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Imran Khan should thank PFSA for helping catch Asma’s murderer: Sanaullah

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday said four-year-old Asma’s murderers were arrested after Punjab Forensic Science Agency released the medical report.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Rana Sanaullah said, “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan should be thankful to Punjab Forensic Science Agency because Asma’s murderers were apprehended after they released their report”.

Speaking on the upcoming Senate elections, Sanaullah commented that they had chances of winning four seats from Balochistan. He added, “We still can win two seats from there”. He added that the opposition parties will win only one seat from Punjab if they join hands

The law minister stated that it is very difficult to apprehend former SSP Malir Rao Anwar. “He would have been arrested if he was in Zardari House”, Sanaullah said.

He went on to say, “Not even dictators have harmed Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) as Asif Ali Zardari has”.

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US, Pakistan pursuing own interests in Afghan war: Karzai

KABUL (TNS): Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai has said that the United States and Pakistan are pursuing their own interests in the Afghan war, calling on Washington to slap sanctions on the Pakistani military and intelligence officials.

In an interview with the US based news agency, Karzai said that Afghanistan is still in terrible shape sixteen years after the US-led intervention that toppled the Taliban regime.

“The US cannot tell us ‘well if I am not here, you will be worse off.’ We are in a terrible shape right now. We want to be better. We want to have peace. We want to have security,” Karzai maintained.

“We hope the US will now act in Pakistan,” he said. “Act in Pakistan doesn’t mean that the people in Pakistan should be hurt or that war should be launched in Pakistan,” he added.

Karzai said Washington wants to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan to project power in the region, while Pakistan wants to turn Afghanistan into a client state.

“In my view, their intention is to keep us divided and weak so they can carry on their objectives in this region,” Karzai said. “They have their global politics and rivalries. They have China as a great rising power. They have Russia as a revitalized, re-energized great power on the world scene and they feel threatened and challenged.”

He said US forces are not in Afghanistan “to stop extremism.” Karzai called on the United States to sanction Pakistani military and intelligence officials.

Meanwhile, the ousted governor of Balkh Atta Mohammad Noor has said that the government has failed to provide security to the people. “$4 billion are spent annually, but where is security,” asked Noor. “Why are enemy’s plots and conspiracies not foiled, it is clear that you send our youths to the slaughterhouse and steal their rights, you don’t have management, you don’t have leadership, you don’t have patriotism and courage,” added Noor. Critics have accused the government of monopolizing power instead of tackling national issues.

“Both from the political perspective and responsibility perspective, Afghanistan is now in a legal vacuum, this indicates that the situation is not too good, but it is very bad,” said Ahmad Wali Massoud, head of the Massoud Foundation.

“We want reforms to be put in place in the independent election commission, we want elections, we want the government to hold the elections on time and bring systematic change in the election commission,” said Sayed Jan Khakrezwal, head of Kandahar provincial council.

The federal cabinet of Pakistan on Tuesday deferred some key agenda items, including the proposed approval of a comprehensive policy regarding repatriation of Afghan refugees for this year.

‘Afghan management and repatriation policy 2018’ was part of the 16-point agenda items of the cabinet huddle presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The item was moved by the States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Division to provide a detailed roadmap for uninterrupted repatriation of the Afghan refugees back to their homeland in the on-going year.

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Libya boat tragedy: FIA confirms 28 Pakistanis confined in Libya

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) confirmed on Thursday that 28 Pakistani nationals have been confined in Libya after the tragic boat capsize incident, said a report released by the law-enforcing agency.

The boat carrying the migrants capsized off the coast of Zuwara in the early hours of February 2, the International Organization for Migration had confirmed.

“It has been learnt that 28 more Pakistanis are confined in Libya in a safe house in Zawiya district,” said the FIA report.

The agency further stated that some of the Pakistani nationals are in contact with their families.

The report by FIA also requests the concerned quarters to rescue the Pakistanis and save them from further unfortunate events.

An embassy official earlier said victims are mostly from Gujrat in northern Pakistan.

The bodies of 12 Pakistanis who died in the incident have been recovered and brought to a morgue in the capital, Tripoli, awaiting repatriation.

Libya is the main gateway for migrants trying to cross to Europe by sea, though numbers have dropped sharply since July as Libyan factions and authorities – under pressure from Italy and the European Union – have begun to block departures.

Zuwara was a top departure point until a local backlash against smuggling in 2015.

