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    Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PPP veteran Syed Naveed Qamar on Wednesday demanded that production orders be issued for incarcerated PML-N lawmaker Khawaja Saad Rafique, who was remanded to the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) custody earlier in the day as part of a probe into a housing scheme scam.

    "Accountability is being used to suppress the opposition," Abbasi claimed in his address in the parliament. "Shahbaz Sharif has been kept on remand or the last 64 days but a case could not be created. These things hurt the supremacy of the parliament."

    "Prime Minister [Imran Khan] is also facing a case of wrongful use of a helicopter; he should also be arrested," the PML-N MNA demanded. "Aleem Khan, Aleema Khan, Pervez Elahi and Pervez Khattak should also be arrested.

    Read: The challenge of accountability in ‘Naya Pakistan’

    "We are in favour of accountability; in fact, it can even start from our government. But then [true] accountability should be conducted. Opposition should not be suppressed through a media trial."

    Abbasi urged the NA speaker to ensure the parliament's supremacy by issuing Rafique's production orders — a demand PPP's Qamar seconded.

    "It looks like the next session [of the assembly] will have to be staged in Adiala," the PPP MNA said. "The government's aim is to malign the opposition; it wants to rule as a single party.

    "Opposition members are jailed in dictatorships not democracies," Qamar added.

    When Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took centre stage to rebut the opposition's remarks, the house burst into a now familiar ruckus.

    "The PML-N does not seem to have been raised right," the minister, notorious for his fiery parliamentary speeches, said as he responded to the uproar.

    "They do not listen to anyone [but themselves]."

    Deputy speaker Qasim Suri advised Chaudhry to take back his words, to which he cheekily replied: "all right then. Let me say that their upbringing has been good."

    Continuing, the information minister pointed out that: "Chairman NAB was appointed by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi."

    When PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb interjected, Chaudhry hit back saying: "You also have to go [to jail so] please be patient."

    It is pertinent to mention here that NAB had on Tuesday "started examining" a complaint against Aurangzeb for allegedly possessing assets beyond her known sources of income.

    Chaudhry made it clear that the government will not make the corruption watchdog stop its activities, noting that "if we do not hold stained people accountable then PTI has no right to govern."

    "Free and fair accountability is being conducted for the first time in Pakistan," he added. "Let the NAB and courts do their jobs. Making the process of accountability controversial will not be beneficial."

    Minister of State for Communications Murad Saeed, meanwhile, suggested a rather radical solution to the menace of corruption.

    "A resolution should be passed that whoever has looted even a penny of this nation should be hanged on D-Chowk, and their assets be auctioned off."

    The minister claimed that "seven PML-N members" — one of whom he said was present in the parliament — "have asked me for an NRO".

    The cases will, however, continue, Saeed maintained.

    The NA session was adjourned till Thursday.


    Former PM Abbasi wants Saad Rafique's production orders issued. DawnNewsTVFormer PM Abbasi wants Saad Rafique's production orders issued. DawnNewsTV

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    President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh and discussed issues of mutual interests, Radio Pakistan reported.

    The two sides also discussed the bilateral ties, trade, investments and economic issues, the report said.

    The acting ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, Zeeshan Ahmed, and Consul General in Jeddah Shahryar Akbar Khan were also present during the meeting.


    President Dr Arif Alvi met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh and discussed issues of mutual interests. —PIDPresident Dr Arif Alvi met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh and discussed issues of mutual interests. —PID

    President Dr Arif Alvi met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh and discussed issues of mutual interests. —PIDPresident Dr Arif Alvi met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh and discussed issues of mutual interests. —PID

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    The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday granted bail to the five suspects arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over their alleged involvement in a Rs63 billion oil scam involving the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and private oil firms.

    The suspects — former general manager (supply) of PSO Akhter Zameer, former chief operating officer of Byco Pakistan Petroleum Ltd (BPPL) Kamran Iftikhar Lari, and former CEO of Byco Oil Pakistan Ltd (BOPL) Qaiser Jamal — were arrested in Karachi on July 11.

    In other raids, NAB had arrested former general manager (retail, consumer business) of PSO and CEO of Jinn Petroleum Syed Zulfiqar Ali Jaffery in Islamabad and former senior general manager (marketing) of PSO Dr Syed Nazar A. Zaidi in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan.

    The SHC issued its verdict after hearing the bail petitions filled by the accused.

    According to NAB, the five suspects were wanted in a petroleum sale and purchase scam. The PSO was accused of making illegal agreements with oil firms, which caused colossal loss to the national exchequer.

    The suspects in connivance with each other awarded an illegal contract of crude oil supply worth Rs2.43 billion to BPPL in 2008-09 against which no payment was received.

    According to NAB, it was established that the former PSO officials abused their authority by entering into an illegal contract of sale and purchase of petroleum products with Byco Oil Pakistan Ltd (BOPL) in 2012 for supply of petroleum products to PSO despite the fact that BOPL was commissioned in 2013. As a result of the illegal agreement, substandard products were supplied to the PSO that caused loss of Rs60 billion to the national exchequer.

    During the course of investigation, NAB found that then PSO management abused its authority by entering into another illegal agreement with BPPL for sales and purchase of petroleum products, whereby the PSO supplied superior quality imported products (HSD & Petrol) to BPPL at abnormally subsidised rates, causing loss to the national exchequer.

    “Three agreements were entered into by PSO with mala fide and illegal considerations of extending favours to blue-eyed companies in petroleum business and with intention of personal illegal gains,” said a NAB official.

    The entire scam caused Rs63.687 billion loss to the national exchequer, according to a NAB press release.

    It was after this that the Sup­reme Court had ordered a complete audit of the PSO to verify the pricing structure for the last three years and determine the fairness of the price the consumers are charged for the import of motor oil, high-speed diesel, and furnace oil.


    PSO has been accused of making illegal agreements with oil firms, which caused colossal loss to the national exchequer. —Dawn ArchivesPSO has been accused of making illegal agreements with oil firms, which caused colossal loss to the national exchequer. —Dawn Archives

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    The chairman of Senate functional committee on human rights, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, during a meeting on Wednesday, raised questions on the process through which names were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) and observed that the interior ministry should make the procedure transparent.

