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JERUSALEM: An ultra-Orthodox Jew allegedly stabbed six Gay Pride marchers in Jerusalem Thursday, gravely wounding one of them, just weeks after completing a 10-year sentence for a similar attack, police and medics said.

The assault occurred in Jerusalem’s city centre, with witnesses describing terrifying scenes of an assailant, dressed in ultra-Orthodox garb, storming the parade with a knife.

The man was quickly arrested amid pandemonium at the scene, but the parade and its hundreds of marchers pushed ahead defiantly afterwards, even with blood on the road.

A police spokesperson identified the suspect as Yishai Shlissel, who was released from jail three weeks ago after having served his sentence for wounding three marchers in a similar attack in 2005.

Media reported that Shlissel had posted a letter on the Internet speaking of the “abomination” of a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.

Television also broadcast extracts of an interview that he was said to have given to a radio station about 10 days ago in which he said “the fight continues against those who defile” God.

With questions being raised over whether authorities had adequately protected the march, a police spokesman said a large deployment had been assigned to the event.

One of the victims, a woman, was in “very serious condition,” while two others were less seriously wounded, according to Magen David Adom, the Jewish equivalent of the Red Cross. Three others were lightly hurt.

At least two of those attacked were said to be men.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly condemned the attack as “a despicable hate crime”.

“In Israel everyone, including the gay community, has the right to live in peace, and we will defend that right,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Israel’s two chief rabbis also strongly condemned the incident, and the premier said he welcomed the “religious leadership’s condemnation of this terrible crime” and called “on all those in positions of leadership to denounce this contemptible act.”

2009 attack

One woman, who was in a nearby grocery store when the attack occurred, spoke of a chaotic scene.

“All of a sudden, somebody came in and screamed, ‘Somebody has a knife and is stabbing some people!’” said Sharon Liebman, 51.

“I saw three people on the ground, two males and a female.”

She said the men appeared less seriously wounded than the woman, who was “bleeding profusely.”

Michael Rosner, 22, who had come from London for the parade, said “I saw the guy with the knife running. I saw the blood on the pavement.”

After police arrested the assailant, marchers carried on through streets decked with rainbow flags to a park where a party was planned for the evening.

One leader of the gay community in the city, Tom King, denounced “the hate campaign in Jerusalem” and accused officials of doing little to counter it, while saying he hoped the attack would galvanise authorities into action.

Hundreds of police had been deployed to prevent violence breaking out in the highly conservative city during the annual march.

In past years, ultra-Orthodox protesters have gathered in their Mea Shearim bastion to denounce homosexuality.

Organisers of Thursday’s march avoided ultra-Orthodox districts to try to avoid incidents.

Israel’s homosexual community was plunged into grief in 2009 when a gunman attacked a centre for young gays in Tel Aviv killing two people and wounding some 15 others.

That assailant has never been apprehended.

Israel is widely seen as having liberal gay rights policies, despite the ultra-Orthodox hostility towards homosexuals, particularly men.

The Jewish state repealed a ban on consensual same-sex sexual acts in 1988.

The post Six stabbed at Jerusalem Gay Pride in ‘repeat attack’ appeared first on The Express Tribune.

HARIPUR: The remains of one of the four minors who were missing around Eidul Fitr from a high-security zone of Tarbela dam—a colony—have been found. Twelve-year-old Saad’s body was found from Indus River on July 29.

Israr Ahmed, a Wapda employee of Tarbela colony, said his nephews (children of Shah Zaman) Hafan,4, Hussain, 10 and Yasir, 12, along with his own son, Saad, 12, went to the market and did not return.

“Zaman came with his family to celebrate Eid with us and on the afternoon of July 23, the boys left and did not return. We looked everywhere but failed to find them. The family is going through a traumatic time,” said Israr Ahmed.

According to locals, the children might have drowned in the main spillway which is very close to the colony and where young boys often go to catch dead fish. However, some believe they might have been kidnapped by an organised gang and shifted to Afghanistan.

Ghazi police officials, who lodged the complaint, dismissed the notion of the boys being kidnapped and believe they might have drowned.

On the evening of July 29, Saad’s body was discovered from the banks of Indus River, on the outskirts of Swabi. The police officials are still looking for the other three  missing minors.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

 

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ISLAMABAD: 

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has started the process of revoking the licences of almost two dozen international non-governmental organisations that have not completed the legal requirement of submitting their audited financial statements to the regulator. The list includes big names such as the British Council and Save the Children.

