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    Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif, while addressing a session of the National Assembly today, asked who had asked for an NRO.

    The PML-N president asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to elaborate on the name of the person who had asked for an NRO, and when such an incident had occurred.

    Shahbaz added that if the premier could prove he had asked for an NRO, he would quit politics forever.

    "I am a servant of Pakistan, I won't take any u-turn," Shahbaz said.

    The PML-N president also took aim at the government's decision to increase gas and electricity prices.

    He alleged that the government had come to power through a rigged election and had lost credibility in the eyes of the public in a very short time.

    The Leader of the Opposition referred to PM Khan as an "absconder", and criticised him for not coming to the House.

    Shahbaz pointed out that although PM Khan had claimed he would come to the NA to respond to statements like the British premier, he had not stuck to his word.

    He said that there was an "unholy alliance" between the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

    The PML-N leader added that PM Khan had previously also been accused by NAB and inquired in what capacity the body's chairman had met the premier.

    He asked if the NAB chairman had met PM Khan in the capacity of a suspect or as the Leader of the House, and said that if it was as a suspect then he should also meet Shahbaz in jail.

    The PML-N leader criticised NAB for issuing a fresh list of those who were facing investigations.

    Shahbaz added that he wasn't afraid of jails, as he and his family had faced such situations in the past as well.

    Addressing the NA for the first time, PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari said that he was addressing the house as a member after 20 or 25 years.

    He said that they [PPP] had accepted the government of Nawaz Sharif begrudgingly and now begrudgingly had also accepted the PTI government.

    Zardari addresses National Assembly for the first time

    Zardari added that questions about fairness of elections also arise in the United States and the United Kingdom, but the solution lies in democracy alone.

    "We should all sit together and prepare a long-term plan for the next 20 to 25 years to bring the country out of the present crisis."

    He added that in the way that they [PPP] had been ready to work with Nawaz Sharif's government, they were also ready to support this government.


    Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif at the NA session. — DawnNewsTVLeader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif at the NA session. — DawnNewsTV

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    Prime Minister Imran Khan and Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met in Islamabad on Wednesday to discuss issues of mutual interest, Radio Pakistan reported.

    This was Zarif's second visit to Pakistan in two months.

    According to Radio Pakistan, among the host of issues discussed, the two leaders also deliberated on the recovery of 12 Iranian border security guards kidnapped by militants a fortnight ago from a post in Iran's Mirjaveh region close to the Balochistan border.

    Jaish al-Adl, a terrorist group operating in the region, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Iranian leaders believe that the kidnappers transferred the guards to Pakistan after taking them hostage.

    Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had welcomed his Irani counterpart to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    According to a tweet shared by the Government of Pakistan, the two discussed "issues of mutual interest, including ways to enhance cooperation".


    Prime Minister Khan meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. — Photo courtesy of Government of Pakistan TwitterPrime Minister Khan meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. — Photo courtesy of Government of Pakistan Twitter

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    Absorbing the substantial impact of increase in prices of petroleum products proposed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), the government on Wednesday decided to partially pass on the burden to consumers and increased the price of petrol by Rs5 per litre for the month of November.

    The price of high speed diesel (HSD), meanwhile, has been raised by Rs6.37 per litre.

    Based on the international prices, Ogra had worked out an increase of Rs9.02 per litre in the price of MS (petrol) and for HSD it recommended an increase of Rs13.22 per litre.

    For kerosene oil (SKO) the recommended increase was Rs6.47 per litre but the government allowed an increase of Rs3.

    As for light diesel oil (LDO), the recommended increase of Rs6.48 has been approved as the tax/levy on this product is already quite negligible.

    According to a statement issued by the ministry of finance, the government partially passed on the increase to consumers to minimise the burden on the public at large.

    The new price of petrol will now be Rs97.83 while that of HSD will be Rs112.94 per litre. Similarly, the new price of kerosene oil will be Rs86.5 per litre and that of light diesel oil will be Rs82.44 per litre, to take effect from November 1.


    The government partially passed on the increase to the consumers to minimise the burden on the public at large. —FileThe government partially passed on the increase to the consumers to minimise the burden on the public at large. —File

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    A teenage boy lost his life in Leepa valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling on Wednesday, a day after less intense firing by them in Neelum Valley, officials said.

    Eighteen-year-old Haroon fell victim to the Indian shelling in Bijildhar village of Leepa Valley, located nearly 100 kilometres southeast of Muzaffarabad.

    Imran Shaheen, the deputy commissioner of Hattian Bala, of which Leepa Valley is an administrative unit, told Dawn that the shelling began at about 4pm and was continued into the evening.

    “Due to darkness and poor telecommunication links with the mountainous area we are unable to immediately ascertain complete information of losses,” he said.

    “Once the shelling stops or at least subsides, we may receive exact detail of losses,” he added.

    Shaukat Javed Mir, a PPP leader belonging to Leepa Valley, told Dawn that the shelling was intense and caused panic in the area.

    “Those who have bunkers or trenches within or alongside their houses have taken shelter there due to which we are unable to establish contact with anyone there,” he said.

    According to Mir, there had also been shelling for more than an hour in the morning, “but from post to post” on opposite sides.

    Since a similar exchange of fire between the rival troops had also taken place on the night of October 26, the civilian population was caught off guard when Indian troops started pounding the area with mortar shells in the afternoon, he said.

    The last civilian casualty in Leepa Valley was reported on February 21, when a teenaged boy was critically injured in Indian shelling.

    Violence returns to Neelum Valley

    Wednesday’s shelling took place a day after the northeastern Neelum Valley received two mortar shells and small arms fire from across the LoC, after a considerable gap of almost 15 months.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Indian troops had first fired a smoke bomb followed by two mortar shells in district headquarters Athmuqam, triggering a wave of panic among residents who had not heard the noise of guns after July 16, 2017, when a Pakistan Army vehicle was targeted by Indian troops, resulting in the martyrdom of four soldiers.

    According to local police, Indian troops had also resorted to small arms fire in Rawta and Shingaan villages of Neelum Valley on Tuesday, but there were no casualties.

    The 200km long Neelum Valley — a famous and frequently visited tourist destination — had long faced the brunt of heavy cross-border shelling until a ceasefire agreement in November 2003 brought much sought-after relief to its inhabitants.

    Ever since, while the truce agreement saw numerous violations elsewhere, Neelum Valley had remained an exception.

    However, the situation changed late in 2016, when initially a famous resthouse near Athmuqam was shelled by Indian troops on October 29 followed by shelling on a passenger coach on November 23 that left more than 10 people dead and several others wounded.

    But with the exception of these three incidents, the LoC in Neelum Valley remained largely calm, paving the way for an influx of thousands of tourists from across the country to enjoy its natural beauty all year round.


    An Indian army soldier takes up position near the Line of Control. —AFP/FileAn Indian army soldier takes up position near the Line of Control. —AFP/File

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    LAHORE: The Punjab government on Wednesday withdrew the posting orders of some senior police officers two days after their appointments against key slots across the province after realising these were made in violation of rules.

    Those whose postings were withdrawn included BS-20 police officer Zulfiqar Hameed who had been appointed Lahore capital city police officer (CCPO) vice BS-21 officer B A Nasir and BS-20 officer Sohail Habib Tajik posted as Bahawalpur regional police officer (RPO) vice Faisal Rana.

    The postings of these officers against field assignments had reportedly been made in violation of rules and regulations and caused embarrassment for Chief Minister Usman Buzdar as well as Punjab police Inspector General Amjad Javed Saleemi, an official told Dawn.

    He said Mr Hameed was attending the National Management Course (NMC) which was mandatory for promotion from BS-20 to BS-21 when he was posted as Lahore CCPO.

    The Establishment Division, Islamabad, rules have categorically say that the officers nominated for the NMC must be relieved from their present postings.

