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PIA crisis: Shah upbraids govt over its tactics

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:29
SUKKUR: 

Even as Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) pilots resumed some flights on Sunday, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah laid into the government for its shoddy privatisation plan and the way it has handled the airline workers’ strike so far.

Speaking to the media in Sukkur, Shah reminded the prime minister that he served the entire country and was duty-bound to safeguard public interests.

Referring to Tuesday’s violent clashes, during which two PIA employees were killed by ‘mysterious’ gunshots when scores of PIA workers clashed with law enforcers outside the Karachi airport during a violent protest, Shah said that it seemed the government believes in a policy of confrontation.

On February 2, PIA employees went on a country wide strike to protest against the government’s plan to sell a stake in the airline spurring fears of mass lay offs. The protests grounded the entire fleet of the national carrier, with Shah claiming it had caused the exchequer loss of billions.

In this regard the leader of the opposition offered to mediate between the workers and the government.

He also criticised the government’s decision to revive an obscure law from 1952, the Essential Service Maintenance Act, to quash the protest by PIA workers.

While conceding that the act had also been imposed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) patron Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Shah reminded that it applied equally to the military, civil aviation authority, police, power plants and that unions could be formed in institutions which have collective bargaining agent certificates.

He welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s claim of launching a new airline, noting that it would benefit the people but raised questions on the government’s eagerness to sell off the national carrier.

“What was the need of passing the PIA privatisation bill in the national assembly in such haste,” Shah asked.

Commenting on the recent development projects initiated by the government, Shah said that setting up a power plant in Sahiwal would be detrimental to the agriculture in the area instead it should be setup in a place like Tharparkar.

He also criticised the government over the proposed Orange Line Train in Lahore, stating that the funds being used for the project belong to the entire nation and not just the people of Lahore as he made a case for setting up the train in other parts of the country as well. He added that if the government was willing to provide subsidy for the Metro bus, why was it reluctant to extend the same facility to PIA.

He added that if PIA’s situation remains unchanged after another bailout package, he promised to stand by the government on the national carrier’s divestment.

Pointing to the power crisis in the country, Shah urged the government to scrap all other development projects and focus on building dams.

Referring to the verbal jousting he had with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ministers, Shah said that he did not want to give the interior minister a political edge by commenting on his statements, nor on the comments of other PML-N ministers.

Citing PM Nawaz Sharif’s directives to his ministers to desist from issuing controversial statements, Shah said “they [PML-N ministers] should also take back their allegations levelled against me”.

“I am waiting for the prime minister to come to the parliament and if those allegations are proved right against me, then I will quit politics.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Unbeaten run: Quetta see off Peshawar threat in thriller

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:28

The temperature in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) rose several notches in Dubai on Sunday when Quetta Gladiators pulled off a remarkable win against Peshawar Zalmi with just a ball to spare. The Gladiators won the match by three wickets.

Having been put into bat first, Peshawar amassed 135 runs in their allotted 20 overs for the loss of seven wickets. West Indian Darren Sammy top scored with a brisk 48 off 31 balls. Mohammad Nawaz was the pick of the bowlers for Quetta, taking three wickets for just 29 runs.

Quetta, the only unbeaten team in the tournament, got off to a flyer as Ahmed Shehzad and Luke Wright powered them to 35 in just three overs before Shehzad was caught behind. But English batsman Kevin Petersen along with Sarfraz Ahmed helped anchor Quetta’s innings. Eighth-wicket pair Anwar Ali and Elton Chigumbura then ensured that Quetta got over the line with just one ball to spare.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Energy push: Pakistan must improve ties with Iran, says Abida

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:26
LAHORE: 

To overcome the worsening energy crisis it is plagued by, Pakistan must improve its relationship with Iran, former federal minister and ex-ambassador to the United States Abida Hussain.

“Iran, in the coming years, will grow stronger economically. This is the country that can really help us meet our energy needs,” she told The Express Tribune in an interview.

According to her, Pakistan’s ties with Iran could improve if the rulers try. “The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline can help us a lot and in Iran too, there is great demand for our textile, chemical and agriculture products.”

According to Abida, since the time of General Ziaul Haq’s rule, Pakistan has become increasingly pro-Saudi Arabia.

“The general perception at the public level in Pakistan is that the Saudis don’t treat us as well as we treat them,” she said. “We should maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia but we shouldn’t let that ruin our ties with other countries.”

