Posts Tagged ‘Protest’

Regime forces seize last IS pocket in southern Syria

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces on Saturday took back control of the militant Islamic State (IS) group’s last holdout in southern Syria after months of fighting, a war monitor said.

In another IS pocket in eastern Syria, meanwhile, air strikes by the US-led coalition killed 43 people, mostly civilians, the monitor said.

Regime forces retook Tulul al-Safa, between the provinces of Damascus and Sweida, “after IS fighters withdrew from it and headed east into the Badia desert”, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Regime forces have been fighting the militants in the area since a deadly July attack on the Druze minority in Sweida province.

In recent weeks, air strikes on the Tulul al-Safa pocket had increased and hundreds of regime fighters were sent as reinforcements, the Syrian Observatory said.

Air strikes by US-led coalition kill over 40 in another IS pocket

The jihadists’ withdrawal was likely “under a deal with the regime forces” after weeks of encirclement and air raids, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

State news agency SANA reported the Syrian forces had made “a great advance in Tulul al-Safa” and said they were combing the area for any remaining militants.

In the July 25 attack, IS killed more than 250 people, most of them civilians, in a wave of suicide bombings, shootings, and stabbings across Sweida province.

The jihadists also kidnapped around 30 people — mostly women and children — during the deadliest assault on Syria’s Druze community in the seven-year civil war.

Twenty-three of the hostages have since returned home, while the remainder appear to have died or been executed by the militants.

Air strikes

Seventeen children were among 36 IS family members killed in the village of Abu Husn in Deir Ezzor province near the Iraqi border, the Observatory said.

Another seven bodies had not yet been identified as either civilians or IS fighters, it said.

The US-led coalition has been backing a Kurdish-Arab alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting to expel the militants from the pocket around Abu Husn.

“It’s the highest death toll in coalition air strikes since the SDF launched its attack against the IS pocket” in September, the Observatory chief said.

The coalition has repeatedly said it does its utmost to prevent civilian casualties.

“The avoidance of civilian casualties is our highest priority when conducting strikes against legitimate military targets with precision munitions,” spokesman Sean Ryan said this week.

IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in land it controlled. But the jihadist group has since lost most of it to various offensives in both countries.

In Syria, the group has seen its presence reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the pocket in Deir Ezzor.

The SDF in September announced an assault to oust the militants from the eastern pocket, which includes the town of Hajin and the village of Al-Shaafa.

The alliance made slow advances until last month when tough militant resistance pushed the SDF out of the whole of the IS pocket.

Following the setback, hundreds of Kurdish fighters were deployed to the area’s outskirts as reinforcements. But the SDF then put the offensive on hold to protest Turkish shelling of Kurdish militia positions in northern Syria.

Turkey considers the Kurdish militia leading the SDF to be “terrorists”, while its Nato ally the United States has depended on them to fight IS in Syria.

On Sunday, the SDF said it was resuming its offensive against IS after “intensive contacts” with the coalition and “strong diplomatic activity” to defuse the crisis.

Since 2014, the coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number killed much higher.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2018

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Chief justice takes notice of GB tourism minister’s ‘misbehaviour’ at Islamabad airport

The Supreme Court has ordered Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Minister Fida Hussain and the arrival in charge at Islamabad Airport to appear before the court on November 17 and explain their position about an incident where Hussain allegedly misbehaved with the airport official following a flight delay on Thursday.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar issued court summons on Friday asking both Hussain and the airport official to appear before the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry on Saturday.

“As per media reports, the incident took place over a ,flight delay due to bad weather, and the minister pushed the arrival incharge so hard that he stumbled,” observes the SC notice.

On Thursday, November 16, Gilgit-bound Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-607 scheduled for 7am was first delayed due to technical reasons and cancelled later due to bad weather.

Videos of an angry passenger protesting against the delay went viral on social media that day.

The passenger, reported by the videographer to be Hussain, set fire to his possessions in protest over the delay, including “an expensive jacket”. When a fire extinguisher was brought to put the flames out, the passenger kicked it away in anger, as seen in the video.

Furthermore, when an airport security official approaches him to address the matter, the passenger can be seen holding his arms up and repeating: “Go bring handcuffs.”

In another video, the same man, reportedly the tourism minister, can be seen arguing with a white-uniformed official.

“The weather is bad you say. The weather is bad for one flight and not the other?” he exclaims incredulously before proceeding to ask the white-uniformed man his designation.

“I am the arrival in charge,” responded the man, introducing himself.

At this the vexed passenger’s annoyance turns to hostility and asking him to bring the manager of operations he shoves the arrival in charge hard, causing him to skid across the airport floor and stumble.

Later that day, the PIA spokesperson said CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik talked to GB Law Minister Aurangzeb Khan, who was also going to travel on the flight, and told him that the flight had been cancelled due to bad weather.

He said the passengers were moved to hotels for the night and assured that a special flight will be operated for them on Friday.

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SC censures intelligence agency for failing to provide financial details of Faizabad sit-in leaders

The Supreme Court on Friday criticised the country’s premier intelligence agency for failing to provide the financial details of leaders of the ,Faizabad sit-in,, rejecting a report submitted by the agency in this regard.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam had resumed hearing a suo motu case regarding the 20-day sit-in held at the Faizabad interchange in Islamabad/Rawalpindi by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) in November 2017. Justice Qazi Faez Isa was the other member of the bench.

“Does the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] function under the law?” Justice Isa asked during the hearing, observing that the agency had said in a report it was not its job to obtain certain details of the Faizabad sit-in leaders’ finances.

Examine: ,Another surrender,

He said the protest sit-in had caused losses of billions and that the court wanted to know whether the persons “who can bring thousands of people” to the sit-in pay taxes.

“Can the ISI not even find out about the bank account of a person?” the judge wondered. He said the agency had said in response to the court’s query that it could not furnish income tax details of the protest leaders and that it could be provided by the Federal Board of Revenue.

Justice Isa said if these things did not fall in the purview of the agency “then when [in the future] ISI interferes in other matters, we will ask: ‘is this ISI’s job?’.”

The bench then wondered if it should summon the director general of the ISI or the defence secretary for an explanation.

Brigadier Falak Naz, the director of Ministry of Defence’s law branch, said the agency could be asked to obtain the requisite details if the court so orders. “ISI looks after the national security [of the country],” he added.

“Is the sit-in not a matter of national security?” Justice Isa retorted, observing that the ISI was subservient to the country’s law and Constitution.

The bench subsequently rejected the third report on the sit-in submitted by the ISI, and two other reports by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (Pemra).

The intelligence agency, ECP and Pemra were directed to submit new reports as the hearing was adjourned until next Thursday.

The court also directed the attorney general and information secretary to appear at the next hearing.