    “The subject course is mandatory for promotion, therefore, controlling ministries/divisions/departments will have to relieve the nominated officer”, reads the Establishment Division order.

    Similarly, Mr Tajik’s posting as Bahawalpur RPO was also made in a hurry, as his name was included in the list of those Pakistanis who reportedly owned “undeclared foreign properties”.

    Interestingly, both the officers had assumed their charge, held meetings at their new offices while their outgoing colleagues had also joined their next assignments.

    In this backdrop, the government called a meeting, reviewed the matter and finally withheld the posting orders.

    A notification issued by the Punjab Services & General Administration in this regard reads, “The department’s notification related to transfer/posting of Mr Zulfiqar Hameed as CCPO Lahore (in his own pay and scale) is hereby held in abeyance till the completion of his National Management Course on Dec 12, 2018 and Mr B A Nasir (BS-21) is allowed to continue as CCPO Lahore”.

    According to another notification, the Punjab government transferred VVIP Security Special Branch DIG Imran Mahmood and posted him as Bahawalpur RPO.

    The official said that Mr Mahmood enjoyed various key positions during the PPP government’s last tenure as he was said to be in good books of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. However, during the PML-N government, he was not considered for any filed assignment, spending most part of his service in Special Branch, Punjab.

    Mr Tajik has been given new assignment as he was transferred and posted as VVIP Security DIG in Special Branch. A separate notification was also issued in this respect on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, in the second round, the Punjab IG made massively reshuffled BS-18 and BS-19 officers, transferring and posting 28 superintendents of police (SPs) across the province.

    The appointment of BS-19 police officer Syed Ali Mohsin as Gujrat district police officer (DPO) against an existing vacancy also raised many eye-brows.

    The official said that Mr Mohsin came under discussion during the last meeting of Chief Minister Buzdar with the IG, the chief secretary, home secretary and principal secretary to the CM wherein reshuffle of DPOs was finalised. During the meeting, the official said, Mr Mohsin’s name was proposed for Gujrat DPO slot for being close to the Chaudhrys of PML-Q.

    However, Mr Saleemi had requested the chief minister to defer the case till later phase of transfers because of “some unavoidable issues” linked to the officer. According to the official, the CM agreed to the IG’s suggestion and his name was dropped for the slot. To utter surprise of many, he said, the officer was posted as Gujrat DPO late on Tuesday, raising some questions in this respect.

    Other than these, Lahore Saddar Division SP Muaaz Zafar was transferred and posted as city division SP in the provincial capital. Rawalpindi Sadar SP Ali Raza has been transferred and posted vice Mr Muaaz. Imran Yaqooq, who was awaiting posting, has been transferred and posted as Gujranwala Investigation SSP, Central Police Office AIG (Inquiries) Waqas Hassan has been transferred and posted as Procurement AIG.

    Similarly, Faisal Shahzad, who was awaiting posting, has been transferred and posted as Lahore Security SP vice Mohammad Naveed.

    Lahore CRO SP Mustansar Feroze has been transferred and posted as Lahore Operations SSP vice Asad Sarfraz Khan, who has been posted as AIG (Admin/Security) at the CPO against an existing vacancy.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    "The violation of rules causes embarrassment for Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Punjab IGP Amjad Javed Saleemi."— File

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    KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of a case pertaining to the killing of aspiring model Naqeebullah Mehsud and three others in a ‘staged’ encounter till a decision by the Sindh High Court on the complainant’s application for transfer of the case to any other ATC.

    The then SSP of Malir, Rao Anwar, then DSP Qamar Ahmed Shaikh with their 10 detained and 14 absconding subordinates have been booked in the cases of allegedly killing four men in a fake shoot-out in Shah Latif Town on Jan 13 and foisting fake recoveries of illicit arms and explosives on the victims.

    On Wednesday, the case was fixed for hearing before the ATC-II judge.

    Former SSP Anwar, the main suspect in the murder case, appeared before the court on bail while around 10 detained policemen — ex-DSP Qamar Ahmed, ASI Allahyar, head constables Mohammad Iqbal, Khizar Hayat, constable Arshad Ali, sub-inspector Mohammad Yasin, constables Ghulam Nazik, Ali, Shafiq Ahmed and Shakil Feroze — were also produced from the prison.

    The investigation officer, SSP for investigation Dr Rizwan Ahmed, submitted his report regarding the execution of the non-bailable warrants of the 12 absconding suspects, including ex-SHO Amanullah Marwat, ex-SHO Shoaib Shaikh, alias Shoaib Shooter, ex-ASI Anar Khan, ex-ASI Gada Hussain, ex-HC Mohsin Abbas, ex-HC Sadaqat Hussain Shah, ex-HC Faisal, ex-PC Raja Shamim Mukhtar and ex-PC Rana Riaz.

    The IO mentioned that efforts were under way to execute the non-bailable warrants issued by the court for the arrest of the fleeing policemen, but all of them had gone into hiding to avoid arrest. Arguing that there was no likelihood of the absconders’ arrest in the near future, the IO pleaded for permission to initiate the process of their proclamation and attachment of their properties under sections 87 and 88 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

    However, the judge observed that the complainant had moved an application seeking transfer of the present proceedings to any other ATC. Therefore, no order in the present case could be passed until the outcome on the application pending in the Sindh High Court. The hearing was adjourned till Nov 19.

    Earlier, the complainant’s counsel Salahuddin Panhwar filed an application before the trial court pleading to adjourn the hearing on the second bail plea of ex-SSP Rao Anwar in a case pertaining to allegedly foisting fake recoveries on the victims and lodging false criminal cases against them.

    Mohammad Khan, the slain model’s father, had approached the SHC after the ATC-II judge granted post-arrest bail in the murder case to undertrial SSP Rao Anwar, who was kept in a temporary detention facility in Multan Lines in Malir Cantonment.

    The applicant had shown no confidence in the ATC-II judge and had sought transfer of Naqeeb’s murder and other connected cases to any other court of law. Later, the trial court had granted him bail in the second case pertaining to foisting false recoveries on the victims before it received any intimation from the SHC.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


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    QUETTA: Five construction workers were killed and three others suffered injuries in an attack near Ganz, some 15km west of Jewani, in Gwadar district on Wednesday.

    According to official sources, the labourers were working at an under-construction house of a private housing scheme on Peshkan-Ganz road, which links Gwadar with Jewani, when a group of gunmen riding motorcycles appeared on the scene and opened fire on the workers.

    The tragic incident took place when the concluding session of three-day Asian Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Political Affairs was under way in Gwadar and Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani was present in neighbouring Ormara.

    “Five labourers were killed on the spot and three others sustained injuries when armed men opened indiscriminate fire with automatic weapons,” Muhammad Asghar, a member of the Jewani District Counsel, said. Personnel of security forces shifted the bodies and the injured to the Gwadar Development Authority Hospital.

    “We have received five bodies and three injured,” the hospital officials confirmed, adding that the workers had received multiple bullet injuries on their torsos which caused their on-the-spot death. The injured have received serous multiple bullet wounds.

    Sources said that the owners of the private housing scheme company had not arranged security for the labourers who were working at the housing scheme site. “There was no security at the construction site when the gunmen men launched the attack.”

    Security officials identified four of the deceased as Naeem Ahmed and Hunzullah, resident of Karachi, Irshad Ali of Sukkur and Muhammad Shakir of Multan. The fifth deceased could not be identified so far.

    Two of the three injured were identified as Shamsullah and Muhammad Rahim.

    Security forces launched a search operation in the area to trace out the militants involved in the attack.

    This was the fourth incident of its kind in the Makran area. Over three dozen labourers have been killed in the earlier attacks which took place in different areas of Turbat and Gwadar districts.

    The bodies of the victims of Wednesday’s attack will be sent to the areas of the deceased after medico-legal and other formalities are completed.

