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Indian request to grant visa for Kulbhushan’s mother under consideration: FO

ISLAMABAD (NNI): The Afghanistan Government needs to take urgent steps for eradication of poppy cultivation, law enforcement, provision of alternative livelihoods, and public information campaigns to end the production of opium in line with International Drug Conventions.

Spokesperson of Foreign Office Muhammad Faisal responding to a query during the weekly media briefing said that Pakistan had consistently raised serious concerns about the increase in cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan. “We are especially concerned about the links between narco-trade and terrorism, as narco-trafficking is considered to be one of the major sources of terror financing in Afghanistan,” he said.

The issue of opium cultivation and drug production poses a serious threat to the socio-economic development, security and stability not only of Afghanistan, but also in the surrounding region, he said.

According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) the production of opium in Afghanistan had increased by 87 per cent in 2017, as compared to the year 2016.

When his attention was drawn to the recent statement of Afghan Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah in which he had admitted that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had a strong foothold in Afghanistan, which is an acknowledgment of Pakistan’s stance that TTP operated from Afghanistan to create instability in Pakistan, Dr. Faisal said that Pakistan had repeatedly highlighted the fact that TTP, JUA, Daesh and other terrorist groups had established sanctuaries in Afghanistan and were involved in terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. The leader of TTP Swat, Mullah Fazal Ullah, the mastermind and perpetrator of the Peshawar Army Public School was hiding in Afghanistan.

Additionally, he said, “we had information, that RAW had developed a robust network with the TTP, JUA and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and they were being used for subversive activities in Pakistan. We have shared evidence with the Afghan side and expect Afghanistan to take action against those terrorist groups. Afghanistan should not allow its territory to be used by India against Pakistan,” he added.

When asked about the denial of visas by Swiss Embassy to a number of senior officials including a retired Justice and Speaker of Baluchistan Assembly, who were part of a delegation that was proceeding to Geneva, he said initially, there was some mis-communication about visa applications of Pakistani senior officials, who were scheduled to travel to Geneva for official meetings. However, the Swiss Embassy opened its office on Saturday (November 11, 2017) and entertained the applications submitted to it.

Responding to a query regarding award of contract for issuance of visa by Pakistan’s High Commission, London, he clarified that no decision had yet been taken in awarding any contract on the subject.

The existing 5 years contract with Gerry’s Offshore Incorporation Limited expired in May 2017. In order to undertake the process for selection of a new service provider in a transparent manner and as per the PPRA rules, a Committee of Officers was constituted at the high commission in June 2016.

The Expression of Interest (EOIs) were invited in November 2016, he explained. The selection criteria clearly stipulated that the company should either have relevant experience or demonstrate the ability to deliver the requisite services. The shortlisted firms were also scrutinized and cleared by the agencies concerned in Pakistan, he added.

He further explained that after their security clearance, the shortlisted firms were invited for financial bidding. The bids were opened on November 10, 2017 at the High Commission. In order to ensure complete transparency, all the bidders were asked to bring their bids along, which were opened in presence of representatives of all the bidders and the Committee members. The lowest bid would now be sent to the Ministry for approval. Once approved by the Ministry, a draft Service Agreement between the High Commission and the service provider would be sent for concurrence by the Ministry of Law and Justice, he said.

When asked about the reported prohibition of the entry of Mehran Marri into the Switzerland stating that he was a leader of a terrorist organization and posed a threat to internal and external security of Switzerland, Dr. Faisal said.

“We continue to impress upon friendly countries to deny space to all those who directly or indirectly threaten sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan.”

“We are determined to redouble our efforts in this regard. Switzerland has realized that Mehran Marri was a threat to their national interest/security and decided to deny him entry. It is not in favour of any country to allow terrorists on its soil,” he said.

To a question about India’s recent letter to Pakistan in Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev’s case, he said that Pakistan offered a meeting to Commander Jadhav’s wife, the next of kin, on purely humanitarian grounds. India has requested that the mother may be allowed to accompany the wife. The Indian request was under consideration, he added.

When asked if Afghan side had shared any update on the investigations of Shahadat of Nayyar Iqbal Rana with Pakistan, he said that Pakistan’s Ambassador in Afghanistan had held meetings with relevant Afghan authorities, who are still investigating the matter.

