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    Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday lashed out at government officials for observing a holiday on the birth anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah instead of working.

    The chief justice had summoned the federal ministers for health and law during a hearing of a case regarding the legal status of private universities in the country so that they could provide the court the criteria for granting charters to academic institutions.

    "Call the ministers, tell them to work here [instead of] observing a holiday on Quaid-i-Azam Day," he remarked. He further said that Jinnah's principle was "Work, work, and only work."

    "We remember him ─ who put everything at stake to create this country ─ by taking a day off," he regretted, adding that tribute should be paid to the country's founder by working on his birthday.

    The state prosecutor told the chief justice that committees had been formed to determine the legal status of private universities, and that they would meet on Dec 28 to discuss the matter. The chief justice responded that the committees keep working for years while the court needed a final report.

    The court has adjourned the hearing for now.

    "Call the ministers, tell them to work here [instead of] observing a holiday on Quaid-i-Azam Day," says Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar. — File photo

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    Prime Minister Imran Khan on the occasion of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's birth anniversary assured minority communities that they would be treated as equal citizens in Naya Pakistan "unlike what is happening in India".

    The prime minister on Tuesday tweeted that "Naya Pakistan is Quaid's Pakistan and will ensure that our minorities are treated as equal citizens, unlike what is happening in India."

    He added that Jinnah had envisaged Pakistan as a "democratic, just and compassionate" nation.

    "Most importantly, he wanted our minorities to be equal citizens. It should be remembered that his early political career was as an ambassador for Hindu Muslim unity," the premier said, adding that Jinnah's struggle for a separate nation for Muslims only began when he realised that Muslims would not be treated as equal citizens by the Hindu majority.

    It is the second time in a week that the prime minister has highlighted the treatment of minorities in India. On Saturday, the premier had asserted that Pakistan would ensure equal rights to all minorities and show Indian premier Narendra Modi’s government "how we treat the minorities in Pakistan in stark comparison to the minorities’ status in India".

    He had said that in India voices were being raised about the discriminatory treatment of minorities.

    Prime Minister Imran Khan said Naya Pakistan is Quaid's Pakistan.— DawnNewsTVPrime Minister Imran Khan said Naya Pakistan is Quaid's Pakistan.— DawnNewsTV

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    A change of guard ceremony was held on Tuesday at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi to commemorate his 142nd birthday.

    Pakistan Military Academy Kakul cadets took over guard duties from the Pakistan Air Force, Radio Pakistan reported.

    Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah and Governor Imran Ismail will also visit the mausoleum to pay homage to the nation's founder, the report added.

    Special ceremonies will be held by government departments, social organisations and academic institutions to commemorate the occasion. It is a public holiday today and the national flag will be hoisted atop all public and private buildings.

    The nation is also observing Jinnah's birthday with zeal and enthusiasm.

    President, prime minister pay tribute to the Quaid

    Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi also issued special messages to the nation on the occasion.

    The president, in his statement, paid tribute to Jinnah's efforts to create a separate homeland for Muslims "where they could spend their lives in accordance with their own custom and their traditions".

    He urged the nation to "work tirelessly — individually as well as collectively — in the service of our great country, in line with the Quaid’s vision".

    "[Jinnah] steered the Muslims of the sub-continent during the most tumultuous times and enabled them to withstand heavy odds and to achieve independence through a democratic struggle," President Alvi said in his statement.

    "Quaid-i-Azam’s vision and thoughts are as relevant today as they were seven decades ago... By the grace of Allah Almighty our country has embarked upon the path to progress and development as envisioned by Father of the Nation. Today, we are not only paying homage to the memory of our great leader but also reaffirm our faith in his teachings."

    He also asked the nation to vow that the "mistakes of past shall never be repeated".

    "We all will work as one nation to transform vision of the Quaid into reality and take the country to its rightful place among the comity of nations."

    Prime Minister Imran Khan in his statement congratulated the nation on the occasion. He said that the nation should "reflect as to how far we have succeeded in adhering to the path outlined by our leader" and "rededicate" itself to live up to his vision.

    He paid tribute to the founder of the nation and said that he was "one of the great leaders of 20th century who altered the course of history by his vision and relentless struggle for the rights of the Muslims".

    "Our Quaid had envisioned a state where we could live and breathe as free men, where we could enjoy freedom from fear and want; where we could fashion their lives according to our religious and cultural values, and where the principles of the state of Madina could be followed to create a just and prosperous society," Prime Minister Khan said.

    "The Quaid had wanted a society where every citizen enjoys the privileges of equal rights; where rule of law reigns supreme and establishment of a state which provides its umbrella to marginalised and vulnerable and also facilitates growth of every individual to his or her full capabilities," the premier added.

    "The best way to pay homage to our Quaid is to adhere to his vision and follow his guiding principles of unity, faith and discipline, in our individual as well as collective lives, towards making our country a truly welfare, progressive and prosperous state," he concluded.

    Cadets of the Pakistan Military Academy took over guard duties. — DawnNewsTVCadets of the Pakistan Military Academy took over guard duties. — DawnNewsTV

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    DERA MURAD JAMALI: In Nasirabad division, 144 schools which remained closed for a long time, have been made functional and the education department has deducted around Rs10 million from the salary of absent schoolteachers in four districts of the division.

    This was stated by Nasirabad Division Commissioner Usman Ali Khan here. He said that strict measures had been taken against the schoolteachers who had the habit of remaining absent from duty.

    “We have reopened 144 schools over the last four months which had been closed for a long time,” Mr Khan said, adding that presence of 91 habitually absent teachers had been ensured in the schools and departmental action had been recommended against 154 schoolteachers.

    “The situation is improving rapidly in educational institutes after deduction of salary from those school teachers who had the habit of remaining absent from schools of the Nasirabad division,” he said, adding that steps had also been taken to improve health facilities in all four districts of Nasirabad.

    He said that because of tough measures taken to ensure presence of doctors and para-medical staff in all basic health units and hospitals of the Nasirabad division, health services had witnessed a marked improvement and now doctors and para-medical staff were providing 24 hours emergency services to patients in all district and tehsil hospitals.

