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FO rejects 'mischievous' Indian media reports linking Pakistan to Afghanistan temple attack


Pakistan on Tuesday rejected reports circulating in the Indian media that linked Pakistan's security agencies to an attack on a gurdwara in Afghanistan last month.

At least 25 people were killed in the attack on a Sikh temple in Afghanistan’s capital on March 25 where worshippers were offering morning prayers. The attack had been claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

According to a report by Indian publication India Today, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Saturday arrested Abdullah Orakzai alias Aslam Farooqi, the mastermind behind the attack, who they claimed had ties to Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The India Today report also added that Orakzai alias Farooqi enjoyed "close relations" to the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Responding to these allegations, the Foreign Office in a statement said it rejected the "officially-inspired reports" and termed the move "mischievous and condemnable".

Terming these news reports part of a "well known smear campaign against Pakistan", the FO spokeswoman said these were "patently designed to malign Pakistan".

"Seeking to implicate Pakistan in this terrorist attack is part of the desperate attempts India is making to divert attention from its own unacceptable actions and state-terrorism in India-occupied Jammu & Kashmir."

The FO said Pakistan remained "confident that such Indian ploys will not succeed in misleading the world community".


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547182/fo-rejects-mischievous-indian-media-reports-linking-pakistan-to-afghanistan-temple-attack

WhatsApp limits message forwarding to slow spread of coronavirus misinformation


Facebook Inc's WhatsApp tightened message forwarding limits on Tuesday, restricting users to sharing forwarded content one chat at a time after a jump in messages touting bogus medical advice since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic, which has killed more than 70,000 people worldwide, has been accompanied by what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called an “infodemic” of misinformation, prompting governments and other authorities to urge social media companies to do more to combat the problem.

WhatsApp, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, said in a blog post it made the change after observing a “significant increase” in the number of forwards since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

“We believe it's important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” the statement said.

A WhatsApp spokesman said the new limit was in place indefinitely.

The service has been imposing gradual curbs on message forwarding since 2018, after viral rumours on its platform triggered a wave of mass beatings and deaths in India.

Since last year, users have been able to forward a message to only five individuals or groups at once, down from an earlier limit of 20. The app also labelled any messages that had been forwarded more than five times.

Facebook and Twitter have responded to the deluge of inaccurate medical information posted in recent months by barring users from posting misleading information about the coronavirus, including denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments.

But direct content moderation is not possible on WhatsApp, where chats are protected by end-to-end encryption blocking even the app itself from viewing content shared by users.

That allows groups of hundreds of people to exchange texts, photos and videos, with no way to monitor the messages' origin or full reach.

WhatsApp said in its blog post that the previous limits set on forwards led to a 25 per cent decrease in such messages.

The app also encourages people to flag suspicious content to fact checking organisations and has enabled the WHO and national health authorities to share reliable information about the new coronavirus on the service using automated accounts.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547196/whatsapp-limits-message-forwarding-to-slow-spread-of-coronavirus-misinformation

SC recalls bails granted by high courts to under-trial prisoners after virus outbreak


The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an interim order, recalling the bails granted to under-trial prisoners by the high courts of Sindh and Islamabad and ordered authorities to arrest all detainees who had been released due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Supreme Court's ruling, however, excluded:

  • prisoners suffering from a physical or mental illness

  • under-trial prisoners who are 55 or older

  • male under-trial prisoners who have not been convicted in the past

  • female and juvenile prisoners

The prisoners included in the above categories had been spared on the counsel of the attorney general of Pakistan, who presented his recommendations in the court today, all of which were accepted. The AGP had also recommended the apex court to not extend bails to prisoners who had been accused in "cases involving abuse/violent acts against children and women".

The Supreme Court passed the order during the hearing of a petition challenging the Islamabad High Court verdict, which was issued last month. The petition, which has been deemed maintainable under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, argued that the March 20 IHC order militated against the concept of trichotomy of powers since it was within the exclusive domain of the executive to frame any policy to deal with under-trial prisoners in a manner it deemed appropriate keeping in view the coronavirus emergency.

The petition had also questioned whether the inherent powers vested in the high court under Section 561-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were unfettered or whether they can only be exercised in situations where no express statutory provisions were available.

Glaring omissions and mistakes have crept into the March 20 IHC order violating the law, the Constitution and public policy, the appeal had contended.

The top court, in its verdict issued today, also observed that high courts have not been bestowed with the power of taking a suo motu notice. The hearing of the case will continue, the top court's order added.

High courts grant bail

Last month, the IHC had taken up a petition based on a report of the high court’s judicial branch on Islamabad-based under-trial prisoners and had ordered the release of detainees in Rawalpindi’s overcrowded Adiala jail who were nominated in minor crimes. The high court had also told capital police not to make arrests in petty matters. The order was passed in consideration of the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country.

The court had observed that the prisoners were vulnerable and exposed to suffer irreparably in case of an outbreak. Prisons, which were overcrowded, had high turnover and intolerable living conditions, could potentially become epicenters for outbreak of the deadly virus, it said.

The Sindh High Court had also issued a similar order last month following which district courts had released more than 800 prisoners nominated in cases of petty crimes.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547156/sc-recalls-bails-granted-by-high-courts-to-under-trial-prisoners-after-virus-outbreak

China reports no new coronavirus deaths as cases decline


Mainland China reported no coronavirus deaths for the first time since the pandemic began, and a drop in new cases, a day before the central city of Wuhan — where the virus emerged late in December — is set to lift its lockdown.

China had 32 new infections by Monday, down from 39 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

For the first time since the commission began publishing nationwide data in late January, Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan saw no new deaths, joining the rest of mainland China, which has recorded none since March 31.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million that reported only two new infections in the past fortnight is due to allow residents to leave the city on Wednesday, for the first time since it was locked down on Jan 23 to curb the spread of the virus.

With mainland China well past February’s peak of infections, authorities have turned their attention to imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who show no symptoms but can still pass on the virus.

Total infections in mainland China stood at 81,740 on Monday with 3,331 deaths, the commission said. It reported 30 new asymptomatic cases, nine involving incoming travellers. Of the new asymptomatic cases, 18 were in Hubei.

By the end of Monday, 1,033 asymptomatic patients were under medical observation.

Tighter land borders

Overseas arrivals made up all 32 of the new cases with symptoms, down from 38 a day earlier. Total imported infections stand at 983, the commission said.

China faces the “dual risks” of imported infections and domestic cluster outbreaks, a commission spokesman told a briefing on Tuesday.

The northeast province of Heilongjiang reported 20 new cases, all in Chinese citizens returning from neighbouring Russia. It had reported 20 new infections on Sunday, all also cases imported from Russia.

On Tuesday, the Chinese consulate in the Russian city of Vladivostok near the border with China said it strongly reminded Chinese nationals not to return home through the border port of Suifenhe, which is to be closed to all arrivals from Tuesday.

China has shut its borders to foreigners as the virus spread globally, though most imported cases have involved Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

The number of inbound travellers through airports is fewer than 3,000 a day, down from about 25,000 in late March, before China slashed the number of international flights.

It also started testing all international arrivals for the virus this month.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547175/china-reports-no-new-coronavirus-deaths-as-cases-decline

UK govt declines to comment on who has the nuclear button while Johnson is ill


The British government declined on Tuesday to say who had responsibility for the United Kingdom’s nuclear codes while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is treated in intensive care for Covid-19 complications.

When asked by the BBC if Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had been handed the nuclear codes while Johnson receives treatment, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said: “There are well developed protocols which are in place.”

“I just really cannot talk about national security issues,” Gove said.

The United Kingdom is one of the world’s five official nuclear weapon states and has four nuclear submarines armed with Trident II D5 ballistic missiles loaded with nuclear warheads. The United Kingdom has a stockpile of about 215 nuclear warheads, though about 120 are operationally available.

Only the British prime minister can authorise a nuclear strike. Such an order would be transmitted to one of Britain’s nuclear submarines with a special set of codes.

Johnson’s personal battle with the virus has shaken the British government just as the United Kingdom enters what scientists say is likely to be one of the most deadly weeks of the pandemic, which has killed 5,373 people in Britain and 70,000 worldwide.

“He’s not on a ventilator,” Gove told LBC radio on Tuesday. “The prime minister has received some oxygen support and he is kept under, of course, close supervision.”