    No militant organisation has claimed responsibility for the fresh killings so far, but in the past the banned Baloch Liberation Front had owned such incidents.

    Balochistan Governor retired Justice Amanullah Yasinzai and Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan have strongly condemned the firing incident and the killing of labourers saying that every kind of terrorism was condemnable and the government would not allow anybody to speared fear in the society through terrorism.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    5 killed, 3 injured by unidentified gunmen. — Photo/File5 killed, 3 injured by unidentified gunmen. — Photo/File

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    KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the solution to the city’s public transport issue lies in the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway.

    Terming the KCR an environmentally feasible project, the CM hoped that the federal government would not only generously finance the K-IV water project but also extend financial support to the circular railway project in the port city, which generates 70 per cent of national revenue.

    He said this while talking to media after inaugurating a sports complex built by the Dawoodi Bohra community at Talpur Road here on Wednesday.

    The CM congratulated the Bohra community for building such a state of the art sports complex — Al-Nadi Al-Burhani.

    He said the KCR was included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. He hoped that now a joint working group (JWG) had been formed the KCR project would see the light of day very soon.

    He urged the federal government to extend financial support to the KCR like the Orange Line project in Lahore.

    Inaugurates sports complex built by Dawoodi Bohra community; terms K-IV an ill-conceived project

    “Karachi is the hub of trade and industry and generates huge revenues, therefore in return it must be repaid in the shape of its development,” he said.

    “Now we are working on the KCR and it would be established with the help of China,” he said, adding that the project would be 41 kilometres long and would feed all the bus rapid transit (BRT) lines.

    K-IV termed ‘ill-conceived’ project

    To another question, he said that the K-IV was an ill-conceived project and its cost was increased manifold after initiating work on it.

    “The federal government [had] committed to share 50 per cent cost of the project when it was approved at Rs25 billion and now it has reached Rs75bn,” he added.

    Mr Shah recalled that when Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited Karachi he had briefed him about the K-IV project and its rising cost. The prime minister had shown his support and cooperation for the completion of the project, he added.

    When a journalist drew his attention towards a list of politicians and bureaucrats, which contains his name on top, being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the chief minister said he was not worried as the list did not have any official signature or stamp.

    He said he was going to Islamabad to attend the meeting of the Fiscal Coordination Committee in which the World Bank-sponsored projects would come under discussion and the input of provincial governments would also be sought for future projects.

    Foreign Service delegation calls on CM

    Addressing a delegation of Foreign Service of Pakistan officers at the CM House, Mr Shah said Sindh was a resource-rich province with sixth largest coal deposits in Thar, vast corridors of renewable energy and best irrigation system.

    “We have to take benefit out of them and we are on the right track,” he said. “We have tried to invest in its infrastructure development and in its industrial areas, but the federal government has not supported the provincial government’s endeavours.”

    He said at the Thar coal project the mining work was in full swing and the power project was near completion.

    “By the end of December 2019 we will start power generation,” he said, adding: “It would be a great realisation of Benazir Bhutto’s dream and it would be the beginning of an end to the energy crisis in the country.”

    Talking about renewable energy, Mr Shah said that the wind corridor of Jhimpir, Thatta had the potential of generating 50,000 megawatts.

    “We have taken an impressive start and generating over 1,000MW from the wind corridor and also working on solar energy generation,” he said, adding that the people of Sindh had already started switching over to solar energy.

    “If you go to rural areas of Sindh you would find solar panels installed on almost every third house because they are experiencing worst power outages,” he said.

    To another question, he said that the irrigation system of the province was one of the best in the world. “Our system is efficient but it suffers from water shortage and we started canal lining so that conservation can be [done].”

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    THE chief minister takes aim with a bow and arrow at the new sports complex on Wednesday.—APPTHE chief minister takes aim with a bow and arrow at the new sports complex on Wednesday.—APP

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    LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has awarded party ticket to Seemi Ezdi for a Senate by-election on a seat reserved for woman from Punjab. She is the sister of former PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen.

    The PTI has also awarded ticket to party leader Waleed Iqbal to contest the Senate by-election for a Punjab general seat. Mr Iqbal submitted two nomination papers while Jamshaid Iqbal also submitted his nomination papers.

    PML-N candidates for the general seat are Saud Majeed and Sheikh Abid Waheed.

    Besides Ms Ezdi, PTI’s Tanzeela Imran Khan, Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur, Ashima Shuja and Rubina Shaheen have also submitted their nomination papers for the women reserved seat from Punjab.

    Ms Ezdi is NA-48 women wing district president and was elected as vice-chairperson of UC-29.

    PML-N’s Saira Tarar and Ishrat Ashraf have submitted their nomination papers for the woman reserved seat.

    Both seats fell vacant due to de-notification of PML-N senators Haroon Akhtar Khan and Saadia Abbasi for their dual nationalities.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


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    LAHORE: Two separate handouts issued on Wednesday regarding the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government’s 100-day plan compounded the confusion prevailing in Punjab as to who is in charge of the provincial government – senior minister Aleem Khan or Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

    According to one handout, Mr Khan chaired a meeting of provincial ministers and administrative secretaries of 14 departments at the chief minister’s secretariat on Wednesday where he announced that the 100-day plan will be presented to the prime minister on Nov 7 after approval from the chief minister.

    The chief minister’s office issued a separate handout, saying that Mr Buzdar also chaired a meeting of ministers and administrative secretaries and directed them to expedite work on the 100-day agenda. He asked the departments concerned to achieve their targets for a prosperous and developed Pakistan.

    Mr Buzdar reviewed progress on the 100-day agenda and directed to expedite work on it. He said creating job opportunities for the youth was also a part of the agenda. “Punjab will lead in the implementation on the PTI’s 100-day agenda,” he added.

    The chief minister also announced that an executive council had been set up on the provincial level to work on creating the south Punjab province.

    Senior minister Aleem Khan, provincial ministers, the chief secretary, the planning and development chairman and administrative secretaries attended the meeting.

    The senior minister, as per the other handout, during the meeting he apparently chaired said that the Punjab government departments were actively working for two months to finalise the 100-day plan that he claimed would represent the people’s wishes. The plan would set the direction for the government and bring about a visible change in the lives of the poor segments of society. “The Punjab government is trying to devise the best strategy with limited resources available as the previous government’s corruption rendered the country’s kitty empty,” he claimed.

    Mr Khan further said that the people’s lives could be improved by strengthening the education, health, agriculture and livestock departments. Education, health, industries and other ministers gave briefings about their departments’ 100-day plans.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    separate handouts compound the confusion prevailing in Punjab as to who is in charge of the provincial government.— PID/Fileseparate handouts compound the confusion prevailing in Punjab as to who is in charge of the provincial government.— PID/File

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    KARACHI: “Like water shortage, garbage disposal and a bad sewerage system, transport, too, is a major issue of Karachi. How many buses can you run on these roads becoming narrower because of them?” said President Dr Arif Alvi while speaking at the inauguration of the new local train at the Cantonment Railway Station on Wednesday.

    The first local train service from Karachi to Dhabeji starts on Thursday morning.

    Pakistan Railways is starting out with two trains initially. As the first one with nine carriages leaves from the City Station at 7am for Dhabeji, there will be the second train leaving for Karachi simultaneously from the other direction, Dhabeji. The trains will leave again from the two stations at 5.30pm. The train, making stops at Malir, Drigh Road Junction, Bin Qasim, Pipri and Gaddar stations and Dhabeji, is said to primarily facilitate the labour force of Karachi who currently have to pay too much in fares to get to their places of work from home.

