Posts Tagged ‘Rain’

PM Abbasi, chief ministers unanimously approve first-ever National Water Policy

  • ,Salient features of National Water Policy,

The Council of Common Interest (CCI) in its 37th meeting held at the PM Office on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in chair, unanimously approved the first-ever National Water Policy (NWP) of Pakistan.

The chief ministers of the four provinces and senior officials attended the meeting in which Sartaj Aziz, the deputy chairman of Planning Commission of Pakistan, briefed the CCI on the draft of the policy.

Aziz said the policy has been prepared after consultation with all major stakeholders and a national level seminar was also held to reach a consensus. Proposals presented in the 36th CCI meeting have also been incorporated in the policy, he added.

Salient features of National Water Policy

  • Water use and allocation on priority
  • Integrated planning for development and use of water resources
  • Environmental integrity of the Basin
  • Impact of climate change
  • Trans-boundary water sharing
  • Irrigated and rain-fed agriculture
  • Drinking water and sanitation
  • Hydropower and industry uses
  • Ground water resources
  • Water rights and obligations
  • Sustainable water infrastructure
  • Water related hazards
  • Quality management
  • Awareness and research
  • Conservation measures
  • Legal framework and capacity building of water sector institutions

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with chief ministers of the four provinces signs "Pakistan Water Charter". —APP

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with chief ministers of the four provinces signs "Pakistan Water Charter". —APP

During the meeting, the CCI was briefed about the implementation of NWP will be undertaken through a national level body namely National Water Council (NWC) to be chaired by the prime minister and comprising federal ministers for water resources; finance; power; planning development and reforms and all provincial chief ministers as members.

In the meeting, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government presented a brief on implementation of Kazi Committee Methodology (KCM) for calculation of Net Hydel Profits (NHP).

After deliberation, the CCI directed the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, Planning Commission of Pakistan and Ministry of Water Resources to reconcile the claims in consultation with the provinces and resubmit the issue for decision in the next CCI meeting.

Later, the prime minister along with the four chief ministers signed the Pakistan Water Charter pledging commitment to the National Water Policy.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 24, 2018 at 9:25 pm

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Stalemate as fresh round of negotiations with US ends

    FOREIGN Secretary Tehmina Janjua receives Ambassador Alice Wells for a call at the Foreign Office on Monday.

    FOREIGN Secretary Tehmina Janjua receives Ambassador Alice Wells for a call at the Foreign Office on Monday.

    ISLAMABAD: Another round of Pakistan-United States talks aimed at getting Islamabad to fulfil Washing­ton’s expectations, envisioned in its South Asia and Afghanistan policy, ended here on Monday without any breakthrough or breakdown, but new issues have been added to the already heavy and complicated agenda.

    A senior official of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells visited Islamabad on Monday on a daylong trip for continuing her talks with Pakistani officials on the US list of expectations. Ambassador Wells met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office. This was her second trip in less than a month. She last visited Pakistan from March 28 to April 3.

    Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal only tweeted a picture of Ambassador Wells at the FO with the caption: “FS receives Amb Wells for a call at MOFA today.” No press release was issued on the meeting afterwards.

    More issues have been added to an already heavy agenda; Alice Wells holds talks with Tehmina Janjua

    The US embassy’s statement on the meeting was also unusually very brief. Ambassador Wells “visited Islamabad today for meetings with Foreign Secretary Janjua and other senior officials. In her meetings, she discussed the status of the United States’ South Asia strategy and efforts to make progress on regional security and stability,” the statement read and contained a link to President Trump’s Fort Myers speech in which he unveiled the US Strategy on South Asia and Afghanistan.

    The strategy, to quote Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, reflects the intention of the Trump administration “to hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to deny sanctuary to militant proxies” and “encourage(s) restraint in Pakistan’s military nuclear and missile programs, and seek(s) continued, closer alignment of Pakistan’s nonproliferation policies with our own”. The US has been calling on Pakistan to take decisive action against all militant and terrorist groups allegedly based on its territory.

    Pakistan, on the other hand, strongly denies the allegation and insists that no organised sanctuary exists on its soil. Moreover, it calls for ending terrorist sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border from where militants attack it. Islamabad has also been demanding an early repatriation of Afghan refugees.

    A diplomatic source said the agenda points of both sides at the meeting at FO were same as before with the addition of two new issues — the restrictions on Pakistani diplomats that would take effect from May 1 and traffic accident involving US defence attaché Col Joseph Hall, who had earlier this month ran a red light killing a motorcyclist. Pakistan has demanded waiver of diplomatic immunity enjoyed by Col Hall so that he could be prosecuted.

    “There was no forward movement. But at the same time we must acknowledge that both sides continue to remain engaged in search of the elusive common ground,” the source said.

    Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018

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    JI reviewing its role in KP govt, says Sirajul Haq

      LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: As the relationship between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) appears to have turned sour on the issue of Senate elections, JI chief Senator Sirajul Haq on Monday declared that his party was “reviewing its role” in the PTI-led provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

      Talking to Dawn in Lahore, the JI chief claimed that they had held back so far because budget preparations were under way and a member of their party held the portfolio of finance ministry in the KP government.

      “The Jamaat has decided that it should neither weaken the KP government nor become the reason for its downfall when budget preparations are under way,” Mr Haq said, ignoring the fact that PTI chairman Imran Khan had already announced that KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak will not present the provincial budget this year.

      “On top of that, only a few weeks of its (KP government) life are left anyway,” Mr Haq said in an apparent reference to the ,challenge put before him by the PTI, — to quit the government if they believed that the PTI had played a negative role in the Senate elections.

      The two parties have had strained relationship since the Senate elections in which the JI did not support the PTI-backed candidate for Senate chairperson seat, Sadiq Sanjrani.

      The differences between the two parties became apparent when, while talking to the media at Mansoora last week, Mr Haq disclosed that KP CM Khattak had told him that the ,PTI had received directions from somewhere to support Mr Sanjrani, for the office of Senate chairman. The PTI had reacted strongly to this “disclosure”.

