Posts Tagged ‘Protest’

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

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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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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 16, 2019 at 10:25 pm

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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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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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Trans activist moves court against harassment, torture of transgender community in Lahore

Lahore-based transgender rights activist Hina Shahzadi on Wednesday moved a sessions court against the harassment and torture of the transgender community in the city as members of the community also staged a silent protest against mistreatment.

Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bashir Ahmed Nasir and Station House Officer Mohammad Javed of Misri Shah Police Station were made a party in the petition which sought protection for members of the transgender community in Lahore.

Take a look: ,Footprints: Hoping for a new lease on life ,

Shahzadi contended that trans people are teased and subjected to torture without any reason. She alleged that a prime suspect, along with others, subjected trans people to sexual harassment and torture.

The petitioner also said that members of the community often receive death threats. Shahzadi asked the court to provide security to trans people and order action against the suspect.

The sessions court has received the petition, which is yet to be marked to a judge for hearing.

Last year, the National Assembly passed the landmark Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017. The law enables trans people to be recognised as they perceive themselves and register with the government institutions as transgenders.

It also provides them basic rights such as obtaining driver’s licences and passports. The bill was presented by PPP lawmaker Naveed Qamar. It was unanimously approved by Senate in March 2018.

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UK parliament deals historic defeat to PM May’s Brexit deal

Britain’s parliament on Tuesday voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal by a massive margin, triggering a no confidence vote that could bring down her government.

The House of Commons lower house voted 432 to 202 against May’s plan for taking Britain out of the European Union after nearly five decades, one of the biggest defeats ever suffered by a British premier.

The EU warned that the vote, which plunges Britain into uncharted waters, boosts the risk of a “no deal” Brexit.

Moments after the outcome, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted a motion of no-confidence in May’s government.

The vote is set for Wednesday.

Speaking moments before the MPs cast their ballots, May said MPs had a “duty to deliver” on the results of a 2016 referendum that started the divorce.

“I believe we have a duty to deliver on the democratic decision of the British people,” May said, warning MPs that the EU would not offer any “alternative deal”.

“A vote against this deal is a vote for uncertainty, division, and the very real threat of a no deal,” she argued to loud jeers from the packed chamber.

“The responsibility of each and every one of us at this moment is profound, for this is a historic decision that will set the future of our country for generations.” Most lawmakers have always opposed Brexit, as have some leading members of May’s government, creating an inherent contradiction that has torn apart the island nation.

And with just over two months to go until the scheduled March 29 departure, Britain still cannot decide what to do.

Know more: ,What is Brexit all about?,

May must now decide whether she tries to hold another vote, gets kicked out of office, delays Brexit — or if Brexit even happens at all.

As their nation’s fate was being decided, hundreds of noisy supporters and opponents of Brexit, some banging drums and others driving floats with huge dolls mocking top UK politicians, rallied outside the ancient parliament building in London.

“It could end up being the day that will lead to us leaving with no deal!” said 25-year-old Simon Fisher, who backs a swift and sharp break with the EU.

A much larger rally nearby in support of a second referendum turned Parliament Square into a sea of EU flags.

One pro-Brexit activist attempting to join the rally was detained by police to shouts of “scum” from fellow protesters in an indication of rising tensions.

Others voiced their support for a second referendum, an option May’s government rules out.

‘No Deal? No problem!’

May made it her mission to carry out the wishes of voters after she became premier in July 2016, putting aside her own initial misgivings and stating repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit”.

But facing a heavy drubbing, May decided to postpone a parliamentary vote in December on the Brexit deal in the hope of winning concessions from Brussels — and that a Christmas break would change lawmakers’ minds.

EU leaders came back with only non-binding clarifications, and just a handful of new MPs have rallied to May’s side.

The UK government’s current plan appears to be to try to ram a very similar version of the agreement through parliament on a second or possibly even third attempt.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker returned to Brussels from Strasbourg on Tuesday “to handle the situation after the vote,” according to his office.

In Strasbourg, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas raised the possibility of further talks while ruling out a full renegotiation of the text.

