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Updated: 2 days 21 hours ago

One killed, six injured as earthquake jolts several Sindh districts

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 05:53

HYDERABAD: At least one person was killed and six others sustained injuries when an earthquake struck several parts of Sindh on Thursday night.

The earthquake measuring 4.9 on Richter scale had its epicentre 60 kilometres northeast of Benazirabad, formerly Nawabshah, at a depth of 20 kilometres, said Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

Waseem Ahmed, 40, died as the roof of his house in a village of rural Sun town, Jamshoro district caved in. Similarly, five others who were injured in Sun and Sakrand towns were shifted to Civil Hospital, Hyderabad. They were identified as, Rabia, 30, Sajida 25, Komal, 15, Yaseel Ali 40 and Begunnisa.

57 students injured as earthquake rocks Battagram

Tremors were also felt in Hyderabad, Matiari, Kotri, Hala, Saeedabad and Sanghar districts of the province.

Earlier on September 5, 57 students were injured during a stampede in a local school in Battagram as a 4.5-magnitude earthquake jolted parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Similarly in August 31, a quake measuring 5.1 with a focal depth of 10 kilometres shook parts of Islamabad and adjoining areas, with its epicenter being China’s Sichuan area.

Earthquake jolts parts of China, Pakistan

The number of earthquakes in Pakistan has been rising steadily over the past five years. The PMD recorded about 851 seismic disturbances in 2015.

Pakistan comes in the South Asian region, which has three large mountain ranges at a junction of seismic fault lines. In the north is the stationary Eurasian tectonic plate. In the south is the moving Indian plate, which makes the zone more prone to earthquakes.

The post One killed, six injured as earthquake jolts several Sindh districts appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Indian government’s six confidence ‘breaking’ measures in Kashmir

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 05:43

The ongoing uprising is an example of growing hostility between Indian-administered Kashmir and the Indian nation-state. Almost 87 civilians and three policemen have died in 74 days. Shutdown and curfew-like restrictions continue unabated. Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who heads the present joint separatist movement, is a known ‘hardliner’. On August 4 he demanded certain confidence building measures as a prerequisite for restoring peace.

Peace talks impossible with gun in Pakistan’s hand, says India

The ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party also sought similar measures before present Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti agreed to continue her party’s alliance with right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party last year. However, the Government of India along with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir recently announced some confidence ‘breaking’ measures to crush the uprising.

Disputed nature of Azad Kashmir

The Government of India hardened its stand of terming Kashmir its “internal” issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 22 expressed need for a dialogue and finding a “permanent and lasting solution to the problem”. Even though he wants the dialogue to be “within the framework of Indian constitution”, he agrees that the problem exists. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on August 25 said 95% of state subjects want a peaceful solution through dialogue. But the primary problem remains sandwiched in a riot of metaphors. Indian lawyer, historian and author, AG Noorani, recently wrote, “Politicians are prone to use [metaphors] to conceal their purpose or lack of it and deceive the people.” Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947 and the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution on it, but still India disagrees to accept its disputed nature.

A larger military presence

Kashmir is the world’s largest militarised zone and estimates put the troop-count between half-a-million and one million on the Indian side. Military is accused of massacre, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and mass rape. In the ongoing uprising, armed forces thrashed young men to death, went berserk in residential areas and opened fire on protesters and stone-pelters. Despite growing discontent against military action, militarisation continues to grow. For instance, the army moved one additional brigade with three-infantry battalions to south Kashmir in mid September. Similarly, additional deployment of paramilitary forces occupied several government schools in Srinagar in late August. South Kashmir saw several massive peaceful pro-freedom rallies for a month but the fresh deployment of forces, under the operation ‘calm down’, has caged people in their homes, disallowing any such rally anymore.

General Raheel sends clear message to hawkish India

Draconian laws

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was enacted in Azad Kashmir in 1990 as armed insurgency intensified. The law gives complete impunity to armed forces to shoot a person on mere suspicion and arrest anyone or search any place without a warrant. Most importantly, there can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under the law. Amnesty International, in a recent report, stated the Indian Government has dismissed 96% complaints against the army since 1993, and accused the government forces of committing human rights violations in Kashmir.

