The News – Taliban, Afghan negotiators far apart on basic issues

Kabul – Afghanistan, 22 September 2020. The Afghan government and Taliban remain far apart on even the most basic issues a week into talks meant to end two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The chasm, not just on the predictably thorny problem of a ceasefire but on foundational issues, suggests major hurdles to any hopes of binding the wounds of a ravaged country.

Despite the difficulties, the talks are the best hope for peace in years and come as a result of a February pact between the Taliban and the United States, allowing US forces to withdraw in exchange for Taliban promises on terrorism, reported British wire service.

But the Taliban have refused to agree to a ceasefire and the war is grinding on. About 40 people were killed in Taliban attacks last week.

With all foreign troops due to be gone by May next year, pressure is building on the US-backed government as it grapples with how it can share power with its implacable foe or contend with a likely Taliban push for military victory.

Since the spotlight faded from the lavish 12 September opening ceremony in a hotel ballroom in the Qatari capital, Doha, attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the two sides have only confirmed that they are diametrically opposed on virtually every issue.

“We are talking to a side that is difficult and inflexible and therefore things are not moving forward,” said a senior negotiator on the Afghan government side.

The two sides will have to tackle a diverse range of issues to secure peace, from the legitimacy of the Kabul government to women’s rights.

“The first week has demonstrated how complex the talks will be in general, with the most crucial one being Afghanistan’s future political system,” said Graham Smith, an independent analyst tracking closely the talks based in Afghanistan.

In recent months, the Taliban have said they will respect women’s rights under sharia but many educated woman who have come of age since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 for harbouring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden have doubts.

Women could be the first casualty of the talks, some activists fear, if the government allows the rolling back of their rights to appease the Taliban.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/718497-taliban-afghan-negotiators-far-apart-on-basic-issues

The News – Motorway rape case: Prime suspect continues to evade arrest 10 days after incident

Even after 10 days, the prime suspect of the Lahore motorway incident, Abid Ali, remains at large.

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 19 September 2020. Police conducted search operations in the different areas of Sheikhupura, Kasur, and Nankana Sahib after receiving information and evidence related to the presence of the accused in the aforementioned areas.

However, law enforcement agencies have not yet been able to apprehend Abid. On the other hand, the scope of the investigation for the prime accused has been extended to other provinces where Punjab Police is in touch with the police forces of other provinces to tighten the search operation.

To ensure the suspect does not evade arrest, the entry and exit routes of Punjab have been blocked.

Nankana Sahib police spokesperson said that they raided the house of Abid’s sister-in-law in the city last night after receiving a tip-off about his presence in the area. However, the police were not able to arrest him.

Abid may change appearance to fool authorities, say police

Police also suspect that the accused may change his appearance in order to dodge police, therefore, various pictures of Abid in disguises have been shared.

These images have been sent out via WhatsApp and plastered across police stations so that if anyone spots someone bearing resemblance to any of the photos, they may easily inform authorities.

Among the four photos distributed, one shows Abid with his original face and hairstyle, a second one with a bald head and moustache, another where he is clean-shaved with a bald head, and the last with a French beard.

In all four, his primary features have not been altered.

To date, authorities have taken four men into custody, of whom one has confessed to involvement in the horrific crime.

On 09 September, two men allegedly raped a woman stranded with her children on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway before robbing her of money and other valuables.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/717130-motorway-rape-case-prime-suspect-still-at-large-10-days-after-incident

The News – UK pledges to help flood victims in Pakistan’s rural Sindh

Islamabad – Pakistan, 08 September 2020. The government of UK has pledged to provide life-saving clean water, sanitation and shelter to over 55,000 vulnerable people in Pakistan to help them recover from the devastating floods.

The announcement was made by Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for South Asia at the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, during a virtual visit to Pakistan where he also discussed with the government of Pakistan how Britain could work with them to tackle climate change.

The £800,000 UK aid package will be given through the National Disaster Consortium (NDC) and will provide immediate relief in rural Sindh to many people who have lost their homes.

It comes on top of the UK’s distribution last week of emergency stocks including hygiene kits and tarpaulins to over 1,118 families in the flood-affected districts of Sindh.

The UK will coordinate closely with Pakistani authorities to ensure that aid gets to where it is needed most.

Lord Ahmad said, “Like everyone in the UK, I have been saddened to see the heart-breaking images of flooding in Pakistan. The UK stands with Pakistan, ready to help, as entire communities have lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones.”

The UK aid announced today will ensure life-saving clean water, sanitation and shelter gets to those who need it most. The recent monsoon flooding serves as a stark reminder of how devastating natural disasters can be, and the dangers of climate change.

