Saudi bombs Yemen
Iran condemns assault
SANAA/ADEN: Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies struck Shi'ite rebels fighting to oust Yemen's president on Thursday, in a major gamble by the world's top oil exporter to check Iranian influence in its backyard without direct military backing from Washington.
Iran denounced the surprise assault on its proteges in the Houthi militia group and made clear Saudi Arabia's deployment of a Sunni coalition against its Shi'ite enemies would complicate efforts to end a conflict that will only inflame the sectarian hatreds already fuelling wars around the Middle East.
The Saudi intervention marked a major escalation of the Yemen crisis, in which Iran backs the Houthis, and Sunni Muslim monarchies in the Gulf support President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his fellow loyalists in Yemen's south.
In the capital Sanaa, which Houthi rebels seized in September, warplanes bombed the main airport and the nearby al Dulaimi military air base, residents said, in an apparent attempt to weaken the Houthis' air power and ability to fire missiles.
A Reuters witness said four or five houses had been damaged. Rescue workers put the death toll from at 13, including a doctor pulled from the rubble of his clinic.
In a day of fighting, warplanes struck Houthi fighters near Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia, tribal and Houthi sources said.
On Aden's northern outskirts, Houthis and army loyalists fought extended gun battles with militiamen loyal to Hadi. Thirteen pro-Houthi fighters and 3 militiamen were killed, the militiamen said. Fighters loyal to Hadi retook Aden airport, a day after it was captured by forces allied to the Houthis advancing on the city. The facility remains closed and flights are canceled. Saudi Arabia also canceled flights to its southern airports. - Reuters
Threat to S Arabia will evoke strong reaction from Pakistan: PM
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday that Pakistan will respond to any threats posed to Saudi Arabia’s security.
The decision was taken during a high level meeting chaired by the PM Thursday in Islamabad.
The meeting participants included, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, and Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.
The developing situation in Yemen and surrounding areas in the Middle East were reviewed and discussed during the meeting.
Earlier during the day, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam told reporters at the weekly media briefing in Islamabad that Saudi Arabia had contacted Pakistan on an emergency basis and extended the invitation to join the operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
She did not specify the details of the request made by Saudi Arabia to Pakistan but said that the matter was being examined.
Aslam said that the Pakistani mission in Yemen has been placed on alert and has been asked to keep in touch with the Pakistan community residing there.
“The Pakistani community has been asked to be ready for possible evacuation,” she further said.
The Foreign Office spokesperson said that no decision has been made by Islamabad with regard to closing its mission in Sanaa.
Diplomatic sources told DawnNews that a top Saudi functionary has contacted the top leadership of Pakistan over telephone and sought Pakistan’s cooperation in the offensive launched in Yemen.
Although Pakistani authorities have given a hint of cooperation, they told the Saudis that a final decision will be take after consulting the military.
Sources also said the Pakistan permanent mission to UN is also being briefed on this latest crisis.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf region allies launched military operations including air strikes in Yemen on Thursday, Saudi officials said, to counter Iran-allied forces besieging the southern city of Aden, where the US-supported Yemeni president had taken refuge.
Gulf broadcaster al-Arabiya TV reported that the kingdom was contributing as many as 150,000 troops and 100 warplanes to the operations and that allies Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan were ready to take part in a ground offensive in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s SPA state news agency later said that five Muslim countries including Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan want to participate in the Gulf-led military coalition against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.
They have “expressed desire to participate in the operation” against the rebels, which the kingdom dubbed “Firmness Storm”, the state news agency further said.
Capital to have Local Govt; NA passes bill
ISLAMABAD: National Assembly on Thursday passed Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act 2014 with a majority vote to revive local government system in the Capital for second time since in inception over four decades back.
The House rejected two amendments regarding holding local government elections on party basis and the disqualification clause out of nearly ten amendments moved by the opposition especially PPPP as the government did not oppose amendments in some other clauses.
The 130 clauses bill was presented to the House by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Sheikh Aftab Ahmed that will put in place a local government system in the capital wherein the elections will be held on non-party basis after delimitation of the Union Councils by the Election Commission and any winner or contestant using platform or resources of any political party shall stand disqualified after proved that he or she had violated this law.
Opposition party PPPP had contested both these clauses through amendments and stressing that elections should be held on party basis to strengthen democracy at the lowest level - the argument strongly contested by the government and consequently rejecting the amendments with a majority vote.
After this bill becomes an act, the local government in the capital shall function within the laws applicable in Islamabad Capital Territory and the government shall have the authority to specify local areas within ICT as Union Councils and Metropolitan Corporation.
It provides that Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the Metropolitan Corporation shall be elected as joint candidates amongst while there will be 33 percent women, five percent each quota for youth, minorities and peasants as decided by the House after approving an amendment by the opposition. - APP
Yemen president arrives in Saudi capital
RIYADH: Yemen's embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived Thursday in Riyadh, which is leading a coalition against rebels threatening his rule, the kingdom's official Saudi Press Agency reported.
