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Updated: 18 hours 15 min ago

Unmoved by sit-ins: PM not to resign on ‘wishes of 5,000 people’

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 17:09


“How can a prime minister elected by 180 million people step down on the wishes of just 5,000 people,” asked Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday while responding to the rising crescendo of calls for his resignation from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

“The entire parliament is on one side and a single party stands alone on the other [demanding resignation],” the premier said while addressing the inauguration ceremony of Soghri-1 well of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) in Jand tehsil of Attock district.

In a veiled threat to the participants of PTI sit-in in the federal capital, he said: “There is no difficulty in removing the protesters [from the Red Zone], but the government is exercising restraint and demonstrating patience.”

Commenting on PTI’s allegations of election rigging, the prime minister said that since the chief election commissioner was appointed with a consensus, the election results should be accepted. He added that it was unfair to blame the PML-N for the ‘so-called rigging’ because the interim government didn’t belong to his party.

The PML-N, Nawaz Sharif said, had reservations about the 2008 elections but yet the party accepted the results for the sake of continuation of democracy in the country.

“It is just one party that is halting the progress of this nation and bringing serious economic setbacks,” he said, referring to the PTI. He urged the ‘parties advancing politics of sit-ins’ not to hinder the country’s development plan.

He referred to the postponed visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying, “The nation knows why the visit was delayed.” The postponement of the Chinese leader’s visit has delayed the signing of several power projects which were aimed at curtailing the chronic energy crisis in the country, he added.

He, however, said that it was his government’s priority to end power outages once and for all. “With abundant electricity, the issues of poverty and unemployment can be effectively  addressed and smooth running of industries can be ensured,” he added. He vowed to overcome the debilitating energy crisis within three to four years.

Nawaz expressed satisfaction over the exploration of gas and oil in Sagri-1 well by OGDCL, saying that it would give another boost to national economy. He said that the import of oil and gas ate up the major chunk of the country’s foreign exchange which was why the government wanted to undertake more and more exploration projects.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Sagri-1 well would produce 17.5 million cubic feet of gas and 220 barrel of oil daily. “The gas well will add Rs15 billion to the monthly revenue and will reduce the imports up to $117 million,” he added.

Separately, the prime minister witnessed the signing of $200 million Hassanabdal-Burhan-Havelian Expressway (E-35) project at the PM House. The project, which is a part of the National Trade Corridor, will connect M-1 Motorway at Hassanabdal with Havelian and will further extend it to Abbottabad and Mansehra.

The loan agreement was signed by the secretary, Economic Affairs Division, while the project agreement was signed by the chairman, National Highway Authority. From the Asian Development Bank, the two agreements were signed by its country director in Pakistan Werner Liepach.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Speaker’s constituency: ECP allows PTI access to polls record

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 16:41

ISLAMABAD: Election authorities have allowed Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to inspect the election record of NA-122 (Lahore-V), the constituency from where National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had won the May 11, 2013 parliamentary elections.

NA-122 is one of the four constituencies where the PTI wanted a vote audit in its initial demands before it launched the ongoing protest sit-in in the federal capital.

The ECP, in its meeting on Wednesday, decided to allow Imran’s party to inspect the vote record of the constituency under the supervision of its provincial election commissioner. The commission had earlier allowed the same but the NA speaker had moved to Lahore High Court (LHC) against the decision.

However, the LHC recently rejected the speaker’s plea and directed that the record might be opened under the supervision of ECP officials and not the judicial officers who had acted as returning officers in the 2013 elections.

The PTI chief, who had won the elections from four other constituencies, had lost NA-122 to Ayaz Sadiq, who was contesting the election on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s ticket.

It is not clear when the record will be opened for Imran by Mehboob Anwar, the provincial election commissioner Punjab, against whom the PTI has already raised serious allegations.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2014. 

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Qadri echoes Imran's formula of prime minister's resignation

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 16:38

KARACHI: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri on Wendesday reiterated his stance of camping outside the Parliament till his party’s demands are not met.

Speaking with Express News anchor in Javed Chaudhry during the show Kal Tak, Qadri recounted word for word the formula presented by Pakistan Thereek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should ‘resign’ for one month and resume his post if allegations of rigging are proved false.

The PAT chief defended the demand for prime minister’s resignation, claiming that an FIR with charges of murder and anti-terrorism had registered against the premier.

Qadri further said that the Opposition’s political jirga was expected to present a possible solution on Thursday, which they will review. He added that the party will decide their stance after the proposal has been reviewed.

While answering a question, Qadri said reiterated his resolve to remain at D-Chowk till their demands are accepted.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Two years on, no light at the end of the tunnel for YouTube

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 16:30

KARACHI: Two years, a new government and the promise of change, and at least 20 court hearings later, internet users from Pakistan are still denied access to YouTube. This restriction of access has become the symbol of a state which has increasingly become obsessed with controlling the online space in a non-transparent manner.

The ban had been imposed on September 17, 2012 by then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf following national outrage over a sacrilegious video clip. The video had prompted outrage across the Muslim world and prompted temporary bans on the website in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan. Threat of bans in Saudi Arabia prompted YouTube to selectively curb access in that country and it took a court order to censor it in Brazil.