“During my first virtual visit to Pakistan as a Minister of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, I also launched a year of climate action from the British High Commission ahead of COP26, which will save lives, create jobs and protect the environment.”

British High Commissioner Christian Turner CMG said “Following Pakistan’s remarkable success against COVID-19, it is important that we support strengthening systems against the devastating flooding.”

As part of Lord Ahmad’s virtual visit, the UK urged Pakistan to work together on a green recovery from COVID-19 as part of a UK-Pakistan year of climate change action, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow next year.

He discussed with the Government of Pakistan how the UK can help the country transition to cleaner energy, emphasizing that with the UK’s world-leading expertise in this area, it can help Pakistan make the most of the opportunities from the rapidly falling cost of renewables.

The UK has committed to ensuring every girl gets 12 years of quality education. The minister also visited the Polio Surveillance Centre, which is also the COVID-19 surveillance centre.

He met the Coordinator National Emergency Operations Centre Dr Rana Safdar who briefed the minister on Pakistan’s response to COVID-19.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/711912-uk-pledges-to-help-flood-victims-in-pakistans-rural-sindh

The News – Benefiting the rich only

Amidst the ravages of Covid-19 that has claimed more than 842, 014 lives across the world, a tiny minority of the super-rich of the globe continues to thrive.

Abdul Sattar

Op/Ed, 01 September 2020. The contagion seems to have destroyed the global economy and is likely to cause a staggering loss of at least $5.5 trillion in lost output over the next two years, greater than the annual output of Japan.

It has impoverished millions of workers across the globe, hitting around 2.7 billion workers worldwide, around 81 percent of the world’s 3.3 billion workforce.

This has raised serious questions towards the working of this economic order, prompting many to demand its abolition.

The contagion has created unbearable conditions for working class people across the world, pushing many to the verge of starvation.

The pauperization of the vast majority of humanity does not seem to have affected the oligarchs of the world who witnessed a phenomenal rise in their capital during the last week.

According to a report by Bloomberg, it was the most lucrative week in history for some of the world’s 500 wealthiest people whose wealth grew by $209 billion during the week.

Capitalism always claims to be altruistic with its ideologues making absurd assertions that the system benefits all but in reality that is not the case. It seems to be a system which is ruthless even to its own adherents.

This system clearly shows that the downfall of one capitalist power leads to the rise of another one. The history of this system is replete with instances where the destruction of one capitalist group led to the ascendancy of another.

Similarly, the devastation of one predatory imperialist state helped other greedy countries to thrive. Spain and Portugal were the first European states in modern times that chose the path of looting and plundering, playing havoc with the lives of the Incas, the Mayas and the Aztec.

Portugal conquered Brazil while Spain subjugated large swathes of Central and South America. A decline in their power prompted other Western states to claim their pound of flesh.

These states first looted the ships of these two imperial powers full of gold, silver and other precious metals. So, the waning power of Madrid and Lisbon gave way to the emergence of other European powers.

Finally, it was France and the UK that held sway over large swaths of the globe, pushing other European powers to the peripheries and occupying the main trade and commercial routes of the world.

The two global wars dealt a severe blow to their hegemony, paving the way for the American military and economic might that is still ruling over the world.

A relative weakness of the US in the aftermath of the Second World War helped Japan and South Korea flourish economically.

The US devoted a large amount towards defence, ignoring manufacturing. The opportunity seized by the two Asian states that came up with their own brands carving out a space for themselves in the fiercely competitive global market.

The rise of China in manufacturing also coincided with the gradual decline of industries in North America and Europe.

This all flies in the face of the tall claims of the capitalist world that it benefits all. In reality, the system is not kind even to its own followers. So, if a system cannot benefit its own followers, how can it reward the poor who despise the very existence of this unjust economic order?

They can clearly see that this system cannot provide a meagre five billion dollars to wipe out hunger from Africa where 60 million children go bed without food or $7 to $265 billion a year to end world hunger but it can allow the elites of the world to spend around $1800 billion on arms and defence.

This system cannot help more than 250 million malnourished Africans but allowed one rich family of India to throw lavish wedding parties costing around S66 million.

This phenomenal addition to the wealth of the world’s plutocrats should prompt us to question whether this system can survive. How can this economic order continue to work if more than two billion people live one two to five dollar a day?

Who can save this economic order from annihilation if the vast majority of humanity is bereft of basic necessities of life while the elites make millions of dollars trips to space?

Many wonder if this system has any good news for the 734 million people across the world living in poverty, 159 million wretched souls living without shelter or 1.6 billion deprived of adequate shelter.

Can this unjust system save the lives of 17 million people a year dying of infectious diseases or protect 2.3 million children who are decimated by diseases that can be battled by providing vaccines.

