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    The military’s spokesperson on Tuesday claimed that the security personnel have shot down an “Indian quadcopter” they suspected of spying over Bagh sector along the line of control (LoC).

    In a statement tweeted by Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said the suspected spy drone was shot down on Saturday evening. “Not even a quadcopter will be allowed to cross the LoC,” he maintained.

    From the pictures tweeted by the ISPR chief, it seemed that the quadcopter being used was of the commercially available variety of drones.

    The military maintains that the 'spy drones' are used for aerial photography.

    “Not even a quadcopter will be allowed to cross the LoC,” tweets Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor. —ISPR“Not even a quadcopter will be allowed to cross the LoC,” tweets Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor. —ISPR

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    KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has directed the energy minister to approach three power utilities — Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco), Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) and K-Electric (KE) — for electrification of 1,179 villages in the province.

    Presiding over a meeting on villages’ electrification here on Tuesday, the CM was informed that 1,974 villages, out of 3,153, had so far been electrified by Hesco, Sepco and KE against a sum of Rs3.66 billion.

    After electrification of 1,974 villages, the power companies had a balance of Rs1.86bn of the Sindh government for electrification of 1,179 remaining villages.

    CM Shah directed Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh to talk to the authorities concerned of the Hesco, Sepco and KE for electrification of the remaining villages.

    He also disclosed of having a plan to electrify various villages of Malir and West districts as well for which he directed the energy department to prepare a plan for schemes so that required funds could be allocated.

    The energy minister told the CM that the provincial government had also paid Rs3.124bn to Hesco during 2012 to 2017-18 for electrification of 1,600 villages but so far only 870 villages were electrified for Rs1.84bn and 730 villages were yet to be electrified against a balance of Rs1.35bn.

    The chief minister directed the energy minister to take up the matter with Hesco authorities for expediting electrification of the remaining villages.

    Mr Sheikh further said that during the past five years Rs2.34bn was paid to Sepco for electrification of 1,508 villages against which they electrified 1,062 villages for Rs1.49bn and still they had to electrify 446 villages.

    Similarly, he pointed out that the KE had been paid Rs400 million to electrify 45 villages for Rs318.646m but they had electrified 42 villages and work on three villages was in progress.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    The Sindh CM was informed that 1,974 villages, out of 3,153, had so far been electrified by Hesco, Sepco and KE against a sum of Rs3.66 billion. ─ AFP/FileThe Sindh CM was informed that 1,974 villages, out of 3,153, had so far been electrified by Hesco, Sepco and KE against a sum of Rs3.66 billion. ─ AFP/File

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    KARACHI: Recalcitrant police officer Rao Anwar Ahmed retired from police service while being suspended and facing trial for killing four men, including South Waziristan youngster Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a fake encounter last year, official sources said on Tuesday.

    They said that the 30-year-long career of Rao Anwar, who had been enlarged on bail in the Naqeeb murder case, in police ended as he attained the age of superannuation.

    He joined police in 1982 as an assistant sub-inspector and rose to the rank of SSP. Most years of his service remained controversial because of his involvement in various “encounters,” they added.

    As the SSP-Malir, Rao Anwar along with DSP Qamar Ahmed Shaikh and several other officials was booked for killing four men, including Naqeeb, in a fake encounter in Shah Latif Town on Jan 13, 2018. He was also booked for foisting fake recoveries of illicit arms and explosives on the victims.

    After protest by the civil society and anger over social media, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice and ordered his arrest. Furthermore, protests staged by the Mehsud tribe and the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) lent impetus to the call for justice for Naqeeb.

    He went into hiding soon after demands for his arrest in the Naqeeb murder case gained traction after it came to light that the victim had been a shopkeeper and aspiring model from Waziristan who had settled in Karachi.

    He was then arrested in March 2018 when he finally appeared before the Supreme Court after eluding law enforcement agencies for over a month. After spending more than three months in prison, an Anti-Terrorism Court granted him bail which led to his release.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

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    ISLAMABAD: National Accoun­t­ability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Tuesday defended laws relating to physical remand of accused and plea bargain.

    Speaking at a function held to distribute recovered money among the victims of different scams at the Rawalpindi NAB, Justice Iqbal said the provisions of NAB laws had not been declared ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘illegal’ even by the Supreme Court during their thorough study in the Asfandyar Wali case.

    Regarding criticism of physical remand of the accused for 90 days, he said: “NAB cannot complete its investigation in 15 days.”

    Rejects criticism, saying investigation cannot be completed in 15 days

    The NAB chief said he had a great respect for parliament and always abided by its directives, but it was illogical to force the bureau to go for a 15-day remand.

    “It [corruption] is not a crime like robbery, dacoity or murder in which police arrest the accused, record their confessional statements, visit the crime scene and present the challan before a court,” he said.

    Justice Iqbal said: “NAB deals with the white-collar crime in which money is transferred from Lahore [for example] to the US via Islamabad and Dubai and property is purchased through this money in the US or it is deposited in banks there.”

    He said it had become difficult to get information about an accused and his/her assets from foreign countries because they had their own laws and policies.

    Supporting the provision of plea bargain in the NAB Ordinance, 1999, Justice Iqbal claimed that no other anti-graft agency could collect that amount of money which NAB had recovered through plea bargain.

    He said the Rawalpindi NAB had always played a prominent role in contributing towards the overall performance of the bureau.

    Justice Iqbal distributed Rs748 million among the victims of three housing societies — Shaheen Foun­dation, Tele Town Housing Socie­ties and Chargia Housing Society, Wah.

