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    Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz was prevented from boarding a flight to Doha on Monday night as his name has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), DawnNewsTV reported citing sources within the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

    Hamza was to travel via Qatar Airways from Lahore airport when he was stopped from boarding by immigration officials, since his name had been placed on the blacklist, the FIA sources said.

    The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had requested that the name of Hamza, who is facing an inquiry over possession of assets beyond known sources of income, be placed on the ECL, the sources said, adding that NAB is also conducting an investigation into the Ramzan Sugar Mills.

    Hamza's name was placed on the no-fly list amid fears that he may flee abroad during the investigation in the manner of his brother Salman, who was successful in leaving the country, the FIA sources said.

    In November, NAB had written to the interior ministry requesting the placement of Hamza and Salman's names on the ECL. Salman has been in London and has skipped the last three hearings in NAB.

    According to NAB, the brothers ─ in their capacity as directors ─ had a bridge linking to their mills constructed in Chiniot using public funds. The Rs200 million project was approved by then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, NAB said.

    Hamza is also facing an inquiry into the Saaf Pani Company case for presiding over some meetings of the board of directors and allegedly issuing orders regarding the award of contracts. NAB claimed Hamza was not even a member of the board at the time.

    PML-N spokesperson and MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb told DawnNewsTV that Hamza had not been offloaded, but rather prevented from boarding the flight at the immigration counter, where he was told that he had been placed on the no-fly list.

    "He is not a terrorist, he is a responsible citizen and politician," Aurangzeb said, adding that the party should be informed under what law Hamza's name was placed on the no-fly list.

    "We will raise the issue at all relevant fora," she stated. "He has consulted his lawyer and legal action will be taken soon."

    Hamza Shahbaz and his brother Salman are facing a NAB inquiry over possession of assets beyond known sources of income, and an investigation into the Ramzan Sugar Mills. ─ File photoHamza Shahbaz and his brother Salman are facing a NAB inquiry over possession of assets beyond known sources of income, and an investigation into the Ramzan Sugar Mills. ─ File photo

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    The National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter has summoned KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for questioning in an investigation regarding the lease of a vast piece of forest land in Malam Jabba, a scenic hill station in Swat valley, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.

    The chief minister has been asked to appear before the bureau's investigation team on December 17, NAB KP spokesperson Salma Begum said, adding that Khan was the tourism and sports minister during the time that the land was leased out.

    She said NAB KP had also sent notices to senior minister for tourism and sports Mohammad Atif Khan and Senator Mohsin Aziz to appear before the bureau on Friday in the same case.

    According to NAB sources, the contractor of the Malam Jabba ski resort, said to be a relative of Atif and Aziz, was a member of the lease awarding committee.

    Former KP chief minister Pervez Khattak, former chief secretary Amjad Ali Khan and the prime minister's principal secretary Azam Khan have already recorded their statements in the case.

    Official sources said a total of 275 kanal of forest land was leased out to a private firm in Malam Jabba after bypassing legal formalities.

    "Leasing out forest land is illegal and our team is investigating the hands behind the illegal lease," an official told DawnNewsTV.

    When contacted, KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said the chief minister had not received any notice from NAB summoning him in the Malam Jabba case. He added that the chief minister will "fully follow the law".

    CM Khan has been asked to appear before the NAB investigation team on December 17. — File photoCM Khan has been asked to appear before the NAB investigation team on December 17. — File photo

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    The United States said on Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over the treatment of minorities in the country.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the US government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.

    Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list— a step short of the designation — in what had been seen as a US tactic to press Islamabad into reforms.

    “In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

    See: ‘Space for religious minorities in Pakistan shrinking’

    “The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.

    Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern — China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. They are accused of having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom”.

    The US removed one country from the list — Uzbekistan — but kept it on the watch list.

    Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.

    Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the US over its treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses, the heterodox Christian group known for proselytization.

    Also on the watch list was the Comoros, the Indian Ocean archipelago that is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim.

    'Suppression of rights'

    In January, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that Pakistan be designated as a “country of concern” because of its alleged “serious violations of religious freedom”.

    Although it was a long-standing USCIRF demand, the US State Department had never previously so designated Pakistan, but it does highlight the commission’s findings in its annual reports on religious freedom.

    The report for this year complained that religious minorities in Pakistan continued to face attacks from extremist groups and society at large. It also noted that “abusive enforcement of the country’s strict blasphemy laws result[s] in the suppression of rights for non-Muslims, Shia and Ahmedis”.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern”. — AP/FileUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern”. — AP/File

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    The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday clarified why an inquiry was initiated against Park Lane Estate Company (Pvt) Ltd — a firm co-owned by former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — and government officials for alleged illegal transfer of forest land.

    In a press release, the bureau stated that an inquiry was authorised into allegations that land belonging to the Punjab Forest Department was illegally transferred by Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials to Park Lane Estate Company, a Karachi-based real estate firm.

    "The manager, attorney holder, and director of Park Lane Estate Company were repeatedly summoned; however, they have willfully avoided joining the proceedings of NAB," the statement said.

    On December 9, the bureau sent notices to Zardari and Bilawal to appear before it in Rawalpindi on Dec 13 in connection with the transfer of land to Park Lane Estate Company.

    Today's press release notes that Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan's records indicate that Zardari and Bilawal are 50 per cent shareholders of the real estate firm.