Another draconian law – Public Safety Act (PSA) – has been termed by the Amnesty International a “lawless law”. It allows upto two-year detention without any charge or judicial trial. The law was enacted in the state in 1978 to be used against timber smugglers, but Amnesty says 8,000 to 20,000 people have been detained under the law since 1991. Rather than misusing the law anymore, the government decided to book 169 people under the law in late August. Government accused them of being “organisers and provocateurs” in the current uprising. Even noted human rights activist Khurram Parvez was booked under the law on September 21 even though his ‘preventive detention’ received international condemnation.

More political prisoners and no dialogue

As a confidence building measure, Geelani asked the government to release all political prisoners from detention centres and house arrest, and restore their right to free political activity. In reality, the opposite happens; separatist leaders remain imprisoned and have no right to hold public rallies or lead a protest march. Since the ruling government assumed power, Geelani has continuously been under house detention. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, two other senior unarmed separatist leaders, have been jailed. Geelani was not even allowed to hold a press conference at his residence on September 9. No major congregation was allowed in Srinagar on Eidul Azha. Strict curfew remained imposed across the Kashmir valley on the day and mobile telephony and all internet services remained snapped for five days.

The all-party parliamentary delegation led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh which recently visited Kashmir did not specifically invite the separatist leaders for talks but vaguely announced their willingness to talk to anyone. Mufti, in her capacity as her party president and not as the chief minister, in an open letter to the separatist leaders appealed them to engage in dialogue with the delegation. However, the separatist leaders denied, citing the earlier dialogues did not yield any results.

No foreign observers

Among his demands, Geelani asked free access for UN Special Rapporteurs and all international human rights and humanitarian organisations to work in Azad Kashmir. What followed is that India turned down the request by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al-Hussein, for access to Indian-held Kashmir, while at the same time, Pakistan agreed for access to its part of Kashmir. Indian Ministry of External Affairs said, “It was unanimously felt that the Indian democracy has all that is required to address legitimate grievances.” Not allowing international delegations on a fact-finding mission further alienates the already-agitated people in Kashmir.

Indiscriminate ops to continue: COAS

No freedom of speech

Since Modi raised the Balochistan issue in his Independence Day speech, news channels in India have been featuring a few Baloch activists, who demand independence and condemn suppression of their voice as they speak on national television. At the same time Parvez was jailed without any charge. In fact, Indian authorities detained him at Delhi airport and barred him from boarding a flight to Geneva where he was scheduled to attend a UN Human Rights Council Session from September 14-24 to brief the officials on the ongoing uprising in Kashmir. This happened in the Indian capital from where most national television channels operate, but it is likely that none of them raised the issue of his detention.

Vijdan Mohammad Kawoosa is a Kashmir-based journalist and founder/editor of news-website jandknow.com. He tweets @vijdankawoosa

The post Indian government’s six confidence ‘breaking’ measures in Kashmir appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Indian nationalist party gives Pakistani actors 48-hour ultimatum to leave country

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 05:07

The film workers’ association of Indian nationalist party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Friday ‘ordered’ all Pakistani actors working in India to leave the country in 48 hours.

“We gave a 48-hour deadline to Pakistani actors and artists to leave India or the MNS will push them out,” The Indian Express quoted Amey Khopkar of the MNS Chitrapat Sena as having remarked.

Famed singer Abhijeet calls for Pakistan actors to be kicked out of India

Khopkar also threatened to assault Pakistani artists and those who cast them. “Pakistani artists will be beaten up and so will the producers and directors,” (Pakistani kalakaar toh maar khaayenge hi, saath mein jo yahan producer/director hain unko bhi peetenge), he said.

Indian journalist calls for Bollywood to boycott Fawad Khan

In the wake of the recent Uri attack that left 17 Indian soldiers dead, several Bollywood stars took to social media to express their anger.  After Salman Khan’s father’s inappropriate remarks, Indian singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya followed suit on Thursday. The Dhoom Taana singer lashed out at fimmakers Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhatt for roping in Pakistani artists for Bollywood projects.

This article originally appeared on The Indian Express.

