Irfan Haider

Oct 232018
Over 1,300 government-run schools found shut in Balochistan

Over 1,300 government-run primary, middle and high schools have been found closed in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan, it emerged on Tuesday. The schools have been non-functional for the last few years as a result of poor governance, lethargy in the appointment of teachers by authorities, and chronic absence of teachers, an officer in the education department who declined to be named since he was not authorised to speak to media told DawnNewsTV. More than 250 government primary, middle and high schools have been found shut in Quetta and Pishin districts alone. See: Schools without roofs: the state of govt-run schools in Balochistan The figures were revealed during a meeting of all district education officers held in Quetta recently and chaired by the Balochistan education secretary Noorul Haq Baloch. However, independent sources put the number of non-functional schools in the province higher than what was stated during the meeting. When asked to comment on the reasons behind the closed schools, the secretary said the process of appointment of teachers in Balochistan was in the final phase. “With the new appointments, we will be able to re-open the non-functional schools in the province,” Baloch added. In Balochistan, the number of government-run primary, middle and high schools is estimated at above 13,000. The government in the recent past had established a complaint management cell to help the masses inform authorities about closed schools and ‘ghost’ teachers. Mobeen Khilji, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) member of Balochistan Assembly, regretted that 150 government-run schools [Read More…]

Oct 232018
Erdogan calls for trial in Istanbul of Khashoggi suspects, terms death planned murder

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for the trial in Istanbul of the Saudi suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crime that he said was intricately planned days in advance. Erdogan had promised that his speech in Ankara would give the “naked truth” about the killing and he gave a host of new details while still saying Turkey wanted answers to key questions, including who gave the orders. Hours before Erdogan delivered his speech to ruling party lawmakers, a major Saudi investment forum opened in Riyadh under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out. The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom. “My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,” Erdogan said in a speech to ruling party lawmakers in Ankara, referring to 18 people including security officials who have already been detained by Riyadh. He added that “all those who played a role in the murder” had to face punishment. Erdogan said that the murder was “planned” days in advance according to a “roadmap” set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose. The surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose, he said. “First they (the Saudis implicated) removed the hard disc from the camera system,” Erdogan said. “This is a political murder,” he added. But Erdogan added [Read More…]

Oct 202018
Pemra serves show cause notices to TV channels for airing Nehal Hashmi 's controversial speech

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Saturday issued show cause notices to news channels which had aired a controversial speech by former PML-N senator Syed Nehal Hashmi allegedly criticising the armed forces while defending the role of politicians in the development of the country. Hashmi, who had previously been imprisoned for his controversial remarks against the judiciary, while addressing a function at the Karachi Medical and Dental College on Friday, reportedly said that the armed forces had “done nothing for the defence and betterment of the country” and that the weapons acquired for the defence were “merely showpieces”. The outspoken politician’s speech was subsequently broadcast on TV channels — something which Pemra has deemed a violation of its code of conduct. The regulatory body, in its notification today, asked news channels why they had aired the speech of an individual who has a history of making controversial remarks. It also instructed the said channels to explain why they should not be punished with a fine or even a suspension. Soon after Hashmi’s hard-hitting speech went on air, the PML-N had launched a damage control exercise and dissociated itself from what the former senator had said about the military. Senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah had said that Hashmi’s statement had nothing to do with the party and reflected his personal views. “Mr Hashmi has been expelled from the PML-N, so the party cannot take any action against him,” the former Punjab law minister said. “He was sacked after he [Read More…]

