Army to take over security of polio teams in KP
ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the Pakistan army was asked to assist the civilian government by taking over security of polio eradiction teams in militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
A meeting was held Wednesday at the General Headquarter in Rawalpindi to coordinate details of the campaign with particular emphasis on security and access to affected areas.
Representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO), and representatives of the federal and KP government and the FATA secretariat attended the meeting.
The forum was informed about the current polio situation in the country and challenges being faced for smooth conduct of polio campaigns.
“On the directives of the prime minister of Pakistan, Army has been asked to support National Polio Eradication Campaign particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said a statement from the ISPR issued shortly after the meeting.
The meeting also expressed the urgency for polio eradication imitative to save future generations.
The participants emphasised the need to take all necessary measures including improving the security situation to make Pakistan a polio-free country.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling poliovirus remains endemic. The country may face international travelling bans as it continues to house to the highest number of polio cases worldwide
Efforts to stamp out the disease have been hampered by opposition from militant groups, who see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, as well as long-running rumours about the drops causing infertility.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and adjoining tribal districts, where Taliban and al Qaeda linked militants have hideouts, are particular polio hotspots.
Last year, the WHO declared Peshawar the world’s “largest reservoir” of endemic polio and called for urgent action to boost vaccination.
According to the WHO, almost every polio case reported in 2013 in Pakistan could be linked genetically to strains of the virus circulating in Peshawar.
PM chairs National Security Committee meeting
Peace talks to gradually continue despite end of TTP ceasefire
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) at the Prime Minister House on Thursday during it was decided that the peace talks process with the Taliban would continue on a slow pace based on a wait and see policy.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan was facing serious security challenges which need to be tackled and overcome.
Subsequently, the interior minister briefed the committee on the dialogue process.
The meeting also reiterated the government’s resolve to improve the internal security situation which according to the committee was critical to economic and social development.
The meeting took place a day after the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan announced the decision to not extend its ceasefire.
Moreover, the Committee discussed a number of issues related to internal and external security with long term implications for the country and resolved that all policy options will be explored and all available resources will be utilized to ensure peace and security.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Gen Rashad Mahmood, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief Tahir Rafique Butt, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Asif Sandila, Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam and Director-General Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan were present at the meeting.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan briefed the participants on internal security situation.
Aspects of the internal security discussed during the meeting included talks with TTP, situation in Balochistan and the situation on western border.
The committee agreed that national security was of paramount importance for consolidating the economic gains that the government had achieved through sound macroeconomic policies and hard work of the economic team.
The trust shown by the international community, especially the international financial institutions (IFIs), in the government’s efforts to kickstart the economy required an enabling security environment to achieve sustainable economic growth in the coming years.
“The National Security Committee is an apex forum where every state institution gets an opportunity to provide inputs so that all national security related decisions are taken through collective thinking”, Sharif remarked while addressing the meeting.
The Committee was briefed on the Prime Minister’s recent visit to China, especially Pakistan-China economic corridor and $ 35 billion worth of early harvest projects in energy, road infrastructure and railways.
Federal Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar briefed the Committee on improving economic indicators and Pakistan’s re-entry into the international bond market through successful launch of $ 2 billion Euro Bond.
The Committee reaffirmed the Government’s resolve to improve relations with the neighboring countries, making Pakistan an anchor of peace and stability in the region.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan relations were discussed in light of the recently held presidential elections in Afghanistan.
The Committee congratulated the Afghan people on successful elections and resolved to strengthen democratic institutions in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan-India relations with special reference to the forthcoming Indian elections were also discussed.
The Committee endorsed the vision to put Pakistan on the crossroads of opportunity rather than conflict to spur growth for prosperity of the people.
The news about the previously undisclosed high-level meeting came on Wednesday and coincided with the Taliban announcement of not extending the 40-day ‘ceasefire’.
Formed last August, the CCNS is the highest civil-military coordination forum on matters of national security and defence.
The top security body is headed by the prime minister and has foreign, defence, interior and finance ministers; Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and the three services chiefs as its members.
Apart from the TTP’s decision on ending its version of ‘ceasefire’, recent civil-military tensions formed the background of the discussions at the second meeting of CCNS – the first this year.
While the agenda of the meeting is not known publicly, a source familiar with preparations earlier told DawnNews that the agenda was quite expansive, but discussions on internal security and elections in Afghanistan would dominate the proceedings.
SBP quarterly reports show improvement in economy
ISLAMABAD: Two quarterly reports of the State Bank on country's economy presented in the Senate on Thursday have shown improvement in economic indicators and country on way to betterment.