 

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Wenger marks 20th anniversary ahead of Chelsea clash

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 04:59

LONDON: Arsene Wenger celebrates his 20th anniversary as Arsenal manager this weekend against opponents who have caused him more anguish than almost any other team.

The Frenchman has won only five of his last 31 meetings against Chelsea and had his last major milestone — his 1,000th match as Arsenal manager — spoilt by a 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge.

But having seen a second-string team win 4-0 at Nottingham Forest in the League Cup in mid-week, after a 4-1 success at Hull City last weekend, he is feeling chipper about the depth of his squad.

“We have four days to prepare for the game, let’s focus on that now,” said Wenger after Tuesday’s victory at the City Ground.

Wenger wants “world-class” Wilshere to end career at Arsenal

“The performance shows that the players who played at Hull need to be on their toes and that’s what we want — competition for places.

“The performance (against Forest) shows that competition exists.”

Thursday marked 20 years to the day since Wenger, now 66, was presented to the media as Arsenal’s new manager after arriving from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight to succeed the sacked Bruce Rioch.

Wenger was a near-unknown in England and few who witnessed his unveiling at Highbury — blue blazer, red club tie — could have predicted he would be the man to redefine the club.

Xhaka’s time will come at Arsenal, says Wenger

The Wenger era at Arsenal divides neatly into two 10-year parts.

From 1996 to 2006 almost everything he touched turned to gold as Arsenal won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, went a season unbeaten in 2003-04 and reached the Champions League final.

But the years since, during which Wenger’s transfer spending was curbed by the cost of constructing the Emirates Stadium, were entirely fallow until the back-to-back FA Cup triumphs of 2014 and 2015.

Arsenal’s quest to end their 12-year league title drought got off to an inauspicious start this season with a 4-3 home defeat by Liverpool followed by a 0-0 draw at champions Leicester City.

Fabregas downs Leicester, Everton crash out

But they have won their last three league games, against Watford, Southampton and Hull, and victory over a familiar foe on Saturday will raise hope that Wenger could yet lead Arsenal to the title again.

Whereas Wenger spent last season jousting with his old rival Jose Mourinho, he has never previously crossed swords with Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte.

Conte’s season to date has been the almost exact opposite of Wenger’s, with three Premier League wins followed by a 2-2 draw at Swansea City and a 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool.

But Chelsea go into the London derby buoyed by a 4-2 League Cup win at Leicester in which they came from 2-0 down.

The post Wenger marks 20th anniversary ahead of Chelsea clash appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Indian forces kill six suspected militants in Assam

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 04:38

GUWAHATI, INDIA: Indian security forces killed six suspected separatist militants in a gun battle in the country’s restive northeast on Friday, police said.

Security forces launched a raid on a suspected hideout in a remote part of Assam state, home to myriad separatist insurgent groups. “Based on specific information we raided the KPLT hideout and a firefight broke out in which we managed to neutralise six militants, including two of their top leaders,” local police chief Debajit Deori told AFP by telephone.

Peace talks impossible with gun in Pakistan’s hand, says India

The Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) is fighting for an independent homeland for the Karbi tribe. Deori said automatic weapons and ammunition, including one rifle, grenades, and “incriminating documents from the dead rebels” had been found at the scene.

Indiscriminate ops to continue: COAS

One soldier was injured and was being treated in hospital.
Northeast India, linked to the rest of the country by a narrow land corridor, has seen decades of unrest among ethnic and separatist groups. The region is home to dozens of tribal groups and small guerrilla armies that resist rule from New Delhi.

General Raheel sends clear message to hawkish India

Many are fighting for independent homelands for their tribes, and often compete against each other. In August six gunmen of Assam’s National Democratic Front of Bodoland opened fire on a busy market, killing 15 people and wounding several others.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

PeeCee’s answer to Reese Witherspoon’s question will leave you suprised

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 04:13

The 2016 Emmy Awards red carpet was more than who wore what.

Multi-talented American actor Amy Poehler took an initiative to let female celebrities talk beyond answering the conventional, “Who are you wearing” question. The #SmartGirlsAsk initiative helps them inspire others with their professional achievements.