    Inquiring about the process of placing names on the ECL, Khokhar said two members of the Senate committee, MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, were placed on the ECL and Hamza Shahbaz was also stopped from travelling abroad.

    Additional Interior Secretary Dr Tariq Sardar briefed the committee that it was the federal government issued directives to the ministry about whose name to be placed on the ECL.

    The name of Hamza Shahbaz, the leader of opposition in Punjab Assembly, had not been placed on the list, the secretary added.

    Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari also informed the committee that Hamza Shahbaz's name was not on the ECL. "He was stopped on NAB's request as the bureau thought that it was very likely that he [Hamza] won't return [if allowed to travel abroad]," Mazari said.

    The interior ministry official said the names of Dawar and Wazir were not on the ECL, following which Mazari added that their names must be on the provisional national identification list (PNIL).

    The committee asked for a briefing on the PNIL — a list said to be maintained and administered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The committee observed that they only knew about the ECL and the blacklist, and asked what other lists were maintained to stop people from travelling abroad.

    At this Dawar said that they were "stopped at the airport and told that their names were on the ECL".

    "Three hours later, we were told that there was an FIR [registered against them] which was why our names were on the ECL," Dawar said.

    "Perhaps, in the same manner, Hamza was told that his name was on the blacklist," Dawar said. "If our name is not on the ECL then why the other list being kept hidden."

    The additional secretary briefed that it was the intelligence agencies and the FIA which request to put names on the PNIL.

    Mazari said that she had found out from the interior ministry that the names of Dawar and Wazir were not on the ECL, but the FIA Peshawar had forwarded their name.

    "[When questioned further] the ministry's officials said the FIA could give a better insight on the issue but said that names of criminals are placed on the PNIL," the minister said.

    The committee then summoned the FIA director general and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief on December 17 to further deliberate on the matter.

    Moreover, Senator Usman Khan Kakar commented Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) chief Manzoor Pashteen was not even travelling abroad, now he was being restricted from going to any other province within the country.

    "The Supreme Court has made it clear that even if an FIR is registered against anyone, he cannot be stopped from going abroad," he said, adding that the name of an Article 6 suspect was not on the ECL.

    Issue of missing persons

    Mazari said there was no space for enforced disappearances in a democracy.

    "We want to change the law and solve this problem," the human rights minister said, adding that they had asked for a list of all missing persons after which they will deliberate with all stakeholders on the issue.

    The minister said Balochistan National Party (BNP) Sardar Akhtar Mengal has also been contacted in this regard.

    Mazari said they wanted to resolve the issue of missing persons and bring security agencies on board for lawmaking.

    "The people who are being picked up should be presented [before the court of law]," she said, adding that it was the right of people to know about the whereabouts of their relatives who had been missing for years.

    'Media has been told to lie for six months'

    Prior to the start of the meeting, Senator Kakar raised an objection regarding the statement issued by the military's spokesperson where he had asked the media to report about 'positive' things for the next six months.

    "The [ISPR] statement regarding positive reporting by the media for six months is an important statement which should be brought on the agenda," he said.

    Commenting on the ISPR statement, Kakar said that the "media has been told to lie for six months".


    Senate functional committee on human rights raises questions on the process through which names were being placed on the Exit Control List. —Dawn ArchivesSenate functional committee on human rights raises questions on the process through which names were being placed on the Exit Control List. —Dawn Archives

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    Prime Minister Imran Khan, while chairing a meeting regarding the current shortfall of gas supply in the country, took notice of negligence on the part of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and ordered an inquiry against their managing directors, Radio Pakistanreported.

    The prime minister was briefed by Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan regarding SNGPL and SSGC's concealment of information from the government pertinent to a fault faced by some of the gas compressors.

    The minister held the two companies to account and blamed them for the country's current gas crisis. He said both the companies "demonstrated negligence and incompetence in the estimate of gas demand during December," according to Radio Pakistan.

    The premier took notice of negligence on the part of SNGPL and SSGC and withholding of crucial information regarding faulty gas compressors, and ordered an inquiry against their managing directors and sought a detailed report within the next 72 hours.

    Furthermore, he directed the management of SNGPL and SSGC to better integrate demand and supply of gas so a crisis can be avoided in the future.

    Regarding remedying the immediate shortfall, the prime minister was told that eight cargo ships carrying regasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) will arrive in Pakistan as scheduled and efforts were well underway to restore domestic gas production.

    The premier was further informed that despite local gas production having lowered and faults in certain gas compressors, domestic gas consumers remained unaffected.

    "However, CNG and captive plants of some general industries are facing difficulties," Radio Pakistan reported.


    Prime Minster Imran Khan ordered an inquiry against managing directors of SNGPL and SSGC. —Photo courtesy: PM Khan's Instagram accountPrime Minster Imran Khan ordered an inquiry against managing directors of SNGPL and SSGC. —Photo courtesy: PM Khan's Instagram account

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    Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Wednesday arrived in Sindh's Tharparkar district where he visited several health facilities and reviewed the ongoing development projects. He was accompanied by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

    Talking to journalists at Thar coal field, the top judge lauded the efforts of the Sindh government in providing relief to Thari people, who have been hit by a severe drought due to nearly zero rainfall.

    He, however, stressed that there was still a need to work on providing quality healthcare and education to the people living in the desert district.

    CJP Mian Saqib Nisar visits the operation theatre of Diplo Taluku Hospital. — Photo provided by author
    CJP Mian Saqib Nisar visits the operation theatre of Diplo Taluku Hospital. — Photo provided by author

    Justice Nisar said although the provincial government was distributing free wheat among Tharis to cope with food insecurity, there was a great need to provide modern healthcare facilities to them to prevent mortalities of Thari children.

    "The health sector is a provincial subject so the provincial government has to step in and stem the rot," Nisar stressed.

    He revealed that during his visit to Diplo taluka hospital he had found an X-ray machine to be out of order. Also, he said, there were operation theatres in Mithi but no surgeon had been posted there to conduct surgeries.

    The CJP said the huge coal reserves and several development projects being undertaken would usher in a new era of prosperity in the desert region. "I have already directed the chief minister, chief secretary and other officials of the Sindh government to focus on the core issues of Thar so that its people could get maximum relief in the wake of drought-like conditions," he said.

