Friday, July 1, 2022

Today’s Newspaper - Archive

India criminalizing human rights activism

By Sardar Khan Niazi

The arrest of Teesta Setalvad, an activist and journalist who is the secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) -- an organization formed to advocate for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat Riots is being condemned worldwide. A co-petitioner in the Zakia Jafri case, Setalvad testified at the United Nations Commission on International Religious Freedom against the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government for its role in the communal violence. In her petition filed with Zakia Jafri, Setalvad and her organization CJP demanded a criminal trial of Narendra Modi and 63 other politicians, alleging criminal conspiracy to fan communal tensions in the state in the wake of the Godhra Train Tragedy. Setalvad was detained by the Crime Branch in Mumbai and taken to Ahmedabad later that night; the action followed the Gujarat Police’s First Information Report (FIR) which named Setalvad, Former Director-General of Police of Gujarat RB Sreekumar and suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for alleged fabrication of evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots case. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and J&K People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter and said, "Appalled that standing with the victims has been criminalized and asking for justice is equated with hatching conspiracies." Teesta Setalvad was detained a day after India's top court rejected a lawsuit filed by her and her NGO challenging a ruling that cleared Modi over the bloodshed. The nastiest outbreak of religious violence saw at least 1,000 people mostly Muslims hacked, shot, and burned to death in Gujarat when Modi was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat in 2002. Twenty years on, wounds remain fresh. The riots began after fifty-nine Hindus died in a fire on a train returning from one of Hinduism's most sacred sites. As a result, blame was placed on the Muslims and thirty-one of them were convicted of criminal conspiracy and killing over the incident. Modi, a Hindu radical who ran Gujarat from 2001 until becoming Indian prime minister in 2014, was briefly subject to a travel ban by the United States over the violence. Communist Party of India (Marxist) General SecretarySitaram Yechury, released a statement saying that the move is a threat "to all those who dare question role of State/ governments for their role in communal violence." The Mumbai Press Club has called for dropping all charges against Setalvad. Terming her arrest a travesty of justice the press club said that it was unacceptable that a person who has been fighting for civil justice should be accused of fabricating evidence and misleading the Special Investigation Team. The press club's statement added that Setalvad and others have been made scapegoats in a chilling process of vendetta unleashed by the executive and judiciary. Amnesty International India has also condemned Setalvad's detention and said that the detention of prominent human rights activists by the Indian authorities is a direct reprisal against those who dare to question their human rights record. It sends a chilling message to the civil society and further shrinks the space for dissent in the country. The Student Federation of India in a statement expressed solidarity with Setalvad, with All India President VP Sanu calling her "an impeccable human rights defender" being "badly targeted by the Indian state for speaking truth to power." "We condemn this naked and brazen attempt to silence and criminalize those who stand for constitutional values and who have struggled against very difficult odds to try to achieve justice for the victims of 2002," the statement read. The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) also expressed its solidarity with Teesta Setalvad and released a statement demanding that "the false case against her be immediately withdrawn and the harassment stopped.

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb addressing a press conference.

Hina Rabbani Khar calls for easing sanctions on Afghanistan 

By Our Correspondent

BERLIN: Assuring that the fundamental operation of the Afghan economy must not be jeopardised, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar urged for a relaxation of Western sanctions against Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Foreign nations, led by the United States, halted development and security funding after the Taliban took control of the country last year, and the stringent execution of sanctions has crippled the nation's banking industry. In an interview with the German daily Welt that was published on Thursday, Khar claimed that economically isolating Afghanistan was driving it toward ruin. "That is what will happen if the nation's access to international banking and its foreign assets remain frozen. We cannot encourage starvation, "Added she. The minister urged Germany to take a more active political role in lifting sanctions, claiming that the Western troop departure from Afghanistan, in which Germany also participated, had major consequences because it wasn't preceded by a negotiated solution. "It is not a smart idea in the current situation to continue starving Afghanistan and risk an economic collapse in the country," she said, adding that economic assistance was required to aid the Afghan people. "How come we spent $3 trillion on the war but only have $10 billion to spare for the survival of the Afghan people now?

Islamabad : President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians & Former President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari and Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party and Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif 

The prime minister reaffirmed his vehement condemnation of the terrorist incident in Karachi and reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to prosecuting those responsible

CPEC, economic linkages deepen abiding friendship between Pak-China: PM 

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the expanding economic ties, according to Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, have strengthened the foundation of the long-standing relationship between the peoples of Pakistan and China. During a meeting with Yang Jiechi, Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Director of its Foreign Affairs Commission, the prime minister said, "Atop this unshakeable foundation, the Pakistan-China partnership would continue to play its valuable role as a factor of peace and stability in the region and beyond." In order to realise their shared vision of connectedness, prosperity, and societal well-being, the prime minister stressed that Pakistan was prepared to collaborate closely with China. Additionally, he said, Pakistan would continue to provide Chinese investors aggressive incentives, access to top-notch infrastructure, and unwavering security arrangements. According to a press release from the PM Office Media Wing, Director Yang Jiechi is accompanied by the vice ministers for foreign affairs and commerce, the vice chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), and the deputy secretary general of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). In order to hasten the implementation of the leaders' agreement to further strengthen bilateral ties in all areas, the prime minister emphasised the importance of Director Yang's visit. He emphasised how important economic cooperation had become to the expansive Pakistan-China relationship. He expressed his satisfaction with the expansion of bilateral trade and financial ties, noting that China's unwavering support had been crucial in helping Pakistan counteract external shocks to the global economy and in demonstrating the cooperation between the two countries' persistence in the face of increased global uncertainty. The RMB 15 billion (US $ 2.3 billion) syndicate facility was renewed by China, and the prime minister specifically praised China for this. The prime minister also praised China for sending millions of vaccine doses, as well as safety and medical supplies, in support of Pakistan's efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasised how the CPEC had revolutionised Pakistan's economic foundation and strengthened its potential for self-development as a centrepiece of the bold Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He emphasised the Government's determination to quicken the pace and finish the CPEC projects as soon as possible. The vital ML-I and other important projects, such as the Babusar Tunnel, Karachi Desalination Plant, and Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), were also emphasised by the prime minister as having a high priority for Pakistan. The prime minister reaffirmed his vehement condemnation of the terrorist incident in Karachi and reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to prosecuting those responsible. He reiterated Pakistan's dedication to stepped-up security, safety, and protection measures for Chinese nationals, projects, and institutions in the nation. He expressed happiness at the growing defence and security cooperation between Pakistan and China, noting that it was a factor in the region's peace and stability. He recalled the recent trip to China by a tri-services group led by the Chief of Army Staff. He thanked China for making it possible for Pakistani students to return and resume their on-campus studies while stressing the need for improved people-to-people relations. He also expressed hope that the remaining students will be able to return soon. The decision by China to resume PIA flights to China and increase the frequency of weekly flights was also welcomed by the prime minister. While exchanging opinions on global issues of common interest, he also emphasised the negative effects of India's ongoing oppression and flagrant human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The prime minister praised China for taking a moral stand and providing unwavering assistance in the Jammu and Kashmir conflict. The director Yang and the prime minister also discussed Afghanistan's circumstances, especially the humanitarian and economic challenges. It was emphasised that in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and lessen the suffering of the Afghan people, there is a need for international collaboration and the unfreezing of assets.

 

Sherry takes exception to Senator Faisal assertions against NDC review 

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Senator Faisal Javed Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) disagreed with Senator Sherry Rehman, the federal minister for climate change, over the decision to review nationally decided contributions on Thursday (NDCs). During the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change hearing, the federal minister stated that the previous administration made lofty NDC commitments at the COP-26 international environmental conference held in Glasgow last year that were based on unattainable goals. The NDCs aim needs to be revisited because it does not reflect our GHG emissions contribution as the world's least polluter, according to Sherry. Our contributions are more than those of the region's wealthier nations. She claimed that while the NDCs included a commitment to convert 30% of the energy mix by 2030, the previous administration of the Ministry of Climate Change did not have any meetings on the subject. She said, "Pakistan has served as the chair of the G-77 countries, and we placed tremendous emphasis on the Stockholm Convention that the rich countries should do more and meet their targets of lowering GHGs and cease burdening the impoverished countries. The Minister emphasised that the nation needed US$ 101 billion to guarantee energy conversion in accordance with the NDCs, which needed to be amended, and said, "Energy transition is a fundamentally different thing from planting trees." She also criticised the previous administration's NDC vow to replace 60 percent of the fleet's vehicles with electric ones (EVs). "There is no concept of electric vehicles in the country without battery charging infrastructure." According to her, the nation should establish attainable goals based on actual circumstances and data. In response to her remarks, Senator Faisal Javed stated that it was necessary to close legal loopholes in the constitutional revisions that were impeding the advancement of sustainable development and climate resilience.

ISLAMABAD : AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY OF THE REPUBLIC OF KYRGYZ TO PAKISTAN, H.E. MR. TOTUIAEV ULANBEK ASANKULOVICH CALLED ON FEDERAL MINISTER FOR FINANCE AND REVENUE, MR. MIFTAH ISMAIL AT FINANCE DIVISION.

COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa meets Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani 

By Staff Reporter

RAWALPINDI: On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Attiyah and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa met in person. He is in Qatar on an important visit. The regional environment, defence and security cooperation, and topics of shared interest were also covered during the sessions, according to ISPR. The importance of further advancing collaboration in all areas was emphasised by the two parties. Speaking at the event, the Army Chief noted that both nations have a long history of friendly connections and a strong sense of brotherhood, which are now evolving into a lasting partnership. The delegates from Qatar also praised Pakistan for its ongoing efforts to promote stability and peace in the region and vowed to continue pushing for improved ties between the two friendly nations.

Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjarani called on Governor Punjab at Governor House Lahore

By Our Correspondent

LAHORE: Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjarani called on Governor Punjab Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman at Governor House Lahore today. Issues of mutual interest were discussed during the meeting. Senator Dilawar Khan from Mardan and Senator Talha Mahmood were also present. The Chairman Senate and Senators also congratulated Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman on assuming the office of Governor Punjab.Talking on the occasion, Governor Punjab Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman said that development, prosperity and stability of the country and the nation is the top priority of the present government. He said that economically self-sufficient Pakistan is our destination for which the present leadership is using all its resources. He underscored the need to strengthen the democratic institutions in order to make country prosperous. He further said that the way the present leadership is working hard and diligently, the country will soon be on the path of development.