PHOTO: AFP

What’s brewing between Priyanka Chopra and Tom Hiddleston?

Priyanka Chopra was in for a surprise when it was none other than Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon’s question that awaited her on the red carpet. “Is there a song or an artist that helped you prepare for this (Quantico) role?” Reese asked.

HUFFINTONPOST

“There isn’t really a song that helped me prepare for Alex Parrish in Quantico. But if I had to think about it, one of my favourite songs is Bitch,” PeeCee replied.

7 best dressed celebs at Emmys 2016

“I am a 90s kid, I can’t help it. But I think that represents Alex well. I am bitch, I am a lover, fighter, mother and friend. It’s so many aspects of a woman and she’s unapologetic and Alex is that,” she added.

.@RWitherspoon #SMARTGIRLSASK #emmys pic.twitter.com/g3j7Klaj4q

— AmyPoehlerSmartGirls (@smrtgrls) September 18, 2016

On the money: Sky is the limit for Priyanka

And Reese simply loved her reply.

Haha! Love it!! https://t.co/bF8qkNjtYE

— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) September 19, 2016

Here’s Meredith Brooks’ Bitch.

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.

The post PeeCee’s answer to Reese Witherspoon’s question will leave you suprised appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Huawei to start India smartphone production in October

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 04:06

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will start making smartphones in India next month, the company said on Friday, joining a wave of compatriots setting up in one of the world’s biggest mobile phone markets.

Apple surpassed by Xiaomi, Huawei in China as iPhone market share falls

The plant will be operated with the Indian arm of electronics manufacturer Flextronics International Ltd in Chennai, Huawei said in a statement.

The Chinese firm will also expand its Indian retail network, increasing to more than 50,000 the number of outlets it partners with by the end of the year.

As growth in China stagnates, India, the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market, provides Huawei and rivals like Xiaomi Inc with new opportunities to expand.

Earlier this year, a report from market research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech confirmed that iPhone’s China market share has dropped to 17.9%, putting it behind domestic competitors Huawei and Xiaomi.

High tech: MOU signed between K-P, Huawei

Kantar says that Huawei now has 25.7%of China’s mobile market, while Xiaomi controls 18.5% of it.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Airbnb raises $555m to grow globally

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 03:54

Home sharing giant Airbnb just raised $555 million and is seeking even more in a funding round that values the company at $30 billion, a source close to the company told AFP.

Airbnb promises to play fair with cities

The San Francisco-based startup has taken in $555.46 million through a private funding round that launched in late July and remained open, according to a filing by the company Thursday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The funding round could reach $850 million, the source told AFP. Money taken was expected to be used to fuel growth and international expansion of Airbnb.

An investment arm of internet titan Google and Technology Crossover Ventures were among backers taking part in the funding round, according to the source.

A value of $30 billion — based on what stake in the company investors get for their money — makes Airbnb the most precious Silicon Valley startup behind ride-sharing titan Uber, which has been reportedly valued at $68 billion. Airbnb had a value of $25.5 billion during a $100 million funding round in November 2015.

Berlin court hears challenge against Airbnb ban

The San Francisco-based company, run by co-founder Brian Chesky, hoped to begin showing a profit this fiscal year.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Hollywood stars urge Americans to dump Donald Trump

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 03:50

With the United States presidential elections just around the corner, Several Hollywood stars have come together in a video to urge Americans to dump Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Save the Day features A-list stars including Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johanson, Mark Ruffalo, Jim Carrey, Cobie Smulders, Julianne Moore and Nicole Brown among many others.

Skittles teaches Trump Jr fitting lesson in public relations

They all gathered for what “truly matters” to all of them, “a disease, ecological crisis, a racist/abusive coward who could permanently damage the fabric of society.” And then they asked, “Do we really want to give nuclear weapons to a man whose signature move is firing things?”

SCREENGRAB

“But we can end this nightmare before it begins,” Julianne says. They all urged everyone to “save the day” for their children, communities and above all America. “Your vote matters. This isn’t just elections, this is a tipping point for the world.”

