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    LAHORE: The Higher Education Commission has barred three new public sector medical universities of the province from all kinds of admissions in their postgraduate medical and dental programmes after the Punjab government failed to pursue the matters with the HEC.

    Because of the ban, the postgraduate programmes, including MS, PhD, M Phil etc, have particularly suffered a major blow as these universities have been barred from admitting students for a period of one year (till Nov 2019), besides undergraduate/MBBS students.

    The HEC action is being viewed as a punishment for the government for its inability to make the medical universities fully functional. It followed the inspections conducted by the teams comprising senior medical teachers and the commission staff.

    These teams have pointed out critical shortcomings in their reports, recommending the Punjab government to address the chronic issues in line with the HEC rules and regulations within stipulated period, an official privy to the information told Dawn.

    For the purpose, he said, the HEC has issued provisional No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the three varsities, giving a deadline of Nov 2019 to get recognition status from the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) after addressing the issues pointed out by the inspection teams.

    The three universities --- Faisalabad Medical University (FMU), Nishtar Medical University (NMU), Multan and the Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU), were established by the Punjab government in 2017 by upgrading as many colleges.

    An inspection report clearly says that the FMU needs to fulfill all the legal requirements of the PMDC for getting its recognition.

    “No admission shall be made under the seal and signature of FMU till the time it is registered/accredited by the PMDC and all the legal requirements of the government of Punjab are fulfilled”, warns the report.

    The HEC says that the three medical varsities did not have any constituent medical colleges since their inception, which is mandatory to get recognition under the council rules.

    “The requirement of having a constituent medical & dental college as a recognition requirement of the PMDC Ordinance 1962 (Amendment Act 2012 XIX) shall be ensured and the notification of the constituent college shall be issued by the government of the Punjab”, reads the HEC report.

    One of the major factors behind the situation was lack of interest on part of the Punjab government in the health and medical education sector of the largest province of the country, said the official.

    He said this lack of concern for hundreds of medical students was evident from the fact that no correspondence was initiated by the Punjab health authorities with the two top federal regulatory bodies -- the PMDC and the HEC -- for the purpose since the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf government took charge of the province.

    He said that on finding the health authorities unmoved, the vice chancellors of the medical universities themselves took the initiative.

    They expressed their serious concerns, while writing to the health department, over the sorry state of affairs resulting in critical deficiencies in these varsities and their non-recognition by the PMDC.

    The VCs pointed out that since the health department failed to provide them with the constituent colleges for their respective universities, they had to face a ban on admissions to all kinds of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

    In order to avoid further crisis, the FMU administration proposed a dental college in Faisalabad that might be declared a constituent college of the varsity, the official said.

    Similarly, he said, the NMU management proposed the Nishtar Institute of Dentistry, Multan, as its constituent college to steer the only varsity in south Punjab out of the crisis.

    For the RMU, the health department was proposed to reinstate the Rwalpindi Medical College as its constituent institution.

    To the stakeholders’ utter shock, the official said, the VCs proposals, submitted to Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Mr Saqib Zafar, were “dumped” on the excuse that the matter required consent of the health minister who was busy in some other “urgent and important” assignments.

    The HEC inspection reports had also pointed out many other flaws that showed the government’s apathy towards the medical universities.

    “Since MBBS is a professional discipline, hence, as per practice, the HEC will only verify degrees of those graduates who have been registered with the PMDC as registered medical practitioners”, reads the report.

    It also mentioned an acute shortage of faculty, particularly professors and associate professors having PhD qualification -- a requirement under the HEC appointment criteria.

    The regular key positions like those of registrars, controllers, treasurers etc were also found vacant.

    The HEC has also declared it mandatory for the varsities to obtain an NOC from the Quality Assurance Division for the postgraduate programmes before their launch. It has warned that no admissions shall be allowed till these varsities comply with the recommendations forwarded to the Punjab government.

    “The medical universities will be subjected to periodic monitoring by the HEC”, reads the inspection report.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    HEC suspends admissions after Punjab government failed to pursue the matters with the body. — File photoHEC suspends admissions after Punjab government failed to pursue the matters with the body. — File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: After a campaign launched against polio vaccinations on social media, a 25pc increase in refusals was recorded during the recent polio campaign in the federal capital, which started Dec 10.

    A two-month old girl was vaccinated on Nov 30 in Tehsil Ghazi. She fell sick and died in Haripur on Dec 2. The incident was reported in the media and it was alleged that she died due to the polio vaccine.

    The story was shared widely on social media after which the number of refusals increased in the federal capital.

    Refusals are attributed to social media rumours about death of baby due to polio vaccine

    A report of an inquiry into the matter says the girl’s death had nothing to do with polio vaccination and that she died of pneumonia.

    Take a look: Polio-free Pakistan?

