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Updated: 10 hours 16 min ago

Possible emergencies: PIMS to remain on high alert

12 hours 4 min ago

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) will remain on high alert to deal with any emergency arising out of the ongoing sit-ins on Constitution Avenue.     

PIMS spokesperson Dr Wasim Khawaja on Thursday said leaves of all hospital staff have been cancelled while around 350 beds have been vacated by the management.

He said the hospital’s blood bank has arranged 100 bags of each blood group and medicines for 2,000 patients, adding that medical and paramedical staff was working round the clock.

Khawaja said the hospital has made special arrangements for the sit-in participants so routine services for admitted and outdoor patients are not affected.

He said policemen and protesters are visiting PIMS with minor problems such as headaches, fever, sore-throat and weakness. He said the hospital had put ambulances on high alert to provide immediate medical assistance to sit-ins participants of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

The spokesperson said protesters can visit the hospital’s emergency ward anytime or can talk to doctors at 051-9261170. He said all arrangements had been made in case of any emergency and sufficient stocks of medicines are available at the hospital.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Appeals of convicts: SC wants to see original footage of Sarfaraz Shah’s murder

14 hours 49 min ago

KARACHI: 

The Supreme Court (SC) called on Thursday the original footage of the murder of an unarmed young man, Sarfaraz Shah, at the hands of five Rangers personnel.

The convicts have been given death and life terms from an anti-terrorism court and they have filed appeals with the SC. A three-member bench, comprising Justices Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Gulzar Ahmed and Muhammad Athar Saeed, was hearing appeals of the paramilitary troopers and a civilian against the maintenance of their sentences by the Sindh High Court (SHC).

On Wednesday, the SC bench had directed the appealing convicts’ lawyer to provide video footage of the incident in order to see whether the offence committed by the appellants fell within the ambit of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

During Thursday’s hearing, Rangers’ lawyer Khawaja Naveed Ahmed produced a CD of the footage that was shown on another private channel, Dunya television. When the judges inquired about the original footage that was aired on Awaz television, whose crew had recorded the entire incident as they were filming nearby, Naveed said it was still with the channel.

Adjourning the hearing till Friday, the bench directed the Rangers lawyer to produce the original video footage by the next date of hearing.

Viral video

Sarfaraz Shah was shot dead by Rangers personnel inside Karachi’s Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park on June 8, 2011. Initially, the paramilitary force claimed that he was a dacoit and was killed during an encounter.

Later, however, a video footage had emerged which had shown the Rangers men beating and dragging the unarmed 19-year-old boy, who was in turn begging for his life. It also showed the men shooting him and leaving him there to die, lying in a pool of blood.

Taking suo motu notice of the brutal act, the then Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had ordered registration of a murder case against the personnel visible in the video.  In addition, the then Rangers DG and Sindh police IG were removed from their posts to ensure fair investigations.

Rare judgment

In a judgment against law enforcement personnel, the anti-terrorism court had convicted and sentenced the accused under Section 7(a) of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, read with Sections 302 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on August 12, 2011.

Rangers operative Shahid Zafar was given the death sentence, while sub-inspector Bahur Rehman, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali, constable Mohammad Tariq, constable Minthar Ali, constable Mohammad Afzal and private contractor Afsar Khan, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Moreover, all were ordered to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each or undergo an additional six months of jail. They were also ordered to pay Rs100,000 each in compensation to the legal heirs.

Compromise rejected

The victim’s family had later “pardoned the convicts in the name of God”, without accepting blood money. An SHC bench, headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, had on June 21, dismissed the convict’s appeals and rejected the compromise, saying that the offence could not be pardoned through a compromise.

The high court had upheld death and life imprisonments and fines awarded to the convicts, but acquitted one co-accused, Liaquat Ali, for want of evidence. The convicts appealed to the SC, arguing that the SHC had erred in examining the facts and appealed to set aside the high court’s order.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Advertising frenzy: Despite ‘tied hands’, officials vow to resist cutting trees

14 hours 58 min ago

KARACHI: 

The Sindh government has allegedly approved the cutting of nearly 1,400 trees that are part of the forest across Dolmen City in Clifton to earn revenue from outside advertisers, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“The government has granted permission to a well-known advertising company and the trees will be cut at any time,” confirmed a senior official working at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) head office. He added that the KMC has earned Rs6 billion by granting permission to set up billboards around the city.

The deputy commissioner, South, Mustafa Jamal Qazi, told The Express Tribune that their hands are tied. The government must take concrete action to halt this practice not only in this area but across the city, he said, admitting that officials within the KMC, the district municipal corporations and the cantonment boards are involved in procuring permits for outdoor advertisers.

“Whenever we take action against them, they [advertisers] take stay orders and then the district administration cannot do anything,” said Qazi.

According to Qazi, the district administration recently wrote a letter to the local government minister and the KMC administrator in which they pointed out the alarming trend of cutting trees and the unprecedented growth of billboards and hoardings. These billboards are defacing the cityscape, blocking the view of motorists and posing safety hazards for the buildings, he explained, adding that cutting trees will raise questions of environmental sustainability.

SEPA calls meeting

Commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui vowed to enforce discipline if the authorities are involved in removing trees from this piece of land. “Since the province has no environmental law that is specific to tree cutting, a case would be registered against the violators for damaging the property,” he assured.