In November 2017, TLP workers demanding the resignation of then law minister Zahid Hamid had staged a weeks-long sit-in at the Faizabad interchange that had virtually paralysed the federal capital and led to several people losing their lives.

On November 21 of the same month, the apex court had taken notice of the sit-in and directed the defence and interior secretaries to submit a detailed report on the matter.

Days later, the then PML-N government had launched against the protesters an operation which, when failed, had forced the authorities to cave and Hamid to resign.

‘Does anyone besides Pemra issue directions to media?’

The SC bench earlier grilled the Pemra chairman regarding a blackout of TV news channels that had taken place during the sit-in last year.

“Complaints had been received of [TV] channels being taken off-air during the Faizabad sit-in… what action did Pemra take against the cable operators [who took the channels off-air]?” Justice Isa asked Pemra chairman Muhammad Saleem Baig.

“Cable operators were fined Rs50,000,” Baig replied.

But Justice Isa said the fine was not mentioned anywhere in the report submitted by Pemra. “Is there any proof that you imposed the fine?” he asked the chairman.

The explanations given by the chairman failed to convince the judge, who told Baig: “You are misusing your office.”

The deputy attorney general, too, observed that were contradictions in the statements of the Pemra chairman, leading Justice Isa to remark, “You people do not care about Pakistan [because] you did not create it.”

Justice Isa said measures such as raising walls of schools and suspending mobile signals during sit-ins were “not a solution” to security issues. “Is this the level of our security?” he wondered.

The bench also asked the Pemra chairman whether anyone besides the authority also issues directions to the country’s electronic media.

“Is there a clandestine force that issues directions to the media?” Justice Isa said, to which the Pemra chairman replied in the negative.

“You are the chairman and you don’t even know that secret instructions are being received,” the judge told Baig. He said only a person of a high rank could have a channel taken off-air and “you can’t take action against [such a person]“.

Justice Isa then recalled that a sit-in had also been staged in Islamabad’s Red Zone. The sit-in, staged by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in 2014, had demanded that a judicial commission be formed to probe rigging in the 2013 elections.

“The judgement that the commission gave is before everyone,” he said. The commission had ,concluded in its report, that the 2013 polls were in large part “organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law”.

“Have the people who staged the sit-in apologised after the judicial commission’s report [was released]?” Justice Isa asked.

‘Will Pakistan be run through law or street power?’

At the outset of the hearing, the SC bench expressed severe displeasure at the absence of the attorney general at the court.

“The attorney general was instructed to appear in [SC's] Lahore registry by the chief justice,” Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mehmood revealed, asking the court to adjourn the hearing.

“The instructions are not issued by the chief justice but the court,” Justice Isa responded. “We are also a court [here] and this hearing date was set on the attorney general’s wish.”

“This is not a joke,” the judge remarked, wondering what other case could be more important than the one which relates to “Pakistan being shut down”.

“The attorney general is answerable because he is paid from the public’s taxes,” he added.

Justice Isa said the government should inform the court if it does not want the case to continue. “Tell [us] whether Pakistan should be run through the law or street power,” he added.

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TLP hasn’t provided poll expenses’ details, ECP tells SC

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) — the party behind protest demonstrations that paralysed the twin cities — had not yet submitted details of the expenses it made during the July elections.

“The subject political party (TLP) participated in the general elections, 2018 but has not submitted the details of the Campaign Finance till date,” the ECP stated in a reply furnished before the SC, which will commence on Friday the hearing of a case relating to the 20-day Faizabad sit-in in November last year.

The TLP had participated in the 2018 general elections and bagged three seats in the Sindh Assembly.

At the last hearing on Oct 11, a two-judge SC bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam had ordered the ECP to furnish the application under which the TLP was registered as a political party and asked the accountant general to assist the court in determining whether the ECP or the federal government was empowered under the Elections Act 2017 to take remedial measures for regulating political parties on their conduct.

Contempt of court action sought against Khadim Rizvi, Afzal Qadri

In its reply, the ECP explained that it had issued notices to all political parties which had failed to submit the details of their campaign finances. It said that if they failed to follow the directives, their election symbols would be withheld, adding that all political parties participating in the elections were required to submit to the ECP the list of contributors who have donated or contributed an amount equal to or more than Rs100,000 for thier election campaigns within 60 days from the close of a financial year in terms of Section 211 of the Elections Act.

The consolidated statements of political parties’ accounts were audited by a chartered accountant highlighting annual income and expenses, sources of funds and assets and liabilities, the reply stated.

The ECP had also framed a code of conduct for political parties, contesting candidates and polling agents in terms of Section 233 of the Elections Act, it said.

The ECP explained that after the enactment of the Elections Act, all election-related laws had been repealed, including the Political Parties Order 2002 and Political Parties Rules 2002. Section 202 (4) of the Elections Act requires all political parties to submit a list of 2,000 members along with photocopies of their CNICs and proof of deposit of Rs200,000 in favour of the commission in the State Bank or the National Bank of Pakistan as enlistment fee.

The TLP, the reply said, had submitted the relevant documents on Jan 8, 2018.

The reply contended that the ECP had objected to the registration of the party with the name Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah and recognised the party with the name of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, which was later accepted by the party.

Petition against TLP

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court lawyer on Thursday filed a petition in the apex court, seeking a directive for the federal government to commence the process of dissolution of the TLP as political party pursuant to Section 212 of the Elections Act for operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. He alleged that the party had indulged in terrorism.

Barrister Masroor Shah also requested the apex court to initiate contempt of the court proceedings against TLP leaders — Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Peer Afzal Qadri — for scandalising the SC and tending to bring this august court and its judges into hatred, ridicule and contempt.

The petition asked the court to order the federal government that instead of succumbing to political exigencies and taking mere cosmetic measures, discharge its constitutional duty to protect fundamental rights of citizens and establish the rule of law in the country by taking strict meaningful legal action against Khadim Rizvi and Afzal Qadri for allegedly committing offences of sedition, incitement to mutiny, criminal intimidation, rioting and terrorism.

The petition recalled that during three days of violent protests, the TTP leadership vociferously spat venom against judges of the Supreme Court and the chief of the army staff. They did not even shy away from inciting bodyguards and personal servants of judges and the army chief to take the law into their own hands, the petition said, adding that the TLP leadership had called upon members of the armed forces to stage mutiny against their commanders.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2018

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Aasia released to please the West, says Fazl

LAHORE: It is not the legality of arrest or release of Aasia Bibi that is bothering the nation, but the fact that she has been released under a deal with the West, says Maulana Fazlur Rehman, president of the Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA).

Addressing the “million march,” which was very thinly attended when compared to the ‘figure’ mentioned in its title, he said the way the West had been celebrating the release of Aasia Bibi “showed the reality of the issue”.

