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    ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood said in the Senate on Thursday that literacy rate in the country had declined by two percentage points to 58 per cent within two years due to growing population and lack of efforts to arrest the trend.

    He was replying to a question raised by Usman Khan Kakar regarding percentage of literate persons in Pakistan.

    The written reply received from the relevant department highlighted that the definition of literacy was ‘one who can read a newspaper and write a simple letter in any language’ and it was 60pc in 2014-15.

    The reply also highlighted that the literacy rate in the country was only higher than that of Afghanistan in the region.

    Shafqat Mahmood blames growing population and lack of efforts to check the trend for the situation

    It referred to the Unesco Global Education Monitoring Report, which says the literacy rate among the population of 15 years and older in Pakistan was 57pc in 2019, while it was 86pc in Iran, 73pc in Bangladesh, 92pc in Sri Lanka and 99pc in the Maldives.

    Contrary to the expectations of the critics, including Senator Kakar, over the low rate reported about Pakistan by the international body Mr Mahmood said that he was ready to acknowledge that the literacy rate had gone down.

    “The population is increasing while nothing is being done to promote literacy among the citizens and there is a serious concern about the illiterate adults in the country,” he said.

    The minister said there was another issue of a high number of children out of school, “but that does not mean that only the girls were not going to the schools, the number of girls out of education set-up was higher than that of boys but the gap was narrow”.

    Mr Mahmood said it was a matter of concern for the whole nation that in 70 years parliament was still discussing the issue of low literacy among the population.

    He said that although literacy was a provincial matter after the 18th Amendment, the present government wanted to introduce new policies and projects in this regard.

    “There are several ideas. I want to give an outline to enhance adult literacy and it is expected that we can increase adult literacy rate by 10-15pc through it,” he said.

    The minister said that an adult literacy campaign was being launched but there was a need to introduce a compulsory subject of social work after Class-12 and the students would be inducted in the programme to impart basic reading and writing to the adults.

    Such a programme would require legal changes as well as the consent of the provinces, he added.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Shafqat Mahmood says the literacy rate in the country was only higher than that of Afghanistan in the region. — File photoShafqat Mahmood says the literacy rate in the country was only higher than that of Afghanistan in the region. — File photo

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    LAHORE: Reports on child protection show that child abuse has been on the increase in recent years in Punjab, particularly in cases of abduction, missing children, physical and sexual violence and child marriages, said the chief of field office, Unicef Punjab, Abdullahi Mohammad Yusuf.

    He was speaking at an advocacy event arranged by Unicef, Social Welfare Department, National Commission of Human Rights and Children Advo-cacy Network to discuss issue of child protection.

    Mr Yusuf commended the Punjab government for the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act (PDNCA) 2004 but added that it was not sufficient to address all issues.

    “It is strongly recommended that the Punjab government introduce a comprehensive legislative framework and administrative arrangement to address all forms of child abuse.

    “A child protection case management and referral system must be established and coordination between departments and other stakeholders must be streamlined.”

    Mr Yusuf said the UNCRC Committee, through its concluding observations on 5th Pakistan report in 2016, had recommended establishing effective mechanism to receive, monitor and investigate reports of cases of child abuse, including interventions and referral where necessary, prosecuting perpetrators in a manner that was child sensitive and ensuring privacy of the victims. He said progress on this recommendation was slow at Punjab level.

    Provincial Minister of Social Welfare Department Muhammad Ajmal Cheema said there was a huge gap between educated and uneducated classes, which had made it difficult to spread awareness.

    “It is the media that must play its role in highlighting issues of child abuse and rights by focusing on these two sections of society,” he said.

    Child rights activist Iftikhar Mubarik demanded the government raise the minimum age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18 years. He said the labour inspection system must be strengthened to effectively implement the laws to control child labour.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Unicef Punjab's chief of field office urges govt to introduce a legislative framework and administrative arrangement to address all forms of child abuse. — FileUnicef Punjab's chief of field office urges govt to introduce a legislative framework and administrative arrangement to address all forms of child abuse. — File

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    ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Thursday announced its digital policy for the next five years (2018-23) detailing measures for financial inclusion and equitable digital dividends for women and marginal communities.

    With the announcement of the policy, KP has emerged as the only province in Pakistan to have a digital policy which focuses on four areas of access, governance, economy and skills. The policy was unveiled at a ceremony here at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House.

    KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra was the chief guest on the occasion while Special Assistant to Chief Minister on IT Kamran Bangash, MD KPIT Board Dr Shahbaz Khan, Milanda Good of the World Bank, Ali Naseer of Jazz briefed the participants about salient features of the policy.

    Stresses increased public-private partnership for KP’s digital transformation

    The policy also specifically stresses on provision of digital access to the people of tribal districts (defunct Fata) otherwise considered among the most backward areas of the country. It also focuses on increased public-private partnership for facilitating digital transformation of the province.

    KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra regretted that internet was introduced in the province in 1995 but the whole work of the government organisations was still conducted through the old system of papers and files. He regretted that sticking to that obsolete system was a waste of both time and resources and also hampered service delivery.

    On the other hand, he pointed out, almost all government functionaries were utilising their private email addresses for any public communication. This practice, he pointed out, not only mixed private and public affairs but also created security risks. However, the finance minister vowed to transform the province and make a visible difference.

