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Angela Merkel urges Serbia

Monitoring Desk

BERLIN: Serbia’s future in the EU depends on democratic reforms and overcoming the Kosovo issue, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Berlin, Merkel urged for democratic reforms and steps to resolve the question of Kosovo’s status. “Serbia’s EU membership negotiations can only move forward and be successful if further reform steps are taken in the fields of rule of law, protection of fundamental rights and above all in questions in connection with Kosovo,” she said.

Kosovo — a former Serbian province — declared independence in 2008 and is recognized by over 100 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany and Turkey. Belgrade opposed Kosovo’s independence but launched an “internal dialogue” with Piristina to resolve disagreeme-nts. Merkel reaffirmed on Tuesday Germany’s support for Serbia’s EU membership perspective, and also expressed hope that the Kosovo issue would be resolved with legal, “contractual arrangements” in the coming years. Serbia began EU membership negotiations in 2014 and is seeking to join the bloc by 2025.

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US hampers Iran’s advance toward Syrian oil-rich city

Selen Temizer

DEIR EZ-ZOR: The U.S. airstrikes on late Monday hampered the advance of Iranian forces’ toward Syria’s oil and energy-rich city of Deir ez-Zor, according to local sources.

The pro-regime Iranian forces captured 22 areas and attempted to occupy energy resources in the PYD/PKK-held city, but failed to move further due to the U.S. airstrikes, said the sources, who asked not be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Iran-backed pro-Assad militias retreated back to regime-controlled areas, after their supplies had been pounded by American warplanes in the district of Salihiye.

Earlier in February, Iranian forces tried to capture Deir ez-Zor to occupy oil and natural gas resources but the U.S. airstrikes hindered the attempt.

Clashes erupted between Iranian militias and PYD/PKK terrorists four days ago when the militia piled ammunition in the district of Salihiye and launched rockets at Conoco gas field, the sources added.

Since last September, energy-rich parts of the country — such as Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Al-Hasakah — have been handed over to the PYD/PKK by the Daesh terrorist group with air support provided by the U.S.

As of last October, the PYD/PKK had seized several energy facilities in Deir ez-Zor, including a Conoco gas plant and the Al-Omar and Jafra oilfields.

Notably, oil facilities in eastern Deir ez-Zor, including Afra, Taanah and Azraq, account for roughly one third of Syria’s overall energy reserves. (AA)


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Afghan Taliban renew call for talks with US

Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL: As the Afghan government prepares to host 25 countries for an international conference on peace, the Taliban have expressed willingness to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict in the war-torn country.

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is set to announce his comprehensive peace strategy with the Taliban at the Kabul Process II in the capital city in front of representatives of 25 countries including the U.S., China, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey and Pakistan on Wednesday.

On the eve of this significant conference, the Taliban have issued a statement, a second of the sort in a month, highlighting their willingness to reach a peaceful settlement via negotiations specifically with the U.S.

“The Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghan-istan calls on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary…“It would help in finding a solution if America accepts the legitimate demands of the Afghan people and forward its own concerns and requests for discussion to the Islamic Emirate through a peaceful channel,” the statement said. In a clear reference to the new U.S. war strategy, the Taliban said: “Military strategies which have repeatedly been tested in Afghanistan over the past seventeen years will only intensify and prolong the war. And this is not in the interest of anyone”.

The U.S. war strategy, announced by President Donald Trump last year, grants the American troops in Afghanistan authority and resources for an open-end war unlike the previous strategy with a deadline for the armed engagement.

There has been a momentous rise in violence across Afghanistan since the announcement of the strategy, with the militants increasingly targeting the capital Kabul and the U.S. and Afghan forces intensifying air and ground offensives against the rebels.

Responding to the statement, Shakib Mustaghni, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informed Anadolu Agency that the government would present its strategy for peace at the conference on Wednesday.

The first round of the Kabul Process was held on June 06 last year in which participants endorsed the government’s efforts for peace talks, anti-terrorism measures and negotiations with Pakistan.

