Posts Tagged ‘Peshawar’

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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Five-year revival plan for PIA by March, promises CEO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Internat­ional Airlines (PIA) will submit a five-year ‘Strategic Business Plan 2019-2023’ to the government by March.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik said the plan, currently being developed, consists of cost-cutting and revenue generation through detailed analysis of the market, right sizing operations, work centre, flights and routes for the revival of the national carrier.

PIA’s financial restructuring will be carried out through government support and at the same time the current fleet will be reviewed and purchase of new aircrafts will be decided, he said.

Explaining PIA’s financial health, he said the current operational losses are at Rs3 billion per month but this bleeding would be successfully plugged. The accumulated losses have risen to Rs431.1bn, while loans/borrowings have touched Rs247.7bn.

The government will announce a new aviation policy in February to boost PIA’s business, he said. Prime Minister Imran Khan has assigned the task of drafting a new aviation policy to Privatisation Minister Mohammad Mian Soomro and the Secretary Aviation.

The Open Skies policy of the previous governments brought losses to the national carrier, Mr Malik said. The government has already decided in principle to end the open skies policy.

“PIA’s 550 weekly international flights were brought down to 101 flights. Foreign carriers took away the business from 101 flights per week to 555 flights per week. These airlines are supported by their respective governments, particularly the Gulf carriers which get fuel subsidy whereas PIA does not get any subsidy. How can PIA compete with other airlines in the market,” he questioned.

He claimed to have taken “bold steps” for cost cutting. Duration of flights to Europe will now be reduced by an hour as a result of flying over the territories of Iran and Turkmenistan. Previously, all Europe-bound PIA flights avoided flying over these two countries just to avoid payment of fee to the civil aviation agencies of Iran and Turkmenistan, resulting in extra consumption of fuel. However, the matter has been resolved with the intervention of Army and PAF chiefs, he said.

On route economics, Mr Malik said PIA is under compulsion to operate flights to Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Saidu Sharif routes whether or not these routes make a profit. “The annual loss on operating flights on socio-economic routes amounts to Rs452 million,” he said.

Sharing details, Mr Malik said that in addition to the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, there are another 23 properties owned by PIA in Tashkent, Tehran, New Delhi, Bombay, New York, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

“These properties have been abandoned and virtually forgotten,” he said. “Assistance of the Foreign Office has been sought to engage ambassadors in these cities to evaluate these properties. Either these properties would be disposed off or will continue as source of income,” the CEO added.

At the press conference, the CEO said that flights on seven international routes have been stopped since these were costing Rs500m to the airline. “PIA had been facing losses on these routes for a long period,” he said. Citing the example of Islamabad-Beij­ing-Tokyo-Beijing-Islamabad route, he said an aircraft would be blocked for five days, with resting of crew members for equal number of days. Moreover, on the Tokyo-Beijing flight, PIA was allowed to pick only 80 passengers on a 350-seat aircraft, he added.

As part of cost-saving operations, PIA has now introduced five new international routes including Islamabad-Doha-Isla­mabad, Karachi-Jeddah-Karachi, Multan-Muscat-Multan, Sialkot-Sharjah-Sialkot, Peshawar-Al Ain-Peshawar and Lahore-Bang­kok-Kuala Lumpur-Karachi.

“In these routes, PIA is getting 95pc seat occupancy. Aircraft from loss-making routes have been shifted to profitable ones.”

On the occasion, the privatisation minister announced that PIA will start Peshawar-Kuala Lumpur flights from April.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019

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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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‘Electric atmosphere’: Duminy, Sammy hype up PSL’s Pakistan-leg to AB de Villiers

South African ace AB de Villiers’ decision to travel to Pakistan for the home-leg of the Pakistan Super League 2019 has earned him plaudits from his former Proteas teammates and others.

De Villiers, the top pick of last year’s draft, on Monday ,announced, that he will be visiting Pakistan in March as part of the Lahore Qalandars roster to play PSL matches at the Gaddafi Stadium.

The hard-hitting African’s decision has delighted his erstwhile national teammate and PSL 2019 champion JP Duminy, who represented Islamabad United last year but will miss the tournament’s next edition due to an injury.

