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Only 26 of 282 registered political parties submit asset details to ECP

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 00:37

ISLAMABAD: Only 26 of the 282 registered political parties submitted details of their accounts and assets for the last financial year to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Express News reported on Saturday.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Awami Muslim League (AML) and Awami Watan Party (AWP) were among the parties that submitted their details.

However, the ECP said it did not receive details from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) did not submit their asset details. The ECP said that election symbols will not be allotted to the parties that have not submitted their details.

On July 4, the ECP had asked all registered political parties to submit details of their accounts and assets for the last financial year by August 29.

Every year, the ECP seeks details from political parties about their annual income, source of funding and details of assets. The practice, started in 2002, has never been more than a formality as the ECP has never verified details submitted by political parties and there is no mechanism within the ECP to cross-check details.

Article 13 of the Political Parties Order, 2002, ascribes that every political party should submit their financial records to the election commission within 60 days of the close of each financial year.

Correction: An earlier version of the story mistakenly stated that MQM did not submit its asset details. The error is regretted.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Flashback: A writer, a patriot, a diplomat’s wife

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 23:42

My mother the writer, patriot and diplomat’s wife, Ruhafza Hyder, giving an interview in 1949 to NBC Radio in Washington DC. She talked about the new state of Pakistan and its unique identity, separate from that of India, which was better known to the American public at the time. Next to her is her son Tariq Osman who went on to become a diplomat and ambassador himself. My mother had been educated at Lahore College for Women and had a keen interest in writing, encouraged by her mother. She won a writing prize from Phool magazine for children at the age of six. She was one of the earliest Muslim women to get both a BA in Urdu and a Munshi Fazal degree in Persian. My father Sajjad was posted as second secretary in Washington from 1949 to 1951, after serving as staff officer to our first Foreign Secretary Mohammad Ikramullah in the Foreign Office, then located in Mohatta Palace in Clifton, Karachi.




This August, The Express Tribune will feature photographs from contributions to an open call for images from the struggle for independence and Pakistan’s formative years.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

After 4 years in captivity: Freed academic says he taught Taliban children

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 23:30

PESHAWAR: A day after he was released from four years in Taliban’s captivity, Islamia College University’s Vice Chancellor Ajmal Khan revealed that he spent his days teaching children of his captors.

“These four years were difficult, but my time passed well as the militants were good to me throughout,” he said at a press conference Friday morning at his residence in the Professors Colony. “I started out teaching two children to pass my time, but the number later increased to 32, with most children in the second or third grade.”

He revealed that his captors, local militants from Peshawar, catered to his needs, saying, “Initially, the supply of medicine was a problem and there were no qualified doctors, but the matter was later resolved.”

Khan’s relatives told The Express Tribune that he was handed over to his family at 11:30pm Thursday. Security officials say he was recovered during military action in North Waziristan Agency, but Khan and other tribal sources remained tight-lipped on the circumstances that led to his release.

Referring to his abduction, Khan said, “I was shifted from Peshawar to a mountainous area, I guess it was in the Tirah Valley. I had no idea [as] we were sedated. Then we reached Waziristan. There were tight security arrangements in the beginning but security was relaxed later and two men guarded me at a time.” Khan said he was in the custody of the Mehsud Taliban for the last few months.

Referring to former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Haider Gilani and the late Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer, Khan said he had not met them while in captivity. “They were not kept with me, but I heard that they were with al Qaeda,” he said.

Khan said he was brought to Miramshah, North Waziristan, to contact his family via phone and was allowed to call home on a weekly basis over the last three months. He said the militants made around 10 to 12 videos which were later publicly released, but he was unaware of their demands. Khan thanked the government, the University Employees Association and the media for their efforts to secure his safe release. He plans to resume his duties at Islamia College University soon.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Upper House: Senate session expected on Sept 8

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 23:16


The Senate session is likely to be held on September 8 and the parliament secretariat was in the process of consulting the PM’s secretariat on Friday to ensure that the proceedings take place. 

Reliable sources in the parliament secretariat have revealed that a request was being made to hold a Senate session on September 8.

However, the government’s request can only be expected on Monday as major government functionaries were busy trying to resolve the current political scenario. The ruling party’s parliamentarians also intend to convene a joint session of the parliament to review the prevailing political crisis, sources have revealed.