In the past human beings got decimated in large numbers because there was no defence against hunger, starvation and diseases. Famines would plague large swathes of the earth. Pestilences would devour state after state. Natural calamities would play havoc with the lives of millions.

We created this system hoping it would put an end to hunger and starvation, wars and conflicts, poverty and pauperization; and above all the stark class differences that have created several worlds within a world.

If the West and the US can spend more than five trillion dollars on the ‘war on terror’, there is no reason to believe why a few hundred billion dollars cannot be spent in wiping out poverty that is plaguing various parts of the world.

If millions of tons of food can be wasted in Western capitals, there is no legitimate reason for our failure to feed the hungry in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

If we can conquer seas, oceans, mountains and space why should we fail to control the monstrous poverty and starvation that is still haunting millions of souls?

Despite all development and scientific advancement, we are unable to address the basic needs of humankind. It is all because of this class-based system that is only benefiting the rich.

This is a system that wages wars, serving the voracious greed of a few, turning the lives of billions of people into hell and preventing the mass majority of people from questioning its irrational, illogical and inhuman rules.

It is time we questioned the income inequality that this system generates. It is time we revolted against the murderous militarization that this global economic and political order imposes on state after state.

It is time we accounted for this economic order failing to bring prosperity to each and every individual. It is time we criticised towards the working of this world order that only serves the interests of a few.

If the system is not rectified, if it does not respond to the challenges that have shattered the very foundations of civilization then this system is doomed.

The incredible accumulation of wealth is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, the sooner we abolish this system, the better it will be.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: egalitarianism444@ gmail.com

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/708183-benefiting-the-rich-only

The News – Renewed official resolve to bring back ex-PM: What LHC ordered about Nawaz’s stay, return from abroad

Tariq Butt

Islamabad – Pakistan, 24 August 2020. While there is a lot of political commotion on deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s continued stay in London with the federal government now resolving to use every instrument to secure his early return to Pakistan, it may be instructive to have a look at the Lahore High Court (LHC) order, passed nine months ago, which had allowed his foreign travel for treatment.

The 16 November 2019 order issued by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem had said that the former premier “will return when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan.”

Legal experts opine that the judgment is time-bound but at the same time open-ended, in the sense of being subject to change in Nawaz Sharif’s foreign stay in view of his health condition.

They explained that although the former prime minister was granted one-time permission to travel abroad as an interim arrangement, the main plea in the petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shahbaz Sharif was accepted by the LHC.

Shahbaz Sharif’s undertaking, approved by and deposited with the LHC, had said: I undertake to facilitate and ensure return of my brother Nawaz Sharif within four weeks or as and when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to fly back home.

The LHC had initially granted four weeks to the ex-prime minister to get treatment, the same period that had been given to him by the government’s permission, attaching the condition of depositing Rs 7.5 billion indemnity bond, which, however, was undone by the LHC.

Thus, legal experts said, the LHC order did and didn’t specify the timeframe for Nawaz Sharif’s return as his flying back will depend on his health condition in the wake of his treatment abroad.

As in one sense the LHC order was time-bound, it was difficult to predict or estimate by anybody how long doctors would take to certify that he has “regained his health and is fit to return to Pakistan”.

Shahbaz Sharif had also said in writing: “I further undertake to provide/send the periodical medical report of the doctor duly notarised by the [London] embassy to the registrar of this court.

I also undertake that if at any stage, the federal government has credible information that Nawaz Sharif is living abroad despite his fitness to travel, a representative from Pakistan’s High Commission [London] would have a right to meet with his physician(s) to verify or confirm about his health.”

In a separate document signed by Nawaz Sharif, which was also submitted to the LHC, the former premier had bound himself to the undertaking given to the LHC by Shahbaz Sharif.

He had stated: “I do hereby undertake to return to Pakistan as per my past record to face the process of law and justice within four weeks or as soon as I am declared healthy and fit to travel back to Pakistan by my doctors.”

Justice Najafi had remarked that in his opinion, it was not fair for the government to place conditions after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had granted bail to Nawaz Sharif. If the former prime minister’s health improves, the federal government’s board can examine him, he had stated.

Two days before the hearing at the LHC, the federal government, after intense deliberations, had granted a one-time permission to Nawaz Sharif for four weeks to travel abroad for treatment provided he submitted indemnity bonds worth over Rs 7.5 billion.

The condition was challenged in LHC by the PML-N legal team on behalf of the former premier.

In October 2019, Nawaz Sharif was rushed to the Services Hospital from the Kot Lakhpat jail Lahore after his personal physician Dr Adnan Khan raised an alarm over his deteriorating health.