Hardline Brexiteers and Remainers oppose the agreement for different reasons and many fear it could lock Britain into an unfavourable trading relationship with the EU.

Bitter debates about Britain’s place in the world have dominated the national discourse ever since the referendum, dividing families and playing out in front of parliament on Tuesday.

Financial markets were also watching closely, with several currency trading companies roping in extra staff for the vote and at least one putting a cap on trades to avoid excessive movements.

Risk of no deal

Criticism of the deal is focused on an arrangement to keep open the border with Ireland by aligning Britain with some EU trade rules, if and until London and Brussels sign a new economic partnership which could take several years.

Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, upon which May relies for her parliamentary majority, told the BBC his party would not be forced into backing the deal by fears over the border.

The government must set out what happens next by Monday, if — as is expected — it survives the no-confidence vote.

Speculation is growing on both sides of the Channel that May could ask to delay Brexit.

But a diplomatic source told AFP any extension would not be possible beyond June 30, when the new European Parliament will be formed.

The withdrawal agreement includes plans for a post-Brexit transition period until a new relationship is drawn up, in return for continued budget contributions from London.

Without it, and if there is no delay, Britain will sever ties with its nearest neighbours with no agreement to ease the blow.

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Opposition leaders unite to form committee for ‘joint strategy’

Opposition parties in the National Assembly on Tuesday decided to form a committee to devise a joint opposition strategy on various issues, including a ,second extension in the tenure of military courts,.

The decision was taken at a meeting of opposition leaders hosted by Leader of Opposition in the NA Shahbaz Sharif over lunch in his chamber at Parliament House.

Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal speak to reporters after the meeting. — DawnNewsTV

Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal speak to reporters after the meeting. — DawnNewsTV

Speaking to reporters after the nearly two-hour-long meeting, Shahbaz said the opposition leaders had decided to form a committee to devise a joint strategy and deal with the government on various issues.

The committee, which according to Shahbaz will have representation from all opposition parties, will also be responsible for holding negotiations with the government on the issue of an extension in the tenure of military courts. “The combined opposition will adopt whatever path is in the national interest,” he added.

The leader of the opposition also criticised the “worst incompetence” of the PTI government and once again termed as “cronyism” the government’s move to ,award the Mohmand dam contract, to a consortium led by Descon, which he alleged was owned by a sitting adviser to the prime minister.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — who attended the meeting along with his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari — in his remarks said the opposition’s human and democratic rights were under attack from all sides by the government, but the opposition leaders were “not ready to compromise” on these two rights.

“The opposition has today decided on a very good strategy to form a committee and have a joint opposition inside the parliament as well as outside,” the PPP chairman said.

,,

Meanwhile, asked whether the opposition parties would come together in the shape of an alliance, Zardari responded: “The union HAS taken place.”

PPP chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari arrives for the opposition leaders' meeting. — DawnNewsTV

PPP chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari arrives for the opposition leaders’ meeting. — DawnNewsTV

Shahbaz, the PML-N president, had earlier welcomed Zardari to the meeting with a hug, as the two main opposition parties increasingly appear to join hands to give the PTI-led government a tough time.

Also in attendance were PPP’s Sherry Rehman and Naveed Qamar, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) MNAs Maulana Asad Mehmood and Maulana Abdul Wasay, Awami National Party leader Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, a Balochistan National Party representative and other leaders.

An elaborate menu was on offer at the luncheon, including seafood, the traditional dishes of qourma and pulao, homemade vegetables and dessert.

A day earlier, on the ,opening day of the National Assembly’s new session,, when Zardari entered the hall amidst desk-thumping by the opposition members, Shahbaz had gone to him and shook his hand.

NA session suspended after ruckus

Earlier on Tuesday, business in the lower house was disrupted again after the opposition lodged a strong protest against the deputy speaker’s decision not to hold a re-vote when an opposition MNA introduced a bill pertaining to the quota of judges in the Islamabad High Court.

The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am. — DawnNewsTV

The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am. — DawnNewsTV

JUI-F MNA Aliya Kamran had moved a bill seeking an increase in the number of judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) from six to 10, and a quota accommodating all the provinces on IHC benches.

Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari opposed the bill, but Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri held a verbal vote and subsequently rejected the bill after it appeared to have been voted against.

Kamran then challenged the vote and the deputy speaker ordered a headcount. The headcount revealed that 96 MNAs opposed the bill, while 94 were in favour of it. Therefore, the NA decided against the move.

Take a look: ,PM Khan lashes out at opposition for ‘pressure tactics’ after NA walkouts ,

Members of the opposition gathered in front of Suri’s dais, asking him to order another vote on the bill but the deputy speaker rejected the demand and suspended House proceedings.

The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to lash out at the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts. The opposition had walked out of the NA yesterday after opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif accused the treasury benches of using foul language.

The prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was “the only function they (opposition) intend to perform”.

He claimed that walkouts are used as “pressure tactics” to “seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)”.

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Opposition set to give tough time to ruling coalition in NA

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to go into its seventh session on Monday (today) with Speaker Asad Qaiser still ,struggling with the formation, of the house committees as the opposition parties flexing its muscles to give a tough time to the ruling coalition on a number of issues, including the ongoing energy crisis, alleged one-sided accountability process, the government’s move to present another mini-budget and the recent increase in the prices of medicines.

The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is also planning a strong protest on the floor of the assembly, if the speaker does not issue the production order for former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique, who has been in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) along with his brother Salman Rafique in connection with an inquiry into a housing society scam.

Sources in the National Assembly Secretariat told Dawn that the speaker had already ,issued the production order, for Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif while the process of the issuance of the production order for Mr Rafique was under way.

Seventh session of National Assembly begins today

Mr Sharif has been attending the NA sessions and meetings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the speaker’s production orders since his arrest by NAB on Oct 6 last year in the Ashiyana housing scam.

Mr Rafique had been ,arrested by NAB on Dec 11, last year at a time when the assembly was already in session. The opposition parties had lodged a strong protest and even boycotted most of the sittings before the speaker issued production order only a day before prorogation of the house on Dec 21.

The speaker has already summoned a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee comprising representatives of all the parties present in the assembly before start of the session in which he is expected to take up the issue of the formation of the committees, besides discussing the agenda for the upcoming session which is expected to continue for more than two weeks as the government intends to present a mini-budget on Jan 23.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, while speaking to the members of the business community during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Saturday, had announced that the government would ,present a mini-budget on Jan 23, and dispelled the impression that it would be loaded with new taxes.

Mr Umar had admitted that last year had been difficult not only for the government but also for the business community as during the five months (July-November) of the current financial year, only $818 million came under Foreign Direct Investment against $1.35 billion in the same period last financial year.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N are questioning the government’s move to present second mini-budget in less than six months.

Strongly opposing the plan, PPP’s vice president Senator Sherry Rehman had asked if the government, which was determined to bring about a revolution, would introduce mini-budgets every four months. She alleged that the mini-budget was being unveiled to meet the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund.

She regretted that just a day after an increase in the prices of drugs, the government announced its plans about unveiling a mini-budget.

Similarly, the PML-N leaders, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, had also questioned the government’s move to present another mini-budget. Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, the PML-N leaders had lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for its “directionless and failed” economic policies, which had drastically brought down the country’s growth rate in just five months.

House committees

Despite succeeding in ,breaking the deadlock, between the government and the opposition over the issue of the PAC chairmanship last month, Speaker Asad Qaiser is still struggling to complete the process of the formation of house committees.

The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the National Assembly which came into existence in August after the general elections held in July is functioning with only two committees, including the PAC.

Sources said that an understanding between the government and the opposition had already been reached on the distribution of the chairmanship of 38 standing committees. Under the agreed formula, the chairmanship of 18 committees would go to the opposition while the remaining 20 committees would be headed by the PTI and its allies.

However, they said, the two sides were yet to discuss the committees to be distributed among the treasury and the opposition members. The opposition parties, the sources said, wanted to head the important committees like interior, foreign affairs, power and finance.

The speaker had met Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and the opposition leaders in the last two days and after his meeting with the government and the opposition representatives, he expressed the hope that he would constitute the committees during the session.