So far this year, just over 3,500 migrants are recorded to have crossed from Libya to Italy, about 60 percent fewer than during the same period last year, according the Italian Interior Ministry.

Pakistanis are the third largest national group, after Eritreans and Tunisians.

Pakistanis resident in Libya for decades, many working in the gold business, have tried to leave because of the collapse in the value of the Libyan dinar and a severe liquidity crisis. Others have found their way to Libya through smuggling networks.

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Four Pakistanis beheaded in Saudi Arabia for rape, murder

RIYADH (AFP): Saudi Arabia executed four Pakistani men on Thursday convicted of raping and murdering a woman and raping her teenage son, the interior ministry said.

The men were also convicted of stealing jewellery and cash after entering the woman’s home in Riyadh and raping and strangling her, according to a ministry statement cited by the official SPA news agency.

The oil-rich Kingdom has executed 20 people since the start of 2018.

On July 10 last year, a Pakistani citizen was among six people convicted of drug trafficking and homicide were executed in Saudi Arabia, the government said, the highest number of executions in a single day in 2017.

The Pakistani man was beheaded for drug trafficking and five Saudi nationals for homicide, the interior ministry said.

Last year, 141 people were put to death in Saudi Arabia, where executions are carried out by the sword.

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US-led strikes on Syria pro-government forces kill 100: US official

BEIRUT (AFP): The US-led coalition said Thursday it killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters to fend off an attack on its allies in eastern Syria, in one its deadliest confrontations yet with forces backing Damascus.

The initial attack was carried out by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on key oil and gas installations in parts of Deir Ezzor province controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces.

According to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), coalition advisers were present in the area that was attacked by pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor province late on Wednesday.

“The coalition conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression” against its own personnel and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hosting them, it said.

Oil and gas target

“We estimate more than 100 Syrian pro-regime forces were killed while engaging SDF and coalition forces,” a US military official said on condition of anonymity.

The SDF and the coalition targeted the attacking forces with air strikes and shelling after “20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 metres of the SDF headquarters location”, the official said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which only confirmed 45 dead among pro-regime forces, the initial attack took place near Khasham.

The head of the Britain-based monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the aim of the attack appeared to be the capture of a key oil field and a major gas plant in an SDF-held area.

The Omar oil field, one of the biggest in Syria, had a pre-war output of 30,000 barrels per day, while the Conoco gas field had a pre-war capacity of 13 million cubic metres a day.

Regime and SDF fighters were involved in several skirmishes in the area last year, as they each conducted parallel operations against some of the Daesh’s last bastions.

Damascus and the US-backed Kurdish militia once worked towards the same goal in the region but they were never allied, and the collapse of the Daesh “caliphate” has further strained an already frosty relationship.

Syrian state media confirmed that dozens were killed in the clash but appeared to deny the forces were army soldiers, describing the victims as “popular forces”.

De-confliction line

According to the Observatory, the forces that launched the attack on SDF positions were local tribal fighters loyal to Assad and militia fighting alongside the regime.

CENTCOM said the attack occurred eight kilometres east of the “Euphrates River de-confliction line,” referring to a boundary agreed by Russia and the US, with the former’s area of operations west of the river and the latter´s to its east.

Daesh militants were flushed out of their last strongholds in eastern Syria and over the border in western Iraq late last year.

But the SDF continues to hunt down surviving militants who have reverted to a clandestine insurgency.

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India´s top court demands answers on Taj Mahal protection efforts

NEW DELHI (AFP): India´s top court demanded a detailed plan for the future of the Taj Mahal on Thursday, warning the state government´s “ad hoc” approach jeopardised the centuries-old monument to love.

Smog has been slowly yellowing the Taj´s brilliant marble and conservationists have long fought to close polluting industries near the 17th-century icon.

But years of interventions — including using mudpacks to draw the stain from the stone — have failed to arrest the slow decay of India´s biggest attraction.

The Supreme Court has ordered the state government of Uttar Pradesh to produce a “vision document” outlining its plan for protecting the wonder of the world within a month, the Press Trust of India reported.

In particular the court expressed concern about a “sudden flurry of activities” in the Taj Trapezium Zone — a buffer around the monument to protect it from pollution.

“Leather industries and hotels are coming up there. Why?” the court asked, describing the government conservation plan for the Taj as ad hoc and inadequate.

The state government was also directed to notify the court of how many trees had been planted in the buffer zone before any further greenery was felled for construction works, PTI reported.

