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

Imran khan talking about Pervaiz Elahi Govt performance

Chaudhry Shujaat and Moonis Elahi meets Musharraf in Dubai

Chaudhry Shujaat and Moonis Elahi meets Musharraf in Dubai

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and Moonis Elahi called on former president and APML chief retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in Dubai on Sun­day and discussed with him matters relating to formation of a new party, to be known as ‘United Muslim League’.

Chaudhry Shujaat and Moonis Elahi have held an important meeting with Gen Musharraf for bringing all Muslim League factions (minus N) under one umbrella. The Chaudhrys have renewed efforts since they feel this is the right time to enter the political arena with a new party in the presence of the PML-N, PTI and PPP,” a PML-Q leader privy to the development told Dawn.

He said the PML-Q believed that there had been a political vacuum, especially in Punjab, and the new party could make its mark in the run-up to the 2018 elections. “The United Muslim League will not only take on board disgruntled leaders of other parties but will also be in position to make seat-adjustment with like-minded parties in the coming elections,” he said, claiming that the effort this time would succeed.

After having a long discussion with the Chaudhrys, Gen Musharraf held a meeting with PML-Functional chief Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi to explore the idea of a “United Muslim League”, the PML-Q leader said.

“Now the Chaudhrys and Musharraf will have a series of meetings with other PML factions and some disgruntled leaders to finalise the plan,” he said.

However, according to a PML-Q spokesman, Chaudhry Shujaat said at the Dubai meeting the political situation demanded that all opposition parties gather on one platform.

“Pervez Musharraf said his heart beats for Pakistan and he wants to return home at the earliest,” he added.

The Chaudhrys had about one-and-a-half-year ago launched efforts for the United Muslim League under the leadership of Gen Musharraf and Chaudhry Shujaat, but these could not bear fruit because of a lack of consensus over leadership and some other issues.

Imran Masood, a PML-Q leader and former Punjab minister, said his party’s renewed efforts would soon bear fruit. “The PML-Q leadership has started meetings with the heads of other factions of the Muslim League and modalities in this regard will be finalised with them. We are on a mission of strengthening the PML and in the coming elections it will be in a better position to have seat-adjustment with other parties.”

Source: The Dawn News

Friday, 3 February 2017

No change in visa policy for Pakistan: US embassy

No change in visa policy for Pakistan: US embassy

ISLAMABAD: The United States embassy has clarified its position regarding the permit of visa policy for Pakistanis was not under consideration to be changed and President Donald Trump’s administration has not issued any exclusive instructions regarding the country.

A spokesperson for the embassy said that visa policy for Pakistanis same as it was before Trump took charge.

Trum's executive order has drawn criticism at home and abroad which sets limit for citizens hailing from seven Muslim-majority countries for travelling to the US, as well as barring the refugees. This has led to wide scale protests across US as the travellers are stranded at airports and the public is aware and sensitive to the Syrian conflict.

Despite that Pakistan’s name was not mentioned in the list, there been wide held apprehension that the country might be next on the ban list when it will be reviewed in few months.

The White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, had defended Trump’s decision, “You can point to other countries that have similar problems like Pakistan and others – perhaps we need to take it further.”

Source: The Nation

Think tank explains why India loathes CPEC

Think tank explains why India loathes CPEC

ISLAMABAD: India’s opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) stems from its fear of internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute and the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean, says a new report by one of the most influential global think tanks.

“There is considerable concern within India that China, which has been neutral on Kashmir since 1963, can no longer be so now that its economic and security interests in these territories are growing in stake,” says a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) — a Sweden-based think tank.

The report — titled “Silk Road Economic Belt – considering security implications and the EU-China cooperation prospects” — argues that India does not want a mediating role for China in these disputes.

It is the first report by any global think tank that has discussed in detail the Indian concerns on CPEC. The report has also shed light on implications of the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative on security dynamics and its compatibility with the EU interests.

