Shahbaz Taseer back on twitter after release

LAHORE: Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain governor Punjab Salman Taseer, who was freed from almost five years of captivity on Tuesday, has tweeted his first message on micro-blogging on Saturday.

In his first message on twitter, Shahbaz Taseer expressed pleasure over his return, saying that it was ‘good to be back’.

He said, “Fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free.”

Shahbaz Taseer had last tweeted on 20 August 2011.

Shahbaz Taseer returned home safely after four years, six months and 12 days (1,652 days in all) in captivity.

He was abducted from his office in Lahore’s Gulberg locality on August 26, 2011 or seven months and 22 days after his father Salman Taseer was killed by his own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri in Islamabad on January 4, 2011.

Senate passes legislation against child sexual abuse

ISLAMABAD: Legislators in the upper house of the parliament reacted strongly on Friday when a senator pointed out that a textbook titled Sociology of Pakistan described the Baloch as an uncivilised nation who would always quarrel with each other and loot the convoys.

“I don’t know what sort of message has been given to the young generation of Pakistan,” said Balochistan Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi of the National Party (NP).

It is written in the book that the Baloch did not allow the women to go to school or work. Shahi said that uneducated authors of the book should first study the Baloch history and then write a book. He said that insulting a nation in such a way was very dangerous and asked the house to take appropriate action against publishers Abdul Hamid Taga and Abdul Aziz Taga. He informed the house that the book was being taught to the students of intermediate part-II enrolled with different boards of secondary education in Punjab.

The senators were of the view that it was a serious issue and it should not have gone unnoticed. The issue was described as a conspiracy against Pakistan and strict action was sought against the publishers and those who approved the book for the syllabus.

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said that changes were made in the textbooks during late General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime and there were hundreds of biased topics in the textbooks being taught to the young generation. He said there was another book, which highlighted 12 merits of dictatorship and eight merits of democracy and tried to establish that a military takeover was inevitable, otherwise the country would have collapsed. He assured the house that the matter would be brought into the notice of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Earlier, the Senate passed a bill, criminalising for the first time sexual assault on minors, child pornography and trafficking. The amendment to the penal code, which would come into effect after its ratification by the president, raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 10 years. Under the revised legislation, a sexual assault will be punishable by up to seven years in prison. Previously, only rape was criminalised.

Likewise, child pornography, which was previously not mentioned in the law, will be punishable by seven years in prison and a fine of Rs 700,000. Previously, traffickers were liable to punishment only if they would traffic children abroad. The legislation would help protect the children against any kind of mental and physical abuse.

Voices in support of the missing persons echoed once again in the Senate on Friday. Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that the Senate sent a report on rights violations to the government a couple of months ago, but the government did not respond. Rabbani said that he would send the government a reminder to respond to the Senate report.

Babar drew the Senate’s attention to the reports that a disillusioned Islamic State defector reportedly passed a stolen computer disc containing documents identifying more than 20,000 operatives in over 50 countries to a British journalist together with a treasure of rare information about the countries they belonged to, their expertise in carrying out various militant operations and a list of people who had volunteered to act as suicide bombers to further the Islamic State cause. He called for an investigation into this treasure house of information to find out if there are any Islamic State supporters and operators in Pakistan.

Separately, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad told the Senate on Friday that the government wanted to have two airlines to promote competition and provide better travel facilities to people. He said that Pakistan Airways had been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, but its main features were still being worked out.

Missing persons and Daesh defector echo in Senate

Islamabad March 11, 2016: The call to begin addressing the issue of missing persons in earnest echoed once again in the senate today as Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that one month had already passed to the report and the Senate on the subject prompting the Chairman Raza Rabbani to declare that he will again write to the government to respond to the Senate recommendation.

In December last the senate converting itself into a committee of the whole on speedy justice had asked the government to heed the 2013 report of the human right committee of the senate that had made several suggestions including a draft legislation to bring the state security agencies under the ambit of the law and had directed the government to respond within a month.,

Farhatullah Babar said that as a minimum the government should initiate a dialogue with the parliament so that the nation at least takes the first tentative step in the direction of addressing this grave issue of human rights violations.

Farhatullah Babar also drew attention towards reports that a disillusioned Daesh defector who had passed a stolen computer disc of documents identifying over twenty thousand operatives in over 50 countries to a UK journalist together with a treasure of rare information about the countries to which they belonged,their expertise in carrying out various militant operations and a list of people who had volunteered to act as suicide bombers to further its cause. He called for examining the possibility of investigating this treasure house of information to find out Daesh supporters and operators in Pakistan if any.