CPDI Announces Report on Right to Information Assessment at Seminar By Tahir Naqash

ATTOCK: The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) and the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) together hosted a one-day seminar on "Right to Information, Challenges and the Way Forward." The seminar's goal is to disseminate the results of the RTI evaluation report and foster thoughtful discussion among interested parties concerning the difficulties and roadblocks encountered in Pakistan's RTI law implementation. The panelists of the conference included; Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Executive Director, CPDI, Mr. Muhammad Azam, Chief Information Commissioner, Pakistan Information Commission (PIC), Mr. Fawad Malik, Information Commissioner, Pakistan Information Commission, Mr. Mahboob Qadir Shah, Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab Information Commission, Mr. Nusrat Hussain, Chief Information Commissioner, Sindh Information Commission, Mr. Imran Khan, Secretary Information Department Balochistan. The event was attended by Public Information Officers (PIOs) of the Federal Ministries, journalists, CSOs’ personnel and lawyers’ fraternity. Mr. Aftab Alam, Consultant, CPDI shared the findings of study titled “Assessment of Right to Information Implementation (Bureaucratic Hurdles)”. The study aims to assess the quality of implementation of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, including major impediments such as administrative loopholes inherited in the system, lack of required resources and ability to digitize the internal reporting and evaluation systems that make PIOs answerable to the head of departments and other bureaucratic hurdles. The study highlights that Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) is facing serious challenges to implement the Act. These challenges include administrative, procedural and legal challenges since its establishment in November 2018. Moreover, Federal ministries remained sluggish in compliance of statutory obligations under the Act. Most of the public bodies failed to proactively disclose information on their websites as required by section 05 of the RAI Act. Government authorities also showed reluctance in implementation of orders of the PIC. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, ED CPDI, the importance of information and said that essence of RTI revolves around online/offline proactive disclosure of information by government departments. He appreciated that RTI laws have been enacted in provinces and federal level whereas implementation remains a question especially in Sindh and Balochistan. He welcomed the newly appointed information Commissioners in Sindh Information Commission (SIC). He encouraged citizens to use their fundamental right to know to promote transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of citizens. Mehboob Qadir Shah, Chief of Punjab Information Commission remarked that transparency and meritocracy are the fundamental attributes of developed nations. While highlighting the flaws in system, he said that lack of political commitment is main hurdle in implementation of RTI in Punjab. Nusrat Hussain, Chief Information Commissioner (SIC) appreciated his predecessors and said that despite of lack of administrative support and resources, 150 complaints were resolved out of the total 165 complaints by Sindh Information Commissioner. He remarked that, provincial government of Sindh is committed to support SIC for effective implementation of RTI. He added, in the last week, they have received 30 information requests from citizens. Newly Appointed Chief of SIC is determined to improve website of SIC to ensure proactive disclosure of information whereas lack of resources and staff are the main challenges for SIC. Muhammad Azam, Chief of Pakistan Information Commission remarked that citizens are the custodian of information held by government departments. He commented about the bureaucratic behaviors of government departments and PIOs regarding maximum disclosure of information and public record. He encouraged citizens and PIOs to understand their roles and responsibilities under RTI Law. He suggested that a joint massive awareness campaign shall be run by commissions, media and civil society to ensure maximum disclosure of information. Rules under the Balochistan RTI Act of 2021 have been laid before the Chief Minister of Balochistan and will shortly be finalised, according to Imran Khan, Secretary Information, Government of Balochistan. Since the Balochistan RTI Act was passed in February 2021, he said, the creation of the Balochistan Information Commission has been delayed.

LHC orders re-counting of votes for Punjab CM election excluding PTI dissidents 

By Our Correspondent

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered a recount of the votes for the Punjab chief minister election that was held on April 16 and directed that the votes of 25 dissident PTI lawmakers not be counted. The decision was made by a majority of 4-1 by a five-judge panel made up of Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan, Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry, Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi, and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh. Later in the day, the detailed order will be released. On April 16, amid a violent provincial assembly session, Hamza was chosen as the chief minister of Punjab. He garnered 197 votes in total, 11 more than the necessary 186, including 25 opposition PTI MPAs, who were essential to his triumph. These legislators were removed from office by the ECP for defecting on May 20. Since then, several petitions have been filed to contest Hamza's appointment as chief minister. However, the court decided to group them all together after noticing their similarity. The requests Elahi, a candidate for the CM position on behalf of the PTI-PML-Q, asked the court to rule that Hamza was not the chief minister since he had not received the necessary number of votes in light of the SC's view that the ballots of defection-seeking parliamentarians would not be considered. According to the appeal, the election of April 16 and its results, as well as the certificate announcing Hamza's win given by the deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly, had "no legal effect." According to the petition, the high court should declare "null and void" "all consequential actions taken by [Hamza] in his purported capacity as the chief minister of Punjab" as well as "all and any other communications made, orders passed, notifications issued, etc., consequential upon the declaration of the aforesaid result and issuing the set certificate." Separately, the MPAs Mohammad Sibtain Khan, Zainab Umair, Mian Mohammad Aslam Iqbal, Syed Abbas Ali Shah, and Ahsan Saleem Baryar filed a petition on behalf of the PTI claiming that the election-conducting session was marked by "immense confusion and most tragic circumstances." The petition claimed that Deputy Speaker Mazari obtained "illegal" assistance from the police and provincial officials to conduct a "sham and fraudulent" poll, after which he announced Hamza's victory.

LHC’s verdict to end constitutional crisis in Punjab: Hamza Shehbaz

By Our Correspondent

LAHORE: Hamza Shehbaz, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has praised the Lahore High Court's (LHC) ruling on the election of Punjab's chief minister and claimed that it will put an end to the province's three-month-long constitutional crisis. In a statement, Hamza Shehbaz stated that his party would abide by the court's rulings and demanded a new count of the votes cast in the April 16 election for Punjab's chief minister. The opposition parties, according to the chief minister of Punjab, forced the province into a constitutional crisis for their own benefit. It is my duty to offer assistance to the citizens, he added, adding that "the citizens had to bear the burden of this constitutional crisis." The leader of the PML-N expressed optimism that the Punjabi people will benefit from the Lahore High Court's ruling. He continued, "Those who broke the law and the constitution are still against the LHC's ruling. In a groundbreaking decision earlier in the day, the Lahore High Court (LHC) mandated a recount of the votes cast in the election of Hamza Shahbaz as Punjab's chief minister.

Hamza to remain Punjab CM as court didn’t order new election: Tarar

By Our Correspondent

LAHORE: Attaullah Tarar, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), declared on Thursday that Hamza Shehbaz would continue to serve as the chief minister of Punjab because the PML-N still held a majority with 177 votes in the Punjab Assembly. Attaullah Tarar stated that the court did not order for a new election in a statement to the media following the Lahore High Court's (LHC) acceptance of the PTI's intra-court challenges against the oath of Hamza Shehbaz as Chief Minister. After removing the 25 rebel MPAs, the court ordered a recount of the votes, the speaker continued. "There are 177 votes remaining in the Punjab Assembly. In the Punjab Assembly, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has 168 votes. 9 votes separate us from the opposition, he said. chief minister will continue to be Hamza Shehbaz. The House will only count the members who are in attendance. The court's decision is accepted. This choice would be carried out, he swore. This time, he stated, "those who use cruel methods will serve six months in prison." Hamza Shehbaz is currently the Chief Minister of Punjab and will continue to be so, according to Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, another PML-N politician.

Chakwal is prominent and moving forward in every field, Vice Chancellor 

By District Reporter

Dr. Muhammad Bilal, Vice Chancellor, University of Chakwal, said on Thursday that Chakwal district has a long history and is indeed a great source of knowledge and literature and the people of the region have a prominent place in every field and especially academic and Literally, Chakwal District is also unique from other districts of Pakistan because of its 100% literacy rate and the way in which the University of Chakwal has been established, Chakwal District is a great source of knowledge and literature in the years to come. It is moving towards becoming. He was speaking as a special guest at the Jaswan Chakwal Mushaira organized by JS Mall Chakwal and International Literary Academy. Delivering a welcome address, Naseem Ahmad Usmani of JS Mall Chakwal said that we are harmonizing the ancient history of the area with modern technology and the manner in which we have come up with the plan of JS Mall Chakwal as soon as it is completed. There will be an economic revolution in the whole region. Welcoming all the poets, Khawaja Babar Saleem Mahmood of the World Academy of Literature said that 37 years ago when it was given the status of a district on July 1, it was a backward area but now the sacrifices of martyrs and conquerors and the long struggle of scholars and writers. In addition, local newspapers and the Chakwal Press Club have revolutionized the region. The award was presided over by Presidential Award winning poet Nadeem Qaiser. The special guests included Wafa Chishti, Abdul Qadir Taban and Mazhar Niazi. Other poets who spoke on the occasion included Thaqleen Jafari, Shahid Mahmood, Prof. Hussain Akhtar, Ashraf Asif, Qabil Jafari, Safiuddin Safi, Khawaja Babar Saleem, Irfan Khani, Najafi Tala Gang, Najam Al Hassan Najmi, Natiq Jafari, Qalb. Abbas, Ehsan Mughal and Abrar Ali. Malik Safi-ud-Din Safi performed the duties of director. Irfan Khani of International Literary Academy acted as the director for the guest poets and talked about the literary history of Chakwal district. Director J Seven Mall Chakwal Syed Asghar Shah, Project Director Rashid Arshad were also present on the occasion. Ali Kazmi gave a multimedia briefing on the J7 project. Finally, the 37-pound cake was cut by Vice Chancellor Dr Muhammad Bilal and Advisor J Seven Mall Naseem Ahmed Usmani and other participants on the 37th anniversary of Chakwal District.

Multan Division Administration is active in making arrangements for Muharram 

By District Reporter

Multan: Commissioner Multan Division Engineer Amir Khattak while ordering inspection of routes of Muharram processions said that in view of Muharram, WASA should start work from Jinnah Cinema to Ghanta Ghar after Ashura Day. He expressed these views about WASA's development projects. Presiding over the review meeting, Commissioner Amir Khattak said that WASA should repair gutter covers on procession routes. The work of laying the main sewer line should be started after 10th Muharram. The commissioner directed WASA to clear Nawabpur Road and pave the way for the processions. WASA should work to the best of its ability for redressal. Road should be restored by completing sewerage line on TB Hospital Road. MD Wasa Qaiser Raza while giving a briefing said that 2000 RFT main sewer line will be laid from Khayyam Semna to Ghanta Ghar. Nawabpur Road's dilapidated sewerage line from Naqdaran bypass to Chungi 8 is being rehabilitated. 14600 RFT sewer line has been laid. De-slitting will be completed in 45 days.