    Detailing earlier findings of the investigation, NAB said: "It [was] revealed that the revenue officers in connivance with CDA officers, on application from Park Lane Estate Company, illegally extended undue benefit [to the real estate firm] through demarcation and handing over possession of 118.4 kanals [of] forest land."

    NAB found that revenue officers "forged and tampered the revenue record(s)" while CDA officers misused their authority to hand over possession of state land to Park Lane Estate Company".

    NAB has summoned Zardari and Bilawal in pursuance of the case to appear before them on December 13. — DawnNewsTV/FileNAB has summoned Zardari and Bilawal in pursuance of the case to appear before them on December 13. — DawnNewsTV/File

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    The Supreme Court on Tuesday forbade provincial authorities from destroying houses during an ongoing city-wide anti-encroachment drive.

    Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing review petitions filed by various parties, including the Sindh government, against the apex court's earlier order on the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the city at the Karachi Registry.

    Sindh Advocate General Sindh Salman Taalibuddin told the bench that the apex court had ordered authorities to clear encroachments situated around Empress Market, adding that there were reservations over the drive extending to other parts of the city. He urged the court to review the order.

    Take a look: What are the consequences of the anti-encroachment drive?

    The chief justice responded that the top court had only ordered city authorities to clear the footpaths and streets around Empress Market, and to make the historic structure "a model for the rest of Karachi".

    "The directive to remove encroachments from the footpaths and streets was clear," Justice Nisar said. "We wanted pedestrians to also have some rights while walking on the streets."

    "How will people walk on footpaths if they are taken over by pushcarts?" he asked.

    "We were concerned about Karachi's law and order situation at that time as well," he added.

    Read: No injustice to be done during anti-encroachment drive, says PM Khan

    "How did the Supreme Court ruin the law and order situation in Karachi?" the top judge asked. "What is our link to this? Rehabilitation of displaced people and making alternative arrangements for them is the job of the government."

    The chief justice said that houses which are still occupied by families of deceased government employees should also be vacated.

    He added that the properties that had been given away on pagdi must also be vacated.

    "When you ask people like these to vacate their houses, a law and order situation is created," the chief justice remarked.

    Justice Nisar expressed his displeasure when Mayor Waseem Akhtar failed to show up on time. When he was told that the mayor was late due to blocked roads and traffic, the chief justice asked: "If other people can arrive on time, why can't the mayor?"

    Justice Nisar said that Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar informed the court that he himself had taken the initiative to begin clearing out the encroachments from the areas surrounding Empress Market.

    "We had not passed any order at the time, when the mayor began working of his own accord," the chief justice said.

    Explore: The 'clean-up' of Empress Market doesn't have to be this way

    He asked whether the encroachments around Empress Market had been cleared already, to which the attorney general replied in the affirmative.

    "We can't now order that the area be re-encroached," the top judge said.

    The advocate general said that the razing shops was leading to rise in unemployment.

    "Demolishing one shop takes away the livelihood of a man," he argued.

    The chief justice agreed that after the clearance of encroachments, the matter of relocation will arise, but the task of making alternative arrangements for affectees was the Sindh government's responsibility.

    "What will happen now is the Sindh government's responsibility. We have not stopped anyone from making alternative arrangements," he said.

    "If they want to give the affectees an alternative venue for their shops, they should do it. When did we stop them?" he asked.

    The advocate general said that the Sindh government had a plan to relocate the traders who had shops on encroached lands. He appealed to the court to allow the government to relocate the shops and then continue the drive.

    The court was told that some traders in areas marked for the anti-encroachment drive slept in their shops. The advocate general added that the government was relocating some affectees of the drive to the Lines Area.

    The CJP ordered the mayor, the Centre and the provincial government to submit their plan in court tomorrow.

    The chief justice also suggested that the extensions to the National Museum building be razed. However, no order was passed in this regard.

    The attorney general, who also appeared in court today, told the bench that a report prepared by the director of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) revealed that around 35,000 plots in Karachi had been illegally occupied.

    He said that no action had been taken on the findings of the report as yet.

    City government is 'against qabza mafia'

    Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, while talking to the media outside the Supreme Court Karachi registry, said that the city government's agenda was not to raze houses but to restore parks and clear illegal structures built on nullahs.

    He claimed that the city authorities were "against the qabza mafia".

    He added that the provincial government had appealed to the court to stop the anti-encroachment operation and declared that the drive will continue. Akhtar added that the Sindh government's job was to relocate the affectees.

    Owais Muzaffar Tappi to be produced before SC tomorrow

    The bench ordered police to produce former president Asif Zardari's foster brother, Owais Muzaffar Tappi, in court tomorrow.

    Residents of Shah Latif Town had complained that Tappi, had illegally occupied their plots.

    The bench, on the complaint of the citizens, ordered the Additional Inspector General (Legal) to produce Tappi in court tomorrow.

    Justice Nisar says operation against shops built on encroached land must continue. — File photoJustice Nisar says operation against shops built on encroached land must continue. — File photo

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    Motorcyclists riding without a helmet in Islamabad will not be allowed to purchase fuel from petrol pumps, according to a notification issued by District Magistrate Mohammad Hamza Shafqat.

    The notice observes that due to non-adherence to safety measures, especially putting on safety helmets, the ratio for motorcyclists dying from road accidents dramatically increases.

    This year, out of 68 fatal accidents of bikers in the federal capital, 50 were found to be not wearing safety helmets. This means that the ratio of bikers who died due to non-usage of helmets in the capital is 75 per cent of all reported deaths.

