Posts Tagged ‘Mand’

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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Accountability court indicts Ahad Cheema, extends judicial remand by 14 days

An accountability court in Lahore on Thursday indicted former director general of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema in a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.

Accountability court judge Syed Najamul Hassan extended Cheema’s judicial remand for 14 days.

The bureau’s lawyer said Cheema had billions of rupees worth of assets beyond his known sources of income and added that the market value of his assets was close to Rs600 million.

NAB’s lawyer said that Cheema had kept assets under the names of his family members, including his wife Saima Ahad, mother Nusrat Afza, brother Ahmed Saood and sister Sadia Mansoor.

The court has summoned witnesses in the next hearing on Jan 30.

NAB had ,filed a reference against Cheema in October 2018, for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.

According to NAB, Cheema had made property worth billions of rupees in the name of his family members. It said the suspect and his family members owned over 300 kanals of agriculture land in Hafizabad, over 190 kanals in Lahore, a flat in Hill View, Islamabad, two plots in FIA Employees Cooperative Housing Society, Islamabad, two flats and plots in Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation, Islamabad, a 10-marla plot in Faisal Town, Islamabad, two five-marla plots in Faisal Residencia Islamabad and a three-kanal plot on Bedian Road, Lahore.

Prior to this in June 2018, NAB had filed a reference against ,Cheema and five others over their alleged role, in Ashiana Housing Scheme scam.

,Read more:A timeline of developments in the Ashiana housing ‘scam’,

In the Ashiana reference, Cheema was accused of causing a loss of Rs660m to the national exchequer. The project cost ballooned to Rs3.4bn while 61,000 people who had applied for plots in the project suffered, NAB had alleged.

The former LDA director general was ,arrested in February 2018 over charges of misusing his authority, and, with criminal intent, processing and awarding Ashiana scheme project contract worth Rs14bn to the Lahore Casa Developers, a joint venture firm that was ineligible for the same. The contract, in connivance with other suspects, was awarded in violation of rules.

NAB has also approved a reference against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and former principal secretary to the ex-prime minister Fawad Hasan Fawad in the Ashiyana Housing scam.

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Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US envoy

KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan on Wednesday said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.

Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.

On Tuesday, the Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.

The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.

The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.

Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”

Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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Govt to abolish advance tax on sale, purchase of shares

ISLAMABAD: The government has agreed to abolish 0.02 per cent advance tax on sale and purchase of shares in the upcoming mini-budget. It was a major demand of the stock market players.

The Ministry of Finance in its summary has suggested that Section 65C of the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) allows incentives for listing by companies through tax credits. This incentive can be further enhanced to encourage new listings.

Details available from the finance ministry regarding the mini-budget, which will be announced on Jan 23rd, show that advance tax of 0.02pc on sale/purchase of shares will be abolished.

It has been highlighted that rates of advance tax on sale and purchase of securities was doubled from 0.01pc to 0.02pc through Finance Act 2016.

The advance tax of 0.02pc on purchase and sale of securities in lieu of tax on the commission earned is considered on the higher side.

The PSX proposals in this regard have been recommended by the Federal Board of Revenue too.

The second demand of the stock market players in regard to allow carry forward of capital losses up to 3 years. The finance ministry has also recommended that amendments may be carried out in the ITO to allow carry forward of capital losses made on disposal of securities.

The third demand was rationalisation of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on equities in line with real estate. The government acknowledged that anomaly in tax rates imposed on disposal of securities and sale of immovable property was discouraging investments in the capital market.

A flat rate of 15pc CGT was introduced irrespective of holding period in the Finance Act 2017, while there is no tax on gain on disposal of immovable property if the holding period is three years or more.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the finance ministry said the mini-budget will be focused on ease of doing business, encourage savings and investments in stock market and real estate sectors. For finalising the matter and take stakeholders into confidence in this regard, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan chairman and Commissioner Securities Market Division will meet the stockbrokers on Thursday in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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Pakistan needs to dictate decisions on INGOs: Janjua

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua has said that the scope of activities for international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) has been defined in accordance with the nation’s requirements.

Speaking to foreign envoys on the issue of INGOs registration, she said “activities that are responsive to Pakistan’s national development priorities” had been identified.

The sectors in which INGOs are being encouraged to work are poverty alleviation, health, vocational education and training, science and technology, environmental protection, disaster management, sports and culture.

The government had started fresh registration of INGOs in 2015 after announcement of the registration policy. A total of 141 INGOs had applied for registration under the new policy, out of which applications of 74 were approved, while those of 41 were rejected.

Since the scope of activities was also restricted, some of the organizations, particularly those working on issues like democracy, governance, rule of law and security opted to close down.

The policy was criticised by donor countries as restrictive and non-transparent.

