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    MITHI: Qaumi Awami Tehreek chief Ayaz Latif Palijo has said that Sindh government is adding insult to injury by giving rotten wheat to starving Tharis in the name of relief.

    Mr Palijo said in a statement issued here on Wednesday that it was sheer insult of poor Tharis and flagrant violation of fundamental human rights that over 600,000 people were being treated like “children of lesser gods” in their worst crisis caused by long and severe drought in the rain-dependent desert region.

    He said that drought-hit people were being subjected to untold humiliation for the sake of a few kilogrammes of rotten wheat.

    “The Pakistan Peoples Party leaders left poor Tharis to die a slow death throughout the 10 years of their rule by subjecting them to consume highly contaminated water,” he said.

    He slammed the rulers for their ostrich-like approach to unabated deaths of infants and livestock and massive migration of people from Thar to canal-irrigated areas. PPP rulers plundered huge public funds reserved for relief and left Tharis with no other recourse but to commit suicide or leave their homes to save themselves from ravages of drought, he alleged.

    “Successive governments in Sindh instead of addressing real issues of the desert region, including healthcare facili­ties, provision of clean drinking water and quality education, washed their hands of responsibility by only distributing wheat among drought-stricken people,” he said.

    Mr Palijo said that it was a matter of shame that this year alone nearly 490 infants had died in the region but ministers of Sindh government were busy shifting blame on each other and doing nothing to stop deaths.

    He said that it was grave callousness and indifference on the part of rulers who were least interested in releasing water into the only water outlet of the desert and releasing salaries to workers of reverse osmosis plants to ensure people continued to get water.

    He urged heads of international organisations working in Pakistan to set up camps in Thar and provide some relief to drought-stricken people. “People see no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr Palijo and added that people had pinned hopes only on chief justice of Pakistan to help mitigate their unending misery.

    Advocate Shah Nawaz Hingojo, district president of QAT, told journalists that they would mobilise thousands of people to stage a demonstration on Oct 25 against inadequate distribution of relief items in Thar.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    QAT chief says PPP government has left Tharis to QAT chief says PPP government has left Tharis to "die a slow death".

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    ISLAMABAD: The interior ministry and its state minister have nominated two different officials to the office of senior superintendent of police (SSP) operations Islamabad.

    Officials said State Minister for Interior Shehryar Afridi has ordered the immediate regularisation of SSP Mohammad Amin Bukhari as SSP operations, a post he has held additional charge of since Sept 25.

    However, the interior ministry has requested Dr Mian Saeed Ahmed from the Establishment Division, as demanded by the Islamabad police.

    They said Dr Ahmed appeared reluctant to accept the appointment, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government – with which Dr Ahmed was working – also refused to hand over his service to the capital.

    Dr Ahmed has been working for the KP police as a personal staff officer to the chief minister, the officials said. The KP government told the Establishment Division that it would not transfer him from the KP police.

    Meanwhile, Mr Afridi on Wednesday asked the Establishment Division to regularise SSP Bukhari as SSP operations. Mr Bukhari has been working for the Islamabad police as SSP Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) and was given additional charge of SSP operations last month.

    In a letter addressed to the establishment secretary, Mr Afridi said Syed Mohammad Amin Bukhari, Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) BPS-19, who is currently posted in the Islamabad police as SSP has additional charge of SSP operations. It asked that his regular notification as SSP operations be issued immediately.

    The interior ministry has also approached the Establishment Division and requested Dr Mian Saeed Ahmed for the post.

    A letter from the Islamabad Capital Territory-I (ICT) section officer to the Establishment Division section officer E-3 police Islamabad stated that the Ministry of Interior intends to utilise the services of Mr Ahmed for the post of SSP operations Islamabad.

    It asked that the services of the officer may be placed at the disposal of the minister for posting in the Islamabad police.

    Officials in the ministry and in the police said that then-SSP operations Najeebur Rehman Bugvi was posted out of the Islamabad police on Aug 30 and his service was handed over to the Punjab police.

    He was wanted as team member by former inspector general of police (IGP) Nasir Khan Durrani to work on police reform. However, Mr Bugvi had asked to continue his duty with the Islamabad police as Defence Day and Ashura were ahead.

    On Sept 7, Dr Ahmed was requested as the next SSP operations, and the office of the IGP asked the Islamabad chief commissioner to proceed further.

    The ministry was approached by the chief commissioner’s office, but nothing further has been done in this matter, the officials said. It did not proceed as Dr Ahmed appears unwilling to take the post of SSP operations Islamabad.

    A day after Mr Bugvi relinquished the charge on Sept 24, officials said, Mr Bukhari was given additional charge as SSP operations.

    There are 10 SSP posts in the Islamabad police, most of which are filled, they said. The SSP crime investigation department post is without an officer, while the CTF SSP has been given charge as SSP operations.

    The eight SSPs in the police are from the 28th Common Training Programme (CTP) to the 35th.

    The officials believed that there was lack of coordination between the ministry and the state minister over the appointment of SSP operations. Besides, the senior police officials in Islamabad preferred an officer of BPS-19 from a junior batch for the post of SSP operations.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    Sheryar Afridi (R) has nominated SSP Mohammad Amin Bukhari as SSP operations. — Photo/FileSheryar Afridi (R) has nominated SSP Mohammad Amin Bukhari as SSP operations. — Photo/File

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    ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Wednesday announced that he will boycott meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology if in camera meetings are held to discuss a proposed law seeking equal punishments for those convicted of blasphemy and those who make false accusations of blasphemy.

    The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Bill 2018 was moved on the directions of Islamabad High Court after Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ordered last year during a case that those who make false accusations of blasphemy should be given the same punishment as those convicted of blasphemy.

    The bill was later prepared by the government and was referred by the upper house to the committee for discussion.

    Govt bill seeks same punishment for false allegations of blasphemy as for those convicted of it

    Chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the committee decided not to discuss the bill in the absence of Information Technology Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, who tabled the bill in Senate but Senator Haideri still started discussing the issue.

    “The matter is being discussed in the religious circles and we are of the view that such kinds of bills should not be passed. Many people register baseless cases of theft, robberies and other crimes and people are killed in the main markets but the aggrieved families cannot prove murder because witnesses refuse to record their statements in the court,” Mr Haideri said.