    Editorial:Helmets for road safety

    "It is directed that all petrol [pumps] shall ensure that fuel may not be sold to any motorcyclist who is travelling without [a] safety helmet," the district magistrate's office has instructed.

    "[A] complete ban is being imposed on [the sale] of fuel to motorcyclist[s] [riding] without wearing safety helmets, in the interest of public safety."

    Earlier this month, Karachi Inspector General of Police Sindh Dr Syed Kaleem Imam through a letter asked Additional Inspector General Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh to persuade owners of petrol pumps located within the limits of Sharea Faisal, Abdullah Haroon Road (between Metropole signal and Do Talwar roundabout) and I.I. Chundrigar Road to ensure that "no fuel is sold to any motorcyclist not wearing a helmet".

    Fuel will no longer be sold to motorcyclists travelling without a helmet. —Reuters/FileFuel will no longer be sold to motorcyclists travelling without a helmet. —Reuters/File

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    LAHORE: The Punjab government is consolidating certain powers in the office of the chief minister against the party’s vision of devolving powers.

    In a letter issued here on Tuesday, the chief minister imposed a ban on all kinds of transfers and postings except those against vacant posts.

    However, in case any posting/transfer was required on hardship, compassionate or extreme administrative grounds, prior approval would have to be sought from the chief minister through a summary.

    All administrative and other departments concerned have been ordered to follow the directions regarding the ban on posting and transfer. However, the procedure for postings and transfers in the schools education department would continue.

    On Dec 7, the government had imposed a ban on all recruitments from BPS-1 to BPS-16 in all administrative departments.

    Official sources say while a ban had been placed on recruitment as well as transfer and postings, these powers had been consolidated in the chief minister’s office as he would be deciding and according approvals to the same.

    Meanwhile, the cabinet’s standing committee on finance and development will take up the matter of relaxation of the ban on recruitment on case to case basis.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. ─ Photo courtesy TwitterPunjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. ─ Photo courtesy Twitter

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    MITHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who had earlier taken notice of the unabated deaths of infants in Tharparkar due to malnutrition and lack of proper health facilities for expecting mothers there, is scheduled to arrive in Mithi on Wednesday (today).

    He would visit the Mithi Civil Hospital to inspect the state of hygiene and healthcare facilities besides ascertaining facts regarding deaths of hundreds of infants in the desert region over the past few years as reported by the media.

    The CJP will also assess the relief operation launched by the Sindh government in the drought-hit district.

    The hospital’s walls were whitewashed and an intensive cleaning work was carried out at the hospital on the eve of the CJP’s visit.

    Meanwhile, former MPA Arbab Zulfikar Ali, Arbab Khan Sahib Togachi, Arbab Imran and other political figures belonging to the Arbab group held a press conference at the local press club on Tuesday to announce that they would hold a protest in front of the CJP against the Sindh government’s failure to release water into the district’s only irrigation channel — Rann minor — for more than a decade.

    They said a large number of Tharis, including growers, would take part in the protest as unavailability of water in the channel had rendered more than 45,000 acres of fertile land in Thar barren. They alleged that the government resorted to victimising Tharis for not supporting the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in elections.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    The CJP will also assess the relief operation launched by the Sindh government in the drought-hit district. ─ File photoThe CJP will also assess the relief operation launched by the Sindh government in the drought-hit district. ─ File photo

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    RAWALPINDI: A joint investigation team (JIT) will interrogate former Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai and Omni group official Abdul Ghani Majeed at Adiala jail, following the shifting of a suspect in a money laundering case from Karachi to Adiala Tuesday night.

    According to sources Mr Majeed, one of the suspects in the ‘fake’ bank accounts case who was taken to Karachi from Adiala jail on Dec 5 to be produced in court, was brought back to Rawalpindi on a scheduled Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight.

    The JIT led by a senior Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) official will travel to Islamabad from Karachi to interrogate suspects being held at Adiala jail.

    Mr Lawai and Mr Majeed were brought to Adiala on Nov 29 on orders from the Supreme Court. They were previously being held in Karachi.

    Mr Majeed and his father, Omni group chairman Anwar Majeed, were arrested and booked by the FIA in August.

    Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar had ordered the authorities to produce the younger Mr Majeed before the court at the next hearing. He said because the suspects being investigated in the fake accounts case are influential and powerful figures who could influence the investigation, they should be transferred to Adiala so an independent inquiry can be carried out. A JIT led by Ahsan Sadiq has been formed.

    Sources said Mr Lawai and Mr Majeed were given high class jail facilities.

    The FIA has been investigating several people in the case, including former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

    According to reports, Mr Zardari told the JIT he had not been involved in any business activities since assuming the office of president.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    Former PSX chairman Hussain Lawai. ─ DawnNewsTVFormer PSX chairman Hussain Lawai. ─ DawnNewsTV

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    ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Tuesday directed the Establishment Division to provide the results of all Central Superior Services (CSS) exams and seat allocations since 2008.

    Committee Chairman Senator Talha Mehmood said he had come to know that the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) rules had been forged which is why the CSS results were deteriorating.

    He said the rules regarding CSS marking were changed in 2012 due to which only 2pc or 3pc of the candidates clear the exams compared to 15pc before 2012.