Apart from Iran, Pakistan needs to focus on its relations with Russia, Abida said. “Good ties with Russia will improve our relationship with other Central Asian countries,” she added.

Abida said the government should also pay more heed to its ties with Japan. “Tokyo has been giving $500 million annually without any strings [attached] for many years now,” she pointed out.

The former envoy also identified Africa as a region which provided a lot of opportunities and where Pakistan has not tried much until now.

On the domestic front, Abida criticised the anti-corruption and anti-terrorist operations in Sindh. “If I was a Sindhi, these operations would have annoyed me a lot, too. The institutions carrying out this clean-up in Sindh should also bring their attention to Punjab.”

Talking about development, she said the government shouldn’t focus only on infrastructure projects and should invest in health and education too. Asked if the massive projects initiated by the current government would be sustainable under a different regime, the former envoy said it would be “very hard for a future government to roll back projects like these.”

Regarding army chief General Raheel Sharif’s announcement that he will not ask for an extension, Abida said she could not comprehend why he would make such a statement with 10 months still to go for his retirement.

Abida was very optimistic about the present government’s chances of finishing its tenure. She added that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and independents would win big in Punjab in the next election.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Our questionable morality

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:21

One of the things that we Pakistanis are the best at is conning people. As opposed to the common belief that we as a nation are extremely chivalrous and patriotic, a little observation of our everyday activities can reveal how treacherous we have become.

This rant is not meant to badmouth Pakistan, but to highlight the ironic state of affairs in our country.

Last week, while enjoying my leisure time with friends at a roadside dhaba, which I would not want to name, I witnessed something which tarnished my trust in my compatriots.

Two Chinese men, who could speak a little bit of English, were accompanied by one of our very own, a Pakistani ‘bhai’. They ordered a 1.5 litre drink of Pakola and two cups of tea. When the time came to pay the bill, the Pakistani, as usual hospitable and polite, said it was on him. One of the Chinese inquired about the bill anyway. The waiter and the Pakistani took a few seconds and after a quick conversation with each other said it was Rs1,000.

The Chinese took the money out of his pocket and insisted on paying the bill and so he did. Later, another friend who lives in the neighbourhood and visits the dhaba every day told us the Chinese had been visiting the place for the last two days and had been overcharged every single day.

But our habit of defrauding people isn’t just limited to nationals of other countries. As a person who commutes on a motorbike, I have personally been tricked on many occasions. And who were the con artists? The staff at the petrol pump I usually frequent. A freshly tuned-up bike gives you at least 40 kilometres on a litre of petrol. Three times when I went to the pump at Khayaban-e-Bahria to get my motorbike filled, I was fooled with tons of hospitality and at least a litre less of petrol.

As a nation, we keep maligning the corrupt politicians and demand justice of the highest level to be manufactured and institutionalised somehow, but what are we, the people, doing about it? When the basic element of a society, an individual, does not let go of any opportunity to dishonestly earn an extra penny then how can we expect the nation, as a whole, to prosper? We need introspection before we question the morality of anyone else.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

District meeting: Representatives meet to discuss issues

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:20

ISLAMABAD: A district wide meeting of representatives of various sections of the society came together here on Sunday to identify the problems being faced by the residents of the capital.

The participants, including lawyers, traders, and labourers analysed many of the issues raised at the meeting. This was the first time such a meeting has been held in Islamabad.

Poor quality of water, sanitation and health services, law and order, and uneven distribution of services to rural and urban localities were identified as some of the most pressing issues. The participants agreed that these practices showed a bias in favour of the elites, which they said was the result of corruption.

They held the civil bureaucracy and political interference responsible for the poor governance in the city.

They unanimously passed a resolution in favour of the PIA employees, demanding the withdrawal of its privatisation.

The gathering also called for making the Union Councils and the capital’s new Metropolitan Corporation fully autonomous. The participants also drafted a ‘citizens’ charter’ and formed a steering committee which will oversee the progress of charter.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Migrant crisis: EU accepts Pakistan’s deportation terms

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:18
ISLAMABAD: 

The European Union has agreed to Pakistan’s terms on the mechanism for deporting citizens, a move that elicited a ringing endorsement from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday.

The minister pointed out that illegal immigration posed problems not only for EU countries but was also a source of embarrassment and concern for Pakistan. Appreciating the EU’s understanding of Pakistan’s concerns, he said that it would be good for Pakistan and the EU to work together with greater coordination in this area.

