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Celebrations in parts of the world ring in new year

SYDNEY (AFP): Australia, Dubai and New Zealand among several countries around the world have rung in the new year’s celebrations on Sunday with dozens of states to follow in coming hours.

World renowned landmarks including Times Square, Burj Khalifa and Red Square witnessed fireworks display to bring in the new year.

Celebrations will move to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally the Americas, with dazzling light shows bidding farewell to 2017.

– Hong Kong: “Shooting stars” will be fired from the rooftops of skyscrapers in a 10-minute musical fireworks display.

– Jakarta: Some 500 couples will wed in a mass ceremony sponsored by the government, and festivals and bazaars will be held on main roads and at tourist sites.

– Dubai: The city is replacing its main midnight fireworks with a laser show on the world s tallest tower, the 828-metre Burj Khalifa.

– Moscow: Major boulevards and squares will be decked out to welcome the new year, with fireworks to light up 36 key sites.

– Berlin: Special tents will be set up at the Brandenburg Gate to care for women victims of sexual harassment or those who feel threatened, following mass assaults by migrant groups on women in Cologne two years ago. In Cologne itself, 1,400 police will be mobilised, street lighting will be improved and more video cameras installed.

– Paris: Hundreds of thousands are expected to line the Champs-Elysees for a light show and fireworks at the Arc de Triomphe. Nearly 140,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed nationwide to guard against the jihadist threat. But with no major attack in France since mid-2016 the atmosphere was noticeably more festive than in the past two years.

– Rio: Millions will gather on Copacabana beach to watch the fireworks, with many wearing white, the traditional colour to usher in the new year.

Australia rang in the New Year Sunday with a spectacular display of rainbow-coloured fireworks cascading from Sydney Harbour Bridge, as revellers marked the nation s legalisation of gay marriage amid tight security.

About 1.5 million people packed the city s foreshore to watch the pyrotechnics light up the sky above the historic bridge and the iconic opera house, the first major celebrations worldwide after New Zealand.

“This is a fabulous way to see out 2017 — the year that four out of five Sydneysiders said a resounding Yes to marriage equality,” said Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of the nationwide postal vote in support of change.

Thousands turned out earlier in New Zealand s largest city Auckland for the annual New Year s Eve street party, marked by a major fireworks display from the Sky Tower.

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Sharifs visits to Saudi Arabia not aimed at deal with establishment: Ahsan Iqbal

F.P. Report

NAROWAL: Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has rebuffed the reports claiming that visit of Sharif brothers to Saudi Arabia is aimed at striking a deal with the establishment.

Talking to the media persons in Narowal on Sunday, Ahsan Iqbal said that reports of the British media regarding engagements of Sharif brothers in Saudi Arabia were completely baseless and out of context.

He alleged that baseless reports were meant to affect the popularity of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The Interior Minister asserted that at present, Pakistan was facing severe threats and conspiracies were being hatched against the country abroad.

He said that the all parties conference (APC) convened by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and opposition parties aimed at spreading anarchy in Pakistan and that it would fulfil the agenda of Pakistan’s enemies.

Ahsan Iqbal further claimed that opposition political fronts want to have General Elections 2018 postponed out of fear of loss against PML-N.

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Model Town incident: Rana offers to prove innocence before Qadri

F.P. Report

FAISALABAD: Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Sunday offered to prove his innocence before Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri over the killing of 14 PAT activists during Model Town anti-encroachment drive in June 2014.

The incident on June 17, 2014, had claimed lives of at least 14 people and left over 100 others injured during an ‘anti-encroachment operation’ by Punjab Police outside Idara Minhajul Quran in Lahore’s Model Town.

“It was an incident, which neither had any planning, nor did anyone order police to shoot protesters,” Rana told newsmen here on Sunday. “I invite Tahirul Qadri to sit with us and record statement after swearing on the Holy Quran.”

Urging the PAT chief to speak on oath regarding the incident, he said they were also ready to prove their innocence.

The PAT chief blames the Punjab government for the Model Town killings.

“This isn’t the first time we have been demanded to step down; efforts to create instability have been ongoing for past four-and-a-half years,” the provincial minister said, maintaining that protest sit-ins, long march and rallies were all aimed at preventing development in the country.

He said the nation has come to know of the reality of such people and his party would defeat the “conspiring forces” through vote in the next elections.

Rana urged that those killed in Model Town incident should not be used for politics.

Confirming his meetings with PAT leader Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, he said the PAT leader also came to Model Town to meet him. “The matter could not be settled with Gandapur; we want to compensate relatives of Model Town victims.”

He further said they discussed compensation after approval by the Punjab chief minister. The minister said he has immense respect for Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, adding that a few individuals have been using Pir Sialvi and other scholars for the sake of politics.

Criticising the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), he said Imran Khan would retire from politics in 2018. “Khan would tell tales to kids that once upon a time he stayed inside a container for 126 days,” Rana said. “He would also tell them how he once demanded resignation from the PM.”

Model Town report

The Punjab government, at the behest of the Lahore High Court, had made the report of the Model Town incident public on December 5. The inquiry report, prepared by Justice Baqir Najfi commission, says that police tried to cover up the facts regarding who gave orders to open fire on protesters.

