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The recent story out of Karachi, regarding an alleged love-suicide incident, leaves us wanting more information. A 16-year-old boy in Patel Para shot a female classmate dead, possibly a love interest, before killing himself during a school assembly. While the details of the case are sensitive and while it must be a trying time for both families, the blaring fact is that an armed student entered a school unchecked. This needs urgent attention and reminds us of the necessary steps that authorities are yet to take in mitigating gun violence in Karachi. Guns are easily obtainable, legally or illegally and for purchase or for rent, for just a few thousand rupees. Indeed, the ease with which weapons are available has become evident with the increasing prevalence of ammunition stores across Karachi, even in areas that had once rarely seen gun violence — displaying the backward trajectory of safety and security in the city. Contrastingly, our prime minister recently stated that the government will carry out a complete de-weaponisation drive. However, with even schoolchildren and minors having easy access to guns, the success rate for such a drive will remain poor.

Another problem highlighted by this tragedy that goes unchecked is adolescent mental health, especially for children of less-privileged backgrounds. It would serve society well if the government invested more in providing free mental health checks across schools. We need to also recognise the fact that issues may arise in children’s lives when parents are unable to understand the stress and pain their children may be going through. Whatever the specific details of this case are, family dynamics sometimes lead to unnecessary stress for children, resulting in risk-taking behaviour, such as the violent outcome in this case. The authorities must now take notice of the urgency to prevent ease of access to guns through strict implementation of gun control laws so as to curtail unnecessary loss of precious lives. In addition, schools, parents and society at large need to seriously focus on the area of adolescent mental health.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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BERLIN: Imagine the alarm clock ringing on a typical Monday morning, except this time the curtains draw themselves back, the bathroom lights switch on automatically and you smell fresh coffee brewing.

Or an oven that turns itself on and starts warming up a lasagne when you’re 15 minutes away from home, just in time to be dished up as you walk through the door.

For years, technology firms have been touting the potential of a smart home, but it has been only in the past two years that major players have begun investing heavily in its development.

South Korean giant Samsung now believes the day has come when a home is smart enough for household appliances to simply run themselves — all communicating with each other in the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

At the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin on Thursday, Samsung Electronics chief executive WP Hong said: “It is not a trend. It is at the heart of today’s industrial revolution.”

“By 2020, all devices made by Samsung will be IoT enabled,” he pledged.

The electronics giant, which makes large appliances from washing machines to air-conditioners to handheld electronics like smartphones, launched Thursday a line of new devices called Smart Things — including a small white box called a hub that coordinates the appliances.

It also showcased a smartphone app that acts as a mission control for the appliances, while motion sensors and sockets are complementary gadgets to add to the system.

Daily routines, like which appliances should do what in the morning or in the evening, can be programmed in the app, with the hub then acting as the coordinator in the home.

Alternatively, the home owner can control specific appliances through a tap on the app.

‘Selfie-taking’ refrigerator

The Smart Things system is basically the fruition of an acquisition of an eponymous start-up that Samsung had in fact paid $200 million for last year.

It will compete with Apple’s HomeKit, which was announced in June last year by the US giant and which controls appliances compatible with its products, while Google had paid $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, specialised in intelligent fire alarms and thermostats.

Samsung said its platform will be open and therefore compatible with other brands. It also took pains to cite several companies that it is partnering with, including speaker specialist Bose or light bulb manufacturer Osram, allowing these items to also work with its “hub”.

At the same time, it also launched other complementary gadgets includes a so-called smarthome monitor, which ‘keeps an eye’ on the house, alerting the owners to any problems — from a leak in the bathroom to intruders in the garden.

And another device — the Sleepsense, a flat white disc that is placed under the mattress — monitors one’s breathing and heart rate at bedtime, and sets the temperature for the heater or the air-conditioner creating “the best environment for falling and staying asleep”.

Other appliance makers will also be touting their smarthome concept at this year’s IFA show, which will be open to the public for six days from Friday.

German electronics and appliance giant Siemens for instance is showcasing what it describes as its “complete range of connected home appliances”, controlled through an app.

Among these appliances is a refrigerator that is able to take a ‘selfie’ of its contents, allowing the owner to see what needs replenishing.