    He said that seven Basic Health Units were also providing 24-hour medical facilities to the people.

    “Six ambulances have also been provided to BHUs and OPDs opened in most hospitals,” Mr Khan said.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Nasirabad Division Commissioner Usman Ali Khan says situation in educational institutes in the region was Nasirabad Division Commissioner Usman Ali Khan says situation in educational institutes in the region was "improving rapidly". — File photo

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    LAHORE: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday got a son of former federal minister Siddique Kanju arrested at the courtroom No 1 of the Supreme Court on charges of detaining and abusing his maids.

    The parents of maids Yasmin and Saima appeared before a two-judge bench with a complaint that Amin Kanju, the son of the former minister, used to physically torture their daughters. Muhammad Rafiq, the father of the girls, said his daughters were employed at the house of Kanju. However, he said, Kanju often kept his daughters in detention and tortured them too. Lastly, he said, Kanju levelled a theft allegation at the girls, detained them for days and physically tortured them.

    “Why don’t you stop victimising the poor?” Chief Justice Nisar asked Kanju, who was present in the court. He ordered the police to arrest Kanju and proceed against him in accordance with the law.

    Another son of Siddique Kanju namely Mustafa Kanju is a court’s absconder as he fled the country soon after his acquittal in a murder case following ‘reconciliation’ with the complainant party.

    In 2015, an anti-terrorism court had acquitted Mustafa Kanju and his guards of the charges of killing Zain, 16, and injuring another person namely Hasnain in Gulberg. The prosecution challenged the acquittal of the suspects on direction of the Supreme Court in a suo motu case.

    Kanju never appeared before the Lahore High Court on the prosecution’s appeal as he escaped the country.

    Finally he was declared an absconder while the prosecution engaged Interpol for his arrest.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Parents of victims appeared before a two-judge bench with a complaint that Amin Kanju, the son of the former minister, used to physically torture their daughters. — File photoParents of victims appeared before a two-judge bench with a complaint that Amin Kanju, the son of the former minister, used to physically torture their daughters. — File photo

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    QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan changed portfolios of two ministers on Tuesday.

    According to an official notification, the portfolio of Home and Tribal Affairs and Provincial Disaster Management Authority has been taken from Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa and given to Ziaullah Langove, who was minister for forest and wildlife.

    Mir Saleem Khosa will now hold the portfolio of revenue.

    However, it was not known who will head the forest and wildlife ministry.

    It was the second time that the chief minister reshuffled the portfolios of his ministers. Earlier, the portfolio of food had been taken from Ziaullah Langove and given to Asadullah Baloch. However, Mr Baloch refused to head the food department and is now serving as minister for social welfare.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan changed portfolios of two ministers. — File photoBalochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan changed portfolios of two ministers. — File photo

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    KARACHI: Christmas celebrations started in the city with a midnight mass led by the archbishop of Karachi, Joseph Cardinal Coutts, at the St Patrick’s Cathedral here on Tuesday.

    Following special prayers for the health of the sick and departed souls with both the English and Urdu choirs facing each other on either side of the decorated stage put up in the cathedral grounds singing hymns and sweet carols in between readings from the Bible there was plenty to ponder and reflect upon while listening to Joseph Cardinal Coutts’ sermon.

    The decorative stars hanging from the tent poles glowed as they gently swayed in the cool breeze of the night, laden with lights and decorations a pretty little Christmas tree leaned slightly to one side as the cardinal pointed out that these days instead of reading scriptures and repenting during the four weeks of advent to remind of Jesus Christ’s birth, people are seen more engrossed and engaged in celebration and buying decorations and new clothes. “But have you ever gone to a birthday before the birth of a child?” he said.

    ‘You can use your inner light to light the path for others with your kindness and generosity’

    Talking of decoration, he said that one should link it to oneself. He said that Pope Francis advised in his message to all Catholics to think of the Christmas tree as oneself. “It is an evergreen tree, withstanding all weathers and snowstorms. Similarly, we should also withstand all things and remain unchanged. The decorations on the tree are like values and virtues that help you remain unperturbed,” he said.

    Talking about the Christmas bell, he again reminded the people at the mass to compare themselves to it. “You should also like the bell call and gather people and seek to unite with them,” he said.

    Talking about the decorative lights, he said that it should be like a light in oneself that can be used to guide others. “You can use your inner light to light the path for others with your kindness and generosity,” he said.

    “And you can be like the Christmas star when you have it in you to enlighten the lives of others who have lost their way and brighten their lives of those who are sad or in mourning.”

    Talking about the choir and music in the church, he said that the music should be in one’s soul to be able to live in harmony with all. “We cannot remain in conflict. We should live in harmony with people with our surroundings, with nature, the trees, the flowers and all that the Earth has to offer,” he said. “But sadly,” he said, “we humans are in the habit of polluting the air and the sea by throwing plastic bags into it. It is not living in harmony,” he said.

    Finally, he reminded everyone to be wise in their search for Jesus Christ like the three wise men. “I meet so many non-Christian friends and officials coming to wish me a happy Christmas and I find their words so meaningful. They seem to know more than us when they come to share joy and cheer on the occasion of celebration on the birth of Jesus Christ. They understand the true meaning of Christmas,” he concluded.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Joseph Cardinal Coutts leads the midnight Christmas mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday.— Photo by writerJoseph Cardinal Coutts leads the midnight Christmas mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday.— Photo by writer

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    ISLAMABAD: Within two days of the demolition of 21 chambers at the district courts in F-8, the lawyers have again constructed around 50 chambers in different parts of the court premises.

    However, this did not end the suffering of the litigants. The lawyers have been on strike for over a week, demanding a rotation policy for the lower judiciary judges.

    Under the rotation policy, judges would be transferred out of the capital and those from other provinces would be posted to Islamabad to avoid chances of alleged nexus among the adjudicators, lawyers and litigants.

    Unauthorised chambers were demolished by CDA in the district courts at F-8 Markaz a few days ago

    During an operation against encroachments on Thursday night, 21 chambers illegally constructed on footpaths and in the emergency exit of the district court building were razed by the CDA.