Parliament secretariat’s media director Naila Maqsood said they are contemplating a Senate session in the first week of the September.

“If the government decides to hold the Senate session then we will inform the media,” she explained. However, she was unaware where the joint session would be convened.

Earlier, the government decided to postpone the current National Assembly session until the resolution of the political crisis. This step was taken by the government to ensure the presence of a maximum number of parliamentarians – particularly of the ruling party – at the session.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Political impasse: Negotiations are the only way out, says Zardari

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 22:59

SHANGHAI: Former president Asif Ali Zardari said that PPP had serious reservations on the outcome of the 2013 general elections and PPP did not accept the results for two days. However, those who are staging a sit-in on the streets of Islamabad had accepted the poll outcome on the very same day.

“We could have also staged sit-ins but we accepted the results in the better interest of people and the country, as it was more important than the struggle for gaining power,” said Zardari while speaking at Shanghai Institute for International Studies on Thursday. “We wish that all the issues are solved through negotiations.”

He said that China has got access to warm waters through Gwadar Port — which is not welcomed by the rest of the world.

Zardari said that, “We have always wanted to have better ties with India but that’s a complicated matter as they are still practising Nehru’s nationalism policy. Both sides need to show flexibility for this.”

The former president said that Pakistan has no reservations over India-China ties. On a question regarding the withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan, Zardari said that Pakistan will work to strengthen its neighbour and hopes that China will play its due role for bringing stability in Afghanistan.

Zardari answered questions about Pak-China friendship, bilateral ties with India, internal issues of Pakistani politics and other policy matters.

PPP Co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also addressed the gathering, saying that the friendly ties between China and Pakistan are six decades old. “Our policy is pro-China which has caused a positive impact on our economy.”

Both the PPP leaders also attended an investors’ conference in Shanghai and asked the Chinese investors to invest in the development projects in Sindh.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Seeking army’s help: SCBA chief lashes out at prime minister

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 22:55

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Kamran Murtaza on Friday condemned the government’s decision to invite the army to play a facilitative role in ending the fortnight-long political logjam in the country.

Taking a swipe at government’s stance, SCBA president said that the supremacy of Constitution has been undermined and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has violated his oath by inviting army to broker a deal between the government and the agitating political parties.

In a written statement, Murtaza said that such steps weaken the country’s Constitution. The SCBA president warned that the government will have to face the consequences.

Issuing a veiled warning he said “People, democracy and 1973 Constitution have been defeated and the vested interest group won.”

Murtaza also said that the current crisis demonstrates that the opinion of 195 million people was being ignored just because a few thousand protesters had swarmed into the capital. The SCBA president added that millions of people who believed in the supremacy of Constitution and parliament have been disappointed.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman Muhammad Ramzan Chaudhry also criticised the premier, who he said was misleading the legislature over army’s role.

“After the ISPR press release, it has been established that the prime minister misled the parliament, therefore, he should resign in view of Article 63 of the Constitution”, Chaudhry  said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Facilitation or mediation?: Politicians seek clarification

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 22:41


Tensions soared again on Friday in the wake of conflicting statements from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military’s media wing about who invited the army to play a facilitative role in ending the political deadlock.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s press conference added to the ambiguity, to which other political parties – who have been supporting dialogue and a constitutional solution to the crisis – called for explanations and clarifications.

Awami National Party’s Senator Zahid Khan said the government needs to clarify its position about the statement by the prime minister and the interior minister, as it was contradicted by the ISPR.

“The premier’s moral and ethical position will be at stake if he fails to do so.” PM Nawaz should tender an apology if it is proven that he sought the assistance of the army chief, he added.

PTI senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the false statements by the prime minister and the interior minister on the floor of the Parliament was exposed by the ISPR’s clarification. “It is a violation of the constitution to issue a false statement on the floor of the house and Prime Minister could be disqualified over this false statement,” he maintained. This is the reason why PTI does not believe in the promises made by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), as they are often broken afterwards.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira declined to comment on the matter and said his party would issue a statement after consulting their senior leadership.