Meanwhile, the NA Secretariat on Sunday issued a nine-point agenda for the Monday’s sitting which includes presentation of a report by the government on “I-Voting Pilot test in 35 constituencies held on October 14 last year, as required under Section 94 of the Elections Act, 2017”.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2019

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Valentine’s Day now Sisters’ Day: Faisalabad varsity to ‘promote Islamic traditions’ on Feb 14

The University of Agriculture Faisalabad has announced it will celebrate Sisters’ Day on February 14 to “promote Islamic traditions”, according to Vice Chancellor Zafar Iqbal Randhawa.

Female students on campus can be gifted scarves and abayahs as gifts during the celebration as decided by the vice chancellor and other decision makers at the varsity.

The vice chancellor, while speaking to DawnNewsTV said he wasn’t sure if his suggestion to celebrate Sisters’ Day “would click or not”, but he believed it was compatible with Pakistan’s culture and Islam.

Randhawa said that although some Muslims have turned Valentine’s Day into a threat, “My thinking is that if there is a threat, convert it into an opportunity.”

The VC said that Muslim women face certain conditions related to their attire which dictate that their body should not be revealed. “Women are at a very high rank for us,” he added.

“Today the era of gender empowerment is here, Western thinking is being promoted,” he complained. “But the best gender empowerment and division of work is in our religion and culture.”

He claimed that celebrating Sisters’ Day would allow “a soft image to develop”, and that people will realise that this is how much sisters are loved in Pakistan.

“Is there a love greater than that between brother and sister?” he asked. “On Sisters’ Day, it is greater than the love between husband and wife.”

February 14 — traditionally celebrated as Valentine’s day all over the world — has been a subject of controversy in Pakistan for years, drawing a mixed response from citizens, with some celebrating and supporting it but others protesting against it.

In major cities, various restaurants, delivery services, bakeries and businesses cash in on the celebrations by pushing Valentine’s Day promotions. However, anti-Valentine’s Day campaigns also surface in the form of banners strung up on streets throughout the country and on university campuses.

The Islamabad High Court had in 2017 and 2018 ,”banned” all valentines day celebrations,, and print and electronic media were warned to “stop all Valentine’s Day promotions immediately”.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had also been ordered to monitor all mediums and send out notifications banning any related promotions.

In 2016, then president Mamnoon Hussain had urged Pakistanis to forego celebrating Valentine’s Day, saying that it was not a part of Muslim tradition, but a Western innovation.

“Valentine’s Day has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided,” he had said.

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Bilawal pledges to combat ‘politics of vendetta’

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

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

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

PPP leader warns PTI govt against testing patience of jiyalas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Govt asked to withdraw hike in prices of medicines

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and some of the stakeholders of the health sector have criticised a sudden increase in prices of various medicines and urged the government to withdraw the decision as middle and lower classes would suffer the most because of it.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the spokesman for PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is preying on the people by hiking the prices.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) on Friday had announced up to 15 per cent increase in prices of various medicines.

He said the constant increase in prices of goods was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. The government first snatched the calm of the people and was now snatching their lives by increasing the prices of medicines, he said.

“The government’s only performance has been taking from the people the facilities provided to them. In the guise of claims of providing people with five million houses, the government has only rendered people homeless,” Senator Khokhar said.

He said that the government’s conduct had been disappointing and it was only a matter of time that the people of Pakistan would start protesting against the injustice and biased attitude of the PTI rule. The government had proven itself to be a destructive tsunami, he concluded.

Secretary General of the Pakistan Medical Association Dr Qaisar Sajjad has stated that the association was very much concerned over the hike in medicine prices.

“The government should find other ways to minimise the effect of increasing the cost of medicines because of the rupee’s devaluation. It could be done by supporting pharmaceutical companies by reducing taxes and duty on import of raw materials for manufacturing drugs. Vaccines and raw materials should be produced locally. Fake and counterfeit drugs and smuggling of medicines should be eliminated on a priority basis,” Dr Sajjad said.