    He said that because of NAB’s proactive strategy and excellent perform­ance for eradication of corruption from the country, the Corruption Perception Index of Pakistan had continuously decreased. Organisations like Pildat, Mishal, Gillani and Gallop Survey, Transparency International and World Economic Forum had acknowledged NAB’s performance, he added.

    “Our success as the country’s biggest apex anti-corruption agency inspires us to redouble our efforts in performance of our national duty with more professionalism, dedication and commitment to eradicate the menace of corruption from our beloved motherland in all its forms and manifestations,” he added.

    He said NAB’s conviction rate was more than 70 per cent and it had recovered Rs297 billion since its inception from corrupt elements. “Today 1,210 corruption references are under trial involving Rs900 billion,” he said.

    The NAB chief said the bureau was the only organisation in the world with whom China had signed a memorandum of understanding to streamline cooperation in the field of anti-corruption and to oversee projects being undertaken under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

    NAB has established its first forensic science lab which has facilities of digital forensics, questioning documents and analysing fingerprints.

    He said that the bureau had introduced a new system of Combine Inve­stigation Team (CIT) in order to benefit from the experience and collective wisdom of senior supervisory officers.

    “A system of CIT comprising a director, additional director, investigation officer and a senior legal counsel has been put in place. This will not only lend quality to the work but also ensure that no single individual can influence the proceedings. The results of CIT are very encouraging,” he said.

    Speaking on the occasion, Rawal­pi­n­di NAB director general Irfan Naeem Mangi said 7,841 complaints were rece­ived last year and more than 7,000 of them were disposed of.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal rejects criticism, saying investigation cannot be completed in 15 days. — File photoNAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal rejects criticism, saying investigation cannot be completed in 15 days. — File photo

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    HYDERABAD: Pakistan Peo­ples Party (PPP) information sec­re­tary Senator Maula Bux Chandio has warned the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led federal govern­ment against “conspiring to overthrow the Sindh government”, saying that such a step will shake the federation.

    Speaking at a press conference at his residence on Tuesday, he strongly criticised federal minis­ters for badmouthing against the PPP leadership and provincial government. He reminded Infor­ma­tion Minister Fawad Chaudhry of his statement that implied that some force other than PPP was there and could dislodge the PTI government. Mr Chandio asked him to refrain from bragging about that much.

    He said that robberies had been committed on Sindh government in the past but this time round, strange statements like “we are going to dislodge provincial gov­ern­ment” were being issued.

    Senator Chandio retorted that PTI should take care of its own house instead of talking of toppling the Sindh government. He was also critical of a PTI lawmaker’s statement telling people to wait for a good news, pointing out that people did not choose PTI in Sindh.

    Says PPP takes federal government’s ‘conspiracies’ seriously

    He said there were instances of one-man government in the shape of Jam Sadiq Ali, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Liaquat Jatoi and Ali Mohammad Khan Mahar that had been thrust upon Sindh in the past. “These regimes always mul­ti­plied miseries of Sindh,” he claimed, and wondered whether the Sindh government was an encroachment that could be dismantled.

    “Only one statement of [PPP chairman] Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has shaken the PTI. Peoples Party always remains prepared to face any situation; its patience is tested whilst in government in the name of Constitution and law; it had never spoken against democratic process the way [ousted prime minister] Nawaz Sharif did in the past and PTI is questioning it these days.”

    Senator Chandio said that the path adopted by the federal government was not the right one considering the fact that PTI itself lacked majority in the National Assembly. He advised PTI to focus on its government and asked it to fulfil the promises it had made during [the recent general] elections.

    The senior PPP leader welcomed Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s remarks on joint investigation team’s report and federal government’s move of putting PPP leadership’s names on the exit control list. “It is up to the National Accountability Bur­eau (NAB) and the judiciary to scrutinise the report,” he said, and asked whether federal ministers had read it in advance.

    He argued that PTI ministers used to discuss many things against Sharifs which subsequ­ently proved to be correct and that their (PML-N’s) suspicions against PTI seemed true.

    “PPP has taken federal govern­ment’s threats seriously,” he said, and cautioned that if PTI adopted this path, then everything inclu­ding PTI would be lost. “You are yourselves guest artists,” he remarked.

    He sarcastically said that PTI ministers were rightly discussing the JIT report as they did not have anything to discuss other than it.

    Mr Chandio advised the PTI government to desist from giving an impression that it could dislodge the Sindh government and said the federal government itself would see the results if it took such a step.

    He said PPP did not want to overthrow the federal government and PTI should also let the democratically elected govern­ment in Sindh working. “If PTI believes it will get [majority] seats in a re-election, it is sadly mista­ken. State institutions see that PPP and other opposition parties are not going for a conflict but it’s the federal government that is deliberately trying to create such an environment.”

    Mr Chandio said that PPP wanted to play its role of opposition in the National Assembly.

    He said the PTI government had taken several U-turns and feared this might lead to an ‘about turn’.

    “Everyone knows the Constitu­tion provides a procedure for an in-house change and [imposition of governor’s rule but attempts to convert a majority into a minority will not benefit democracy.”

    Senator Chandio observed that many sensible people were part of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), and hoped that they would not become part of the “conspiracy against Sindh”. He said that governor house and presidency had no role in a democratic regime but, he alleged, they were being used for different conspiracies.

    “As far as the PPP government [in Sindh] is concerned, the party’s central executive committee has decided that Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will take a step forward in case of any undemocratic step [taken against it].”

    He said that the senate chairman from Balochistan was got elected to give due representation to that province. An in-house change in Balochistan was decision of its people, he added.