      Mr Haq had revealed that Mr Khattak had called him some days before the Senate chairman’s election and sought JI’s votes for their nominee. The JI chief claimed that when he asked about the name of the nominee, Mr Khattak feigned ignorance and said that he was also not aware of the name yet because the decision was coming from the top and the only thing he knew was that the nominee was from Balochistan.

      The JI chief hastened to add that he did not understand what Mr Khattak had meant by “from the top”.

      When asked why he had waited so long time to reveal this, Mr Haq said he had only responded to a query put before him by a media person.

      Amid a back-and-forth between leaders of both parties, Mr Khattak explained that he meant that he had received instructions from Banigala — the residence of party chairman Imran Khan.

      “No one can issue orders to me. I receive orders only from Allah and in party matters, from Imran Khan,” the chief minister explained, while responding to a question during a press conference in Islamabad on Monday. He added that he had told the JI chief that the PTI had decided to support a candidate from Balochistan for the post of Senate chairperson, while for the post of deputy chairperson they would support a candidate from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He, however, criticised Fata senators for not showing unity and forcing the PTI to vote for the Pakistan Peoples Party’s candidate.

      The JI has already announced its decision to join the recently-revived Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and, according to sources, the party is expected to take some important decisions with respect to its relations with the PTI and its role in the KP government in consultation with other component parties of the MMA during a meeting of the alliance scheduled for April 27.

      Reacting angrily to the JI chief’s disclosure, PTI’s information secretary Fawad Chaudhry challenged the JI to quit the KP coalition government.

      “I am surprised as to why the JI has not yet quit the PTI-led KP government,” Mr Chaudhry had said in a statement issued by the party’s media office in Islamabad on Sunday.

      The PTI leader had regretted that on one hand, the JI had filed a petition in the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and, on the other hand, had become an ally of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the election of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman, alleging that the Jamaat’s politics was based on “hypocrisy”.

      “The JI has so much love for the government that it is not ready to come out of the PTI-led coalition in KP,” the PTI leader said, terming the Mr Haq’s allegations against his party “baseless”.

      Once again on Monday, Mr Chaudhry attacked the Jamaat, saying there “there is a need to check on whose agenda Sirajul Haq is working,” and added: “At present, both Nawaz Sharif and Sirajul Haq seem to have the same tone and tenor.”

      Separately, Mr Chaudhry dared the ruling PML-N to take action against its party members who had voted for PTI’s Chaudhry Sarwar in the Senate elections.

      Mr Chaudhry said the PTI had taken a courageous step by taking action against its 20 MPAs who were found to be involved in horse-trading in the Senate elections. He said the PML-N had been alleging that Chaudhry Sarwar had been elected through bribers and after purchasing votes. He said if the PML-N’s allegations were true, it should immediately take action against its legislators who were a part of the alleged horse-trading.

      Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018

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      CPEC Summit speakers share experiences, stress mutual benefits of economic corridor

        The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will benefit Pakistan as well as China in several dimensions, but the investments in infrastructure need to be sped up, economic experts and analysts told attendees of the two-day CPEC Summit in Karachi, jointly organised by the Dawn Media Group and the Ministry of Planning and Development.

        Dr Nadeem Javed, an expert on economic policy, noted that energy investments under the corridor clock in at almost $34 billion.

        “The energy sector has already started experiencing improvements in the shape of reduction in unit costs,” he said. Thanks to all the spending, the efficiency factor in the energy sector could be increased by 41 per cent, he added.

        “Given that around $190bn worth of merchandise will pass through Pakistan under CPEC, the corridor will help Pakistan generate huge [tax] revenues,” he later remarked. The corridor will also improve regional connectivity, he said.

        “Apart from the energy and infrastructure sectors, CPEC will also benefit the industrial sector,” the analyst commented. “Pakistan will become a favourite destination for investments, whereas jobs will also be relocated from other countries in the region to Pakistan,” he added.

        Shoaib Siddiqui, federal secretary to the Ministry of Planning, noted that the proportion of the workforce on CPEC projects is in favour of Pakistan.

        “Two-thirds of the workforce on CPEC projects is Pakistani, compared to one-third Chinese nationals. So we need to understand that this is benefiting us,” he said.

        The top planning official also hinted at a new system of interaction with Chinese officials. “China-Pakistan relations are not based on unnecessary litigation,” he said.

        Tang Hao, vice president of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), said that the economic and social benefits of the corridor will be visible within the next few years. “We will also train Pakistani engineers and technicians,” he promised.

        He thanked the government and the army for their cooperation.

        He thanked Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal in particular, noting that the minister had extended the visas granted to more than 300 Chinese workers in Pakistan “so they could concentrate on their work here instead of having to return to China for the sole reason of renewing their visas.”

        Businessman Arif Habib termed the corridor “a win-win situation for both Pakistan and China”. However, “Pakistan needs much more in order to make up for infrastructure shortages,” he said at one point.

        “I am disappointed that only around $4.5 billion have been invested in infrastructure development so far. I am also disappointed at the lack of coordination between stakeholders and policymakers,” he said while stressing the need for improvement in dealing with the multi-billion project.

        According to him, CPEC projects, after completion, would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth. He also noted that the ongoing construction of CPEC projects has already increased the demand for cement, steel and other construction materials.

        Talking about risks to Pakistan, he said that the country must ensure that the quality of machinery and supplies being imported is of international standard. He further recommended that the State Bank give quick approvals for repayments etc, so that more Chinese interested in providing loans can lend money.

        “Chinese banks are taking an interest in financing projects in Pakistan. Other banks are also interested in investing in the country,” he noted.

        China Railways Construction Company General Manager Wang Lei, on the other hand, stressed the need for an improvement in the infrastructure and power sectors.

        “Industries need to be upgraded too. They are at least 30 years behind in terms of technology and machinery,” he added.

        “Pakistan is portrayed as a dangerous state [in international media]. The media should change itself or be changed,” he suggested. “News of a bad security situation scares investors.”

        He also made a few observations regarding Pakistani society.

        The official also talked on Pakistan’s political instability. He noted that no prime minister in the country has ever completed their term.

        “The judicial system is also very different from China — courts take forever to decide cases [here],” he noted. “We can learn a lot from each other.”

        Senior researcher Hassan Khawar shed light on the trade disparities between the two countries, noting that Pakistani businessmen pay 60pc duties on some products, as opposed to 20pc by other countries.