Pakistan Islamic Medical Association’s president Prof Afzal Mian said the rising inflation had exposed the government’s inability to plan for welfare of the nation. Even if the excuse of devaluation was accepted, it is deplorable that the crunch was yet again transferred to the people who were struggling to survive, he added.

However, Pharma Bureau’s Executive Director Ayesha Tammy Haq while talking to Dawn said that the increase was not sufficient as most of the medicine prices were increased by 9pc while the rupee was devalued by over 30pc.

“Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had also directed the government and Drap to increase the prices of medicines, considering the hike in the dollar’s value and finally it has been done,” she said.

Ms Haq said that although the increase was not sufficient it would help the pharmaceutical companies to survive. “We expect that the prices will be further increased at the end of the financial year, considering the Consumer Price Index,” she said.

In reply to a question, she said that the government could have reduced the taxes rather than passing the burden to patients, but it did not go for that option.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Doctor allowed to examine Nawaz

LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s doctor examined him after workers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) held a demonstration outside the Kot Lakhpat jail on Saturday against the Punjab government for not taking care of their leader.

A good number of PML-N workers, led by former ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Pervaiz Malik, chanted slogans against the government and the jail administration for not allowing Mr Sharif’s cardiologist to see him after he complained of pain in his left arm.

On Friday, Maryam Nawaz had claimed that the jail authorities were not allowing her father’s cardiologist to examine him.

However, after PML-N workers’ protest, the jail administration allowed cardiologist Dr Adnan to examine Mr Sharif and he suggested some tests for the PML-N leader.

Talking to reporters, Ahsan Iqbal said: “Non-provision of health facilities to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif is a violation of basic human rights. This is being done in revenge.” The acting secretary general of PML-N warned that if Mr Sharif’s health deteriorated because of lack of medical care, a case would be lodged against the prime minister, chief minister, home secretary and the jail superintendent.

He urged the chief justice of Pakistan to launch a probe into the offshore holdings of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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SC rejects Rao Anwar’s petition to have his name removed from ECL

The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down former Malir Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Rao Anwar’s petition to have his name removed from the exit control list (ECL).

Anwar is accused of being involved in the murder of ,Naqeebullah Mehsud, — an aspiring model and shopkeeper from South Waziristan — and others in a fake police encounter in Karachi, but is currently ,out on bail,.

Dawn Investigation: ,Rao Anwar and the killing fields of Karachi,

He had petitioned the court to have his name removed from the ECL on account of performing Umrah and attending the wedding of his daughter abroad.

At the outset of the case today, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar questioned Anwar’s counsel as to how his client was out of jail despite being accused of murder.

“Rao Anwar was an absconder,” Justice Nisar noted, referring to the former policeman’s infamous disappearance in the wake of the emergence of allegations against him.

“How did he [Anwar] get acquitted?”

“Rao Anwar wasn’t acquitted; he is out on bail,” the counsel replied. “His family lives abroad. He wants to meet them and also wants to perform Umrah with his family.”

The chief justice suggested that Anwar’s family be called to Pakistan as he set aside the petition.

“Confiscate Rao Anwar’s petition,” the top judge ordered. “He has killed a young boy. Until the trial is over, Rao Anwar will stay in Pakistan.”

The chief justice rubbished Anwar’s justification for seeking ECL exit, saying that the actual purpose of the petition is to “deposit abroad the wealth looted from here”.

Furthermore, Justice Nisar said that “this bench knows how Rao Anwar was arrested”.

“He was provided all facilities during his arrest,” he added.

Naqeebullah case

Naqeebullah Mehsud was among four people killed in an encounter on January 13. While Anwar had claimed that all four of the men killed, allegedly on his orders, belonged to the terrorist outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), social media had erupted in protest against Mehsud’s killing after it was found that he was an aspiring model.

The tainted police officer had gone into hiding soon after demands for his arrest in the Naqeebullah murder case had gained traction. A police JIT had then found the encounter was staged.

Anwar had then resurfaced in a dramatic manner at the Supreme Court, after repeated pleas from the chief justice, from where he was subsequently arrested.

