Operation Zarb-e-Azb: Army gearing up for final push in Shawal Valley
ISLAMABAD: The army is preparing for a final push in the coming weeks in the country’s fight against militants.
A year on from the launch of a major offensive to eradicate strongholds of Taliban and other militants in North Waziristan tribal area, the military says the job is 90 percent done.
It is now positioning troops around the Shawal Valley, a key location close to the Afghan border that is home to some of the last redoubts of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), according to locals and security sources.
The army says it has killed more than 2,700 militants since the launch of the offensive — dubbed Zarb-e-Azb — last June, and destroyed more than 800 of their hideouts.
A senior military official directly linked to the offensive said the army was gearing up for the final push and using air strikes before moving in ground troops.
“We are turning hard targets into soft through aerial bombing because forces expect a resistance in Shawal,” he told AFP.
The troop movements were confirmed by locals, though some tribal elders warned militants were slipping across the porous mountainous border into Afghanistan.
“Up to two dozen militants are leaving the area every day and around 200 militants recently moved into part of Afghan territory,” elder Ajab Khan told AFP.
He warned the remaining areas where TTP fighters are holed up will be difficult fighting terrain — mountainous and thickly forested.
But security analysts caution that military gains will serve little purpose unless and until the lawless, semi-autonomous tribal areas see administrative reform and economic development.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are among the poorest in Pakistan, and are governed under a draconian legal system introduced by British colonial rulers more than a century ago.
“The longevity of the ‘final push’ would largely depend on the constitutional status of the region,” said Imtiaz Gul, executive director at Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).
“Until the Fata region is mainstreamed and brought under the law of the land, keeping it clear of militants and criminals would be difficult.”
Hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to leave North Waziristan by the offensive. Retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood said reintegrating them was key to success.
“These military gains will only be a part of the exercise. Complete success depends on the rehabilitation of the displaced people and development in the tribal region,” he told AFP.
Zarb-e-Azb does seem to have had a positive impact on militant attacks, which have been down overall, with some shocking exceptions, such as the December massacre by Taliban gunmen of more than 130 children at a school in Peshawar.
But doubts have been raised about the transparency of the operation and the identities of those killed.
I A Rehman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said there was no way to know for sure who the army had killed.
“We don’t know the truth about the casualties — what is the actual number of casualties, how many of them are terrorists and how many of them innocents?” he told AFP.
“They should make this action transparent. People should have access in the areas of operation.”
Concerns have also been raised about the resumption of executions and introduction of military courts, which have sat in secret, under a government National Action Plan (NAP) to defeat terror, launched in the wake of the Peshawar massacre.
The European Union, the United Nations and various international rights groups have been alarmed by the pace of executions — around 160 since they began again in December after a six-year hiatus.
Rehman said HRCP did not accept the legitimacy of the military courts, which handed out their first rulings in April, sentencing six militants to death and another to life in jail.
The news was announced in a Twitter post by the chief military spokesperson Major General Asim Bajwa, with no details given on the nature of the crimes, when or where the trials were held, the evidence presented or even the identity of those convicted.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing challenges to the constitutionality of the military tribunals. - AFP
Pakistan to take issue of Indian interference to UN
ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to take the issue of Indian interference in Pakistan to the United Nations, sources privy to the matter told Geo News on Monday.
According to the sources, the government has summoned Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi to the federal capital for discussion before the issue is raised in the UN.
Dr Lodhi is expected to hold consultative meetings on the matter with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a team of foreign ministry officials after her arrival in Islamabad.
Earlier this month, a formation commanders’ conference chaired by Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters took serious notice of the recent hostile Indian rhetoric coupled with covert and overt actions to destabilise Pakistan.
The forum said it was highly regrettable that Indian politicians not only indulged in actions that were a violation of the United Nations charter but also took pride in claiming interference in the internal affairs of other states.
A resolve to defeat Indian designs and defend Pakistan’s territorial integrity at any cost, with a befitting response to any misadventure against Pakistan, was also echoed during the meeting.
