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Senate body proposed holistic legislation for prisoners rehabilitation

F.P. Report
Islamabad: The Senate Committee on Human Rights on Thursday, called for a holistic legislation for rehabilitation of Pakistani internees in Guantanamo Bay like prisons and tasked the National Commission on Human Rights and Law and Foreign Affairs ministries to prepare draft legislation.
The call came during discussion on payment of compensation to Pakistani nationals recently released from the Bagram prison in Afghanistan. The representatives of Foreign and other Ministries contended that there was no law to address the issue.
The meeting presided over by Chairperson Nasreen Jalil was attended by Senators Nisar Muhammad Khan, Sitara Ayaz,Sehar Kamran, Samina Abid, Jehanzeb Jamaldini and Farhatullah Babar besides Chairman of NCHR, officials of the Law division, ministry of Human rights, Foreign Affairs and others.
Pleading for compensation and rehabilitation of the prisoners in Bagram prison Senator Farhatullah Babar said that there were many more similarly ill fated prisoners in Guantanamo Bay who were handed over during Musharraf days without due process and about whom nothing is known.
He quoted from General Musharraf biography that his government had captured 689 militants and handed over 369 to the CIA without trial for bounties totaling millions of dollars. Intriguingly this confession was deleted from the Urdu translation of “In the Line of Fire” he said.
Fifteen years down the line we ought to know who were these unfortunate 369 people, what was their crime, where were they taken, whether any trial was conducted and where are they now, he said. We owe it to all those innocent who were wrongly incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay or in Bagram or in other such centres he said.
He said that providing justice to them called for holistic legislation. The Parliament will be failing in its duty if did not raise voice for rule of law, due process and compensation to these unfortunate people, he said.
Talking to the media Senator Farhatullah Babar said that after the promulgation with back dated effect from 2008 of the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011, several dozen internment centres were set up in different parts of the country.
The Regulation was given back dated effect to encourage the law enforcing agencies bring into the open those caught during fight against militancy in Swat and Malakand to stand open trial. However, these internment centres had overtime turned into Pakistani Guantanamo Bay prisons and virtual black holes from which no information was forthcoming, he said.
The Committee also discussed the issue of how to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law. Members were of the view that while no change in the law was contemplated, it was necessary to devise ways and means to prevent its misuse.
It decided to make a brief on the recommendations made by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Council of Islamic Ideology and the recent IHC judgment in a blasphemy case and seek the views of all provincial government and stake holders on it within a specified time frame.
The Committee was informed that the Council of Islamic Ideology has also proposed in its report 2000-01 and 2003-04 that the offender who registers a false case under 295 (C ) should be given the same punishment as provided to the offender of blasphemy. In its report in 1997-98 the Council also recommended that the complainant who lodges a complaint under 295 ( C) be required to produce two witnesses in support of his accusation. Ministry of religious Affairs has also said that while substantive amendment is not permissible procedural amendments be made to prevent misuse of the law.
The Chairman NCHR proposed that no officer below the rank of a Superintendent of Police shall investigate the offence under section 295 C of PPC.
The amendment in the National Commission on the Status of Women Act 2012 passed by the National Assembly was however not passed by the Committee which sought more time to deliberate on the issue.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that an legislation to force the government to appoint a new Chairperson after the incumbent had ceased to perform her functions was of no use as Article 254 of the Constitution clearly stated that if anything required to be done in specific time was not done during that time shall not be invalid for the reason only that it was not done within that period.
He proposed to adopt the model of Wafaqi Mohtasib which provides for the incumbent Mohtasib to continue till the appointment of a new one. the Committee however deferred the issue.

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31parliamentarians yet to submit assets’ statements: ECP

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday said that 31 parliamentarians have still failed to submit their statements of assets and liabilities with the Commission.

An official of ECP said that till submission of statements of assets and liabilities, their membership will remain suspended.

He said that the suspended parliamentarians included two members National Assembly, eight members Punjab Assembly, 19 members Sindh Assembly and two members Balochistan Assembly.

He said that all members of Upper House of the Parliament and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly have submitted their assets statements with the ECP.

He said that the Commission has restored the membership of those senators, members National Assembly and members of four provincial assemblies, who have submitted their yearly statements of assets and liabilities of their own, spouses and dependents.

He said that earlier the ECP had ceased the membership of these parliamentarians for not submitting their yearly statements of assets and liabilities of their own, spouses and dependents.

