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Over 225 UK Gurdwaras confirm ban on Indian govt officials

LONDON (Monitoring Desk): More than 225 Gurdwaras in the United Kingdom have confirmed backing for restrictions on Indian government officials, denying them platform to express their views.

The Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) made the announcement and said that the boycott was increasing across the Europe and North America.

It said that over 225 UK Gurdwaras had confirmed by the end of January 2018 with the FSO that since 1984, they have never let Indian government officials speak from their Gurdwara stages or given them any form of recognition and they had no plans to change their stance.

On January 31, the Sikh Council UK, following a meeting of its executive committee, also put out an official statement supporting the restrictions in UK Gurdwaras, after the Akal Takht, the supreme authority in Amritsar, announced backing for restrictions.

The Sikh Federation said that the list of Gurdwaras will not be made public because Indian media and government agencies will single out the Gurdwara administrations and will target them in the UK as well as in India.

“The Indian authorities have been shocked with the united and co-ordinated action by Sikhs across the globe and in desperation resorted to a number of underhand tactics that can now be exposed. First came the repeated misinformation by the Indian authorities, their supporters and agents of a ‘total ban’ on Indian government officials from entering Gurdwaras to try and cause confusion,” said a spokesman.

“Some, who originally condemned the ban, were forced into a U-turn after they realised they had been hoodwinked through false propaganda by the Indian authorities. Then came efforts to show that Indian High Commission officials in London and some of its consulates were defying the restrictions.”

It was revealed on Tuesday that on January 6, a day before the restrictions were discussed by the FSO, an Indian High Commission official spoke at Guru Nanak Sikh Academy in Hayes. Sikhs groups said that Indian government tried to create division of Sikh groups through fake news and offers of bribes.

They said that Indian High Commission officials have been holding talks with dozens of Gurdwaras across the UK encouraging Sikhs to go against each other.

“The Indian authorities have developed personal links with certain individuals in specific Gurdwaras and know the restrictions will never apply to all UK Gurdwaras or other venues, the Gurdwara may be responsible for,” the Sikh Federation said.

“UK Gurdwaras number around 270 in total, however, the Indian authorities have been going to extreme lengths to show their defiance. For example, one very small Gurdwara was approached by one of the Indian consulates to allow them to do an Akhand Paath. They said they would also provide their own Kirtani Jatha and were willing to pay £2,000 a month for the next 12 months.”

Bhai Amrik Singh, the chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “UK Gurdwaras have shown massive support for restrictions on Indian government officials if they visit Gurdwaras. Sikhs across the globe have shown their unity in standing up to the Indian authorities. The misinformation, fake news, bribes and threats by the Indian authorities stand exposed and demonstrates their desperation.

“In the UK, we have a duty of care towards members of Gurdwara Management Committees and deliberately not published a list of Gurdwaras backing the restrictions. This has allowed us to outmanoeuvre and embarrass the Indian authorities, their supporters and agents who now look foolish,” Singh added.

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Erdogan tells Cyprus not to test Turkey over gas standoff

ANKARA (Reuters): Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned Cyprus not to “overstep the mark” in the eastern Mediterranean, after Greek Cypriots accused the Turkish military of obstructing a vessel exploring for natural gas over the weekend.

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic ties with Cyprus, says some areas of Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or Turkish Cypriots, underscoring tensions in the broader eastern Mediterranean over competing claims for offshore resources.

“Our warships and security units are following all developments in the region with the instruction to do whatever is necessary,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.

“We warn those who overstep the mark in Cyprus and the Aegean,” he said. “They are standing up to us until they see our army, ships and planes,” he said, comparing the situation in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus with the Syrian region of Afrin where Turkey is waging an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades declined to comment on Erdogan’s remarks but said there was no cause for worry.

Cyprus is one of several states, also including Israel and Lebanon, racing to tap gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek Cypriots run Cyprus’s internationally recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north – recognized only by Ankara – and say resources around the island belong to them too.

The area where the Saipem 1200 drill ship was headed, Block 3 of Cyprus’s economic zone, is also claimed by Turkish Cypriots. Turkey’s state-owned oil company also plans to search for oil and gas off Cyprus, ethnically partitioned between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

STANDOFF

Saipem is contracted by Italy’s state-controlled Eni, whose officials have confirmed the drill ship was stopped by Turkish ships on Friday afternoon because of a military exercise in the area.