“I am delighted that AB has decided to play Lahore Qalandars’ back-to-back matches at the Gaddafi Stadium on 9 and 10 March. I am sure when he takes the field, he will be amazed to see the electric atmosphere, passion and excitement in the crowds,” Duminy is ,quoted as saying, by

“The March visit will also allow AB to sense the status and respect he commands in this part of the world, as well as the impact he has made on Pakistan cricket. These people love cricket and have tremendous respect for high-performing cricketers like AB.

“The HBL PSL is a tournament which is growing fast, and with its successful staging in Pakistan, prospects of international cricket returning to the country have also brightened.

“I am sure when AB will look back at his glittering and marvellous career, he will say with pride and satisfaction that he also played a part in the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.”

Fans will line-up in huge numbers to see AB play: Sammy

West Indies star and Peshawar Zalmi captain Darren Sammy, arguably the most popular of PSL’s foreign imports, recalled his experience of playing in Pakistan for De Villiers’ benefit.

“AB has entertained the world through his exploits,” he said. “I am glad that he has decided to show his skills in Lahore, which I am sure will be hugely appreciated by the courteous and supportive Pakistan cricket fans.

“De Villiers is a champion cricketer and I am excited for the players who will get to experience playing in Lahore with him and for the thousands of crazy Pakistan cricket fans who, I am sure, will line-up in huge numbers to see AB play.

“I played in Lahore and Karachi in 2017 and 2018 and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The excitement and enthusiasm I saw in Lahore and Karachi was second to none and it just drives home the fact that this game is what it is because of these lovely fans.

“Sadly, I will not get a chance to play against AB in Lahore but I will be watching the match on the television and I am sure we will get to see some great cricket.”

AB playing means a lot to Pakistan fans: Jordan

England fast bowler Chris Jordan, who will again represent Peshawar Zalmi, also lauded De Villiers’ decision, saying: “I am glad AB de Villiers was able to make this decision of touring Pakistan.

“The love and appreciation that we received when we played in Lahore and Karachi was beyond amazing. Pakistani fans just love their cricket and to be able to experience that is something I cherish till date and look forward to this year as well. I am sure AB will have a very similar experience.

“When you play in Pakistan, it just puts into perspective what an entire generation of their fans has missed out on and, seeing how the fans are reacting to this news, clearly it means a lot to them that AB will be playing in front of them. AB de Villiers is a great addition to this group of international cricketers who want to see international cricket return to Pakistan.”

De Villiers’ Lahore Qalandars will be in action on the opening day of PSL 2019 when they take on reigning champions Islamabad United in Dubai. The PSL 2019 starts on Feb 14 and ends in Karachi on March 17.

The 2019 edition of the PCB’s flagship product will see eight of its matches played in Pakistan – three in Lahore and five in Karachi.

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Tickets for PSL matches in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi available online

Tickets for the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2019 matches in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are now available online on ,,, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) official website for the tournament announced on Tuesday.

“Details about online Dubai and Pakistan leg tickets will be announced soon while box office ticket sales information for all five HBL PSL venues — Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Lahore and Karachi — will also be shared in due course,” read the announcement.

Sharjah will be the centre stage for the HBL PSL matches for the fourth successive year, since the inception of the league in 2016. The emirate will host a total of eight games, said the statement.

The fourth edition begins in Dubai on Feb 14 when defending champions Islamabad United take on Lahore Qalandars.

The first match in Sharjah will be played at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday, Feb 20, between Quetta Gladiators and Multan Sultans at 9pm (PST). Sharjah crowd favourite Peshawar Zalmi will take on Karachi Kings on Thursday, Feb 21, at the same time followed by a double-header on Friday, Feb, 22.

The league is coming to Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Stadium for the first time with a total of four matches scheduled at the venue on March 4 and 5.

Five matches ,will be played at Karachi’s National Stadium,, including the March 17 final, while Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium will play host to three matches as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) continues to increase the number of matches in the country with every edition. Lahore hosted the final in the second edition of the league before hosting two matches last season when Karachi hosted the final.

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CJP’s order termed void days before his retirement

ISLAMABAD: Another judge of the Supreme Court has declared the order of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who is going to doff his robes on January 17, about reconstituting a bench of the Peshawar registry in the middle of a hearing void and non-est.

In the absence of any recusal from any member of the bench, the reconstitution of a smaller bench by removing a judge (Justice Qazi Faez Isa), who had questioned the exercise of suo motu powers, would amount to stifling the independent view of the judge that could shake the foundations of a free and impartial justice system, observed Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in a six-page strongly worded order.