Trump used charity funds to pay legal settlements

So go save the day at savetheday.vote and “tell the world that you care about what happens,” Mark exhorts viewers. “And if you do vote and protect this country from fear and ignorance Mark Ruffalo will do a nude scene in his next movie.”

Clinton calls national security team after attacks, as Trump challenges her credentials

Now that’s some great motivation!

SCREENGRAB

Watch the video here.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Apple buys its first Indian startup

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 03:45

Apple has bought Tuplejump, a Hyderabad-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to understand and manage big data, according to reports from TechCrunch and Bloomberg. The acquisition happened in June, Bloomberg said.

Tuplejump was founded by Rohit Rai, Satyaprakash Buddhavarapu, and Deepak Alur. According to Rohit and Satyaprakash’s LinkedIn profiles, they moved to work at Apple in May. Deepak left to join Anaplan in April. Tuplejump’s site has been taken down.

Supercar maker McLaren says not in discussion with Apple

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Colin Johnson, an Apple spokesperson, said in a statement to TechCrunch.

If the reports are true, this will be Apple’s third acquisition this year. Last month, it bought machine-learning startup Turi for US$200 million. In January, it bought Emotient for an undisclosed amount. Emotient uses artificial intelligence to analyze facial expressions to figure out emotions. It’s also yet another addition to the company’s foray into artificial intelligence technology. In October 2015, Apple acquired Perceptio, which makes it possible to run artifical intelligence image-classification programs on phones without needing too much customer data.

Here’s how much it costs to build an iPhone 7

Tuplejump will be the first Indian startup that Apple has bought.

The southern city of Hyderabad has had some of its other startups get attention. AppVirality, a startup that develops toolkits to help mobile developers figure out how to grow their apps, has been backed by Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India and Southeast Asia.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Corruption drive: JI chief defends right to protest against corruption

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:25

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said on Monday that agitating against corruption is a right guaranteed to every citizen of Pakistan in the 1973 Constitution.

“Raising voice against corruption is neither unconstitutional nor unlawful; however, threatening political workers and public, who are agitating against corruption, falls in the category of terrorism — a tendency that should be checked,” he said while addressing members of the central media committee at Mansoora.

His comments came after the media had shown PML-N workers flexing muscles and brandishing batons on Saturday, threatening the PTI if it dares come close to the Raiwind estate of the Sharif family.

Siraj said the government should take notice of threats in order to avoid ‘chaos and confrontation’. At the same time, he said all political parties, including the PML-N, should ask their workers to demonstrate the spirit of tolerance and political accommodation “because the country could not afford the culture of batons”.

He declared that the JI would chase the plunderers of national wealth till the recovery of every penny of ill-gotten money. The echelons of powers would not be able to protect the gang of corrupt. He also urged opposition parties to purge their ranks of those involved in corruption because they did not deserve any concessions.

He said the JI’s protest against corruption would strengthen public confidence in democracy. “Therefore, instead of trying to muzzle the voice against corruption, the rulers should mend their ways.”

Haq was confident that the JI’s drive against corruption would bear fruit and said the plunderers of public wealth would have to be held accountable for every penny they siphoned off.

He said some elements believed they would escape accountability because of their high political status. “However, every Pharaoh was destined to drawn as per the law of nature.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Horrific shooting Family of three killed in Hub

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:18

QUETTA: Gunmen barged into a house near the Hub city hotel area of Lasbela district and opened indiscriminate fire, killing a married couple and their three-year old son.

The attackers managed to escape unchallenged after the firing.

“Armed men barged into Azeem Langove’s house and opened indiscriminate fire which resulted in the death of the three victims,” police officials said.

Rescue workers and security forces moved the bodies to the district hospital for autopsy.

“The horrific shooting may have been triggered by a family dispute. We have lodged a first information report (FIR) against unidentified persons,” police officials added.

The bodies were later handed over to their relatives for burial while the family didn’t nominate any accused for the killings.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Protecting the environment: Balochistan mulls law against illegal hunting of rare species

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:15

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri has unveiled plans to introduce legislation against the illegal hunting of endangered species, rare birds and animals. The provincial authorities are also considering legislative measures to prevent the chopping of trees.

