Category Archives: Business & Finance

Records funds distributed to provinces under PML-N Govt: PM

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on

Tuesday said that record funds had been disbursed to the federating units under the PML-N government.

Chairing a meeting of the Cabinet here, the Prime Minister said

that all the development and energy security initiatives had either been

completed or in completion phase which speaks volumes of the development and

energy security endeavors bearing fruit during the PML-N government since 2013.

The Prime Minister informed the cabinet that these initiative of

national importance started by the PML-N government were unmatched if compared with those planned from 1999 to 2008.

The Prime Minister apprised the cabinet about his recent visit to

Karachi on last Saturday. The Prime Minister said during the visit he announced Rs. 25 billion for Karachi and Rs. 5 billion for Hyderabad under a comprehensive package to be implemented by the federal government under the policy and administrative supervision of Governor Sindh with fixed time lines and fixed costs.

He said under the package, one hospital and medical college for

Karachi would be set up, extension of green line metro to other areas while additional resources would be provided for new water projects.

The Prime Minister said 50 fire tenders would be provided for KMC

while series of underpasses and bridges would be constructed to reduce the traffic mess in the port city.

About Hyderabad package, he said one university and medical college

would be established in Hyderabad while additional grant to be provided for Hyderabad Municipal Corporation besides upgradation of infrastructure of all industrial states. These projects will be executed with in fixed time and cost and transparently, he added.

The Prime Minister also informed about the meeting he chaired during

Karachi visit on law and order in the wake of recent surge in street crimes in the port city.

He said that provincial government had been asked to play it’s due

role in the development work in the province in general and Karachi in particular.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed all out support from the federal

government to the provincial government in the development and ensuring peace and security in Sindh.

The Cabinet lauded the announcements from the Prime Minister in his

Karachi visit.

The Prime Minister also informed the cabinet about the recent

presentations given to him on WAPDA and NHA which lasted for several hours but remained incomplete due to paucity of time.

Prime Minister Abbasi said that so much development work and energy

initiatives had been taken under the PML-N government that were difficult to

summarize in detailed presentations.

Secretary Interior briefs the Cabinet on laws relating to weapons’

licensing. Cabinet members discussed the proposal in detail.

In this regard, the Prime Minister constituted a Committee chaired by

himself with Interior Minister, Minister for CADD, Minister of State for

Information & Broadcasting and National Security Advisor as members to

collate proposals of Cabinet members put forward today and bring the agenda

item again.

The Prime Minister directed Interior Ministry to revalidate data

regarding licenses issued, adding that 90 days grace period to be given to

all license holders of Prohibited Weapons for registration with NADRA.

The Prime Minister also directed to hold Cabinet meeting every

Tuesday.

The cabinet also approved initiation of Negotiation on

Inter-Government Agreement between Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources, Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and National Development & Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China for Supply of POL Products and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Petroleum Division.

Approval was given to Ratification of Agreement between the Government

of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China for Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect of Taxes on Income, Revenue Division.

Source: Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage

Television Gets its Own Festival in New York’s Tribeca

LOS ANGELES The organizers of New York’s annual Tribeca Film Festival are launching a standalone television event to recognize the vast and varied content now available on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms.

Organizers said on Wednesday the inaugural three-day Tribeca TV Festival will take place on Sept. 22-24 in New York, and is aimed at bringing new shows and returning favorites to the public.

The lineup for the festival includes screenings and celebrity talks for the return of comedy Will & Grace, the upcoming season premieres of dramas Queen Sugar, Designated Survivor and Gotham, and the world premiere of Look But With Love, a virtual reality series about life in Pakistan.

More than 400 scripted TV shows are currently produced every year in the United States across traditional broadcast and cable networks and services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, leading to what has been dubbed a “golden age of television.”

“Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have needed a TV festival. Now, with the change in the TV landscape, both the quality and quantity of shows, it makes sense,” actor Robert De Niro, who co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 to rejuvenate lower Manhattan, said in a statement.

De Niro is among a plethora of Oscar-winning stars, including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Michael Douglas who are making waves on the small screen.

De Niro is competing in September for his first Emmy Award for his role as disgraced financier Bernard Madoff in HBO television film The Wizard of Lies.

Source: Voice of America

Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif Seeks Review of Court Ruling

ISLAMABAD Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday sought a review of a Supreme Court decision that disqualified him from office over undeclared assets, an official from his ruling party said on Tuesday.

Sharif, 67, resigned during his third stint as prime minister shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on July 28 that he should be disqualified and ordered a criminal probe into his family’s wealth.

Jan Achakzai, a PML-N official, told Reuters Sharif had filed three separate appeals in the Supreme Court.

“It is our right to seek a review,” he said. “People of Pakistan haven’t accepted the decision.”

Achakzai said the same five-judge panel that decided on the disqualification would likely hear the review petitions.

Sharif’s disqualification stems from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 which appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a split 2-3 verdict – over the Panama revelations but it ordered further investigations into his family’s wealth.

The judges in July alleged Sharif did not declare a small source of income that the veteran leader disputes receiving.

