Afghan Taliban name a new leader, but peace talks delayed
Mullah Omar did not die in Pakistan, militia confirms
KABUL: The Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of their leader Mullah Omar but did not say when or where he died. The statement says “his [Mullah Omar’s] health condition deteriorated in the last two weeks” and “not for a single day did he go to Pakistan”.
The statement went on to say that three days of religious ceremonies would be held “to pray for the soul of Mullah Omar”.
The militants said Omar died of “sickness”, citing family members, contradicting the Afghan government’s stance that the one-eyed warrior-cleric had passed away in Pakistani city Karachi. Afghanistan’s premier intelligence agency had also said Omar died in a Karachi hospital in April 2013.
“The leadership of the Islamic Emirate and the family of Mullah Omar... announce that leader Mullah Omar died due to a sickness,” a Taliban statement said, using the movement’s official name.
The Taliban, who were faced with the tricky process of choosing a successor to the near-mythical figure who led them for some 20 years, appointed Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as their new supreme leader earlier Thursday.
According to DawnNews sources, the Afghan Taliban held meetings Wednesday night, after the reported death of Mullah Omar, and after consultation between members of the Shura Council, elected Mansoor as their new chief.
Mansoor was previously Omar’s deputy, and was running the 20-member council after Omar’s death.
Omar’s son Mullah Yakoub was favoured by some commanders, sources said, but at 26 he was considered too young and inexperienced for such a key role.
Meanwhile, a fresh round of peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government, planned for Friday in Pakistan, has been postponed, according to Islamabad.
A Foreign Office statement on Thursday said the Taliban leadership had asked for the postponement “in view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty”.
But the militants in a statement Thursday appear to distance themselves from the process, casting doubt over its possible effectiveness.
“Media outlets are circulating reports that peace talks will take place very soon... either in the country of China or Pakistan,” the Taliban said in an English-language statement posted on their website on Thursday.
“(Our) political office... are not aware of any such process.” - Agencies
PPP throws weight behind beleaguered PTI
Qureshi says PTI returned to NA after understanding with govt
ISLAMABAD: Angry opposition parties rivaling the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are making a fresh attempt to bar the party from the National Assembly, after a judicial commission ruled against Imran Khan’s allegations of rigging in the May 2013 elections.
With the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) demanding to de-seat the PTI, the party said Thursday that its return to the assembly was based on an agreement with the government.
Outside Parliament, senior PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked why PTI lawmakers were allowed to attend budget sessions if the party was not considered a part of the assembly.
His statement comes two days after voting was deferred in the National Assembly on a resolution submitted by the MQM and JUI-F to de-seat PTI lawmakers from the NA, owing to their absence from the lower house of parliament during the party’s 126-day sit-in in Islamabad. The prime minister has asked the parties to take back their resolutions, but the MQM and JUI-F have requested time to consider the move.
Outside Parliament, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman questioned why PTI’s assembly membership was being restored after its legislators had submitted their resignations.
“We are expressing our reservations in a constitutional manner,” he said. “According to the constitution, after a resignation is submitted, the seat stands empty.”
The JUI-F chief further said that when it came to the place of PTI lawmakers in the NA, his party was not satisfied.
Leader of Opposition in National Assembly and Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart Khursheed Shah Thursday said the government should vote in favour of the PTI, adding that a political party should not be removed from Parliament.
Shah reiterated that PTI’s return to the House was based on an agreement with the government and not supporting the party at this point will be problematic for the government.
The opposition leader further said that the PPP will oppose motions put forward in the NA to de-seat PTI.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged JUI-F and MQM legislators to withdraw de-seating motions against PTI lawmakers.
The premier met parliamentary heads of political parties on Wednesday and thanked the leadership for showing resolve and remaining steadfast for the supremacy of the Constitution and for upholding the principles of democracy. Most of the parliamentary heads expressed their opinion in favour of withdrawal of motions against PTI MNAs.
Imran laments ‘incomplete work’ by JC
LAHORE: Lamenting what he calls ‘incomplete work’ by the Judicial Commission that rejected his allegations of poll rigging, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday said he has sent a letter to the Election Commission, apprising it of his ‘reservations’.
Speaking after hosting a luncheon to senior journalists and anchor persons here, he said that the inquiry commission’s verdict has been accepted with an open heart despite a widespread public opinion of an anti-PTI decision prior to the issuance of JC report.