        “For Pakistan, the main incentive in CPEC is economic growth,” he stressed.

        Former State Bank of Pakistan governor Mohammad Yaseen Anwar, in his speech, stressed the need to address the problems of urbanisation, agriculture and power shortages.

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        Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 23, 2018 at 3:25 pm

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        Ailing Hockey hero Mansoor Ahmed seeks New Delhi’s permission for heart transplant in India

          Pakistan’s World Cup winning field hockey goalkeeper Mansoor Ahmed on Monday reached out to India for help in securing a heart transplant — despite years of breaking his rivals’ “hearts on the field”.

          The 49-year-old has been suffering for weeks from complications stemming from a pacemaker and stents implanted in his heart.

          Ahmed has been a sporting icon in Pakistan since helping the country win the 1994 World Cup in Sydney with his penalty stroke save against the Netherlands in the final.

          “I may have broken a lot of Indian hearts on the field of play by beating India in the Indira Gandhi Cup (1989) and in other events but that was sport,” Ahmed told AFP.

          “Now I need a heart transplant in India and for that I need support from the Indian government.”

          India-Pakistan ties, including sports and cultural contacts, plummeted after the 2008 militant attacks in Mumbai.

          Despite the strained ties, Pakistanis are eligible to apply for medical visas to India, renowned for its booming medical tourism industry.

          Ahmed — who played 338 international matches, participated in three Olympics and various other high-profile events in a career spanning from 1986 to 2000 — said the visa could be a lifesaver.

          “Humanity is paramount and I too would be obliged if I get a visa and other help in India” said Ahmed.

          Sport has been one of the few avenues to improve relations between the arch rivals, he added.

          “We have had a great rivalry and sports have helped on a number of occasions so that should continue,” said Ahmed.

          India has suspended most bilateral sporting ties with Pakistan since 2008, with high-profile cricket tours bearing the brunt of the moratorium.

          They have, however, continued to play each other in multinational events like the World Cup.

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          Bahadurabad rendezvous: Shahbaz meets MQM-P leaders in Karachi

            Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, during a second visit to Karachi in as many weeks, met with senior leaders of the MQM-P’s Bahadurabad faction on Sunday and vowed to make the metropolis “the New York of South Asia” if his party was elected to power in the upcoming polls.

            Addressing a joint press conference with MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui after a meeting with the party’s leadership ? including Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, Nasreen Jalil and Faisal Subzwari ? Shahbaz claimed he had not come to Karachi with a political agenda. “I came here as a Pakistani,” he said.

            “What happened with this city in the past is a tale of cruelty, but there is no use crying about it now. Yes, there must be accountability for it,” he said, asking where development funds released for Karachi over the years had disappeared.

            He claimed that when Nawaz Sharif was given the mandate, he decided that if peace did not return to Karachi, there would be no peace in Pakistan. “He tasked the Rangers to bring peace to Karachi and gave them freedom of action. They did a good job and today peace has returned.”

            “But peace and justice are joined together and peace cannot be sustainable if socioeconomic needs remain ignored,” he added.

            Claiming he did not visit Karachi with the intention of “political point-scoring”, Shahbaz said he had requested the MQM-P to maintain peace, and to propagate a message of peace and brotherhood, friendship and keep progressing. “We are with them in this,” he said.

            “Peace and justice are the needs of the hour,” he said.

            The Punjab chief minister also touched upon the ongoing tussle between electricity provider K-Electric and the Sui Southern Gas Company, which has led to an increase in loadshedding for residents of the city.

            “There is no doubt that the KE is mostly to blame,” he claimed. “Whatever liability is there, it is their responsibility. Ramazan is coming and KE has to resolve their self-made issues,” he said. “Without delay, the entire city must get around-the-clock electricity in Ramazan.”

            “If we speak the truth, then issues can be resolved. But if we twist them and talk around the issues, nothing will happen. That’s how 70 years have been wasted and no work has been done.”

            “We have a good idea of our political strength in Karachi. All parties will try [to outperform each other in the upcoming election]. If we get the opportunity, we will turn the cities pain into happiness,” he promised.

            “We will work together to provide water to each household, we will provide public transport ? we will build a Blue Line, a Green Line, a Yellow Line, a network of streets and flyovers will be built, we will provide jobs to the youth of Karachi, and if we get an opportunity, we will big one of South Asia’s biggest technical universities here.”

            “But these things will happen when we work together. No one can do it alone. If we do not band together… Our names will not be taken in history. The day is not far, given the potential of this city, that it will become South Asia’s New York, and the world will see it,” he claimed.

            MQM-P’s Siddiqui, who also addressed the press conference, said party leaders had explained the city’s issues to Shahbaz.

            “What Sindh’s provincial governments have done for the last 10-12 years with citizens is before everyone today,” he said.

            He touched upon the MQM’s concerns regarding the census results and their impact on the delimitation of constituencies in the run-up to the General Election, claiming there is a quickening conspiracy afoot to limit the representation of Sindh’s citizens in the government.

            He asked for greater powers to be given to the local government so it can function independently economically, administratively and politically.

            “The packages you announced are being disbursed, but their disbursal is slower than the rate of growth of the city’s issues,” he told Shahbaz. “This process should be sped up so Sindh’s citizens don’t get the impression that they are second or third class citizens.”

            Following the press conference with Siddiqui, Shahbaz also addressed gatherings in Lyari and Baldia Town, where he made similar promises to citizens: provision of clean drinking water, cheap and quality public transport, “not just one metro, but many metros”, including an Orange, Blue and Green Line, a network of roads and flyovers, job opportunities for the youth, technical training for the youth, interest free loans for small businesses.

            Shahbaz in Lyari also lambasted the PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. “When I come to Karachi, the PPP gets angry. When I go to Peshawar, the PTI gets angry [...] When I show them the mirror, they get upset,” he said.

            “The PTI and PPP are two sides of the same coin [...] don’t fall into their trap,” he added.

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            Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 22, 2018 at 7:25 pm

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            Amir Khan beats Lo Greco in 39 seconds on British return

              Amir Khan’s first bout in a British ring for five years saw him knock out Canada’s Phil Lo Greco in a mere 39 seconds on Saturday.