But even after a US court ordered YouTube to take down versions of the video following a suit filed by one of the actors appearing the clip, the site remains inaccessible in Pakistan. The refrain, that the clip hurts religious sentiments of the people, is obscene or hurts national security has acted as an effective screen for a process which is less than transparent and has gone on to impact services and content beyond just pornography and blasphemous videos.

“We should understand that our government has realised the power of online media and is afraid of political dissent which finds space on the Internet,” says Nighat Dad, founder and director of Digital Rights Foundation.

“We have witnessed in the past that Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) has been trying to curb political dissent and we have examples like taking down Asif Zardari shut up video and Laal musical band’s Facebook page.”

The extent of blocking by the government through the Inter-Ministerial Committee has gone on to affect satirical videos, news articles and news websites by elements of which the state has a less than favourable view of.

The non-governmental organisation Bytes For All had taken the government to court over the blocking of YouTube. After 20 court hearings and a document of consensus, document of consensus reached by several different stakeholders including petitioner (Bytes for All), the MoIT, the PTA and technical experts from the IT and Telecom industries, it was concluded that filtering the Internet was futile owing to technological reasons.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Lahore High Court observed that banning Youtube because of one undesirable video is like shutting down of an entire library because of an offensive book contained within it. The LHC though refrained from issuing an order, instead directing the litigants to approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of the September 17, 2012 order which instituted the blanket ban on YouTube.

However, the hurdles that the NGO members had to face during the litigation process offer a glimpse on how closely does the state wish to keep its ‘weapon’ of censorship hidden away from the prying eyes of the very people it impacts.

An emailed response from Bytes For All detailed how baseless accusations were leveled against them and a defamation campaign was run against them by the government and pro-censorship lawyers.

“There were articles written in some pro-government publications in which Bytes for All was accused of being the agents of west and working against the national interest. We were labeled as ‘Followers of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ during one of the hearing, which was amusing and sad at the same time.”

Dad questioned the legality of the Inter-Ministerial Committee. “This committee should be renamed as the ‘Mysterious committee’ which decides for 184.4 million of what to see on internet and what not. ”

She further complained how politicians, who championed freedom prior to being elected, performed near volte-face once acquiring office.

“[Minister for IT] Anusha Rehman was once a champion for online freedom before coming into the government. She had promised in her election campaign that unblocking YouTube will be the first thing she does once she assumes office. Two years on there are no developments.”

The lack of accountability in this regard is a theme that has extended to the annals of parliament. Syed Ali Raza Abidi, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA who is part of the National Assembly’s standing committee on information technology says the committee has met only four times in the past year.

“I have raised it [YouTube block] in supplementary questions at least four times since I have been an MNA. These supplementary’s were asked whenever there was a question about the IT ministry and its performance,” Abidi says, adding that in these meetings, the Minister of IT and Secretaries of the department have told parliamentarians that the matter is sub-judice and courts are the only authority to reverse the ban. Requests for public hearing on the ban in the committee too have been ignored

Abidi adds that a joint resolution was submitted in the national assembly by Shazia Marri and it had been supported by the MQM, but no action was taken on that either.

“The only reason the PML-N government is not interested in unbanning YouTube is because they fear backlash from religious groups which are primarily their support base in Pakistan.”

It is odd how in their annual list of achievements, Rehman lists the auction of 3/4G licenses. Yet, sites and services continue to be blocked without a coherent reason or as much as a public announcement.

“Nothing should be blocked on internet. Let people decide what they want to see and what not. Government shouldn’t decide on our behalf,” says Dad.

For its part, Bytes for All will soon be submitting an application in the Supreme Court to seek clarification on its earlier order. “We believe that the intent of the apex court was not to have entire Youtube blocked in Pakistan. We hope for a positive outcome resulting in free and open Internet contributing towards national socio-economic development.”

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Ex-Chicago comptroller shifted to Islamabad for extradition to US

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 14:50

LAHORE: Former Deputy Treasurer of the State of Ohio as well as ex-Chicago City Comptroller Amer Ahmad has been shifted to Islamabad from Lahore prior to his expected repatriation to the United States.

US authorities had formally approached Pakistan for extradition of Ahmad, also known as Faisal Sami.

After the Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Islamabad Asghar Baloch issued arrest warrants for Ahmad, Inspector Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Headquarters Islamabad shifted him to Islamabad.

Ahmad, a US citizen had been arrested by the FIA in April 2014 when he reached Lahore on forged travelling documents and obtaining fake birth certificate and fake Pakistani identity card.

On April 30, after receiving numerous calls from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to hand over Ahmad in connection with conspiracy and bribery charges in the US.

The Ministry of Interior had on September 8, 2014, had  issued a letter with the stamp and signature of Deputy Secretary (FIA) Khalil Ahmed addressed to the Chief Commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory Islamabad  over Ahmad’s extradition to the USA.

The letter reads “I am directed to refer to this  Ministry’s letter along with documents (in original) provided by the US Embassy as documentary evidence in respect of Amer Ahmad to facilitate the Inquiry Officer to conduct Magisterial inquiry Under Section 7 of the Extradition Act , 1972”.

The contents of the letter further state that inquiry officer Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Islamabad Capt (retd) Abdul Sattar Ehsani complete the inquiry within one week and submit a report to the ministry.