    “Most of the refusals were from educated people who are active on social media. During the last polio campaign, we had 69 refusals from across the city and this time we have just as many in the Defence Housing Authority alone. Parents refused to vaccinate their children and misbehaved with polio teams,” focal person for polio in Islamabad, Dr Asif Rahim told Dawn.

    Explore: Polio vaccine – what you need to know

    A video recording of one such incident, available with Dawn, shows a man misbehaving with a polio team and saying parents should be able to decide if they want to vaccinate their children.

    “You have visited my house five times. Now stop coming here or I will call the guards. I have seen news of a child dying because of a polio vaccine. I will not allow my children to be vaccinated, you can do whatever you want,” he says in the clip.

    An Islamabad Capital Territory official said most people lie and say they have already vaccinated their children in a hospital and that they are unable to produce a certificate or card when asked.

    “We have been facing refusals in Bahria Town and Kural urban societies where it has become very difficult to vaccinate children. The percentage of refusal coverage is still lower than in previous campaigns despite the presence of additional deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners,” he said.

    “The media should cover such issues with responsibility because such news can increase the number of refusals in the coming polio campaign in January,” he said.

    On the other hand, a report of an inquiry initiated by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government into the death of the two-month old baby girl says the polio vaccine had nothing to do with her death.

    The report of the fact finding committee, available with Dawn, says she died of pneumonia and that her four-year-old brother and other children in the vicinity were also vaccinated and that they are all well and healthy.

    The report recommends regulatory measures for the publication of news on sensitive issues such as polio in order to avoid chaos among the public.

    It says the matter should be thoroughly inquired before publication of such news because polio eradication is a national cause and such activities can damage the campaign.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Refusals are attributed to social media rumours about death of baby due to polio vaccine. — File photoRefusals are attributed to social media rumours about death of baby due to polio vaccine. — File photo

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    LAHORE: The Punjab government’s 100-day plan unveiling activity has resulted in the postponement of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s maiden three-day trip to China that was to begin on Monday (today).

    The chief minister was scheduled to visit China for holding talks with regard to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). For the visit, the Punjab government had earlier postponed the 100-day plan unveiling event, which was scheduled for Monday (today).

    The event to be held in Lahore has been rescheduled for Dec 23, and was expected to be also attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

    When contacted, chief minister’s spokesman Dr Shahbaz Gill said the chief minister’s foreign visit had been cancelled so that he could chair the meetings to finalise the 100-day plan event.

    He said the CPEC talks in China would be held as scheduled and a delegation from Islamabad would be participating in the dialogue.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Punjab CM Usman Buzdar’s maiden three-day trip to China was to begin today. — File photoPunjab CM Usman Buzdar’s maiden three-day trip to China was to begin today. — File photo

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    QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani said on Sunday that the water crisis in the province would be resolved in the coming weeks as his government had decided to hold direct talks with the Sindh government over Balochistan’s share in River Indus and releasing its water in Balochistan’s canals.

    He articulated these thoughts at a gathering of prominent tribal elders of Nasirabad division.

    Regarding power and gas shortage faced by the residents of Nasirabad Division, the chief minister said his government was aware of these problems and was taking steps to resolve these important issues with the federal government.

    CM Alyani said that the incumbent government has set a direction to address public issues, adding that they are not making tall claims but the issues of people of Nasirabad Division would be addressed on a priority basis. “The provincial government has formed a committee headed by elected MPAs for land allotment in Nasirabad and work is underway to impart land ownership to the residents.”

    He told the gathering that he and his ministers were making all out efforts to provide maximum relief to the people. He said, “I, myself, have visited almost all the districts during the last four months to review the situation on the ground.” He said: “My cabinet is fully aware of problems of the people and government and is taking up all important issues of Balochistan at all the right forums to get relief for the deprived people of the province.”

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Jam Kamal Alyani says his government has decided to hold direct talks with the Sindh government over Balochistan’s share in River Indus. — File photoJam Kamal Alyani says his government has decided to hold direct talks with the Sindh government over Balochistan’s share in River Indus. — File photo

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    LANDI KOTAL: The residents of Jamrud and Bara have demanded demolition of nearly two decades old boundary wall between the Hayatabad township of Peshawar and parts of Khyber district as the tribal region has now become part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the passage of 25th constitutional amendment.

    Residents and elders of Kukikhel-Katiakhel tribe of Jamrud and Bar Qambarkhel, Malakdinkhel, Shalobar and Sipah in Bara told Dawn that the boundary wall had become redundant after the successful culmination of military operations in most parts of Khyber and also after the tribal regions’ merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May this year.

    The Peshawar Development Authority started constructing a boundary wall on border with the Shalobar area of Bara and Shah Kas in Jamrud after its completion of Phase-6 of Hayatabad township in late 90s in order to secure the new township from criminal elements as had the then PDA and Peshawar police argued in defence of the wall, which was strongly protested by both the residents of Shalobar and Shah Kas.