Defending the policy, Ms Janjua said the decisions on cancellation of registration and closure were in full accord with the standards of due process and that the right of appeal and opportunities to discuss mutual concerns were provided to the INGOs.

She recalled that 74 INGOs were still operational in the country.

The foreign secretary, however, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to a “mutually beneficial framework on INGOs, underpinned by rule of law, transparency and responsive to nationally determined development priorities”.

She further noted that the policy framework was “guided by Pakistan’s national context, circumstances, needs and priorities”.

It was agreed that the envoys of donor countries would remain engaged with the government for exploring options for addressing concerns of the INGO sector.

Donor countries have insisted that the new policy would affect Pakistan’s image as “a partner on human development”. They have, therefore, been demanding a “more cooperative and nuanced arrangement on INGOs”.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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Pakistan presses Afghan Taliban to meet US envoy in Islamabad

PESHAWAR: Pakistan is believed to be making serious efforts to arrange a meeting between the US special representative for Afghanistan and Afghan Taliban leaders in Islamabad to help break the deadlock and speed up the Afghan peace process, sources said.

Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said he had no knowledge of the meeting between US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan Taliban representatives but the sources said Pakistan had conveyed to the Taliban leadership its desire to convene a meeting in Islamabad this week to push forward the peace agenda.

The Taliban did not announce its agreement to sit down with Mr Khalilzad though sources said chances of talks between the two adversaries were high. Mr Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad was delayed and rescheduled to allow the Taliban leadership to consult each other and come up with a firm response, the sources added.

No knowledge of such meeting, says FO spokesperson

This comes in the backdrop of media reports about the arrest of a senior Taliban figure and his subsequent release and raids and arrests of some Taliban commanders to put pressure on the group to return to the negotiating table and also to get them to meet the Afghan government representatives.

This signals a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s policy long accused of protecting and facilitating the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan says it supports an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

The Taliban have so far refused to meet representatives of the Afghan government, dubbing them as puppets of foreign occupying powers.

Islamabad has taken Kabul into confidence about its efforts to expedite the peace process. President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Envoy Mohammad Omer Daudzai during his visit to Pakistan last week also seemed satisfied with the endeavours.

Efforts by Riyadh to hold an Afghan peace conference in Saudi Arabia fizzled out after the Taliban declined to attend it, describing the two-day International Conference of Ulema for Peace and Security in Afghanistan in July last year as “a meeting arranged with US orders”. The seven-point declaration issued at the end of the conference said suicide attacks targeting innocent people and intense killings among Muslims were all acts prohibited by Allah and His Messenger.

A subsequent meeting between the US Special Envoy and Taliban representatives in Qatar was also called off after Taliban demanded withdrawal of travel restrictions on their key leaders.

Pakistan had earlier arranged an ice-breaking meeting between representatives of the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government in Murree in July 2015, but things took a dramatic turn after Kabul accused Islamabad of trying to cover up the news about the death of the Taliban movement founder Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Since then the Afghan Taliban have been refusing to hold direct face-to-face talks with the Kabul government. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan’s renewed efforts and pressure tactics yield any positive results and prompt the Taliban to engage directly with Kabul.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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SC releases detailed order on removal of Bilawal, Murad’s names from ECL

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has finally released its order pertaining to the ,removal of the names, of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as well as Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL), but has referred the report and material collected by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Rs35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“But removing of the names will not prevent NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on [the] ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” says the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench headed by the chief justice that had taken up the fake accounts case.

The federal cabinet had been awaiting the detailed reasoning of the apex court order, and it is expected that when the issue is taken up again by the cabinet in its meeting on Thursday (today), the names may finally be removed from the ECL.

The SC order recalls how the JIT, which was represented by senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, ,had conceded frankly, that the material against these individuals may need re-examination so that the correct conclusions can be arrived at. These names may have been ,included in the list of 172 persons, whose names had been recommended to be placed on the ECL, without the careful examination of the material available on the record, and the ramifications of this, the order says.

Referring to the names of senior counsel Farooq H. Naek and his son, and that of the brother of Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan — names that are included in the JIT report regarding certain monetary transactions involving professional fees for services rendered — the order instructs NAB to re-examine these cases in the light of the material collected by the JIT. In case no cognisable offence is detected, the names of these individuals may be removed from the JIT and ECL lists. However, no adverse action is to be taken against them until NAB concludes its inquiry / investigation, the court order decrees.

Justice Ahsan explains that all members of the JIT will be associated with NAB for the purpose of assisting in any further probe, inquiry or investigation that NAB may consider necessary or appropriate.

Likewise, all cases that have not yet come to a conclusion, or in the JIT’s opinion require further investigation, will remain under the JIT’s jurisdiction, says the order. In this case, the JIT must continue its probe under the mandate granted by the Supreme Court, and complete it within a reasonable timeframe. Thereafter, the order says, all the evidence collected is to be transmitted to NAB, without the need for a further court order, so that the law can take its course.