The process to withdraw the licences of these foreign organisations is part of the government’s larger drive to monitor the work and financing of foreign-funded NGOs. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also stopped the SECP from registering any new INGOs ‘until further orders’.

In total, 33 INGOs are registered with the SECP and of those, 23 are non-compliant, said Secp Chairman Zafar Hijazi on Thursday. He was addressing a news conference to highlight the International Organisation of Securities Commissions’ (IOSCO) recognition of the SECP’s efforts in implementing internationally recognised regulatory standards in Pakistan’s capital markets.

The SECP has served notices to the 23 non-profits and it will take roughly four months to complete the process of revoking the licences of these organisations, said Hijazi. The INGOs are in addition to those foreign organisations currently under scrutiny by the interior ministry.

The government has begun to view international NGOs as a national security threat after it emerged that Shakil Afridi, the doctor who aided the US covert operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011, attended two workshops on vaccination run by Save the Children.

However, the crackdown against INGOs has run into diplomatic pressure. After the government threatened to expel Save the Children from Pakistan, the British government threatened to sever all aid to Pakistan if the government continued its crackdown against INGOs, prompting the government to grant a six-month extension to all such organisations that meet their regulatory requirements.

As part of the regulatory crackdown against the 23 INGOs, the SECP will freeze their bank accounts, said SECP registrar Mohammad Sadeeq.

However, the NGOs caught up in the current dragnet are not all Western institutions. While some are venerable Western names, such as the British Council, Save the Children, the American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, others are not, such as Turkey’s CAG Ogretim Isletmeleal A.S. or the Association of National Development Finance Institutions which is a division of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank.

Other INGOs receiving notices include Education Development Centre, Global Partner, Global Relief Foundation, Goal, HTSPE Ltd, International Relief and Development, Overseas Development Corporation, Pinnacle Education Services, JEN, the International Development Organization, War Child, World Education, HMD International Response, Human Concern International, Al-Ehya Trust and Albion Pakistan.

The SECP registrar said that 643 domestic NGOs were also registered with the SECP and of those, the licenses of 208 local organisations have already been revoked due to non-compliance. The SECP registrar said that in future all the INGOs will be registered by the Interior Ministry, in a sign that the government of Pakistan no longer views international aid organisations as vehicles for financial assistance, but instead as a national security threat.

IOSCO review

Meanwhile, the SECP chairman shared details of the IOSCO review, which found that the SECP has an overall 62% compliance rating with global standards for regulating capital markets. IOSCO acknowledged that Pakistan has made significant strides since the last review of the country’s regulatory structure in 2004, undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as part of their Financial Sector Assessment Programme.

The review assessed Pakistan against IOSCO principles and declared SECP fully compliant on 13 principles, broadly compliant on 10 principles, partially compliant on 9 principles, and non-compliant only in five principles.

The successful review may help the SECP’s bid to get Pakistan recategorised as an ‘emerging market’ from its current status as a ‘frontier market’ by MSCI, a global financial indices and research provider. Pakistan was downgraded by MSCI from emerging to frontier status in 2008 when, in response to the market collapse, the SECP shut down the Karachi Stock Exchange for nearly three months.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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ISLAMABAD: 

Islamabad has vehemently dismissed New Delhi’s assertion that the gunmen who went on a killing spree in India’s Gurdaspur district came from Pakistan.

In a strong rebuttal issued on Thursday, the Foreign Office (FO) also warned that such ‘provocative’ accusations by India were a threat to peace and security in the region.

The reaction came hours after India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh claimed that the three Gurdaspur attackers entered India from Pakistan after crossing the River Ravi.

“Preliminary analysis of GPS data indicated that the terrorists had infiltrated from Pakistan,” he told Indian parliament. It is the first time that a senior Indian official has directly pointed fingers at Pakistan over the attack.

“The government will do everything possible to prevent cross-border terrorism aimed against India,” Singh assured the house, adding that “any effort by the enemies of our nation to undermine India’s territorial integrity and security, or imperil the safety and security of our citizens will meet an effective and forceful response from our security forces.”

“Pakistan regrets the unsubstantiated and unwarranted assertion that those involved in the Gurdaspur incident of July 27 entered India from Pakistan,” FO spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said in a statement issued in response. “Pakistan believes that the [Indian] home minister’s provocative comments are a threat to peace and security in the region,” he warned.