After receiving the letter, FIA Director Law Malik Javed Ahmad asked the Deputy Director FIA Special Investigation Unit (SIU), FIA Headquarters Islamabad , Director FIA Punjab and Director National Central Bureau (NCB)-Interpol FIA Headquarters Islamabad to coordinate with the inquiry officer to finalise the inquiry within stipulated time. Assistant Director Legal prosecutor Naeem was also appraised of the matter.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Security situation in K-P worsening as CM on mission to bring ‘revolution’: Nisar

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:16

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan alleged that the law and order, and security situation was uncertain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but since CM Pervez Khattak was in the capital to bring ‘revolution’, it was not getting the required attention, Radio Pakistan reported.

Nisar claimed that the K-P chief minister should have been in the province as it was facing major issues, including that of the IDPs.

“The chief minister should have been there to address their problems,” he said.

Earlier, in his point of order, Senator Zahid Khan also pointed out that CM K-P and his cabinet colleagues were sitting in Islamabad for over a month while law and order situation in the province was deteriorating by the day.

“Three members of the peace committee were killed in just one day in Swat, while terrorists also killed an SHO in DI Khan in his home,” he said. “There was also an attack on police station in Hangu.”

The ANP leader argued that morale of the provincial police force was down and law breakers were not being inspected at check points.

Senator Naseema Ehsan of the BNP (Awami) said everyone should come together and help provide relief to the flood victims. On this occasion she donated one month’s salary for flood relief.

Senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour also spoke and said the PM enjoyed confidence of entire Parliament.

“How can Imran Khan demand PM’s resignation, just to fulfill his own desire to replace him?”

He regretted that Imran was using derogatory and indecent language against institutions and leaders, levelling baseless allegations.

Bilour rejected claims of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leaders that corruption had been eliminated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP in his address said Imran was undermining youth’s trust in the present system, which was a dangerous trend.

Referring to remarks of PTI leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed in a television talk show where Rasheed claimed they were going to Islamabad to “create anarchy”, Ghani said he was hopeful that the Supreme Court would take notice of it under Article 184-III of the Constitution.

The senator added that PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed that those who attacked Parliament and PTV building were not PTI workers.

“What about those who frequently attack a private media house’s building in Islamabad?”

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Supreme Court seeks complete record of Mukhtaran Mai rape case

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 04:21

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a complete record of the Mukhtaran Mai rape case from the trial court while hearing the victim’s review petition.

After the passage of more than three years, a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, took up Mai’s review petition against the trial court’s April 21, 2011, verdict regarding the acquittal of the accused.

During the hearing, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan stated that certain errors were made in the court’s judgment and he would prove it through evidence.

He added that there were nine pieces of evidence, which were not taken into account by the court in it’s judgment.

The bench, however, said that the record has been sent back to the trial court. The apex court then summoned the entire record of the case and adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period.

On April 21, 2011, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in Mai’s gang-rape case and acquitted five of the six accused and dismissed the petitions. Mai on May 19, 2011, filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the verdict.

In 2002, Mai was gang-raped on orders of a local jirga in retaliation of a minor offense committed by her brother; for nine years she braved death threats to bring her attackers to justice.

Initially, 14 accused were nominated in the case, out of which eight were acquitted, while the remaining six were given death sentences by the trial court. Later, the LHC acquitted five of them and converted the death sentence of one of the accused to a life term. After this, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice while the victim and accused Abdul Khaliq also filed petitions in the apex court.

Currently, in her review petition, filed through her counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan under Article 188 of the Constitution read with Order XXVI, Rule 1 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1980, she has pleaded that the court review and recall the judgment under review in the interest of justice and grant relief to Mai as prayed in the titled criminal appeal.

Mai has also requested the court to constitute a larger bench to hear her review petition, contending that she is aggrieved of and dissatisfied with the findings of the court, whereby the aforesaid appeal was dismissed and judgment passed by LHC’s Multan bench upheld.

“The findings, reasons and considerations of this court that led to the conclusion as stated herein before are based on erroneous assumptions of material facts and misreading of the record and without adverting to the very pertinent points of law raised and agitated before this Court,” Mai has contended, adding that these errors are manifest and apparent on the face of the record. “These errors have resulted in a grave miscarriage of justice,” she said.

Explaining her decision to file review petition, the rape victim has contended that, at the outset, before adverting to the actual instances of misreading of the record by the learned majority, it may be pointed out that looking at the facts and circumstances of this case, and in the appreciation of the evidence on record, the learned judges had misapplied the principles relating to appeals against acquittal.

“There are distinct rules of evidence exclusive to the offence of rape,” Mai  said, adding that these principles have been devised over generations of learned and compassionate judges aware of the prevalence of unreported cases, the inhibitions and impediments to the reporting of such crimes violating the personal honor of the more vulnerable gender (often targeted in revenge), the hyper-sensitivity of the situation of the victim and her family and the fact that she will, in most cases, be the only witness to the actual crime.

“What has to be understood, at the outset, therefore, is that in rape cases the victim’s own statement is the crucial litmus test for the outcome of the case,” she submitted.