For his part, Siddiqui called the director-general of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa), Naeem Mughal, and directed him to make an environmental plan within a week. “We will hold a meeting of all stakeholders of the city next week,” said Siddiqui. “The culprits must be put behind bars,” he added for good measure.

Is it legal?

The Sindh Plantation, Maintenance of Trees and Public Park Ordinance 2002, which was issued in November 20, 2002, specifies that no person shall cut any trees growing in any land, without the written permission of the authorised officer. Exceptions can be made where the felling or cutting is in compliance with any obligation imposed by or under any law or is otherwise in the public’s interest.

The ordinance further adds that no person shall remove, cut, damage, or displace any plants, shrub or trees, at any public place, including public parks.

On May 27, 2009, the Sindh High Court Chief Justice Mushir Alam had also passed an order for the protection of the green environment of the city. No tree shall be cut except trimming, if necessary, without the permission of the court, he had directed.

Environment concerns

On April 17, this year, NGO Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment wrote a letter to the commissioner to protect the trees. The Sindh plantation and maintenance ordinance is a valid legal document, said the NGO’s Dr Raza Gardezi. “The trees in the city are under constant threat from outdoor advertising companies that are operating under the protection of the local government department and in connivance with the police stations,” he claimed. Despite repeated attempts, LG minister Sharjeel Memon was unavailable for comments.

“If you look at the city landscape, it is facing an acute shortage of trees,” Dr Gardezi pointed out. “Old trees have their own special ecosystem and sustain particular species of insects, birds and small animals, green parrots, squirrels, butterflies, which are no longer visible in the urban landscape.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Not just about medicine: Drama unfolds at KMC as health facilities asked to deposit entire income to central accounts

15 hours 3 min ago

KARACHI: 

The cash-strapped Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has decided to siphon the millions of rupees income off its nearly 250 health facilities into the municipality’s central accounts in a bid to what its officials termed “mitigating the great financial loss,” The Express Tribune has learnt on Wednesday.

On August 13, KMC Commissioner Sajjad Hussain Abbasi issued a notification through which medical superintendents and people in-charge of KMC healthcare institutions were directed to stop using half of their department’s revenue – money they collect as ‘user charges’ from people who avail the healthcare facilities which they use to improve patient healthcare.

Earlier, a resolution passed by the city council on February 20, 2007 had allowed the KMC-run healthcare institutions, the in-charge and superintendents to utilise 50 per cent of the user charges for ‘providing better healthcare and in emergencies.’

The same resolution ensured a low user charges at the KMC-run health facilities which were on par with other public health facilities under the provincial government.

The 2007 resolution was also endorsed in 2012 by former KMC administrator Muhammad Hussain Syed, revealed official documents available with The Express Tribune, stating that healthcare institutions, maternity homes and dispensaries of the KMC were not getting regular government funding which forced patients go to poorly maintained hospitals.

“The situation has hardly improved. The Sindh government has not been releasing any funds to the KMC except for salaries,” said Dr Salma Kausar Ali who is the KMC’s senior director for medical and health services. “This is the fourth consecutive year that we have not received fund even to buy medicines.”

Dr Ali defended the notification issued by the commissioner with the approval of KMC Administrator Rauf Akhtar Farooqui. She said that the income would be redistributed properly and the KMC would keep a tally of where the money was going.

The administrator speaks out

While talking to The Express Tribune, KMC Administrator Farooqui said that the real problem was the absence of transparency in how the user charges were being spent.

“Some officials and staff are running their own business at the KMC hospitals,” he claimed. “The revenue generated by KMC (health) establishments should be deposited into the municipality’s central accounts.”

These measures, he added, were being taken to increase KMC’s revenue and were not only being focusing on the health department. According to Farooqui, over 20 other departments of the KMC have been asked to generate more revenue for the municipality and it was unfair of people to create such hue and cry by singling out the health department.

Medical superintendents and those incharge of health institutions were quite startled with the budget expectations which showed a sudden 742% increase in the income from health facilities. They said that the decision to deposit the department’s income to the central accounts was unfair.

Nobody, however, was willing to step forward and speak up for the health institutions they represent. They distanced themselves from what they termed was an “ongoing cold war between two political parties to take off their maximum through Karachi” – the city is an economic battleground for the two rivals who are currently in coalition.

“The plan is clear,” said a KMC hospital official who did not want to be named. “The KMC finance gurus want us to generate Rs465.7 million revenue in the current financial year as compared to the last year’s Rs55.3million by imposing a significant increase of charges on all medical services and then siphon this revenue off.” He added that they seem unable to understand that public health facilities cannot be turned into revenue-generating ventures.

Through another notification, dated August 15, 2014, KMC’s senior director for medical and health services notified medical superintendents and health institution in-charges to implement with immediate effect the revised rate-list for the services they provide. This notification said that the increase in charges had been “approved by the competent authority, i.e. the KMC Administrator, and directed by Karachi Metropolitan Commissioner.”

The revised rate-list, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, revealed an exorbitant increase of the medical charges that a majority of patients would have to bear. For instance, the KMC-run health facilities will now charge Rs3,000 for the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as compared to Rs1,500 at the provincial government-run Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Target killing: Two men gunned down

15 hours 9 min ago

KARACHI: 

Two people, including a policeman, were killed in separate incidents of violence in the city on Thursday.