    FPSC rules forged so more candidates from Punjab clear exam, only few from other provinces pass, senator claims

    “Because of the decision, most of the successful candidates are from Punjab and just a few candidates from the other provinces clear the exam. On the other hand, an impression has been made that candidates from the smaller provinces are not competent enough,” he said.

    “I have learned that though it was claimed that the marking criteria was changed on the prime minister’s directions, they were actually changed by forging documents. I direct the Establishment Division to submit all records and in case forgery is discovered, the committee will involve the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA),” he said.

    Senator Mehmood said a large number of seats were vacant in different provinces while unemployment was also continuously increasing across the country.

    “Unfortunately, a large number of candidates fail to clear CSS exams. There is need to improve the system as the services of deputation officers are required in various departments currently when [regular appointments have not been made]. The committee has taken up a case in the past of when a doctor of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences was sent to FIA on deputation,” he said.

    However, Establishment Division Secretary Ijaz Munir said FPSC rules are amended every year and that that these are approved by the prime minister.

    Minister In-Charge Cabinet Division Ali Mohammad Khan said there is no need to hide the record.

    Senator Mohammad Akram said that according to media reports, 17,270 posts are vacant in Balochistan.

    However, the Establishment Division secretary said the quota from Balochistan was raised in 2007 from 3.5pc to 6pc due to which 13,118 new posts were created. He said 9,023 of these were filled and 4,095 are vacant.

    PPP Senator Rubina Khalid said she had learned that an ordinance will soon be passed after which residents of the smaller provinces will not be able to get federal government jobs.

    However, the Establishment Division secretary said this was not correct and that the ordinance will protect the appointments made in the past. He said many appointments had been made with the prime minister’s approval and that later the Supreme Court said the federal cabinet should give the approval and not the premier.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    FPSC rules are forged so more candidates from Punjab clear the exam, while only few from other provinces pass, senator claims. ─ File photoFPSC rules are forged so more candidates from Punjab clear the exam, while only few from other provinces pass, senator claims. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Mohammad Naveed inaugurated the Rs759 million ‘Seamless Broadband Coverage from Hub to Jiwani: Makran Coastal Highway’ project in the capital on Tuesday.

    A contract was also signed for the project between the Universal Services Fund (USF) and the cellular operator Ufone. USF CEO Rizwan Mustafa Mir signed the contract with Ufone CEO Rashid Khan.

    Senior IT ministry, Ufone and USF officials and representatives from IT and telecommunications companies were also present.

    In order to execute the project, 58 base transceiver station (BTS) towers will be installed in the contracted timeframe of 18 months.

    Mr Naveed, while speaking at the inauguration ceremony, described the project as a milestone. He said the event marked one of the greatest landmarks achieved in the field of information technology and telecommunications in Pakistan, and would go a long way in taking developmental work done by the ministry to a greater level.

    With such projects, the Ministry for IT through the USF will continue to work towards the mission of broadband penetration across the country to facilitate the public in rural areas.

    In addition to broadband infrastructure, he said he expected the USF to launch new e-services and m-services to facilitate the adoption of a digital lifestyle for the people of Pakistan.

    Mr Mir from the USF introduced the project, informing the audience that this is the first USF project to cover highways and motorways.

    This will be the first project in which national roaming will be enabled by the operator so subscribers from other operators can receive service while travelling along the highway.

    “This is also the first project with high speed data enabled, which means 512 kilobits per second download and 128 kilobits per second upload. With this high capacity, high quality data rate, one can use modern applications as they travel along the highway.

    “The impact of it is that population along the stretch of the road can benefit from e-services – e-health and e-education — and particularly boost tourism opportunities along the Makran coastal highway because broadband activity is essential before a place can develop,” Mr Mir said.

    This is the first of three projects carried out through a USF subsidy. The others will be in Balochistan, he said.

    Ufone’s Mr Khan said the USF was established to promote the development of telecommunication services in un-served and underserved areas throughout the country.

    He said the company has the same goal to provide telecommunications services to every Pakistani.

    Under the project, voice and broadband services will be provided to the 694 kilometre coastal highway and national roaming will be made available for the first time.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    The Rs759m project promises 'seamless broadband coverage from Hub to Jiwani'. ─ File photoThe Rs759m project promises 'seamless broadband coverage from Hub to Jiwani'. ─ File photo

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    KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday said that no country could progress without rule of law and underlined the need to revamp the laws and system in order to curtail inordinate delay in dispensation of justice.

    He stated that unfortunately there were litigation-orientated people in the society and they used to approach courts unnecessarily in rent or other frivolous civil matters, adding that cost must be imposed on such frivolous litigations.

    Speaking to lawyers and judges after laying the foundation stone of a proposed new registry building of the apex court at the Pakistan Secretariat, the chief justice said that judges were working hard, but the desired results were not being achieved, hence it had become necessary to introduce reforms and revamp the law and system.

    He further said that no country could progress without rule of law and people may lose faith in this system due to delay in disposal of the cases and added that they were trying to introduce reforms in civil laws, but since there was a huge backlog it would be done gradually.

    The burden of civil litigation on judiciary could be reduced through mediation and arbitration, he said and added that the judiciary was overburdened as around 160 cases were fixed before a civil judge in Punjab on daily basis.

    Lauding the role of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, the chief justice said that they were making efforts to improve the system by introducing reforms and a draft would be introduced in the first week of January to make major changes and improvements in the outdated police laws of 1886.