About a question about death sentence by Bangladesh government to people who were involved in the freedom struggle during 1971 war, spokesperson said that Pakistan is deeply concerned over this development. We hope and expect that the government of Bangladesh should uphold its commitment, as per the Tripartite Agreement of 1974, wherein it “decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency”. Pakistan believes that matters should be addressed with a forward looking approach in the spirit of reconciliation, he added.

To another question, he said, It is regrettable that India continued to politicize humanitarian issues including provision of medical visas for Pakistani patients since May 2017. It is all the more reprehensible as these patients, many of whom have been consulting Indian doctors for a long time are seeking treatment, often lifesaving, on their own expense without any special discount from India – I repeat on their own expense.

No one is fooled by Indian gimmickry. This is not a gesture of compassion but cold blooded politicking under which individuals are picked at will for political mileage, he added.

About the Iran earthquake, Dr. Faisal said that Pakistan had dispatched a C130 aircraft carrying relief assistance for the affectees of the deadly earthquake that struck Iran on November 12, 2017. The relief assistance consists of the items identified by the Iranian side in accordance with the relief requirements in the earthquake affected area. The aid consignment from Pakistan was the very first cargo transported to Iran for the earthquake victims.

Responding to a query he said Pakistan was deeply concerned about the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan, particularly when more than 43% of the Afghan territory remained ungoverned, and served as an abode to terrorist sanctuaries.

He said that Pakistan had held numerous conferences with reference to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, particularly since the July 8 shahadat of Burhan Muzaffar Wani. The Government of Pakistan sent special envoys to all the major capitals of the world to raise awareness about the gravity of situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir and urged the international community to call upon India to immediately halt the bloodshed of innocent Kashmiris. Moreover, members of civil society, Parliamentarians and human rights activists across Europe, Nordic States, Australia and North America had also underscored India’s excessive use of force and atrocities in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir to their host Governments and people.

He said, ‘Let me assure you that the Government of Pakistan is doing its utmost to highlight the issue of Jammu & Kashmir to the international community, and call upon India to stop its massive human rights violations, including killing, dishonouring, maiming and blinding of innocent and defenceless Kashmiris.”

The US Congress recently passed the National Defence Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2018 which included provisions for reimbursement of $700 million to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), he said. The conditionality with regard to HN is not new and was also part of previous authorizations. Efforts to stretch this conditionality by adding other organizations did not succeed, he added.

He said that Pakistan and the US were engaged in discussing all issues of mutual interest including advancing peace and stability in the region. More than 43% of Afghan territory is ungoverned, which created space for sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorist outfits, he explained.

He said that Pakistan was monitoring the situation in the Korean Peninsula and shared the concerns over the tensions in the region. Pakistan supports the resolution of the issue through peaceful means.

“We encourage DPRK and RoK to resume meaningful negotiations for this purpose. Pakistan also supports the resumption of Six-Party Talks process at an early date to reduce tensions. Pakistan welcomed the two Summits between DPRK and RoK in June 2000 and in 2007.”

It has been Pakistan’s consistent position that all the relevant parties should comply with their international obligations, pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy to reduce tensions, refrain from any action that is inimical to peace and stability in the region and work towards achieving a comprehensive solution, he said.

About the visit of Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, he said it is expected in the next few weeks and the diplomatic channels are working on mutually convenient dates for this visit.

“We have at multiple occasions shared intelligence with Afghanistan and the US regarding the presence of terrorists along the border with a request to take action and not let Afghan territory be used against Pakistan, he added.

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Govt won’t accept illegal demands of Faizabad protesters: Ahsan Iqbal

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has categorically ruled out accepting any unlawful demand of a religious group that has been blocking Islamabad’s Faizabad Inter-Section for nearly three weeks.

“We have already strengthened the Finality of Prophethood Law in consultation with all political parties,” Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told media persons. He said that the government would not accept any illegal demand from the leader of the protest.

Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasoo Ullah, Sunni Tehreek and some other religious parties have been holding a sit-in at Faizabad Inter-Change in Islamabad to demand the ouster of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

The government blamed clerical error for the changes and corrected the bill. “If we accept their illegal demands, more will be coming here with new demands,” he argued.