During the question hour the government today also assured that the matter of setting up working women hostels for the federal government employees will not be taken to the Council of Islamic Ideology for views. Minister for parliamentary affairs Sheikh Aftab gave this assurance when senator Farhatullah Babar through a supplementary question asked whether the government intended to seek the advice of CCI expressing concern that recently the Council had opposed the setting up of old peoples homes in the country as against cultural norms.

It also transpired that the government had not yet decided to set up the Pakistan Airways as a parallel airline independent and separate from PIA although the new company had been registered with the SECPlast month. The minister in charge for aviation division also stated in written reply there is no proposal to place the matter of introducing the new airline before the CCI.

Colonel gunned down in Peshawar

An acting colonel of Pakistan Army Colonel Tariq Ghafoor was gunned down in Peshawar on Friday.

Unidentified men opened fire at Colonel Tariq Ghafoor’s vehicle as he was on his way home on Ring Road.

An official of security forces said that the he was an acting colonel of army but was on leave and studying at University of Peshawar.

FC personnel found dead in car

Confirming the incident, senior superintendent police (SSP) city said the officer of senior rank received two bullets in the head and succumbed to his injuries on the occasion.

“It looks like an incident of target killing,” an official said. “Colonel Tariq had land and family disputes,” he further said, adding the reason behind the killing was not yet clear.

Meanwhile, banned terrorist outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The TTP’s sharp shooter (STF) targeted Col Tariq,” the group’s spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani claimed in a statement.

Suicide blast kills 16 in Shabqadar as Taliban avenge Qadri’s execution

On Thursday, a Frontier Corps personnel was found dead inside his vehicle in Jharga village of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, within the jurisdiction area of Chamkani police station.

UN announces Pakistani young girl as winner of children’s poster competition

GENEVA (11 March 2016) –The UN Human Rights Office has today announced the two winners of a poster contest for children to illustrate what freedom means to them.

The competition was organized as part of a year-long campaign by the Office to mark the 50th anniversary of two core human rights treaties, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Alexandria Slaven, 11, from Samoa is the winner of the 5 to 11 age group with a picture depicting people holding hands and standing by a luxuriant coconut tree.

Winner of the 12-18 age group is 15-year-old Eiza Abid from Pakistan, whose illustration uses both dark tones and bright colours to represent freedom of thought. “My painting personifies the darkness and confinement within a person’s life and once the person is set free from the pressures and judgement of others, one can freely express their thoughts and imagination in their true colors, illustrating their unique vision and bright outlook,” Eiza wrote.

Alexandria and Eiza’s designs, which will be made into posters for use during the campaign, were selected from the winners of local competitions. All the winning entries can be viewed online at the campaign website: http://2covenants.ohchr.org

“It is so important to have children celebrating the 50th anniversary of the human rights Covenants through this poster competition,” said Fabian Salvioli, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, which monitors how States parties are implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “For the Covenants to continue to have meaning over the next 50 years, children must be aware of their rights and the importance of the Covenants to their lives and happiness,” he said.

“I am impressed by the dedication and resourcefulness of the winners and the quality of the posters that they submitted for the competition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the human rights Covenants,” said Waleed Sadi, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which monitors States parties’ implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. “The Covenants are more than legal treaties – they have meaning and significance for all peoples and day-to-day life. By turning rights into pictures, this would help us understand and appreciate even more the Covenants and their relevance to all. Our thanks and congratulations to everyone who took part,” said Mr Sadi.

“We are very proud of Eiza Abid’s achievement, she succeeded with expressing the concept of freedom through a very positive and inspiring artwork,” said Vittorio Cammarota, Director of the UN Information Centre in Pakistan. “We will exhibit Eiza’s poster together with those from other 55 Pakistani children and young adults who participated in the competition, in April in Islamabad.”

New posters of Mustafa Kamal sprout in Karachi

KARACHI – As former mayor of Karachi Mustafa Kamla announced to hold a rally in Bagh-e-Jinnah, his new posters sprang up in different areas of the city overnight.

Posters seen around the city with slogans “Ray of Hope Mustafa Kamal” and “Salute to Mustafa Kamal”. Talking to media persons, Kamal said that he will hold his first public meeting very soon at Bagh-e-Jinnah of Mazar-e-Quaid.

Four years and counting: ECNEC gives nod to Mandra-Chakwal Road at higher cost

The government on Tuesday approved half a dozen development projects worth Rs100 billion including the Mandra-Chakwal Road construction scheme at a revised cost two and a half times higher.

