Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan, India to meet on Aug 25
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary of India Sujatha Singh and her Pakistani counterpart, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry will meet in Islamabad on August 25 to carry forward the dialogue process between the two countries.
Sujatha Singh spoke to Foreign Secretary Chaudhry over the telephone on Wednesday afternoon to confirm the meeting that could lead to resumption of the peace process suspended since January last year - an indication of how difficult the process for normalisation is.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam, while giving the details of the telephonic conversation, said it was agreed that the two Foreign Secretaries will meet in Islamabad on August 25 to carry forward the dialogue process.
Keeping in view the vision of the two Prime Ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi who met in New Delhi this year, the two foreign secretaries are holding meeting in Islamabad to improve and establish good neighbourly relations, said the spokesperson.
The two foreign secretaries agreed that the dialogue process between the two countries should be result-oriented, she added.
Meanwhile, one person was killed in Shakargarh sector on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control after India's Border Security Force (BSF) allegedly opened fire, on Wednesday.
According to local sources, a man identified as Iftikhar was shot four times when he accidentally went near the working border between India and Pakistan. He was arrested and handed over to Pakistan Rangers after post-mortem.
Iftikhar is reportedly the third citizen to be killed in recent LoC violations.
On July 20, one person was killed in Mirajke area along the Pakistani side of the Line of Control after BSF allegedly opened fire. The firing also injured three women and a child.
Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan TCA Raghavan, meanwhile repeated allegations of violation of ceasefire along the LoC by Pakistani side.
"There have been attempts for infiltration followed by unprovoked firing," Raghavan while speaking at an Iftar reception hosted by high commission said, adding that firing from "across the Working Boundary" had resulted in death of an Indian soldier in addition to other civilian casualties.
Pakistan had earlier attributed the latest Working Boundary incident to "intermittent and unprovoked firing from the Indian side."
The Indian government has said the Army has been retaliating in a befitting manner to every violation of the ceasefire by the Pakistan Army, in the backdrop of around 60 such incidents being recorded along the Line of Control and international border in J&K this year till now.
"India won't and will never bow down...this government will not let our heads bow," said defence minister Arun Jaitley, responding to questions in Rajya Sabha.
Leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad seized the opportunity to hold that Narendra Modi, before becoming the PM, used to accuse the then UPA dispensation of being "weak" in its response to Pakistan. "But why are so many ceasefire violations taking place now," he said.
Dismissing that there had been any spurt in ceasefire violations since the BJP-led government came to power, Jaitley said Pakistan had violated the ceasefire 19 times from May 27 to July 17. "Our Army took appropriate retaliatory action in all cases," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also stressed the importance of "maintaining peace and tranquillity at the borders and upholding the sanctity of the LoC" to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, in their first meeting here on May 27, said Jaitley.
"The government's policy consistently has been that we take action proportionately depending on the extent of the ceasefire violation. Where retaliations are required, retaliations are done. Where preventive actions are required, preventative actions are taken. Where the tensions can be diluted by a dialogue between the DGMOs, it is done on that basis," he added.
Though infiltration attempts and cross-border exchanges of fire still continue, they are nowhere near as intense as last year. Official records show Pakistan violated the ceasefire as many as 251 times in 2013, with 199 of them taking place along the LoC.
Indian and Pakistani DGMOs had also met in December last year to discuss ways to strengthen border de-escalatory mechanisms, including the holding of flag meetings between rival brigade commanders, to ensure the maintenance of ``sanctity and ceasefire" on the volatile LoC.
The ceasefire had come into force along the 778-km LoC, the 198-km IB in J&K and the110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in the Siachen-Saltoro Ridge in November 2003 as a major CBM between the two countries. But while the ceasefire by and large held in the early years, it has come under tremendous strain in recent times. There were 44 such violations recorded along the LoC in 2010, which increased to 51 in 2011, 93 in 2012 and 199 in 2013.
Etihad, Emirates airlines to resume Peshawar flights
PESHAWAR: Etihad Airways and Emirates International Airline will resume flight operations to and from Bacha Khan Airport in Peshawar from today, according to a Terminal Manager of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) at Peshawar Airport, Syed Latiful Haq.
