Posts Tagged ‘Rain’

Pakistan won’t abandon peace efforts, says Qureshi

WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that ,despite India’s reluctance,, Pakistan would not close doors on its efforts to promote peace in the region.

Addressing a news conference at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, Mr Qureshi also dispelled the impression that Pakistan was being forced to choose between China and the United States. “China has no issue with Pakistan’s efforts to maintain friendly relations with the United States as well,” he said.

The foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s ,offer to open the Kartarpur corridor, for allowing Sikh pilgrims to attend Baba Guru Nanak’s anniversary this year.

“India is reluctant, we will not close our doors,” said Mr Qureshi while defining his government’s policy towards the neighbouring country. “Hiding away from issues will not make them disappear. It will not improve the situation in Kashmir.”

The minister noted that India used incidents that happened in July to cancel peace talks that it agreed to in September.

Mr Qureshi confirmed that he was meeting US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington on Oct 2 and said the decision to hold these follow-up talks was taken during Mr Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month.

US or China?

Asked if Pakistan was finding it difficult to balance its relations with both the United States and China, as the two major powers were vying for influence in the region, Mr Qureshi said: “Both relationships are very important for Pakistan. China is a very important and reliable, friend. We are working on a very, very important project, the CPEC,” he said. “And America is also very important for Pakistan, so we will engage with both. The Chinese understand Pakistan’s position and they have no issue with it.”

Pakistan-India ties

The foreign minister said he was unable to understand India’s refusal to participate in peace talks with Pakistan. “Engagement, no-engagement. Coming, not coming. We desired talks as we believe the sensible way is to meet and talk. They agreed, and then disagreed.”

The minister pointed out that India’s response to Pakistan’s peace offer was harsh and non-diplomatic. “We did not use a non-diplomatic language in our rejoinder. Our response was matured and measured. They adopted a new approach, and moved back.”

Mr Qureshi said that Sushma Swaraj’s “language and tone was unbecoming of a foreign minister”.

Asked if tensions between India and Pakistan could lead to a war between the two countries, the minister said: “Who is talking of war? Not us. We want peace, stability, employment and improving lives. You identify where is the reluctance.”

Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be mistaken for a sign of weakness. “We want peace. It does not mean, we cannot defend ourselves against aggression. We can but we do not have an aggressive mindset,” he said.

Saudi-UAE investments

Responding to a question about reports that Saudi Arabia had agreed to invest more than $10 billion in Pakistan, Mr Qureshi said no amounts were discussed in his visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

He said that since the country did not have a foreign minister for four years, Pakistan’s relations with those two important allies suffered but the new government had now launched an effort to re-engage with them.

Mr Qureshi said that since his return from those countries, he has exchanged letters with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their officials would soon visit Pakistan to talk about opportunities. “What you see in the news is not correct,” he added.

US-Pakistan relations

The foreign minister said he had also seen media reports about the restoration of US security assistance to Pakistan but he would not comment on them until he heard it directly from US officials.

He said the US severed security assistance to Pakistan in the past too and the consequences of such disconnects were not good.

“Direct contacts lead to face-recognition and personal understanding, which help improve relations,” said the minister while referring to the US decision to discontinue training facilities for Pakistani defence officials.

Mr Qureshi said the misunderstanding created after the US press statement on Secretary Pompeo’s conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan had been removed. Now, both sides were working on how to re-inject warmth in this old, traditional relationship. He said that during Mr Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad both sides had “very candid, frank and honest conversations” and both civil and military officials participated in those talks. “The US statement about those meetings was also positive, defying the prediction that it would be negative and sticks will come out.”

He disagreed with the suggestion that reference to Pakistan-based terrorist groups in a recent US-India joint statement was negative for Pakistan.

“If you believe that India will not mention terrorism, you are wrong. But this is no reason to worry,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said if India continued to increase pressure on the eastern borders, it would hurt Pakistan’s ability to focus on the western border and those interested in peace and stability in the region must note this.

US-India relationship

The foreign minister said Pakistan understood the US desire to forge a strategic relationship with India but old friends should not be ignored in the enthusiasm to make new friends.

“The US has always benefited from its relations with Pakistan — during the Cold War, the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the war against terrorism,” he said.

Asked why was the US ignoring Pakistan now, Mr Qureshi said that individuals and countries “always look for excuses to justify their failures but everyone owns up a victory. We need to understand this and move this relationship forward. Where we have convergence, we should.”

Postal stamp

The foreign minister also rejected India’s concerns about a postal stamp that showed a Kashmiri freedom fighter. “Hundreds of thousands of people are fighting in Kashmir, not all of them are terrorists,” he said.

US-Taliban talks

“We will use whatever influence we have. Our thoughts are positive. We have a clear conscience,” said Mr Qureshi when asked if Pakistan would use its influence on the Taliban to make them join the peace talks.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Another Golen Gol power unit linked to national grid

LAHORE: The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has synchronised a second unit of the 108MW Golen Gol hydropower project and connected it to the national grid through the most crucial transmission line it laid from Chitral to Timergara.

“We have successfully synchronised the second unit of 36MW and adding the power to the national grid after evacuating it through completion of the most crucial transmission line from Golen Gol (Chitral) to Timergara,” Wapda Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain told Dawn.

The 180-kilometre-long Golen Gol-Timergara transmission line passes through the most difficult mountainous terrain having extreme weather conditions. As many as 706 transmission towers, including 141 towers of 132kV and 565 towers of 220kV, have been erected on the snow-clad mountain peaks, including that of Lowari Top at the highest altitude of 10,312 feet. Transmission towers in Pakistan have never been erected at this altitude.

706 transmission towers, including 141 towers of 132kV and 565 of 220kV, have been erected on snow-clad mountains

“Since the first unit of the project had started power generation in January this year, providing electricity to Chitral, upper Chitral and Darosh more than their need, synchronisation of the project’s second unit and evacuation of power through transmission line is big news for the nation. Soon the project’s third unit will also be synchronised,” the Wapda chief said.

Although construction of transmission lines does not fall within the ambit of Wapda after unbundling of its power wing way back in 2007, it took the construction of transmission line for Golen Gol project as a challenge. It not only completed the task on its own but also successfully energised the said transmission line two days ago.