Govt mulls another Rs8 per unit hike in power tariff 

By Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: According to sources on Thursday, the coalition government, which is led by the PMLN, is thinking about raising the price of electricity by Rs 8 per unit. According to reliable sources, the federal government has agreed to increase power prices by Rs 8 per unit over the course of three phases. According to sources, the cost of energy would increase by Rs3 per unit on July 1 and then by another Rs3 per unit on August 1. Starting in September 2022, the cost of electricity will increase by Rs2 per unit. On June 27, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) approved an increase in the price of electricity by Rs7.90 per unit. According to a notification issued by the power regulatory authority, the increase was made under fuel adjustment charges (FAC) for the month of May, following demand from CPPAG for a hike of Rs7.96 per unit. After hearing arguments from the Central Power Purchasing Agency, the power regulatory authority made its verdict (CCPA). The statement further stated that life consumers and K-Electric are exempt from the tariff increase and that the amount will be paid in July's bills. It is important to note that the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has already set the power rate for the fiscal year 2022–2023 at Rs24.82 per unit.

Peshawar BRT nominated for another international award 

By Our Correspondent

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has been proposed for the Prize for Cities Award 2022 by the World Resources Institute (WRI) forum. According to a TransPeshawar spokeswoman, the Peshawar BRT has been nominated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) for the Prize for Cities Award 2022. He stated that 260 projects from 155 different towns had been selected for the Prize for Cities award. One of the top five has been chosen, and it is BRT Peshawar. He added that BRT Peshawar has already been recognised as an International Gold Standard Service. He went on to say that just six countries had received the BRT Gold Standard Service Award.

IHC summons DC after permission denied to PTI for Islamabad rally

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The PTI argued before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the regional administration was refusing to provide permission for their public assembly at Parade Ground, and the court summoned the deputy commissioner (DC) Islamabad on Friday (tomorrow). During the hearing, PTI counsel Babar Awan stated that the party planned to have a public meeting on July 2 and had requested permission from the deputy commissioner of Islamabad on June 27. Babar Awan responded when Justice Aamir Farooq questioned whether they had heard anything from the administration on the request notwithstanding prior rulings from the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court in this regard. The court summoned Islamabad DC in a personal capacity on Friday (tomorrow) and adjourned the hearing for tomorrow.

IGP takes notice of extraneous influence by police officials in service matters

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: According to a police public relations officer, Dr. Akbar Nasir Khan, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Islamabad, has taken serious notice of extraneous interference by police personnel in service matters. In addition to violating the Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules and Police Rule 14.27, he claimed that some police officers with the ICT Police are trying to exert unrelated influences over matters relating to posting, transfers, deputations, leave, and other employment-related decisions. In light of the foregoing, he said that the IGP Islamabad has instructed all police employees to carefully adhere to the rules set forth in the Government Servants Conduct and Discipline Rules in order to stop such illegal actions. He also warned that harsh disciplinary action would be taken against any police officer who tried to exert outside influence on his posting, transfer, deputation, leave, or other matters under the applicable rules and laws. The IGP stated that we are making every effort to transform the Islamabad Police into a professional, corrupt-free organisation, adding that merit in all things pertaining to the service will be put into effect.

ISLAMABAD: Bernhard Stephan Schlagheck, German Ambassador to Pakistan calls on Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. 

ANF Crackdown against drug paddlers

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: ANF seized 7792.468 kg drugs, 1260 lit acetic anhydride chemical, 1000 kgs sulphur powder & 22.820 kg aximax tabs worth us$ 357.996 million in 79 operations, arrested 68 persons including 3 women & 2 foreigners involved iN drug trafficking and impounded 32 vehicles. Anti Narcotics Force Pakistan seized 7792.468 Kg Drugs, 1260 Liters Acetic Anhydride Chemical, 1000 Kg Sulphur Powder & 22.820 Kg Aximax Tabs worth US$ 357.996 Million internationally, arrested 68 persons including 3 women, 2 foreigners and impounded 32 vehicles while conducting 79 counter narcotics operations throughout the country. The seized drugs comprised 230.501 Kg Heroin, 7040.417 Kg Hashish, 262 KgOpium, 2.150 Kg Amphetamine, 13.936 Kg Methamphetamine (Ice), 210 Kg Morphine,27.800 Kg Ketamine, 0.048 Kg Weed, 0.616 Kg Ecstasy Tablets, 5 Kg Xanax Tablets,1260 x Liters Acetic Anhydride Chemical & 22.820 Kg Aximax Tablets. ANF Balochistan recovered 1950.34 Kg drugs, 1260 Liters Acetic Anhydride Chemical & 1000 Kg Sulphur Powder in 15 operations while arrested 11 accused persons including 1 foreigner and seized 9 vehicles. The seized drugs comprised 213 Kg Heroin, 1396 Kg Hashish, 100 Kg Opium, 3.540 Kg Methamphetamine (Ice), 210 Kg Morphine & 27.800 Kg Ketamine. ANF Punjab recovered 22.799 Kg drugs in 13 operations while arrested 11 accused persons in drug smuggling and seized 4 vehicles. The seized drugs comprised 5.499 Kg Heroin, 15.95 Kg Hashish & 1.350 Kg Methamphetamine (Ice). ANF KPK recovered 418.869 Kg drugs in 18 operations while arrested 16 persons including 1 foreigner in trafficking of narcotics and seized 3 vehicles. The seized

NCOC defines criteria for covid-19 booster dose

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has set the criteria for COVID-19 booster dose as the cases once again rose in the country. The NCOC stated that people aged above 12 years and health workers were eligible for COVID-19 booster dose. Those who have weak immunity were also eligible for booster doses. The centre further stated that a four-month gap was mandatory for the administration of first and second booster doses, whereas, all available vaccines could be used as a booster dose. According to the NCOC statistics, 86 per cent eligible population has received COVID-19 jabs and booster doses were declared inevitable for curbing the spread of the virus.

Huge need to increase production of Made in Pakistan Products, Hina Mansab Khan

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Yesterday saw the holding of the SCCI and SAARC-organized Women Business Conference. The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Attock Women's Chamber of Commerce, and other chambers sent numerous delegations to this event. According to SCWEC Vice Chairperson Hina Mansab Khan, the government ought to support female businesses. The necessity to enhance production of goods made in Pakistan is great. To increase domestic imports, work must be done. relationship-building with SAARC neighbours. The government should invite all women's chambers to a single event and inquire about their issues. SCWEC Chairperson Afshan Rahimi, SCCI Vice Chairman Haji Ghulam Ali, MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik, FPCCI Vice President Rifat Malik, FNF Country Heads Brigitte, U. Sharmila Rasool, Representative of N Women, Momina Dureed, MD Productions, Dr. Rakhshinda, Umbereen Zaman, Dr. Farzana Feroze, Regional Representative of City School, Suraya Jamal, DG Investment, Hira Zainab, Secretary General of Pasha and other speakers addressed the women entrepreneurs and discussed the issues at hand and stressed the need to resolve these issues.

Karot hydropower project put into full commercial operation 

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG) invested in and developed the Karot Hydroelectric Project, the first hydropower investment project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was put into full commercial operation on Thursday, according to Gwadar Pro. Yesterday, the Karot HPP COD Ceremony was held at Power House to officially launch the business. Dr. Munawar Iqbal, the acting managing director of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB), thanked CTG at the event on behalf of the Pakistani government. According to Dr. Munawar Iqbal, "Despite the impact of COVID-19, the project's construction progress remained satisfactory, and because of such a great construction, the project has started successfully delivering desperately needed clean and green electricity to the national grid." As a representative of the Pakistani government, he continued, "I would want to restate our commitment in implementation and accomplishment of CPEC Energy Cooperation objectives and facilitation towards realisation of the Belt and Road Initiative." Wu Shengliang, Chairman, China Three Gorges International Corporation(CTGI) addressed the ceremony. He said that Karot Project will provide 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of cheap and clean electricity to the national grid every year to meet the energy demand of around five million local consumers. It will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3.5 tons every year. In the meantime, the project offered local residents nearly 5,000 job opportunities during construction, and 40 of them received CTG scholarships to help them finish their undergraduate degrees, according to Wu, who also added that the "Karot Project is serving as a bridge of friendship between the two countries." The first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report of CTG in Pakistan was issued at the ceremony.

Pakistan reports 641 fresh Covid cases, two deaths

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: As many as 641 new instances of the Covid-19 were recorded in Pakistan on Thursday, according to statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH, the brain behind Pakistan's campaign against COVID-19, reports that a total of 18,813 samples were examined, and 641 of those results were positive. According to the report, the national Covid-19 test positivity rate maintained at 3.41 percent. It further stated that 119 people are in critical condition and that two more Covid patients passed away in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 30,393. Due to an increase in coronavirus cases, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has encouraged the populace to carefully adhere to COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). The prime minister claimed on Twitter that frontline medical personnel had made tremendous sacrifices to protect the populace from the illness. So, PM Shehbaz Sharif advised the populace not to throw away the victory won over the coronavirus.

The Government has to build special economic zones for women entrepreneurs Riffat malik, VP FPCCI 

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Empowerment of women in South Asia especially Pakistan is direly needed to bring Women entrepreneurs into the mainstream of development on the journey of progress and prosperity. They should be encouraged to come forward and play their part in the socio-economic development of the region. The government should set up special economic zones for businesswomen. This was stated by Ms. Riffat Malik, Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) during a 3rd Session of the Women’s Business Conference organized by the SAARC Chamber Women Entrepreneur Council in Islamabad. Ms. Riffat Malik, Vice President of FPCCI highlighted the need for encouraging and empowering business women and said that Women have been playing a pivotal role in the growth of export-oriented industries like textiles and handicrafts. Women comprise the majority population of Pakistan and can help foster sustainable economic growth of a country. There exists a dire need to facilitate small and medium enterprises run by women through skill development, capacity building, and easy access to cheaper financial resources to facilitate business women enhance their outreach to regional and international markets. Vice President FPCCI added that FPCCI have called on the government to set up special economic zones for businesswomen. During the meeting, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif also appreciated the proposal for setting up Women Special Economic Zones along with resolving the issues of businesswomen as soon as possible and also assured us to take immediate steps in this regard. We demand the government for setting up of special economic zones as soon as for businesswomen. Ms. Riffat Malik said that The apex trade body Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) advocated hiring women workforce in every industry & had been striving to promote entrepreneurship in the country by supporting women entrepreneurs. She stresses the role of women in social, economic, and political development and called on the Government & authorities concerned to take necessary measures for empowering women. so that women can play a significant role in social entrepreneurship development. She said women account for 52 percent of the country’s population and neglecting their empowerment, emancipation, and participation could make “no economic or business sense. T No economy could flourish without the active participation of women. She said that with mutual understanding all women's chambers have to coordinate for the above-said purpose to enhance business opportunities on both sides.