Following this, Shahbaz Sharif had submitted a request to the interior ministry as well as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) so that he could travel abroad for medical treatment.

The ex-premier, who was incarcerated after an accountability court found him guilty in a reference, had been granted eight-week bail by the IHC on humanitarian grounds. He had also obtained bail from the LHC in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case in which he was a suspect.

The IHC order that had given bail to Nawaz Sharif had said that in case his health does not improve and he needs further medical attention, the Punjab government may, on its own, decide the issue regarding suspension of the sentence.

Even otherwise, he may approach the provincial government under Section 401(2) of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), it said.

The judgment had “noted with dismay” that despite its [previous] “observations” regarding different provisions of the CrPC and Pakistan Prisons Rules, the Kot Lakhpat Jail Superintendent, “never initiated or referred” the health matter for Nawaz Sharif’s release in spite of “his severe medical condition.”

The order had also said that since the jail superintendent was under the Punjab government, the inspector general, prisons, could have made recommendations to it for the former prime minister’s release on account of indisposition, and the government, on its own, could have suspended the sentence if it was believed that the circumstances so warranted.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/705041-renewed-official-resolve-to-bring-back-ex-pm-what-lhc-ordered-about-nawaz-s-stay-return-from-abroad

The News – Sikhs – Kashmiris mark India’s Independence Day by observing ‘Black Day’ in London

London – UK, 15 August 2020. Huge swathes of Sikh and Kashmiri protesters gathered at the Indian High Commission in London raising their voice against the fascist Modi regime after the British government didn’t act on the desperate pleas made by over 100 Indian organisations and over two dozen councilors seeking a ban on any gathering on 15 August at the venue.

As Indians across the world celebrated their Independence Day on 15 August, minority groups in India and overseas took this moment to highlight the oppressive treatment meted out to them by the Hindutva government.

Supporters of the Khalistan and free Kashmir movement gathered outside the High Commission to raise slogans against the illegal Indian occupation and to demand freedom for Khalistan and Kashmir.

Previously, over 100 Indian organisations had requested the British government to restrict protests outside the Indian High Commission claiming that Pakistan had been supporting such groups who exhibited violent and aggressive behaviour.

However, no proof for the absurd claims were provided and the protests went on with full force.

The Indian government, through community groups and councilors, had asked the British government to ban the protest but authorities didn’t take any action as the call by the Indian government was baseless and the British government’s own intelligence established that the protesters have always demonstrated peacefully and allegations of violence were false.

Hundreds of protesters raised slogans against Modi’s Hindutva regime which has made life extremely difficult for India’s minorities.

Protesters held banners which said, “Kashmiris demand implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir”, “Voting for Punjab’s independence is a legal right”, “Khalistan 2020”, “Kashmiris demand justice”, “Kashmir is bleeding” and “India stop blinding women and children in Kashmir”.

The angry protesters also raised slogans of, “Modi fascist”, “Stop killing in Kashmir” and “Khalistan Zindabad”.

On 05 August 2019, India scrapped occupied Kashmir of its special status after revoking Article 370 of its constitution.

The Muslim majority in the Indian occupied Kashmir believe that a systematic genocide is being committed in the region with the Indian prime minister’s fascist policies aiming to change the demographics of Kashmir.

Internet and telephone services have also been restricted in Indian Occupied Kashmir with many British Kashmiris unable to connect with their families back home for months on end.

Speaking to The News, a Khalistani protestor said: “Today we’re here to mark 15th August, Indian Independence Day as a black day for the Sikhs and Kashmiris.

I’m here outside the Indian Embassy to protest against the atrocities committed by the Indian state against Muslims, Christians and Sikhs and other minorities.

“The only way forward is an independent Khalistan and an independent Kashmir.”

Another protester mentioned that he was there to raise his voice against what India had done to Kashmiris, Panjabis and other minorities.

He said: “We are protesting outside the Indian High Commission and we are doing it by legal means, ballot instead of bullet. We support freedom for Kashmir and Khalistan”.

A heavy contingent of the police remained on the scene throughout the protest.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/701435-sikhs-kashmiris-mark-indias-independence-day-by-observing-black-day-in-london

The News – IOJK less stable today than it was before Modi government: ICG

Mariana Baabar

Islamabad – Pakistan, 08 August 2020. Raising the stakes in the Jammu and Kashmir, the latest report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) points to the dangers in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) saying it is less stable today than it was before the Modi government revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status, and drastically changed its constitutional, political, territorial, and economic status.

In the absence of direct channels of communication between India and Pakistan, risks of a regional conflict will continue to mount, with potentially disastrous consequences.

India’s international partners should do what they can to press the BJP government to, at a minimum, soften its counter-insurgency approach in Kashmir and allow political activity to resume.