Separately, PPP MPA Sharmila Farouqi claimed in a tweet that PM Nawaz and Chaudhry Nisar “lied on the floor of the parliament”.

However, the spokesperson for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Jan Achakzai, said it is very clear that the government had indeed asked for a “facilitative “, rather than a mediator’s role as claimed by Dr Qadri and Imran Khan. “The ISPR’s statement did not contradict the prime minister’s speech in parliament, according to which the government did not authorise the army chief to act as mediator.

Unfortunately, the media created a frenzy and tried to show a civil-military communication gap,” he explained. The army is a national institution and it should not be maligned by vested interests, he added.

He claimed that Imran Khan and Dr Qadri’s intransigence in seeking the prime minister’s resignation has created an impasse and now they want to drag the army to play a political role. In a statement, Achakzai said if the parties involved were mature, they would have ensured that the issue is resolved by politicians themselves.

“But the two parties (PTI and PAT) wanted to drag the army to politically intervene from the beginning.”

Earlier, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq had said that the involvement of the armed forces in political affairs was not a good precedent and it had not added to the prestige of the country and the nation in the eyes of the world.

The primary task of the armed forces was the defence of the country’s borders and political issues should be resolved by politicians, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Life at the dharna: Marchers travelled in artfully decorated buses

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 22:29


The Inqilab and Azadi marches in Islamabad have drawn people from diverse walks of life. Whether they originate from the fertile plains of Punjab or the mountainous areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the protesters have shown considerable enthusiasm over the prospect of positive change in the country.

According to sources, the participants arrived at the protests in vehicles that have been beautifully decorated for the occasion. Several people were clad in traditional dresses to stand out amid a crowd of passionate supporters.

Furthermore, some participants have also decorated their vehicles with a fascinating array of artwork and designs.

Anees Anjum, who is the owner of a Bedford bus from Chowk Azam in Punjab, revealed that a group of participants from Mirpur booked his vehicle to participate in the protests.

“They liked my vehicle and paid me extra for travelling from Chowk Azam to Mirpur,” he said, adding that such private bookings can be rather expensive.

Another bus-owner named Abid drove his Bedford bus from Jhelum to attend the protests. The bus has been decorated with brilliant works of art. The colourful reflectors, round mirrors, chains and thin sticker work instantly attract the attention of onlookers.

The participation of enthusiastic supporters has added a touch of vitality to the protests and augmented the struggle for a transparent system of democracy.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Dispatch: Libya

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 22:26


I recently travelled to Tripoli, Libya, for my summer vacations. My father had been working and living there for quite some time and according to him, the crisis in the country had been highly exaggerated. Things in the capital seemed calm enough, but it was an uneasy calm. At the other end of the country, things in Benghazi were getting worse with each day.

In Tripoli, we stayed in our home most of the time as we were foreigners and we had heard that it wasn’t safe to roam around. However, we still managed to visit the beach twice before the parliamentary elections and were entranced by the beauty and clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

In June, as the elections neared, my father thought it would be wise to leave the country and so, we started applying for visas. It wasn’t easy. Neighbouring Tunisia required at least a month to process applications. After all US citizens and UN officials had been evacuated from the country, many embassies pulled out their officials.

At a dead end, we applied for a Turkish visa, said to be a quicker process than the others. In Turkey, there were none of the restrictions we had faced as ‘tourists’ in Libya. We woke early, visited tourist attractions, ate anywhere. The last two days of our visit coincided with the month of Ramazan. We then headed back to Libya.

Upon our return, we learned that the Islamist party, the party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and who had been in power since Muammar Al Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, were losing the election. Only 1.5m people had registered to vote and turnout was only 630,000, according to officials. The election was marred by violence and the murder of the country’s most prominent human rights activist, Salwa Bugaighis. Islamist parties like the Justice and Construction Party were angered, but none of us could have imagined the lengths to which they would go to get power.

This was the start of a truly dark time for us, the Libyans, and anyone related to Libya.

One day, we heard the sound of gunfire while we were in our home. We didn’t know it was gunfire at first. The fireworks in Libya have a strange property: they sound exactly like gunfire. When my father had first arrived in Tripoli, he had explained this to us during video calls when we would hear the sound of fireworks. We had heard this sound so many times that we took no notice of it anymore. But when my father returned from work early, we found out the nature of the sounds we had been hearing: Tripoli International Airport had been attacked. The airport was closed and all flights to Tripoli terminated.