Oct 192018
France lends support to Belt & Road Initiative

ISLAMABAD: At a time when some major countries are overtly or covertly opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient routes of Silk Road, France has declared its support for China’s gigantic programme. Talking to Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum, French Ambassador to Pakistan Marc Barety on Friday said: “France supports the Chinese BRI concept and is ready to invest in the subsequent phases of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provided transparency is ensured.” The remarks came amidst reports suggesting that the United States, Australia, Japan and India were considering establishing a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative in an attempt to counter Beijing’s spreading influence. Ambassador says Paris ready to invest in subsequent phases of CPEC provided transparency is ensured The ambassador also showed keen interest in the defence sector, but expressed his disappointment that French competing companies could not win any of the three tenders floated for radars, submarines maintenance and mobile bridges which were won by the companies from the US, Turkey and China, respectively. He pointed out that the submarines, for which the tenders for maintenance were floated, had been provided by France. The committee chairman assured the ambassador that the procedures followed were transparent and French companies would always get fair chance to compete. Gen Qayyum said that Pakistan also looked forward [Read More…]

Oct 192018
Politicians have done more for country than military: Nehal

KARACHI: Former PML-N Senator Syed Nehal Hashmi, who previously faced imprisonment for his controversial remarks against the judiciary, on Friday criticised the armed forces while defending the role of politicians in the development of the country. The politician, addressing a function at the Karachi Medical and Dental College, alleged that the armed forces had “done nothing for the defence and betterment of the country” and that the weapons acquired for the defence were “merely showpieces”. Soon after television channels had broadcast news reports about Mr Hashmi’s hard-hitting speech, the PML-N launched a damage control exercise and dissociated from what the former senator had said about the military. Senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said that Mr Hashmi’s statement had nothing to do with the party and reflected his personal views. “Mr Hashmi has been expelled from the PML-N, so the party cannot take any action against him,” he said. “He was sacked after he refused to step down as a senator on party orders over the statement that he made against the judiciary. One may disagree with state institutions but this is not the way to register a protest.” Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2018

Oct 182018
ECP notifies victory of 22 candidates, withholds notices of 13 others for not disclosing campaign costs

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday notified 22 candidates who had emerged successful in the October 14 by-elections, however, it withheld victory notifications of 13 candidates for not disclosing the cost of their respective election campaigns. Notifications were issued to seven candidates of the National Assembly, eight candidates of the Punjab Assembly, three candidates of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, and two candidates each of the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies. Of those that were issued notices included Khwaja Saad Rafique who had contested for the NA-131 Lahore seat, Chaudhry Salik Hussain who stood from NA-65 Chakwal, and Moonis Elahi who ran for the by-elections from the NA-69 Gujrat constituency. Besides these, Shaikh Rashid Shafique who won from NA-60 Rawalpindi, Zahid Ikram Durrani who secured victory in NA-35 Bannu, Malik Sohail Khan who triumphed in the NA-56 Attock by-polls, and Alamgir Khan who emerged successful from NA-243 Karachi were all issued notifications by the commission. ECP did not issue notifications to 13 successful candidates who had failed to provide details of the cost incurred during election campaigning activities. Among those whose notifications were withheld include Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ali Awan, Mansoor Hayat Khan and Ali Gohar Khan. The commission also directed all members of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies to submit their statement of accounts for the current financial year as well as those of their family members by December 31. The parliamentary members who fail to provide their yearly statement of accounts with details including property inherited or [Read More…]

Oct 182018
Peshawar High Court sets aside sentences of 74 convicted by military court

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday set aside the punishments awarded to 74 convicts by military courts in various cases of terrorism. Accepting their appeals against the military courts’ verdicts, a two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Lal Jan Khattak overturned the death and life sentences that were handed to the convicts. The court overturned their sentences after concluding that the charges against the accused had not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Though a short order, the bench ordered that the convicts be released. Nearly 50 of them had been sentenced to death, while the rest were serving jail terms. The cases of three out of the 74 convicts whose sentences were overturned today are highlighted below: Gul Faraz Convict Gul Faraz of Dir was charged with the preparation, facilitation and transportation of a suicide bomber to a funeral site in Mardan where he blew himself up, killing dozens of people, including MPA Imran Mohmand, and leaving scores injured. He was sentenced to death by a military court, a verdict that was challenged in the high court by his nephew Zrawar Khan under Article 199 of the Constitution, under which a high court may take up a matter when there is no other adequate remedy provided by law. While allowing the writ petition, the two-member PHC bench overturned the death sentence and ordered Faraz’s release. He was acquitted on the grounds of: absence of substantial evidence, except for a confessional statement that [Read More…]