Her counsel Barrister Ahsan submitted that if she is found credible and a person of good character and deeds, her testimony alone, without more and without requirement of any corroboration, would be sufficient to sustain a conviction.

Barrister Aitzaz contended that “in addition to whatever has been stated herein before, some of the legal findings and conclusions based thereon of the majority judges are not sustainable and contrary to the settled law; hence they are liable to be reviewed.”

He further submitted that Hazoor Bakhsh and Ghulam Hussain, being close relatives of the petitioner-complainant, could not pass the test of independent witnesses; therefore, the recovery of the pistol should be disbelieved. “Such a finding is against the settled law that a ‘factum of recovery’ cannot be ignored simply because the witness of memo of recovery is related to the victim,” Ahsan contended.

He submitted that the majority judges had upset the settled law by holding that even where a prosecution witness is not produced, his or her statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC could still be used and that too under Section 172 (2) of the CrPC and that inference could be drawn from it for the purposes, or under Article 129(g) of the Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984.

“The observation of majority judges that suggestions during cross-examination could be considered against the accused only if he/she had taken a statutory defence is contrary to the settled law on this point, especially when there is no ‘statutory defence’ to the offence of rape”, Aitzaz said.

The learned counsel contended that the facts stated by complainant that holding of the ‘panchayat’ were ‘hearsay’ goes against the settled principle that all facts, whether seen or perceived, would be stated in the court as direct evidence of the event.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Imran should have cancelled protests, shared flood victims' grief: Punjab CM

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 02:24

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif once again lashed out at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan on Wednesday, saying that the PTI chief should have cancelled or postponed the ongoing protests in Islamabad and shared the sorrow of the people affected by floods.

While addressing the flood victims in Multan, the Punjab chief minister remarked that Imran should have stood by the flood-affected people during these difficult times instead of forgetting about them.

“Music nights are taking place at PTI’s sit-in; the people of Punjab will never forgive you,” Shahbaz said during his fiery speech.

“I kept on requesting you to leave the protests, or at least postpone them and stand by the flood victims,” he added, addressing the PTI chief.

In a brief statement, Shahbaz also criticised Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri, who is leading the second sit-in in the federal capital, stating that Qadri is from Canada and is not affected by the flood situation.

Shahbaz also announced that the first installment of relief goods will be given to the victims before Eid.

“I will come and give it to you myself along with other ministers,” he added.

During his speech, the Punjab CM thanked everyone involved in relief and rescue efforts, adding that the administration, Rescue 1122, army, police, navy, irrigation as well as other institutions will continue their efforts.

Showing his support to the flood-affected people, Shahbaz said that he will not rest until the last flood victim is rehabilitated and back on their feet.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Standoff in capital: Political gridlock delays major transactions, says Dar

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 23:28

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar said on Tuesday that the month-long anti-government protests had slowed down three vital economic transactions and undermined the government’s plans to boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

“We could have added $2.4 billion to our foreign exchange reserves but the latest political crisis has delayed three important transactions, including the issue of Sukuk, divestment of Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) shares and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) next tranche release,” he said.

He was talking to the Asian Development Bank’s newly appointed president Takehiko Nakao, who had called on him on Tuesday. Dar, however, assured Nakao that the government would resolve the issue amicably as it had already constituted a committee on electoral reforms, said an official statement.

Briefing the ADB official on the economic condition of the country, the finance minister said the government was following a pro-development macro-economic agenda.

“Improvements can be seen in revenue collection (16.44%), decrease in budget deficit (5.7%), growth in foreign remittances (13.7%), growth in large-scale manufacturing (4.2%) and the increase in the disbursement of agricultural credit (15.91%),” he said.

Dar said the government had also increased spending on the social safety net and the allocation had increased from a mere Rs40 billion to Rs118 billion in the last 14 months. “We ensured that no cuts were made in the Public Sector Development Programme allocations,” he added.

The minister said Pakistan needed the ADB’s support on Diamer-Bhasha dam as resolving the energy crisis was the priority of the government.

“World Bank is going to hold a Business Opportunity Conference in Washington on October 8 and we are going to discuss the Diamer-Bhasha dam project in the conference because it has vital importance for generating energy as well as water conservation,” he told the ADB president.

The minister said the government wanted to proceed with TAPI and CASA-1000 projects for fulfilling the energy needs of the country in near future.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Major General Saeed Aleem also gave a brief presentation to the ADB President on the recent flood damages in Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan.

At this occasion, the ADB chief expressed his sympathies for the flood affectees and said the ADB would like to assist in their rehabilitation process.

“ADB helped the people in the Philippines affected by the Typhoon Yolanda and in 2005, we also helped the people affected by the earthquake,” he further, adding: “We are happy to know that the government of Pakistan has immediately started the relief work in the flood hit areas”.

Nakao said though his bank could lend only $1 billion to any country for the development projects, yet they would continue supporting Pakistan in projects such as renewable energy, Jamshoro and projects of regional connectivity.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Retrospective look: No hope of real change in Pakistan, says US academic

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 23:16

NEW YORK: Pakistan has become a “very troubled state”, in contradiction to the dreams of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, it was stated at a lecture “Pakistan and the Burden of Islam” held at Columbia University on Tuesday.