Now to understand the nature of this attack you will have to understand a bit of the history of Libya. After the ‘Revolution’ had taken place in Egypt and President Hosni Mubarak had been overthrown, the idea spread across North Africa like wildfire. Soon, the Libyans were dissatisfied with their dictatorial leadership and weapons were distributed to everyone, and by everyone I mean everyone. There had been many militias before this but under Gaddafi, they had remained quiet. In the fever of the ‘Revolution’, they united against a common enemy: Gaddafi.

So followed the ‘Revolution’ and Gaddafi was overthrown, but now there was a new problem: who was to rule, and how were national assets going to be divided? The Libyan nation had grown to despise anyone with ties to Gaddafi and hence anyone associated with Gaddafi could not be a part of the government. In one fell swoop, all experienced politicians were cut out.

The militias had been very busy in this time. All revenue-generating areas like the airport and oilfields were captured and remain under the militias’ control to this day. A militia with a comparatively liberal mindset had controlled the airport until the attack in mid-July. Now, the Misurata-based Islamist militia group attacked the airport to wrest control of it.

When we learned this, we panicked. With reports of unrest in the city, we had been thinking of leaving Libya. Now, we couldn’t leave even if we wanted to. We felt we had stepped into a trap after we returned to Libya from Turkey.

After the attack, we all stayed home. The day was spent listening to the sound of gunshots or bombings. The sound was so intense it felt as though the buildings next to us were under attack. We were terrified. My parents tried to act normally, but what was the use? We weren’t two-year-olds.

By August, intense fighting between rival armed groups and militias in Tripoli and Benghazi killed 214 people and injured 981, according to the Ministry of Health. Every day my father made plans to get out of Libya. All searches for tickets were fruitless. For any plan to succeed, we needed visas and no embassy was open in Libya. After many tries, my father got his hands on Turkish visas. We could finally go home.

Only three airlines operated in Libya at the time – Libyan airlines, Afriqiya Airways and Turkish airlines – and that too at an irregular schedule. My father entrusted our passports to a staff member of a bank in order to get us tickets. We packed our bags and waited. My father said we could have to leave at any moment, as we did not know what time the flight could arrive. My father stayed up all night, waiting for a call telling him we could escape this ghost town.

We waited 24 hours and finally got a call. After customary checks at the makeshift airport, we departed after a mere 30 minutes. On the airplane, we heaved a sigh of relief. However, the relief was short-lived. After an hour, an announcement was made in Arabic – we couldn’t understand head or tail of it – and we landed in an unknown area. As we waited, the worst scenarios ran through our minds. Finally, someone explained that the plane had landed to refuel. After an anxious wait, we set off again, headed finally for Pakistan.

(The writer is a student of Class 10 at the CAS School in Karachi)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014. 

Categories: Pakistan & World News

The insecurity of life as a Pakistani non-Muslim

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 22:21


Looking back, non-Muslims were safe from bigotry-based violence during the war against the former Soviet Union, waged by the Afghans with the help of US-led allies and the Arab world.

It all changed after the collapse of late Najibullah’s regime in 1992. Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan poured into Peshawar and then continued their journey either towards India or the West. The Afghan Mujahideen were part of internal conflicts over power, and Afghanistan and adjoining tribal areas were their safe havens. The fall of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban eventually turned the region into a ‘forbidden state’ for adherents of other faiths or other interpretations of Islam.

In the wake of 9/11, the infiltration of al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban and other militants into Waziristan from Afghanistan has caused irreparable loss of life and livelihood for non-Muslims.

Non-Muslims from not only Tirah but Swat, Buner, Shangla and Hangu were left with no choice but to abandon their homes and start a new life in Peshawar and cities in other provinces. Proof of Sikhs and Hindus pre-existing Pakistan lies in their ancestral homes and inherited businesses, yet these do not prevent extremists from targeting them.