The government laid before the Senate two quarterly reports of the State Bank of Pakistan on the state of country's economy and the Biannual Monitoring on Implementation of National Finance Commission Award.
The reports were presented to the House by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Aftab Sheikh on behalf of Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs and Statistical Division.
The State Bank reports included first quarterly report 2013-14 and second quarterly report 2013-14, as required to be presented before the House under section 9A (f) of the State Bank of Pakistan Act 1956.
A report on Media Manual on Climate Change and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) prepared by the Sub-Committee on Environment of the Senate Functional Committee was presented to the House by Convener of Committee Mushahid Hussain Sayed.
According to the first quarterly report of the State Bank, since macroeconomic indicators were favorable at the start of the year, the increase in real GDP growth in financial year 2014 was discernible.
The report states, estimates for first quarter growth exceeded expectations showing GDP growth by five percent as compared to 2.9 percent in 2013 and a target of 4.4 percent for the full year.
As anticipated, industry and services were the major drivers of growth, as agriculture performed below target.
The second quarterly report of the State Bank stated that by the end of first half of 2013-14, there was a perceptible improvement in the country's macroeconomics indicators.
Inflationary pressures have softened in post November period while pressure on foreign exchange reserves and the Pak rupee parity had eased in December 2013.
The report says that LSM is showing improvement, which is supported by an increase in credit to private sector and as reported by Finance Ministry, the fiscal deficit as a percentage to GDP had declined in first half of financial year. - APP
Nisar to meet with TTP committee on Saturday
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said on Thursday said that a meeting with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) committee has been convened on Saturday to discuss the future course of action, Radio Pakistan reported.
He said the government had worked sincerely to push the dialogue process forward, citing the government negotiation team’s visit to South Waziristan as an example. He added that the ending of the ceasefire questions objectivity of dialogue.
Nisar said that if the Taliban had objections, the government too had some reservations. However, these objections and reservations can be addressed at the negotiation table, he said.
The TTP on Wednesday said that they would not be extending the ceasefire, the group’s spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said. The reason for this, they claim, is the lack of progress from the government’s side regarding the Taliban’s demands.
The central council of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan will not be extending the ceasefire, the TTP spokesperson said in a statement. However, the Taliban spokesperson said that the dialogue process will continue with complete “sincerity and seriousness”. “The TTP will not abstain from taking any steps if the government makes some progress,” he said in a detailed statement.
Govt asked to clarify Mehtab’s amnesty remarks
ISLAMABAD: Speaking in the zero hour in the Senate Thursday PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the maiden statement of the newly appointed Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa proposing to give general amnesty to the militants would demoralise the security forces and lend new found strength to the militants pushing the country further down the slippery road towards dark abyss and sought clarification from the government.
He said that the maiden official statement of the Governor soon after taking oath would have disastrous implications for the security of the country and the fight against militants.
Has the new provincial Governor been appointed to prepare ground and implement this new policy towards militants, he asked.
Farhatullah Babar said that general amnesty across the board without any quid pro quo would also mean the release not only the criminals in government custody but also of those who have been arrested, tried, convicted and sent behind bars.
Altering the security paradigm in this manner will send the security personnel who have rendered huge sacrifices into a tailspin, further embolden the militants to raise the ante and is a sure recipe for national security disaster, he warned.
He said that such policy statement could not have been made by the governor in his personal capacity nor can he feign ignorance. The governor of the Pakhtunkhwa is the highest representative of the federal government in the militancy infested Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and also the agent of the President for the tribal areas. It is inconceivable that such a statement could have been made without the knowledge and even direction of federal government.
He demanded that the federal government must come out clean on the reported statement of Governor and either state that governor has misspoken or take the nation into confidence over this shift in policy. - NNI
Saudi cos’ food mandatory for Pak pilgrims
ISLAMABAD: The Saudi Arabian government has made for Pakistani pilgrims mandatory to buy food from Saudi companies, Geo News reported.
Sources in the Ministry of Religious Affairs told Geo News that food will be provided to Pakistani pilgrims at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah for six days in return of advance payment.
Meanwhile, the sources said, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousuf, in a letter to Saudi officials, stated that Pakistani pilgrims should not be forced to buy food from particular companies as they take meal of different taste.
He demanded of the Saudi government to lift this ban on Pakistani pilgrims as buying of food from these companies would further increase financial burden on them.
The sources added that Sardar Yousuf had also held a meeting with Saudi Ambassador to resolve the issue. - Agencies
President sacks Pemra chairman
ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain has dismissed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman Chaudhry Rashid Ahmed, DawnNews reported on Thursday.