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He had the right pedigree, the right education and the right opportunities at the right time. But by the time he came to the end of his illustrious life which was long and full, he seemed to have achieved a lot less than his potential. Tall, handsome and urbane to his fingertips, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada’s most memorable contribution to this nation’s on-again and off-again democratic process was the 1973 Constitution which he had co-authored and piloted through parliament to its unanimous passage. He had accompanied Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his negotiations with Mujibur Rehman after the 1970 elections. He was part of the PPP team that negotiated with the PNA team for fresh elections after questions were raised over the fairness of the 1977 elections. He was also part of the legal team that defended Mr Bhutto in the Mohammad Ahmed Khan murder case. Having virtually gone through the proverbial political mill, Pirzada looked destined to go places in his political career which, however, came to an abrupt halt after Mr Bhutto’s departure from the political scene.

The stumble in 1982 that marked his inexplicable loss of confidence in the federal Constitution which he had helped draft and his equally perplexing act of embracing the concept of a confederal Pakistan was, perhaps, the reason why he could not regain his foothold in politics; or perhaps finding a career in politics to be too risky, he opted to dedicate the rest of his life to legal practice. But in this career as well, despite having all the right connections and a reasonably brilliant legal mind, he continued to drift rather make a mark. He did lead a successful legal battle against the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance in the Supreme Court. But next, he is seen joining the legal team advising Pervez Musharraf when a case was instituted against the former military dictator under Article 6. And he lost what was his last high-profile case when the judicial commission led by former chief justice Nasirul Mulk rejected his client Imran Khan’s plea that the 2013 general elections were systematically rigged.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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The polio virus is tenacious, clinging on despite the best efforts of those that would eradicate it. There are now only two countries in the world where polio is endemic — Afghanistan and Pakistan. There has been no reported case in Nigeria for a year and the African continent as a whole is close to being declared polio-free, a truly mighty achievement. Pakistan has seen a 75 per cent reduction in cases this year, which has to be regarded as encouraging, but another case was reported in Quetta on September 2, bringing the number to five this year. On the same day as the child was diagnosed there was a media sensitisation conference in Karachi, aimed at persuading a not-always-helpful media to report the battle against polio in a mature and responsible way.

The conference was organised by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) that was formed earlier this year; and unlike so many other committees and groups formed to address this that or the other issue is doing the job it was supposed to do and seemingly doing it reasonably effectively. There was some straight talking from Dr Chachar, the EOC coordinator. He pointed out that other less-developed countries had managed to eradicate polio but Pakistan consistently lagged behind in the eradication race. This despite having the technological resources and no lack of funding from a range of national and international sources.

There have been 29 cases of polio across the country in 2015, which truly is a dramatic and commendable drop on the disaster that was 2014. Despite its tenacity the polio virus has limited persistence in the environment — but it thrives in unclean environments where personal hygiene is poor and sanitation facilities equally poor or absent. It persists because there are elements in society that still see the polio eradication teams as part of a nebulous conspiracy by Western nations to limit the fertility of Muslim peoples. A responsible media will debunk such tales and become a party to the battle on the side of the eradicators. Pakistan can and must eradicate polio. There is no other choice.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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PESHAWAR: 

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Workers Welfare Board Employees Union took to the streets on Thursday over the K-P government’s failure to pay attention to their demands.

A large number of employees blocked Sher Shah Suri Road outside Peshawar Press Club and urged the government to regularise contract employees and reinstate those workers who had been laid off. They threatened the provincial government with closure of all schools, colleges and offices if their demands are not fulfilled in a week.

Protesters shouted slogans against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government and WWB Secretary Niamatullah Gandapur.

Speaking on the occasion, a large number of demonstrators accused Gandapur of misleading Chief Minister Pervez Khattak by providing him false information about the conditions of employees. They added PTI Chairman Imran Khan had vowed to resolve their problems. “However, even Imran has turned a deaf ear to our issues,” they said.

According to protesters, Gandapur, along with WWB Administration Director Shahab Ali Khan had deprived employees of their rights.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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LAHORE: Lahore Police’s Operations Wing has introduced a new system to enhance efficiency.

The project, titled Digital Monitoring and Smart Policing System, uses modern IT and enterprise technology tools. Under the plan, Android-based smart phones, loaded with various applications for recording and documenting crime, will replace the traditional pocket notebooks. The social media and an SMS service will be used to interact with citizens.