Sabir Shah elected to chair standing committee on water resources 

ISLAMABAD: According to Wu, the project gave local citizens 40 CTG scholarships to assist them complete their undergraduate degrees while providing approximately 5,000 job possibilities during construction. Wu also stated that the "Karot Project is serving as a bridge of friendship between the two countries." At the ceremony, CTG Pakistan released its first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report. The Karot Hydropower Project is located on the Jhelum River in Pakistan's Punjab Province and has a total installed capacity of 720 MW. It is one of the Prioritized Projects and the first sizable hydropower investment project under CPEC. The Joint Statement between the governments of China and Pakistan referenced the Karot Project in the interim. The development of the agricultural industry, according to senator Taj Haider, is necessary to reduce poverty since it depends on the timely and appropriate distribution of water. Senator Humayun Mohmand stated that the subject of water had sadly been ignored and that since the water table was fast dropping, immediate and significant action was required.

Rain with wind-thundershower expected in most parts of country

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: During the next twelve hours, rain with wind-thundershowers is anticipated in Kashmir, upper Punjab, Islamabad, and coastal Sindh regions. While it will be extremely hot in upper Sindh and south Punjab, hot and muggy weather is predicted for other regions of the nation. Several significant cities' temperatures this morning were recorded: Twenty-three degrees Celsius were recorded in Islamabad and Karachi, twenty-nine in Lahore, thirty-one in Peshawar, twenty-six in Quetta, eighteen in Gilgit, twenty-one in Murree, and twenty-five in Muzaffarabad. It is predicted by the met office that Srinagar, Jammu, Leh, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, and Baramulla would see partly cloudy weather with a probability of rain, wind, and thundershowers. The temperature this morning was: Srinagar (22) degrees Celsius, Jammu (29) degrees, Leh (14) degrees, Pulwama (21) degrees, Anantnag and Baramulla (20) degrees, and Shopian (19) degrees.

Additional "pre measures"

IMF has proposed new "prior actions" before it signs the staff-level agreement with Pakistan and releases the dollars desperately needed to support our dwindling foreign currency reserves and support the rupee, just when we thought that everything with the lender had finally been resolved for the resumption of its stalled bailout funds. The upcoming seventh and eighth performance reviews of the programme are included in the Memorandum of Economic and Fiscal Policies that Pakistani authorities received from the lender the other day. This will enable Pakistan to collect up to $1.9 billion, but only after the government puts in a little "extra" effort to merit it. As a result, the agreement's acceptance and the subsequent delivery of the money have been postponed until late July or early August. It is likely that this will cause a delay in the "unlocking" of additional committed global and bilateral aid and briefly depress market confidence. In fact, the majority of the new loan requirements are related to the reforms the government has previously agreed to with the Fund. The lender, however, demands that they be formalised and given legal protection. For instance, to help Islamabad satisfy the requirement of keeping the consolidated fiscal deficit for the following year at roughly 4.9 percent of GDP, it has requested that the government sign an MoU with the provinces to jointly produce a cash surplus of Rs750 billion. Before finalising the agreement, the Fund requests that the government submit its proposal for a petroleum development levy of up to Rs50 per litre on fuel to the cabinet for approval in order to fulfil an increased PDL target of Rs855 billion. The IMF also demands the implementation of a number of structural benchmarks, including an increase in electricity tariffs, before the staff-level agreement is finalised. The "new" call for total deregulation of the gasoline pricing system, allowing the market to set retail prices, may still be a contentious matter. Given the income losses of roughly Rs200 billion caused by the previous administration's politically motivated move to slash prices and freeze them for four months, the situation is understandable. Most of these earlier activities should be put into practise within a week. The government has already given up a lot to resurrect the programme by implementing the largest fiscal adjustment in a single year, totaling over Rs1.7 trillion or 2.2 percent of GDP, primarily by raising taxes on current taxpayers, both businesses and individuals, at the expense of the political capital of the ruling coalition, particularly the PML-N. Given that the delay will put additional strain on the fiscal and external accounts and harm market sentiment, it is unjust of the IMF to postpone approval and the distribution of its funds for another five to six weeks. Therefore, in order to soothe the restless markets, it is imperative that the Fund change its mind and release the funds as soon as possible.

The upcoming seventh and eighth performance reviews of the programme are included in the Memorandum of Economic and Fiscal Policies that Pakistani authorities received from the lender the other day

The fallacy of unity government is paralyzing Lebanon

DR. DANIA KOLEILAT KHATIB

Lebanon’s parliament speaker is calling for a unity government that will rescue the country from its calamities. However, the reasons for these calamities and for Lebanon’s failure to have proper governance are mutilated concepts like unity government, “mithakia,” which means proper representation among all sects, and “consensual democracy,” which means all the different parties should be included in policymaking. Lebanon has always had unity governments and none have been able to put forward any real program for the country. The concept of unity government came about after the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and was enforced after the Doha Agreement. During the time of Hariri, which extended from 1992, shortly after the end of the civil war, until 2005, the government was one of technocrats. When Hariri took power after the Taif Agreement, the two main Christian parties were put out of power. Michel Aoun was in exile and Samir Geagea was in prison. Other politicians who kept their places under Taif, like Nabih Berri, the speaker of the parliament, and Walid Jumblatt, benefited from inflated government contracts in return for their acquiescence. Many say the Hariri years institutionalized corruption. However, during the Hariri years, there was a business plan driving the country. After his death in 2005 came the concept of unity government. This was enforced after the 2008 Doha Agreement, which gave Hezbollah and Amal a third of the Cabinet and the power to veto government decisions. Lebanon also has the mutilated concept of mithakia, or the fallacy of representation among the sects, which was reinforced after the Doha Agreement, i.e., each one that is strongest in his denomination should be assigned a position for that denomination. So, the Sunni party that gets most of the Sunni seats in parliament should have the premiership, the Shiite party that has most of the Shiite seats should have the speaker’s position, and similarly for the Christians and the presidential role. The political class has no plan for the country, just a power-sharing scheme that ultimately shares the spoils of the state and through which each party uses some government facility or department as its fief, from which to extract as much money as possible. Former foreign minister and the president’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, who is a main pillar of corruption in the country, spelled it out on the sidelines of the 2019 World Economic Forum at Davos. He said that Lebanon could teach London and Washington how to manage a country without a budget. Thus, the country was turned into a “farm,” as one of my Gulf colleagues described it. Although he added that even a farm has more order than Lebanon. There is no order to anything, just a corrupt class of elites agreeing among themselves to pillage the country. They fight over the ministerial quotas for each party and compete over the most lucrative ministries, like the Ministry of Energy and Water, where all the fatty fuel contracts go. No one can be held accountable as they are all part of the government. This was the motivation for the memorable slogan of the protest groups, “killun yaani killun” (all means all). The political class has been very clever in benefiting the most from power while holding no responsibility for what has happened. The political class has been very clever in benefiting the most from power while holding no responsibility for what has happened. This is mostly represented by Bassil’s famous line, “ma khalouna,” meaning “they did not let us,” blaming the failure on others. A unity government is not really a democratic practice. Democracy means the minority follows the majority, which rules while the minority is in opposition and keeps a check on those who rule. Today, in the US, the administration is a Democratic one and not a hybrid between Democrats and Republicans. Similarly, in the UK, the government is a Conservative one headed by Boris Johnson, while the Labour Party is in opposition. The party that wins an election puts together a comprehensive political, economic and security strategy for the country and is held responsible for its success or failure. One might say that, in the US, the people directly elect the head of state, while in Lebanon the parliament elects the president. Others might say that, unlike the US and UK, where there are dual-party systems and where the political scenes are divided between the liberal left and conservative right, Lebanon is a country where the political configuration is divided along sectarian lines. Still, in the elections they are standing as blocks. For example, Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement formed one block in the parliamentary elections. They represent the so-called resistance block. In the case of Lebanon, parties of similar thinking should form a coalition, with the coalition that has the majority of seats in parliament forming a government to put together a comprehensive plan and be held accountable for its execution and success. However, the leaders of the political class do not want any accountability. They know that, despite their differences on policy issues, they are “brothers” in corruption. They want to stay together and keep the status quo. Today, Lebanon is collapsing and is in dire need of an International Monetary Fund bailout package. The Najib Mikati government, which is a unity government that took office from September 2021 to May 2022 and is now in caretaker status, was not able to seal a deal with the IMF.

The political class has been very clever in benefiting the most from power while holding no responsibility for what has happened.

CPEC Will Provide Long Term Welfare For Local Residents by Qaiser Nawab

China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners. The two countries have formed a rock-solid friendship. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a landmark project of the co-construction of the "Belt and Road Initiative" by China and Pakistan, and an important manifestation of the ever-growing "Iron Friendship" between the two countries. The CPEC is of over 3000 kilometers, it is a bond, connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt to the north and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to the south. While building a bridge for economic and trade exchanges between China and Pakistan, the CPEC is also constantly enriching the connotation of a China-Pakistan community with a shared future. In 2013, the CPEC was formally proposed and positioned as a "Four-sphere Integrated" channel and a trade corridor covering roads, railways, oil and gas pipelines, and fiber-optic cables; in 2015, the "1+4" cooperation layout was formed with the construction of the corridor as the center, with emphasis on Gwadar port, energy, infrastructure, and industrial cooperation. In December 2017, the "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Vision Plan (2017-2030)" was officially released, combining China's "The Belt and Road Initiative" and Pakistan's "Vision 2025". In December 2017, the "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Vision (2030)" was officially released, dovetailing China's “Belt and Road Initiative" and Pakistan's "Vision 2025", with focuses on development in areas including connectivity, energy, trade, and industrial parks. CPEC construction bears fruitful results Since its start of construction in 2013, the CPEC has created miracles one after another: China-Pakistan cross-border optical cable, Karakoram Highway upgrading and reconstruction project, Karot Hydropower Station, Lahore Rail Transit Orange Line Project, second stage of dam cut-off achieved at the Sugejinaree Hydropower Project, etc. As of September 2021, the 22 priority projects from the first phase of the CPEC is almost complete, half of which are energy projects. For example, the Port Qasim coal-fired power station, since it entered commercial operation in April 2018, has generated about 10% of the power supply of Pakistan’s national grid. It is reported that the coal-fired power station will exceed 4.6 billion kWh in 2021. While accelerating its construction as a power supply base, the CPEC also attaches great importance to the development of clean energy. In November 2021, the Karot Hydropower Station, the first hydropower investment project under the CPEC, has successfully completed the closure of its diversion tunnel and officially started storing water in the reservoir, laying a foundation for the commissioning of subsequent generators. It is reported that the construction of the Karot Hydropower Station and the Sugijinari Hydropower Station is progressing smoothly, and the construction of the Kohala Hydropower Station project will also begin after the signing of the franchise agreement in May 2021. During the first phase of construction, China and Pakistan are not only committed to improving energy shortage problems, but also focused on infrastructure constructions. There are many highlight projects, including Gwadar Port, Lahore Rail Transit Orange Line Project, Karakoram Highway upgrading and reconstruction project Phase II, China-Pakistan Cross-Border Optical Cable Project, etc. These mass transport infrastructure constructions are of great significance to Pakistan's economic development. Thanks to highways and energy infrastructures, an increasing number of Chinese enterprises have come to invest in Pakistan, effectively promoting Pakistan's economic development and at the same time, laid down a solid foundation for industrial cooperation in the second phase of the corridor. Under the framework of the CPEC, China and Pakistan have greatly facilitated inter-regional connectivity through the construction of various infrastructure facilities. Taking Gwadar port in Balochistan as an example, it is not only one of the four key points of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, but also a pilot project for the co-construction of the “Belt and Road Initiative” between China and Pakistan. In November 2016, Gwadar port was officially opened, and from this place, the first Chinese commercial ships set sail. From its humble beginnings as a small fishing village, over years of development, Gwadar port gradually turned into a regional logistics hub. Even during the epidemic period, the construction of Gwadar port continued to advance. It is worth mentioning that Gwadar Port has also created many "firsts" in 2020: for example, the launch of transit trade through Afghanistan, fully showing its transshipment potentials; for the first time, it is expected that 10,000 tons of LPG will be shipped to Pakistan each month through Gwadar Port; and it is the first time where commercial operation was realized. In July 2020, a medium-sized cargo ship loaded with 16,000 tons of chemical fertilizers docked at Gwadar port for the first time, and completed the unloading, warehousing, and storage of all goods, this marks the official launch of Afghanistan's re-export business. It also shows that the CPEC can be extended to Afghanistan and further to Central Asia. From this point on, Afghanistan and the landlocked countries of Central Asia have a connecting access channel. Relying on the location advantage and connectivity of Gwadar port, in July 2020, a series of industrial projects such as Gwadar Fertilizer Factory, Gwadar Exhibition Center, and Gwadar Lubricating Oil Factory also started construction in Gwadar port Free Trade Zone. Bajwa, who once served as the chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Affairs Bureau, said: "The construction of Gwadar Port also has radiating benefits to the development and prosperity of Balochistan and other surrounding areas."

