Thursday, 16 February 2017

Seven Pakistani fishermen return home after 10-year detention in Yemen

Seven Pakistani fishermen return home after 10-year detention in Yemen

Seven Pakistani fishermen who were detained by authorities in Yemen for over a decade will be returning to Pakistan tonight.
The fishermen who hail from Balochistan and Sindh's coastal areas had crossed international water boundaries 10 years ago and were taken into custody by authorities in Yemen.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the fishermen had been held at Sanaa Central Prison and were released as a result of collaboration between the ICRC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
The fishermen will arrive at Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport after midnight and reunite with their families after a decade away from home, the ICRC said, adding that Red Cross and MOFA officials will also be present at the airport to receive the fishermen.
*Read more: Plight of fishermen
A press conference will be held Saturday afternoon at the ICRC office in Islamabad where the repatriated Pakistani fishermen, along with their families, will speak to journalists.

Friday, 10 February 2017

India building secret nuclear city: Pakistan

India building secret nuclear city: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Thursday said India was developing a secret nuclear city in its southern parts and working on intercontinental missiles as part of its arms spree, directly threatening Pakistan.

Addressing a weekly news briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said the India’s secret nuclear city, according to a Foreign Policy investigative report, was designed to produce thermonuclear weapons.

“Indian defence build-up, both nuclear and conventional, is a direct threat to Pakistan and the region, at large. India completed its plan of nuclear triad recently with the commissioning of a nuclear capable submarine,” he said.

Zakaria said India had been building inter-continental ballistic missiles and anti-ballistic missile system. “It has a stockpile of fissile material for producing nuclear weapons outside the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the conventional weapons balance was already disturbed in South Asia and India’s nuclear weapons build-up had dangerous proportions to tip the strategic balance and endangered the peace of the region and beyond.

“The perils of such an uncalled for defence build-up should be seen in the backdrop of Indian defence minister’s statement on reviewing the ‘nuclear no-first-use’ and admission by the Indian army chief about their ‘cold start doctrine’, which confirmed Pakistan’s claims and justified our credible minimum nuclear deterrence,” he said.

Zakaria said that the international community should take note and check Indian rapid expansion in conventional and nuclear weapons.

Answering a question on Samjhauta Express terrorist attack, he said that despite India’s commitment at the highest political level, they had not shared any evidence to date with Pakistan.

“Instead, with the passage of time, they have even exonerated Swami Aseemanand, the RSS leader, who had made a public confession that he was the mastermind of that terrorist act and Col Purohit, then an active service Indian army officer, who headed another terrorist organisation Abhinav Bharat, was also involved. They worked in tandem with IB, RAW and other agencies of India,” he said.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan has and will continue to raise the issue of Samjhauta Express terrorist attack not only with India but also with the international community. “Pakistan had earlier noted with deep concern India’s attempts to exonerate those who have publically confessed to their involvement in the terrorist attack,” he said.

Answering a question about Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s notion that a referendum should be held in Pakistan whether they want to merge with India, he said: “Such remarks clearly violate the UN charter and respect for the sovereignty of a member state. Unfortunately, domestic politics in India had been used to further anti-Pakistan agenda by the Indian government.”

He said that Kashmiris have ridiculed the statement saying that India was aware of the possible results of the referendum in Kashmir and that was the reason they were resorting to such meaningless statements. “They have also rejected the home minister’s assertion that Kashmir belongs to India. The remarks by the Indian home minister do not merit further comments,” he said.

Zakaria said that India has committed more than 400 violations along the Line of Control in a few months as it was heating up the tension.

“We have raised this issue repeatedly with the international community and at various forums, and how this Indian belligerence is dangerously impacting peace and security in the region,” he said.

He rejected the alleged surgical strikes that India claimed to have conducted against Pakistan a couple of months ago, in the wake of the Uri attacks, terming it a drama.

Zakaria talked about the briefing given by the Foreign Office with reference to Kashmir Solidarity Day, “We also reiterated during the briefing, the perils of escalating tensions resulting from India’s continuous violation of the understanding of ceasefire in 2003. More importantly, the loss of innocent civilian lives is a matter of major concern.”

It is now evident that the main reason India tries to heighten tension on the LoC is to divert world’s attention from the grave human rights violations it is carrying out against defenceless Kashmiris in held Kashmir.

