Posted on

Pakistan reports 752 more coronavirus cases, nine die in last 24 hours

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: As many as 752 new cases of the novel coronavirus were detected across the country over the last 24 hours, bringing the national tally of infections to 304,386.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), nine more people died from the highly contagious disease, taking the death toll from the virus to 6,408.

A total of 33,865 samples were tested during the previous 24 hours, out of which 752 turned out to be positive. Thus far, 291,683 people have recuperated from the infection as the number of active cases stands at 6,295.

514 more Covid-19 patients recovered from the disease during the past 24 hours.

’30 million cases’

Global coronavirus cases exceeded the 30 million mark Thursday, according to a running tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths from the virus has reached 943,203, with recoveries topping 20.39 million.

The US remains the worst-hit country with over 6.66 million infections, while its death toll exceeds 197,500.

Posted on

WHO warns Europe over ‘very serious’ spread of COVID-19

Monitoring Desk

COPENHAGEN: In another grim landmark, the number of coronavirus cases surged past 30 million around the globe Thursday as the UN health body warned of “alarming rates of transmission” across Europe and cautioned against shortening quarantine periods.

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said a September surge “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us” after Europe set a new record last week, with some 54,000 cases recorded in 24 hours.

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he told an online news conference from Copenhagen.

More than 30 million infections have been recorded and more than 943,000 people have died since the novel coronavirus emerged in China late last year, according to the latest AFP tally based on official sources. Europe accounts for 4.7 million of the total.

Across Europe, governments are battling to contain the fresh spike in cases, while wanting to avoiding inflicting fresh damage on their economies and imposing broad new restrictions on their virus-weary populations.

French authorities are preparing tighter restrictions in several cities to curtail a surge in COVID-19 cases that has seen nearly 10,000 new cases per day reported over the past week.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said new measures would be announced for Lyon and Nice by Saturday, after curbs on public gatherings were imposed this week in Bordeaux and Marseille.

– ‘Second hump’ –

In Britain, new measures will take effect Friday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that pubs may have to close earlier to help avoid a “second hump” of coronavirus cases.

Residents of northeast England, including the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, will no longer be allowed to meet people outside their own homes.

The government, which is facing criticism over a lack of testing capacity, imposed rules across England on Monday limiting socialising to groups of six or fewer, as daily cases reached levels not seen since early May.

Britain has been Europe’s worst-hit country with nearly 42,000 deaths.

The city of Madrid meanwhile backtracked on a plan for targeted lockdowns and said it would instead move to “reduce mobility and contacts” in areas with high infection rates.

Austria announced that private indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people, including all parties, private events and meetings indoors.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had warned earlier this week that the Alpine nation was entering a second wave of infections.

– Israel shutdown –

Outside Europe, Israel is set to be the first developed country to enforce a second nationwide shutdown, to begin on Friday afternoon.

Its government called for hundreds of its citizens who are blocked on the Ukraine-Belarus border to return home.

Around 2,000 Hasidic Jew pilgrims, mainly from the US, Israel and France, are massed at the border which has been closed by Ukraine for most of this month to prevent the spread of the virus.

The pilgrims were hoping to reach the city of Uman for the Jewish New Year this weekend.

Israel has the world’s second-highest virus infection rate after Bahrain, according to an AFP tally.

In further comments on Thursday, the WHO Europe said it would not change its guidance for a 14-day quarantine period for those exposed to the virus.

The recommendation is “based on our understanding of the incubation period and transmission of the disease. We would only revise that on the basis of a change of our understanding of the science,” WHO Europe’s senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said.

France has reduced the recommended time period for self-isolation to seven days, while it is 10 days in the UK and Ireland. Several more European countries, such as Portugal and Croatia, are also considering shorter quarantines.

– Vaccine race –

Elsewhere, a study released by Oxfam found that rich nations have already bought up over half the promised COVID-19 vaccine stocks.

“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.

Drugs companies are racing to produce an effective jab to counter a virus that has now killed more than 940,000 people around the world and infected almost 30 million.

The five leading vaccine candidates currently in late-stage trials will be able to supply 5.9 billion doses, enough to inoculate about three billion people, Oxfam said.

Some 51% of those jabs have been snapped up by wealthy nations and blocs including the United States, Britain, the European Union, Australia, Hong Kong and Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel.

The remaining 2.6 billion have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.

As tragedies multiply, governments face legal action from citizens for alleged response failures.

A French association of COVID-19 victims plans to file a legal complaint against Prime Minister Jean Castex over France’s handling of the pandemic, its lawyer said.

In China, however, bereaved relatives have had their lawsuits abruptly rejected while dozens of others face pressure from authorities not to file, according to people involved in the effort.

The economic effects of the pandemic continue to grow.