    “Why is it that punishment has only been suggested for those who cannot prove their allegations of blasphemy and not in other cases? I assume the law is being made to ensure no one files a blasphemy case in fear of being punished,” he said.

    Senator Rehman Malik said that the law will stop the misuse of blasphemy law as the record shows that most blasphemy cases are registered against Muslims.

    “Levelling false allegations is a big crime in Islam. I believe levelling false allegations of blasphemy is also blasphemy. I also suggest that the bill be discussed in camera due to the sensitivity of the matter,” he said.

    He also suggested that a clause should be added in the law for bringing blasphemers from abroad to Pakistan as most such incidents take place out of the country.

    “Whenever something happens in Pakistan, representatives of other countries demand we hand over the accused to them and they cite their law. But we cannot do the same because our law does not support it,” Mr Malik said.

    Ms Khalid said it is the duty of all Muslims to ensure no one misuses the name of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

    “It has now been seen that in the case of Rimsha Masih, the allegation was made in order to get land vacated,” she said.

    In 2012, a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, who was mentally challenged, was arrested in a case of blasphemy in Islamabad but the allegations proved to be false.

    Retired Justice Mohammad Raza Khan, who was invited to the meeting for his opinion, said there is already a comprehensive blasphemy law in Pakistan and that there is no need for further legislation.

    “I believe the government introduced the law due to the high court order. The committee can reject the bill because parliament is not bound to implement the suggestions of the high court and there is also no need for the duplication of the law,” he said.

    Mr Khan said the government did not want to challenge the high court decision as it did not want to get into any controversy.

    Senator Fida Mohammad also suggested the matter should be discussed in camera due to its sensitivity and the committee chairperson endorsed the suggestion.

    However, Senator Haideri said he will not sit in an in camera meeting. He then walked out, saying he did not want to be part of such a meeting.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    JUI-F's Haideri says his party will oppose any amendment to blasphemy law. — Photo/FileJUI-F's Haideri says his party will oppose any amendment to blasphemy law. — Photo/File

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    UMERKOT: A gathering of members of civil society, representatives of district adminis­tration, bar councils and non-governmental organi­sations concluded on Wednesday that abject poverty, use of drugs, illiteracy, unem­ployment, early marriages, sale of girls into marriage, domestic violence, depression and intolerance were some of the main causes behind increasing trend of suicide in Thar.

    The gathering organised by Umerkot SSP retired Captain Ameer Saud Magsi was informed by the SSP and Rain Network, a conglomerate of 29 NGOs working in the district, that as per media reports 53 persons had committed suicide during 2018 so far while 10 were saved.

    Samaro taluka stood at the top of the list with 53 per cent cases of suicide, followed by Umerkot with 26pc cases, Kunri 20pc cases, and Pithoro 2pc cases. The most alarming thing was that 90pc of suicide victims were members of minority communities.

    All participants in the gathering vowed to play their role to educate people and press the government to minimise the growing suicide trend.

    SSP Magsi said that he would convene similar gatherings at police stations and police posts to understand the root causes of suicide and educate people. Only poverty was not responsible for suicide, there were other factors too because poverty existed in other parts of the world as well, he said.

    He said that discouraging behaviours, injudicious distribution of resources, poor justice system, unawareness and lack of ownership and unattended psychological issues were also to blame for the depressing trend.

    Sardar Bhayo, a representative of Rain Network, blamed depression, harassment, poverty and other factors for the trend and held the state responsible for it.

    Umerkot District Bar Association chairman Poonjo Bheel pointed out that various factors were responsible for the increasing suicide cases. Growing hate and intolerance in society and seemingly inexorable poverty were major reasons behind suicides, he said.

    Kashif Bajeer, provincial manager of Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child, said that due to class system, the rich were becoming richer and the poor poorer but there was no proper planning on the issue on the part of the government.

    Additional Deputy Commissioner Tahir Memon said that suicide was strictly prohibited in Islam and in other religions as well. Taunts of in-laws, parents and society also contributed to the stress of a helpless person and pushed him to suicide, he said.

    He said that growing use of cell phone and social networking sites had also sowed strife among family members and increased harass­ment cases and unwanted love affairs, which also led to suicide. “State is equally responsible for the suicide trend,” he added.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    53 persons have committed suicide during 2018 in Thar. — Photo/File53 persons have committed suicide during 2018 in Thar. — Photo/File

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    ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday decided to launch fresh investigations and inquiries against former ministers Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Anusha Rehman, Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Iftikhar Gilani, former chief minister of Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri for being involved in corrupt practices.

    The decision was taken at a meeting of the NAB’s Executive Board Meeting (EBM) presided over by bureau’s chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

    Khawaja Saad Rafique will face probe for his alleged involvement in corruption in Pakistan Railways (being former minister for railways) and Ashiyana Housing Scheme, Lahore, in which former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had recently been arrested.

    Justice Iqbal says bureau is vigorously pursuing a policy of accountability of all

    The EBM also approved filing of a reference against Gul Hassan Channa, former secretary of Board of Revenue, Sindh; Iftikhar Haider, former managing director of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board; Syed Umer Ahmed, Sarfraz Merchant, Shahid Rasool, Syed Mohammad Mujtaba, Mirza Afzal Baig, Awais Mirza, Jamil and Farid Suriya for allegedly allotting 769 acres of state land illegally to private persons, causing a loss of Rs480.40 million to the exchequer.

    The meeting authorised filing of a reference against Naeem Yahya Mir, former managing director of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO); Dr Syed Nazir Ahmed Zaidi, senior general manager of PSO; Zulfikar Ali Jaffery, Akhtar Zaheer, Sabir Hussain, and Kamran Iftikhar Lari, chief operating officer, Byco Oil Pakistan Limited. They are accused of signing an agreement with Byco Oil Pakistan Limited, causing a loss of Rs23 billion.

    The EBM approved a reference against Abdul Hameed Pathan, administrator of Taluka Gharo Khairo, Jacobabad; TMA engineer Sahahzada Khokhar and others for causing a loss of Rs20bn to the national kitty by misusing authority.