    Special Assistant to Chief Minister on IT Kamran Bangash said that though the digital policy was not part of the 100 days initiative of the PTI programme but in view of the need of the hour it had been prepared in less than 100 days.

    He said all the stakeholders were taken on board in formulation of the policy. He said it was based on ground realities and provided for achieving realistic goals. However, he added, the government was always open to any suggestion for its improvement and achieving its targets in the larger interest of the people of the province.

    He said the newly-merged districts were far behind from the other parts of the country in digital infrastructure while on the other hand the whole province was endowed with great potential of youth that’s why the policy provided for optimum utilisation of this resource.

    Addressing on the occasion, the Country Director World Bank Pakistan, Milenda Good appreciated the initiative of the KP government and assured that World Bank would always be there to contribute to its success.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    KP government stresses increased public-private partnership for KP’s digital transformation. — File photoKP government stresses increased public-private partnership for KP’s digital transformation. — File photo

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    LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday expressed serious concern over the Punjab police’s failure to arrest proclaimed offenders (POs) involved in murder cases and observed that the IGP had no moral ground to remain in the office.

    Earlier, Additional Inspector General of Police Abubakar Khuda Bukhsh filed a report showing there were around 5,000 proclaimed offenders of murder cases in the province.

    However, Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan rejected the report and said the statistics presented by police were not correct and showed figures less than the data available with court.

    Justice Khan said the fact that there was a large number of POs was a big question mark on the law and order situation. “Under what moral justification the IGP is sticking to his office when these POs are still at large,” asked the judge.

    The judge noted that the district police officers did have the whereabouts of 50pc of the POs but they kept arresting suspects wanted in minor offences only to show performance. He asked the additional IGP whether courts were supposed to punish police constables only.

    “How would you feel if court orders arrest of your RPOs and DPOs?’ Justice Khan asked the officer. Mr Bukhsh said there were certain shortcomings but serious efforts were being made to arrest the POs.

    The judge directed the additional IGP to submit a digital report on the POs and progress in their arrest.

    The judge was hearing a petition moved by a citizen of Gujranwala questioning failure of the police to arrest the killers of his brother. The petitioner alleged that police had arrested the suspects but later released them. He said police instead of arresting the suspects had been extending threats to him for pursuing the case. The judge adjourned further hearing for a fortnight.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    A file photo of the Lahore High Court building.A file photo of the Lahore High Court building.

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    GILGIT: The Chinese government has provided 50 motorcycles and 200 bulletproof jackets to Gilgit-Baltistan government to ensure the security of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor route in the region.

    The provision of motorcycles and jackets is part of an agreement signed between Xinjiang province of China and GB government.

    GB inspector general of police Sanaullah Abbasi handed over the keys of motorcycles and bulletproof jackets to the superintendents of police during a ceremony here on Thursday.

    He said motorcycles would be used by the police for patrolling the CPEC route.

    Gilgit SSP Tanveerul Hasan said the GB police were being provided with modern equipment.

    He said the GB police would ensure the security of CPEC route in the region and Chinese citizens working on various CPEC projects, while they would be protected during movement on the corridor routes.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

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    KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday sought record of the private land where a mosque and seminary had been allegedly built on an encroached piece.

    A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, issued this directive while hearing a civil application filed by a private company, International Brands (Private) Limited, against alleged attempts to encroach upon some portion of a piece of commercial land by the prayer leader of a mosque.

    The counsel of the company, Arshad Mohsin Tayebaley, told the court that his client had purchased Plot number F/2 X in Trans Lyari Quarters, Site, from the Pakistan Tobacco Company Limited, which executed a deed of assignment in respect of the land in favour of the applicant in 1996.

    According to the lawyer, in 1965 the PTC had constructed a mosque named Mubarak Masjid with a Hujra on 7,015 square feet for the religious benefit and use of the workers and appointed Maulana Noor Muhammad Qureshi as its Pesh Imam (prayer leader).

    Later, the cleric started unauthorised construction for an accommodation for his family adjacent to the mosque, but it was demolished by the district magistrate concerned after an inquiry.

    The counsel contended that the cleric still claimed the portion of the demolished structure and later involved religious organisations in this matter.

    However, the Sindh High Court in Nov 2011 decreed a lawsuit instituted by the applicant in its favour, ordering the cleric to vacate the premises and refrain from interfering with the property.

    The high court also restrained the applicant company from demolishing or disturbing the mosque or the seminary and told it to continue to use it for offering prayers and religious purposes.

    However, the counsel submitted that in addition to the existence of the mosque and seminary now attempts were being made by the respondent to encroach upon the adjacent portion of the land for a graveyard.

    During Thursday’s proceedings, a bench member, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, asked how prayers could be offered in a mosque allegedly built on an encroached piece of land. Justice Ahmed observed that whether the illegal occupation could be legitimised even after the passage of a century.

    Addressing the respondent’s counsel, the judge asked whether they had forgotten the example of the Masjid-i-Nabvi and asked him to cite a single example where the Khulfa-i-Rashideen had built a mosque on encroached land.

    The judge further observed that if anyone wanted to build a mosque, it must be done in a legal way as building a mosque on encroached land amounted to defaming the Islam.

    The bench members noted that Allah had not permitted building of a mosque on government land or on the property of private persons.

    The counsel said that the applicant company was ready to offer the portion of the land where the mosque and the seminary had been built, but requested the court to restrain the respondents from unlawfully occupying the rest of the land for a graveyard.