He said his order be read into other cases fixed before the three-member bench on that day and which were again fixed before the reconstituted two-member bench. “All those cases are to be put up for rehearing before an appropriate bench again to be constituted by the chief justice and record of the court must reflect the correct status of these cases,” the order stated.

Judge’s removal from SC bench after he questioned legality of suo motu proceedings amounts to shaking the foundation of impartial justice system, observes Justice Mansoor Ali Shah

Justice Shah agreed with the viewpoint ,expressed by Justice Isa, who had raised objection to the reconstituting of the smaller bench whilst hearing the case in March 2018. The bench comprising Justice Isa, Justice Shah and CJP Nisar was reconstituted after Justice Isa questioned the legality of the proceedings related to hospital waste. Justice Isa was excluded from the reconstituted bench that comprised Justice Shah and the CJP.

In a separate note, Justice Isa had objected to the exercise of Article 184(3) of the Constitution by holding that before exercising its original jurisdiction, the SC must satisfy itself that the jurisdiction it is assuming accords with the Constitution. Justice Isa had also held that he was constrained to write this, since not doing so would weigh heavily on his conscience and he would be abdicating his responsibility as a judge.

Now Justice Shah in a separate note admitted that his sitting on the reconstituted two-member bench was a mistake and having realised that after examining the legal position, he did not sign the orders passed by the reconstituted bench but as a junior member of the bench, awaited for the CJP to pass an appropriate order in response to the reaction of Justice Isa. He waited for the appropriate order by the CJP to respond to the note of Justice Isa by explaining the reasons of the reconstitution of the smaller bench on that day, Justice Shah observed. But no such order was passed till date and the case had been incorrectly reflected in the bench disposal statement as an adjourned case, Justice Shah recalled.

“The chief justice is retiring on Jan 17, therefore, I feel constitutionally obligated, as a member of the bench, to express my views regarding the order of brother [Justice Isa] and to pass my order in this case for May 19, 2018 when it came up for hearing before the bench.”

In his opinion, Justice Shah explained, a bench once constituted and is seized of a matter on the judicial side, cannot be reconstituted by the chief justice in exercise of his administrative powers, unless a member of the bench withdrew himself from the bench.

Thus the reconstitution of the bench on that day was unwarranted and unprecedented and undermined the integrity of the judicial system, wrote Justice Shah.

In the absence of a recusal by a member of the bench, Justice Shah observed, any amount of disagreement amongst members of the bench on an issue before them, could not form a valid ground for reconstitution of the bench. And any reconstitution of the bench on this ground would impinge on the constitutional value of independence of the judiciary, he added.

“The construct of judicial system is pillared on the assumption that every judge besides being fair and impartial is fiercely independent and is free to uphold his judicial view,” Justice Shah said, adding this judicial freedom was foundational to the concept of rule of law. Thus the reconstitution of the bench while hearing the case, in the absence of any recusal from any member on the bench or due to any other reason, would amount to stifling the independent view of the judge and any effort to muffle disagreement or to silence dissent or to dampen an alternative viewpoint of a member on the bench, would shake the foundations of a free and impartial justice system, he feared.

“This erodes the public confidence on which the entire edifice of judicature stands,” he stated. Public confidence was the most precious asset that this branch of the state (judiciary) had, Justice Shah stated, adding it was also one of the most precious assets of the nation.

Citing from international jurisdictions, Justice Shah recalled how Prof Ahraon Barack pointed out that a judge ought to be aware of his power and the limits thereof. “Naturally, the judge knows the law and the power it grants to the judge, but he must also learn the limits imposed on him as a judge.”

Also, a judge must recognise his mistakes, Justice Shah said, adding that like all mortals judges erred but a judge must admit this.

While quoting Justice Jackson’s statement “we are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final”, Justice Shah stated: “I think the learned judge erred. The finality of our decision is based on our ability to admit our mistakes and our willingness to do so in appropriate cases.”

Justice Shah also cited ‘The Charter of Rights and Freedom: A Judicial Perspective’ in which McLachlim Beverly noted that if judges admitted their mistakes they would strengthen public confidence in the judiciary. Besides, he said, in writing and thinking, judges must “display modesty and an absence of arrogance”. Statements such as those of Chief Justice Hughes that “we are under the Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is” are not merely incorrect but also perniciously arrogant, Justice Shah observed.