He said: “India lies about infiltration from across the LoC, which after the discovery of 2009 mass graves in Kashmir has proved to be a white lie. The International People’s Tribunal’s report in its findings stated that those found in the mass graves were indigenous Kashmiris and linked them to those thousands who had disappeared and were killed by Indian occupation forces in fake encounters.” He also condemned the victimisation of the Kashmiri leaders by India.

While talking about the multi-nation naval exercise in Pakistan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims of isolating Pakistan, the spokesperson said: “These exercises are regularly held and a number of countries including Russia are participating in it. With reference to the statement of the Indian prime minister, you can judge that they have miserably failed to isolate Pakistan. In the process, India itself stood exposed and may be feeling isolated.”

He said India was involved in supporting terrorism in Pakistan. “The dossier on Kulbhushan Yadav and other details of Indian involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan have already been submitted to the UN Secretary-General last month,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the United States had assured Pakistan that it was not among the list of banned countries. “We are in touch with the new administration in Washington and have been assured that no proposal to include Pakistan on the list of banned countries is under consideration. The US embassy in Islamabad has also issued a statement in this regard,” he said.

Regarding Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz’s visit to the US in the coming weeks, he said: “Pakistan and the US do have regular high-level exchanges and we look forward to maintaining the momentum in our exchanges.”

He said defence cooperation between Pakistan and Russia was an important component in “our multifarious bilateral relations” which is progressing well. “Both sides are interested in enhancing cooperation in various areas of mutual interest,” he added.

The spokesperson said that the Russian energy minister was already in town, and his visit aimed at discussing the technical aspects and other related details of a gas pipeline project.

He said that Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan and had been invited to the meeting called by Russia. “The evolving situation in Afghanistan and its bearing on the regional peace and stability is expected to be reviewed. Pakistan is committed to peace in Afghanistan and extends sincere support to the initiatives to that end. It is a new initiative,” he said.

Asked if India’s participation in the meeting in Russia would be problematic, he said: “World had seen the attitude of one country, which actually exposed that country. Pakistan’s participation in the Heart of Asia Conference was a manifestation that Pakistan is fully committed to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. Understandably, the meeting in Moscow is about the situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan is deeply committed to seeing a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and extend sincere cooperation in all such initiatives that are aimed at bringing peace in Afghanistan.”

He said the Economic Cooperation Organisation summit will be held on schedule next month and most of the countries had already confirmed their participation at the leadership level.

On the US sanctions on Iran, he said that Pakistan had longstanding relations with the United States and “we would like them to further strengthen them. Both sides constantly interact with each other to that end.”

He said Iran was Pakistan’s neighbour and a Muslim country with which “we cooperate on various forums besides bilaterally. Our relations are longstanding, cordial and diverse.”

To a question about the Pakistan International Airlines flight which was not allowed to land at the Heathrow airport, he said: “We have taken up this issue with the British authorities.”

On deportation of Pakistanis from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, Zakaria said that deportation of nationals of various countries from the Gulf and Western countries was not specific to Pakistan.

Source: The Nation

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

China opposes US move to blacklist JEM chief

China opposes US move to blacklist JEM chief

China opposed a proposal by the US in the United Nations to ban Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, Times of India reported on Tuesday.

The US, supported by the UK and France, moved a proposal to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council.

The proposal, which was finalised after consultations between Washington and New Delhi was opposed by Beijing.

India has accused the JeM and its leader of masterminding several attacks, including the assault on the Pathankot air base in January 2016. Security officials interrogated Azhar and his associates after the attack, and said they found no evidence linking him to it.

Jaish-e-Mohammad has already been blacklisted by the 15-nation Security Council, but not Azhar.

China opposed the US move by putting a hold on the proposal. The hold remains for six months and can be further extended by three months. During this period, it can be anytime converted into a block, thereby, ending the life of the proposal.

Reacting to China’s move to block the ban proposal, India’s foreign ministry said, “We’ve been informed of this development and the matter has been taken up with the Chinese government.”

Beijing had earlier blocked India’s request in December to add Azhar to UN Security Council blacklist of groups linked to al Qaeda.

Source: The Express Tribune:

How this Pakistani built a billion-dollar startup

How this Pakistani built a billion-dollar startup

Mudassir Sheikha is the CEO and co-founder of ride-hailing app Careem, one of the hottest startups on the Asian continent.