    Another corruption reference was approved against Ahmed Junaid Memon, former chief engineer of Sukkur Barrage left bank region; Saeed Ahmed, former chief engineer of Sukkur Barrage; Amjad Ahmed, former superintendent engineer; Syed Husnain Haider, former executive engineer; Shahzad Ali, assistant executive engineer; and chief executive / director of the Sardar Mohammad Ashraf Baloch and Company. They have been accused of committing corruption in various government schemes, causing a loss of Rs660m.

    The EBM authorised closing corruption reference against former commerce secretary Mohammad Shahzad Arbab, former secretary export policy, Federal Board of Revenue Imran Ahmed Chaudhry, and officials of Customs Collectorate, Peshawar and clearing agents of Fata and returning them to the ministry of commerce.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    (L) Former finance minister Ishaq Dar, (R) former railways minister Saad Rafique.(L) Former finance minister Ishaq Dar, (R) former railways minister Saad Rafique.

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    LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmakers held a demonstration at the gate of the Punjab Assembly on The Mall in protest against the arrest of its president Shahbaz Sharif and demanded his immediate release.

    Wearing black armbands, the PML-N MPAs reached the assembly around 3pm to face barbed wire in front of its main gate, meant to stop them from entering the premises. The charged lawmakers, however, managed to cross the wire and asked the assembly’s security staff to open the gate. On their refusal, the MPAs kept pushing the gate but couldn’t crash it. The MPAs then held a sit-in outside the assembly that lasted over one-and-a-half hour.

    The lawmakers chanted slogans against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government and Prime Minister Imran Khan and in favour of the Sharif family. They chanted ‘Go Imran Go’ and ‘Mian teray jan nisar baishumar (Mian! you have countless diehard followers’ slogans.

    A good number of PML-N women MPAs were also present, but they did not try to cross the barbed wire.

    Some of the PML-N workers also joined the protesting lawmakers. Prominent among them was Muhammad Ayub, who like previous protests appeared in chains.

    When asked why many PML-N MPs were absent as the party had to call some workers, MPA Hina Pervaiz Butt told Dawn that most party MPAs were present. “Since the lawmakers were not allowed to enter the assembly premises some workers might have joined the protest on the road,” she said.

    Ms Hina said she was surprised to see the PTI government panicked by the PML-N protest as it made the assembly a ‘no-go’ area for the lawmakers. She said both the PML-N leaders and workers were charged and they would not let the government continue with its ‘political victimisation.’

    Speaking on the occasion, Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz said the the lock on the assembly gate was actually a lock on the democracy.

    “Land mafia people are sitting with Imran Khan. Senior minister Aleem Khan plundered billions of rupees. If Maryam Nawaz can go to jail along with Nawaz Sharif then investigation should also be carried out against Aleema Khan (Imran’s sister) for her offshore company,” he said, adding Imran Khan’s Lahore press conference had a reflection of ‘Muala Jat’ movie. “We had faced 10-year rule of Musharraf and now will see Niazi sahib’s accountability. We are not afraid of your threats and will do aggressive opposition.”

    In a statement, Senior Minister Aleem Khan lambasted the PML-N for “attacking” the Punjab Assembly.

    “The PML-N should be answerable to the nation for what it had done to the economy. “Hamza will also be exposed for his wrongdoings during the last 10 years,” he said.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    PML-N leaders cross barbed wire in a bid to enter the Punjab Assembly building during a protest against the arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif. — White Star / Aun JafriPML-N leaders cross barbed wire in a bid to enter the Punjab Assembly building during a protest against the arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif. — White Star / Aun Jafri

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    LAHORE: The government is unlikely to entertain the request of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz to remove their names from the Exit Control List, Dawn has learnt.

    Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam had on Oct 3 filed an application with the interior ministry, requesting it to remove their names from the ECL, citing different legal points.

    The ministry has not yet taken any decision in this regard. The government, however, hinted that it had no immediate plan to give the relief to the Sharifs.

    “The interior ministry cannot entertain the request of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on its own as it has no authority. The cabinet had placed their names on the ECL. The interior ministry may refer the matter (their application) to the cabinet, but it is unlikely that it reverses its decision as their (Sharif and Maryam) cases are pending in courts,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn on Wednesday.

    Information minister says matter may be referred to cabinet

    The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had put their names on the ECL on Aug 22 on the request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) following their conviction by an accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference.

    In their application, Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam said their names were placed on the ECL in contravention of various provisions of the Constitution. “The federal government’s order in this respect is unconstitutional and illegal. That Article 4 of the Constitution provides for every individual to enjoy the protection of law, and to be treated in accordance with law is the right of every citizen wherever he may be.”

    The application says the Article 9 provides no person shall be deprived of life or liberty. “That Article 15 provides that every citizen shall have the right to remain in and subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof. This Article provides reasonable restriction on freedom of movement imposed by law but there exists no reasonable grounds whatsoever to restrict the freedom of movement of the undersigned. All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”

    Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam said the grounds to prohibit a person proceeding from Pakistan to a destination outside Pakistan as provided in Rule 2 of the exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010, were not applicable to the undersigned. “We are neither involved in corruption and misuse of power or authority nor involved in any economic crime, act of terrorism or its conspiracy as envisaged by the said rule.”

    They said the accountability court of Islamabad had acquitted them of “false charges of corruption” for which NAB could not provide any proof and even then it had not preferred an appeal against the said judgement before the Islamabad High Court on this point. They said the IHC suspended the judgement on Sept 19 and released them on bail.

    “IHC imposed no restriction on our traveling abroad. No other court of law in Pakistan, including banking court, high court or Supreme Court has forwarded or directed to place their names on ECL.

    “Upon our illegal conviction in absentia by the accountability court we voluntarily traveled from United Kingdom to Pakistan to offer our arrest in order to uphold the rule of law. We will travel abroad with the prior permission of the accountability court where two references against us are pending. The constitutional, legal and factual position obligates the review of the order of the federal government and removal of our names from the ECL immediately,” Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam pleaded.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. ─ File photoNawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The Senate hall on Wednesday resonated with heated arguments between the opposition and treasury members, with the former assailing the government for its decision to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package and the latter defending the move, alleging that they had to “swallow this bitter pill” due to wrong policies of the previous two governments.