He said his order be read into other cases fixed before the three-member bench on that day and which were again fixed before the reconstituted two-member bench. “All those cases are to be put up for rehearing before an appropriate bench again to be constituted by the chief justice and record of the court must reflect the correct status of these cases,” the order said.

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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PTI operating 18 undeclared bank accounts: SBP report

ISLAMABAD: A report submitted by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has revealed that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is operating at least 18 undeclared bank accounts across the country.

According to the information gathered from scheduled banks and submitted to the ECP by the SBP, the PTI is operating 26 bank accounts in different cities of the country, but only eight of them have been declared before the commission. The remaining 18 bank accounts fall in the category of fake or illegal bank accounts as these have not been declared in PTI’s annual audit reports submitted to the ECP as required under the law.

The annual audit reports submitted to the ECP include a certification of authenticity and accuracy by PTI chairman Imran Khan — a legal requirement for all party heads.

It is feared that details of these illegal accounts and their money trails could put Mr Khan, Imran Ismail and others — some of whom are in senior government positions — in legal jeopardy as they are principal and co-principal signatories of these accounts.

Party claims it has submitted all central accounts to ECP

Sources said the details of these undeclared bank accounts, including two in Karachi and one each in Peshawar and Quetta, had been shared at a meeting of the ECP’s scrutiny committee headed by the commission’s director general (law) in October last year.

In July 2018, after exhausting all attempts to requisition PTI bank statements and record, the ECP wrote to the SBP to requisition the party’s bank statements. Consequently, the SBP wrote letters to the presidents of all scheduled banks, seeking PTI bank statements for the period 2009-13 to be submitted to the ECP by July 16, which was finally done.

Since the revelation of fake or illegal PTI accounts in the presence of the party’s representatives at a meeting of the scrutiny committee last year, the PTI has stopped cooperating with the ECP — a reflection of which was the absence of any PTI representative in the scheduled scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting was adjourned after petitioner and PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar, his legal team headed by Badar Iqbal Chaudhry, the ECP director general (law) and two senior auditors from the defence establishment waited for over an hour for any PTI representative to show up.

The result of PTI’s non-cooperation is that the ECP scrutiny committee has yet to finalise the audit of PTI’s foreign funding and submit its findings to the commission since its inception in March despite holding over two dozen meetings. Initially mandated to complete the scrutiny process in one month, but due to lack of PTI cooperation to submit its accounts and bank statements requisitioned by the committee, its time frame was extended by two months and subsequently for an indefinite period.

When contacted, Mr Babar termed the whole episode the biggest funding fraud and said that it probably required a detailed forensic audit to know the exact extent and depth. He, however, refused to divulge any information on the undeclared bank accounts of the PTI.

The PTI has been pushing for keeping the scrutiny committee’s proceedings as secret and had also filed an application to this effect in the ECP and a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court.

PTI reaction

PTI’s central finance secretary Azhar Tariq, when contacted, said: “We have submitted all the central accounts being handled by us.” He said the PTI had asked the State Bank to share the details of the accounts it had submitted to the ECP, but the SBP governor asked the party to seek information directly from the banks. He said these might include some accounts being run by the party’s provincial offices and some of them might not be operational.

He said the ECP scrutiny committee was exceeding its jurisdiction as under the Supreme Court orders it was supposed to authenticate the details submitted by petitioner Babar, which had not yet been done.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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PPP’s Arbab, Asma Alamgir indicted by accountability court in corruption reference

An accountability court on Thursday indicted former federal minister Dr Arbab Alamgir and his wife Asma Alamgir, a former MNA, in a ,reference accusing them of possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income,.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has alleged that both the suspects accumulated assets to the tune of Rs332 million, which were disproportionate to their known sources of income.

The couple, belonging to Pakistan People’s Party, have repeatedly claimed innocence and stated that all their assets were acquired through known sources.

While rejecting the charges against them, Asma said their assets have been in the family for the past 200 years.

“We even disclosed the properties that were not in our name,” said Arbab, while his wife claimed that “NAB has turned into a joke of an institution”.

While criticising NAB, Asma said, “The LDA reference against the Punjab Assembly speaker has been shut while we have been indicted in court. Why does the law that applied to Pervez Elahi speaker not apply to anyone else?”

“When I — being a woman — can come to the court myself, why can’t those hiding under the umbrella of the law like Pervez Khattak and Mehmood Khan do the same?”

The court summoned four witnesses on January 24 to commence the trial.