The Taj faces numerous threats, from air pollution to insects that leave green stains on the rear wall facing the heavily polluted Yamuna River.

Nearly 6.5 million people marvelled at the monument in 2016 but the government in January announced plans to cap visitor numbers to reduce wear and tear.

Anyone wanting to see the main crypt, which houses the couple´s spectacular marble graves inlaid with semi-precious stones, will also have to pay for a pricier ticket.

Building restoration has dragged into a fourth year, leaving scaffolding clinging to the exterior, with work yet to even begin on its imposing dome.

The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth in 1631.

The Taj has attracted world leaders and royalty, including former US President Bill Clinton. Diana, the late British princess, was famously photographed alone on a marble seat there in 1992.

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Turkey says to host Syria summit with Russia, Iran

ISTANBUL (AFP): Turkey said Thursday it is planning to host in Istanbul a new three-way summit on Syria with the presidents of Russia and Iran, as the three powers seek to salvage increasingly fragile efforts to end the fighting.

The meeting — the second such tripartite summit on Syria — would come as Turkey presses on with its Olive Branch offensive against Kurdish militia inside northern Syria in an area where Russia has an influence.

No date for the summit was announced but Turkey is currently engaged in intense diplomatic activity with visits to Ankara by US national security advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expected in the coming days.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to hold the summit in Istanbul alongside Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in telephone talks Thursday, a Turkish presidential source said.

Putin had already hosted a similar three-way summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in November.

In its readout of the talks, the Kremlin did not confirm the holding of the summit but said new contacts between the three sides were discussed.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added a summit had been discussed but no date had been decided.

‘Managing the tempo’

Without giving details, the Turkish statement said Putin and Erdogan also discussed the three-week Turkish offensive against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the Afrin region of Syria.

Some Russian officials have expressed concern about the Turkish offensive but analysts believe it would never have gone ahead without at least the tacit assent of Moscow.

An added complication came with the deadly shooting down of a Russian war plane — resulting in the death of the pilot — by Islamist rebels over the neighbouring Idlib province at the weekend.

Moscow has applauded Turkey for its assistance in helping bring the body of pilot, Major Roman Filipov, back home for burial.

But analysts have noted that no Turkish air strikes against the YPG have taken place in the days since the incident, indicating that Russia has likely closed the air space.

“Russia (is) managing (the) operational tempo of Olive Branch by opening/closing air space,” commented prominent Turkish security analyst Metin Gurcan on Twitter.

The Turkish government has insisted there is “no problem” with air space.

‘Just a warm-up’

The summit, if it takes place, will be the latest example of the increasingly intense contact between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran over Syria.

Russia and Tehran are the key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad’s ouster in a seven-year conflict that has left more than 340,000 dead.

Yet Turkey, Iran and Russia have sponsored peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana that have set out the creation of four so-called de-escalation zones; Idlib, the greater Damascus area, the southern region of Daraa and the city of Homs.

But Erdogan again ruled out talks with Russia’s ally Assad, saying: “What will we talk about with a murderer who killed his one million of his citizens?”

Adding even more nuance, European diplomats say that Russia and Iran are having more discord on Syria, with Moscow much more interested in a political solution than Tehran.

“The Iranians are not up for an inclusive political settlement,” a European diplomat, who asked not to be named, said this week. “Iran would not like to see reforms that weaken Assad’s hold. The Russians are in a different place.”

Meanwhile, tensions have escalated between Turkey and the United States, which considers the YPG a valued ally in the fight against jihadists.

Erdogan has repeatedly vowed to press the offensive east to Manbij, where the US has a presence. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag warned at the weekend Turkey would even fire on troops from its NATO ally if they wore YPG insignia.

Warning of more to come, Erdogan said: “What we have done so far cannot even be considered a warm up tour. We will carry out our main actions and offensives in the coming period.”

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Gaza hospitals, clinics to reopen after Emirati grant: WHO

GAZA (AFP): Nearly 20 medical centres in Gaza will fully reopen in the coming days after the United Arab Emirates provided financing to end a fuel shortage, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Three hospitals and 16 medical centres had stopped offering key services in recent weeks as crippling fuel shortages meant they were unable to keep generators going, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said.

Gaza receives only a few hours of mains electricity a day, so hospitals and other vital services rely on private generators run with fuel provided by the United Nations.