    He said that acrimony with PML-N developed when Nawaz Sharif cancelled a scheduled meeting with [PPP supremo] Asif Ali Zardari.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    PPP information secretary speaks to the media at his residence in Hyderabad on Tuesday.—DawnPPP information secretary speaks to the media at his residence in Hyderabad on Tuesday.—Dawn

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    KHUZDAR: Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo has said his National Party provides voice to all nationalities living in Balochistan and that the party is struggling to protect their rights.

    Talking to journalists during his visit to Khuzdar on Tuesday, he said his party had always stood for the rights of small nationalities as they were its priority. Despite facing harsh circumstances the NP had become the voice of the people of Balochistan.

    During its last council session, the party had vowed to form a unit that would function throughout the province. “This decision will be implemented in letter and spirit,” he said.

    Referring to the recent “steps taken against the PML-N and PPP in the name of accountability”, the former president of the NP said that the accountability process should be transparent and without any political victimisation.

    “The NP leadership is ready to face all corruption allegations, but those framing charges on political basis should realise that they can also become victim of this process in future,” he remarked. He said a party’s popularity could not be judged by election results because many elections in the country remained questionable. “The whole country is witness to how the mandate was stolen on July 25, 2018.”

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    National Party has become the voice of Balochistan's people despite facing harsh criticism, says Mir Hasil Bizenjo. — File photoNational Party has become the voice of Balochistan's people despite facing harsh criticism, says Mir Hasil Bizenjo. — File photo

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    PESHAWAR: The finance department has proposed the creation of new districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the basis of population and area and not political one to prevent the expenditure of billions of rupees for putting up new administrative units.

    The proposal will be submitted to the provincial capital in its meeting today (Tuesday) for a detailed discussion.

    It was put up in the last cabinet meeting, too, but discussion on it was deferred.

    A summary for the purpose was prepared around a month after the cabinet approved the bifurcation of Chitral district in Nov last year.

    The last PTI government had carved out three districts from Kohistan district on political considerations.

    Proposal to be discussed by cabinet today

    The finance department summary seen by Dawn said the government had to bear a burden of Rs1.7 billion per annum in case of the creation of a new province, while it took the minimum cost of Rs4 billion to set up infrastructure for administrative setup over and above the routine annual development programme to upgrade tehsil level institutions to the district level.

    It proposed the revisiting of the policy of creating new districts in view of financial constraints facing the province and to increase fiscal space for development initiatives.

    “A more prudent way (for the districts’ creation) could be devising a formula based on population and area,” it said, adding that the delegation of authority to the lower tiers of government can alley some of the concerns, which emerge due to the people travelling long distances for certain services.

    The summary said the creation of new districts was found in the fundamentals of governance and fiscal decentralisation and thus, ensuing greater public good and better service delivery at the local level.

    It added that the laudable approach in question couldn’t undermine the challenges caused by new districts and that sometimes, the challenges outdid the benefits and the main purpose of decentralisation was lost.

    “Such district creation should be based on proper resources and revenue generation potential of the respective areas to help ensure sustainability,” it said.

    The summary said the newly-created districts had weak institutional capacity and lacked financial resilience and therefore, they produced negative financial implications for the government.

    “These financial implications are inclusive of establishment of new infrastructure, physical assets, creation of new posts and extension of existing resources that result into additional liabilities on the already soaring current side of the provincial budget and thus fiscal space for development is further reduced,” it added.

    Sources said the fiscal implications of hiring of over 3,000 staff members for 25 government departments alone caused the annual additional burden of Rs1.7 billion for the provincial exchequer, while an additional amount of Rs4 billion was spent on the establishment of infrastructure to accommodate the administrative machinery of new districts.

    The last Pervez Khattak-led PTI government had divided Kohistan into three districts, which, according to the 2017 population census, has a total population of 787,000.

    Similarly, Chitral, which was the province’s largest administrative unit before its bifurcation in Nov last year, has a population of 447,000, while Torghar district, which was created under the ANP government, has a population of 171,395.

    On the other hand, most of the districts, including Charsadda, Lower Dir, Abbottabad, Haripur, Nowshera, Swabi, Dera Ismail Khan, Mansehra and Bannu, have a population of over one million each, while Peshawar’s residents total 4.2 million and Mardan and Swat’s over two million each.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    Proposal to be discussed by KP cabinet today. ─ File photoProposal to be discussed by KP cabinet today. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Interior has notified a 12-member commission to carry out the first-ever revision of Islamabad’s master plan.

    According to a notification dated Dec 28, the commission will be headed by the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Committee, who will act as a convenor of the commission until such time that an individual from the private sector is appointed chairman.

    Other members include Pakistan Institute for Environmental Development Action Research Islamabad Executive Syed Ayub Qutub,United Nations Settlement Programme Habitat Programme Manager Jawed Ali Khan, former CDA member planning and design Asad Mehboob Kayani, the incumbent member planning, the director general of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, the director general of the Rawalpindi Development Authority, the physical planning chief of the Planning Commission, Islamabad’s chief metropolitan officer, the CDA’s master plan director, and a renowned architect and a town planner to be nominated by the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners.

    The notification also carried the name of Dr Ghulam Abbas Anjum, the former dean of faculty of architecture and planning at the University of Engineering and Technology, who died a few days ago. When the cabinet decided on the commission members, Dr Anjum was still alive.

    12-member team will be led by CDA chairman, must conclude its work within six months

    The commission will revise the city’s master plan for the next 20 years and recommend the possible regularisation of construction that violates the 1960 CDA Ordinance, the master plan, the 1992 Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Zoning Regulations, the 2005 Islamabad Building Regulations and other regulations made under the CDA Ordinance.