The project has now been connected to the national grid. Thus, the project has started providing electricity to the system through its second unit on a trial basis via the national grid. “The second unit is being operated on various loads in accordance with the standard operating procedure (SOP) up to its maximum generation capacity of 36MW,” said a spokesperson for Wapda in a press release issued on Sunday.

He said the first unit had been providing electricity to Chitral and its adjoining areas since its commissioning in January through a local arrangement developed by Wapda.

“The project, since its commissioning, has provided more than 33 million units of electricity to consumers. The third and last unit of the project is also complete. The wet commissioning of third unit will commence very soon by connecting it to the national grid,” he explained.

The project has been constructed on Golen Gol — a tributary of River Mastuj near Chitral — in phases. The project will provide 436 million units of electricity to the national grid every year. The project is expected to save around Rs3.7 billion per annum.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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We are ready for war, but choose to walk path of peace: Pakistan Army

Moments after ,Times of India reported inflammatory statements by Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, on Saturday, the Pakistan Army spokesperson responded by saying: “We [Pakistan Army] are ready for war but choose to walk the path of peace in the interest of the people of Pakistan, the neighbours and the region”.

These remarks were made by Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor while talking to Dunya TV.

According to TOI, the Indian army chief said India “needs to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that the terrorists and Pakistan Army have been carrying out”. “Yes, it’s time to give it back to them in the same coin, not resorting to similar kind of barbarism. But I think the other side must also feel the same pain,” the Indian army chief was quoted as saying.

Gen Rawat’s comments came shortly after Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter earlier on Saturday to respond to ,India’s cancellation of the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), ,calling New Delhi’s reaction “arrogant and negative”,. “All my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” added PM Khan.

Responding to Gen Rawat’s statements, Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan has a long-standing record of fighting terrorism, adding “we know the price [that is paid] for peace”.

Read: ,India cancels New York meeting with Pakistan, says PM Khan’s ‘true face revealed’,

“We have struggled to achieve peace in the last two decades. We can never do anything to disgrace any soldier,” he asserted, strongly denying the claims made by India that hold the Pakistan Army responsible for the killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier.

“They have in the past as well laid the blame on us for mutilating the body of a fallen soldier. We are a professional army. We never engage in such acts.

“As far as the issuance of postal tickets is concerned, the UN released a human rights violation report following which the then interim government issued those tickets highlighting the plight of Kashmiris.

“To turn this into an excuse that the peace process has been tainted or that Pakistan has somehow changed its stance, is inappropriate,” the ISPR chief said.

Related: ,Islamabad ‘deeply disappointed’ over New Delhi’s cancellation of meeting between FMs,

“There is a freedom struggle going on in the Indian occupied Kashmir, and Burhan Wani onwards, it is completely a political movement,” Ghafoor said, adding that the struggle for independence has become a part of the DNA of Kashmiris and this is now the third generation which is willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause.

“They [India] should come forward for a dialogue. Whenever attempts for dialogue have failed, it is because India has run away from the table.

“The government of Pakistan’s offer still stands for India to come forward and hold talks with us,” the ISPR chief said.

‘Indian govt trying to divert public’s attention’

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry also promptly issued a response, backing the DG ISPR’s statement. “Pakistan and India are nuclear powers; a war is out of question,” he said.

The information minister termed the Indian army chief’s statement an attempt to divert the attention of Indian public from the ,mega corruption scandal, and the subsequent calls for resignation faced by PM Modi-led BJP government.

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Chaudhry said that the Indian army chief’s statement was inappropriate and that the general must refrain from using statements as a political tool.

“The Indian army chief needs to understand that he is not a BJP leader,” Chaudhry remarked, adding that “the world stands witness to who wants war and who wants peace”.

“As a peace-loving nation, Pakistan desires peace [with India],” he stressed, highlighting the fact that peace will be in the benefit of billions across both nations.

He said that Pakistan had reached out in hopes for peace and will continue its efforts to that end.

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Gunmen attack Iran military parade, killing at least 24

A Revolutionary Guard member carries a wounded boy after a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. — AP

A Revolutionary Guard member carries a wounded boy after a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. — AP

Gunmen attacked an annual Iranian military parade Saturday in the country’s oil-rich southwest, killing at least 24 people and wounding 53 others, local media reported.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault in Ahvaz, which saw gunfire spray into a crowd of marching Guardsmen, bystanders and government officials watching from a nearby riser. However, Iran faced a bloody assault last year from the Islamic State group and Arab separatists in the region have attacked oil pipelines there in the past.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their “US masters,” further raising regional tensions as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” he wrote on Twitter.

State television aired footage of the aftermath of the assault on Ahvaz’s Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard, which like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq. The images included paramedics trying to help one person in military fatigues as other armed security personnel shouted at each other. The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack’s aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away.

A local news agency in Khuzestan province, of which Ahvaz is the capital, aired grainy mobile phone footage showing parade goers fleeing as soldiers lay flat on the ground. Gunfire rang out in the background.

“Security forces have restored security in the area but the parade has totally been disrupted,” a reporter on the scene for Iranian state television said by phone in a live broadcast. “People have been killed but we have no figures yet.”

Zarif on Twitter said that the gunmen were “terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime”. He did not immediately elaborate. However, Arab separatist groups in the region have launched attacks on oil pipelines there in the past and Iran. The separatists also accuse Iran’s Shiite theocracy of discriminating against its Sunni Arab citizens. Iran has blamed its Mideast archrival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding their activity.

Reports of how the attack unfolded remained unclear immediately afterward. The state TV reporter said the gunfire came from a park behind a riser. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, top center, reviews army troops marching during the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. ? AP

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, top center, reviews army troops marching during the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. ? AP

The state-run IRNA news agency said the attack killed 24 people and wounded 53, citing “knowledgeable sources” without elaborating. It said gunmen were dressed in Guard uniforms and targeted a riser where military and police commanders were sitting.

Khuzestan Gov. Gholamreza Shariati told IRNA that two gunmen were killed and two others were arrested.

Who carried out the assault also remained in question. State television immediately described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen”, a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply involved in the fight against IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s long war.

