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IHC repatriates judge Arshad Malik to Lahore High Court for disciplinary proceedings

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday repatriated former accountability court judge Arshad Malik, who is at the centre of a video leak scandal that grabbed headlines last month, to his parent department, the Lahore High Court, for the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him.

The IHC on July 12 had removed Judge Malik from his post amid a controversy surrounding a leaked videotape showing his purported confession that he had been “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia corruption reference.

The judge had denied the allegations, saying there was no pressure on him to convict Sharif and that the videos shown by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz of his alleged confession at a press conference were "fake and based on lies".

A notification issued by the IHC today stated that the disclosures and admissions made by Judge Malik in his press release issued on July 07 — a day after Maryam's presser — and in an affidavit he submitted to the IHC on July 11 to deny the allegations against him, prima facie "constitute acts of misconduct and violation of the code of conduct, which warrant initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him".

Due to the above reasons, the notification further said, the IHC chief justice has issued orders to place Judge Malik under suspension and repatriate him to the LHC with immediate effect, "for disciplinary proceedings to be conducted in accordance with law".

The IHC notification comes two days after Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa wondered why the federal government had not repatriated Judge Malik to the LHC for initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him.

“Is the federal government protecting the judge by keeping his services with them?” the chief justice wondered, adding that the situation was dangerous because a judge became susceptible or vulnerable to blackmailing or being influenced, be it by the government or any individual, when he or she had a skeleton in the closet.

In response, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor had assured the bench that the judge would be repatriated.

During the hearing of a case regarding the matter, Justice Khosa regretted that the conduct of Judge Malik had caused all honest, hard-working and dedicated judges to "bow their heads in shame".

The bench had taken up three identical petitions that sought a directive from the apex court for the constitution of a probe committee or a judicial commission. The SC will announce its reserved verdict on the three petitions at 9:30am on Friday (tomorrow).

With additional reporting by Haseeb Bhatti in Islamabad.

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France presses India to opt for dialogue on occupied Kashmir issue

French President Emmanuel Macron has met with India's prime minister, discussing climate and other concerns ahead of the G-7 summit but also pressing for dialogue with Pakistan over the crisis in occupied Kashmir.

The meeting on Thursday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was part of a marathon day of diplomacy for Macron, who is touching base with key countries before the weekend summit in Biarritz. Modi will be a special guest there.

Read more: US urges India to free detainees, restore rights in occupied Kashmir

Macron met earlier on Thursday with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greece's prime minister.

Macron said he stressed the need for India and Pakistan to resolve differences bilaterally and avoid an escalation.

On Aug 5, Modi downgraded the autonomy of Muslim-majority occupied Kashmir and sent thousands of troops to the region. Modi made no mention of Kashmir in his statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had expressed hope that France would "play its due role to ensure peace and stability in the region".

Qureshi said this after a telephonic conversation with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The foreign minister had apprised his French counterpart of the "grave risk to peace and security in the region" stemming from the steps taken by India.

He had urged France "to impress upon India to lift the curfew and ameliorate the hardships and sufferings of the people" in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The French foreign minister had said that France "was extremely concerned at the situation and urged both sides to engage in a bilateral dialogue". The French minister had underscored the need "to ensure that there was no further escalation". He impressed upon the fact that France would have the same message for India.

Later in the same day, a French official had said that French President Macron would discuss tensions in the divided region of Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Modi when the two meet in Paris.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had also weighed in on Kashmir on Tuesday telling Modi in a phone call that the issue was one for India and Pakistan to resolve between themselves through dialogue.

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Genocide Watch issues alerts for occupied Kashmir and India's Assam state

Genocide Watch, a global organisation dedicated to the prevention of genocide, has issued two warning alerts for India — one for the occupied territory of Kashmir and the other for Assam state.

According to the website, a 'Genocide Watch' warning is declared by the NGO when there are signs of the early stages of a genocide in progress.

Founded by academic Dr Gregory Stanton in 1999, the organisation exists to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide — as defined in the Genocide Convention — and other forms of mass murder.

The most recent genocide alert issued by the organisation was for occupied Kashmir, in which it identified the genocidal process, based on Dr Stanton's 10 Stages of Genocide, to be far advanced:

  1. Classification: Hindu and Sikh Indian army “us” vs Kashmiri Muslim civilian “them”
  2. Symbolisation: Muslims have Muslim names (on ID cards), Kashmiri language, dress, mosques
  3. Discrimination: Hindu pandits were economically dominant until 1990; BJP reasserted Hindu power
  4. Dehumanisation: Muslims are called “terrorists”, “separatists”, “criminals”, “insurgents”
  5. Organisation: 600,000 heavily armed Indian army troops and police dominate occupied Kashmir
  6. Polarisation: Modi and the BJP incite anti-Muslim hatred; social media spread falsehoods
  7. Preparation: The Indian army occupies Kashmir; BJP leaders speak of the “Final Solution” for Kashmir
  8. Persecution: Kashmiri Muslims are locked down, subject to arrest, torture, rape, and murder
  9. Extermination: Since 1990, there have been at least 25 massacres by Indian troops as well as Muslim fighters with death tolls over 25
  10. Denial: Modi and BJP say their goals are to “bring prosperity” and “end terrorism”; they deny any massacres. No Indian Army troops or police are ever tried for torture, rape or murder

In view of these developments, Genocide Watch has called upon the United Nations and its members to warn India not to commit genocide in occupied Kashmir.

In pictures: What's happening in occupied Kashmir?

At least 4,000 people, mostly young men, have been detained in Indian-occupied Kashmir since a security lockdown and communications blackout was imposed to curb unrest after New Delhi stripped the disputed region of statehood.

Kashmiri men sit on a footpath outside a police station waiting to hear about their relatives who were detained during night raids in Srinagar, on August 20. ─ AP
Kashmiri men sit on a footpath outside a police station waiting to hear about their relatives who were detained during night raids in Srinagar, on August 20. ─ AP

The crackdown began just before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government on August 5 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and its statehood, creating two federal territories.

Thousands of additional Indian troops were sent to man checkpoints in the Kashmir Valley, already one of the world’s most militarised regions. Telephone communications, cellphone coverage, broadband internet and cable TV services were cut for the valley’s seven million people.

A report by a team of activists and scholars found that people living under the lockdown expressed “enormous anger and anguish” in response to the surprise move by Modi’s government to revoke autonomy.

Maimoona Mollah, an activist on the fact-finding team, likened the situation in the region to Israel’s security protocol in the Palestinian territories. “Kashmir is like an open jail,” said Vimal Bhai, another activist on the team.


Genocide Watch has also issued an alert for Assam state in India, where millions of Bengali Muslims face losing citizenship status.

Kismat Ali, whose wife’s name did not appear on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, shows a form he collected to file an appeal in Mayong. ─ AP/File
Kismat Ali, whose wife’s name did not appear on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, shows a form he collected to file an appeal in Mayong. ─ AP/File

Over seven million people in Assam State, mostly Muslims of Bengali descent, may lose their Indian citizenship and risk imprisonment in special “foreigner detention centers”. A process is now underway to “verify” the citizenship of all 32 million inhabitants of Assam state, which requires each person to affirmatively prove that they are Indian and not an “illegal migrant”.

"At the urging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist central government, Assam is updating its master list of 'citizens' [...] Anyone not on the final 'citizen' list will be presumptively declared a 'foreigner', subject to statelessness and indefinite detention.

"Assam’s Muslims are especially likely to be excluded from the 'citizen' list as part of a decades-long pattern of discrimination. The word 'foreigners' is a common term of dehumanization used to exclude targeted groups from citizenship and the exercise of their fundamental civil and human rights," said Genocide Watch.

"The Home Minister of India has repeatedly referred to the Bengali Muslims as 'termites'. Anti-Muslim propaganda has polarised the Assam population.

"Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has requested additional Indian government troops and police to arrest 'foreigners'. The Assam state is constructing ten new 'foreigner' detention centers to add to the six prisons already in existence," added Genocide Watch, concluding: "These are the classification, symbolisation, discrimination, dehumanisation, organisation, and polarisation stages of the genocidal process."

Roundups of “foreigners” are likely to ignite genocidal massacres and a massive refugee crisis, the organisation highlighted.

"If India imprisons Bengali Muslims in Assam, it will be violating its obligations under the UN Refugee Conventions. If it expels them from India, it will be perpetrating 'forced displacement', a crime against humanity. If genocidal massacres occur, India will violate its obligations to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention," added the watchdog.

Genocide Watch called upon the UN Secretary General, the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and key UN member states to warn India "not to strip citizenship from, imprison, and forcibly displace millions of Bengali Muslims, many of whom have lived their entire lives in Assam state".

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'No point talking to India,' PM Imran says in interview with NYT

Amid rising tension over occupied Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said there is "no point" talking to Indian officials, adding that his overtures for peace and dialogue with New Delhi so far have proven futile.

In an interview with The New York Times journalists Salman Masood and Maria Abi-Habib, published on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran said: "There is no point in talking to them. I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfortunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, I think they took it for appeasement."

During the interview at the Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad, which NYT said was Imran's first with an international news organisation aimed at publicising anger over the situation in occupied Kashmir, the premier said: "There is nothing more that we can do."

The prime minister's remarks come after India stripped Kashmiris of their seven-decade-long special autonomy through a rushed presidential order on August 5. A communications blackout and heavy restrictions on movement imposed by the Indian authorities from the eve of the intervention entered their 18th day on Thursday. At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-occupied Kashmir since then.