    The CJP said that the country was facing the main challenges of water shortages and growing population and by 2025 Pakistan might experience extreme shortages of water and it was mandatory to build dams and properly manage and utilise water.

    Initially, the idea to build dams came after the apex court was informed about the water issues in Karachi and Quetta, he said and added that there was a mafia behind the water shortages in Karachi, but the apex court-mandated commission, working for past eight months, had worked a lot in Karachi and rest of Sindh on water and sanitation issues.

    The bottled water companies were paying not a single rupee in tax in the past, but now they would have to pay Re1 per litre and “we are working for a legal solution in this regard”, he added.

    The chief justice further stated: “We were living out of our resources since the population has been rapidly growing and it is expected that total population of the country may rise to around 450 million in the next 30 years and that only proper planning could save our coming generations.”

    Justice Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and other judges of superior and higher judiciary also attended the foundation stone laying ceremony.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar lays the foundation stone ofChief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar lays the foundation stone of

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    The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday ordered the removal of prime minister's aide Syed Zulfi Bukhari's name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

    The interior ministry had placed Bukhari's name on the ECL in August upon the National Accountability Bureau's request after he was accused of owning off-shore companies in the British Virgin Islands, and of owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

    Bukhari — who is the prime minister's special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development — had challenged the decision in the IHC in October.

    A two-member IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had reserved its decision on the petition in a previous hearing on Dec 4, and today announced its verdict in the case, ordering the removal of Bukhari's name from the no-fly list.

    The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader is facing another case in the Supreme Court, where his appointment as premier's aide was challenged on account of his holding dual nationality.

    Zulfi Bukhari is the prime minister's special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development. — DawnNewsTVZulfi Bukhari is the prime minister's special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development. — DawnNewsTV

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    KARACHI: The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) announced on Tuesday that it was stopping supply of gas to the compressed natural gas (CNG) sector and captive power plants.

    The SSGC said it was not getting the required pressure and amount of gas for distribution due to a technical fault being experienced at some gas fields.

    Gas shortage: consumers start feeling ‘heat’ of winter

    To add to this, a sharp drop in temperature in Quetta has increased gas demand in that city, which is also affecting the supply of natural gas there.

    CNG Dealers Association, Pakistan Petroleum Association to protest outside SSGC building today

    To ensure uninterrupted supply of gas to its domestic and commercial consumers, the SSGC is discontinuing supply to the CNG sector and captive power plants till further notice.

    It was stressed by the SSGC that the industry would not be affected by this decision and would continue to receive normal supply of gas.

    In reaction to the move, chairman of the CNG Dealers Association and Pakistan Petroleum Association Abdul Sami Khan has called for a protest demonstration of CNG dealers outside the SSGC building on Wednesday (today) at 9am.

    Sindh Minister for Energy Imtiaz Shaikh said the federal government’s decision to stop gas supply to the captive power plants in the province was bound to cause unemployment and stir an industrial crisis.

    Mr Shaikh said at an emergency press conference in his office that the federal government’s attitude towards Sindh, which contributed 70 per cent to the country’s total gas production, was tantamount to unleashing oppression on the people of the province.

    The minister said that gas loadshedding was a serious matter on which the prime minister had taken another U-turn. Only two days ago, the premier had promised Karachi-based industrialists of an end to the loadshedding but the very next moment the supply to the captive power plants was stopped, creating a big crisis which would affect a number of factories, he added.

    He said he had also recorded his protest by drawing attention of the federal minister for petroleum to the first right of Sindh on the gas it produced and urged the prime minister to take notice of the decision to stop supply to the captive power plants and order its restoration.

    In reply to a question, Mr Shaikh said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government was afraid of the Pakistan Peoples Party and victimising its leaders. “Our leaders have been given notices by the National Accountability Bureau once again… but such tactics cannot overawe the PPP. We are not afraid of them,” he added.

    Meanwhile, the supply of re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) to industrial units in Punjab has been suspended for 24 hours after the Engro-owned Elengi LNG terminal started observing a shutdown schedule due to routine maintenance.

    “Keeping in view the considerable reduction in RLNG supplies due to one-day outage of Engro Terminal for undertaking maintenance activities, RLNG supplies to the Punjab industry and CNG sectors shall remain suspended for next 24 hours starting from 0000hrs on December 12 and ending at December 13 (12am),” said a press release issued on Tuesday.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

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    ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) never conducted any investigation into the establishment of Al-Azizia and HME Steel Mills and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) did not ask his client any question about the HME when he appeared before it.

    While making final arguments before the Supreme Court, lead defence counsel in Al-Azizia reference Khawaja Haris Ahmed said the documents on the basis of which NAB implicated the former premier in the reference were the ones produced by no one else but his own son Hussain Nawaz before the court.

    “They [NAB] never brought anything on the court’s record except the documents produced by Hussain Nawaz before the Supreme Court during the hearing of the Panama Papers case,” he said.

    Advocate Haris argued whether it was appropriate to implicate someone in a reference on the basis of documents submitted by a co-accused before the court. What the investigation officer brought [on record] had already been examined by the court, he said, adding that the investigators got all the information included in the reference against Mr Nawaz from the same documents and failed to trace any incriminating material against him during the investigation.

    Some other information incorporated in the reference was the details of accounts which his clients had himself shared with the Federal Board of Revenue and the Supreme Court, the counsel argued.