    Initially two trains will ferry workers in the morning and evening

    President Alvi recalled his childhood and student days at the Cantonment Public School when he used to take the local train or the tram to get to school. “We started experiencing traffic congestion after the tram service was wrapped up and things only became worse after the Karachi Circular Railway too stopped its service. Then the railways also started selling its assets. It was going in the opposite direction when compared to international train services. There, be it overhead trains or the tube, they really benefit the cities. Here we even transport freight through roads as the goods train system is also no longer working,” he said.

    He also pointed out that the Dhabeji stop was thought of as necessary keeping in mind the Pakistan Steel Mill workers.

    “A train also needs to be on time,” he said. “When you commute by bus, it isn’t that big a problem if you miss one as you can always take the next one. But here the trains should leave on time and arrive on time. Marketing, too, is important as an empty train would otherwise be making a loss. A full train, on the other hand, will make a profit,” he added, while also urging Pakistan Railways to revive the Karachi Circular Railway. “It will serve as a backbone for CPEC.

    “Efficiency and capacity can make your local trains and your goods train make a profit,” he said. “And if this local train runs successfully, there is the private sector also waiting and watching to be a part of this venture but you have to make your railway feasible with clean governance,” he said.

    Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that the Rs80 fare set for the train may be lowered to Rs70. He also said that after the two trains find success with commuters, they may also bring in a third one to fulfil demand besides starting the Sukkur Express, which he has also promised. “Pakistan Railways will move the nation ahead,” he said.

    THE president, accompanied by the Railways minister, walks by the newly inaugurated train on Wednesday while (right) the interior of one of the carriages.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
    THE president, accompanied by the Railways minister, walks by the newly inaugurated train on Wednesday while (right) the interior of one of the carriages.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

    Train drivers

    Driver Mohammad Saleem and assistant driver Shah Zaman Khan in their crisp white and black uniforms happily watched the inauguration programme from their engine window. The train and engine on the newer platform 8 of the station was decorated nicely. “The engine was decorated at the locomotive shed and the carriages were decorated on the wash-line,” provided assistant driver Shah Zaman. His boss, driver M. Saleem, said that the nine carriages had a 1,000 to 1,500 capacity. “And that’s the seating capacity. Local trains are also known to have commuters who don’t mind travelling while standing,” he said, adding that there were air-conditioned carriages too.

    Railway scouts

    As smartly dressed as the train drivers were Railway Scouts Mohammad Salahuddin, Sohail Jafri, Shaikh Farid, Khalid and Sajid. All proudly watched the decorated train before them. “We hope the trains are accepted by the public who start using them instead of public transport. The 1,000 to 1,500 commuters on each local train would mean so many less rickshaws, taxis and buses on the roads, which in turn would mean less congestion and less pollution.

    Public’s response

    Mukhtiar Shah watching the activity from a footpath across the new platforms could only see a part of the engine. When informed about the local train, he said he had no idea that it was making a comeback. “I remember there used to be a local train taking people all over the city. Is it the same thing?” he asked to be told that the new train won’t be moving inside the city. “I hope they can clean up the old train tracks too to bring them into the route also,” he said, adding that at the moment he spent about Rs60 per day to commute between work and home.

    Hasnain, a student travelling to the northern areas, said that he would certainly take the local train to his college if it could go there. “But the stops mentioned for the train right now don’t fall in my way. Also Rs80 per day is more than I spend on bus fare,” he said.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    THE president, accompanied by the Railways minister, walks by the newly inaugurated train on Wednesday while (right) the interior of one of the carriages.—Fahim Siddiqi/White StarTHE president, accompanied by the Railways minister, walks by the newly inaugurated train on Wednesday while (right) the interior of one of the carriages.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

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    ISLAMABAD: Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif lambasted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the National Assembly for a second time in two weeks over what he termed ‘political victimisation’ of the opponents of the government and sought an explanation from NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal over his recent meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

    Mr Sharif, who is also president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), further asked Mr Khan to disclose the name of the person who had sought an NRO (a reference to ending politically motivated cases under the National Reconciliation Ordinance that was promulgated by military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2008) and challenged the PM to come to the assembly to prove his allegation.

    “Someone should ask the leader of the house [PM] as to who had made a request for NRO? When and where? Is there any witness to it?” he said, challenging the prime minister to come to the assembly and prove it. Similarly, he said, Mr Khan had once accused him of offering Rs10 billion to him as bribe to close the Panama Papers case. Shahbaz Sharif said he had sued Mr Khan for this baseless allegation, but he never appeared in court. “You don’t appear before courts. You are also absconding from this house. Come here and apologise and admit that you had lied,” Mr Sharif said, adding: “If the prime minister succeeds in proving his claim, I will quit politics forever.”

    Alleging that there is an “unholy alliance” between NAB and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the opposition leader said Mr Khan was facing NAB inquiries in several cases and questioned in what capacity the NAB chairman had met the premier.

    Zardari offers cooperation to govt on a 25-year plan to steer Pakistan out of crises

    Mr Sharif said if the NAB chairman had met Mr Khan for being a suspect in the cases, then the former should also come to meet him in jail. And if he had met the prime minister for being the leader of the house, then he should also have met him as he was leader of the opposition.

    The opposition leader also criticised NAB for issuing a fresh list of the politicians facing inquiries. “The country cannot be run in this fashion. We will bring this government to the right track. We will become an iron wall in the way of the PTI government,” he declared.

    The PML-N president said Mr Khan had announced he would visit the assembly every Wednesday and respond to the questions of lawmakers, while citing the example of the House of Commons, but this had never happened.

    Mr Sharif, who has been in the custody of NAB in connection with investigations in Ashiyana housing scam since Oct 5, had made a similar speech on Oct 17 when he appeared in the house first time since his arrest after issuance of his production order by Speaker Asad Qaiser.

    The opposition leader said that he had been kept in a 10x10-foot cell and the NAB investigators were asking him questions about the companies he had set up in Punjab as the chief minister. He said the NAB investigators even asked queries about the Punjab Entertainment Company that had been set by his predecessor and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervez Elahi allegedly involving illegal transfer of $2.5 million to a Canadian firm. He said NAB officials were not even aware that the project had not been launched by him but by the incumbent speaker of Punjab Assembly.

    Mr Sharif also criticised the government decision to increase gas and electricity prices. The government in its first 75 days had made the lives of the people miserable, he said, reiterating that the government had come to power through a “rigged elections” and had lost credibility in the eyes of the public within a very short span of time.

    He also challenged PTI ministers to have a debate with him over their allegations that the PML-N government had set up “costly” power projects.

    He said Saudi Arabia had given the money to the 220 million people of Pakistan and not to the PTI government. He said that Saudi Arabia had always supported Pakistan in its difficult times and it had also secretly provided oil free of cost for three years when the country was facing international sanctions due to nuclear tests in 1998.

    Zardari calls for long-term solutions to problems

    Speaking for the first time on the floor of the house after the July 25 general election, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former president Asif Zardari declared that they had accepted the government of Nawaz Sharif “begrudgingly” and then also accepted the PTI government “begrudgingly”.

    Mr Zardari was of the opinion that questions about fairness of elections also arise in the developed countries such as the US and the UK, “but the solution to all problems lies in democracy alone”.

    Offering an olive branch to the government, the PPP leader said they should all sit together and find long-term solutions to the problems by preparing a plan for the next 20 to 25 years to bring the country out of crises. The Saudi bailout package, he said, would fulfil the needs for a very short time.

    He termed water scarcity and population growth the biggest challenges the country was facing.

    “We are ready to support you in your five-year term,” he said, adding: “We were ready to work with Nawaz Sharif and we are ready to work with you, provided you stand firm on your statements and implement justice.”

    Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood welcomed Mr Zardari’s offer and said the government would also reciprocate it in the same spirit, while Minister for Communications Murad Saeed responded to the points raised by Shahbaz Sharif and criticised him for making NAB controversial.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari addresses the National Assembly on Wednesday. — PPIPakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari addresses the National Assembly on Wednesday. — PPI

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    ISLAMABAD: The accountability court may record the statement of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif on Thursday (today) in the Al-Azizia reference.