    On Friday, the lawyers locked down the district courts and ‘detained’ some judges in protest against the demolition of the chambers. They declared the district courts a no-go area and also shut down a block housing 20 courtrooms. They alleged that the drive against encroachment was planned to disrupt their strike against the government’s proposal for transferring lower court judges to ministries and departments of the federal government.

    Later, the lawyers started reconstruction of their chambers and raised around 50 chambers.

    One of the lawyers requesting not to be quoted said it was unfortunate that lawyers even established chambers in those areas which were clear in the past.

    “Chambers have been constructed in the parking area of former excise and taxation department. There was a shed under which litigants used to sit but now chambers have also been constructed there. At a vacant place where children of separated or divided families used to meet their parents, the lawyers also constructed chambers,” he said.

    However, District Bar Association General Secretary Khursheed Butt told Dawn that chambers had already been constructed in all those places.

    “We have been making efforts to introduce a rotation policy for the subordinate judiciary. There are 70 judges and in April we had filed an application in the Supreme Court that lower court judges should not serve in Islamabad for more than three years and should not be appointed at the home station at all,” he said.

    “The chief justice of Pakistan considered our request and directed the attorney general to form a committee to formulate a rotation policy for the subordinate judiciary. However, only those lawyers who had represented the judges in the apex court were included in the committee. As a result, we announced the strike,” he said.

    Mr Butt claimed that the CDA had informed lawyers that the chambers were demolished on the orders of the sessions judges.

    “Now we are observing a strike and on the other hand judges are also saying that they would go on a strike. We know that litigants are suffering but we have decided to continue our strike as our demand is genuine.”

    In reply to a question, he said only those chambers were reconstructed which were demolished on the orders of judges. He said in the past lawyers constructed chambers on a football ground but after a suo motu notice by the Supreme Court it was decided that no more chambers would be built.

    “We have been sitting here on a temporary basis because a building for the district courts is already constructed in G-10 but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has been working in that building since 2010,” Mr Butt said.

    IHC Bar Association President Javed Akbar Shah said the mess in the chambers at F-8 Markaz and the lawyers’ confrontation with the district judiciary was unfortunate and a direct result of the lack of timely action, competence, courage and integrity on part of the regulator - Islamabad Bar Council.

    “They have miserably failed to regulate construction of new chambers which is the right of young lawyers. A number of complaints regarding construction of chambers were heard by the disciplinary committee of the council and the judgment was reserved about eight months ago. The committee and all others have not been able to reach a decision,” he claimed.

    He suggested referring the matter to the Pakistan Bar Council.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    File photo shows demolished chambers of lawyers in F-9 Markaz.File photo shows demolished chambers of lawyers in F-9 Markaz.

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    LAHORE: Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has called a meeting of the provincial cabinet on Dec 29 at Bahawalpur.

    An official handout issued here on Tuesday quotes the chief minister as saying that more cabinet meetings will be held at other divisional headquarters as well.

    The Bahawalpur’s will be the first-ever cabinet meeting outside Lahore as some claim that rules of business don’t allow such a formal gathering at places other than the provincial capital.

    Former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan claims that under the rules of business governing cabinet working, the moot is not permissible outside the provincial capital.

    Rana Sana says cabinet rules of business do not allow such gathering outside provincial capital

    Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, however, differs with the opinion and asserts that “Punjab cabinet meeting may be held anywhere in the province” and the former law minister is ‘misinformed’ on the subject.

    “The government’s move is not aimed at giving any message,” he says when asked what message it’s wishing to convey to the masses by holding the cabinet meeting in south Punjab.

    He says he’s not yet aware about the agenda to be discussed at the Bahawalpur meeting.

    Rana Sana says the PTI government is taking optic measures to hoodwink the people on the south Punjab province issue. He says as the government is not sincere in carving out the new administrative unit, it is taking such steps to divert public attention from the real question.

    The holding of cabinet meeting will also burden the provincial kitty as it involves huge expenses. For, secretaries and other related staff of the departments whose issues are to be taken up in the meeting are required to be moved outside to the designated town. Besides, payment of travelling and daily allowances (TA/DA) to the officials, residences for them as well as the ministers will have to be arranged there.

    Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja and chief minister’s spokesperson Shahbaz Gill would neither take up calls nor respond to messages sent to seek their views on the agenda, objective and impact of the cabinet meetings being scheduled outside Lahore.

    Meanwhile, Mr Buzdar tells a PTI delegation here that 100-day agenda has been successfully completed with the cooperation of the people and by making sincere and strenuous efforts a comprehensive roadmap of prosperity of the province has been devised.

    He says he will personally monitor this roadmap which is aimed at composite development and prosperity. The reforms agenda will be speedily implemented after the successful completion of 100 days plan.

    He said that education, healthcare, tourism and other sectors will be improved by introducing necessary reforms in them. In accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, work is being done on reforms agenda with speed, he added.

    Mr Khan will lead the nation to its destination by using best of abilities and talents, he added.

    According to our Bahawalpur correspondent, the district administration is on its toes ahead of the first visit of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and his cabinet.

    The chief minister is expected to chair a high-level meeting of the provincial, regional and divisional heads of the government departments.

    Part of the visit will be a high-level meeting to discuss various uplift projects of the area.

    Officials say the PTI government plans to accord priority to less-developed areas and the chief minister’s visit will reflect it.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Official handout quotes CM Punjab Usman Buzdar as saying that more cabinet meetings will be held at other divisional headquarters. — File photoOfficial handout quotes CM Punjab Usman Buzdar as saying that more cabinet meetings will be held at other divisional headquarters. — File photo

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    KARACHI: First ever dedicated freight train loaded with 75 cargo containers commenced its journey from Karachi’s Cantonment Railway Station to Lahore.

    The freight train is being launched under public-private partnership with the expected journey time of 48 hours.

    The Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed while inaugurating the service said he was optimistic about the dedicated and regular freight train service for cargo transport.