Turkey returns to the Balkans at EU’s expense

NIKOLA MIKOVIC

European leaders last week described their decision to award membership candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova as a “historic moment” for the bloc. Left unsaid was how long it could take for the final “moment” to arrive. Other EU candidate states have languished for years — even decades — in the EU’s “eternal waiting room.” Not only has this raised doubts about the EU’s attractiveness to countries in Eastern Europe, it has opened the door for other regional power brokers to emerge. Consider Turkey’s role in the Western Balkans. Although the Western Balkans remain firmly rooted in the geopolitical orbit of Brussels and Washington, Ankara is moving swiftly to strengthen its economic and political presence in countries like Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Once linked by the Ottoman Empire, Turkey and the Balkans share a common history. But they are also members of an ignominious club: Countries that have been granted candidate status by the EU but have waited patiently — in Turkey’s case, since 1999 — in vain. Today, EU membership for Ankara and its Balkan allies feels like a lost ambition. Three Balkan states — Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania — have started their own integration process into the Open Balkan initiative, which many regional leaders see as a substitute for EU membership. Turkey, for its part, is pursuing a multi-vector foreign policy and the Balkans play an important role in that strategy. Ankara has already signed free trade agreements with every Western Balkan state and, as a result of such deals, is steadily increasing its economic heft. For instance, bilateral trade between Turkey and Serbia — the largest economy in the Western Balkans — was about $2 billion in 2021; it is expected to more than double, to $5 billion, by the end of this year. Over the last decade, Turkish investments in Serbia also increased by orders of magnitude, from $1 million to $300 million today. Such cooperation is only expected to grow. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to visit Serbia soon, while his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was recently in the region for meetings with leaders in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Croatia (the newest EU member state, which joined in 2013 after nine years as a candidate). Cavusoglu also visited Kosovo, Serbia’s breakaway province that declared independence in 2008 and is recognized as an independent country by Turkey, most EU members and most Balkan states — although not by Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite differences regarding the status of Kosovo, however, it is full steam ahead for the trilateral partnership. Ankara intends to hold a Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia summit soon, while local leaders have lauded Ankara’s diplomacy. Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recently called Erdogan a “great statesman” who understands the situation in the Balkan country. Although Ankara aims to portray itself as a custodian of Balkan Muslims, especially in Bosnia, in truth, Turkey is paying more attention to economic cooperation. In Serbia, it has opened factories and invested in business, while in Bosnia it is focused on the restoration of mosques and on deepening cultural ties with the Bosniaks — one of three native ethnic groups. These overtures are being reciprocated. In Serbia, Turkish citizens can use their biometric identification card to travel, rather than their passport. In 2019, Serbia even granted Turkish police the ability to operate on its soil. While Turkish police officers in Serbia are not armed and do not have the same powers as at home, some human rights organizations fear that Serbia will be pressured to extradite critics of Erdogan, including Kurdish activists, to Ankara. Such concerns are not without merit. In December 2017, two years before Serbia and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding on joint police patrols, Belgrade extradited to Turkey Kurdish politician Cevdet Ayaz. Serbian authorities are now being asked to extradite Ecevit Piroglu, another Kurdish activist, to Turkey, where he is wanted for alleged links to terrorism. Serbia is not the only Balkan country Turkey is courting; other regional states are also receiving Ankara’s attention. Recent media investments are a case in point. This month, Turkish public broadcaster TRT launched a Balkan service designed to deliver “Turkey’s voice” to the region. In addition to Serbia and Bosnia, the news platform will deliver political, social, cultural and economic content to Croatia, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. European powers are unlikely to allow Ankara to jeopardize their interests in the region.

European powers are unlikely to allow Ankara to jeopardize their interests in the region.

Johnson’s UK shuns healing in favor of law-breaking

MOHAMED CHEBARO

Brexit again risks tearing the UK apart, as well as furthering the divide between Britain and its European neighbors. The decision by the UK parliament this week to pass the second reading of a bill that sets out the government’s plan to override parts of the trade treaty signed with the EU two years ago represents a major escalation in the continuing dispute over trade rules for Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland protocol bill’s progress in parliament has sparked outrage in Brussels and Dublin, as it threatens to set aside parts of the agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019. He had presented the deal to voters as being “oven-ready” during campaigning for that year’s general election, earning him a large majority. The bill, if it becomes law, will lift customs checks on goods being sent from mainland Britain to be sold in Northern Ireland, end the harmonization of the province’s VAT with the rest of the EU single market, and remove the European Court of Justice from any arbitration role in future disputes. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with an EU country, the Republic of Ireland. When Britain left the EU and its borderless free trade zone, the two sides agreed to keep the Irish land border free of customs posts and other checks, as an open border is a key pillar of the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland. The problems of the Northern Ireland protocol are multifaceted. For the Protestant unionists of the province, the protocol’s trade checks have risked a dilution of their bond with the mainland. Those from the Catholic community do not want a physical customs border to return as they dream of one day reuniting the island. The Conservative government in London does not mind all of the above and has shown itself to be ready to renege on its international obligations as long as it helps its popularity among an increasingly skeptical voter base. And what could be better than a quarrel and possibly a trade war with the EU, which presents an opportunity for the government to increase its following among British euroskeptics. However, scrapping the protocol or parts of it can only increase the isolation of the UK. All parties will lose out as a result of the showdown between the UK and the EU. And it will only further embolden those betting on a larger European schism against the backdrop of what seems likely to be a protracted Russia-Ukraine war and a deepening economic crisis as a result of the war and COVID-19 too. But such a crisis is made worse for the UK due to Brexit. No one can deny that the legislation put forward unilaterally by the London government is a breach of international law and would affect the UK’s standing in the wider world as a promoter and defender of the rule of law and mutually agreed treaties. Speaking to the House of Commons ahead of Monday’s vote, which the government won with 295 votes in favor to 221 against, former Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it.” Though her comments mark the highest-profile assault on Johnson from within his party ranks on this issue, he is unlikely to take notice, as he has constantly shown disregard to all his critics. He has promised not only to seek a second term in office but even a third one, despite him being embroiled in many cases of law-breaking during COVID-19 lockdowns, allegedly misleading parliament, his government’s poor handling of the cost of living crisis, and the failure to deliver on many of his post-Brexit prosperity promises. The UK government under Johnson is adamant Brexit has not exacerbated the UK’s economic underperformance, even though research and studies have been pointing to it as “largely to blame” for billions of lost pounds of trade and tax revenues in recent years, regardless of the impact of the pandemic or the war in Ukraine. The Centre for European Reform said this month that, by the end of last year, the UK’s economy was 5.2 percent — or £31 billion ($37 billion) — smaller than it would have been without Brexit and COVID-19. “We cannot blame Brexit for all of the 5.2 percent shortfall… but it’s apparent that Brexit is largely to blame,” said the author of the study John Springford. The Centre for European Reform study said it was “hard to avoid the conclusion that Brexit has severely curtailed GDP, investment and goods trade.” Politicians and business entities have also been pointing out how difficult it is to ignore the central role of Brexit in the overall poor performance of the British economy. The government has shown itself to be ready to renege on its international obligations as long as it helps its popularity among an increasingly skeptical voter base. In commemorating six years since the fated referendum to exit the EU in June 2016, many Leavers and Remainers have been trying to validate their choices.

America’s watery Indo-Pacific alphabet soup

TAKATOSHI ITO

US President Joe Biden last month visited South Korea and Japan with the aim of reaffirming America’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region after the uncertainties and doubts generated by Donald Trump’s presidency. In Tokyo, Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity and participated in a summit of the Quad, an informal security grouping that also includes Japan, Australia and India. The Quad aims to promote and secure a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region and is widely regarded as a means of checking China’s regional ambitions. But the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity’s benefits are less obvious to many Asian countries. Besides the US, the new framework’s initial signatories are Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and seven member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The new grouping supposedly intends to set common rules regarding the digital economy, implement strong trade-related labor and environmental standards, share information on supply chains of semiconductors and other sensitive products, and support the construction of clean-energy infrastructure. But it is not a free trade agreement that aims to open up markets by lowering tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Emerging and developing Asian economies hoping for greater access to the US market are relatively unenthusiastic about Biden’s new initiative and there are calls across Southeast Asia for the US to demonstrate greater willingness to liberalize trade. Getting countries to sign on to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity was reportedly a struggle. Whether the US will be able to keep the group together with the prospect of substantive economic benefits is the great unknown of the project, which is in many ways a thinly veiled attempt to establish a regional economic bloc to compete against China. This is not the first US-led initiative in that regard, of course. The 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated during Barack Obama’s presidency, was generally viewed as a high-standard free trade agreement that would put China at a disadvantage. But Trump withdrew the US from the deal shortly after taking office in 2017. Sensing that Trump was making a serious strategic mistake that would hand economic leadership in the region to China, then-Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo took the lead in negotiating a follow-up treaty. The original pact’s 11 remaining members (including Japan) subsequently concluded the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Sordid reality

According to a study titled ‘Cruel numbers 2020’ by an NGO, Sahil, eight children are abused every day in Pakistan. These children are between the ages of six and 15 years, and 51 percent of them are girls while the remaining 49 percent are boys. More alarming still is the fact that there has been an increase of four percent in child abuse cases between 2019 and 2020. These statics are heart wrenching. Some victims are as young as one. To make matters worse, most of the abusers are reported to be relatives and neighbours of the victims. In 2020, after the country was rattled by the case of seven-year-old Zainab, a law was passed against child abuse by parliament. However, the number of cases seems to be rising. Children are abducted, abused – even murdered – and their bodies discarded. Most perpetrators roam free even today. Sometimes families of victims do not come forward because the culprit is also from the family. At other times, authorities fail to take due measures. Child abuse will not decrease until the authorities concerned take firm and immediate action against the offenders.

