The News – Azadi Train gets warm welcome in Peshawar Cantonment Railway Station

Peshawar, 13 May 2017. A large number of people warmly welcomed the Azadi Train here at the Peshawar Cantonment Railway Station on Saturday evening.

The train started its country-wide journey earlier in the day from Margalla Station, Islamabad, where it was inaugurated by Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb.

The Cantonment Station Peshawar was decorated in a befitting manner to welcome the Azadi Train, with artists performing regional dances of all the provinces.

A big firework was let off as the Azadi Train arrived at the station with the people chanting slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad”.

DS Peshawar Railway Station Hanif Gul was also present on the occasion.

The visitors took keen interest in the cultural floats of all the four provinces, including Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Social activist Reham Khan, who was also present at the station, appreciated the Ministry of Railways and other organizations for arranging such a beautiful cultural train in connection with Independence Day.

She said the train was a symbol of unity, which reminded one of the sacrifices rendered by the forefathers for the independence of the beloved country.

According to the Incharge Azadi Train, the train would cover about 4,000 kilometers long journey in 15 days which would be culminated at Karachi.

He said the train would stop at all the big stations for two to three hours where musical programmes and cultural dances by the artists would be organized by Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) for entertaining the public participating in Independence Day celebrations.

The main objectives for running the Azadi Train, he said, were to highlight the aspects of Freedom Movement, sacrifices of Armed Forces for the defence of the country, besides culture heritage of all the regions.

Later, the PNCA artists also performed at the station and entertained the audience.

The train will resume its journey after a night stay at the Cantonment Railway Station.

The News – No compromise on Kashmir: Khawaja Asif

Sialkot-Panjab-Pakistan, 6 August 2017. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Sunday mentioned the unending Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir and said Pakistan would never compromise on the Kashmir issue.

He said India had continuously been committing ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary. Durable peace between Pakistan and India was dependent upon resolving the Kashmir issue, he stressed.

Khawaja Asif, talking to the newsmen at a local office of the PML-N on the Paris Road, said Pakistan always had wished normal and friendly relations with all the neighbours, including India, but quite ironically New Delhi had never positively responded to the efforts made for the purpose.

He added that India was also involved in causing disturbances at the western border of Pakistan.The newly-appointed foreign minister said peaceful and friendly relations with Afghanistan had always been one of the top priorities of Pakistan but were not possible without an equally positive response from Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan had been fighting terrorism for the last many years and it was quite illogical to blame the country for having safe havens of terrorists.

There had been a marked decrease in terrorism incidents in the country, Khawaja Asif noted.The foreign minister opined that the Indus Waters Treaty was heading towards failure due to India’s hegemonic attitude and repeated violations of the accord.

The News – ‘Partition is not over’ : Pakistani Hindus find little refuge in India

Jodhpur-Rajastan-India, 31 July 2017. For decades, Jogdas dreamed of moving to India to escape the persecution he suffered as a Hindu in Pakistan. But the reality of life over the border is a far cry from those dreams.

Seventy years after partition unleashed the largest mass migration in human history, Hindus are still moving from Pakistan to India, where tens of thousands languish in makeshift camps near the border with no legal right to work.

Many have no choice but to toil illegally in the stone quarries near where they live because their movements are strictly controlled by the authorities, suspicious of anyone from across the border.

It is not the welcome most of them expected in Hindu-majority India.

“No job, no house, no money, no food. There, we were working in the fields, we were farmers. But here people like us are forced to break rocks to earn a living,” said 81-year-old Jogdas, who goes by just one name.

“For us the partition is still not over. Hindus are still trying to come back to their country. And when they come here, they have nothing,” he told AFP from the camp on the outskirts of the western city of Jodhpur where he lives.

More than 15 million people were uprooted following India´s independence from Britain in 1947, which triggered months of violence in which at least a million people were killed for their faith.

Amid the bloody chaos, Hindus and Sikhs fled the newly formed Pakistan, as Muslims moved in the opposite direction.

Despite the exodus, Hindus remain one of Pakistan´s largest religious minorities. Estimates vary, but they are believed to account for around 1.6 percent of the population of roughly 200 million.

Many say they face discrimination and even risk abduction, rape and forced marriage.

“Soon after partition, the harassment started,” said Jogdas, whose family had only moved to what is now Pakistan a few months before partition to escape a devastating drought.