    Say wall of no use after completion of military operations in Khyber areas

    The wall was later extended to Phase-1 and 7 of the township and also to the adjacent industrial estate for security reasons.

    The elders argued that they gave their prized land to PDA for the construction of Hayatabad township, especially the Phase-6 and 7, but soon after its completion the authority constructed a boundary wall which restricted their easy entry to most parts of Hayatabad.

    “Initially, the local tribesmen made some breaches in the wall in order to freely enter Hayatabad and return home, but the police and other law enforcers would soon plug such breaches and this continued for some years,” Malik Bismillah Katiakhel of Shah Kas told this correspondent.

    The surveillance and security of the boundary wall, however, was further tightened after the start of military operations in most parts of Bara in Sept 2009 when thousands of Bara families fled their homes and since then families residing on the Khyber side of the wall were allowed to use a pedestrian gate opposite Shah Kas area.

    Bismillah Katiakhel said that thousands of Jamrud and Bara residents, which included students, traders, transporters, patients and ordinary tribesmen, went to Peshawar and especially Hayatabad, but were inconvenienced due to restrictions on crossing the boundary wall.

    “Most of us, especially students studying in different Hayatabad schools, use the Karkhano market road to reach Peshawar, which is always overloaded due to excessive traffic which causes long travel delays,” he remarked.

    Dawn has learnt that the then political administration of Khyber had tried in 2016 to build a gate at a suitable point of the wall near the Shah Kas Levies centre to facilitate crossing of vehicles to Hayatabad, but the effort was thwarted by then KP police chief on security grounds.

    A former official of the political administration told this correspondent that the then administration had held a number of meetings with the Commissioner Peshawar and officials of PDA along with the offer of shouldering the responsibility of security of the wall by Khasadars in lieu of permission for building a gate, but the ‘project’ was torpedoed by then IGP Nasir Durrani on security grounds.

    Khiyal Mat Shah, a former councillor from Bara, said that the boundary wall had multiplied the miseries of Bara residents as they were now using a longer route to reach Peshawar. He said that a large number of Bara residents had shifted to Hayatabad township while local traders established their businesses in Peshawar.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Residents say wall is of no use after completion of military operations in Khyber areas. — File photoResidents say wall is of no use after completion of military operations in Khyber areas. — File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior has taken notice of a case in which a woman and her friend were assaulted, threatened and humiliated by a man.

    Senator Rehman Malik has details of the incident from the police and directed that the victim and her family be provided security.

    He has also directed the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) to look into how the suspect in the case fled the country after an FIR was registered against him.

    A woman who was living with her friend in G-11 lodged a complaint with police against the man in question, leading to the registration of a case under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with an intent to outrage her modesty) and 506ii (criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code and section 25-d of the Telegraph Act.

    According to the FIR, the victim had become acquainted with the suspect, a resident of Ghauri Town, and he had proposed to her but she later learned that he was already married with children. When the woman tried to break up with him, he threatened her.

    A week ago, the FIR said, the man showed up at the woman’s residence and called her outside.

    He then pulled out a pistol, threatened her and punched her in front of her friend. He also pointed the gun at her friend and hit her with it. The suspect later also made threatening calls to the complainant.

    A video of the armed suspect threatening the two women has gone viral on social media, which also shows him asked one of them to sit on the ground and apologise to him.

    Ramna police have registered a case since receiving the complaint and approached the FIA to arrest the suspect.

    The FIA was also asked to intercept the man if he tried to leave the country, but the police later learned that he had already travelled abroad and was in China, from where he called a friend of his and asked about the case registered against him.

    Senator Malik sought details of the incident from both the capital and Rawalpindi police by Dec 20.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Senator Rehman Malik has directed the police to provide security to victim and her family. — File photoSenator Rehman Malik has directed the police to provide security to victim and her family. — File photo

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    LAHORE: The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and the Saddar Division police on Sunday retrieved 1,000-kanal land from illegal occupants.

    The operation was launched on the direction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

    The LDA staff and police sprang into action for the removal of makeshift huts and shanties spreading over more than 1,000 kanal in the Finance and Trade Centre block in Johar Town (near Expo Centre). These makeshift abodes were established as a first step for consolidating illegal occupation of the state land by the unauthorised occupants.

    Side by side with these huts, other structures such as houses had also been constructed. The dwellers revealed that they had been paying rent to local influential people for staying without trouble.

    Shanty dwellers claim they would grease the palms of influential people

    The operation was going on till filing of this report.

    Superintendent of Police Ali Raza said the operation had been launched against the land grabbers in Johar Town and police were assisting the LDA and Revenue Department. He said they had also set up a camp and started receiving applications from the people against the land grabbers and would take action according to law.

    He said an advertisement campaign was launched through TV cable, banners, leaflets and mosques and they got more than 100 applications from the area people against the land grabbers. Police would take action against them all, he said.