OGRA proposes Rs4.26 increase in petrol price
ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) on Monday forwarded a summary to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural resources seeking increase in prices of all petroleum products except high speed diesel oil.
According to summary, the regulatory authority has asked the concerned ministry to increase petrol price by Rs4.26 per liter, high octane Rs7.30, light diesel 8 paisa and kerosene oil by 67 paisa per liter.
Ogra has also proposed to decrease price of high speed diesel oil by 60 paisa per liter.
Final prices will be announced after the Ministry of Finance`s consultation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
New rates will be applicable from July 1. - NNI
PAT chief Tahirul Qadri arrives in Lahore
LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri asked on Monday the security institutions of the country to begin a crackdown and nab those responsible for the bloodshed in Model Town in the same way as Karachi is being purged of terrorism.
“I call upon the responsible officers of Rangers, those commanding them and security institutions of the country to begin an operation against those who mercilessly killed 14 people during Model Town clashes in Lahore,” he said, addressing his workers outside his residence in Model Town. Qadri alleged the plot of the massacre was designed at PM House and accused both PM Nawaz and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for ‘having a hand in supervising the killing’.
Further, Qadri said he does not have faith in any joint investigation team as such bodies constituted by the incumbent government cannot deliver justice.
“Only an independent Joint Investigation Team can determine and name those responsible for the mayhem.”
While thanking his supporters for welcoming him on his arrival home, he vowed that the party will continue its campaign until those responsible for the chaos and bloodshed are brought to justice.
Earlier, the PAT chief arrived in Lahore after a time span of seven months abroad after he had launched a gruelling movement against the government here.
Dr. Qadri arrived at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International airport at 8:00am where he was received and felicitated by a large number of his party workers and later escorted under high security to his residence in Model Town. - Statesman
MQM minus Altaf will mean war in streets, says Altaf
KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain on Monday termed recent allegations against his party a nefarious plan, warning that attempts to remove him as MQM chief would result in "war in every nook and corner".
In a telephonic address from London to party loyalists in Karachi, Altaf categorically denied all allegations that MQM has connections with RAW and the party received funding from Indian authorities, as claimed by a startling report published by the BBC.
"I swear by God...there is no connection with RAW," he said.
Altaf also asked party workers to "prepare themselves for sit-ins". He said if Imran Khan could organise a sit-in for three months then "we will organise sit-ins for six months".
British investigators begin work in Imran Farooq murder case
ISLAMABAD: The Interior Ministry on Monday refuted news reports of a six to seven member team of the Scotland Yard (London Metropolitan Police) arriving in the capital last week in relation to the investigation of the murder of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Dr Imran Farooq, saying instead that a two-member team had arrived on Monday.
“According to an arrangement with the Interior Ministry, a two-member team of Scotland Yard has arrived in Islamabad today,” said a statement issued by an interior ministry spokesperson.
“Earlier reports of a six to seven member team arriving in Islamabad are baseless and feed into the rumours mill,” said the statement.
The statement said that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar will keep the media updated due to the sensitive nature of the case, adding that the media should refrain from circulating rumours and baseless reports.
The team is expected to be taken to meet suspects who are in custody of Pakistani authorities.
Government refers corruption cases of Sindh development funds to NAB
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Government has decided to formally refer cases of misappropriation of billions of rupees development funds in Sindh province to National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
After the approval of the Senate Standing Committee, the Federal Government took the decision to refer these cases of corruption of misappropriation of funds in Sindh province to the NAB.
According to the Ministry of Interior, the government has now decided to file cases against project directors, director generals of the concerned department authorities, engineers and some consultant companies and the residents engineers of the projects.
“In this regard the NAB has been directed by the government to prepare cases,” said a press release issued by FIA on Monday.