Police decided to launch the system after a recent study conducted within the Operations Wing. The study had concluded that despite hectic efforts, the department’s public image had not improved.

Operations DIG Haider Ashraf said the system would help police officials record crimes even when they were away from police stations. The data stored in the devices would be uploaded to the main dashboard at an Operations Room, which has been launched in the Model Town police division under SP Mustansar Feroze.

At least 15 dashboards at the Operations Rooms enable police to monitor incoming calls (received on helpline Rescue-15) and respond from the nerve centre.

“For the first time, police dispatches can be controlled from the nerve centre. The incoming calls are automatically delivered to the beat officers concerned,” Ashraf said.

He said that initially 350 devices had been distributed among beat officers. The department has signed a contract with a cellular phone company for the provision of services needed to operate the system. The service charges will be paid on a monthly basis, he said.

“The officers will now be able to spend more time patrolling than on the desk,” the DIG said.

Android phones will help check the location of police officials. “Previously, there was no way to locate them… now they can be monitored on screens at the Operations Room,” he said.

Ashraf said the devices had been geo-tagged. The system would ring an alarm as soon as an officer left his beat without informing his seniors, he said.

The system will allow police officers to monitor raids on the hideouts of proclaimed offenders. Whenever a suspect is arrested, his data will be verified from the Criminal Record Office. Whenever a new suspect is caught, the raiding team will photograph him and save his picture on an app. It will then be saved on the main dashboard.

One of the applications will allow police officials to verify identity of individuals during search operations and snap-checking.

The DIG said the system would reduce incidents of harassment of innocent citizens at pickets.

“The devices will allow police officials to report any incident they come across,” Ashraf said.

He said one of the applications would have a record of stolen cars. “This will prevent seizure of vehicles for merely failing to produce an identity card at a picket.”

One of the applications will provide information about the vehicles stopped and checked previously by police.

The DIG said feedback, received through an SMS service, would enable police to learn about the quality and time of police’s response.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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PESHAWAR: 

Compensation to those affected by rainstorm will be issued within 72 hours, said district nazim Muhammad Asim Khan. After formally resuming charge of his office on Thursday, Asim visited Lady Reading Hospital where he met those who were injured in the rainstorm.

He also paid a visit to the rickshaw stand that was ravaged by lightning in Qazi Kalay and said he will approach the government to compensate the three-wheeler owners for
their losses.

Asim and Yakatoot nazim Muhammad Arif also visited Ring Road, Charsadda Road, Yakatoot, Waliabad and Circular Road areas and directed relevant officials to complete survey of damage at the earliest. A series of meetings with newly elected local government office-bearers was also held wherein work guidelines were issued.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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LAHORE: A three-day international research conference with the theme of Dental Research: New Horizons and Challenges will commence at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) between September 4 and 6.

Speakers from Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will address the conference. The event is being organised in collaboration with the Pak Association of Dental Research. There will be over 150 oral and poster presentations on the occasion. As many as 90 speakers will come together from areas across the country to shed light on various areas of dentistry such as behavioural and epidemiologic health services, clinical dental research, craniofacial biology, cancer research, dental materials, education research, implantology research, microbiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral biology and regenerative medicine, oral medicine and pathology, orthodontics, periodontal research, pharmacology and therapeutics and prosthodontic research.

The conference will also host a clinical session in collaboration with other major organizations including the Pakistan Dental Association, the Pakistan Association of Orthodontists the, Pakistan Prothodontists Association, the Pakistan Association of Oral and Maxillo-facial Surgery, the Pakistan Association of Restorative Dentistry, COMSATS IIT’s Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Biomedical Materials and the Society of Dental Materials Pakistan.

Sarah Ghafoor, the focal person of the conference, said there would be 10 scientific and poster sessions with undergraduate and postgraduate competitions. Ghafoor said there would also be three workshops at the conference. She said over 1,000 participants had been registered for the conference. She said this conference was linked with the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and all accepted abstracts would be published in the Journal of Dental Research (Impact Factor: 4.1). Ghafoor said the international nature of  the conference would allow presenters to publish their abstracts in the highest impact factor journal of dentistry. Ghafoor said the objective of the conference was to provide a forum for discussion and policy building in dentistry and explore the challenges confronting clinicians.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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LAHORE: 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be in a position to maintain his hawkish stance vis-a-vis Pakistan, former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri told The Express Tribune in an exclusive tête-à-tête prior to the launch of his book Neither Hawk nor Dove.