He also said that Islamabad had “noted with concern” the continuing tendency of New Delhi to pin the blame on Pakistan for any terrorist incident in India.  “In the Gurdaspur incident, blame was apportioned to Pakistan in the Indian media, even when the encounter with terrorists was still going on.”

Qazi pointed out that the government of Pakistan issued a statement condemning “in the strongest terms” the attack in Gurdaspur immediately after the incident took place.

“Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Terrorism is a common enemy of both Pakistan and India. To tackle terrorism, a cooperative approach is required. Blame game, and finger-pointing would be unhelpful,” he stressed.

The spokesman urged the government of India to “refrain from casting baseless allegations and work with Pakistan to eliminate terrorism from South Asia.” He added that if New Delhi had any concrete evidence pertaining to the Gurdaspur attack, it should share it with Islamabad.

In response to a question about the possible fallout of Gurdaspur attack on the process of normalisation between Pakistan and India during his weekly news briefing earlier in the day, Qazi insisted that Islamabad was committed to taking all necessary measures to improve ties with New Delhi on the basis of mutual respect and a firm commitment to address all outstanding issues. He said both sides were in contact with each other to fix dates for the meeting between the two countries’ national security advisers.

However, it is not clear whether the crucial meeting will now go ahead in the wake of the latest wave of recriminations based on the Gurdaspur attack. So far, India has given no indication that it plans to call off the talks.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

The post Gurdaspur attack aftermath: FO rebuffs Indian claims over Pakistan infiltration appeared first on The Express Tribune.

ISLAMABAD: 

There has been a dramatic turnaround in targeted killing cases in Karachi since the authorities launched an operation against criminals, the government claimed on Thursday, noting that the homicide rate was down by almost half.

Briefing the National Assembly on the Karachi crackdown, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said that the once dreaded targeted killings in the port city had gone down by 43%. Similarly, he added, incidents of murder and terrorism had fallen by 37% and 6.7%, respectively, during the period.

Highlighting the achievements of the law enforcement agencies, the security czar said 713 terrorists along with 58,603 other suspected criminals had been arrested in Karachi while 14,253 weapons were seized.

The minister said that over 280,000 immigrants from five major countries alone were living in Pakistan.

A total of 116,308 Afghan nationals are living in the country, higher than in any other country around the world, he told the House. Another 52,486 Americans, 79,447 Britons and 17,320 Canadians are residing in Pakistan, he added.

Interestingly, around 16,501 Indians were also said to be living in the country. “An effective policy is being implemented to stop immigrants from coming to Pakistan for illegal activities,” Nisar said, claiming an estimated 400,000 foreigners had arrived in Pakistan since 2007.

Admitting the inadequate number of passport offices across the country, he said the government wanted to double their number from the existing 79. “These offices will be established on merit wherever required,” he added.

The minister said the government was formulating new policies regarding the Exit Control List, weapon licences, and issuance of visas. A policy regarding security agencies will be announced within two months, whereby they will have to get security clearance of their employees and conduct proper training of their personnel.

Mullah Omar’s death

During the assembly session, the government remained tight-lipped over the death of the Afghan Taliban chief despite questions about Mullah Omar by a few lawmakers.

“The government has kept us in the dark on this issue, but we need to know the truth,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Dr Shireen Mazari said. Though she insisted again and again on being told about the Taliban supremo, no one from the treasury benches listened to her. Nisar and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also refrained from commenting on the issue.

Flash floods

With rains and floods causing devastation across the country, a notice put forward by MNA Naveed Qamar brought into question the relief efforts of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah Khan claimed all efforts were being made to help the flood-hit people.

“The government, political leadership and other people should come forward to help the people,” he said, pointing out that rains and floods were the result of climate change.