“The prime minister is in intensive care, being looked after by his medical team, receiving the very, very best care from the team at St Thomas’,” Gove said.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547187/uk-govt-declines-to-comment-on-who-has-the-nuclear-button-while-johnson-is-ill

Emergency supplies of medical equipment to fight Covid-19 being dispatched to Quetta: ISPR


Emergency supplies of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPEs), are being dispatched to Quetta on orders of the chief of army staff "to help medical staff fight Covid-19 effectively in Balochistan", said the army's media wing on Tuesday.

“Doctors and paramedics are the frontline soldiers in this war. Most advanced nations/govts are finding it extremely difficult to fight this pandemic," COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was quoted as saying by Inter-services Public Relations via Twitter.

"Pakistan government is striving hard to acquire and supply the required resources. In this hour of distress, we must remain patient and steadfast,” added Bajwa.

The directive comes a day after young doctors and paramedics gathered on the premises of Civil Hospital Quetta and protested against the health authorities for not supplying safety gears and other preventive items to the doctors performing duty in hospitals.

Police said 30 doctors had been arrested for taking out a protest really in violation of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure imposed by the Balochistan government in the provincial capital in connection with the lockdown.

According to YDA, however, more than 100 doctors and health workers were arrested.

Speaking to Dawn today, Dr Rahim, a spokesman for the YDA, said that that the arrested doctors will not leave the police stations until their demands were met and they were provided with protective gear.

According to president of YDA's Balochistan chapter Dr Yasir Achakzai, 15 doctors in the province had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus so far but the government still had not supplied protective equipment.

"On one hand, the coronavirus is killing us and on the other, police are beating us up," Achakzai said.

A day earlier, Achakzai said they were baton-charged by security forces, adding that "dozens" were arrested near the Red Zone. Police had denied beating up the doctors.

As matters escalated, a few members of the Balochistan Assembly reached the venue and tried to negotiate with the protesting doctors and paramedic staff.

Later in the day, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani said that he had met the YDA doctors and had assured them of his government's full cooperation in their battle against Covid-19 and in meeting their demands.

'Doctors were arrested for their own protection'

Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani announced in a press conference that the demands of the protesting doctors had been met.

Commenting on Monday's events, he said that doctors had been arrested "for their own protection".

He said that the doctors "were moving towards the CM Secretariat in crowd".

"Our district administration, our police urged the doctors to return for the sake of their own health and that the government will fulfil their demands. They (doctors) were told that you are not observing social distancing [which is vital] to curb the spread of the coronavirus," Shahwani said.

"They did not listen and so, for the sake of their protection, they were arrested for only one hour."

The government spokesperson added that even though all the doctors had been released, they have refused to leave the police stations.

He regretted that the doctors had violated Section 144 of the CrPC without thinking the impression it would leave on the public.

"[The public] would think that if doctors are moving as a crowd without being exposed to danger, why would it threaten us? They will leave their homes too [...] The point of imposing a lockdown will be lost and we will not be able to control the outbreak of the coronavirus in the province."

Shahwani added: "We appeal to the doctors to [follow] the code of conduct followed globally, due to which they are called healers. Healers do not abandon their patients in hospitals and come out on roads to protest for their rights, especially when the chief minister had held talks with them."

Protest

The young doctors and paramedics gathered on the premises of Civil Hospital Quetta and started protest against the health authorities for not supplying safety gears and other preventive items to the doctors performing duty in hospitals. They were carrying placards and banners inscribed with demands, including removal of the health secretary and special health secretary.

They chanted slogans against the provincial authorities, came out of the hospital premises and stated moving towards the Officers Club where the provincial cabinet was in meeting. Police blocked the road leading to the club.

The protesting doctors and health workers tried to break the cordon which led to a clash between them and police personnel. Some protesters were injured when police used batons against them. Police also arrested dozens of protesting doctors.

A spokesman for the Balochistan government termed the doctors’ protest unjustified and claimed that the government had provided the required safety gears to all doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health workers performing duty in quarantine centres and isolation wards. “We do not understand the protest by the doctors who were not performing duties in quarantine centres and isolation wards of Sheikh Zayed and Fatima Jinnah Chest hospitals,” Liaquat Shahwani had said.

However, he said, the government had assured the protesting doctors that they would also be provided safety gears, adding that doctors had the right to criticise the government, but should not stop performing duties. He said China was also facing shortage of safety gears, adding that the National Disaster Management Authority had supplied 50,000 N-95 masks which the health department was distributing among the doctors.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547141/emergency-supplies-of-medical-equipment-to-fight-covid-19-being-dispatched-to-quetta-ispr

Australian cricketers 'sucked up' to Kohli to save IPL deals: Michael Clarke


Australian cricketers "sucked up" to India and Virat Kohli by holding back on verbal sledging to protect lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) deals, according to former Australia captain Michael Clarke.

Clarke said players were "too scared" to play a normal game against India because of the influence of the world's wealthiest cricket tournament.

"Everybody knows how powerful India are in regards to the financial part of the game, internationally or domestically with the IPL," Clarke said on Sky Racing television.

"I feel that Australian cricket, and probably every other team over a little period, went the opposite and actually sucked up to India.

"They were too scared to sledge Kohli or the other Indian players," he said, referring to the verbal sparring that often takes place on the pitch.

Australian players have attracted big money since the IPL started in 2008. Paceman Pat Cummins is the most expensive overseas star this year with Kolkata Knight Riders paying $2.17 million.

The contest has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic and the league must announce soon whether it will be held at all.

The league was due to feature top internationals including England's Ben Stokes and David Warner of Australia.

Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke said players were afraid to "sledge" Indian skipper Virat Kohli because they didn't want to risk lucrative IPL contracts. — AFP
Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke said players were afraid to "sledge" Indian skipper Virat Kohli because they didn't want to risk lucrative IPL contracts. — AFP

Clarke, who played for the now-defunct Pune Warriors in 2012, said Australian players coveted the million-dollar deals on offer.

"The players were like: 'I'm not going to sledge Kohli, I want him to pick me for Bangalore so I can make my $1 million for my six weeks'."

"I feel like that's where Australia went through that little phase where our cricket become a little bit softer or not as hard as we're accustomed to seeing."

The league is a huge revenue earner for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and is estimated to generate more than $11 billion for the Indian economy.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547170/australian-cricketers-sucked-up-to-kohli-to-save-ipl-deals-michael-clarke

Taliban break off talks with Afghan govt on prisoner exchange


The Taliban on Tuesday broke off talks with the Afghan government on a prisoner exchange, a main step in peace talks being brokered by the United States after it agreed on a troop withdrawal pact with the militants.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the group’s political office in Qatar, said on Twitter a technical team would not participate in “fruitless meetings” and the release of their prisoners was being “delayed under one pretext or another”.

The late February pact between the United States and the Taliban, under which US-led international forces will withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, is the best chance yet of ending the 18-year war.

But peace hinges on talks between the US-backed Afghan government and the militants. A prisoner exchange is meant to build confidence on both sides for those talks.

A spokesman for the government said it would maintain its work on the prisoner release plan.

“We ask the Taliban to not sabotage the process by making excuses now,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Kabul.

The Taliban suspension of the talks could lead to an escalation of violence, which in turn could threaten the plan to withdraw US troops, a major objective of President Donald Trump.

A three-member Taliban team arrived in Kabul last month from Qatar to begin the prisoner exchange process. Last week, Afghan officials said they would release 100 Taliban prisoners who were sick or over the age of 50.

In exchange, the Taliban were expected to free 20 members of the Afghan security forces. Ultimately both sides would aim to release the 6,000 prisoners they are holding.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the arrival in Kabul of the Taliban team as good news.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Pompeo last month travelled to Kabul and the Qatari capital of Doha in a bid to nudge the prisoner process forward.

Afghan government officials have said the Taliban were demanding the release of senior commanders involved in some of the most violent attacks in recent years.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547125/taliban-break-off-talks-with-afghan-govt-on-prisoner-exchange

FATF to review steps taken by Pakistan in June


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s performance to meet international commitments and standards in the fight against money laundering and terror financing will be reviewed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at its meeting slated to be held in Beijing on June 21-26.

In February, the Paris-based global watchdog against financial crimes gave Pakistan a four-month grace period to complete its 27-point action plan against money laundering and terror financing committed with the international community when it noted that Pakistan had delivered on 14 points and missed 13 other targets.