    He vowed to launch two more dedicated freight daily trains for containers from Karachi to Lahore from Jan 25. He also announced that scheduled freight trains from Karachi to Faisalabad and Sialkot would be launched in near future.

    Moreover, he went on to say that non-container trains for other cargoes would also be launched to help country’s ports to operate efficiently as quick movement of cargoes from port areas will remove unnecessary congestions.

    “Unfortunately, when I took over the Pakistan Railways after a lapse of 14 years, I did not witness any change and there was a loss of Rs5 billion with mammoth salary bill of Rs30bn, whooping fuel oil bill of Rs18bn and loans worth Rs25bn,” said Sheikh Rasheed while speaking at the inauguration ceremony.

    The minister also said that dedicated and scheduled cargo train services will help reduce cost of doing business, improve global competitiveness and reduce pollution.

    Highlighting the financial feasibility of the freight service, he said that Pakistan Railways would earn Rs3.5bn annually from this service whereas launching three more daily freight trains would increase the Pakistan Railways’ annual revenue by 14bn.

    Multiple attempts to start a dedicated freight train from Karachi to upcountry have failed in the past.

    The minister said that about two months back he met Managing Director, Marine Group of Companies Aasim Siddiqui and entire idea of private-public partnership came up and today service has started.

    The minister said that the PR is going to develop Karachi-Peshawar double railway track or ML-1 and presently exploring investment including Chinese, built-operate-transfer and joint venture. However, the final decision would be taken by the Prime Minister Imran Khan before March 23, 2019.

    He was grateful to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar for taking abrupt and decisive action against land grabbers.

    The minister said that there is huge demand from the increasing passenger traffic; however, due to shortage of rolling assets at Pakistan Railways, the demand cannot be fulfilled at the existing infrastructure. He regretted the failure of Dhabeji train service and lamented that Sukkur Express is already over loaded as passengers have to travel over roof top.

    Over the decades, the PR has fallen prey to corruption and pilferages resulting in ill-equipped railway system.

    The minister assured to bring the over loaded trains to normal occupancy by adding up rolling stocks and improving tracks.

    However, he said that it would only be possible after Pakistan Railway manages to develop ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar having 1,760km double track which will help activate Pakistan Steel Mills and other foundries of the country for providing railways track.

    The minister announced that once the financial constraints of Pakistan Railways are reduced, he would upgrade the scales of all railway workers. Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Aleem Adil Sheikh were also present at the occasion.

    Speaking at the occasion Aasim A Siddiqui said that the up to 50 per cent of the cargo around the world is hauled by railways, whereas in Pakistan the percentage is as low as 5pc.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    KARACHI: The freight train is leaving on Tuesday for Lahore. According to World Bank statistics, more than 95pc of Pakistan’s freight traffic is carried on road networks.KARACHI: The freight train is leaving on Tuesday for Lahore. According to World Bank statistics, more than 95pc of Pakistan’s freight traffic is carried on road networks.

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    ISLAMABAD: While Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to develop eco-friendly tourism in Pakistan, from the beaches in the south to fair meadows in the north, a World Bank-assisted Punjab tourism project for economic growth in the province is moving at a snail’s pace.

    The pace of implementation activities needs to be accelerated substantially and despite the fact that the project has initiated a number of activities towards achieving results, three key posts at the project monitoring and implementation unit level remain vacant including project director, says a World Bank report while reviewing the status of the project.

    The project which became effective in October 2017 is meant to increase private sector participation and improve infrastructure services in support of the tourism sector in Punjab.

    According to the report, the incumbent project director is a civil servant and is holding the position on additional charge basis, whereas fresh recruitment will be made from the private sector. Recruitment of these positions has been delayed due to a ban on recruitment placed by the Election Commission and subsequent restrictions imposed by the Punjab planning and development department as per a notification issued on Sept 18 this year.

    It has been decided that a position of civil engineer and tourism specialist will be added to the PC-1, to ensure comprehensive technical input is provided on timely basis.

    The project is in the process of procuring consulting services to support achievement of a number of results including implementation of reforms, conducting training for master trainers and identifying curricula for vocational training related to tourism and civil work.

    After the 18th Amendment to the constitution, tourism had been devolved to provincial governments, but like other countries of Asia in general and the region in particular, it was important for Pakistan to create a federal level structure that could coordinate activities and ensure uniformed projection of tourism as a sector and specific sites particular, the report observed. The absence of such a body, it said, had been cited as the major constraint to the growth of tourism sector in the country.

    The report recommended that a system of electronic visas should be introduced together with multiple entry visas to allow pilgrims to attend multiple festivals in a year, adding that Nadra had the capacity to develop system for issuance of e-visas but this had not yet been approved by relevant departments.

    It further noted that in the aviation sector, flights to Pakistan remained expensive with limited direct connectivity from various international airports and, therefore, options for charted flights during tourism seasons needed to be explored.

    In the area of immigration, the report said officials needed to be trained and capacity needed to be strengthened to ensure a pleasant experience for tourists coming to the country.

    The report emphasised the need for communications, outreach and citizens’ engagement and noted that this was essential to create awareness about the historical and cultural significance of the sites being targeted by the project.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    World Bank report says that the pace of implementation of activities to promote tourism in the province needs to be accelerated substantially. — File photoWorld Bank report says that the pace of implementation of activities to promote tourism in the province needs to be accelerated substantially. — File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: About 80 PML-N workers, including 15 women, were booked on charges of creating law and order situation and attacking police, sources told Dawn.

    The cases have been registered at Ramna police station in response to a complaint lodged by its SHO Inspector Jamshid Khan.

    They were booked under Anti-Terrorism Act, PPCs 353, 148, 149 and 186, the police said, adding that about 27 workers were nominated in the FIR, while the rest were unidentified.

    The police, however, arrested only one worker who was later produced in the court from where he was given in police custody on physical remand.

    The accused nominated in the FIR are the residents of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Gujar Khan and Murree, the police said. The FIR said 65 men and 15 women came to G-11/1 near Darbar Chowk and started chanting slogans.

    They also created disturbance and attacked the police with batons and stones, injuring police officials, the police claimed.