He said that presently there were total 1,174 parliamentarians included 104 Senators, 342 members National Assembly, 371 members Punjab Assembly, 168 members Sindh Assembly, 124 members KPK Assembly and 65 members Balochistan Assembly.

He said that still eight seats were lying vacant in Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies.

He said that this was a mandatory requirement under Section 42A of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 and Section 25A of the Senate (Election) Act, 1975, that those parliamentarians who fail to submit yearly statements of assets and liabilities, would be suspended from respective seats of Senate or National or Provincial assemblies.

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Bus library cultivates love of learning among students: Tariq

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: To mark International Education Week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) handed over two mobile libraries to the Capital Administration and Development Division (CA&DD) at a ceremony in a local school today. After the transfer agreement was signed, USAID’s Office Director for Education Dr. Christopher Steel formally presented the bus keys to Minister of State for CA&DD Dr. Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

“With these mobile libraries, we can make sure that good books are reaching children who want to read and helping them become good readers,” said Dr. Steel.  “I am happy that through today’s commitment, we are continuing this tradition of supporting Pakistan in its efforts to promote education, strengthen its education system and develop a national culture of reading.”

The mobile libraries will increase the availability of reading materials for children in Islamabad and surrounding areas. For the past two years, the USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project has operated the mobile libraries, visiting 338 schools and reaching nearly 65,000 children in Islamabad and Sindh. After each visit, the libraries leave behind a set of books so that children can continue to read. So far the mobile libraries have distributed 53,479 books during school visits.

The Pakistan Reading Project supports Pakistan’s provincial and regional Departments of Education in helping improve children’s reading skills.

Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said bus library project funded by USAID has helped not only cultivate love of learning among the students but also created healthy environment in schools.

Minister said this colorful bus has visited 338 school and reached 65,000 children in Islamabad and Sindh.

The USAID funded Pakistan Reading Project being implemented by IRC is helping improve reading skills of children across Pakistan.

The mobile bus library is another step towards promoting a reading culture in Pakistan, he remarked.

Minister thanked the U.S. Government for their continued support to raising standards in Pakistani education.

Dr Christopher Steel, Director Education USAID (Pakistan) said, The Pakistan Reading Project, implemented by the International Rescue Committee, is running a mobile bus library programme in Sindh and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) from the last two years and brought reading materials directly to communities and help re-establish reading habits.

Trained librarians onboard each bus will conduct story-telling sessions in each community they visit.

They will also issue books for schoolchildren to take home to read. He added.

He said, after each visit, the libraries leave behind the set of book so that children can continue to read, So far, these mobile libraries have distributed 53,479 books during these visits.

Chief of Party for USAID, Pakistan Reading Project (PRP) Naeem Sohail Butt and DG Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) Hasnat Qureshi, signed the transfer agreement of mobile bus library programme.

In the ceremony Dr Christopher Steel, Director Education USAID (Pakistan) handed over the key of bus to Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

Principal Islamabad Model School F 7/1 Shabnum Afreen thanked Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Dr Christopher Steel, Director Education USAID (Pakistan),DG Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) Hasnat Qureshi and Chief of Party for USAID, Pakistan Reading Project (PRP) Naeem Sohail Butt.

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Javed directs to take mega graft cases to conclusion

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal has instructed the department to pursue logical conclusion of at least 179 mega corruption references filed with the bureau citing huge debts that Pakistan owes to world organisations ranging upto some USD84billion.

The NAB chief has said that the officials must pursue cases against the alleged criminals without worrying about external pressures and influences aiming to hinder the proceedings.

Justice (r) Iqbal said that some 96 mega corruption references were forwarded to courts, 25 are under probes and officials are investigating another 25 references.

He said that Pakistan is in debt of at least USD84billion and that those who have pocketed funds and resorted to graft would be brought to life.

He vowed that the accountability bureau would recover the ‘looted’ money and return to the national treasury.

The chairman directed NAB authorities to take notice of the allegations of a private housing society’s president leveled against the department.

However, Justice (r) Iqbal asserted that stern action would be taken against any official who is found guilty of corruption.

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Pak willing to share Anti-terrorism expertise with UN: Khurram Dastagir

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: “Pakistan has conducted successfully through Operation Zarb-e-Azb one of the largest counter-terrorism operations ever conducted. The lessons learnt and deep expertise gained by Pakistan’s armed forces and law-enforcement agencies constitute an invaluable resource available to the United Nations.”

This was stated by Minister for Defence Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan in his meeting with UN Undersecretary General for Field Services Atul Khare (USG- DFS), whom he met on the sidelines of the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Khurram Dastgir Khan also informed USG-DFS of Pakistan’s successful endeavor to increase participation of women in peacekeeping contingents.