Oct 182018
ATC sends owner, producer of web channel on judicial remand to Adiala jail for airing anti-judiciary remarks

An Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) in Islamabad on Thursday sent the owner and producer of a web channel on judicial remand to Adiala Jail in a case pertaining to running alleged anti-judiciary content on their channel. Hans Masroor, the owner of a web channel Naya Pakistan, and the producer of the channel Ahsan Saleem were both arrested by Islamabad police and presented before the court. This decision was taken in reference to an FIR lodged against former senator Faisal Raza Abidi in the Secretariat police station, accusing him of using “highly insulting and inappropriate language” against the chief justice and the judiciary in an interview. This FIR also accuses him of “undermining the honour of the chief justice [and] inciting the public”. The FIR, which was registered under Section 7 of the ATA and includes different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, does not specify the programme it is referring to. However, a separate FIR registered against Abidi with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016, refers to remarks made by the former senator during a programme titled Subah Subah Naya Pakistan aired on the web channel Naya Pakistan on July 2, 2018. According to the FIR lodged with the FIA, during the course of his appearance on the show, “the accused, with criminal intent and ulterior motives and without any lawful justification used sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory language against the chief justice”. ‘This is tantamount to creating a sense of fear, panic and [Read More…]

Oct 172018
Sindh anti-corruption department to probe 'land grabbing' allegations involving PTI lawmakers

The Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) on Wednesday opened an inquiry into allegations of grabbing government land in Karachi involving two Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers. An exercise by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) in Taiser Town on Tuesday to mark government land had turned into a violent episode when two PTI legislators — MNA Aftab Jehangir and MPA Rabistan Khan — turned up at the spot with their respective supporters and accused each other of supporting encroachments in the area, leading to a brawl between their groups. Though the police stayed silent on the incident, a video of the brawl between supporters of MNA Jehangir and MPA Rabistan had gone viral on social media, showing them hurling allegations against each other of seizing government land and grabbing people’s property. The incident had occurred in Sector-6C of the area where the KDA staff stood surprised when dozens of area residents came to protest against alleged encroachment of their land by the “mafia”. The protesters were later joined by the PTI MNA and then Rabistan, each with dozens of their supporters. As the KDA team was returning after executing its job, the supporters of the two legislators locked horns, accusing each other of being members of the “mafia” and encroachers. The heated arguments turned into a brawl, forcing the leaders to escape the scene. The ACE on Wednesday formed a high-level inquiry committee headed by its deputy director for district East to ascertain the allegations levelled by the two PTI lawmakers against each [Read More…]

Oct 172018
PML-N senators Haroon Akhtar, Sadia Abbasi disqualified over dual nationalities

The Supreme Court on Wednesday disqualified PML-N senators Haroon Akhtar and Sadia Abbasi for holding dual nationalities at the time of filing their nomination papers for the upper house of the parliament. Bilal Manto, who is assisting the SC in the case, said that whether or not a nationality could be completely renounced depends on that particular country’s laws. Citing Canada as an example, Manto said that the Canadian law does not allow its citizens to give up its nationality altogether once it has been procured. Following Manto’s argument, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar gave the orders of disqualification under Article 63 (1)(c) of the 1973 Constitution. The article pertains to a person’s disqualification from Parliament due to holding the nationality of a country other than Pakistan. During the hearing, Justice Nisar said that while the time of a person renouncing a nationality can be counted from the day they write to their respective embassy to relieve them of the second nationality, the letter should already be written at the time a candidate submits their nomination papers for a public office. “This was not the case for Abbasi,” the chief justice observed. The chief justice also told the counsels of Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and PML-N’s Nuzhat Sadiq to furnish their clients’ verified affidavits showing that they had given up their second nationalities before filing their nomination papers.