Professor Emeritus at Columbia University Ainslie Embree, editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Asian History (1989), remarked that Pakistan has become the state that Jinnah never spoke of.

During the first constituent assembly in August 1947, Jinnah reiterated that the state had nothing to do with any citizen’s religion. However, contrary to his vision, minorities are not safe in Pakistan, Embree said, with Ahmadis and Christians mainly targeted among the minority groups.

In the last 30 years, it has often been said that Pakistan is ‘on the brink of disaster’ and is a failed state, Embree said. However, comparisons between Pakistan and states like India are unfair as Pakistan “has a mission to become a fully Islamic state”, he said. He argued that while Muslim rulers tried to protect Islamic culture, they did not focus on Muslim unity.

Embree argued that Pakistani people want a ruler who uses his power to spread Islam. “This is the tension that exists in Pakistan,” he said. At this point, there was laughter in the hall, which was filled to capacity. Embree said there is no hope of real change in Pakistan and only a revolution on the basis of Islam can come to Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Personal account: No justice for journalists attacked during sit-ins

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 22:58

ISLAMABAD: More than a fortnight after I was beaten by police officials in Islamabad while covering the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) sit-ins, the incident has gone unrecorded by any first information report.

And though both Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid took notice of the attacks on members of the media during the sit-in, no headway has been made in this case.

On the night of August 30, PTI and PAT leaders gave an unexpected announcement at 11:00pm to their supporters to advance from Constitution Avenue towards the PM Secretariat building. I positioned myself in front of Parliament House with my colleague Rizwan Shehzad.

Initially, we believed police officials would only keep protesters away from key government installations. But soon they began to flex their muscles and fired tear gas shells. For an hour and a half, I stayed at the venue, taking photographs and sending updates for this publication’s online readers.

Through a haze of teargas, with tears streaming down my cheeks and my eyes constantly itching, I negotiated with police officers deployed outside the MNA lodges as I tried to leave the area and head back to my office. When the tear gasing started, I had lost track of Rizwan. I finally reached him on the phone and he told me police officials were not letting him come pick me up on his motorcycle – he was stuck near the NAB office.

The officers had promised him that I would be given safe passage. I thought they would protect me against the enraged PTI and PAT workers. In the next few minutes, I found out how absolutely wrong I was.

A few people inside the MNAs residences were observing what was going on. When protestors took positions near the Parliament Lodges, some of the residents threw water bottles to them, they guided them on where to take cover.

As I started walking down the street behind the parliament lodges, a protester gestured towards the police and said to me, “Don’t trust these guys.” A policeman also came up to me and whispered in my ear, “They will not spare you. Run away.” It was too late.

I was holding my press card and shouting, “I am a journalist.” One of the police officials said, “Oh, he’s a media guy, catch him. The media is mainly responsible for this chaos.” Before I knew it, 20 or 30 members of the Punjab and Islamabad police had surrounded me and began clubbing me with wooden lathis.

When the night had started, I was wearing a white shirt. By the time the policemen were done with me, Rizwan found me in a red, blood-soaked shirt. When they saw how much I was bleeding and the head injuries I had sustained, some of them stopped beating me. Others still hit me. Rizwan was watching from the corner of the street, unable to help, his shouts going unheard.

When the policemen were done with me, Rizwan took me to the Polyclinic Hospital. When the news spread that policemen were arresting those receiving treatment at the hospitals, my colleagues shifted me to a private clinic.

More than 40 journalists, including women, were attacked that night by law enforcement agencies and protesters. Pakistan Press Foundation says it received reports that police attacked media vehicles when journalists tried to report on the teargasing. On August 15, at least four crew members of a media organisation were beaten by PTI members as they covered a speech by Imran Khan. Two days later, as many as eight reporters, cameramen and drivers were assaulted. One cameraman’s camera was broken, another was beaten.

As the attacks continued, the only way I could think to help was to create a forum where journalists who are attacked while they work can come together. Many registered themselves on a Facebook group created for this purpose and we are now looking at any legal recourse that we can take against these transgressions.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Countering allegations: Imran, Qadri claims a pack of lies: Rashid

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 22:55


Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri have been levelling ‘baseless’ allegations, which cannot stand the court’s scrutiny.

“The two people [Imran and Dr Qadri] tell lies from their containers on a daily basis. They have been misguiding their supporters and making false claims for the last 33 days,” Rashid said on Tuesday.

Rejecting Imran’s claim that 17 people were killed during clashes with police as the PTI and PAT supporters moved towards the PM House on August 30, Rashid said it was nothing but a blatant lie.

“I want Imran to come in front of the camera tonight, and give the names of these 17 people,” he said, adding that names of only three people were mentioned in the FIR.

The minister said the government was handling the situation politically and has avoided use of administrative tactics  to expose Imran in spite of the fact that it had knowledge of the plan, which the two leaders had developed in London, to derail the democratic process.

“He has levelled allegations against everyone, but has no evidence to prove a single charge,” he said.

The minister said the PTI chief also claimed that the 2013 elections were massively rigged and ballot papers were printed in Urdu Bazar. “The printer against whom he levelled allegations has gone to court.”

He said Imran accused former chief justice, former army chief and a brigadier of Military Intelligence of being complicit in rigging and claimed a speech changed the poll results.