According to police, unidentified armed men shot and injured two men on Shah Waliullah Road in Nayabad Area of Lyari. Kalri police shifted the injured to Civil hospital, where one of them died. SHO Aftab Rind said that the deceased had been identified as Abur Rahim Niazi, 27, while the injured was a 25-year-old passerby, Mohammad Azam.

Rind said that Niazi received a phone call before the incident and went to the spot where the attackers were lying in wait. The assailants managed to flee the scene.

Meanwhile, unidentified armed men gunned down a man in Bawan Chali area. SHO Khushi Mohammad said that three men riding two motorcycles stopped a young pedestrian. After exchanging some words with him, they shot him seven times and fled. The police believe that the incident was caused by personal enmity.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Staying put: Stay against shifting SM College to Kharadar extended

15 hours 12 min ago

KARACHI: 

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday extended its stay against shifting Sindh Muslim Science College from its relatively peaceful location to the restive neighbourhood of Lyari.

The bench headed by Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh, directed the directors for colleges and college buildings inspection to file their comments, explaining why the college was being shifted, by September 10.

The controversy arose when some college students went to the court last year against the government’s decision to shift the college building. They said that the Sindh government had merged Sindh Muslim (SM) Government Science College with Sindh Madressatul Islam, which was later given the status of a university.

Once the university’s management took control of the administrative affairs of the college, it decided to shift the physical assets and staff of SM College to the building of the Government Degree Girls’ College in Kharadar.

On October 11, 2012, the education additional director for college inspection issued a letter to shift the college to the new premises immediately. Allegedly, the decision was taken to create space for the newly established university. But four college students, including Sarfaraz Khan Intiminanzai, took the government to the high court and challenged the decision.

The petitioners claimed that shifting the college during an ongoing academic term would affect 1,500 students studying at the campus. Moreover, the new building allocated for the college was not large enough to accommodate the staff and students.

In their plea, the students, mentioned that earlier a college in the same neighbourhood, where SM College was being shifted to, was shut down due to poor security situation. “The security situation in the neighbourhood is volatile and not conducive for academic activities,” they argued.

The students appealed to the court to set aside the letter ordering the college to be shifted and stay the process until the petition was decided. According to them, shifting the college would waste an entire academic year for more than a hundred students.

On Wednesday, the bench extended its stay against shifting the college and directed the two directors to submit their comments by September 10.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

JUI-F supporters stage sit-in, warn of long march against PTI

15 hours 16 min ago

HYDERABAD: 

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) has warned of a long march to Islamabad with its 2.5 million madressah students if the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) does not end its sit-in in the federal capital.

“We have 2.5 million registered students in our madressahs,” pointed out JUI-F provincial leader Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro on Thursday at a protest sit-in. “We will take them all to Islamabad.”

The half-kilometre road from Hyderabad Press Club to SSP office remained choked with thousands of JUI-F supporters, who shouted slogans against PTI chief Imran Khan, accusing him of promoting obscenity. Chants of “Down with the agent of the Jewish lobby who is spoiling our youth” echoed.

The supporters lambasted Khan for using derogatory language for their party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Soomro said they will not allow some tens of thousands of people to usurp their right of electing their leadership.

“They are ridiculing our religious and cultural values by making girls and women dance with men.” He accused Khan of using backdoor channels in order to attain power after having failed to win people’s mandate in the general elections.

According to Soomro, all of Khan’s major demands for investigation against electoral rigging and electoral reforms have been accepted. The JUI-F leaders also demanded arrest of Khan and other party leaders for violating the Red Zone in Islamabad and holding the capital hostage for two weeks. The speakers approved of the 10 points laid down by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). However, they did not support the way the PAT is forcing the government to accept its demands.

JUI-F provincial naib ameer Muhammad Saleh Sajawali said that Khan is inciting people against the state. He claimed that Khan has failed to deliver in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The demonstrators passed a resolution calling upon the government to charge Khan with treason and order his arrest. The JUI-F supporters also held demonstrations in various other districts.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Revisiting history: Azadi Train takes crowds on a journey through time

15 hours 18 min ago

SUKKUR: 

The Azadi Train pulled in at the railway station in Sukkur on Wednesday night, bearing replicas of national monuments, symbols of the diverse cultures of the country’s provinces, and a photographic gallery of Pakistan’s past on board.

Large crowds, including women and children, rushed to the station to welcome the train, which was especially prepared to tell people about the making of the country. It carries replicas of monuments, such as the Mazar-e-Quaid, the Shahi Fort, Bab-e-Khyber and Ziarat Residency. There is also a photo gallery portraying the struggle for Pakistan, the nation’s martyrs and its military paraphernalia.

“My children had never seen such things before and they are completely transported by the Azadi Train,” said a young mother, who had brought her two children to see it. “As a matter of fact, some of these things, such as the photos of the heroes who made countless sacrifices in the effort to create Pakistan, are new even to me.” She added that the train was like a flashback through history.

People took great interest in the replicas of the monuments, with many taking pictures of them with their families. “Our younger generations know very little about the hardships people faced during the creation of Pakistan,” said a man visiting the gallery with his family. “Pakistan Railways has done a great job with this train – the sculptures of the heroes almost look alive!”

An elderly woman talked to The Express Tribune about the richness of Pakistan’s natural resources and landscapes while her granddaughter examined the life-size sculpture of Mohammad Ali Jinnah with fascination. “Our culture is beautiful,” she said, “and we need to teach our youth about it.”