    The judges told the counsel for the parties to submit the original documents relating to the land in question by the next hearing and adjourned the matter.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Three-judge SC bench was hearing a civil application filed by a private company, International Brands (Private) Limited, against alleged attempts to encroach upon some portion of a piece of commercial land by the prayer leader of a mosque.  — File photoThree-judge SC bench was hearing a civil application filed by a private company, International Brands (Private) Limited, against alleged attempts to encroach upon some portion of a piece of commercial land by the prayer leader of a mosque. — File photo

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    PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday issued bailable warrants for the arrest of the provincial home secretary and inspector general of police over their failure to submit replies to an appeal filed by a schoolteacher against the placement of his name in the Fourth Schedule to the Anti-Terrorism Act.

    Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor expressed annoyance at the two officials’ non-compliance with the court’s orders and observed that it would be appropriate to issue their bailable warrants.

    Additional advocate general Waqar Ahmad Khan informed the bench that he had informed the two respondents about the court’s orders but they didn’t act accordingly.

    The petitioner, Fakhr-i-Alam, a resident of Adezai village in Peshawar, claimed that not only his name was placed in the Fourth Schedule to the ATA but he hadn’t receive salary for more than two years as well due to the blocking of his bank account.

    Javed Akhtar, lawyer for the appellant, said his client worked in the Government Primary School No 2 Adezai, Peshawar, and learned recently that the government had included his name in the Fourth Schedule, which carried the names of persons having links with terrorist outfits.

    He said the appellant had filed a petition last year challenging the order of the provincial government in that respect.

    The lawyer pointed out that on May 9, 2017, a bench of the high court had converted that petition into an appeal under Section 11-EE of the ATA asking the home secretary to decide it within 30 days.

    He said the appellant had waited for many months for decision on the appeal but the secretary did not do it despite being formally reminded about it many times.

    The lawyer said the appellant was left with no option but to file the appeal with the high court seeking orders to set aside the provincial government’s move to place his name in the Fourth Schedule.

    He contended that the appellant was a law-abiding and educated citizen and that he was not dealt with in accordance with the law. The lawyer pointed out that the appellant was named in three FIRs related to personal enmity, which got nothing to do with terrorism and that he had already been acquitted by the court in those cases.

    He said in Sept 2016, the appellant’s bank account was blocked and therefore, his salary hadn’t been credited to his bank account since then.

    The lawyer said when the appellant approached the consumer court against the blocking of his bank account, he came to know that his name was placed in the Fourth Schedule.

    He requested the bench to issue directives to the government to remove his name from the Fourth Schedule and unblock his bank account to enable him to receive salary.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    PHC expresses annoyance at officials' failure to submit replies to a school teacher's appeal.PHC expresses annoyance at officials' failure to submit replies to a school teacher's appeal.

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    ISLAMABAD: The district administration of Islamabad has constituted a committee to probe land grabbing allegations made by residents of Noon village.

    The committee was constituted by Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat in response to a request made by Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed to redress the grievances of the villagers.The superintendent of police (SP) Industrial Area is chairman and the assistant commissioner Potohar, subdivisional police officer Shams Colony, naib tehsildar Patar, station house officer of Noon police and others are members of the committee.

    The committee will investigate and redress the land and revenue issues of the residents of the village and its surrounding areas and submit its report on every Monday to the deputy commissioner.

    At least nine people approached the police and separately lodged complaints. However, so far the police have registered only two cases.

    The complainants alleged that a group was active in the village and occupied their lands by pressuring the owners through their agents.

    An officer of the capital administration said only the sessions court had the power to decide on issues related to land and revenue. The sessions court decides such cases on the basis of reports from police and the revenue department, he added.

    However, the villagers approached the police to get their land and revenue issues resolved.

    The police can act only when someone is trying to occupy the land or house of a citizen while the revenue department establishes the ownership.

    In Islamabad both the complainant and the accused produce ownership documents, the officer stated, adding the revenue department established the actual ownership but the dispute was decided by the court.

    Likewise, the police act when law and order situation is created or an offence is committed, he added.

    The police cannot decide the ownership of a property but with the assistance of the revenue department can investigate the matter and submit a report to court, he added.

    When contacted, the deputy commissioner said the committee was constituted for quick and speedy disposal of the complaints.

    The police will register a case and initiate legal proceedings against anyone found guilty of making false claims about ownership or occupying land, the DC said.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Committee will investigate and redress the land and revenue issues of residents of Moon village in Punjab.Committee will investigate and redress the land and revenue issues of residents of Moon village in Punjab.

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    ISLAMABAD: Representatives of private educational institutions of the federal capital have said the statements made by State Minister for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi regarding excessive drug use by students are “baseless”.

    Addressing a press conference on Thursday, representatives of a joint action committee of Islamabad’s private educational institutions said Mr Khan had quoted the findings of a baseless survey report regarding drug use by students.

    On Monday, the minister had said at the launch of an initiative for child rights training for the police that a survey had indicated that 75pc of female students and 45pc male students use drugs such as crystal meth.

    Operators of private schools demanded the prime minister take notice of the issue and said the minister should not have quoted the survey.

    Though the minister had not mentioned the name of the survey, the school operators said Mr Khan appeared to be quoting a survey by South Asia Strategic Stability Institute, headed by Dr Maria Sultan.