The understanding was reached during a meeting of the Joint Readmission Committee held in Brussels last week during which the EU agreed to address Pakistan’s concerns over deportees being sent home without verification.

On December 3, 2015, around 30 migrants who had been deported by Greece were stopped from disembarking at the Islamabad airport after authorities claimed that they were “unverified deportees”.

“Despite having settled all issues with the European Commissioner, Pakistani laws have been violated, which cannot be allowed,” Nisar had been quoted as saying earlier.

The move had come just weeks after the interior minister had met with the EU’s Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos in Islamabad to hammer out a deal on deporting citizens from migrant-stressed European nations.

Last week, however, EU agreed to the verification process proposed by the interior ministry and agreed to send deportees strictly in line with the Readmission Accord and the immigration laws and procedures acceptable to Pakistan.

The EU also appreciated the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) developed by the ministry for the transparent and speedy verification of applications, as well as Pakistan’s initiative of developing an electronic platform for issuing Emergency Travel Document (ETD) to verified deportees.

According to the new system, the EU will give Pakistani authorities an advance notice over deportees, 15 days if they are being sent via chartered flights and three days if on commercial flights to allow the Federal Investigation Agency to make the necessary arrangements for their reception and interrogation.

The EU also acknowledged the need for sharing evidence beforehand with Pakistan in cases where any deportee is accused of criminal or terrorist activity.

During the JRC meeting, EU’s broader engagement with Pakistan including legal migration and mobility as well as the re-integration of Pakistani migrants sent back from EU was discussed.

Both sides expressed their commitment to enhance cooperation for managing current migration and security issues in order to take stronger action together to tackle the migration challenge.

Pakistanis make up around 2.5% of migrants who arrived in Europe during 2015, fifth behind the likes of Syria (48.1%), Afghanistan (20.4%), Iraq (8.8%) and Eritrea (4.0%).

In 2014, around 21,000 Pakistanis who had entered Europe without permission were ordered to return home. In 2015, at least 28,072 Pakistanis arrived in Europe, 19,712 of whom landed in Greece and Italy.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

India, Pakistan need citizen-to-citizen contact

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:15

KARACHI: The unusually abrasive and often testy relationship between South Asia’s nuclear behemoths took centrestage on the last day of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) with the illustrious panel of speakers asserting that peace between India and Pakistan could be achieved ‘within weeks’ if statesmanship, citizen-to-citizen contact, coupled with political courage, were given a chance.

Hearty laughter rang across the marquee, punctuating the discussion several times as the panellists, comprising former foreign ministers Khurshid Kasuri, Hina Rabbani Khar, former Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and one of Pakistan’s most seasoned former ambassadors Jamshed Marker, quipped about the perennial relationship between the hyphenated neighbours.

The session on “What keeps us apart? India-Pakistan relations” was kicked off by moderator FS Aijazuddin with French statesman Clemenceau’s oft repeated quote that “war is too important a matter to be left to generals.”

Dishing out his recipe for peaceful coexistence, Jamshed Marker gave a simple, yet significant advice – “Keep your head down”. The veteran diplomat noted that breaking relations with any country takes five minutes, but maintaining a relationship is a long and arduous process.

Khurshid Kasuri struck a realist tone by suggesting that “if you’re weak, there is no peace”. He said Pakistan’s ability to maintain strategic balance had allowed space to both countries to continue to seek dialogue and suggested that Pakistan must empathise with India’s concerns while continuing to talk about its own concerns.

Salman Khurshid noted that in his experience, personal chemistry between leaderships played the most significant role in building trust.

When Aijazuddin tactfully drew an analogy between the India-Pakistan relationship and the Diana-Charles marriage by noting that there are three of us – India, Pakistan and the military, Hina Rabbani Khar explained that institutional imbalance created by one institution overpowering another can never lead to sound policy decisions.

Veteran ambassador Marker, on the other hand, suggested that while foreign policy decisions which contain a security dimension may have military input, the Pakistan’s Foreign Office was still leading its foreign policy domain. This was echoed by Kasuri who reminisced his time in office by recalling that despite being a military strongman, General Musharraf had given him – a civilian – complete freedom in running the FO.

Recounting his experience of visiting Pakistan, Salman said that he was hopeful that peace would be achieved one day. He said that if both countries had people like the audience, then it was the ‘aam admi’ or the common man that will drive the movement for peaceful coexistence.