    The SP said the operation would continue on Monday and they would clear the area off the land grabbers.

    Meanwhile, LDA Director General Amna Imran Khan has directed officials to encourage construction of houses in the LDA Avenue 1 housing scheme and take necessary measures for facilitating the plot owners. During a visit to the scheme, she sought the newly-constructed community centre to be made functional and completion of the office building within 15 days.

    She directed the officials to request the Honorable Court for early hearing of cases about the area of the scheme under litigation with a view to getting decision of cases pertaining to plots of hundreds of allottees at an early date. She said there should be a workable proposal for revenue generation from commercial plots of Jubilee Town housing scheme.

    Additional director generals Rana Abdul Shakoor, Rana Tikka Khan and Zarif Satti, Chief Engineer Mazhar Hussain Khan and Director Estate Management Khadim Taqueer Hassan accompanied the director general.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Police set up a camp at Johar Town to receive public complaints against land grab. — White StarPolice set up a camp at Johar Town to receive public complaints against land grab. — White Star

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    RAWALPINDI: The inspector general of police (IGP) Punjab has given senior police officers two weeks to learn how to operate the 17 IT software programs introduced in the police department to improve service delivery.

    In a directive to all divisional and district police officers, the IGP expressed concern over the lack of interest by senior police officials in improving service delivery by using IT systems and asked them to make themselves familiar with the IT systems installed in the police department or their commanding positions will be taken from them.

    Speaking during a meeting on crime and new IT systems introduced to improve service delivery on Thursday, the IGP said districts were not using the IT systems, especially the police record management system and the complaint management system.

    He said that since regional, city and district police officers are not familiar with these systems, they will not be well used.

    The IGP said a practical test on the IT systems will be conducted in two weeks and made it clear that any divisional or district police chief who does not know how to operate the systems will be removed from their post.

    The systems installed include the Human Resource Management System, Police Record Management System, CRO Automation, Crime Mapping, Criminal Record Management System, Driving License Management System, Anti-Vehicle Lifting System, Digital Beat Book, Integrated Khidmat Markaz and Khidmat Centres, Automated Complaint Management System, Front Desk, Police Financial Management and Monitoring System, Police Procurement and Inventory Management System and Resource Management Centres.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    IGP Punjab Amjad Javed Saleemi has given senior officers two weeks to learn how to use 17 IT software programs to improve service delivery.IGP Punjab Amjad Javed Saleemi has given senior officers two weeks to learn how to use 17 IT software programs to improve service delivery.

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    ISLAMABAD: Three out of the four members of the Election Commission had been appointed in contravention of a constitutional provision that bars re-employment of judges of the superior judiciary within two years of their retirement, it has emerged.

    Article 207 (2) of the Consti­tution reads: “A person who has held office as judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court shall not hold any office of profit in the service of Pakistan, not being a judicial or quasi judicial office or the office of Chief Election Commissioner or of Chairman or member of a law commission or of Chairman or member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, before the expiration of two years after he has ceased to hold that office”.

    None of the three retired judges who had been appointed as ECP members had completed two years after their retirement.

    ECP secretary says members’ appointment a past and closed transaction

    The most glaring case was that of retired justice Shakeel Ahmad Baloch, who took oath as member of ECP from Balochistan five days after resigning as judge of the Balochistan High Court on July 21, 2016 - some ten days before his retirement date. Likewise, retired Justice Irshad Qaiser became the first-ever woman member of the ECP within 45 days of her retirement as judge of the Peshawar High Court on June 14, 2016.

    The member from Punjab, retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, had retired as judge of the Lahore High Court on March 5, 2015, and thus had more than seven months to go before the completion of the two-year post-retirement period when he was appointed to the Election Commission in July 2016.

    Analysts believe that Abdul Ghaffar, the first-ever retired bureaucrat to have been picked as member of the ECP, was also not a good choice as his name was on the exit control list (ECL) over a Rs 2 billion corruption scam.

    Months after his appointment as ECP member he got a one-time permission to travel abroad with a delegation headed by the Chief Election Commissioner.

    The commission’s secretary, Babar Yaqub Fateh Muhammad, refused to comment on the dictate and spirit of Article 207 of the Cons­titution, saying the appointment of ECP members was a past and closed transaction.

    “Let bygones be bygones,” he remarked and pointed out that half the term of the members would be complete next month while two of them would be retiring on Jan 26.

    Asked as to who was responsible for violation of the Constitution, he initially said the question should be put to senior members of the previous government, but then suggested that there was room in the Constitution for judicial and quasi-judicial employment of retired judges.

    Some judgements of the Supreme Court have, however, made it clear that the Election Commission was not a judicial forum. An 11-member bench held in the Benazir Bhutto versus federation of Pakistan case that the Election Commission was not a judicial body.