    During a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior in Oct 2016, Dr Sultan had claimed that according to the survey, 53pc of students from elite private schools are addicted to drugs. She had surveyed 44 institutions.

    “We conducted a survey of 44 educational institutions, including some public sector schools. Alarmingly, we found 43pc to 53pc of students at elite schools – where students from privileged backgrounds are studying – were addicts.

    They are using heroin, hashish, opium and ecstasy tablets,” Dr Sultan had told the senate committee in 2016.

    When Dawn had asked her in 2016 to share the report, she had refused in order to “protect the identities of the students and institutions”.

    However, the very next day, her report had been rejected by private schools and those run by the federal government saying that no one had contacted them for conducting a survey.

    The state minister is said to have based his allegations on the same survey.

    Meanwhile, according to an official statement issued on Thursday, at the end of a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, which met at Parliament House, the committee chairman, Rehman Malik said: “All of us are concerned by the statement of the minister for interior that 75pc female students and 45pc male students take crystal meth in the capital”.

    Mr Malik said the figures were disturbing and that the government should take serious action. He asked the interior ministry to apprise the committee on the subject and on the action it has taken after being informed of such drastic statistics for drug use among students,

    He said he had taken notice of drug supply to educational institutions in Islamabad and had ordered a crackdown against the drug mafia, which had also led to the construction of a boundary wall around Quaid-i-Azam University.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    PM asked to take notice of Shehryar Afridi's claim that 75pc of female students and 45pc male students use drugs such as crystal meth. — File photoPM asked to take notice of Shehryar Afridi's claim that 75pc of female students and 45pc male students use drugs such as crystal meth. — File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has criticised the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for its snail’s pace regularisation of unauthorised construction in Banigala and suggested charging residents to meet the cost of installing sewage treatment plants in the area.

    A bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial resumed hearing a case related to the installation of sewage treatment plants in Banigala on Thursday.

    Justice Ijazul Ahsan, one of the members of the bench, remarked that the court had been informed that at least four plants are required for Rawal Dam, which is the main water reservoir for Rawalpindi.

    CDA criticised for slow pace of regularisation of unauthorised construction

    The CDA’s director general environment told the SC there are currently no sewage treatment plants functioning along the dam.

    He also explained government measures to prevent contamination of the lake, and informed the court of an inter-departmental committee that comprises officials of six departments that regularly tests the water.

    Local government laws ban littering in the catchment, he said, while the Fisheries Department is responsible for stopping illegal boating in Rawal Lake.

    The official added that poultry farms along the Korang River also contaminate the water.

    The government requires Rs3.5 billion for the installation of treatment plants, the finance ministry told the court.

    When Justice Ahsan asked about allocations for the current fiscal year, the finance ministry representative said the project is still under approval.

    An official from the district government told the court that the CDA and Punjab government had previously issued funds for Rawal Lake, but since the establishment of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI), the federal government approved grants from the development budget.

    Justice Bandial suggested that the local community might be asked to contribute, and the Punjab government or MCI could impose taxes on residents in this regard.

    Justice Ahsan remarked that it appeared that the issue was not among the government’s priorities.

    The court then asked the CDA about the regularisation of unauthorised structures in Banigala, and remarked: “So far, the civic agency could neither frame the rules nor conducted survey.”

    An assistant attorney general told the court the government was considering revising the Islamabad master plan.

    The counsel for the CDA said the authority has issued notices to 1,200 buildings, of which just 200 have submitted applications seeking regularisation.

    Justice Bandial said the authority could sever utility connections for those who are not applying to regularise their buildings, and directed the concerned departments to formulate recommendations in this regard in a week.

    The court also directed the CDA, MCI and Punjab government to put forward unanimous recommendations for regularisation, and said the owners of property in Banigala may also be charged to meet the cost of sewage treatment plants while the Planning Division may determine the CDA, federal and Punjab governments’ shares in this regard.

    In light of the revised master plan, the court ordered that there must be a blanket ban on unauthorised construction in Rawal Lake’s catchment area. The court also asked the CDA to allocate five acres for solid waste management.

    Further hearing has been adjourned until the first week on January.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Supreme Court criticises CDA for its snail's pace regularisation of Baigala construction. — File photoSupreme Court criticises CDA for its snail's pace regularisation of Baigala construction. — File photo

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    KARACHI: Mayor of Karachi Wasim Akhtar said on Thursday that work on providing alternative shops to traders affected by the anti-encroachment operation would begin within a week.

    “Balloting will be held in the Commissioner Karachi office in the presence of two representatives each from markets and they will be given an opportunity to do their business in a transparent manner, and officers who promoted encroachments will be identified too,” he said.

    He expressed these views while speaking to the members of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry on a visit of the KCCI office. Metropolitan Commissioner Dr Syed Saif-ur-Rehman and other KMC officers with office-bearers of the KCCI were also present on the occasion.

    Mr Akhtar said that his party suffered the most and the Karachi Metropolitan Corp­oration lost revenue because of the anti-encroachment campaign.

    He said that balloting for alternative shops for affected shopkeepers would be held next week in the commissioner’s office. “We will give alternative spaces to our tenants, this being a human issue and we will not leave these people helpless,” he said.

    The mayor said the Supreme Court had directed them to complete the removal of encroachments in the city within 15 days and added “but we asked for a month’s time”.

