan. He asked Afghan and Pakistani traders to begin joint business ventures.

Mr Mashal said durable peace in Afghanistan was not only in the interest of Afghan nation but it would promote peace in the entire region.

He urged Pakistan and other neighbouring countries to play role for peace in his country.

“On average, 100 to 150 people are killed in Afghanistan daily. How long this bloodshed will continue as millions of people will continue to live in Pakistan as refugees,” he said asking his countrymen to stop living life as refugees by returning as soon as possible.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019

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Govt will ‘need to take practical steps’ if PPP does not bring change to Sindh, warns Fawad

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry warned on Tuesday that if the PPP is unable to bring change to Sindh and the chief minister does not resign, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government “will need to take practical steps”.

Chaudhry, while speaking to reporters upon arrival in Karachi, explained that the government wants “the PPP to bring change themselves”, and for a new chief minister to take the place of Murad Shah, a senior PPP leader who was ,named in the joint investigation team’s report, in the fake accounts case.

“We want to first give them an opportunity [to bring change]. If this opportunity is not availed, and they do not take advantage of it, and Murad Shah does not resign, then we will certainly need to take practical steps here,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of the PTI forming a forward bloc in the PPP to remove the provincial government, Chaudhry responded that any person who carries the pain of the people of Sindh in his heart will want change in the province, no matter what party he belongs to.

He said that even ‘serious’ members of the PPP wanted change, adding that when this issue began, PPP members had themselves contacted the PTI and asked it to step forward for change.

“It is also a right of the people of Sindh to see the wave of change that the three other provinces have seen, that all of Pakistan has seen. It is the right of the people of Sindh that they become part of this change,” he added.

The federal minister pointed out that Sindh had not contributed to the National Finance Commission award for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) although the “other provinces and the federal government had given their share for its development”.

The PTI-run Federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments had ,decided on Jan 4, to jointly provide the equivalent of 3pc of the federal divisible pool for uplifting Fata after its merger with KP.

Chaudhry claimed that although the PPP paints itself as a “vision of democracy”, when the time for action came, it disassociated itself from Fata.

He alleged that Sindh’s money would “not be spent on the poor people” of the province. “It will go to the Omni Group and into branches of the Zardari Gropu of companies. The painful thing is that Sindh’s funds are being spent in London and Dubai.”

He claimed that those who are “closest to the people will talk about change”, and that a large majority of the PPP MPAs would side with the PTI.

PTI-PPP tussle heats up

A tussle between the PPP and PTI over money laundering and the fake bank accounts case has heated up in recent days, with the ruling party in Sindh accusing the Centre of attempting to dislodge the provincial government and warning it of dire consequences if any attempt is made to arrest top party cadre.

Chaudhry’s two-day trip to Sindh scheduled for December was shelved after Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s observations during an earlier hearing of the fake accounts case indicated that the PTI was trying to topple the PPP government.

Chaudhry was allegedly tasked by the prime minister to ,meet leaders of political parties apart from the PPP, during his earlier trip to Sindh and seek their support for dislodging the PPP government.

The information minister, however, ,has denied that his party wishes to dislodge the PPP, government. “We do not want to dislodge the PPP government in Sindh but want to forge consensus on the demand for resignation of Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to ensure fair trial of Asif Ali Zardari and company,” he had said earlier, adding that the PTI had no intention to impose governor’s rule in Sindh or repeal the 18th Amendment.

The information minister had explained ,during an earlier press conference, that his visit had been cancelled by Prime MInister Imran Khan to reject the impression that the Centre wanted to topple the Sindh government.

PPP is the majority party in the Sindh Assembly with 99 seats while the PTI and its allies have a total of 64 seats. The PTI requires 18 more members to outnumber the PPP to form its government in the province. However, it is believed that it would be a hard nut to crack to defeat the PPP in the provincial assembly as the party enjoys a formidable position in the province since long and has been in office there for over a decade.

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112 most wanted human traffickers identified in FIA’s 2018 Red Book

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday issued a list of most wanted human traffickers for the year 2018 which, for the first time, has four female entrants.

The ‘Red Book of Most Wanted Human Smuggler/Traffickers’ saw the number of human traffickers go up from 101 in 2017 to 112 in 2018.

Of the 112 individuals identified in the 2018 Red Book, more than half (58) are from Punjab, 34 from Islamabad, 15 from Sindh, three from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two from Balochistan.