At the same time, Zehri ordered the forest and wildlife department and the livestock affairs department to acquire land for establishing a zoological garden in Quetta. The provincial government, according to the CM, will provide the required funds for the garden.

Heading a high-level meeting the other day, Zehri directed all departments concerned and district administrations to take concrete steps for the promotion and protection of endangered species, rare birds and wildlife across the province.

He also directed them to take stern action for protecting the juniper forests in Ziarat, Harboi and Shaban areas.

Apart from issuing directives for launching awareness drives about the protection of forests and wildlife, the chief minister said seminars should be held at divisional and district levels.

Meanwhile, Zehri, while speaking with the media informally on Monday, said decency and tolerance should be the hallmark of politics in the country.

“Those using non-parliamentary and unethical language spoiling political traditions would be discarded by people in coming elections. There is no danger to the government from the Raiwind march.”

Also, the PTI Balochistan chapter has decided to send caravans for the Raiwind March from Balochistan on September 28. This was decided during a meeting chaired by the Provincial President PTI Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Big claim: Achakzai offers to restore peace in three months

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:09

QUETTA: Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai has claimed that he, together with other Pakhtun nationalist leaders, could restore peace in the country within ‘three months’.

“The government should empower me, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao and Asfandyar Wali and all Pakhtun leaders to restore peace – and we will do that within three months,” Achakzai told a public meeting at the Sadiq Shaheed Football Ground Monday afternoon. The meeting was organised to commemorate the Chehlum of Quetta massacre victims.

“We will not only restore peace but will also resolve all outstanding issues with Afghanistan,” he added. “However, we could do that only if interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs is stopped.”

The PkMAP chief claimed that more than 100,000 Pakhtuns have been killed, while more than 1,200 tribal elders and political leaders have been targeted by terrorists in last 40 years. “We have decided to save Pakhtuns from a disaster,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Historical buildings: NESPAK contests LHC verdict on Orange Line

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:04

ISLAMABAD: The National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) on Saturday challenged the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict permanently barring the Punjab government from carrying out construction work for the Orange Line Metro Train project near historical and protected buildings in Lahore.

Nespak, along with China Railway Engineering Consulting Group, was appointed as consultant of the project by the Punjab Mass Transit Authority on October 20 last year.

The appeal challenging the LHC verdict was filed in the Supreme Court by Shahid Hamid advocate on behalf of Nespak.

According to the appeal, the high court has erred in ignoring and disregarding the national and international “expertise, experience and status of the appellant  (Nespak), which has expertise in many fields of engineering, economic development, including water resources, agriculture and energy”.

Nespak further contended that the high court had also made a mistake by refusing to accept its report titled ‘Vibration Analysis of Viaduct Evaluation of Effects on Heritage Buildings’, in which it was established that there would be no danger to any of the five heritage buildings either during construction of viaducts or during operation of the electric train.

It also contended that the constitutional right of 250,000-500,000 citizens of Lahore could not be held hostage to the apprehension that there may be damage to antiquity properties.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

NA panel: INGOs draw renewed calls for strict curbs

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:03

ISLAMABAD: Members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights expressed on Monday concern over actions of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), especially foreign ones, and proposed stringent curbs on their activities.

The meeting was presided over by Babar Nawaz Khan.

Members of the committee severely criticised the NGOs’ welfare, financial and administrative activities, which they said were “shrouded in mystery”. A member of National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Shafiq Malik, who attended the meeting on special invitation, said that there were no checks on NGOs’ functions except for the interior ministry’s routine background verification.

Citing the example of an international NGO on human rights, he said it received a funding amounting to 40 million euros, “but nobody knows what the NGO is doing and in which areas,” he said.

Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights Nadeem Ashraf said there was a lot needed to be done in terms of regulating NGOs, “but the government must focus on INGOs”.

“There are as many as 140,000 NGOs in one province alone, so let us focus on finalising terms of engagements for INGOs,” he said.

Stressing the need for prioritising the activities of such INGOs, Ashraf said there were several organisations which claimed they carried out welfare work but were actually involved in “other activities”.