              The 31-year-old British boxer had not fought anywhere for two years since being beaten by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas in May 2016.

              And the 2004 Olympic silver medallist wasted little time in sending Lo Greco tumbling with a quick one-two punch combination inside the opening 30 seconds.

              Khan then pinned Lo Greco to the ropes before the super-welterweight contest ended moments after it had started. The victory left Khan on course for his long-awaited showdown with British rival Kell Brook, who was among those watching at ringside on Saturday.

              “I have been out the ring for two years but I was still in the gym working hard, I have never taken a day off. I wanted to prove a point coming back — I was trained to fight for 12 rounds, I had to make some changes and Phil lo Greco is a dangerous opponent,” Khan told the BBC.

              “Enjoy my victory. Khan’s back. I was a little nervous, but I am back with a big bang. I want to become a world champion this year or next year.”

              Khan, however, added: “I want to fight the best guys. If it means going up a division I will.”

              As for a bout with Brook, Khan, most famous recently for his “jungle” appearance in the British television show “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”, said: “That fight is something I am not rushing and not running away from. I will fight Kell Brook and beat Kell Brook. Kell Brook has been living off my name for a long time. I am a stronger fighter, a better fighter.”

              “I’m not a fighter to run away.”

              But an unimpressed Brook said: “He doesn’t want the fight, he just ran off.”

              “Amir, all the fans want the fight, I want the fight, he can go in the jungle and chase stars but when he gets in there with me, I’ll make him see stars. “

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              Bahrain sentences 24 Shia citizens to jail, revokes nationality

                DUBAI: A Bahrain court sentenced 24 Shia citizens to prison and stripped them of their nationality after finding them guilty of forming a “terrorist group”, a Bahraini judicial source said on Thursday.

                Other charges included travelling to Iraq and Iran for “weapons and explosives training” and attempted murder of police officers.

                The High Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced 10 of the defendants to life in prison, 10 to a decade behind bars and the other four to jail terms ranging from three to five years.

                The Sunni-ruled, Shia-majority kingdom has stripped hundreds of its citizens of their nationality and jailed dozens of high-profile activists and religious clerics since protests demanding an elected government erupted in early 2011.

                The Bahraini government has accused Shia Iran of backing the protests and attempting to overthrow the government. Tehran denies involvement.

                Authorities on Wednesday also referred to trial seven Bahrainis accused of attacking an oil pipeline to Saudi Arabia in November.

                That trial is set for May 10.

                The blast cut off the pipeline linking Bahrain’s Bapco refinery with oil giant Aramco’s main pumping station in neighbouring Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran province.

                Manama in February said it had arrested four men suspected of attacking the pipeline, accusing Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran of training and arming two of them, which Tehran denied.

                Under Bahrain’s citizenship law, amended after political protests broke out in 2011, the authorities can revoke the nationality of individuals who engage in acts deemed “disloyal” to the state.

                Human Rights Watch in February accused the kingdom of “stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable”.

                Bahrain earlier this year deported eight people to war-torn Iraq after revoking their citizenship and making them stateless.

                Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2018

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                Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 20, 2018 at 8:25 am

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                ‘Retail racism’: 2 black men arrested at Starbucks get an apology from police

                  Rashon Nelson initially brushed it off when the Starbucks manager told him he couldn’t use the restroom because he wasn’t a paying customer.

                  He thought nothing of it when he and his childhood friend and business partner, Donte Robinson, were approached at their table and were asked if they needed help. The 23-year-old entrepreneurs declined, explaining they were just waiting for a business meeting.

                  A few minutes later, they hardly noticed when the police came into the coffee shop — until officers started walking in their direction.

                  “That’s when we knew she called the police on us,” Nelson told The Associated Press in the first interview by the two black men since video of their April 12 trespassing arrests touched off a furor around the US over racial profiling or what has been dubbed “retail racism” or “shopping while black”.

                  Nelson and Robinson were led away in handcuffs from the shop in the city’s well-to-do Rittenhouse Square neighborhood in an incident recorded on a white customer’s cellphone.

                  In the week since, the men have met with Starbucks’ apologetic CEO and have started pushing for lasting change at the coffee shop chain, including new policies on discrimination and ejecting customers.

                  “We do want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody again,” Robinson said. “What if it wasn’t us sitting there? What if it was the kid that didn’t know somebody that knew somebody? Do they make it to jail? Do they die? What happens?”

                  On Thursday, they also got an apology from Philadelphia police Commissioner Richard Ross, a black man who at first staunchly defended his officers’ handling of the encounter.

                  “I should have said the officers acted within the scope of the law, and not that they didn’t do anything wrong,” Ross said. “Words are very important.”

                  At a news conference, a somber Ross said he “failed miserably” in addressing the arrests. He said that the issue of race is not lost on him and that he shouldn’t be the person making things worse.

                  “Shame on me if, in any way, I’ve done that,” he said.

                  He also said the police department did not have a policy for dealing for such situations but does now and it will be released soon.

                  Nelson and Robinson said they went to the Starbucks to meet Andrew Yaffe, a white local businessman, over a potential real estate opportunity. Three officers showed up not long after. Nelson said they weren’t questioned but were told to leave immediately.

                  Yaffe showed up as the men were being handcuffed and could be seen in the video demanding an explanation for the officers’ actions. Nelson and Robinson did not resist arrest.

                  “When you know that you did nothing wrong, how do you really react to it?” Nelson said. “You can either be ignorant or you can show some type of sophistication and act like you have class. That was the choice we had.”

                  It was not their first encounter with police. But neither had been arrested before, setting them apart from many of those they grew up with in their gritty southwest Philadelphia neighborhood.

                  Nelson and Robinson spent hours in a jail cell and were released after midnight, when the district attorney declined to prosecute them.

                  Nelson said he wondered if he’d make it home alive.

                  “Any time I’m encountered by cops, I can honestly say it’s a thought that runs through my mind,” Nelson said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

                  Starbucks has said the coffee shop where the arrests occurred has a policy that restrooms are for paying customers only, but the company has no overall policy. The men’s attorney, Stewart Cohen, said they were illegally profiled.