The Taliban have for long been asserting that they would only talk for peace once foreign troops exit, but now in these two letters their demand has been for direct talks with the U.S. (AA)



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US urges Pakistan to act against Haqqani, other terror groups

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Assistant to the President and the U.S. National Security Council’s Senior Director for South and Central Asia Lisa Curtis visited Islamabad February 26-27. Senior Director Curtis met with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and the Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar.

In her meetings with Pakistani officials, Ms. Curtis said that the United States seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

She acknowledged Pakistan’s considerable sacrifices fighting terrorism and emphasized that the U.S. South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together to bring about a stable, peaceful Afghanistan which would enable the dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland; the defeat of ISIS in South Asia; and the elimination of terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States.

Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory, and reiterated the international community’s long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering/ counterterrorism finance regime.

According to a statement issued by foreign office, Senior Director Curtis met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and the Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar.

In her meetings with Pakistani officials, Lisa Curtis said that the United States seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

She acknowledged Pakistan’s considerable sacrifices fighting terrorism and emphasized that the US South Asia strategy represents an opportunity to work together to bring about a stable, peaceful Afghanistan which would enable the dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.

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Senate committee terms Privatization legislation flawed

F.P. Report

Islamabad: The Committee on Delegated Legislation today learnt that there was no legally constituted Privatization Commission and asked the government to revisit the existing privatization legislative which it said was seriously flawed.

The issue came during discussion on a petition against some Regulations of the Privatization Commission Ordinance 2000 as well as examination of the rule about valuation of property taken up by Senate Committee on Delegated Legislation today.

The meeting presided over by Senator Taj Hadier was attended by Senators Javed Abbasi, Daud Khan Achakzai, Kulsoom Perveen and Farhatullah Babar besides senior officials.

During discussion on distribution of powers between the Chairman, the Privatization Commission and the Board Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that there were ambiguities in the Privatization Ordinance. It was silent as to who members of the Commission were and how it was constituted, he said. After some discussion the Committee decided that the privatization legislation be revisited. The last agenda item on Rules under the National Command Authority Act was postponed as the Defence Secretary did not appear before the Committee.

Chairman Senator Taj Haider informed that late last night the Secretary defence called him and Chairman Senate to postpone it as he was busy. Earlier Defence Ministry had requested in camera discussion to which both he and the mover had agreed.

He then invited the committee members for comments. The mover Senator Farhatullah Babar said that transparency based on open discussion was a critical function of a parliamentary committee.

The NCA Act 2010 was also passed through an open public parliamentary debate. Subordinate legislation thus should also be open . Chairman Senate has also given a ruling regulating procedure to place sensitive information before Parliament, he said. Even then the Committee agreed to in camera discussion and yet the secretary defence had not come, he said.

Farhatullah Babar said that a senior officer could have deputed for secretary defence but the fact that no one has come made one wonder whether it was to wait  out till the senate term expired. He said that this issue was raised in the senate defence committee for over a year but the ministry avoided discussion.

Now it was avoiding discussion in the Delegated Legislation Committee as well and asked why. This has created space for unnecessary speculation and must be avoided, he said. The Committee decided to defer yet again the matter.



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CPEC belongs more to Afghanistan than Pak-China: President

F.P. Report

Islamabad: President Mamnoon Hussain has said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also of immense importance to Afghanistan in addition to Pakistan and China, as Afghanistan can reap numerous benefits from this project in future. The President said this while addressing the Launching Ceremony of Documentary on Afghan Students Studying in Pakistan at Aiwan-e-Sadr, Islamabad on Tuesday. Chairman, HEC Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad and Ambassador of Afghanistan Omar Zakhiwal also addressed the gathering.

The President underscored that various opportunities are emerging for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan especially youth after the start of CPEC. He emphasized that due to the name of this corridor, it would not be correct to think that it is only related to Pakistan and China. In fact, this corridor belongs more to Afghanistan than it belongs to Pakistan and China. As several countries from Central Asia and Russia are anxious to become part of this project, all of these will access this corridor after passing through Afghanistan, he added.