It adds that no legal opinion was sought from the Punjab advocate general prior to the start of the operation. The commission, in its report, also stated that on the ground, the standoff continued the whole night, resulting in minor injuries to police constables as well as PAT workers.

It was after 9am that the DIG Operation arrived at the site, who called the SPs of different divisions of Lahore, and as a result the policemen started increasing in response to the swelling up of the PAT activists, the report says.

The commission observed: “The level of cooperation in digging out the truth is that no police official from top to bottom, whether actively participated in the operation or not, did utter a single word about the person under whose command the police resorted to firing upon the PAT workers.”

Further, in its conclusion, the commission said, “It is shocking to note that everyone has deliberately but unsuccessfully tried to cover each other from possibly adverse legal effects.”

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Leaders shouldn’t take steps fanning flames of nationalism: Chandio

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan People’s Party’ senior leader Maula Bukhsh Chandio said on Sunday that the government should refrain from taking measures which could potentially fan the flames of nationalism.

The PPP leader was speaking to media at Bilawal House, where he expressed his reservations over the alleged move by the federal government inhibiting flow of water to Sindh.

Chandio said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has never displayed any nationalistic facet through its decisions and actions.

The leader said that the water to the province was cut off without any schedule, which is making lands barren.

Chandio said that the federal government on the subject said that it has been done on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau, adding that the newly appointed NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal is a fair person and any injustice shouldn’t be done to Sindh.

Chandio said institutions have all the strictness for us, although the PPP respects the judiciary.

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Over 0.2m cases could not be heard due to lawyers’ strikes: LHC chief justice

LAHORE (Monitoring Desk): Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah criticised Sunday the frequent strikes by the legal fraternity, and shared that the lawyers should only protest issues they deeply care about.

Sharing statistics, he pointed out that 240,000 additional cases could have been heard if it weren’t for 3,040 strikes by lawyers in 2017.

While addressing an event in Lahore, CJ LHC remarked that it makes no sense for lawyers to protest issues which do not relate to Pakistan.

Most recently, the legal fraternity boycotted courts following the suicide attack in a church in Quetta, which claimed nine lives. Before, the lawyers had staged a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Lawyers in Multan protested for seven consecutive days recently over the shifting of the judicial complex. The protest ended after Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar ruled to reopen the old judicial complex until adequate facilities are ensured in the new complex.

During their protest, some lawyers had turned violent and were caught on camera vandalising public property.

‘One judge for 62,000 people in Lahore’

The LHC CJ lamented the lack of judges in the city and shared that one judge is available for 62,000 people in Lahore.

He remarked that Punjab has a total population of 110 million, and a total of 1,731 judges. “This amounts to one judge per 62,000 people.”

On the contrary, in a developed nation such as Germany, there is one judge is per 4,000 people. “If we have 10,000 judges then we can compete on an international level,” he added.

“Our judges are working on a target of 70,” he said, adding “Despite facing many challenges, the judges are working with hard work and integrity.”

On the tensions between bar members and the judges, he encouraged the bar members to approach him and sort the issue. “I request them [bar members] to come talk to me, no one needs to misbehave with one another.”

He also remarked that there is a need to draw a distinction between getting upset with him and reforming the system. “If I say I take any action, then it will be a part of disappointment or reforming system,” he asked.

“I don’t want to get recommendations asking for the transfer of judges. How can this lead to disappointment?”

‘Misperception that courts aren’t working’

CJ Shah also pointed out that there is a misperception that courts are working.

He assured that work is being done. Sharing some statistics, he remarked that three million cases were filed before the court, of which verdicts were given in 2.1 million cases.

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Pir Sialvi says will not be part of any protests or sit-in

F.P. Report

MULTAN: Spiritual leader Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi on Sunday reaffirmed that they will not step back from their demand for the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, but vowed to not take part in any anti-government protests or sit-in.

The Sargodha-based spiritual leader while addressing media after All Pakistan Ulema Mashaikh Conference in Taunsa Sharif, said that he has no links with any political party, but is part of the movement to safeguard the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) and their core demand is the resignation of the Punjab Minister.

“I have no relation with any politician or political party,” he said. “As regards to the upcoming sit-ins, I will not be part of any protest whether it is from Lahore or Sargodha or anywhere else.” “I will not be part of any rallies or sit-ins. Neither my health allows me or my stature permits me.”

He appeared undetered and said that there is no power on Earth which can stop them from resignation of the Punjab minister. “Rana Sanaullah’s resignation is our main demand and will remain till the end. There is no power on Earth which can stop us.”

He further said that he was not a politician and no partisan agenda, and will not indulge in politics over the sensitive issue. He called on other parties to support him matter

He furthered announced that a decisive meeting will held in Pir Sial Sharif on January 9, 2018 where the future course of action will be given out.

It may be mentioned that Pir Sialvi, while a addressing a congregation in Gujranwala last week, had called for the resignation of Rana Sanaullah by December 31. Sialvi had also warned Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to seek his resignation or show Rana Sanaullah the door.