A senior government official told Dawn that Pakistan’s performance would be reviewed at the joint working group meetings of the FATF and Eurasian Group (EAG) scheduled for June 21-26 in Beijing and the assessment would lead to final announcement in October this year if Pakistan should move out of the grey list. He said certain action points were yet to be complied with the commitments mainly because of ongoing coronavirus lockdowns.

Officials said that Pakistan had put in place a broad-based strategy for taking necessary actions to complete outstanding commitments with the FATF in February and was actively making progress. The FATF announced on February 21 that all deadlines given to Pakistan to complete 27-point action plan had expired and yet only 14 items had largely been completed, leaving 13 unaccomplished targets. It strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020 or else it would be moved to the list of monitored jurisdiction, commonly known as blacklist.

Islamabad given four months in February to complete its 27-point action plan

“Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress especially in prosecuting and penalising TF (terrorist financing) not be made by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action, which could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdiction to advise their Financial Institutions (FIs) to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan”, the FATF said in a formal announcement in February.

The FATF had noted “recent and notable improvements” but “again expresses concerns given Pakistan’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the TF risks emanating from the jurisdiction”.

Pakistan has to show compliance with 13 remaining action points in eight key categories. The country has to demonstrate that remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, relating to terrorist financing (TF) risk management and TFS (terror financing sanctions) obligations.

Pakistan has also to demonstrate that competent authorities were cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services and prove the implementation of cross-border currency and ‘bearer negotiable instruments’ controls at all ports of entry, including applying effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

Pakistan also has demonstrate that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities besides showing TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

Pakistan’s outstanding action areas also include effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all 1,267 and 1,373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, including preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services.

Pakistan will also have to demonstrate enforcement against TFS violations, including administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases and prove that facilities and services owned or controlled by designated person are deprived of their resources and the usage of the resources.

The FATF plenary had formally placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018 due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its AML/CFT regime after a push from India supported by the US, UK and some European countries. Pakistan then committed at the highest level to a 27-point action plan but failed to meet deadlines.

Pakistan has already finalised major amendments to at least a dozen of its laws to meet FATF requirements by June this year.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547060/fatf-to-review-steps-taken-by-pakistan-in-june

Hundreds of lockdown-hit animals die at Pakistan pet markets


Abandoned when Pakistan's largest cities went into lockdown, hundreds of caged cats, dogs and rabbits have been found dead inside pet markets hurriedly shuttered as the coronavirus spread.

Survivors from the specialist corner of Karachi's sprawling Empress Market were only rescued after activists appealed to the authorities for access.

Two weeks into the shutdown, Ayesha Chundrigar could hear the cries of the pets from outside the shops, which together housed up to 1,000 animals.

"When we got inside, the majority of them were dead, about 70 per cent. Their bodies were lying on the ground," Chundrigar, who runs ACF Animal Rescue, told AFP.

"It was so horrific, I can't tell you."

Starving and locked in cages with no light or ventilation, the survivors sat amongst the dead, trembling.

As the virus pandemic grew, Pakistan's major cities were plunged into lockdown, forcing many shops to close. Only stalls selling essential goods such as food and medicine were allowed to continue operating.

It left pet shop owners blocked from their businesses, some resorting to sneaking in at night to feed the animals.

After the desperate rescue, Chundrigar has now convinced the Karachi authorities to allow pet shop owners and her team daily access to the animals.

Dumped in a sewer

In the eastern city of Lahore, animals met with a similar fate.

The bodies of about 20 dogs were found dumped in a sewer near Tollinton Market, a hub for pet businesses which had closed, leaving animals to starve.

Kiran Maheen was able to rescue more than two dozen dogs, rabbits and cats after convincing officials at the market to let her in, but a large number had already died.

"When the police opened up the shutters, a lot of animals were already lying dead inside," Maheen told AFP, adding that many had suffocated from a lack of air.

Pakistani authorities have confirmed about more than 4,000 cases of Covid-19 and 55 deaths, though the tally is thought to be many times larger because of testing limitations in this impoverished country of 215 million.

Around 25pc of the population already live under the poverty line, but millions more who earn a daily wage have joined them since the lockdown began, experts say.


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547191/hundreds-of-lockdown-hit-animals-die-at-pakistan-pet-markets

Army hands back Uzair Baloch to jail officials after three years


KARACHI: Prison authorities on Monday produced before an antiterrorism court Uzair Jan Baloch, the chief of outlawed Peoples Amn Committee, after the Army’s Corps V handed him to them after a period of three years.

The alleged Lyari gangster is nominated in nearly 62 criminal cases pending before different ATCs, which have repeatedly been issuing his production orders because of delays in trials due to his non-production by the jail authorities.

In April 2017, the army had announced that it had taken Uzair into its custody on charges of “espionage” and “leak of sensitive security information to foreign intelligence agencies”.

Prison authorities had told an ATC in June 2018 that Uzair was handed over to the army on April 11, 2017 in the presence of the civil judge and judicial magistrate-XI (South) for investigation in an explosives and arms case.

On Monday, the prison officials produced Uzair before the judge of the ATC-XVII conducting trial in the Arshad Pappu murder case against him.

The Lyari gangster was handed over to military officials in April 2017 for trial on espionage charge

The judge fixed the matter for framing of charges against Uzair for April 22 and directed the investigating officer to produce him on the next date.

Special Public Prosecutor Sajid Mehboob Shaikh told Dawn that Uzair could not be indicted in the present case before since his custody was handed over to army authorities.

Seven co-accused — Zakir Baloch, Zubair Baloch, Javed Baloch, Mohammad Yousaf, Chand Khan Niazi, Abdul Rehman, Shahjahan Baloch and Akram Baloch — had already been indicted in the present case, the prosecutor added.

According to the prosecution, Arshad Pappu with his brother, confidant and 10-year-old son had gone to attend the party of a friend in Defence Housing Authority on the night of March 16, 2013. The boy came home around midnight and informed his mother that around 20 men in two vehicles came to the flat in the DHA and took away his father and the two others.

A case was registered under relevant sections of the law at the Kalakot police station on a directive of the Supreme Court.

Arshad Pappu was booked in around 60 cases, but he was never convicted in any case since most of the key witnesses either did not turn up to testify against him or turned hostile before the courts. He was released in the middle of February 2012 from a prison in Balochistan following his acquittal in what appeared to be the last case against him pertaining to the murder of Faiz Mohammad aka Mama Faizu, a transporter and father of Uzair Baloch.

Building owner’s bail plea dismissed

A sessions court on Monday dismissed the bail application of the owner of a multistorey building that collapsed in Gulbahar recently and caused the death of 27 persons.

The five-storey residential building collapsed resulting in the death of 27 people and injuries to some 18 others on March 5.

Police arrested the fleeing owner of the building, Mohammad Javed, for allegedly illegally constructing the building in connivance with three officers of the Sindh Building Control Authority.

On Monday, the suspect moved an application before Additional District and Sessions’ Judge (Central) Liaquat Ali Khoso seeking grant of post-arrest bail.

In the application, the defence counsel argued that Javed himself was residing in the same building and also got injured in the unfortunate incident with another family member.

The counsel added that his client was a blind person and was behind bars since his arrest in mid-March.

He added that he was entitled to legal concessions being a disabled person, thus he may be granted post-arrest bail and ordered to be released.

However, the investigating officer, Inspector Ibadat Ali Shah, informed the court that the suspect was partially blind and was not eligible for bail.

Advocate Nazirullah Mehsood for the affected families opposed the bail plea contending that Javed himself ‘confessed’ to have bribed the SBCA officials against illegal construction of each upper floor of the ill-fated building despite the fact that only ground-plus-one construction was legally permitted in the locality.

He further contended that the collapse of the illegal structures resulted in death of 27 persons besides causing injuries to several others, thus his direct role in the incident had been established.

The counsel said that the applicant being the prime suspect could not be granted bail at the present stage of the case since the statements of not a single prosecution witness had been recorded at the pre-trial stage. Therefore, he pleaded to the court to dismiss the bail plea.

The state prosecutor also opposed the bail.

After hearing arguments from the parties, the judge dismissed the bail application.

Meanwhile, the court confirmed pre-arrest bail of SBCA official Mohammad Imran Shaikh, who was allegedly absconding in the same building collapse case.