    According to its terms of reference (ToR), the commission “shall keep in view the increased private sector participation on health and education sectors to make recommendations”.

    It will also make proposals for short-term, medium-term and long-term development, and can amend its ToRs with approval from the federal government. The commission is to conclude its work within six months.

    Doxiadis Associates, the firm that developed the capital’s master plan in 1960, had recommended revising the plan every 20 years. The failure of successive governments to do so has resulted in unauthorised construction at massive scale, as well as poor planning. Today thousands of unauthorised houses have been built in zones III and IV, where construction was prohibited.

    The periodic changes previous governments did make to the master plan mainly served to benefit some individuals, while comprehensive revisions were not carried out.

    The last change to the master plan came under former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinet last May, which allowed private housing societies to operate in Zone IV sub-zone B, allegedly to give legal cover to societies that had already been developed there.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    12-member team will be led by CDA chairman, must conclude its work within six months. ─ File photo12-member team will be led by CDA chairman, must conclude its work within six months. ─ File photo

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    LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday arrested a child pornographer who was involved in this heinous crime in the Badami Bagh area for quite some time and recovered video clips from his mobile phone. The authority was moved into action after a video clip of the 45-year-old suspect (name withheld) with a child had gone viral on social media.

    “The video clips of 27 girls, mostly minors, have so far been retrieved from the mobile phone of the suspect. In these clips, he appears forcing the children into sexual acts,” FIA cyber crime wing Deputy Director Chaudhry Sarfraz told Dawn.

    The cyber crime wing has sent the suspect’s mobile phone for forensic examination and booked him under the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca). The FIA has become complainant in this case on behalf of the state after none of the identified victim girls’ families showed willingness to file a complaint against the suspect.

    Video clips involving 27 minor girls recovered from him; the suspect’s social media video spurred FIA into action

    According to the FIA, the man is not a part of a pornography ring (involved in selling material online) as he used to film his victims for his ‘own consumption,’ being a pervert.

    On Tuesday, an FIA team, constituted on directions of cyber crime Director retired Capt Muhammad Shoaib, raided the suspect’s place in the Badami Bagh area after collecting his mobile phone location and static surveillance and arrested him.

    It took FIA three months to track him down after one of his clips went viral on social media.

    “We have tracked him down after hard work of three months,” Chaudhry Sarfraz said and added that the raiding team also recovered the digital media of the suspect, containing pictures and videos of the minor girls.

    “The suspect, a spurious engine oil dealer, has confessed to committing the crime. He also took the team to a nearby house he owned where he would take minor girls (mostly of the nearby areas) after luring them either through candies or money,” he said.

    Talking about the FIA’s problem in producing the victim girls before the court to testify against the suspect, Mr Sarfraz said: “The FIA cannot force any of the victim girls, identified so far, to testify before the court against the suspect. The families of a couple of victim girls are of the view that exposing them (girls) amounts to ruining their lives. The FIA, on behalf of the state, has decided to become a complainant in this case and present the forensic report and investigation against the suspect before the court for his conviction,” said Mr Sarfraz who also appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the matter to enhance punishment in such cases.

    According to the new cyber crime law, “a child pornographer shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to seven years or with a fine of up to Rs5m or with both”.

    The FIA Punjab in 2017-18 had tracked down four men in different areas of the province allegedly involved in child pornography and uploading and selling the content online.

    Taimur Maqsood, a suspect from Jhang, has been accused of exchanging child pornographic content online and Saadat Amin of Sargodha allegedly sold such material online. Nabil of Fatehjang allegedly made porn videos/pictures of some children and Ziaul Haq of Sargodha allegedly filmed the children by forcing them into sexual act with him.

    In the first two cases, the Norwegian and Canadian authorities had alerted the FIA while in the third and fourth cases, the families of the affected children had reported the matter to the authority.

    Sadat Amin was handed down seven years imprisonment last year, the first-ever conviction for child pornography in the country.

    At the moment, there is no team at any FIA office working full time to track down the suspects involved in selling or uploading pornographic material online. The FIA goes after suspects on the basis of tip-offs or complaints.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    Video clips involving 27 minor girls recovered from suspect whose social media video spurred FIA into action. ─ AFP/FileVideo clips involving 27 minor girls recovered from suspect whose social media video spurred FIA into action. ─ AFP/File

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    ISLAMABAD: As many as 94 journalists and media staff were killed in work-related incidents around the world last year, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

    Out of the 94 people killed, five were from Pakistan.

    The new death toll marks a slight increase, up from 82 killings recorded the previous year and represents a reversal of the downward trend from the last three years.

    In its 29th list released on the last day of 2018, the IFJ — which represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries — said that last year’s roll call of loss of lives to violence included 84 journalists, cameramen, fixers and technicians who died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and cross-fire incidents. It added that 10 other media staff members who worked as drivers, protection officers and a sales assistant also lost their lives.

    There were six women among the 94 victims. There were also three work-related accidental deaths.

    According to IFJ’s list for 2018, armed conflict and militant extremism accounted for most journalists’ killings in countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, while there was a steep drop in violence against journalists in Iraq since armed groups lost ground in the country.

    There were, however, other factors such as the increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption and crime as well as the breakdown of law and order afflicting countries like India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

    These factors contributed to perpetuating an environment in which, consistently, there are more journalists killed for covering their communities, cities and countries than for reporting in armed zones.

    According to the records for 2018, the Asia Pacific had the highest killing tally with 32, followed by the Americas with 27 killings, and the Middle East and the Arab World recording 20 cases. Africa comes fourth with 11 killings before Europe with four.