On Thursday New Zealand plunged into recession for the first time in a decade, the 12.2% contraction in April-June “by far the largest” since records began, national data agency Stats NZ said.

Courtesy: (AFP)

Posted on

ICSID awards Pakistan six months stay order in Reko Diq case

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: In what can be termed a milestone in Pakistan’s fight to reclaim itself from an intricate tug of war with a foreign corporation, it has been awarded a stay in Reko Diq case from International Court of Justice (ICJ), on Thursday.

Attorney General Pakistan (AGP) office termed the development a ‘success’ for Pakistan and its legal team for earning a stay on the hefty fine that comes about two percent of the country’s yearly GDP.

The global arbiter International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) had in July last year, decided in favour of the Australian company in a case wherein Pakistan was made liable to pay off $6 billion in compensation.

However Pakistan, upon enforcement proceedings by Tethyan Copper Co. Pty Ltd on the litigation, filed a petition for a stay and initiated annulment. ICSID granted Pakistan a provisional stay earlier in April upon initiating proceedings for the annulment of the verdict.

The tribunal finally ruled in favour of Pakistan yesterday and confirmed the stay on enforcement of the award until the final hearing set for May 2021.

Back in March, a delegation led by AGP Khalid Jawed Khan had visited London to prepare for Pakistan’s submissions for an international arbitration tribunal hearing on stay on the award of a penalty of $6 billion in the Reko Diq case.

The Government of Pakistan sought out all avenues in preparation to ensure that “Pakistan is granted a stay on enforcement of the penalty during the pendency of the annulment proceedings”, a statement issued by the AG Office said before the stay was awarded.

Posted on

PM Imran approves establishment of three markets along Pak-Afghan & Pak-Iran borders

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the establishment of three markets along Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders as a pilot project. This aim of this development is to boost trade and bi-lateral relations between the neighboring countries the sources informed.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has the approval in a high level meeting on the establishment of border markets in Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran border areas in Islamabad on Thursday.

The markets, two in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will be completed and activated by February 2021.

A total of five border markets will be set up in KP which includes four in tribal districts and one in Lower Chitral. 

The proposed areas for border markets in KP include Shaheedano Dhand in Kurram District, Kharlachi and Angor Adda in South Waziristan, Arundo in Lower Chitral, Gursal in Mohmand District and Ghulam Khan and Torkham borders.

According to sources, a joint committee will be set up to identify issues related to the broader markets and to propose solutions to those issues. The committee would also take steps to improve the existing infrastructure and provide facilities to consumers. 

Only traders who reside within a 5 kilometre (km) radius will be given the permission to set up businesses in the markets. Similarly, only customers who reside within a 5km radius will be allowed to shop in the border markets.

This development will help to lift up the unemployment rate in the poverty ridden areas of Pakistan and will assist people in making a dignified earning by setting up businesses said the government sources.

Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said these markets will provide better business and trade opportunities to the people living along the border areas.

Earlier, Prime Minister said knowledge economy was the best option for Pakistan to capitalize its large youth pool and immense talent for scientific innovation and technical productivity.

“Now is the time for country to discover its own path leading towards a system based on scientific and technical production to ensure economic growth,”he said addressing at the inauguration of Pak-Austria Fachhochschule Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology here at Mang, Haripur.

Posted on

Opp & PBC vow to fight undemocratic forces in the country

Abdullah Momand

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and opposition parties in an all parties conference today vowed to fight the undemocratic forces, selected accountability, fair appointment of judges in higher judiciary and protection of civil liberties in the country.

The all Parties Conference was organized in Islamabad on September on Thursday which was attended by the PBC, SCBA and Bar Associations as well as by political parties’ leaders of the country including Shahbaz Sharif Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif, Mahmmod Khan Achakzai, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, PTM leader Mohsin Dawar, Amir Haider Khan Hoti and Abdul Malik Baluch along with civil society activists and human rights defenders.

PBC and the opposition parties wow to work for the transparent appointment of judges in higher judiciaries and efforts for modern and speedy accountability, flaws in the current Accountability system in the country and the woeful arena of Civil liberties in the country. The joint APC endorsed the following resolution unanimously following comprehensive deliberations on these affairs in a communiqué issued and endorsed.

This joint session of the political parties and lawyer by considering Supreme judiciary in Constitution and rule of law as a significant institution realizes that appointment of judges in this prestigious institution is inevitable by keeping in mind the aforementioned role of the judiciary. Furthermore, this session declares unsatisfactory the existing procedure for judges’ appointment in the country adding that the current process is a stumbling block for free and professional judiciary. Unfortunately, on the contrary, the judicial commission’s institution has been made the consortium of judges.

The joint APC agreed that the appointment of judges under article 175-A should be reviewed and the accountability structure in the country which proved poor and undeliverable should be monitored by all political parties including parliament with the support of PBC and the 19th amendment in the constitution should be abolished immediately.