NAB’s reference

NAB claimed that during investigation it was revealed that both of the suspects had accumulated huge assets worth millions of rupees disproportionate to their income.

As per the reference, the inquiry was authorised on November 4, 2015 and was subsequently converted into investigation with the approval of NAB executive board on January 12, 2018.

NAB alleged that during investigation, it surfaced that the suspects accumulated movable and immovable assets including a house in G-11/3 Islamabad; 10-kanal land at Mauza Shah Alladitta, Islamabad; a bungalow in F-7/2 Islamabad; prize bonds; a land rover vehicle and several bank transactions.

NAB claimed that the reference was pertaining to the assets in Pakistan whereas a supplementary reference regarding their foreign assets would be filed after receipt of documentary evidence through Mutual Legal Assistance from foreign countries.

On November 8, 2018, the Peshawar High Court had disposed of a writ petition filed by Asma Alamgir against issuance of frequent call-up notices to her by NAB.

Details to follow

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Cooperation, intelligence sharing between Afghanistan, Pakistan vital for defeating terrorism: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during a meeting with his Afghan and Chinese counterparts Salahuddin Rabbani and Wang Yi on Saturday, reiterated Pakistan’s stance that peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through dialogue.

The foreign minister is in Kabul on a day-long official trip to ,attend the second round of the trilateral ministerial dialogue, between Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. He is heading a Pakistani delegation that also includes Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and other high-ranking officials of the Foreign Office.

“Since the beginning [of the Afghan conflict], Pakistan has advocated for dialogue instead of military action to achieve peace. Today the world is agreeing with our stance,” the foreign minister said during the meeting, adding that as a neighbour, Pakistan had “suffered most due to the Afghan situation”.

The dialogue aims to pave way for a solution to the Afghan crisis through political means since peace in Afghanistan is vital for regional growth and development, he said.

In order to defeat terrorism, Qureshi said, there is a need for increased cooperation and intelligence exchange between the neighbours.

“A bilateral relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is of extreme importance to our government,” he said.

Furthermore, the trio of delegations discussed the importance of China and Pakistan’s “technical assistance in different sectors” for Afghanistan’s progress. Qureshi said that “mega projects” like the construction of a motorway connecting Peshawar and Kabul and a railway network between Quetta and Kandahar can strengthen trade relations between the three countries.

The foreign minister insisted that cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and China was vital for a “prosperous, stable and peaceful future of the region”.

Chinese FM Wang Yi (L), Afghan FM Salahuddin Rabbani (C) and FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi (R) sign an MoU for cooperation over curbing terrorism, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani looks on, after a meeting of the trilateral ministerial dialogue in Kabul. — DawnNewsTV

Chinese FM Wang Yi (L), Afghan FM Salahuddin Rabbani (C) and FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi (R) sign an MoU for cooperation over curbing terrorism, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani looks on, after a meeting of the trilateral ministerial dialogue in Kabul. — DawnNewsTV

Qureshi further said that job creation and progress were the only way to counter the “challenge of terrorism”.

After the meeting, the foreign ministers also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation over curbing terrorism.

One of the three sessions of the daylong foreign ministers’ dialogue was dedicated to security. The other two sessions focused on the political settlement of the Afghan conflict and regional cooperation.

They are also scheduled to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today.

The first ministerial meeting held in Beijing in Dece­mber last year had helped Islamabad and Kabul make progress on the establishment of ‘Afghanistan-Pakis­tan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS)’, which then became the new framework for steering the bilateral relations.

China aims to create ‘favourable environment’ between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Qureshi’s Chinese counterpart, Yi, in a joint press conference held after the meeting between the foreign ministers, said that China “aims to help create a favourable environment between Pakistan and Afghanistan”.

Yi highlighted the close relationship between China and Pakistan, saying that both countries were “all-weather friends and important strategic partners”.

He further said that “as a friend of both countries, China is making every effort to build confidence between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

The Chinese foreign minister declared that China will assist both countries in the provision of clean drinking water and building infrastructure, including the construction of a rail network to connect Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Addressing the Afghan crisis, Yi said: “In order to further the process of reconciliation, [Afghan] Taliban will have to be ushered to the dialogue table.” The Chinese foreign minister further said that war was not a solution to any problem.

“We urge the [Afghan] Taliban to take advantage of this chance for peace and hold negotiations,” Yi said.