UN Undersecretary General for Field Services appreciated Pakistan’s historical and ongoing contribution to UN peacekeeping, particularly the sacrifice of 140 soldiers since 1960.

He commended Pakistan’s advanced logistics and training facilities for UN peacekeeping.

Minister for Defence will speak twice on the final day of the Conference, respectively on Pakistan’s “Smart Pledges” to UN Peacekeeping operations and on “Early Warning and Deployment”, one of the principal themes of the Ministerial meeting.

In the last six decades, Pakistan has sent over 180,000 troops to 45 UN missions in 28 different countries.

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Farhat calls for nationwide debate on death penalty

F.P. Report

Islamabad: PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar has called for a wide ranging national debate involving all strata of society including political parties, lawyers, religious scholars, intellectuals, media persons and academia on awarding death penalty in a broken justice system and the laws heavily tilted in favor of the rich and the powerful.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Trial and Terror’ organized by the Justice Project of Pakistan in a local hotel in Islamabad to launch its report he said that terrorists refused to be deterred by death penalty, the rich and powerful manipulated Qisas law to get away with murder and only the poor were hanged.

Three years since the lifting of moratorium on executions it is time to make an assessment of the net result of the application of Anti terror laws, the military courts, the Regulation in Aid of Civil Power and Guantanamo Bay type prisons for fighting terrorism, he said. Nearly five hundred have been executed during the last three years, over 80 percent of them were ordinary criminals and not jet black terrorists as promised at the time of military courts.

He said that in a security driven state welfare and rights of the people mattered little. Our rush to carry out executions is a reaffirmation of the truth that a state that does not care about peoples’ lives is least concerned about how they died.

He said that recently two brothers were acquitted of murder by the Supreme Court after nearly fifteen years on death row but only after they had already been executed and no one in the criminal justice chain knowing about it.

He asked scholars how they rationalized such gross miscarriage of justice with the insistence that moratorium on executions was against religion.

He said that according to scholars Islam called for death penalty in only two offences but today twenty seven offences in Pakistan carried death penalty. There is no reason why we should not revisit the offences that carry death penalty, he said.

He said the implementation of Action on Aid of civil Administration Regulation 2011 was another worrisome area. The Regulation was given back dated effect from 2008 to enable the security agencies to conduct open trial of those in their custody for years in PATA (provincially administered areas) of KPK.

However, today, no one knows how many internment centres have been set up for keeping them, how many inmates in these centres, what are charges, how many have died while in the centres and whether and how many are being tried for what crimes and in which courts.

These internment centres have become like little Guantamano Bay prisons, black hole for the inmates and no go areas even for the judiciary and the parliament, he said.

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Pakistan committed to UN peacekeeping: Minister

F.P. Report

Islamabad: Minister for Defence Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan arrived in Canada on a 3-day visit to represent Pakistan at the United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Meeting that began today in Vancouver, says a press release received here today from Canada.

“Pakistan has in the past and will continue in the future to play an important role in supporting United Nations’ global effort to bring long-term stability to war-affected regions of the world.

We are pioneers in creating a program in Peace and Conflict Studies at Nat-ional University of Science & Technology (NUST),” said Minister Khan.

Minister for Defence will speak on Pakistan’s “Smart Pledges” to UN Peacekeeping operations, and will separately enunciate Pakistan’s views and suggestions on “Early Warning and Deployment”, one of the principal themes of the meeting.

Khurram Dastgir Khan will also hold bilateral meetings with Pakistan’s international partners on the sidelines of the Ministerial meeting.Pakistan is one of the leading troop contributing countries to UN Peacekeeping missions, with over 6000 uniformed personnel deployed currently in 10 different missions of the United Nations.

Since 1960, Pakistan has sent over 180,000 troops to 45 UN missions in 28 different countries since 1960.

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Pakistan values its ties with Saudi Arab, says President

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain Monday said Pakistan values its relations with Saudi Arab and both the countries always supported each other at difficult times.

The president was talking to ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan Nawaf Saeed Ahmad Al-Maliki, who called on him at the Aiwan e Sadr. Other high officials were also present during the meeting, a press release said. He said the sincere relations between the two brotherly states were an example for the world.

He said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were closely connected with each other on the basis of strong bonds of faith, history and culture.

He said both brotherly countries enjoyed steadfast ties among various sectors of life and stressed upon further cementing of these relations in this regard.