The agency, for the first time, has added a quartet of women to its annual red book, accusing them of defrauding people through human trafficking.

The FIA said that 12 of the wanted traffickers have fled abroad, adding that it is taking assistance from the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) to apprehend them.

According to the latest Global Report on ‘Trafficking in Persons’, the number of human trafficking victims around the world is ,on the rise, as armed groups and terrorists traffick women and children to generate funds and recruit personnel.

In Pakistan, the parliament has approved two new laws — The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2018 and The Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018 — to safeguard the rights of victims of human trafficking and address the needs of smuggled migrants.

In June 2018, the legislation and other efforts to curb human trafficking saw the ,United States move Pakistan, from its watch list to another group of countries that have taken significant steps to curb human trafficking.

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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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Bilawal pledges to combat ‘politics of vendetta’

KOTRI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has vowed to fight the “politics of vendetta” saying he is not afraid of threats of the exit control list, National Accountability Bureau and imprisonment.

Addressing a public meeting here on Saturday after inaugurating Kotri-Jamshoro overhead bridge, he said the PPP had faced “Gen Zia’s lashes and Gen Musharraf’s prisons and exile” and it was not afraid of the incumbent “puppet and benami prime minister”.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, PPP provincial president Nisar Khuhro and MPA Malik Asad Sikandar also spoke on the occasion.

PPP leader warns PTI govt against testing patience of jiyalas

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said if the people of Sindh, Balochistan, southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa decided to “take on Islamabad” to secure their rights and protest against deprivation, it would prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the “fake government”.

He warned the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government against testing patience of PPP jiyalas, saying if it didn’t refrain from it, the PPP would show it how “theft of vote” was avenged.

He said the PPP preferred service delivery like construction of bridges over the River Indus, canal lining, road networks, subsidy to farmers and provision of employment in Thar and quality cardiac care services.

He said the “selected prime minister” and the Punjab chief minister could not compete with the Sindh chief minister.

“Your plan to oust us through conspiracies has failed and you will fail again,” he said while addressing PM Imran Khan.

He said an inept federal government was meting out step-motherly treatment to the people of Sindh who were being punished for voting for the PPP.

He said Imran Khan needed to learn principles of politics before talking about principled politics and added that the finger of umpire worked in cricket and the people’s will in politics.

He accused the PTI of making false promises and fraudulent claims and said Pakistan was heading backwards under its government. “The national economy remains weak and people are drowning in the tsunami of price hike while mills and shops are being closed.”

The PPP leader said poor people didn’t have two square meals a day because their sources of livelihood had been snatched.

He said those who talked about providing 10 million jobs and five million houses to people had snatched from them already available job opportunities and deprived them of shelter.

“Pakistan does not have electricity, gas and investment but the federal ministers are claiming there is no price hike and advising people to be patient. The eyes of the ministers are closed with arrogance and minds intoxicated with power while their hearts are insensitive”, he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari accused the government of closing water and electricity supplies to Sindh which contributed 80pc of gas produced in Pakistan.

He said billions of rupees of the Sindh government had been withheld which badly affected development process.

He asked for what crime the people of Sindh were being pushed against wall and then answered his question, saying because they did not vote for “puppets” and were loyal to the Bhuttos.

He said the government didn’t know how the rupee got devalued and the wheels of economy got jammed although it claimed to be working faster than light’s speed.

“The government doesn’t know how the debt of Rs5bn has increased but those who said they preferred suicide over the begging bowl are now celebrating foreign borrowings”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the federal government had tried to commit robbery over the mandate of Sindh in just three months but got only disappointment and shelved the plan.

CM Shah said the Kotri-Jamshoro bridge had been completed in a record period of time and urged Mr Bhutto-Zardari to take up the issue of dualisation of Indus Highway between Jamshoro and Sehwan in the National Assembly.

Earlier, Mr Bilawal-Bhutto visited residence of Asad Sikandar during which shops of the area were closed by the administration. He also took tea at the residence of MPA Hina Dastagir.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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APS commission calls former Peshawar corps commander, others

PESHAWAR: The Judicial Commission inquiring into the 2014 Army Public School carnage has summoned then Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Hidayat-ur-Rehman and four other army officers for recording their statements before finalising its report about the tragedy.

The other army officers asked to record their statements are: Chairman, Board of Governors of Army Public School and College, Brig Mudassir Azam; an officer of 102 Brigade, HQ-11 Corps, Inayatullah; Major Doctor Asim Shehzad of the Army Medical Corps; and secretary of the BOG Brig Maj ICB Imran.