Soon after his arrest, his house in Malir Cantonment was declared a sub-jail. He had later moved an application for provision of better class facilities in the sub-jail. The court had accepted Anwar’s application for better facilities, including an exemption from being handcuffed.

In July 2018, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) had ,ruled, that Anwar was not present at the time Naqeebullah and three others were extrajudicially killed in an alleged ‘staged’ encounter. A week later, the ATC had granted bail to Anwar.

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Shahbaz named PAC chief under opposition pressure: Fawad Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Terming Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and his party “blackmailers”, the government revealed on Friday that the decision to ,make him chairman, of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had been made “under pressure”.

On the other hand, the opposition continued its protest in the National Assembly over non-issuance of a ,production order for detained MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique, and boycotted the proceedings of the lower house by staging a walkout.

Take a look: ,Now that PAC impasse has been resolved, parliament must turn to its legislative responsibilities,

During the assembly session, Prime Minister Imran Khan was criticised for appointing his aides and close friends as his advisers and assistants and the opposition sought details of expenditure being incurred on their salaries, perks and privileges.

Prime Minister Khan claimed many times in recent past that he “would neither come under any pressure nor compromise on his principles” while making decisions on national issues.

Boycott of National Assembly continues in protest against non-issuance of Saad Rafique’s production order

However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, talking to reporters in Jhelum, explained why the government took another U-turn and agreed to appoint Mr Sharif as PAC chief, saying the decision was taken because of the opposition’s pressure.

“In fact Shahbaz Sharif and his party — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — are ‘blackmailers’ and we made him PAC chief because they are not letting the proceedings of the National Assembly run,” he said.

The minister said the opposition was bent upon creating hurdles in the way of proceedings of the National Assembly and, therefore, parliament was not fulfilling its basic responsibility — legislation.

He said the opposition leaders facing NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases were using the floor of the house to give clarifications about their “misdeeds”. “They are not discussing in parliament how problems of the people can be solved and what agreements the government had recently made with Saudi Arabia, China, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, but cursing NAB for investigating them,” he added.

Fawad Chaudhry said the government had thought that the opposition would calm down and stop its agitation in parliament after the decision to make Mr Sharif PAC chairman. “However, the opposition continued with its confrontational way in the house on Friday on the pretext of non- issuance of production orders of Saad Rafique,” he said.

As Mr Rafique was arrested by NAB after cancellation of his bail by the Lahore High Court, Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaisar was looking into legal aspects whether under such circumstances the production orders of the MNA could be issued or not, the minister said.

Responding to a question about the Panama Papers cases involving former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he said the Flagship Investment references was in its final stages and predicted that Mr Sharif would be in jail soon.

Earlier, speaking on the floor of the house, Shahbaz Sharif called upon of the speaker to issue a production order of Mr Rafique. “We have been demanding for the last three days the production orders of the honourable member of this house but to no avail,” he said.

Raja Pervez Ashraf of the Pakistan Peoples Party also demanded that Mr Rafique be allowed to attend proceedings of the assembly and hailed the government’s decision to appoint Mr Sharif PAC chairman. “According to the old tradition of the house, the production order of a detained members is always issued,” he added.

The chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party, Akhtar Mengal, also urged the speaker to issue a production order of the PML-N leader and said he was not talking about the production of any Baloch leader but a leader from Punjab. “I know there is no law in the country under which ‘missing or detained Baloch MNAs’ can be produced in the house, but today I am asking for production orders of Saad Rafique,” he added.

Mr Mengal said the National Assembly was being run as a Mughal Darbar, before staging a walk-out in protest. He was followed by the entire opposition and the speaker adjourned the session till Monday evening.

PM’s advisers/assistants

Earlier, during the question hour session, PML-N MNA Murtaza Javed Abbasi raised a question over the appointment of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aides and close friends as his advisers and assistants and sought details of expenditure being incurred on their salaries, perks and privileges.

“There was no need to have advisers and special assistants in the presence of ministers concerned. For example there was no need to appoint the PM’s media advisers as the information minister is already there and the Press Information Department is also available to cover activities of the premier, he added.

Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, another PML-N MNA, accused the government of appointing some legal advisers in different government departments who did not meet the criteria nor had the experience required for the offices.