Furthermore President Mamnoon Hussain accorded his approval for grant of financial support to the deserving artists from across the country out of the Federal Government Artists Welfare Fund.

He also directed for making special arrangements for the treatment of the ailing artists under the Prime Minister’s health programme. The ministry of health was directed to take immediate steps after ascertaining the situation. The president was chairing a meeting of the steering committee of the Federal Government Artists Welfare Fund at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, said a press release.

The meeting was attended by secretaries and representatives of the ministries of finance, cabinet division, information and health and members of the steering committee of the Fund.

The meeting considered the applications for extending financial aid and granted its approval. The president also directed the committee not to give its approval for screening of any foreign propaganda movie against Pakistan.

The members of the steering committee of the Fund who attended the meeting included Attaul Haq Qasmi, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Arif Habib, Mustafa Qureshi, Najeebullah Anjum, Shahid Shafiq, Qavi Khan, Salman Alvi, Zaiba Muhammad Ali and other high official.

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Adhocism culture needs to be discouraged: Minister

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD : Minster for Federal Education and Professional Training, Engr Muahmmad Baligh Ur Rehman Monday said that adhocism and extension culture in higher education sector should be discouraged.

He said that appointment of heads in higher education institutions should be made through a transparent and merit based mechanism by independent search committee comprising of relevant experts.

He was sharing his views with the delegation of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), a press release said.

The delegation was led by Central President Prof.Dr.Kaleem Ullah Bareach comprising of Prof. Fareed Khan Achakzai, Dr. Shehzad Ashraf and others which met him at his office.

Provincial governments should play their due role and meet the growing needs of higher education sector and universities  through provision of required funding in the light of 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The delegation thoroughly briefed and presented the problems being faced by universities’ faculty in higher education sector both at federal and provincial levels. The delegation also presented  the unanimous resolution of All Pakistan University Teachers Convention which resolved extending retirement age for universities’ teachers from 60 to 65 and restoration of tax rebate up to 75% for universities faculty/researchers.

The resolution further included representation of elected representatives in governing board of International Islamic University Islamabad,  implementation of 18th Constitutional Amendment in higher education sector in true letter and spirit through confining role of Federal HEC merely to formulation of standards. It also demanded enhancing role of provincial governments in funding and implementation of higher education policies, respecting and ensuring academic freedom , autonomy of the universities as guaranteed by Constitution of Pakistan and respective universities Acts, taking representatives of faculty and students along with relevant citizens on board in all the statutory bodies of the universities.

The resolution further demanded of immediate election of  Student Union and their representation in all statutory bodies of public sector universities along with elected representatives of university faculty.

The minister assured the delegation for his support and cooperation for resolving the issues being faced by university faculty.

 

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Citizens right dangerously abridge by state actors: PPP

F.P. Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator, Farhatullah Babar has said that on the eve of review by the UN of human rights situation in Pakistan, it is a grim thought that citizens’ rights have been dangerously abridged by both state and non state actors in the country.
At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on Monday member states will present national reports of human rights situation in their countries and also explain the measures taken to implement the promises made at previous reviews. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif will lead the delegation which also includes officials of human rights ministry.
Warning against falsifying human rights situation in Pakistan he said that the international community will be sympathetic towards any shortcomings in view of the challenges we face but it will never condone if we tell downright lies at the review, he said.
This year the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and independent bodies will also be present at the review conference and any falsification will be far more difficult than in the past. It should also be borne in mind that our international trade particularly with the EU also hinges on our human rights record, he said.
Farhatullah Babar said that at the previous review Pakistan had agreed to criminalize enforced disappearances but the report is silent on this issue.
It would be best to make a categorical announcement at the review moot that enforced disappearances will be criminalized before the end of the year, he said.
Similarly the claim that blasphemy laws are non discriminatory and that no one has been punished under it is patently false. It will be honest to admit that the fair and just implementation of blasphemy law presents challenges that the state is trying to address, the PPP Senator added.
The professed commitment to promote freedom of expression is easily belied in the face of misuse of the Cyber Crimes Act 2016 to stifle dissent in the name of national security as in the case of a Balochistan recently charged with endangering the integrity of federation for his post on social media.
Farhatullah Babar said that death penalty was not mentioned in the government report. But the continued execution of convicts other than terrorists, the recent calls to send more cases to military courts and the Guantanamo Bay style internment centres will continue to haunt us, he said.
He also proposed a three-step formula. “Initiating a wider national debate on death penalty, criminalizing enforced disappearances and making public full details of inmates of internment centres before the end of the year will help improve human rights record as well as Pakistan’s image”.