A heavy cross to bear

While people from almost every religious minority are being affected by the ongoing militancy, Sikhs seem to be suffering more in the last few years. They are not only frequently targeted by killers but also abducted for ransom and have been forced to abandon homes and even the country. Reports of forced conversions have made headlines in international media and left human rights bodies clamouring for the protection of religious minorities.

In recent months, seven Sikh traders and a Muslim employee have fallen victim to target killing in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Over a dozen have been abducted for ransom. Those killed in targeted attacks include Jagmohan, Mandar Singh, Mehendar Singh, Harbajan Singh, Dilsaz Singh, Bagwan Singh and Parmjeet Singh. The latter killed along with a Muslim employee, Zahid, in his shop at Shabqadar, Charsadda. Jaspal Singh was abducted by unidentified militants and later his body was found beheaded. Sardar Singh and Satnam Singh lost their lives in a rocket attack. Manmeet Singh and Parmjeet Singh were injured in the attack which killed Jagmohan and are still hospitalised.

Around 15 Sikh families—more than 100 individuals—recently migrated to India for the sake of survival. The matter of Hindus migrating from rural Sindh is more common but a large number of Hindu and Sikh families have also left Swat, Buner and Shangla for India.

Christians are also being persecuted and have been forced to find their way to safer destinations. On September 22, 2013, twin suicide bombing at All Saints Church Peshawar left nearly 100 dead and forced Christians of the city to realign their existence there.

Reports reveal after this tragic incident a large number of Christian families, mostly the younger generation, have left Pakistan and hundreds of others have filed for immigration or are considering seeking asylum.

For the polytheistic Kalasha in Chitral, the future looks bleak. Having lived for generations in peace, the increase in extremism in the region has left this non-Muslim community extremely vulnerable to poverty, threats and forced conversions. The government has declared the Kalash Valley a security risk for foreign and domestic tourists, depriving them of income. And on the other side of the border, the valley sits next to Nooristan, a province in Afghanistan considered to be a stronghold of both local and foreign militants, leaving the Kalasha between a rock and a hard place—to say the least.

Silent State

When communities are left unprotected by the state, criminal opportunists come running to exploit the situation. One example of this are the Sikhs in Peshawar. Aside from being killed, Sikhs have made scores of complaints about being robbed. As minorities, they have few equal-opportunity employment options and their businesses remain under the threat of being robbed or extortion.

Law and order in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa continues to deteriorate and the ruling party is considered by many as sympathetic to the Taliban while holding the United States and the federal government responsible for the violence. The PTI is said to consider “talibanisation in Pakistan a reaction to US policies.”

Ahmadis had already been declared non-Muslims by the state and are harassed wherever they live, work, worship or are buried. But now the Talibanisation of society has also put the lives of those people at risk who adhere to various schools of Islamic thought such as Shias or Barelvis.

Harassment and murder on grounds of religion is furthered along the lines of sectarianism and no one—but a handful—is safe.

However, the government may try to justify the state of affairs, political and religious parties have failed to take legislative or executive steps to safeguard the rights of non-Muslims. A few parties might publically declare their secular political approach and are also at risk, making everyone who matters incapable of implementing any safeguards for adherents of other faiths.

Almost all articles of the Constitution which pertain to human rights give similar protection to non-Muslims but the government’s priorities remain misplaced and ineffective in this respect.

Implementation of such constitutional obligations could easily counter the growing sense of insecurity and deprivation among non-Muslims. No one can deny that Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Kalasha and others are not only patriotic but are citizens of this country by birth right.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Facilitation: Residents offer mixed reaction to army’s role

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 20:51


The unexpected call for army ‘facilitation’ to resolve the current deadlock has given rise to suspicions in the minds of residents of the capital. Some saw the act as a positive development, while others feared ‘undesired consequences.’

Sagheer Akhtar, a resident of Rawal Town, said all three parties — the government, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri — had hit a brick wall and had no options left but to ask the army to help resolve their issues.

“All of them needed a way out and that is why they have accepted the army’s mediation,” he said.

“It is the politicians’ incompetence…that they involved the army in a political issue,” said Nasir Iqbal, a resident of F-10 who runs an electronics business. “Now that they have chosen a ‘judge’ for themselves, they have no option but to accept the orders.”

