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Russia calls on Iran, Israel to hold dialogue

Monitoring Desk

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday called on Iran and Israel to resolve their difference through dialogue.

His remarks came after the Israeli army claimed that Iranian forces in Syria had fired 20 rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights last night, but all had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system.

In a separate statement, the Israeli army claimed its fighter jets had struck some 50 military targets associated with Iran’s Quds Force inside Syrian territory.

“In our contacts with Iranian and Israeli leadership we stressed the necessity to avoid actions that could be mutually provoking”, Lavrov said, speaking at a news conference in Moscow, following his meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the strikes, saying that 28 Israeli F-15 and F-16 warplanes had fired 60 air missiles and 10 surface-to-surface missiles at Iranian troop concentrations and air-defense systems inside Syria.

For his part, German foreign minister said Berlin followed the happening on the Golan Heights with “a great concern”.”We follow with a great concern the happenings on the Golan Heights […] This is unacceptable”, Maas said.

Tehran has yet to officially react to the strikes.

But Abolfazl Hassan Beige, a member of Iran’s parliamentary national security committee, accused Israel of “lying” about the strikes, denying any Iranian involvement in Wednesday’s alleged missile attack in the Golan Heights.

The official went on to assert that there was “no Iranian military presence, no military bases in Syria”.

Speaking about the U.S. decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal, Lavrov said Russia “appreciated Iran’s balanced reaction” to the U.S. move. Commenting on the U.S. intention to reestablish sanctions against Iran, Lavrov said the lifting of the UN Security Council sanctions against Iran could not be cancelled. “The Iran deal is not only about sanctions but more about regional stability and non-proliferation of the mass destruction weapons”, Lavrov added. The German foreign minister said his country, France and the U.K. would act depending on Iran’s abidance to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA).

“It is very important to save the adherence to this agreement and today we spoke about it,” Maas said. The two ministers also discussed the situation in the east of Ukraine.

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Trump, Kim to meet in Singapore on June 12

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that his meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be held on June 12 in Singapore.

“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th,” Trump said in a message posted on his official Twitter account. “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” he added.

Earlier, Trump had said that his meeting with Kim Jong-un had been scheduled, without specifying the date.

On early Thursday morning, Trump also welcomed home three Americans, who were imprisoned in North Korea. Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for the release of Kim Hak-song, Kim Sangduk, and Kim Dongchul.

 

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Israel strikes degrade Iran targets in Syria; Lieberman claims

Monitoring Desk

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has claimed that Israel has destroyed “almost all” of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria in response to rocket attacks on the occupied Golan Heights.

Speaking at an annual security conference in the city of Herzliya on Thursday, Lieberman vowed that if Iran attacked Israel with “heavy rain” it would be met with “a flood”.

“Iran tried to attack the state of Israel,” he said, presumably in reference to the alleged missile attack in on Golan.

“But not a single Iranian rocket landed in Israel; no one was hurt and no site was damaged,” he added.

“Israel will not allow Iran to turn Syria into a forward base for attacking us,” Lieberman said, adding that the Jewish state had “no interest” in escalating tensions but would “not accept” provocations against it.

Late last night, the Israeli army claimed that Iranian forces in Syria had fired 20 rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but that all had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, meanwhile, warned Iran that Israel was “not bluffing”.

“Israel conveyed an important message to Iran and to the Assad regime: a message of determination and strength,” Erdan tweeted. “Israel will not hesitate to act against Iranian forces in Syria and will not forgive any attempt to attack [Israeli] citizens,” he added.

In a separate statement, the Israeli army claimed its fighter jets had struck some 50 military targets associated with Iran’s Quds Force inside Syrian territory.

The strikes, it alleged, had come in response to “rockets fired by the Quds Force [from Syrian territory] at IDF forward posts in the Golan Heights”.

According to Israeli army spokesman Ronen Manelis, last night’s strikes “significantly damaged Quds Force and [Iranian] Revolutionary Guard targets throughout Syria”.

“Iranian forces will need months to recover from the strikes,” Manelis told Israeli army radio.

The spokesman went on to describe the strikes as “one of the largest” air attacks by the Israeli Air Force in recent years. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the strikes, saying that 28 Israeli F-15 and F-16 warplanes had fired 60 missiles at Iranian troop concentrations and air-defense systems inside Syria.

Tehran, for its part, has yet to officially react to the strikes.

But Abolfazl Hassan Beige, a member of Iran’s parliamentary national security committee, accused Israel of “lying” about the strikes, denying any Iranian involvement in Wednesday’s alleged missile attack in the Golan Heights.

The official went on to assert that there was “no Iranian military presence, no military bases in Syria”.