    Earlier in the day, after landing at Mai Bakhtawar Airport, Thar, Justice Nisar reached Mithi via helicopter where he visited Asia's largest reverse osmosis (RO) plant in Misri Shah area. The Sindh chief minister and officials of the private firm briefed him about the plant and informed him that the plant was catering to the needs of over 50,000 people and their livestock living in Mithi and its surrounding areas.

    To a question, the CJP was informed that on average the plant produced around 0.5-0.6 million gallons of water per day. The water is stored in two dedicated storage tanks, each of 0.5 million gallons capacity.

    With Chief Minister Shah in the driving seat, the CJP then travelled to Mithi Civil Hospital where he inspected various wards where some of the patients and their attendants complained against the shortage of drugs.

    The top judge expressed displeasure at the lack of facilities in the emergency ward. "What will you do in case of an emergency?," he asked the concerned officials, and directed them to ensure the provision of all required facilities.

    "The hospital has been extensively decorated as if it is going to get married, but there is a shortage of drugs," he remarked during the visit.

    The chief minister and other officials informed him that the Sindh government had "marshalled all its resources" to provide quality healthcare facilities in Mithi and the rest of Thar.

    The officials claimed that most of the infants who were dying in the area were underweight and stated child marriages as the prime cause of the fatalities.

    "We are trying our best to curb the menace of early marriages by launching awareness drives," the government officials said.

    After visiting Diplo and some villages, Justice Nisar headed to the Thar coal field near Islamkot where he visited the project sites of coal-fired power plants and coal mines.

    The officials of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company briefed him about the progress of their projects. They said the firm was all set to produce 660MW of power by the end of January or by the first week of February.

    The CJP was further informed that a 120-bed state-of-the-art hospital was under construction in Islamkot, that would cost Rs2 billion. It will start OPD service in 2019.

    The Sindh government had released a Rs500 million grant for the hospital while Shahid Afridi Foundation has chipped in with Rs200m. The remaining amount is being generated from donations.

    SC judges Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh, PTI lawmaker Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani and other high-ranking officials of various departments were present during the CJP's visit to Thar.

    A large number of people from different areas of Thar and other districts approached the top judge with various complaints. He received the applications from them and assured them that their legal demands would be heard.


    CJP Mian Saqib Nisar and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah arrive in Thar on Wednesday. — Photo provided by authorCJP Mian Saqib Nisar and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah arrive in Thar on Wednesday. — Photo provided by author

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    ISLAMABAD: A crisis in the gas sector proliferated across the country on Wednesday as gas shortages forced industry closures across Punjab and Karachi, and even domestic consumers in many parts faced outages. Later at night, Prime Minister Imran Khan took personal notice of the situation and summoned Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar, who blamed the management of two gas companies — SSGC and SNGPL — following which the premier ordered an inquiry into “specific allegations against the managing directors”.

    The prime minister was informed by the petroleum minister that drop in gas production in the south fields of Kunnar Pasakhi and Gambat caused problems in Karachi, and faults in gas compressors at Nawabshah and Saran created shortages in the north.

    “SNGPL did not report gas demand and supply shortfall in December accurately to the government, and SSGCL failed to inform the government about faults in the compressors in a timely manner,” a statement issued by the PM Office said.

    The inquiry is to be conducted by a committee headed by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) chairperson Uzma Adil Khan. Additionally, three directors general of the petroleum division Qazi Saleem, Shahid Yousaf and Imran Ahmad will call any expert witness to assist in the proceedings.

    Widespread industry shutdowns prompt outcry

    “The specific allegations against the managing directors of SNGPL and SSGCL include negligence in reporting of facts to the ministry or incompetence to deal with operational issues, withholding of information from the government and overall systematic governance failure of SNGPL and SSGCL,” according to a notification issued by the petroleum division.

    The committee is required to submit a report to the prime minister within 72 hours.

    Industries in Lahore had their gas cut off late on Tuesday night and were told it would be back in 24 hours. Likewise, industries in Faisalabad had been cut off by 10pm on Tuesday and were also told to expect restoration of supply in 24 hours. But late on Wednesday night, as restoration time drew near, industry leaders in both cities told Dawn that they were told to wait another six to eight hours before full resumption of supply.

    Karachi industrialists reacted strongly to the notices that were served on them the day before, alerting them of imminent disconnection. Several groups met separately to chart an appropriate response, eventually reaching out to the established trade bodies like the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, SITE Association of Industry, the Bin Qasim Association of Trade and Industry and the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry. All groups issued separate statements during the day, calling for immediate resumption of supply and pointing to government’s mismanagement of the gas sector and growing losses in transmission as some of the factors behind the crisis.

    By late Wednesday night, some industry leaders told Dawn that they had been reassured by the SSGC that the outage would not last beyond Friday.

    In its letter sent to the industry across the city, the SSGC did not give any specific reasons for the shortfall, saying simply that they were facing “a continuous short supply of gas from different gas fields”.

    Speaking to Dawn, an SSGC spokesperson said the Kunnar Pasakhi field had developed a fault and claimed that supply to the export-oriented industry and power generators was normal.

    In a written statement sent to reporters, the petroleum division said the SSGC was getting 1200mmcfd (million cubic feet per day) indigenous gas these days, compared to 1280mmcfd in December last year. This shortfall of 80mmcfd was due to natural depletion of indigenous gas reserves. The total shortage on these two counts worked out at 130mmcfd when compared to last year.

    “Another 100mmcfd additional gas is consumed by the domestic sector from December onwards, due to the onset of winter”, bringing the size of total shortfall to 230mmcfd, a source in the petroleum division told Dawn.

    “To overcome the problem, and to ensure adequate supply to domestic and commercial sectors, gas to captive power plants of all general industries, excluding the zero-rated and rice export industries, will remain shut with immediate effect till further notice,” the SSGC letter to the industry stated.

    Oil refineries have been reporting a crisis-like situation since last month owing to filling to capacity of their furnace oil storages and warning that they would be compelled to reduce production capacity.

    The matter was repeatedly discussed by the cabinet committee on energy comprising almost all economic ministers. Informed sources said condensate from a series of hydrocarbon fields had been processed at site and transported to refineries. A couple of processing plants at the gas fields were out of order and refineries were least interested in lifting condensate because of their furnace oil storage constraints.