“If Aasia Bibi’s release is only a legal decision, why is there flood of personal praises directed at the CJP and Imran Khan? It only proves that the decision was taken under a deal, which is now being praised in the West. What kind of legal decision is this which is being celebrated by the West and has caused anxiety in the Ummah?,”the Maulana thundered.

The call for the march was given by the All (religious) Parties Tahafuz-i-Namoos-i-Risalat.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F head alleged that an EU delegation that visited Pakistan in run-up to the decision, offered the country membership of international financial clubs and linked the offer to the Aasia Bibi’s release.

“Misquoting the Islamic history of Misaq-i-Madina, the PTI parliamentarians are trying to justify the diplomatic recognition of Isreal as well,” Maulana told the small but emotionally charged gathering on The Mall.

“I have been arguing since long that Imran Khan is a Jew representative and has been anointed by the West to play its proxy. Now he has been brought to power only to play games of his masters and hurt the Ummah. The government is guilty of conspiring to alter the blasphemy law, setting blasphemers free and playing to Western tunes,”. he said, adding that the movement would continue till the PTI mended its ways.

He announced that the next protest on the issue would be held on Nov 25 at Sukkur.

Earlier, Prof Sajjad Mir, addressing the rally, said there might be sectarian differences among different parties but they all were one on the issue of blasphemy. He too alleged “This all was being done to please the West”.

Hafiz Idrees, the acting emir of Jamaat-i-Islami, declared that the blasphemers could not be pardoned, come what may.

Shah Awais Noorani was of the view that the parliamentary system was being rigged to replace it with presidential form of government. He warned the religo-political forces wont allow it.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2018

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Pakistan concerned over inordinate delay in handing over mortal remains of SP Dawar: Foreign Office

Following the burial of Superintendent of Police (SP) Tahir Khan Dawar on Thursday night, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal ,took to Twitter, to express “Pakistan’s concern over the inordinate delay in handing over mortal remains” of the ,martyred police official,.

He added that the handing over [from the Afghan side] was linked to “insistence on non-diplomatic procedures and non-official individuals resulting in avoidable pain to the Shaheed’s family”.

“Diplomatic and humanitarian norms need to be observed, especially in such circumstances,” he said.

Editorial: ,SP’s murder,

SP Dawar, chief of Peshawar police’s rural circle, was kidnapped in the G-10/4 area of Islamabad on October 26. On Tuesday [Nov 13], his body was found in a remote area of the Afghan province of Nangarhar and a day later, FO said that Afghan officials had confirmed that the tortured body found was indeed that of Dawar.

Profile: ,Career officer Tahir Dawar,

Earlier in the day, according to senior government officials, members of a tribal jirga on the Afghan side refused to hand over the police officer’s body to Pakistani authorities. Eventually, the body was handed over to SP Dawar’s brothers.

State Minister Shehryar Afridi waits at Torkham border for SP Dawar's body. — DawnNewsTV

State Minister Shehryar Afridi waits at Torkham border for SP Dawar’s body. — DawnNewsTV

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi and KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai, as well as MNA Mohsin Dawar, were present at Torkham to receive the body of SP Dawar.

The martyred police officer’s body was then dispatched to Peshawar via a helicopter, where his funeral prayers were offered at Police Lines at around 9pm. Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Shaheen Mazhar Mahmood, Commandant Frontier Constabulary Moazzam Ansari, and other high-ranking law enforcement officials were also in attendance.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Shehryar Afridi, KP Police Chief Salahuddin Khan Mahsud, Shaukat Yousufzai, and provincial spokesperson Ajmal Wazir also attended the funeral.

Dawar’s family held a separate funeral in Hayatabad, after which he was laid to rest at a graveyard in Phase-1 area of the locality.

‘Brutal murder highly condemnable’

The Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, condemned “the brutal murder” of “a brave police officer”, and suspected the involvement of an entity “more than a terrorist organisation”.

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The DG ISPR also urged “Afghan security forces to cooperate in border fencing” to “deny use of Afghan territory against Pakistan”.

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Earlier in the day, the Foreign Office had offered its condolences to SP Dawar’s family, and said it had registered with the Afghan Charge d’ Affairs “our strong protest over the inordinate delay and manner of return of the body”.

“It is hoped that Afghan authorities will offer full cooperation in ascertaining the circumstances under which a Pakistani police officer was found murdered in Afghanistan,” the FO had said.

‘No compromise on SP Dawar’s murder’

In a joint presser later in the day, Afridi and Yousufzai assured that the state “will not compromise” on SP Dawar’s murder, and lamented the Afghan authorities’ behaviour over the body’s handing-over process.

“We were made to stand at the border for two, three hours,” said Yousufzai, to which Afridi added: “The behaviour that we saw at the border today was painful.”

“A game of politics was being played, trying to spread chaos in Pakistan,” added Afridi. “When an officer of the state is martyred, instead of handing his body over to the state, you place some other demands and employ delaying tactics.”

“The Afghan refugees have been given the most respect by Pakistan,” the state minister said. “We have respect for the Afghan government [but] they will have to think why such a behaviour was adopted.”

Regarding the investigation, Afridi said: “The PM has already directed KP CM, KP IGP and Islamabad IGP to conduct an immediate inquiry and furnish a report. A meeting will be held in this regard at the Prime Minister House at 3pm tomorrow.

“We will take this matter to its logical end. We will go all out. The lives of our soldiers and citizens alike are the responsibility of the state. It will be a message to all those who have made a mockery of the issue that the state will not compromise on this.”

The martyred police official’s sibling, who also sat alongside the two ministers in the presser, requested the state to “help me bring to justice whoever has done this to my brother”.

PM orders immediate inquiry into SP Dawar’s ‘shocking’ murder

On Thursday morning, Prime Minister ,Imran Khan ordered, an “immediate inquiry” into SP Dawar’s “shocking” murder.

Taking to Twitter, PM Khan said: “Have followed the shocking tragedy of the murder of SP Tahir Khan Dawar and ordered Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to coordinate with Islamabad police in holding an inquiry immediately.”

MNA Mohsin Dawar, who has been vocal in demanding justice for the martyred cop since his disappearance, responded to PM Khan’s tweet, saying: “We reject an internal inquiry. We know that our investigation authorities can’t question certain powers.”

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Panel needed to probe ‘economic terrorism’: minister

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday called for forming a parliamentary panel to probe issues linked with “economic terrorism”.

Referring to the 5,000 fake bank accounts allegedly used to stash billions of dollars abroad, he said the proposed parliamentary committee would see to whom these accounts belonged to.

Speaking in the Senate, Mr Chaudhry said information received from 10 countries showed that these accounts had been used to launder Rs700 billion. He said the committee should also see as to how allocations made in successive budgets had been spent and why the government was forced to lend money to pay back loans.

The idea was endorsed in principle by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani who promised to consult the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition in the Senate, besides discussing it with the National Assembly speaker.