“By unilaterally scrapping the core of its social contract with the Himalayan region, and forcibly suppressing local dissent, New Delhi has further undercut its ability to reach out to disgruntled Kashmiris and likely pushed more youngsters to opt for the gun”, says the ICG.

“Raising the stakes in Jammu and Kashmir”, is an outstanding report, painstakingly researched at a time when the ICG is neither welcome inside Pakistan, India nor IHJK yet through its local sources on all sides, has managed to bring out startling realities.

“New Delhi claimed that its bold move would help bring peace and development to the region after three decades of conflict.

One year later, its reforms, coupled with heavy-handed counter-insurgency tactics, have only exacerbated Kashmiri alienation and raised tensions with Pakistan. Kashmir’s youth continues to join militant ranks”, says the report.

The ICG calls upon New Delhi’s international allies to ensure that the statehood of Kashmir is restored, detained politicians are freed and to end the culture of abuse against civilians by the security forces.

“Pakistan’s partners should push harder for it to stop backing anti-India jihadists. Both countries should abide by their 2003 Kashmir ceasefire”, advises the report.

However, Pakistan’s security establishment tells The News that it has long given up on its jihadist policies and no longer encourages jihadis going from Pakistan into IOJ&K.

While India attributes the steady rise of militancy over the last three decades to Pakistan-based jihadist groups, most prominently Laskhar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, both of which are listed as terrorist groups by the United Nations, the root causes of Kashmiri militancy remain internal.

Over the last few years, harsh counter-insurgency measures and massive rights abuses have fuelled the growth of militancy, spearheaded by local youth.

“The anger and sense of betrayal stemming from India’s August 2019 decision is enabling a variety of armed groups, local and foreign, to recruit more young Kashmiris,” says ICG.

Although most Kashmiris still aspire to independence, many locals now support any militants they consider capable of confronting Indian security forces, including pro-Pakistan and Islamist groups.

Over the last months, militancy-related incidents have steadily increased, giving the lie to the Indian government’s claims that its moves would reduce violence in the Himalayan region.

“If the BJP government is to contain insurgency in Kashmir, it needs to curtail its armed forces’ impunity, end its reliance on draconian laws and re-engage with Kashmiri leaders of all shades of opinion, pro-India and separatist alike”, is a suggestion from ICG.

For three decades, repression and humiliation have been major drivers of Kashmir’s uprising against the Indian state. Without a change in policy, it will not only persist but also likely grow. Violence will breed more violence.

In the absence of direct channels of communication between India and Pakistan, risks of a regional conflict will continue to mount, with potentially disastrous consequences.

“Neither side wants a war, yet each is pursuing policies that heighten risks of some form of confrontation.

India’s and Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders should tone down inflammatory rhetoric, respect the ceasefire they have committed to along Kashmir’s Line of Control, and seek ways of progressively resuming bilateral dialogue”, ICG.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s international partners will need to keep up pressure for it to stop supporting anti-India jihadists active in Jammu and Kashmir. For both sides, reversing course might not be easy, but the stakes in Kashmir are too high to ignore.

ICG joins voices, which have been raised over denial of justice by the Indian judiciary. “While the judiciary has not delivered justice to the victims of human rights abuses, some family members have refused to be deterred.

Among them is Ashraf Mattoo, father of Tufail Mattoo, a victim of police gunfire in June 2010, whose death marked the start of five months of violent street protests and retribution by security personnel”, notes the report.

Pursuing justice in the courts, Ashraf believed that police killings were not just a human rights issue but also one that fuelled armed conflict in Kashmir.

“Had the police investigated the first few killings in 2010 fairly, Kashmir would not have reached this point.

Turning to Pakistan, ICG notes that Islamabad does not have a strong hand. Islamabad faces considerable diplomatic and economic pressure, including through the FATF, the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, to decisively deal with UN-sanctioned entities on its soil, including the proxy groups operating in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

This pressure, and the risk of an open military confrontation with India following the February 2019 Pulwama attack, has meant that Islamabad has largely limited itself to calling on India to reverse its August 2019 actions, including at forums such as the UN.

Its cause is hardly helped, however, by its long record of backing anti-India jihadists. Most Western powers, furthermore, see New Delhi as an important strategic and economic partner.

For now, the ICG says a way out of the situation is best addressed by resuming dialogue with Pakistan and Track II Initiatives, allowing political process of all shades, ending impunity and rights abuses, revisiting the territory’s reorganization, and restoring the historical social contract New Delhi has had with Jammu and Kashmir’s based on its special constitutional status which would go a long way to rebuilding trust.

The removal of constitutional guarantees that Kashmiri Muslims saw as essential to preserving their identity has only increased local anger; even pro-Indian political parties feel betrayed.