    The IFJ list for 2018 painted a situation of ongoing safety crisis in journalism, which was highlighted by the cruel murder of the Washington Post columnist and Saudi national, Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. This was the latest in a series of devastating attacks on media professionals, including the multiple bomb attacks which turned Afghanistan into a killing zone for journalists and the reign of violence by organised crime in Mexico which remains firmly trained on journalists.

    “These brazen acts of violence in utter disregard to human life have brought to an abrupt end the short-lived decrease in journalists’ killings recorded over the last three years,” said IFJ President Philippe Leruth.

    “Once again, the IFJ is asking United Nations’ members states to adopt at their General Assembly the convention on the security and protection of journalists which the IFJ presented to diplomatic missions at the UN in New York last October,” he said.

    “The numbers on this list are a sad reminder that the safety of journalists will remain elusive as long as countries boasting institutions which should be enforcing the law remain paralysed by corruption and incompetence in the face of unrelenting assault on journalism,” said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger.

    He said that as such the numbers stood as a damning indictment of the authorities for their failure to uphold the journalists’ right to their physical safety and to guarantee an informed public discourse in a democracy.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    Out of the 94 journalists killed, five were from Pakistan, says International Federation of Journalists. — File photoOut of the 94 journalists killed, five were from Pakistan, says International Federation of Journalists. — File photo

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    LAHORE: Pakistan has urged Iran to explain in-writing its interpretation of sanctions that resulted in a massive delay in completion of the mega Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

    “The government has taken up the issue in a recent meeting with the Iranian petroleum ministry’s advisers held in Islamabad. During the meeting, we have asked them to give us a detailed clarity over their interpretation of the sanctions under which they claim that the restrictions don’t affect completion of the project,” Inter State Gas System (ISGS) Managing Director Mr Mobeen Saulat told Dawn on Tuesday.

    For the last four years, the IP gas project, under which Pakistan was reportedly supposed to receive as many as 750MMCF of natural gas from Iran daily through an agreement, is off the table due to international sanctions - both multilateral imposed by the United Nations and the unilateral clamped by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union.

    The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US were the most severe amongst all international restrictions — Iran Sanctions Act 1996, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act 2010 and National Defence Authorisation Act-2012. The construction work on the Pakistani section of the pipeline had been inaugurated in March, 2013 and it was planned to be completed within 22 months.

    “As far as we understand, we cannot move ahead on the project due to sanctions imposed on Iran. But they (Iranian petroleum ministry advisers) have their own interpretation of the sanctions. So we have engaged them in the process to understand the [sanctions] interpretation of each other,” the ISGS official said.

    “That is why we have told them that we need a detailed clarity in writing from them in this regard, as we cannot go ahead with the project with their verbal interpretation. They have agreed to provide us a detailed reply,” the MD added.

    The official said as soon as the government received explanation from Iran [over sanctions’ regime] it would study and evaluate the same in depth. And if it finds the same justified, it may be in a position to resolve the issue.

    “Since it is a very important project in view of 750MMCFD natural gas provision to Pakistan, the government wants to resolve this issue by understanding interpretation of the sanctions,” he said.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    For the last four years, the IP gas project, under which Pakistan was reportedly supposed to receive as many as 750MMCF of natural gas from Iran daily through an agreement, is off the table due to international sanctions. ─ File photoFor the last four years, the IP gas project, under which Pakistan was reportedly supposed to receive as many as 750MMCF of natural gas from Iran daily through an agreement, is off the table due to international sanctions. ─ File photo

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    PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Services Tribunal has held the current and former speakers of the provincial assembly, Asad Qaiser and Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani respectively, for promoting cronyism and nepotism during appointments to the assembly secretariat.

    “By now it has been established beyond any shadow of doubt that the former and the present Speaker etc. have one point agenda to promote cronyism, nepotism and favouritism at the cost of merit, transparency, fairness, equality and justice,” the three-member tribunal ruled in a detailed judgment on an appeal against the appointment of a junior officer as the secretary of the assembly.

    “It amounts to misuse of official authority and is open to cognisance/judicial scrutiny by the quarters concerned,” it added.

    Accepting an appeal of senior additional secretary Kifayatullah Khan Afridi on Dec 10, the tribunal consisting of members Mohammad Hamid Mughal, Mohammad Amin Khan Kundi and Ahmad Hassan had declared illegal the Aug 11, 2017, decision of the Departmental Promotion Committee and the Aug 15, 2017, notification by the then assembly speaker and current National Assembly speaker, Asad Qaiser, of the promotion of an officer junior to him, Nasrullah Khan, as the secretary.

    Services tribunal rules Asad Qaiser, Ghani promoted cronyism, nepotism in appointments

    It observed: “Before parting with the judgment, apprehensions are lurking in our mind that adverse findings of this Tribunal may pique the ego of respondents and in line with their tradition possibility of again violating the court/ Tribunal orders cannot be ruled out.”

    The tribunal added that the counsel for the appellant, Ali Azim Afridi, had also brought to the notice of the Tribunal that cases of illegal appointment of Special secretary and Director (automation and IT) Provincial Assembly were struck down by the Peshawar High Court in two writ petitions on Nov 13, 2018.

    During the pendency of the appeal in Sept 2018, the DPC had again recommended the promotion of Mr Nasrullah prompting the issuance of a notification by the current assembly speaker, Mushtaq Ghani, on Sept 25, 2018.

    The tribunal also declared that decision of the DPC illegal.

    The respondents in the appeal were the KP Assembly speaker, the DPC through its secretary, and secretary of the assembly Nasrullah Khan.