The Sipri report says CPEC has raised political temperatures between India and Pakistan. “India strictly opposes CPEC, and while the Economic Belt is not a harbinger of a new conflict, it has so far intensified historic competition over influence in South Asia,” note authors of the report.

The report argues that there is a factual and conceptual objection to CPEC in India. The factual objection is that India does not want to internationalise the Kashmir dispute it has with Pakistan. Chinese activity in the disputed areas automatically makes it a stakeholder in these disputes.

At the conceptual level, CPEC allows China to gain a toehold in the Indian Ocean through direct access to the Arabian Sea. There remain concerns that this might develop a military dimension at some stage, according to the report.

Since territorial compromise from either India or Pakistan is a political suicide for any of the ruling parties, it remains to be seen whether CPEC will contribute to a resolution of this dispute or further fan the flames. There is also a concern in India that China will use Gwadar port to observe Indian naval activity and possibly even exploit it for an expansion of China’s own naval presence.

There is also concern in India that while CPEC in the short and medium term could be an opportunity to generate jobs and growth in Pakistan, over the longer term its strategic consequences could reshape the regional balance of power in favour of China and limit India’s geopolitical reach.

The assertiveness and swiftness of Chinese actions in the South China Sea have implanted a preoccupation among China’s critics in India that if China gains a foothold in the Arabian Sea and, as an extension, in the Indian Ocean through Gwadar, it might make national interest claims in India’s maritime sphere too. “After all, if Gwadar grows to be the immense port China envisions it to become, China will need to take on a bigger direct or indirect security role,” it says.

The Sipri report noted that unlike in India, CPEC has not raised concerns in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is open to all regional initiatives that could reactivate its ailing formal economy, whether that is by way of CPEC or India-led efforts to connect with the Afghan economy through the Chabahar Port in Iran. Iran has not opposed CPEC and has expressed strong interest in the Belt and Road Initiative.

However, the report argues that Afghanistan is unlikely to benefit from CPEC unless Kabul-Islamabad relations improve. For this to happen, Pakistan’s security concerns with regard to Afghanistan need to be assuaged. The authors note that CPEC has the potential to exacerbate three fault lines in South Asian security.

The first is between China and India themselves. The second is between China-Pakistan on the one side and India on the other. The third is between China and India and its partners – the US, Japan and, to a lesser degree, Vietnam. The region of Balochistan is being geopolitically instrumentalised by these various players, they added.

It says that this is an evidence that CPEC has contributed to political and security bloc formation, but the bloc rivalry between the US-India and China-Pakistan exists regardless of CPEC. CPEC has merely strengthened the strategic Chinese-Pakistani alliance.

China’s reliance on CPEC means that it needs a stable and amicable Pakistan, underlines the report. “The Silk Road Economic Belt initiative may become one of the cornerstones of Asian economic growth and integration, and eventually of closer political and security cooperation among states, but the pathway to this scenario is long and fraught with obstacles,” it says.

Source: The Express Tribune

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Iran confirms missile test

Iran confirms missile test

TEHRAN: Iran confirmed on Wednesday that it had tested a ballistic missile, but denied that was a breach of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The comments from Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan came after the UN Security Council met on Tuesday to discuss the weekend test, which Washington described as “absolutely unacceptable”.

“The action was in line with boosting Iran’s defence power and is not in contradiction with the JCPOA [the nuclear deal] or Resolution 2231,” Dehghan said.

He was referring to a UN Security Council resolution that bans Iran from developing missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

“This test was in line with our ongoing programmes,” Iranian media quoted him as saying. “We have previously announced that we will execute the programmes we have planned in production of defence equipment meant for our national interests and objectives ... We will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs.”

Iran’s ballistic missile programme has been a bone of contention with the West since the nuclear deal took effect in January last year, triggering the lifting of international sanctions.

Iran says its missiles do not breach United Nations resolutions because they are for defence purposes only and are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

It has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometres, sufficient to reach Israel as well as US bases in the region.