The veteran politician said Modi had secured an emphatic mandate courtesy Gujarat’s economic miracle and not because of his tough stance on Pakistan. Kasuri posited that sanity should prevail and all outstanding issues should be solved through talks in the context of the recent spike in tension along the LoC and the working boundary. “I hope Modi’s desire to transform India into an economic powerhouse will bring the pragmatism in his personality to the fore and check the tendency among some elements in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to assuage its traditional supporters,” Kasuri said. “Every Indian leader I have met privately has said “let’s make history” to me,” the former foreign minister revealed.

Kasuri said that he did not believe that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would have any impact on the nation’s relations with the United States of America. “Pakistan’s relations with the US will endure and strengthen in the foreseeable future. Plus, the CPEC is not necessarily all negative for the US,” he said.

The former foreign minister said that the regional environment was undergoing a profound shift due to the emergence of the endgame scenario in Afghanistan. “It is absolutely essential to integrate the Taliban into the power structure to ensure that they do not feel sidelined,” Kasuri observed. “Pakistan must impress on them that the entire international community would oppose them if they attempt to secure control of the entire country. In the past, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE had recognized the Taliban regime,” Kasuri has written in his book. “It seems that even China and the US, that have been vying for influence in other regions, are on the same page vis-à-vis Afghanistan, he said.

Kasuri opined that Pakistan had mishandled the Yemen imbroglio. He said contributing troops would have been certainly wrong but Pakistan had managed to irk its Saudi friends. “Our ties with the kingdom are exceptionally strong.  It would take a series of faux pas on our part to compromise them. We still need to learn how to effectively handle such situations,” the former foreign minister observed.

Neither Hawk nor a Dove is being published by the Oxford University Press and Penguin India. The book will be officially launched nationwide on September 8.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court disposed of a petition filed by Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan on Thursday against an enquiry being conducted by the Ehtesab Commission.

The court was informed that the commission had handed over all documents related to the enquiry on appointments and alleged corruption at the varsity to National Accountability Bureau.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Irshad Qaiser consequently disposed of the petition.

AWKUM Legal Cell In-charge Mian Saleem and Treasurer Muhammad Tariq appeared before the court during the hearing.

Deputy Prosecutor General Zahid Aman informed the court that all documents required for the enquiry were handed over to NAB and the commission is no longer conducting the investigation.

After receiving several complaints, NAB launched an enquiry against the university for questionable appointments and construction projects. In the meantime, the commission also started an enquiry in the case and several notices were issued to the varsity on different dates. The commission asked the university administration to provide information on appointments between 2010 and 2014 and some construction projects.

The university subsequently approached the high court, contending that if a federal agency was conducting the enquiry, a provincial body does not have the authority to start another one.

NAB said it was conducting an enquiry on irregularities in appointments to over 1,300 posts since AWKUM’s creation.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

 

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PESHAWAR: The military court death sentence of a man convicted for harbouring a suicide bomber involved in the Army Public School massacre was challenged in the Peshawar High Court.

Nek Maro, mother of Taj Muhammad alias Rizwan, filed the petition and sought a court order to rescind the death sentence of her son.

Maro filed the petition through her counsel Abdul Latif Afridi. The special military court of 11 Corps Peshawar, federal secretaries for defence and interior as well as provincial secretary for home and tribal affairs were asked to respond. Other respondents included the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa IGP.

When the judgment rolled

On August 14, Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the armed forces, issued a statement, saying the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif confirmed the death sentence awarded to six people for being involved in APS and Safora Chowrangi, Karachi attacks.

One of the convicts was Taj, who the army maintained was an active member of  the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and was involved in the APS attack which claimed over 150 lives.

When Taj disappeared

Taj’s mother said he was picked up from their house by secret service personnel who were accompanied by the Pistakhara police on February 7.  The family searched and searched but failed to locate Taj.

Taj’s mother said her son is not associated with any terrorist organisation. However, he did visit Wana, South Waziristan Agency in 2007 in the company of tribesman Nazeer and stayed there for 40 days, she added.

Maro said her son was a daily wage labourer and was married. His wife, Yasmeen, was admitted to the Khyber Teaching Hospital for a pregnancy related complication on December 16, 2014. Taj was with her at the time the attack happened as she gave birth to a child who died the very next day on December 17, 2014, the petition read.