“We are cognisant of the fact that during the course of its probe and investigation, the JIT has discovered that funds deposited in fake accounts and circulated through the same have been used for other unlawful activities which may not have strictly fallen within the parameters of the mandate granted by this court,” Justice Ahsan has said.

In conclusion, the order endorses all of the JIT’s actions in probing these matters and holds that it will be deemed that the original mandate of the JIT was within its scope.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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Amal’s death probe body seeks curbs on SMGs use by police

ISLAMABAD: A special committee constituted by the Supreme Court in the case involving ,death of 10-year-old Amal Umer, in Karachi has recommended that police personnel engaged in patrolling to control street crimes should not carry sub-machine guns (SMGs), rather pistols or handguns.

Read: ,How the system failed us,

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had formed the committee under the chairmanship of a retired superior court judge, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, and assigned it the task of identifying negligence on the part of police and private hospitals in dealing with emergency situations and suggest reforms after it had taken notice of the incident in which Amal died after being hit during an exchange of gunfire between police and robbers in Karachi.

Take a look: ,A crime unpunished,

In its report submitted to the court on Wednesday, the committee pointed out that Karachi had in recent past gone through a law and order crisis, which had resulted in the killing of many innocent citizens and members of law enforcement agencies. Though the situation had now improved considerably on the sectarian and ethnic fronts, the challenge posed by street crimes had grown serious and was resulting in the loss of human lives and valuables almost on a daily basis.

Personnel should be trained to use appropriate force in tricky situations, says its report

It appeared that police had not prepared for the transitory phase and were still in the mode of fighting terrorism, said the report.

The committee recommended that SMGs should be authorised for use only in sensitive areas of Karachi, including some parts of South Zone (Lyari) and West Zone, in proportion to the threats posed.

The squads deputed to protect police officers, judges and ministers should carry only one SMG per vehicle and the remaining policemen should be armed with pistols, said the report. There is a specialised unit, namely the Rapid Response Force, which should be available and duty-bound for dealing with high-risk situations, which involve the use of heavy arms and ammunition.

The committee said that police personnel lacked training, adding that Karachi was highly urbanised and in the event of a police encounter a highly trained force was required. But it has been observed that police officers do not take refresher courses and/or conduct firing practice regularly.

As a result, they end up causing collateral damage, in the shape of loss of lives of innocent citizens. Therefore, there must be a mandatory requirement of refresher courses on a regular basis (at least after every six months). The committee pointed out that training with regard to urban policing was also required. The personnel should be able to assess the appropriate amount of force that should be used in a situation. The culture of carrying out encounters should be discouraged.

The personnel should also be trained to use measures other than using arms and ammunition wherever possible. Training to take calculated and proportionate decisions was pertinent, especially in urban policing, said the committee’s report.

The committee noted that police stations were still maintaining a manual system for recording arms and ammunition, which could be manipulated in case of a serious incident. Therefore, the inventories of arms and ammunition at the headquarters and police stations should be computerised and biometric machines should be installed to make the officials accountable.

The IBS facility should be used to identify the weapons and ammunition that are given to the personnel. In this way the weapon that is issued could be easily traced whenever it is fired or goes missing.

Weapon recognition should be coordinated with the biometrics to keep a complete check on who the weapon was allotted to, how much ammunition was used, etc.

The committee also highlighted the poor management of the operational and investigation branches of police. The additional SHO concerned was involved in misappropriation of recovered amount from the culprits. The official who had prepared the recovery memo was guilty of corruption and should be awarded severe punishment, it said.

The investigation officers failed to arrest the co-accused for a very long time, even though he could have easily been traced out earlier. The investigation branch required refresher courses and better supervision of senior officers in such cases.

A comprehensive strategy was required to implement the Smart City Project in Karachi. Unfortunately for a city of 22 million people, only 2,300 cameras were operational in the city and police had to rely on private CCTV footages, said the committee. The cameras available often produced footage of poor quality.

It was high time the project was implemented in the light of existing Supreme Court orders, said the committee. “It is recommended that the legislature enact (if need be) and/or the Sindh government enforces a mandatory requirement wherein all commercial entities have to install cameras on all outside corners of their shops, establishment, building, etc, at their cost of installation, running and maintenance,” read its report.

Cameras in residential areas should be the responsibility of the Sindh government and lack of this facility should attract penal provisions such as a fine on the owner/owners, the committee added.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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NA must debate withdrawal of Rs3m from Musharraf’s accounts: PML-N

ISLAMABAD: The main opposition party in the National Assembly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Wednesday submitted six adjournment motions seeking debate on different issues, including ,cash withdrawal from former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s frozen bank accounts, and increase in prices of medicines.