He cleared that the government would not surrender to the protesters who have camped in the capital for nearly a month as it would set a precedent.

Iqbal said that Sunni Tehreek and Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah are using the controversy over Khatm-e-Nabuwwat for political gains. The minister said that all the Muslims of Pakistan are guardians of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat.

He said that to divide the nation is against the spirit of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat. He alleged that the protesting bodies belonging to the right wing are using the clause pertaining to Khatm-e-Nabuwwat for political gains by inciting the people.

hile talking about demand of the protesters to have law minister Zahid Hamid resign, the interior minister said that law was not put forth by him but the parliamentary committee. The law minister presented the law as per the code and put forth an even improved form of it, he added.

Ahsan Iqbal reiterated that the government would not accept demand of the protesters about resignation of the law minister. He said that the sit-in did not arise from the controversial amendment but from a political agenda.

The federal minister claimed that the protesting bodies aim to weaken the ruling party by having Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Barelvi Muslims come face to face causing loss to its vote bank ahead of General Elections 2018.

The minister further cleared that legal demands could be talked about and that the government does not wish for any coercive clash.

The interior minister said that Election Act 2017 was adopted in consultation with all political parties. He warned that those holding a sit-in at Faizabad wanted dead bodies. “We can disperse the crowd within two hours, but who will guarantee that there will be no violence,” he said.

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SC seeks NAB, govt reports on action taken against 436 Pakistanis named in Panama Papers

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): The Supreme Court on Thursday sent notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the federal government seeking reports on action taken against 436 Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers, a massive investigation into secretive offshore companies owned by the world’s political and business elite, sparked controversy in several countries last year. At home, their publication had led to the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

On Thursday, a two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, conducted a hearing on petitions filed by Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq and Advocate Tariq Asad, which seek action against all those named in the Panama Papers. The petitions were clubbed together by the apex court today.

During the hearing, Advocate Asad told the court that indiscriminate action should be taken against those who had “engaged in corrupt practices and set up off-shore companies in Panama.”

It should be pointed out here that the setting up of off-shore companies is, in itself, not a criminal act and has many legitimate uses.

However: “These companies are established for tax-evasion purposes,” the lawyer alleged. “Action should be taken against those who engaged in money-laundering.”

The advocate requested the court list the Interior Ministry, the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan as respondents in the case.

“Does your case seek action against those who own assets beyond their known sources of income?” Justice Afzal asked the advocate.

“It is NAB which is responsible for undertaking investigations into assets beyond known sources of income. It is not up to the SC to determine if individuals’ assets exceed their income,” the judge reminded the petitioner.

“I served on the bench that heard the Panama Papers case. We will hear this case,” Justice Afzal added. “Corruption is found in every state institution and steps need to be taken to against it,” he added.

The hearing was adjourned indefinitely.

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India outraged over Hafiz Saeed’s release order

NEW DELHI (AFP): India said Thursday it was outraged at a court order to release Jamatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who’s also accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

A Lahore High Court on Wednesday ordered Saeed’s release, who carries a $10 million US bounty, after government failed to back the charges of terrorism with evidence.

He was put under house arrest in January following increased US pressure to rein-in militant groups.

“India, as indeed the entire international community, is outraged that a self-confessed and a UN proscribed terrorist is allowed to walk free and continue with his evil agenda,” Raveesh Kumar, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters at a weekly briefing in New Delhi.

“It also appears to be an attempt by the Pakistani system to mainstream proscribed terrorists,” the spokesperson added.

Kumar said the radical leader’s release shows that ‘Pakistan continues with its policy to support and shield non-state actors who are involved in militant activities in the region’.

It is the third time that the cleric has been released by courts after authorities briefly detained him twice in the aftermath of the attacks in November 2008.

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SC displeased over abusive language as Faizabad protest enters 18th day

ISLAMABAD (NNI): The Supreme Court Thursday took strong exception to the language being used by the leaders of protesters in an ongoing sit-in at Faizabad Interchange.

The protest camping entered 18th day Thursday.

Hearing a suo motu case regarding the sit-in initiated over government’s attempt to effect change in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause in Election Bill, the apex court blamed the government for not taking timely action to avert the protest.