Laws of Pakistan ordinance

The assembly also extended the Publication of Laws of Pakistan (Regulation) Ordinance 2015, for another 120 days, for which the resolution was moved by Information and Broadcasting Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

The Safeguard Measures (Amendment) Ordinance 2015, The Countervailing Duties Ordinance 2015, The Anti-Dumping Duties Ordinance 2015 and The National Tariff Commission Ordinance 2015 were also extended for a period of 120 days.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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KARACHI: The rupee remained stable at 101.5/101.7 against the dollar in the inter-bank market on Thursday compared to Wednesday’s close of 101.5/101.7. The currency market has remained stable for the past many months after experiencing extensive volatility, when the rupee weakened from around Rs98 to a dollar to above Rs103 in the wake of political impasse over alleged election rigging. Earlier, the rupee remained glued to the Rs98 level for months, recovering from the historic low of Rs110. It came under pressure following heavy debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors, which ate into the central bank’s foreign currency reserves. In 2013-14, the reserves, however, swelled more than 50%, thanks to IMF and other assistance and growing remittances sent home by overseas Pakistanis. Remittances amounted to $16.6 billion in the first 11 months of 2014-15, which translated into a year-on-year increase of 16%.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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KARACHI: Standard Chartered has been awarded the ‘Best Foreign Bank in Pakistan’ award for 2015 by Finance Asia. This award recognises Standard Chartered’s distribution capabilities and reinforces the bank’s leadership in Pakistan.  Commenting on the recognition, Shazad Dada, Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Pakistan said, “We are delighted to be presented with this award from such a prestigious publication. Receiving this award is not only a testament of our expertise, but a recognition of the strength of our on-the-ground presence and our ability to offer customised solutions to our clients and businesses in the country.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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ISLAMABAD: As global oil prices continue to fluctuate, domestic retail prices of petrol may come down by as much as 3% if the price cuts proposed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority are approved by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sources in the petroleum ministry said that they have received Ogra’s proposal for retail price reductions for petrol and diesel, though the proposals are subject to final approval by the prime minister and may run into opposition from the finance ministry. Over the past several months, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has frequently resisted allowing prices to drop, and frequently proposes temporary tax hikes as a means of keeping prices steady but increasing government revenues.

Over 25% of government revenues come from the energy sector, and much of that comes from oil. As oil prices began declining late last year, the government saw a precipitous drop in its revenues from the taxes on oil, resulting in the fiscal deficit becoming wider.

If Ogra’s proposal were to go through, petrol prices would go down by Rs2.69 per litre, or 3%, to Rs75.10 per litre. High-speed diesel, used mainly by the transportation industry and farmers, would see its prices decline by Rs5.48 per litre, or 6%, to Rs81.63 per litre. Light diesel oil, an industrial fuel, would see its prices drop by Rs6.33 per litre, or 10% to Rs55.18 per litre.

The prices of High-Octane Blended Component (HOBC), a fuel for luxury cars, would see its prices decline by Re1, or just over 1%, to Rs82.81 per litre. Kerosene oil, a fuel used for cooking and lighting by the poorest parts of Pakistan, would see its prices decline by Rs6.33 per litre, or just under 10%, to Rs58.61 per litre.

The final decision on oil prices is expected to be taken by the Prime Minister on Friday. After a summer of severe power outages, the PM may well take the opportunity to offer lower prices on one of the most widely used commodities.

However, given the sustained pressure on international oil prices, with the recent deal between the US and Iran on nuclear matter pushing prices even further down, the government may decide that the opportunity to keep its revenues from oil taxes may be narrowing.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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ISLAMABAD: Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) is pursuing development of power projects through private investors and managers to make operational five wind power projects operational with a cumulative capacity of 255.4 MW. In addition, nine wind power projects of 479 MW are under construction while another 16 wind power projects of approximately 1,000 MW capacity are under way. According to an official, in solar energy area, 100 MW solar power project has been completed whereas 1611.12 MW solar projects are in different stages of development. Several steps have been taken for the development of large wind and solar power projects through private investors which include announcement of upfront tariffs for wind and solar power projects, the official said. A detailed resource assessment of wind and solar in the country is being carried out through the World Bank’s assistance while a standardised project agreements  for investors have also been developed.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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KARACHI: Second death caused by Naegleria Fowleri has been reported in Karachi in just one week, taking the death toll by brain-eating amoeba to 12 in Sindh province since April this year. According to Dr Syed Zafar Mehdi, the focal person of the Naegleria Control Committee, a 25-year-old man from Mauripur Road died Wednesday in a private hospital during treatment. It is pertinent to mention here that two young persons, including a girl, have died this week due to the deadly virus. “It is the ninth death in the city,” Dr Mehdi said, confirming the death caused by the brain-eating amoeba. He also said that most of the city’s areas are not being supplied chlorinated water by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board. He said that top officials have been informed about the alarming situation in the city for the last couple of months but all in vain.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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ISLAMABAD / ISLAMABAD: 

The second round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban has been postponed, the Foreign Office said on Thursday, following the reported death of Mullah Omar.