Iqbal came down hard on politicians, saying that they were ‘begging’ the army to save them, adding that people had become fed up by the fact that the politicians could not solve their issues in the presence of a functioning parliament and judiciary.

Taxi drivers Muhammad Waseem and Muhammad Ashiq began reminiscing about the Musharraf era, saying that they had a better life before “so-called democracy”.

While favouring army intervention, the drivers said the sit-ins had badly affected their customer volume and they would be happy if the army resolves it soon.

“What benefits have we gotten from democracy? It might be good for the rulers but at grassroots level, we haven’t gotten any relief,” said Waseem.

While supporting his arguments, Waseem said a 20-kg bag of flour was available for Rs320 before 2007, while it now costs Rs920. Gas (CNG) was available five days a week instead of the current two days.

“What do we care whether democracy or martial law is imposed in the country. We just need basic facilities.”

Ashiq, however, was more cautious, warning that a window for military intervention had been opened and if the parties did not resolve their differences soon, there would be boots all around.

The army should have been involved earlier to end the deadlock, said Waqar Malik, a resident of F-8. He felt the army would play a positive role in resolving the issue.

Hafeezullah, 80, a vendor selling eyeglasses at Aabpara market, said his prime concern was how to make ends meet rather than “wasting time in finding a solution”, as no one was going to ask to him to play the role of mediator.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Young voice: A little ‘Gullu’ standing up against violence

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 20:13

ISLAMABAD: Muhammad Usama Butt alias “Chota Gullu Butt” (little Gullu Butt), a young Inqilabi, was seen holding a stick in his hand and doing his best impression of his namesake — hitting a car in the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) sit-in. People were excited when told that the child belonged to a Butt family.

Usama’s father Sajid Shahzad Butt is associated with poultry business. He said that he and his wife and child had voluntarily come from Kasur to support Dr Tahirul Qadri. Shahzad is not a member of Minhajul Quran or a PAT worker.

He revealed that he had been with PAT since the rally started and was now left with only Rs1,200 in his pocket.

Shahzad said that he was not worried about money, as the ‘revolution’ was his priority.

People burst into laughter when Usama, whom other participants at the sit-in jokingly nicknamed “Chota Gullu Butt”, got tired of hitting the car and stopped for a drink from his juice box.

Later though, his demands increased and he refused to meet his fans without some palm greasing — two lollypops, one for each hand.

A large number of people stopped by and took pictures of 17-month-old Usama as he was done with his energy boosts.

Usama’s adventures clarified the obvious — not everyone with the last name ‘Butt’ is like Gullu Butt, Pomi Butt or Billu Butt.

Gullu Butt was shown on various television channels damaging privately-owned cars at the clash between police and protesters in Model Town incident. Pomi Butt was accused of the attack on PTI convoy in Gujranwala during the ‘Azadi march’ and Billu Butt was accused of attacking a PTI leader’s house in Multan.

“This Butt is a lion of Pakistan Awami Tehreek,” quipped a man, while making a video through his mobile phone.

Thirteen-year-old Sana Haider, who had come from Wahgah border area, was seen wearing a bandana and a shroud at the PAT sit-in. Haider, a student of grade-10, said that she had come with one of her aunts with her father’s permission, adding that her mother passed away a long time ago. When asked about the shroud, she said she had decided to wear it as “this is a do-or-die moment”. Haider said that she could lay her life for Dr Qadri as he was everything for her — a father, a mother, a brother and a guardian. “We want justice at any cost,” she said.

Muhammad Anwar, 70, was seen holding a flag, an umbrella and a heavy stick. Anwar, wearing a dhoti-kurta combo and a turban, said he joined PAT rally from Sialkot. Anwar said that he would use the stick in case of a police crackdown.

“We haven’t even broken a tree branch since our arrival in the capital,” said Anwar, “that’s how peaceful we have been. We won’t be the first to charge,” he said.

Anwar said that he had come to take his and others rights from the rulers. He said that he never got married, and never really had a home since his mother died and his father remarried while he was still a child. “I have spent all my life in the streets and bazaars. I sleep wherever I find a place to sleep. Now I see hope in the shape of Tahirul Qadri.”