In December, it raised US$350 million from superstar investors such as Rakuten and Abraaj Capital, making it the newest unicorn in the transportation space.

It’s been quite a journey for Mudassir and his Dubai-headquartered company since starting up less than five years ago. Careem is now operational in 50 cities across 11 countries. It counts 180,000 registered drivers, which it refers to as “captains,” and claims to have served over 8 million customers.

Mudassir and team have hustled their way to regional dominance, competing with Uber with a mere fraction of the resources that the San Francisco-headquartered behemoth has at its disposal.

So how exactly should entrepreneurs take their idea from zero to one? What’s the billion-dollar mindset? How do you build companies to last?

Mudassir addressed these queries and more during a keynote presentation yesterday atMomentum in Karachi, Pakistan.

He identified four main factors which he believes were crucial in propelling Careem from a mere idea to where it is today.

Think big

“You have to think big from day one,” said Mudassir. “Sure you can open a retail store, but it’s going to be difficult to make it into a large business – a billion-dollar business. The first thing you have to target is a big problem and a big opportunity.”

The idea behind Careem wasn’t simply to replicate what other startups were doing in the West. He and his co-founder, Magnus Olsson, were both former management consultants for McKinsey. The duo were stationed in Dubai but frequently traveled across the Middle East and Pakistan.

As consultants, they had to constantly deal with the abhorrent public transport options in their markets. That was a huge pain – taxi drivers would frequently rip them off and they didn’t feel safe traveling in those rickety cars.

On-demand services were unheard of in the region at that time. So both Mudassir and Magnus quit their jobs, invested a lot of their own capital, and hunkered down for the long journey ahead.

“We wanted to seize the opportunity because it was an unexplored area and we felt the potential to scale was there,” said Mudassir to the audience.

Think big

The billion-dollar CEO is a firm believer in treating your startup like a baby and nurturing it the same way a loving parent would.

He explained it’s essential to instill the right values in your organization – to make sure culture seeps down from the top and everyone on the team is cognizant of the ideals they should aspire towards.

“If you teach your kids not to lie and make sure they adhere to it, then they’ll eventually learn and carry that with them forever. But if you don’t do that, and don’t have a close relationship with them, then they’ll grow up with indifferent values,” he said.

“Organizations are similar, they have values and aspirations as well. The companies that have been around for hundreds of years have these values instilled in their DNA. Our mindset, from day one, was to make something to last.”

As a corollary, the idea to start a business shouldn’t be predicated on an exit strategy. “It’s not the right mindset you should go into a startup with,” added Mudassir.

If an entrepreneur is truly committed to solving problems and reducing inefficiencies then they’ll carry on with that, come what may. And to build lasting institutions, ones that will outlive them as well as their future generations, founders need to treat the early years with the utmost of care.

“There’s nothing wrong with an exit, but it shouldn’t be your overwhelming priority,” he stated.

To further explain his point about culture and setting examples, Mudassir said he frequently takes red-eye flights and inconvenient connections just to save money.

“I’m happy even if I save 200 dirhams” – that US$55 – “each time,” he laughed.

“Sure people might say Careem has the cash now but I don’t want anyone in the company to think I’m being extravagant or living a flashy lifestyle. If you won’t demonstrate and lead by example, then your teammates won’t either.”

Growth needs curation

“You can’t just expect to launch a product and expect that it’ll take off automatically,” asserted Mudassir. “It’s a lot of hard work, curation, measurement, and feedback.”

The former consultant explained that at Careem they’re obsessed with data and growth. Each city – all 50 of them – is monitored every 15 minutes. An analyst can crunch the numbers and tell you whether the growth in those 15 minutes was more or less than the previous day, or even the same time last week.

If numbers are going down then there’s someone from HQ on the phone with local teams on the ground, to figure out how to improve, and whether there’s an issue of product-market fit, weather conditions, or something else.

“You cannot improve anything that you cannot measure. That’s why growth and measurement are deep deep in our DNA,” he said.

“And the best part about growth is that it compounds. If you give yourself a target of growing 25 percent month on month, then you’ll grow 10x each year. By the third 10x, we were sitting at a 100 million valuation. You can too,” he told the audience.

Your team is the sharpest weapon

Mudassir and Magnus didn’t have much money to throw around in the early days grinding in the insane heat of Dubai.