Waseem Ahmed, Hub

Shifting blame

The PTI has failed to control inflation. Even basic commodities are beyond the reach of ordinary people who are finding it difficult to arrange for even one meal a day. The country has been driven to a point where people are at their wits ends. The prime minister had promised that he would reduce prices of basic necessities, but he has once again defaulted on his promises. One day he reportedly claimed that petrol prices would not increase, the next, he announces to the nation that they would and there would be a gas shortage. First the prime minister claimed that inflation was a result of the policies of the previous government, then he blamed the Covid-19 pandemic, now it is the fault of inflation in the international market.

Saman Amjad, Sheikhupur

Looking forward

This refers to the article ‘A real change?’ by Kiyya Baloch (November 6). The writer has perfectly crafted the picture of the two political giants of Balochistan. Jam Kamal of Lasbela and Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo of Awaran have both failed to facilitate their respective areas. Awaran's deprivation is not news to anyone, and this blatant indifference gives a good idea of what importance the locals hold for those in power. Similarly, the situation in Jam's hometown, Bela, is also bleak. Now that Bizenjo has replaced Jam, one can only hope that he will solve socio-economic and socio-political issues of the province. Additionally, the ruling party and the opposition should sit together to solve the issues of their respective constituencies and the province as a whole. If all the political stakeholders in Balochistan forget their differences and work for human development, Balochistan can surely prosper like any other province.

Zohaib Ahmed, Hub

In disarray

This refers to the news report ‘Petrol up by Rs8.03 per litre, diesel by Rs8.14’ and the editorial ‘Another package’ (November 5). After holding out for a few weeks, the government has finally bowed to the pressure of the IMF and announced immediate increase in the prices of petroleum products. This was one of the most recent conditions put by the international body before formalising the revival of the $6 billion loan. It seems that the government has run out of ideas and has put all its eggs in the IMF’s basket. The government should also realise that relief packages are not a substitute for tangible measures. Pakistan needs a robust economic plan with achievable milestones that can uplift the economy and mitigate poverty. Relief packages, in the absence of available resources, are mere eyewash and serve only to discredit the government in the eyes of the people.

Shoaib A Majeed, Karachi

Modern solutions

TikTok is an excellent platform through which hundreds of young Pakistanis exhibit their talents. However, it has been banned twice across Pakistan due to different reasons. Since the app was banned, young TikTokers have been deprived of the opportunities to make money, which is extremely unfortunate, given the state of the economy. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has agreed to establish a mechanism with TikTok to ensure that all content uploaded on the platform is lawful and safe. As many as 9.85 million videos from Pakistan were removed from the app between April and June 2021. It is hoped that the two will come to an agreement and that the app will be up and running in Pakistan soon.

Abdul Rahman Shahbeer, Turbat

Stealing from the poor

The Rs3.7 trillion Kamyab Pakistan Programme (KPP), interest-free loans for seven million families, is considered to be the best micro-credit program ever planned in Pakistan. But unfortunately a vast majority of the application forms for the loans were rejected recently. According to some news reports, of a total of 1,237,977 applications for the Kamyab Jawan Programme, 695,655 were rejected. It is unfortunate that such a large number of applicants couldn't benefit from this loan. One wonders on what grounds the applications were rejected. One fears that this scheme, like many before it, will become a tool in the hands of the already-wealthy and well-connected to amass more wealth. In 2020, SAPM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar admitted that several government officials of Grade 17 and above had registered for the BISP and benefitted from it, cutting off those who were more deserving. The government should ensure that a transparent system of merit is established in the case of the current schemes.

Umar Javed, Rahimyar Khan

Pointless deaths

This is to draw the attention of the authorities to the devastating problem of broken roads in Gichk, Balochistan. These roads have led to numerous accidents, which have resulted in loss of lives as well as financial losses. Recently, a truck got into an accident and the driver lost his life. But for the local and provincial governments, the matter is of no concern. Authorities were allocated funds for development, but there is none to be seen. Both the federal and provincial governments should pay immediate attention to making new roads to ensure that no more lives are lost.

Ameenullah Qamar Baloch, Karachi

Weak writ

The PTI-led government initially claimed that it would not be accepting the TLP’s demands. The major demand of the TLP – amongst many others – was that the government remove its proscribed status, and the government did just that. In doing so, the government has lost its credibility, and U-turn after U-turn is making weaker by the day. It was this weak writ of the incumbent government that ultimately translated to uncontrolled inflation and poverty.

Engr Asim Nawab, Islamabad

Hard-left MP to take charge of French parliament's powerful finance committee

Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel was elected chair of the French parliament's powerful finance committee on Thursday, a day after the far-right obtained two assembly vice-presidencies - signs of the growing power of radical parties in the new parliament. President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party lost control of parliament in elections this month, which complicates planned reforms as he will need to share some of the power - and policy oversight - with other parties. Coquerel, 63, is a veteran politician and one of the most senior members of firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon's La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party. The finance committee he will now chair has extensive powers, and this was the most-watched vote as the new, very fragmented lower house of parliament sets to work. The committee has a key role in the adoption of the French budget in parliament and in overseeing how the state spends public money, with the possibility of doing impromptu checks in ministries. Its president can also get access to the confidential tax declarations of companies or individuals but can't publish them. The committee's powers go beyond the budget bill, as it can strike down draft amendments on any legislation if it considers that it will unnecessarily weigh on public finances, giving its president a key role on a wide range of policies. Ahead of his election, after two rounds of votes where no one secured an outright majority, opponents to the right and far-right accused La France Insoumise and Coquerel of not being fit for the job - comments that highlight the tensions in the assembly. "I can't imagine using the presidency of the finance committee to organize a tax witch hunt!" Coquerel tweeted ahead of his election, brushing off the accusations. "We are not going to use it to target political opponents," he told Sud Radio, while adding that he will use it to track down tax evasion by big companies. Macron's Ensemble alliance, which is the biggest party in parliament even if it lacks an absolute majority, won the leadership of other key committees, but the finance one traditionally goes to an opposition party.

Russia quits Snake Island, in blow to blockade of Ukraine ports

Kyiv: Russian troops have abandoned their positions on a captured Ukrainian island, a major set-back to their invasion effort that weakens their blockade of Ukraine's ports, defence officials said Thursday. The news from the Black Sea came as NATO leaders met for a second day in Madrid, intent on demonstrating their unity and determination to back up Kyiv with advances weapons in the face of Moscow's assault. Snake Island became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the first days of the war, when the rocky outcrop's defenders told a Russian warship that called on them to surrender to "go f*ck yourself," an incident that spurred a defiant meme. It was also a strategic target, sitting aside shipping lanes near Ukraine's port of Odessa. Russia had attempted to install missile and air defence batteries while under fire from drones. Ukraine has gathered the wrecked remains of Russian guns and armour as an exhibit on the streets of Kyiv Ukraine has gathered the wrecked remains of Russian guns and armour as an exhibit on the streets of Kyiv Sergei SUPINSKY AFP

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Tehran: Iran insisted Thursday that a revived nuclear agreement with major powers remains achievable despite a negative US assessment of two-way talks in Qatar intended to reboot the stalled negotiations. The US State Department said the EU-brokered proximity talks in the Qatari capital Doha had concluded late Wednesday with "no progress made". But Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he believed the talks had been "positive" and a deal could still be reached. "We are determined to continue negotiating until a realistic agreement is reached," he said after a phone call with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who hosted the indirect talks. "Our assessment of the recent round of talks in Doha is positive," he said. "I insist on the fact that we are making serious efforts to reach a good, solid and lasting agreement," said Amir-Abdollahian. "An accord is achievable if the United States is realistic." The two days of talks, in which EU mediators shuttled between Iranian and US delegations, were intended to reboot wider negotiations between Iran and major powers in Vienna which have been stalled since March. The talks aim to bring the United States back into a 2015 deal jettisoned by the Donald Trump administration in 2018 by lifting the sweeping economic sanctions he imposed in exchange for Iran's return to full compliance with the limits set on its nuclear activities. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and European Union's nuclear talks coordinator Enrique Mora meet in Qatar's capital Doha Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and European Union's nuclear talks coordinator Enrique Mora meet in Qatar's capital Doha - IRNA/AFP Washington has "made clear our readiness to quickly conclude and implement a deal on mutual return to full compliance", the US State Department spokesperson said after the talks wrapped up in Qatar. "Yet in Doha, as before, Iran raised issues wholly unrelated to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) and apparently is not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it." Differences between Tehran and Washington have notably included Iran's demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from a US terror list. The talks in Doha came just two weeks before US President Joe Biden makes his first official visit to the regionAFP

War in Ukraine: Latest developments

Kyiv (Ukraine): Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine: Russia leaves Snake Island Russia says it is withdrawing its forces from Ukraine's Snake Island in what it said was a move to facilitate the resumption of Ukraine's farm exports. "On June 30, as a gesture of goodwill, the Russian armed forces completed their tasks on Snake Island and withdrew a garrison stationed there," the Russian defence ministry says, adding that the move showed Moscow was "not impeding" efforts to resume exports from nearby Ukrainian ports. Ukraine hails the liberation of the "strategically important" island, saying Russian forces were driven out by Ukrainian shelling and missile strikes. Snake Island became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after a radio exchange went viral at the start of the war, in which Ukrainian soldiers issued an expletive to a Russian ship to called on them to surrender. Grain shipment leaves Ukraine port ship carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain sets sail from Ukraine's occupied port city of Berdyansk, in what pro-Russian officials claim is the first such shipment from a Ukrainian port since the war began. Berdyansk was one of the first cities to fall to Russian forces at the start of the war. Evgeny Balitsky, the region's Moscow-appointed administrator says that Russia's navy was safeguarding the shipment of grain, which was headed for unnamed "friendly countries". A Russian blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports has prevented millions of tonnes of grain from being exported, worsening global food shortages. Ukraine has accused Russia and its allies of stealing its grain, claims also made by the New York Times and BBC among other media outlets. - Moscow cracks down on foreign media - Russian lawmakers approve legislation that will make it easier to shut down foreign media, continuing a crackdown on the media and dissent that intensified sharply after the invasion of Ukraine. The legislation gives the authorities the right "to ban or restrict the activities of media outlets" from foreign countries "in the event of unfriendly actions of a foreign state against Russian media abroad". Many foreign journalists left Russia after authorities in March introduced prison terms of up to 15 years for spreading "fake news" about the Russian army. But most major news outlets have maintained a presence in the country. 'Over 6,000' Ukrainian POWs Russia says it is still holding more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war. The announcement comes a day after the two sides announced a prisoner swap, with each side recovering 144 fighters -- the largest exchange since the war began. The Ukrainian prisoners returned included 95 former defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces held out for weeks. Over $1bn in new British aid Britain pledges another £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in military aid to Ukraine to help it fight the invasion, bringing its total support since the start of the war to £2.3 billion. The aid will include "sophisticated air-defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, innovative new electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers," London says. Britain is one of Ukraine's biggest backers in terms of military said.