Among those involved are members of the Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in Iran’s economy.

Meanwhile, Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif told ISNA that an Arab separatist group carried out the attack, without elaborating. However, those groups in the past previously have only attacked unguarded oil pipelines at night.

Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated ,June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault, on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.

Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran’s first supreme leader until his death in 1989. The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.

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IHK authorities impose restrictions against Muharram processions

Authorities in India-held Kashmir (IHK) on Friday imposed curfew-like restrictions in parts of the valley including Srinagar to prevent Shia devotees from holding or participating in Ashura processions on Muharram 10.

Heavy contingents of Indian troops and police officials have been deployed in Srinagar and other towns in IHK to prevent mourners from carrying out Muharram processions and anti-India rallies after Friday prayers, the ,Kashmir Media Service, reported.

Restrictions were imposed in the parts of Srinagar falling under the jurisdictions of Nowhatta, Khanya, Safa Kadal, Maharaj Gunj, Kothibagh and Rainwari police stations.

Despite the restrictions, a large number of mourners led by Hurriyat leader Nissar Hussain Rathar, tried to reach the city centre. However, Indian police detained scores of them near Srinagar’s Badshah Chowk area, ,KMS, reported.

The mourners were also seen chanting slogans in favour of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and displaying his pictures in the ongoing Muharram processions in the territory.

The main Muharram 10 procession in Srinagar used to kick off at Aabi Guzar and end at Zadibal but was banned by Indian authorities in 1989.

All-Pakistan Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted that curbs, curfews and house arrests are continuing in the restive valley even on Ashura.

“No Friday prayers allowed at many mosques in the city including #JamaMasjid by the rulers. Even majlis-i-tableegh to pay tributes to Imam Hussain (AS) and martyrs Of Karbala which I was going to address [have been] barred,” Farooq said.

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Kashmiri Shias detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

Kashmiri Shias detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

A Kashmiri Shia is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

A Kashmiri Shia is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

A Kashmiri Shia is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

A Kashmiri Shia is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

A Kashmiri Shia is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

A Kashmiri Shia is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on September 21, 2018. ? AFP

Kashmiri Shia women participate in a Muharram procession in Srinagar, IHK, on Sept 20. ? AP

Kashmiri Shia women participate in a Muharram procession in Srinagar, IHK, on Sept 20. ? AP

Kashmiri Shias attend a Muharram procession in Srinagar, IHK on Sept 20. ? AP

Kashmiri Shias attend a Muharram procession in Srinagar, IHK on Sept 20. ? AP

A Kashmiri Shia woman holds a child as she participates in a Muharram procession in Srinagar. ? AP

A Kashmiri Shia woman holds a child as she participates in a Muharram procession in Srinagar. ? AP

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 21, 2018 at 4:25 pm

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Pakistan’s effort to end terrorist financing remains uneven: US

WASHINGTON: As the new government in Islamabad starts work on addressing the concerns related to money laundering and terror financing, a US State Department report released on Thursday said that Pakistan criminalised terrorist financing through the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), but its implementation remained uneven.

Pakistan is a member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering — a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In June, the Paris-based FATF placed Pakistan on its grey list of countries that could be marked out for economic sanctions if they failed to prevent terrorists from collecting funds within their domain.

The official US report — released with the State Department’s country reports on terrorism — also highlights FATF’s concerns about Pakistan.

“The FATF continued to note concern that Pakistan’s outstanding gaps in the implementation of the UN Security Council ISIL (Daesh) and Al Qaida sanctions regime have not been resolved, and that UN-listed entities — including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its affiliates — were not effectively prohibited from raising funds in Pakistan, nor being denied financial services,” the report points out.

Washington claims progress on efforts to implement UN sanctions related to designated entities is slow

Last month, Finance Minister Asad Umar told the Senate that FATF had given Pakistan 15 months to comply with these requirements. The minister said FATF had identified 27 deficiencies in the Pakistani financial system, including “currency smuggling, hawala and terror financing of proscribed organisations”.

The minister had told the house that the government would be addressing all the objections raised not only to satisfy the international community but also because it was in Pakistan’s own interest to get rid of terror financing and terrorism.

The US State Department in its report acknowledged that Pakistan’s laws technically comply with international anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism standards, but added that Pakistani authorities “failed to uniformly implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and individuals such as LeT and its affiliates, which continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds”.

The report also refers to a Nov 2017 decision of the Lahore High Court which refused to extend the detention of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed as it judged the government had not provided sufficient evidence against him nor had it charged Hafiz Saeed with a crime.

The US report also examines the National Action Plan that the PML-N government gave to FATF in June this year, noting that the plan contains efforts to prevent and counter terrorist financing, including by enhancing interagency coordination.

The law designates the use of unlicensed hundi and hawala systems as predicate offences to terrorism and also requires banks to report suspicious transactions to Pakistan’s financial intelligence unit, the State Bank’s Financial Monitoring Unit.

The US State Department, however, notes that throughout 2017 “these unlicensed money transfer systems persisted throughout the country and were open to abuse by terrorist financiers operating in the cross-border area”.

Reviewing Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism, the report notes that Pakistan continued to experience significant terrorist threats in 2017, although the number of attacks and casualties decreased from previous years.

The report also identifies several major terrorist groups focused on conducting attacks in Pakistan, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, and the sectarian group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami.

The report also mentions groups located in Pakistan, but focused on conducting attacks outside the country, included the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The reports notes that in 2017, the terrorists used a range of tactics — stationary and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, and rocket-propelled grenades — to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions and places of worship.

The report also notes that the Pakistani government and military continued high-profile efforts to disrupt terrorist attacks and eliminate anti-state militants. “Progress, however, remained slow on the government’s efforts to implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and enforce anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls.”

The State Department also said that the Pakistani government pledged support to political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban but “did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan”.

The government, the report added, also failed to “significantly limit” LeT and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting and training in Pakistan — although the Elections Commission of Pakistan refused to allow a LeT-affiliated group to register as a political party.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018

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SC to hear next week petition seeking Imran’s disqualification

ISLAMABAD: A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will take up next week a petition seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

According to the cause-list issued by the apex court, the petition has been fixed before the bench comprising CJP Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan for Monday (Sept 24).