    Investigators never conducted probe into establishment of Al-Azizia and HME Steel Mills, argues defence counsel

    About the money remitted to his client’s accounts as mentioned in the Aldar audit report, which also was presented by Mr Hussain before the SC, Advocate Haris termed it an incomplete and insufficient piece of evidence, arguing that the prosecution never tried to verify the audit report or its contents through independent sources. The scribes of this report never testified before any competent forum, therefore, it could not be used against his client as admissible evidence, he added.

    Citing the testimony of JIT head Wajid Zia that the request sent to Saudi Arabia for mutual legal assistance regarding HME did not mention full name of the HME, the company owned by Hussain Nawaz, the defence counsel said the JIT did not know the company’s complete title when it sent the request. The JIT learnt the actual title, which was “Hill Modern Industry for Metal Establishment”, through the documents Mr Hussain produced during his appearance before the JIT on June 3, 2017.

    On the basis of incorrect and incomplete information, the JIT expected to collect factual information from the Saudi authorities, Mr Haris said, observing that this was an example of JIT’s so-called ‘efficiency’ and ‘competence’.

    About Al-Azizia Steel Mills, the defence counsel said Mr Nawaz had never claimed to be its owner. He said Mr Hussain was not a dependent of his father as his grandfather Mian Mohammad Sharif was looking after the entire family. He said the story about money trail of Al-Azizia/HME was no different, as Mian Sharif had invested with the Qatari royal family.

    Advocate Haris argued that Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani had confirmed to the Supreme Court about the investment of 12 million dirhams of the Sharif family. However, he said, “the JIT never made any serious effort to record statement of Sheikh Hamad despite the fact that he was ready to share every possible detail with the investigators.”

    The defence will continue final arguments on Wednesday as the court adjourned further proceeding.

    Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

    Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not asked about Al-Azizia and HME Steel Mills by the JIT, says his defence. — File photoFormer prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not asked about Al-Azizia and HME Steel Mills by the JIT, says his defence. — File photo

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    An accountability court in Lahore granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) 10-day physical remand of PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing scam case.

    NAB, which had taken the siblings into custody a day earlier following the rejection of their petition to obtain pre-arrest bail, had sought 15-day remand of the two. The court instead granted 10-day remand with instructions to produce both the accused before the court on December 22.

    Ahead of the hearing, roads around the accountability court were closed for normal traffic, while police also placed barbed wires around the judicial complex in order to keep PML-N workers at bay.

    After the hearing began, NAB's Special Prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua apprised accountability court judge Justice Syed Najamul Hasan of its accusations against Saad and his brother.

    "Khawaja Saad Rafique opened a company in his and his wife's name," he said. "Then, Executive Builders' name was changed to Paragon."

    "Paragon Housing Society is illegal; an approval for its construction was not obtained," the NAB official alleged. "Ninety people from whom the Khawaja brothers took money but did not allot plots to have contacted NAB. They also took a lot of commission from Executive Builders' accounts. We have to conduct an inquiry."

    When the judge asked if the Khawaja brothers had been cooperating with NAB's investigation, the prosecutor replied in the affirmative. "Yes, indeed, they have been appearing before NAB and recording their statements," Janjua said.

    The NAB prosecutor produced the statement of a certain Shahid Butt who, it said, is a partner of a block in the Paragon scheme and has admitted that Saad used to attend every meeting of scheme's administrators.

    At this, the accountability judge instructed the NAB official to present a handwritten statement from Butt, adding that "this seems as if it was written by NAB itself."

    "Do not put [words] in Shahid Butt's mouth," the court warned.

    The prosecutor then informed the court of a statement provided by one Qaiser Amin Butt who, it said, has claimed that "the Khawaja brothers are co-owners of the Paragon scheme and that Nadim Zia is their frontman."

    Amjad Pervez, the Khawaja brothers' counsel, told the court that their clients have been cooperating fully with NAB and have presented themselves before the watchdog six times.

    The defence counsel said that cases of alleged corruption were also created against Saad during Pervez Musharraf's era but that after three years, NAB did not find anything.

    "Political cases were created against the brothers then, and political cases are being created against them now," Pervez said.

    He denied that the siblings had anything to do with the Paragon housing scheme, adding that "the project was built 15 years ago but not a single document has been found that proves that they they are the owners."

    Saad unhappy with NAB lock-up conditions

    Saad, during a conversation with his counsel in courtroom today, complained of conditions in the NAB lock-up, where he spent the previous night.

    "My home-cooked meals have been stopped," the former Railways minister said. "There is no door bolt in the washroom [although] they have removed cameras from there.

    "I did not take my breakfast this morning because the [food served] was not of the quality that it could be eaten."

    The accountability judge expressed his anger at NAB over Saad's complaint, saying: "This should not happen even if someone is a convict. NAB should commit in writing that it will place door bolts in its washrooms.

    "Investigate, but not by unnatural means," the judge further instructed the bureau's representatives.

    PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Saman Rafique were arrested by NAB on Tuesday. — FilePML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Saman Rafique were arrested by NAB on Tuesday. — File

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    As Washington announced that Islamabad had been added to a list of violators of religious freedoms, Pakistan on Wednesday rejected the "unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement", and suggested the US introspect over the "exponential rise" of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in America.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Tuesday said that Pakistan was joining Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, North Korea, Burma, Eritrea, Sudan and Tajikistan on a list of countries that have "engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom".