    The tribunal observed that the bone of contention in the appeal was the promotion of the respondent, Nasrullah Khan, to the post of the secretary of the provincial assembly (BPS-21), who was otherwise junior to the appellant but cleared and recommended by the DPC in its meeting on Aug 11, 2017 and was notified on Aug 15, 2017.

    It ruled that the perusal of minutes of the said meeting revealed that the appellant was ignored on flimsy, whimsical and nonsensical grounds and in utter disregard to the criteria for promotion laid down in Service Rules of the Provincial Assembly notified on Sept 25, 2007.

    “A plain reading of the said rule depicts that seniority cum fitness was the sole criteria/ principle for promotion to the post of Secretary Provincial assembly (BPS-21). The appellant was senior most Additional Secretary fully eligible for promotion. Perusal of the minuets of the DPC revealed that during the course of consideration nothing adverse was found against the appellant,” it ruled.

    The tribunal observed that as per another judgment of the tribunal given on Sept 14, 2017, the promotion order of the respondent Nasrullah Khan was withdrawn on Sept 7, 2018.

    On the recommendations of the DPC, Nasrullah Khan was again promoted to the post of secretary (BPS-21) through a notification on Sept 25, 2018.

    “Again the appellant became a victim of favoritism, nepotism and unholy alliance of DPC to accommodate their blue-eyed chap by hook or crook. It was a deliberate attempt on part of the respondents to frustrate the efforts of the appellant for his due right of promotion,” the tribunal ruled.

    The appellant said he was appointed assistant secretary (BPS-17) to the KP Assembly Secretariat on Nov 23, 1992.

    He said he had more than 24 years of service experience and that, too, to the satisfaction of his superiors all through his service.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    “By now it has been established beyond any shadow of doubt that the former and the present Speaker etc. have one point agenda to promote cronyism, nepotism and favouritism at the cost of merit, transparency, fairness, equality and justice,” the three-member tribunal ruled in a detailed judgment. ─ File photo“By now it has been established beyond any shadow of doubt that the former and the present Speaker etc. have one point agenda to promote cronyism, nepotism and favouritism at the cost of merit, transparency, fairness, equality and justice,” the three-member tribunal ruled in a detailed judgment. ─ File photo

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    KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has asked the federal government to pay attention to achieving its revenue target, which he said was already facing a 28 per cent shortfall, instead of indulging in an unconstitutional adventure to topple the provincial government.

    He said this while talking to reporters during his surprise visit to the Sindh Secretariat on Tuesday morning.

    In reply to a question, the chief minister said that the federal government instead of concentrating on achieving its revenue and recovery targets had entangled itself in unconstitutional adventures, which were bound to further weaken the economy.

    He said that the federal government’s recoveries turned out to be so bad that it had transferred 28pc less funds to the provincial government than its share in the divisible pool.

    “This shows that they [Centre] are facing a 28 per cent shortfall in their recoveries, therefore they have given 28pc less funds [to Sindh] during the few months,” he said, adding that they should focus on better recoveries instead of indulging in unconstitutional jobs of changing loyalties of his party’s MPAs in Sindh.

    Advises the Centre to focus on meeting its revenue targets instead of resorting to ‘unconstitutional adventures’

    At the end of the day, the provincial governments would suffer due to inefficiency, incapacity, ill-planning and bad recoveries of the federal government, he added.

    Elaborating further, the chief minister said that during his surprise visit he held a meeting with the finance department and found a 28pc shortfall in the federal transfers during the last few months.

    “It is not only surprising for me but it has made me upset that how the provincial government would meet its expenditures when federal transfers are on a decline,” he said, asking the Centre to focus on its efficiency and capacity.

    Reminds PTI of numbers in Sindh PA

    Quoting PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s statement, he said: “You [PTI] are a minority government in the Centre, therefore, you should try to save yourselves.”

    He recalled that 172 seats of the National Assembly were required for formation of the federal government.

    “How much majority the PTI has in the National Assembly?” he asked and reminded the PTI that the PPP got 99 seats in 168-strong Sindh Assembly.

    He advised the PTI to assess its position first before making any move.

    When asked about placement of his name on the Exit-Control List, Mr Shah said that he had no interest in undertaking foreign trips.

    “After taking over as chief minister I have gone only to China to attend a CPEC-related meeting,” he said, adding that all the four chief ministers were supposed to participate in the CPEC meeting but except him no one attended.

    “Now, my participation in JCC meeting in which I had taken up the development projects of Sindh has irked them [fed govt], therefore they put my name on the ECL to keep me away from development endeavours for the province of Sindh,” he said.

    Irked by secretaries absence

    Earlier, the chief minister expressed his displeasure when he found most of the secretaries absent from their offices during his surprise visit to different departments in the Sindh Secretariat.

    He held two meetings at the finance department and the planning and development department.

    Later, the chief minister in a letter to the chief secretary stated that a few secretaries were present in their offices during his surprise visit.

    He said that a lack of discipline was not acceptable and directed him to take necessary measures to ensure that all officers reach offices on time.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah says that he held a meeting with the finance department and found a 28pc shortfall in the federal transfers during the last few months. ─ File photoSindh Chief Minister Murad Shah says that he held a meeting with the finance department and found a 28pc shortfall in the federal transfers during the last few months. ─ File photo

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    ISLAMABAD: The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) report of Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif shows complications in his spinal disks.

    A medical board formed by the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has decided to examine Mr Sharif once again before deciding that should he undergo a surgery or continue with medication.