A large number of people at the PAT sit-in were seen wearing burial shrouds and shouting anti-government slogans.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Question of semantics: Govt asked for facilitative, not mediatory role, says Nisar

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 17:35


The chief military spokesperson said on Friday that the government had asked Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to ‘facilitate’ the resolution of the political imbroglio. Soon after, the interior minister explained how the government had requested a ‘facilitative role’ for the army chief, while ruling out any ‘mediatory’ or ‘guarantor’ role in the impasse, as was earlier claimed by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Dr Tahirul Qadri.

“[The] COAS was asked by the govt to play a ‘facilitative’ role for [the] resolution of [the] current impasse, in yesterday’s meeting, at #PM House” Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said in a tweet on the micro-blogging website Twitter.

Soon after the military spokesperson’s statement, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news conference that the army chief acted at the government’s behest to end the political crisis created by the prolonged protest sit-ins of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and PAT. He was referring to Thursday night’s meetings of the army chief with Dr Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan.

The interactions came hours after Chaudhry Nisar said in a statement that the government had asked the army chief to play his role to end the crisis. The decision, according to the interior minister, was taken at a meeting between the army chief and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“During yesterday’s meeting [at the Prime Minister House] it was decided that the army chief may interact with them [Qadri and Imran]. But his role will be that of a facilitator, not a mediator or guarantor as some people are trying to interpret it,” Nisar said at Friday’s news conference.

“The government has given the army permission for whatever facilitation it has been playing. It [the role] should not be treated more than this,” he added.

The interior minister claimed that the role given to the army was in accordance with the Constitution. However, he did not quote any constitutional provision to substantiate his claim. “There are many examples in the past when the army was asked to perform something that does not directly come under its domain,” he said.

Nisar claimed that the government had sought the army’s facilitation upon the suggestion of “some interlocutors, both political and non-political”. He didn’t name anyone, though.

The minister said he didn’t say that he had received any request directly from the leaders of the two protesting parties for meetings with the army chief. To substantiate his claim, he read out parts of a speech he made on the floor of the National Assembly earlier in the day where he said that the government had asked the army chief to play a facilitative role for ending the prevailing crisis.

The interior minister also claimed that the statement issued by the ISPR was sent him for clearance before it was released to the general public.

The government’s decision to seek out the role of the army came under scathing criticism from allied and opposition parties in parliament. Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and Mehmood Khan Achakzai, whose Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party is a coalition partner of the PML-N government, hit out at the government in their fiery speeches.

In a brief speech on the floor of the house, Premier Nawaz said that the PAT and PTI leaderships had requested for meetings with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif. He told the lawmakers that the interior minister asked him that Imran and Qadri wanted to meet the army chief and he [Nawaz] immediately granted the request.

“Nisar got a call from Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri in my presence. He [Nisar] said they want to meet the army chief. I immediately said if they want to meet him, let them meet,” the premier said. He added that even if he had not asked it, the army would have played its role since the military was already deputed in the federal capital. “If the protesters tried to storm any government building, the army would have taken action,” he added.

Soon after the speeches of the premier and the interior minister, the PAT chief emerged from his shipping container to refute these claims.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Govt asked army chief to mediate crisis, says ISPR spokesperson

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 09:03

Clarifying the army chief’s role in the current political impasse, the army on Friday said that it was playing the role of facilitator at the request of the government.

In a tweet posted on Twitter, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said, “[The] COAS was asked by the Govt to play [a] facilitative role for resolution of current impasse, in yesterday’s meeting, at #PM House.”

Earlier in day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar both insinuated that the army had stepped in at the behest of Imran and Qadri, not the government –  a claim that denied by both Imran and Qadri.

Army chief General Raheel Sharif was named mediator on Thursday in the standoff between the government and protesters led by Tahirul Qadri and PTI chief Imran Khan.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Ali Nisar Khan told parliament the protesters’ unwillingness to trust anyone

“Again and again they said they only trust the army and will only have talks through the army,” he said.

“When a group or two parties has no faith in the judiciary, the opposition, lawyers or civil society and has no confidence in anybody, what option remains for the government?”

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Possible emergencies: PIMS to remain on high alert

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 06:51


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

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 04:05


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

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 03:56


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

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 03:52


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

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 03:46


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

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 03:42


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

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