Khan said he regrets that the inquiry commission has left its probe ‘incomplete’, which he added should have been taken to its logical conclusion. The PTI chief for the first time said that his party will learn from the past mistakes and perform better in future polls.
The cricket star-turned-politician criticised elements, which he said wrongly used the name of former DG ISI Lt Gen (retd) Shuja Pasha for his party’s 126-days-long protest sit-in in front of the Parliament in Islamabad.
Earlier, the PTI chief chaired a meeting of the party’s district-level organisers. PTI leader and former Punjab governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar briefed the meeting regarding the party’s performance.
LG re-polling ends in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
PESHAWAR: Re-polling in the local government elections ended peacefully under heavy security on Thursday.
Earlier, re-polling in the local government elections was under way in over 350 polling stations across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Thursday.
Voting began in 14 districts of the province at 7am. To facilitate the voters, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) extended the polling duration till 6pm.
Extra security measures were taken to ensure smooth elections. Police and army personnel have also been deployed at each polling station to avoid mismanagement. Meanwhile, the media has been barred from coverage inside polling stations.
Police arrested a woman in Takhtabad polling station in Peshawar’s Dawoodzai area for attempting to cast fake votes. According to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mian Saeed, police arrested the woman for having 45 fake voting ballots. The woman was arrested before she cast the fake votes and was shifted to Dawoodzai police station.
Officials in the ECP had told DawnNews that re-polling would be held in 29 polling stations in Peshawar, 88 in Nowshera, 45 Charsadda, 42 Mardan, 17 Swabi, five Kohat, four Hangu, 70 Karak, 30 Bannu, eight Lakki Marwat, eight Dera Ismail Khan, seven Abbottabad, six Mansehra and one in Buner district.
Previously, local government elections were held across the province on May 30 but due to mismanagement, the polling was suspended and declared null and void by the election commission in some districts. More than a dozen people were killed due to clashes and poll-related violence.
Before this, the last local government elections took place in February 2005. The last provincial government had dissolved local councils on February 20, 2010 after the completion of their tenure. Afterwards, administrators replaced nazims of those bodies.
Terrorists came from Pak via Ravi river, India says
NEW DELHI: Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that terrorists who attacked Gurdaspur came from Pakistan via Ravi river.
Making a statement in Rajya Sabha on Monday’s attack in Punjab, Rajanth said “any effort by the enemies of our nation to undermine India’s territorial integrity and security or imperil the safety and security of our citizens will meet an effective and forceful response from our security forces.”
The government “has been and will remain resolute in this regard”, he said.
Singh made the statement amid din created by Congress members which was strongly disapproved of by deputy chairman P J Kurien, who said it was “not politics” but a “statement on a terrorist attack” that concerns the security of the country.
However, as the unrelenting Congress members continued to shout slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Singh said, “I take this opportunity to assure the House that the government is firmly to root out terrorism from India.”
The home minister also assured the House that “the government will do everything possible to prevent cross-border terrorism aimed against India.”
Giving details of the attack in Punjab, he said, “preliminary analyses of GPS data indicates that the terrorists had infiltrated from Pakistan through the area near Tash in Gurdaspur district, where the Ravi river enters Pakistan.” It is also suspected, he said, that the same terrorists had planted five IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on the railway track near Talwandi village between Dinanagar and Jhakoladi which were subsequently defused by the bomb disposal squad. A night vision device was also recovered from the spot.
Three civilians and four security personnel, including a superintendent of police, were killed early Monday when three heavily-armed terrorists went on a killing spree here, shattering two decades of calm in Punjab and sparking an 11-hour gun battle that left all three attackers dead. - TNN
Pointing fingers before probe is unhealthy: FO
ISLAMABAD: As India blamed Pakistan for the Gurdaspur attack that killed at least seven people this week, the Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday termed accusations “unfortunate” and said countering terrorism could only be possible through cooperation.
“Pointing fingers before investigation is not a healthy trend,” said FO spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah at a news briefing.
Talking about India’s aggression at the Line of Control (LoC) and working boundary, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson said Pakistan is capable of defending itself against any aggression.
He added the Pakistani high commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, postponed his visit to Chandigarh following the incident because the Indian government did not permit his driver and two other officers to travel with him.