MNA Munaza Hassan asked the member of the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to provide details of the mechanism for granting no-objection certificates (NOCs) to INGOs. The member EAD, who was unable to give a clear reply to lawmakers’ questions, said that the Ministry of Interior looked into the initial procedures of such bodies. Currently, he said there were as many as 30 INGOs which have applied for NOCs.

He also pointed out that the proposed ‘foreign contribution bill’ for monitoring INGOs was pending with the law ministry.

MNA Asiya Naz Tanoli asked the chairperson why there were no clear answers to questions raised by lawmakers. The chairperson sought to invite top officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Ministry of Interior and the Economic Affairs Division in the next meeting to share details about activities of NGOs.

Stressing the need to take stricter action, lawmakers pointed out that INGOs were apparently carrying out welfare work in Sindh and Balochistan, but there was no notable development in either province. They also demanded of the government to share agenda and prioritise areas for such organisations, instead of letting them follow their own courses without transparency.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Silk Road Expo: ‘One belt, one road’ has reinvigorated ties with China – Rashid

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 20:03

ISLAMABAD: Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Minister Pervaiz Rashid said Pakistan’s association with the “one belt, one road” initiative of China has reinvigorated ties between the two countries.

The minister was speaking at a meeting with the Vice Minister of the Chinese State Administration of Press Publication Radio Film and Television Tong Gang. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Silk Road International Cultural Expo being held in the city of Dunhuang in the Gansu province of China on Monday, according to a press release.

Rashid said that the association with the one belt one road initiative will provide the much needed infrastructure and jobs in Pakistan. He also said that Pakistan helps in providing a shorter route to China to destinations as far afield as Europe.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Changing with time: Three amendments proposed in LG Act

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 19:47

PESHAWAR: The local government and rural development departments have proposed three more amendments to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2013.

One of the proposals favours withholding elections on minorities’ seats where members are not registered, said a local government department official who was involved in the preparation of the draft.

Currently, there are around 3,000 out of a total of 3,500 seats reserved for religious minorities that are vacant across Khyber-Pakhtunkwha (KP) owing to unavailability of minorities in the said constituencies.

As per the Local Government Act, the poll supervisory body has to conduct elections in every vacant seat within three months of the seat being vacated.

The official stated that the election commission requested the government to make the amendment so that the electoral body’s resources are not wasted on conducting elections time and again.

Another amendment proposing separate local body elections for new tehsils has also been sent to the cabinet for approval.

Under the current act, there is no provision in the law for conducting elections in newly notified tehsils in the province. The elections are currently held in those tehsils and districts which are notified under the West Pakistan Land Revenue Act 1967.

Moreover, another important amendment which has been proposed was the provision of powers to the naib nazim of every council.

The official said it has been proposed that the naib nazim be given powers as defined in the Local Government Act, 2001.

He also said the government should keep making amendments in the local government act to resolve any issues.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Lenders barred: K-P outlaws interest on private loans

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 19:43

PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly unanimously passed on Monday a bill barring lenders from charging interest on private loans across the province.

The bill was titled ‘Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Prohibition of Interest on Private Loans’.

The house also passed the ‘Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Act, 2016’, enabling citizens to make public-interest disclosures.

Earlier, lawmakers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) reproached each other over protest techniques they employed.

The two sides had been at loggerheads since PML-N activists stormed the assembly building last Sunday.

Advisor to the chief minister on communication and works Akbar Ayub moved a point of order at the end of the assembly session, asking the house to take the matter seriously as the incident dishonored the assembly.

Scores of PML-N workers protesting against the PTI’s Raiwind march stormed the assembly and a few climbed the building’s gate, hoisting their party flag.

The debate started when Raja Faisal Zaman of PML-N ‘disowned’ PML-N workers involved in the attack. “We have shown this path to others and they are now following it,” he said, referring to PTI’s Islamabad sit-in.

“PTV offices were attacked and occupied, the Supreme Court building was despoiled and workers put up their washed clothes for drying on Supreme Court walls. The gate of the Prime Minister House was broken. We have set a precedent, which is now being followed by everyone,” Zaman said criticizing the political style of PTI.