Taj remained with his wife till she was discharged from the hospital on December 20, 2014.

‘No evidence’

She said after hearing the news, the family restarted its search for Taj and looked for him in the Peshawar and Haripur jails, but to no avail. “The family neither found the court which granted the sentence nor was it provided with any details of the case,” the petition claimed. Taj’s mother said under the Constitution and prison laws, the convict and his or her family are entitled to know the orders of court and charges of the offence. The petition further said any sentence handed by military courts is subject to a judicial review.

“The confessional statement shown to have been recorded with Taj implicating himself is not voluntary. The statement was extracted through violence, coercion and threats, and has no legal value,” the petition stated.

It further said the arrest, trials and sentence have no evidentiary value. “The trial was not conducted fairly and the charges were never made public. Taj was also not provided with a counsel of his choice,” Taj’s mother said.

PHC has been requested to set aside the death sentence and declare it illegal, without jurisdiction and based on no evidence.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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LAHORE: Auqaf Secretary Muhammad Shehryar Sultan will chair a meeting in Pakpattan on September 7 to review security arrangements and preparations for the urs of Baba Fareeduddin Masood Ganj Shakar. The urs will commence on Zilhaj 25, and conclude on Moharram 10. The Behishti Darwaza will open on Moharram 5, and close on Moharram 10. The Sahiwal commissioner, the RPO, the Pakpattan DCO and officials of the Auqaf Department will attend the meeting.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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PESHAWAR: 

The city yet again experienced the most intimidating of thunderstorms which claimed five lives and left 25 on the hospital beds with injuries.

It all started during the wee hours of Thursday when rain and hail fell over the provincial capital and adjoining areas. Peshawar DC and Provincial Disaster Management Authority confirmed the deaths and injuries that were caused in different incidents. The damage and casualties were centred in Urmar, Afghan Colony, Phandu, Surizai Payan, Landi Sarak, Jhagra and surrounding areas.

Rescue 1122 Spokesperson Bilal Faizi said teams pulled out 18 people from under the rubble of collapsed houses and rushed them to Lady Reading Hospital. According to the LRH media and information wing, the deceased, most of whom were children, were identified as three-year-old Asad, 11-year-old Awais, 30-year-old Tasleem, 13-year-old Mahnoor and eight-year-old Sidra.

The winds not only uprooted entire trees but also wrecked power supply lines. Peshawar Electric Supply Company Spokesperson Shaukat Afzal said 56 feeders were affected by the storm in the areas of Cantonment, Hayatabad, Tajabad and Jamrud Road. Three Pesco workers were injured during power restoration operations, he added. PDMA spokesperson said the DC office has been directed to provide immediate relief to the affectees; however, compensation will be paid only after a damage assessment report is tabulated. Lightning struck a rickshaw stand in Qazi Kalay near Charsadda Road, burning eight three-wheelers down.

Clueless

The relevant departments knew little of what the clouds had in store for the city until the storm announced its arrival. “The meteorological office had only informed us about scattered rains in parts of Peshawar, Malakand and Hazara divisions but it never mentioned a storm of this intensity,” said a government official. However, Met Department Regional Director Mushtaq Shah insisted forecasts of “rain along with gusty winds” were issued. He said the weather system was generated after the western cold front interacted with the warm front. “Such conditions give rise to strong winds.”