    Later, they dispersed when the police fired tear gas.

    One of the workers was arrested from the spot, it stated.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif protest against a court ruling outside an accountability court in Islamabad. — APSupporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif protest against a court ruling outside an accountability court in Islamabad. — AP

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    KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) on Tuesday announced that it had made preliminary plans to restore the iconic Empress Market to its original shape as it was built 135 years ago.

    In a meeting held at the city commissioner’s office and attended by Mayor Wasim Akhtar and Commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani, the participants were informed that a blueprint for the restoration of the historical Victorian-era building had been prepared.

    That blueprint or sketch offers greater similarities of the building to what it was originally seen when it was constructed over a century apart.

    Officials at the commissioner’s office said the blueprint was presented before the participants for formal approval.

    KMC’s municipal commissioner Dr Saifur Rehman and members of the Empress Market restoration committee comprising experts and researchers were there to give their takes. Those non-governmental researchers and expert urban planners included Shahid Abdullah, Tariq Huda, Marvi Mazhar, Komal Pervez and Durriya Kazi.

    The meeting was told that the building named after Queen Victoria took five years to complete in 1889.

    The participants said the building reflected the historical British architecture of the yore and the new blueprint and sketches had been developed with the help of documents and supporting material preserved in the KMC’s archives.

    Mayor Akhtar said the committee comprised prominent urban planners and experts who belonged to Karachi and who had played their part in restoring the city’s rich history.

    Commissioner Shalwani said Empress Market was the city’s historical heritage and reason behind restoring the building to its original shape was to regain the past glory of one of the great cities of the world.

    The mayor said he would try to make it sure that the new-look Empress Market would be as graceful and universal symbol of the city as it deserved to be.

    The participants asserted that no stone would be left unturned to make sure that the building was surrounded by beautiful gardens and the heritage was deservedly preserved during the forthcoming construction phase.

    The officials said the committee would be actively consulted during the restoration of the building.

    Frere Hall

    The mayor and the commissioner presided over another meeting at the same place to review the preservation of Frere Hall, another great landmark of the city.

    The committee for the preservation of Frere Hall gave a presentation to the participants in which it informed them about the steps and things that were required to successfully preserve the city’s most famous place, which had served as the town hall since 1865.

    Director general of parks of the KMC and several members of the committee were present at the meeting.

    Shahid Feroz, chairman of the Board of Guardians, informed the meeting that the board had prepared the plan and design to restore and preserve Frere Hall.

    The meeting was informed about the details of the plan. They said the KMC’s staff deputed at Frere Hall was working under the Guardians’ Board.

    They said the board had been entrusted to take care of Frere Hall’s administrative affairs through a memorandum of understanding on Nov 30.

    Some 11 gardeners and two watchmen were working under the Gardians’ Board. The board had begun planting saplings and installing new garden lights. Some 24 garden lights would be mounted. Komal Pervez was taking care of the landscaping while the restoration of the library would be made under the supervision of Shahid Abdullah.

    Mr Abdullah said the library, in a dilapidated condition at present, needed special care. He added it was a difficult task to restore the library to its original shape as it required ample time and funds; for which the Guardians’ Board was trying to get funds from potential donors.

    The commissioner said all requirements to preserve the treasure of books be made and the library should be restored in a manner that its grandeur offered same enormity as it did a century ago.

    The mayor asked the DG of parks to provide everything possible to the board.

    The meeting was informed that 77 benches made up of fibre would be put up in the garden. The required material for those benches had been imported from China.

    The meeting was informed that the Guardians’ Board was making all expenses from its own resources and contacts under the spirit of social service.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

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    HYDERABAD: Pakistan Peo­ples Party information secretary Senator Maula Bux Chandio has accused Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government of making the joint investigation team (JIT) report [on fake accounts and money laundering references] controversial. “PPP will defend its leadership in court; JIT has become a modern tool against rulers,” he told a press conference in the Defence area of Hyderabad on Tuesday.

    He said that nobody knew about the JIT’s findings two months back but [Federal Information Minister] Fawad Chaudhry had discussed it then. “This has made the JIT controversial,” he said. He claimed that PTI didn’t win the [July 25] elections on its own and observed that it did not want to run government. “History is witness to the fact that even non-entities had become prime minsters in the country. True leaders are still alive in the hearts and minds of people. Artificial leadership has never been durable.”

    Expressing his reservations over findings of the JIT, Mr Chandio said its report was merely a formality and the actual matter was pending in court. He called for setting up of JITs against Jehangir Tareen, Zulfi Bukhari and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister.

    He observed that JIT had become PTI. He said that he wanted to know whether PTI existed in Sindh. He recalled that those who did not have the national identity card had become prime minister in the past.

    Mr Chandio alleged said that the JIT report was issued on someone’s wish and PPP chairman ‘smartly fitted’ [in its scope]. He said he believed an identical report would be prepared in future. He said that those who were allies of [former military ruler Pervez] Musharraf and [convicted prime minister] Nawaz Sharif had joined PTI. In a country where democracy is “controlled”, government would not be able to come up with a policy and would commit mistakes.

    He pointed out that no headway could be seen on [improving] the accountability law, and said it was due to intransigence of Nawaz Sharif. He stressed that legislation was required for true accountability. He said that [former interior minister] Chaudhry Nisar Ali had raised the issue of Ayyan Ali [a model facing money laundering charge] but one must know whereabouts of Chaudhry Nisar himself today. He said that institutions were never wrong but it was one’s aspirations to run them in line with one’s wish.

    The PPP Senator said that even in worst of times, nobody had raised the point of leadership in PPP and not even when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were killed. “Had Asif Zardari not saved PPP, he would not have been facing enemies today,” he said, adding: “Bilawal Bhutto is the leader [chairman] though there is no question over stature of Sanam Bhutto”.

    Mr Chandio said that the man whose maternal grandfather and mother remained prime ministers was being asked to account for his expenses.

    He said that anti-people decisions or those given on someone’s demand were never accepted by masses.