Talking about the institutionalisation of ignorance on both sides of the border, the panellists highlighted the need for a deep change in the narrative between the two countries. Khar noted that both countries taught history in silos and in order to break the straitjacket, we needed to instill historical inquiry amongst our young. Salman noted that extensive student exchanges were one way to foster a more tolerant and progressive image on both sides of the historical divide.

The session ended with all panelists cautiously optimistic about the future of India-Pakistan relations and calling on visa liberalisation, exchange of ideas and people-to-people contact, along with politicians rising above domestic concerns to embrace statesmanship.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

 

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Search operations: Forces kill two militants, round up 35

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:14

QUETTA: At least two suspected militants were killed and 35 others were rounded up in Quetta in a search operation on Sunday, launched a day after a deadly suicide attack in the city’s red zone.

On Saturday, at least 12 people – including four paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) troops – were killed and 37 were injured when a suicide bomber targeted an FC convoy in Quetta’s Adalat Road. Khurasani Group, a faction of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to the FC spokesman, the paramilitary force along with personnel of intelligence agencies launched a search operation in Sariab and its adjoining areas of the provincial capital on the basis of a tipoff.

During the search operation, there was an exchange of fire in which two militants were killed and 35 others were apprehended. “These people are believed to have links with proscribed militant outfits,” the spokesman added. The FC also recovered a huge cache of arms and weapons from their possession.

“Two hand grenades, two SMGs, one Makarov pistol, one shotgun, seven TT pistols, one 9mm pistol, two .30 bore pistols and several rounds were also recovered from their possession,” he added. The suspects were shifted to an undisclosed location for investigation.

Quetta city wore a deserted look on Sunday as most businesses kept their shutters down to mourn Saturday’s killings while traffic on the road also remained thin. The FIR of the attack was also registered against unidentified persons on behalf of the SHO Civil Lines police station.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Development for masses: Imran promises prosperous Balochistan in Naya Pakistan

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:14

QUETTA: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said on Sunday that investment in his ‘Naya Pakistan’ will be focused only on the welfare of the masses, especially those like the people of Balochistan who have been deprived of development until now.

Speaking to PTI workers in Dera Murad Jamali, Imran said that after observing the way the centre has treated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa over the province’s due share of gas, electricity and water, he had also come to realise the extent of deprivation in Balochistan.

“It is a tragedy that the people of resource-rich Balochistan still haven’t been provided the basic necessities of life in the modern era,” he said. “Instead of meeting their needs, successive governments have prioritised projects like the Orange Line Train which allows them to pocket billions of rupees in commission.”

“Rs200 billion are being spent on the Orange Line Train, money which would have been used far better to complete Kachi Canal and provide water and bring economic prosperity to hundreds of thousands of people in Balochistan,” he added.

Imran said the government, instead of levying more and more taxes on the masses, should curb tax evasion, gas and electricity pilferage and smuggling.

He denounced the government’s plans to privatise state entities as a ‘loot sale’ and urged it to instead focus on making Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills profitable.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Balochistan reconciliation: 625 insurgents surrendered in six months

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 20:13
ISLAMABAD: 

Negotiations are currently under way with 125 insurgents in Balochistan over their possible surrender of weapons. Some 625 militants have already surrendered before the state in the past six months.

The reconciliation process started under the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism has borne fruitful results in the restive province, officials say. Militants who give up violence have been offered cash support and jobs to help them lead a violence-free life.

According to official documents available with The Express Tribune, exhaustive steps were taken for reconciliation in Balochistan to fulfil a major point under the revised anti-terror policy devised after the Peshawar school attack in December 2014. The policy also called for fully empowering the Balochistan government for political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders.

Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani told The Express Tribune said the provincial government was committed to its reconciliation policy and the militants who have already surrendered were being rehabilitated.

Under the scheme, each pardoned militant would be awarded Rs500,000 in instalments besides getting the compensation for his guns. Durrani said many such men have been already paid Rs100,000 as the first instalment.

These people, he added, have been told to get the computerised national identity cards (CNIC) from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to obtain the benefits. They would also be provided ‘Pur Aman Balochistan Card’, which would then be used for withdrawing rehabilitation funds.

“Estranged Baloch aged between 18 and 30 years who surrender will be awarded government jobs, including in military and in public sector organisations,” Durrani said. “Those above this age group will be trained in technical education.”