The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the dualisation of the Mandra-Chakwal project, despite being dubbed as ‘economically unviable’ by the Planning Commission.

Govt clears Mandra-Chakwal Road at higher cost

It also approved the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) at a cost of Rs38.3 billion, aimed at protecting infants against nine preventable diseases -childhood tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis-B, Haemophilus influenza Type B, measles and pneumonia.

Road project

The Rs9.3 billion, revised for the second time, Mandra-Chakwal scheme is 245% higher than the original price at which it had been approved by former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in 2012 to meet a longstanding demand of his constituents.

However, the project became controversial, as the former premier had cleared the scheme by using his discretionary powers in violation of laid-down procedures. The interrupted project was revived again when the incumbent PM Nawaz Sharif took its ownership.

During his visit to Chakwal in July 2014, PM Sharif, for the second time, inaugurated the Mandra-Chakwal Road and also approved expansion in the scope of the work. Former PM Ashraf first inaugurated the project.

In December last year, the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) had cleared the scheme at a cost of Rs10.1 billion. The government later on reduced the cost by slashing overhead charges and the Ecnec approved the project at the final price of Rs9.3 billion.

The project’s initial cost was Rs2.7 billion. After coming into power, the PML-N government approved the project at a revised cost of Rs4.7 billion. However, it has now made a second revision, hence increasing the cost by Rs6.6 billion – 245% higher than the 2012 original price.

Out of the Rs6.6 billion, about Rs2.7 billion seems justifiable while the rest (Rs4 billion) of the increase remains unexplained, showed project documents. Work on the project has already begun and Rs4.5 billion has so far been spent on it.

ECNEC says yes to Neelum-Jhelum, CPEC road projects

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had also launched an inquiry, which remains pending. The NAB is investigating the award of the project, violation of the procedures and release of funds.

The Planning Commission’s technical and financial appraisal sections raised objections over the ‘tremendous increase in cost’ and giving profit to the National Logistic Cell on certain components in violation of the PM Nawaz Sharif’s directions.

Its main objection is on the financial viability of the project. However, despite these objections the project was cleared on Tuesday.

Under the scheme, the road between Mandra and Chakwal (64-kilometre patch) will be made into a dual carriageway besides construction of a flyover at Chakwal northern bypass. The condition of the existing road is dilapidated, causing sufferings to thousands of commuters.

EPI

The committee approved the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) for the period of 2015-16 to 2019-20. The programme envisages protecting children of ‘one-year’ age against nine diseases. The EPI also aims at protecting pregnant women against tetanus toxoid and new-born babies against tetanus neonatrum.

The programme will also protect children under five years of age against complications and mortality caused by diarrheal diseases through proper case management.

Other projects

The Ecnec conditionally approved a project for the provision of coal conveying system from Pakistan International Bulk Terminal (PIBT) to Railway network at Port Qasim.

Punjab power plants: ECNEC forms panel to resolve Centre-Sindh row

The project will help transport coal from terminal to railway, siding and loading of coal onto railway wagons for onward transmission to the proposed coal-fired power plants. This will also address an objection by the Asian Development Bank that delayed construction of $1.5 billion Jamshoro coal-fired project.

The highest project approval authority also cleared a scheme for construction of additional carriageway of Indus Highway N-55 at the revised cost of Rs22.3 billion. It approved a scheme for the reconstruction of Kohlu-Sibi Road at a revised cost of Rs6.6 billion.

Nisar cites legal issues for Jamaatud Dawa ban

Pakistan is in the process of banning Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), a charity that India says is front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group which is accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

“There are some legal issues [to put JuD on the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act] but we are getting there,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told lawmakers in the Senate.

Assets of all banned outfits, including Jamaatud Dawa, frozen: FO

After addressing some legal complications, as soon as the group is proscribed, it would automatically be put on the fourth schedule (which restricts movement of those on the list), he said in response to a query by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.

Replying to Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Nisar confirmed intelligence-sharing with India on 10 to 15 boys crossing the Pakistani border into India.

He said actions of some ‘non-state actors’ create problems for the country and its institutions. “We are trying to get rid of such elements on both civil and military level.”

The statement comes days after Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua shared intelligence with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval about a possible terror strike in the Indian state of Gujarat, which was put on high alert on Saturday after reports of 10 to 15 militants entering the country. The terrorists were said to be associated with the LeT and Jaish-e-Muhammad militant groups.

During an intensive interaction with lawmakers in the Senate on the performance of the government as regards implementing the National Action Plan, the security czar made new revelations and also put questions to the PPP lawmakers.