    This was partially confirmed by the petroleum division. It said that “gas supplies from three fields namely Kunnar, Pasakhi and Gambat have been reduced by 50mmcfd, from November 22, 2018, as a consequence of curtailment due to condensate storage problem at the fields and refineries”.

    Meanwhile, a ray of hope emerged from two LNG terminals in Karachi. Engro Elengy’s CEO told Dawn that his terminal would be up and running by Thursday morning after a routine maintenance shutdown.

    And Pakistan Gas Port Ltd reported that it was operating at full capacity, pumping 650mmcfd of gas into the SSGC system. It was reported that eight RLNG shipments would be arriving in time according to the schedule while efforts have been expedited for the revival of domestic gas production.

    The petroleum division said the SSGC had issued notices to industries with captive power in October 2018 that it would not be able to provide gas in December–February period to ensure supply to domestic consumers in view of the above gas shortfall of 230mmcfd. The captive power customers were told under their agreement to make alternate fuel arrangements.

    The SSGC also started reducing gas supply to the power sector in the first phase and issued notices to captive power customers (other than zero-rated) to curtail consumption by 50 per cent. However, the captive power sector was reluctant to cooperate.

    As a result, the SSGC was constrained to stop supply of gas to CNG stations from Dec 10 and captive power units of general industry were served notices on Dec 11 for complete closure, according to the source in the petroleum division.

    The petroleum division said that although compressor units of the SSGC system were out of service due to technical reasons, moving RLNG upcountry to Sui Northern was not a problem and had no impact on the SSGC system. “As soon as gas supplies from the fields are reclaimed and the situation is stabilised, gas supplies from the system will be restored,” the petroleum division said.

    In the National Assembly, PPP members Abdul Qadir Patel and Naveed Qamar criticised the government for violating Article 158 of the Constitution that promised first right of gas supply to the province where it was produced, but the CNG and industry in Sindh was suffering.

    The petroleum minister said the gas companies had already sought interpretation of Article 158 from the Supreme Court.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    The committee tasked with conducting an inquiry into the matter is required to submit a report to the prime minister within 72 hours. ─ File photoThe committee tasked with conducting an inquiry into the matter is required to submit a report to the prime minister within 72 hours. ─ File photo

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    KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy (PN) inducted its first marinised and upgraded ATR aircraft and Sea King helicopters (Ex Mod UK) into its fleet at an impressive ceremony held at PNS Mehran on Wednesday.

    Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi also attended the ceremony.

    The first marinised ATR aircraft, a modern and widely-operated turboprop platform, has been retrofitted with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors which will substantially enhance the fleet air arm’s operational capability commensurate with contemporary maritime warfare requirements.

    The induction of the two Mk 3A/ Mk 4 Sea King helicopters acquired from UK into the PN’s existing fleet of Sea King helicopters will further enhance its operational capability, particularly of troops’ transfer. One of the helicopters is purpose built for search and rescue missions at sea and the other is optimised for troops-carrying role.

    In order to ensure the quality training of aircrew, the Pakistan Navy also inducted a state of the art simulator of Z9EC anti-submarine warfare helicopter. This simulator will enable the aircrew to acquire training for anti-submarine and emergency handling in a cost-effective manner without endangering life and equipment.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood visiting the newly inducted Sea King helicopter during an induction ceremony. ─ APPChief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood visiting the newly inducted Sea King helicopter during an induction ceremony. ─ APP

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    QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan said on Wednesday that CM’s Inception Team had identified over 600 development schemes which were found only on papers and did not exist anywhere in the province.

    Speaking at a ceremony organised by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Balochistan, to hand over looted money recovered by NAB from corrupt government officials, the chief minister said that these development schemes had been prepared by the previous government.

    The Director General of NAB, Balochistan, Muhammad Abid Javed, handed over a cheque for Rs600 million to the chief minister, recovered by NAB from different corrupt government officials.

    The chief minister said the present government had already announced zero tolerance for corruption and corrupt elements.

    “The future of millions of people of Balochistan is linked with our policies,” he said, adding that lack of sincerity in rooting out corruption by previous governments had multiplied problems of the masses and retarded the development of the province.

    “There should be no further space for corruption in the province,” Mr Khan said.

    “Our religion teaches us self-accountability and zero tolerance for corruption and without following teachings of our holy religion against corruption, we will continue to sink into the sludge of corruption which is the root cause of all evils the country and the province are facing at present,” he said.

    Referring to financial crisis the Balochistan government was now facing, Mr Khan said that pensioners’ bill of the provincial government had gone up to Rs21 billion while the total revenue of the province was Rs15bn.

    He said the Balochistan government needed $3bn to steer the province out of the financial woes.

    He stressed the need for utilising existing resources and regretted that despite having precious mineral, oil, gas and other natural resources, leaders of the country had been forced to visit other countries to seek loans and that was very embarrassing situation for the entire country”.

    Speaking on the occasion, NAB’s DG of Balochistan Muhammad Abid Javed held out an assurance to the provincial government that the bureau would not repeat the practice of sending letters to halt development funds of lawmakers and vowed to continue its efforts to recover government’s looted money from corrupt elements and deposit it in the government’s exchequer.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan says his team has identified over 600 development schemes which were found only on paper and did not exist anywhere in the province. ─ File photoBalochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan says his team has identified over 600 development schemes which were found only on paper and did not exist anywhere in the province. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The Urdu and Pashto websites of international news organisation Voice of America (VOA) have reportedly been blocked in Pakistan.

    Accessing the website shows an alert that reads: “Secure Connection Failed. The connection to www.urduvoa.com was interrupted while the page was loading. The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.”

    An official who works for VOA said that the Pashto website had been blocked a few months ago.

    “However, the Urdu website became inaccessible last week after the coverage of a press conference held by the leader of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), Mohsin Dawar. Initially, we received complaints that the website was not accessible at some places, but later it was completely blocked,” the official said.

    “Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry was also contacted over the issue and he also confirmed that the websites were blocked.”