    The Foreign Office (FO) today issued Islamabad's reaction to the listing, saying: "Pakistan rejects the US State Department's unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement ... Besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions over the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise."

    The FO explained measures that the government had taken to safeguard the rights of its citizens, including the use of legal and administrative mechanisms, adding that Islamabad submits compliance reports on its obligations with respect to fundamental freedoms as a party to seven of nine core human rights treaties.

    How Pakistan safeguards its minorities, according to FO:

    • Equal treatment of minorities enshrined in Constitution
    • Special seats reserved for minorities in Parliament
    • National Commission on Human Rights addresses concerns over violations of minorities' rights
    • Successive governments make protection of minorities a priority
    • Judiciary has made several landmark decisions to protect the properties and places of worship of minority communities

    "Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities," the statement asserted.

    The FO suggested that honest introspection on Washington's part would have been a timely move in order to ascertain the causes behind the exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.

    "Sadly, the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes to the systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir," the statement added.

    The FO described Pakistan as a "multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together."

    Last year, Pompeo had placed Pakistan on a special watch list — a step short of the designation — which is used to persuade the targeted nation into introducing reforms suggested in annual US reports for religious freedom.

    The designation is based on these annual reports and opens the door for further actions, including US economic sanctions. The US has already imposed strict economic sanctions on Pakistan for its alleged refusal to follow the Trump administration’s Afghan strategy.

    The designation also includes al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Isis, Isis-Khorasan, and the Taliban as entities of particular concern.

    Blacklisting Pakistan a 'brazen political tactic': Mazari

    Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari expressed surprise at the US administration's decision to designate Pakistan among “countries of particular concern”, terming it a "brazen political tactic to pressure Pakistan to mitigate US failures in Afghanistan".

    The PTI minister, in her official statement on the development, acknowledged that "there is no doubt that Pakistan's record on religions freedom is not ideal" but questioned if the "the EU's record" is any better "given the restrictions on churches, the banning of certain dress codes of Mulsims, refusal of entry of certain preachers — the list continues."

    Mazari reminded the US that "in our own neighbourhood we have India where Muslims are being targeted and where the BJP is supporting violence against Muslims ostensibly over beef."

    "The timing of the US move smacks of pure political blackmailing because it comes in the wake of Pakistan opening the Katharpur corridor to ease access for the Sikhs of India," the statement reads.

    The human rights minister said that she would "like to educate the Trump administration" that a "diverse denominations of Christian churches are present in Pakistan", including Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian and others.

    Mazari made it clear that the US attempt to pressurise "Pakistan to do its bidding" will not work, directing their attention to Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent remarks that he would net allow the country to be anyone's "hired gun" anymore.

    "It is time for the US to take responsibility for its failures in Afghanistan ... and if it is serious about religious freedoms then it needs to examine the record of Modi's India and and some of its EU allies," she added.

    Pompeo waives CPC sanctions for Pakistan

    A US Embassy spokesperson today told DawnNewsTV that Pompeo, along with placing Pakistan on the list, had concurrently issued a waiver of 'country of particular concern' (CPC) sanctions against Pakistan "as required by 'the important national interest of the United States'."

    The spokesperson explained that each country given the CPC designation "presents unique challenges, as well as a different potential for change".

    "The measures the United States carries out or waives with respect to a CPC are part of a broader strategy that aims to improve respect for religious freedom in that country," the spokesperson added.

    "In certain instances, the Secretary (Pompeo) has determined that a waiver of the Presidential Action was required in the important national interest of the United States."

    Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photoForeign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo

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    A 'mobile tax policy' for foreign visitors and travelers returning to Pakistan has been announced, and the Federal Board of Revenue has released the details of duties it has imposed on imported handsets.

    For people still confused about how the two things affect them, we've put together this brief explainer to help them navigate the process.

    Q)What is the registration process?

    The registration process is entirely voluntary. When you arrive in the country, you can register your device(s) at the designated Customs booth at the airport.

    You can download and print the declaration form beforehand and hand it to the authorities to save time. The form is available at:

    You can also leave the airport and have your mobile device registered at a Customs house near your location within 15 days of arrival.

    Your mobile phone will not be confiscated during the process of registration.

    You will be asked to provide a 15 digit IMEI number for your device at Customs and a proof of identity (whichever is applicable). Customs will use that information to register the device's IMEI against your name.

    The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has shared this video detailing the mobile device registration process for international passengers if you need further help.

    Q)How much will the registration cost me?

    The first device is duty free!

    All persons flying in to Pakistan are allowed to register one handset without having to pay any duty charges.

    Furthermore, you do not have to register or pay any duty charges on mobile devices that will be used on a roaming network (i.e., used with a foreign SIM card), or which will be used in Pakistan for less than 30 days.

    Lastly, if you are carrying a phone that was used in Pakistan with a local service provider SIM before December 1, you do not need to worry about anything. That device is already registered on the relevant authority's monitoring system.

    In case of extra devices, you will be informed about the taxes applicable on them based on their pre-assessed value. You will be asked to settle those taxes before your device can be registered.

    Unfortunately, a comprehensive list or calculator that can help you figure out how much in taxes is applicable on each device is not available, and you will have to rely on the Customs official's assessment for the total due on each device.

    Why is this system in place?

    The government is basically attempting to control the influx of smuggled mobile devices through a system called 'DIRBS'. That's short for Device Identification Registration & Blocking System.