The petition was filed by Barrister Danyal Chaudhry in May last year soon after the apex court had constituted a six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe allegations of corruption against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and has been pending before court since then.

The petitioner was seeking a special oath to the JIT members for protecting them from getting influenced by the speeches of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan.

Plea was filed in May last year soon after the apex court constituted JIT to probe corruption allegations against Nawaz Sharif

The petition filed through Advocate Quasain Faisal Mufti had requested the apex court to restrain Imran Khan from activities which could influence the minds of the JIT members because his speeches and press releases could prejudice the investigation team. It also feared that if Mr Khan was not stopped from making political statements, it might allegedly result in derailment of democracy — a process running successfully and smoothly for a decade.

The petition had also requested the Supreme Court to order the Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) not to allow broadcast by the electronic media of any material which jeopardised the sovereignty, integrity and solidarity of Pakistan and well-being and prosperity of the people of Pakistan.

The petitioner was of the opinion that people could not afford any turmoil or turbulence at this juncture when the country and its people were trying to bridge the trust and peace deficit, which over the years developed due to unbridled waves of terrorism that had lessened after remarkable efforts by the country’s armed forces, but not yet completely overcome.

International forces had been given the task of sabotaging the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor against which certain indigenous political forces due to their innocence acted as a catalyst to sabotage the historic and giant project — an emblem of long-lasting Pakistan-China friendship, the petition emphasised.

It recalled that due to the PTI’s 2014 sit-in in Islamabad, the Chinese president had deferred his visit to Pakistan, resulting in jeopardising different projects pertaining to the CPEC because of political uncertainty that negatively impacted the country’s financial markets. The foreign exchange reserves had also declined considerably as a result, it argued.

The petition alleged that Imran Khan was making speeches to undermine the Panama Papers case judgement and further influence the expected outcome of the JIT investigation. In some of his statements, it said, Mr Khan was making allegations against different institutions including but not limited to those who were bestowed upon with the responsibility to investigate the allegations as ordered by the Supreme Court.

The petition alleged that the conduct of Mr Khan amounted to destabilising the government and hampered the functioning of the federal government by weakening its writ and thus destabilising the confidence of the government in making decisions in respect of national and international affairs.

Besides other things, the petition had sought disqualification of Imran Khan for not disclosing his alleged loved child Teriyan White in his nomination papers for the general elections.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018

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Faisal Raza Abidi booked for ‘defaming SC, judges’

ISLAMABAD: Former senator Faisal Raza Abidi was booked by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the capital police for “defaming the Supreme Court and judges”.

The FIA and police will conduct separate investigations, police officials said, and that the former senator and others were booked under several charges, including the Anti-Terrorism Act.

According to the case registered with the FIA, a programme titled Subah Subah Naya Pakistan was aired by web channel Naya Pakistan on July 2, which was hosted by anchorperson Shanza Sheikh Rahman.

The guest speaker on the show was Faisal Raza Abidi.

It says that during the course of his appearance on the show, the accused, with criminal intent and ulterior motives and without any lawful justification used sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory language against the chief justice etc. which it says is tantamount to creating a sense of fear, panic and insecurity among the government, general public and society.

It says Faisal Raza Abidi is prima facie guilty of offences punishable under sections 10(a), 11 and 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016 read with sections 109 and 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

An FIA official said the case will be registered by the FIA’s cybercrime wing, which was registered under the prevention of the Electronic Crimes Act and the PPC.

Another case was registered at the Secretariat police station under PPC’s sections 228, 500, 505(ii) and 34 along with the ATA in response to a complaint lodged by SC Public Relations Officer Shahid Hussain Kambyo.

The FIR says the video went viral on social media and that the accused can be clearly seen in the video. The identity of the woman will be ascertained during the investigation.

It says the former senator was highly abusive, contemptuous, used threatening language and levelled allegations against government institutions which have been created via the Constitution and has also levelled accusations against individuals holding the highest constitutional posts.

The FIR says that via his speech, Mr Abidi created panic, scared the public and intimidated constitutional functionaries in order to refrain them from discharging their constitutional obligations.

It says the language and words used by Mr Abidi comes under the ATA 1997, which are punishable under the ATA and other provisions of the PPC, it says.

A police officer toldDawnthe anchorperson has been identified and action will also be taken against her.

Efforts for arresting the accused will be started after Ashura and a team will be sent to Karachi for making an arrest, he said.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018

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Syria downs Russian plane, Moscow blames Israel

Syria accidentally downed a Russian military aircraft with a crew of 15 onboard when its air defences went into action against an alleged Israeli missile strike, the Russian army said on Tuesday.

The incident, which happened late Monday, was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia’s game-changing military intervention in September 2015.

The Russian Ilyushin dropped off the radar over the Mediterranean moments after Turkey and Russia announced a deal that offered millions of people reprieve from a threatened military assault in northern Syria.

There was no immediate word from Damascus, but the deadly air war sequence started when missiles struck the coastal region of Latakia on Monday.

Israeli pilots carrying out attacks on Syrian targets “used the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defences”, the Russian military said.

The plane downed by Syria’s Russian-made S-200 air defence had a crew of 15, who were all killed, Moscow said.

The Russian government stressed that the incident would have no impact on the Idlib deal but warned Israel of reprisals and summoned its envoy in Moscow.

Moscow had earlier said rockets were fired from a French frigate positioned in the same area of the Mediterranean.

The French military denied any involvement. Syria state media reported late Monday that air defences had intercepted missiles targeting Latakia.

“Our air defences are countering hostile missiles coming from the sea towards the city of Latakia, and a number of them have been intercepted,” it said, quoting a military source.

Israel mum

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some missiles did get through and struck ammunition depots at the site of the technical industries institute.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring group, said at least two fighters were killed and 10 wounded in the strike.

“Two bodies were found,” he told AFP, adding that he could not immediately confirm whether the casualties were soldiers or militiamen from the forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel, which did not comment on Monday evening’s strikes, has conducted frequent raids in recent months against Syria’s military infrastructure, including against bases it believes host Iranian combatants.