The focal person of the commission, Imranullah Khan, in a media briefing on Friday, said that a letter had been sent to the army officers through the Ministry of Defence by the single-member tribunal comprising Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan of the Peshawar High Court (PHC).

Those summoned for recording statements include four army officials, former home secretary and police chief

Similarly, he said that another letter had been sent to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary to summon the then provincial police officer Nasir Khan Durrani, the then secretary home and tribal affairs department Syed Akhtar Ali Shah and the then deputy inspector general of Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Muhammad Alam Shinwari.

In both letters the tribunal has asked the ministry of defence and the chief secretary that the schedule of attendance of the said officers be conveyed to the tribunal within three days as the proceedings of the commission were time-restricted and it had to submit its report accordingly.

The commission had first received a detailed written statement from the ministry of defence to a questionnaire sent by it and subsequently it recorded the statement of a representative of the ministry.

About the appearance of the army officers, the tribunal in its letter states that after recording the statement of the representative of the ministry of defence, the commission considered the said officers relevant to the APS incident, as essential consequential witnesses, to ensure a thorough probe as per the grievances of complainants and in the light of the directives of the Supreme Court.

The focal person said that the commission was constituted on Oct 12, 2018 by the PHC on the order of the Supreme Court and had been functioning since Oct 19.

Answering a question, Mr Imranullah said that the commission had been given six weeks by the Supreme Court during which it had recorded statements of the parents, injured students and officials of police and the CTD. He added that as several important statements were left, the apex court had allowed more time for the probe.

He said that the commission on Friday also recorded statements of the then capital city police chief Ijaz Ahmad and a police official, Wisal Khan, who had received injuries in the APS occurrence.

He said that so far the commission had recorded statements of 93 parents of the slain and injured students apart from some officials of the CTD.

Justice Ibrahim Khan had visited the APS along with his team, including the commission’s registrar Inamullah Wazir, its secretary Ajmal Tahir and the focal person Imranullah on Dec 28. During the visit they were briefed about the incident by Brig Shakirullah and Brig Aamer along with their teammates in detail.

A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had on Oct 5 ordered the formation of a commission of inquiry comprising a judge of the PHC for probing the APS carnage.

The APS tragedy of Dec 16, 2014 had left 144 persons, including 122 students, dead.

The chief justice had taken notice of the issue last year when during his visit to Peshawar several of the parents of the deceased students had approached him and requested him to redress their grievances.

The prime demand of the complainants is fixing responsibility for negligence on the officers concerned due to which the occurrence had taken place.

Following the carnage, the parents had come to know about a confidential letter through which the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had on Aug 28, 2014, informed different provincial and federal authorities that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had made a plan to carry out terrorist activities targeting the Army Public School and College and other educational institutions run by the army and to kill maximum number of children of army officers to avenge the killings of their accomplices.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019

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Go to your offices daily or get ready to be replaced, PM Khan warns KP ministers

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had won the people’s mandate in the 2018 general elections without dishing out billions of rupees in development funds and solely on the basis of its performance.

Speaking at a ceremony held in connection with the completion of the ,Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s 100 days in office,, the prime minister thanked the people of KP for re-electing his party this year and said that the PTI had not employed any “traditional, political tactics” to win the polls.

PM Imran Khan inaugurated a  shelter home in Peshawar on Friday. — PID

PM Imran Khan inaugurated a shelter home in Peshawar on Friday. — PID

“In 2013 [elections], we got a coalition government and in 2018, the people of Pakhtunkhwa who never give another chance [to political parties] gave the PTI a fantastic mandate,” he said in his address at Peshawar’s Nishtar Hall.

In a reference to the PML-N, he claimed that the previous government of Punjab had spent billions in development funds in order to influence the 2018 elections.

He termed KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan as an “honest” man. He said the people had “made a lot of fun” when the PTI elected Usman Buzdar, who hails from a backward region, as the Punjab chief minister.

“The people of Punjab were in the wrong habit for the past 30 years of seeing a chief minister who acts a king,” he said, referring to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and president Shahbaz Sharif. In comparison, he said, Usman Buzdar was a “simple man” who did not use a heavy protocol or spend lavishly.

“[Buzdar] is an honest and a courageous [man] who stood up in the face of big mafias,” Khan said.

He said it was for the first time in Pakistan’s history that a government (of PTI) was making efforts to create a uniform education system in the country which he said would be crucial in bridging the rich-poor divide.