“But the PTI negotiating team was not ready to include these allegations in TORs of the proposed Judicial Commission when the government interlocutors insisted to do so,” he said.

The minister said while Imran dissociated himself from attack on the Parliament and PTV, he himself led gangsters to secure release of his people from police custody.

The minister said government had accepted Imran’s two initial demands – constitution of a judicial commission to probe rigging allegations and setting up of parliamentary committee on electoral reforms – even before his long march.

“Similarly, Qadri left Lahore with the demand that an FIR be registered against the prime minister. Now two FIRs have been registered against the PM but Dr Qadri and Imran are not ready to wind up their protests,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

ICCI condemns police for attacking its president

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:41


Members of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) strongly condemned the police for allegedly manhandling the ICCI president and demanded that the IGP conduct a thorough investigation and take strong action against the officials responsible within three days.

Addressing a press conference at the Chamber House on Tuesday, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Shabaan Khalid briefed the media about the incident, which took place on September 13. He said that the police misbehaved with him while he was going to a pharmacy using Margalla Road.

Giving details of the incident, the president said that some 40-50 police officials present at a checkpoint near the Marghazar Zoo were forcing people into prisoner transports.

He added that the police smashed the windows of his car before dragging him out of the vehicle. “If the ICCI president is treated in such a manner, what chance is there for common citizens,” Khalid questioned.

Supporting Khaild’s views, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) Vice President Munawar Mughal said that the IGP should order a thorough investigation of the incident and bring the responsible officials to book. They maintained that the ICCI was a neutral trade body established to serve the cause of the local business community, it is not affiliated with any political party, and the manhandling of its president is a direct attack on this esteemed institution, they said. They advised the Islamabad police to avoid repeating such incident in future, or else the business community would have to take a firm stand to protect their rights.

Meanwhile All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran President Ajmal Baloch also condemned the incident and urged that immediate action be taken against the responsible officials. “Many innocent traders have been arrested by the police in recent days. The IG and ICT Administration should devise a mechanism in consultation with local business leaders to avoid such illegal incidents,” he insisted.

Reaching the press conference, IGP Tahir Alam Khan applogised to the ICCI president and assured that the matter will be thoroughly investigated and action will be taken against the responsible officials.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Clashing with police: Five PTI workers sent on judicial remand

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:53

ISLAMABAD: A case has been registered against five Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers for allegedly attacking police personnel near the Supreme Court late Monday night.

The Secretariat police arrested five people and produced them in a court on Tuesday after which they were sent on a judicial remand.

The workers were booked under various sections, including violation of Section 144, interference in discharging official duties and attacking policemen.

PTI workers were leaving the sit-in venue in small groups on Monday night when a clash erupted between them and the police, after which police resorted to a baton charge. PTI chief Imran Khan had left for Bani Gala before the clashes started.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa minister Ali Amin Gandapur then made announcements on loud speakers directing party workers to come back to the protest venue and remain calm and peaceful.

He also condemned policemen for subjecting party workers to a baton charge.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Rizwan Ali, a PTI spokesperson, said workers were going back home late night when police personnel thrashed them near the Supreme Court.

“We have requested the police to stop victimisation of our workers. Police is a state institution and should not work for the Sharif brothers and should rather ensure security and protection of those participating in the sit-ins,” he said.

When contacted, Investigation Officer ASI Qurban Ali did not share any information and expressed unawareness about the clash.

The clashes between police and PTI and PAT workers have become a routine affair. Last week, the police in a crackdown throughout twin cities, arrested over 600 people, most of them innocent citizens. The arrested persons included PTI leaders Azam Swati and Shibli Faraz.

They were sent on judicial remand by a magistrate after which a high number of PTI leaders and workers reached the lower courts to release the arrested persons.

However, the detained workers were released after the orders of the Islamabad High Court chief justice.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Home economics: Body formed to review work on college

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:53


State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division Usman Ibrahim has formed a committee to review work on the planned College of Home Economics and Management Sciences in the capital.

The women’s college will be set up at a cost of Rs500 million in Sector F-11/1.

Ibrahim chaired a meeting on Tuesday to review work on the project and ordered authorities to expedite construction work so academic activities could begin as soon as possible.

Of the total cost, Rs200 million have already been allocated for the project.

CADD additional secretary will head the review committee, which will comprise CADD joint secretary, DG development, and an official from the Planning Commission.

The minister has also sought a detailed report on the project within 15 days.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Dissent: Amid jubilation, ‘cop’ resigns, joins PTI

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:42

ISLAMABAD / FAISALABAD: Tired and frustrated, Punjab Police Sub Inspector Yasir Javed seems to have found an unusual way to get back home. He resigned from the police and joined the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf on Monday, but ‘wishes to go home as soon as possible’ while claiming all service benefits due to retied personnel.

“Due to some unavoidable circumstances and my domestic affairs,” he stated in the resignation letter, “I tender my unconditional resignation from service with immediate effect.”

Right after submitting his resignation and still in uniform, Javed arrived at the sit-in venue, where jubilant PTI workers and supporters lofted him on their shoulders while chanting anti-government slogans.