Cyprus has seemed keen to downplay the standoff, which appears to be the worst escalation of simmering tensions since the island struck a small quantity of natural gas in 2011.

“There is no cause for anyone to be concerned. This is being handled in a manner to avert any possible crisis which could create problems either to the economy or to the state,” President Anastasiades told reporters in Nicosia.

The European Union on Monday called on Turkey to avoid threats and “refrain from any actions that might damage good neighborly” ties.

Eni and France’s Total, partners in a Cyprus venture, announced last week finding a promising gas field off Cyprus. They said the find looked geologically similar to the Zohr field off Egypt, which holds an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, the largest field ever found in the Mediterranean.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Peace talks collapsed last year.

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Pakistan contemplating to issue e-visa soon: Ahsan Iqbal

LONDON (APP): Minister for Interior Prof.Ahsan Iqbal has said that Pakistan was contemplating to issue Electronic Visa (E-Visa) soon like other countries, to facilitate visitors and investors, in order to make the country member of the global economy and best investment and tourist destination.

“We are in the process of issuing E-Visa soon in consultation with our foreign office like other countries to the genuine visitors and investors soon thus making Pakistan a member of the global economy and the best investment and tourist destination in the world”, he said while addressing the Pakistani community at a reception hosted in his honour in Pakistan high commission.

Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to United Kingdom Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri , Lord Qurban, Members of the UK Parliament Illyas Amin Qureshi and Muhammad Yasin, officials of Pakistan High Commission London and a large number of the members of British Pakistani community and journalists attended the reception.

Prof Ahsan Iqbal who is currently on an official visit to the UK said that due to prudent policies of the PML-N government Pakistan’s economy was on the takeoff position and poised to become one of the fastest growing economies of the world.

The Minister said that when PML-N government came into power after May 2013 elections, Pakistan economy was in shamble, there were 18-20 hours load shedding and industries were also not getting the electricity,Pakistan’s economy was frozen at 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while the law and order situation was also alarming with dozens killed in bomb blasts on daily basis.

The Interior Minister was of the view that Newsweek at that time in a report had declared Pakistan as the most dangerous country than Iraq besides dubbing Pakistan a stone age country due to nonavailability of electricity.

The PML-N government under the leadership of former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his team worked day and night to overcome these issue, he added.

Ahsan Iqbal said that after the hectic efforts of four years and prudent policies and initiation of energy projects by the government not only ensured supply of 24-hour electricity to domestic consumers but also supplied electricity to industrial sector besides adding 11000 megawatts of electricity in the national grid.

He added that due to actions were taken against the terrorists, the law and order situation has been restored besides ensuring peace in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

He said that peace has also been restored in Karachi which is the financial capital of Pakistan.

The Interior Minister said that PML-N government signed the US $ 46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with China and so far the US $ 29 billion projects have been energized.

He said that credit of exploiting and exploring the Thar coal project went to present government which was ignored for the last seventy years.

Highlighting the potential of Thar coal reserves, he said that the area has the potential to the energy values equal to Saudi Arabi and Iran.

He said that Thar coal mines can fulfill the energy requirements of Pakistan for the four hundred years (400) years.

Pakistan, he said under CPEC would build Gawadar Maritime port making it one of the best maritime ports in Aian region.

He said that last year Pakistan has achieved a GDP growth rate of 5.3 percent, besides industrial growth and growth in remittances were also the highest of the last nine years.

Ahsan Iqbal told the Pakistani diaspora that Pakistan has now become one of the best investment-friendly destinations for investors with an attractive market of 207 million people with emerging middle class.

He called upon them to take benefit of maximum investment opportunities in various sectors of the economy including the Information Technolgy sector and play their vital role in the socio-economic development of Pakistan.

He also urged them to invite UK investors to come forward and take maximum investment opportunity being offered in various sectors of the economy in Pakistan through their investments and government would fully facilitate them in this regard.

Ahsan Iqbal also urged Pakistani diaspora of UK to send maximum remittances to Pakistan through official and banking channels and also participate in the development of their motherland through making investments.

He assured them that their genuine problems which they indicated would be looked into and resolved them on a priority basis.

Ahsan Iqbal said that government was making efforts to boost exports, attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and remittances from overseas Pakistanis for the economic prosperity of the country.

Pakistan, he said was now on road to progress and in a take-off position owing to the restoration of peace in the country and good economic policies initiated by the present government.