One of the adjournment motions, a copy of which is available with Dawn, stated that recent reports of cash withdrawal from the former military ruler Gen Musharraf’s frozen bank accounts had raised serious doubts over the ongoing impartial accountability mantra of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.

“This is a clear evidence of incompetence and politicisation of the government departments by incumbent rulers, and is a serious failure of the government in upholding court orders. It is requested to adjourn proceedings of the National Assembly and discuss the issue,” the motion stated.

Adjournment motions tabled in the house seeking discussion on drug price hike, Mohmand dam contract, power crisis

According to media reports, around Rs3 million had been withdrawn from the frozen bank accounts of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, said that withdrawal of the money from the bank accounts showed that orders of the Supreme Court had been ignored.

The adjournment motion, regarding the increase in prices of medicines by nine to 15 per cent, stated that the recent increase in prices of medicines, including essential and life-saving drugs, had badly affected all segments of society.

“This unprecedented increase in prices of medicines has a serious impact on the welfare of the common man and the issue is clear evidence of mismanagement and incompetence of the government,” he said.

Through other adjournment motions, the PML-N has sought debate on the power crisis, award of contract for the Mohmand dam, progress in projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and increase in debt.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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Shah Mahmood regrets ‘haste’ in placing names on ECL in fake accounts case

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday regretted that the government had shown haste in placing the names of 172 people — who were named in an investigation report in a case pertaining to fake accounts — on the Exit Control List (ECL).

“We showed haste in placing the names on the ECL,” the foreign minister said. “The government does not want to do anything in a rush now.”

Qureshi was responding to criticism from the PPP over the “government’s failure” to act upon the Supreme Court’s directives to remove the names of the people from the ECL. During today’s National Assembly sitting, the PPP protested over the delay by the government to take the names off ECL despite a Supreme Court order in this regard.

On the recommendations of the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the case, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on December 27 last year decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

Last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had ,grilled the state prosecutor, over why the government had decided to place names of Bilawal and Sindh CM on the no-fly list based on JIT’s recommendation, ordering the federal cabinet ,to reconsider its “hasty decision”,.

“How long will this government commit contempt of court?” asked PPP leader Shazia Marri in today’s session.

Attempting to placate the opposition party, Qureshi said that the matter was ,discussed in a federal cabinet meeting, and the government had decided to wait until the detailed verdict is released. According to Qureshi, the top court had ordered the government to consider the removal of travel ban, not to take the names off the list immediately.

“The government has not refused to remove the names from the ECL; it has only sought time,” he insisted.

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar pointed out that Chief Justice Nisar — who is heading the bench hearing the suo motu case regarding a delay into a 2015 probe into money laundering via fake bank accounts — was retiring on Jan 17, questioning if the government was waiting for him to leave office.

The foreign minister assured the lawmaker that the government “has great respect for the chief justice and his orders will be implemented even after his retirement”.

PPP leaders accused the government of “using the ECL as a tool for political victimisation”.

“Names of PTI members are removed from the ECL within 24 hours,” Qamar claimed, adding that Liaquat Jatoi, a PTI leader, was also placed on the no-fly list; however, he was travelling with “impunity”.

Qamar and Yousuf Talpur, another PPP MNA, demanded that the attorney general be summoned to the parliament to give his view on the matter.

Qureshi urged the opposition to “show patience” on the matter.

PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also backed PPP, saying that if the PML-N believed the government’s motive behind placing Bilawal’s name on the ECL was to serve democracy, it would have supported the move.

“Bilawal has never been in the government,” the former premier pointed out. “The government should have removed his name from the ECL to show generosity, without waiting for written orders.”

‘No justification for extrajudicial killings’

Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar raised the issue of enforced disappearances in the assembly, saying that a young man, who had allegedly been picked up from North Waziristan, was found dead.

“Does the state have the power to provide justice to the family of the murdered man?” he asked.

He regretted that former Malir SSP Rao Anwar — accused of killing four innocent men in a fake encounter — had been “set free” by the court.

Mohsin also demanded to know if the joint investigation team, formed to probe police officer Tahir Dawar’s brutal murder in November last year, had made any progress.

He seconded Abbasi’s demand that Bilawal’s name be removed from the ECL, adding that a ‘black list’ was also maintained which had no legal status.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that the government was working on the issue of enforced disappearances and hoped that the opposition will support the legislation in this regard.

She said Shehryar Afridi, the state minister for interior, should brief the parliament on the developments in Tahir Dawar’s murder investigation, adding: “We also want to know about [the progress in investigation].”

“Government is trying to rectify the issue of maintaining a black list as there is no logic behind it, the minister said.