                  The arrests prompted protests at the Starbucks and a national boycott. Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Seattle-based company, came to Philadelphia to meet with the men, called the arrests “reprehensible” and ordered more than 8,000 Starbucks stores closed on the afternoon of May 29 so that nearly 175,000 employees can receive training on unconscious bias. Starbucks has not identified the employee who called police.

                  Robinson said that he appreciates the public support but that anger and boycotting Starbucks are not the solution.

                  The men said they are looking for more lasting results and are in mediation with Starbucks to make changes, including the posting in stores of a customer bill of rights; the adoption of new policies on customer ejections and racial discrimination; and independent investigations of complaints.

                  “You go from being someone who’s just trying to be an entrepreneur, having your own dreams and aspirations, and then this happens,” Nelson said. “How do you handle it? Do you stand up? Do you fight? Do you sit down and just watch everyone else fight for you? Do you let it slide, like we let everything else slide with injustice?”

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                  Informed Pakistan about ‘surgical strike’ before making it public in India: Modi

                  • ,’Don’t politicise rape’,

                  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that India will not tolerate those who like to “export terror” and will respond to them “in the language they understand”, referring to the 2016 ‘surgical strikes’ across the Line of Control (LoC), ,reported Times of India,.

                  On September 28, 2016, India had claimed that the country carried out surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads across the LoC, inflicting “significant casualties”.

                  The Pakistan military, however, had ,swiftly rubbished the notions of a surgical strike,, saying: “This quest by the Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as a surgical strike is fabrication of the truth. Pakistan has made it clear that if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil, the same will be strongly responded.”

                  Read: ,Mystery of the ‘surgical strike’,

                  Modi, during the ‘Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Saath’ diaspora event in London on Wednesday, claimed that before making the news of the ‘surgical strikes’ public, India had repeatedly attempted to contact Pakistan government to inform them about the operation.

                  “I said before India gets to know, we should call Pakistan and tell them what we did so they can come and collect the dead bodies if they have time. We were calling them since 11am but they were scared to answer the phone. At 12 we spoke to them and then told the Indian media,” he was quoted as saying.

                  Explore: ,Surgical strikes — The questions that still remain,

                  “We believe in peace. But we will not tolerate those who like to export terror. We will give back strong answers and in the language they understand. Terrorism will never be accepted,” Modi said.

                  The Foreign Office on Thursday reiterated that India’s claims about the ‘surgical strike’ were false and baseless. “Repeating a lie doesn’t turn it into the truth,” said FO Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal.

                  In response to Modi’s comments on Pakistan exporting terrorism, Dr Faisal said that it was the other way around and that India was backing terrorists in Pakistan. “Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav is proof of Indian state-sponsored terrorism.”

                  ‘Don’t politicise rape’

                  ,Hundreds of noisy protesters greeted Modi, when he arrived in London on Wednesday. Holding placards reading “Modi go home” and “we stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed”, they gathered outside Downing Street and parliament as Modi arrived for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.

                  Kashmiris held aloft flags, while others displayed posters depicting an eight-year-old Muslim girl, who was raped and murdered earlier this year in a brutal attack blamed on Hindu men.

                  Speaking on the gruesome incident during the event, Modi said: “Rape is rape. It cannot be tolerated. But should we compare the number of rapes in different governments? We cannot say there were this many rapes in our government and that many in yours. There cannot be a worse way to deal with this issue.”

                  Read: ,No Muslims left in Rasana — the village that has become a symbol of India’s rape crisis,

                  He also urged people and political leaders to refrain from politicising the rape cases, reported Times of India.

                  Sexual violence against women is a highly charged political issue in India. Protests have erupted across India after the latest rape cases — one of the Kashmir girl and the other of a teenager — were reported. Police officers and a politician are under investigation in two of the unrelated cases.

                  A state lawmaker from Modi’s Bha­ratiya Janata Party stands accused of raping the teenager. No action was taken against the politician until the girl threatened to set herself on fire earlier this month. Her father died soon afterwards from injuries he sustained while in police custody.

                  Nearly 40 per cent of India’s rape victims are children and the 40,000 reported rapes in 2016 marked a 60 per cent increase over the level in 2012. But women’s rights groups say the figures are still gross underestimates.

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                  PAC grills NAB chief over ‘media trial’ of politicians

                    ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday grilled National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal for what it termed a media trial of political figures by leaking information and documents related to them.

                    Justice Iqbal appeared before the PAC to give them an in-camera briefing about the ongoing investigation into the Reko Diq project and the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) scheme at Barakahu. The briefing continued for about half an hour followed by a question and answer session that lasted two and a half hours, sources told Dawn.

                    Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Syed Naveed Qamar, Sherry Rehman and Mushahid Hussain Syed were among those PAC members who extensively questioned the NAB chairman over the unofficial rele­ase of information to the media mostly in cases pertaining to politicians.

                    According to the sources, most of the PAC members were of the opinion that the leak of information against politicians regarding authorisation of an inquiry or investigation had damaged their reputation in society. Besides, the sources said, the politicians through the media trial were declared guilty even prior to the commencement of a trial in court.

                    Move to curtail powers of anti-graft watchdog opposed

                    Asked if there was any checks and balances system in the bureau, Justice Iqbal said about 220 NAB officials had been arrested over corruption and misconduct. NAB received about 100 complaints against its officials every day and over 400 inquiries were in process against its own officials, he said. When the NAB chairman was questioned if the bureau had ever proceeded against a person for lodging a fake complaint, Justice Iqbal mentioned two such cases registered for lodging fake complainants since 1999.

                    Justice Iqbal explained to the PAC that he was working on the restructuring of the anti-graft body and said a proposal in this regard would be tabled before parliament soon, the sources said. However, they added, he strongly opposed a move to curtail NAB’s jurisdiction and powers through any presidential ordinance or any other means. “It is better to close NAB offices rather than limit its powers,” he said, adding that parliament was supreme and they could shut the entire bureau or reject the proposal for restructuring the anti-graft body.

                    When a senator asked if NAB was repeating the same exercise that it had done during the regime of former military dictator retired general Pervez Musharraf, Justice Iqbal replied that NAB was not targeting a specific party or its politicians, but was working as per its lawful mandate, the sources said.