    He said all those who utilised government land wrongly would get nothing. “The KMC had given them 4x4 feet shops and they did all illegal and wrong works like establishing hotels, warehouses and ice factories, which was not right in any way,” he added.

    He said that the weekly report of anti-encroachments would be submitted to the apex court on Friday.

    He said a hawkers’ zone should be established for pushcart owners and other such vendors so they would also have an opportunity to earn respectable livelihood. “I have limited powers and am still working on improvement in the city,” he added.

    The mayor also asked the KCCI to donate or help in removing the debris in the city.

    He said Karachi should get water and gas according to its needs as progress in Karachi would mean progress of the country.

    Earlier, KCCI president Junaid Ismail presented the welcome address. Siraj Kassam Teli, Zubair Motiwala and A.Q. Khalil also spoke.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Mayor Karachi vows to Mayor Karachi vows to "give alternative spaces to our tenants". — File

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    ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked parliament to amend the accountability law allowing voluntary return of plundered money by February next year or else the court would pass an appropriate order in this regard.

    An SC bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that it was tantamount to confession of offence if an accused person voluntary returned part of ill-gotten money and that it could not undo the crime.

    The apex court was hearing a suo motu case about voluntary return.

    An amicus curie in the case, Farooq H. Naek, said that a parliamentary committee was working to overhaul the National Accountability Ordinance and suggested that instead of the court, parliament might be allowed to make an amendment to the law.

    Justice Saeed said that the court could strike down the voluntary return law since it was an admission of committing of an offence, adding that there was no room in the law to waive criminal liability through an executive order.

    In case of failure, Supreme Court may pass an appropriate order

    The court made it clear that in case there was no amendment to repeal voluntary return by the first week of February 2019, the court might pass an order in this regard.

    Voluntary return is an option under which an accused returns plundered money during investigation before the filing of a corruption reference in an accountability court. In case of a trial, plea bargain option is used for this purpose.

    Last year, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had said that the apex court would review plea bargain powers of the National Accountability Bureau chairman.

    The chief justice had observed that the discretionary powers of the NAB chairman regarding plea bargain could not be unlimited.

    He had asked if a person who had committed fraud against the state and then returned (plundered) money, what punishment was there for him.

    The chief justice had asked the bureau’s prosecutor why NAB did not decide the matter in prescribed time period while filing a reference.

    Justice Nisar had said the court would see whether plea bargain was right or wrong.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    NAB law allows accused to voluntarily return plundered money during investigation before filing of a corruption reference. — File photoNAB law allows accused to voluntarily return plundered money during investigation before filing of a corruption reference. — File photo

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    LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has approved a reference against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and former principal secretary to the ex-prime minister Fawad Hasan Fawad in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing scam.

    NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal approved the reference during his visit to the Lahore NAB office on Thursday.

    “The NAB chairman approved filing of a reference against suspects (Shahbaz Sharif, Fawad Hasan Fawad and others) in the accou­ntability court in the Rs14 billion Ashiyana housing scam during his visit to the Lahore bureau office. He also examined progress in the inquiries into the Paragon Housing scam and misuse of funds of 56 companies and Punjab police,” an official told Dawn.

    The chairman directed Lahore NAB Director General Shahzad Saleem to expedite investigation into mega cases and ensure complete transparency. He said NAB was not in favour of media trial of any suspect rather at times it (bureau) fell victim to this itself.

    Former Punjab CM is accused of misusing authority, while principal secretary to ex-PM Fawad Hasan Fawad allegedly made assets worth Rs740 million illegally

    “The suspects (in NAB custody) are being provided facilities better than jail manual and it is ensured that their self-respect is not hurt,” Justice Iqbal said.

    After the approval of the chairman, the reference in the Ashiyana case will be filed shortly.

    According to a source, the main charge against Shahbaz Sharif is misuse of authority, while Mr Fawad is accused of making assets worth Rs740 million illegally, besides misuse of authority.

    Shahbaz Sharif is accused of misuse of authority for cancelling the award of the project’s contract to successful bidder M/s Chaudhry Latif and Sons and instead obliging M/s Lahore Casa Developers (JV) – a proxy group of M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Limited (which is allegedly developed by former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique) – thus causing millions of rupees losses to the exchequer.

    Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique are also in NAB’s custody in the Paragon housing scam.

    Shahbaz Sharif also allegedly directed the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), resulting in award of contract to the Lahore Casa Developers (JV). This allegedly caused Rs715m loss to the exchequer and ultimately failed the project.

    “Shahbaz is also accused of directing the PLDC to award consultancy services of the project to M/s Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab for Rs192m, whereas the actual cost was Rs35m as quoted by Nespak.”

    Mr Fawad could not provide money trail of his assets. He, being implementation secretary to then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in 2013, is also accused of misusing his authority in the award of contract to his ‘favourite’ party.

    Mr Fawad had reportedly confessed (to NAB) that the contract of the successful bidder was cancelled at the behest of Shahbaz Sharif.

    “Fawad made this confession in the presence of Shahbaz at NAB Lahore office,” the source said.

    Former LDA director general Ahad Khan Cheema, a blue-eyed officer of previous Shahbaz Sharif government in Punjab, is also facing NAB references in the Ashiyana housing case and income beyond means.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif talks to lawyers ahead of a hearing of the Ashiana scam in an accountability court. — File photoPML-N President Shahbaz Sharif talks to lawyers ahead of a hearing of the Ashiana scam in an accountability court. — File photo

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    PESHAWAR: The Peshawar Development Authority has agreed to bear the costs of the treatment of around 400 traffic wardens suffering from pulmonary and eye problems caused by the ongoing work on the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project.