Later, Javed said that he lost his mobile phone and official name badge during the jubilation, while adding that his service card was in his bag which was in the room where he was staying with his colleagues since his arrival in the capital.

Javed, who hails from Faisalabad, claimed that he served there for 14 years and said that he joined PTI after he got fed up from the orders of the police high-ups, allegedly directing the policemen to thrash and arrest PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers and supporters.

“People were being oppressed and my sympathies have always been with the poor and the oppressed,” he said. “I quit because I couldn’t bear it anymore.”

Comments such as ‘proud of you’ made him feel happy and he expressed his excitement by saying that ‘it all made me feel really good.’ “This is the change that he is not willing to take any illegal orders,” said PTI worker Anayat Khan.

Citing his emotional attachment with the rally participants, Javed said that thrashing and arresting innocent for people for no apparent reason made him think about quitting from his job and going back to his hometown where he plans to become a farmer.

Despite his attachment with the PTI, he said that even if Imran Khan asked him to stay, he would go home at the earliest. Javed said that he applied for leave on medical grounds but it was rejected.

“After resigning, I will not have to follow any orders. My enslavement is over now,” he said. He alleged that the police department was also not providing good facilities.

Javed said that he was not afraid of going to jail if arrested.

Cop out or not a cop?

On the other hand, the PRO of the CPO Faisalabad said that there was “no record of any such person in the official record”.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Challenging Section 144: Court summons capital’s DC

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:39

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday summoned the capital’s deputy commissioner (DC) over a petition filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) challenging the imposition of Section 144 in Islamabad.

Justice Athar Minallah while accepting a petition filed by PTI Secretary General Jehangir Tareen, directed Islamabad DC Mujahid Sherdil to appear in person before the court today. The court also issued notices to the attorney general.

The petitioner, Tareen, through his counsel maintained that the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration had imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code on September 7 in order to arrest workers of PTI, which is illegal.

Citing the Ministry of Interior, Inspector General of Islamabad Police, IG Punjab, IG Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Sherdil as respondents, the petitioner’s counsel claimed that Section 144 was imposed soon after the PTI announced celebrations marking the completion of one month of the sit-in.

The counsel claimed that after the imposition of the law, thousands PTI workers were arrested which is unfair. According to the petitioner, the imposition of Section 144 is based on mala fide intentions of the government and he requested the court to declare the order illegal.

As part of the tit-for-tat between the government and the protesting parties, at least 13 different FIRs are registered against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri in various police stations. They were booked under section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharging duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 342 (wrongful confinement), 341(punishment for wrongful confinement), 452 (trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 427 (damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), respectively.

Baitul Mal MD’s appointment challenged

The same bench issued a notice to the government over a petition of Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmad who has challenged the appointment of the head of the Pakistan Baitul Mal.

Rahsid, though his counsel, maintained that the appointment of PBM Managing Director Barrister Abid Waheed Sheikh lacks transparency and should be declared illegal.

The counsel said Sheikh was not appointed through the federal commission which was made for the selection of heads of public sector organisations.  He contended that it was mandatory in the light of a Supreme Court judgment that top appointments be made through the commission.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Hitting back: PIMS admin denies hiding bodies, concealing facts

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:38


The top management of the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University on Tuesday clarified that the hospital is not hiding any bodies of protesters who allegedly died during clashes with police on Constitution Avenue.

The varsity’s vice-chancellor, Prof Javed Akram, at a press briefing denied all allegations against the hospital regarding hiding seven bodies of protesters and changing the postmortem reports of two Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers who died from bullet wounds.

Akram said PAT and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers continue to give false statements alleging that the administration of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hid bodies and helped security personnel in disappearing the injured workers.

“By spreading such baseless news, these people (sit-in leaders) are shattering public trust in the hospital. It took years to build this trust which these people without any evidence are shattering in a day,” he said.

“I will resign from my post if the allegations against the hospital administration of hiding bodies are proved. I invite all TV channels to go around the hospital building with their cameras and if they get a slight clue about the bodies I assure you all that I will resign,” he said.

Akram informed that the hospital had received 354 injured people and only three bodies—one of the protesters had already died from drowning and two others died in the hospital after suffering bullet wounds.

All-out efforts were made to extract all the bullets from the injured but to avoid complications, some were left inside the bodies of the injured, contended Akram.

“Now they are making it controversial by claiming that the government had pressured the hospital administration to hide all the facts which is completely irrational,” he said.

The hospital chief further made it clear that the hospital mortuary had a capacity to keep six bodies at a time therefore it is impossible to exceed the limit.

Akram appealed to PAT and PTI workers to stop playing politics on the dead and damaging the hospital’s credibility.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Cyber learning: Punjab government places course material online

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:33


To make education accessible to all, the Punjab government has initiated a project by making grade six to matriculation books available online for students. 

The initiative not only publishes books online but also provides students with video lectures on every topic in each book, facilitating them to study lectures on various topics of their syllabus from the comfort of their homes.

The website, elearn punjab, has a total of 2,298 videos, 527 simulations, 733 animations, 1,881 figures, 2,715 pages and 944 assessments. It aims to impart education to students who cannot afford tuition fees for all subjects including mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology.