France holding 10 suspects over Channel migrant disaster

Paris: French police are holding 10 people suspected of involvement in the November 2021 Channel drowning of migrants in which 27 people died, a judicial source said Thursday. One has been charged with manslaughter and people-trafficking, and the nine others were to be taken before a judge who will decide whether to charge them as well, the source said, asking not to be named. Police had arrested 15 suspects in an overnight operation Sunday to Monday as part of their months-long investigation into the disaster, releasing five of them without charges. The death of the 27 in late November was the worst accident in the Channel since 2018, when the narrow strait became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have been increasingly using small boats to reach England from France. Among the 27 -- aged seven to 47 -- were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant. Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tension between the British and French governments. President Emmanuel Macron vowed France would not allow the Channel to become a "cemetery". AFP

Sudan gears up for mass protest against generals

Khartoum: Activists in Sudan have called for mass rallies Thursday to demand the reversal of an October military coup that prompted foreign governments to slash aid, deepening a chronic economic crisis. The protests come on the anniversary of a previous coup in 1989, which toppled the country's last elected civilian government and ushered in three decades of iron-fisted rule by Islamist-backed general Omar al-Bashir. They also come on the anniversary of 2019 protests demanding that the generals, who had ousted Bashir in a palace coup earlier that year, cede power to civilians. Those protests led to the formation of the mixed civilian-military transitional government which was toppled in last year's coup. Security was tight in the capital Khartoum on Thursday despite the recent lifting of a state of emergency imposed after the coup. An AFP correspondent said internet and phone lines had been disrupted since the early hours, a measure the Sudanese authorities often impose to prevent mass gatherings. Sudan has been roiled by near-weekly protests as the country's economic woes have deepened since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power last year. More than 100 people have been killed in protest-related violence, according to UN figures, as the military ahs cracked down on the anti-coup movement. "June 30 is our way to bring down the coup and block the path of any fake alternatives," said the Forces for Freedom and Change, an alliance of civilian groups whose leaders were ousted in the coup. Activists have called for "million-strong" rallies to mark the "earthquake of June 30". Small-scale demonstrations took place in the run-up to call for a huge turnout on Thursday. UN special representative Volker Perthes called on the security forces to exercise restraint. "Violence against protesters will not tolerated," he said in a statement, adding that nobody should "give any opportunity to spoilers who want to escalate tensions in Sudan". The foreign ministry criticised the UN envoy's comments, saying they were built on "assumptions" and "contradict his role as facilitator" in troubled talks on ending the political crisis. Alongside the African Union and east African bloc IGAD, the United Nations has been attempting to broker talks between the generals and civilians, but they have been boycotted by all the main civilian factions. The UN has warned that the deepening economic and political crisis threatens to push one third of the country's population of more than 40 million towards life-threatening food shortages.DR

Congo set for final ceremony for Lumumba remains

Kinshasa: The scant remains of DR Congo's fiery independence hero Patrice Lumumba were to be interred on Thursday after a pilgrimage that revived traumatic memories but also stirred national unity. A single tooth is all that remains of the young nationalist who was murdered in January 1961 at the age of 35, just months after becoming Congo's first post-colonial prime minister. A coffin containing the remains was to be enshrined in a mausoleum in Kinshasa, in a ceremony hosted by President Felix Tshisekedi coinciding with the country's 62nd anniversary. Topped by a large statue of Lumumba, the mausoleum is located on a main avenue of the capital which also bears his name. Lumumba was among the vanguard of pan-African leaders who led the charge to end colonialism in the late 1950s. He rose to prominence in 1958 when he launched a political party, the Congolese National Movement (MNC), which called for independence and a secular Congolese state. His party won national elections in May 1960, a month before independence from Belgium, leading him to be named first prime minister of the country when it became independent. He stunned Belgium with a speech on independence day -- attended by King Baudouin -- that accused the exiting colonial masters of racism and "humiliating slavery" of the Congolese people. Within three months, Lumumba was forced out by a coup fomented with the help of Belgium and the CIA, which also opposed the support he had requested from the Soviet Union. In January 1961, Lumumba was handed over to the authorities in mineral-rich southeast Katanga province, which had seceded from the fledgling nation months earlier with Belgium's support. He was shot dead and his body was dissolved in acid, but a Belgian police officer involved in the killing kept one of his teeth as a trophy. After years of campaigning by his family, Belgium returned the tooth on June 20, a move that followed a visit of reconciliation by Baudouin's nephew and successor, King Philippe. The remains were taken to Lumumba's home area of Sankuru in the centre of the country, to his political stronghold of Kisangani in the northeast and finally to the place where he was murdered before being flown to Kinshasa. Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba, right, and Joseph Okito, the vice president of the senate, were arrested in December 1960 Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba, right, and Joseph Okito, the vice president of the senate, were arrested in December 1960 - AFP/File Five former prime ministers joined a funeral vigil on Thursday alongside current government chief Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde. "The figure of Patrice Lumumba is a prime symbol of national unity, transcending political differences," said Evariste Mabi, a premier in the 1980s under Lumumba's nemesis, dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. AFP

England recall Anderson for delayed India finale

Birmingham: England have recalled James Anderson for the delayed fifth Test against India at Edgbaston on Friday. The paceman missed the conclusion of England's series whitewash of New Zealand when an ankle injury ruled him out of the third Test at Headingley. But the 39-year-old, England's all-time record Test wicket taker, will return to the side against India even though replacement Jamie Overton scored 97 on his debut in Leeds. "That's how sport at the top level works sometimes," England captain Ben Stokes told reporters on Thursday. "It must be very disappointing for him (Overton) but he can walk away knowing he did everything he could." In another change to an England team announced almost 24 hours ahead of the toss, Sam Billings will take over as wicketkeeper. Billings was called up at short notice during the New Zealand series finale for his second Test appearance as a Covid-19 substitute for first-choice gloveman Ben Foakes, who was also hampered by a stiff back at Headingley. "Unfortunately Foakesy hasn't recovered as well as we'd have liked him to," said Stokes. "So Sam is going to stay in the team. "(Foakes) hasn't really recovered from last week and doesn't feel like he could give the best account of himself this week. We took the decision out of his hands and said 'get yourself better'." Friday's match should have been played in Manchester last September but, hours before it was due to start at Old Trafford, it was postponed because of Covid-19 concerns in the India camp. India, who lead the five-match series 2-1, are now waiting on the availability of Covid-hit captain Rohit Sharma, who has been in isolation since testing positive last week. The tourists, however, are not obliged to announce their side until Friday's 10:00am local (0900 GMT) toss. India will face a rejuvenated England, who under their new leadership duo of Stokes and red-ball head coach Brendon McCullum swept the Black Caps 3-0 after winning just one of their previous 17 Tests. England team to play India: Zak Crawley, Alex Lees, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (capt), Sam Billings (wkt), Matthew Potts, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson. AFP

Thousands attend Tour de France teams presentation in Copenhagen

Raucous crowds at the Copenhagen Tivoli theme park gave the Tour de France the kind of reception organisers could only have dreamed of on Wednesday. The loudest cheers were for Danish riders such as Jonas Vingegaard and for the biggest names led by champion Tadej Pogacar. Staff at the park said only rock stars had attracted such crowds before. Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, said he was excited too. "As a team we are ready, and me and as an individual I'm ready too, so I can't wait to start of Friday with the time trial," the Slovenian said. Denmark's Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark. Tivoli Park has around 25 fairground rides. On Wednesday the 176 cyclists added one, riding round a special 1km track to be greeted by thousands of smiling, cheering and filming fans. "I feel great, especially today with all these people in Copenhagen, you can only be happy." said Pogacar. Best rider v strongest team Title challengers Primoz Roglic and Vingegaard, both of Jumbo Visma, said they believed their team's two-leader strategy could finally deliver cycling's most treasured prize. Roglic, a Slovenian, came second in 2020 and Vingegaard in 2021, both times behind Pogacar. "As long as we work together, doing as good as possible together, we believe that we can beat him," Roglic said, Roglic pulled out in week one last year afer a fall and on Wednesday denied feeling threatened by his junior partner Vingegaard, who shone in his absence. "We make each other stronger. When you have strong individuals around, the whole team gets stronger," said the 32-year-old triple Vuelta a Espana winner. Vingegaard said he and Roglic enjoyed going for a beer together. "Primoz and I are good friends also out of bike racing," said the 25-year-old, , a former fish-factory worker from the small community of Hillerslev on Denmark's North Sea coast. Both Roglic and Vingegaard talked of surviving the first week. Team boss Merijn Zeeman rejected the notion. "I don't like the term 'surviving' because we are not afraid. We stay on the bike and stay up front," Zeeman said of Jumbo's tendency to race from the front. "Surviving sounds like we are not sleeping at night because we are afraid of the first week." "In the best scenario, both of them are better than Pogacar." "It's not a secret that Pogacar is the big favourite. "We need everybody to be at his top level and we definitely need a two-leader strategy. The once-mighty Ineos team last won the race with Egan Bernal three years ago. On Wednesday, 2018 champion Geraint Thomas said he was more of a chaperone to Dani Martinez of Colombia and British rider Adam Yates as they chase Pogacar and Jumbo. "Its going to be hard to beat them, but the vibe in the team is as good as ever, we have some good guys, there's a good atmosphere and we are looking forwards to getting stuck in," said Thomas, who promised an aggressive race. "Adam and Dani are the leaders of the team and I want to help them, so I'll be swearing at them at 60kmph in the wind, and I'm going to enjoy that." Yates has just recovered from Covid-19, but was looking relaxed and happy. AFP