    A member of the board, Dr Mohammad Zulfiqar Ghouri, told Dawn that according to the MRI report the patient should undergo surgery. But, he added, it had been decided to examine him again on Wednesday (today).

    It is pertinent to mention that Mr Sharif has been complaining about back pain for some time due to which his MRI was conducted at Pims on Monday evening.

    According to a notification issued by the Pims management and available with Dawn, the medial board was chaired by professor of general surgery Dr Tanvir Khaliq. Other members of the board are professor of general medicine Dr Rauf Niazi, professor of pathology Dr Lubna Nasim, professor of radiology Dr Shehla Zamir, head of cardiology department Dr Naeem Malik, head of oncology department Dr Qasim M. Butter, head of gastroenterology department Dr Mashood Ali and deputy executive director Dr Mohamamd Zulfiqar Ghouri.

    Mr Sharif, who is also the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s president, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Oct 5 on corruption charges in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing scheme case.

    After issuance of his production orders by the National Assembly speaker, Mr Sharif was brought to Islamabad so that he could attend assembly’s sessions.

    As Mr Sharif has now been made chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, he is expected to spend more time in Islamabad.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    A medical board has decided to examine PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif once again before deciding if he should undergo a surgery. — File photoA medical board has decided to examine PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif once again before deciding if he should undergo a surgery. — File photo

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    An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore on Wednesday granted police a 20-day physical remand of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri,Pir Ijaz Ashrafi and Hafiz Farooqul Hassan.

    Civil Lines police officials, after producing Rizvi in court amid tight security, sought a 60-day remand of the cleric.

    Furthermore, they told the ATC judge that interrogators need to conduct accused' photogrammetric test, which according to a counsel, is the process of proving that the person in a video or audio clip is the person accused.

    The court, after hearing the arguments, remanded Rizvi and others into police custody for 20 days.

    On Nov 23, 2018, Rizvi was taken into 'protective custody' by police from Lahore as law enforcement agencies launched a massive crackdown against workers of TLP.

    According to the figures issued by the government, a total of 2,899 people were taken into protective custody from across Punjab while 139 persons from Sindh and 126 from Islamabad were also taken into custody during the crackdown.

    The crackdown had come two days before the TLP was going to resume its protest against the Supreme Court's verdict acquitting a blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi.

    Violent protests had erupted in different parts of the country as activists of TLP and other religious parties took to the streets and blocked major roads and intersections through sit-ins and by putting barricades in protest against the SC verdict.

    Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi is brought to the ATC. — Photo by authorTehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi is brought to the ATC. — Photo by author

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    Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday announced that a list of 172 individuals who had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendation of a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the fake accounts case will be sent to a review committee functioning under the interior ministry.

    Addressing a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the federal cabinet, Chaudhry said the move is in accordance with orders of the Supreme Court, which had directed the cabinet on Monday to reconsider its “hasty decision” of placing the names of 172 people, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other PPP stalwarts, on the no-fly list.

    The ECL review committee of the interior ministry will present a report in the cabinet next week stating the reasons "why the placement of the [172] names on the ECL should be reviewed"

    "After looking at the material [submitted by the review committee], it will be decided how this matter goes forward."

    More to follow.

    Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTVInformation Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

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    The National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday challenged the accountability court's Dec 24 verdicts in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

    Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik on Dec 24 handed Sharif seven years in jail and a fine of Rs1.5 billion and US $25 million in the Al-Azizia reference, and acquitted him in the Flagship reference. The two references concern the setting up of the Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia, and Flagship Investments in the United Kingdom.

    NAB in an appeal filed in the Islamabad High Court asserted that it had provided a great deal of evidence against the PML-N supremo in the Flagship reference, and that giving Sharif the benefit of the doubt and indicting him was against the law.

    It contended that his indictment should be declared null and void and that the IHC should issue a verdict against Nawaz on the basis of evidence.

    In its appeal against the Al-Azizia verdict, the anti-corruption body argued that a seven-year jail sentence for Sharif in the case was too little and should be increased.

    The appeal stated that the punishment for corruption under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance is 14 years in jail.

    The PML-N quaid was made party to both appeals.

    Sharif had on Tuesday challenged his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference in the IHC, claiming that the accountability court's verdict in the case is marred with flaws and legal lacunae. The appeal pointed out certain 'extraneous' factors which, it said, an accountability judge never considered while imparting judgements in routine cases.

    The former prime minister, who is currently serving a prison sentence, also filed an application seeking suspension of the sentence.

    Nawaz Sharif has been made a party to both appeals filed by NAB against the accountability court's judgements. ─ File photoNawaz Sharif has been made a party to both appeals filed by NAB against the accountability court's judgements. ─ File photo

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    Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda tries to placate journalists as they walk out of presser.

    Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda's brash response to a senior journalist's question led to the cancellation of a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.

    The situation unfolded when Dawn's senior reporter Khaleeq Kiani questioned the government's decision to award the Rs300 billion Mohmand dam project on a “single” financial bid of a consortium comprising three firms — Descon, the company owned by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce and Industry Razzaq Daud, China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro.

    The bidding process of the dam was made controversial by the government when it considered the “single” financial bid of the consortium comprising Descon, China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro, while a consortium consisting of Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered.

    Read: Bidding process for Mohmand dam project sparks controversy

    As the press conference started on Wednesday, reporter Khaleeq Kiani reminded the minister how his party had criticised an LNG deal during the PML-N government on the basis that it was awarded on a single-bid basis.

    "Your party had strongly criticised the LNG deal because it was done on single-bid basis, and now your government has awarded the contract of Mohmand dam on a single-bid basis. How can you say it is legitimate?"