    PTA Director 'Type Approvals' Nauman Khalid told us that DIRBS forces anyone who plans to import a mobile device or purchase an imported device within Pakistan to ensure that the device's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is "PTA approved and compliant".

    This basically means that the PTA keeps an eye on all mobile phones brought into the country and makes sure they are taxed properly under the tax regime defined by the government.

    Smuggling phones into the country had previously been a big problem and DIRBS has been set up to render smuggled phones useless as communications devices. With a flip of a (virtual) switch, any unregistered device will be unable to register onto a mobile phone network (and therefore make phone calls, send and receive messages, use a mobile data network, etc).

    Director Type Approvals of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Nauman Khalid said all devices used on Pakistani networks till Dec 1 were automatically white listed. — File photoDirector Type Approvals of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Nauman Khalid said all devices used on Pakistani networks till Dec 1 were automatically white listed. — File photo

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    National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser on Wednesday chaired a meeting of opposition leaders and government ministers to find ways to break the impasse over the nomination of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif as the chairman of the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee.

    The meeting ended without any agreement between the opposition and the government, however, with the two sides vowing to remain engaged on the PAC chairmanship issue and the formation of the standing committees.

    "I am hopeful that ... God will resolve this problem [deadlock] before 2019 starts," said Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan, who along with Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Finance Minister Asad Umar represented the government during the meeting.

    Talking to reporters after the meeting at the speaker's office, PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said the opposition parties maintained their demand that Shahbaz should be named the PAC head.

    "Several options were discussed with the government and both sides gave their recommendations," he said. Other opposition leaders in the meeting were PML-N's Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanveer and PPP's Naveed Qamar.

    Sanaullah refused to provide details of the recommendations that were presented to end the deadlock, saying the two sides would discuss them internally before further talks are held.

    He also said the PML-N representatives had requested the speaker to issue the production orders for former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday.

    Sadiq said Speaker Qaiser had assured them that the orders will be issued. However, state minister Ali said no decision had been taken in this regard as yet, and that the speaker will decide the matter as per rules.

    PPP's Qamar said they had suggested to the government that a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) nominee could chair PAC sessions in which audit paras concerning the previous Nawaz Sharif-led government are to be reviewed, to avoid a possible conflict of interest that could arise with Shahbaz presiding over such sittings.

    "The government cannot reject our recommendation," he said, adding that whatever is decided will be decided through consensus.

    The PPP leader clarified that the opposition was not considering the name of MNAs other than Shahbaz to lead the PAC.

    The stalemate

    The National Assembly had gone into its sixth session from Monday with Speaker Qaiser still struggling to end the deadlock between the government and the opposition over the issue of the PAC chairmanship.

    The speaker had to stop the process of the formation of the committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott all the committees if the ruling party did not offer the PAC chairmanship to Opposition Leader Shahbaz as per the “parliamentary traditions”.

    The opposition parties claim that Qaiser in a meeting with them had previously agreed to their demand of nominating Shahbaz as the PAC chairman, but later backtracked from his commitment due to resistance from his party members.

    The PTI is unwilling to give the PAC chairmanship to Shahbaz, saying it could not allow him to review the projects that had been initiated and executed by the government of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.

    The inordinate delay in the formation of the committees has started to affect the functioning of the parliament, which has almost become dysfunctional as far as legislative work is concerned. With the present government already completing its 100 days in office, the NA has been able to only pass the Finance (Supplementary) Bill.

    PPP's Naveed Qamar (L) and PML-N's Rana Sanaullah speak to reporters at the parliament after a meeting with a government delegation. — ScreengrabPPP's Naveed Qamar (L) and PML-N's Rana Sanaullah speak to reporters at the parliament after a meeting with a government delegation. — Screengrab

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    US Consul General JoAnne Wagner, Sindh Works and Services Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and provincial police chief Dr Kaleem Imam on Wednesday inaugurated a shooting simulator system installed at the Saeedabad Police Training Centre in Karachi.

    Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Wagner said the US was supporting Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and would “continue to cooperate for the creation of a democratic and peaceful atmosphere”.

    The US diplomat said that it was the “quick response” of Sindh police helped foil the terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi last month.

    Provincial minister Nasir Shah gave Sindh police the credit for maintaining law and order in the province and advocated that the provincial government should “increase the budget of police and enhance its capability through the provision of modern equipment”.

    Also speaking at the ceremony, the Sindh IG said that the newly installed simulator will “help improve the firing capabilities of the trainees”.

    Moreover, he requested the general public to highlight the weaknesses of the police department.

    US Consul General JoAnne Wagner, Sindh Works and Services Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and provincial police chief Dr Kaleem Imam inaugurated a shooting simulator system installed at the Saeedabad Police Training Centre in Karachi. —Photo provided by the authorUS Consul General JoAnne Wagner, Sindh Works and Services Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and provincial police chief Dr Kaleem Imam inaugurated a shooting simulator system installed at the Saeedabad Police Training Centre in Karachi. —Photo provided by the author

    US Consul General JoAnne Wagner, Sindh Works and Services Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and provincial police chief Dr Kaleem Imam inaugurated a shooting simulator system installed at the Saeedabad Police Training Centre in Karachi. —Photo provided by the authorUS Consul General JoAnne Wagner, Sindh Works and Services Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and provincial police chief Dr Kaleem Imam inaugurated a shooting simulator system installed at the Saeedabad Police Training Centre in Karachi. —Photo provided by the author

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