Earlier in September, Israel admitted carrying out 200 strikes in Syria over the past 18 months.

The Syrian blunder came hot on the heels of a major deal announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan after talks in the Russian resort of Sochi.

The two main brokers in northern Syria agreed to create a 15-20 kilometre-wide demilitarised zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops in the Idlib region.

That would be achieved by October 15 and would entail a withdrawal of all jihadist fighters from the area.

The demilitarised zone will be secured with the help of “mobile patrol groups of Turkish contingents and contingents of Russian military police,” Putin said.

By the end of the year, transport routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as Latakia and the major city of Hama must be restored, he added.

Idlib reprieve

Iran, the third member of the so-called Astana process aimed at ending the seven-year civil war in Syria, praised the deal as an example of “responsible diplomacy.”

Damascus, which has regained swathes of territory thanks to deadly Russian-back offensives in recent months, welcomed the Sochi agreement.

Three million people reside in the Idlib region, the last significant chunk of Syria still held by rebels.

The UN had warned that a fully-fledged ground assault aimed at completing Damascus’s military reconquest could spark the worst humanitarian catastrophe yet in a conflict that has killed more 360,000.

Observers and residents of the Idlib region were sceptical however of a deal that appeared to be little more than a temporary fix.

“This could be a win for diplomacy and that’s what Syria needs more of to solve this crisis,” said Lorraine Bramwell, country director for the International Rescue Committee.

“However, we have seen previously how de-escalation deals haven’t lasted long term,” she added.

Hundreds of people gathered in Binnish, a town in the rebel-held province of Idlib, following Monday’s announcement in Sochi.

“The demand of the Syrian people, since the very first day, has remained unchanged: it’s the fall of the regime,” said Wassim Souweid, one of the demonstrators.

“I reckon this decision will not stop bombardments on civilians, will not offer any alternative to the people,” he added.

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Pakistan ready to train Afghan law enforcers: FM

KABUL: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani on Saturday.—AP

KABUL: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani on Saturday.—AP

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his maiden visit to Kabul underscored the need for enhanced coordination between the two countries in counterterrorism efforts with an offer to train personnel of Afghan police and other law enforcement agencies at Pakistani institutions.

The foreign minister during his visit met Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah and held delegation-level talks with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani.

Mr Qureshi conveyed to the Afghan leadership that the new government in Islamabad attached importance to its relations with Afghanistan and would work towards further deepening cooperation in the fields of trade, development and connectivity. “The visit provided an opportunity to set out the contours of the new government’s future engagement with Afghanistan to build mutually beneficial relationship and enhance cooperation between the two countries,” added a Foreign Office statement issued after the meeting.

Ashraf Ghani invited to visit Islamabad

In their meeting, the two foreign ministers took decisions on holding meetings of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC), Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA), Steering Committee of the Joint Ulema Conference and the working groups of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). They also agreed to expedite matters related to providing necessary security to Pakistan consulate general in Jalalabad.

According to the Afghanistan ministry of foreign affairs, Mr Qureshi and Mr Rabbani agreed to hold Afghanistan-Pakistan’s Ulema meeting and a second round of the trilateral meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. While the two sides decided to hold the Ulema meeting in the near future, they did not give information when and where the second round of the trilateral meeting would be held, stated the Afghan media, Tolo News. The last meeting of the three countries was hosted by China in December 2017 where Beijing tried to mediate between Kabul and Islamabad to help them improve their relations.

FM Qureshi also invited President Ghani to visit Pakistan. He underlined the importance of frequent high-level engagements between the two countries that contributed to building trust and improving mutual understanding.

He highlighted the need to maintain this upward trajectory in bilateral relations through more high-level visits during the upcoming months.

He reiterated Pakistan’s support for the national unity government’s efforts to bring about a lasting peace in Afghanistan and assured the Afghan leadership that Pakistan, along with other partners of Afghanistan, remained ready to play constructive role in facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation.

In the context of enhancing trade between the two countries, he said Pakistan had decided to waive off regulatory duty on imports from Afghanistan. It was for this reason, he added, Afghan exports to Pakistan recorded substantial increase of 118 per cent in 2018. He stated that Pakistan would fast-track standardisation and automation of custom procedures as well as upgrade of infrastructure at crossing points between the two countries.

The foreign minister also handed over a letter from Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, marking the first consignment of 40,000 tonnes of wheat gifted to the Afghan people.

For the second phase of 3,000 scholarships, more than 600 scholarships had already been granted, he said.

FM Qureshi highlighted the unmatched hospitality extended by the people of Pakistan for their Afghan brothers and sisters and underlined the need for dignified, sustainable and repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland through a gradual and time-bound plan.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2018

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5 militants killed in fighting with Indian troops in held Kashmir

Government forces killed five rebels during a gunbattle in India-held Kashmir on Saturday, triggering violent anti-India protests in the disputed Himalayan region.

Indian troops laid a siege around a southern village in Qazigund area overnight on a tip that militants were hiding there, police said.

A fierce gunbattle erupted early on Saturday, and hours later, five local Kashmiri rebels were killed.

The slain rebels belonged to the region’s largest rebel group ,Hizbul Mujahideen,, police said.

The fighting sparked anti-India protests and clashes as hundreds of residents tried to march to the site of the battle in solidarity with the militants. Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, injuring at least six people.

Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.

Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Islamabad denies.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

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PM Khan woos bureaucracy, promises to protect it from political pressure

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday addressed civil servants in Islamabad, asking them to support the government through a “down cycle” over the next two years and to support its “out-of-the-box” policy reforms.

The prime minister, in his address, highlighted various challenges that the nation was facing.

“We don’t have money to run our country; the majority of the population is young and looking for jobs; and the loans we took, instead of creating wealth so that we could repay them, have created projects that are running losses.”

He also discussed statistics on out-of-school children, malnourished children, high mortality of women in labour, and infant deaths due to waterborne diseases.

“I’m surprise that there hasn’t been outrage over this before.”

“We need to get out of this debt trap and we need to change ourselves and our nation,” he told the civil servants.

“If you look at history, nations make it through challenges when the people and the government become one. The army is also more effective when the nation is behind it,” he said.