    Sources told Dawn that the PDA, which was the executing agency of the BRT, the PTI-led government’s flagship project, had accepted a request of the city traffic police for pulmonary and hepatitis treatment of its around 400 personnel deployed on the BRT route.

    Take a look: How bad planning is ruining Peshawar

    The traffic wardens affected by dust storms caused by the heavy construction activity over the last one year will be treated at the Combined Military Hospital.

    PDA agrees to bear treatment costs

    Sources told Dawn that earlier this month, Peshawar chief traffic officer Kashif Zulfiqar wrote a letter to the PDA director general asking for the medical treatment to traffic wardens.

    The letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, read that the traffic wardens of that unit were working day and night in coherence for the successful execution of the BRT project.

    It said the city traffic police Peshawar had ensured smooth traffic flow on roads during the BRT construction despite facing hard conditions.

    The letter said the enthusiasm of the traffic wardens was marred by dust and pollution, caused by aforesaid project, which was extremely injurious and the routine drudgery was debilitating their health.

    “This unit lacks the economic resources to provide medical expenses to such a vast proportion of our strength,” it said, adding that the same pollution is causing severe pulmonary, influenza and eye-related problems among cops.

    The letter said the treatment of such traffic wardens should be borne by the civic agency or the traffic police should be facilitated by a sufficient medical fund for the purpose.

    The project’s environmental, health and safety aspects are continually monitored at five levels including the executing agency, donor Asian Development Bank, third party environmental monitoring consultant, project management and construction supervision consultants (PMCSC) and contractor.

    However, compliance with the project’s environmental safeguards has taken flak from the citizens in contrast to the executing agency’s biannual reports submitted to the donor ADB, which put the particulate matter, noise and other kind of pollution well below the permissible limits.

    The most recent report covering the period from January to June 2008 noted that the issue of excessive dust emissions remained prevalent until April 2018.

    “Actions such as; optimization of water sprinkling, manual and mechanical sweeping of dust etc. have been utilized to control the issue. These actions have proved to be fruitful and this issue has generally been controlled. The pavement of the corridor and asphalting of the mixed traffic lanes also scaled down the dust emissions,” it said.

    Regarding unauthorised disposal of debris / excavated material, the report said since the beginning of the project until the middle of this reporting period, the unauthorised disposal of debris and excavated material remained a major challenge for the project.

    It said unavailability of alternative routes and congestion on the existing routes made it very difficult for the dumper trucks to transport the excavated material to the dumping sites on frequent basis.

    The report said due to those limitations, the unauthorised disposal of excavated material at the roadsides and near the excavated areas had been a frequent observation.

    Sources told Dawn that the Environmental Protection Agency had also pointed out its serious reservations about the project in several reports but little attention was paid to them.

    They said the contractor also fired its environmental consultant from Reach-I of the project.

    When contacted, PDA director general Israrul Haq confirmed that the authority had received a letter from the traffic police on the matter.

    He, however, expressed ignorance about the number of cops to be treated.

    The DG said the traffic police had stood shoulder to shoulder with other agencies during the project’s execution and would facilitate them at any health facility of the city through a special counter.

    Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018

    Traffic wardens are affected by dust storms caused by the heavy construction activity over the past year. — File photoTraffic wardens are affected by dust storms caused by the heavy construction activity over the past year. — File photo

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    A banking court in Karachi on Friday extended till January 7 the pre-arrest bails of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his sibling Faryal Talpur in a case pertaining to alleged money laundering of Rs4.14 billion through fake bank accounts.

    On Zardari's call, an assortment of PPP leaders, including former Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah and former federal minister Rehman Malik as well as party workers had gathered outside the court.

    Once the hearing began, a prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency told the court that joint investigation team (JIT) probing the case has submitted its report in the Supreme Court and now awaits the apex court's orders.

    Subsequently, the court extended the siblings' interim pre-arrest bails for the sixth time and adjourned the case.

    Zardari and Talpur are being probed as part of an investigation into a fake bank accounts case in which billions of rupees were allegedly transferred.

    The siblings face allegations that they had illegally channelled funds through the said accounts in connivance with the chief executive officers of major banks.

    Shah condemns PPP's media trial before judicial trial

    Senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah, following the hearing, claimed that by leaking the JIT report a "media trial" of their party was being conducted.

    "We have seen the court's good and bad eras as well as their good and bad decision," Shah told media representatives. "We have seen all the judges from Justice Muneer till Justice Saqbi Nisar. We are mentally prepared for everything but our media trial is being conducted.

    "No one has seen the JIT report yet it is being leaked from time to time.

    The former leader of the opposition in the National Assembly claimed that media trials prior to judicial trials shape up the minds of the people.

    "Sub judice matters are discussed but Pemra remains a silent spectator," Shah regretted.

    Former president Asif Ali Zardari arrives at a banking court in Karachi. — DawnNewsTVFormer president Asif Ali Zardari arrives at a banking court in Karachi. — DawnNewsTV

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    The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday claimed to have arrested a suspect on charges of committing ‘online electronic currency fraud’ amounting to Rs3 billion from Karachi.