A foreign ministry statement said the Afghan Taliban leadership had asked for the postponement “in view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty”.

Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilluah said Pakistan and other friendly countries voiced hope that the Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

“It is further hoped that those forces, which due to their mala fide intent wanted to undermine the peace talks, will not succeed in their designs,” he added. Pakistan has yet to officially confirm the death of Mullah Omar, although the postponement of talks suggested the authorities here knew that the reports were credible.

At a weekly news briefing, the Foreign Office spokesperson said Pakistan was ascertaining facts about the speculation regarding the death of Mullah Omar. “We have seen the reports and trying to ascertain facts in this regard,” he added.

When his attention was drawn towards the claims by Afghan government that Mullah Omar died in a hospital in Karachi, Qazi replied: “I cannot further comment on the speculations.”

The postponement of talks is seen as a major blow to nascent peace process that renewed hopes of a possible political solution to over a decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.

The crucial talks were set to take place in the popular hill town resort of Murree, which is an hour’s drive from the capital today (Friday) where both sides were expected to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire by the Afghan Taliban.

It was the first formal and direct talks between the two sides and the process had the backing of all major players, including the US, China and Pakistan.

The news of Mullah Omar’s death seems to have caught everybody off guard as the US Special Representatives for Pakistan and Afghanistan had already arrived in the capital, as well as representatives of the Taliban to attend the talks.

Pakistan had been credited with bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. However, the fate of future talks looks uncertain as it is not clear whether the new Taliban chief will have the same influence as Mullah Omar had over the insurgent group.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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PESHAWAR: 

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chapter distributed 223 family packages, containing non-food items (NFI) worth Rs14.3 million among people affected by floods in Chitral.

In Orghoch village, PRCS distributed 29 NFIs packages, 16 in Shaghoor, and 48 in Bumboret and Rambur valleys of Kalash, while 115 and 15 packages were distributed in Reshun and Pacheli villages respectively.

The packages were given out per family, and included one tent, a kitchen set and a wood burning stove, two water jerry cans, tarpaulin sheets, mosquito nets, and eight blankets. A hygiene kit was part of the aid bundle.

PRCS teams, comprising officials and volunteers, are assessing the damage caused by floods in Mulkhow and Garam Chashma areas, and will provide relief items to affected people there in the coming days. Furthermore, the non-profit will provide a health facility in Garam Chashma, Bumboret and Reshun once the areas are accessible.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015. 

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DHAKA: Dale Steyn claimed his 400th Test scalp as he shared six wickets with JP Duminy, putting South Africa on top on the first day of the second and final Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka Thursday.

Paceman Steyn claimed 3-30 while off-spinner Duminy took 3-27, as a mini collapse in the final session restricted Bangladesh to 246-8 at stumps.

Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim scored the lone half-century for Bangladesh and made a 94-run partnership with Mahmudullah for the fourth wicket, after he won the toss and elected to bat.

Rahim hit 65 off 125 balls, his 15th Test fifty and first in 12 innings as Bangladesh made slow progress before South Africa took control of the game in the final session at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.

Steyn struck early in the day, making opener Tamim Iqbal his 400th Test scalp.

The 32-year-old almost reached the landmark in his second over of the day but Dean Elgar dropped Tamim at second slip.

Skipper Hashim Amla made no mistake in Steyn’s next over when he took a chest-high catch at first slip.

“It’s a mix of different emotions really,” said Steyn, who was wearing a Dennis Lillee-style headband on the field after growing his hair long.

“I don’t really know what to say. It’s pretty cool to take the wickets and get the headband off and get the hair off,” he told reporters after the day’s play. “I think I have taken some abuse about my hair. That doesn’t influence my bowling at all.”

Shaun Pollock is the only other South African to pass the 400-mark, taking 421 wickets before retiring in 2008.

Steyn, who is playing his 80th Test, became the 13th cricketer to take 400 or more wickets in Test matches.

Duminy struck twice in successive overs following lunch after Mominul Haque and Imrul Kayes had helped Bangladesh stage something of a recovery from the early loss of Tamim.

Duminy forced an edge from Mominul for 40, ending the batsman’s 69-run second wicket stand with Kayes.