Earlier, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf submitted a report on behalf of the Interior and Defence ministries to apex court’s bench comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Musheer Alam.

The Attorney General said the government had engaged several religious scholars to hold talks with the protesters to amicably resolve the issue. Voicing displeasure over the report, the apex court said the media is far more updated than the details in the reports.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked the parties should have approached the courts over the issue and there is a Shariah Court also to resolve the matter. “This sit-in is setting a bad precedent as anyone can bring the city to a standstill to get their demands across,” he observed.

Justice Isa stressed Islam teaches to remove even a stone from someone’s way and directed the authorities to tell the court as to who are supporting the sit-in—both politically and financially.

Justice Qazi also took strong exception to the abusive language being used by the sit-in leaders, saying, “Convince me if this is an Islamic conversation by any standard.” “Bad language is being used even against the people who are no more alive,” he said adding Pemra is keeping mum with social media awash with the reports.

The bench directed the ministries to submit a comprehensive report by next Thursday. He wondered if the cities will be locked down if any other such issue crops up in the future. The court also demanded the report as to how much expenses the government has borne to place the containers on the roads.

The Attorney General said the government does not want spoil the situation in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal adding the protesters launch the demonstration during the Chehlum of Hazram Imam Hussain (R.A). Responding to a question, he told the court as many as 169 people have been arrested and 18 cases lodged, adding a child passed away mainly owing to the blockaded roads. Justice Isa said it is not an ordinary event that a child died as killing of a human being is tantamount to the killing of entire humanity.

On a query by Justice Isa regarding the government’s action plan, the AG replied, “We are taking measures, but some measures couldn’t be publicized.” Justice Isa also called upon the parliament, judiciary and Ulema to play their role in this regard. The judge said, “We live in an Islamic country. It seems that living in an Islamic country is becoming difficult for the Muslims.” Despite the prior information, the protesters were not stopped, the court said adding the court will not issue any decree in this regard.

“We will only interpret the law leaving it to the state and the administration. We will not do your job for you, because then you will be complaining about interference,” the judge said.

The protesters are demanding Federal Minister for Law Zahid Hamid to resign for his alleged role in altering the declaration of lawmakers with regard to Finality of the Prophet hood – a change which the government called a ‘clerical error’ and has already reversed.

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Army to launch ‘Khushhal Baluchistan’ project

F.P. Report

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Khushhal Baluchistan project will bring development and prosperity in the country. This he said while attending a high level meeting on Thursday.

DG Inter-Service Public Relation (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor shared this on his social media account and said that Khushhal Baluchistan project is being launched in the province.

He added that the basic aim of the project to bring stability in Baluchistan through socio-economic development and security.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also announced earlier this month, a ten-year development package for Baluchistan to bring all its cities and towns like other developed areas of the country.

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FIA arrests two Chinese nationals in Karachi

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency has arrested and booked two Chinese nationals on the allegations of submitting bogus corporate guarantee for clearance of Surveying Equipments valuing Rs. 677 million, sources said.

According to an FIA official, an FIR No. 33/2017 of FIA ACC Karachi has been registered against a Chinese Oil & Gas Surveying Company M/s BGP (Pakistan) International, its Clearing Agent M/s IMT Co, Customs Officials & others on the allegation of preparing and submitting Fake and Bogus Corporate Guarantee for clearance of their Surveying Equipments valuing Rs. 677 million.

“Two Chinese nationals have been arrested  on 22.11.2017 namely accused Zhong Zhongmin Country Manager & accused Li Chonhong Dy. Country Manager BGP (Pakistan) International,” according to FIA officials.

M/s BGP (Pakistan) International is also facing Adjucating proceedings before Custom Authorities however got a stay order from Sindh High Court against Adjucating proceedings, he added.

“The Hon’ble Court has directed BGP Pakistan International to deposit 1% of all temporary imports as surcharge on expired Corporate Guarantees”.

According to officials, M/s BGP Pakistan International has deposited Rs. 160 million against 125 temporary imports. During course of Enquiry FIA has calculated total outstanding amount against BGP Pakistan International stands at Rs. 513 Million.