The prime minister said that the "most important thing" was that the lives of eight million people were at risk.

"We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen."

The premier described Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as "a fascist and Hindu supremacist who intends to eradicate Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and populate the region with Hindus".

Prime Minister Imran, in his messages on Twitter since India's move to annex occupied Kashmir, has repeatedly said that the Indian government's policy in the Himalayan region is in line with the "ideology" of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party — said to be a parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — that believes in "Hindu supremacy".

While speaking to NYT, he expressed concern that India might undertake a deceptive "false-flag operation" in Kashmir to try to justify military action against Pakistan, adding that Pakistan would be forced to respond.

Read: World must wake up to India’s nuke threat, says PM

“And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen.

“My worry is that this can escalate and for two nuclear-armed countries, it should be alarming for the world what we are facing now.”

On August 14, while addressing a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly, the premier had warned Modi that any action by India in Pakistan would be countered with a stronger response.

Read: 'Every brick will be countered with a stone,' PM Imran warns Modi against action in AJK

According to the article, the premier demanded that United Nations peacekeepers and observers be allowed in occupied Kashmir.

India rejects criticism

According to NYT, the Indian government did not immediately respond to Prime Minister Imran's comments. The Indian ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, however, rejected the criticism.

"Our experience has been that every time we have taken an initiative towards peace, it has turned out badly for us," he said, adding: "We expect Pakistan to take credible, irreversible and verifiable action against terrorism."

Read: US urges India to free detainees, restore rights in occupied Kashmir

The ambassador also claimed that things were going "back to normal" in occupied Kashmir.

"Restrictions are being eased based on the ground situation. Public utility services, banks and hospitals are functioning normally," he said.

"There are adequate food stocks. Some restrictions on communication are in the interests of safety and security of the citizenry."

Ordinary people in the region, however, continue to feel the impact of the restrictions.

Nazir Ahmad, a retired engineer who lives in Srinagar, told The Associated Press on Saturday that residents were still facing difficulties in buying items such as vegetables, milk and medicine. He said his father is sick and needs a constant supply of medicine, which the family is finding difficult to procure.

“There is no internet, no telephone, no communication, no transportation,” said Ahmad, describing the situation as living through a “siege.”

“We are living like animals,” he said. “So I request everybody, please come and solve this situation. Nobody is coming out” of their homes.

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President Alvi appoints two new ECP members, invites opposition's ire

President Arif Alvi on Thursday made two appointments to the Election Commission of Pakistan, much to the chagrin of the opposition, which said it was not taken into confidence while making the decision.

Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui has been appointed from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar has been appointed as a member from Balochistan.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs notified the appointment of the two members via a press release issued today.

"In pursuance of paragraph (b) of clause (2) of Article 215 thereof, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to appoint the following persons as Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan," read the handout.

The ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch — had retired in January and, under the law, the positions were to be filled within 45 days.

In March this year — after the government had already missed the deadline of making the appointments — the prime minister had sent three names for each of the vacancies to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.

He suggested the names of Amanullah Baloch, former district and sessions judge, Quetta; Munir Kakar, a lawyer; and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and former caretaker minister in the provincial government, as nominees from Balochistan.

He proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer; retired Justice Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court; and Iqbal Mehmood, retired inspector general of Sindh, as nominees from Sindh.

The move only came after criticism from the opposition as well as from legal circles over the refusal of the prime minister to hold direct mandatory consultation with the opposition leader as required under the Constitution.

The government had also faced criticism when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had sent the nominations and that too through an additional secretary working in the foreign ministry.

Previously, the government had proposed the names of Dr Salahuddin Mengal, former advocate general for Balochistan; Mahmud Raza Khan, former additional advocate general for Balochistan; and Raja Aamir Abbasi, ex-deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau, for their appointment from Balochistan.

It had also proposed the names of Mohammad Nadeem Qureshi, ex-member judicial (judge of the customs appellate tribunal); retired justice Abdul Rasool Memon, former registrar of the SHC; and retired justice Noorul Haq Qureshi, a former Islamabad High Court judge from Sindh.

After the government sent its amended list, the opposition, too, moved to amend its own list of candidates.

The opposition’s amended list included the names of three out of six nominees dropped by the government.

The opposition’s nominees from Sindh — former Sindh High Court (SHC) Bar Association president Khalid Javed, former SHC judge Abdul Rasool Memon and former IHC judge Noorul Haq Qureshi — remained unchanged. Both the former judges were on the original list issued from the office of Foreign Minister Qureshi.

In its slightly amended list for Balochistan, the opposition replaced the name of former chief justice Balochistan High Court Justice (retd) Noor Muhmmad Meskanzai with former Advocate General Balochistan Salahuddin Mengal.

The government and the opposition had exchanged lists of their nominees during a meeting of the parliamentary panel on appointment of ECP members held on June 14. The committee then held a meeting on June 19 with the aim to finalise one name each from Sindh and Balochistan for ECP members.

However, no consensus could be developed and the issue remained in a deadlock, with both the government and the opposition insisting on having a member of their choice from Sindh and giving the right to pick a member from Balochistan to the other.

'Constitution violated'

The opposition rejected the two new appointments, announcing they would take legal action against the move.

In a conversation with DawnNewsTV, PPP leader Khursheed Shah said that the government had not taken the opposition into confidence before making the announcement and had moreover, appointed their own candidates when there was a clear lack of consensus.

"The appointment of the two ECP members is illegal. It is in violation of the Constitution," said PPP's Khursheed Shah.

"With such a decision, the ECP will no longer remain independent and impartial," he said, adding that the decision raises many questions about the role of the Commission.

"The Constitution has no room for such appointments to be made," said the PPP leader.

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Another round of US-Taliban peace talks starts in Qatar

The United States and the Taliban officials resumed talks in Qatar on Thursday to firm up a deal enabling the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban security guarantees, the Taliban and senior US official said.

After 18 years of war and months of direct talks with the Taliban leaders, the US appears to be at the cusp of reaching a deal that could allow a pullout of foreign forces followed by a ceasefire between the warring sides.

Two Taliban spokesmen said the ninth round of talks between the US and the Taliban representatives started on Thursday evening, and a senior US official privy to the peace negotiations said the “crucial meeting iron out smaller details had begun” in Qatar's capital city, Doha.

About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are now in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces carry out counter-terrorism operations.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the US military role in Afghanistan has basically turned into a “ridiculous” police force in a sign that he is open to a US troop drawdown there after 18 years of war.

Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat who has been leading the negotiations with the Taliban since last year is scheduled to travel to Kabul after his talks with the Taliban officials.

“Khalilzad will inform the top Afghan leaders about the peace deal and then finalise a declaration to end the war in Afghanistan,” the US official said on condition of anonymity.

The two sides have held discussions over a potential agreement on four key issues: a Taliban guarantee that it will not allow foreign militants to use Afghanistan as a launchpad to conduct attacks outside the country, the complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

The Taliban now control more territory than at any point since the US bombed them out of power in 2001 for sheltering Al Qaeda, the group blamed for the Sept 11 attacks on the US. It has demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and has rejected holding direct talks with the Afghan government.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who is seeking reelection in September said on Thursday the Afghan government would be present in any potential peace negotiations with the Taliban as they move to another phase of the process.

Two American service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan to at least 14 in 2019.

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'Pakistan on short list of 5G-ready countries with Zong's successful trial'

China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak, popularly known as Zong) on Thursday successfully conducted 5G trials in Pakistan, a press release issued by the company said.

By doing so, Zong has become "the first and only operator to officially test 5G services in the country", the statement added.

An official from Zong while speaking to DawnNewsTV explained that while 4G speeds cover a bandwidth of 50-100mb/s, 5G will deliver at least 1GB/s. He said that in today's trials, a speed of 1.14 GB/s was achieved.

"This success marks an important milestone in Pakistan's telecom sector," said Zong CEO Wang Hua at an event in Islamabad held to conduct the test.

"5G will herald a new era in Pakistan's social and economic sectors," he added.

According to the company's handout, "Zong believes that 5G will bring more profound and long-term changes to Pakistan's economic transformation, social progress, and people's livelihood improvement in future. It is expected that 5G will have an impact on health care, agriculture and education."

The Zong CEO also announced that the company will establish a 5G innovation centre in Pakistan in collaboration with Huawei, for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed at the event.

He reminded the audience that five years ago, it was CMPak that had first brought 4G technology to Pakistan. Hua said that the introduction of 5G services is an important pillar to meet future technological needs.

PTA chairman retired Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa also spoke on the occasion. "The country will soon be able to enjoy 5G services which will be introduced for commercial purposes," he said.

He said that the Authority was making efforts in this regard and recognises that the introduction of 5G services would bring in a technological revolution.

Information Technology and Telecommunication Division Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui lauded the efforts by PTA and congratulated CMPak on becoming the first to have the achievement under their belt.

“I would like to take this moment in congratulating Zong for becoming the first Pakistani telecommunications operator to have successfully conducted the 5G trial and putting Pakistan on a short-list of countries which are 5G ready,” he said.

"Zong is an important part of the ties that bind the two countries together," added Siddiqui.

The IT secretary said that the government aims to bring in other major developments via the Information Technology sector as well. "It is the right of every Pakistani to be able to compete in terms of technology with the developed countries of the world," he added.