    The opposition members, particularly those belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), also lambasted the government for the arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif, terming it an act of “political victimisation”.

    The treasury members responded by claiming that the government had no role in the arrest of the opposition leader in the National Assembly and that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was independently functioning.

    During question hour, the house proceedings were disrupted because of a verbal clash between Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan when the latter insisted that the minister apologise over his allegations that the former had got his brothers and other family members inducted on lucrative posts in the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

    Govt is ‘intentionally spoiling’ the Senate atmosphere to avoid discussion on rupee devaluation, says Raza Rabbani

    Instead of apologising, Fawad Chaudhry repeated his allegations and declared that he would not offer an apology. Even he further alleged that Mushahidullah Khan had acquired medical treatment abroad at government expenses at a cost of 54,000 British Pounds.

    Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked the minister to apologise, but he flatly refused, compelling the chairman to warn that then he could expel him (the minister) from the house.

    The upper house of parliament had witnessed a similar scene last week when the minister had intelligently managed to dodge the chairman’s request for apologising to the PML-N senator.

    “If he (the minister) manages to find six members of my family who are part of PIA, I will resign and if the minister fails, he should resign,” Mr Khan said while denying Mr Chaudhry’s charges.

    The PML-N’s outspoken senator alleged that the government had started victimising his brother who had been asked to immediately return to the country from London where he was stationed at Heathrow airport.

    Realising that the situation could worsen, former Senate chairman and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart Raza Rabbani asked the chairman to use his authority and get the issue resolved.

    Mr Rabbani alleged that it seemed that the government was “intentionally spoiling the environment” in the house as it was running away from discussion on main issues, such as the devaluation of the rupee against the US dollar and the decision to approach the IMF.

    The Senate chairman then requested senior members of the house to settle down the matter and Mr Rabbani was seen dragging Mushahidullah Khan to the lobby and Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi taking Mr Chaudhry outside the house.

    Mr Khan and Mr Chaudhry returned to the house after a few minutes, but no further discussion was held on the issue.

    Later, speaking on matters of public importance, Mr Rabbani lashed out at the government for seeking an IMF bailout package on tougher conditions. He said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had taken another U-turn by deciding to approach the IMF. He recalled that Finance Minister Asad Umar had given an undertaking on the floor of the National Assembly and the Senate that if such a decision was taken it would first be debated in parliament, “but this was not done”.

    Mr Rabbani said that the government had raised gas price by up to 143 per cent and also that of CNG which was now touching Rs100 — higher than petrol rate for the first time in the country’s history — apparently on the “dictates of the IMF”. The international financial institution, he added, had even suggested a further increase in the prices of gas and petrol, and obviously this would be part of the conditionalities attached to the bailout package.

    The PPP senator also warned against privatising public utilities, saying that his party would strongly resist any such move.

    Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar said that both the PPP and the PML-N had sought bailout packages from the IMF for 18 times and now they were making a hue and cry.

    He said the government had started taking “corrective measures” to bring the country out of “debt dependency” and it would take advantage of the “fiscal space” it would get after receiving IMF loan and ensure that in future no government would approach the IMF.

    PML-N senators Mushahidullah Khan and Asif Kirmani took the government to task over what they called humiliation of PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif in the name of accountability.

    They duo alleged that NAB had become a tool in the hands of the PTI government to victimise political opponents. They also condemned Prime Minister Imran Khan for “hurling threats” during his press conference.

    They said similar NAB cases were pending against several persons, including PTI’s Pervez Khattak, Zulfi Bokhari and Jahangir Tareen, but none of them had been arrested.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhry speaking on the Senate floor — FileMinister of Information Fawad Chaudhry speaking on the Senate floor — File

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    ISLAMABAD: The prosecution in the Al-Azizia reference on Wednesday completed the presentation of its evidence and requested the accountability court to record the statement of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the case.

    Last prosecution witness Mehboob Alam — an investigation officer of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — in the said reference was the 22nd witness produced before the accountability court since October last year, following indictment of Mr Sharif in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference.

    However, lead defence counsel of Mr Sharif Khawaja Haris Ahmed said that he would not become part of the proceedings if such a direction was passed as it was earlier decided that court would continue hearing both references simultaneously.

    Accountability court Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik remarked that since he had written a letter to the Supreme Court seeking extension in the deadline to conclude the reference in Al-Azizia and Flagship references, therefore, the strategy would be outlined in accordance with the guidelines of the apex court.

    During cross-examination, Mr Alam admitted that Mr Sharif never claimed that he was the owner of the companies [Azizia & HME] during his addresses and statements recorded before the Supreme Court and JIT. Apart from the investigating the accused, he admitted, no other beneficiaries of the assets were investigated or associated in the investigation. He said he did not investigate about Sharif family’s companies that were operational or closed down.

    In addition, he said, he did not record statement of any person who had knowledge about distribution of shares in the companies owned by Sharif family. Also, he conceded that Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif — who is currently in NAB’s custody in connection with a housing scam — had informed JIT that their father late Mian Sharif used to bear expenses of Hussain, Hassan and Hamza Shahbaz.

    “No witness has said that Hussain and Hasan Nawaz supported Nawaz in establishing Hill Metal Establishment,” Mr Alam said, adding that no witness had said anything regarding when the Al-Azizia steel mill was established, or regarding its sponsor funding. He said nobody from the Chaudhry Sugar mills, Hudaibya mills and various other companies in question — who have knowledge on the matter — were included in the investigation.

    The court adjourned further proceeding till Thursday (today).

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    Ousted premier Nawaz Sharif speaks to the press outside the accountability court. ─ File photoOusted premier Nawaz Sharif speaks to the press outside the accountability court. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaud­hry on Wednesday warned bureaucrats to either work for implementation of policies and agenda of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government or be ready to go home.

    “It is not the job of bureaucrats to formulate policies. The bureaucrats who will not work for the implementation of our programme, will go home,” declared the information minister while talking to reporters outside the Parliament House.