    “The FIA arrested the suspect, Ghulam Sarwar, from Gulshan-i-Iqbal area,” said Additional Director Cybercrime Circle Mohammed Younis. The suspect was scheduled to board a flight to Saudi Arabia on Friday evening.

    He was a primary suspect in the online fraud case which has affected more than 17,000 people in the country.

    Also read: 1,244 online bank fraud cases reported in 10 months, Senate told

    The suspect along with other accomplices used to operate a fake website called 'Channel Timez', with its address shown in Italy, which they used to receive between Rs30,000 and Rs5 million from each affectee on the pretext of providing lucrative returns on dollar investments.

    Younis explained that Sarwar and his partners were involved in the illegal activity of running a Ponzi scheme, “MLM” (Multi Level Marketing), by using the website domain of for which they had opened several binary accounts for the collection of money from people, with a promise that the customers would be provided a handsome profit at the rate of 1.5 per cent in US dollars in electronic currency (e-currency) on a daily basis.

    In this manner, the suspects cheated and collected a total of Rs3 billion from thousands of people fraudulently.

    It transpired during the initial probe that the gang was also involved in the buying and selling of digital currencies including Perfect Money, One Life and One Coin, which have been prohibited by the State Bank of Pakistan.

    The dollars collected from the affectees were also in the shape of e-currency.

    The FIA have registered a case against the suspect under the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act-2016 and Sections 420, 109 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

    The online fraud case has affected more than 17,000 people in the country. — Reuters/FileThe online fraud case has affected more than 17,000 people in the country. — Reuters/File

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    Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday confirmed the death sentences awarded to 14 hardcore terrorists, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

    The convicts were involved in heinous terrorist offences, including attacks on armed forces, law enforcement agencies, destruction of communication infrastructure, a police station, an educational institution, and killing of innocent civilians.

    The convicted terrorists were responsible for the deaths of a total of 16 people — 13 armed forces personnel and three civilians — and causing injuries to 19 others, the military's media wing said. Arms and explosives had also been recovered from their possession.

    Special military courts had awarded death sentences to these convicts, the ISPR said. The courts also handed down imprisonments to 20 convicts.

    All 14 of the terrorists were found to be members of banned organisations. They confessed to their offences before a judicial magistrate and in their statements during their respective trials.

    Details of death penalty convictions provided by the ISPR are as follows:

    Mohiuddin s/o Salahuddin and Gul Zameen s/o Shah Kameen Khan

    Both the convicts were involved in attacks on the armed forces and law enforcement personnel, which resulted in the death of a civilian, three soldiers and injuries to five other soldiers. They were also found in possession of explosives.

    Fazal Hadi s/o Bakht Rawan

    He was involved in an attack on the armed forces, which resulted in the death of three soldiers, according to the ISPR. He was also found to be involved in the destruction of the Hazara/Gulibagh Bridge and police station as well as the kidnapping of two civilians for ransom.

    Muhammad Wahab s/o Hazrat Buland, Gul Muhammad s/o Ghulam Sardar, Bashir Ahmed s/o Nadir Khan and Afreen Khan s/o Masam Khan

    The convicts were involved in attacks on law enforcement agencies personnel, resulting in the deaths of Subedar Awal Khan, Naik Azmatullah and causing injuries to another soldier. Firearms and explosives were also recovered from them.

    Barkat Ali s/o Bakht Hazir, Muhammad Islam s/o Muhammad Zada, Roohul Amin s/o Zarin and Shtamand s/o Baishmand

    The three militants were involved in the killing of civilians and attacking the armed forces, resulting in the death of civilians Muhammad Umar and Mukhtiar Ahmad, Havildar Allah Dita and Sepoy Bacha Hussain, and injuries to two civilians.

    They were also involved in the destruction of government educational institutions for girls in Swat. They were also found in possession of firearms and explosives.

    Bacha Wazir s/o Bakhat Nazir

    He was found guilty of attacking armed forces personnel, resulting in the death of Naik Ghulam Hassan and injuries to another soldier. Firearms and explosives were recovered from him, the military's media wing said.

    Mohammad s/o Abdul Shakoor

    The convict was involved in an attack on law enforcement agencies personnel, which caused the death of Sepoy Sajid Khan and injuries to five other soldiers. He was also found in possession of firearms and explosives.

    Muhammad Ismail s/o Ibrahim

    He was found to be involved in attacks on law enforcement agencies and armed forces personnel, which resulted in the death of a soldier and caused injuries to two other soldiers. Firearms were also recovered from his possession, the ISPR said.

    This is the third time in a span of one month that the army chief has approved the death sentences of groups of terrorists. On November 23, he had signed off on the death warrants for 11 hardcore terrorists and on December 16, he sanctioned the death sentences awarded to 15 terrorists.

    Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. — FileChief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. — File

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    The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has rejected reports about a wide breach of bank accounts data, the finance ministry told the Senate on Friday in response to a written question by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed.

    Finance Minister Asad Umar, in his written response, mentioned that on Nov 6, the top bank had categorically rejected reports of data hack.

    "The SBP affirms that except for the one, it didn't receive any report from any bank, or law enforcement agencies of data hacking of any other bank. However, on Oct 27, [a certain] cash amount was hacked through international ATMs," the minister said in his response.