Khawaja hits 71 as Australia take lead in Galle Test

Galle: Opener Usman Khawaja hit a gritty half-century to help Australia take the lead against Sri Lanka on the rain-hit second day of the opening Test on Thursday. Australia reached 233 for five at tea in Galle, leading the hosts by 21, after storms and strong winds caused a spectator stand to collapse and delayed play until the afternoon. The day was re-scheduled to two sessions and 59 overs instead of the usual 90, light and weather permitting. Cameron Green, on 48, and Alex Carey, on 43, were batting at the break with an attacking stand of 76 after the departure of Khawaja for 71. The tourists, who resumed on 98-3, lost Travis Head on his overnight six with off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva getting the left-hander caught and bowled. Khawaja, who survived a missed stumping on 36 during the previous day, and Green added 57. Debutant leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay finally dispatched Khawaja, caught at short leg, for his maiden Test wicket. The left-handed Carey joined Green and took the attack to the opposition as he used the sweep to good effect and hit six boundaries. Ferocious Indian Ocean winds battered the port city on Thursday, upending broadcast equipment and one of the sightscreens at the ground. The makeshift roof of one of the ground's smaller stands was also brought down by the storm. No injuries have been reported. Once the rain stopped, ground staff worked quickly to set things in order and get the game under way. Australian spinner Nathan Lyon led the Australian charge on Wednesday with his 20th Test five-wicket haul, which helped bowl out Sri Lanka in the final session of play. AFP

Alpine launch programme to find women Formula 1 drivers by 2030

Paris: Formula One's Alpine team said on Wednesday physical ability is no barrier for women to compete in their sport as they launched a programme to have a female driver in the next eight years. Only two women have ever started a Grand Prix, the Italian pair of Maria Teresa de Filippis, who qualified in three in 1958, and Lella Lombardi, who raced in 12 between 1974 and 1976, picking up a point. There has since been a belief that physical strength was a drawback to the progress of women in the sport. That was backed up on Tuesday by Jamie Chadwick, champion of the W series, an all-female championship, who said reaching Formula One via its feeder series Formula Two and Three is "extremely physical." Alpine's CEO Laurent Rossi, however, rejected that notion, as the team launched a programme to mentor women drivers. "The number one criteria is not physical ability, far from it," Rossi told AFP. "The proof is that Fernando Alonso continues to drive very well. "If a 40-year-old man can drive in Formula One then a woman on top form at 28 years old is as capable." Rossi said there were examples of women in other industries working in similar extreme conditions. "There are women who fly fighter jets, who are astronauts, who are used to much more powerful G-forces," he said. "It's something that society wanted to peddle for years, and is one of the cliches that need to be eradicated," he added. In the coming weeks Alpine will search for up to five candidates aged between 10 and 12, with a view to having at least one of them racing by 2030. "We really have to be able to detect potential from as young as possible so they can follow the training programme," Alpine's director of human resources Claire Mesnier said. "Right now, I'm not sure that I can say that we're exploring the whole talent pool, knowing 50 percent of humanity are women," she added. Mesnier said that Alpine's current drivers, two-time champions Alonso and Frenchman Esteban Ocon, are participating in the programme. "Esteban and Fernando will be the main ambassadors," she said. Alpine next race is at the Austrian Grand Prix on July 10. AFP

Nadal centre stage at Wimbledon as Covid forces third withdrawal 

London: Rafael Nadal tops the bill at Wimbledon on Thursday after Roberto Bautista Agut became the third player to withdraw from the Championships following a positive coronavirus test. In early results on the fourth day of the tournament, women's fourth seed Paula Badosa set up a third-round clash against two-time winner Petra Kvitova. Second seed Nadal, hunting a rare calendar Grand Slam, takes on Lithuanian journeyman Ricardas Berankis in the second round on Centre Court with his path to the semi-finals opening up. Spanish 17th seed Bautista Agut became the third potential dangerman in Nadal's half of the draw to pull out with Covid, following the withdrawals of 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini and 2017 finalist Marin Cilic. "Today I have notified @Wimbledon of my withdrawal. I have tested positive for Covid-19," tweeted the 34-year-old Bautista Agut, a semi-finalist in 2019. "Fortunately, the symptoms are not very serious, but I think it is the best decision. Thanks for your support. I hope to come back soon." His exit means that Colombia's Daniel Elahi Galan receives a walkover into the last 32. Wimbledon was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic while the 2021 edition was run at reduced capacity with players confined to a bubble, but this year it is back to business as usual at the All England Club. Nadal has also benefited from a shock first-round exit for Canada's sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took him to five sets at the French Open. The major threat to the Spaniard's hopes for a third Wimbledon crown on his side of the draw is Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who plays Australia's Jordan Thompson. Nadal, 36, is halfway to a calendar Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year. The feat has not been achieved since 1969. The 22-time Grand Slam champion struggled with crippling foot pain at Roland Garros but has received treatment aimed at reducing the pain and was moving freely in his first-round match on Tuesday. Seeds are also tumbling on the other side of the men's draw, with notable early losers including third seed Casper Ruud and last year's semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz. But top seed Novak Djokovic, seeking to draw level with Pete Sampras on seven Wimbledon titles, is already safely through to the last 32. Badosa sets up Kvitova clash In the women's tournament, Badosa beat Romania's Irina Bara 6-3, 6-2 while Czech 25th seed Kvitova came through 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) against Ana Bogdan, also from Romania. Kvitova, who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, blew a 5-1 lead in the second set but held her nerve to come out on top in the tie-break. Badosa said she expected a tough contest against Kvitova, who won the Eastbourne tournament on grass last week. "She plays very well on grass," said the Spaniard. "She won last week. I practise with her on grass, as well, so I know what I'm going to find out there. "She has confidence as well, but I think I have the game that I could play a tough match against her. Of course I think I will have my opportunities there." Top seed Iga Swiatek, who has won her past six tournaments, takes on Dutch player Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, looking to extend her winning run to 37 matches. "It's amazing for me to have that kind of streak," said the 21-year-old French Open champion. "It just shows how much work we've been putting for every match. "I'm pretty happy that I could show consistency because it was always my goal." AFP

Lawes captains England as Care, Vunipola return against Wallabies

Perth: England coach Eddie Jones named Courtney Lawes captain Thursday ahead of Owen Farrell for the first Test against Australia, as veteran scrum-half Danny Care was handed his first start since 2018. Big forward Billy Vunipola will also start in Perth on Saturday after being recalled for the first time since March last year. Veteran back Farrell had been Eddie Jones's go-to man as skipper since 2018, but ankle injuries forced him to miss the entire Six Nations this year with Lawes taking the armband. Jones opted to stick with the experienced blindside flanker for the opening Test of the three-match series, although Farrell returns to earn his 95th cap, having last played in the 32-15 win over the Wallabies in November 2021. He will start at inside centre with Joe Marchant at outside centre. Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell are on the wings and Freddie Steward at full back. Care was preferred to Harry Randall at scrum-half, almost four years after winning the last of his 84 caps, pairing with playmaker Marcus Smith in the No.10 shirt. AFP

ISLAMABAD: Nauman Ali PRO President House: Ambassador of Switzerland, Mr Bénédict de Cerjat, paid a farewell call on President Dr Arif Alvi, at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

President for expeditious FTA signing between Pakistan, Switzerland 

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: On Thursday, President Dr. Arif Alvi emphasised the importance of swiftly signing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Switzerland after consulting with all parties. The president stated that the FTA would offer a formal framework for improved and prompt collaboration in the areas of trade, economy, and commerce during a meeting with departing Swiss Ambassador to Pakistan Bénédict de Cerjat, who paid the president a farewell visit. The president argued that the growing Islamophobia and divisiveness in Indian society warrant urgent attention from the international community. In order to lessen the suffering of Indian Muslims and other religious minorities, he urged the world community to take effective action to stop the intimidation and terrorism of minorities there as well as violence related to Islamophobia. President Alvi stressed the need for refugees from all around the world to be treated fairly and equally. Without making any distinctions based on colour, creed, race, religion, or locality, they should also be provided with services and shelter.

Rehmani demands release of all Hurriyat leaders from jails before Eid

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The worsening political situation in India's unlawfully occupied Jammu and Kashmir as well as the fate of political prisoners in various jails have been brought to the attention of the United Nations and other international rights organisations, and their release before Eid has been sought. Muhammad Farooq Rehmani stated in a statement released in Islamabad that the UN and its rights organisations should exert direct pressure on the Modi establishment to heed humanitarian appeals and release detainees because the leadership had been imprisoned for years and India viewed any such call from any government as an interference in its affairs. He claimed that in addition to being detained and slain, Kashmiris were also being brutalised and have had their homes and businesses destroyed against the text and spirit of the Constitution. Additionally, he regretted that people's peaceful protests are still prohibited by the UN Charter and relevant resolutions. He claimed that because they were forbidden from visiting their imprisoned loved ones in person, all the parents and families of the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners were forced to endure traumatising and terrible situations.

Wani writes to G20 countries about India’s intentions behind holding summit in IIOJK

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Altaf Hussain Wani, the chairman of the Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR), has urged G20 nations to refuse the Indian government's request to use them as its "brand ambassadors" in order to project its normalcy narrative without giving the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people even the slightest consideration. Altaf Hussain Wani alleged in a letter to the G20 leaders that India's contentious decision to hold the important summit in the IIOJK was driven by bad motives and a desire to deflect attention from the Kashmir problem. The communiqué said that "India's current government has been remorselessly selling lies to promote so-called normality narrative on Kashmir" ever since unilaterally changing Kashmir's special status in 2019 in flagrant violation of UNSC resolutions. Regarding the individual trips taken by members of the European Parliament to Kashmir last year, the letter said that the Indian government "presented EU parliamentarians' individual visits as official EU delegations."

IIOJK witnesses 191 killing, 72 military operations since Jan 2022

By Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: According to a biannual human rights review report published by Legal Forum for Kashmir, from January to June of 2022, 191 people died in military operations and 72 people perished in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). In IIOK, Indian forces reportedly conducted 120 Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) and destroyed 116 residential structures. Indian army had killed 122 independence fighters battling for the disputed territory's independence. It continues that 24 individuals were also killed in additional violent incidents. The report also claimed that the Indian government still intimidates and targets journalists, human rights activists, and civil society organisations. The biannual human rights review report that FK has created on the situation of human rights in Indian illegally controlled Jammu and Kashmir covers the time period from January to June 2022. (IIOJK). The ongoing liberation battle in IIOJK is evolving in many different ways, including its "degree of severity."

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