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UN experts urge India to end 'collective punishment' in Kashmir

A group of UN human rights experts on Thursday urged India to end the communications blackout imposed on Kashmir, warning it amounted to “collective punishment” and risked exacerbating regional tensions.

They voiced alarm over the measures imposed by India since it revoked autonomous rule in occupied Kashmir on Aug 5, including a near-total communications blackout.

Read more: 'We won't give an inch': India faces defiance in 'Kashmir's Gaza'

“The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” the five experts, who are independent and do not speak for the world body, said in a statement.

“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence,” they said, describing the restrictions imposed as “intrinsically disproportionate”.

The experts also voiced concern about the curfew imposed across the region, with “massive numbers of troops (brought in) to enforce restrictions on the freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly, particularly in the Kashmir Valley.”

Kashmir has waged a three-decade long armed rebellion against Indian rule with tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians, lost in the conflict.

Ahead of its August 5 announcement, India rushed tens of thousands of extra troops to the restive region to join 500,000 already in the valley, and imposed a strict clampdown fearing further unrest.

According to security and government forces, at least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The UN experts said they had received information suggesting an increase in arrests of political figures, journalists, human rights activists, protesters and others.

And they said they were deeply concerned by reports that security forces have been conducting night raids on private homes, rounding up young people.

“Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations,” the experts said, calling on the authorities to thoroughly investigate all such allegations and to ensure that any confirmed perpetrators are held responsible.

They also expressed grave concern over allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained was unknown, warning of “the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks”.

They also noted the “excessive use of force against protesters, including the use of live ammunition.”

"India has the responsibility to use the minimum force necessary when policing protests," the experts said, insisting that deadly force could only be used as a “last resort and to protect life."

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Multan court rejects request by Qandeel Baloch's parents to pardon her killers

A trial court in Multan on Thursday rejected a request by the parents of slain social media star Qandeel Baloch to pardon her brothers, who are accused of killing her.

Baloch's brother Waseem had strangled her to death in the name of “honour” at their house in 2016. He later confessed to have killed her because she allegedly “brought dishonour to the Baloch name” with her risque videos and statements posted on social media. Her brother Aslam Shaheen was also nominated in the case.

The social media celebrity's parents, Muhammad Azeem and Anwar Bibi, had on Wednesday submitted an affidavit in the local trial court, saying they had forgiven the killers and the case against their sons should be thrown out.

They had argued that since the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Amendment Bill), 2015 — which bars pardoning killers in such cases — was passed several months after the murder of their daughter, it could not be applied in this case. They had also denied the allegation that Baloch was killed for the sake of honour.

As the affidavit was taken up by the model court today, Baloch's parents informed District and Sessions Judge Imran Shafi that they had forgiven their sons "in the name of Allah".

The judge asked them whether they were only pardoning their sons and not all the accused in the murder case, to which the parents responded in affirmative.

Judge Shafi informed them that he would decide their request after examining whether law grants them the right to pardon the killers or not.

"Do you realise what impact your pardon will have on the other accused in the case?" the judge went on to ask, addressing Baloch's parents.

The court later dismissed Baloch's parents' application to pardon their sons, with the judge saying the case regarding murder in the name of 'honour' would be decided once the testimonies of all witnesses have been recorded.

The accused in the case, including cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi, were present in the hearing today. After Qavi informed the court that he leads prayers in Jhang on Fridays, the court adjourned the hearing of the case until August 24, when the statements of more witnesses will be recorded.

In January 2017, the Muzaffarabad (Multan) police had lodged a First Information Report under Section 213 of the Pakistan Penal Code against Baloch's parents on the complaint of assistant sub-inspector Allah Ditta, the investigation officer, in which it was stated that Baloch's parents recorded their statements in court on Jan 19 and a few days later, on Jan 25, they submitted an affidavit. He said they had retracted their earlier statement against their elder son Aslam and there was a likelihood that they would do so in the case of the main accused Waseem, Baloch's younger brother, as well.

The IO further stated that he had seen Baloch's parents receiving an envelope (allegedly containing cash) from Aslam Shaheen outside the court. Aslam was quoted as saying at the time: "I have fulfilled their demand. Now they should record their statement in the court in my favour."

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ITF postpones India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie to November

India's Davis Cup tie against Pakistan at Islamabad next month has been postponed to November under “exceptional circumstances” after a security review, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Thursday.

The All India Tennis Association had last week written to the ITF asking them to shift the tie to a neutral venue or postpone it until political tensions simmer down between the bitter neighbours.

Islamabad was to host the series on September 14-15 on grass courts.

“Following an in-depth security review of the current situation in Pakistan by independent expert security advisors, the Davis Cup Committee has taken the decision to postpone the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie,” ITF said in a statement.

“The committee concluded that this is an exceptional circumstance while the first priority of the ITF is the safety and security of athletes, officials and spectators.

“The tie has been rescheduled for November, with the exact dates to be confirmed by the Committee no later than Sept. 9.”

"The ITF will continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan and the Davis Cup Committee will re-convene to re-examine the security situation in advance of the tie.”

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FIA arrests 3 suspects in different cases of online harassment, blackmailing

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said on Thursday its Cyber Crime Unit in Lahore has arrested three suspects for harassing and blackmailing three separate women, including a foreigner.

The agency also filed three separate cases under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The FIA officials also recovered digital equipment, including cell phones, allegedly used in the commission of the crimes.

Know more: A 7-step guide for Pakistani victims of hacking and blackmail

FIA CCRC Lahore Deputy Director Chaudhry Sarfraz told that one complaint had been submitted by a man that his sister was being harassed and blackmailed on the basis of some objectionable pictures and videos. The complainant had also nominated a suspect, a resident of Gujranwala.

Later, the agency conducted a raid and successfully recovered a mobile phone containing the objectionable material and alleged fake Facebook ID of the complainant’s sister, through which the content was being disseminated.

"After recovery of alleged material and sufficient incriminating evidence, the accused person was arrested and recovered mobile phones and other digital media was taken into custody of FIA through seizure memo."

In another case, a woman approached the agency with complaints about harassment and blackmailing by a named accused, a resident of Sargodha. Yesterday, a team of the agency recovered a mobile phone containing the objectionable material and alleged WhatsApp through which the accused had transmitted the objectionable material to the complainant's relatives.

"After recovery of alleged material and sufficient incriminating evidence, the accused person was arrested and recovered mobile phones and other digital media was taken into FIA's custody," the official said.

In the third case, a Malaysian national through diplomatic channels approached the agency with complaints of harassment, threats, blackmailing and transmission of edited family pictures through social media by a named suspect.

The agency probed the matter and arrested the nominated suspect from his residence in Lahore. The FIA also successfully recovered a mobile phone containing the objectionable material and alleged WhatsApp through which the suspect had allegedly transmitted the material.

"Further investigation [into the three cases] is being carried out and the progress will be followed up accordingly," the FIA said.

In April, the agency had told the National Assembly's standing committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication that Facebook and Twitter's uncooperative response made it difficult for the agency to resolve cyber crime complaints.

An FIA officer had apprised the NA body that the agency received 29,577 complaints regarding social media over the last two years. He said of the total complaints, 9,822 pertained to fake social media accounts, of which 8,723 complaints were resolved by shutting down the said accounts.

The official told the committee that it had received complaints against 34,846 webpages, of which it took action against 28,460 and shut them down. He said that since Aug 2016, it has received 15,433 complaints regarding Facebook, 6,067 regarding Twitter and 3,143 regarding Whatsapp — all of which are currently being worked on.

He said that Facebook and Twitter's response in addressing their concerns is "not good", which makes it harder for it to resolve complaints.

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Bulls return to PSX as benchmark index gains 912 points

The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on Thursday witnessed a bullish trend with the benchmark KSE-100 index gaining 912 points to close up 2.9 per cent.

The benchmark index closed at 31,884 points after hovering in the green throughout the day on the back of rumors that "Pakistan might exit the FATF grey list".

The market had opened on a positive note at 30,973 points and bullish sentiments prevailed in the market through to the end of the session. The benchmark hit a day's high of 31,913 points near the end of the session, while the market opening remained the day's low.

As many as 176 million shares of indexed companies changed hands during the session. The market value of the shares traded clocked in at Rs6.9 billion.

According to a JS Global report, "The local bourse closed positive on the rumors that Pakistan might exit the FATF grey list."

"Market participation was seen in the oil exploration and production (E&P), Cement and Fertilizer sectors," the report said, adding that among the E&P companies, Oil and Gas Development Company's (OGDC) shares gained value by 5pc, Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) by 4.3pc, and Pakistan Oilfields Limited (POL) by 5pc as oil prices edged higher in the international market after a drawdown in United States crude inventories.

"In Cements, Fauji Cement Company Limited (FCCL) shares gained value by 7pc, Maple Leaf Cement Factory Limited (MLCF) by 5.2pc, Pioneer Cement Limited (PIOC) by 5.1pc, D.G. Khan Cement Company Limited (DGKC) by 5pc and Cherat Cement Company Limited (CHCC) by 5pc. In Banks, United Bank Limited (UBL) shares gained value by 2.3pc, Bank Alfalah Limited (BAFL) by 5pc and Habib Bank Limited (HBL) by 1.5pc."

The report said that major contribution to total market volume came from Worldcall Telecom Limited (WTL) — up 27pc, K-Electric Limited (KEL) —up 13pc, Bank of Punjab (BOP) — 9pc and Unity Foods Limited (UNITY) — up 2pc.