Four SBCA officials — Mohammad Imran Shaikh, Sarfaraz Jamali, Maqsood Qureshi and Irfan Ali — are currently on bail after the police booked them in the present case.

According to the prosecution, the building was owned by Javed, who himself was engaged in the business of construction and he had constructed the building in question on plot Number 1/95 in Gulbahar-2 area.

The police nominated the owner as well as the SBCA officials posted in the area in the case.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1546984/army-hands-back-uzair-baloch-to-jail-officials-after-three-years

Federal govt to provide PPEs to hospitals directly, announces Asad Umar


Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar announced on Tuesday that the federal government will directly provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) to approximately 400 hospitals across Pakistan as the country's battle against Covid-19 intensifies.

He made the announcement during a press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.

He said that healthcare in Pakistan is a devolved matter and thus it is the responsibility of the provinces to provide PPEs to frontline medics in this time of crisis. But he argued that it was a time of emergency and that the government's decision to deal with the hospitals directly while circumventing provincial authority was prudent and timely to ensure that there are no more delays in the distribution of medical equipment.

"We have identified approximately 400 hospitals across the country for this purpose. But we will prioritise 153 hospitals that have 5 or more ventilators before moving on to others," revealed Umar.

The provincial breakdown of these hospitals is as follows:

  • Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK): 4
  • Balochistan: 4
  • Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT): 7
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 21
  • Punjab: 75
  • Sindh: 42

The minister also revealed that the federal government has sent 39,500 medical kits to the provinces.

The provincial breakdown of these kits is as follows:

  • Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK): 3,000
  • Balochistan: 5,600
  • Gilgit Baltistian: 1,500
  • Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT): 2000
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 7,600
  • Punjab: 10,600
  • Sindh: 9,200

He argued that testing was extremely important in country's fight against Covid-19 and thus the government was doing all it can to increase testing capacity.

"We were testing around 700 to 800 people per day weeks ago. Then we were testing around 2,000 and now can test around 3,000. So you see, our capacity is constantly increasing. Our target is to conduct 25,000 tests per day by the end of April," Umar revealed.

He once again reiterated the government's pledge to mitigate the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Through our Ehsaas programme, we want to help 12 million lower-income families who have been suffering financially during this pandemic. Starting tomorrow, cheques will start going out. 4 million families will get monetary assistance at first," revealed Umar.

The minister also dispelled the notion that Pakistanis have immunity from Covid-19 and urged his countrymen to take precautions to protect themselves and others from the virus.

"Pakistanis are very self-confident and brave and that's a good thing but that doesn't mean we are somehow immune from contracting Covid-19. Any of us can contract the virus. And, those of you who are rich and think that having the services of a good doctor will protect them, let me remind you of Boris Johnson, who despite being the prime minister of a prosperous country with excellent healthcare like Britain, is in the ICU at this very moment.

If you take care of yourself, you will automatically take care of others around you," Umar reasoned.

We can flatten our virus curve by mass testing: SAPM Mirza

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, meanwhile, agreed with Asad Umar that mass testing was an extremely effective way of defeating Covid-19.

"The curve of coronavirus cases can be flattened in Pakistan through mass testing," Mirza said.

He revealed that in Pakistan, 163 tests are being conducted per one million people. In comparison, 50 tests per one million are being carried out in India and 964 per million in Iran.

While he acknowledged that the figure of 163 tests per million is "not really" enough, Mirza said "all efforts are being put into increasing our testing capacity."

He also said that the government was constantly tracing contacts of those who had tested positive for the virus and revealed that his team was working on a strategy titled 'Track, Test and Quarantine' as part of the government's overall strategy to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.


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Capital to remain under lockdown for another eight days until April 14


ISLAMABAD: The capital administration extended the lockdown of the city for another eight days as the number of Covid-19 patients rose to 82 on Monday.

Seven more cases surfaced in the city. Besides 22 of the 200 people belonging to various cities, who arrived from Turkey three days ago, also tested positive.

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat confirmed to Dawn that the number of coronavirus cases had increased to 82.

He also said the lockdown in the capital had been extended for eight days.

The decision was taken under the guidelines issued by the government as a precautionary measure, Mr Shafqaat added.

New Covid-19 cases surface in E-11, G-10 and Tramri, 22 Pakistanis returning from Turkey also test positive, DC says

A notification issued by the deputy commissioner said Section 144 imposed on March 24 on public gathering and social distancing has been extended till April 14 with exemptions given from time to time by the district magistrate.

About the new cases, the deputy commissioner said they were reported from E-11, G-10 and Tramri. Samples of the patients’ family members were sent for tests and their results were awaited, he said, adding that the houses of the patients were sealed and declared quarantine centres for them as well as their families.

About the 22 passengers who tested positive, Mr Shafqaat said they were being kept in quarantines in different hotels of the city.

The other people were allowed to go to their respective areas with the direction to self-isolate themselves at their homes for two weeks, he added.

Meanwhile, the capital administration decided to delay the de-sealing of Bhara Kahu and Shahzad Town on the advice of the health department.

“So far screening of 80 to 90pc of the residents living in these areas has been completed and samples of suspected patients, including seven in Bhara Kahu, have been sent to laboratory for tests,” Mr Shafqaat said, adding that the health department has advised not to de-seal these areas until it cleared them.

“After a few days, the health department will be approached for advice over the matter,”the deputy commissioner said.

On the other hand, branches and outlets of exchange companies licensed by the State Bank of Pakistan were allowed to continue their operations.

Another notification issued by the deputy commissioner said: “I notify that branches/outlets of exchange companies licensed by State Bank of Pakistan are allowed to continue their operations keeping in view these are essential financial service providers.”

Further more, all services related to exchange companies were allowed to operate.

The capital administration also permitted optical shops to open their business to meet the citizens’ requirement.

The optical shops shall remain open with a maximum of one helper at the most in each shop, the notification said.

The branches and outlets of the exchange companies and optical shops would strictly abide by the precautions issued on March 24. They would also ensure measures required for maintaining social distance by customers and employees.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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19 relatives of 2 patients contract Covid-19 in Gujar Khan


GUJAR KHAN/RAWALPINDI: Nineteen more relatives of two coronavirus patients tested positive in Gujar Khan after their test reports were released on Monday, Chief Executive Officer Health Rawalpindi Dr Sohail Chaudhry said.

The new cases were close relatives of two Pakistanis who had returned from the UK and France. A woman, who had returned to Ferozaal village from France had tested positive and is still under treatment at a Rawalpindi hospital.

According to Dr Sohail Chaudhry, seven of her family members had also contracted coronavirus.

Another patient was an 86-year-old man who had returned from UK and died in a hospital in Rawalpindi. He was buried in his native village Parian Thathi union council last week.

As many as 12 family members of the deceased man tested positive. All patients had been shifted to Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Captain retired Anwarul Haq reached Gujar Khan after confirmation of new cases and visited a quarantine centre. He also visited Ferozaal village and issued necessary instructions to the relevant authorities.

Four more positive cases in Pindi

Four more patients, who are members of the Tableeghi Jamaat, tested positive for Covid-19, taking the tally to 93.

In Rawalpindi, the four members of the Tableeghi Jamaat, who had been quarantined, were shifted to the hospital after they tested positive for coronavirus, Dr Sohail Chaudhry told Dawn.

He said there were 69 confirmed cases till Sunday and now the total number has increased to 93 with the addition of 24 cases.

Mr Chaudhry said four patients were discharged from Rawalpindi Institute of Urology after they recovered. At present, there are 236 patients quarantined in Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, the chief executive officer health regretted that profiteers were not hesitating to create an artificial shortage of essential items.

He pointed out that sanitisers were being sold at higher rates and some local manufacturers were supplying substandard mixtures in the markets.

Mr Chaudhry also said medical officers were in the dire need of N-95 masks that were earlier available in the open market for Rs200 but are now being sold at an exorbitant price of Rs2,000 to Rs3,000.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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EU faces biggest crisis of its history, warns Merkel


BERLIN: European leaders battling a deadly coronavirus outbreak are facing the “biggest test” to their union, Germany’s leader said on Monday, as the United States braced for what authorities warned would be its hardest week in living memory.

As France bluntly warned that it faces the deepest recession since World War II, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel called for European nations to work together to rebuild from the deadly pandemic gripping the continent.