“Ideally, the BJP government would find a way to revisit the profound administrative changes it has unilaterally imposed on the region,” points out the ICG.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/697821-iojk-less-stable-today-than-it-was-before-modi-govt-icg

The News – Urban flooding: Army called in Karachi

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 31 July 2020. In a major development, the Pakistan Army troops have been called in Karachi to assist the civil administration for managing the urban flooding situation in the port city, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement on Thursday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Wednesday directed the military to assist the administration in cleaning up the city after a meeting with Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, who briefed him in detail about the situation created in the wake of recent torrential rains in Karachi.

Speaking in the meeting with the governor, PM Imran had said the PTI-led federal government would not abandon the people of Karachi at a time when the city was grappling with the dual challenges of coronavirus and the aftermath of recent heavy rains.

The premier said the Centre would take all-possible measures for the resolution of the Karachiites’ hardships. Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry was also present during the talks.

Meanwhile, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said that under the mandate given by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistan Army, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Frontier Works Organization (FWO) will work together to give relief to the residents of Karachi in view of their hardships during the recent monsoon rain spells and also due to unattended municipal waste in the city.

The Sindh governor stated this while speaking at a press conference here at the Governor’s House on Thursday.

The governor was flanked on the occasion by Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, members of Sindh Assembly belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Haleem Adil Shaikh, Jamal Siddiqui, Aziz GG and Khurrum Sherzaman.

The Sindh governor disclosed on the occasion that Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Thursday signed a summary, which required the army, NDMA, and FWO to propose a comprehensive strategy containing both short-term and long-term measures to deal with the emergency situation in the aftermath of recent rains and also the issue of municipal waste.

He said that the three organisations would be asked to jointly act upon this strategy.

He hoped that the Sindh government would render support in this regard as this step of the PM was aimed at providing relief to the people of Karachi “as this city belongs to all of us”.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been much worried about Karachi as he wanted that the metropolis, being the economic hub of the country, should emerge as an international city and could be once more called the “city of lights”.

He said that instead of indulging in a blame game, all the concerned stakeholders should work together to take steps on an emergency basis for resolving the problems of Karachi in a speedy manner.

He said that relief and sanitation work would be carried out in Karachi in three stages.

In the first stage, waste collected from the storm water drains of Karachi would be transported to the landfill sites for its proper disposal. In the second phase, choked drains in the city would be made operational again while in the last stage anti-bacterial spray would be conducted in the city.

“This is indeed good news for the residents of Karachi as there would be no issue of funding in this regard.

It is the desire of the PM that this work should be completed at the earliest,” he said. He said that the PM could not see the people of Karachi in distress as he wanted to end their suffering.

The governor said that he had been summoned to Islamabad by the PM where a detailed discussion was held on the issues of Karachi, including the causes of the problems of the city and their possible solution.

He said that the recent meeting of the federal cabinet had also held a discussion on the issues of Karachi for one hour.

“This is because the prime minister of Pakistan doesn’t want to leave alone Karachi under any circumstances as he (the PM) was elected by the people of Karachi,” he said.

He said that people belonging to all ethnic communities of the country lived in Karachi and the city was regarded as Mini Pakistan.

“We want to make it once more ‘Uroos-ul-Bilad’ (bride of cities) where there is no presence of unattended piles of waste and garbage and rather Karachi should give the look of a city of international stature. For this cause, I’m ready to go to any extent,” said the governor.

He said that it was his desire that Sindh chief minister should join hands with him in implementing his vision.

He said that he had held a meeting earlier in the day with the NDMA chairman, Karachi mayor, and concerned legislators while a similar meeting would also be held in the following day to discuss the issues of Karachi.

He said that he had no personal desire to take credit for any such work for the city as he wanted that this work should be done while rising above all the political affiliations.

He said that the PM had also asked the concerned lawmakers of the city to remain present on the ground to personally supervise the work to be done to provide relief to the people of Karachi in the minimum-possible time.

Responding to a question about people illegally living on [the encroached] upon land of drains in the city, the governor said that it was a humanitarian issue and alternative place for their resettlement had to be provided. In this regard, he would talk to the Sindh government.

To another question, the Sindh governor said that the Sindh government had been requested to provide land for the PM’s Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme to be built in the province.

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said the implementation of 140-A would be the only way to resolve the issues of the country’s biggest city.

A day earlier, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had summoned officials from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and mayor’s office and expressed its indignation over negligence following the heavy rains in the city that caused drains to overflow and loss of lives and property.

The SHC was hearing a petition related to the drain and sewerage system of the city’s Central District, when Justice Khadim Hussain Shaikh questioned the authorities’ performance in the city.