He added that the government must assume responsibility for the people and the people themselves must own the government as their own.

“Nothing is impossible; but for that, people need to change,” he said.

“Maybe God has created this crisis because he wants us to change. We will change when we start thinking, before spending a single rupee, of the children who are out of school,” the prime minister said.

“Look at Singapore: they have exports of $303 billion but we have exports of $20bn. They have a knowledge economy [...] We have so many universities here that feature in the top 500 in the world.”

“We as leaders need to understand and ask ourselves; this money that I am spending on myself, can I spend it on the people of Pakistan? I ask this of all our leadership and our executive committee here. And I hope that you, the executive arm of this country, whatever policies we make [will help us implement them]. Unless you implement them, we cannot be successful.”

“Accountability is our cornerstone and without it we cannot progress. Corruption is our biggest issue. It isn’t just the looted money that is a problem, but the destruction of institutions in the process that is a great issue.”

“If Imran Khan wants to loot money, he will have to ruin the National Accountability Bureau and post his men in [senior positions] everywhere. Otherwise I’ll get caught. If there is transparency in the west, it isn’t because they are more honest: it is because their institutions are strong and they are afraid of getting caught.”

“Accountability is important for the country. I received some complaints about the bureaucracy and I spoke to the chairman NAB. I said: ‘If you do investigate any bureaucrat, do not humiliate him, do it subtly’,” PM Khan said.

“If the bureaucrat ‘takes chances’ and doesn’t do the work, however many policies we make ? we’re taking risks and thinking out-of-the-box here [...] we won’t be successful.”

“People ‘take chances’, they make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself. It isn’t a bad thing. But you must differentiate between that and stealing money.”

“I give you my assurance that if you have committed any mistakes, I will stand with you and ensure that there is no undue pressure on you.”

“Whatever your political affiliation, whether you like Imran Khan and PTI or not, this doesn’t concern me. I am only concerned with your performance. If you perform for my country, we will stand with you and help you.”

PM Khan also complained about the “degeneration” of the civil services over time due to political interference.

“I want our bureaucracy to be at the same level as it was [in the 60s],” he said. Giving the example of his party’s reform of Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s police force, he said it was done because it was “isolated from political pressure. We didn’t allow any interference. It was very difficult because our political class is used to this. We bore the pressure, there was a lot of pressure from our MPs. They would tell us ‘We can’t win the election this way’,” he said.

“We trained them, did selection on the basis of merit. And they are now a model police force that we hope to replicate in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.”

“We want our bureaucracy to be the same way ? promoting people on the basis of merit, isolated from political pressure [...] When your performance is built on merit, you rise to the top on your own.”

“I assure you that we will protect our bureaucracy from political pressure,” he vowed.

He also added that “quick postings and transfers are the most disruptive for governments”.

PM Khan also addressed issues with the salary structure of civil servants.

“In 1935, I was reading that a commissioner with his salary could buy 70 tolas of gold. My father, who was a government engineer in the 1970s, could buy a car with one month’s salary.”

“Because bureaucrats had good remuneration, there was no temptation. The living wage is not enough for you to survive on your salaries,” he said.

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“I ask you to bear this difficult time, it won’t last long. Countries have cycles. No country goes straight to the top. You must look at it as a down cycle. But there is great potential in Pakistan. If we fix the governance structure, there is so much potential in this country.”

“Overseas Pakistanis ? you can’t imagine how much money they have ? that money doesn’t come here because of a lack of faith in governance. We will have so much money for the salaried class that you will be able to give your children quality private education.”

“I was reading about the Singapore model — they would give their civil servants the best salaries so that they wouldn’t have any temptation to make money in other ways. I recognise that this is a difficult time, inflation is high, and your salaries don’t match your qualifications. But if you decide to make it through the next two years — you can write it down, that if we fix our governance in these two years — there will be so much money [to go around] in this country.”

“Debt will go down, employment will increase, and Pakistan will be attractive in the world as an investment and tourist destination.”

“We will work with full force. I will isolate you from political pressure and will not allow you to be humiliated during the process of accountability. I only want that you support this ambitious reforms programme fully. It is not for me, it is for our children.”

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CPEC to be opened to other countries: minister

ISLAMABAD: Criticising the last PML-N government for what it called wasting a lot of time, the PTI government on Thursday announced that it would speed up implementation of the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), open it to other countries and hire international consultants for financial modelling of future projects.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting held to review progress of CPEC-related projects, Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar played down some critical comments about Chinese loans in the CPEC portfolio, but hinted at exploring new financing options for future projects.

Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing also attended the 56th quarterly progress review meeting.

Responding to a question about the possibility of re-negotiating with China for rescheduling of loans to prolong repayment period under CPEC projects, the minister said China had executed $6bn infrastructure projects through loans and their repayments were not due before 2021.

He said Chinese loans were among the $95bn total outstanding foreign loans and the government would meet all financial obligations on Pakistan. He criticised the PML-N government for constructing motorways and roads at a cost of $6bn and the Lahore Orange Line Train project at $2.5bn, but putting the critical Main Railway Line (ML-1) project worth $9bn on the back burner.

Says government will expedite implementation of $62bn corridor project, hire international consultants for financial modelling of future schemes

“We have decided to conduct a study for exploring new mode of financing in order to undertake future projects on a build, operate and transfer basis, instead of the existing mode of engineering, procurement and construction contracts by securing loans,” he said, adding: “We are working on financial modeling of future projects.”

Mr Bakhtiar, who was a PML-N lawmaker in previous parliament, said the PTI government had decided to abandon future energy projects based on imported coal, perhaps not knowing that the ban on all future projects based on imported fuel was imposed in August 2016 when it emerged that already contracted projects would be enough to meet the immediate energy crisis. The minister, however, clarified that the ongoing power projects like those at Sahiwal and Port Qasim would continue to function and would remain operational.

He said the government also decided to create a business council to have larger input and consultations to take the CPEC to a higher trajectory, particularly through industrialisation and the maritime sector. “We have decided to establish new joint working group for social economic development where projects related to education, health, vocational training and capacity building will be firmed up.”