On Apr. 9, Israel struck the T-4 military airbase in Syria’s western Homs province, reportedly killing several Iranian army officers and prompting fears of reprisal.

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‘PTI not to allow PML-N to use Parliament as weapon against NAB’

F.P. Report

Lahore: PTI Core committee member and Senator Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said, we will not let PMLN to use parliament as weapon against NAB. We will not let them succeed in their mission of “NAB Eradication”.

Mentality that seeks getting rid of NAB reflects enemity with nation and country. Instead of giving answers of corruption, PMLN wants to eradicate institution of NAB. We will not let PMLN succeed in their ulterior designs. PTI has become most popular and biggest political party of Pakistan under leadership of Imran Khan. Democracy will only be strengthened in Pakistan if politicians of country will serve nation instead of fulfilling their own pockets.

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Sindh face malnutrition, stunting challenges, CM

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Sindh chief minister Murad Shah has said Sindh is facing challenges of malnutrition and stunting in our children as 48 percent children in Sindh are malnourished and stunted.

The Sindh government, in collaboration with World Bank, has started a multi-sectoral program to reduce the rate of stunting in our children with the aim to reduce it by 30 percent in the next five years, he said in his budget speech. Murad Shah said that he has allocated Rs.2.4 billion on the non-development side for this program in the year 2017-18, proposing an allocation of Rs.5.1 billion in the next year.

The major departments responsible for this program are Health, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Local Govt. Social Welfare.

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PM urges sponsors to help revive sports

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Thursday said the corporate sponsors should come up to help revive Pakistan’s lost grandeur in sports by extending their resources to cap the talent of youth.

Addressing the prize distribution ceremony for the winners and participants of the recently held Commonwealth Games 2018 at Prime Minister’s Office, he spoke high of the winners for bringing laurels to the country despite meager support by the government.

The ceremony was attended by Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Minster for Defence Engineer Khurram Dastgir, Minister for Law Mehmood Bashir Virk, Minister for SAFRON Lt General (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch and representatives of different Olympic associations and players.

He said all what they had achieved was because of their personal efforts. After a long time, someone had won medals for Pakistan. Besides earning any award, mere participation in such highly competitive games like Commonwealth was no lesser than an honor for Pakistani sportsmen, he added. He said these awards would be the real assets for the players for winning honor by competing with the players from around 53 countries.

The prime minister appreciated the efforts of Riaz Hussain Pirzada who had helped revive sports in Pakistan, though the subject had been devolved to provinces after 18th constitutional amendment.

He said provision of further resources by the federal government to improve sports activities was vital. There was no dearth of talent in Pakistan but it needed to be nurtured, he added.

He said it was pleasing to know that a Pakistani industry would supply footballs for the world cup. He told the gathering that he had advised the industry to extend its resources for improvement of the sports sector. In the past, when Pakistan ruled the world in hockey, the PIA used to sponsor it, he recalled.

Prime Minister Abbasi also urged the ministry to find out the sports in which Pakistan could excel at international level.

Later, he also handed over a cheque worth Rs5 million to wrestler Inam Butt who had won gold medal and Rs1 million to Tayyab Raza who secured bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games.

He also gave away prizes to other sportsmen who excelled in the competition.

Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada also gave a souvenir and colors of Pakistan to the prime minister, who also had a group photo with the players.

He said consequent to the government’s efforts and tough decisions by the ministry, the sports activities had been revived in the country.

He said Pakistani players had bagged 10 medals in the Commonwealth Games besides achieving distinctions in other international games in the recent past.

He said the daily allowance for the sportsmen had been doubled. Two astro turf were being laid in Islamabad to train the hockey players.

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Minister laments delay in BB’s assassination case verdict

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Law and Justice, Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk Thursday said that it was unfortunate that Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto Shaheed’s assassination case was still pending with the judiciary for the last 10 years, while those accused in it were being granted bails.

Responding to a point raised by the leader of the opposition Syed Khurshid Shah, who expressed deep concern over the bail to accused in Benazir murder case, the minister said that this case should have been decided long ago.

He lamented that at one side, day-to-day hearing was being conducted in the case against former prime minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif whereas on the other hand, “the murder case of Benazir Bhutto, punishment of which is death sentence, is pending for ten years.”

He informed the parliament that when Benazir Bhutto was attacked, same day the rally of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was also assaulted, resulting in deaths of many people.

Notwithstanding the dangers for his life, Nawaz Sharif when hearing about the attack on BB went to the hospital, where political activists appealed him to save his life. “This was the passion of political activists and respect for each other,” he said and lamented that “we are divided now, which is very dangerous for the country.”