PM Khan is briefed on a shelter home in Peshawar. — PID

PM Khan is briefed on a shelter home in Peshawar. — PID

He reminded the ministers and officials seated in the audience that all of them needed to go to their offices daily and remain there till the evening, adding that he will know whether or not they are going to their offices.

“And then none of you should say ‘my ministry was taken away from me’ [if you are replaced for not going to work],” the prime minister cautioned.

In a lighter vein, Khan said previous governments always used to be afraid that if a minister is removed, he or she will form a forward bloc and “the government will be toppled”. “We don’t even face that issue now,” he added, amidst laughter from the audience.

“Keep in mind, I am receiving messages from a lot of MPAs who all want to become ministers, so if you don’t work [be ready to be replaced],” he said tongue in cheek while addressing the ministers.

The premier reminded the provincial lawmakers that the sole target of their 100-day plan should be to create policies for the uplift of the poor segment of the society. He urged the officials to remind the bureaucrats working under them that they needed to ensure ‘ease of doing business’ to generate investment in the country.

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‘Pakistan has arranged US-Taliban talks’

Prime Minister Khan reiterated that the same United States “that had been asking us to ‘do more’” is now asking Pakistan to facilitate its talks with the Afghan Taliban.

“When I used to say this matter cannot be resolved without dialogue, [they] would term me ‘Taliban Khan’,” he said, revealing that Pakistan had arranged talks between the US and the Taliban that are scheduled for December 17.

If peace is achieved in Afghanistan, he said, Peshawar would become a hub for tourism and commerce. He also announced that the Balahisar Fort in the city would be turned into a centre for tourism in order to generate revenue.

Khan said the government was collecting funds for the Mohmand dam, which when constructed will “solve Peshawar’s water problem forever”.

Before the ceremony, the premier inaugurated a shelter home in Peshawar during his one-day visit to the provincial capital.

PM Khan observes a shelter home in Peshawar. —PID

PM Khan observes a shelter home in Peshawar. —PID

The prime minister was also briefed on four more shelter homes that have been built by the KP government as part of its 100-day plan. The homes will have the capacity to accommodate 200 people each.

Last month, the premier had laid the foundation stone of a ,shelter house for the homeless in Lahore,.

An ,official statement, had said the prime minister would also attend a special meeting of the KP cabinet today. He will be briefed on the province’s 100-day performance.

It said that the provincial government had identified 25 initiatives to pursue during the next five years under the premier’s directions.

In health sector, the KP government has planned to recruit additional 4,000 lady health workers (LHWs) to ensure coverage of all rural areas in addition to rolling out a rural ambulance service to transport mothers and children to health facilities. The government will also ensure that 80 per cent of expectant mothers give birth in health facilities.

In agricultural sector, the government plans to introduce a functional IT-based market intelligence system to increase farmers profit by 15-20 per cent along with reclaiming 5,500 hectares of cultivatable wastelands.

It said that KP would become the first province to launch police station-based budget this year along with fourfold increase in the number of female police officers.

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Five bills introduced in NA amid noisy protest by opposition

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday carried out some legislative business on a messy private members day as legislators managed to introduce five bills, including two constitution amendment bills, amid noisy proceedings due to inability of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to maintain order in the house.

The movers remained confused about the status of their bills after presenting them before the house and on two occasions, the deputy speaker rejected the bills on a voice vote and did not order a headcount despite repeated requests and challenge by the movers.

The introduced bills, however, will remain in the cold storage as Speaker Asad Qaiser has not been able to constitute the house committees due to a stand-off between the government and the opposition over the issue of chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Bills will remain in the cold storage in absence of house committees that minister says will be constituted within a week

The deputy speaker kept on announcing that the bills stood introduced without referring them to the yet-to-be-formed committees, while Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan claimed that the committees would be constituted within a week or so.

At the outset, a non-serious opposition, while protesting over the refusal by the chair to give them the floor to speak on points of order, kept on opposing each and every bill introduced by the treasury members. And while doing so, they even did not allow Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) member Kishwer Zehra to introduce a bill seeking allocation of seats in parliament for the disabled persons which had been supported by all the parties, including those in the opposition.

Puzzled by the deputy speaker’s decision of not granting her leave to introduce the bill, the MQM lawmaker kept on shouting and protesting, informing the house that the bill had been signed by 18 members representing all parties in the house.