Market analysts are expecting a positive momentum at the bourse in the days to come.

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US lawmakers urge India to end occupation of Kashmir

WASHINGTON: The voice of the Kashmiri people, who have been living under siege since Aug 5 when India forcibly merged their land with the union, is now resonating in the US Congress where key lawmakers are urging New Delhi to end the occupation and allow its residents to speak.

Read: A reporter finds fear and chaos inside locked-down occupied Kashmir

Congressman Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called India’s US ambassador on Tuesday and told him that he was “continuing to monitor the situation regarding the government of India’s decision to revoke the special status” of occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

“There are legitimate concerns about the ongoing communications blackouts, increased militarisation of the region, and enforcement of curfews,” he told the Indian envoy. Mr Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, said some of his constituents were from occupied Jammu and Kashmir and had also visited the area after Aug 5.

“They saw a region under siege with its residents isolated, without an ability to communicate at all outside of the region,” he said.

Mr Smith reminded India that “recognition for the potential disparate impact of this decision on the region’s Muslim population and other minority groups — now and in the future – is imperative”.

Congresswoman Yvette says Modi has no right to do what he is doing to the residents of Valley

Senator Bob Menendez, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Congressman Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a joint statement “in response to the steps India has taken to revise the status of Jammu and Kashmir”.

The two lawmakers reminded New Delhi that “as the world’s largest democracy, India has an opportunity to demonstrate for all its citizens the importance of protecting and promoting equal rights, including freedom of assembly, access to information and equal protections under the law”.

The US legislators reminded the Indian government that “transparency and political participation” were “the cornerstones of representative democracies. And “we hope the Indian government will abide by these principles in Jammu and Kashmir,” they added.

They also urged Pakistan to “refrain from any retaliatory aggression — including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control — and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil”.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke of New York, said she was “extremely concerned” and was raising her voice about what’s happening in Kashmir now.

“Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has no right to do what he is doing to the people of Kashmir. And it is up to us to raise our voices for justice, to raise our voices for self-governance and for no discrimination based on religion,” she said. “Prime Minister Modi should know better. We all must raise our voices.”

She said when she returns to Washington in September, “this will be an issue front and centre for the US Congress to deal with and we are going to deal with it forthright”.

Congressman Smith said that those of his constituents who visited Kashmir after Aug 5 told him that during their stay there they were “afraid for their own lives, and terrified for the safety of their family members” who remain in the region.

“The Indian government must take steps to reduce these fears and offer greater transparency for the world to see what is happening there,” he said.

Congressman Smith urged India to demonstrate “a commitment to the protection of basic human rights and equal rights”, reminding the policy makers in New Delhi that their “policy decision exacerbates an already tense environment” in the region.

“I encourage both India and Pakistan to keep lines of communication open to prevent the further deterioration of the situation, and exercise restraint instead of engaging in rhetoric and actions that inspire extremist ideology,” he said.

The Forbes magazine, while commenting on these statements, observed that instead of showing leniency, India had done the opposite.

“Treating Kashmiris worse than anyone else in India — including freedom of assembly, access to information and equal protections under the law,” it wrote.

“India did not consult the Kashmiri Assembly before taking Kashmir’s autonomy. It gave no opportunity whatsoever for Kashmiris to politically participate,” Forbes added. “Not only did it take away, unconstitutionally, Kashmir’s right to consultation on legal measures, it downgraded Kashmir from a state to a federal territory.”

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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World observes first International Day for Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief

The international community observed the first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on Thursday, as reports of atrocities in Myanmar, occupied Kashmir, Syria and Palestine — among other parts of the world — continue to surface.

August 22 was designated as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief in a May 28 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The international day aims to honour the victims and survivors of heinous acts who often remain forgotten.

UNGA Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a message to commemorate the day, said that the trauma from terrorist attacks "causes lasting damage to families, communities and nations as a whole".

He called for the international community to do all it can "to ensure that victims’ voices are heard, their rights respected, and their recovery supported".

Prime Minister Imran Khan used the occasion to highlight the plight of millions of Kashmiris "living under brutal Indian occupation, abuse and violence, deprived of all fundamental rights and freedoms".

"The Indian occupation forces have even denied them their right to observe their religious practices, including Eidul Azha.

"As the world shows solidarity for victims of violence based on religion and belief, it must also move to prevent an impending genocide of Kashmiris in IoK," he urged.

Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari also tweeted on the occasion.

"Today for the first time the world is commemorating International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. This is the time for the world to take note of and act against the planned ethnic cleansing and feared genocide of Muslims in IoK by the fascist, racist and rogue Modi government," she said.

Violence against various ethnicities

When the decision to commemorate the day was made in the UNGA, Jacek Czaputowicz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, had said that any acts of violence "against people belonging to religious minorities cannot be accepted".

"Hatred towards religious groups may lead to mass killing of innocent people," he cautioned, citing reports that one third of the world’s population suffers from some form of religious persecution.

"Acts of terror are intended to intimidate members of religious communities and, as a result, to hold them back from practising their faith.

"In some countries, religious practice is forbidden even at home, and sometimes the representatives of religious minorities are refused religious funerals," he said.

Representatives of the US, China, Egypt, Brazil and Iran also spoke at the time and stressed upon the importance of raising the issue of growing violence in various regions of the world.

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Other countries must shoulder fight against extremist militant groups, says Trump

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that other countries must assume the battle against Islamic extremist militant groups as the US negotiates a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He singled out India and Pakistan as frontline countries that are doing little to nothing to fight militant groups.

“Look, India's right there, they are not fighting it, we're fighting it. Pakistan is next door. They're fighting it, very little [...] it's not fair. The United States is seven thousand miles away,” he told reporters.

He also warned Europeans to take back nationals captured fighting for the Islamic State, or he will release them back to their countries.

Asked by journalists if he is concerned about the reemergence of the militant Islamic State group in Iraq, Trump said forces under his lead had wiped out the extremist group.

“At a certain point Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, they are going to have to fight their battles too.”

“We wiped out the caliphate 100 percent. I did it in record time. But at a certain point, all of these other countries, where ISIS is around ... are going to have to fight them. Because do we want to stay there another 19 years? I don't think so.”

The Trump administration has reduced the US military presence in Syria and Iraq and is negotiating a US withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban insurgents.

But defence experts warn that a vacuum left by the United States could allow an extremist resurgence.

A recent Pentagon report said that the IS is reforming and launching attacks after losing their hold on physical territory in Iraq and Syria.

Trump, meanwhile, assailed France and Germany for not repatriating citizens who had fought with Islamic state and are now being held in camps in Syria.

“We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now. And Europe has to take them,” he said.

“If Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came. Which is Germany and France and other places.”

“We captured them, we've got thousands of them, and now as usual our allies don't want 'em,” he said.

“The United States is not going to put them in Guantanamo for the next 50 years and pay for it. “

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NAB to be stripped of powers to probe private citizens: minister

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to strip the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of powers to investigate the affairs of persons other than holders of public offices by amending the National Accountability Ordi­nance (NAO), commonly known as the NAB law.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the federal Minister for Law and Justice, Dr Farogh Nasim, explained the amendments being proposed to “rationalise” the NAB law and said one of them was aimed to “exclude the private person from the jurisdiction of NAB”.

“Someone who has never held a public office and is also not related to a holder of public office, being a private person he/she should not be under the jurisdiction of NAB,” said Barrister Nasim.

The businesspersons should be subject to relevant laws of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in case they get involved in tax evasion and other financial irregularities, the minister said.

Farogh Nasim says businesspersons should be subject to laws of the Federal Board of Revenue and Federal Investigation Agency

The watchdog might also be barred from interfering in matters relating to financial disputes between private parties because the organisation was created mainly to investigate mega-corruption cases, he said.

Read: Cabinet mulls steps to rein in NAB over complaints by businessmen

According to Dr Nasim, a proposed amendment would empower the accountability court to grant bail to a NAB accused.

Under the NAO of 1999, there is no provision for grant of bail to a NAB suspect; as a result, a suspect has to file a petition under Article 199 with the high court to seek a bail. A citizen can invoke Article 199 and file a petition with the high court to enforce fundamental rights when there is no remedy available under the law.

The law minister also said his ministry is working on redefining the provisions related to voluntary return of the embezzled amount and release of a person under a plea bargain.

Barrister Nasim said the proposed amendments had been drafted while keeping in view the recent judgements of Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.

NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal is on board on matters relating to rationalisation of the NAB law, he said. The government is also considering taking steps to enhance the capacity of NAB staff.

Ministry’s performance

Turning to the work carried out by his ministry since August last year, Dr Nasim said that although it tabled several bills in parliament to streamline the otherwise complicated legal procedures, due to the opposition’s non-cooperation these bills could not become law.

He said that because the opposition enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Senate even the laws that are directly related to the welfare of citizens could not be passed in that house.

He gave a brief introduction of the laws which the ministry had tabled in parliament in the last one year and which were approved by the relevant committees. He said that 22 laws had been formulated in the past 12 months, of which six had been approved by the lower house of parliament.

During the period, the ministry also set up a website ( which was accessed by over 55 million users.

According to Barrister Nasim, the law ministry has tabled among others a bill related to amendments in the civil procedure code, the Whistle Blower Act, Legal Aid Authority Bill, Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, Women Ombudsman Bill, Succession Act, and Christian Marriage Bill.