Shahid Hussain Samoon, the divisional personnel officer for the Sukkur railways administration, told The Express Tribune that the train was decorated with the purpose of revisiting the history of Pakistan and especially to teach the youth about it. Prepared in Islamabad, the train began its journey from Margalla Railway Station. It reached Sukkur after making its way through Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore, among other cities, and will move on to Shikarpur on Thursday night.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Cocooned sit-in: Insaf activists prefer safety of DHA bubble

16 hours 3 min ago

LAHORE: Lalak Jan Chowk, famous for its cafes and ice cream corners, is in the news these days with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) sit-ins entering their second week.

The sit-ins started against alleged electoral rigging on August 20 on the call of party chairman Imran Khan.

Earlier, similar sit-ins were held by PTI supporters at the Lalak Jan Chowk and Ghazi Chowk immediately after elections.

The chowk is centrally located in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA). The DHA cinema is nearby as is the T-Block Market famous for its cafes popular with the youth.

Hundreds of protestors have been at the chowk since the protests started.

The crowds frequently chant slogans and party anthems play in the background. The mood is festive.

The protestors are seen taking selfies and recording video messages for Imran Khan. Many wear red and green scarves and paint their faces.

Imran Khan’s speeches are broadcast live on a projector screen.

“We have arranged this,” says Khalid Fazil, one of the protestors.

“Residents of the area donated for it,” he says.

News from the demonstration is regularly updated on an event page on Facebook (Dharna in Lahore against Nawaz Sharif and Rigged Election). The page is run by more than 10 people.

Nearly 42,000 invites were sent off from the event page and 6,000 had confirmed their acceptance.

The venue for the protest has not been free of controversy, with another Tehreek-i-Insaf protest being held at Liberty Chowk.

On Tuesday, the demonstration at Lalak Jan Chowk was moved to Liberty but on Wednesday, separate events were held at Liberty and Lalak Jan Chowks.

Muhammad Awais Riaz, an organiser of the Lalak Jan protest, is a student pursuing his master’s degree in London.

Riaz says the venue was chosen to ensure a “safe and secure” environment for families who wanted to make their voices heard.

“Our protests include families and we wanted to have a safe space to protest,” he says.

He says there have been no complaints by neighbours.

“The area is largely commercial,” he remarks.

HR professional Sharood Zafar, a resident of Phase III, says the demonstration disrupts traffic.

“These protests have made a mess of traffic,” he said. “At this point I don’t care about any political party, I want a peaceful life.”

Since the protest started at Lalak Jan Chowk, roads have been cordoned at Ghazi Chowk.

Traffic heading towards Lalak Jan chowk is directed to alternate routes.

“We respect people’s right to protest but there are other sites more suitable the purpose,” says Mudassir Haq, an IT professional living in Phase V. “These protests are practically at our doorstep.”

The DHA administration says no special security arrangements have been made by them for the sit-ins.

Ejaz Masood, of the DHA public relations office, says security arrangements were made by the police.

He says no complaints have been received from any of the residents.

Bilal Khan and his family, residents of Phase II, say they are stuck in traffic jam for 30 minutes near the protest site around the weekend.

“It is loud and crowded. There is chaos and confusion,” says Khan.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz activists also organised a rally last weekend in support of the government at Wateen Chowk, approximately 1.5 kilometres from the Lalak Jan Chowk where PTI supporters were gathered. Abubakar Umer, a software professional and a social media activists for the PML-N, says political parties were shifting their activities beyond traditional sites. Umer aspires to hold more activities in the area.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Honesty, hard work and sacrifice: China has confidence in govt’s vision, says Shahbaz

16 hours 55 min ago

LAHORE: 

“The Pakistani delegation was extended a warm welcome by the government of China. It was agreed that there should be enhanced cooperation in energy, infrastructure, transport and health sectors between the two countries,” Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Thursday.

He was addressing a gathering of members of the provincial assembly.

Sharif said Pakistan-China friendship has stood the test of time and the two countries had now entered a new era of friendly relations.

He said the Chinese government had also agreed to extend cooperation to the current development projects in Pakistan. He said this was under the development package announced by Chinese government earlier.

The chief minister said the people of Pakistan were thankful for the Chinese people for their confidence in the government’s vision.

Sharif said Pakistan-China relations would be cemented by the agreement between the Punjab government and China after his visit regarding training of Pakistani doctors and paramedical staff at Chinese hospitals.

Sharif said “successful dialogue” was held with Chinese officials and investors during his recent visit.

The chief minister said Chinese companies had shown willingness to invest in various sectors in Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab, which would help resolve poverty and unemployment.

Sharif said that Pakistan nation would extend a warm welcome to the Chinese president during his visit to Pakistan in September.

He said his visit would further strengthen the bond between the two neighbours.

He said Pakistan was a lucky country of the region because it had reliable friend like China.

The chief minister said the Chinese government and the people wanted to see Pakistan prosper and develop and Chinese companies had made huge investments the country.

The chief minister said China was aware of Pakistan’s problems and had shown their support for the prime minister’s vision.

He said electricity projects of thousands of megawatts had been started with the cooperation of China. Once completed, he said, these power plants would rid the country of the energy crisis.