    “The prime minister has given a clear message to the bureaucracy. We are to implement what we have promised to the people. Those having differences (with our policies), can get themselves separated from the government,” the minister said, justifying the government’s decision to remove Punjab Inspector General Muhammad Tahir.

    He criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for suspending the government’s notification regarding removal of the Punjab IGP and termed the ECP’s stay order “illegal”.

    Mr Chaudhry said the PTI enjoyed people’s mandate and since there was a parliamentary system in the country, the bureaucrats were bound to respect the elected representatives.

    He said the bureaucrats had over the years developed some personal affiliations and “those bureaucrats who consider our policies wrong, should go home”.

    The information minister said the government had removed the Punjab IGP after he failed to show progress on the directives of the prime minister in connection with the probe into the Model Town killings case.

    He said that after his telephonic conversation with Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, Prime Minister Imran Khan had issued certain directives to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, but there had been no progress despite a passage of 10 days.

    He said the IGP had been changed because he had not removed those police officials from key positions who were allegedly involved in the 2014 Model Town tragedy.

    The minister said that the prime minister had promised a fresh inquiry into the incident as the previous probe had been carried out by then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.

    He criticised the opposition for what he called using Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for political gains.

    “Whether you call it victimisation or cruelty, the process of accountability will continue,” he said, adding that cases against Shahbaz Sharif had not been initiated by the PTI government, but it would take these cases to their logical conclusion.

    Mr Chaudhry suggested formation of a parliamentary committee to find out causes of the present economic mess in the country and to fix the responsibility.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. ─ APP/FileInformation Minister Fawad Chaudhry. ─ APP/File

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    PESHAWAR: Experts at a national conference here on Wednesday called for agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the apportionment of the Kabul River water and warned that construction of reservoirs on the river would disturb its entire ecology.

    Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar organised the daylong national conference titled “Sustainable usage of the Kabul River: Challenges and opportunities for Pak-Afghan cooperation”.

    Peshawar-based Afghan Counsul General Prof Moeen Marastial, UoP Vice-chancellor Dr Mohammad Asif, experts and academicians attended the conference and read out their papers.

    Experts say construction of dams to disturb ecology of river

    In his opening remarks, Dr Asif said that Afghan government with the financial and technical support of India had planned construction of 12 reservoirs on the Kabul River that would generate 2400 megawatts electricity.

    He said that construction of dams on the river would drastically affect agriculture sector in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the water flow in three main tributaries of the river had already been declined by more than 50 per cent.

    He stressed the need for having a bilateral water treaty between Islamabad and Kabul for the reasonable and equitable use of the Kabul River water.

    Prof Moeen Marastial supported the idea of bilateral water treaty for having close collaboration on the usage of shared water. He said that international and regional water laws could guide the two countries in reaching to an agreement on the issue.

    He said that his government was ready for negotiation with Pakistan on water issues within the framework of international conventions including Helsinki Convention.

    Prof Moeen said that Afghanistan had an agreement with the Central Asian Republics over the distribution of water of the Amu River. He said that his government had also offered Iran to sign an agreement on the River Helmand.

    He also emphasised improvement of trade relations between the two countries as the bilateral trade had declined recently. He said that exchange of scholars and faculty between the Area Study Centre and various universities of Afghanistan needed.

    The experts said that the Kabul River played key role in irrigating lands in Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera and adjoining areas. They said that the river was mainly fed by the Chitral River, which was known as the Kunar River in Afghanistan.

    “Differences over use of shared water of the Kabul River could be an additional irritant in future due to the lack of bilateral water agreement between the two neighbours,” they said.

    Former vice-chancellor Dr Azmat Hayat said that water resources originated from Afghanistan were very important for agriculture in Peshawar valley, which was considered food basket for the region. He said that unequal distribution of water could trigger linguistic and geographical disputes.

    Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

    Afghan counsul general Prof Mohammad Moeen Marastial  addresses a conference on sustainable use of Kabul River water at Peshawar University on Wednesday. — White StarAfghan counsul general Prof Mohammad Moeen Marastial addresses a conference on sustainable use of Kabul River water at Peshawar University on Wednesday. — White Star

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    The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday rejected former senator Faisal Raza Abidi's request to drop two cases against him for alleged defamation of judges and the Supreme Court (SC).

    Three cases have been registered against Abidi for allegedly defaming the judiciary and using threatening language. On Oct 2, he received interim bail in two cases filed in Sept ─ which was set to expire today ─ and had requested on Oct 8 that the cases be dismissed.

    Earlier this week, a third case was filed against him and he was taken into custody by police outside the Supreme Court, where he had attended the hearing of a suo motu case initiated against him for anti-judiciary remarks made by him in an interview that was aired on Channel 5.

    Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani today heard Abidi's lawyer's request to dismiss the cases against him, with the court observing that the matter had "turned into a joke".

    "Whoever pleases comes and slings mud at the judiciary," the court noted, adding that the chief justice had also been publicly threatened.

    During the hearing, the court asked Abidi's lawyer, Sheikh Zaheer Hussain Shah, which TV channel the remarks were aired on, to which the lawyer responded saying that it was a channel called Naya Pakistan.

    Shah argued that it was unconstitutional to have three FIRs registered against his client, to which Justice Kiyani responded that Abidi would be punished in one case, not three.

    The court asked if Abidi had insulted the court to which his lawyer replied that the former Senator had not committed contempt of court, but had used "harsh words".

    The court responded saying that the threatening attitude towards the judiciary was inappropriate.

    In a separate hearing, an anti-terrorism court on Thursday cancelled the interim bail Abidi was granted in the earlier case registered against him at the Secretariat police station.

    Abidi, who had earlier received interim bail, was produced in an anti-terrorism court (ATC) today. Judge Shahrukh Arjumand, after being informed that Abidi was already in police custody, cancelled his interim bail.

    Subsequently, ATC Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi handed Abidi over to police on two-day physical remand.

    Cases against Abidi

    On Sept 19, two cases were registered against Abidi, one at the Secretariat police and one with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for allegedly defaming judges and the Supreme Court.