    Accountability judge Arshad Malik prepared a questionnaire for Mr Sharif and handed it over to him on Wednesday. The judge also summoned Wajid Zia, the star prosecution witness in the Flagship Investment reference who was being cross-examined by the defence counsel.

    The prosecution has already submitted an application before the judge regarding closing of evidence.

    The next step in the criminal proceeding is recording of a statement of the accused under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

    The defence counsel requested the court to defer the recording of testimony. However, the prosecution pointed out that the court had already held that the proceedings in the Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references would be conducted simultaneously.

    Shahbaz’s transit remand in Ashiyana case extended to Nov 6

    Subsequently, the court adjourned the proceedings till Thursday.

    Judge Malik made it clear that the statement of Mr Sharif would be recorded in the presence of lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed.

    The charge-sheet against Mr Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference alleges that his Gulf Steel Mills sale agreement was found untrue and, therefore, he “committed an offence of corruption and corrupt practices as defined under section 9(a)(v) of NAO, 1999, punishable under Section 10 of the NAO, 1999”.

    Meanwhile, accountability judge Mohammad Bashir extended the transit remand of the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif till Nov 6 in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing case.

    National Accounta­bility Bureau officials produced Mr Shahbaz before the court on Wednesday.

    The PML-N leader requested the court to extend his transitory remand till Nov 9 when the current session of the National Assembly was scheduled to end.

    But the NAB officials told the judge that the accountability court of Lahore had handed over custody of Mr Shahbaz to the bureau till Nov 7 and he was required to appear before the same court after expiry of his physical remand.

    Subsequently, judge Bashir extended the remand till Nov 6.

    Shahbaz Sharif is primarily accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company to assign the Ashiyana project to the LDA, resulting in the award of contract to Lahore Casa Developers, causing a loss of Rs715 million and eventual failure of the project.

    Fawad Hasan Fawad, a former principal secretary to the prime minister, and LDA’s ex-director general Ahad Khan Cheema, have been arrested in the Ashiyana case and are in jail on judicial custody.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    Former premier Nawaz Sharif. — Photo/FileFormer premier Nawaz Sharif. — Photo/File

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    ISLAMABAD: After failing to persuade mainstream opposition parties to attend a multiparty conference, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman deferred the conference on Wednesday.

    The Maulana thought the conference would serve to unite the political parties opposed to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), but the lacklustre response from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led to its postponement.

    Maulana Fazl held two media talks at his residence on Wednesday and announced that the proposed conference was being deferred and a PML-N proposal was under consideration by his party.

    During his media talk in the evening after the JUI-F parliamentary meeting, the Maulana said that the proposal of the PML-N had been received from the party’s chairman and leader of the opposition in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq.

    Top PML-N, PPP leaders refuse to take part in the event

    “We have received the PML-N proposal; it says that the parliamentary leaders meet before the conference,” the JUI-F chief said.

    However, the Maulana did not respond when asked how he would be able to participate in any meeting of parliamentary leaders as he was neither an MNA nor a senator.

    He said that JUI-F’s decision would be conveyed to the PML-N.

    The JUI-F chief was also asked if the failure to hold the conference in time was caused either by his hurriedly-made decision or if the opposition parties were too busy in their own affairs. He declined to answer the question and said that his response had been conveyed to both parties and added, “I am not answering these questions now.”

    However, during an interview with Geo News the Maulana said that no date for the conference had been finalised, but it was only a proposal that was leaked to media.

    “It has now been decided that the top leadership will decide the parameters of the campaign against the government and this meeting would be led by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif,” he added.

    The Maulana said: “The decision of this parliamentary meeting will be conveyed to me to hold the conference and it is time to topple the government for the sake of the masses and country itself.”

    He said that the performance of the government was very poor and it was time to finish it off, but acknowledged that the PPP and PML-N leaderships did not agree to this notion and differed over the timing of toppling the government.

    He said that there was no such benchmark of 100 days for any government to stay in power. “If the opposition does not become the voice of the masses, then who will?”

    In the morning, the JUI-F chief received Senator Zafarul Haq and discussed with him the strategy to be adopted against the government, but it was acknowledged that the top PML-N and PPP leaders would not take part in the conference.

    Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told newsmen outside the Supreme Court that the Maulana’s “APC came out to be a balloon without proper air”. He said: “Nowadays Maulana sahib can see stars (sitaray) during the day and Israeli aircraft (taiyaray) at night.”

    The minister added: “Let him try and go on; maybe the Maulana will see some success in 10-15 years, but for now people have trusted the PTI and Imran Khan.”

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    Maulana Fazlur Rehman. — File PhotoMaulana Fazlur Rehman. — File Photo

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    MUZAFFARABAD: A teenage boy lost his life in the Leepa Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling on Wednesday, officials said.

    Haroon, the 18-year-old son of Rasheed, fell victim to unprovoked shelling in Bijildhar village of the Leepa Valley.

    Imran Shaheen, deputy commissioner of Hattian Bala, told Dawn that the shelling began at about 4pm and continued till late evening.

    “Due to darkness and poor telecommunication links with the mountainous area we are unable to ascertain immediately the complete information of losses,” he said.

    “Once the shelling stops or at least subsides, we may receive exact detail of losses,” he added.

    Shaukat Javed Mir, a PPP leader belonging to the Leepa Valley, said that shelling was intense, causing panic in the area.

    “Those who have bunkers or trenches within or alongside their houses have taken shelter there due to which we are unable to establish contact with anyone there,” he said.

    According to Mir, there was also shelling for more than an hour in the morning, “but from post to post” on opposite sides.

    Since a similar exchange of fire between rival troops had also taken place on the night of Oct 26, the civilian population was caught off-guard when Indian troops started pounding it with mortar shells in the afternoon, he said.

    Wednesday’s shelling took place a day after the northeastern Neelum Valley received two mortar shells and small arms fire from across the LoC.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Indian troops had first fired a smoke bomb followed by two mortar shells in district headquarters Athmuqam, triggering a wave of panic among residents who had not heard noise of guns after July 16, 2017, when a Pakistan Army vehicle was targeted by the Indian troops resulting in the martyrdom of four soldiers.

    According to local police, Indian troops had also resorted to small arms fire in Rawta and Shingaan villages of the Neelum Valley on Tuesday, but there were no casualties.

    The 200km-long Neelum Valley — a famous and frequently visited tourist destination — had long faced the brunt of heavy cross-border shelling between the rival troops until a ceasefire agreement in Nov 2003 brought the much sought-after relief to its inhabitants.

    Ever since, while the truce agreement saw numerous violations elsewhere, the Neelum Valley had remained an exception.

    The privilege, however, ended late in 2016, when initially a famous tourist rest house near Athmuqam was shelled by the Indian troops on Oct 29, followed by shelling on a passenger coach on Nov 23 that left more than 10 persons dead and many wounded.

    But except for these three incidents, the LoC in the Neelum Valley remained completely calm and quiet, paving the way for influx of thousands of tourists from across the country, all year round.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    A teenage boy lost his life in the Leepa Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling on Wednesday, officials said. — File PhotoA teenage boy lost his life in the Leepa Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling on Wednesday, officials said. — File Photo

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    ISLAMABAD: Print journalists are three times more vulnerable than television journalists, judging by the number of journalists killed in the last five years, according to a new research study on crimes against journalists in Pakistan.

    The study, titled Impunity of Crimes against Journalists Pakistan Report 2018, was prepared by Freedom Network.

    The report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, will be launched on Nov 2.

    The study found that 26 journalists were killed across the country between May 2013 and May 2018 – 18 from the print media and eight from TV.