“There was not even a single day when we could live in peace. I wanted to come back to live with my Hindu brothers.”

We are alone

Most of the migrants to India come from Pakistan´s Sindh province, taking a four-hour train journey through the Thar desert to Jodhpur in the arid western state of Rajasthan.

That they share the culture, food and language of Rajasthan should make it easy for them to assimilate in their adopted homeland.

In reality, they live in isolated camps, far from local communities and are treated with suspicion by authorities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s Hindu nationalist government has said it wants to make it easier for persecuted adherents of the faith to find refuge in India.

Last year it changed the rules to allow immigrants to apply for citizenship in the state where they live, rather than having to go through the central government.

Hindus from Pakistan qualify for a fast track to citizenship after seven years in the country.

But bureaucratic delays have meant the process of getting it can take longer to complete.

Khanaramji, 64, became an Indian citizen in 2005 after fleeing Pakistan in 1997.

He said many others had given up and returned to Pakistan, disillusioned by life in India.

“There is no assistance from the government. We are just like cattle with no owners. We are just surviving on our own,” he said.

Life becomes hell

Worse even than the poverty is the suspicion from authorities.

“Those who do not have citizenship are harassed by (intelligence) agencies. They are always treated like suspects and agents of Pakistan,” said Khanaramji, who goes by only one name.

“They spend most of what they earn on going to police stations and agency offices.”

Hindu Singh Sodha, who runs a charity in Jodhpur for Pakistani Hindus seeking to settle in India, said they had high hopes of Modi when he came to office in 2014, but had been disappointed.

The migrants still come under increased scrutiny whenever tensions flare between India and Pakistan, a frequent occurrence under the Modi government.

“Their life becomes hell,” he said.

“Because everything is affected. Their shelter, healthcare, access to education, their livelihood.”

But some feel even that is worth tolerating.

Horoji fled to India with his two adult sons two years ago after receiving death threats from the family´s Muslim neighbours in Pakistan.

“To save our lives, we had to run to India,” said 65-year-old Horoji, whose grandparents were originally from present-day India but found themselves on the wrong side of the border at partition.

“My grandfather had gone to the other side for work. But he had told us to move to India when the right time comes as he had sensed times would not be safe for Hindus in future.”

The News – Inside story of why Chaudhry Nisar is leaving Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad, 24 July 2017. Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar has decided to part ways with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ending his 35-year-long association with him, Geo News reported Friday citing close sources.

The interior minister will distance himself from the premier with an announcement at a press conference on Sunday, sources said, adding that he is also likely to announce resignation from his post as interior minister. Nisar reportedly said that he remained loyal to Nawaz and never let him down.

Citing sources, Geo News quoted the interior minister as saying that the prime minister has been surrounded by immature individuals, who led him to the present situation. The sources further said that Nisar was kept out of the consultation process for the past month, adding that he would not leave the party, but also not hold any office.

Nisar advised the premier not to address the nation and appear before the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT), further added close sources.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry denied media reports citing sources close to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The spokesman asked the media to explain who were the close sources being cited and urged the media not to spread rumours.

Rumours will be clarified after the interior minister addresses the press conference on Sunday, added the spokesman. Nisar has been affiliated with Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N for 35 years.

The News – JIT ‘exceeded mandate’: Sharif family challenges report in SC

Islamabad, 17 July 2017. Sharif family on Monday challenged the final report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) terming it biased and going beyond mandate and pleaded the Supreme Court to annul it.

The sources privy to the development said the ruling family has raised various objections over the JIT report for its findings without using testified documents and the sources.

The petition also alleges ‘biased’ attitude of the JIT members towards Sharif family.

The six-member JIT constituted by the apex court under April 20th verdict submitted its report on July 10 after probing the financial dealings of the Sharifs for 60 days. The report accused the family of being untruthful and having assets beyond means.

The 10th volume, dealing with the Mutual Legal Assistance correspondence, has been kept under wraps as replies are still awaited from some foreign countries to the letters written by the JIT.

The four-member legal team lead by Khwaja Haris was also expected to seek time to study the voluminous report and file a reply on it as the lawyers were not in a position to respond to each and every allegation penned down in the findings because of their expansive nature.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s counsel has also challenged the JIT conclusions.

The Sharif family is also said to be exploring different options including submission of an application to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to form a new bench instead of the present one.