    The Secretariat police had booked him under section 7 of the ATA along with the PPC’s sections 228, 500, 505(ii), 506 (Criminal Intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) in response to a complaint lodged by SC public relations officer Shahid Hussain Kambyo on Sept 19.

    The FIA booked him under section 10(a), 11 and 20 of the prevention of Pakistan Electronic Crime Act 2016 read with PPC’s sections 109 and 509.

    Abidi had appeared in the IHC on Oct 1 and obtained protective bail for a day and was asked to appear before an ATC for bail.

    The ATC granted him interim bail on Oct 2, which was expected to expire today.

    A third case was also registered against the former senator on Oct 9 for defaming judges and the apex court and was booked under section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

    He was also booked under sections 500 (punishment for defamation), 501(printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505(ii) (statements conducive to public mischief), 228 (intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceedings), 121 (waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging war against Pakistan) and 109 (punishment of abetment if act abetted in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

    Sources said the new case was registered in response to a complaint lodged by ASI Shoukat Mehmood Abbasi, stationed at the same station.

    The FIR says the ASI watched a video on social media in which a female anchorperson was interviewing Abidi and in which he is alleged to have defamed judges and SC.

    The police claim the FIR was registered on Oct 9, a day before the former senator was arrested. However, it seems it was registered on Oct 10, the same day as the arrest and was backdated.

    The registration of the case against the former senator is not mentioned in the crime diary issued by the police on Wednesday. A crime diary mentions brief information of the FIRs registered by the police the previous day.

    Police spokesperson Mohammad Naseem confirmed that the crime diary issued was the complete one for Oct 9 and said the FIR against Abidi was registered late, at 10:35 pm which is why it did not make it to the crime diary.

    The capital police have registered two separate FIRs at the same police station for the same crime.

    During a preliminary interrogation, the senator is reported to have said that the cases referred to the same interview. However, Superintendent of Police City Zone Amir Niazi and Deputy Superintendent of Police Azhar Shah when contacted claimed they were different interviews which is why two cases were registered.

    When asked, the DSP Legal said two cases cannot be registered for a single crime.

    A police officer said there were two parts to the interview which is why two separate cases were registered.

    A programme titled Subah Subah Naya Pakistan was aired by web channel Naya Pakistan on July 2, which was hosted by anchorperson Shanza Sheikh Rahman.

    The guest speaker on the show was Faisal Raza Abidi.

    During the course of his appearance on the show, the accused, with criminal intent and ulterior motives and without any lawful justification used sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory language against the chief justice etc. which the FIR filed with the FIA said was tantamount to creating a sense of fear, panic and insecurity among the government, general public and society.

    Faisal Raza Abidi arriving at the ATC court in handcuffs. — Photo courtesy authorFaisal Raza Abidi arriving at the ATC court in handcuffs. — Photo courtesy author

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    The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday started the process of issuing passcodes to overseas voters who have been registered through i-voting for the October 14 by-polls, DawnNewsTV reported.

    According to an official, who requested anonymity, the passcodes are being sent through email and the process will take two to three hours. With assistance from the National Database and Registration Authority, the ECP will send 7,364 registered overseas voters passcodes that would enable them to log in and cast their votes in the by-polls on Sunday.

    The passcodes will be valid from 8am to 5pm Pakistan Standard Time, the official said.

    Though a total of 7,419 people had registered as eligible voters on the i-voting website, 55 people will not be able to vote since by-polls in two constituencies, PP-294 and PP-87, have been cancelled after an unopposed election.

    The ECP had launched the Overseas Voting System on Sept 1 for by-elections in 37 constituencies for both national and provincial assembly seats.

    Out of 790,000 Pakistanis living abroad, of which 631,909 were eligible for i-voting, only 7,419 people registered to vote out of 11,000 accounts created on the website. The remaining 3,581 accounts could not be registered as they failed to complete the two-step process. The registration period lasted for 17 days.

    Voting procedure for overseas Pakistanis

    On polling day, the registered voters will log into the website using their credentials and enter the 'voter pass' [passcode] emailed to them by the ECP. This will direct the voter to their registered national and provincial assembly constituencies to enable them to cast the vote.

    A designated list of candidates of the selected constituency will be displayed by the system and the voter shall select the election symbol of their candidate to cast their vote. Upon successful submission of the vote, a “confirmation” message will be displayed on the screen.

    Pass codes to 7,364 overseas voters are being sent through email. — Photo/FilePass codes to 7,364 overseas voters are being sent through email. — Photo/File

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    An Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) on Thursday gave the police a "last extension" on the deadline to provide its final report on the arrests of absconders in a case pertaining to the extra-judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi.

    Former Malir Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Malir Rao and three other suspects were booked for planting false evidence — pistols and hand grenades — on Mehsud and three others after they were killed in a shootout, and later registering a false case against the deceased under the Sindh Arms Act for illegal possession of arms and explosives.

    "We are conducting raids in efforts to arrest the absconders and will succeed soon," the Investigation Officer told the court today.

    Anwar, who was present in court for the hearing, refuted reports about being moved from his Malir Cantt residence while speaking to the media outside court.

    He added that he was unaware about any National Accountability Bureau inquiry into his assets.

    The court adjourned the hearing till October 31.

    15 police officials still absconding

    As many as 11 police officials had already been arrested in the case before Anwar was taken into custody following his 'surrender' before the SC in Islamabad on March 21. Around 15 accused police officers have been declared as absconders in the case.

    According to the IO’s report submitted earlier in the ATC, policemen in plainclothes had picked Naqeebullah Mehsud, along with two other persons, and took them to the Sachal police post where the two others were separated from Mehsud.

    When one of the witnesses asked the policemen about their abduction, a policeman replied that they were being taken to see Rao Anwar and then they (captives) would "make their way to heaven".

    The two witnesses — who were eventually released by the police — told investigators that they were later taken to an unknown location where they also saw Mehsud. When one of them spoke to Mehsud, the latter said that police were demanding Rs1 million against his release, but he could not arrange even Rs50,000.

    The report further stated that the witnesses, after being released, came to know through the media that Rao Anwar and his associates had allegedly killed Mehsud and three others in a staged encounter in the Shah Latif Town area on Jan 13 and dubbed them as militants.