Achakzai said the appeals sought a review of the disqualification on the basis that two of the five judges, who had already given a dissenting note in April’s verdict, were not supposed to sit on the panel that gave the final ruling.

Sharif has kept a grip on the ruling PML-N party, which has a solid majority in parliament, and elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as his replacement within days of the court decision.

Critics say Sharif remains in control of the country through Abbasi and is trying to undermine the judiciary.

Sharif’s aides say he shows no signs of leaving politics and he recently called the Supreme Court ruling against him “an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters”.

Last week he started a so-called homecoming “caravan” procession across the Punjab region where he derives his voter base, from the capital Islamabad to the eastern city of Lahore, drawing large crowds along the way.

Source: Voice of America

Report: Considerable Drop in Militancy in Pakistan’s Restive Tribal Areas

Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region, beleaguered for years by terrorism and lawlessness, has seen a decline in militant activities during the past few months as the result of government counterinsurgency operations, a recent security report says.

FATA Research Center (FRC), a non-governmental organization based in the capital of Pakistan, observed a decline of 19 percent in violent incidents during the second quarter of 2017 in the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan.

The report also indicated, however, that banned terror outfits such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, Islamic State of Khorasan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were still able to carry out terrorist attacks.

The 33-page report is based on terrorism-related data from all seven FATA tribal agencies covering April through June of 2017. It focuses on militant attacks and counterinsurgency measures, civilian and security forces casualties, tactics and strategies used by the militants and military operations and government airstrikes.

The report details a surge in counterinsurgency measures by the government during the period and reveals most counterterrorism attacks were executed in the Khyber Agency.

Out of 61 counterterrorism operations, 19 intelligence-based operations and three aerial strikes were carried out in the Khyber Agency, the report said.

Pakistan’s military launched Operation Khyber on July 4, aiming to eradicate Islamic State militants in the Khyber Agency’s Rajgal Valley area. Later in July, Pakistan announced that the first phase of the operation was completed successfully.

The report says 100 violent attacks were recorded in the second quarter, down from 119 in the January-March period. Seventy of the fatalities from terror attacks in FATA region were civilians, including 45 who died in a twin suicide blast in late June that shook the main bazaar of Parachinar, headquarters of the Kurram Agency. Another 134 civilians were wounded, according to the report.

Some security and political analysts say measures taken by the government are commendable, but that Pakistan needs to make sure to keep insurgents and militants completely out of business in the volatile FATA region.

Decrease in numbers, but not severity observed

Insurgent attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other border areas may have decreased in number, but – as demonstrated by the June attacks in Kurram Agency, which killed over 60 people – not necessarily in severity,” Jonah Blank, senior political scientist with the RAND Corp., a global policy think-tank in Washington, D.C., told VOA.

In the past, the Pakistani government has tried to redirect militant groups towards its own goals rather than actually disarming them. Both civilian and military officials say that is not the case any longer. Hopefully, this will be proven true, Blank added.

Security analysts from Pakistan charge that the recent statistics are encouraging, though they also warn that the government needs to ensure the terrorists will not be able to re-establish their networks.

There had been a drop in militancy in the tribal region, Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, told VOA. Pakistan’s government and army must now ensure to not allow the militants and insurgents of different banned terror groups to pave their way back and regain strength in areas of FATA that have been cleared after the military operations.

Khyber Pakhtunwa’s government says the province had been a victim of terrorism for more than a decade now and has taken solid measures to curb militancy.

It’s unrealistic to claim there is no militants’ presence in the province anymore, Mushtaq Ghani, Minister for Information in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government, told VOA, But we have a strategy in place. Along with the military operations in FATA, we are working to enhance the capabilities of police, bomb disposal squads, counterterrorism departments and the intelligence bureaus.

U.S. and Afghanistan officials have long accused Pakistan of being selective in its crackdown on militants. They claim Islamabad targets only groups, including TTP, that pose a threat to Pakistan’s interests, and overlook other militants who are using the country’s territory to plan attacks on Afghanistan and India.

Pakistan has denied those allegations and claims it is going after all militant groups operating in the region.

Source: Voice of America

70 Years After Pakistan-India Split, Sikhs Search for Home

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN Radesh Singh’s grandfather was just 11 years old when he left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, in the far northwest of the country on the border with Afghanistan.

The year was 1901: The British ruled the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947, when the Indian subcontinent was divided into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, generating one of the largest migrations in modern history and unleashing a brutality that left few untouched as mobs of Hindus and Muslims turned on each other.

Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. In the 70 years since Partition they have waged a secessionist uprising in India demanding outright independence for India’s Punjab state where they dominate. They have felt increasingly less at home on either side of the border, but particularly so in recent years in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan as they too have become victims of local Taliban violence.

Singh said poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, located at the foot of the famed Khyber Pass and dominated by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen.

“It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” he said.

The hostility in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was brief in the northwest, said Singh. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in the new country now called Pakistan seemed like a good choice at the time. The Sikhs had lived peacefully for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen.

After all, said Singh, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. For a time in the 18th century they oversaw a dynasty. Their capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. It was a Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh, who rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians say is as old as the city itself, which traces its origins back more than 2,000 years.