Qureshi thanked China for its role in “bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan closer”. He added that the ball was now in Afghanistan’s court as it has to decide which route they wished to take in order to achieve peace.

Answering reporters’ questions on the occasion, Afghan foreign minister claimed that Afghanistan’s people had borne many difficulties and regretted that violence in his country was increasing.

Rabbani also addressed the dwindling relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and said: “Pakistan has always said that it supports Afghanistan. It is time that practical steps are taken in this regard.”

After the trilateral ministerial dialogue session, Qureshi held a separate meeting with his Afghan counterpart where both officials discussed matters of mutual interest. Rabbani also thanked Qureshi for taking part in the joint peace effort.

Qureshi also held a meeting with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who acknowledged Pakistani prime and foreign ministers’ efforts assistance in maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

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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.


‘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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State Bank, govt grilled on exchange rate

ISLAMABAD: Amid criticism over abrupt devaluations, the government and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday said the country’s exchange rate has now reached ‘near to equilibrium’ and is reflective of the market conditions.

At a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance & Revenue, SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa reluctantly agreed to discuss ,recent depreciation of rupee against dollar, after his assertions to hold in-camera briefing were rejected by the panel.

Bajwa explained that exchange rates generally move on demand and supply in the market and the key reason behind the recent devaluation was the last fiscal year’s $19-billion current account deficit.

“Such a large gap had to be met from somewhere,” said the governor, explaining either the central bank could have intervened in the market to protect the rupee-dollar parity or let it move according to market forces, more so when reserves were not enough.

Read more: ,Govt wants SBP to consult Centre on exchange rate,

The governor said unlike countries with huge reserves following fixed or those with pegged and floating exchange rates, Pakistan had been following a graduated approach — intervening at times to support exchange rate and making adjustments occasionally. “We have been doing both things.” The SBP kept exchange rate unchanged for quite a long time but since December 2017 has made six adjustments as its reserves dropped from $18bn to about $7.5bn.

According to Bajwa, Pakistan’s current account deficit was a true reflection of the $36bn trade gap (imports at about $60bn while exports at $24.5bn), which was partly financed by $18-19bn remittances in the absence of any major support in the form of foreign direct investments.

He said the results of current adjustments, jointly made by SBP and the government, have started to show results as the imports dropped from a 24pc growth in FY18 to 0.7pc decline this year while exports have risen by 4pc. He said the policy objective at this stage was to ensure stabilisation and growth and the government was also working on incentives to attract higher remittances.

The governor noted that the overvalued currency had played an adverse role because it meant keeping imports cheaper that ate up foreign exchange on one hand while affecting industry on the other, which is evident from continuously declining industrial growth as percentage of GDP since exports became expensive and handicapped to compete.

Bajwa said that with policy rate of 10pc, the real effective interest rate in Pakistan was now about 4-4.5pc which was generally in line with regional countries because the underlying objective was to ensure stabilisation. “Once that is achieved, only then we could move to the next stage of higher economic growth and low inflation,” he said.

Read more: ,What lessons can we learn by examining the roots of Pakistan’s current account malaise?,

Responding to a question, he said the level of current account deficit at the year-end was unsustainable but market sentiments also played a role as the central bank and its reserves came under pressure. Bajwa also conceded the inflation had gone up as aggregate demand increased but steps were in place to contain prices and keep economic growth at a certain level to ensure stability and growth.

The economic team, which also includes Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, faced criticism as flight of capital was still on from all the major airports and through Peshawar land route while undervalued imports continued to flow from China.

Azhar said the government targeted luxury imports through the supplementary bill soon after coming to power and has now signed a memorandum of understanding with China for electronic exchange of trade data to crack down under-invoicing.

He too agreed the exchange rate was unnecessarily and artificially overvalued in the last few years before former finance minister Miftah Ismail allowed devaluation to Rs124 per dollar but it still wasn’t enough as industry had already suffered a lot. “With the latest exchange depreciation, we are now quite near to equilibrium,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 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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PM Khan approved Rs70 million package for martyred SP Dawar’s family: Afridi

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved a package of Rs70 million for the grieving family of Superintendent of Police (SP) Tahir Khan Dawar.

SP Dawar, head of Peshawar police’s rural circle, was kidnapped in Islamabad on October 26 and his body was ,recovered in Afghan­istan’s Nangarhar, province the next month.