She agreed that Rao Anwar should be punished for his crimes. “The government should look into this matter; at how he [Anwar] is enjoying privileges,” she stated.

After his arrest in the ,Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case,, the former SSP was confined for a few months to his home, declared a sub-jail, but subsequently granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in July last year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Missing persons’ relatives suspend protest after 10 years following Balochistan govt assurances

In a major development, the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) on Wednesday announced it has temporarily ended its protest camp after nearly 10 years following assurances from the Balochistan government regarding the ,recovery of missing persons hailing from the province,.

The protest camp set up outside the Quetta Press Club has been suspended after 3,464 days for a period of two months on the assurance of Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani and his cabinet members, VBMP chairman Nasrullah Baloch told a news conference in the provincial capital today.

“We have taken the issue of missing persons seriously and are committed to sort this problem out,” Alyani said at the press conference held at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Langove, VBMP vice chairman Mama Qadeer and others were also present on the occasion.

Editorial: ,Little progress on missing persons,

The chief minister said they had “sought two months” time from the protesters, and reiterated his government’s sincerity to resolve the issue of missing persons.

He claimed that some political parties had made the missing persons issue a part of their political agenda. “We will speak to all the stakeholders to ensure the safe recovery of missing persons,” he promised.

VBMP chairman Baloch revealed that more than 250 missing persons have returned to their homes since the new government took office in Balochistan last year.

Mama Qadeer said 11 missing persons had recently returned home in Balochistan after VBMP established contact with the provincial government. Qadeer cautioned, however, that the protest camp would be resumed if the government failed to recover the missing persons as promised.

Read: ,Enforced disappearance a heinous offence: Islamabad High Court,

He also demanded that the issue of recovery of mutilated bodies in the province “must end once and for all”.

The VBMP had set up its protest and hunger strike camp in 2009 in the aftermath of unrest in Balochistan to mount pressure on the authorities to ensure the safe recovery of missing Baloch political workers.

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Shah Mahmood regrets ‘haste’ on part of govt in placing names on ECL in fake accounts case

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday regretted that the government had shown haste in placing the names of 172 people — who were named in an investigation report in a case pertaining to fake accounts — on the Exit Control List (ECL).

“We showed haste in placing the names on the ECL,” the foreign minister said. “The government does not want to do anything in a rush now.”

Qureshi was responding to criticism from the PPP over the “government’s failure” to act upon the Supreme Court’s directives to remove the names of the people from the ECL. During today’s National Assembly sitting, the PPP protested over the delay by the government to take the names off ECL despite a Supreme Court order in this regard.

On the recommendations of the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the case, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on December 27 last year decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

Last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had ,grilled the state prosecutor, over why the government had decided to place names of Bilawal and Sindh CM on the no-fly list based on JIT’s recommendation, ordering the federal cabinet ,to reconsider its “hasty decision”,.

“How long will this government commit contempt of court?” asked PPP leader Shazia Marri in today’s session.

Attempting to placate the opposition party, Qureshi said that the matter was ,discussed in a federal cabinet meeting, and the government had decided to wait until the detailed verdict is released. According to Qureshi, the top court had ordered the government to consider the removal of travel ban, not to take the names off the list immediately.

“The government has not refused to remove the names from the ECL; it has only sought time,” he insisted.

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar pointed out that Chief Justice Nisar — who is heading the bench hearing the suo motu case regarding a delay into a 2015 probe into money laundering via fake bank accounts — was retiring on Jan 17, questioning if the government was waiting for him to leave office.

The foreign minister assured the lawmaker that the government “has great respect for the chief justice and his orders will be implemented even after his retirement”.

PPP leaders accused the government of “using the ECL as a tool for political victimisation”.

“Names of PTI members are removed from the ECL within 24 hours,” Qamar claimed, adding that Liaquat Jatoi, a PTI leader, was also placed on the no-fly list; however, he was travelling with “impunity”.

Qamar and Yousuf Talpur, another PPP MNA, demanded that the attorney general be summoned to the parliament to give his view on the matter.

Qureshi urged the opposition to “show patience” on the matter.

PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also backed PPP, saying that if the PML-N believed the government’s motive behind placing Bilawal’s name on the ECL was to serve democracy, it would have supported the move.

“Bilawal has never been in the government,” the former premier pointed out. “The government should have removed his name from the ECL to show generosity, without waiting for written orders.”

‘No justification for extrajudicial killings’

Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar raised the issue of enforced disappearances in the assembly, saying that a young man, who had allegedly been picked up from North Waziristan, was found dead.

“Does the state have the power to provide justice to the family of the murdered man?” he asked.

He regretted that former Malir SSP Rao Anwar — accused of killing four innocent men in a fake encounter — had been “set free” by the court.