“You [the PPP government] did not take any action against the group [LeT] following the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Now it [the group] is proscribed,” said Nisar. “We [the PML-N government] have introduced the concept of fourth schedule and maintained record of the same. We are now monitoring bank accounts of fourth-schedule suspects, their arms licences, driving licences and job status.” He claimed that during the PPP’s tenure, a proscribed person had performed Umrah.

Jamaatud Dawa not linked to LeT, won’t be banned: govt

Lal Masjid

Nisar said that because of weak prosecution and investigation, all 33 cases against Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz were dropped.

The minister claimed that Aziz’s acquittal in all the cases was facilitated by the President House, referring to PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s tenure as president.

Out of 33, some 11 cases were heinous, including the murder of an army officer. In three cases, Aziz was fined Rs45 each, Nisar disclosed the official record. “The police told me that under the policy of appeasement, all these cases against Aziz were not investigated.”

He claimed that during the PPP’s tenure, the cleric was first moved to another city, and then to a villa. “But I’ll not name the villa,” Nisar told the PPP senators.

He added that when the PPP was in power, a 20-kanal land was provided to the Lal Masjid in Islamabad’s H-11 sector.

Nisar said it was up to the house to decide who actually was soft on Maulana Aziz. “Is it our government or those who gave him safe passage in all the cases?”

He also criticised civil society, saying that it was inappropriate for some 15 to 20 people from Karachi to come to Islamabad and try to provoke the Lal Masjid cleric. “Yes, we were soft towards these civil society members and did not take action against them.”

Regarding the National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta), the minister said the body was functioning independently. The interior ministry is not overseeing the financial or administrative issues of the body, he said in response to Senator Babar’s question.

Nisar also responded to Babar’s criticism of the paramilitary Rangers, who are conducting a targeted operation in Karachi since September 2013.

JuD not a terrorist organisation, no reason to ban it: PML-N minister

He said it was the Sindh government’s claim that 79,000 people were arrested by the police and Rangers and then 78,000 were released. “The Rangers did not compromise in any case; it was the Sindh police that made these arrests and then prosecuted these suspects.”

On the subject of the Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish, the interior minister said more than 40 groups were operating in Pakistan.

He said the militants associated with the group were fighting for their lives in Middle Eastern countries and northern Africa. “Why are we diverting their attention towards Pakistan?” he said while criticising those who insist on Da’ish presence in Pakistan. “We are monitoring the militant groups and are aware of all threats.”

Taseer’s recovery: Nisar forms body to probe IG Balochistan’s claims

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar on Wednesday ordered to set up a committee tasked to investigate the claims of IG Balochistan that Shahbaz Taseer’s recovery was brought about with the help of an operation.

According to a spokesman of Interior Ministry, the committee has been directed to submit its report in two days.

The two-member committee comprises Additional Secrtary Interior and DG NCMC.

“We should inculcate a habit of telling the truth to the nation,” the spokesman quoted Chaudhry Nisar as saying.

He said the events relating to Shahbaz Taseer’s recovery contradicted the reports of IG Balochistan’s claims.

Six Pakistani institutes among world’s top 800 universities

Six Pakistani institutes of higher education are ranked among the world’s top 800 universities by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a British ranking agency.

HEC announces university rankings

National University of Sciences And Technology (Nust) Islamabad, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums), University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore, University of Karachi (KU) and the University of Lahore are the Pakistani universities that made it to the top 800 universities in the world.

Nust Islamabad ranked 501-550 while QAU was at 651-700 followed by LUMS, UET Lahore, KU and University of Lahore at 701+.

Nust was also ranked separately at 340 in the ‘Engineering and Technology’ category.

The QS rankings takes into account academic reputation (40 per cent), employer reputation (10pc), student to faculty ratio (20pc), citations per faculty (20pc), international faculty ratio (5pc) and international students (5pc). The methodology aims to assess research, teaching, employability and internationalisation.

University rankings: QAU, Aga Khan lead rankings

On the other hand, 15 Indian universities made it to the list. Two of them, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) were ranked within 200, at 147 and 179 respectively.

The top 10 universities in the world in the QS rankings are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Cambridge University, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, University of Oxford, University College London, Imperial College, ETH Zurich and the University of Chicago.

Quaid-e-Azam University has been ranked Pakistan’s best university in the general category, according to rankings for 2015 released by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

University of Punjab in Lahore and National University of Science and Technology (NUST) secured second and third positions respectively, as per the HEC as chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed unveiled the rankings of 129 universities in Islamabad.