Answering a question about the office’s Peshawar observatory, Shah said information is sent in from the Islamabad observatory. “We are working on building in Mardan where a Doppler radar will be installed. An amount of Rs300 million has been set aside for the project that will take two years to complete.” Shah said the department will be able to monitor weather activity in Malakand and Peshawar divisions, and even in Afghanistan, efficiently once the new facility is ready. The regional director said more rain is expected in Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Karak, DI Khan and Hazara during the next 24 hours.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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LAHORE: The Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) sealed several fashion outlets on Thursday for non-compliance. A PRA team, headed by Additional Commissioner Ayesha Ranjha, sealed the Zara Shahjahan, Khadija Shah, Mini Bindra, Sania Maskatiya, Nida Azwar, Ayesha Imram, Shirin Hassan and Ammar Belal outlets as well as five others, said a spokesman for the PRA. The sealed outlets owe Rs80 million tax to the authority, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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LAHORE: Justice Mamoonur Rasheed of Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday reserved verdict on a petition filed against raids of the chief minister’s task force on pharmaceutical production units. Counsel for the petitioners Khwaja Tariq Raheem told the court the task force had been exceeding its jurisdiction. Raheem said the task force had been illegally raiding production units. He said this had been wrecking havoc on business in the sector. He said the policies of the provincial government had brought the pharmaceutical industry on the brink of destruction and left workers fearing for their livelihoods. Raheem asked the court to direct the task force to desist from conducting raids at production units and from filing cases against those affiliated with the industry. A government law official told the court no cases had been registered against those employed at the production units. He said only show-cause notices had been issued to administrations of production units involved in manufacturing substandard medicines.  The court reserved its verdict following the conclusion of arguments.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik on Thursday sent a petition seeking direct election to seats reserved for women, labourers, farmers and communities members in local governments to Justice Mamoon Rasheed Sheikh for hearing. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen had filed the petition. He said that under Article 140 of the Constitution, all elections, including local government elections, must be held through a secret ballot.  “However, the government has decided to elect women, minority members, farmers and labourers through nominations in the local government elections. This is a violation of the Constitution. There is a conspiracy to benefit favourites of the ruling party. It should be declared null and void,” he said in the petition. Earlier, Justice Ejazul Ahsan had declined to hear the petition and sent it back to LHC chief justice.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

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It is sometimes the clearest of accusations that one must be most wary of. These accusations, like the one Christine Fair levelled on Pakistan — you are the enemy of the US — are what imprison Pakistan within its own narrow allegiances. We take on the eyes of the seer as we size ourselves up, often without much deliberation — and this doesn’t help anyone. Not the US, not Pakistan. This outside-looking-in view of defiling Pakistan’s identity by journalists with crowned scholarly affiliations is akin to how people from both sides of the divide view each other — the treacherous West and the uncivilised dark continent. In this case, the assertions are the same: Pakistan plays dubiously, it’s sneaky in its transactional deals, takes money to control terrorism on its Afghan side but redirects it to fuel insurgencies in India.

When faced with this charge, be it only of an overambitious journalist, we have no choice but to fault our powers that be for being not too transparent in the way they decide matters of national importance. The mismanagement of Balochistan only adds fuel to fire. Our inability to contain terrorism as evident with the APS incident is downright deplorable. The fact that we haven’t been able to move towards peace with India, missing out on inevitable prosperity, can also be considered a fault of the Pakistani deep state. These are the very narrow alliances we are forced to define ourselves with, shattering both our identity, and its various interconnected parts and our sense of hope for the future of this country. However, I have two issues with these guns pointed towards Pakistan — the credibility of those who make accusations against Pakistan is just as much in question. And secondly, the fear-mongering that Pakistan is subjected to by these elements serves as propaganda in the US to argue for more control.

The Pakistani establishment’s missteps can easily be compared to the US government’s echoing steps from Charlie Wilson’s Afghan war to the war on terror. If there is truly a desire in the US to stop terrorism, a good place to start would be to stop participating in it. It isn’t just Pakistan where the American military’s strategies went awry; there is Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Latin America.

India is home to several insurgencies, and it is difficult to convince anyone that they are all Pakistan-funded. The iron-fisted Kashmir policy has led to a landfill of human rights violations. The deaths on the Line of Control notwithstanding, there is an Amnesty International call to bring to justice several Indian state agents that were systemically involved in rights abuses in Kashmir. The point is not that Pakistan’s antics should go unchecked. The point is that no journalist has the locus standi to go muckraker on this small state when considerably larger military empires are not judged on the same scale. Admonish all or admonish none, and certainly don’t pick on the smallest state with its own explosive problems with outlaws and terrorists.

This dehumanising talk, the language of impunity and the general disregard of the 80,000 Pakistanis who have perished in the demonic war of terrorism is what Orwell referred to as universal deceit. It takes effort to create context, to eliminate binaries and to see the people behind the governments that represent them. By ignoring how Pakistan ended up in a terrifying place in the first place is a disservice to the institution of journalism whose purpose it is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Not the other way around.