The official added that Etihad Airways will restart its operations from August 1 whereas the first flight of Emirates International Airline will arrive Peshawar at 7 am today.
However there was no official word from either of the airlines.
The resumption comes after a suspension of about a month in the wake of an attack on PIA 756 flight on June 25 which left a woman dead and other two crew members injured.
Emirates airline had suspended its flight operations a day after the attack.
Recently, Qatar Airlines had also resumed flight operations at Peshawar airport from July 3.
Six international airlines, including Etihad, Gulf, Saudi Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Qatar and Air Arabia, are operating from Peshawar airport, mostly carrying the working class of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Middle Eastern countries and other destinations.
Apart from Air Arabia, all five international airlines had announced suspension of their operations from Peshawar following the July 25 incident.
Plane crashes in typhoon-hit Taiwan, killing 47
TAIPEI: A domestic TransAsia Airways plane crashed on landing on an island off the west coast of tyhoon-hit Taiwan on Wednesday, killing 47 people, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said.
The plane, a 70-seat turboprop ATR 72, crashed near the runway with 54 passengers and four crew on board, it said.
"It's chaotic on the scene," director Jean Shen told Reuters.
Eleven injured people had been taken to hospital, the government said.
The accident happened on one of the Penghu islands, also known as the Pescadores. No more details were immediately available.
Typhoon Matmo slammed into Taiwan on Wednesday with heavy rains and strong winds, shutting financial markets and schools.
TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, flying chiefly on domestic routes, but with some flights to Japan, Thailand and Cambodia among its Asian destinations.
Apart from Wednesday's event, Taiwan's aviation safety council says Transasia has had a total of 8 incidents since 2002, including 6 involving the ATR 72. - Agencies
There were ‘others’ close to Zardari who knew about NRO: Qureshi
LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Wednesday that there were other people also who knew about the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and were close to the former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, DawnNews reported.
He further said that he was unaware of the deal despite being the foreign minister at the time and added that Safdar Abbasi might have better information over the deal.
Qureshi claimed that Zardari has gone to Washington to check the status of the NRO deal adding that the deal, for which the Unites States was a guarantor, had ensured the cancellation of corruption charges against the former president.
PTI vice-chairman questioned that if the statement issued by Shehla Raza was based on truth then would the army be allowed to impose martial law on the fourth democratic term.
Qureshi also said that law must be equal for everyone and that PTI would not be a part of any deal in relation with Pervez Musharraf.
On Tuesday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Shehla Raza claimed that martial law could not be imposed in the country until three general elections were held in the country.
Speaking to a private TV channel, the PPP stalwart said that the agreement was reached under a clause in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), adding that the United States, Britain, UAE as well as then ISI chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had guaranteed this.
Raza said former president Asif Ali Zardari had also travelled to the US to remind world powers of their past promises.
The PPP has disassociated itself from Raza's statement which the party has declared 'misleading' and 'contrary to facts'.
According to a PPP spokesperson, Raza's stance on the matter did not correspond with the party's approach.
Raza's statement comes in the backdrop of former president Asif Ali Zardari's iftar-dinner with US Vice President Joe Biden.
Although the meeting was a social event hosted by Pakistan's former ambassador-at-large, Rai Mahmud, it has generated a lot of interest and also political heat with both PPP and PML-N circles in the United States claiming that Zardari is in America to solicit US support for the current political system in Pakistan.
The NRO was promulgated by former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf on October 5, 2007, to provide immediate relief to assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto by giving indemnity in all cases registered against her by the Nawaz Sharif government between 1986 and 1989.
On December 17, 2009, the Supreme Court declared the controversial NRO as never to have existed and against the Constitution by reviving all cases and reversing acquittals of its beneficiaries.
Nawaz meets Saudi leaders to discuss bilateral ties
JEDDAH: Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince, Advisor and Special Envoy of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on late Tuesday night.