Mohsin also demanded to know if the joint investigation team, formed to probe police officer Tahir Dawar’s brutal murder in November last year, had made any progress.

He seconded Abbasi’s demand that Bilawal’s name be removed from the ECL, adding that a ‘black list’ was also maintained which had no legal status.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that the government was working on the issue of enforced disappearances and hoped that the opposition will support the legislation in this regard.

She said Shehryar Afridi, the state minister for interior, should brief the parliament on the developments in Tahir Dawar’s murder investigation, adding: “We also want to know about [the progress in investigation].”

“Government is trying to rectify the issue of maintaining a black list as there is no logic behind it, the minister said.

She agreed that Rao Anwar should be punished for his crimes. “The government should look into this matter; at how he [Anwar] is enjoying privileges,” she stated.

After his arrest in the ,Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case,, the former SSP was confined for a few months to his home, declared a sub-jail, but subsequently granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in July last year.

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Judges waiting to dispense justice but lawyers have stopped working: Justice Khosa

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will take oath as the next CJP on Friday. — File

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will take oath as the next CJP on Friday. — File

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa — who will take oath as the ,next chief justice of Pakistan, on Friday — while hearing a case regarding lawyers’ strikes observed that judges are waiting to dispense justice but lawyers have “stopped working”.

District judiciary lawyers in Islamabad ,have been on strike, since December 2018 over the issue of rotation of judges of the sessions court. They are demanding rotation i.e. transfer of the judges of the lower courts to the subordinate judiciary of four provincial high courts and posting of judges from these high courts to Islamabad on deputation.

The government has proposed that instead of posting judges to other provinces, they may be transferred to federal government departments and ministries in Islamabad. But the Islamabad Bar Association president deems the proposal unacceptable since a well-connected judge may rejoin the district judiciary any time after his posting in any government department. He said that the lawyers would continue their strike till their demand for rotation of judges was accepted.

Justice Khosa while hearing the case on Wednesday remarked: “It is the lawyers that have stopped working; judges [in the district sessions courts of Islamabad] are sitting there waiting for people to come to them so that they dispense justice.”

The to-be top judge said he had read in a newspaper that the strike takes place every Tuesday and Friday. “Two other days are already off,” he noted.

Justice Khosa subsequently referred the matter to the Islamabad High Court.

According to ,recent data, issued by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP), there is a backlog of 38,291 cases and, on average, over 1,000 cases are added to this pendency every month.

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Unregistered cellphones allowed to function for 10 more days

ISLAMABAD: Implementa­tion of the mobile registration system has been postponed till Jan 25 on the directive of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Techno­logy issued to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Tuesday.

“This system is too confusing for the literate to wrap their heads around. We cannot imagine how the illiterate will understand it,” said Senator Rubina Khalid, chairperson of the parliamentary committee that met here for a briefing on the Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).

The DIRBS launched by the PTA was scheduled to ,come into effect from Jan 15,. After the implementation of the system all unregistered mobile phones will become unusable.

Senate committee expresses shock over PTA’s move to monitor international calls

The Senate committee believed that the implementation of the system would only add to the problems of people coming from abroad. “Passengers cannot afford to be delayed at our unfriendly airports and forced to stand in queues just to register their phones,” said Senator Khalid, while directing the PTA to extend the period to register phones from 30 to 60 days for people coming to Pakistan from abroad.

The PTA had launched the DIRBS mechanism in May last year to counter the spread of substandard phones being smuggled into the country. The new registration system was developed using indigenous technology with the goal to curtail the sale and use of counterfeit, substandard mobile phones.

While the Senate committee had directed the PTA in October as well to postpone the implementation of the phone registration system, the authority announced that it would still go ahead with the mobile registration system from Dec 1.

The Senate committee members on Tuesday took strong notice of the matter and asked why the PTA had implemented DIRBS despite its directive to postpone it until the members fully understood its functioning.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Mian Mohammad Ateeq Shaikh, who had warned in previous meetings that he would ask the Supreme Court to take suo motu action on the issue if the registration deadline was not extended, proposed to the committee to hold relevant officials accountable for going ahead with the implementation plan despite Senate committee’s directive.

Senator Shaikh believed that the system favoured the telecom industry more than consumers.

While PTA Chairman Mohammad Naveed said that the mobile registration system would be fully functional after Jan 15, the chairperson of the Senate committee insisted that its implementation be postponed for another 10 days to ensure that consumers did not have to suffer and mechanism was made simple.

Monitoring mechanism

The parliamentary committee also expressed displeasure over the grant of permission by the PTA to mobile phone operators for installation of a mechanism to monitor international calls.

“This news has shocked us that international calls will be monitored. Who will monitor the calls and who will have access to such data is a matter of concern and possible threat to national security,” said Senator Khalid.