He underlined that start of trade between different regions of the world through this corridor will also bring new technologies and knowledge to this region. He stated that it is imperative that our youth should attain expertise in modern knowledge and skills in order to reap benefit from these openings. He highlighted that basic purpose of these scholarships awarded to you in Pakistan is to prepare you for the requirements of modern era. The President stated that Pakistan, Afghanistan and our other sincere friends are trying to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. He pointed out that our Afghan brothers have suffered enormous losses during the decades of war and Pakistan has also been hugely affected. He said that owing to the situation created by others, Pakistan has lost its seventy thousand sons, daughters, elders and soldiers. Meanwhile, our financial damages are beyond calculation, he added.

He said that antagonists foment misunderstandings and strife for their evil objectives in such situations. In these circumstances, responsible nations take decisions after considering the ground realities. Same is required, keeping in view the regional situation, so that all nations of the region including Pakistan and Afghanistan could live in peace, he added.

The President emphasized that the major reasons behind feelings of mutual respect and love between us are blood relations, regional proximity, shared values and above all the shared religious beliefs which even bind strangers in a relationship of brotherhood that is above all other bonds.

The President expressed pleasure that the number of Afghan students studying in Pakistan will increase from three thousand to six thousand in coming days which will provide better opportunities of education to more Afghan students. He expressed hope that Afghan students will serve their country in various fields after completing education so that the loss suffered by Afghanistan during the last few decades due the international situation and wars could be compensated.

The President also expressed hope that Afghan students will act as the goodwill ambassador of Pakistan after returning to their country. On the occasion, the President also appreciated the documentary on the curricular and extra-curricular activities of Afghan students studying in Pakistan.



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Kashmala Tariq takes oath as federal ombudsperson

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath of office to Ms. Kashmala Tariq as Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace in a ceremony held at the Awian-e-Sadr, Islamabad on Tuesday.

Later, Ms. Kashmala Tariq also called on President Mamnoon Hussain. The President congratulated her on assuming the office as Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace and hoped that she will discharge the responsibilities in an efficient manner. Ms. Kashmala Tariq thanked the President for her appointment. Senior Government officials and eminent citizens from different walks of life also attended the oath-taking ceremony.


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Marriyum announces first ever film, cultural policy

F.P. Report

Islamabad: Minister of state for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb announced the first ever film and cultural policy of the country at the conclusion of a three-day National Artists Convention and CPEC Cultural Caravan at PNCA here today, which would come into force immediately.

The policy envisages formally according the status of industry to the film industry; establishment of finance fund and film academy; building of film studios; restoration of the Directorate of Films and Publications and abolition of duty on import of film equipment, film censor fee and sales tax; inclusion of artists in the health scheme and 70% rebate to the foreign film producers on travelling allowance and eatables.

The policy also stipulates that on national days only the Pakistani films would be screened. Film studios will be set up under the public private partnership and the Government will provide land for the project. 80% rebates would also be given as far as the construction of cenimas are concerned. Under the cultural policy the focus will be on building cultural infrastructure; promotion of visual and performing arts and theatre; promotion of music and other arts development and preservation sites of folk and tradition culture as well as archaeological places; inculcating cultural principles and priorities into the younger generation and documentation of extra-ordinarily strong culture, literature and traditions. It also includes Film, Radio &TV as mode of promoting diversity of culture.

The minister while thanking the artists for their participation in the convention and making the effort to gather the artists at one platform a success. She said that the vision about the film and cultural policy was the initiative of the former Prime Minister who tasked her to complete that unfinished undertaking when she was made the minister. She said that the people associated with the film industry gave me lot of respect which really encouraged her in accelerating the process. She said that the launching of the film and cultural policy was a great honour for her.

The minister said that the scourge of terrorism not only caused losses in men and material during the last 30-35 years but also badly affected the film industry. She said that democracy and creative expression were inextricably linked to each other. She observed that during the dictatorial regimes the artists were silenced adding that the dictators should have been asked as to why they did that? The minister said that the country did not need any alternate narrative as it had its own indegenous narrative of peace and love which was everything for them.

The minister observed that no government ever took any initiative to extend hand of cooperation to the film Industry. She said that during the seventies the country was producing 150 films annually which greatly contributed to establish better identity of the country.

She said that the country was faced with chaos and culture of intolerance because the artists were silent. Marriyum said that all of them had to make collective efforts to promote art and culture.