    He said that Z.A. Bhutto was still alive but nobody knew Anwarul Haq today. He said that on Anwarul Haq’s decision, Bhutto was dubbed by many as murderer.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    SENATOR Maula Bux Chandio speaks to the media in Hyderabad on Tuesday.—PPISENATOR Maula Bux Chandio speaks to the media in Hyderabad on Tuesday.—PPI

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    ISLAMABAD: In a detailed judgement in Al-Azizia reference, Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik of the accountability court expressed concern over rampant corruption in society that he said had reached its climax and therefore a stern action was the need of the hour.

    “It is a matter of concern for us all that corruption has been rampantly increasing for the past two decades in society and has reached…its climax at present,” observed the judge providing reasons for convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference. The judge acquitted Mr Sharif of corruption charges in the Flagship Investment Company reference.

    Take a look: Back to prison

    Earlier on July 6, Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court had awarded 10 years imprisonment to the former prime minister, seven years to his daughter Maryam and one year imprisonment to his son-in-law retired captain Mohammad Safdar in Avenfield properties reference.

    Application of law with equal intensity to both the rich and the poor will enhance public trust in institutions, explains 131-page judgement

    For eradication of corruption and corrupt practices, stern action was the need of the time, the judge stated and explained that while keeping this objective in mind, the legislature had enacted the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, the preamble of which held accountable all those individuals accused of such practices and matter ancillary.

    But the observations did not go well with some legal experts. One lawyer requesting anonymity described the comments as “extraneous”, explaining that it was not the job of a trial court to come up with such descriptions rather to simply decide the matter after hearing the two sides while confining itself to available evidence.

    He elaborated that the Supreme Court in exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction in suo motu cases usually explained what necessitated it to intervene in such matters. To substantiate his point, the lawyer cited the explanation given by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar at a symposium on water on Oct 20. The chief justice had explained that the apex court had raised the issue of water security in pursuit of its duty to enforce fundamental rights because the biggest fundamental right was the right to life which was not possible without water.

    In the detailed verdict, the judge of the accountability court stated: “It is also matter of observance that by resorting to corruption and corrupt practices one set of society has amassed unprecedented wealth and accumulated huge assets while the other segment of society has drowned down forced to lick the clay. This marked disparity in different segments of the society has badly impaired the moral fibre of society on both the ends.

    “The rulers to whom the reins of the nation were given expecting to take rectification measures also failed to fulfil their obligations rather their hands seem to be smeared with ill-gotten wealth.

    “As such, to my mind, it is obligation of all concerned in law enforcing agencies especially the courts to keep preying eyes vigilant minds and forceful hands to give a strong jolt to the persons found guilty of such practices. For achieving this objective the rules, procedure and law is to be applied even filling the dots to achieve the object of the law going in line with the intents of the legislature manifested in the ordinance itself. If it is done, even now it could promote the culture of rule of law, parity and equality. Application of law with equal intensity to both the rich and the poor will enhance the public confidence and trust in the institutions tackling law and justice.”

    The verdict explained considering that Nawaz Sharif from 1985 to 2017 held some of the highest executive offices in both the federal and provincial governments, including those of chief executive of Punjab and of Pakistan, the court was satisfied that he was one of the most influential members of the monolithic and tightly connected Sharif family and that after the death of his father in October 2004, he was for all practical purposes, the head of and most influential member of the Sharif family.

    Also upon the death of Mian Mohammad Sharif, his entire estate including funds, properties and assets devolved to his legal heirs, including Nawaz Sharif, the verdict said.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    In this file photo, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leaves after appearing in a court in Lahore, Pakistan. — APIn this file photo, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leaves after appearing in a court in Lahore, Pakistan. — AP

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    KARACHI: The police on Tuesday registered an FIR against the leader and workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London (MQM-L) for attacking an office of the Pak-Sarzameen Party (PSP) and killing its two workers and wounding four others, officials said.

    They said the FIR [368/2018] was registered on a complaint of one of the injured PSP workers, Fahad, who accused workers of the MQM-L associated with its “South Africa and India set-up” of attacking the PSP office. The officials said that the case had been registered under sections 302 (punishment for premeditated murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

    “The complainant has nominated Altaf Hussain, Nadeem Ahsan, Qasim Ali Raza, Faizan Yousuf and other workers of the MQM,” said an official at the Gulbahar police station. “The complainant in his request says that the workers of his party have been receiving death threats for the past few weeks and the leadership has also conveyed its concerns to the authorities. The police have already started investigation and sent the casings of spent bullets found at the crime scene for forensic examination.”

    Two PSP were shot dead in the armed attack on the party’s office in Rizvia Society on Sunday night. The police said that around a dozen gunmen riding six motorcycles opened fire on the PSP town office in Usmania Colony and fled. The killed workers — Azhar Rehmat, 35, and Naeem Ramzan, 40 — were associated with the party’s organisational structure in Nazimabad.

    Mustafa Kamal’s allegation

    The PSP chairman has already blamed the MQM-L for killing his workers and said that the forces rejected by the people were targeting the city peace only to trigger fear and panic in Karachiites to exploit it in the name of ethnicity.

    “Our workers died for the cause of peace and their blood will not go in vain,” he said. “We are the real force that has been safeguarding the city peace and if the PSP fails, political violence would return to the city because the MQM-L is still using the youth for terrorism.”

    He said his party was working to promote patriotism and he hoped that the killers of his party workers would soon be arrested to avoid disappointing the people risking their lives to strengthen the country politically.

    IGP visits cathedral

    Meanwhile, Sindh police chief Dr Sayed Kaleem Imam with senior police officials paid a visit to the St Patrick’s Cathedral in Saddar and offered Christmas greetings to Bishop Joseph and other people of the Christian community, said a statement.

    “Sindh IG Dr Imam also reviewed security arrangements,” it said. “He also vowed to provide best possible security to all minorities mainly on their religious events. Joseph and other leaders of the Christian community paid thanks to the Sindh IG for his cooperation and visit to the church.”