After an emergency UN appeal, the UAE has pledged $2 million for fuel for the coming year, said Mahmoud Dahar, head of the WHO in Gaza.

“We have received an announcement from the UAE that they are going to fund two million, which will make the situation a bit easier for another few months,” he told AFP.

He added that he expected the hospitals and centres to fully reopen “in the coming days.”

The ministry said it was awaiting official confirmation of the UAE funds and did not say when the centres would return to normal operations.

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade of Gaza for a decade which it says is necessary to isolate the territory´s Islamist leaders Hamas. Critics say it represents collective punishment of two million people.

More than two-thirds of Gazans rely on international aid.

Separately on Thursday Egypt, which has also largely sealed its border with Gaza, opened the Rafah crossing for the first time in 2018. It is to remain open for three days.

US President Donald Trump has also withheld tens of millions in aid for Palestinians in recent weeks.

On Thursday, AIDA, a coalition of 70 international charities working in the Palestinian territories, said that decision would particularly affect Gaza.

It said the funding cuts “will lead to increased food insecurity, aid dependency, poverty, isolation, unemployment and hopelessness.”

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Rift in MQM-P continues as factions nominate separate candidates for Senate polls

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Rift between Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) intensified as Farooq Sattar and Rabita Committee nominated separate candidates for Senate elections.

Sattar and Rabita Committee factions arrived at the office of ECP in Karachi on Thursday with their respective Senate candidates where the two groups mildly talked with one another. Faisal Sabzwari even cried while putting his head on Sattar s shoulder.

MQM-P leader Faisal Sabzwari warned of bad consequences if the disagreements continued. He admitted that the matters have not yet been resolved, expressing happiness as Sattar agreed to chair party meeting at Bahadurabad.

He stressed that they will not let the disintegration happen, and highlighted that it is not right to stick to the wrongdoing.

On the other hand, Sattar claimed that the party faced more damage in the last four days than during the reports of merger with PSP. He pointed out that the convener or party head should be allowed to make decisions in certain matters.

Meanwhile, Sattar has agreed upon chairing a meeting at party’s temporary Bahadurabad headquarters. A delegation of representatives including Sattar from the PIB Colony office will reach Bahadurabad where the two groups will try to sort out matters.

Both the groups will put forward their nominated names and will finalize them with mutual agreement, Farooq Sattar said during media talk.

His nominated candidates include Kamran Tessori, Ali Raza Abidi, Hassan Feroz, Ahmed Chinoi, Kashwar Zehra, Mangla Sharma, Sanjay Parvani, Farhan Chisti and Dr. Nighat

However, the disgruntled faction led by Amir Khan has nominated Farooq Naseem, Nasreen Jalil, Abdul Qadir Khanzada, Aminul Haq and Amir Chisti.

A row hit MQM-P after Rabta Committee removed Kamran Tessori, Sattar’s favoured candidate for Senate elections, from the coordination committee and suspended him for six months.

The suspension resulted into a split within the party with Farooq Sattar coming at odds with the Rabta Committee members.

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PM, King of Jordon hold talks; agree to boost bilateral trade, investment ties

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Jordon on Thursday agreed to bring greater focus on enhancing bilateral trade and investment relations, to make the bilateral trade currently at USD 75 million, commensurate with the excellent political ties existing between the two countries.

This was agreed during the meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein of Jordon here at the PM House.

King Abdullah, who arrived here earlier in the day on a two-day visit, held delegation level talks with the Prime Minister during which the two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and exchanged views on ways to further expand these relations in a variety of fields.

The two leaders also reviewed regional situation, with particular focus on the Middle East in the aftermath of recognition of Jerusalem by Washington as the capital of Israel, a press release issued by the PM’s Media Office here said.

The Prime Minister expressed Pakistan’s unequivocal support for the just cause of Palestine and reiterated Pakistan’s rejection of the US decision.

He also briefed the visiting dignitary on the current situation along the LoC, Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and its commitment towards regional peace and stability. The two countries on this occasion also signed an agreement in the field of Civil Protection and Civil Defence.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Housing and Works of Pakistan and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was also signed. King Abdullah II thanked the Prime Minister for the warm welcome accorded to him and his delegation.

The Prime Minister also hosted a banquet in the honor of King Abdullah II and his delegation. King Abdullah II is visiting Pakistan after 11 years. His visit is a reflection of the close brotherly relations existing between Pakistan and Jordan.