The female family members of the surrendering outlaws would also be given chances to earn income depending on their skills. Those interested in raising livestock will be given financial support.

The home secretary said the reconciliation negotiations were being held across the board with disgruntled Baloch from all tribes, including Bugtis, Mengals and Marris, for lasting peace in Balochistan.

He said the government was investigating pardon cases individually whether someone who wanted to surrender was genuinely interested or not. Upon agreeing to the terms and conditions of the government, individuals are required to report to the nearest police station in his area for confirmation.

The impoverished province Balochistan has been plagued by violence in recent years. Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri in his maiden speech to the provincial assembly had fully backed the political reconciliation process.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th,  2016.

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Attempt Foiled: Man claiming to be saint arrested

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:57

NAUDERO: An alleged criminal claiming to be a saint was arrested by Naudero police on Saturday. Sixty-five-year-old Mazhar, calling himself a saint, came to the shop of Muzaffar Soomro and told him that he can double his money right in front of them. The shopkeeper believed him and gave him Rs100,000 which the fraudster wrapped in a cloth and kept on the table. He then asked the shopkeeper to close his eyes and left the shop with the money. The shopkeeper searched for the cheat, caught him and brought him to the police station, where he was arrested for fraud.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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K-Iv Project: Special force to be created, says CM

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:56

KARACHI: A dedicated force should be created to secure the K-IV project so it can be completed in around two years, ordered Chief Minister (CM) Qaim Ali Shah while presiding over a meeting at his house on Saturday. “I will not tolerate any delay and snags,” said Shah. The CM was told that some people were creating problems during construction work. To this, Shah directed the chief secretary to get them the required security.  

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Illegal: Two arrested for child marriage

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:55

BAHAWALPUR: Baghdadul Jadeed police said on Saturday they had stopped a 27-year-old man from marrying an 11-year-old girl in Chak 12, South. They said they had arrested Khadim Hussain when he was about to marry the girl, sister of Allah Ditta, in an exchanged marriage. Allah Ditta, too, has been arrested, police said. A case had been registered against them.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Better Half : Case sought against ‘gregarious’ wife

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:55

LAHORE: An additional district and sessions judge on Saturday sought comments from the Shahdara SHO in connection with a citizen’s petition seeking the registration of a case against his wife. Petitioner Sharafat Ali told the court that his wife used to make small talk with youngsters in the locality despite being explicitly prohibited from doing so. He said they used to have daily arguments over this. Ali said he had later ejected her from the house. Ali said she had moved to her parent’s house thereafter. He said she had been threatening him of dire consequences since then.  He said he had approached the pertinent SHO to have a case registered against her in vain. The official had refused to entertain his request, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Exorbitant Fares Action sought against private airlines

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:54

LAHORE: A petition has been filed in Lahore High Court (LHC) against the private airlines charging “exorbitant” fares in the wake of a strike by employees of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). Advocate Imran Ghumman has filed the petition saying that the airlines, cashing in on the situation, have increased the fares up to 300 per cent. He accused the airlines of fanning the protest for their benefit. He said people were left with no option but to travel on exorbitant fares. He requested the court to order the Civil Aviation Authority to take action against the private airlines and direct them to rationalise their fares.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Missing Cash: Man seeks case against in-laws

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:53

LAHORE: An additional district and sessions judge on Saturday sought comments from the Kahna SHO in connection with a citizen’s petition seeking the registration of a case against his in-laws. Petitioner Liaquat Munawar told the court that his wife’s family had called on the couple a few days ago. He said Rs40,000 had gone missing from a cupboard at their house following their departure.  Munawar said he had asked his wife about the missing cash who was left shocked after learning about what transpired. He said she had later asked them about the money but they feigned innocence. The petitioner said he had approached the SHO to have a case registered against them. He said the official had refused to entertain his request. He asked the court to direct the SHO to register a case against them.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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PSL 2016: Zalmi trounce Qalandars by nine wickets

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:52
DUBAI: 

Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Hafeez put up a 95-run opening stand to propel Peshawar Zalmi to their second consecutive win in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as they beat Lahore Qalandars by nine wickets at the Dubai International Stadium.

Getting a modest target of 118, Zalmi moved at a rapid pace and chased down the total with four overs to spare as they ended up with 118 for one. Tamim remained unbeaten on 55 as he struck seven boundaries while Hafeez got out after scoring 43 in which he clubbed three sixes and as many boundaries.

The soliatary wicket was taken by Ajantha Mendis.