Japan announced an imminent state of emergency and a trillion-dollar stimulus package, while the United States prepared to cross the 10,000 deaths’ mark and its top doctor compared the likely impact of the outbreak in the week ahead to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor.

More than 70,000 people have now died worldwide, some 50,000 of them in Europe. The daily toll has begun to drop in the hard-hit Spain and France, but it is still accelerating in America.

Japan announces imminent state of emergency with $1tr stimulus package

Merkel called for strength in the face of the grinding crisis.

“In my view... the European Union stands before the biggest test since its founding,” Merkel warned, a day ahead of a key eurozone finance ministers’ conference to agree an economic rescue plan for the bloc.

“Everyone is just as affected as the other, and, therefore, it is in everyone’s interest, and it is in Germany’s interest for Europe to emerge strong from this test,” she said, following criticism from harder-hit partners.

Italy, France and Spain have implored Germany, Austria and the Netherlands for common debt facilities to cushion the economic impact of the virus.

But leaders from the richer northern nations have resisted the calls -- with Germany and the Netherlands in the lead -- fearing their taxpayers will be left to foot the bill.

In terms of Europe’s frontline health response, some countries already ravaged by Covid-19 outbreaks reported lower numbers of new infections and deaths, offering a glimmer of hope the worst may have passed.

Norway said on Monday the epidemic was under control and Austria began thinking about easing its lockdown.

But the death toll topped 5,000 in Britain after more than 400 new fatalities were reported on Monday.

In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in hospital but said he was in “good spirits” after he was admitted on Sunday for tests for “persistent” coronavirus symptoms.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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Three PIA flights cancelled due to pilots’ strike


RAWALPINDI:Three Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights to Gilgit and Skardu from Islamabad were cancelled on Monday after the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (Palpa) refused to operate any flight due to coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOP) being ignored and two pilots and a member of cabin crew testing positive for Covid-19.

In a letter to its members, Palpa said safety was compromised and coronavirus-related SOPs ignored on recently operated humanitarian flights.

Palpa General Secretary Imran Narejo told Dawn: “Our strike is continuing. No measures have been taken by the management regarding the safety of pilots and other crew members as three pilots and three cabin crew members have been affected by the virus.”

He said Palpa would not compromise on the safety of its members in any circumstances.

The association decided to halt flight operations after four crew members of a special PIA flight were placed in isolation by Sindh health authorities upon their arrival in Karachi from Toronto on Sunday.

PIA flights PK-605 and PK-607 for Gilgit and PK-451 for Skardu were cancelled, but two special flights scheduled to arrive from Birmingham and Uzbekistan carrying more than 250 stranded Pakistanis landed at at IIA on Monday.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez told Dawn that efforts were underway to keep flight operations ongoing without any halts.

He said negotiations are being held with Palpa to resolve the issue, although the PIA took all safety measures for staff and passengers.

According to the Aviation Division, after the closure of flight operation Civil Aviation Authority staff disinfected Gilgit airport with chlorinated water.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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PDMA to regulate philanthropy in Punjab


LAHORE: The Punjab government on Monday extended lockdown in the province for another seven days from April 7 to 14 (Tuesday) 5pm believing that the number of coronavirus cases is rapidly increasing that is alarming and highly dangerous for the health of the people.

In another development, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has decided to regulate philanthropic activities so that [social distancing] protocol could not be breached.

The lockdown extension order issued by the Punjab additional chief secretary (home) says it is mandatory to take all pragmatic and possible measures to contain and counter the further spread of coronavirus on a war footings.

According to the updated data of Covid-19 patients, the Punjab home department has reported 9,059 suspects, 1,422 positive patients, 13 deaths and 31 people recovered.

It merits mentioning that the Chinese doctors and specialists, who met Usman Buzdar on Sunday, had called for completing lockdown in the province for 28 days and later gradually and cautiously start lifting restrictions while taking into account the prevailing conditions.

The Punjab province is currently undergoing a 14-day lockdown till Tuesday (today) 9am as an immediate preventive and speedy remedy to ensure public safety.

The Punjab government’s order under Section 144 had called for shutting down public and private offices, stopping public transport and completely banning movement of people by public transport to save people from the coronavirus spread threat that could lead to some kind of catastrophe.

The government had also imposed a complete ban on gatherings of all kinds for social, religious or any other purpose at any place, public or private. Though the government had not announced closure of mosques in the March 23 order, it realised later that social distancing was not being observed during prayers particularly Juma prayers and ordered closure of mosques in consultation with the ulema belonging to all sects. Ban on pillion riding is still operative.

By the end of the last month, the Punjab government had also reviewed its decision and further squeezed all grocery and general stores’ timings from 9am to 5pm and allowed only milk and yogurt shops to stay open till 8pm.

The medical stores, kiryana outlets, fruit and vegetable markets and bakeries are also open to meet masses’ day-to-day needs.

While the Punjab government was compelled to go for 14-day lockdown as the people had only restricted movement, where banned, but voluntary social distancing was not observed, the Punjab government had now learnt the social distancing was not again observed at places, where ration was being distributed by the philanthropists.

A number of cases have been reported that people, in need of food, throng the places where food items were being distributed and just forget social distancing protocols. The situation was instrumental in increasing the number of suspected and positive cases of Covid-19 that may have devastating effects on human lives. The situation warranted taking all possible measures to contain further spread of coronavirus.

Identifying that widespread philanthropic activity in the province violated and compromised the public health safety and social distancing protocols, Punjab Relief Commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar has ordered that “any philanthropic activity by any individual, organisation or any other entity in the province shall be routed through the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). This authority will organise the ration distributing activities under the standards and protocols set by the Punjab government”.

The relief commissioner has also offered an option to the individuals, organisations or other entities in the province that intend to undertake philanthropic activity on their own, to submit an application to the deputy commissioner concerned, who will determine the mode, mechanism, area and extent of the philanthropic activity with appropriate checks for conformity with the Punjab government guidelines regarding Covid-19, under intimation to the PDMA.ReplyForwardDisplaying A5.jpg.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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Who is Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson's de facto deputy?


When Boris Johnson announced he had tested positive for coronavirus, Downing Street said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would deputise if the British prime minister was incapacitated.

Few expected him to do so, as Johnson and his office repeatedly maintained the prime minister's symptoms were mild.

But after Johnson was taken to hospital on Sunday night, and transferred to intensive care just 24 hours later, Raab now looks set to be in charge for the foreseeable future.

Raab was one of the most prominent figures in Britain's protracted and divisive process to leave the European Union, serving as Brexit minister under former premier Theresa May.

He quit after just three months in November 2018 in protest at May's doomed divorce deal with Brussels that he said offered too many concessions.

But when Johnson became Conservative party leader and prime minister after May's resignation in July last year, Raab was catapulted back into government.

His role as foreign secretary also carries the title first secretary of state, implying seniority over all other ministers except the prime minister and making him his de facto deputy.

The 46-year-old, who has law degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge universities, had ambitions himself for the top job, challenging Johnson for the Tory leadership after May quit.

Often combative, he holds a black belt in karate and is a keen boxer.

High ambitions

Raab's tilt for the top job marked him out as a threat to former London mayor Johnson due to his even more strident pro-Brexit views.

But he trailed in sixth in the leadership contest after a stuttering campaign that was marked by rows over his past views on militant feminism and preparedness to suspend parliament to force a no-deal Brexit.

His spell in the Brexit ministry also floundered, and was notable for his admission he "hadn't quite understood" the economic importance of the port in Dover.

As a recognised eurosceptic, Raab became the public face of Brexit but May also put a senior civil servant in charge of leading the negotiations with Brussels.

That left Raab personally and politically frustrated and unable to stop the plan May settled on.

International lawyer

Raab made much of his back-story in his leadership campaign.

His Czech-born Jewish father came to Britain in 1938 as a six-year-old refugee. He died of cancer when Raab was 12 and his mother brought him up in the Church of England.

He competed in karate for 17 years, making the UK squad.

After studies, he became an international lawyer at London legal firm Linklaters before joining the Foreign Office in 2000 as an advisor.

Raab was posted to The Hague in 2003 to head a team focused on bringing justice to war criminals including Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor.

From 2006 to 2008, he was chief of staff to the Conservatives' home affairs spokesman David Davis while in opposition.

Climbing the ranks

Raab entered parliament in 2010 in the ultra-safe Conservative seat of Esher and Walton in the stockbroker commuter belt southwest of London.