It said the Federal Government is determined to pursue the references in the Accountability Courts including Larkana Development Package’s five projects amounting Rs nine billion in six cases, Shaheed Benazir Abad Development Package’s nine projects amounting Rs 7 billion in three cases, Tameer E Karachi Prgramme’s 17 mega development projects amounting Rs 13 billion in seven cases, Hyderabad Development Package’s seven projects amounting Rs 3.9 billion in seven cases, Khairpur Development Programme’s two projects amounting Rs 250 million in two cases, Greater Hyderabad Sewerage Project’s amounting Rs 500 million in one case, Sehwan Development Authority’s amounting Rs three billion in three cases, Malir Development Authority’s amounting 15 billion in three cases, Lyari Expressway Resettlement Project’s amounting Rs two billion in one case and Hyderabad Development Authority’s amounting Rs five billion in to cases. - APP
Framework for China-led international bank signed
Pakistan inks Articles of Agreement of AIIB
BEIJING Countries from five continents formally signed up Monday to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — a potential rival to the Washington-based World Bank — as Beijing steps up its global diplomatic and economic role.
Australia was the first country to sign the articles of association creating the AIIB’s legal framework at a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, an AFP journalist saw, followed by 49 other founding members.
Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar represented Pakistan at the ceremony and signed Articles of Agreement.
Seven more are expected to do so by the end of the year.
The bank will have a share capital of $100 billion, with $20 billion paid in initially, the document showed.
The signing “is an embodiment of the concrete action and efforts made by all countries in the spirit of solidarity, openness, inclusion and cooperation”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said after the ceremony.
Signalling China’s central role at the bank, he added: “Now we are willing to listen to your views and proposals.”
The AIIB has been viewed by some as a rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and the United States and Japan — the world’s largest and third-largest economies, respectively — have notably declined to join.
Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke rebuked US lawmakers for effectively encouraging the AIIB’s formation by blocking reforms giving developing nations a greater say in the IMF.
Beijing will be by far the largest AIIB shareholder at about 30 percent, the articles of association posted on the website of China’s finance ministry showed. India is the second biggest at 8.4 percent with Russia third on 6.5 percent.
The voting structure gives smaller members a slightly disproportionately larger voice, and a statement accompanying the articles said China will have 26 percent of the votes.
That is not enough to give Beijing a formal veto over all the bank’s decision-making, but it will still have an outsized say and a block on some votes which require a 75 percent majority — including the choice of the bank’s president, suspensions of members, and changes to the rules.
“China’s shareholding and its voting power at the establishment of the AIIB is a natural result led by the rules decided by all members,” said Shi Yaobin, a vice finance minister, according to the official Xinhua news agency. - AFP/PPI
PTI says ECP was ‘non-cooperative’
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada on Monday alleged that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) remained non-cooperative and did not produce documents which the PTI intended to present as evidence before the judicial commission.
A three-member judicial commission investigating rigging allegations in the 2013 general elections presided over the hearing. Presenting his arguments before the commission, Pirzada said that the stamped ballot papers exhibited before the commission point towards wrongdoing.
He argued that the ECP left Forms XV in possession of Returning Officers, which is not permissible under the rules. Pirzada also added that barring a few constituencies, Forms XV of the remaining polling stations were incomplete or missing.
He pointed out that the number of registered voters in Sindh and Balochistan decreased in 2013 elections compared to 2008 polls.
Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk said that it could be possible as ECP verified the voters list and removed bogus entries in this regard.
The PTI counsel pointed out the election process and the polling in Balochistan was marred by broken seals of election bags, zero per cent vote casting and missing Forms XV.
The PTI’s response in court on Monday appears to be directed to a statement made by the ECP a day earlier. The poll body had said opposition parties, including the PTI, have failed to provide any evidence regarding “systematic and planned rigging” in the 2013 general elections and declared that the results of the polls were a “true reflection” of the people’s mandate.
“The general elections 2013 were not manipulated or influenced pursuant to a systematic effort or design by anyone. The results of the general elections of 2013 on an overall basis are a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorates,” the ECP had said in a 33-page response submitted to the poll inquiry commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk.
“The mere possibility of wrongdoing is not even circumstantial evidence of actual wrongdoing,” the ECP had maintained in its response submitted through its counsel Salman Akram Raja. However, it does admit to administrative lapses by election staff.