Ms Zehra even announced that she was withdrawing all her bills on the agenda as a mark of protest, but later changed her decision when the deputy speaker said it would be brought to the agenda on the next private members day after Ali Mohammad Khan and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Syed Naveed Qamar admitted that they had rejected the bill by mistake.

Earlier, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a lawmaker from minority community belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), protested against the deputy speaker’s decision of not ordering a headcount when the opposition members voted against his bill seeking amendment to the Constitution for repealing of an article that allowed sale and purchase of liquor on religious occasions of non-Muslim minority communities. Some treasury members also opposed the bill despite the fact that the parliamentary secretary for law and justice Maleeka Bukhari had not opposed the bill.

Dr Vankwani was surprised over the deputy speaker’s act of ignoring his challenge to his ruling, as earlier he had been allowed to introduce a constitution amendment bill seeking changes in five articles of the Constitution after which the house gave 89-86 vote in his favour. He asked the chair to allow a headcount so that the nation could see the members who were against the ban on the sale of liquor in the country. He said Article 37 was “discriminatory” to the minority members as all the religions, including Hinduism and Sikhism, had banned use of liquor.

Walkout

The PTI lawmaker said despite the fact that Pakistan was an Islamic republic, liquor was being sold in the country round the year in the name of religious minorities. His remarks that “if Pakistan is an Islamic country then the members should unanimously approve his bill” angered the opposition, especially those belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), who were of the opinion that the lawmaker from the religious minority should not have used the word “if” and he should know that Pakistan was an Islamic country. The opposition members also staged a token walkout over it.

Besides the two constitution amendment bills, the NA witnessed introduction of the Pakistan Psychological Council Bill 2018 by Riaz Fatyana, the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2018 by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali and the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill 2018 by Alia Kamran.

Through the first constitution (amendment) bill introduced by Dr Vankwani, the mover sought setting up of women universities in all cities having a population of 500,000 or more. Through the same bill, the mover also sought increase in the reserved seats for minorities in the national and provincial assemblies, besides seeking right of dual votes for them.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, through the other constitution (amendment) bill, sought an increase in the number of seats of Chitral in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

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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Govt releases 41pc less funds for development projects

ISLAMABAD: With tight fiscal position and revenue shortfall, the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) continues to shrink during the current fiscal year.

In the first five months (July-November) of the current year, total PSDP releases by the Planning Commission amount to Rs182 billion against Rs305bn of the same period last year, showing a reduction of 40.3 per cent.

According to latest data released by the Planning Commission, the total spending at Rs182bn as of Dec 7, 2018 accounted for almost 27pc of the total revised PSDP allocation of Rs675bn. Exactly until this period last year, the Planning Commission had released Rs305bn that accounted for more than 38pc of the revised allocation of Rs800bn.

The data suggested that about Rs71bn has been released by the Planning Commission to all 39 federal ministries and divisions in five months this year. This worked out at 24.4pc of Rs291.5bn annual allocation for these ministries.

In comparison, Rs71.14bn had been released to these ministries the same period last year, accounting for 23.6pc of revised allocation of Rs301bn.

The data showed the Planning Commission could not release any funds for development of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) even though an allocation of Rs10bn had been approved in the supplementary budget presented by the PTI government in September as federal contribution to 10-year development programme of the region now being merged as districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Last year, the government had released about Rs10.5bn for states and tribal regions in five months against an annual allocation of Rs26.9bn.

Releases for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) have been higher this year. For example, the Planning Commission released Rs10.7bn in five months of AJK against a total allocation of Rs25.8bn. During the same period last year, Rs8.56bn were provided to AJK against the same allocation of Rs25.8. Likewise, GB was provided with Rs7.8bn this year against an allocation of Rs17.5bn compared to Rs7.44bn out of Rs18.3bn.

In contrast, the releases out of federal budget to corporations as percentage of total allocations were higher this year, mainly because of near completion of most of the projects that have been under implementation for a few years, majority of them under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In absolute terms, the releases for National Highway Authority (NHA) and power companies had been significantly lower this year.

This is evident from the fact that the commission released a total of Rs90bn to two leading corporations – NHA and the power sector – accounting for more than 41pc against revised allocations of Rs218.6bn. In comparison, an amount of Rs130bn had been released to these two sectors in five months last year that stood at 34pc of revised allocation of Rs385bn.