“SP Tahir Dawar was a brave son of Pakistan,” Afridi said at a press conference in Islamabad alongside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Khan Mehsud and SP Dawar’s brothers. He recalled that the deceased police officer had previously survived two attacks and was a bread earner for three families.

Editorial: ,Family of SP Dawar and the police force he represented deserve a full explanation on his murder,

Giving a breakdown of the aid package, the minister said Rs50m would be given to SP Dawar’s wife and children, Rs10m would be given to two of the police officer’s widowed sisters and their children, and another Rs10m would be handed to the family of Dawar’s deceased brother.

In addition to the financial assistance package, SP Dawar’s son will also be offered a job as an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of police, Afridi announced.

He said a ,joint investigation team (JIT) had been formed, to probe his abduction and murder after Prime Minister Khan took notice of the case. The probe team was continuing its work in the investigation, he said.

The minister announced that a five-member parliamentary committee would be formed to review progress in the investigation of SP Dawar’s murder.

The panel, comprising three members belonging to treasury benches and two from the opposition in both the National Assembly and Senate, will coordinate with the JIT.

Ahmed Din, a brother of SP Dawar, thanked the government for announcing the package for his family and reposed his confidence in the parliamentary committee and the ongoing investigation.

SP Dawar had gone missing under unexplained circumstances in Islamabad on Oct 26. A kidnapping case was registered with the Ramna police on Oct 28.

On Nov 15, the missing police officer was found murdered in Afghanistan and a few days later his body was handed over to Pakistani authorities. Following the recovery of the body, section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) were added to the FIR.

‘Anti-Pakistan forces’

Afridi during the press conference cautioned the nation against being deceived by “anti-Pakistan forces”, which he said were misusing footages taken from electronic and social media to polarise the people.

He said everybody had the right to do politics but those forces that were using the people to spread disinformation and destabilise the country would be countered.

“We are watching everything. We are vigilant,” he warned, adding that the government will make an example out of such negative elements.

The minister said there was a consensus among the political leadership and the armed forces on issues of security. He said the key stakeholders should realise their responsibility regarding peace and security of Pakistan.

“Some elements are creating differences in the society but we have to promote positive thinking. The state is strong and it will not compromise on its principles,” he said.

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CJP questions KP govt’s ‘tall claims’ on healthcare facilities

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday questioned Khyber Pakhtunkhawa government’s “tall claims”, and asked for a report to be submitted on the condition of medical facilities in the province within two months.

Headed by the chief justice, a bench of the apex court was hearing a case regarding the waste management of hospitals in KP.

During the hearing, the court was told that a total of 63 government hospitals in the province create 4,000 kilogrammes of waste every day, but the province has the capacity to dispose off 3,600kg of waste.

Meanwhile, 158 private hospitals, the court was informed, create 860kg of waste — of which 532kg is disposed off.

“Measures are being taken to create the capacity to dispose off all the waste created by hospitals,” said the KP health secretary.

Speaking of his earlier visit to a mental health facility in Peshawar, the chief justice said that the facility was in a poor state and patients at the hospital were treated inhumanely.

“They were locked up like animals, it seemed like people had forgotten these patients were human too,” Justice Nisar said. “If you don’t believe me, shall we visit these facilities.

“On what basis are such tall claims made? [You] only say that everything has been made great.”

The secretary claimed that “there has been an improvement there after the court order”.

“The medicines you pointed out are also being provided now,” he added.

In April, the chief justice had visited hospitals in KP while on an official visit to the province. At the time, the chief justice had summoned the then chief minister of KP Pervez Khattak to court to ,discuss the disposal of waste in the province.,

“Do you know what is the population of Peshawar [and] how much waste is flowing into its streams?” Justice Nisar had asked Khattak at the time.

Later in August, while hearing a case regarding alleged irregularities in selection of people for managements of the KP teaching hospitals, a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Nisar expressed its ,dismay over the way hospitals were being run in the province.,

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MNA Dawar questions his arrest

PESHAWAR: An independent member of the National Assembly from North Waziristan, Mohsin Dawar, has expressed concern over his offloading from a Dubai-bound plane by authorities on the ground that his name was on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Speaking at a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Sunday, the lawmaker recalled that he along with another MNA, Ali Wazir, was going to the UAE to attend a cultural event in Dubai when security personnel stopped them, saying they were wanted by the Swabi police.