Senate sees walkout over Fawad Chaudhry’s remarks against opposition politicians

The information minister regretted the remarks made against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leadership by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mushahidullah Khan on Monday and said the language used was deplorable and the member or his party should tender an apology for it.

The Senate chairman, however, asked the minister not to vitiate the atmosphere, pointing out that the member concerned was not present in the house.

At this, Mr Chaudhry said he too was not present in the house when the PML-N leader made objectionable remarks. He wondered why he could not speak on how the country had been run by the previous governments. Referring to a case relating to illegal construction of shops on the land of Baba Farid shrine in Pakpattan, the permission for which had been granted in 1985 when PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was the chief minister, Mr Chaudhry said they did not even spare shrines.

The chairman once again interrupted the minister and said the matter was sub judice.

Mr Chaudhry regretted that whenever somebody talked of investigations into corruption, accountability and fake accounts, the atmosphere in the Senate was vitiated. “It is inappropriate to sweep everything under the carpet.”

Things apparently calmed down afterwards, but rumpus ruled the house over the information minister’s remarks in response to a calling-attention notice moved by Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and others raised the issue of slow pace of work on the Quetta airport and use of substandard material.

Mr Kakar regretted that while big airports had been constructed in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, the expansion work on the Quetta airport that was supposed to be completed by December last year was constantly being delayed.

Responding to the notice, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the PkMAP remained an ally of the previous PML-N government for five years, but they never bothered to question their allies for the delay.

This infuriated the PkMAP senators who shouted at the minister not to say anything against the previous government and instead focus on the delay.

As if what Mr Khan had said was not enough, the information minister stood up again to hold responsible top opposition leaders by name. He said Zardaris, Achakzais and Fazlur Rahmans were to blame if no uplift work could be carried out in the provinces despite provision of substantial funds. “They are the ones who looted the country.”

He also asked as to where the hefty amount of Rs42 trillion given to Balochistan over the last 10 years had been spent. “Mehmood Khan Achakzai had appointed his brother as governor of the province and had made the whole government his slave and is now giving us lectures,” he said, adding that the opposition had no right to talk like this.

“In which capacity these people are talking as these are the people who are responsible for the backwardness of the province,” he said. “There should be a committee comprising members of the Senate to probe ‘economic terrorism’ by Achakzais and Co.”

As the minister continued to hold allies of the PML-N in Balochistan responsible for the province’s backwardness, the combined opposition parties staged a walkout in protest.

Leader of the House Shibli Faraz, Senator Faisal Javed and Minister for Privatisation Mohammad Mian Soomro tried to persuade the opposition members to come back and join the proceedings, but to no avail.

When the Senate chairman reminded the information minister that it was government’s responsibility to run the house smoothly, the latter retorted that the chair should also show some concern about the ‘poor’ the way he was giving importance to the opposition members.

“Everything is alright if we don’t talk about the corruption of these protesting senators, but the moment we say something about their corruption … they start agitating. We will expose whoever is involved in plundering the national wealth no matter what,” Mr Chaudhry maintained.

In what signalled his readiness to bring his old rivalry with the information minister to an end, Mushahidullah Khan went to Mr Chaudhry and shook hands with him when he was exchanging harsh words with Usman Kakar.

Shibli Faraz proposed development of a code of conduct for the members and expressed his intention to hold a meeting with the opposition leader and parliamentary leaders — an idea that instantly won support of the chair as well.

The house will meet on Thursday (today) at 10.30 am.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018

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Civil Lines SHO given 2 more days to respond to allegations of inaction against TLP protesters

A sessions court in Lahore on Wednesday gave the station house officer (SHO) of Civil Lines police station until November 16 (Friday) to submit a report on his alleged failure to register a case against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) head Ashraf Jalali and others for threatening the top judiciary and inciting the armed forces to stage a mutiny, in the aftermath of ,Aasia Bibi’s acquittal,.

Last Thursday, the court had fixed for hearing a petition — filed by citizen Abdullah Malik — which claims that the Civil Lines SHO had failed to file a first information report (FIR) against the aforementioned leaders of religiopolitical parties.

The court had also directed the said SHO to submit his response on November 14 (today).
However, the order was not complied with and no representative of the police appeared before the court for today’s hearing.

Subsequently, the court ordered the SHO to submit a response by Friday, until when the hearing of the case was also adjourned.

The petition, ,filed last week,, states that “the local police is reluctant to take action against the accused [due to] their presence in the ruling class and having direct contacts with the police and others.”

A copy of the application to lodge an FIR, dated November 1 and addressed to the Civil Lines SHO, states that TLP leaders had threatened the judges of the Supreme Court, passed an edict to murder the country’s Constitutional prime minister and incited their party workers to spark riots.

The petitioner had prayed to the court to pass orders to ensure legal action is taken against the TLP leaders as well as police officials, if the latter are reluctant to register a criminal case against the former.

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Plea for treason case against TLP, JUI-F dismissed

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday dismissed a writ petition for being non-maintainable that sought directions for the federal government to initiate high treason proceedings against heads of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) for delivering speeches against the judiciary and the armed forces.

Dismissing the petition, Justice Atir Mahmood observed that the Supreme Court had already taken suo motu notice of the issue while the government also took cognisance of the damage caused during the recent protests.

The judge further observed that it was prerogative of the federal government to initiate high treason proceedings. And the petitioner should have approached the appropriate forum instead of increasing workload on the court by filing such unnecessary petitions.

A citizen, Shabbirullah Khan, filed the petition pleading that both political leaders had been continuously spewing venom against the judiciary and armed forces, which was tantamount to committing the offence of high treason.

He said the TLP central leadership including Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri, Waheed Anwar as well as Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F violated article 6 of the Constitution in the name of protest.

He contended that under High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973 only the federal government was empowered to initiate treason proceedings. Therefore, he asked the court to direct the federal government to initiate proceedings against the TLP and JUI-F leaders under the charges of high treason.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018

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Journalist Nasrullah Chaudhry handed over to CTD for 2-day physical remand

An anti-terrorism court in Karachi on Monday granted a two-day physical remand of journalist Nasrullah Khan Chaudhry to the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in a case pertaining to alleged recovery of anti-state and hate literature.

ATC Judge Naimatullah Phulpoto directed the investigating officer (IO) to produce the detained journalist on November 13 and also submit a charge sheet on the next hearing.

Chaudhry, a journalist associated with Urdu-language daily Nai Baat, was detained by law enforcement personnel following a raid on his residence on Friday night.

On Monday, the CTD officials disclosed his arrest in a case registered under Sections 11W(i) and 11F(i) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which pertains to printing, publishing, or disseminating any material to incite hatred, and offer support and hold meetings for a proscribed organisation.