He was named "Newcomer of the Year" in The Spectator magazine's Parliamentary Awards.

The same year, May, the then interior minister, slapped Raab down for calling feminists "obnoxious bigots".

He caused major problems for the then-prime minister David Cameron in 2014, with a backbench amendment on curbing the power of judges to block deportations under European rights laws.

Nearly 100 Conservatives supported him, singling him out as an up-and-coming force.

Cameron put Raab on the most junior government rung in the justice ministry in 2015, but he dropped off when May became prime minister in 2016.

Keen to freshen up the government with some younger faces a year later, May made him the junior minister for courts and justice.

She moved him across to become the junior housing minister in January 2018, then bumped him up to the Brexit job six months later.

Raab denied claims by his former diary secretary that he insists on the same lunch every day — reportedly a chicken and bacon sandwich, a smoothie and a mixed fruit pot.

Raab is married to Erika Rey-Raab, a Brazilian marketing executive. They have two young sons, Peter and Joshua.


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Afghanistan closes Chaman border after row over repatriation


CHAMAN: People gather as they wait to cross the Friendship Gate crossing point at Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Monday.—Reuters
CHAMAN: People gather as they wait to cross the Friendship Gate crossing point at Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Monday.—Reuters

QUETTA: Afghan nationals were not allowed to enter their country on Monday after Afghanistan closed its border with Pakistan, demanding that Pakistanis stranded on Afghan soil should also be allowed to return to their country.

Pakistan has opened its border with Afghanistan on the special request of the Afghan government for four days to allow return of its nationals stranded at Chaman and Torkham borders.

Thousands of Afghan and Pakistani nationals, including patients and traders, are stranded on both sides of the border for five weeks.

Official sources said that according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs orders, Pakistan had opened border at Chaman and Torkham at around 10am and many nationals, including women and children, who had come to Pakistan with passports and other legal documents were allowed to enter their country. “The return of Afghans to their country continued for around five hours smoothly,” a senior security official posted at the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman said.

“Around 400 to 500 Afghans returned to Afghanistan by showing legal documents at the immigration desk of FIA,” officials said. However, at around 3pm, the Afghan border authorities closed the border with Pakistan at Chaman. Officials said that Kabul wanted Pakistan to also allow Pakistanis to cross into their country, who were stranded in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak in large numbers.

Pakistani and Afghan border authorities negotiated at the border but the issue could not be resolved till the closing time of the border at 5pm. Afghan border authorities said that they would not open border until the issue was resolved.

“The return of Afghans was continuing smoothly but all of sudden Afghanistan closed border,” Zakaullah Durrani, a senior official of district administration confirmed to Dawn, adding that around 2,000 Afghans had arrived at the border till its official closing time.

He said that several thousand Pakistanis were also waiting in Spin Boldak.

The Pakistani authorities at Chaman had informed the ministries of interior and foreign affairs about the demand of the Afghan government, he added.

The Afghan nationals, who crossed into Afgh­anistan, would be sent to quarantine centres for 14 days established by the Afghan government in Spin Boldak. Pakistan has also established quarantine centres in Chaman for around 900 people as it had also decided that all Pakistanis returning from Afghanistan would also spend 14 days in quarantine.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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CJP bemoans closure of OPDs for non-corona patients


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Monday bemoaned the government’s decision to shut down health facilities for people suffering from ailments other than Covid-19 by closing out-patient departments (OPDs) in all hospitals across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Patients suffering from other ailments have been left at the mercy of God,” the chief justice regretted. “What kind of medical emergency is this where even people suffering from diabetes or those having a heart condition can go neither to government-run hospitals nor to private clinics,” Justice Gulzar observed.

The number of deaths from diseases other than Covid-19 was rising at an alarming rate, the chief justice said.

He made these remarks during the hearing of a petition challenging the exercise of suo motu powers by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through its March 20 order to grant bail to under-trial prisoners (UTPs) in view of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Punjab Advocate General Shan Gul dropped a bombshell before the Supreme Court when he disclosed that 50 inmates at the Lahore Camp Jail had tested positive for Covid-19.

Punjab AG discloses that 50 inmates in a Lahore prison have tested positive for Covid-19

An inmate of the same jail had tested positive earlier. That person came in contact with 494 other prisoners, who were subjected to the coronavirus test. Fifty of the tests turned out to be positive, he said, adding that now the Lahore camp jail had been declared a dedicated quarantine centre for prisoners. But most of the OPDs in Punjab were functioning now, the advocate general said.

The federal minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, came forward to support what Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had proposed to the apex court on the release of UTPs on bail.

“Our only concern is that fundamental rights should not get affected,” the chief justice observed.

“Everybody is waiting for handouts and distributing rations, but has no idea about any stocks or inventories at a time when local manufacturing of essential equipment should have started,” the chief justice regretted

“We have received a letter from the government asking us to close the dispensary at the Supreme Court. What is the rationale behind the idea?”

The court, however, asked the federal government to take preventive measures on the border crossing points at Taftan, Chaman and Torkham.

At the same time the chief justice asked the AGP to suggest to that the government use parliament at this crucial juncture and develop consensus on the coronavirus crisis.

“The nation should be taken into confidence during a national calamity,” the chief justice observed.

But public representatives are afraid to turn to parliament at this time when many countries in the world have not only come out with new laws and rules to cope with changed circumstances, but also had enforced the same, the chief justice observed.

The AGP however highlighted the need for striking a balance, conceding that essential services like OPDs should not be closed at all. He assured that hospitals would be opened.

The chief justice also pointed to the strange environment being created where people were trying to instill fear through doomsday-like predictions. “People will die after hearing such frightening remarks.”

Instead of looking towards other countries, local manufacture of essential items like ventilators should have started in the country “since no one will come to help us if the situation deteriorates”, Justice Gulzar said.

When the chief justice emphasized the need for local manufacturing of equipment, the AGP invited the court’s attention to the development of ventilator by NUST.

Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin told the court that the Sindh High Court’s registrar had conveyed directives for the release of 519 prisoners verbally.

The chief justice observed that the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on health, Dr Zafar Mirza, was only projecting himself.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial emphasised the need for “balancing the scales”, saying one should try to imagine the reaction of victims’ families if their tormentors were released.

The court was informed that not a single accused facing allegations of corruption by NAB had been released as a consequence of the March 20 IHC judgement.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Law, Barrister Maleeka Ali Bokhari, in her synopsis suggested that the prime minister be requested to advise the President to exercise powers under Article 45 of the Constitution to suspend the sentence of convicts in a “structured manner”.

The case will be taken up again on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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Preventive plans


FROM all indications, the worst is yet to come as the virus’s growth is exponential. Assuming there were 2,500 people infected on April 4, by doubling every six days, there will be 40,000 infected by April 30, of which 6,000 will need hospitalisation and 2,000 will need ventilators. By May 6, these numbers will double to 80,000; 4,000 will need ventilators and 12,000 will need critical care in tertiary care hospitals. Providing this care is not possible. The numbers must be reduced by preventing infections. Hospitals’ burden must be reduced by taking care of those in quarantine and those less sick away from large hospitals.

Although Pakistan lost precious weeks in confusion and lack of united direction, with appropriate actions, we can still make a difference. These actions should be comprehensive and taken simultaneously — a piecemeal approach will not do. An action plan should be prepared collaboratively, in the context of local constraints. Led by the federal government, it should have the sign-off from all political parties, provincial governments and civil society stakeholders. Its implementation should be decentralised, in districts, and managed by district authorities supported by provincial governments.

At the minimum, the national action plan for coronavirus response should have an overall strategy — based on Pakistan’s infrastructure and its challenges — and specific actions. The current practice to bring everything — screening, testing, isolation — into the cities and to tertiary-care hospitals is not wise. Only critical care should come here. All other services should be moved to the districts, where there is a robust management structure in place. Now is the time to use it. Partisan politics should be set aside.

Screening, quarantine, and isolation of the less sick can be done in district and tehsil hospitals. Provincial governments should fill staff vacancies at these hospitals, or give this authority to hospital superintendents. Extra staff should be inducted on an emergency basis — vaccinators, Lady Health Workers (LHWs) and community workers are ideal candidates. Immediate action is needed to:

Appropriate action can still make a difference.