The joint APC agreed that the current accountability drive in the country using for political engineering and this forum agreed to establish a free, independent and unbiased judicial system in the country which strengthened the good governance in the country because the incumbent system of judiciary totally failed to provide relief.

The joint communiqué demanded that no alleged accused should be taken into custody before the trial and spotlighted that no institution in the country is above the law and constitution and all stakeholders should be accountable in the country.

The joint communiqué noted that some democratic forces are trying to derail the current parliamentary democratic system in the country and struggling to abolish the 1973 constitution in the country this joint message of the both the PBC and political parties leadership condemn derailing process and clarify that 1973 constitution is the guarantor of safeguarding federalism, sovereignty of the country.

The joint APC shows dissatisfaction on disturbing environment for media and condemn the curbs on freedom of expression, civil liberties, media , harassing and charging journalists and vocal voice, enforced disappearance and demand new law for the protection of journalists in the country.

The APC condemn the targeting of critical voices in the country under the umbrella of the 5TH Generation war (Hybrid War) and demand to release all missing persons or present in the courts.

The communiqué also criticized the role of military in political process and manipulation of democratic system and demand from the army to not Interfairs in political process of the country.

Posted on

US sanctions 2 companies over Hezbollah links

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON DC: The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it has blacklisted Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction, building on sanctions imposed as they were accused of enabling Hezbollah.

Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State gave a statement on the decision of U.S. for designating Hizballah’s Companies and Officials.

The Secretary of State talked about the corruption and exploitation in the Lebanon’s system. He said that “Lebanon’s political leaders have long exploited the lack of transparency in Lebanon’s economy to conceal their self-enrichment, while pretending they are defending the rights of their people.”

Despite its claims to the contrary, the terrorist group Hizballah is every bit as involved in this deception as other actors he added.

Pompeo said that United States has designated two Hizballah-linked companies and one Hizballah official pursuant to Executive Order 13224 as amended. 

These companies include Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction for being owned, controlled and directed by the terrorist organization Hizballah.

We are designating Sultan Khalifa As’ad for being a leader or an official of Hizballah, Pompeo clarified. The Secretary of State Pompeo further profoundly explained the decision of U.S. by stating that, Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction are two of many companies subordinate to Hizballah’s Executive Council, and Hizballah has used these companies to conceal its economic activity and evade U.S. sanctions. Hizballah collaborated with former Lebanese Minister Yusuf Finyanus to ensure that Arch and Meamar won Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars, and the companies sent a portion of those funds to Hizballah’s Exec-utive Council, exposed the Secretary of State.

The US has also designated former Minister, Finyanus on September 8 for abusing his cabinet position to provide material support to Hizballah. Arch Consulting was previously part of and continues to provide funds to Jihad al-Bina, a prominent Hizballah construction company designated by the United States in 2007, the Treasury said.

In this decision Sultan Khalifa As’ad was also sanctioned for supporting Hizballah.

While explaining the reason of decision he said that, Sultan Khalifa As’ad oversees Arch, Meamar, and other Hizballah companies in his position on Hizballah’s Executive Council, where he helps manage the terrorist group’s municipal affairs. 

As’ad coordinates directly with Hashim Safi al-Din, head of Hizballah’s Executive Council, to guide the activities of Arch, Meamar, and other Hizballah companies Pompeo revealed in his statement. Secretary of State also blamed the involvement of political leaders for directing contracts to political allies, this is the cause of increased corruption in Lebanon and Hizballah exploits this type of corruption for their own interests. The Lebanese people have been demonstrating against corruption for nearly a year and demanding that their government address their basic needs after decades of political dysfunction, he added.

While concluding his remarks he said that, the Lebanese people deserve better, and the United States will continue to support their calls for an end to corruption and more responsive governance.

Posted on

EU Parliament urges arms embargo on Saudi Arabia

BRUSSELS (AA): The European Parliament on Thursday urged the EU member states to impose arms embargo on Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Yemen war.

In the EU arms export report adopted on Thursday, EU lawmakers urge all members of the bloc to “follow the example of Germany, Finland and Denmark, which, after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi adopted restrictions on their arms exports to Saudi Arabia.”

The document also points out that arms exported to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, as well as other members of the Saudi-led coalition intervening in the Yemen war had been used in the country, “where 22 million people find themselves in need of humanitarian aid and protection.”

EU lawmakers welcome the restrictive measures imposed by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands following the European Parliament’s 2018 resolution which called EU states to not sell arms or military equipment to the Saudi-led coalition.

The report also urges the remaining EU countries to impose similar sanctions to prevent further civilian suffering in the Yemen conflict.

The 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in the Turkish metropolitan city of Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

Riyadh offered conflicting narratives to explain his disappearance before acknowledging he was murdered in the diplomatic building in a “rogue operation.”