    Mehsud's father lodged a case on Jan 23 against Rao Anwar and others on the basis of the findings of a three-member inquiry committee, which had said that, prima facie, the encounter was coordinated, fake and staged. Police investigators claimed that Anwar played a central role in the case.

    Naqeebullah Mehsud — FileNaqeebullah Mehsud — File

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    Prime Minister Imran Khan while chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet instructed the Finance Ministry to conduct an analysis of how Pakistan's debt increased from Rs6,000 billion to Rs30,000bn in the span of 10 years, Radio Pakistan reported on Thursday.

    "We need to know where that money went and what projects it was used in. Our government has just come in and we have been forced to take loans to pay off the loans that they [the previous governments] took. At least we should know where those loans went," the prime minister said.

    "This analysis is also important as our government, which sees that the country is already in debt, will have to think twice about taking more loans. We will at least have to see that the loans that we take create more wealth so that they can be returned," he added.

    PM Khan directed the Finance Ministry to present its detailed analysis on the matter in another cabinet meeting.

    According to Radio Pakistan, the federal cabinet is expected to take important decisions including the appointment of heads of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and the Privatisation Commission.

    Referring to the launch of his ambitious Naya Pakistan Housing Program, the prime minister said that the entire administrative structure for the project would be completed on priority basis.

    He said that not only would the project generate economic activity, but also add new entrepreneurs, increase the number of skilled workers and create employment in the country.

    While announcing the launch of the housing project on Wednesday, that the scheme will bring long-due prosperity in the country, he said, adding that at least 40 other industries connecting with housing will also be set in motion as soon as construction is started for the project in urban as well as rural areas.

    The construction for the scheme will be carried out by the private sector, while the government will facilitate it by removing hurdles and providing the land for the construction.

    Prime Minister Imran Khan — DawnNewsTVPrime Minister Imran Khan — DawnNewsTV

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    The Islamabad High Court on Thursday turned down petitions filed by senior PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique seeking protective bail and legal protection against alleged harassment by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

    A two-judge bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had taken up the petitions in which the two brothers expressed apprehensions about their arrest at the hands of NAB.

    Saad and Salman had appeared in the court for the hearing, but left before the verdict on the petitions was announced.

    The counsel for Saad informed the bench that the former minister had been served call-up notices regarding inquiries into different cases. He requested the court to grant a 15-day protective bail to his client, citing the by-polls scheduled for October 14 in Saad's constituency.

    But the bench questioned why the PML-N leader had not approached the Lahore High Court, which was the appropriate forum for him (Saad), to seek protective bail.

    "We are not responsible for the [by-] elections," Justice Farooq told the counsel, observing that Saad had addressed a press conference in Lahore on Wednesday before he reached Islamabad.

    The lawyer argued that they found out about NAB's latest call-up notice after reaching Islamabad from Lahore.

    At this, the justices reminded the counsel that the LHC's Rawalpindi bench was only 45 minutes away from the IHC.

    But the lawyer expressed the fear that his client will be arrested if returns to Lahore at the moment. "We have reached here after a lot of difficulty," he added.

    He suggested that the ex-minister will approach LHC once he has been granted protective bail by the IHC.

    "Do you have to go there on foot or a bicycle that you are asking for so many days [in pre-arrest bail]?" the bench asked, before rejecting the petitions filed by the two brothers.

    The petitions

    In the petitions filed through their counsel Amjad Pervaiz and Kamran Murtaza, Saad and Salman had named the NAB chairman and Lahore director general as respondents.

    Citing the recent arrest of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, the ex-railways minister said the NAB chairman and officials subordinate to him were acting like an agent of the present regime. “The bureau is abusing the process of law for political victimisation,” said Salman.

    Saad said he had been scrutinised by NAB several times. His petition read: “In the post-coup 1999 era, an inquiry was authorised against him [Saad Rafique] under NAB Ordinance 1999, during which his entire career was probed into at length. Yet, NAB could not find any wrongdoing against him.”

    Notwithstanding immense pressure by the then military dictator, the petition added, the inquiry was closed and the inconvenience caused was regretted by NAB after probing the matter for three years.

    Before the July 25, 2018 polls, it stated, the petitioner was served with call-up notice on March 20, 2018, on the subject of an inquiry against management/evelopers of Para­gon City Private Limited, and others. In compliance, the petition added, the requisite information and documents were submitted along with a written reply on March 28.

    The counsel said that Saad also appeared in person before a combined investigation team on the same date and extended full cooperation and divulged whatever information was within his knowledge. The petition said that the categorical stand of the petitioner was that he had neither been director nor a shareholder of Paragon City Private Limited or ever had any say in its affairs.

    Under the garb of the inquiry, the petition added, Saad was interrogated regarding business income in the name of M/s Saadain Associate which he had been duly declaring in his income tax returns/wealth statement regularly.

    It revealed that the petitioner was again served with a call-up notice on June 25 on the subject of an inquiry against officials/management of the Punjab Land Development Company, although he had never had any concern with the said matter.

    The petitions requested the court to direct the NAB chairman to intimate them about cases pending inquiry or investigation and grant them two weeks time in case of issuance of warrants of arrest to enable them to approach the court of competent jurisdiction for bail in accordance with law.

    Former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. — FileFormer railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. — File

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    Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday assailed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for changing the placement of private news channels, including DawnNewsTV and Geo News.

    "TV channels that are not following a certain agenda will face restrictions?" he asked the Pemra director general. "Do you only want to watch channels that you like?"

    The court was hearing a suo motu case regarding the 2017 Faizabad sit-in that disrupted life in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for nearly 20 days. During the last hearing of the case, Justice Isa had inquired if the news of restrictions being placed on TV channels was true. He was told by the Pemra representative that the body had changed the placement of a few news channels, moving them down the list.

    During today's hearing, the bench ordered Pemra to submit a detailed response regarding restrictions placed on news channels. It also inquired as to why its previous orders regarding ensuring the people's right to information had not been implemented.

    On complaints by representatives of Geo News and DawnNewsTV regarding restrictions on their channels and publications in some areas, the court had in April directed the deputy attorney general to ensure "that fundamental rights of the people including the right of information (Article 19-A of the Constitution) [are] strictly enforced and all newspapers and media channels are freely made available to the citizens of Pakistan".