Editorial: ,Intrusion into Karachi Press Club by armed men seems like another attempt to stifle the media,

The journalist community is continuing its protest against Chaudhry’s detention, which the journalists’ representative groups describe as an attempt to justify the ,raid by the LEAs personnel, on the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Thursday night.

On Monday, IO Syed Ali Haider of the CTD produced the detained journalist before the administrative judge and requested for his 14-day physical remand for interrogation.

The officer informed the court that the detained suspect was allegedly an accomplice and facilitator of a notorious Al Qaeda operative named Khalid Mukashi, alleging him of giving Rs0.25 million to Khalid.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued later in the day, the CTD accused Chaudhry of providing financial help to Khalid, by giving him Rs0.25 million.

The CTD official further said that security personnel had also recovered a bag containing four copies of Nawa-i-Afghan Jihad, published in 2011, a magazine which promoted violence against the country and incited religious hatred.

In view of the initial investigation, the IO pleaded for a 14-day physical remand of the detained journalist, who is already in CTD’s custody, for further investigation.

However, Advocates Mohammad Farooq and Syed Haider Imam Rizvi, the defence counsel for Chaudhry, vehemently opposed the IO’s plea for physical remand of the journalist.

They argued that Chaudhry was innocent and was picked up after participating in a protest outside the Sindh Governor House against the raid on the KPC.

“The news about Chaudhry’s arrest in a false case has been widely reported in the international media, bringing a bad name for the country as well as Pakistani journalists,” the counsel deplored, and urged the court to dismiss the IO’s request for physical remand.

Turning down the plea for a 14-day remand, the ATCs administrative judge granted a two-day remand and directed the IO to submit the charge sheet against the suspect on Nov 13.

Meanwhile, the CTD has said that the raid carried out at the KPC last week was indeed conducted to arrest Chaudhry, who was present there at that time, but managed to flee from the scene.

The law enforcers apologised from the journalist community for raiding the press club, saying the operations were being carried out to protect the citizens of Karachi from any untoward incident, specifically in wake of the defence expo which is scheduled to be held later this month.

It is pertinent to mention that adviser to Sindh chief minister on information Murtaza Wahab had on Friday claimed that the intrusion of law enforcers in plainclothes into KPC on Thursday night was ,due to some “misunderstanding”,.

In a statement, the adviser said that initial inquiry into the incident revealed that the law enforcers went there due to “some problem in their GSM locator”.

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Govt’s botched handling of Aasia Bibi protests is ‘divine justice’: PML-N senator

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government on Monday once again came under fire in the Senate from opposition lawmakers over its ,handling of protests by religious parties, against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, with PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan claiming that the ruling party was merely reaping what it had sowed while it was in opposition.

He alleged that the last time such protests had taken place, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari had participated in the sit-ins. Governments leaders had also exploited the issue to gain votes, he alleged.

It is “divine justice” that the “fire” the ruling party had started has now become impossible for it to extinguish, Mushahidullah said, adding that agreements are now being signed with the people who issued statements against state institutions.

“You hindered a country that was speeding towards progress… but today you are unable to even answer whether Aasia [Bibi] is present in the country or not,” the PML-N leader said while addressing the treasury benches.

“The khatm-e-nabuwwat [protesters] that are your foes today were your friends yesterday… is this not ‘divine justice’?”

After an exchange of hot words with several government members over his criticism of Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was not present in the house, Mushahidullah resumed his broadside against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.

“They say the three-day [TLP] sit-in resulted in a loss of Rs50 billion per day… why don’t they multiply Rs50bn with 126 days?” he said, in a taunting reference to the 126-day sit-in staged by the PTI in 2014.

“Why didn’t you think then that this was causing loss of the country and people?”

PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar in his remarks regretted the situation that arisen from the countrywide protests staged by religiopolitical groups.

“A registered political party crossed the red line,” he said, referring to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)

“Are we going to continue tolerating a political party which talks about creating anarchy in the country?” he asked, observing that the Constitution calls for the suspension of a party’s membership if it talks against the country’s sovereignty.

He wondered why the government had opted to “escape” from the national consensus that emerged over the protests and proceeded to enter into a deal with the agitators.

“The interior minister laid all the blame for this on the opposition, which was standing next to you,” he said, addressing the treasury benches.

“The government’s inefficiency spread despair among the people,” he said.

Economic assistance from Saudi, China

Mushahidullah also took a jibe at the government for what he called “begging” from other countries, saying it was unprecedented for the government to term the economic assistance it has received an “achievement”.

Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the senator said it was the first time that a leader had gone to China and said “everyone in my country is corrupt” and later sought financial aid.

State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar while briefing the house said $3 billion will be deposited in the State Bank as part of the economic package agreed to by Saudi Arabia.

He said matters of financial assistance are currently being discussed with China, and the Senate “will be informed when they are finalised”.

“The balance-of-payments crisis has been stopped now due to government efforts,” the minister claimed, adding that exports and foreign exchange reserves are rising as the imports fall.

Responding to Mushahidullah’s query about the action taken against Pakistanis who were named in the Panama Papers leaks, Azhar said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has started taking steps in this regard.

“We have obtained data of 96,000 foreign accounts [held by Pakistanis] from 27 countries,” he said, adding that the FBR has recovered Rs7 billion through the investigation into the Panama Papers leaks.

Bill for parliament ratification of govt’s foreign agreements

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani on Monday presented a bill in the Senate that could make it binding upon the government to place agreements and contracts with other countries, donors and international monetary organisations before the parliament for ratification.

The bill titled ,“Ratification of Foreign Agreements by Parliament Bill, 2018”, had been moved by Rabbani, the former Senate chairman, in August.

Through the bill, the PPP leader has called upon the government to place a foreign agreement, contract or protocol to be signed with any country before both the houses of the parliament to seek approval of its draft within 15 days of its finalisation.

Speaking in the upper house today, Rabbani said it is a practice in some countries that all agreements are ratified by the parliament.

He explained that the bill would force the government to present in the legislature agreements on which it has negotiated with foreign parties, but before the agreement has been signed.

The parliament will then send its recommendations on the agreement to the relevant ministry, which will inform the parliament about the approval of the suggestions within a specified time.

Commenting on the proposal, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said although he principally had no objections against the bill, there is no uniform practice around the world regarding ratification of agreements and treaties by the parliament.

“Many countries do not get agreements ratified by the lawmakers,” he informed the Senate. A situation of uncertainty can be created by frequent amendments to international treaties, on which talks can last for several years, he added.

“A method of review should be devised that doesn’t become a hindrance in the [signing of agreements],” he stressed.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq supported the bill, saying matters like foreign agreements should not stay confined to the executive and that the parliament should have a say in them.

After hearing all opinions on the proposal, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani sent the bill to the relevant committee.