    Eight journalists have been killed in Punjab, the most dangerous province to practice journalism according to the study, while seven were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

    It also found that print journalists were more at risk of being murdered if they are based in Punjab and KP, where six such journalists have been killed, while TV journalists are at greater risk in Sindh and Punjab, where four and two were killed, respectively.

    Print journalists three times more vulnerable than TV journalists, Punjab the most dangerous province for journalists

    Journalists are also equally vulnerable regardless of whether they are members of press clubs or journalist unions, the study found. Three out of four journalists who were victims of targeted killings were members of local press clubs, but just one in three was a member of their local journalists’ union.

    Sindh and KP were the most dangerous regions for journalists who are not members of press clubs, while Punjab was the most dangerous for journalists who were not members of a journalists union.

    Of the 26 aforementioned murders, the cases of 16 went to court for trial. The prosecution and trial concluded in six cases, and a conviction was only handed down in one case.

    The study reported incomplete investigations and trials, which it said were instances of police and court failures.

    In 60pc of cases, the study said, the police did not complete their investigation to generate a final charge-sheet or a full investigation report to submit before a court for trial.

    The report claimed barely a third of the cases of murdered journalists were declared fit for trial in a court of law and completed prosecution in court. It said the process of justice for two out of every three murdered journalists does not conclude even when the case does reach the court.

    The courts in Punjab and Balochistan are the slowest in completing the trials of cases of journalists declared fit for prosecution.

    The study said the impunity enjoyed by the killers of journalists in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world. It said only one victim and their family received justice in all of the cases, and that too from a lower court. The accused was able to have the sentence overturned at the high court level.

    “Journalists continue to get target killed and threats against them continue to grow and the state’s legal system (police failure) and justice system (courts failure) have failed to provide them justice,” Freedom Network Executive Director Iqbal Khattak said in a statement.

    “This means the killers enjoy total impunity with no fear of getting punished for killing journalists. Journalists are dead and their killers are free,” he said.

    The study also said that most killers remain unidentified.

    Recommendations

    The report has made four recommendations to combat the impunity of crimes against journalists: the enactment of federal and provincial laws for the protection of journalists, appointing special federal and provincial prosecutors on the safety of journalists to improve the prosecution of cases, amending the Constitution and charters of all key representative associations of the media to declare the safety of journalists a mission and instituting safety policies and protocols within media houses to pre-empt and minimise threats.

    Pakistan has been consistently ranked by international media watchdogs are one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalist. More than 120 journalists have been killed since 2000, and more than 2,000 have been attacked, injured, kidnapped, arrested or intimidated.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    Print journalists are three times more vulnerable than television journalists, judging by the number of journalists killed in the last five years, according to a new research study on crimes against journalists in Pakistan. — File PhotoPrint journalists are three times more vulnerable than television journalists, judging by the number of journalists killed in the last five years, according to a new research study on crimes against journalists in Pakistan. — File Photo

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    The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued its much-anticipated judgement in the 'Asia Bibi v. The State, etc' case, reversing earlier judgments handed down by the Lahore High Court as well as a trial court and thereby overturning the conviction of Asia Bibi in the blasphemy case against her.

    The three-judge bench subsequently ordered the 50-something mother-of-four's immediate release from jail, where she had been languishing for 9-odd years.

    The Supreme Court's judgement — a seismic event in the country's history, judicial or otherwise — heavily references Islamic teachings and tradition, but ultimately relies on an assessment of facts and evidence to support the overturning of the earlier conviction.

    Below are a few of the key points shared in the judgment.


    1. Over 25 witnesses but only two accusations

    What the SC judgement said:

    "There were 25-30 ladies present at the spot when the appellant allegedly passed blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Hum), however, none of the other ladies except Mafia Bibi (Prosecution Witness 2) and Asma Bibi (Prosecution Witness 3) reported the matter to anyone... At this stage, it is to be noted that the said ladies did not appear before the Court to support the prosecution case."


    2. First Information Report (FIR) registered suspiciously late

    What the SC judgement said:

    "There is no denial of the fact that the FIR was registered with a delay of 5 days... it is to be noted that in absence of any plausible explanation, this Court has always considered the delay in lodging of FIR to be fatal [to the case] and castes a suspicion on the prosecution story, extending the benefit of doubt to the accused... Furthermore, FIR lodged after conducting an inquiry loses its evidentiary value."

    "Another important aspect of the matter is that the complainant (PW-1) in his statement admitted that the application for registration of FIR was drafted by an Advocate; however, he could not mention his name. This also cast doubt on the truthfulness of the story narrated in the FIR."


    3. Witnesses in the case gave contradictory statements

    The contradictions in the witnesses' statements as noted by the Court are listed below:

    Mafia Bibi (PW.2)

    • She stated during cross examination that there were "more than 1,000" present in the public gathering where Asia Bibi had allegedly 'confessed' to committing blasphemy. However, she never mentioned this fact in her initial statement.

    • She stated during cross examination that this public gathering took place at her house. However, this was again never mentioned in her initial statement.

    • She stated during cross examination that "many Ulema" were present at the public gathering. However, she never mentioned this in her initial statement.

    Asma Bibi (PW.3)

    • During cross examination, she stated that the public gathering took place in the house of her neighbour, Rana Razzaq. However, she did not mention this in her initial statement. Also notice that her own had sister testified that the gathering took place in their own house.

    • She said during cross examination that "more than 2,000" people were present in the public gathering. She never mentioned this in her initial statement. Also notice that her own sister had testified that 1,000 people were present at the gathering

    Muhammad Afzal (PW.4)

    • During his examination in chief, he said that he was present in his own house when Mafia and Asma, along with Qari Muhammad Salam (PW.1 and the complainant in the case) and Mukhtar Ahmad came to inform him of the incident. He never mentioned this in his initial statement.

    • He said in his examination that the public gathering took place at the house of Mukhtar Ahmed, which he did not mention in his initial statement. Also notice that he contradicted both Asma and Mafia regarding where the public gathering was held.

    Qari Muhammad Salaam (PW.1, complainant)

    • He first said that Mafia, Asma and a third witness had informed him as well as other people of the village about Asia's alleged blasphemy. However, he later said they had only informed him, Muhammad Afzal and Muhammad Mukhtar, who were present at the occasion.Notice that this contradicts Muhammad Afzal's statement, who said he was in his house when Mafia, Asma, Salam and Mukhtar came to inform him of the incident.

    • After not mentioning anything in his initial statement, he said during his cross examination that the public gathering in which Asia had 'confessed' was held at Mukhtar Ahmed's house. This contradicts the statements given by the two female witnesses who had different versions of where the gathering was held.

    "These material contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses are tantamount to cast further doubts on the coherence of the evidence."

    4. Complainant unsure about date of crime

    What the SC judgement said:

    "A further conflict also prevails between the other PWs and the complainant. Other PWs stated that the matter was brought to the notice of complainant on the same day i.e. 14.6.2009; however, the complainant during his cross-examination stated that he was informed of the occurrence on 16.6.2009."


    5. Glaring discrepancies regarding FIR and arrest

    What the SC judgement said:

    "At the bottom of the FIR, the place of registration of the FIR has been mentioned that the FIR was registered by Mehdi Hassan, SI [Sub Inspector] at “bridge canal Chandar Cot” and the time of registration is given as '5:45 pm'... Conversely, the complainant (PW.1) in his statement has mentioned that the FIR was registered by delivering the application to the SHO concerned. However, Muhammad Rizwan, SI (PW.5) stated that the complainant presented before him the complaint upon which he formally registered the FIR."