The minister also spoke about the Kashmir dispute and said that Pakistan had presented its case before the United Nations Security Council in an effective manner. He also praised US President Donald Trump for offering to mediate between Pakistan and India on the issue.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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Iran's president says 'talks are useless' in dealing with US

Iran's president struck a muscular tone on dealings with the US, saying Thursday that “talks are useless” as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers crumbles further.

President Hassan Rouhani made the comment in a speech in Tehran during the unveiling of the Bavar-373, a long-range surface-to-air missile system that he described as an improvement to the Russian S-300.

“Now that our enemies do not accept logic, we cannot respond with logic,” Rouhani said in the televised speech.

He added: “When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: 'Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people.

Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destroy the missile in the air.'” On Wednesday, Iran's state TV reported that the Bavar-373 is able to recognise up to 100 targets at a same time and confront them with six different weapons.

Since 1992, Iran has developed a homegrown defence industry that has produced light and heavy weapons ranging from mortars and torpedoes to tanks and submarines.

The U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iran after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal over concerns about Iran's missile program and regional influence.

President Donald Trump argued that the accord did not limited Iran's ballistic missile program.

Iran has developed a homegrown defence industry since 1992.

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The elusive promise of civil service reform

Illustration by Mushba Said
Illustration by Mushba Said

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focus on an overhaul of the bureaucracy has remained one Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) central pillars. The government wants a bureaucracy that is progressive, innovative and responsive. But this could take a long time to materialise.

Civil service reform may be the single most critical policy change this government intends to bring, as it will impact the success of several other political and economic reforms. After all, a capable civil service is fundamental to state capacity and attaining policy objectives.

For a country as diverse and densely populated as Pakistan — fast urbanising, with a population surpassing 200 million — a well-functioning and effective bureaucracy becomes even more imperative in meeting citizens' needs.

However, what works when it comes civil service reform in Pakistan has not been sufficiently explored. The PTI government presents an opportunity to rectify this.

Bureaucrats reforming bureaucrats

As has been the case with most other policy reform efforts under this government, a restructuring of the civil service began with the constitution of a federal task force mandated to identify ways to reform the bureaucratic system.

Dr Ishrat Hussain, adviser to the prime minister on institutional reforms and austerity, is leading the effort. Incidentally, he also headed the National Commission of Government Reform (NCGR) a decade ago but his work was never implemented. Since then, numerous reform efforts to overhaul Pakistan’s civil service have met little success.

Moreover, in the present era of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiries, the bureaucracy is reluctant to spearhead any reform. This lack of motivation is hampering the government’s efforts to create an efficient civil service.

Just recently, in a bid to resolve this concern, the task force proposed a role for supervisory committees, whose members will be chosen by a parliamentary committee. The purpose of these supervisory committees would be to convey a sense to civil servants that adequate safeguards are in place in the wake of a NAB inquiry, and at the same time, pave the way to strengthen accountability. The proposal, however, has not yet been sent to the cabinet for approval.

Related: Taking an experimental approach on civil service reform

In addition, a lot has already been said about the task force composition, which is heavily tilted towards ex and current civil servants. They may have an understanding of the deep-rooted structural problems facing the civil service, but little incentive to change the status quo. At least, the perception surrounding the task force is that not everyone’s interests will be looked after.

The extent to which reform can be brought through the task force is also questionable. While the task force is deliberating on key issues and has presented solutions, it lacks executive power, just like all other task forces, to implement any of its suggestions. It has no operational authority and lack clear timelines or terms of reference to execute.

So far, under this government’s tenure, there have been some accomplishments, but there remains a fear that if reform efforts do not target the centres of influence and counter the disincentives for change, the task force will not be able to achieve much.

What has PTI promised?

While the agenda for civil service reform is broad, the proposed thinking is underpinned by key elements of the NCGR report. At the outset, it appears that the PTI understands that governments can only deliver if people serving as part of it have the motivation and capacity to deliver. In brief, it aims to find out:

  • How to induct technical experts into the civil service?
  • How to attract the right talent?
  • How to ensure a motivated bureaucracy?

Suggested reform points towards the creation of a National Executive Service (NES) at the federal level along with a Provincial Executive Service. This would allow civil servants in BPS-19 and experienced professionals from outside the civil service to be inducted into the bureaucracy.

The purpose of the NES would be to ensure that top positions are not monopolised by generalists and that there is room for lateral entry of technocrats in various bureaucratic cadres. The selection would involve eligible candidates sitting for an exam. However, there is resistance to setting up the NES as it will disturb the career paths of current bureaucrats.

Read next: Pakistan hasn’t succeeded in reforming its bureaucracy in the past. Can the PTI deliver?

The PTI is also committed to improving the overall induction process to attract the right skill set and talent. The key tool for doing this would be to restructure both the induction and training mechanisms. It is proposed that entry-level exams be designed to test analytical ability, domain-specific knowledge and aptitude of candidates.

At the same time, the government wants to ensure that the existing bureaucracy remains motivated and that political interference and politicisation is minimised.

This would require changes in internal processes, decentralisation of decision-making and removal of discrepancies within different service groups. For example, currently there is high concentration of power in certain ministries (finance, planning commission) as compared to others, giving certain service groups clout within the bureaucracy.

What has PTI delivered?

Overall rules of business have been amended to ensure space for delegation of powers within ministries. There has been a change in the way signing off on projects is done so that there is delegation of responsibility and reduced red tape for the disbursement of funds.

So far, several proposals have been made by the task force that have entered the policy domain. As stated in its meeting minutes and also reported by The News, these include the following:

  • Security of tenure of civil servants. The tenure would be two years and extendable to three years with a six-month performance review period, except if the officer is found guilty of malfeasance, misconduct and insubordination.
  • Appointment process for federal secretaries is to be done through a selection committee chaired by the Adviser on Establishment and comprising ministers and secretaries.
  • Selection process for CEOs of 65 key public sector enterprises has been finalised, with these appointments to be made through an open and transparent process by involving selection committees consisting of ministers and secretaries in-charge and one to three experts with domain knowledge.
  • A secretaries committee has been activated for inter-ministerial coordination, resolving issues between different ministries, deliberating upon important policy matters and making recommendations to the cabinet.
  • Technical advisers have been appointed in 15 ministerial and attached departments to create more room to draw upon technical advice.
  • A road map has been finalised for the implementation of e-governance by connecting all federal ministries through a local area network, updated and responsive websites, shifting federal government communication on one domain (, an end-to-end secured e-filing system for paperless government, activating the Digital Transformation Committee and strengthening of the National Information Technology Board.

All of this seems praiseworthy, but how will it bring any real change is yet to be seen. Formation of various committees will only bear fruit if consistency is ensured across the board and the decisions made by them are actually implemented.

Indeed, appointments of senior policymakers, such as the chairman for the Federal Board of Revenue, were not made through these selection committees. There is also a concern that these committees lack permanence and are unaccountable, due to which it is difficult to ensure sustainability of reforms or integrity of decisions pushed through these structures. A system to ensure enforcement of their mandate is needed.

What is under deliberation?

Induction and training reform is in the pipeline. The task force has suggested restructuring the Central Superior Services entry process, to rest on a revised examination structure.

The nature of the current examination will be converted into an evaluation of analytical core skills rather than simple knowledge of theory and facts. This will ensure that candidates with domain-specific knowledge and aptitude join specialised streams or clusters, enabling a specialised bureaucracy, streamlining allocation and, at the same time, encouraging linkages with universities to offer pre-service training.

Four stages are proposed as part of revising the recruitment system: a screening test, followed by cluster-based specialised recruitment and psychometric evaluation and interview of the candidates who qualify for the final selection. This proposal has buy-in from the Federal Public Service Commission, but is awaiting cabinet approval.

A proposal to reform training is underway as well. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, in collaboration with United Nations Development Program, is currently being supported by a team of researchers based at the Consortium for Development Policy Research to undertake a training needs assessment of civil servants. For the first time, a detailed survey of close to 800 civil servants is being done. The task force is awaiting these findings.

In-depth: A look at PML-N's selective anti-corruption drive

Several inadequacies in the bureaucracy are underpinned by the civil service training structure. At present, Pakistan’s bureaucrats are prepared to be well-rounded officers who can serve in multiple capacities, having the security of their tenure.

But the training system does not foster specialisation. The traditional focus is on content that is general and that aims to develop broad leadership and management skills. Courses are rarely designed to improve the capacity to deliver specific services (except for in a few groups).

In addition, training is mostly focused on senior and mid-level officers instead of lower tiers — where most of the government-citizen interface takes place — and is de-linked with promotion. The Annual Confidential Reports hardly ever measure performance against goals. To this end, a human resource management system is also being developed for the establishment division to ensure better career planning and placements.

What is missing?

According to some estimates, about 85 per cent of government wage bill is spent on subordinate grades. This staff is an integral part of the bureaucracy, but has poor capacity to provide support and has low or no value addition (with the exception of technical staff in the engineering or some social sector departments).

Civil service reform mostly caters to the needs of officers in Grade 17 and above. In Punjab alone, 83.4pc of the civil servants work in Grades 1 to 15. Hence, subordinate staff requires a special focus.

In addition, reform is geared towards the centre and there is little focus on the provinces. No effective task force can be seen at the provincial level, which means provincial concerns are not being put forward. The federal and provincial bureaucracies need to be separate but equally respected.