Kayes followed Mominul, who hit six fours off 87 balls, when Duminy struck in his next over, trapping the left-hander leg-before for 30.

Mahmudullah was given out leg-before on 18 off Steyn but the decision was overturned on review as a replay showed a big inside edge.

Steyn later broke his partnership with Rahim as the right-hander flicked a catch to Temba Bavuma at short midwicket after reaching 35.

Rahim had been looking solid until occasional left-arm spinner Elgar spun one sharply to take his glove and the ball carried to wicketkeeper Dane Vilas.

Elgar then pouched Liton Das at short midwicket as Duminy claimed his third wicket.

Shakib alHasan edged Morne Morkel to Elgar at gully for 35 before Steyn bowled Mohammad Shahid in the last ball of the day to complete Bangladesh’s misery.

Despite the disappointing end to the day, Mominul said Bangladesh still hoped to post a score of around 300 which he felt would be competitive. “We still have two wickets. We will try if we can score 300 runs,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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KARACHI: The probe committee, set up by the Prime Minister to uncover reasons for the poor showing of the national team in the Olympic qualification rounds in Belgium, finally submitted the report to the PM on Thursday after a three-week long process.

Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Secretary Ejaz Chaudary headed the committee and, according to the press release by the IPC ministry, found many flaws in the preparation of the team, including the fitness of players, the federation’s failure to organise training camps and the appropriate selection of players on merit.

“The fitness level of the players and their management during the tournament resulted in the total demoralisation of the team and contributed significantly to the shameful debacle,” read the statement.

The committee also found major issues within the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) and expressed its concern at the lack of any systematic procedures within the organisation claiming to safeguard the interests of the national sport.

“The management of the PHF will be asked to step down as they have failed to lift hockey in the given time and have not made any serious efforts in the improvement of the national game,” said a member of the probe committee. “Hockey needs personnel that can handle the players as well as gather sponsorships for the betterment of the game.”

The committee also observed that the national sport has been suffering due to a lack of funds and recommended finding suitable sponsors to improve the morale and development of the players and also advised the development of a 10-year action plan to mature the game along modern lines.

Earlier, the committee had suggested to hand over the management of the PHF to one of the departments — PIA, NBP or Wapda — as they had ample experience to look after the demands of Pakistan hockey.

Meanwhile, the committee set up by the PHF to look into the reasons for the debacle, will submit their findings on August 2.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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KARACHI: 

Pakistan’s Special Olympics contingent continues to make the country proud, as they added another 10 medals — five gold, one silver, four bronze — on July 30 at the Special Olympics World Games 2015 in Los Angeles.

The country’s cyclists were especially impressive as they claimed one gold and two bronze. Uzma Yousuf, who had finished eighth in her first race, came back impressively to win the gold in the 1km time trial Division 5 with a time of two minutes and 37.55 seconds.

Another cyclist, Mehmoona Hussain, who won silver in her first race, claimed bronze in the 1km time trial Division 3 with a time of two minutes and 29.24 seconds, while Khadija Irfan also won bronze in Division 5 of the same category, finishing in two minutes and 57.11 seconds.

Khadija, who suffers from an autistic disorder, is the only daughter of Muhammad Irfan, a sepoy of the Pakistan Rangers, and became interested in cycling from a school in Karachi.

“Khadija has always worked hard to become a cyclist,” said her mother, Rukhsana Kausar. “She used to train at her school and then also near our house; nothing could have stopped her from participating in and winning medals at the Special Olympics.”

Kausar was also full of praise for the coaches that helped hone her daughter’s skills. “These medals are the result of the coaches’ efforts,” said Kausar. “I don’t have any other children. She is everything to me.”

The athletes, determined not to be overshadowed by the cyclists, also won two medals. Ramail Irshad won gold in the 200m Division 46, finishing with an impressive time of 26.26 seconds, while Marvi Azhar won bronze in the 400m Division 3 by finishing in one minute and 25.16 seconds.

Table tennis players also won two medals, as Muhammad Arham won gold by defeating Senegal’s Mouhamaduo Diouf 3-0 in the final of the Table Tennis Singles division MS16-21D1, while Ruqia Latif claimed bronze after she defeated Chinese Ying Wang 3-0 in the third place match of division FS10-15D2.