The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), an autonomous body which comes under the provincial Planning and Development Division, is currently supervising the project in collaboration with the School Education Department and Punjab Textbook Board (PTB), informed Muhammad Imtiaz, a PTB official.

“The board initiated this project in September last year on the directions of the chief minister who inaugurated the project in January this year,” PITB team leader and senior programme manager Muhammad Kashif Farooq told The Express Tribune.

He elaborated that the board had received soft content from the publishers of textbooks which they compiled to upload online, adding that the board then brought together relevant videos, assimilations, simulations/games and assessments, selected by a special team, on the website.

“We are also going to launch a DVD version from next month so the people who do not have access to internet can benefit from the programme,” Farooq said. In addition to the DVDs, the project is expected to further expand to make the course available over smart phones through mobile apps.

He explained that the facility will also be made available in computer labs of over 4,000 government schools so students can utilise the facility even without the availability of internet.

“A meeting in this regard has been arranged with the heads of the government schools on Saturday to give them an overview of the technology,” the programme manager explained.

The facility, however, will not just be limited to state-run schools. Private schools have already expressed their interest in this method of learning. The board has already briefed Lahore College of Arts and Sciences’ schools, St Anthony High School, Danish Schools and the Allied School in this regard.

The project’s next major step is to set up the e-courses for classes one to five and 11-12, which they aim to complete by November or December this year.

Giving details of the initiate, PITB Chairman Dr Umar Saif said two teams were already working on it. “The entire country can benefit from this initiative,” he said, adding that O-level courses will also be made available online.

“The board is currently working on getting courses of subjects like Pakistan Studies, Islamiat and English online,” he said, referring to the O-level subjects.

Shedding light on some of their video initiatives, Saif said recently they uploaded an animated video on the Two Nation Theory and are now working on 30 poems, in collaboration with Iqbal Academy, written by Allama Muhammad Iqbal.

“We are trying to make animated videos on Iqbal’s poems like Pahaar and Gulehri for the students,” he said, adding “This will create interest among children and help them understand the essence of Iqbal’s message in an interesting way”.

The board plans to hold a special screening of these poems on Iqbal Day, Saif informed.

“Teachers and students both are welcoming the initiative and we are getting a positive response from all quarters. We are determined to improve ourselves and to be more sophisticated with the passage of time,” he said.

He added that the initiative would reduce the dependence of students on tuition centres and guides by providing learners with easy access to the maximum resources.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Volatile frontiers: Attack on border post repulsed

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:26


At least 11 terrorists and three soldiers were killed on Tuesday when Pakistani troops repulsed an attack on one of their border posts in North Waziristan Agency by intruders from Afghanistan.

On a day when the Foreign Office rebutted the latest Afghan allegations against Pakistan of sending militants across the Durand Line, the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that a group of terrorists crossed over from Afghanistan and attacked the Dandi Kuch post in Spinwam area of North Waziristan.

“Pakistan’s troops repulsed the attack valiantly. Eleven terrorists were killed and one was apprehended. Bodies of three terrorists are with the security forces. Three FC soldiers also embraced Shahadat in exchange of fire,” said the military’s media wing.

The border attack came amid concerns expressed by Kabul regarding the announcement of the Punjabi Taliban to give up militancy in Pakistan and shift their activities to Afghanistan. The announcement by Punjabi Taliban chief Asmatullah Muawya prompted Afghanistan to summon a senior Pakistani diplomat in Kabul on Monday to lodge a protest over the development.

Abdul Samad Samad, the head of political affairs at the Afghan foreign ministry,  condemned Muaweya’s threats as a “clear conspiracy against the stability and security of Afghanistan”. Samad said that many “Pakistani militants were killed or arrested” during recent clashes in several parts of the country.

However, a statement issued by the Foreign Office dismissed the Afghan allegations and termed repeated attempts by Kabul to implicate Pakistani intelligence institutions in terrorist activities were both ‘unfounded and counter-productive’.

“We express our dismay at the latest allegations levelled in the statements issued by Afghanistan’s National Security Council and Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam.

She said Pakistan had stressed time and again that it was committed to disallowing its territory to be used against any country. “We would not allow anyone to breach Pakistan’s laws in this regard or to undermine our goals of fostering friendly and cooperative relations with neighbouring countries,” Aslam insisted. “At the same time, we believe that the threat of terrorism is best addressed through mutual cooperation,” she added.

The spokesperson said Pakistan’s firm resolve to combat this menace, without any distinction or discrimination, was concretely manifested in the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb.

“It is imperative that complementary actions are taken by the Afghan authorities on their side of the border. Elimination of terrorist sanctuaries and handing over of TTP elements that have taken refuge in Afghanistan are the first important steps in that direction,” the spokesperson said.

“We hope the Afghan side will respond positively by taking the requisite counter-terrorism measures in the long-term interest of friendly, cooperative and good-neighbourly relations with Pakistan. Such a cooperative Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship, we are convinced, is the best guarantee for durable peace, stability and prosperity in the region,” Tasnim stressed.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been under way since June 15. At the same time, security forces have also been bombing targets in Khyber Agency. On Tuesday, warplanes flattened at least three hideouts in Tirah Valley, killing at least 20 militants. According to the ISPR, two ammunition dumps were also destroyed in the precision strikes in the Tordara Koki Khel area.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

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