He said that the country was passing through a crucial stage as ministers were being attacked, appealing all the members of parliament to get united and stand for the protection of the whole country.

He said that danger was not only looming for the parliament, or politicians, rather he added, this situation was a consequence of a big conspiracy against the state.

He said, let’s inform the judiciary to focus on the cases which are before it instead of indulging in the issues, which does not need its involvement and let the administration work.

He also appealed all the institutions to get united and take the country forward. “When we get united, it will change the fate of the country and Pakistan will become a strong country otherwise danger would always lurk the country,” he remarked. Earlier, Leader of the opposition in the house, Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah said that it was very unfortunate that those accused in the murder of Benazir Bhutto were being released on bail.

He said that Benazir was not leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, she was leader of all and voice of the poor, third world and Muslim world.

He said that within two hours after the attack the place was cleaned whereas when Musharraf was attacked, the place was cordoned off for four days and ultimately a phone chip was discovered which helped in arresting the culprits.

He said that the killers of Benazir were arrested but they were being granted bail which is not good for the country as it has made politicians insecure.

 

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No free election possible sans level playing field to all: ANP

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Awami National Party (ANP) Central General Secretary and former Information Minister KP, Mian Iftikhar Hussain here Thursday said level-playing field to all political parties was pre-requisite for free, fair and transparent election and urged Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Government to ensure foolproof security to politicians in this regard.

“Assassination attempt on Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal ahead of general election campaign was symbolic and an eye opener for the ECP to ponder over provision of level playing field to the political players participating in the polls,” he told APP during an exclusive interview here today. He demanded thorough investigation into the assault to expose the mastermind behind it.

If such incidents of high profile continued to happen in the country before the possible would certainly created doubts over fairness of the polls on the part of ECP.

The ANP leader was pessimist about transparent polls as he observed that efforts was underway to give free hands to a political party of choice while others were being pushed to wall through NAB cases and targeting their leadership.

He recalled that ANP was not provided level playing fields in the last general elections as it workers and leaders including Bashir Bilour were targeted by the terrorists and as such others political forces cashed on the opportunities.

The ANP feared that if such attacks continued unabated, there is every possibility of postponement of the general elections and such development would not be in the country’s interest.

“From Day one, ANP wants holding of general election on time and would not support any delay,” he said, adding free and transparent election was panacea of all problems.

The ANP leader said Pakistan can move on road to progress and development only through free, peaceful and transparent election by accepting mandate of people.  He said problems of people could be addressed and economic prosperity can be achieved only if all state institutions worked under its constitutional domain.

Hussain said anti corruption slogans of PTI Chief have proved merely a political gimmick as he could not further mislead people on this issue as the ground reality was totally different in Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

He said Imran Khan had included elimination of corruption in its 11-points election manifesto at Minar-e-Pakistan’s show but PTI has failed to control this menace during last five years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Mian Iftikhar said PTI had made its own created KP Ehtesab Commission (KPEC) toothless by incorporating several amendments in it.

He said PTI’s good governance and merit-based policy in recruitment has been further questioned when NAB has taken serious notice of alleged illegal appointments in KPEC. He claimed that not a single person was brought to book by KPEC, thus exposing PTI’s claims of good governance and across the board-accountability in the province.

He said anti corruption slogans of PTI Chief was further exposed when Qaumi Watan Party (QWP)’s ministers were ousted on charges of corruption by Imran Khan and were again allowed to join government in the province.

Mian Iftikhar said Chief Minister KP, Pervez Khattak has started appearance before NAB in mega corruption scandal such as leasing of 275 acres of Forest Department land in scenic Malam Jabba in Swat and alleged use of KP government’s helicopter by PTI Chief Imran Khan and resultantly, the confidence of masses on PTI’s anti corruption campaign has been shattered.

He accused PTI of betraying KP people on the name of change, adding PTI had overburdened province of billion rupees loans obtained for financing what he called the futile Peshawar’s metro project, which the coming regime will handle and the generation will have to pay heavy price for it.

“Peshawar is converted into ditches and trenches, and environmental and traffic chaos continues due to ill planning of metro project by PTI,” he remarked.

Iftikhar claimed KP province had owed around Rs37billion loan in 65 years while about Rs356b record loans were taken during last five years and people would face its brunt in the upcoming years.

He said recent remarks of Chief Justice of Pakistan about poor services in social sectors including health, education, potable water and deplorable condition of jails and psychiatric hospital in KP have exposed the good governance’s claims of PTI.