The minister observed that sitting in the power corridors was not an easy task. She prayed the Almighty to bless her efforts to accomplish the responsibility that had been entrusted to her. She told the artists that the people in the government were from amongst the people and it were the people who elected them and God conferred honour on them.

The minister said that like other industries the film industry also contributed to the GDP of the country. Addressing the artists she said that her generation had learnt a lot from the great artists like them. She said that there was intolerance among the youth of the country today because they had not seen the glimpses of the great artists. She said that the artists had to stage a comeback and apprise the new generation about the positive lessons of the yester years.

The minister said that Pakistan films would be exhibited in China and Chinese movies would be screened in Pakistan and a decision in principle to that regard had already been taken. She informed the audience that a plan for the promotion of local languages was also in the offing.

Marriyum said that the film policy has been prepared by comparing the policies of the countries which developed vibrant film industries during the last decade. In regards to the cultural policy she revealed that it had been given the final shaped through the efforts of Pervez Rasheed, Atta ul Haq Qasmi and Jamal Shah in line with the vision of the former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. According the basic principles of the cultural policy it would be federal in character and steeped in democratic norms which reflected an impression of peace, patience and tolerance. She said that the role of culture in the promotion of peace in the society would be the central them of the cultural policy adding that it would be based on our real cultural values.

The policy she said would also promote provincial harmony. Marriyum further said that it would also be based on cultural growth and regional languages. She said that the policy would give cultural identity to the youth. She concluded that the cultural policy was also purported to build positive image of Pakistan at the global level.

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US to assist in establishment of energy institute: David

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD :  United States will explore the ways and means to assist Power Division in establishment of Pakistan’s First Renewable Energy Institute and also share the expertise of the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory to enable its working as per international standards.

The US will also consider assisting Pakistan in the formulation of National Energy Policy and National Electricity Plan. This was revealed by the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. David Hale who met Federal Minister for Power Division, Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Legharion Tuesday.

During the meeting the Federal Minister for Power Division informed the US Ambassador that the Government has initiated the process of interaction with all the Provinces and the Federating units for formulation of Energy Policy and National Electricity Plan. In this regard the Government has also decided to take into consideration various proposals of the power sector potential stakeholders including the service providers during the formulation of the policy and plan.

The Minister appreciated the US General Electric Company for its Repowering Initiative proposal that includes conversion or rehabilitation of the existing power generation units across Pakistan.

He said that he has asked the GE to be part of the process of energy policy and electricity plan so that their proposal can be materialized based on the decisions taken.

The Federal Minister underscored the need of deep cooperation between Pakistan and USA in the renewable energy sector. He said that renewable energy is the only way forward to meet the energy requirements of  Pakistan.

The Minister also informed the US Ambassador on the progress made so far by the Power Division for establishment of Pakistan First Renewable  Energy Institute.   He said that LUMS has also shown keen interest to house the institute, and has sent its proposal in this regard.  He said that HEC and AEDB are finalizing to identify the University in Pakistan to house the  Institute.

The US ambassador appreciated the Power Division initiative for establishment of the Renewable Energy Institute.  He also underscored enhanced cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector.

The US ambassador also assured to soon appoint focal person for energy in the US Embassy who will frequently interact with his counterpart at the Power Division regarding cooperation in the sector.

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Accused involved in aerial firing on Shahra-e- Faisal held

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Police have arrested Adnan Pasha accused in case of firing publically on Shahra-e- Faisal Karachi. Police  said that a citizen named  Zeeshan Syed lodged a report in Shahra-e-faisal police station for hurling threats on him. According to SSP Samiullah, Zeeshan Saeed has registered a case against Adnan Pasha on hurling threats. Police  arrested Adnan Pasha from Gulastan-e-Johar Karachi during raid.

It is to be mentioned  that on the night between Friday-Saturday in Shahra-e-Faisal Karachi, accused resorted to aerial firing in  drunken state. He made a video of it. He  used abusive language and also challenged Law Enforcing Agencies in the video. The video was later uploaded on social media. After the video became viral , Home Minister Sindh took the notice of this case and ordered to arrest the accused as soon as possible.