                    They said Justice Iqbal clarified his position explaining that he was neither under any sort of pressure nor was following any hidden agenda against any specific political party.

                    NAB has opened numerous inquiries and investigation against politicians, most of them belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Recently the bureau summoned party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in a two-decade-old inquiry related to the widening of a road in Raiwind.

                    The sources said he defended the re-opening of decades-old inquiries and quoted him as saying that the bureau was “clearing the backlog”.

                    Earlier during the briefing over the Barakahu housing and Reko Diq projects, the PAC was informed that the Reko Diq was a sub judice matter while the bureau would file a reference against the officials of the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation and a private contractor within 30 days.

                    After attending the PAC session, the chairman encountered media persons outside the committee room where he dispelled the impression about curtailing NAB powers.

                    Justice Iqbal also dispelled the impression that there was someone pulling NAB’s strings. He said: “Whenever someone tries to pull the strings, I will pick my briefcase to leave NAB for good.”

                    About inquiries into the Panama Papers allegations, Justice Iqbal said NAB had started investigation into the allegations against those named in the Panama Papers leaks and assured the PAC members that all pending inquiries would be done properly.

                    About the ambassador-designate to the United States Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, Justice Iqbal said steps had been taken to place his name on the Exit Control List (ECL) but a court of law had restrained the bureau from proceeding further in this regard.

                    When asked why NAB did not try to stop Nawaz Sharif from proceeding to the UK, he replied to the journalists that there should be some humanitarian consideration and said: “Even otherwise it is not my responsibility to stop him from leaving the country.

                    “The bureau has nothing to do with holding or not holding general elections and if anyone is involved in corruption, he has to face the music,” the NAB chairman said, adding that if someone would “prove any discrimination in any case, I will take the responsibility and will resign accordingly.”

                    About a clarification by former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao over Justice Iqbal’s revelations a few days earlier that Gen Musharraf handed over about 4,000 Pakistanis to other countries when Mr Sherpao was the interior minister, the NAB chairman said: “Our interior minister had never been much powerful as to hand over people to other countries.”

                    Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018

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                    War of words intensifies between K-Electric, SSGC

                      ISLAMABAD: The ,war of accusations, intensified between the two Karachi-based public utilities — privatised power firm K-Electric (KE) and state-owned Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) — as consumers continued to suffer extended power outages in hot and humid weather.

                      Both firms are publicly listed companies on the country’s stock exchange and yet appeared questioning each others accounting standards apart from hurling accusations against each other for gas shortfall and resultant power crisis in city of more than 20 million people.

                      The blame-game appeared to have started after power regulator — National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) — ,blamed KE for not utilising its full generation capacity, and at the same time asked the government to increase gas supply to KE for higher power generation to ease public sufferings.

                      In statement on Wednesday, KE said the Nepra’s suggestion for higher gas supply supported the power utility’s stance that 500 megawatts of energy shortage was due to gas constraints but at the same time played down for technical reasons its inability to utilise spare generation capacity highlighted by the regulator.

                      The gas utility — SSGC — on the other hand claimed the Nepra’s findings “truly justify SSGC’s position” that KE used gas issue as a pretext for additional loadshedding instead of setting its priorities right.

                      It accused the KE of neither clearing its outstanding dues worth Rs80 billion, or depositing Rs6bn security deposit as committed at a meeting under Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, nor entering into dialogue for signing a gas sales agreement (GSA)— a prerequisite for gas sales to any consumer.

                      The SSGC reiterated that gas shortage was not a surprise phenomenon and had repeatedly been brought to the notice of KE management to sign gas sales agreement because the original four-decade old agreement covered only 10 mmcfd while the actual gas supply is eight times higher. It said the gas company was following the government’s gas load management plan that gave priority to domestic consumers who have been increasing over the past 40 years.

                      The gas company said its numerous attempts to bring KE to the table to sign a fresh GSA had failed as the KE avoided negotiations and defaulted on its payments while SSGC did not stop gas supplies to a defaulting customer “just for the people of Karachi.” It said the KE also did not honour its commitment made with Sindh’s chief minister to appoint one of the top independent chartered accountancy firms to reviewing and analysing financial statements and other relevant records of SSGC and KE from 2004-05 to date to determine overdues.

                      “Is SSGC unjustified in demanding overdues when it has to pay off the financial institutions, banks and of course the exploration and production companies it purchases gas from?,” asked the SSGC.

                      KE, on the other hand, insisted its generation capacity continued impaired by reduced gas supply by SSGC. It said the better gas supply could have covered the shortcomings at KE plants highlighted by the regulator, adding that the alternate fuel utilisation involved lengthy technical parameters and immediate solution was higher gas supply.

                      Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018

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                      Pakistan cautions India against fanning row over pilgrims

                        ISLAMABAD: The Fore­ign Office (FO) denied an Indian allegation on Tuesday that Pakistan had instigated Sikh pilgrims to agitate over the Khalistan issue and cautioned New Delhi against fanning this controversy.

                        The ongoing row has marred the Sikh pilgrimage for Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdin ceremonies over the last fortnight.

                        “Pakistan categorically rejects Indian allegations of attempts to incite Indian pilgrims on the issue of Khalistan. By spreading such falsehoods, India has chosen to deliberately stoke further controversy around the visit of Sikh pilgrims,” the FO said in a statement.

                        India’s external affairs ministry handed to Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner in New Delhi a protest over alleged attempts to raise the Kha­listan issue during the visit of Sikh pilgrims. The ministry asked Pakistan to immediately stop the alleged activities “aimed at undermining India’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and incitement of disharmony in India”.

                        The visit by a group of 1,800 Indian Sikhs has this year turned into a diplomatic spat because of deteriorating ties between the two countries. It started after an Indian claim that its high commissioner and high commission staff in Islamabad were being denied access to the pilgrims.

                        The FO had on that occasion said that the matter was being misrepresented.

                        The FO, in its statement on Tuesday, repeated its position that the Sikh community had been protesting against the Indian government over the release of a controversial movie which hurt their religious sentiments. These protests, the FO contended, had started in India and other parts of the world before the pilgrims arrived in Pakistan.