Jahanzaib Iqbal, who suffers from intellectual deficiency, also won gold in Badminton Singles division MSG17, defeating Isle of Man’s Peter Taylor 2-0 in the final, while Ahsan Anwar and Muhammad Qayyum won silver medals at the Tennis Doubles division DOP.

Jahanzaib’s parents, understandably, also expressed the pride they are feeling for their son but bemoaned the fact that they could not afford to travel to Los Angeles to see him perform. “We are really happy to hear that our son won a gold medal,” said Jahanzaib’s father, Junaid Iqbal. “We are not wealthy enough to go watch our son in Los Angeles. I don’t know much about Badminton; Jahanzaib used to go train by himself as he was passionate about the sport.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan swimmer Aqsa Ahmed Janjua, who had won silver in her first race, claimed gold in the 50m Backstroke division F2 with a time of 57.93 seconds.

Aqsa, who is deaf and mute and also suffers from problems of intellect, has demonstrated precocious talent for a while now; claiming nine gold medals back home in inter-school competitions.

Her mother was happy with the way her daughter has helped the country. “She [Aqsa] has made all of us so proud by helping the country,” said her mother, Shazia Waseem. “I wanted to go along with her as this is the highlight of her life but I was a bit late to apply for a visa and couldn’t go along with her. But I knew I could trust the coaches, especially Aqsa’s coach Fahad Alvi, to motivate her and they have clearly succeeded in doing so.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

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The post Racing through: Special Olympians make the country proud appeared first on The Express Tribune.

PESHAWAR: 

Every year, Numan Khan, a mechanic from Kotla Mohsin Khan in the city, visits hill stations across the province with seven of his friends. They make these road trips to tourist havens on motorbikes. 

His group of friends had agreed to visit Chitral and Kalash Valley this year and floods in the region could have thrown a spanner in the works. However, the weather conditions did not deter them from travelling to Garam Chashma in Chitral for four days.  Neither of them backed out or pressed the others to cancel the trip or reschedule their itinerary. Determined to make the most of the experience and witness the sights, sounds and flavours of Chitral, the friend set off on their journey during the Eid holidays.

“Last year we rode to Kaghan Valley,” he tells The Express Tribune. “This year, our group travelled on three Honda-125 bikes and two 70CC bikes to Chitral.” According to Numan, the journey took two days.“We left Peshawar early morning and arrived in Dir at night,” he explains. “We spent the night at a friend’s house in Dir. The following morning, we set off for Chitral and arrived in the evening.”

Let the adventure begin

When they arrived in the region, Numan noticed most of the streets and bazaars wore a deserted look due to the floods.

“Even some of the hotels were closed,” he says. “Some residents put us up in a government accommodation. Although there was no electricity, I removed the batteries from our bikes and attached it to a small bulb.”

At first, the group wanted to visit Kafiristan in Chitral’s Bumboret Valley. “After travelling for a few hours in the mountains, we realised the road had been cut off due to flash floods,” says Numan.

As luck would have it, Numan and his friends were offered a room at a village for two days for Rs6,000.

“We decided to stay in the village,” Shoaib, another member of the group, tells The Express Tribune. “They were good people. They even provided us with food. We spent two days and two nights there before heading towards Garam Chashma. Our stay in the village gave us the opportunity to explore the mountains.”

On the road

Speaking about the road trip, Shoaib says there was nothing unusual about riding a motorbike to these regions as thousands of people do it on a routine basis.  “We travelled at medium speed,” he explains. “If anyone complained of a backache, we would stop at a tea stall and rest for a while. We even brought supplies and cooked our own food.”

Shoaib adds their bikes frequently developed faults during the journey. “However, since most of us are mechanics, we were able to tackle such situation,” he says. According to Shoaib, the group wanted to go to Kashmir but ended up travelling to Chitral instead.

“At first, our families were not comfortable with us taking such trips on our bikes,” he says. “However, with time, they became accustomed to these adventures.” The entire trip cost the group Rs40,000. Every one contributed Rs5,000 and also paid for fuel costs.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015. 

The post Motorcycle diaries: Riding through the flood rage appeared first on The Express Tribune.

PESHAWAR: 

At a conference held to discuss accountability and local issues, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Law Imitiaz Shahid Qureshi said around 100 people, including politicians and bureaucrats, were on the hit list of the Ehtesab Commission. “They will be arrested soon.”