Past efforts to reform Pakistan’s civil service have remained unsuccessful mainly due to the political economy surrounding civil service reform and resistance to change. This, coupled with ineffective political strategies for pushing through such efforts, has made the task even more challenging.

The PTI has taken on a difficult task. Civil service reform is tough to implement and bears limited results in the short run. As most of their potential benefits are placed in future, there is little room for governments to gain political mileage.

Moreover, bureaucracy is most comfortable when it sees things in their familiar form, flowing smoothly. While they may accept some change, they clearly lack the motivation to put them in effect.

Hence, there is a need to counter such disincentives. The success of reform inevitably depends on the stability of the political regimes and the assurance that governments will be accountable for their actions.

Are you working on government reforms in Pakistan? Write to us at

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Demos planned in NY during Modi’s visit

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minster Imran Khan decided on Wednesday that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) would organise massive protests in New York during Indian premier Narendra Modi’s coming visit to United States to give him a global backlash over his government’s unlawful decision to strip Occupied Jammu of autonomy and tyranny of Indian armed forces on innocent Kashmiris.

According to the PTI’s central media department, there will be intense protests on the occasion of Mr Modi’s arrival in New York next month to attend a session of United Nations General Assembly.

Prime Minister Khan has issued directives to the PTI’s foreign chapters to prepare to stage a protest in New York during Mr Modi’s arrival. The instructions were given during a meeting of PTI Office of International Chapters secretary Dr Abdullah Riar with Mr Khan.

The situation in the aftermath of the prime minister’s recent visit to the US was also discussed in the meeting. Dr Riar gave a briefing to Prime Minister Khan on the activities of the PTI in the US.

Prime Minister Khan also directed Mr Riar to mobilise Pakistani community in the US and human rights organisations against Indian barbarism in Occupied Kashmir.

Prime Minister Khan is also going to the US to attend the UN General Assembly session and would address the world forum on Aug 27, a day after his Indian counterpart Modi’s speech there.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to open all government and Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) rest houses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for public.

The decision to open its rest houses for public in KP was taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Khan at Prime Minister House. The meeting was attended among others by KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan.

When contacted, PTDC Managing Director Intikhab Alam said there was no bar on handing over PTDC rest houses to the KP government and there was no need of any liquidation process in this regard.

“It is a government-to-government deal therefore there is no need to meet liquidation process,” he said.

Prime Minister Khan also chaired a meeting to review progress on the civil service reforms and issued directives for accelerating the process for introduction of these reforms.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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Government to expedite release of development funds

ISLAMABAD: Concerned over a slower beginning of development programme and overall economic activities in the country, the government on Wednesday decided to relax procedures for release of development funds and improve utilisation of external financing to fast-track the execution of development projects particularly those relating to social sector.

The decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Prime Minister's economic team led by his Adviser on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. The meeting was attended by ministers and advisers of the planning, economic affairs, commerce and industry ministries in addition to the heads of board of investment, the Federal Board of Revenue, Planning Commission and finance, food security and planning secretaries.

Informed sources told Dawn that the meeting had been called in the wake of slow disbursements of funds for development schemes, particularly on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and criticism from independent economists that government’s pre-occupation with political accountability was affecting the economic situation and the people were suffering due to high inflation and slowing economic activities.

The sources said the government had been advised by lending partners and well wishers to focus more on improving investment climate and expedite implementation of development projects so as to create job opportunities and ease difficulties being faced by the common men and protect their living standards. They said that some quarters were creating an impression that SEZs under the CPEC had come to a standstill in recent months following PM Imran Khan’s US visit which required to be dispelled.

An official statement said the minister for planning and development briefed the economic team about the progress on mega Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) projects during the current fiscal year. He also presented the complete road map to execute major projects on a fast-track basis.

He told the meeting that proper monitoring will be conducted during the current fiscal year so that all development initiatives may be completed as per planned physical and financial phasing and latest technologies will be utilised to monitor and complete these projects.

Economic affairs division minister told the meeting that sufficient funds were available from development partners for projects of social and infrastructure sectors of the federal and provincial governments.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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Alarmed at polio cases surge, Imran to lead drive himself

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday expressed serious concern over recent spike in polio cases in the country and directed federal and provincial government officials to undertake effective awareness and immunisation campaigns so that the disease can be kept in check.

The premier also announced leading the polio programme from November.

The meeting was chaired by the prime minister and attended by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, Special Assistant to the PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, PM’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta, Engineer-in-Chief of Pakistan Army Lt Gen Moazzam Ejaz, and High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan Wendy Gilmore, as well as the federal health secretary, chief secretaries of Punjab, KP, Sindh and Balochistan, representatives from Unicef, WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and senior officials.

According to a statement issued from PM Office, PM’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication briefed the meeting about the recent incidence, measures being taken and the future strategy for polio eradication.

Focal person says parents mark fingers of their children themselves to avoid vaccination

Mr Atta also briefed the meeting about the report of International Monitoring Board for the year 2017-18 identifying loopholes in the strategy at that time which led to recent spike of polio cases in some parts of the country, especially in Bannu division.

He also highlighted various measures being taken for perception management including engagement with social media platforms to counter anti-vaccine propaganda, involving mainstream media for mass awareness campaign, establishment of 24/7 call centres and publicising environment or human cases.

Mr Atta, while talking to Dawn, said the meeting was informed that there was mistrust in the community and during every polio campaign it was observed that parents marked the fingers of their children themselves to avoid vaccination.

The prime minister, while endorsing the suggestions, said that the polio team had not achieved the optimum level for convincing the masses and directed to do more efforts. “During the meeting, I demanded that the premier should issue an executive order that no DC would register a First Information Report (FIR) in case of refusal by the parents because it further increases refusals. The prime minister agreed and the order will be issued in a few days,” he said.

“I also requested Mr Khan that we need his personal leadership during low transmission season which starts from November and ends in April. The premier will lead the polio eradication campaign himself from November,” he said.

Mr Atta said that it was also discussed that district commissioners don’t listen to the provincial polio officers so it was decided that in future BPS 20 officers would be appointed at those posts and they would be called provincial polio chiefs. “Moreover they (chiefs) would be authorised to get the complete record of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI),” he said.

“It was decided that the polio programme would be run on the basis of four pillars i.e. rather than pushing people we will pull them in the programme, government will take 100 per cent ownership of the programme, from disease control to eradication and 100pc accountability would be assured across the board,” he said.

The chief ministers of KP and Balochistan and the chief secretaries of Punjab and Sindh apprised the meeting regarding measures taken for polio eradication in their respective provinces.

Prime Minister Khan said that polio eradication was the top-most priority of the government as it affected the future generation. He stressed upon the need for a robust Ehsaas Polio Partnership for implementation of the two vital programmes.

The army representative assured full support to polio teams in their efforts to reach out to the children in far-flung areas of the country.

Representatives of international partners and donors also assured their continued cooperation to the government the in polio eradication mission.

Deputy Director of Polio Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr Tim Peterson presented a letter of appreciation from Bill Gates to Prime Minister Khan for efforts being made to eliminate the crippling disease.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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Displacement continues as Sutlej keeps on swelling

KASUR/SAHIWAL: Displacement of villagers and livestock in Kasur continued on Wednesday, as the Sutlej went on swelling for the third consecutive day here in Ganda Singhwala locality, its adjacent villages and hamlets owing to the water released from the Indian Punjab.

The water discharge at Ganda Singh had increased to 12,000 cusecs during the last 24 hours. The discharge of water at Talwar post was 45,000 cusecs on Tuesday that had increased to 58,000 cusecs on Wednesday evening. According to the flood plan prepared by the district administration, villages including Dona Malkana, Anoki, Kassoki, Masteki, Bangladesh, Bedian Usman, Mabboki, Hakuwala, Natheki, Banbodla Khurd, Banbodla Kalan, Ratnewala, Thathi Farid, Sherewala, Sheikh Umad Nau, Thathi Usman, Attar Singhwala, Jalloki, Hastwala, Mamoke Mehmood, Manuwala, Kalangir, Juggian, Dhoopsari, Kot Sundhar Singh, Mamoke Sharif, Mahiwala, Saifalianwala and Bhikiwind would be at risk in case of low-level flood. As the quantum of water will turn into low-level flood, the administration has started evacuating people and livestock from these villages.

Over 1,000 people have been shifted to safe place, including base camp and other relief camps.

Some villagers have complained that the district disaster management is allegedly ignoring certain villages while it is focussing on some particular points where political figures and bureaucrats visit.

In Sahiwal, four police stations staff monitoring 70 high-alert villages

Ali Raza, Muhammad Din and Mubashar Ahmed of Ather Singh village say water can enter their fields and streets any time because a major part of embankment is missing. They say the matter had been brought into the notice of irrigation department but in vain. They have demanded that the government build an embankment on an emergency basis to save their lives and properties.

The situation got somewhat tense between the residents of Bangladesh and adjoining village Kamalpura on Wednesday. The Bangladesh locality got isolated due to water as it had flowed into their houses. The residents of Bangladesh wanted to demolish the small bridges (pulis) so that the water moves to next locality — Kamalpura.

A large number of villagers gathered at the scene, forcing the local administration to intervene.

In Sahiwal, around 70 villages have been put on high alert across both sides of the Sutlej by the Pakpattan district administration.

Reports say there is 51,651 and 33,000 cusec feet water flow at upstream and downstream respectively in the Sutlej and at Head Sulaimanki during Wednesday noon.