    Take a look: FIA, SBP at odds over theft of bank accounts data

    The finance minister also submitted a SBP press release issued on Nov 6, rejecting the alleged wide breach of data security.

    Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar told the Senate that the data of accounts of 6,000 clients of Bank Islami was stolen and used. "But the amount was not withdrawn from anyone's bank account. The issue is between the commercial bank and an insurance company," he said, adding that the top bank has further tightened [the security procedure of] cross-border [cash] transactions.

    In the first week of November, reports about a breach of credit and debit card data were doing rounds on the media, with the banking circles expressing concerns over the issue. Subsequently around 10 banks had blocked all international transactions on their cards.

    A few days later, the head of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing had said data from "almost all" Pakistani banks was stolen in a security breach.

    "According to a recent report we have received, data from almost all Pakistani banks has been reportedly hacked," FIA Cybercrimes Director retired Capt Mohammad Shoaib had told Geo News.

    The official had added that data from "most of the banks" operating in the country had been compromised. Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Shoaib said hackers based outside Pakistan had breached the security systems of several local banks. "The hackers have stolen large amounts of money from people's accounts," he had added.

    According to Shoaib, more than 100 cases were being investigated by the agency in connection with the breach.

    "An element of banking fraud which is a cause of concern is that banks hide the theft [that involves them]... and the clients report [the theft] to the banks and not to us, resulting in a loss of people's money," he had told DawnNewsTV.

    'Data of over 8,000 account holders sold'

    Sources had told Dawn that the SBP had been informed by several commercial banks that they have blocked international payments on debit and credit cards as a precautionary measure after cyber attacks on their clients’ accounts.

    According to a digital security website, data of over 8,000 account holders of about 10 Pakistani banks was sold in a market of hackers.

    The first cyber attack was reported by BankIslami on October 27. The bank said that Rs2.6 million was stolen from international payment cards after which it has stopped such transactions and allowed biometrically verified payments only on ATM cards within Pakistan.

    However, the top bank had denied the reports, saying, “SBP categorically rejects such reports.”

    But the IT security firm whose report triggered the entire affair, PakCert, told Dawn that they had indeed shared their report with the SBP on Nov 5. Asked about this report, the SBP spokesperson had confirmed receiving the report in question, but said it contained no evidence of a breach of data.

    PPP objects to PM's Special Adviser's rumoured meeting with JIT members

    PPP leadership, during the Senate session today, voiced their concerns over an alleged meeting between Prime Minister's Special Adviser on Accountability, Shahzad Akbar, and members of a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the allegations of money laundering against PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and others.

    PPP stalwart Sherry Rehman, also the Leader of the Opposition in Senate, alleged that [the government] was exacting "political revenge under the pretext of accountability".

    "There are reports that Akbar met with members of the JIT," she claimed. "The JIT was constituted for Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur."

    The PPP leader alleged that a "conspiracy is being hatched", and claimed that the case's witnesses had also attended the rumoured meeting.

    "Prove that Shahzad Akbar was not in the FIA office," she challenged the treasury benches.

    Akbar, meanwhile, took to Twitter to "categorically deny meeting JIT" members on December 19 but acknowledged that he interacts with officials from the FIA and other agencies "on daily basis for our work under Assets Recovery Unit".

    The finance ministry quoted SBP saying that except for the one, it didn't receive any report of data hacking.— Reuters/FileThe finance ministry quoted SBP saying that except for the one, it didn't receive any report of data hacking.— Reuters/File

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    Police in Attock on Thursday registered a case against the owner of a welfare institute for allegedly assaulting young girls and making their videos.

    The suspect was arrested on December 19 after police conducted a raid at the welfare institution near the Gora Qabristan in Attock, said police officials at the City station.

    16 girls, between the ages of five and 14 including orphans as well as others who belonged to low income families, were found at the institute. Two women — a matron and a caretaker for the girls — were also rescued.

    The police officials added that mobile phones and laptops were retrieved in the raid.

    According to the first investigation report (FIR) registered on Dec 20 by a girl's father, who said his daughter had been at the institute for three months, the suspect used to take the girls in a room at night, assault them and make videos.

    As per the FIR report, a case has been registered against the suspect under sections 292 A, 292 C, 377 A, 377 B, 376 and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code, under which child pornography and exposure to seduction is a punishable crime.

    16 girls, between the ages of five and 14 including orphans as well as others who belonged to low income families, were found at the institute. — File16 girls, between the ages of five and 14 including orphans as well as others who belonged to low income families, were found at the institute. — File

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    The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested a Karachi resident for allegedly blackmailing a woman in Lahore and forcing her to marry him, read a statement issued on Friday.

    According to the FIA statement, the suspect, who is a resident of North Karachi, had been blackmailing the Lahore woman by threatening to post private photos and videos of her on the internet if she did not agree to his marriage proposal.

    He travelled to Lahore from Karachi along with his family and baraat (wedding party) to marry the complainant. However, upon arrival at the Lahore railway station, a team of FIA's Cybercrime Wing arrested the suspect.

    A case has been registered against the suspect on charges of blackmailing and harassment under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

    The arrest comes days after a young woman in Punjab's Muzaffargarh district committed suicide after allegedly being blackmailed by a man for refusing his marriage proposal.

    The suspect was arrested after he travelled to Lahore to marry the victim. — File photoThe suspect was arrested after he travelled to Lahore to marry the victim. — File photo

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