Shahbaz said as per the agreement made between China and the Punjab government, Chinese government would provide medical training to Pakistani doctors and paramedical staff.

He said under the agreement, doctors would be trained in emergency and acupuncture.

He said the training would also raise awareness about use of modern technology in medicine.

“The government is spending billions to provide health facilities to people… a strategy had been adopted for the uplift of health sector,” he said.

He said the agreement signed with China was an important step towards further improvement in the medical facilities for masses in the Punjab.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Blame game: PTI leader hits out at PM Nawaz

18 hours 7 min ago

KARACHI: 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be responsible if martial law is imposed in the country, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a press conference in Karachi.  The PTI leader arrived in Karachi along with other local leaders to express gratitude to supporters who participated in the sit-ins and relay a special message from PTI chief Imran Khan. Shah Mehmood Qureshi upheld demands for PM Nawaz’s resignation.

“PM Nawaz should take a decision – otherwise the people will have to take a stand.”

The PTI leader insisted that the party was committed to safeguarding democratic principles but said that the basis of democracy was transparent and fair elections.

“Everyone knows that the elections were rigged. The PPP has the same opinion. Before leaving for China, former president Asif Ali Zardari spoke to Imran and said that the elections belonged to the ROs.”

The PTI leader said that if the government had paid attention to their demands to recount votes 14 months ago, the situation would not have escalated to this point. Similarly, if an FIR of the Model Town incident had been registered immediately, there would have been no sit-ins by PAT activists, he said.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi requested the judicial commission to present its report within 30 days. However, he added that the prime minister’s resignation is the only solution to end the deadlock.

The PTI leader expressed interest in garnering support from other parties – especially the MQM –to navigate Pakistan out of the political turmoil and make it a prosperous country. However, he insisted that the purpose of the Azadi march was not to form alliances but highlight the significance of free and fair elections.

Act with restraint

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain appealed to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chairman Tahirul Qadri to be patient and act with restraint.

Speaking to the PAT chief on Thursday morning, Altaf told Qadri that the governors of Sindh and Punjab had made a concerted effort to resolve the political crisis through dialogue.

The MQM chief advised Qadri not to make rash decisions and only act after thorough deliberations with the government.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Two months later: Saudi Airlines resumes operation in Peshawar

18 hours 16 min ago

PESHAWAR: 

Saudi Airlines has resumed its operations from the Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA), Peshawar, after over two months of suspension following an attack on a Pakistan International Airline (PIA) passenger plane on June 24.

According to its regional office, Saudi Airlines resumed its services with the arrival of its flight SV798 at BKIA Peshawar from Riyadh at 12:15pm on Thursday with 280 passengers on board. Flight SV799 also left for Jeddah from Peshawar carrying 323 passengers including 293 Hajj pilgrims (from the private tour operators’ quota).

“We had planned to resume services on August 1 but due to some unknown reasons, the suspension had been extended. But now, the operation from BKIA Peshawar has resumed,” an official at the regional office said, requesting anonymity as he was not entitled to speak to the media.

The official also said that another flight SV794 carrying passengers from Riyadh will arrive at BKIA on August 30 while another flight SV795 will leave for Jeddah the same day, which will carry over 250 Hajj pilgrims.

On June 25, some unknown gunmen fired on a PIA passenger plane as it was landing at Peshawar airport, killing a woman and injuring two others, including a crewmember.

Many international airlines had suspended their services temporarily after the incident, but later resumed their operations. However, Saudi Airlines took over two months to restart its services at Peshawar’s BKIA. The air carrier will operate 17 Hajj flights from the provincial capital this season.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Model Town FIR lodged by police allows wriggle room for Nawaz, Shahbaz

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 16:18

LAHORE: The Lahore police on Thursday, utilising its ‘discretionary powers’ filed First Information Report (FIR) in such a way that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have been spared from either joining the investigation or being immediately arrested, The Express Tribune has learnt.  

Citing court orders in the six-page FIR, which was rejected by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief, the police maintained that “the registration of FIR against the petitioners (federal ministers) shall not prove their guilt till a decision by court of competent jurisdiction. It cannot be used as substantive piece of evidence against any accused unless proved in accordance with law. ”

The police exploited legal opinions to give a clean-chit to the prime minister, chief minister Punjab, federal minister and some other high profile dignitaries in the FIR, even as it made the Lahore High Court orders a part of the FIR.

The last line of the third page of the FIR states that orders from the sessions court regarding initiation of case against the accused and several other unknown was received. This was then sent for legal opinon, as per law.

The legal aide in his opinion, also part of the FIR (which is an abnormal activity), said that they had reviewed reports and documents from SP Model Town division, Lahore.

“As per report of SHO PS Faisal Town Lahore, duly forwarded by DSP/ SDPO Garden Town, a case, FIR No 510/14 under sections 302/324/186/353/148/149/34/290/291/427/506-B/109 of PPC, section 7 of ATA and sections 13/20/65 AO, PS Faisal Town Lahore was registered on June 17 on the complaint of inspector Rizwan Qadir Hashmi, the then SHO PS Faisal Town, Lahore.

It further says that on June 19, 2014, when the application submitted by Jawad Hamid was received, it was attached with the relevant case file of the FIR no 510/14. Later, the investigation of case was entrusted to a JIT.”