During the meeting, the prime minister expressed gratitude for the hospitality extended to him during his private visit to Saudi Arabia, said a press release.
Sharif is traveling along with 12 members of his family.
Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, who also holds the portfolio of Second Deputy Premier, said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were brotherly counties and their relations were deep.
He said Saudi Arabia was second home for every Pakistani.
Both leaders also discussed bilateral and regional issues and expressed satisfaction on steps taken to further strengthen bilateral relations.
The prime minister was accompanied in the meeting by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Hussain Nawaz.
Earlier on Monday the prime minister had met Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi deputy premier and minister of defense.
During that meeting Crown Prince Salman expressed hoped that the relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would be even more stronger than before. - Agencies
20 militants killed in fresh airstrikes in Shawal
SHAWAL: At least 20 terrorists were killed as Pakistan Air Force fighter jets on Wednesday again pounded 4 suspected hideouts of militants in Tehsil Shawal of North Waziristan Agency (NWA), Geo News reported.
Sources said in continuation of security forces operation Zarb-e-Azb, terrorists' sanctuaries located near the Pak-Afghan border in Tehsil Shawal were targeted by jet fighters and 4 of them were completely destroyed, killing 13 suspected militants.
The deceased terrorists could not be identified immediately, as operation in the area is still underway.
No one is bound to resign till finalisation of irregularities case: ECP
ISLAMABAD: As per law no person is bound to quit his National Assembly constituency during hearing of petitions about electoral rigging, said an official of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday.
Commenting on Imran Khan's demand that Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq should resign till decision on a petition about rigging in his constituency, he said, "No law exits regarding resignation of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq as demanded by PTI Chairman Imran Khan."
If any one quit his / her NA seat, the ECP was bound to hold by-election within 60 days, he added.
The official said the demands of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) chief for verification of votes in some constituencies could only be taken by the election tribunals and not by any one else.
Similarly, the "PTI's demand for recounting of votes in any constituency purely falls in the jurisdiction of election tribunals," he added.
As per the law and the Constitution, he explained the verification of votes and their recounting could only be ordered by the election tribunals. "Whatever the decision of an election tribunal, the ECP will implement it without any delay," he added.
Under the law, he said, the ECP could order recounting and even re-election in any constituency where it was convinced of prima facie irregularities, but it could be done only within 60 days of the elections. After the lapse of this period all such matters had to be dealt with by election tribunals.
The official said if anyone had any objection on the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), he/she had to approach the Supreme Judicial Council for his removal as per Article 209 of the Constitution.
To a question, he said local and international observers had termed the general election 2013 as fair and transparent.
On the other hand, the irregularities committed by Imran Khan's counsel and adjournments taken by him during hearing of the petitions on rigging in NA-122 constituency in 2013 general elections exposed the PTI leadership's claims, he added.
He said there were several glaring irregularities in Imran Khan's petition including submission of a female's affidavit for a male polling station, not having original affidavits, objections
raised in NA 122 and the actual status and the objections raised in PP 147 and their status, respectively.
Imran Khan's case in the Lahore High Court was disposed of by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandiyal following hooliganism caused by Imran's followers.
Imran Khan's counsel sought time for filing reply following irregularities were pointed out in the submitted reply.
Interestingly the writ petition number in reply was not correctly mentioned, the
affidavit filed with reply had two dates of verification (Imran Khan mentioned that he swore on oath on May 8, 2014 while the oath commissioner's stamp indicated that it was attested in May 2009).
Oath Commissioner Saifullah Khan Khalid, who attested the affidavit, has been declared by the Lahore High Court as not authorized to attest the affidavits. Counsel for Imran Khan has sought several adjournments after failing to submit a reply. - APP
UNHRC launches probe into Israeli violations in Gaza
Pillay says Israel may be committing war crimes
GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday launched a probe into Israel’s Gaza offensive, backing efforts by the Palestinians to hold the Jewish state up to international scrutiny.
The 46-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with Arab and fellow Muslim countries joined by China, Russia and Latin American and African nations.
The United States was the sole member to vote against, while European countries abstained.
Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday.
Pillay, opening an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, also condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants into Israel.
Citing cases Israeli air strikes and shelling hitting houses and hospitals in the coastal enclave, she said, “These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”
“Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated,” Pillay said in some of her strongest comments on the conflict.
The Geneva rights forum convened the special one-day session at the request of the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan. Israel, which accuses the Council of bias, boycotted the Geneva forum for 20 months, resuming cooperation in October. Its main ally the United States, a member state, has also said Israel is unfairly singled out.
During the session at the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan called for the intensification of international diplomatic efforts for an immediate ceasefire and revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks aimed at addressing the root cause of the Middle East conflict.
“The relentless bloodshed must be stopped and peace talks initiated,” Ambassador Masood Khan, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Tuesday while condemning Israeli aggression in Gaza.
Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he said that a political solution must be achieved.
“International diplomacy initiated by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, (US) Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian leadership must be intensified,” he said.
Khan added that a ceasefire proposal should not be spurned and the two-state solution should be pursued.
“An independent, viable and geographically contiguous Palestinian State, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital, living side by side with Israel, is the only way to guarantee peace and stability in the region,” Khan suggested. - Agencies
Furthermore, he demanded the immediate cessation of Israeli attacks, end to the blockade of Gaza, opening of its border and release of Palestinian prisoners.
Gaza truce efforts
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday some progress had been made in efforts to bring an end to 16 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” Kerry said shortly after arriving in Jerusalem for a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
He declined to give any details. - Agencies
Pakistan’s offensive pushes out Haqqani Network: US
KABUL: A top American diplomat says the United States believes Pakistan's counterinsurgency operation in North Waziristan has pushed the militant Haqqani network out of the country's restive tribal region in the northwest.
U.S. Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan James Dobbins said Tuesday the U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the offensive, VOA reported.
Dobbins visited Pakistan and Afghanistan this week to discuss political and security issues with leaders in both countries.
A day after meeting senior political and military leaders in Islamabad, he told reporters in Kabul that talks revolved around the Pakistani army's anti-militancy operation in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal district.
"The operation in North Waziristan seems to be a quite a massive operation. The army has taken a number of casualties," said Dobbins. "It has inflicted an even larger number of casualties on both domestic and foreign militants in the area, including Afghans. It has seized huge amounts of ammunition of IED-precursor material and bomb-making facilities, particularly in Miranshah."
Pakistan's army says so far it has killed more than 500 militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and its Uzbek allies. The military claims to have cleared North Waziristan's central town of Miranshah and adjoining areas of militants, and has confirmed the deaths of at least 32 soldiers.
In addition to being a hub of domestic militants, the Waziristan region also has served as a major base for the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which has launched deadly attacks on Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan.
Dobbins also responded to concerns the Pakistani military offensive did not directly target the Haqqani network and other fugitive Afghan insurgents.
"As regards to the Haqqani network, we believe that they, like other militants, have in fact been pushed out of North Waziristan, and our concern is whether they would come back or be allowed to operate elsewhere in Pakistan," he said.
"We have been assured by the Pakistani government that they will not be allowed back into North Waziristan and they will not be allowed to operate from elsewhere in Pakistan. And we will, of course, be observing that carefully," he said.
Dobbins said the military offensive has displaced nearly the entire population of North Waziristan. He noted that the U.S. is providing aid for the internally displaced people and also will assist in reconstruction efforts when the army operation is completed. NNI
Siraj resigns as KP senior minister
LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq resigned as senior minister of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assembly owing to 'preoccupations as JI chief' on Wednesday.
In a letter of resignation addressed to K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Sirajul Haq said that after assuming office for the second time as K-P finance minister, he tried to fight for the rights of the province but the federal government ignored his proposals in this regard.
The JI chief added that he introduced reforms in the finance department and set up a financial discipline, which led to a decrease in the provincial government's debt.
Furthermore, Sirajul Haq said that after the general elections, he presented two budgets and was presented with a bonus of Rs1.5 billion from the federal government for his outstanding financial management. - Statesman
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