Dawn has learnt that flood warning messages are being conveyed to locals through mosques, Rescue 1122, police, health, revenue and irrigation staff.

Talking to the media after visiting Pir Ghani, Maleeka Taroo and Baba Farid Bridge,

District Police Officer Ibadat Nisar has said four SHOs, one DSP and 250 police officials from four police stations are actively watching flood situation in high-alert villages. Arifwala AC Syed Asif Shah has also visited different villages.

Locals told the media that high flow of the river is causing erosion in four villages of Chak Dad Balooch Koray Shah Zarian, Abadi Chak Mociyain, Chak Budhan Shah, Chak Merain Shahil located at the left bank of the Ravi. Many residents have evacuated their livestock from the river bed.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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China welcomes Bajwa’s appointment for another term

BEIJING: Pakistan Army under the leadership of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will continue to make contributions to upholding Pakistan’s sovereignty and security interests as well as peace and stability in the region, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“We believe [that] under the leadership of Gen Bajwa, Pakistan Army will continue to make contributions to upholding Pakistan’s sovereignty and security interests and regional peace and stability,” foreign ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang said during his regular briefing while commenting on the appointment of Gen Bajwa as chief of the army staff for another term of three years.

“We have noticed this decision by the Pakistani government. General Bajwa is an extraordinary leader of Pakistan Army,” he added.

Mr Geng said Gen Bajwa was a sincere and old friend of the Chinese government and the army and he had made positive contributions to relations between China and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Gen Bajwa inaugurated Urea Formaldehyde Moul­ding Compound (UFMC) Plant at Wah Nobel Chemicals Factory, adds our correspondent in Taxila.

The plant completed in record time of eight months is equipped with the latest and most economical silver catalyst technology, which will reduce its production cost.

The COAS also paid a visit to the display centre of Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF), where new defence products developed by the POF were showcased.

He highlighted the need for adopting proactive approach to enter into joint ventures with other countries as well as private sector, bringing diversification to its product range.

The army chief also visited Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), where he was apprised of the defence products manufacturing facilities including the upgrade of various tanks and armed personnel carriers (APCs).

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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'We won't give an inch': India faces defiance in 'Kashmir's Gaza'

Young men sit beside a pile of rocks and a bonfire, protecting the only entrance to a besieged neighbourhood they call "Kashmir's Gaza" as a mosque loudspeaker broadcasts slogans of liberation.

Read: Besieged Kashmiri neighbourhood in test of wills with India's Modi

In an act of defiance against New Delhi's controversial decision to withdraw occupied Kashmir's special status and integrate it fully into India, Soura neighbourhood on the outskirts of Srinagar has sealed itself off from security forces.

Since early August, residents have erected ramshackle barricades of tin sheets, wooden logs, oil tanks and concrete pillars, and dug trenches to keep soldiers at bay amid daily protests against India.

“They can only enter Soura over our bodies. We won't give even an inch of land to India,” Mufeed, a resident who volunteers to guard the neighbourhood at night, told AFP.

“Just like Gaza is resisting Israel, we will fight for our motherland with all our might,” Mufeed added.

This photo taken on August 16 shows a deserted back street in the Soura locality in Srinagar, during a lockdown imposed by Indian authorities. — AFP
This photo taken on August 16 shows a deserted back street in the Soura locality in Srinagar, during a lockdown imposed by Indian authorities. — AFP

Ahead of the announcement, India rushed tens of thousands of extra troops to the restive region to join 500,000 already in there and imposed a strict clampdown fearing further unrest.

But protests have broken out, with the lower-middle class Soura leading the way. At least 15,000 people rallied on August 9 — the biggest demonstration in occupied Kashmir so far.

Read: Thousands protest in occupied Kashmir over new status despite clampdown

They were met by security forces firing live ammunition, tear gas and pellet guns to disperse the crowds, with more than two dozen people reportedly injured.

'Go India, go back'

Soura, a crammed lakeside community of more than 2,000 homes, is surrounded by security forces on three sides.

The renowned mosque Jenab Saeb has become an assembly point for thousands of protesters in the neighbourhood.

Every night, residents march through its narrow lanes, carrying torches and passing graffiti with the words “Freedom for Kashmir” and “Go India, go back”.

Despite the Soura protests, Indian authorities stress that occupied Kashmir has remained largely peaceful since the lockdown. ─ AFP
Despite the Soura protests, Indian authorities stress that occupied Kashmir has remained largely peaceful since the lockdown. ─ AFP

Locals pass along messages if they spot any police movement on the main highway just beyond Soura.

Police forces, who have deployed drones and helicopters, tried to enter Soura at least three times but were pushed back by stone-throwing youth, some also armed with axes and harpoons.

Familiar with police's crowd-dispersing tactics, protesters use salt water to wash their faces after chilli and tear gas are fired, and wear helmets and glasses to protect themselves against pellets.

Three youths have so far been arrested after venturing out from the area.

"They (India) are testing our resilience and they will definitely fail," local Nahida told AFP.

"We defeated them last time and even if this situation continues for years, we won't give-in." Despite the Soura protests, authorities stress that occupied Kashmir has remained largely peaceful since the lockdown.

'Making amends'

Soura has long been part of the restive region's history. It was the birthplace of Kashmir's former prime minister Sheikh Abdullah, who agreed to join India as a state with autonomy rights in 1947.

His National Conference party — which has fought for more autonomy — was in power for more than three decades, with his son Farooq Abdullah and grandson Omar Abdullah becoming chief ministers of occupied Kashmir.

Farooq and Omar Abdullah were detained by New Delhi as part of the lockdown.

Read: Former IoK chief ministers Mufti, Abdullah placed under house arrest; curfew-like restrictions imposed

Residents have become more anti-India in recent years. In 2016 when mass street protests broke out over the death of a popular Kashmiri fighter, Soura was the scene of dozens of clashes with government forces.

Soura resident Rafiq Mansoor Shah said many locals shared his misgivings about Sheikh Abdullah's decision to accede to India.

Under the new arrangements announced this month, Indians can now apply for government jobs and buy property in occupied Kashmir. But many Soura natives like Shah believe New Delhi has "nefarious plans to grab our land".

"Because of (the Abdullah family's) greed for power [...] we have become slaves of India. We are trying to correct the historical mistake," he told AFP.

"We are trying to lead and inspire the rest of Kashmir."

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Opposition calls for across-the-board accountability

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties on Wednesday slammed the government’s decision to make some procedural changes in the working of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to provide fearless environment for businessmen and called for complete review of the accountability laws in order to stop the bureau’s use as a tool to victimise political opponents and to carry out across-the-board accountability.

The leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), while commenting on the government’s proposed move, questioned NAB’s functioning in the presence of special mechanism and special forums for accountability of the officials and personnel of other state institutions.

The federal cabinet in its meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday had decided to make procedural changes in the working of NAB to provide “fearless” environment for business activities and investment for the revival of crippling economy.

Read: Cabinet mulls steps to rein in NAB over complaints by businessmen

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting had stated that the decision had been made in light of complaints of the business community against NAB. She said the cabinet observed that businessmen were afraid of NAB and not investing their money. She said the cabinet observed that business activities had stopped and the economy had crippled due to the fear of NAB.

She told the reporters that the cabinet in its next meeting would come up with concrete steps to end the practice of arm-twisting and threatening by NAB officials.

PML-N’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal called for complete review of the NAB laws.

Talking to Dawn, he said there must be across-the-board accountability and there could not be separate laws for accountability of civil servants and public office holders.

“It will be appropriate that a transparent mechanism for across-the-board accountability be adopted. Politicians, public office holders, civil servants and all have to be treated under one law,” he said, adding that “everyone is entitled to have same fundamental rights”.

Mr Iqbal said when military had a system of “court martial” and there was a Supreme Judicial Council for the judges’ accountability, then there must be a “supreme parliamentary commission” for the accountability of parliamentarians and politicians.

Mr Iqbal said the government was in touch with the opposition in the past over the issue of changes to NAB laws and the opposition had submitted a comprehensive set of proposals to it, but the government had not responded.

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said in a statement that the decision in principle taken by the federal cabinet to review NAB laws and procedures which were offensive to businessmen and the civil bureaucracy was “discriminatory, mala fide and tinted with victimisation of the political class”.

Mr Rabbani said that various accountability mechanisms and laws already provided for a trial by peers of judiciary and military and civil bureaucracies. The only class subjected to a special law and specials courts, he said, was the political class.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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PBC moves SC over SJC case against judge

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the apex statutory authority of lawyers, on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the filing of the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa by President Dr Arif Alvi.

The present petition is the fourth petition challenging the filing of the reference against Justice Isa. The first was filed by the respondent judge himself, the second by the Supreme Court Bar Association and the third by eminent lawyer Abid Hassan Minto and human rights activist I.A. Rehman.

The PBC petition alleges that the recent conduct of the SJC has given rise to a perception among the legal fraternity that the council may not be immune to outside influences. Therefore it is for the Supreme Court itself to consider, determine and address lingering doubts, through an open full court hearing, and ensure that neither the judicial institutions nor individual judges are subjected to insidious attacks and pressures from any quarter.

The petition apprehends that the ouster of Justice Isa who authored the Feb 6, 2019 judgement against the Nov 2017 Faizabad sit-in by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) through the reference would preclude him from hearing a set of review petitions against the verdict.