Today Sikhs are among Pakistan’s smallest minorities. They are easily identifiable because of their tightly wound and often colorful turbans, and because they share the surname Singh. The CIA Factbook estimates that 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims, including Sikhs, Christians and Hindus.

Until 1984, Singh said, Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived as one in northwest Pakistan. Their children married, they even worshipped together. But then India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you,'” Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs are battling with the Pakistan government for ownership of dozens of Sikh temples that they call gurdwaras; while it is slow going they have managed to reclaim some of the buildings. Many were abandoned in 1947 and taken over by Muslims who arrived from India. The Pakistan government, which took over the buildings after 1947, allowed the squatters to remain.

In a congested neighborhood in Peshawar’s old city, Singh stepped through large steel gates that opened on to a sweeping courtyard. It no longer resembled a house of worship, but Singh said it was once a vibrant gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs. Now two families call it home.

Two clotheslines crowded with clothes drying in the blistering midday sun stretched from one end of the courtyard to the other. A child’s plastic toy sat idle nearby.

Elsewhere in Peshawar, an armed guard, his rifle slung loosely by his side, stood guard at the city’s largest Sikh temple, an ornate marble building that dates back 250 years. Inside a half dozen Sikh men sat on plastic chairs.

It is a short, bureaucratic-looking man, a Muslim, who has the final say about who enters the gurdwara. He works for the government body that oversees properties vacated by people who fled to India in 1947.

After phone calls made, names recorded, passports handed over and more phone calls made, the doors to the gurdwara were opened. revealing a cavernous carpeted room and ornate pillars decorated with hundreds of tiny mirrors. In a small room at the far end of the upper story, two students read the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy book.

Singh, who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said that since his homeland began to turn toward radical Islam, particularly in the Pashtun heartland, young Sikhs have been looking to leave.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan,” he said, but every country eyes them with suspicion. Even Indians, he said, see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.

For Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization as jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan, he said.

Extremism worsened after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he said. The tribal regions were gradually overtaken by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs severed. The brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands fleeing Pakistan, said Singh.

He said today Pakistan’s intolerant use blasphemy – a crime that carries an automatic death penalty – as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he said. The mere accusation of blasphemy can incite mobs to violence.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”

Source: Voice of America

US Strike Kills Islamic State’s Provincial Leader in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON � A provincial leader of the Islamic State militant group in Afghanistan has been killed in a U.S. air strike in eastern Kunar province, Afghan and U.S. military officials confirmed Sunday.

U.S. and Afghan Forces have confirmed the death of Kunar provincial Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K) emir, Abdul Rahman, U.S. forces in Afghanistan said in a statement.

Rahman was killed along with three additional senior IS members on Thursday in Kunar’s Dara-e-Pech district, the statement added.

Abdul Rahman was a potential candidate to become the IS leader in Afghanistan following Abu Sayed’s death in a U.S airstrike last month.

The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K, said General John Nicholson, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He found out just like those before him that there are no safe havens in Afghanistan.

U.S. and Afghan forces have been engaged in joint- counterterrorism operations against IS in eastern Afghanistan. American and Afghan military forces have promised to eliminate IS in Afghanistan in 2017.

Hundreds of IS fighters, including several senior commanders, have been killed in recent months.

Abu Sayed, the group’s top leader in Afghanistan, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last month. Sayed was the second IS leader in the past four months, and third in the past year, to have been targeted and killed. Abdul Hasib, his predecessor, was targeted in a U.S.-Afghan security forces raid in Nangarhar’s Achin district in April.

We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said following the death of Abdul Rahman.

Based in southern parts of eastern Nangarhar province, IS’s Khorasan Province branch (ISIS-K) emerged in early 2015 in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nearby territories.

IS in Afghanistan has primarily been active in several districts of eastern Nangarhar province. Since its emergence, the terror group has targeted villages in several districts in the province, killing and abducting hundreds of people and setting their homes on fire.

IS under increasing pressure

Facing large-scale joint-U.S. and Afghan forces operations in Nangarhar, IS militants are trying to expand to mountainous parts of the adjacent Kunar and Nuristan provinces which share a border with Pakistan.

Police authorities in Nangarhar last week arrested five minors – 10 to 15 years old, who were being transported by IS recruiters from Kunar to a Nangarhar’s remote district for training purposes.

Despite the battlefield successes of Afghan and American Special Forces against the Islamic State in Afghanistan, IS has carried out or claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks across the country, sparking fears that the group might be seeking to trigger sectarian conflict in Afghanistan and the greater central Asian region.

IS said its fighters stormed Iraq’s embassy in Kabul last month, and the terror group also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque in western Herat province in early August.

Amongst the dead was the father of Fatima Qaderyan, captain of the Afghan all-girls robotics team that made headlines last month after managing to get U.S visas to participate in the International Robot Olympics for High School Students in Washington D.C.

They were initially denied U.S visas, but following President Trump’s personal intervention, they were able to travel to the U.S.

Source: Voice of America