On the other hand, the government could release only Rs1.23bn to three special programmes against a total allocation of Rs78bn. These allocations included Rs33.5bn each for development for settlement of internally displaced persons and security enhancement, Rs7bn for Prime Minister’s Youth Programme and Rs4bn for gas infrastructure development. During the same period last year, an amount of Rs45bn was disbursed was released to these sectors against a total allocation of Rs135bn.

Under disbursement mechanism approved in consultation with the Ministry of Finance, 20pc allocated funds are required to be released in each of the first two quarters and 30pc each in the third and fourth quarters of the financial year.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018

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Foreign minister sees talks on US financial aid restoration

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says there are chances of restoration of a dialogue with the US government for the restoration of American financial assistance to Pakistan.

Speaking at a reception here on Sunday, minister said the government was making efforts to bring foreign investment to the country to improve economy. He said foreign missions abroad had been asked to make efforts to bring investment to Pakistan.

He said that political leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had no objection to the creation of south Punjab province, however a `small segment’ in Sindh and Punjab had some reservations.

“A small segment in Sindh thinks that the creation of south Punjab may pave the way for the demand for the division of Sindh which is totally baseless as no one is demanding the division of Sindh,” he said.

He said that the PTI government was sincere for the creation of south Punjab. “Right now we are trying to create a consensus among political parties.”

He said initially a sub-secretariat (of south Punjab) would be established in Multan for which funds would be allocated in next fiscal. Qureshi said he was not aware of changes to be made in the ministries.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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No injustice to be done during anti-encroachment drive: PM

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that no injustice would be done with anyone in the name of operation against encroachments.

The federal government wanted to provide homes to the homeless and if injustice had been done to anyone during the anti-encroachment drive, it would stand by the victims, he said during his visit to Karachi on Sunday.

During the ,daylong visit,, the prime minister met business leaders as well as key politicians, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail briefed Mr Khan on the law and order situation and the possible fallout of the ongoing operation against encroachments.

On a query from the prime minister, the chief minister told him [PM] that “the provinces can work with the federal government as long as each recognises its constitutional jurisdiction”. He said the federation needed to fulfil its commitment on the K-IV and KCR projects.

Mr Khan said that during his party’s last tenure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the federal government used to launch projects of electricity and gas in that province.

The chief minister told him that the federal government was more than welcome to do launch projects in Sindh as these items fell in the federal domain and asked him to spend more on electricity and gas projects in the province.

After the conclusion of Mr Khan’s visit, Governor Ismail told newsmen that injustice had been done with the poor under the cover of the Supreme Court’s order against encroachments and “we will request the chief justice to stop this operation”.

Mr Ismail said there was no tension between Sindh and the federation. The chief minister was heard attentively.

He said ongoing projects in Sindh were part of the NFC Award. “We have decided to summon a meeting in Islamabad for considering the K-IV water project.”

In reply to a question, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or the federal government had no link with the operation against encroachments.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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In a historic first, President House opened to public

ISLAMABAD: For the first time in the country’s history, President House on Saturday opened its doors to the public as part of the government’s plans to allow the people to access state-owned buildings.

Earlier, the government had opened Governor Houses in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and a state-owned rest house in Murree to the public.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the visitors at President House, Mr Alvi said: “We have made efforts to fully facilitate public visits to Aiwan-i-Sadr.”

He said he would open President House to the public twice a month and would also direct the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to open the adjacent park to President House.

The president said that historical documents and belongings of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan would be displayed at President House.

“We will request parliament to give the historical document of the 1973 Constitution signed by its makers and it will be displayed here for the public,” he said.

The president said that he wanted to bridge the gap between President House and the masses which had widened in the last 70 years.

He said that President House was opened to school and college trips as well.

Replying to a question, Mr Alvi rejected the impression that Aiwan-i-Sadr was opened to divert attention from the challenges being faced by the government, saying that the office of the president was apolitical.

Earlier, a large number of people from twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad visited the highly secured building of Aiwan-i-Sadr.

Talking to Dawn, the visitors appreciated the decision of the government to open the gates of President House to the public. It remained open from 9am to 4pm.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018

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Rs82bn plan launched to reduce rural poverty

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) on Wednesday unveiled Rs82 billion plan for the agriculture sector, with the aim of enhanced crop yield, improved water efficiency, livestock and fisheries development, and creation of agro-markets with the overall objective of uplifting small farmers and reducing rural poverty.

The transformative plan – based on recommendations made to Prime Minister Imran Khan by MNFSR Task Force – follows the ‘100 Days Agenda’ and is part of the Rs200 billion package for the agriculture sector by the federal and provincial governments.