Eariler, Lahore Qalandards were restricted to 117 for eight in their 20 overs.

Qalandars had a terrible start as their star man Chris Gayle got out on a golden duck to Junaid Khan.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Polling trends: Urban areas are detached from elections, stats show

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:51
ISLAMABAD: 

People in the country’s least developed districts are more interested in local governments as compared to their compatriots in urbanised areas, official statistics of the recently held polls reveal.

Karachi and Lahore — the two largest cities of the country with a combined estimated population above 30 million — remained at the bottom in terms of voter turnout in their respective provinces. While Karachi, comprising six districts, registered a turnout of 36%, Lahore’s overall turnout was 44%.

Tharparkar, the district considered the most neglected and illiterate in Sindh, showed a voter turnout of 70% — the highest in the province. Similarly, Layyah and Bhakkar districts in southern Punjab, also considered the least developed, recorded the highest turnouts of 71% and 71%, respectively.

Local government elections were held last year in three phases in Punjab and Sindh after a 10-year delay. Polling for the first phase took place on October 31, for the second on November 19 and for the last phase on December 5, 2015.

Voting patterns in both provinces show people in major urban centres are the least interested in the process.

After Lahore, the Rawalpindi district — the second biggest urban centre in Punjab — followed the trend with 52% voter turnout. The same goes for Hyderabad — the second largest city of Sindh — with 50% turnout.

Overall the voter turnout in Punjab was 60.75% while Sindh, barring Karachi, saw an overall 56% turnout. The highest overall turnout was witnessed in southern Punjab. Multan city had much lower than average turnout with 59%. Muzaffargarh saw a turnout of 68%; Bahawalnagar 67.5%; and Bahawalpur 62%.

In the next stage, members elected through direct elections would elect members on reserved seats before the LGs become functional. The polling scheduled for February 8 and 14 has already been postponed indefinitely by the election commission because of litigations on mechanism for election.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has yet to make public the statistics on LG polls for Punjab province. Even the data for turnout in the province has not been officially released two months after the polls were held. The ECP website is also silent on the various aspects of LG polls in the province, including details on results, turnout and most vitally the party positions. This mysterious silence raises questions of transparency, credibility and efficiency when such details are available for Sindh.

It becomes more doubtful given that two wings in the ECP – the election wing dealing with Punjab and the IT wing – are wrangling with each other on the issue.

Sources in the ECP told The Express Tribune the IT wing has sent many reminders to the election wing to provide it all the necessary data for the website but the latter has been reluctant to share the details.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Meeting at GHQ: Gen Raheel, Olson discuss regional security

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:48
RAWALPINDI: 

The United States special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Olson called on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters on Saturday.

Overall regional security situation with particular reference to the situation in Afghanistan came under discussion during the meeting, said a press release issued by ISPR. Ambassador Olson appreciated the efforts of Pakistan in fight against terrorism, the press release said.

The meeting comes as top officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US meet for quadrilateral talks in Islamabad to finalise a roadmap for resurrecting the stalled peace process in Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

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Shielding women: NA panel to debate Hindu marriage, harassment bills

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 17:48

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on law and justice will take up on Monday a proposed amendment in the legislation aimed at shielding women from harassment at the workplace.

The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was moved by lawmaker Asiya Nasir of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal two years ago.

The bill seeks amendment in the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010. Nasir has proposed to drop the word ‘women’ from the act and use person instead of man or woman.

According to the copy of the bill, the amendment offers women protection from all forms of harassment at work without any gender discrimination.

The same meeting will also discuss The Hindu Marriage Bill, 2014, and The Hindu Marriage Bill, 2015.

The private member bill was jointly moved by Ramesh Lal of PPP and Dr Darshan of PML-N two years ago while The Hindu Marriage Bill 2015, a government bill, was moved by Law Minister Pervaiz Rashid last year.

Both the bills will determine rules and regulations for registration of marriage and divorce for Hindu community living in Pakistan, as currently in the absence of such a law, Hindus in the country do not have a legal document as proof of marriage. Chaudhry Mahmood Bahsir Virk, who heads the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, underscored the significance of The Hindu Marriage Bill 2015 while speaking with The Express Tribune.

“As in all other religions, Hindu marriages should also be officially registered, have a legal record and signed documentation for the protection of the rights of women and their children.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

The post Shielding women: NA panel to debate Hindu marriage, harassment bills appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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