                        “In view of the charged situation and the explicit refusal of the Sikh pilgrims to meet Indian officials, the Indian high commissioner cancelled his visit on April 14. Indian attempts to distort the truth and obfuscate facts are unethical and regrettable,” it said.

                        Recalling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Pakistan’s inter­nal issues, the FO said it was ironic that New Delhi was now indulging in blatant hypocrisy by twisting facts.

                        In reply to the Indian external affairs ministry’s assertion that the latest incident went against the spirit of the 1974 protocol governing the exchange of pilgrim visits between the two countries, the FO said Islam­abad was committed to “continuing such cooperation”.

                        “No amount of Indian propaganda can succeed in turning this right into a wrong. The government of India should respect international and inter-state norms, respect all religions, especially minorities, and refrain from indulging in pointless provocation which only vitiates an already charged environment to the detriment of all,” the FO observed.

                        Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2018

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                        Pakistan calls for making global non-proliferation regime fair, equitable

                          ISLAMABAD: Pakistan continues to remain engaged with global non-proliferation regime despite its politicisation and other defects and calls for making the regime fair and equitable.

                          Speaking at a seminar at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on Tuesday, retired Lt Gen Mazhar Jamil, who retired as the director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) a few months ago, said: “There is a concern that the non-proliferation regime is becoming increasingly politicised and discriminatory. Despite these abnormalities in the nuclear order, Pakistan remains positively engaged.”

                          The statement follows last week’s meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s consultative group that deliberated on the criteria for admitting non-NPT countries into the 48-member cartel controlling the international nuclear trade. Stalemate on the issue of admission of non-NPT countries persisted at the last meeting of the consultative group.

                          The US is spearheading India’s campaign for inclusion in the group and contends that after attaining membership of other multilateral export control regimes like Missile Techno­logy Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group, and Wassenaar Agreement Indian case is ripe for membership. However, a small albeit depleted group is holding out preventing consensus on new admissions.

                          Pakistan believes that key decisions at NSG, like admission of new members, are politicised. The decisions instead of following an equitable and non-discriminatory approach are motivated by geo-political considerations.

                          Gen Mazhar Jamil said: “Pakistan does what it can, the non-proliferation regime should also do what it must to become equitable and rule-based.”

                          He recalled that Pakistan had voluntarily committed itself to the ideals such as non-proliferation and prevention of arms race in outer space. “Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power and shall continue to exercise restraint and responsibility,” he added.

                          Speaking about the regional situation, he asked India to “shun belligerence and war-mongering and resolve disputes peacefully”.

                          Comparing the Indian strategic thinking with that of Pakistan, the former SPD chief said Pakistan’s strategic culture, in contrast, “has always been characterised by restrained responses, pursuit of conflict resolution and closing the space for war”.

                          SVI president Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, on the occasion, said Indian National Security Strategy (NSS) objective was to maintain an overwhelming conventional and nuclear weapons capability by developing strategic and conventional offensive capabilities for full spectrum of military conflicts.

                          The main instruments of India’s force posture were deterrence, coercion and coercive diplomacy, he said. The joint Indian armed forces doctrine contemplated the use of military force aimed at destruction, disruption and constraining its adversaries in South Asia, with specific concentration on Pakistan, he added.

                          Meanwhile, the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad hosted a Public Talk on “The 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR): Global and Regional Security”.

                          Ambassador Munir Akram said that although South Asia had not been mentioned in the NPR, the region had been covered in the context of non-proliferation.

                          The NPR, which endorses nuclear modernisation and sustenance programme of the US, he believed, would trigger arms race and also increase greater likelihood of use of weapons. He said the NPR would affect Iran and North Korea.

                          Director General Strat­egic Studies Dr Shireen Mazari said Pakistan had increasingly become the target of US criticism, especially in the context of its nuclear weapon. She reiterated that Pakistan should remain wary of the US-India strategic partnership.

                          Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2018

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                          PM Abbasi, COAS meet Saudi king, attend war games

                            ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday left Saudi Arabia after attending the concluding ceremony of Joint Gulf Shield-1 military drill.

                            He was expected to reach Islamabad in the early hours of Tuesday morning. During his two-day stay in the Kingdom, Mr Abbasi was accompanied by Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.

                            Besides attending the concluding ceremony in the Kingdom’s eastern city of Jubail, the prime minister and his entourage on the second day of their trip met King Salman bin Abdulaziz. There was a brief interaction with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman as well.

                            The concluding ceremony was attended by leaders of the participating countries.

                            Twenty-four countries participated in the Gulf Shield-1 military exercise, which continued for nearly a month. Besides hosts Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the other countries that took part in the exercise were the US, the UK, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Mauritania, Malaysia, Chad, Djibouti, Niger, Comoros, Afghanistan, Oman, Guyana, Turkey, and Burkina Faso.

                            FO says PM will lead Pakistan delegation to 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London

                            Troops from the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, and Pakistan Navy participated in the exercise.

                            The drills are being described as one of the largest military exercises in the region, aimed at “raising level of preparedness; enhancing mutual coordination and cooperation among the participating countries, exchange of expertise and security integration”.

                            “The drills featured two types of military operations that included conventional military operations represented by coastal defence attacks against the enemy, in addition to the irregular war operations carried out by besieging and penetrating villages and industrial installations so as to cleanse them of hostile elements,” spokesman for Joint Gulf Shield-1 Brig Gen Abdullah Al-Subaie said, according to Arab media.

                            Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said that PM Abbasi would lead the Pakistan delegation to the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM-2018), in London from Wednesday to Friday (April 18 to 20). The main theme of this conference is ‘Towards A Common Future’.

                            APP adds: Pakistan is one of the founding members of the organisation. The current membership of the Commonwealth consists of 53 member states reflecting diversity of all continents of the world. During his stay in London, the prime minister will call on Queen Elizabeth II, Prince of Wales and meet the British leadership.

                            Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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                            SC drops Marriyum Aurangzeb’s name from Pemra search committee

                              ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered removal of Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb from a search committee constituted to find and appoint a suitable and eminent professional as chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).

                              Headed by Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Sartaz Aziz, the search committee will include All Pakistan Newspapers Society President Hameed Haroon, veteran journalist Arif Nizami, Pakistan Broadcasters Association Chair­man Mian Amir Mehmood, Information Secretary Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera and Establishment Secretary Maroof Afzal.