Aliya Kamran of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party also questioned the salaries and other benefits, if given, to the members of various task forces formed by the prime minister on different issues.

MNA Shahnaz Baloch demanded that representation of Balochistan be ensured in all task forces.

Replying to queries, Minister of State on Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the appointment of the PM’s advisers and special assistants was not a new phenomenon as previous prime ministers also had advisers and assistants in their cabinets. “PM’s Adviser Zulfi Bukhari (Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari) on overseas Pakistanis has spent a long time abroad and, therefore, he can understand the problems of overseas Pakistanis in a better way,” he added.

On inexperienced legal advisers, the state minister said he would definitely ask the relevant ministries and departments to take action on the matter.

PIA ROUTES: Responding to a question of MNA Aslam Bhootani on lack of air travel facility between Quetta and Gwadar, the state minister said the government had decided to revamp the crippled Pakistan International Airlines Corporation to transform it into a revenue generating organisation from a loss- incurring entity.

He said important routes of national flag carrier had been abolished like PIA flights to Washington, New York, Boston and Chicago in the US, Glasgow and Bradford in the UK, Moscow, Cairo, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Bangkok, Amsterdam etc.

Waseem Ashraff Butt also contributed to this report from Gujrat

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2018

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Opposition blasts govt in Senate over rupee devaluation

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Friday raised questions over the ,abrupt devaluation, of the rupee against the dollar and its implications for the country’s economy, insisting that the finance minister himself should explain if it had been done to meet IMF conditionalities.

The issue was raised in the house by PPP parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman through a calling-attention notice posing five key questions pertaining to devaluation of the rupee and Pakistan’s economy.

Also read: ,In the line of economic fire,

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar tried to give the reply, but Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq observed that the finance minister should himself give an explanation as there was a contradiction between statements of the prime minister and the finance minister on the issue.

Members walk out of house in protest against finance minister’s absence

Leader of the House Shibli Faraz, however, asked acting Chairman Saleem Mandviwala to allow the state minister to respond and asked how many times the PML-N’s finance minister turned up in the house to answer questions. He said the PTI government had inherited a ruined economy and thus it was busy in firefighting.

The house was told that Finance Minister Asad Umar was currently in Doha.

After the chair allowed Hammad Azhar to speak, he held the previous PML-N government responsible for the economic mess, saying foreign exchange reserves had been depleted to artificially maintain the rupee value and pointed out that the trade gap had reached $36 billion.

“Who is responsible for it? We surely have not done this in 100 days,” he remarked.

The state minister was on his feet when the combined opposition walked out of the house in protest against what it called inadequate answer to its questions in the absence of the finance minister.

Quorum bells were set off as quorum was pointed out following the walkout. As the quorum bells were being rung, the chair decided to put off the calling-attention notice to Monday, asking the leader of the house to let the finance minister give a response. The house was adjourned to meet again on Monday at 2pm.

Earlier speaking in the house, Ms Rehman said it was rather troubling that the finance minister was readily available for media appearances and he had answered more questions in talk shows and press conferences than he ever had in parliament.

The PPP senator then asked who’s calling the shots in Pakistan’s economy.

“If the prime minister did not know about such a huge devaluation and yet the finance minister did, then who is in charge and who will take the responsibility?” she wondered.

“If the precipitous devaluation was not part of any IMF precondition to bring the rupee down to non-artificial rate, then why was it done in such a disastrous freefall way in two crashes? Either way why was the managed float not graduated down slowly?”

She asked if the current account deficit would be fixed by this adjustment via a more robust export sector as to why all the exporters were saying that the crash was too steep.

Ms Rehman was of the view that while the gains for the export would be little, the impact on imports would be as high as Rs300 billion. She also reiterated the importance of transparency.

“When a country’s currency crashes so fast in one or two days, then there has to be an inquiry into who traded on the inside and made a fortune, while others lost their businesses and savings. The FIA should share its findings with parliament as to which money changer or syndicate profited from the devaluation,” she said.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2018

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SSGC stops gas supply to CNG sector, captive power plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

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