According to sources in the President House, Chaudhry Rashid Ahmed was removed as per the procedures chalked out by the Islamabad High Court (IHC). - Agencies
Faisal Raza Abidi resigns from Senate
ISLAMABAD: Senator of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Faisal Raza Abidi on Thursday announced his resignation from the upper house after almost five years.
Commenting on a point of order, Abidi said that the Senate had failed to provide justice regarding his case against the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Ifitkhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The PPP Senator said that he registered a case against former chief justice under the constitution that he violated the decisions of the judicial council, while the chairman senate assured him that the investigation report will be tabled within three days in the Senate regarding his case.
“Can you inform me about the status of my case,” he questioned.
He also said that parliament is the supreme organ of the state but the members of parliament violate the constitution frequently.
Abidi said that his leadership asked him to resign from his Senate seat, stating that it is the right of the party to take resignations from any member of the parliament.
Talking to journalists outside the parliament house, Abidi also said that he will not join any political party in future while he will run a non-political organisation ‘Voice of Pakistan Martyrs’ in future.
Later, the Deputy Chairman Senate, Sabir Baloch appreciated the role of Senator Abidi in the upper house.
ECC decides to lift ban on gold imports
Rs2 billion approved for Ramazan Relief Package
ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Thursday approved, in principle, Rs. 2 billion, for Ramzan Relief Package to provide essential commodities on controlled rate during the Holy Month of Ramazan, 2014.
The ECC which met here under the chairmanship of Minister for Finance, Mohammad Ishaq Dar also decided that the details of the relief on essential commodities will be submitted by the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) in the next meeting for consideration.
The Utility Stores Corporation (USC) during last year's Relief Package provided subsidy of Rs.1.65 billion and this year proposed Rs.1.624 billion for the Package.
The ECC decided to lift the ban on the import of gold and gold jewellery, subject to the imports under savings in any one-month period are restricted to a maximum of 10-kg per exporter.
The penalty of default in export commitment is 5 percent of leviable duty under SRO 266, which is practically "Nil", as customs duty and sales tax on import of gold is 0%. Therefore, import authorization under the aforementioned savings clause is cancelled, if the exporter fails to honour the export commitment, within the stipulated timeframe.
All import authorizations issued previously under SRO 266 have been cancelled for those exporters, who do not opt for fresh registration or fail to apply for new jewellery Passbook with effect from May 15, 2014,, it decided.
The maximum amount of gold imported under any single transaction should not be exceeded 10-kg and the ban imposed under SRO 760 on the import of gold, vide SRO 53(I)/2014 has been lifted.
The meeting decided that the ban on commercial import of gold imposed vide SRO 52(I)/2014, dated 24.1.2014, has also been lifted.
The ECC decided to withdraw SRO 15(I)/2010 which exempted cotton yarn import from custom duty of 5% in order to check import of cotton yarn which is increasing rapidly and the cotton yarn industry of Pakistan has started feeling the heat of extraordinary liberal tariff regime.
The Committee also decided to withdraw its earlier decision of providing the mechanism of joint expert mediation between SNGPL, Power Purchasers and independent power producers (IPPs) namely Saif, Sapphire and Orient. - APP
3 get 75-year jail each for acid attack
MULTAN: The anti-terrorism court (ATC) No 1 Thursday awarded life imprisonment on three counts to three accused for killing a woman and her daughter by throwing acid in 2011 at Kehror Pakka.
Court officials said according to the court order, the accused would undergo an imprisonment consecutively meaning that each of them would remain in prison for 75 years.
Accused Zafar, Ijaz, and Zahoor Ahmad, had thrown acid on Yasmin Bibi and her five-year-old daughter Sanobar on Aug 2, 2011 after Yasmin, who had filed a case against her husband Wazir for marriage dissolution, rejected marriage proposal of accused Zafar. The minor child Sanober died around a week after the acid attack while her mother breathed her last a month after the incident.
Judge ATC-1 Multan Javed Iqbal sentenced accused Zafar, Zahoor and Ijaz, to life imprisonment under section 302 (b), second life imprisonment under section 302(b)/34 of PPC and third life imprisonment under section 7(a) of Anti Terrorism Act.
The judge ordered all the three accused to pay Rs 200,000 compensation each to the heirs of the deceased under section 544- A of Cr.P.C or face additional one-year imprisonment in case of default. Court also imposed another Rs 100,000 fine on each accused. - APP
Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet
LOS ANGELES: Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected, a distant, rocky world that's similar in size to our planet and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life.
The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable spots outside our solar system.
''This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock solid,'' University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, who had no role in the discovery, said in an email.
The planet was detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, which examines the heavens for subtle changes in brightness that indicate an orbiting planet is crossing in front of a star. - AP
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