Replying to a question, he said that people of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) were facing worst kind of atrocities at the hand of occupation forces and called upon the international community including the UK to play their vital role in the provision of justice to the people of IOK.

He said Pakistan was now a strong and stable democracy and stressed the need for political stability and continuity of policies for the prosperity of the country.

In his opening remarks, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri welcomed the Interior Minister and appreciated his leading role in the formulation of Vision 2025 and CPEC for Pakistan.

He said that Minister has returned from successful Washington visit and come to Pakistan High Commission London to meet the Pakistani community living in the UK.

He hoped that visit of the Minister would help further strengthen the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United Kingdon.

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White powder sent to UK parliament found to be non-harmful

LONDON (Reuters): A security incident at Britain’s parliament on Tuesday was triggered by the discovery of a package containing white powder which was later found to be non-harmful, the lower house of the legislature said.

Separately, police said counter-terrorism officers were investigating the incident and an office in parliament, to which the package had been sent, remained closed. The rest of the building was open.

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Pakistan deplores Indian defence minister’s threatening tone

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office has strongly regretted the Indian Defence Minister’s recent provocative statement against Pakistan.

In a statement, the Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr Muhammad Faisal said the Indian allegations about the recent attack on military camp in Occupied Kashmir are premature and inopportune, especially as New Delhi itself admits that the operation still continued and investigations had just started, when these comments were made.

He said the Indian tendency of apportioning blame to Pakistan, without a shred of evidence, is regrettable.

We have repeatedly seen India arrogating to itself the role of judge, jury and executioner. The reflex assignment of blame and smear campaigns, based on unfounded allegations, carry no credibility.

The spokesperson said more deplorable is the threatening tone of the Indian comments that achieves nothing, but further vitiates the already tense environment marked by unprecedented ceasefire violations by India on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary.

He said Pakistan is fully committed and capable of defending itself against any act of aggression.

We expect the international community to take cognizance of the belligerent and repeated Indian statements against Pakistan, which are not only against international law but also threatens regional peace and stability.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has termed unfound Indian allegations about Pakistan refusing visas to 173 Katas Raj pilgrims.

Responding to a query Foreign Office spokesman underscored that Pakistan had made all the arrangements for the visit of the pilgrims. However, the applicants were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi due to non – issuance of NOC by Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

He pointed out that recently, India also denied the visits of Sikh pilgrims, followed by that of Zaireens from Pakistan, and now Katas Raj Pilgrims, the opportunity to participate in their religious festivals.

The spokesman said Indian actions run counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and an obstruction for the people to people contacts.

Such steps violate the basic human right to religious freedoms and are indicative of the escalatory ladder on which India has embarked.

He said these are against the spirit of peace and tranquility that Pakistan has been trying to promote.

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Federal cabinet approves LNG trade agreement between Pakistan, Oman

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday accorded approval for signing of an Inter-Governmental Agreement between the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) Government of Pakistan and the Ministry of Oil and Gas, Sultanate of Oman for supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and POL products on government to government basis.

The federal cabinet, which met here at the PM Office with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in chair, also gave approval for the signing of Inter Government Agreement and Letter of Intent on Cooperation in the field of LNG between the Government of Pakistan and Government of the Italian Republic.

The cabinet gave permission to allow transit of 01×20 feet container STC containing eight packages of spare parts of Toyota vehicles of UNMA from Karachi to Kabul.

It accorded approval, in principle, to Anti-Terrorism (Freezing and Seizure) Rules, 2018.

The meeting accorded its approval to the notification of WAPDA Hydro-Electric Tariff for the FY 2017-18 determined by NEPRA and further directed that the process of tariff determination for AJK should be initiated.

The federal cabinet ratified the decisions of Cabinet Committee on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) taken during its meeting held on 12-01-2018. It was further decided that cabinet would be briefed in detail on CPEC.

The cabinet directed that the process of filling up vacant positions of the heads of organizations in various ministries be expedited.

It expressed satisfaction over the surplus generation capacity in the power sector. It was reiterated that the government was committed to ensure uninterrupted power supply to consumers.

The federal cabinet also directed for early operationalization of new Islamabad International Airport.

Earlier, the cabinet offered Fateha for the departed souls of renowned lawyer, human rights activist and former President Supreme Court Bar Association Ms Asma Jahangir and late Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani.

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2018 is the year of “Change”, says Imran

F.P. Report

SARGODHA: “2018 is the year of “Change”, party workers must get ready for upcoming elections to chase away the candidates of league of looters and plunderers”, said Chairman Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf Imran Khan addressing to the exuberant Sargodha Workers Convention on Tuesday.