    "With regard to the arrest of the accused, further contradictions exist in the statement of Muhammad Arshad, SI (PW.7); inasmuch as, he [Arshad] stated in his examination-in-chief that the accused was arrested by him with the help of two lady constables, presented to the Judicial Magistrate and sent to judicial lockup... It was then stated in the cross-examination that the accused was arrested by him on 19.6.2009 from her house situated at Village Ittanwali at about 4/5pm; however, at a subsequent point of time it was stated by him that he reached the Village Ittanwali at about 7 p.m. and remained there for one hour."


    6. Lying about not fighting with Asia Bibi

    The court noted that the two sisters, Asma and Mafia Bibi, who were key witnesses, had both denied that any altercation took place between them and Asia Bibi over the fetching of water.

    However, it pointed out that a police officer who investigated the case and the owner of the plantation where the incident took place — both unrelated and independent witnesses — "admitted in their statements that an altercation/quarrel took place between them [Asma, Mafia and Asia], thus the factum of quarrel is proved from the record".

    Noting that the prosecution had not declared the police officer as a 'hostile witness' — that is, questioned his statement that the fight took place — the sisters Asma and Mafia "could not be termed as truthful witnesses and the death sentence could not be inflicted on the testimony of such eyewitnesses".

    "All these contradictions are sufficient to cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution’s version of facts, which itself entitles the appellant to the right of benefit of the doubt."

    7. Extra-judicial confession

    What the SC judgement said:

    "This Court has repeatedly held that evidence of extra-judicial confession is a fragile piece of evidence and utmost care and caution has to be exercised in placing reliance on such a confession... It is always looked at with doubt and suspicion due to the ease with which it may be concocted. The legal worth of the extra judicial confession is almost equal to naught, keeping in view the natural course of events, human behaviour, conduct and probabilities, in ordinary course."

    "In this very instant case, the appellant was brought to a gathering of potentially hundreds of people, she was alone at the time, tensions were running high, and it was an intimidating environment, the appellant may well have felt threatened and vulnerable; thus, the alleged extra-judicial confession made by the appellant, even if presumed to have been made by her before such public gathering, cannot be termed as a voluntary action and nor it can be relied upon to form the basis of a conviction, especially for capital punishment."

    For further details and more points raised by the Court, read the full judgment here.


    Asia Bibi with her family. — Photo: FileAsia Bibi with her family. — Photo: File

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    ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has notified austerity measures for the current fiscal year to ‘maintain fiscal discipline and control overexpenditure’ with an estimated saving of around Rs40bn.

    In a notification conveyed to all provincial government departments, autonomous and semiautonomous bodies, high and lower courts, deputy commissioners, provincial assembly and the public service commission, the finance department said there would a complete ban on the creation of posts except for completed projects, medical treatment abroad on public expenditure and any increase in allowances and salaries until June 2019.

    It said the austerity measures and ban on unnecessary expenses would come into force on Nov 1, 2018, and would last until June 2019 in line with the decision of the provincial cabinet’s Oct 15 meeting.

    The notification said there would also be a complete ban on the purchase of new vehicles except ambulances, earthmoving machinery, fire trucks, tractors, non-luxury police vehicles, single cabin pickup 4 by 4 and 4 by 2, three-door jeeps, trucks, buses, prisoner vans, motorcycles, water bowser trucks, recovery/rescue vehicles, and rescue/lifesaving boats.

    It also barred all officials from participating in workshops, seminars and trainings abroad involving provincial funds or holding of seminars and workshops in local five-star hotels involving provincial funds.

    The order said the upgradation of posts, all types of allowances, and pay raise would also be banned until June 2019.

    According to it, all administrative secretaries and heads of autonomous/semiautonomous bodies being the principal accounting officers would hold the meetings of the departmental accounts committees regularly while informing the finance department to ensure internal audit of their respective departments and organisations.

    “To achieve the budgeted provincial revenue targets, the finance department shall convene monthly meetings to be attended by administrative secretaries of the departments concerned,” it said.

    The notification said neither the contingent paid staff would be appointed during the financial year 2018-19 nor would any appointment be made to ‘leave vacancies’ without the prior approval of the finance department.

    It added that no appointment would be made to vacant posts (except Class-IV) without obtaining the no objection certificate from the relevant surplus pool.

    “The principal accounting officers will make sure that no appointment is made against a vacant post of dying cadre and will also initiate disciplinary action, if any such appointments have been made previously,” it added.

    The notification said the expenditure would be restricted to the funds release, while the administrative departments wouldn’t incur expenditure in anticipation of additional or supplementary grants.

    “No development scheme involving creation of posts (Revenue Component) will be considered without prior clearance of finance department,” it said.

    The order also said department won’t retain receipts in bank accounts and would be bound to remit all receipts to provincial account forth with except where departments and facilities had been specifically permitted under some statute or an Act.

    According to it, funds will not be utilised on account of annual and special repair of such roads and buildings repaired or rehabilitated during last three years except flood and earthquake affected government infrastructure.

    Also, the advertisement charges allocated under the current revenue expenditure will be used on current side only.

    As regards expenditure on developmental side, the necessary provision will be made in the PC-Is and cost estimates of the relevant schemes, while the devolved department’s expenditure on this account will be met out of Account-IV of the district concerned.

    “All autonomous, semi-autonomous bodies, medical teaching institutions, other institutions and authorities under provincial government shall adopt the measures within their respective organizations with the approval of their competent forums,” it said.

    The finance department ordered all administrative secretaries to submit viable proposals to finance department within a month to initiate the process of cost cutting in the current and development budget as well as suggestions for revenue enhancements.

    “All such proposals shall be brought before the cabinet for approval,” the order said asking all concerned to implement those austerity measures in letter and spirit.

    Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018


    Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. — File PhotoKhyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. — File Photo

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    Two polio cases have been found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Bajaur area, the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for polio in the tribal districts confirmed on Thursday.

    They said that laboratory reports of children's stool samples confirmed they had polio, adding that neither child exhibited visible indicators of polio at the time of stool collection.

    According to the Health Department, the virus was confirmed in a five-year-old girl from Kut Kot Union Council and a seven-year-old boy from Largatkolay area. The department said that the girl had been administered the anti-polio vaccine seven times.

    Babar Bin Atta, the prime minister's focal person for polio eradication, said that they would soon meet with the KP Governor Shah Farman to devise a strategy and take special measures for prevention of the disease.

    According to Health Department officials, a three-day immunisation campaign will begin in the tribal districts on Nov 12. The campaign seeks to immunise over 300,000 children.

    Five cases of polio have been discovered in KP, according to Health Department officials. Two more polio cases were confirmed in Karachi last month, while three others were reported in Balochistan's Dukki district earlier this year.

    According to World Health Organization data, Pakistan is among just three countries in the world that have failed to eradicate endemic transmission of polio.


    A child being administered the polio vaccination. — File PhotoA child being administered the polio vaccination. — File Photo

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    Most of Pakistan’s brick kilns in Punjab will be shut down between November 3 to December 31 to deal with smog.(Image by: Ghulam Rasool)
    Most of Pakistan’s brick kilns in Punjab will be shut down between November 3 to December 31 to deal with smog.(Image by: Ghulam Rasool)

    Haji Mohammad Islam sleeps well these days. His brick kiln in Raiwind (27 kilometres from the city centre), is among a handful of kilns that will continue happily baking away thousands of bricks this month and even the next. In contrast the hum of an estimated 11,000 big and small kilns scattered through various parts of the province will be silenced from November 3 until December 31 – a period now called the ‘smog season’.

    Islam’s calm is the result of a visit to Nepal last year. That trip was facilitated by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with the Environment Protection Department, Punjab (EPD, Punjab) and National Energy Efficient Conversation Authority (NEECA), to apprise the Pakistani brick kiln owners of the zigzag brick kiln technology. Islam came back completely convinced and immediately converted his furnace.