In his remarks, the judge said the entire city became inundated during rains due to debris across the metropolis clogging the drains.

“It is a tragedy that no one has the realisation of the stranded water problem. Karachi drowned during the torrential rainstorms due to illegal encroachments and lack of proper garbage disposal,” said the judge.

“Every institution blames each other when it comes to taking responsibility,” he added. “Did anyone see that the vehicles in Karachi were completely flooded?

And the people could not take their children out of their homes. During the rains, people’s homes got destroyed,” Justice Shaikh said.

Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Thursday held a meeting with Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt General Muhammad Afzal here at CM House.

The meeting was also attended by Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah.

A brief statement issued by the CM House said that the meeting discussed the situation in the city due to recent rains in Karachi. No further details of the meeting were provided by the media section of the CM House.

It is worth mentioning that the NDMA chairman had dashed to the city on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan to launch emergency relief work by his authority in the aftermath of recent spell of heavy monsoon downpour in the city.

Earlier in the day, the NDMA chairman participated in a meeting with Sindh governor, which was held to discuss the issues of Karachi. The meeting was also attended by Karachi mayor and lawmakers of the city.

Meanwhile, attending a function, Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that they would welcome if the National Disaster Management Authority wanted to do relief work in the city in the aftermath of rains.

“The Pakistan Army is a source of pride for us,” said the Sindh information and local government minister while giving reaction to the announcement of the prime minister that both the Pakistan Army and NDMA would work together to do rain-related emergency work in the city.

He said that a transparent procedure had been adopted to do de-silting of the storm water drains in the city and contractors of this job would be given payments by the government after completion of the task.

He said that an improved procedure had been adopted this time to do de-silting of the storm water drains in Karachi this time.

He conceded that the residents of District Central of Karachi had faced most of the issues in the aftermath of the recent rains in the city.

He said that loan facility had been given by the World Bank for bringing an improvement in Karachi.

He said that a team of the World Bank had reached the city for the purpose after delay due to the coronavirus emergency.

He said that in the past the PM had failed to overcome the crisis situations in the country.

“We all know very well about the importance of Karachi as we will continue to raise voice for the city. We are always available to do public service for the city,” he claimed.

The minister claimed that municipal agencies had been doing their work in the province of Sindh only and elected municipal leadership was not active in any other province except in Sindh.

He said that in the past, situation in the city had become adverse in the aftermath of heavy rains.

On the other hand, Sindh Law and Environment Barrister Murtaza Wahab expressed surprise and displeasure that Prime Minister Imran has taken cognisance of rains in Karachi after the passage of four days of the last spell of monsoon downpour in the city.

In a video message issued on Thursday, the Sindh law adviser, who also acts as the spokesman for the Sindh government, said that accumulated rainwater had been drained out from the city while related hardships in Karachi had been resolved to a large extent.

He said that the PM had finally become concerned about the city but after much delay.

He said the federal government had realized the situation in Karachi when the emergency work in the aftermath of rain in the city had almost come to an end.

“Was the Sindh governor seen anywhere on roads of Karachi during the rain spell in the city?”

The Sindh law adviser said that federal ministers, MNAs, and MPAs belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were seen nowhere during the rain spell when people of the city were facing problems.

He said that the PTI’s federal government had realized that they should do something for the problems of Karachi when the troubled situation in the city in the aftermath of rains had been resolved to a large extent.

He said that double standards and hypocrisy on the part of the PTI had been fully sensed by the people of Karachi. “Karachi is seen by them merely as a factory to collect donations,” he said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/694388-

The News – Pakistan should ‘drop politically motivated charges’ against MSR, stop harassing family: Human Rights Watch

New York – State of New York – USA, 11 July 2020. The government of Pakistan should “drop politically motivated charges and release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, an editor with Pakistan’s largest media group”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement to Islamabad on Friday.

In its statement, the HRW also demanded that “the authorities also stop harassing Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman’s family members”, noting that the 63-year-old Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief has been in pretrial custody for nearly four months.

“On 12 March 2020, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), an anti-corruption watchdog that has been implicated in serious abuses, arrested [MSR] on charges relating to a 34-year-old property transaction.

Rehman had requested bail on the grounds that he was in ill-health and posed no flight risk, but on 08 July the Lahore High Court denied him bail,” read the statement.

It noted that the very next day, the court heard a NAB petition “seeking the arrest of his wife and four children concerning the same property transaction”.

“In 1986, at the time of the property transaction, Rehman’s children were ages 8, 6, 4, and 1,” the HRW said.

Brad Adams, Asia director at the HRW, said seeking the children’s arrest “for alleged acts when they were hardly more than toddlers shows how ludicrous the case against him is.”