On Sept. 7, the Riyadh Criminal Court commuted death sentences and handed down prison terms of up to 20 years to the accused, pardoned by the journalist’s family.

They were sentenced to death last year.

UN human rights investigator Agnes Callamard also called the Saudi prosecutor’s verdict on the murder a “parody of justice” that spared “high-level” plotters.

Yemen has been in violence and chaos since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the country the following year.

The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis, including civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, which has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with 3.65 million internally displaced and 15 million people in need of immediate humanitarian aid.

Posted on

US sanctions cyber actors backed by Iran

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON D.C.: Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State, gave a statement on behalf of U.S. State Department on cyber threats to the global world by Iranian Intelligence Ministey.

While highlighting the issue he labeled the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the world’s leading threats to cyber-security and human rights online. 

The United States is sanctioning the Iranian cyber threat group Advanced Persistent Threat 39 (APT39), 45 associated individuals, and a front company, Rana Intelligence Company (Rana) pursuant to Executive Order 13553, Pompeo said.

Pompeo emphasized on these groups and individuals who have targeted at least 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as hundreds of individuals and entities in 30 additional countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. 

We will continue to expose Iran’s nefarious behavior and impose costs on the regime until they turn away from their destabilizing agenda, Pompeo assured in the statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed the details by saying that, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) tracks dissidents, journalists, and international companies for the regime. 

It has recruited cyber threat groups, front companies, and hackers, and has employed malware to target innocent civilians and companies, and advance the regime’s malign agenda around the world he said.

He further added that the cyber actors advance Iranian national security objectives and the strategic goals of MOIS by conducting computer attacks and malware campaigns against perceived adversaries, including foreign governments and other individuals the MOIS considers a threat.

The Secretary of State said that through Rana, and on behalf of the MOIS, the actors designated today use malicious cyber attack tools to target and monitor Iranian citizens.

These groups particularly dissidents, Iranian journalists, former government employees, environmentalists, refugees, university students and faculty, and employees at international nongovernmental organizations. 

Some of these individuals were subjected to arrest and physical and psychological intimidation by the MOIS.

He ended his statement by saying that, MOIS actors have also victimized Iranian private sector companies and domestic and international Persian language and cultural centers. 

The action against them is another reminder of the great risk that the Iranian regime poses to international cyber security and the Iranian people who are the target of digital darkness and high-tech silencing.

The United States will not relent in efforts to expose these threats and protect our homeland and friends and allies, he assured.

Posted on

IHC declares appointment of PTV chairman illegal

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday declared the appointment of PTV Chairman Arshad Khan illegal.

IHC’s Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani announced the decision pertaining to case against illegal appointments in the state-owned broadcaster.

Khan was nominated for the post of chairman of the board of directors (BoD) in June last year. The corporation had subsequently selected him for the post.

It should be noted here that the federal cabinet had approved the appointment of Arshad Khan as chairman of PTV in 2018.

The court noted that during the appointment of Chairman all rules and regulations violated and merit for the position was not considered that’s why the court is in legal position to mark this appointment illegal.

Furthermore, the court approved of the appointments of Chief News Anchor for Current Affairs Qatrina Hussain and Managing Director Amir Manzoor.

The court issued orders that Arshad Khan, Rashid Ali Khan and Farmanullah Jan not to be appointed again in the state broadcaster.

The federal cabinet had approved the appointment of Arshad Khan as chairman of PTV in 2018.

The petitioner in the case Parvaiz Akhtar Bhatti a member of the PTV union in a media talk told that I submitted my petition in the court against the illegal appointment of chairman because in his hiring merit was violated and the appointment was done on political nepotism.

He added that Arshad Khan haven’t any experience in TV or production and he arrived from the telecom sector through political bonds on high level.

He further added that after hiring the chairman wows that he will restructure PTV and will start new production but he didn’t start a single program in his tenure. Bhatti added that he will fight the illegalities in the upcoming time as well because these un professional persons ruined the reputed institution.

Posted on

‘US may support Dahlan to remove Palestinian President’

Monitoring Desk:

JERUSALEM: Washington may support exiled former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan to unseat Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a top US official.

“We’re thinking about it, but we have no desire to engineer the Palestinian leadership,” David Friedman, US envoy to Israel, said in an interview published by the Israel Hayom newspaper on Thursday.

The report said there are elements within the US administration in favor of supporting Dahlan to overthrow Abbas as Palestine’s president.

Dahlan is a controversial figure harbored by the UAE as he faces legal cases from both Palestine and Turkey on several charges, including murder, corruption, and involvement in the defeated 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

The US ambassador also hinted at Israel moving forward with its plan to illegally annex more Palestinian territory.

“I think it will happen,” said Friedman.

He also attacked the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority for “clutching to very old and irrelevant complaints.”

Courtesy: (Yenisafak)