If it did so, the top judge will be required to take a decision on this plea as required by the law. It is the prerogative and exclusive authority of the chief justice to form benches.

The present three-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, may also choose to refer the matter to the chief justice for establishment of a larger bench or sending the case to another panel, according to constitutional brains.

The News – Ishaq Dar strongly rebuts allegations against him: Spokesman

Islamabad, 9 July 2017. Finance Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar vehemently rejects and strongly rebuts all the allegations publicized by a section of media against him over the past few days, a spokesman said here Sunday.

The spokesman for Senator Ishaq Dar, in a statement here, said the following allegations made by the media were false, malicious, obnoxious and mala fide allegations against the Finance Minister.

1) That during the appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for the Panama case, Senator Ishaq Dar told the JIT that not only is he willing to act as witness in the case against the prime minister’s family, he is even willing to give any required statement against the prime minister’s family;

2) That Senator Ishaq Dar is seeking citizenship of the United States of America for himself and his family;

3) That Senator Ishaq Dar has secretly married a member of the National Assembly; and

4) That motor vehicle tax (token tax) of Mercedes Benz car, registration No.MV-109, registered in the name of Senator Ishaq Dar, has never been paid since it was purchased in 2008.

The spokesman said all the above-mentioned claims were utter rubbish and malicious disinformation, intended to cause harm and damage to the Senator’s personal and professional reputation.

He also questioned how any media person can claim to be aware of the discussions held during the proceedings of the JIT, including the statements made by persons summoned by the JIT.

The spokesman confirmed that Senator Dar had made payments of the motor vehicle tax in each year since 2008 for his said vehicle till June 30, 2018. He said appropriate actions were are being taken against the responsible persons/parties, with respect to all of the aforementioned allegations.

The spokesman further highlighted that all the false and baseless allegations against Senator Dar had only been made and publicized by a section of the media over the past few days, following the press talk given by Senator Dar on Monday July 03,2017 outside the Federal Judicial Academy, in which he revealed certain facts regarding Imran Khan, who had been unable to clarify any of the those till date.

The News – ‘Travesty of logic’ to link Jhadav’s case with civilian prisoners: Pakistan

Islamabad, 2 July 2017. Pakistan on Sunday said that it was “travesty of logic” to link the case of RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav with civilian prisoners.

“Indian attempt to equate Commander Jadhav’s case with civilian prisoners and fishermen is a travesty of logic,” the Foreign Office said in a statement here.

The FO remarks came a day after the two countries exchanged a list of prisoners lodged in each other’s jails.

According to the list Pakistan shared with India, at least 546 Indian nationals, including nearly 500 fishermen, are in various jails serving prison terms across country.

“Commander Jadhav is a serving Indian Naval officer and sent to Pakistan by its intelligence agency RAW for espionage, terrorism and subversive activities which resulted in loss of many innocent lives and damage to property,” the FO said.

It said Pakistan remains committed to the implementation of the 2008 Agreement on Consular access, which stipulates the exchange of comprehensive lists of nationals of each country in the other country’s jails twice a year on January 1 and July 1.

Pakistan has implemented the bilateral consular agreement in letter and spirit and is committed to ensuring that humanitarian cases are not held hostage to politics, it added.

“We expect India to reciprocate through action rather than rhetoric,” it said.

The Foreign Office said that five Indian nationals who completed their sentence were repatriated on June 22.

“In contrast, 20 Pakistani civilian prisoners who have completed their sentence still await repatriation, while consular access to 107 Pakistani fishermen and 85 civilian Pakistani prisoners is also pending,” it said.

It said that two juvenile Pakistanis, Ali Raza and Babar Ali, who inadvertently crossed the border in July 2016, despite orders of the Indian courts, were repatriated after a year’s delay on 5 June 2017.

“Indian humanitarian claims appear contrary to reality in view of the impossible conditions imposed for medical visas for Pakistani patients,” it noted.

Under the directive of the prime minister, arrangements are being made for such treatments/operations to be carried out in Pakistan, it added.

The News – Bahawalpur: Tragedy as nearly 150 burnt alive in oil tanker explosion

Bahawalpur, 25 June 2017. At least 149 people were burnt alive and dozens injured when an oil tanker caught fire and exploded near Bahawalpur where a large number of people had gathered to collect petrol from the overturned tanker, rescue services said.