    In its judgement in a recent case, a three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, said: “The ECP is an independent and autonomous body which exercises executive and regulatory powers derived from the Constitution.

    “Although it has the power to appoint election tribunals [Article 219(c) of the Constitution] which exercise judicial powers under Article 225 of the Constitution, the ECP itself is a supervisory body which exercises regulatory and administrative powers under the Constitution and the law. Undoubtedly, the ECP is not a court or a tribunal, as argued by the learned counsel for PTI.”

    The ECP members who are otherwise ineligible for appointment had been brought in under a covert understanding between the PML-N and the PPP. Although under the procedure, the prime minister, in consultation with the opposition leader, sends three names each for a position of ECP member for confirmation to a parliamentary panel, separate lists are sent in case they fail to reach a consensus.

    While an impression had been created as if a consensus could not be reached, in both 12-name lists, all four successful nominees were mentioned by the PML-N as its second-choice candidates while two of the confirmed members were the PPP’s first-choice and two were its second-choice. So the panel picked all the four names that were common in the lists in an exercise that took less than two hours. This had only been done to defeat the spirit of the law, which otherwise required hearing by the parliamentary panel.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    ECP secretary says members’ appointment a past and closed transaction. — File photoECP secretary says members’ appointment a past and closed transaction. — File photo

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    KARACHI: Amid poverty, malnutrition and a growing health crisis, Tharparkar has witnessed a new but quite frightening and disturbing trend over the past few months in its towns where the number of suicides has increased to an alarming level in 2018, sending ripples in the ranks of community development experts and activists who found more social and domestic reasons than poverty for the increasing phenomenon in the desert region.

    Data compiled by the Sindh police suggests that the number of suicides in the Mirpurkhas range, in which Tharparkar district also falls, has gone up this year, even much higher than Karachi which has no match with the poverty stricken part of the province in terms of population, culture, civic issues and the crime rate.

    “The number of suicides in Tharparkar reached to 43 by mid-November,” said a police official citing the record of the suicides in Sindh districts. “It’s quite high considering the past trend. One should remember that it’s only the number which was registered by the police. There are number of families or relatives of the deceased who do not come to police or report the incident.”

    Forty-three people have committed suicide during the current year

    On an average, he said, there were four cases of suicide reported to the police during around 11 months of the year from the thinly populated region. In some case, young mothers ended their lives and of their children, he added.

    Experts back data but see different reasons

    Activists and people involved with community development for decades in the desert region also recognise that the number of suicides had increased in Tharparkar district. But, some of them have a different take on its reasons.

    “It’s quite strange I believe,” write and activist Jami Chandio said, while agreeing that the number of suicides had increased in view of reports he had received from towns in Tharparkar. “But, I think poverty is not an issue. One cannot say anything with authority and this phenomenon needs to be investigated but apparently there are a few reasons which can help understand the current socio-economic issues in Thar.”

    He said fast changing lifestyles and addition of new habits in routines of Tharis had been making their lives more difficult.

    Mr Chandio, who is also associated with the Centre for Peace and Civil Society think tank, believed that the government’s concentration had increased in Thar areas over the past few years due to frequent media coverage and political pressure but a “holistic planning” needed to meet challenges in the region ranging.

    Dr Sonu Khangrani, a community development expert and the recipient of a presidential award who had history of social and welfare campaigning in the desert region, saw some key reasons behind the trend.

    “There is a couple of quite unfortunate but true factors that have emerged over the past few years in Thar towns and I believe that has played a key role in giving a push to the suicide trend,” he said. “We [previously] have seen that the people of Thar despite facing poverty and tough life did not adopt some bad habits [use of tobacco or drugs]. But over the years, addiction has quite spread in Thar towns with growing psychological problems. These two factors along with poverty have resulted in the situation.”

    He regretted that the government, despite involving in so many projects and business organisations that had increased their influence and concentration in the districts for financial gains, had so far ignored the situation.

    The worst thing was that they did not even realise the gravity of the situation, Dr Khangrani said.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Data compiled by the Sindh police suggests that the number of suicides in the Mirpurkhas range, in which Tharparkar district also falls, has gone up this year, even much higher than Karachi. — FileData compiled by the Sindh police suggests that the number of suicides in the Mirpurkhas range, in which Tharparkar district also falls, has gone up this year, even much higher than Karachi. — File

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    KARACHI: Federal Minister for Privatisation and Aviation Mohammadmian Soomro has said that the government is willing to extend all possible support to the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to make it a viable entity.

    “The PIA is moving in the right direction and the government will provide all-out support for its revival,” he said while speaking to senior officials of the national flag carrier.

    Take a look: I want to see PIA dominate the skies again

    According to a press release issued on Sunday, the minister visited the PIA head office and the airlines’ chief, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, briefed him on the performance of the national flag carrier.

    He said the PIA had a lot of potential and it can regain its lost share in the market. “To compete in today’s market we must make best use of service and technology. Customer should be our main focus,” he said.