In the FIR registered on Thursday, the police used some operative parts of the court orders in the FIR, to its advantage. SHO Faisal Town Muhammad Shareef Sindhu noted in the fourth page of the FIR -written specially in English- that the applicant (Jawad Hamid) had received orders from the Additional Sessions Judge dated, August 14. They stated that “in view of the above discussions, the application in hand is hereby accepted and respondent (SHO Faisal Town) is directed to register the FIR on the application of the petitioner and then to proceed in accordance with law in the investigation.”

The SHO further noted in the FIR the court order passed on August 26 by the LHC upon writ petition No 2,2661 of 2014. The operative part of the order included in the FIR was paragraph six of the order, which reads “Purpose and object of recording FIR is to set the criminal laws in motion and to obtain first hand information of occurrence in order to exclude possibility of fabrication of story or consultation or deliberation and safeguard the accused of such like happening.

“Thus the registration of FIR against the petitioners (three federal ministers) shall not prove their guilt till decision by court of competent jurisdiction. It cannot be used as substantive piece of evidence against any accused unless proved in accordance with law. ”

Paragraph eight of the LHC order has also been mentioned in the FIR. It reads “arrest of a suspect or accused is not necessary during the course of investigation and the general impression in the regard is misconceived because a person named in the FIR is not to be arrested straightaway upon registration of FIR or as a matter of course unless there is sufficient incriminating evidence regarding culpability of accused. The arrest of accused is to be deferred till the availability of incriminating evidence in order to satisfy the investigation officer regarding correctness of allegations leveled by the complainant against person named in the crime report.”

The police, by adding these extracts of the LHC judgment, has not only exempted the high profile accused from arrests, but has also made sure that if they are asked to join investigation without proving their guilt, it would be considered contempt of court.

The SHO Faisal Town has further noted in the FIR that as per contents of the application submitted by the complainant, Hamid, sections 302, 324, 148, 149, 427, 506, 395, 109 of the Pakistan penal code and 155-c of police order 2002 are being attached, but stated that in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the orders of the justice of peace and the LHC were very clear and should be implemented in letter and spirit.

According to legal experts and senior police officers, the legal opinion sought  by police in any case is to ascertain if an FIR can be lodged in the light of the contents of the complaint by the aggrieved party and/or to determine the relevant sections that shall be attracted in the FIR (If at all, it may be lodged). A senior police official told The Express Tribune that modus operandi of the police is that after the legal opinion is obtained by them; it is not made a part of the FIR and is considered as an internal correspondence document only.

The SHO Faisal Town has further noted in the FIR that as per contents of the application submitted by the complainant, Hamid, sections 302, 324, 148, 149, 427, 506, 395, 109 of the Pakistan penal code and 155-c of police order 2002 are being attached, but stated that in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the orders of the justice of peace and the LHC were very clear and should be implemented in letter and spirit.

According to legal experts and senior police officers, the legal opinion sought  by police in any case is to ascertain if an FIR can be lodged in the light of the contents included by the complaint, or to determine the relevant sections that shall be attracted in the FIR (If at all, it may be lodged).

A senior police official though told The Express Tribune that the police, after seeking legal opinion, it is not made a part of the FIR and is considered as an internal correspondence document only.

Similarly, court orders are not made part of the FIR and the FIR is only based on the application filed by the complainant.

However, in this specific ‘high profile case’ the police’s top brass and legal eagles of the government, to find a middle way out, has made the legal opinion as well extracts of the court order, as part of the FIR.

Copy of FIR

Below is a copy of the FIR registered by the police on Thursday in the Model Town incident.

 


Categories: Pakistan & World News

On army chief's advice, govt to pursue talks with PTI, PAT again

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 11:56

The government on Thursday approached both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give talks one more chance.

Prime minister and army chief met for the second time in three days against the backdrop of government’s lingering deadlock with PTI and PAT.

Insiders told The Express Tribune that Nawaz briefed the army chief about talks with Qadri and Imran.

According to sources, the premier told General Raheel that government had agreed to accept first two demands of PAT in return for Qadri calling off the sit-in outside the Parliament.

But an agreement could not be reached after Qadri refused to accept the government’s condition, sources said.

Sources further said the army chief advised the prime minister to give talks one more chance and after which the government decided to approach both PTI and PAT.

A senior government official claimed that the army chief conveyed a clear message to both Qadri and Imran to resolve the impasse through dialogue.

“It was agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of stalled process of negotiations for an expeditious resolution in the best national interest,” the spokesperson for the PM House added.

The crucial meeting was held hours after talks between government and Qadri broke down on Wednesday evening over the registration of First Information Report (FIR) of Model Town incident.

Following the meeting between the COAS and premier, the government agreed to accept Qadri’s demand of FIR.

The official while requesting anonymity also said the next 24 hours would be very crucial.

He also insisted that the army chief extended his support to the government in the face off of brewing political tensions.

However, army officials could not be reached for their reaction on the meeting between General Raheel and Nawaz Sharif.

Later, both PAT and PTI accepted army chief’s role as mediator and guarantor to end the crisis.

 


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Qadri rejects FIR registered in Model Town incident

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 11:23

ISLAMABAD: Addressing his supporters in what he called a ‘decisive’ rally on Thursday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri refused to accept the FIR registered into the Model Town incident until it included the Anti-Terrorism Act and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name.

“We will not accept the FIR until it is registered as per our application,” he added.