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Two PSP were shot dead in the armed attack on the party’s office in Rizvia Society on Sunday night. ─ DawnNewsTVTwo PSP were shot dead in the armed attack on the party’s office in Rizvia Society on Sunday night. ─ DawnNewsTV

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    KARACHI: Although terrorism and targeted killings committed by banned sectarian outfits have been decreasing in the metropolis since 2013 because of a continuous operation by the security forces, there have been three major acts of terrorism, including the deadly attack on the Chinese consulate, during 2018 which were allegedly perpetrated by sub-nationalist groups, it emerged on Tuesday.

    The city also witnessed a ‘bomb attack’ on a gathering of a political party and killing of workers of another political party, and the police apprehended that ‘political killings’ might emerge as another challenge for them in the near future.

    Three policemen were also shot dead in the outgoing year, but the TTP claimed responsibility for the killing of one policeman while the two other policemen might have fallen victim to “sectarianism or revenge killing”, said police officials.

    Attack on Chinese consulate

    The gun-cum-grenade attack by three militants linked to the banned Balochistan Liberation Army on the Chinese consulate in Clifton was considered a major act of terrorism in 2018, which claimed the lives of two policemen and two visa applicants, father and son, before all attackers were eliminated.

    Police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officer-in-charge of the Transnational Terrorism Intelligence Group (TTIG) Raja Umar Khattab told Dawn that “significant progress” had been made in the case.

    Fear of killings on political grounds heightens in Karachi

    Mr Khattab, who is investigating the case, recalled that the CCTV footage obtained from outside the consulate showed that one of the attackers after being shot at and wounded by policeman posted there crawled towards the wall of nearby house.

    “The attacker opened a burst on himself from his Kalashnikov after being injured apparently to avoid arrest by law enforcers who had arrived at the scene,” said the CTD official while sharing the CCTV footage.

    Of the two other attackers who proceeded to the reception room of the consulate, one was killed at a “close range” as per the medical report, indicating the possibility that he also committed suicide by shooting himself to death to avoid arrest, opined Mr Khattab.

    “It was a suicide mission,” added the official.

    The BLA claimed responsibility even when the operation was going under way. “The attack on the Chinese consulate was RAW-inspired to target CPEC,” said the TTIG chief.

    He claimed that they had “proofs” that the planning of the attack on the foreign mission was carried out abroad and funds were also provided from abroad. “We have evidences that the China consulate attackers were in contact with their masters abroad,” he said.

    He also believed that the bomb attack under Quaidabad flyover, which claimed the lives of two teenage vendors, and the car ‘bomb explosion’ in Defence were also ‘foreign-inspired’ terror acts.

    Mr Khattab suggested that the modus operandi and type of explosives used in the Quaidabad incident indicated the involvement of Sindhi sub-nationalist groups. “There was a link between Sindhi and Baloch sub-nationalist groups and they were being operated from abroad.”

    As for the Defence explosion, he said the CCTV footage obtained from the area showed that two suspects driving a car and a motorbike arrived there and parked the car on a plot to carry out the explosion through gas cylinders. Later on, they left the place on the motorbike.

    “There was a lot of resemblance in all these three terror acts,” said the official.

    He recalled that around two and half years back, the Sindhi sub-nationalist group had carried out an act of terrorism near the parking plaza in Saddar in which the both attackers were killed when an improvised explosive device attached to a motorbike exploded “accidentally”.

    Different teams were working on these three terror acts and Mr Khattab was hopeful that they would “eliminate” the threat posed by sub-nationalist groups in the city.

    Killing of policemen

    Three policemen, including a traffic police official, were shot dead in the city during 2018.

    The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in a video claimed the responsibility for the killing of a Gulberg police official, Shakir Ali.

    For the killing of another policeman, Syed Ahmed Abbas Rizvi, in New Karachi, the CTD official cited two possible motives. He might have fallen victim to “sectarianism” as being member of the Shia community. In the same area, two members of the banned Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat were shot dead by gunmen riding a motorcycle and the policeman’s killing might have been carried out in “revenge”.

    Secondly, Mr Khattab recalled that Abbas Rizvi was also a “witness” in a criminal case against two sectarian militants and he had been appearing in the case for the previous three and half years owing to which the held accused could not get bail.

    The TTIG head said the killing of traffic police official Mohammad Rafiq off the Superhighway was also a terror act and they suspected the involvement of the “sleeper cell” of banned militant outfits.

    Raja Umar Khattab, who has extensively investigated terror acts in the city for the last several years, said the banned TTP and AQIS had been “weakened” due to the continuous operation by the security forces while the Ansarul Sharia Pakistan had been “almost wiped out”.

    In the recent past, these three militant groups openly targeted police mobiles and carried out IED explosions, but their capacity to challenge the law enforcers and carry out bomb blasts had been “significantly reduced”.

    The TTP or the AQIS now make “soft target” such as a lone policeman.

    However, Mr Khattab apprehended that Afghanistan-based IS, or Daesh, still posed a challenge.

    “The IS prefers specific targets such as shrines in Sindh and Balochistan,” said the official.

    Fear of killings on political grounds

    The city also witnessed a ‘low-intensity bomb’ attack during a function organised by the MQM-P in Gulistan-i-Jauhar, which caused injuries to eight persons, and the police suspected “internal rifts” behind the incident.

    Furthermore, two workers of the Pak Sarzameen Party were shot dead and two others were wounded in an attack on the party’s office in Rizvia Society on Dec 23.

    Mr Khattab apprehended that “political killings” might increase in the city in the future. He said during interrogation of a suspect belonging to the ‘South Africa network’ and others recently, it had transpired that certain elements were allegedly planning “political killings” in the metropolis.

    Besides, “differences” have been intensified among different groups, which might give rise to targeted killings on political grounds.

    964 personnel ‘counter-terror force’ established

    The CTD official said that to enhance the capacity of the police, the army had trained 964 policemen who would be made members of the ‘counter-terror force’ recently established by the Sindh CTD to fight terrorism.