    He also stressed upon austerity measures to be adopted in the PIA and appreciated the measures taken by the management.

    Air Marshal Malik, the PIA president and CEO, apprised the minister of the current management initiatives such as reopening of routes, new destinations being planned to increase the airline’s network, improvement in food service, scheduling, and cost savings.

    “Things are improving and we are working on convenience of schedule, opening of new destinations,” he added.

    Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

    Mohammad Mian Soomro says national flag carrier is Mohammad Mian Soomro says national flag carrier is "moving in the right direction". — File photo

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    Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday stated that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is incapable of managing the country and stabilising its faltering economy.

    Co-chairing a meeting of the senior PML-N leadership alongside party president and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif at the parliament, Nawaz said the "biggest challenge" presently facing the country was of the economy.

    "The incumbent government has impaired the economy in just 100 days," the PML-N supreme leader was quoted as saying during the meeting.

    He also criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for its actions against PML-N leaders, saying the bureau had been "exposed" before the nation. "It's time to pay heed to the public's voice," he added.

    It was decided during the gathering that a mass-contact campaign will be started by PML-N leaders from December 30, sources privy to the meeting told DawnNewsTV. During the campaign, Nawaz and other senior party leaders will address rallies and public gatherings. Nawaz's daughter Maryam Nawaz is also expected to join the events.

    The consultative meeting also discussed the formation of standing committees in the National Assembly and the prevailing political situation.

    Nawaz directed the party leaders to mobilise PML-N workers and set up party offices in all four provincial headquarters.

    The PML-N lawmakers during the meeting decided they would continue their protest in the NA session against the non-issuance of production orders for detained MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique. On Friday, they had boycotted the proceedings of the lower house by staging a walkout.

    PML-N's reorganisation

    Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, who heads the 18-member central organising committee formed to develop a roadmap for PML-N's reorganisation, briefed the meeting on the drive and presented his recommendations.

    "The process of party's organisation across the country is speedily moving forward," Iqbal was quoted as informing the gathering.

    According to a notification issued earlier, the mandate of the organising committee is to review organisational structure and capabilities of the party, make recommendations for strengthening organisational capabilities and its effectiveness and recommend a plan of action for the party’s mobilisation at grass-roots level.

    PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif chairs a meeting of senior PML-N leadership at the parliament. — DawnNewsTV screengrabPML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif chairs a meeting of senior PML-N leadership at the parliament. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

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    A cameraman belonging to Samaa TV was violently assaulted by security guards from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's protocol on Monday.

    The incident took place as Sharif was departing after chairing a meeting of senior PML-N leaders at Parliament House.

    TV footage shows the cameraman, Syed Wajid Ali of Samaa TV, lying on the ground outside the parliament building after a security guard allegedly shoved him for coming in the way of the PML-N supreme leader while recording him.

    In a shocking turn of events, another guard is then seen rushing towards the cameraman and kicking him squarely in the face. The guard then escapes the scene in one of the vehicles of the protocol.

    The cameraman, who lost consciousness due to the kick, was shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims). According to doctors, Ali sustained injuries on his lip, where he was administered three stitches, and on his head.

    Cameraman Wajid Ali at the hospital. — Photo by author
    Cameraman Wajid Ali at the hospital. — Photo by author

    Doctors said the cameraman is out of danger but he will be kept under observation for at least a day.

    Journalists started a protest at the parliament to condemn the attack on Ali, with PML-N promising strict action against the security guards.

    While one of the security personnel involved in the attack has been arrested, the guard who kicked the cameraman is currently on the run.

    National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser immediately ordered that a first information report (FIR) be registered against the attacker. He banned politicians from bringing their security guards inside the parliament's premises in the future.

    "No matter how big a leader somebody is, they should leave their security [protocol] outside the parliament," the speaker said.

    Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault in a statement, saying he was "deeply saddened" by it.

    PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the guards involved in the violence will be punished as severely as possible. Apologising on behalf of her party, she said the PML-N greatly respects journalists and the media community.

    Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry too condemned the incident and criticised Sharif for not stopping to check the cameraman after he was injured.

    "The government [of PML-N] has ended, but their Moguls-like mentality has not," Chaudhry taunted.

    "The [PTI] government fully believes in freedom of expression and stands with the media workers," he added, promising legal action against the guards.

    Condemning the "thuggery" of Sharif's security guards, the Parliamentary Reporters Association in a statement said it had been assured by the police and government that the suspects would be apprehended within 24 hours.

    A cameraman is seen kicked by a security guard from Nawaz Sharif's protocol. — DawnNewsTVA cameraman is seen kicked by a security guard from Nawaz Sharif's protocol. — DawnNewsTV

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    Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Monday took to Twitter to announce that Indian spy Hamid Nehal Ansari was being released and repatriated to India.