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Zardari refuses to meet Nawaz Sharif for the fourth time

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Former President and Co-Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, Asif Ali Zardari has refused to meet with the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for the fourth time in the last three months.

A private news channel reported that Nawaz Sharif contacted the former President for the fourth time in the last three months however; Zardari refused a meeting with him and rejecting all the possibility of any contact with Nawaz Sharif in near future.

Sources quoted Zardari that Nawaz Sharif only remember those democratic promises where his interests are concerned and adding that Nawaz Sharif is responsible of the current political situation in the country and totally rejected meeting and hand shake with him.

Earlier on October 9, the former president said that the disqualified individual could not become a party’s president in a democratic system.

Prior this month, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had remarked that he had failed to establish contact between the two leaders.

 

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Islamabad sit-in: Army is ready to act on govt decision

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General, Asif Ghafoor has said army bound to take action as per the decision of the government regarding the ongoing sit-in in Islamabad.

DG ISPR added that it is better to solve the issue with mutual understanding however; the army is ready to act on government orders and clear the roads.

The Islamabad sit-in enters in the 18th consecutive day and it disrupted the routine life because the protesters of different religious group continued their sit-in and blocking the Faizabad Interchange despite a notice by the Supreme Court.

General Ghafoor added that it is the responsibility of the army to act on the government orders for the security of Pakistan and adding that the civilian and military leadership is on the same page for the peaceful Pakistan.

Earlier on Wednesday, at least four security personnel were injured when the protesters staging the sit-in resorted to pelting stones at security forces deployed in the area. SP Saddar Amir Niazi was also among the four injured Frontier Corps (FC) and police personnel.

Police and FC personnel deployed in the area have been put on alert and extra reinforcements, including armoured personnel carriers, have been summoned to the area and deployed at IJP road.

 

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Gwadar to emerge on world map as major trade hub: PM

F.P. Report
GAWADAR: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi performed the ground breaking of the Rs17 billion East Bay Expressway and directed that the series of development projects for Gwadar be completed on time to ensure that the port emerges on the world map as a major trade hub.
Addressing a ceremony here, the Prime Minister said the economic-free zone would be completed this year while work on the Port project, Pakistan China Friendship Hospital, Power Plant, Gwadar Airport etc, under the Rs170 billion plan for uplift of Gwadar would also complete on time.
The Prime Minister said these infrastructure projects would go a long way in generating economic activity in the country and ensure its progress. He said the 19.5 km, six-lane expressway would ease cargo handling through road and increase connectivity with rest of the country. The project would link Gwadar Port with the Makran Coastal Highway and improve logistic transportation of import and export.
Prime Minister Abbasi said a number of power projects under the CPEC have been inaugurated and were playing a significant role in the nation building activities. He hoped the completion of the East Bay Expressway would cut short travel time between major cities. The Prime Minister said the East Bay Expressway was symbolic of the lofty Pakistan-China friendship and said the CPEC would further strengthen and deepen their strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Abbasi said these projects would transform the small fishing town to a global shipping port. He said Gwadar would soon be on world map, owing to the CPEC project.
Referring to the two main issues raised by Chief Minister Hasil Bajinjo he said work was going on to provide electricity and clean drinking water for the local residents and said it was the responsibility of the government of Pakistan to address these issues. He said in few weeks time the people would feel the difference.
Regarding the issues related to border access with Iran, he directed Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to take cognizance of the matter and take action to facilitate the people.
He said the local people of Gwadar need to be accommodated at all levels, and be provided training, capacity building, education so that they are seamlessly integrated into the new jobs being offered. He said he was appreciative of the local boat building industry and said it was part of the local heritage and needs to be encouraged. He asked the provincial government to submit its suggestions in this regard and said the federal government would fully support the traditional trade and encourage it.
He said work on road to Khuzdar was being completed and would transform the entire landscape. He said today Gwadar was at a distance of hours and not days anymore.
He said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was not limited to any particular province, but was for the progress and prosperity of the country and said it has the support from across the political divide. There is no opposition to the CPEC, and said difference of opinion was part of democracy. However, he said today all parties stand united for the completion of the project.
He hoped it would be a landmark project and hoped other projects at Gwadar would be completed soon.