The PBC in its petition argues that it is not appropriate for the chief justice to be part of the SJC in view of the deliberations made between him and Justice Isa. In its Aug 19 order of dismissing another reference against Justice Isa, the SJC had mentioned a meeting between the chief justice and the judge.

The petition alleges that the animus and ill will borne within the executive towards Justice Isa has been corroborated by the rejoinder filed by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, who appeared before the SJC as prosecutor, in which Justice Isa’s conduct was alleged to be “stealthy,” “false,” “misleading” and “portraying a face of integrity, which is far removed from reality.”

The rejoinder also accused the judge of a “lack of patience,” of craving “self-praise and cheap publicity” and trying to “sensationalise” the matter and above all, suffering from “two mental issues namely “self-persecution phobia” and considering himself “a legend”.

It is a known fact that proceedings before the SJC, the petition argues, are not adversarial and the AG has to assist the council to ascertain, without bias or desire, whether or not the judge has committed misconduct.

But it is astonishing that in the rejoinder, instead of determining whether Justice Isa has complied with Section 116 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, the government and the AG felt it necessary to besmirch not only his character but also his mental health, the petition alleges.

Such objectionable language otherwise not expected of the office of the AG can only reasonably be said to reflect a much deeper unstated grievance, the petition alleges, adding that this must be said to be the basis of malice and ill will caused by the independent exercise of power by Justice Isa through the rendering of the Faizabad judgement.

Thus when the AG may chose to become an independent complaint, he would be unfit to conduct the pending reference as prosecutor because the office of the AG is a constitutional office that is required to be non-political and non-partisan, it says.

Indeed the sensitivity of the government and its different agencies to any criticism of its handling of the TLP’s Faizabad sit-in is well known, the petition alleges.

It asks the SC to declare that the reference has been filed for collateral purposes and is mala fide in law and discriminatory. It also requests the court to restrain the proceedings of the SJC with a directive to amend the SJC Procedure of Enquiry for ensuring greater transparency in its working. The petition contends that the Code of Conduct for the judges cannot be interpreted in a manner to curtail the rights of the judges under Article 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.

It also asks the apex court to declare that the SJC is not competent to declare that an asset which is in the name of an individual is benami without making that individual a party to the proceedings.

At the same time, the jurisdiction of the SJC does not extend to individuals who are not judges, including the adult children of Justice Isa and his non-dependent wife, the petitiwon contends.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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Brazil’s president blames NGOs for Amazon fire

SAO PAULO: Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday accused non-governmental organisations of setting wildfires in the Amazon rainforest to damage his government’s image after he cut their funding.

Bolsonaro, who has shocked environmentalists with plans to open the Amazon to business interests, said NGOs could be behind the record number of wildfires this year, although he presented no evidence to backup his claim.

Bolsonaro said “everything indicates” that NGOs are going to the Amazon to “set fire” to the forest. When asked if he had evidence to back up his claims, he said he had “no written plan,” adding “that’s not how it’s done.”

Bolsonaro said the slashing of NGO funding by his government could be a motive for them burning down the forest as they seek to bring his government into disrepute.

“Crime exists,” he said during a Facebook Live broadcast. “These people are missing the money.” Bolsonaro’s latest comments enraged environmentalists, who are increasingly concerned by his administration’s attitudes towards the world’s largest rainforest, a vital bulwark against climate change. Brazil is home to more than half of the Amazon.

“This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.” Bolsonaro, a longtime sceptic of environmental concerns, wants to open the Amazon to more agriculture and mining, and has told other countries worried about rising deforestation since he took office to mind their own business.

Congressman Nilto Tatto, leader of the lower house environment caucus, said Bolsonaro’s “stunning” attack on the NGOs was a smoke screen to hide his dismantling of Brazil’s environmental protections built up over 30 years.

Bolsonaro on Wednesday said the administration is working to control fires currently raging in the Amazon rainforest, which have reached a record number this year. Brazil’s space research center, INPE, has detected 72,843 fires so far in 2019.

When asked about the spread of uncontrolled fires, Bolsonaro has brushed off criticism, saying it is the time of the year of the “queimada” or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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Bill for increase in Balochistan’s NA, PA seats due in Senate soon

ISLAMABAD: A bill proposing to increase the number of national and provincial assembly seats for Balochistan will be submitted in the Senate soon.

This was said by Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani while talking to chairmen of different committees and officials of the Balochistan Assembly who called on him at the Parliament House here on Wednesday.

Members of the delegation which called on him are attending a capacity-building event tiled “Essentials of Effective Committee Perfor­mance for chairs/members of the provincial assembly of Balochistan” at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS). The event was organised with the assistance of the UNDP.

Mr Sanjrani said the bill to be introduced in the upcoming session of the Senate proposed increase in the number of Balochistan Assembly seats from 65 to 80 and Balochistan’s share in the National Assembly seats from 20 to 30. He said that consultation with all political parties over the issue was underway.

It is, however, yet to be seen how political parties and provinces react to the proposal as the number of seats of the provinces in the National Assembly is determined in accordance with figures of the census population.

Mr Sanjrani said that there was a need for strong coordination among the provincial assemblies, the Natio­nal Assembly and the Senate to promote democratic traditions in the country.

He said the Senate would continue to play its role for this coordination among the federating units.

He said that the committee system in the Senate was very active and “we are trying to share our experience with provincial assemblies for effective law-making at provincial level”.

He said the PIPS would also organise courses for the bureaucracy and secretaries of the provincial assembly’s committees in addition to members of provincial assemblies.

He said the institute would also organise special training programme for a joint group of members of all provincial assemblies in Gwadar with the help of UNDP.

He said an amendment was also under consideration for making a parliamentary course mandatory for all officers of federal and provincial governments and public sector organisations to create awareness among them about working of the parliament and implementation of relevant laws.

Earlier, Additional Secre­tary of Senate Hafeezullah Shaikh briefed the delegation about the working of the committee system in the upper house of parliament. The delegation, headed by Syed Ahsan Shah, included MPAs Ahmad Nawaz Baloch, Qadir Ali Nayel, Akbar Mengal, Secretary of the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan Safdar Hussain, Special Secretary Tahir Shah Kakar, Executive Director of PIPS Muham­mad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, UNDP representatives and officials of the Balochistan Assembly.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser called on the Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani at the Parliament House on Wednesday.

Both leaders discussed the prevailing situation in India-held Kashmir and the developments emerging due to change in the status of the valley by the Indian government’s decision.

It was decided in the meeting that joint parliamentary delegations would be sent to different countries of the world to highlight the Kashmir issue and to raise awareness among leaders of these countries about atrocities being committed by Indian forces in the IHK.

The joint delegations would comprise of members of both houses and representatives of Kashmiris and these would hold meetings with international parliamentarians, parliamentary bodies and human right organisations across the world.

The Foreign Office and embassies of Pakistan abroad would schedule meetings with these groups and plan other activities to be participated in by joint parliamentary delegations for highlighting the Kashmir issue.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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NAB starts referring petty cases to other authorities

ISLAMABAD: The Executive Board of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has started referring petty cases to the provinces or other authorities after it was asked recently by the federal government to deal only with mega corruption cases.

A meeting of the board presided over by NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Wednesday sent a case against Mohammad Usman, Chairman of Qila Abdullah District Council, to the Anti-Corruption Department, Balochistan.

The meeting referred the cases of buying land in Sarai Kharboza against officers of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and management and others of the Multi Professional Cooperative Housing Society to the CDA for further legal action.

It authorised referring the cases against officers/officials of Swat University and others; officers/officials of Revenue Department, Charsadda and others; Directorate of Civil Defence, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; officers/officials of District Education Office, Kohat and others to the chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as per law.

Government recently asked anti-graft watchdog to deal only with mega corruption cases

The board sent a case of Jan Mohammad Memon, account holder of an Allied Bank Limited branch in Hyderabad, to the Auditor General, Sindh for further legal action.

The meeting referred a case to the Local Bodies Department, Punjab, against the management of Faisalabad Parking Company Limited, officers/officials and management of Lahore Division Cattle Market Management Committee and others.

The meeting approved inquiries against Pace Pakistan Private Limited and others; Commoners Sky Garden Private Limited and officials/officers of Revenue Department; retired Brig Mohammad Farooq Maan, former chairman PCBL; Hasnain Cotex; Rawat Developers and others; officers/officials of PIA; officers/officials of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zone Development and Management Company, Peshawar and others; Management of Balochistan Development Authority; Health Department Quetta and others; Children Hospital Multan; officers and officials of District Accounts Office, Multan and others; Health Department Quetta and others; Children Hospital Multan, District Accounts Office Multan’s officers/officials and others; Ahmed Khan Baloch, former member of the Punjab Assembly and others; Arif Ibrahim, former Secretary Finance, Gilgit-Baltistan and others.

The board authorised investigations against officers of the land utilisation department, government of Sindh, and others and officers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Company Limited.

The meeting approved closing down the cases against Chaudhry Mohammad Qasim, Chief Executive/ Director, Chaudhry Group of Industries (Chaudhry Cable Private Limited and Chaudhry Wire Rope Industries Private Limited Lahore) and others; owners/directors of Hasnain Cosmetics Private Limited; officers of C and D Department, Punjab; Management of Punjab Culture and Outreach Company; management, officers of Capital Market Management Company, Dera Ghazi Khan; management, officers of Punjab Population Innovation Fund Company and others; management, officers of Punjab Working Women Endowment; and Malik Qasim, member the Punjab Assembly, due to lack of incriminating evidence.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019

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