Ealier on December 10, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) had suffered a major blow after five lawmakers, three MPAs and two MNAs, submitted their resignations to Pir Sialvi.

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Petrol price hiked to Rs 81.53/litre with Rs 4.06 increase with New Year begins

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: On the eve of the beginning of the year 2018, Federal Government has given a new year gift to the people as prices of petroleum products have been increased.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has approved Rs 4.06 per litre hike in petrol price on Sunday on recommendation of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA).

The new price of petrol will be Rs81.53 a liter after increase of Rs4.6, said Prime Minister’s Advisor on Finance Miftah Ismail.

“The petrol prices are climbing up in the global markets, yet the rates in Pakistan are lesser than in India, Bangladesh and Turkey,” he said while announcing revised rates of petroleum products.

PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved increase in the petroleum product prices on recommendation of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.

High-speed diesel will be available for Rs89.91 a liter after increase of Rs3.96,

The price of kerosene oil has also been increased by Rs6.74, while light diesel has been increased by Rs6.25 taking it to Rs58.37 a liter.

The financial advisor cited hike in prices in the international markets for upward revision here in Pakistan.

The new prices will be effective from 12 am on January 1, 2018.

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8 dead in held Kashmir clashes

SRINAGAR (AFP): Freedom fighters stormed a paramilitary camp in Indian-held Kashmir early Sunday leaving eight dead, police and security forces said.

Armed fighters lobbed grenades and fired automatic rifles to enter the camp of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) outside the main city of Srinagar, triggering a fierce exchange of fire as hundreds of soldiers and special counterinsurgency police surrounded the area.

“Four CRPF soldiers died in the attack. We killed three militants, the body of one them is yet to be retrieved,” inspector general of police, Munir Ahmed Khan said.
A spokesperson for the paramilitary force, Rajesh Yadav earlier said another trooper died of cardiac arrest during the initial assault.

Three paramilitary troopers were wounded, Yadav said.

Officials said Sunday that at least 206 fighters, 57 civilians and 78 Indian security forces personnel had been killed during the year, making it the deadliest in a decade.

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18 dead in attack on Afghan funeral

JALALABAD (AFP): An explosion at a funeral in Afghanistan’s restive east on Sunday killed at least 18 mourners and wounded another 13, officials said, capping a deadly year for ordinary Afghans.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast which authorities initially said was caused by a suicide attacker but now believe was triggered by explosives attached to a motorcycle.

The Taliban said on Twitter they had nothing to do with the incident — the latest violence to claim the lives of civilians in the war-torn country.

“The explosion was caused by a motorcycle bomb our investigation has concluded,” Nangarhar governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.

The governor’s office put the death toll from the attack near the provincial capital Jalalabad at 18, with 13 wounded.

Provincial health director Najib Kamawal confirmed the new toll.

The explosion happened during the funeral ceremony for a former governor of Haska Mina district who died recently of natural causes, a statement from the governor’s office said.

The twisted wreckage of a motorcycle — a popular mode of transport in impoverished Afghanistan — lay in the dirt at the cemetery.

Pools of blood, clothes, shoes and hats were scattered on the ground.

Photos posted on social media purportedly of the scene showed bodies lying in blood and a plume of black smoke rising into the sky. Terrified mourners, mostly elderly men, could be seen running from the scene.

While the Taliban is still responsible for the majority of attacks and casualties across Afghanistan, Islamic State militants have been on a rampage this month.

The incident in Nangarhar, a volatile province bordering Pakistan and a stronghold for IS, comes days after the group claimed an assault on a Shiite cultural centre in Kabul that left 41 people dead and more than 80 wounded.

That followed a Christmas Day attack, also claimed by IS, near an Afghan intelligence agency compound in the Afghan capital that left six civilians dead.

On December 18 militants from the group stormed an intelligence training compound in Kabul, triggering an intense gunfight with police, two of whom were wounded.

The Middle Eastern jihadist outfit has gained ground in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, and has scaled up its attacks in Kabul and elsewhere, including on security installations and the country’s Shiite minority.

The latest news comes at the end of a particularly deadly year for Afghans, with the number of civilian casualties on track to be one of the highest on record since the US invasion in 2001.

More than 8,000 civilians were killed or wounded in conflict-related violence in the first nine months of this year, according to data compiled by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Last year’s civilian casualty toll of 11,418 was the highest for a single year since the UN began systematically documenting civilian deaths and injuries in 2009.

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Maryam rejects rumors of Nawaz’s exile

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Maryam Nawaz, Leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and daughter of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif has rejected the reports of Nawaz Sharif’s self-exile.

This he said while sharing her views on twitter account on Sunday. He rejected the news and added that they are not afraid of facing the court and the exile will be the fate of military dictators and those who are working against the democracy in the country.

Meanwhile, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed said that political rivals are worried by Nawaz’s popularity and adding that these type of rumors will not affect the people love and respect towards Nawaz Sharif.

It is to be notified that journalist Wajahat Khan had claimed in his article that the ex-premier Nawaz Sharif might actually go into exile and avoid all his corruption cases against him.