1: Protect front-line workers, with proper gear, manageable work hours, back-up support, and continued enhanced pay. This is a binding constraint. Doctors are getting infected working without PPEs. Soon they will refuse to attend to the sick.

2: Protect hospitals in danger of collapse. Even if offering only critical care, they will be overwhelmed and their load will become unmanageable. Screening of patients, quarantine, and isolation with nursing care should be offered at the district and tehsil hospitals designated only for that purpose.

3: Arrange for extra hands. Paramedical staff such as vaccinators, Lady Health Visitors, LHWs and medical and nursing students should be recruited to care for those in quarantine and those less ill. In Punjab, out of the sanctioned posts for health personnel, almost 50 per cent, or 19, 500, are still vacant.

4: Procure equipment including test kits, PPE and ventilators. Simpler devices, a kind of alternative to ventilators, which deliver oxygen under positive pressure are being developed. PPE and masks can also be locally made. The government should give incentives to manufacturers to help.

5: Test and test. Testing should be increased to cover at least a large enough representative sample of the population. Testing should be taken out of cities, expanded, and delivered onsite in districts at multiple locations using mobile vans, or to laboratories of district/tehsil hospitals. Designated labs should monitor testing to ensure credibility while protecting staff.

6: Communicate, inform and educate. Preventive measures require behaviour change, which is difficult and needs repeated reinforcement. Clear information about the disease and preventive measures needs to be communicated in local languages in a culturally sensitive manner at the community level. Quarantine guidelines issued to prevent the virus outbreak in KP state that homes “should have functioning telephone, running water, bathroom with commode and sink. Besides, [they] should also have separate bedroom for quarantined person for sleeping and eating”. Such directions decrease the government’s credibility.

7: Set up an information system to manage the new systems and collect population data. This information system should be accessible to all stakeholders including civil society representatives.

8: To implement and manage these activities in a timely fashion, there should be a separate national-level manager for each component, who works closely with the provincial administration and reports to the federal technical manager. The effort should be coordinated at the federal level by an accountable and technically capable authority.

The writer is a physician certified by the American Board of Public Health and Preventive Medicine with extensive experience working with departments of public health in the US.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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30m approach Ehsaas programme for financial help


ISLAMABAD: The government has received more than 30 million requests for financial assistance under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme announced for people rendered jobless by the lockdown imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

People from all over the country sent their requests through SMS on 8171 introduced by the government for this special financial aid.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar in a tweet on Monday said that as many as 30.45 million text messages had been received for inclusion in the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. Other poor coronavirus pandemic affected people who want to join the programme should send their identity card number through the given SMS, the tweet said.

The government will provide an amount of Rs12,000 to the deserving poor applicants.

Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, the special assistant said that the payment process under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme will start from April 8.

She said existing Kafalat beneficiaries, who are getting regular cash transfer of Rs2,000 per month, would be given additional Rs1,000 and hence, they would get a tranche of Rs12,000 covering four months.

The deserving families would get this cash assistance after biometric verification through over 18,065 sale points or retail shops of Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and Bank Al-Falah throughout the country.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


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New rules being framed as Covid-19 has changed our lifestyle: Murad


KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday said that the threat of Covid-19 had completely changed our lifestyle and the provincial government was preparing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each and every sector, including mosques, educational institutions, shopping centres and other areas for the post-lockdown period.

“Now, new rules of leading day-to-day life are developing and in the post-lockdown period life will not be the same as it was in the first week of January 2020. Therefore, everyone will have to reshape his and her domestic, business and social life,” he said in a video message released from CM House.

Mr Shah said that his government had engaged health experts, top government functionaries and social scientists to work out new SOPs under which people would be bound to offer prayers, to do business and lead social and domestic life.

Asks people to cooperate with the govt and follow the SOPs during post-lockdown period

“But, it is very much clear that life has changed and now it will be only and only a health-oriented lifestyle,” he added.

932 coronavirus cases in Sindh

Talking about Covid-19 cases, he said the tally had reached 932 in Sindh and 17 patients could not survive.

Mr Shah said that the number of infected people on Sunday was 881 and 51 new cases were detected on Monday, thus the number of cases had reached 932 till Monday morning.

He added that till Monday morning 9,589 tests had been conducted

Sharing good news with the people of the province, the chief minister said that the number of patients recovered till Monday morning was 253 which he said constituted 27.5 per cent of the infected people.

He added that at present 662 patients were under treatment in public and private hospitals and 342 people were under isolation at their homes.

The chief minister urged the philanthropists to distribute ration by maintaining social distancing from the recipients. “If you [philanthropists] fail to maintain social distance from the people you are giving ration they will be infected,” he warned and termed it a crime against poor people.

He urged the people to ensure social distancing at their homes.

“I will urge you to keep social distancing from your elders and children because they are more prone to the threat of infection,” he said, adding: “Your precautions will be surety of the health of your near and dear ones.”

He said that those infected or suspected of having coronavirus would be receiving phone calls from government offices. “I would request you to cooperate with them even if you receive more calls from different departments for inquiring [about] your social contacts, etc. We all are doing this for you.”

He also thanked everyone living in the province for their cooperation and support.

New ICUs, isolation centres approved

Presiding over two different meetings of the health department and Quarantine and Isolation Accommodation Committee, the CM said that in every district headquarter isolation centres must have all the facilities, including water, drainage, electricity, solid waste disposal and washrooms.

The meeting was attended by all members of the committee, including its chairman Mohammad Waseem, senior member Board of Revenue Qazi Shahid Parvez, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi and others.

The CM on the recommendation of the committee directed the director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority to arrange or hire big halls to set up isolation centres in every district headquarter and provide them beds, fans and such other facilities.

The meeting also discussed and decided about the procurement of medical supplies.

It was also decided to establish total 193-bed isolation centres in the city hospitals — 59-bed isolation ward in Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), 65 at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and 69-bed in Lyari General Hospital (LGH) — and 104-bed ICUs in six hospitals of Karachi — the CHK, JPMC, LGH, Trauma Centre, DUHS Ojha campus and Services Hospital.

The CM also decided to establish total 166-bed isolation centres at Hyderabad, Sukkur, Gambat, Khairpur and Shaheed Benazirabad.

There would be a 23-bed isolation and 15-bed ICU at Liaquat University Hyderabad, 50-bed isolation and 10-bed ICU at Chandka Medical College Hospital Larkana, 20-bed isolation and 10-bed ICU at Ghulam Mohammad Mahar Medical College Hospital Sukkur. Three-bed isolation and 17-bed ICU at Gambat, 50-bed isolation and 9-bed ICU at Civil Hospital Khairpur and 20-bed isolation and 10-bed ICU at PMC Hospital, Shaheed Benazirabad.

Equipment procurement

The chief minister was told that the procurement committee had approved purchase of 200 thermal guns, 50 vital sign monitors, 10,000 sanitizers of 1,000ml each, 200 syringe pumps, oxygen cylinders, regulators, pumps for sanitizers, biohazard bags, PCR kits with diagnostic system, extraction kits, suction machines, etc.

He said that it was up to the procurement committee comprising experts to approve the required material.

Their payment would be made by the Emergency Fund Committee comprising the chief secretary, Faisal Edhi, Mushtaq Chhapra, Dr Abdul Bari and finance secretary.

The meeting also decided to purchase stethoscopes, three million surgical masks, ventilators, monitors, mobile x-ray and ECG machines, PCR Machines, ICU beds, incinerators, PCR machines and point of care molecular diagnostic system.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1546986/new-rules-being-framed-as-covid-19-has-changed-our-lifestyle-murad

World markets rise on hopes for easing virus crisis


LONDON: Global equity markets strongly rebounded on Monday as some of the world’s worst-hit countries reported falling coronavirus death rates, while oil prices sank after a meeting of top producers was delayed.

“Global equities are soaring higher as early signs suggest curve flattening is happening in Europe and that US could be a couple weeks behind them,” said Edward Moya, an analyst at OANDA. Key eurozone markets were five per cent or more higher at the close.

“Investors are shrugging off the pessimism,” said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.

“They are focused on more optimistic things: the slowing death rate caused by coronavirus. Italy, Spain, France, and Germany have all seen declining numbers.” On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index also posted strong gains in the late New York morning, winning more than 1,000 points over Friday’s close.

After news of slowing death cases in Europe, US investor optimism was also fuelled by “early signs that the virus’ intensity in the epicenter of New York may be hitting an apex,” said analysts at Charles Schwab.