    Bidya Banmali Pradhan, programme coordinator of the brick initiative at ICIMOD explained the zigzag technique and its multiple benefits. “The emission reduction in zigzag kilns is around 60% of black carbon and 40% of particulate matter, which turns the plume of black smoke into a less dense white smoke.” Moreover, the zigzag kiln is energy-efficient and reduces the use of coal by around 20%, and baked bricks are 90% ‘A’ class bricks compared to only 60% baked in the conventional ones.

    Nearly 2.3 million daily wage labourers work at the brick kilns (Image by: Ghulam Rasool)
    Nearly 2.3 million daily wage labourers work at the brick kilns (Image by: Ghulam Rasool)

    Mysterious but lethal

    People today know that the mysterious cloak of smog which they once thought was fog, and which routinely covers Lahore November onwards, is killing them.

    According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 60,000 Pakistanis died from exposure to higher levels of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in 2015.

    And itchy eyes and sore throat are not the only symptoms that are caused by it. There is clear evidence that polluted air causes depression, Alzheimer’s, even poor academic performance.

    The decision to close kilns was taken by the Punjab government in consultation with the Smog Commission (constituted last year in Dec 2017 by the Lahore High Court) tasked to identify the root causes, formulate a policy and prescribe a plan to protect the health of the people.

    “We had all the stakeholders on board like the transporters, the industry people, farmers associations, solid waste management board, the brick kiln owners and though the latter are definitely not the biggest emitters, they were the first to volunteer compliance,” said senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Pervaiz Hassan, who is the chairman of the commission.

    “When the commission told us we were among the polluters, we were all very willing to do all we can to help,” said Mehar Abdul Haq, Secretary General of the All Bricks Kiln Owners Association of Pakistan (APKOA), who admitted experiencing the ill effects of smog since the last two years.

    But despite a win-win for everyone, no more than four dozen brick kilns have so far been converted.

    “To ask someone to convert from something that they have been practicing for generations will take time,” pointed out Haq. In addition, it entailed an additional expense of PKR 2.5 million (USD 18,725) and required getting an electricity connection, which in itself was a gargantuan task.

    He hoped the “government would meet us half way” and facilitate and ease their conversion process including “a one-window operation, facilitation in getting electricity connections at subsidized rates, a research and development department and trained technicians who can make the transition smooth” for them.

    The government is putting in place ways to help the kiln factories (Image by: Ghulam Rasool)
    The government is putting in place ways to help the kiln factories (Image by: Ghulam Rasool)

    Malik Amin Aslam, the advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan on climate change, was reassuring. He told thethirdpole.net, “The details of a subsidy financing package for conversion is being worked out with the State Bank of Pakistan, commercial banks and the Punjab government.”

    But with the voluntary closure of kilns, many other businesses will also be affected including coal, transport, construction.

    Bricks are used in nearly 80% of the construction in Punjab. The construction company that civil engineer Asad Ayub works for is already feeling the pinch. “The prices of bricks have escalated from PKR 8,000 (USD 60) to PKR 12,000 (USD 89) per 1,000 bricks. We cannot stop work because the contract has been signed,” he said. He also feared acute shortage of the material this winter.

    In addition, how will the nearly 2.3 million daily wage earners working at the kilns be compensated? Haq said the issue had been taken care of and their association had decided to “continue paying them the same amount” despite the closure of kilns.

    Getting kiln owners to comply may help in reducing smog, but without bringing the transport, industries and crop burning to heel, the impact may just be nominal.

    Lahore among NO2 hotspots

    A global list of the 50 worst air pollutant emission hotspots in the world by Greenpeace which analysed the satellite data generated by European Space Agency’s new satellite has ranked Lahore and its surrounding area 30th.

    Interestingly, said Lauri Myllyvirta, a clean air campaigner and energy analyst with Greenpeace, the highest nitrogen dioxide levels were detected not in Lahore’s downtown but around Sheikhupura (55 kilometres from Lahore), Sunder (13 kilometres) and Jamber (67 kilometres) where there is a an oil-fired power plant.

    Image by Greenpeace
    Image by Greenpeace

    “Sheikhupura, the local hotspot, seems to be associated with the industrial area that has chemical and building materials factories. Similarly, the Sunder hotspot seems to be linked with the Sunder industrial estate,” he told thethirdpole.net.

    However, he said, the transport sector emissions were more spread across Lahore and likely to be the “largest contributor” overall.

    But Myllyvirta pointed out, “The fact that I was able to find industries and power plant areas just by looking at the NO2 levels shows that these are significant sources affecting the air quality in Lahore.”

    He thus concluded, “These findings emphasize the need for strong emissions limits and regulation for power plants, industry and vehicles, as well as shifting to cleaner energy sources and cleaner transport solutions.”

    Government response

    The government, said Aslam, was well aware of it and taking several steps including installation of scrubbers on steel mills in and around Lahore and take action against smoke emitting vehicles. In addition to tackling traffic pollution, Aslam said crop burning had been halted and the government was working on an alternate “zero tillage seeding” technology.

    Hassan of the smog commission is trying out another alternative. “We are trying to get international rice buyers to put a condition that they will not buy from farms that practice crop burning.” It will be more effective, he said giving the example of how child labour was eliminated in a similar manner from the carpet industry when international pressure was mounted on the latter.

    And while the government was managing the stubble burning this side of the border through both the carrot and stick approach, it remained helpless of the smoke billowing from across India.

    Latest NASA/Suparco satellite picture showing clearly the heightened and uncontrolled incidence of crop burning in Indian Punjab which carries on unabated. The Pakistan crop burning is only 10-15% and significantly down from 2017 due to onground measures
    Latest NASA/Suparco satellite picture showing clearly the heightened and uncontrolled incidence of crop burning in Indian Punjab which carries on unabated. The Pakistan crop burning is only 10-15% and significantly down from 2017 due to onground measures

    “We are tracking cross-border smog cloud through NASA/the national Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission satellite data and plan to initiate a dialogue with India through platforms such as South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization,” said Aslam and expressed yet another concern – the upcoming festival of Diwali in a week’s time. “It will add another large trigger into this cocktail of eco-pollution moving cross border”.

    According to experts, battling the smog has to be a continuous endeavor and not an exercise that takes place at the onset of each winter. (Image by: Ghulam Rasool)
    According to experts, battling the smog has to be a continuous endeavor and not an exercise that takes place at the onset of each winter. (Image by: Ghulam Rasool)

    Not just emergency measures needed

    But battling the smog has to be a continuous endeavour and not an exercise that takes place by the government at the onset of each winter, say experts.

    “The government is still trying to figure out how to handle smog,” said energy expert, Vaqar Zakaria, exasperated by the formers’ fire-fighting approach.

    According to him, if the government would only take the time to do a “source apportionment” study on particulate matter, it would give a clear picture of exact pollutants and even the polluters, providing them to be better equipped to tackle the situation. “But who has the patience for science!” he lamented.

    And yet data is what can make all the difference in tackling smog, according to Abid Omar, of the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative (PAQI), which provides real-time data on air quality in the country. “Punjab has eleven air quality monitors around Punjab, but does not have the capacity to run, manage or even disseminate information from them,” he said. He also remained sceptical of the steps taken by the Punjab government which he said lacked the “necessary depth and breadth” to address it.

    “With limited data, limited expertise, an absence of source appropriation studies, lack of experts on board to analyze and recommend policies, the existing policy is merely reactionary,” said Abid. “The problem is much bigger than brick kilns and crop residue burning. The problem is of governance and until the government realizes that, the solutions are going to be superficial.”

    Meanwhile, the fight against the much awaited smog continues. Hassan conceded the commission’s implementation may not be “5-star” yet, but they were trying to do their best in the short time frame given to them. “The commission was ordered by the Supreme Court just two weeks back to become implementers. But I promise the 2019 smog season will be easier for many!”


    This story was reproduced with permission from The Third Pole


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