    Ayesha Tanzeem, the VOA bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, on her Twitter account @atanzeem said: “Pakistan Tightens Coverage of Pashtun Nationalist Movement #PTM, blocks VOA’s Urdu and Deewa websites https://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-tightens-coverage-of-pashtun-nationalist-movement/4696344.html… @UrduVOA @VOADeewa @VOANews #PakistanCensorship.”

    In a news story published on the VOA website’s English edition, it is stated that Pakistani authorities were scrutinising media coverage of the Pashtun nationalist movement, blocking VOA websites and filing police cases against journalists covering its local rallies.

    About a week earlier, it said, Pakistan had ordered internet service providers to block the website of VOA’s Urdu language service. VOA’s Deewa news website, which primarily caters to the Pashto-speaking audience in the region around the Afghan border, had already been blocked for months, the report added.

    The VOA report quoted Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry as saying that the sites were blocked for “false and prejudiced reporting”.

    “The stories they were doing were only projecting a particular narrative without any impartial view. There are many things happening in our country and most are positive,” he told the publication.

    When contacted by Dawn, Fawad Chaudhry said that the website had been blocked by the government through the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority as there were complaints that the website was being used for spreading “propaganda” against security forces and for posting prejudiced material.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    A screenshot of the VOA Urdu website.A screenshot of the VOA Urdu website.

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    ISLAMABAD: The main opposition party — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — has warned that it will not allow the government to run the business of parliament if a production order of member of the National Assembly Khawaja Saad Rafique, who has been arrested by NAB, is not issued.

    In its parliamentary party meeting chaired by PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday, the party condemned the arrest of Mr Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman by the National Accountability Bureau in a housing scam case on Tuesday and accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government of committing the worst kind of political victimisation against the opposition through the bureau.

    Claiming the last term of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif being one of the best eras in the country’s history, Shahbaz Sharif said his party was passing through “hard times”.

    Wants issuance of MNA Saad Rafique’s production order

    The PML-N chief, who is also in NAB custody in a housing scheme scam, also met his brother Nawaz Sharif and discussed with him the political situation in the country.

    According to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, the meeting observed that the acts of “worst-ever political victimisation” by the “NAB-Niazi unholy matrimony” had turned the country into a “monarchy”.

    “The meeting threatened that if Saad Rafique’s production orders are not issued, the PML-N would not let the parliament session continue,” she said.

    According to the spokesperson, the meeting condemned “abductions and harassment” of PML-N leaders at the behest of the PTI for what it called revealing the truth about the government to the people. In this regard, the meeting pointed to the arrest of Saad Rafique and his brother, the pointless travel ban on Hamza Shahbaz and the initiation of an inquiry against Marriyum Aurangzeb.

    “Such tactics won’t silence the party leaders and the opposition will fight this vengeful onslaught with strength, resilience and truth,” Shahbaz Sharif said.

    The meeting pointed out how NAB was being used as a tool by the PTI government as PML-N leaders were being singled out and targeted without sound legal reasoning. “On the other hand proven corrupt people with known cases of mega corruption are treated as untouchables only because they are under the umbrella of the PTI government,” it alleged.

    The meeting denounced these double standards of NAB and termed these actions an obliteration of national institutions.

    It said Prime Minister Imran Khan was wanted in the helicopter misuse case, former secretary general of the PTI Jahangir Tareen was disqualified in a money laundering and corruption case, prime minister’s sister Aleema Khan was given tax exemption, PTI leader Aleem Khan was given the post of a senior minister instead of being arrested, and there was silence over the Malam Jabba case in which the prime minister’s principal secretary Azam Khan was allegedly involved, adding that many other such instances were testament to the “double standards, partisan actions and use of NAB as political tool in the worst abuse of power by the PTI”.

    PAC chairman

    Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser chaired a meeting of opposition leaders and ministers to find ways to break the impasse over the nomination of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

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

    After the meeting, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan told the media that he was hopeful of an early solution to the problem.

    Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Finance Minister Asad Umar also represented the government in the meeting.

    PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said the opposition parties had stuck to their stance that Shahbaz Sharif should be named PAC chairman.

    He said some other options were also discussed to end the deadlock, but did not provide details.

    Pakistan Peoples Party leader Naveed Qamar said they had suggested to the government that a PTI nominee could chair PAC sessions in which audit paras concerning the previous Nawaz Sharif-led government were to be reviewed, to avoid a possible conflict of interest that could arise with Shahbaz Sharif presiding over such sittings.

    He clarified that the opposition was not considering the name of MNAs other than Shahbaz Sharif to head the PAC.

    In a separate meeting with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal MNAs, Speaker Qaiser discussed the obstacles in the setting up of the standing committees.

    The opposition parties claimed that Mr Qaiser, in a previous meeting with them, had accepted their demand for nominating Shahbaz Sharif as the PAC chairman, but later backtracked from his commitment due to resistance from his party members.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif. ─ File photoPML-N President Shahbaz Sharif. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The second reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif almost concluded on Wednesday after the lead defence counsel completed final arguments in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment (HME) reference.

    Additional deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, however, asked for more time to rebut arguments of Mr Sharif’s counsel.

    Mr Abbasi assured the accountability court that he would conclude the rebuttal by Thursday afternoon.

    NAB lawyer seeks more time to rebut defence’s stance

    Concluding the final arguments, lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris contended that investigation could not prove that Mr Sharif became influential only after becoming a public office holder.

    He claimed that the former prime minister belonged to a leading industrialist family decades before he entered politics.

    Regarding the declaration of assets of Hussain Nawaz, Mr Haris told the court that being a non-resident Pakistani, Hussain was not under any legal obligation to declare his assets before Pakistani authorities, and the prosecution never pointed it out in the reference that he did not declare his assets.

    He argued that the investigation officer did not probe transfer of various amounts of money from the accounts of Hussain Nawaz to his father.

    In reply to a question asked by the court during the recording of the statement of Mr Sharif under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code whether Mr Sharif was not aware of the businesses of his children, Mr Haris argued that being the father, the business of his sons was in the knowledge of the former prime minister, but he was not involved in any of their businesses.

    “Our case is simple: Hussain Nawaz owns Al-Azizia/HME and he is responsible for and answerable to establishment and operation of these concerns,” argued the defence counsel, adding that NAB could not seek explanation from his father with reference to these companies.