That was a problem – they wanted to hire savvy, technical, and qualified employees to grow quickly but the lack of cash meant that they couldn’t even match existing market salaries.

Mudassir admitted to having sleepless nights in those days.

“We placed a lot of emphasis on getting the right people. You can have an amazing idea but if you don’t have the right talent to execute then your plans are utterly useless. We were so cash-strapped early on that we could only offer half of what people were used to,” he said.

But there was a surprising benefit to this quandary. Careem’s early hires ticked all the right boxes in terms of their job capabilities, and they also bought into the vision of what Mudassir was trying to build.

“That’s why we became who we are today – you need to get capable people but they also need to enliven the culture of the workplace,” he added.

Source: The Express Tribune

Civilian killed in Indian across-border firing

Civilian killed in Indian across-border firing

A civilian injured by Indian firing along the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday succumbed to his injuries.

“Victim labourer of Indian fire in Khuiratta sector today succumbed to injuries. Another innocent life lost to Indian irresponsible attitude,” DG Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said on twitter.

Earlier today, the military’s media wing said Indian forces resorted to unprovoked firing at the sector, injuring 20-year-old Ashfaq who was rushed to hospital for treatment. The statement added that Pakistan Army responded to the unprovoked firing in a fitting manner.

On Monday, Indian troops resorted to firing along the Working Boundary in Zafarwal sector, with Pakistan Rangers Punjab “responding effectively” to the aggression.

Last month, Indian forces violated the ceasefire as they fired across Jandrot, Nikyal, Baroh and Khanjar areas. Indian aggression continued unabated as the violation was reported five times.

According to Pakistan Army, Indian forces committed at least 178 ceasefire violations along the LoC and Working Boundary in 2016, killing 19 civilians and injuring 80 others.

Source: The Express Tribune

Fighter jets escort PIA plane to UK airport over ‘security threat’

Fighter jets escort PIA plane to UK airport over ‘security threat’

LONDON: The Pakistan International Airline (PIA) aircraft intercepted and escorted by fighter jets to Stansted airport, northeast of London, was diverted because of a “vague security threat”, the airline said on Tuesday.

“UK authorities received some vague security threat through an anonymous phone call regarding PIA’s Lahore-Heathrow flight PK-757 before its landing at Heathrow,” PIA spokesperson Danyal Gilani said in a statement.

Pakistan International Airline's spokesman's statement on #Lahore#Heathrow flight PK-757. #PakistanIntlAirlines@DanyalGilani #PIA

— PIA (@Official_PIA) February 7, 2017

“As per their standard procedures the aircraft was diverted to Stansted airport. Security clearance is underway.”

Gilani said all passengers on-board were safe and being looked after by PIA’s local management.

“Passengers will be provided surface transport to London. For the return flight efforts are underway to ensure least inconvenience to passengers.”

Earlier, British police said the plane was escorted because of a disruptive passenger.

“This is not believed to be a hijack situation or terror matter,” Essex Police said in a statement. “The plane is currently at the airport and officers are making enquiries.”

Source: The Express Tribune 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Technology firms to urge Trump to alter US travel ban: sources

 Technology firms to urge Trump to alter US travel ban: sources

Several technology companies plan to send a letter to US President Donald Trump on Monday urging his administration to follow through on proposed changes to a travel ban on seven mainly Muslim nations, sources familiar with the letter said Sunday.

"We welcome the changes your administration has made in recent days in how the Department of Homeland Security will implement the Executive Order," according to a draft of the letter.

The technology companies expected to sign the letter include Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, Twitter Inc, Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc.

The sources did not want to be identified because discussions regarding the letter were ongoing.

On Jan 27, Trump issued an executive order imposing a 90-day ban affecting citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day bar on all refugees. Those travel bans caused chaos by trapping some travelers at airports and stranding others overseas.

A federal judge on Friday put a temporary nationwide block on that week-old executive order, leading the Republican president to criticize the judge and the court system.

"We stand ready to help your administration identify other opportunities to ensure that our employees can travel with predictability and without undue delay," the technology companies, some of which have had a frosty relationship with Trump since the campaign, said in the letter.

"We are concerned... that your recent Executive Order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our country's success... our ability to grow our companies and create jobs depends on the contributions of immigrants from all backgrounds."

Technology companies Inc and Expedia Inc, both of which are based in Washington, filed a brief in support of the Washington judge's temporary stay.

Source: The Dawn News