                              A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, asked the relevant authorities not to include the name of the information minister in the six-member search committee, observing that Ms Aurangzeb would not find time as she must be busy issuing statements.

                              Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana said all the proposed members of the search committee, including Ms Aurangzeb, were independent people.

                              The bench observed that since the information minister was busy issuing political statements, she should not be included in the committee.

                              Says Marriyum Aurangzeb can’t be included in committee for Pemra chairman’s appointment as she is busy issuing statements

                              The Supreme Court was hearing a suo motu case relating to advertisements issued by the federal and provincial governments to the media.

                              The bench also took exception to slogan-chanting by some women outside the apex court against the verdict about the length of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution on Friday. While pointing to other members of the bench, the chief justice said they were the “real lions”. If those criticising the judiciary were real men of dignity, they should come forward instead of using women as a shield, he said. “Come forward like a man so that the court can take some action,” the bench observed, adding the court was extra cautious and exercising much restraint.

                              The chief justice then regretted that a private television anchorperson raised a hue and cry when the court named former Indian railways minister Lalu Prasad at a hearing in Lahore about the losses incurred by the Pakistan Railways.

                              Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that things went too far from mere statements, but hastened to add that the independence of the media was a guarantee to the independence of the judiciary. He observed that any criticism should be directed towards the judgements but not towards individual judges.

                              Referring to the appointment of the Pemra chairman, the Supreme Court at the last hearing had suggested to the information secretary that the government might have to re-initiate the entire process for selecting the Pemra chairman since none of the individuals shortlisted were qualified to head the regulatory authority.

                              The court had told the information secretary that the government might have to re-advertise for initiating the process of the appointment of the chairman.

                              Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana argued that the government intended to resolve issues about proposed amendments to the Pemra laws within three weeks, but currently the most important issue was the appointment of the Pemra chairman.

                              Petitioner Hamid Mir argued before the court that the draft amendment regarding the Pemra board was ready with the government and the proposed draft suggested amendments to Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance, which deals with the power of the federal government to issue directives.

                              Justice Saeed then wondered if there was any section of the ordinance regarding broadcasting fake or defamatory news and recalled how in Malaysia telecasting of wrong or fake news had been made a criminal offence.

                              Earlier, the state had dominance over the fake news but now the authority to disseminate such news had landed in the hands of others, the judge regretted.

                              The additional attorney general agreed that regulating fake news had become the most important issue these days.

                              Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan observed that Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance was an open-ended provision that allowed the federal government to intervene in its matters.

                              The court also summoned the chief executive officer of Geo television, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, to appear before it on Tuesday for not paying salaries to workers and, while pointing towards the petitioner, wondered that some journalists had told him that anchors were getting salaries to the tune of Rs3.8 million to Rs5m, whereas the reporters who worked day and night received a little over just Rs20,000 as monthly salary.

                              Published in Dawn, Aprill 17th, 2018

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                              Miftah heads to Washington amidst strained ties

                                WASHINGTON: Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail will arrive in Washington on Wednesday to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group but is also likely to hold bilateral meeting with American officials.

                                The visit comes a few days before the last federal budget of the PML-N government to be unveiled on April 27 and is causing speculation in Pakistan that he may seek some last-minute reprieve from international donors and the US government.

                                But Ismail has already said that the government is not seeking another package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which begins its spring meetings in Washington from April 18.

                                In 2013, the IMF provided a $6.6 billion loan package to Pakistan to help deal with “slow growth, declining reserves and increasing fiscal deficit.” Pakistan successfully completed the 36-month package and earned IMF’s praise for displaying fiscal discipline during this period.

                                Visit is for Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, but includes bilateral discussions with US officials

                                Analysts predict that deteriorating external finances and dwindling foreign reserves may force the country to seek another bailout package from the IMF. But they also point out that the situation has changed drastically since 2013.

                                Pakistan is no longer considered a close ally by the US and the Trump administration has already suspended its security assistance to the country. There are indications that Washington may further reduce its economic support by July this year.

                                During his three-day stay in Washington, Miftah will also meet senior US officials in an effort to improve economic ties with the world’s largest economy, but those meetings present starker challenges today they would have a few years ago.

                                Miftah will also seek Washin­gton’s backing for his efforts to prevent Pakistan from being placed on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has already put Islamabad on a watch list of the countries whose financial systems have strategic deficiencies in combating money laundering and terror financing.

                                Days before his scheduled visit to US, Miftah told journalists in Islamabad that Pakistan will have an action plan ready by June this year to allay FATF’s concerns. He said the plan would be formulated and executed within three months and hoped that by “implementing it, Pakistan will be off the grey list within a year.”

                                Getting off that list without US support, however, could take a little more than an action plan . Pakistan is due to be added to the FATF grey list in June.

                                Concerns about critically low foreign exchange reserves — caused by a widening current account deficit — are also to likely figure prominently in Miftah’s discussions in Washington. .

                                In a report released in mid-March, IMF projected Pakistan’s gross financing requirements at $24.5bn for fiscal year 2017-18 and $27bn for 2018-19. A World Bank report, published on Sunday, warned that macroeconomic stability in the country was a major concern for the near-term economic outlook. It noted that the balance of payments position was particularly vulnerable and the upcoming elections may make things worse by delaying policy adjustments.

                                The external vulnerabilities as well as the countries growing isolation in important global bodies will cast an important shadow as Miftah moves to probe the mood in Washington, particularly inside the IMF and the US Treasury.

                                Pakistan has also approached friendly nations — particularly China and Saudi Arabia — for assistance to help avert another approach to the IMF. But so far, their response has not been very encouraging.

                                Before his departure, he addressed a pre-budget seminar at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad where he said that privatisation should top the agenda of all political parties in the upcoming elections.

                                He said Pakistan needs to grow at 8pc per year to meaningfully reduce poverty. He also pointed to the upcoming tax amnesty scheme, saying the government is giving “tax evaders a chance to declare their undeclared wealth”. We are enabling a system in which only those can buy properties or plots who are tax filers, otherwise, one cannot buy any piece of land, he added.

                                Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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