    Faisal described Ansari as an Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan and been involved in "anti-state crimes and forging documents".

    A Peshawar High Court (PHC) bench on December 13 had directed the interior ministry to make arrangements for the deportation of the Indian national within one month of the completion of his three-year prison term on Dec 15.

    The PHC bench had observed that government departments should make all arrangements before the completion of Ansari's prison term, as keeping him in detention beyond the sentence would tarnish the image of the country.

    Ansari had gone missing in 2012 from Kohat. A freelance Pakistani journalist who began investigating his disappearance from Kohat, Zeenat Shahzadi, had also gone missing soon after. Her kidnapping was considered by human rights activists as a case of “enforced disappearance”.

    Soon after her kidnapping, government agencies had admitted that the missing Indian was in their custody.

    It later emerged that Ansari had been in the army's custody and convicted by a Field General Court Martial on charges of espionage and anti-state activities on Dec 15, 2015. He had been sentenced to three years.

    He had reportedly denied the charges and claimed that he had visited Pakistan to help a female Facebook friend in Kohat who claimed to be in trouble.

    Shahzadi was recovered in October 2017, but has been off the radar along with her family ever since.

    According to the Foreign Office Ansari was an Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan and been involved in According to the Foreign Office Ansari was an Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan and been involved in "anti-state crimes and forging documents". — File photo

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    Sindh Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam on Monday held a meeting with 28 consul generals or their representatives to exchange views about enhancing security of foreign missions in Karachi and for further coordination to this effect, in light of the terror attack targeting the Chinese Consulate located in Clifton area on November 23.

    Diplomats and representatives from various countries including — the United States, China, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bangladesh, Japan, Switzerland, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Bahrain, Afghanistan, France, Iran, Britain, South Korea, Yemen, Poland and Morocco — attended the meeting.

    IG Imam said the security concerns and protections had become an international issue, which was being dealt by all countries — in context of their geographical situation and existing challenges — by taking every possible step to curb terror.

    Sindh Rangers, Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel and intelligence agencies were cooperating and coordinating with police to ensure the security of foreign mission, the Sindh police chief said.

    IG Imam proposed that following the attack on Chinese consulate it was imperative to formulate a comprehensive security proposal in consultation with the foreign diplomats.

    "A WhatsApp group should be established through which police, Rangers and others law enforcement agencies could coordinate for the enhancement of security measures and respond effectively in case of emergencies," he suggested.

    The IG directed the city police chief to hold regular meetings with all consul generals on monthly basis in order to seek their proposals and consult with them to make foolproof security arrangements.

    While giving a security briefing to the envoys, Additional IG Karachi Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh proposed that watch towers should be established at selected points near all consulates, adding that establishing a CCTV command and control system was also important.

    He revealed that while keeping the recent attack in mind, the city police was planning to introduce an ‘SOS software’, which would be given to all foreign missions. This software will ensure the rapid police response in case of any untoward incident.

    During the meeting, the SP Foreign Security Cell Bashir Brohi informed the diplomats about all the steps and security measures taken for the protection of foreign missions.

    IG Kaleem Imam directs Karachi police chief to hold regular meetings with consul generals and ensure the provision of security. —Photo provided by authorIG Kaleem Imam directs Karachi police chief to hold regular meetings with consul generals and ensure the provision of security. —Photo provided by author

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    The Foreign Office on Monday welcomed a new round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and other international stakeholders expected to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    "Along with with international community and other stakeholders, Pakistan is committed to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan," said FO Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Twitter. "Talks are being held in UAE. We hope this will end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region."

    The Taliban, according to AP, said that “another meeting" is to be held today [Monday] with the United States, this time in the UAE. They said that the talks will involve representatives of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Pakistan — although Dr Faisal did not confirm the same in his tweet.

    Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid offered no further details. Khalil Minawi, director of Afghanistan’s state-run Bakhtar news agency, also confirmed the meeting. He said on Twitter that officials from the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UAE held meetings on Sunday ahead of “the Pakistani-sponsored US-Taliban meeting”.

    The US State Department has neither denied nor confirmed earlier meetings, but US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad previously said he has met with all Afghans involved in the 17-year war.

    Khalilzad has already held two rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The US media described these talks as “preliminary discussions”, adding that Washington hopes these contacts would pave the way for more substantial talks on a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.

    Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Khan, seeking his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met the prime minister and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on President Trump’s request.

    The prime minister told reporters in Peshawar on Friday that the US had changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad was not doing enough, as US officials have previously insisted.

    On Saturday, China also pledged to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome longstanding suspicions, as officials from the three nations met in Kabul to explore possibilities for engaging the Taliban.

    The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, met the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul on Saturday to prepare a memorandum of understanding on how to support Afghanistan’s efforts to open talks with the Taliban.

    “China approves of this, and is willing to provide support and help for Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their ties,” Wang told reporters after the meeting.

    Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal. — AFP/FileForeign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal. — AFP/File

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    ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday asked Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) member of the National Assembly Riaz Fatyana to draft a bill to make Pakistan a real welfare state, ensure representation of all segments of society in parliament, improve agriculture and solve people’s problems.

    The meeting was held amid resentment within the PTI over Mr Fatyana’s remarks in favour of opposition MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique.

    A press release issued by the PTI headquarters said the meeting between the prime minister and Mr Fatyana was held in a “pleasant atmosphere”. The prime minister expressed “complete confidence” in Mr Fatyana and appreciated his points of view and suggestions.

    The PM’s adviser on political affairs, Naeemul Haq, was also present during the meeting.

    Meeting follows PTI lawmaker’s remarks in favour of opposition MNA Saad Rafique

    When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said there was resentment in the PTI over Mr Fatyana’s remarks about Saad Rafique, but “all issues between him and the party have been settled now”.

    In a recent TV programme, Mr Fatyana had called for serving justice to Khawaja Saad Rafique of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the Paragon Housing Society case.

    He claimed that he had known Saad Rafique for 30 years and was aware about his character and nature.

    The PTI leader had said his call for serving justice to the PML-N leader was his personal opinion and not his party’s position.

    He said the masses voted the PTI into power to take action against corruption, which was the country’s biggest issue in the prevailing circumstances.

    Mr Fatyana rejected the allegation that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was being used as a tool to target politicians belonging to the opposition parties.

    He said that only three per cent of the NAB inquiries was against politicians.

    Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018

    PM's announcement comes soon after lawmaker’s remarks in favour of opposition MNA Saad Rafique — FilePM's announcement comes soon after lawmaker’s remarks in favour of opposition MNA Saad Rafique — File

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    QUETTA: The Anti-Corruption Establishment Balochistan has organised programmes in connection with the United Nations International Anti-Corruption week across the province.

    The programmes, including an awareness campaign about the negative impact of corruption on society, walks, seminars and debates, were organised at the anti-graft watchdog’s headquarters in Quetta and divisional offices in other cities, including Kalat, Sibi, Zhob and Nasirabad.

    Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani recently said reforms would be introduced in the Anti-Corruption Establishment for making it more effective. He applauded the robust action of the department in a case related to a dysfunctional incinerator in the Bolan Medical College.

    Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018

    Programmes organised  connection with the United Nations International Anti-Corruption week.Programmes organised connection with the United Nations International Anti-Corruption week.

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    GILGIT: Five bridges were opened on the under-construction Gilgit-Skardu road on Monday.

    The 175-kilometer road is being reconstructed by the Frontier Works Organisation, which got the contract last year.

    Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of Alam bridge, which connects Gilgit-Skardu road with Karakoram Highway, in Skardu, Commander FCNA Maj-Gen Ehsan Mehmood said that Gilgit-Baltistan was part of Pakistan and its people had unprecedented contributions and sacrifices for the defence and development of the country.

    Acknowledging the sacrifices and services of GB, the force commander said that CPEC had further increased the region’s importance.

    He hoped that with execution of CPEC, there would be considerable socioeconomic development in every district of the region.

    He reiterated that Pak Army would continue supporting the federal and Gilgit-Baltistan governments in resolving problems of the common people, besides assisting them in completion of ongoing development projects.

    Gen Mehmood also lauded the role of FWO for completing mega development projects in the region.

    On the occasion, FWO director general Maj-Gen Inaam Malik Haider said the important project would be completed within a record period.

    After completion of the project, trade and tourism activities will get boost in Baltistan division, he added.

    Senior minister Akbar Taban, education minister Ibrahim Sanai , GB Council Member Ashraf Sada, civil and military officials were also in attendance.

    Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018

    The 175-kilometer road is being reconstructed by the Frontier Works Organisation, which got the contract last year.The 175-kilometer road is being reconstructed by the Frontier Works Organisation, which got the contract last year.

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    QUETTA: The provincial capital and other cities of northern and eastern Balochistan were hit by a moderate earthquake on Monday.

    The tremor struck Quetta and other areas at around 12.15pm, forcing people to leave their homes and workplaces and rush into the open.

    The metrological department said that the epicentre of the 4.5 magnitude earthquake was found some 46km northeast of Quetta. The quake originated in 10km depth.

    According to reports, the tremor was felt in Harnai, Shahrag, Mastung, Mach, Kolpur, Pishin and several other areas of northern and eastern Balochistan.

    No casualty or property damage was reported. However, cracks were reported in some mud houses in areas on the outskirts of Quetta and other areas.

    A senior official of the district administration said rescue teams were sent to these areas.

    Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018

    Metrological dept says that the epicentre of the 4.5 magnitude earthquake was found some 46km northeast of Quetta.Metrological dept says that the epicentre of the 4.5 magnitude earthquake was found some 46km northeast of Quetta.

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