“We had held a peaceful public meeting in Swabi and did nothing wrong, but police registered a case against us without any reason. I approached the court which granted me bail before arrest till Dec 4, but I along with the other MNA was detained at the Bacha Khan International Airport,” he regretted.

Mr Dawar said the Federal Investigation Agency kept him in custody for three days without getting prior permission from the speaker of the National Assembly.

He claimed that their names were put on the ECL a day before their flight to the UAE on Friday. “We are in contact with leaders of various political parties as our arrest is an insult to the mandate of Waziristan’s people,” he said.

The MNA demanded action against those personnel who arrested them.

“We held a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan and conveyed to him our demands regarding peace and development in our region. The prime minister agreed to support us and during his recent visit to Waziristan announced many development schemes for it,” he said.

The lawmaker appreciated the government’s stand on Kartarpur corridor and suggested that people of Pakistan and Afghanistan should also be facilitated in the same manner at Torkham, Chaman, Spin Boldak and Ghulam Khan borders.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018

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PM, COAS, judiciary in talks over missing persons: Alvi

PESHAWAR: Just a day after the ruling party was criticised over the issue of missing persons, alleged attempts to roll back the 18th Amendment and the failure to keep its promise of a new province, President Dr Arif Alvi on Saturday claimed that discussion among the prime minister, the chief of the army staff and the judiciary was under way to resolve the issue of missing persons and denied that the government was in favour of undoing the 18th Amendment.

“We should look into this phenomenal issue to ascertain that where these people (missing) have gone, who picked them etc,” said President Alvi while addressing a press conference at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor House.

According to president, southern Punjab province is a bigger task than KP-Fata merger

“Discussion is under way among the prime minister, army chief and judiciary to address this issue, which requires attention and transparency,” asserted the president, who was accompanied by Governor Shah Farman and provincial information minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai.

Before forming the government in August, Dr Alvi said, he personally had made a commitment with Balochistan National Party chairman Sardar Akhtar Mengal that the issue of missing persons would be resolved and had sought his cooperation in this regard.

Responding to a question, the president dispelled the impression that the ruling party was in favour of rolling back the 18th Amendment. One component of the 18th Amendment was to build capacity of the provinces after devolving subjects to them, he said.

Only a day back the PPP chairman while carrying out a detailed examination of the 100-day performance of the PTI government had reminded the ruling party of its promises, including those related to missing persons and creation of a separate province, and declared that the opposition party would not allow attempts to roll back the 18th Amendment to succeed.

Asked if he would play his role to defuse tension between the government and opposition at the Centre, President Alvi said the government should not be very reactive towards the opposition. He said he had held a discussion with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members and advised them to focus on their work instead of engaging in a war of words. “I have suggested that instead of engaging in a war of words with the opposition the government should undertake some work that can generate debate,” he said.

Dr Alvi announced that he would activate his office in the National Assembly. He said he was not in favour of a presidential form of government. Pakistan had experienced parliamentary form of government but the existing system needed improvement, he said, adding that the government did not have the two-thirds majority to change the current system. “Every system depends upon people. If people are good the system is also good,” he remarked.

About the Fata-KP merger, the president said the KP government was looking for Rs100 billion financing from the Centre. He said that polls for the KP assembly in seven tribal districts would be held before May 2019. He said that Rs1 trillion would be utilised on reconstruction and rehabilitation work in these districts in next 10 years in addition to increasing three per cent share of KP in the National Finance Commission Award. Establishment of infrastructure for lower courts and magistrates was a major task for the government, he said. However, he announced that Levies and Khasadars forces in the merged districts would not be abolished.

Explaining the reasons for delay in creating a separate province in Punjab, Dr Alvi said that southern Punjab province was a bigger task than the merger of Fata and KP.

About the Peshawar BRT project, the president said the government would complete the project by June 2019. He also announced that the government would create 30,000 more jobs to recruit local people in police.

Dr Alvi said he was also briefed about the plan for exploration of tourism sector in the province and the department concerned had identified 20 new areas in this regard. He said the government should not allow uncontrolled and unplanned construction in tourist attraction areas of the province. He said that ill-planned construction had damaged natural beauty of Murree hills and other areas.

Earlier, the president visited the Bilour House to condole the demise of Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour, who was killed on July 10 in a blast during a party meeting in Peshawar. Dr Alvi offered fateha for Haroon Bilour and met Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and Haroon’s widow MPA Samer Bilour.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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