The spokesperson further said India and Pakistan are in touch regarding the dates for the meeting between their respective national security advisers.
At the briefing, the spokesperson also talked about the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. He said Pakistan is committed to facilitating peace talks. However, he expressed his ignorance as to the date and venue of the second round of the talks.
With regards to the rumours about Mullah Omar’s death, the spokesperson said the authorities are verifying their veracity.
Five militants arrested from Khyber Agency
PESHAWAR: Security forces arrested five suspected members of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber Agency on Thursday.
According to security sources, the arrested militants were wanted in criminal cases, including attacks on security check posts and installations.
A suspected TTP commander from Khyber Agency, Ababeel, was also amongst those arrested. He was also allegedly involved in multiple attacks on security forces in the area.
The latest arrests are a result of various search operations that are being conducted in the volatile tribal agency.
The Pakistan Army has killed more than 2,700 militants during Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan since June last year, following a deadly attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, destroying more than 800 of their hideouts.
43pc decrease in target killing after Karachi operation: Nisar
ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Ministry Chaudhry Nisar in a detailed briefing to the National Assembly (NA) on Thursday said that the ongoing operation in Karachi against crime and terrorism has resulted in a 43 per cent decrease in target killing, 37pc decrease in incidents of murder, and a 6.7pc decrease in incidents of terrorism, DawnNews reported.
Nisar said that along with 713 terrorists, 58,603 suspects have been arrested during the operation so far. Of this number, at least 731 were suspected of murder, while 517 were suspected of involvement in extortion cases.
The Interior Minister told the NA that 14,253 arms were recovered, and that the number of fugitives increased by 9.4pc during the operation.
He said that there had been a significant decrease in crime following the Karachi operation.
Training for security forces
The Interior Minister emphasised the need for security agencies to provide security training to their employees, and urged them to conduct a security clearance of all their employees.
He said training - including weapons training - should be provided at least once a year. “Police, civil armed forces are ready to provide training free of cost.”
The federal interior minister also spoke of the need to compensate employees of security agencies fairly. “Security is a very important problem for Pakistan, and clients spending so much money should be provided with good service,” he said.
Nisar also highlighted the need to implement policies that allowed security agencies and civilians to “supplement and complement” each other.
He said that there should be standardisation among policies followed by the provincial and federal governments regarding policies concerning non-governmental organisations (NGOs), arms, and security agencies.
The Interior Minister also said his department was working on new policies concerning the Exit Control List, arms licenses, security agencies and the visa policy.
Rehabilitation of beggars
The Interior Minister said that beggars found stealing are caught ‘respectfully’ by police. “We determine if they are needy. If it is the case, we hand them over to NGOs.”
“We give these people a first warning, after which they are detained in a police station, and then they are sent to jail. We also try to determine who backs them, we have also taken action against them.”
“We want to create a policy in all cities - for all those who are needy, there should be arrangements for food and shelter, which can be done easily through collaboration with NGOs.
The ‘operation’ against criminal elements in Pakistan’s commercial hub was initiated back in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered Rangers to lead a targeted advance with the support of police against criminals already identified by federal military and civilian agencies for their alleged involvement in targeted killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorism in Karachi.
When Rangers raided Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) headquarters in March 2015, the party alleged the operation had taken on a political colour.
But Rangers claimed it had conducted the raid on a tip off that said wanted persons were present at Nine Zero— the party’s headquarters.
Since then, Rangers DG Maj Gen Bilal Akbar and army chief Gen Raheel have insisted that the operation is not targeted at a particular political party and will meet its logical end.
A high-level apex committee meeting chaired by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on May 14, 2015 decided to implement effective policing and surveillance in the “vast suburbs of Karachi”, to prevent what the military spokesperson said were “sneaking terrorist attacks”.
Pak, China agree on consolidating ‘all-weather’ partnership
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Thursday agreed on further consolidating the existing “all-weather Pakistan-China strategic cooperative partnership” in all areas of importance, especially political, economic and strategic.
During the Sixth Round of Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue held here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was agreed that early and effective implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects was a key priority for both the countries.
The Pakistan side was led by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and the Chinese delegation was headed by Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao.
Secretary Planning, Development and Reforms, also joined the meeting for discussions on the status of projects under CPEC, said a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During the talks, both sides reviewed important aspects of Pakistan-China bilateral relations. The two sides held a detailed exchange of views on regional and global situation.