While a representative from the cellular phone industry informed the committee that the new monitoring system was being placed under a licence agreement signed with the PTA to check incoming international calls through illegal channels, also known as grey traffic, the senators directed the PTA to look into the matter and demanded a separate briefing on the issue.

PTA Chairman Naveed informed the Senate committee that the security agencies were on board and assessing the feasibility of the new monitoring mechanism.

Pension

The IT ministry informed the Senate committee that it could not pay the colossal Rs39 billion pension to 40,000 retired employees of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL) upfront. There are roughly 5,000 widows among the pensioners. “We are moving in the right direction by trying to figure out a way to pay the pensioners,” said IT Secretary Maroof Afzal while briefing the Senate standing committee.

The federal IT minister believed that the 20 per cent increase in pensions announced by the then PPP government eight years ago had been passed on to the new government. “Nonetheless, we have written to the prime minister to look into the matter on compassionate grounds,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019

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Fight against India joins two Kashmir teens in life and death

On a hot day in August, members of a Kashmiri youth soccer team watched their 16-year-old captain, Saqib Bilal Sheikh, and goalkeeper Mudassir Rashid Parray, two years his junior, walk off the field toward a man on a motorcycle. The two teenagers were not seen again until months later, when they were returned to their hometown in body bags.

Dying with his teammate in an 18-hour firefight in December, Mudassir became the youngest fighter slain fighting Indian troops in a three-decade uprising in Kashmir. The Kashmiri struggle is drawing greater numbers of teenage boys and young men as New Delhi has increased its suppression of protest against Indian rule in the Himalayan region.

Maimoona Rashid holds the only photograph she has of her brother Mudassir Rashid Parray in Hajin village, north of Srinagar. ? AP

Maimoona Rashid holds the only photograph she has of her brother Mudassir Rashid Parray in Hajin village, north of Srinagar. ? AP

Anti-India unrest has been on the rise since a charismatic Kashmiri leader was killed in a 2016 gunbattle with Indian troops in southern Kashmir. Police say since then, hundreds of young Kashmiris have joined groups of fighters, leading to a surge in attacks on Indian troops and pro-India Kashmiri politicians in the region, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Indian authorities have responded by stepping up operations against Kashmiri fighters and cracking down on civilian protests, often responding to stone-pelting with live bullets.

“Young people feel frustrated and pushed to the wall,” said Khurram Parvez, a programme coordinator for the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

Saqib and Mudassir came from different economic backgrounds, united by their passion for soccer and their hometown, Hajin, which since the 1990s has seen brutal fighting between anti-India fighters and pro-India groups armed and funded by the Indian military.

Mehbooba shows a picture of her son Saqib Bilal Sheikh on a mobile phone as father Bilal Ahmed Shiekh, looks on while talking to the Associated Press in Hajin village, north of Srinagar.

Mehbooba shows a picture of her son Saqib Bilal Sheikh on a mobile phone as father Bilal Ahmed Shiekh, looks on while talking to the Associated Press in Hajin village, north of Srinagar.

The two boys watched as the peaceful summertime street marches that began in Kashmir in 2008 turned into battlegrounds.

Their parents had generally distanced themselves from the civilian uprising against India. But both families described their sons as martyrs, speaking to a common resentment of India in Kashmir as a violent occupying force.

In this Dec 26, 2018 photo, Ghulam Mohiuddin wipes his tears as he talks to the Associated Press about his grandson Saqib Bilal Sheikh in Hajin village.

In this Dec 26, 2018 photo, Ghulam Mohiuddin wipes his tears as he talks to the Associated Press about his grandson Saqib Bilal Sheikh in Hajin village.

Saqib, who was famous among his friends for appearing as an extra in the Bollywood film “Haider,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” set in Kashmir, grew up in a wealthy farming family, excelled at school and aspired to become an engineer.

From their two-story home in Hajin, Saqib’s elder brother, Aqib Bilal, played a video on his phone of his brother using an iron to straighten his thick, black hair. He flipped through one of his brother’s notebooks: mathematics exercises, physics notes and poetry.

In this Dec 26, 2018, photo, books belonging to Kashmiri boy Saqib Bilal Sheikh are stacked inside his room in Hajin village, north of Srinagar. — AP

In this Dec 26, 2018, photo, books belonging to Kashmiri boy Saqib Bilal Sheikh are stacked inside his room in Hajin village, north of Srinagar. — AP

One couplet, written in Urdu, read, “Everyone should participate in the freedom struggle; everyone’s dream is freedom but no one wants to fight and die for it!”

Unlike Saqib, Mudassir was skinny, soft-spoken and shy, and struggled with his studies.

He sometimes took menial jobs to help his sickly parents, younger sister and mentally disabled elder brother, his parents said from their modest home, some 500 metres away from the Bilals.