    He pointed out that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe the Panamagate scam did not make the documentation regarding mutual legal assistance (MLA) it wrote to the Saudi government. A day earlier, the defence counsel told the court that JIT’s MLAs sent to Saudi authorities were ‘incomplete’ since the investigation team did not even mention the complete nomenclature of the HME.

    He disclosed that in addition to Mr Sharif, HME remitted amounts to at least five other persons, but they were never associated in the investigation to ascertain whether they were shareholders or employees of the HME.

    Accountability judge Mohammad Arshad Malik reminded the defence counsel that Hussain Nawaz could clear this ambiguity if he joined the NAB investigation.

    At this, Mr Haris said that NAB then would use his statement, adding that Hussain and Hassan Nawaz had produced an affidavit of Tariq Shafi in support of their money trail, but this was now being used against his client even without providing him an opportunity to cross-examine Mr Shafi.

    After the defence counsel concluded the final arguments, prosecutor Abbasi requested the court to allow him to rebut the arguments of the defence counsel.

    The judge asked if the defence counsel had made something in addition to what he had already stated before the court.

    Mr Abbasi said that there were some points which he wanted to explain to the court.

    Subsequently, the proceedings were adjourned till Thursday.

    Nawaz Sharif appeared before the court and, after witnessing the proceedings, left the courtroom with the permission of the accountability judge.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    Lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris contends that the investigation could not prove that Sharif became influential only after becoming a public office holder. ─ File photoLead defence counsel Khawaja Haris contends that the investigation could not prove that Sharif became influential only after becoming a public office holder. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: Opposition and treasury members continued their tirade against each other over corruption allegations on the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday as the former asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest all those, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, against whom it was conducting inquiries.

    The house witnessed ruckus for a brief period when Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took the floor and started assailing the opposition in his usual style. The opposition members also interrupted Minister of State for Communications Murad Saeed when he lashed out at the opposition for allegedly ruining the country through corruption and money laundering.

    The opposition members protested against the arrest of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique by NAB, asking the speaker to issue his production orders.

    When the opposition members lambasted NAB for allegedly becoming a tool in the hands of the rulers for “suppressing” the opposition, the ministers came to defend the anti-graft watchdog, saying NAB would not be asked to stop the accountability process.

    Opposition seeks arrest of ruling party members facing NAB inquiries

    It all started when taking advantage of leniency of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri allowing the members to speak on any matter on points of order, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi drew the attention of the house to the arrest of MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique in a housing scam and alleged that NAB was being used to suppress opposition. He challenged the government’s claim that it was not behind NAB in its ongoing witch-hunt of the opposition members and asked it to tell the nation as to who was behind this campaign, if the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was not backing it.

    “We are not against an accountability process. But if accountability will be used as a tool for political revenge and to crush the opponents then democracy will be under threat,” Mr Abbasi declared.

    He said even an accused in a murder case was not kept under detention for 60-day remand, but regretted that leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif had been on remand for 64 days despite the fact that no charges had been proved against him.

    The former premier said the Supreme Court had ordered that there should be no media talk on any case before filing of a formal reference, but the NAB chairman and other officials were openly discussing the cases and naming the opposition members in violation of Article 10-A of the Constitution, granting the right of fair trial to the citizens.

    “If NAB is to arrest the people without evidence then it should arrest members from both the sides (the government and the opposition),” he said, adding that NAB should also arrest the prime minister as it was holding an inquiry against him in a case related to misuse of official helicopter.

    Then Mr Abbasi kept naming the PTI leaders who were facing NAB inquiries, asking the watchdog to also arrest Aleem Khan, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Babar Awan, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and the prime minister’s sister Aleema Khan if it wanted to prove its neutrality. He said if NAB had used same yardstick in pursuing the cases which it had been using for the opposition, then more than 70 per cent members of the present cabinet would go behind bars.

    The former prime minister asked the speaker to protect the parliamentarians like the military and judiciary so that no institution could coerce them and force them to change their loyalties.

    Endorsing Mr Abbasi’s opinion, PPP lawmaker Syed Naveed Qamar said efforts were afoot to establish a one-party rule in the country. He said if NAB was allowed to continue its activities, then it seemed that next sessions of the assembly would have to be convened in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

    “Opposition members are jailed in dictatorships, not democracies,” he added.

    Referring to the cases against former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, he said after failing to prove charges, people were being coerced to become approvers.

    When Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took the floor to respond the opposition’s remarks, the house witnessed a rumpus due to the opposition’s noisy protest in anticipation that the minister would once again use the occasion to malign them.

    And Mr Chaudhry in his usual style reprimanded the opposition, alleging that they were “jumping on their seats” as they knew that next it would be their turn. He said Saad Rafique was arrested by NAB when the Lahore High Court cancelled his bail. He said all the cases being faced by the opposition members had been registered when Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif were the prime ministers. He said the PPP and the PML-N remained in power for 10 years, but they did not review the NAB laws.

    Mr Chaudhry said the PTI would have no right to stay in power if it failed to recover the looted public money. He claimed that the government was not influencing NAB, which was headed by a person nominated by the PPP and the PML-N. “Let the NAB and courts do their jobs. Making the process of accountability controversial will not benefit,” he added.

    Federal Minister for Higher Education Shafqat Mehmood said the parliament should not be used as a shield to protect corruption.

    Minister of State for Communications Murad Saeed suggested that this house should pass a resolution that whosoever had looted even a penny of this nation should be “hanged on D-Chowk”. The minister claimed that “seven members” of the opposition had approached him for a National Reconciliation Ordinance-like deal.

    When the opposition asked him to name the persons, he simply said: “One of them is sitting in the house right now.”

    Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in his apparent reference to a recent NAB notice to PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said accountability process had become so advanced in Pakistan that even the children of one year could face inquiries. He said all parliamentarians could face corruption charges for doing no legislative work and wasting the public money.