Responding to a question, Mr Bakhtiar said power sector circular debt was the biggest challenge Pakistan faced at the moment, adding that no energy policy could succeed unless power distribution companies were turned around. He said energy mix would also be changed as the last PML-N government had focused only on power generation but ignored transmission and distribution that resulted in piling up of circular debt.

The minister said the government had taken important decisions regarding the CPEC, including the ongoing projects of energy and infrastructure which would be completed under the early harvest programme. The industrial cooperation, he said, would be boosted because manufacturing base had shrunk in the country.

Mr Bakhtiar said the last government had wasted five years whereby it could not focus on development of Gwadar and ML-1, adding that the new government would open up for investments in Gwadar by countries, other than China and Pakistan. He said Pakistan was infrastructure deficient and required $200bn to meet infrastructure requirements.

The minister said the government would hire independent consultants for devising best design and execution plan for projects like ML-1 because it was necessary to have best possible advice with a cost of $2-3 million before executing them. He said the previous government’s catch-up mode compromised bargaining position, but now studies would be done before visiting China in November or December this year for the next Joint Working Group meeting.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018

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Hurricane Florence smashes into US East Coast, rescuers scramble

Hurricane Florence smashed into the US East Coast on Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters.

Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous.

The port city of Wilmington woke on Friday to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris as well as water in all directions, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 am (1115 GMT), the National Hurricane Centre said.

Ken Graham, the NHC’s director, warned the slow pace of the storm exacerbated its danger even to areas outside its immediate path. “The longer you have this hurricane wind flow, the longer you push that water well inland,” he said.

Rescue workers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes. Video footage showed parking lots in the riverfront town of New Bern turn into shallow lakes of dirty gray water as heavy rain fell.

New Bern Police Lt David Daniels said early Friday morning that between 150 and 200 people had been rescued so far, with others still waiting for help.

“Currently 150 awaiting rescue in New Bern,” City Hall said on Twitter.

Nearly 300,000 customers in North Carolina were meanwhile reported to be without power as the outer band of the storm approached.

In its 1200 GMT advisory, the centre said Florence was packing winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph) and moving northwest at six miles per hour (10 kilometers per hour).

It added the greatest threats to life came from storm-surges while “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding” was expected, with some areas receiving up to 40 inches of rainfall.

In a display of the early effects of the storm, one flood gauge on the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, showed 10 feet (three metres) of flooding, the NHC said.

With winds picking up along the coastline earlier on Thursday, federal and state officials had issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the “once in a lifetime” weather system.

“This storm will bring destruction,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Catastrophic effects will be felt.”

Monster storm surge expected

The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended nearly 195 miles out.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned the danger was not only along the coast: “Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re about to see,” he said.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.

Myrtle Beach, a South Carolina beach resort, was deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

‘I’m not worried at all’

Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo.

“The shelters are not taking dogs,” Ramirez said. “I’m not leaving him here.”

In Wilmington, residents who had decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine — $2 for a 16-pound (7.2-kilo) bag.

“I have no generator,” said Petra Langston, a nurse. “I learned from the past to keep the ice in the washing machine.”

Perched on the porch of his home, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly awaiting Florence’s arrival, beer in hand.

“I built this house myself, so I’m not worried at all, I know it’s solid,” he said. “I charged the batteries of my electronic devices, I have beers and video games.”

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Prime Minister House to be converted into high-quality postgraduate institute: minister

Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood announced on Thursday that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government will turn the Prime Minister House into a postgraduate university of a high quality.

Addressing a press conference regarding the new government’s plans for state-owned properties, the minister announced that additional construction will also be carried out on the land behind the residence meant for the premier after a formal plan is devised in this regard.

The PM House is spread over 1,096 kanals and Rs 470 million are spent on its upkeep annually, said Mehmood, who was heading a committee formed to decide how government-owned buildings could be utilised in public interest.

“[The] PM House will become a high-quality university or institution that will be unique with its education in Pakistan,” he said.

In his ,first address to the nation, after being elected, Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that he would be staying in a “three-bedroom house that served as the military secretary’s residence”, instead of the Prime Minister House.

“I wish that the PM House will be turned into a university. It is in a great location to be one,” Khan had said at the time.

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Murree

The minister announced that the Government House in Murree, which the Punjab government had spent Rs600m on recently, will be transformed into a “heritage boutique hotel”.

“You can see gold plating on the commodes in the bathrooms of the [building],” Mehmood said, adding that around Rs35m are spent on the property’s maintenance every year.

The Punjab House in Murree, the annual expenses of which are Rs25m, would be turned into a tourist resort. The transformation will be done by the private sector, however, the Punjab government will carry out the formalities, Mehmood announced.

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Rawalpindi

A Punjab House, with a Governor’s Annexe attached to it, is located in Rawalpindi’s central district. Spread over 70 kanals, the property is used a rest house and Rs40m is spent on its upkeep annually, the minister revealed.

The rest house will either be converted into a higher education institute for IT/incubation centre, or the National College of Arts in Pindi will be shifted to this building, Mehmood announced.

Lahore

The Governor House in Lahore is spread over 700 kanals, the minister revealed. The schools and vocational training institutes located on its compound will be separated and the Governor House itself would be converted into a museum and an art gallery. The property’s grounds will be opened to the public as a park, which will include a small zoo.

According to the minister, former Punjab chief minister was using 90 Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam in Lahore as one of his offices. This building, the annual maintenance cost of which is Rs80m, will be transformed into a craft museum and a hall within it will be changed into a convention centre which will be rented out for events, he announced.

The Chanda House in Lahore will be turned into Governor Office as an alternative to the expansive Governor’s House.

A state guest house situated on Mall Road, the upkeep of which costs Rs5m annually, will be converted into a five-star hotel, the minister revealed.

Karachi

The government plans to transform the Governor House in Karachi into a museum and bring its parkland into public use. These plans will be executed in consultation with the Sindh government.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, meanwhile, will shift into a state guest house in the city.

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CJP lashes out at dam critics, says they are ‘pursuing someone else’s agenda’

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday, while hearing a case on the Dadhocha dam, lashed out at critics opposing the construction of dams in the country, saying that they were pursuing “someone else’s agenda”.