“Just as PTI disowned those who attacked the Supreme Court, PM House, PTV offices and kept the city hostage for over three months, I disown those who hoisted flags on the assembly gates,” he explained.

Zaman said that what happened on Sunday was condemnable, but he blamed PTI for the incident.

Terming the incident a ‘very serious issue, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said: “Action will be taken against those who were responsible (for the incident).”

Subsequently, Speaker Asad Qaiser announced that he had sent a letter to the Inspector-General Police (IGP) to probe the case and take action against relevant persons.

“I (have) directed the IGP to submit the inquiry report within a week.”

Opposition members criticised the PTI for the proposed Raiwind march, but the minister for public health engineering Shah Farman maintained that the march was their legal right.

Legislation

The bill, aimed at eliminating interest on private loans, states that no money lender, either individually or in group of persons, shall lend money for cars or any other purpose, or advance loan to any person for receiving interest, or carry on an interest-based transaction in the province.

It prescribes Rs1 million fine with a maximum prison term of 10 years for persons lending money on interest or interest-based transactions.

The same punishment and fine will be awarded to people abetting, engaging or aiding a money lender in recovery of interest or interest-based transactions. The bill fixed a Rs500,000 fine and imprisonment of up to five years for people involved in molesting borrowers or debtors.

After the law is enforced, all liabilities for paying interest on debts will stand extinguished. The ‘Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Act, 2016’ encourages people to make disclosures regarding irregular, illegal and corrupt practices. The law grants 30 percent share to the whistleblower as a reward in the recovered amount along with a certificate of appreciation if it is proved that the whistleblower has rightly disclosed the violation.

If it is proved that a whistleblower lodged a frivolous or mala fide complaint, he shall be liable to a fine of 30 percent of the actual amount claimed against the person involved. In such cases, the whistleblower shall also be liable for three-year rigorous imprisonment term.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Poliovirus: ‘Cover-up’ unearthed in anti-polio campaign

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 19:31

PESHAWAR: As the country is geared up to eradicate polio, the authorities concerned have reinforced the monitoring system and identified people involved in ‘fake figure marking’.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries where the polio is endemic.

Officials privy to the matter said on papers everything was shown ‘up-to-the-mark’ and polio workers and officials were mentioned monitoring anti-polio campaigns and putting in their full energy to make the programme a success and eradicate the virus by the end of 2016; however, there were many a slip between the cup and the lip.

They stated that officials leading the campaigns would discuss things on a daily basis, but fail to identify the ‘space’ as registers would carry every single child immunised. Even then the virus would surface leading to suspicion of some kind of cover-up.

The officials stated: “When you find that everything is going well on paper while ground realities speak otherwise, then naturally questions arise about the authenticity of the whole drive and the need to probe it,” adding the services of polio workers found guilty of negligence would be terminated.

“We ultimately found that polio workers, with the connivance of parents refusing to inoculate children, would do fake marking and would pretend as if the children were vaccinated against the crippling virus,” a senior official involved in the polio eradication campaign told The Express Tribune.

Another official, on the condition of anonymity, stated that the majority of workers, including other staff members, had been sacked for absenteeism, adding, “every month we terminate services of 4% to 5% of staff members.”

The official said sometimes staff members — mostly females — have failed to catch up with the campaigns.

He also stated that recently a district health communication support official from Tank was also sacked for showing negligence.

When contacted, Emergency Operation Cell (EOC) Coordinator Akbar Khan stated that they immediately imposed a penalty for minor issues, but terminated the services for showing gross violation, specifically negligence.

“Not at all, we have zero tolerance for negligence since it involves children,” Khan told The Express Tribune.

According to the data available with the EOC, some 3,082 parents refused to inoculate their children against the virus with the highest number coming from the provincial capital where around 1,254 parents refused polio drops followed by 441 from Karak district, Bannu (269), Charsadda (263) and Lakki Marwat (235).

A total of 13 confirmed polio cases occurred in the country in 2016 with seven from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, four from Sindh and one each from Quetta and South Waziristan Agency. A National Immunization Drive (NID) has been scheduled for September 26 where 5.6 million children will be inoculated against the virus in K-P.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News