In conclusion, the Foreign Secretary and the Chinese AFM agreed on the need for the respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs to remain engaged at all levels.
Earlier, the Chinese delegation called on Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz.
The Adviser welcomed the Chinese AFM back to Islamabad for his second visit this year.
Sartaj Aziz noted that the Prime Minister had a fruitful meeting with the Chinese President on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Ufa, Russia, on July 10, 2015.
The Adviser emphasized that the CPEC was the flagship project for the Chinese President’s vision of the “One Belt, One Road” and that Pakistan-China cooperation on the CPEC would enhance connectivity and contribute to prosperity and development in the entire region. - APP
Govt prudent policies revived economy of country: Dar
PESHAWAR: The prudent and timely policies of present government have revived the sagging economy of the country and now internationally reputed monetary organizations are openly saying that Pakistan is heading in right direction.
This was said by Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Ishaq Dar while addressing as chief guest the 12th Businessmen Excellence Award 2013-14 organized by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPPCI) here on late Wednesday night.
Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmed Khan, Governor State Bank Arshad Mahmood Vetra, Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa, Auditor General Asad Amin, President KPCCI Fuad Ishaq, President Businessman Forum Senator Ilyas Bilour, Senator Mohsin Aziz, office-bearers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industries, high officers and leading industrialists attended the function.
Addressing the award ceremony, Senator Ishaq Dar said at time when PML(N) took over charge of governance in 2013, situation was very grim as economy was in shambles and other problems like terrorism and energy shortage seem uncontrollable.
The country’s foreign exchange reserve were also at a lowest level of dollar 2.75 billion dollar, he added.
In the beginning there was an impression that Pakistan economy will destabilize further and foreign exchange reserve will take further plunge.
However, he continued, due to prudent policies and strict austerity measures adopted by present government, economy is returning to stability as foreign exchange reserves have reached to record 113 billion dollar.
We have reduced the annual expenditure of Prime Minister House by 40 percent and those of Federal Ministers by 30 percent. Our government strictly banned import of duty free cars for VVIPs including the President, Prime Minister, Governors and Chief Ministers.
Besides we also abolished all kind of discretionary funds of President and Prime Minister.
“Our vision is to make Pakistan as `Asian Tiger’ and we are heading to achievement of our desired goal,” he remarked.
He said PML(N) leadership has ensured good governance, transparency and resolution of public problems as its top priorities.
Government wants to fully utilize the potential our country has in shape of natural resources and hard working labour.
Federal Finance Minister said at time when Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister in 1998, country had enough electricity of 1200 MW. We wanted to export surplus electricity at that time and India was our potential buyer.
While during last one decade after 1999 military coup, the country faced electricity shortage and people had to face a lot of problem, he added. He said government is working on solid footing to overcome electricity shortfall of 4500 MW and till December 2017, about 10500 MW electricity would be added in our system.
Apart from this, he went on to say, government is also working to generate 14000 MW of electricity which will be included in the system after 2017.
Finance Minister said we are not complacent over our achievements and still of the belief that we have to work more hard for making Pakistan a strong and developed country in the world. - APP
2 security men, three suspected militants gunned down in Bannu
BANNU: At least two security personnel and three suspected militants were gunned down early Thursday morning during a clash in Bannu’s Daryoba area.
Officials confirmed that a group of militants attacked the security checkpost at Dayoba in the early hours of the day, in the Frontier Region of Bannu adjacent to North Waziristan; and opened indiscriminate fire on security forces.
Initial reports revealed that the attack was conducted on a large scale with militants in possession of modern and sophisticated weapons.
As a result of the firing, various parts of the check-post were destroyed and two security personnel were killed.
In retaliatory fire, ISPR claimed three suspected militants were gunned down while others managed to escape.
Security forces cordoned off the area and commenced a search operation.
OGRA seeks Rs2.69/litre decrease in petrol price
ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority has sent its summary to the Petroleum Ministry seeking a decrease in the price of petroleum products for August.
OGRA has recommended a Rs2.69 decrease in the price of petrol which will bring the per litre price to Rs75.10.
Diesel is expected to see a Rs5.48 decrease setting the per litre price at Rs81.63. The per litre price of kerosene oil will decrease by Rs6.33.