US ambassador Nikki Haley told Tuesday’s Security Council meeting that Washington would not stand idly by while Tehran pursued its missile programme. “The United States is not naive. We are not going to stand by. You will see us call them out,” she said.

Tehran warned Washington against using the issue to fuel tensions. “We hope that Iran’s defence programme is not used by the new US administration ... as a pretext to create new tensions,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said ahead of the meeting.

The row comes against a backdrop of already strained relations between Washington and Tehran over US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries.

Some 220 Iranian lawmakers signed a motion on Wednesday endorsing the boosting of Iran’s defence capabilities, the Fars news agency reported.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s only way to deter the enemy’s aggression is its missile power,” the motion said, calling the programme “an unavoidable necessity” for protecting national security.

The European Union, which helped broker the nuclear deal, had appealed to Tehran to refrain from activities such as the missile tests, “which deepen mistrust”.

But Moscow, which is fighting alongside Tehran’s forces in Syria, leapt to its ally’s defence. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Iran’s missile test did not breach Resolution 2231 and accused Washington of “heating up the situation”.

Source: The Dawn News

Source: The Dawn News

House Arrest of Hafiz Saeed

House Arrest of Hafiz Saeed

HERE we go again. This story is getting a little old now, so let’s hope there is a different ending this time round. Hafiz Saeed has been placed under house arrest, and there are indications that the two groups he leads — the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-i-Insaniyat (FiF) Foundation — may be listed as “banned organisations” in the near future. This may or may not be a significant step, but the law mandates it upon the government considering both groups are listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.

Now we have reports that pressure is mounting on the government from the Asia Pacific Group, which works with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to ensure that individual countries have enough safeguards in place to prevent their financial system from being used for the purposes of terror financing. If this group officially determines that Pakistan does not have enough safeguards in place, and that its financial system poses the risk that funds connected with a terrorist group could pass through it into the international financial system, it can place the country on a black list that would so raise the costs of interacting with the global financial system that our trade, remittances, bilateral and multilateral aid and loan disbursements would all be significantly affected.

Meaning, if the reports are true, we are currently running the risk of substantial disconnection with the global economy.

This issue has been running for at least six years now. The presence in the country and the open large-scale operations of groups listed as terrorist outfits by the United States was one. The other was that the FATF wanted tax evasion listed as a money-laundering offence in the country’s code to certify that its financial system was in compliance with international best practices.

In 2011 and 2012, Pakistan briefly flirted with being blacklisted by the FATF, leading to some concern in financial circles about the ramifications. A few steps were taken in light of that threat, and the country graduated up to the ‘grey list’, meaning its financial system might pose a threat to the international financial system if certain remedial steps were not taken. The measure to bring tax evasion under the Anti Money Laundering Act found resistance in parliament, but the FATF was willing to negotiate on that since the demand was being resisted in many other countries of the world as well.
On the matter of terror financing and shutting down the operations of listed terror groups, the demand was non-negotiable.

But on the matter of terror financing, and shutting down the operations of listed terror groups and all individuals known (and named in the UN Resolution), the demand was non-negotiable. We emerged from the grey list in February 2015, but only against a commitment that action would be taken under UNSCR 1267. The matter was announced with some pride by the finance minister.

That episode had come at the end of a period of serious wrangling within the country. In late December 2014, Nacta released an amended list of banned organisations in the country, in which the JuD was “Enlisted under observation Second Schedule” since 2007. A few days later, then secretary of state John Kerry arrived in the country and, amongst other things, asked after the enforcement of UNSCR 1267 as part of the cooperation in the war on terror. Only a few days later, an amended list of banned groups was released by the interior ministry, in which a total of 11 organisations were “Enlisted under UNSCR 1267”, including FiF and JuD. They were shown as proscribed since March 2012 and Dec 2008 respectively. It appears that some earlier notifications to the effect were being acknowledged officially.