    Balochistan National Party chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal was of the opinion that besides discussing “financial corruption”, they should also think about “political corruption” that had been going on since 1947. “Will there be accountability of those who have been forcing politicians to change their loyalties? Who are behind breaking political parties and removing elected governments? Can anyone tell which is the supreme authority in the country?” he asked.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    Opposition members ask NAB to arrest all those, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, against whom it was conducting inquiries. ─ DawnNewsTVOpposition members ask NAB to arrest all those, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, against whom it was conducting inquiries. ─ DawnNewsTV

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    KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and called its ongoing campaign against opposition parties a ‘witch-hunt’, describing the anti-graft body as a tool of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

    Party leaders, who met Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the chair to discuss the political situation in the country, did not spare Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, calling them “puppet rulers”.

    Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Syed Khursheed Shah, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood, Humayun Khan, Ali Maddad Jattak, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Waqar Mehdi and other PPP leaders attended the meeting.

    Expresses concern over anti-encroachment drive being carried out by PTI government

    “Leaders of the PPP have termed the witch-hunt against the PPP and other opposition leadership as a vicious victimisation where NAB has become a tool placed in the hands of puppet rulers,” said a statement issued after the meeting held at the Bilawal House.

    “The PPP chairman endorsed the views of party leaders that the PTI government has unleashed a victimisation campaign brazenly targeting PPP and other opposition parties after a shameless dry-cleaning drive for inducting a puppet regime against the will of collective wisdom of the nation.

    “The meeting noted that PTI government is in fact drumming up cosmetic and hollow projects as its poor and directionless policies and together with skyrocketing inflation leading the national economy to a disastrous nosedive.

    “The meeting expressed deep concern over the ruthless anti-encroachment drive by the PTI government where poor segment of society has been specifically targeted without chalking out any compensation plan thus snatching the livelihood of hundreds of thousand Pakistanis. Instead of providing employment, the puppet regime is rendering thousands jobless,” said the statement.

    Although the PPP has maintained a strong stand against NAB for pursuing cases against its leaders, the fresh meeting of the party assembling all its key leaders from across the country appears quite interesting just a day before the scheduled appearance of Mr Zardari and Mr Bhutto-Zardari before NAB in connection with the transfer of land to a real estate company.

    Earlier this week, the Rawalpindi NAB had sent notices to the father and son asking them to appear before the bureau on Dec 13.

    NAB claims that an inquiry was initiated against Park Lane Estate Company (Pvt) Ltd — a firm co-owned by Mr Zardari and Mr Bhutto-Zardari — and government officials for alleged illegal transfer of forest land. The bureau states that an inquiry was authorised into allegations that land belonging to the Punjab forest department was illegally transferred by Capital Development Authority officials to Park Lane Estate Company, a Karachi-based real estate firm.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    Party leaders, who met Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the chair to discuss the political situation in the country, did not spare Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government. ─ DawnNewsTVParty leaders, who met Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the chair to discuss the political situation in the country, did not spare Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government. ─ DawnNewsTV

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    KARACHI: Karachiites suffered a serious transport crisis on Wednesday when a majority of the public transport vehicles stayed off the roads because of suspension of gas supply to CNG stations by the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).

    Owners of the public transport who brought their vehicles on roads despite the CNG closure charged hefty fares from the people who had no option but to pay.

    Transporters said that it was almost impossible for most of them to bring their vehicles on the roads after the SSGC’s announcement on Tuesday that the situation was unlikely to change in the days to come.

    “We didn’t ask any of our members to stay off the roads,” said Irshad Bukhari of the Karachi Transport Ittehad. “It was a self-explanatory situation for everyone doing business. It is almost impossible for transporters to bring their buses as more than 90 per cent of them have converted their fuel system to CNG.”

    People had to pay more than double the actual fare to use public transport

    He said that he could not say as to when the situation will become normal.

    The SSGC had announced that it was stopping gas supply to the CNG sector and captive power plants for an indefinite period.

    PTI slammed for gas loadshedding

    Apart from transporters, the Sindh government had also reacted strongly against the SSGC’s move and called it a violation of the Constitution.

    “The SSGC move is against Article 158-B of the Constitution,” said Sindh Transport Minister Syed Owais Qadir Shah in a statement. “The federal government has no right to suspend supply to CNG stations in Sindh which produced the largest quantity of gas.”

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    THE few public transport vehicles that did operate on Wednesday were filled way beyond capacity.—OnlineTHE few public transport vehicles that did operate on Wednesday were filled way beyond capacity.—Online

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    ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to establish the first state-of-the-art cancer hospital in Islamabad.

    The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on health reforms being taken in Islamabad, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the Prime Minister’s Office.

    The health secretary briefed the meeting about the health action plan and said for the last 55 years, Islamabad’s hospitals have had 2,000 beds only. He said under the new Capital Health Strategy, the capacity was being doubled to 4,000 beds in five years.

    The meeting was told that a state-of-the-art cancer hospital with 200 beds, a general hospital in Tarlai with 200 beds, three mother and child hospitals with 120 beds in Bara Kahu, Rawat and Tarnol will be established and the rural health units and basic health units will be upgraded by June 2020.

    The meeting was told that recruitment of health professionals is underway in all hospitals and that nursing and associated medical science universities will be established in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

    KP Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan spoke about the reforms introduced by his ministry during the last 100 days such as the expansion of the Sehat Insaf Cards, assessment of inputs in all health facilities, 95pc coverage of the measles immunisation drive, community-based complaints and grievance management system and media cell, policies on quality of medicines and initiation of public-private partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to provide free care to around 0.5 million patients for four non-communicable diseases.

    Punjab Minister Health Dr Yasmin Rashid said the Punjab Health Department was going to issue Sehat Insaf Cards in four districts – D.G. Khan, Rajanpur, Lodhran and Multan by the end of Dec 2018.

    She said five mother and child hospitals were being established in the province along with a nursing college.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


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    LAHORE: The PML-N on Wednesday had to face the taunt of a mistake it committed in the last 10 years of its rule in Punjab by not amending the rules of business to empower the speaker to issue production orders of any arrested MPA, allowing the treasury to easily deny production of Khwaja Salman Rafique.

    And the choice of the PML-N MPAs to condemn, during the Punjab Assembly session, the disembarking of their leader Hamza Shahbaz from a plane on Tuesday also embarrassed them as Law Minister Raja Basharat said they were acting like slaves by protesting against the disembarking of the son of the elite PML-N family while ignoring a common worker’s (Khwaja’s) arrest.