The event was part of the Generalised System of Preference Plus (GSP+) programme organised on Thursday by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) at a hotel in the city. The minister also informed his audience the investigation into the case of former minister for mines Ziaullah Afridi was in progress. “If he is proven guilty of the charges levied against him, strict action would be taken.”

Local bodies and minorities

As local issues are the centre of focus for DRI, the minister spoke about the local government elections, saying the process would be completed before August 14 and power would be devolved to grass-roots level. “An amount of Rs42 billion has been allocated to be spent through local government representatives for the benefit of people.”

About minorities, the minister said the K-P government has taken initiatives regarding the rights of minorities. He informed the audience that four people from among minorities have been appointed in the police department and the count is expected to increase.

He said, “Sub offices of the human rights commission will open in 15 districts of the province.”

Adviser to K-P Chief Minister Sorang Singh, who was present, also shed light on the rights of minorities.

Solutions

A representative of DRI, Zulfikar Shah, briefed the audience regarding GSP which allows exporters in developing countries to pay less or no duties on their exports to the European Union for economic growth. He said EU granted Pakistan with the GSP+ status on January 14, which is an enhanced version of GSP and has been granted to 13 developing countries, helping them strengthen their vulnerable economic profile.

K-P Labour Director Irfanullah Khan said his directorate was planning to computerise the whole system and cards would be issued to labourers to keep a check.

DRI is a non-profit organisation working to promote accountability of state bodies and universal rights of citizens. The organisation is registered in Berlin.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015. 

The post Covering issues: Politicos, bureaucrats part of Ehtesab’s 100 hit list appeared first on The Express Tribune.

PESHAWAR: 

Federal Minister for Finance Senator Ishaq Dar has vowed to bring Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa at the forefront of trade, business and industrial activities.

This was stated in a handout issued by Governor House on Thursday. According to the document, the federal minister said this while addressing an award ceremony to commemorate the 12th Business Excellence Award at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industries in the city Wednesday night.

“The move reaffirms the federal government’s stance to combat militancy with industrial and economic development,” read the statement. The handout quoted Dar as saying the federal government would not let militants tamper with the goal of economic progress and prosperity.

Dar said the PML-N-led government devised strategies to eradicate militancy from its roots. “Peace and stability are returning all over the country following military action in North Waziristan. The Centre is now in a position to pursue its economic agenda.”

Give and take

During the ceremony, the federal minister, along with Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, distributed awards to industrialists and businessmen.

“At least 19 industrialists were given gold medals while others were given certificates and shields,” the handout added. At the ceremony, Dar urged industrialists and businessmen from K-P and Fata to support the government in its endeavours.

“The federal minister said the government will ensure the revival of small-scale cottage industries,” stated the handout. Dar vowed to clear all debts and loans which victims of terrorism are liable to pay.

Opportune moment

Mehtab said it was the right time for businessmen to invest in K-P and Fata.

According to the handout, the governor lauded the decision to reopen industrial units in Bara tehsil which had been closed for several years.

Mehtab said the decision will boost investor confidence and initiate economic progress in the region. “It will also improve the lives of tribespeople.”

The reopening of industrial units in Bara would help with reconstruction, rehabilitation and economic stability in the tribal areas, said the governor. He disclosed Rs1.5 billion has been allocated for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the tribal areas.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015. 

The post Economic progress: Federal finance minister vows to bring K-P to the fore appeared first on The Express Tribune.

RAWALPINDI: 

The Punjab government has approved Rs195 million for purchase of state-of-the-art medical and surgical equipment and construction of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for children in the Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH).

Around Rs145 million has been approved for the purchase of modern apparatus for laboratory, operation theatre and different wards of the hospital while Rs50 million for the construction of the children ICU in this hospital, said BBH Medical Superintendent Dr Asif Qadir Mir.

He said that funds have been sanctioned on the request of the hospital management. He said work on the projects will start soon.

Dr Mir said that a 10-bed children ICU will be constructed at hte hospital besides upgrading the emergency.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

The post Grant Rs195m: approved for BBH equipment appeared first on The Express Tribune.

WAH SADDAR: 

A man was killed in a hit-and-run incident on GT Road in Wah Saddar on Thursday.

Eyewitness Muhammad Saqib told the local police that a speeding dumper truck (GZR-2494), driven by an unidentified man, hit the victim while he was crossing the road near Sharif Hospital.

He was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The police have registered a case against the driver but have not yet arrested him.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2015.

The post Hit-and-run: Man killed on road appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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