According to details, people from nearby areas were collecting fuel from the oil tanker which had skidded off the national highway and overturned in Ahmed Pur Sharqia on Sunday morning. A large number of motorcycles and vehicles can be seen burnt in the huge fire.

The injured were moved to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital and other health facilities. The death toll may rise as the affected are said to be in critical condition.

The police said that oil tanker carrying 50,000 liters of oil was on its way from Karachi to Lahore when it slipped from the road and overturned in Kachi Pul area, some eight kilometers off Ahmedpur Sharqia city.

“People living in roadside villages, carrying domestic pots rushed to the scene to collect oil and they also made phone calls to their relatives living in other villages to immediate come to collect oil,” they said.

They said that Motorway Police reached the scene and urged the people to keep away from the tanker as fire could erupt in the vehicle, but people including women and children did not respond to the request and continue collecting oil into pots.

Hospitals on high alert

Emergency was declared in the hospitals and doctors and paramedical staff were called in from other districts to cope with the calamity.

Ahmedpur Sharqia Health Center and Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital have no burn wards while the injured have suffered burn injuries on 80 percent part of their bodies. A major such facility is available in Multan’s Nishtar Hospital.

“According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette, and when the spilt fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker´s explosion,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the rescue workers service said.

Firefighters fought the flames for over two hours before extinguishing the fire.

Bodies were badly burnt and beyond identification. Punjab Minister Rana Sanullah said DNA tests are being conducted for identification.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed grief on the tragedy and sought immediate report into the incident. The CM directed officials concerned to make all the necessary arrangements for the treatment of the injured.

Punjab government spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan said the chief minister have deputed his helicopter for rescue work.

Pakistan Army rescue

According to a statement from the ISPR, army’s military wing, COAS General Qamar Bajwa expressed grief on the losses in oil tanker incident and directed provision of full assistance to civil administration in rescue/relief effort.

Army Aviation helicopters have been sent for evacuation of casualties to hospitals and burn centres, while military hospitals were placed on high alert, it added.

Warnings ignored

Mohammad Shabbir, another villager, said the driver was shouting for people to stay away as the petrol could erupt at any time, but no one listened. “What is the use of this petrol, what will you do it with now?” he asked, pointing at a bucket in his other hand.

Pakistan Motorway Police spokesman Imran Shah told AFP residents also ignored police warnings to stay away.

Previous incident

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

At least 62 people including women and children were killed in southern Pakistan in 2015 when their bus collided with an oil tanker, starting a fierce blaze that left victims burnt beyond recognition.

Leaders shocked

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were shocked over the incident and directed government officials to help the victims in every possible way.

PM Nawaz expressed his grief and directed the government of Punjab to provide “full medical assistance”.

The News – Nawaz, Shahbaz staged ‘drama’ before JIT: Imran Khan

Islamabad, 17 June 2017. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Saturday that both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif had staged a drama before the JIT.

While referring to Shahbaz Sharif without taking his name, the PTI chief said, “Whom are they befooling by wearing hat and mafia suit”.

Speaking to the media, Imran said leaders are always held accountable in a democracy and with the Sharif family appearing before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), it does not mean they are being victimised.

He said that 12 corruption cases were pending against Nawaz Sharif. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also been implicated in a case.

The Sharif family had not appeared before the court themselves but they had been called in to appear, the PTI chief said.

Imran reiterated that the entire nation stands by the Supreme Court and the JIT.

The News – Sikhs stopped from coming to Pakistan

Samjhota Express returns empty

Islamabad, 13 June 2017. The Samjhota Express sent to Attari, Amritsar, for Sikh pilgrims was returned empty as Indian authorities stopped them from coming to Pakistan for the ‘Jor Mela’, according to the Foreign Office spokesperson.

A statement issued from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Indian authorities returned the train, saying Pakistan had agreed on sending a special one for the pilgrims not the Samjhota Express.

The Indian authorities intercepted the pilgrims at the Attari border in Amritsar, read the statement. They were coming to Pakistan for the ‘Jor Mela’ to observe the death anniversary of Guru Arjun Das for which around 100 pilgrims were issued visas by the High Commission for Pakistan, it added.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria stated Pakistan had made all the arrangements, keeping in consideration the religious values of Sikhs.

The statement further stated that India did not hold human values important. Even the medical visa process was troublesome for Pakistanis, it added. In held Kashmir human beings are used as shields, it read. India has also targeted civilians along the LoC and Working Boundary.