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Canada in talks with Pakistan over possibly taking in Aasia Bibi

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that his government was holding talks with Pakistan over potentially offering asylum to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman recently freed from prison after her blasphemy conviction was overturned.

“We are in discussions with the Pakistani government,” Trudeau said in an interview with AFP in Paris, where he was attending a peace conference organised by French President Emmanuel Macron.

“There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country,” he said.

Bibi has been blocked from leaving Pakistan after the overturning of her conviction prompted a wave of protests by religiopolitical groups.

She has since been ,flown to a “safe place”, in the country as several governments have offered to grant her family asylum.

Her husband has appealed in particular to Britain, Canada and the United States, claiming that Bibi’s life would be in danger as long as she lived in Pakistan.

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and other religiopolitical parties had launched countrywide protests after the Supreme Court acquitted Bibi, who had been on death row for the past eight years on blasphemy charges.

Three days later, the government and the TLP had signed a deal to conclude the latter’s protest. One of the major concessions the government agreed to was to “initiate the legal process” to place Bibi’s name on the exit control list (ECL).

The government had also assured the party that it would not oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Aasia Bibi blasphemy case. The state further promised to take appropriate legal action to redress any deaths that may have occurred during the protests against the Aasia Bibi verdict and to release all people picked up in connection with the protests starting October 30.

The TLP, in turn, only offered an apology “if it hurt the sentiments or inconvenienced anyone without reason”.

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Over 1,000 shops in Karachi’s Saddar demolished as anti-encroachment drive intensifies

KARACHI: The ongoing anti-encroachment operation in Saddar entered its crucial phase on Sunday as authorities demolished more than 1,000 shops in four markets in the surroundings of the iconic Empress Market in an attempt to restore the British-era structure to its original shape.

The joint operation by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other civic bodies backed by law enforcers was launched on the directives of the Supreme Court.

Police said no untoward incident took place during the operation, except that a shopkeeper set his own shop on fire in protest.

The mayor says alternative place will be provided to those having rent agreement with KMC

While authorities said that they had engaged the protesting shopkeepers in talks that led to end of their sit-in, shopkeepers accused the authorities of violating an agreement reached during their meeting with the Karachi commissioner under which they were supposed to give time to remove their goods, furniture, etc, from their shops by Sunday noon.

Saddar’s old clothes, birds, dried fruits markets no more

KMC authorities backed by heavy contingents of police and Rangers brought heavy machinery to the Empress Market on Saturday night.

Roads leading to the Empress Market were closed for vehicular traffic and at 7am the operation was launched.

The authorities said “four illegal markets” dealing with dried fruits, old clothes and a bird market were demolished.

“We have demolished 1,043 shops,” said KMC’s anti-encroachment director Bashir Ahmed Siddiqi.

He said the Empress Market would be restored to its original shape within next 15 days.

Talking to the media, Mr Siddiqi said a task force comprising officials of the KMC, anti-encroachment police and district police had been formed to prevent future encroachment in Saddar.

Preedy SHO Liaquat Mehsud told Dawn that no untoward incident took place during the operation. However, one shopkeeper set his shop on fire apparently in protest during the operation, he added.

Mayor promises alternative places

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhter, who visited the spot, told the media that beautiful parks would be established in the surroundings of the Empress Market.

He recalled that illegal shops were established on the places where parks existed in the past. Due to this the original master plan of the market was changed, he added.

He clarified that the anti-encroachment drive had been launched on the directions of the chief justice of Pakistan and prime minister.

He promised that the shopkeepers who had been giving rent to the KMC under a 30-year-old agreement would be accommodated at alternative places, preferably in the markets being run by the KMC in other parts of the city.

The mayor said that a committee had been established to this effect and an alternative place would be provided to the shopkeepers in a transparent manner.

Shopkeepers to decide strategy today

Terming the demolition “injustice with shopkeepers”, All Empress Market Associations president Iqbal Kakar told Dawn that a meeting of the affectees would be held on Monday (today) for seeking compensation and alternative places for running business as ‘hundreds of thousands of workers’ had been deprived of their livelihood.

He said that the shopkeepers had ended a protest sit-in on Saturday after successful talks with the Karachi commissioner. It was agreed in the meeting that the shopkeepers would be given time till Sunday noon to take their belongings from their shops.

“As a goodwill gesture and in compliance with the SC order we agreed to end the protest with a heavy heart,” said Mr Kakar, who is also the president of now demolished Umar Farooq Market.

However, he said the authorities violated the agreement and launched their operation at 7am without allowing shopkeepers to take their goods.

‘Goods, furniture worth Rs450m destroyed’

He claimed that he rushed to the scene after receiving information of the operation and reminded the municipal commissioner about the agreement but he expressed his ‘helplessness’ in that regard.

Mr Kakar claimed that at least 1,450 shops located in four markets were demolished, causing an estimated loss of Rs450 million to shopkeepers in the head of goods and furniture.

He said that two old clothes markets adjacent to the Jehangir Park were also demolished despite the fact that the shopkeepers had already approached a court where the first hearing of their case took place on Nov 5 and second hearing was scheduled for Nov 15.

He claimed that the office-bearer of the old clothes market showed court documents to the officials concerned but they (KMC) warned the shopkeepers to take away their old clothes and other stuff ‘within two hours’.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2018

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Under-fire NAB chief to face Senate panel

ISLAMABAD: Amid ongoing controversy over recent TV interviews of a senior official of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), its chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal will be appearing before a Senate committee on Nov 16 for a comprehensive briefing on the “working and performance of the bureau”.

The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, headed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Javed Abbasi, had called the NAB chairman with complete record and data of the cases currently being investigated and disposed of by the bureau since its inception about 19 years ago, particularly in the last three years.

According to the agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat for the Nov 16 meeting of the standing committee, the NAB chairman is scheduled to brief the members on the “procedure for taking cognisance of cases, inquiry and prosecution, details of pending cases at various stages with current status and reasons for pendency in each case, details of recoveries made during the last three years, details of cases disposed of with percentages of acquittal and conviction, and mechanism regarding recommendations for placing a person on the Exit Control List with the details of such recommendations made in the last three years with the reasons thereof”.

Opposition members will raise issue of controversial TV interviews of bureau’s Lahore DG

The opposition parties, particularly the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party, have been criticising NAB for the last one year for its alleged “one-sided accountability”. They allege that NAB, which was created by former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf in 1999 through an ordinance, had always been used as a tool for political victimisation of opponents.

During the previous two-week long National Assembly session, NAB came under fire in almost every sitting and Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif — who has been under NAB custody in connection with investigation into the Ashiyana housing scam since Oct 5 and attended the assembly proceedings after issuance of his production order by Speaker Asad Qaiser — had alleged that there was an “unholy alliance” between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and NAB, complaining that the bureau had been active only against the PML-N people.