In a press conference, Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehbub Sultan briefed about the comprehensive plan which will be implemented within two to three years.

Listing targets, the minister said that all goals are achievable and every effort will be made by the ministry in this regard.

In the area of crop yield, the minister said that an investment of Rs4 billion will be made through promoting mechanisation. Fifty per cent subsidy will be given to small farmers on the purchase of crops specific machinery; development of high-yielding varieties, and improved provision of certified seeds.

International experts will be engaged to set up new facilities and upgrade existing modern research institute while extension services at all level, agronomy, plant protection, marketing and crop processing methods will be reorganised in order to gain better production with less input.

The minister directed the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) to produce better seeds for the farmers. In this regard, the prime minister has sanctioned Rs4bn for the PARC.

For the development of fisheries sector, the plan envisages promoting shrimp farming, cage fish culture and trout farming in northern areas. Costing Rs8.6bn, the project will be extended to coastal areas, he said. A cage farming project is already working at the Head Panjnad, he said.

Water efficiency will be improved under the Rs68.60bn National Programme for Improvement of Watercourses in Pakistan Phase-II. The project is aimed at water course lining, enhancing command area of small and mini dams in barani areas and water conservation in barani areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As a result, 9 million acre feet (MAF) of water will be saved and made available for irrigation.

The ministry says about 47MAF of water is lost in conveyance in canals, distributaries and watercourses.

The minister announced that laser levelling will be provided to small farmers on subsidised prices. The government will arrange 12,000 new lasers over the next two to three years. In Sindh, there are 18,000 lasers while in Punjab the total number of lasers is 12,000, he said.

The prime minister has approved the Livestock Initiative Project for small and medium farmers. Under this, the Buffalo Calf Fattening Programme, Backyard Poultry Programme, and Small and Medium Dairy Farms will be promoted.

A mega Foot-And-Mouth Disease Project will be launched with the help of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at a cost of Rs763 million.

“UAE and China are major markets for Pakistan’s cattle but to explore exports. The project will help ensure that animals in affected areas are disease free within one year. Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur would soon be declared disease free zones,” the minister said.

The Backyard Poultry Programme will be launched in 36 districts of the country. It aims to reduce stunting and improve nutrition value as well as reduce poverty at local level. In Punjab a similar programme is already underway.

The government will develop six markets in collaboration with the private sector to facilitate consumers in purchasing agricultural produce. A state-of-the-art market is being developed in Lahore that will be replicated in other five locations, he said.

Responding to a question about the current sugarcane crisis, the minister said the issue will be resolved in a couple of days.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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95pc Forms-45 not signed by polling agents, reveals Fafen audit

ISLAMABAD: The first-ever comprehensive audit of Form-45 has revealed that 95 per cent of the total 78,467 such forms tabulating results of the count prepared for the elections in 249 constituencies of the National Assembly had not been signed by the polling agents of political parties and candidates.

The audit carried out by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) — a group of non-governmental organisations working to reform electoral processes — also discloses that in as many as 48 NA constituencies, not even a single form had been signed by the polling agents. The number could be higher when data of the remaining 23 constituencies will be available. The elections were held in 270 of the 272 NA constituencies while the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) uploaded the data of 249 constituencies on its official website.

According to Fafen, the proportion of un-signed Forms-45 was as high as 98pc in Balochistan where only 49 of the 2,437 such forms had been signed by the polling agents. It stood at 97pc in Sindh where merely 573 of the 17,493 forms bore signatures of the polling agents. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 634 of the 13,790 forms had been signed which means 95pc of them had not been signed. The proportion of un-signed forms was 94pc in Punjab where 2,705 of the 43,971 forms had been signed. The situation was comparatively better in the federal capital where 195 (25pc) of the 786 forms had been signed.

ECP rejects Fafen claim and says it will shortly release its own ‘authentic data’

Overall, 4,156 out of the 78,467 forms had been signed by the polling agents.

Under Section 90 (12) of the Elections Act, 2017, the presiding officer at each polling station is duty-bound to obtain on Form-45 and Form-46 the signatures of polling agents who are present at the time of finalisation of election results at the polling station. In case of refusal by any polling agent to sign the form, the Presiding Officers are duty-bound to record a note on the respective forms.

Although a legal requirement, neither Form-45 nor Form-46 has any specific section for the signing of polling agents. Notwithstanding the operational weaknesses of the legal requirement, which was also part of the previous Represen­tation of Peoples Act, 1976 (Section 38, Subsection 13), Fafen documented the scale of enforcement of the provision.