The only thing a biased whipping of Pakistan ensures is that people like us, ordinary Pakistanis who want to bring more accountability and transparency, are pushed further into the corner. Our identity encapsulates our original fight for self-determination. We are willing to fight it again, even if the oppressor changes. Pakistan has a vibrant opposition, a sensitised judiciary and a man at the helm of its military, who does not seem to have the ambition to become royalty and seems more focused on putting an end to the beheadings of his jawans. Perhaps, for the first time in many years, the structure is solidifying to the benefit of the people of this country. Let it solidify. Don’t sell us the orientalist jargon.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th,  2015.

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KARACHI: 

Pakistan State Oil has donated Rs7.5 million to a hospital being built by the Cancer Foundation to treat cancer patients at subsidised rates.

This donation was made by the corporate social responsibility department of the oil marketing company that helps projects in the fields of education, health and social development. This donation aims to show the faith that the entire corporate sector has in the project. On behalf of his board of directors and thousands of cancer patients, Cancer Foundation chairperson Maqsood Ansari thanked the PSO for the donation.

This 100-bed cancer hospital is being made on a not-for-profit model in Gulshan-e-Iqbal where patients will only have to take care of their basic expenses. The patients will not have to pay for surgeries.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

The post Charity: PSO donates Rs7.5m to cancer hospital appeared first on The Express Tribune.

RAWALPINDI: 

The provincial government has appointed 26 new civil judges including four women in the District and Sessions Court Rawalpindi to clear pending cases.

Around 50,000 cases are currently pending in the in the District and Sessions Court, while 600,000 cases are pending in civil courts across Punjab.

According to officials, 358 new additional sessions judges will be appointed across Punjab in the next three months to clear pending cases.

Officials say training of the newly inducted judges by their senior counterparts on the practical routines of their work has begun.

Ten additional sessions judges will be appointed to Rawalpindi in November.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

The post District: Courts 26 civil judges appointed appeared first on The Express Tribune.

KARACHI: 

Pakistani political parties are ruled by individuals, not by their own constitutions and have not delivered when given a chance to do so.

These sentiments were shared by the director of Karachi University’s Pakistan Study Centre, Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed, as he spoke about the country’s history in a seminar titled, ‘Imperatives of a New Social Contract: Building on the Charter of Democracy and the 18th Constitutional Amendment’, on Thursday morning. The lecture was the first of the Benazir Bhutto Memorial Lecture series.

Dr Ahmed termed Pakistan’s history as one of trials, where the country witnessed both good and bad rulers. He argued that the leaders of political parties must clean the mess inside their parties and only after that can they regain the lost ground between them and the people of Pakistan. He was speaking to a jam-packed Arts Auditorium, comprising students from the political science, international relations and Pakistan studies departments.

For a better future, he suggested political parties evolve an agenda together. He said it was high time the rulers of Pakistan paid attention and had a serious dialogue about the rights of children, transgender people and the working class.

Role of Benazir

Defining Benazir Bhutto’s role in the country’s political scene, Dr Ahmed termed it an adoption of the political wisdom which she got from her father. “She emerged as a power and sign of democracy in the times of dictators,” he said.

If we ignore the role of three women from the history of Pakistan, nothing would be left, he felt. He accredited Fatima Jinnah, who fought against Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship, and Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, the mother and daughter who took a stand in favour of democracy against General Ziaul Haq. The three women changed Pakistan’s history.

Alamgir and Ataturk

He labeled General Zia as the 20th century Aurangzeb Alamgir, and General Pervez Musharraf as Kamal Ataturk. Even today people discuss and blame the 2006 Charter of Democracy but no one bothers to discuss the damage done to the system by Zia’s Eighth Amendment. Highlighting points from the 2006 Charter of Democracy, Dr Ahmed said the charter had the vision to correct the mistakes in Pakistan’s political arena.

The dean faculty of social sciences, Professor Dr Moonis Ahmar, while highlighting the most important point of the lecture, said the common perception in Pakistan that dictatorships have been economically successful is wrong. “Only luck favoured them,” he claimed.

Political parties have only one agenda; to form an alliance only if their enemy is common, he pointed out. Dr Ahmar said the political parties are not ruled even by own their party agenda. “They lack agenda, a level of organisation, knowledge, and future plans,” he alleged, adding that they must learn the true meaning of democracy.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.

The post Educating the youth: ‘Political parties ruled by individuals, not their own constitutions’ appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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