And on the last day of the NA session on Nov 9, the opposition lodged a strong protest over TV interviews of NAB Lahore Director General (DG) Shahzad Saleem in which he had unfolded details of the investigation against Shahbaz Sharif in the Ashiyana housing scam.

The opposition members even submitted a “question of privilege” in the National Assembly and demanded immediate intervention of the house in the matter. The speaker did not first give weight to the opposition’s move, but later assured them that he would take up the matter with the NAB chairman.

The opposition members in their motion stated that the bureau’s Lahore DG, “with the consent of the chairman NAB has appeared on TV programmes” and thus “conducted a media trial of opposition members, attempted to influence the so-called cases against the members of the National Assembly, provided details of the matters that are sub judice, revealed details of confidential and secret NAB documents and maligned the reputation of the members of the parliament”.

Interestingly, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry supported the action of the NAB Lahore DG, saying the PML-N had first set an example of maligning the bureau in the media. “Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif had spoken for three hours in the house about his NAB case — Ashiyana housing project,” he had said, alleging that the opposition wanted to undermine the NAB investigation process by using the privilege motion as a tool.

Though the Senate committee had called for a briefing by the NAB chairman much before the controversial TV interviews of the DG, an opposition member of the committee said they would definitely raise the issue in the meeting and seek an explanation.

The NAB chairman has already taken notice of Mr Saleem’s TV interviews and sought their records from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority so that an action could be taken against the official under the law. In a statement, the NAB chief said the bureau gave respect to all parliamentarians.

Sources in NAB claimed that the DG had appeared in TV talk shows without seeking prior permission of the chairman.

The NAB chairman is appearing before the Senate committee, comprising a number of political heavyweights, also at a time when both the government and the opposition have already reached an agreement that there is a need to overhaul the NAB laws to remove apprehensions about the working of the bureau in order to make the accountability process just and transparent.

In this connection, representatives of the government and the opposition had already held two meetings presided over by Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem. The opposition members claimed that the initiative for the talks on the issue had been taken by the PTI government itself.

After coming to power after the July 25 general elections, Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted a special task force under the law minister to reform the accountability laws in the country. The task force had at its last meeting in September decided to consult all stakeholders and seek public support for preparing a new law aimed at empowering NAB.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2018

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Recovery of funds stashed abroad to take time: minister

LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday since Pakistan could not investigate and recover “corruption money stashed abroad” all on its own, the recoveries would take time.

“The money looted by the Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari families belongs to the country and needs to be recovered,” he said at a press conference.

Reacting to the PML-N and PPP leaders’ recent comments that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s leaders were “begging” in different countries, Mr Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan would not have needed to go abroad to get money had the Sharif and Zardari families returned “83 per cent of Pakistan’s Rs30 trillion loan liability”.

The information minister said the country’s total debt in 2006 was just Rs6tr, but the PPP and PML-N governments pushed it up to Rs30tr.

He said Imran Khan had no personal agenda to carry forward as he only desired to create a social welfare state, while the opposition’s sole agenda was to promote its own interests.

Referring to the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly, he said it was strange that the younger brother (Shahbaz Sharif) wanted to supervise the audit of his elder brother’s (Nawaz Sharif) “corruption” during the past two years.

Says PM will unveil plan on Nov 29 offering relief for the poor

“It is the PTI government’s right to audit the previous government’s bungling in projects executed with public money during 2016-18. The PML-N may take over when the PTI government’s projects are presented before the committee,” he asserted.

Rejecting the PML-N’s demand for appointing Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif as PAC chairman, the minister said the chairmanship could be given to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari or anyone else in the opposition if it wanted to retain the position. “Will Shahbaz Sharif hold PAC meetings in Kot Lakhpat jail,” he wondered.

The PML-N central spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb immediately responded to Fahad Chaudhry’ remarks, saying the “compulsive thieves” had locked down the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission for five years to hide their “massive corruption” and now they were doing everything to lock down the PAC with the same motive.

“Imran Khan has never been held accountable, he has been let go in cases in which he himself admitted wrongdoings. This is why he has become a repeat offender and wants to hold the PAC hostage,” she said.

Ms Aurangzeb said Fawad Chaudhry needed to get tutored (by her) on the operations and functions of the PAC as he was speaking with little knowledge, that was dangerous, and, as a result, ended up in embarrassing himself.

“Mr Chaudhry should clarify before every press conference whether he is speaking as NAB spokesperson or information minister,” she advised the information minister.

Despite being in power, she said, Imran Khan and his “cronies are obsessed and possessed with the fear” of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.

“The prime minister should address the nation to explain “billions of rupees corruption” in the Peshawar Metro and Billion Tree Tsunami projects and “proven corruption” of the (previous) KP government.

In reply to a question about the prime minister’s plan of speaking in detail about corruption in Pakistan, Fawad Chaudhry said the premier’s talk on the subject had been delayed because investigators believed that this was not an appropriate time to speak on the subject. “The government is consulting legal minds on the subject.”

In reply to another question about validity of the NAB director-general’s degree, the minister said the degree had never been challenged during the past two decades, adding that the official had recovered Rs4.5 billion in KP.

“The powerful and filthy rich people scream when law starts laying its hands on them and here begins the test of a government,” he said.

“If the PTI does not speak about corruption and catch big fish, it will be betraying its voters,” Mr Chaudhry said and added that the wheels of justice would turn soon and crush every corrupt whether weak or powerful. “The PTI will not go for any muk-muka (deal) with the opposition,” he added.

Apparently referring to the recent three-day protest by a reliogio-political organisation, the minister said a group (of people) was trying to reap political benefits under the cover of religion.

But, he said, the government itself and genuine religious segments in society could take the ownership of true religious narrative.

He said PM Imran Khan wanted to take care of the 2.5 million children studying in seminaries as well as offer due rights to the minorities by establishing a welfare state o the model of Madina’s.

He said the prime minister would unveil the PTI government’s 100-day plan on Nov 29 offering relief to the salaries class as well as the poor.

To a question about government advertisements to print and electronic media, the information minister said the government was the media’s client like any other client and would give advertisements in keeping with its budget.

“The PTI government will not use media advertisements as bribe like (today’s) opposition (parties) did when they were in power,” he said.

The minister said the government would support journalists and that every registered journalist would be given Rs450,000 health card facility.

In a media talk following the information minister’s press conference, Marriyum Aurangzeb said Fawad Chaudhry was a “political mercenary”, and in his desperation to “please his paymaster”, had become more loyal than the king.

“The people of Pakistan have not forgotten the Chaudhry’s conflicting statements while serving different political parties,” she commented and asked him to explain when the PTI government would provide people five million houses, 10 million jobs as well as tell the truth about Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan’s properties abroad worth billions of rupees.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2018

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Fawad urges religious leaders, society to take ownership of ‘fight of ideologies’

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday stressed that recent protests had “nothing to do with religion, but were about politics”, and urged religious leaders and members of society to take ownership of a fight against ‘extremist ideologies’.