    The PML-N MPAs put up with the embarrassment and preferred to agree with the offer of the law minister and Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari to “sit together and find a way to remove the hurdle.”

    “The excuse that Khwaja Salman could not be produced in the Punjab Assembly because the rules of business did not allow it means that Mr Hamza, if arrested at all, will not be able to attend the assembly session and tell his tale like his father did in the National Assembly,” remarked a minister.

    PML-N’s Nadeem Kamran told Dawn after the session that the rules of business did not allow the production of an arrested MPA in the house but the speaker had the discretionary powers to issue a production order. Raja Basharat said the speaker did not have any such authority because the rule did not in the first instance provide for any such action.

    Failure to amend rules of business comes back to haunt party

    Both the treasury and the opposition which had discussed the issue before the start of the session were also expected to ponder over it after it was adjourned till Wednesday morning.

    The debate on the issue was started by PML-N’s Waris Kalloo on a point of order, repeating how Mr Hamza was disembarked from a plane by the FIA in violation of the Constitution. “If not stopped, you will also face the rogue attitude which we are braving with patience,” he said, describing the action as a breach of the privilege of the house.

    Mr Kalloo’s colleague Tahir Khalil Sandhu said Mr Hamza was disembarked without any cogent reason. “We should not go to the point of no return. Mr Zulfi Bukhari whose name was on the ECL has been allowed to go abroad but Mr Hamza has been disallowed the facility despite the fact that he did not face any restriction,” he said.

    The law minister said the FIA and the NAB were federal entities and the disembarking of Mr Hamza was not a provincial assembly issue. “Let us handle affairs which are under our ambit,” he said.

    Mr Sandhu questioned if the arrests by the NAB were not a provincial assembly subject, why the information minister was predicting arrests of more people, the deputy speaker responded by saying that the rules of business were not amended over the years and “we have to form a committee to do the needful.” He was referring to the request to have Khwaja Salman produced in the assembly.

    The law minister agreed to a request to ask the federal government why Mr Hamza was disembarked, but PPP’s Hasan Murtaza said the PML-N was facing what it did in the past to others. “The PML-N did not delete Articles 62, 63 from the Constitution or amend the Punjab Assembly rules of business despite our requests. Perhaps they thought they would remain in power forever,” he said.

    He said the PTI government was treading a wrong path. “You look like a NAB spokesperson the way you talk to the media. We have never been against accountability but do not make it look like vengeance. Otherwise you will have to face it in future too,” he said.

    Mr Kalloo desired to move a resolution to condemn the treatment given to Mr Hamza, prompting the law minister to hit back with the taunt that the PML-N was paying for its own follies. “They are protesting against the disembarking of Hamza, the son of Shahbaz Sharif, and ignoring the arrest of a worker, Khwaja Salman,” he said.

    Former speaker Rana Iqbal said his colleagues intended to also discuss the arrest of Khwaja Salman and were referring to the humiliation of Mr Hamza because of his status as the leader of the opposition.

    The law minister asked Rana Iqbal as to why he did not think of amending the rules during his 10-year stint as the speaker. “You did not issue production orders of Maulana Azam Tariq, Ashraf Sohna and Moonis Elahi. Was this not victimisation,” he asked.

    He asked Mr Kalloo to give him draft of the resolution he wanted to move in the house so that he could check if there was any illegality in the disembarking of Mr Hamza.

    As the debate was over, the law minister briskly introduced the first set of the government’s six laws in the house. They were: The Punjab Prevention of Conflict of Interest Bill, The Punjab Right to Public Services Bill, The Punjab Domestic Workers Bill, The Punjab Skills Development Authority Bill, The Punjab Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Amendment) Bill, and the Punjab Board of Technical Education (Amendment) Bill.

    The deputy speaker referred them to the special committee for report in two months and adjourned the session till Thursday morning.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    PML-N failed to amend the rules of business to empower the speaker to issue production orders of any arrested MPA in the past 10 years. — FilePML-N failed to amend the rules of business to empower the speaker to issue production orders of any arrested MPA in the past 10 years. — 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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    KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Wednesday awarded 21-year imprisonment to two convicts, said to be associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s London faction, in cases pertaining to possessing explosives and illicit weapons.

    The convicts — Mohammad Irshad and Mohammad Bilal Lodhi — were found guilty of possessing explosive substances and illegal arms with an intent to target the leaders of the MQM’s Pakistan faction and other political parties on the occasion of the July 25 general elections in Karachi.

    The judge, who conducted the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced the verdict, which was earlier reserved after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.

    The judge awarded them a collective sentence of 21-year imprisonment and also imposed a fine of Rs60,000 each. They would undergo an additional 18-month imprisonment each on default.

    According to the prosecution, the Rangers and police had conducted a joint intelligence-based operation in Orangi Town and detained Irshad and Lodhi on July 18.

    During the interrogation, the convicts had disclosed that they were planning the assassination of political leaders to sabotage the peace prior to the polls under orders of their party leaders.

    It further alleged that the MQM-L’s South Africa network, led by Qamar Islam Teddi, had set up target killing teams in June to assassinate rival political candidates, including those who had left the MQM-L, to sabotage holding of peaceful elections.

    The prosecution further alleged that both the convicts had admitted to have been provided with financial resources by the MOM’s London secretariat.

    It claimed that the convicts were assigned the initial task to kill Mohsin Javed and Arif Hussain Qureshi, who were contesting elections on PS-128 from the platform of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party, respectively. Besides, the Pak Sarzameen Party’s office-bearers in Gulbahar Moin and Azhar were also on their list, it added.

    The law enforcers also claimed to have recovered explosives and unlicensed weapons from their possession and subsequently booked them in separate cases registered at the Soldier Bazaar police station.

    The prosecutor argued that the MQM-L had also provided them arms, which were duly recovered from their possession and pleaded to the court to punish them strictly in accordance with the law.

    On the other hand, the defence counsel denied the allegations levelled against their clients and insisted that they were framed in the present cases with mala fide intentions and pleaded to the court to acquit them.

    Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018


    Irshad, Bilal Lodhi found guilty of possessing explosive substances, illegal arms with intent to target MQM-P leaders. — FileIrshad, Bilal Lodhi found guilty of possessing explosive substances, illegal arms with intent to target MQM-P leaders. — File

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