London gains were capped by a stronger pound, apparently little affected by news that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised for precautionary tests after suffering “persistent” coronavirus symptoms for 10 days.

‘Worst in 100 years ‘

But even as traders were feeling more optimistic, European governments were reaching for superlatives to describe the economic damage of the pandemic.

The French finance minister said his country was headed for its worst recession since World War II, while German leader Angela Merkel said the virus outbreak was the biggest challenge ever for the European Union.

“The coronavirus may trigger annual GDP declines among the worst seen in the last 100 years,” analysts at Oxford Economics said.

Meanwhile, the commodities’ markets attention was on a planned meeting of Opec and other key crude producers aimed at easing a supply glut that had sent oil prices crashing. Both main contracts had soared last week as Trump said Saudi Arabia and Russia would hold talks on ending their price war, while it also emerged Opec would be holding a teleconference on Monday.

However, investors were dealt a blow over the weekend when the meeting was delayed to Thursday.

Analysts warned there were doubts that the US would take part in them, which could be a major sticking point for Moscow and Riyadh.

But even if a deal is reached, there is scepticism that suggested cuts of 10 million barrels a day will be enough to help the oil market, owing to a collapse in demand caused by the pandemic.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547077/world-markets-rise-on-hopes-for-easing-virus-crisis

NAB urged to act against those behind sugar, wheat crises


Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Owais Leghari address a press conference on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Owais Leghari address a press conference on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: The opposition has asked the National Accountability Bureau to act against those members of the ruling elite who created recent sugar and wheat shortage in the country by exporting these two commodities which led to massive increase in prices of these commodities. It has also criticised FIA reports which are silent on critical aspects of the entire racket.

Speaking at a press conference here on Monday, PML-N vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi questioned as to how and why the export of sugar was allowed when the production was just around the estimated domestic consumption. He said that the ministries of national food security and industries and production had opposed the idea of allowing exports of sugar in 2018, but the permission for export of one million tonne of sugar was given in October 2018.

He said this export permission formed 20 per cent of the domestic requirement of the commodity in the country. He said that export of another one million tonne of sugar was allowed in December 2019 at a time when the man-made shortage of the commodity had already started financially hitting the masses across the country because of the massive price increase.

He said the Punjab government also started giving subsidy of Rs5.5 per kilogramme and inland freight of Rs1 per kilogramme. He said the two sugar mills owned by those having the role in policy-making had been given Rs3 billion in the subsidy.

Abbasi asks why sugar export was allowed when output was just enough to meet domestic needs

“The report is silent on the reason for this,” the PML-N leader said and asked Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar what was he doing.

Mr Abbasi, however, said that the amount paid in the subsidy was only a small fraction of the fast buck made under the game plan, which came to around Rs100 billion. He said that exports of sugar and wheat had been allowed under a scheme meant to escalate prices of these commodities in the country so as to benefit mill owners and the middlemen of the two commodities.

He said the calculation based on a mere Rs15 per kilogramme increase meant that the two groups earned Rs20 and Rs15 billion in excess of the routine profit through the manipulative change in the government’s policy.

The PML-N leader said that the approval for permission of export of sugar had been given by the ECC and the federal cabinet, headed by the finance minister and the prime minister, respectively.

“The prime minister himself is the head of the mafia. He will have to accept the responsibility,” the PML-N leader said, adding that those responsible should be handed over to NAB for their trial in the court of law.

He said that reports on sugar and wheat crisis were meant to save actual thieves and the commission formed for a probe would also be headed by author of the reports.

Mr Abbasi said the report on sugar had tried to create an impression that Mr Nawaz Sharif and Mr Shahbaz Sharif were among beneficiaries of the subsidy which was not true.

He said that Sharif brothers owned three sugar mills, one of which, the Chaudhry Sugar Mill, had remained closed for the last three years while the other two mills, the Ramzan Sugar Mills and Al-Arabia Sugar Mill, had received no subsidy during the present government’s term.

He said the PML-N government had also allowed export of sugar and given subsidy during its tenure, but under entirely different circumstances. He said the production of the sugar during the PML-N tenure was 2.1 million tonnes and 1.6 million tonnes of sugar was in excess of the domestic requirement in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively.

Meanwhile, PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani has said that the Sugar Inquiry Report has exposed vested interests of the country’s ruling elite.

“The report has exposed that for economic gains and to further their vested interests, the ruling elite of the country has the common agenda and the report has exposed the class-oriented politics in the country,” Mr Rabbani said in a statement.

He said that in the light of the report, the government must act against the cartel and the stranglehold of the vested interests and the ruling elite on the rights and economy of the country must be broken.

The government must ask its ministers concerned and the chief minister involved in the scam to resign and NAB should start investigations against those members of the ruling party that benefited from the racket.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547069/nab-urged-to-act-against-those-behind-sugar-wheat-crises

SBP allowed subsidised loans to hospitals


KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday extended further flexibility for the health sector under its Refinance Facility to Combat Covid-19 (RFCC).

Through a circular the central bank allowed hospitals and medical centres to obtain subsidised financing against the existing equipment and purchase of refurbished equipment as well, provided the same are used in creation of special facility/isolation ward to deal with Covid-19.

Moreover, maximum coverage of 60 per cent of civil works for setting up separate/isolation facility has also been enhanced to 100pc with banks directed to ensure that financing under this facility is utilised for the intended purpose.

In another move, the SBP also extended its own services to commercial banks’ clients in case of no response from the banks.

The central bank through another circular announced that complainants who do not get an appropriate response from banks can approach the SBP helpline (021-111-727-273) which will remain available during office hours.”

For catering to the needs of the public for facilitation and guidance, the SBP has enhanced its helpline capacity by deploying more agents at its call centre,” it adds.

It also advised the public not to disclose or share any personal information about their bank accounts or credit/debit cards including CNIC, debit or credit card number, passwords, PINs and one-time password (OTP) etc on incoming phone calls or messages.

This warning comes after some fraudsters, imitating as officials of SBP, bank or any other government agency, have been attempting to seek personal information from the public on the pretext of verification of account due to emergency conditions under Covid-19 pandemic.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547079/sbp-allowed-subsidised-loans-to-hospitals

Russia, Saudi Arabia ‘very close’ to oil deal, Moscow signals big cuts


MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia and Russia are close to a deal on oil output cuts to reduce a global glut, a top Russian negotiator said on Monday, while sources in Moscow said it was ready for significant cuts, ahead of talks planned for this week.

A supply deal between Opec, Russia and other producers, a group known as Opec+, that had propped up oil prices for three years collapsed in March, just as the impact of lockdowns to limit the spread of the new coronavirus destroyed demand.

Riyadh and Moscow blamed each other for the failure and launched a battle for market share, sending oil prices to their lowest in two decades. That has strained the budgets of oil-producing nations and hit higher-cost producers in the United States.

US President Donald Trump said last week he had brokered a deal with Moscow and Riyadh. But initial plans for an Opec+ meeting on Monday were delayed. Two Opec sources said a video conference would be held at 1400 GMT on Thursday.

“I think the whole market understands that this deal is important and it will bring lots of stability, so much important stability to the market, and we are very close,” Kirill Dmitriev, one of Moscow’s top oil negotiators, who also heads Russian’s sovereign wealth fund, told CNBC.

Dmitriev was the first to make a public declaration last month about the need for an enlarged supply pact, potentially involving producers outside the Opec+ group.

Two Russian sources said Moscow was ready for a significant oil output reduction provided other producers would do the same.

“It is necessary to reduce oil production in order to tackle the very serious decline in demand,” a source close to the Russian government told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Russian energy ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier on Monday that Moscow was ready to work with other leading oil exporting countries.

How deep would be enough?

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Opec+ cuts could amount to around 10 million barrels per day (bpd), or some 10 per cent of global output. Russian production reached 11.29 million bpd in March.

A Russian government and an industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such 10pc cuts might not be enough to steady the global oil market given the weakness of demand.

Trump has said a deal could see cuts of 10pc to 15pc of global supply.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have long been frustrated that curbs by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and others have left a gap that has been filled by shale oil firms in the United States, which became the world’s biggest producer.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020


Click here to Read full Details Sources @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1547078/russia-saudi-arabia-very-close-to-oil-deal-moscow-signals-big-cuts

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