Reiterating his resolve to fight corruption, he stated that prosperity and stability of the country depends upon abridging the politics of oppression and corruption. Making trenchant criticism on the ruling elite, Chairman PTI stated that corruption of Zardaris and Sharifs over decades has crippled this country economically. He went on adding that it is utterly shameful that these crooks attacked and intimidated state institutions in a bid to stop them from performing their constitutional duties. In order to save their ill-gotten wealth, they strived hard to instigate anarchy in the country”, said Chairman PTI.

Chairman PTI while addressing jubilant workers convention vowed to rein in the corrupt lot and also resolved to not allow Sharifs and cronies to escape without facing accountability for their decades long financial misdoings. “They are answerable for the miseries this nation has faced and we will make them return every single penny they have looted from this country”, marked PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

Lauding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government he said that PTI-led KP government’s performance has been acknowledged globally. The tide of change that emerged from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will sweep Punjab and other provinces, he said adding that 2018 is the year of “Change”, party workers must get ready for upcoming elections to chase away the candidates of league of looters and plunderers.

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NAB DG issued notice over delay in filing of references against Sharif

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in the federal capital on Tuesday expressed displeasure over the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for delay in the filing of supplementary references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment cases.

Judge Muhammad Bashir issued a notice to the NAB director general to come up with an explanation as to why the bureau has failed to file the references as yet.

He was irked when a NAB prosecutor sought more time to file the references against Sharif.

The prosecutor said two supplementary references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were ready and will be filed at the earliest.

Last week, the bureau had served a notice to the former premier to appear before it to record his statement in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment cases. However, he didn’t turn up.

Sharif along with his sons-Hussain and Hassan – has been named in three NAB references, while his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law have been nominated in a reference with regard to the Sharif family’s London-based Avenfield properties.

The references were filed in compliance with the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict last year.

The bureau had earlier filed a supplementary reference against the former premier and members of his family in the Avenfield properties case.

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CM remembers martyrs of Charing Cross blast

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday said that martyrdom of DIG Traffic Capt (R) Ahmad Mubeen, SSP Zahid Gondal and other police officers and officials is an irreparable loss for the country and their blood will not go waste.

In his message on the first anniversary of martyrs of Charing Cross blast, the CM said that the nation would never forget the sacrifices of such brave and dutiful officers who embraced martyrdom in the line of duty.

He paid tributes to immortal sacrifices and courage of Capt (R) Ahmad Mubeen, SSP Zahid Gondal and others and said that they gave sacrifices for a greater cause.

He said that their sacrifices had brought about peace in the country, and they would be remembered forever.

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Ambassador hosts dinner aboard Pakistan Navy ship

F.P. Report

RIYADH: The Pakistani Ambassador Vice Admiral (Retd.) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique hosted a dinner aboard Pakistan Navy ship Zulfiqar berthed at Jubail port at the weekend, Saudi Gazette reported on Tuesday.

The dinner was held in honor of the officers of Royal Saudi Naval Forces and Pakistan Navy, participating in joint naval exercises in the Gulf. Prominent members of Pakistani community were also invited. Commander of Eastern fleet of Royal Saudi Naval Forces Rear Admiral Laafi Al-Harbi was the guest of honor on the occasion.

Addressing the gathering, the ambassador thanked Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for their leadership in enhancing strategic relations between the two countries. He also thanked and appreciated the hospitality and professional excellence of the RSNF.

He stated that the relations between the two countries, in all spheres, were growing stronger with each passing day. He termed the exercises as yet another milestone of defense cooperation between the forces of the two countries.

He added that such exercises provide an opportunity for exchange of expertise and knowledge of modern techniques of naval warfare which were helpful in building the capacity of both navies for countering the threats posed in the maritime arena.

Pakistan Navy flotilla comprising PN Ships Zulfiqar, Tariq, Azmat, Quwwat, Munsif, Pakistan Navy helicopters and P3C Orion Long Range maritime patrol aircraft are these days in the Kingdom for 11th edition of Naseem Al-Bahr series of naval exercises. These bilateral exercises also include the first-ever Joint Mine counter measures exercise and Deraa Al Sahil, the marine forces exercise. The bilateral exercises aimed at further strengthening naval cooperation between the two countries, will continue till Feb. 17.