During a press briefing in Lahore regarding the upcoming ‘Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conferences’ being held nationwide this month, the minister described love for the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as the foundation of Islam and claimed that “a group of people is trying to misuse the issue for political gain”.

Take a look: ,Govt deal with protesters was ‘firefighting’, not a cure to the problem: Fawad Chaudhry,

Chaudhry asserted that recent protests had “nothing to do with religion, but were about politics”. He claimed that certain groups “play politics in the name of religion”, and that “religion had nothing to do with all this activity”.

He questioned why a “particular segment of society needs to use this issue for its politics” and does so by “bringing up a new issue every week”.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader was of the opinion that recent protests following the acquittal of Aasia Bibi by the Supreme Court were not a crisis for the government, but the symptom of a crisis being faced by society.

Describing the situation as a “fight of ideologies”, the information minister claimed that these groups are “taking advantage of religious leaders’ and society’s lack of ownership of this fight”.

“When you can’t present an argument against a different argument, and you are protesting against a Supreme Court verdict which no one has read, then there an ideological crisis takes birth,” Chaudhry said.

“The state’s failure was that it cannot safeguard those who had a counter-argument. One side had an argument and they also had weapons, while people on the other side were unarmed. Until the state can ensure a level playing field, the issue cannot be resolved,” he said.

He encouraged people belonging to religious segments of society and other citizens to come forward to counter such groups.

“The first rebellion against these people should have come from religious segments [in society], but unfortunately it is not the case because of certain facts,” he said. “Keep in mind, it is a fight of ideas, and the war of ideologies is not fought with weapons but with arguments.”

He added that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure the availability of an environment where everyone can present their arguments.

“We are holding a ‘Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conference’ at a national level for the first time,” Chaudhry said, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate the event on Nov 20.

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while speaking to the Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, had said that the government wishes to present an image of peaceful Islam before the world, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

He said that it was the responsibility of the state to present the true teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to the next generation, the report added.

For this purpose, ‘Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conferences’ will be held across the country, while a two-day ‘Khatm-i-Nabuwwat International Conference’ will be held in Islamabad, he said, adding that the Imam-i-Kaaba, Vice Chancellor of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the Mufti of Syria, and religious scholars from Iraq and Tunisia will be in attendance and shed light on different aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

PM Khan had also said that research on the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) would be promoted under the government’s supervision.

Arrangements for Eid-i-Miladun Nabi

Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, while chairing a meeting of the organising committee for conference preparations on Saturday, had said that the occasion of Eid-i-Miladun Nabi would be celebrated with due honour and respect, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said that special functions and ceremonies would be arranged during Rabiul Awwal in which the life and teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) would be highlighted.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that arrangements would be made for the coverage of processions taken out on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal, and that state-owned PTV and Radio Pakistan would air qirat, naats and other programmes on the occasion, along with special programmes to highlight the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings.

The month of Rabiul Awwal began on Saturday, Nov 10, and Eid-i-Miladun Nabi will fall on Nov 21.

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Senate set to take up heavy legislative agenda tomorrow

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the National Assembly is completely dysfunctional in terms of doing legislation due to non-existence of committees, the Senate is set to take up heavy legislative agenda as it meets after a two-day recess on Monday.

The 35-point agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat for the private member’s day sitting shows a total of 17 bills, including three constitutional amendment bills, to be introduced by the members, mostly by those sitting on the opposition benches.

The legislative work has come to a halt due to an inordinate delay in the formation of the standing and other committees of the National Assembly by Speaker Asad Qaiser due to an ongoing tussle between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the opposition parties over the issue of nomination of chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The opposition parties want that the PAC chairmanship should be offered to them as per the parliamentary traditions and they have already nominated Opposition Leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif for the post.

House also likely to discuss protests against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal, increase in gas and electricity prices

However, the PTI is unwilling to give the PAC chairmanship to the opposition, saying it could not allow the opposition parties to review the projects that had been initiated and executed by them during their own governments.

Under the rules, the speaker was bound to constitute all the standing and functional committees of the house “within 30 days after the election of the Leader of the House (prime minister)”. Since PTI Chairman Imran Khan had been elected as the prime minister on August 18, the speaker had time till Sept 17 for the formation of over three dozen house committees.

All the opposition parties had already handed over the names of their members for the committees to the NA Secretariat as per rules, but the speaker had to stop the process when the opposition announced that its members would withdraw from all the committees if the PAC chairmanship was not offered to them.

Although there is no restriction on the government in the rules to give the PAC chairmanship to the opposition, it has been a parliamentary practice and tradition for the past 10 years that the office is given to an opposition member in order to ensure transparency in financial matters.

On Friday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claimed that the government had offered him the PAC chairmanship, but he refused, saying the post should be offered to the opposition leader. However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry reportedly denied the PPP chairman’s claim, indicating that the issue will keep on lingering, rendering the National Assembly non-functional.

Besides taking up the legislative agenda, the Senate will also continue discussion on important issues, including the recent protest sit-in by a number of religious parties and groups against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi by the Supreme Court of a blasphemy charge.

The Senate will also discuss the “recent hike in gas and electricity prices” on a motion moved by Opposition Leader Raja Zafarul Haq and signed by 44 other members of the house.

The upper house of parliament is also set to debate on “the terms and conditions of all types of loans recently obtained or being obtained or bonds raised from foreign sources and multilateral lenders by the government in the name of Federation of Pakistan,” shows the agenda.

An important bill making it binding upon the government to place agreements and contracts with other countries, donors and international monetary organisations before parliament for ratification is also part of Monday’s session.

The bill titled “Ratification of Foreign Agreements by Parliament Bill, 2018” had been moved by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani in August.

Through the bill, Mr Rabbani called upon the government to place a foreign agreement, contract or protocol to be signed with any country before both the houses of the parliament to seek approval of its draft within 15 days of its finalisation.

At the time of submitting the bill, the PPP leader had explained that the bill provided powers to the members of parliament to suggest changes to the draft of the agreement with their recommendations. He said the government “shall take up the recommendations of the parliament with the other parties and a detailed report of the proceedings undertaken in respect of the recommendations will also be placed before the parliament.”

Mr Rabbani has suggested in his bill that “a resolution withholding recommendation” may be passed by 55 per cent of the members of each house, thus barring the government from signing the agreement. He had clarified that he had moved the bill only for the future agreements.

The words “foreign agreements” in Clause 2 of the proposed bill means and includes “all agreements, treaties, contracts and trade protocols signed with foreign governments or banks or donors or lending agencies” by the Pakistan government.

“Ratification means passed by a simple majority of each House of Parliament,” says the bill.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2018

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