Further, Qadri again announced his charter of demands that included the registration of an FIR, resignation of Prime Minister and Chief Minister Punjab, dissolution of assemblies, formation of a national government, introduction of reforms, accountability of corrupt politicians and holding of free and fair elections.

Asking his workers to remain steadfast as they were about to reach their destination, he asked them wait until his next announcement for which he did not give any time frame.

Earlier, Qadri had announced August 28 as the last day of their sit-in. However, he offered no clues in his speech on what will the do after their sit-in ends.

At the beginning of his speech, the PAT chief had rejected that an FIR had been registered in the case. However, as the chief paused for prayers, PAT leader Raheeq Abbasi appeared on the stage with copy of the FIR sent for perusal of Qadri. The PAT chief read it once and pointed out that it was not in accordance with their demands.

Qadri then highlighted social ills in the society and said PAT had come to streets against those evils and for a revolution and end to discrimination, injustice, inequality, lawlessness, nepotism and corruption.

“This Constitution Avenue, which would later be renamed as Iniqlab avenue, had never witnessed such gathering in 67 years of country’s history,” he added.

Terming PAT and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers “first cousins”, Qadri urged “fight together and die together and no one be able to stop you.”

Qadri, who was carrying a copy of the Constitution, then focused on those provisions which guarantee fundamental rights of the citizen and obligations of the state. After elaborating every single provision dealing with the rights, Qadri said “state is responsible for well being of the people without any discrimination but it has not happened at all.”

“The Constitution is a cheque signed by founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and after 67 years we have come here to get it cashed,” Qadri said and added, “this cheque signed by the Quaid has been dishonored as they rulers said they did not have money for the people but had money to be spent on themselves and their children.”

The PAT chief also shared details of his meetings with the government negotiation teams particularly the last one in which several federal ministers and two provincial governors had participated. “The talks ended after ministers said they did not have mandate to take decisions,” he announced.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Nawaz still enjoys significant public support: PEW survey

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:13

Even as thousands of protesters, respectively led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, descended on Islamabad against the Nawaz Sharif led government, a survey by the Pew Research Centre shows that the under fire premier enjoys significant public support.

According to the report, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif enjoys 64% favourable opinion, slightly lower than the 66% he enjoyed just a few weeks before the May 2013 elections. In contrast, 32% viewed him unfavourably.

These are among the major findings from the latest survey in Pakistan by the Pew Research Center, based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 1,203 respondents from April 15 to May 7, 2014. The sample covers approximately 82% of the country’s adult population.

Imran Khan, who has been demanding that the premier resign to pave way for a transparent investigation into the reports of rigging in the 2013 elections, was seen favourably as well with 53% reviews against 24% negative reviews. However, the PTI chief’s ratings have slipped by 17% since elections last May.

The mood surrounding the current political and economic situation in the country, while less than happy, it is more positive than in recent years. While only 25% of the respondents were satisfied with the way things are in Pakistan, this is more than 8% who felt that way in 2013. Those who were optimistic about the economy have more than doubled since last year, rising from 17% to 37%. And 36% expect the economy to improve further in the next 12 months.

Pakistan, which has seen four military led governments, 87% of the respondents believe that the army is having a good influence on the nation. Up from 79% near the May 2013 elections.

The poll found little support for extremist groups in Pakistan, against whom the army launched an operation in June. Only 8% gave the Taliban a positive rating and just 12% said they have a favorable opinion of al Qaeda.

India still the biggest enemy

When asked to rate the greatest threat facing their country , 51% of Pakistanis pointed towards India.

Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) expressed an unfavorable view of India, while only 13% give it a positive rating.

At the time of the survey, conducted before results for the recent Indian national elections were announced, 62% of Pakistanis did not know enough about India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say whether they had confidence in his ability to do the right thing in world affairs. Just over a third (36%) said they have little or no confidence in Modi to do the right thing in world affairs, while only 1% expressed confidence in Modi.

US still viewed unfavourably

Negative views of the United States and Obama still prevail in Pakistan. Only 14% give the US a favorable rating, and just 7% have confidence in President Barack Obama.

Still, the percentage of Pakistanis voicing a negative views of the US and Obama has declined slightly over the last few years.

Very few Pakistanis give President Barack Obama a positive review. Only 7% say they have confidence that Obama will do the right thing in world affairs. While half (52%) of all respondents lack confidence in the American leader, unchanged from 2013, but that perception was down from a peak of 68% in 2011. Fully 41% offer no opinion about Obama.

Drone strikes remain unpopular too. Two-in-three Pakistanis oppose US drone attacks, while just 3% approve and 30% offer no opinion.  Two-thirds of Pakistanis also believe that drone strikes kill too many innocent people, and only 21% think they are necessary to defend the country from extremist groups. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) say the drone strikes are being conducted without the approval of Pakistan’s government.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

'MQM unit member' arrested in London in connection with Imran Farooq murder

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 07:27

KARACHI: Scotland Yard on Wednesday arrested a 30-year-old man in connection with the murder of Dr Imran Farooq, a former leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

A spokesperson for the Scotland Yard confirmed to The Express Tribune that the suspect was arrested from East London this morning. He is currently being kept in custody where he is being interrogated. The suspect is reportedly a British Pakistani, but Scotland Yard did not confirm the nationality of the suspect.