Hadi, whose whereabouts have been unknown since the Huthi rebels and their allies closed in this week on the main southern city of Aden, where the president sought refuge after he fled the rebel-controlled capital Sanaa last month.
Yemen's acting foreign minister Riyad Yassin told reporters in Cairo that Hadi would take part in a two-day Arab summit to be held in Egypt from Saturday. - APP
Highest number of asylum applications submitted from Pakistan in 2014: report
GENEVA: Over 26,000 applications were submitted for asylum from Pakistan in 2014, the highest-ever number of such applications on record from the country, making it the sixth largest source of asylum seekers.
According to a report published by the UNHCR titled "Asylum Trends 2014", as many as 26,300 applications were submitted by asylum seekers in Pakistan, which is slightly over 4% higher than 25,200 applications in 2013. Although the increase was nominal, just 4.3% higher than previous year's figure, as compared to global increase of approximately 45% last year, it was the fourth consecutive annual increase for the country.
Request for asylum to Italy from Pakistanis increased by more than 100% from 3,000 claims in 2013 to 7,100 last year. Meanwhile the number of Pakistanis applying for asylum in Hungary has decreased significantly from over 3,000 claims in 2013 to just 300 last year.
Besides Italy, Germany and United Kingdom were the other major destination for asylum seekers from Pakistan with 4,000 and 3,900 applications, respectively.
Wars in Syria and Iraq drove the number of people requesting asylum in industrialized countries to a 22-year high last year, the United Nations said on Thursday, appealing for Western nations to open their doors to more refugees.
An estimated 866,000 asylum-seekers lodged claims in 2014, a 45 per cent rise from the year before and the highest figure since the start of the war in Bosnia, when the all-time high of nearly 900,000 was recorded, the UN refugee agency said.
"Today, the surge in armed conflicts around the world presents us with similar challenges, in particular the dramatic situation in Syria. Our response has to be just as generous now as it was then," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
Some 3.9 million Syrian refugees taken in by Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq don't figure in the statistics in its "Asylum Trends 2014? report.
Syrians accounted for nearly 150,000 applications for asylum in 44 industrialized countries last year, one in every five claims, it said.
Iraqis placed second with 68,700 requests, almost doubling the 2013 figure, "a reflection of the calamity and the violence that is taking place in Iraq right now and over the past half year," UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news briefing.
Afghans formed the third largest group, followed by citizens of Serbia and Kosovo, and Eritreans, the agency said.
Germany topped the list as the industrialized country receiving the largest number of asylum applications, 173,000, with Syrians accounting for one-quarter of all claims, it said.
The US came second, receiving an estimated 121,200 applications, mostly people fleeing drug gang violence in Mexico and Central America.
Turkey - host to 1.7 million Syrian refugees under a temporary protection regime - received 87,800 asylum requests last year, mainly Iraqis. - Reuters
Rangers decide to remove barricades around Bilawal House
KARACHI: The paramilitary force in Karachi has decided to remove all barricades placed outside and around Bilawal House as part of their city-wide measure to rid streets of all such barriers.
Rangers are of the view that such barriers hinder law enforcement agencies from their targeted operations in different areas as well as hindering movement of citizens.
According to sources, Rangers have informed the Sindh Home Department about their move.
Couple of days, barricades placed around the residence of former military ruler and president Pervez Musharraf were also removed by the Rangers. - NNI
Convicts transferred from Thailand in violation of rules: Spokesperson
ISLAMABAD: Spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior has clarified that nine alleged criminals sentenced to various terms in Thailand, mostly on drug charges, were transported to Pakistan in total violation of rules and clearly laid down procedure as outlined in the agreement on the transfer of offenders between Pakistan and Thailand.
Spokesperson said that as per article 6(2) of the agreement, the cases for transfer of offenders are initiated by the receiving state (in this case Pakistan).
He said that the Ministry of Interior is the only authorized ministry to initiate such cases as per the agreement.
The Spokesperson said that no such request was initiated by Ministry of Interior at any stage.
Further adding, he said that as per Article 6(3) of the said agreement, the transferring state is obliged to provide the receiving state, among others, with the following information; a statement of the facts upon which the sentence was based; the termination date of the sentence, the length of time already served by the offender and any credits to which he is entitled on account of work done, good behavior, pretrial confinement or other reasons; certified copies of the judgment(s), sentence concerning the offender and the law on which they are based.
Spokesperson said that on September 8, 2014, a letter was received from Pakistan Mission in Bangkok, in clear violation of laid down procedure as per the agreement, that the Government of Thailand has decided to transfer eight prisoners from Thailand to Pakistan.
On February 2, 2015, another letter was received from the mission for the transfer of the ninth convict. The Ministry of Interior in a letter to Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated February 25, 2015 responded in the following words:
“It is stated that the conditions required under Article 6 of the Agreement have not been met. So far no details about prisoner are available in the province to which he belongs. Sentence details, cost of the transfer etc, consent of the offenders, consent of the receiving state all are missing.