“At such a tender age, he was already our family’s backbone,” Mudassir’s father, Abdul Rashid Parray, said as he shuffled kangri, a traditional earthenware firepot filled with embers used in Kashmir to keep warm in the harsh winter months.

In this Dec 26, 2018 photo, Fareeda Rasheed, mother of Kashmiri boy Mudassir Rashid Parray grieves inside her house in Hajin village. — AP

In this Dec 26, 2018 photo, Fareeda Rasheed, mother of Kashmiri boy Mudassir Rashid Parray grieves inside her house in Hajin village. — AP

“Police snatched my son from us,” Mudassir’s mother, Fareeda Begum, shouted in tears, surrounded by consoling women.

“He was fated to die on that day,” Parray said in response. “Thank God he died as a martyr.”

Mudassir’s cousin Ahmed, who gave only his middle name, fearing reprisal from the authorities, said police had detained and tortured Mudassir for over two weeks in 2017, listing him as an “over-ground worker,” a term Indian forces use to describe people who actively support the uprising.

Police denied detaining Mudassir, saying they only brought him into the station to counsel him as part of what police call a de-radicalisation campaign.

“We called Mudassir to dissuade him from participating in protests and stone-pelting,” said the area’s police chief, Sheikh Zulfkar Azad. “We counseled his father as well. But Mudassir had already been too radicalised.”

Conflict observers say last year’s death toll was the highest since 2009, including at least 260 Kashmiri fighters, 160 civilians and 150 Indian forces.

The United Nations has called for an independent international investigation into reports of rape, torture and extrajudicial killings in Kashmir. In a June report, the UN particularly criticised Indian troops for firing shotgun pellets at protesters, blinding and injuring hundreds of people, including children.

India’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “fallacious.”

Indian-occupied Kashmir has seen several uprisings, including the ongoing armed movement launched in 1989 to demand independence or a merger with Pakistan. Since then, about 70,000 people mainly civilians and Kashmiri fighters as well as Indian soldiers and police have been killed.

The conflict has intensified since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 amid rising attacks by Hindu hard-liners against minorities, further deepening frustration with New Delhi’s occupation of Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party-led government has toughened its stance against both Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists with policies that experts say are intended to project the BJP as strong and uncompromising.

“This all becomes perversely useful for the BJP in the run-up to elections” due this year, said Paul Staniland, a political science professor focused on South Asia at the University of Chicago.

In this Dec 26, 2018 photo, a Kashmiri man along with his daughter drives past a graffiti on the house of Mudassir Rashid Parray, referring to him as a martyr, in Hajin village, north of Srinagar.

In this Dec 26, 2018 photo, a Kashmiri man along with his daughter drives past a graffiti on the house of Mudassir Rashid Parray, referring to him as a martyr, in Hajin village, north of Srinagar.

Amid mounting public defiance against India’s occupation of Kashmir including publicly mourning dead fighters as martyrs, flouting curfews, producing resistance art and engaging in social media activism some former federal ministers and Hindu nationalists have questioned Modi’s Kashmir policy.

India is holding Kashmir “only by dint of the fact that we have our armed forces there,” India’s former finance and foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said during a recent panel discussion in New Delhi.

“Unfortunately, Kashmiri body bags and anti-Pakistan rhetoric sells well in India for gaining votes,” said Parvez, the human rights activist. “That’s exactly what Modi’s party is doing.”

Modi’s policies have also led to strengthening the resolve of those fighting for an end to India’s rule in Kashmir.

“How can any Kashmiri ever back India?” said Ali Mohammed, one of the Parrays’ neighbours.

In this Dec 26, 2018, photo, Bazila Bilal shows the trophies and medals of her brother Saqib Bilal Sheikh inside her home in Hajin village. — AP

In this Dec 26, 2018, photo, Bazila Bilal shows the trophies and medals of her brother Saqib Bilal Sheikh inside her home in Hajin village. — AP

“Supporting India is like supporting soldiers killing and blinding children and destroying our homes. Supporting India is just inhumane.”

On the evening of Dec 8, Indian troops surrounded a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Srinagar, and cornered Mudassir, Saqib and a Kashmiri commander, leading to a fierce gunfight. As the battle raged, residents tried to march to the site, hurling stones at the troops.

Troops destroyed at least seven homes in the fighting, blasting them with explosives and shells. By the end of the night-long clash, the boys and the Kashmiri commander were dead.

One bitterly cold December day, Saqib’s maternal Uncle Asim Aijaz visited a cemetery in Hajin reserved for martyrs, where over three dozen Kashmiri fighters and civilians killed in the armed conflict in the area are buried, to pray and light incense at the two boys’ common grave.

“This occupation must die, not our young kids,” he said.

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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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