Then the list disappeared and, a few days later, Nacta’s website was taken down comprehensively. Later, a series of contradictory statements belied the fact that a tussle was under way behind the scenes around the issue. The minister of defence went on record to say that there was “no reason to ban JuD” because it was a charity group, and a few days later the Foreign Office officially confirmed that the group had been banned. Then came a series of contradictory statements from unnamed officials in the interior ministry and intelligence agencies, some claiming there was a ban while others denied it.

Days later, the JuD held a large rally in Karachi, which was addressed by Hafiz Saeed himself, where he mocked the idea of a ban on his group and announced the commencement of an ambulance service for the city.

That was the background to the removal of Pakistan from the FATF’s ‘grey list’ that came the following month. And the matter went to the back burner for a few months.

Later in 2016, we began hearing reports of renewed pressure coming on Pakistan to move against the groups and individuals listed in UN Resolution 1267. Once again, the open mention of this controversy in a report carried by this paper sparked a furore and angry denials from all. But now, we’re seeing more reports, anonymously sourced for the moment, about renewed pressure to act against these groups followed by the move to place Hafiz Saeed under house arrest.

So what exactly is going on? Clearly this is one of the several proverbial ‘third rails’ of Pakistani politics. The stakes on either side are extremely high. On more than one occasion since 2010, the country has come to the very brink of a potential rupture with the international financial system on account of its failure to come into compliance with UNSCR 1267. In each case, a few partial steps have sufficed to pull things back from the brink.

But this time, reports are saying that the new presidential administration in Washington, DC may see things differently. How far does Pakistan really want to go in allowing groups and individuals listed as terrorists by the United States to roam and operate freely and organise rallies on its soil?

Source: The Dawn News

Only Prema Milk was found safe for consumption in Pakistan.

Only Prema Milk was found safe for consumption in Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: After conducting tests on 16 brands of packaged milk given Ultra High Temperature (UHT) and pasteurisation treatment, the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) has found that only prema milk is safe for consumption, the National Assembly was told on Monday.

Dairy companies use UHT treatment to increase the shelf life of packaged milk. For UHT treatment, milk is heated to above 135 degrees Celsius to kill harmful bacteria. Pasteurisation is a similar process, but involves lower temperatures and seeks to preserve microbes that are good for human consumption while eliminating harmful ones.

During a question-answer session in the National Assembly, the Minister of Science and Technology, Rana Tanveer Hussein told the house in a written reply that the PCSIR had conducted tests on 16 brands of packaged and liquid milk on the directives of the Supreme Court.

He said six brands in the UHT category were tested, including Olper's, Nestle, Milk Pak, Day Fresh, Good Milk, Nurpur Original and Haleeb Full Cream.

“All the UHT milk brands’ samples were found safe except Haleeb Milk, which contains formalin and cane sugar,” the minister said.

The minister said samples from 10 brands of pasteurised milk were also examined, including Anhar Milk, Daily Dairy, Doce Milk, Gourmet Milk, Nurpur, Nutrivi, Al-Fajar, Accha Milk, Prema Milk and Adams.

“Of these, only Prema Milk was found safe for consumption,” he said.

The above findings were also included in a report on the quality of milk submitted to the Supreme Court in Dec 2016 by the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Supreme Court has been hearing a petition filed by Barrister Zafarullah Khan against the sale of substandard milk and drinking water in the country.

Barrister Zafarullah Khan had claimed in his petition that Pakistani citizens have been consuming milk adulterated with different chemicals, including detergent powder. He said the use of contaminated and substandard milk has been leading to serious diseases such as cancer and hepatitis-C in humans, and asked the court to ban the use of contaminated and adulterated milk and water.

The apex court had on September 16, 2016 ordered the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Lahore and the PCSIR to conduct a chemical examination of all domestic and international brands of packed milk available in the market.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar — who has been hearing the case since it was taken up — had instructed representatives of the three institutions to conduct a thorough analysis of the milk samples without any fear and leniency as the matter involved the lives of children.

Source: The Dawn News