It is therefore requested that contact our Mission and bring to their notice the transfer of the offender, pre-requisites, as per agreement. Before these conditions and pre-requisite are met, this transfer may be stopped.”
In spite of all this, eight convicts escorted by two officials of Pakistan Embassy Bangkok landed in Pakistan without due documentation, proper papers or the relevant record.
This flagrant playing with the rules has led to those eight convicts going in a writ petition before the High Court that they are being held without any record and should be set free.
It was this ludicrous situation which led Ministry of Interior to write a letter to Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday asking it to hold an inquiry and take action against their officials who had made mockery of not only the law but also of the procedure laid down in the sovereign agreement. - APP
Nawaz vows ‘Naya Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’
Says Operation has broken terrorists’ backbone
PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday promised infrastructure and developmental projects in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Addressing a workers’ convention in Peshawar, he said: “You want to see a new Pakistan, we want to see a new Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led (PTI) government in KP had been given every opportunity to remedy the problems faced by the province, but it had failed.
He said the federal government has also planned the construction of new universities in KP.
Earlier, addressing PML-N parliamentarians, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said Operation Zarb-i-Azb had broken the backbone of terrorists and that targeted operations in Karachi were also yielding positive results.
Nawaz announced that the Afghan government is cooperating with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and went on to say that the government will redirect its attention to other matters once terrorism has been eliminated.
The prime minister said the national economy is being revived and international organisations including Moody’s, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Bloomberg have appreciated the economic achievements of the government.
Nawaz assured commitment to resolving the power crisis and said the government is set to achieve its targets in this regard. “We will ensure every house has electricity,” the premier promised.
He was optimistic that the government’s endeavours would enable the creation of more jobs.
He also advised the president of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter of PML-N to appoint upright candidates to contest the KP local government elections.
First Qatar LNG shipment reaches Karachi port
KARACHI: A shipment of 147,000 cubic feet of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Qatar arrived at the Karachi anchorage Thursday in a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU).
The FSRU, after going through clearance, is expected to dock at Engro Corporation’s Elengy Terminal Pakistan Limited (ETPL), where the cargo will undergo ‘regasification’ before being injected into the Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd (SSGCL) network.
The FSRU will take approximately five hours to reach the terminal, and will begin offloading the cargo at 6:30pm this evening, an official said.
The SSGCL is then required to transfer it to the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) at the Zamzama-Sawan gas establishment.
SC revokes licence of ex-AG Irfan Qadir
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the power of attorney of former Attorney General Irfan Qadir and issued a show-cause notice for the annulment of his license.
The decision comes in the wake of an application moved by Qadir on Wednesday with a request that two members of a three-judge bench should withdraw from the bench in hearing of the controversial armoured personnel carriers (APCs) deal for the Sindh police.
At the last hearing on March 12, the Supreme Court had ordered the Additional Advocate General Sindh, Miran Shah, to inform it how Irfan Qadir, who had a bitter exchange of words with the bench during the course of hearing, was representing the IG Sindh even though the provincial government was being represented by Senator Farooq Naek.
It also came to the notice of the court that there was no ‘vakalat nama’ (power of attorney) which authorised Qadir to appear in the case. This led the court to observe how and on what basis he had been appearing before it, especially when the record showed that he appeared in 11 hearings – seven in Islamabad and four in Karachi – without any attorney.
It sought an explanation from Qadir for how long the court will ignore such behaviour on part of a senior counsel, adding that the court had a feeling that problematic cases were deliberately given to Qadir only to make mockery of the court.
In response, Qadir filed an application not only seeking recusal of the judges but also stating that the court in its order had framed intriguing questions seeking explanation qua engagement of the counsel in the case.
The apex court stated that instead of providing an explanation, Qadir resorted to spiteful behaviour and revoked his license on Thursday.
Qadir claimed that the court is irked by his representation of the Sindh police. He said that he does not trust Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, one of the three-bench judges, and demanded his recusal from the bench.
He further said that he has done nothing wrong in becoming Sindh government’s lawyer. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Inspector-General of Sindh Police Ghulam Haider Jamali are above the authority of a judge and neither can be questioned on their decisions, Qadir asserted. The Sindh government suffered a severe blow earlier this month when the Supreme Court set aside a Rs1.23 billion controversial contract for APCs in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. – Agencies
Zardari for conducting LG polls on party basis
KARACHI: Former President and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari said the forthcoming Local Government Elections should only be conducted on party basis failing which the PPP would oppose the decision and would challenge it in apex court.
He said this while talking to PPP office-bearers from all districts at Bilawal House Thursday. PPP district level office-bearers were invited by the PPP Co-Chairman and hence the meeting was divided as many times as number of districts.
Zardari said the PPP and the masses were like fingers in a hand and the party never let down the masses and always stood beside them through thick and thin and vice versa. He was very critical on the decision on scheme of conduction of Local Government Polls in the Cantonment areas on non-party basis and demanded that the Local government Polls in non-Cantonment and Cantonment areas should only be held on party basis.