    Separately, the bench issued a notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), demanding a response regarding the registration of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) — that staged the Faizabad sit-in — as a political party.

    The ECP was also ordered to submit TLP's request for registration in the next hearing.

    The case was adjourned until the second week of November.

    SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa. — Photo/FileSC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa. — Photo/File

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    Birds were released over fairways and ceremonial drives were struck as international golf returned to Pakistan on Thursday after an 11-year absence.

    A full field of 132 players from around the globe were teeing up in the Asian Tour's UMA CNS Open Championship at the Karachi Golf Club, the latest thawing of relations with the militancy-hit country that has spent years in the sporting wilderness.

    “Coming back to Pakistan is a fantastic opportunity for us,” Robert Andrew, event director of the Asian Tour told AFP, brushing off any security concerns.

    “This is the starting point for future years after the success of this event.”

    No major golf tour has visited Pakistan since 2007. The last scheduled tournament, in 2008, was cancelled after a wave of insurgent attacks.

    “It is always good to be here as people are very lovely and friendly,” said Australian golfer Marcus Both. “I came here 10 years ago. The perception is bad but in reality it is very different.”

    The 2009 attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team's bus in Lahore, in which eight people were killed, caused all sporting visits to be suspended.

    But successful military operations in the country's northwest near the Afghan border and crackdowns in urban centres, including the port city of Karachi, have improved the situation.

    The country has twice hosted the Pakistan Super League cricket finals featuring international stars plus successful limited-over series against Zimbabwe, a World XI and Sri Lanka in the past 18 months.

    They cleared the way for more sports with squash, tennis and now golf having returned.

    Walls come down

    Former Asian Tour winner and Indian national Digvijay Singh said arriving in Pakistan felt like home, suggesting sport could pave the road for better relations between Islamabad and Delhi.

    “I am really feeling home here and we are so overwhelmingly welcomed here. We are seeing the same faces not different to us,” Singh told reporters.

    “Sports should bring the invisible walls down between the two countries,” he added.

    India-Pakistan ties, including sports and cultural contacts, plummeted after deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani militants.

    While cricket remains the undisputed number one sport in Pakistan, golf is popular with the country's powerful army, with military areas where the top brass reside frequently home to some of Pakistan's best courses.

    Pakistan's Navy are hosting this week's Asian Tour event, which has a $300,000 prize fund.

    “There is a very overwhelming response by foreign players and that surprised us,” said Naval Commodore Mushtaq Ahmed.

    Pakistan hosted its first Asian Tour event in 1989, which was won by Filipino Frankie Minoza.

    The country's only Asian Tour winner remains Taimur Hussain who triumphed at an event in Myanmar in 1998.

    Cho Minn Thant, the chief operating officer of Asian Tour Golf teed off opening shot of the tournament at the Karachi Golf Club. — AFPCho Minn Thant, the chief operating officer of Asian Tour Golf teed off opening shot of the tournament at the Karachi Golf Club. — AFP

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    Pakistan is against an arms race in the region, Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said while commenting on the recent India-Russia air defence system deal.

    The remark was made during the weekly FO briefing in Islamabad.

    Dr Faisal said that countries providing India any weapons should make sure their assistance does not disturb the balance of power in the region. He also stated that Pakistan’s armed forces are nonetheless fully ready to respond to any aggression.

    While speaking of India, Dr Faisal mentioned that Pakistan had not made any efforts to schedule talks with India on the sidelines of the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in view of the UN General Assembly incident.

    “Pakistan has not shied away from talks with India and is open to discuss all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and terrorism,” Dr Faisal said, noting that it was India that had backed off from talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly sessions after initially agreeing to them.

    According to Radio Pakistan, while speaking of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Dr Faisal said that both Pakistan and China are open to third party investment in some of the projects — including the special economic zones.

    He also clarified that, contrary to reports, no CPEC projects were being "reviewed" and that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement on the matter had been taken out of context [when reported by some sections of the media].

    The FO spokesperson said that engagement with the United States has increased ever the since the new government took office.

    Presenting an example of the increased engagement, the FO spokesperson said that during US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s recent visit, Pakistan had made it clear that it would take all possible steps to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan as peace across the border means peace within Pakistan.

    Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal — Photo Courtesy: Radio PakistanForeign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal — Photo Courtesy: Radio Pakistan

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    National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Spokesperson Faiq Ali on Thursday claimed that around 200,000 people from 174 countries had simultaneously accessed its website as soon as the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme was launched on Nadra's website.

    The spokesperson also claimed that 62,000 registration forms for the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme were downloaded in the first hour alone. Ali said that the site had been "temporarily affected" due to the increase in traffic, but it was now functioning as normal.

    Affordable housing

    Prime Minister Imran Khan had launched the affordable housing programme in a ceremony on Wednesday, announcing that five million affordable houses would be constructed over a period of five years for low-income segments of society.

    He had disclosed that a 60-day pilot project would commence from today in coordination with Nadra in seven districts to assess the demand and payment capacity for affordable houses.

    PM Khan had said that the housing programme would bring long-due prosperity to the country, adding that at least 40 other industries connecting to the housing industry would be set in motion as soon as construction for the project started in urban as well as rural areas.

    "The target of this [plan] is the common man, who could not even think about owning a house," he had said.

    Khan said that while citizens of many other countries build their houses on loans, only 0.25 per cent of Pakistani citizens took loans for the purpose due to a lack of legal structure.

    The government's housing policy would seek to eliminate these hurdles, he said.

    The construction for the scheme will be carried out by the private sector, while the government will facilitate it by removing hurdles and providing the land for the construction.

    In this regard, the prime minister also announced the formation of the 'Naya Pakistan Housing Authority' which will provide one-window operations to facilitate the construction industry. The authority will be set up in three months, while a 17-member task force will oversee the housing project until then.

    Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the launch ceremony of ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Programme’ on Wednesday. —File/APPPrime Minister Imran Khan addressing the launch ceremony of ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Programme’ on Wednesday. —File/APP

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