The CJP, recalling a scientist’s remark that the Supreme Court should form its own political party, said: “There is no need for anyone to say this. It is a matter of fundamental rights.”

Justice Nisar said that dams were being constructed for Pakistan’s future generations.

He added that there would be “no compromise on this issue”, whether those criticising the move were “well-known scientists or political leaders”.

He claimed that those opposing the construction of dams are “working on someone else’s agenda, and the agenda is that ‘dams shouldn’t be built in Pakistan’.”

“We won’t let the agenda to not build dams be successful.” the CJP said. “We will build dams under all circumstances.”

The CJP, who was heading a three-judge bench, made the remarks during a case pertaining to land earmarked for the construction of the Dadhocha dam.

In 2006, the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) had purchased 18,000 kanals at the site where the dam was to be built and launched a housing scheme as a joint venture with Bahria Town. The DHA Valley scheme, meant for the bereaved families of martyred military personnel, was proposed as the dam site.

On Aug 4, 2015, the SC in a suo motu case directed the Punjab government to construct the dam at the originally proposed site. Soon after these directives, the government banned the sale and purchase of land in the area and allocated funds for the construction of the dam in its annual development plan for 2017-18.

On the SC’s directives, ,the Punjab government in 2017 initiated the process, to construct the dam at a cost of Rs7 billion to overcome the water shortage in Rawalpindi.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had previously ,initiated investigations, against DHA Islamabad, Bahria Town and Capital Development Authority administrations for the Rs62 billion DHA Valley project and its Phase-II (extension) scams.

In today’s hearing, the court asked the Punjab government to examine the DHA-Bahria joint venture, and asked the JV to present its recommendations on the matter to the provincial government.

The SC also asked the Punjab government to examine the Irrigation Department’s recommendations and, if it is not satisfied with them, to inform the court and present its own recommendations.

The Punjab government was asked to inform the court of when the dam would be completed by and how much expense would be incurred during its construction.

The Punjab Irrigation Department secretary told the court that the provincial government had allocated funds for the acquisition of land for the dam. He added that the Bahria Town-DHA JV was proposed on an 11-kanal site.

The Chief Justice asked what obstacles the Punjab government was facing in the construction of the dam by Bahria Town, and added: “I know that commission mafia’s, commission will be cut and this is the obstacle.”

“I won’t let anyone take any cuts, nor will I let them appropriate commission,” he asserted.

The top judge said that the commission mafia should fear God, and that the dam project was under strain because of this commission mafia. He asked them, without naming them, to think about themselves, the country and the future of its citizens.

The CJP suggested the secretary call the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet regarding the issue, to which the secretary responded that there was no need for it since he was looking over it.

The CJP responded that the construction of dam is a national cause and they would need to “come together for it”.

Justice Nisar told the secretary that he should be giving money instead of taking money, to which the secretary responded that he had already contributed money to the Dam Fund.

The hearing was postponed till next week.

Pindi water shortage and the Dadhocha dam

According to official figures, Rawalpindi requires 50 MGD of water. It is supplied 40 MGD from the 410 tubewells in the city, Rawal Dam and Khanpur Dam.

A senior Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) official earlier told Dawn that the water deficit would increase from 10MGD to 41MGD by 2025 if our options were not explored, since the Rawal dam has outlived its design life and cannot supply more than 22MGD water ? which remains unavailable during droughts.

The official had said that rainwater is wasted due to a lack of dams and was of the opinion that work should be started on the Chirah dam as well so that water is available in the future when the demand increases.

Read more: ,Punjab Planning Commission approves Rs6bn Daducha Dam,

The proposed Dadhocha dam will be constructed upstream on Soan River and all the rainwater from Murree and the Kahuta Hills will gather in the lake at Dadhocha Village, near Sihala on Kahuta Road.

The dam may also raise the underground water table, which has been depleting fast in the garrison city.

A senior district administration official told Dawn earlier this year that the villages of Bhun, Launa and Bhaoni would be submerged in the dam, and that seven industrial and commercial units, 218 houses and other areas would be affected by the project.

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Pompeo said US won’t block Pakistan plea for IMF bailout: Fawad

ISLAMABAD: US Secre­tary of State Mike Pompeo assured Pakistan last week Washington would not try to block any request for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday.

The remarks, which the minister said Mr Pompeo made during his visit to Pakistan on Wednesday, came in stark contrast to the US secretary’s warnings in July that the United States had serious reservations about the IMF giving money to Pakistan due to concerns Islamabad would use the cash to pay off Chinese loans.

Those comments rattled Islamabad, which is facing a financial crisis and may have no option but to turn again to the IMF to prop up its foreign currency reserves.

Mr Chaudhry said that relations between the United States and Pakistan were “broken” before Mr Pompeo’s trip to Islamabad but the visit had “set many things straight” and re-invigorated ties.

“He assured Pakistan that… if Pakistan opted to go to IMF for any financial help, the USA will not oppose it,” he said.

The US embassy in Islamabad did not have any immediate comment on the matter.

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took office in August, is trying to avert a currency crisis caused by a shortage of dollars in an economy hit by a ballooning current account deficit and dwindling foreign currency reserves.

Pakistani officials say they are discussing taking drastic measures to avert seeking a bailout from the IMF, which has come to Pakistan’s rescue 14 times since 1980, including most recently in 2013.

Pakistan’s relations with the United States have soured in recent years over the war in Afghanistan. Ties dropped to a new low when President Donald Trump in January accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit by playing a double game on fighting terrorism”.

Islamabad denies aiding militants in Afghanistan and lashed out against Mr Trump’s remarks, which were followed up by Washington suspending US military aid.

At the United States’ urging, a group of Western countries in February convinced a global body to put Pakistan on a terrorism financing watch list, a move that triggered concerns the United States might also seek to block Islamabad in other forums.

In July, Mr Pompeo said there was “no rationale” for the IMF to bail out Pakistan. His worries that Islamabad would use the IMF money to pay off Chinese loans echoed concerns by other US officials that China was saddling many emerging market countries with too much debt. Beijing staunchly denies such claims.

But during last week’s visit Mr Pompeo said he was hopeful of “a reset of relations” long strained over the war in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018

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Via DAWN.com

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