    Besides, the CTD has imported software to enhance its technical capability. Furthermore, the CTD has decided to set up a section for “monitoring of social media”.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    A bomb disposal squad member checks a bag belonging to an attacker outside the Chinese consulate after the attack in Karachi on November 23, 2018. ─ AFP/FileA bomb disposal squad member checks a bag belonging to an attacker outside the Chinese consulate after the attack in Karachi on November 23, 2018. ─ AFP/File

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    ISLAMABAD: China on Tuesday expressed its support for latest developments in efforts for revival of Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

    Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is currently on a regional tour of four countries — Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia — to apprise leaders of these countries about the meeting between the United States and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi last week, which was facilitated by Pakistan.

    He met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Beijing in the third leg of his visit.

    “FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on his tour to regional countries, has held discussions with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Bilateral and regional issues, especially peace in Afghanistan, were discussed,” FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Mr Qureshi, who made “a special trip” here, in his meeting with Mr Wang discussed “the latest developments surrounding the situation in Afghanistan” and the two sides reached “broad consensus”.

    Qureshi, Wang reach ‘broad consensus’ at their meeting in Beijing

    She said that “miscellaneous efforts” made by different parties were “welcomed” and the two sides pledged to stay “in close communication and strategic coordination”.

    China, Pakistan and Afghanistan have trilateral framework for enhancing their cooperation on peace and reconciliation, security, connectivity and in other areas.

    The second meeting of the trilateral process was held in Kabul on Dec 15 in which the three sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for intensifying their counterterrorism cooperation.

    Ms Hua further said that Mr Qureshi and Mr Wang in their meeting agreed to deepen China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and continuously elevate all-round cooperation.

    Mr Qureshi will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.

    The US decision to pull nearly half of its troops from restive Afghanistan was high on the agenda at the meeting between the Pakistani and Chinese foreign ministers, add agencies.

    “The two sides agreed that a military means cannot solve the Afghan issue, and that promoting a political solution focused on reconciliation is the only realistic and feasible way,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

    President Donald Trump’s decision to pull around half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan has stunned and dismayed diplomats and officials in Kabul, and comes during a renewed push for talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year war.

    China has not announced an official stance on the US troop pullout, but Pakistan on Saturday welcomed the decision to slash US troop numbers calling it “a step towards peace” in war-torn Afghanistan.

    In recent months, China has played a more active role in brokering peace in the region as stability in Afghanistan is critical to its Belt and Road policy of expanding trade links across Asia.

    Beijing has hosted Taliban leaders in an effort to bring the warring sides in Afghanistan to the negotiating table.

    It has been long worried about the effect of instability in Afghanistan on China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people and where China says it faces a threat from militants.

    Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018

    Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Beijing in the third leg of his visit.Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Beijing in the third leg of his visit.

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    Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday accepted an unconditional apology offered by GNN news channel's owners for making a sifarishi (request for favourable treatment) call to the top judge.

    The officials appeared before the court today for the hearing of a case filed by the director general (DG) of the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) that alleged the news channel — owned by the Gourmet group — of running a "character assassination" campaign against him after the watchdog had declared the company's ice cream and frozen desserts unfit for human consumption.

    During a hearing of the case on Tuesday, the chief justice expressed his anger over receiving a late night phone call by the group, presumably to ask him to show leniency to the company.

    Gourmet Bakery and GNN owners Zulqarnain Chattha and Shehryar Chattha appeared in court today on the chief justice's orders and apologised to the chief justice after being assailed for "making a sifarishi call".

    "Do you think courts run on sifarish?" the chief justice asked.

    "Your [company's] ice cream was substandard, it caused liver disease," said the chief justice. "When the food authority took action, you ran a character assassination campaign against the DG."

    Shehryar expressed regret over the channel's move and claimed the "mistake was made by the subordinate staff".

    "We will act on whatever orders that are issued by the court," he said.

    The chief justice reminded him that earlier samples of the bottled water sold by the group were also found to be unsatisfactory. Shehryar assured Justice Nisar that the company had acted on several guidelines that had been issued by the food authority.

    PFA DG retired General Muhammad Usman told the court that the authority had sent the ice cream samples to a laboratory recommended by the Gourmet group. The lab results showed that the ice cream could cause liver disease in consumers.

    Usman claimed that the media did not highlight the "poor performance" of major food companies like Gourmet because they sold advertisements to media outlets. "Instead they [media outlets] start a campaign against the food authority," DG Usman said.

    "We will issue an order for media outlets to publish [PFA's] press releases exactly as they are issued," the PFA DG declared.

    The legal adviser of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, who was also present in court today, assured the chief justice that the body will ensure that the orders issued by the court are implemented.

    The chief justice accepted the unconditional apology offered to the court by the owners of Gourmet and GNN and ordered them to broadcast an apology to the food authority during prime time within two days.

    He also ordered the food authority to check all products sold by the food company.

    Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar orders GNN to broadcast an apology to the Punjab Food Authority DG for running a Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar orders GNN to broadcast an apology to the Punjab Food Authority DG for running a "character assassination" campaign. — File photo

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    The Punjab government on Wednesday appeared to take a step back on its earlier announcement to celebrate Basant in 2019, with its counsel telling the Lahore High Court that its decision was not final yet.

    On December 18, the provincial government had announced that it was lifting the 12-year-old ban imposed on celebrating Basant, saying the festival — which marks the arrival of Spring season — will be celebrated in the second week of February 2019.

    Read: Basant means happiness and all it takes are a few precautions

    The decision was challenged in the high court, where the petitioner had claimed that it was "unconstitutional" to allow a leisure activity "that results in the loss of human lives", and accused the government of lifting the ban to divert attention from public issues.

    The petitioner had asked the court to declare the government's decision as illegal, and initiate contempt-of-court proceedings against Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, the provincial chief secretary, and the Punjab police chief.

    The Punjab government's stance on the festival appeared to have softened today as its counsel told the court that "the decision to celebrate Basant is merely a recommendation at this point."

    "A final decision has not been taken yet," he clarified.

    Subsequently, the court issued notices to Chohan and others named in the petition, while also directing both the parties' counsels to present their arguments in the next hearing.

    Punjab government says decision to celebrate Basant is not final yet. — FilePunjab government says decision to celebrate Basant is not final yet. — File

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