The ANP leader said CM KP had lost majority in Provincial Assembly after parting ways by Jumat e Islami and will unlikely to pass the KP budget 2018-19. “From where the Govt. employees would get salaries and pensions besides fulfill developmental and non developmental expenditure if the budget was not passed,” he said, PTI Govt was morally and constitutionally bound to pass the budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

Foreseeing no future for MMA in upcoming election,  the ANP leader said people knew that two of the major parties in the five parties religious alliances with different ideologies were making politics primarily to reach power corridors in Islamabad and Peshawar.

The ANP leader said increase in polling stations, special training to election staff, computerization of polling process, bio metric system and adaptation of a comprehensive mechanism for oversees Pakistanis facilitation would help pave way for free and transparent holding of general elections.

He said election was around the corner but not solid progress was made for introduction of bio-metric system and we have no other option but to go for general election through previous procedure.

The ANP leader urged political parties, institutions and people to get united for general election 2018 the only way forward to take the country to new height of progress and development.

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Committee announces next round of talks with PTM

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: The committee formed to hold talks with the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) after a meeting on Thursday announced that the next round of talks with the PTM will be held on May 16.

Member National Assembly (MNA) from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Shahjee Gul Afridi, Malik Khan Marjan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shah Farman, Malik Waris Shah, Malik Abdur Rehman and other elders attended the meeting held in Peshawar’s Hyatabad area.

The committee expressed the hope that negotiations with the group would yield positive results. The members were of the view PTM’s May 13 rally in Karachi should be allowed if organised in a democratic fashion. They appealed to the Sindh government not to impede the public gathering of PTM in Karachi and avoid unnecessary arrests. They said the misunderstandings between the state and the PTM will only benefit the anti-state elements. They said all the misunderstandings can be removed by holding dialogue. However, they stressed, that the movement should ensure that no anti-state statements are made during their rally.

The committee members said considerable progress has been made in talks with the PTM during the previous jirgas. They said the genuine demands of PTM can be fulfilled after talks, adding that the jirga members must hold a meeting with the Apex Committee before the May 16 meeting with the PTM in order to make the talks process effective and result-oriented.

The members said jirga is playing the role of an arbitrator between the state of Pakistan and the PTM. They said PTM giving date for the next meeting is a good omen for further proceedings. Manzoor Pishteen is also likely to attend the May 16 meeting. The members believed that the process of talks may be extended till the holy month of Ramazan.

Shah Farman remarked that the PTM had given the date on a short notice. “They should have given time earlier. The last meeting was held on April 25,” he said.

“This is an issue for all the Pashtuns. We hope the PTM will give due importance to the jirga as well,” he added.

The government committee and PTM have earlier held two rounds of talks.

 

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1,43000 students enrolled in 2017 in Fata: Governor

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Engr. Iqbal Zafar Jhagra on Thursday said good effects of implementation of education emergency in FATA can be clearly seen and added in 2017 one lakh and forty three thousand of students in FATA had enrolled in educational institutes, which proved that parents are willing to educate their children.

He expressed these views while formally launching ceremony of enrollment drive in FATA here at Governor’s House, Peshawar. Besides Secretary Social Sector FATA Yousaf Raheem and Director Education FATA Hashim Khan, Additional Director Education FATA, Heads of UNICEF and UNDP and concerned officials of FATA Secretariat were also present on the occasion.

On the occasion kids were provided free bags and books also. He further added, “There is no dearth in talent among FATA students. They can compete at all levels.” The present Government is putting all its efforts into ensuring equal education opportunities for the people of FATA at par with other progressive areas.

He said education and knowledge were the key to socio-economic development of the country. He said education was given top most priority and said we have already announced education emergency in tribal areas.

“To make Pakistan developed and sovereign we have to educate every child throughout the country.” He said no efforts would be spared to get 100% school children enrolled in FATA. He said education is pre-requisite for the real development of Pakistan. He said all out efforts are being taken to provide access to education at the doorstep to all the school going children in FATA.

Addressing the ceremony, the Governor said, “Education is one of the powerful tool, which can change the fate of any nation in a good sense.” While lauding the efforts of UNICEF and UNDP he added, “With the help of these donor agencies education campaign will be launched successfully. While congratulating the students the Governor has said that education is the right of every children and it is the responsibility of the state to provide education.

He said facilities of education and books will be provided to the students without delay. Governor also distributed the certificates to position holder students and congratulated them.  He said special steps are being taken to enroll children in schools till 31st May.

The Governor also extended felicitations to those boys and girls, who continued their studies and clinched positions in the examination despite the current adverse circumstances and expressed his hope that the children will consistently focus their attention on studies and will prove to be the shining stars of FATA in future as well.

He said FATA students have great potential and have the ability to compete with students of prestigious institutions of the country.