“Pakistani authorities should stop using vague and overbroad anti-corruption laws against dissenting voices,” he said.

The statement noted that Pakistan’s media “operates in a climate of fear”. “Media outlets are under pressure from the authorities not to criticise the government.

The Jang Group alleges that, over the past two years, NAB has sent more than a dozen threatening letters to its reporters, editors, and producers for reporting that has been critical of the bureau,” the HRW added.

It also noted the latest in the series of curbs placed on the media, the suspension of the license of television channel 24NewsHD by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on July 3 with “immediate effect” for “noncompliance with its terms of license.”

“On 07 July, the Lahore High Court suspended PEMRA’s notification and temporarily allowed the channel to resume transmission,” it said, before highlighting: “In some cases, regulatory agencies have blocked cable operators from broadcasting networks that aired critical programmes.”

The statement went on to observe that NAB “has been widely criticised for being used for political purposes”. “Created under an ordinance promulgated by the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, the bureau was granted unchecked powers of arrest, investigation, and prosecution. The bureau may detain people for up to 90 days without charge,” noted the human rights body.

It underscored that the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court had ruled in March that NAB had made “arbitrary use of its arrest powers”.

“The Pakistani government should cease using the National Accountability Bureau to target journalists, opposition politicians, and outspoken critics,” Adams said. “As a first step, the government should repeal the draconian dictatorship-era laws that have shrunk basic free expression rights.”

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/684842-pakistan-should-drop-politically-motivated-charges-against-msr-stop-harassing-family-hrw

The News – Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav given fresh opportunity by Pakistan to file review petition

Islamabad – Pakistan, 08 July 2020. Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav has been given a fresh opportunity by Pakistan to file a review petition against his sentence and conviction, Foreign Office officials said Wednesday, noting that the country had enacted a special ordinance for him to do so.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, FO Director-General South Asia Zahid Hafeez and Additional Attorney General Ahmad Irfan explained that Pakistan has taken all necessary steps as per the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision and that the country’s law allowed for a review of the decision from the start.

A review and reconsideration petition could be filed by Jadhav, his legally-authorised representative or a consular officer of the Indian High Commission at the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Hafeez said, adding that Pakistan had offered to assist in arranging a legal representative for the spy.

He explained that Pakistan had on 20 May enacted the ICJ Review and Reconciliation Ordinance, under which a review petition may be submitted to the IHC within 60 days of the legislation coming into effect.

The 60-day time limit ends on 19 July.

“Commander Kulbushan Jadhav or his lawyer may file a mercy appeal. [He] was offered on 17 June 2020, to file a review petition but he declined.”

Hafeez noted that Pakistan was fully aware of its international responsibilities and ready to implement the ICJ’s decision.

“We hope that India, instead of politicking over this matter, would take a legal route and cooperate,” he said.

Jadhav, a serving commander of Indian Navy associated with Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing, was arrested on 03 March 2016, from Balochistan on allegations of espionage and terrorism.

He was given a death sentence by a Pakistan military court on 10 April 2017.

Irfan said India had requested Pakistan for permission to fight the case through Indian lawyers, however as per legal limitations, only Pakistani lawyers licensed with that particular court could appear before the bench.

The Indian side was contacted immediately after the ordinance through a written correspondence, he added.

“So far, we cannot say that India has not filed the review petition as legal avenues have still not been exhausted,” the additional attorney general said, expressing hope that India as a responsible state would proceed with the matter.

Irfan said the government of Pakistan was not aware if India had engaged any lawyer to file a petition of review and reconsideration against Pakistan court’s sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav.

He said the review petition may be filed by any one of three modes, i.e. by Jadhav himself, by his legally authorised lawyer or by the government of India.

Hafeez said Pakistan had already offered India consular access for a second time to Jadhav.

He said usually the consular access was granted once, however Pakistan as a “humanitarian gesture was extending another such offer for the second time”.

This time, he said, the offer was made for Jadhav’s meeting with his wife and father.

Earlier, a meeting was arranged between his wife and mother on 25 December 2017 in Islamabad.

Hafeez said it was obligatory upon the government of Pakistan to inform Jadhav about his rights under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention and also provide him access to legal representation.

He said Pakistan had taken a number of measures to comply with the decision of ICJ.

Zahid said on 02 August Pakistan made an offer for consular access, to which India responded after one month.

To a question on how Pakistan was apprising the world about India’s involvement in terrorist activities, he said the international community is cognizant of such heinous acts on the part of India.

“Pakistan will continue to expose Indian and RAW-sponsored designs at international level,” he added.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/683868-indian-spy-kulbhushan-jadhav-given-opportunity-to-file-review-petition-by-pakistan