He is said to be an MQM UK unit member, party officials told The Express Tribune.

The suspect is the second man to be arrested in the case so far. Last June, the Scotland Yard arrested a nephew of MQM chief Altaf Hussain, 52-year-old man Iftikhar Hussain. He was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and is currently on bail.

Further, in May, Scotland Yard released pictures of two suspects allegedly involved in the murder of Farooq.

Scotland Yard claimed that the two suspects, identified as Mohsin Ali Syed and Mohammed Kashif Khan Kamran, were believed to be in Pakistan and had traveled to London on student visas. They are also believed to be residents of Karachi.

Farooq, 50, was a former leader of MQM and had lived in London in self-imposed exile from 1999. He was on his way back from work when he was attacked outside his home in Edgware, north London, in September 2010. A post-mortem gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma to the head. A kitchen knife and a house brick used in the attack were recovered at the scene.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Anyone intending to derail democracy will be challenged: PM

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 04:56

ISLAMABAD: Addressing the National Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear on Wednesday that anyone intending to derail democracy would be challenged by Parliament and all democratic forces in the country.

In his speech to the National Assembly, the prime minister appreciated the parliament’s resolve to uphold the constitution and democratic values, adding that the parliament is the true representative of 200 million Pakistanis.

“Governments come and go, prime ministers come and go,” the prime minister said. “But keeping faith in democracy and the constitution is what ensures that democracy survives.”

“Nine out of ten parties, with diverse ideologies, have voted in favor of the resolution,” he said, adding that there was no precedence of this in the history of Pakistan.

The prime minster said that he had taken an oath to protect the Constitution, and that he would never betray this duty, reiterating his commitment to uphold and protect the constitution.

The prime minister also thanked all political parties, lawyers, journalists, civil society, businesspersons and minorities who supported the resolution.

He assured the House that the government will keep working on development and progress.

2008 elections

“My nomination papers and those of Shabaz Sharif were rejected,” said the prime minister, while giving his party’s example in the 2008 general elections. “Yet we campaigned and accepted the election results open heartedly.”

“We did not cry foul even though we had a legitimate concern since the party’s chief was unable to submit nomination papers,” he added.

“The PPP won more seats in the 2008 elections; we accepted their right to be in power and supported it,” he said.

The prime minister said that when he went to see Imran Khan at the hospital soon after the 2013 election victory, Imran congratulated him and assured he would play his role in a ‘constructive opposition’ and would support the agenda of economic progress.

“I met the MQM delegation this morning and we agreed on the policy of reforms in the country,” the premier added. He reiterated that the 33-member committee will play a crucial role in bringing electoral reforms.

The PM reiterated that the economy has suffered immensely due to the protests and the prevailing political situation in the country. “Would anyone want our credit rating to go back to negative?” he asked rhetorically.

The prime minister added that there should also be debate on why and how the current political crisis developed, while handing it over to Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique to brief the House on the negotiations with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Khyber agency clash: Four ‘militants’ killed in retaliatory fire

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 00:10

JAMRUD: 

Four suspected militants were killed in a clash with security forces in the Ghundi area of Jamrud tehsil, Khyber Agency on Tuesday.

Security officials in the area said the bodies of four militants were found near Malak Khowar, which were handed over by the political administration to Civil Hospital, Jamrud, for identification. However, their identities could not be ascertained till the filing of this report.

Security officials conducted a raid on a house late Monday night where militants opened fire on them. They retaliated against the firing in which four militants were killed while some of them managed to escape.

A search operation was also launched early Tuesday morning in which more than two dozen suspected people were arrested.

Separately, a resident of Sor Kamar was gunned down by assailants in another incident. The victim, Janas Khan, was on his way home with his friends when armed men ambushed his car and shot him.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Militant factions: 70 TTP commanders break away to form new group

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 00:04

PESHAWAR: 

Seventy key commanders broke away from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to form a new militant faction, namely Jamaatul Ihrar, to fill the vacuum created by the TTP, according to a video message by the group’s chief Maulana Qasam made public on Tuesday. “Our party will work like the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he says in the video message.

The eight-member central shura of Jamaatul Ihrar includes Qari Shakil and Omar Khalid Khurasani from Mohmand Agency, Qari Ismael from Khyber Agency, Maulvi Mansoor from Orakzai Agency, Abdullah from Bajaur Agency, Maulana Yaseen from Swat and Mufti Misbah from Peshawar. Qari Ehsanullah Ehsan has been named spokesperson for the group.

In the video message, Qari Shakil expresses anger over the disintegration of the TTP, saying that “due to personal interests on the part of some individuals, the TTP has failed in achieving its goals.”

Factions have existed within the TTP’s ranks since its formation in 2007. Mullah Nazir from South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan refused to join the group and after TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed, Hakeemullah Mehsud and Mufti Waliur Rehman formed factions. After Hakeemullah was killed in a drone attack on November 1, 2013, the TTP formally divided into two groups. Infighting between the Said Khan alias Sajna group and Sheheryar Mehsud group left scores of fighters dead on both sides.

The TTP is now led by Mullah Fazlullah, with Sheikh Khalid Haqqani serving as his deputy. However, sources say militants from North and South Waziristan are reluctant to work under either leader.

South Waziristan was the TTP’s headquarters until 2010 when it shifted to North Waziristan. With the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014, however, the group has shifted its network to Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.


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