The network says that the consistent weak enforcement of this provision points to the need for parliamentary action for legislative amendment to ensure that this procedure is implemented in letter and spirit to bolster political parties and public confidence in election results.

When contacted, senior Fafen representative Mudassir Rizvi said that implementation of Section 90 (12) of the Elections Act was nearly impossible for the simple reason that this legal provision was subject to the presence of polling agents at the time of finalisation of Form-45 at a polling station.

“In case a political party contends that its polling agent was not asked by the presiding officer of a certain polling station to sign Form-45, it will have to prove the charge in an election tribunal by providing adequate evidence admissible under Pakistan’s law of evidence. In case of general election 2018, political parties will have to individually prove more than 70,000 such instances in election tribunals, which is impossible. This is because the law itself is weak,” he remarked.

ECP reaction

A senior ECP official, when contacted, rejected Fafen’s claim that 95pc Forms-45 did not bear signatures of the polling agents and said the commission would shortly release its own “authentic data”. He said Fafen’s data was based merely on the first page of Form-45 whereas more than one form had been used at various polling stations.

He said a second form had to be used where the number of candidates was more than eight and another form if the number exceeded 16. Moreover, in many cases polling agents had affixed signatures on back of the forms which had not been uploaded on the ECP website, he added.

The official said that another problem was that candidates had engaged inexperienced polling agents who were in many cases ‘hired’ for their daylong services. However, he agreed that the legal provision required a suitable amendment.

‘PPP stand vindicated’

In charge of the PPP election cell and former senator Taj Haider said the Fafen data fully vindicated the stand of the Pakistan Peoples Party of throwing out by force of polling agents at the time of vote count and not getting Form-45 signed by polling agents in blatant and gross violation of Section 90(12) of the Elections Act.

He pointed out that in a data covering 78,000 Forms-45 only 66 had been signed by the PPP polling agents. “The ECP propaganda that the polling agents of losing parties had left the polling station on their own is falsified by the fact that only 112 Forms-45 bear the signatures of PTI polling agents and only 78 those of PML-N polling agents,” he said.

Curiously enough, he added, there were 4,028 signed forms on which no political party had been mentioned. “One wonders if these signatures are genuine, or have been put there by some ‘duty conscious’ polling staff in order to increase the number of signed Forms-45,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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Bill Gates felicitates PM Khan, appreciates anti-polio efforts over phone call

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, in a telephonic conversation on Wednesday, felicitated Prime Minister Imran Khan on assuming the top office and acknowledged his efforts to eradicate polio from the country.

In the phone call that lasted for 30 minutes, Gates — also the co-chairman of the Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation — assured the prime minister of his continued assistance in various sectors, ,Radio Pakistan reported,.

The duo also exchanged ideas to boost the IT industry in Pakistan, according to Babar Bin Atta — the focal person to PM Khan on polio eradication — who was with the PM at the time of his conversation with Gates.

Read: ,Health ministry reports two new polio cases,

The prime minister, in reciprocation, thanked Gates for his work in the social sector.

This is not the first time that Gates has acknowledged Khan’s anti-polio efforts. In a letter drafted in March 2015, he had ,commended, the PTI chairperson’s commitment to the eradication of the polio virus in Pakistan.

Later that month, Gates had called Khan to further ,appreciate, his efforts in trying to eliminate polio virus from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

At the start of this year, days after the Trump administration announced it was suspending security assistance to the country, the ,philanthropist had committed, that his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will increase financial aid for Pakistan.

In a letter to Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar, Gates had praised the then government’s commitment to the eradication of polio.

The Microsoft founder had also acknowledged the receipt of certain concept notes regarding innovations in the health sector, especially with regards to “strengthening mother and child care and reproductive health”.

Pakistan faces an uphill task in its battle to eradicate poliomyelitis despite a reduction in the instance of the disease this year, compared to last year.

,According to Babar Bin Atta,, focal person on polio to the prime minister, the number of cases is declining. “In 2014, we had 306 cases which came down to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017, but we are concerned about the circulation of the virus in Peshawar, which is the main obstacle in our way if we want to align ourselves with the World Health Organisation’s eradication initiative.”

Countrywide, 236 million children have so far been vaccinated this year and several measures have been taken to strengthen routine immunisation, provide safe water and improve sanitary conditions.

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