Furthermore, the ECP had previously contended that Forms XV for 60,634 polling stations, of a total of 69,763 polling stations, were available. “The deficiency in the available record of Forms XV may, however, be placed in the context of the fact that Forms XV are nearly all available despite the lapse of two years. No evidence has been produced to suggest that there was any deliberate scheme either to not generate Forms XV on polling day or to remove Forms XV from the record. The fact that some record is not available now does not necessarily imply that it was never generated.”
Regarding the unsealed polling bags, the ECP had said: “No evidence has come before the inquiry commission as to whether the polling bags concerned were not sealed by the POs or whether the seals got broken or removed later, possible during transportation and placement in the treasuries”.
Sindh govt shifting blame to hide its own misgovernance: K-Electric
KARACHI: As the Sindh government continues to shift blame for Karachi’s heatwave deaths on K-Electric, the city’s power utility company decided on Monday to respond to the provincial government’s allegations.
A K-Electric spokesperson said the Sindh government was issuing statements against the company to hide its own maladministration, Express News reported.
While terming the provincial government’s allegations as ‘false and baseless’, the spokesperson said K-Electric is supplying non-stop power supply to all government hospitals in Karachi.
He went on to add that a number of government departments, including Sindh Police and the Sindh Secretariat of the Sindh government owed millions to K-Electric.
The electricity provider also announced that power shortfall has worsened in Karachi after a technical fault led to the shut down of Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (Kanupp), the atomic power plant that provides electricity to the metropolis.
In a tweet, K-Electric claimed electricity demand in the city has reached 3000MW while generation is being “severely affected” due to the non-operational status of Kanupp and the shortage of gas pressure required by the plants.
We urge our consumers to conserve electricity while the situation is controlled.
The company also refuted reports of K-Electric CEO Tabish Gauhar resigning from his position.
The news about Tabish Gauhar resigning aired on various news channels is baseless.
Addressing the media at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where incidentally the power was out, Sharjeel Memon on Sunday said it was K-Electric’s responsibility to replace the existing dilapidated system with an efficient one at all costs.
“K-Electric did nothing to install new wires and grid stations on the mere pretext of line losses,” he said, adding that the “money that it received on account of bills was not used to rid the city of the outages.”
Majority of Sindh heatwave victims were homeless: minister
KARACHI: Nearly two-thirds of the victims of a killer heatwave that swept Sindh last week were homeless people, the provincial health minister said Monday, as the death toll in Karachi reached over 1,200.
The city of 20 million inhabitants is a sprawling metropolis with few green areas and has scant facilities for coping with intensely hot weather.
Those living on the city’s streets have little access to shelter or safe drinking water, making them particularly vulnerable to the scorching temperatures.
“About 60 to 65 per cent of the heatstroke victims were beggars and heroin addicts, street people,” Jam Mehtab Dahar, the provincial health minister told AFP.
Zafar Ejaz, a senior health official, said the death toll as of Monday stood at 1,229 across the city’s hospitals. After peaking at around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) on the weekend of June 20-21, the heat subsided to the mid-30s later in the week as the city’s customary cooling sea breeze returned.
Among the remaining 35 to 40 per cent of deaths, elderly women who died in their homes comprised a majority, Dahar said, suggesting power cuts had played a role as people had been unable to use fans or air conditioners.
“The women were at homes and not directly exposed to heat unlike the street people,” Dahar added. - AFP
Govt tells SC it incurred losses while K-Electric reaped profits
ISLAMABAD: The federal government while submitting its reply to the Supreme Court on Monday said that K-Electric owes Rs 130 billion to various government institutions and after privatisation in 2008, it was given exceptional benefits.
The government submitted its response today in the case pertaining to a petition by K-Electric against the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB).
In its reply, the federal government stated that since 2005, the concessions given to K-Electric have caused losses equaling Rs 269 billion to the government. It went on to say that after 2009, the concessions given to K-Electric gave the power company profits of Rs 49.3 billion.
The government appealed to the court to reject the plea filed by K-Electric and fine it heavily.
Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court (SHC) sought assistance from the Deputy Attorney General and Advocate General in the case pertaining to the responsibility of the government as well as K-Electric regarding the heatwave deaths in Karachi.