    Vawda did not take the query kindly, saying: "I could have expected such a question from Dawn only. I am not responsible for something that happened before my birth.

    "How can I be responsible for [those] contracts' bidding that took place when this government wasn't in place? Secondly, if you find a controversy or want to concoct one, then this is open. You can investigate this as you like it.

    "Because you are my elder I am answering this question. If this was someone else, I would not have answered and also set aside the mic."

    At this, the reporters at the press conference objected to his choice of words and started walking out in solidarity with Kiani.

    The minister, in a bid to placate the media personnel, immediately issued an apology and struck a courteous tone. "Please hear my request, I apologise to you over this. Journalists are my brothers and friends."

    Vawda's attempts were to no avail as the reporters and cameramen staged a walkout in protest.

    Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda addresses a presser. — DawnNewsTVFederal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda addresses a presser. — DawnNewsTV

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    ISLAMABAD: Circular debt, which stood at Rs1.14 trillion during the term of the previous government, has now increased to Rs1.4 trillion. The energy sector’s circular debt has reached Rs1,362 billion mark, of which Rs755bn is of the Power Holding Company Limited and Rs607bn of Standby Term Finance Facility loans.

    This was said by Power Division Secretary Irfan Ali while briefing the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday at its meeting held in the Parliament House and chaired by opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif.

    Take a look: The circularity of circular debt

    Circular debt generally arises out of high electricity losses (due to theft and inefficiencies in the distribution system) and inability to recover the total amounts billed to consumers by power companies. This leads to a financial gap because of which the power sector fails to discharge its obligations towards fuel suppliers and banks. This in turn badly affects both the energy and financial sectors.

    Over 12,000MW power plants to be completed with $25bn investment in energy sector under CPEC

    Mr Ali cited almost all of the above reasons for the recent increase in circular debt. Giving the details of the sector-wise demand-based payables of circular debt as on Nov 30, he said Rs36.2bn was payable to generation companies running plants on gas and re-liquefied natural gas, Rs83.5bn to oil-based companies, Rs450.5bn to independent power plants, Rs28.6bn to nuclear plants and Rs156.7bn to the National Transmission and Dispatch Company/Wapda.

    He said that with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank, the government was going to launch the Advance Metering Infrastructure project in the areas covered by the Lahore Electricity Supply Company and the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company at a cost of $40 million. In the second phase, the project will be extended to the Peshawar Electricity Supply Company, Multan Electricity Supply Company, Hyderabad Electricity Supply Company and other areas with high power theft cases. The second phase of the project will cost $500m.

    In response to a question by the committee members, the official said that the power division had launched a drive to bring to book the elements involved in power theft both within the distribution companies and consumers. He added that an indiscriminate operation was being carried out against thieves and so far relevant police stations had been approached to lodge 15,746 FIRs against 21,475 “thieves” and 11,356 of them had been registered.

    Mr Ali further said that Pakistan had planned to take the share of renewable energy in the energy mix to 25 per cent by 2025 and to 30pc by 2030.

    According to him, at present total installed capacity is 33,836 megawatts (MW) and de-rated capacity 31,006MW. Total hydel power production is 9,730MW and total generation by Gencos is 5,682MW of which 4,177MW is de-rated production. Total capacity of thermal plants run by IPPs is 15,186MW and their de-rated capacity 13,973MW.

    Total installed capacity of nuclear plants is 1,345MW and de-rated capacity 1,246. Solar capacity is 400MW, wind 1,185MW and Bagasse-based plants’ installed capacity is 306MW with de-rated capacity of 295MW. Hydel contributes is 27pc of the total installed capacity, LNG 26pc, natural gas 12pc, furnace oil 16pc, coal 9pc and renewable and nuclear 5pc each.

    The committee was informed that with an investment of $25bn under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), power plants of 12,334MW capacity would be completed. The CPEC has 18 priority projects with a capacity of 11,110MW with an investment of $21.7bn and three actively promoted power projects with a capacity of 1,224MW and total investment of $3.3bn.

    Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019

    The energy sector’s circular debt has reached Rs1,362bn mark, of which Rs755bn is of the Power Holding Company Limited.— AFP/FileThe energy sector’s circular debt has reached Rs1,362bn mark, of which Rs755bn is of the Power Holding Company Limited.— AFP/File

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    Four coal miners burnt to death as result of a methane gas blast inside a coal mine in Balochistan's Dukki district on Wednesday morning, less than a week after three miners lost their lives in the same area.

    The incident occurred in coal-rich Chamalang area of Dukki district.

    Dukki's district police officer, Sardar Hashim Khan, said one coal miner sustained serious injuries as a result of the blast.

    Khan said all the victims, two of whom were siblings, belonged to the same family from neighboring Afghanistan. The coal miners on their own retrieved bodies of their colleagues from the mine.

    "Miners were extracting coal from thousands feet inside the mine when the tragedy struck," a levies official said.

    Taking notice of the deaths, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan ordered the concerned quarters to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.

    Hazardous working conditions inside coal mines of Balochistan have been claiming precious human lives. As per the statistics provided by the provincial Mines and Minerals Development Department, over 1,000 coal miners have died in such kind of incidents during the last 18 years in Balochistan.

    Last week, three miners were killed and four others injured in two separate incidents in the Chamalang coal mines range in Dukki district. The victims' bodies were completely burnt as fire erupted in the mine after the blast.

    This file photo shows rescue efforts being made near a coal mine after a blast early in May 2018. — DawnNewsTV/FileThis file photo shows rescue efforts being made near a coal mine after a blast early in May 2018. — DawnNewsTV/File

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