SC seeks reply from federal, provincial govts
ISLAMABAD: During the hearing of a case pertaining to the establishment of military courts in the country, the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to the attorney general and the advocates general of all four provinces.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, heard a petition filed by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) challenging the establishment of military courts under the 21st constitutional amendment.
The petition was filed by LHCBA President Advocate Shafqat Chauhan along with Advocate Hamid Khan.
The petition contends that military courts violate rights of citizens listed in Article 8 of the Constitution and were therefore unconstitutional.
After hearing the arguments, the court issued notices to the attorney general and the advocates general of the four provinces and adjourned the case to Feb 12.
The LHCBA is of the view that the 21st Amendment is against the basic structure and features of the Constitution and that the amendment abrogates the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan guaranteed in the Constitution.
The petition argues that the very concept of citizens being tried by special military courts was simply shocking, absurd and an invasion of the judiciary's remit, adding that such a procedure could not be allowed to sustain.
The association, the petition explained, was fully cognisant of the principles relating to the authority of the Parliament to amend the Constitution, yet, it is an undeniable fact that the Parliament's power is not unlimited and it cannot pass an amendment that abrogates fundamental rights.
The petition said that the judiciary was a guardian and guarantor of the fundamental rights of the people, particularly in relation to equality before the law, equality of status, equality of opportunity, freedom of expression, belief, faith, worship and association and rendering of social, economic and political justice.
These rights would be of no consequence unless there was an independent judiciary available to guarantee and enforce them.
Sufficient electricity to be available in the next few years: Asif
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Water and Power, Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Wednesday said that sufficient electricity would be available by utilizing coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Steps are been taken to generate energy through coal and LNG, he said talking to a private news channel.
He said that number of institutions including federal and provincial are not paying outstanding amount of billions to the ministry of water and power.
He said there is need to pay utility bills in a proper manner to the ministry for ensuring smooth system of power in the country.
The Minister said that over 90 percent people living in Tank area are not paying the outstanding amount to the department.
To a question he said that PML-N, government after coming into power had taken concrete measures in the power sector, adding that several plants would start producing electricity in the country. - APP
PM summons high commissioner to discuss Indo-Pak relations
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's high commissioner to India Abdul Basit was called to Islamabad on Wednesday for urgent consultation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding the evolving situation in the region after US President Obama's visit to Delhi.
Diplomatic sources told that High Commissioner Abdul Basit will brief top the leadership on recent developments in the region, including the US-India nuclear deal and its implications on strategic stability in South Asia.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama announced last week that they had reached an agreement to break the deadlock that has been stalling a civilian nuclear power agreement.
Basit met PM Nawaz at the Prime Minister House and briefed him about Indo-Pak relations in the wake of Obama's visit to India.
Nawaz while talking to the high commissioner said: "India is an important neighbour for Pakistan and we would like to have normal relations on the basis of respect and sovereign equality".
The premier further said that it is important for both India and Pakistan to resolve all their outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, in order to have durable peace and security in the region.
US drone strike kills seven in NWA
PESHAWAR: At least seven suspected militants were killed and another was injured in a US drone strike in the Shawal area of North Waziristan Agency on Wednesday.
Intelligence sources said the US drone fired two missiles on a compound and a vehicle on the border of North and South Waziristan Agency in Shawal valley.
The identity of the militants is yet to be ascertained.
Drone attacks are widely unpopular across Pakistan and according to survey conducted in June last year, 66 per cent of the country's citizens oppose these strikes. North Waziristan is among Pakistan's seven tribal districts near the Afghan border which are rife with insurgents and are alleged to be strongholds of Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, among others. Pakistan's military in June 2014 had launched an all-out operation, named 'Zarb-i-Azb', against Taliban militants in the region.
Balochistan LB polls end, ruling coalition wins majority
QUETTA: The final phase of local bodies elections in Balochistan concluded with the ruling coalition partners winning a majority of seats in Quetta and other parts of the province on Wednesday.
No untoward incident was reported from any part of the province during the elections.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told that the councilors' turnout was high in the final phase and the government succeeded in maintaining peace.
"These elections will help in improving the law and order situation," Bugti said.
Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), a coalition partner in Balochistan government, won the seat of Quetta city mayor.
Dr Kaleemullah Khan of PkMAP has been elected as the city mayor and Mohammad Younas Baloch as the deputy mayor.
Dr Kaleem secured 54 votes and his opponent Mohammad Qasim Achakzai of All Parties Democratic Alliance (APDA) got 14 votes.
For deputy mayor's office, Younas Baloch got 56 votes and his opponent from APDA, Raza Wakeel, secured 56 votes.
Dr Kaleemullah and Younas Baloch were jointly supported by PkMAP, National Party, Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party and Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen.
Qasim Achakai and Raza Wakeel were supported by APDA - an alliance of seven political and religious parties.
Awami National Party (ANP) candidate Malik Naeem Bazai was elected as the district chairman of Quetta and Asmatullah of PkMAP as deputy district chairman.
Elsewhere in the province, PML-N, NP, PkMAP and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl reflected a stronger position.
PML-N secured the seat of chairman and deputy chairman in resource-rich Dera Bugti district for the first time. Ghulam Nabi Shambani was elected as chairman and Shah Murad Masoori Bugti as deputy chairman of the district.
PPP secured the seat of district chairman Barkhan with Amir Mohammad Khetran as its candidate. Sultan Sherani of PkMAP managed to win the elections for chairman of Sherani district.
The Balochistan National Party - Mengal - a nationalist group - also secured some seats in Baloch dominated areas.
According to unofficial results, NP candidate Fid Dashti was elected as district chairman of Kech and Mir Aurangzaib Jamaldini was elected as district chairman Noshki.
Elections were postponed in Killa Abdullah, Mastung, Killa Saifullah and some other districts due to lack of quorum.
All political parties were testing their muscles to win the seat of Quetta mayor. There had been a deadlock among the coalition partners to decide on a unanimous candidate for the seat which ended on Tuesday with Dr Kaleemullah emerging as the candidate.
PAC takes notice of irregularities in Gomal University, directs recovery of Rs50 million
PESHAWAR: A meeting of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Wednesday taking notice of the irregularities in Gomal University D.I. Khan directed recovery of 50 million rupees from the responsible involved.
The meeting that was chaired by Acting Chairman, Shoukat Ali Yousafzai directed to submit the recovered amount in the exchequer. The meeting was attended by Mufti Syed Janan, Syed Muhammad Ali Shah Bacha, Akbar Hayat, Idrees Khan, Secretary Assembly, Aman Ullah Khan, Vice Chancellor, Hamid Shafiq and DG Audit, Asif Khan.
The participants after thoroughly discussing financial irregularities of the university in the year 2009-10 directed to recover the amount within two months and submit the report to the committee on the subject matter. It was decided that action would be taken against those who failed in submitting payments.
The meeting expressed displeasure over the fact that university's administration highlights their financial deficits but conversely making payments of millions of rupees ignoring concerned rules and regulations adding these irregularities could not be overlooked.
PAC taking serious notice of anomalies in payments under the head of media allowance and house rent during 2009-10 and announced constitution of a committee comprising of finance, audit, law, establishment and assembly secretariat officers to probe the matter.
The members expressed annoyance that various universities including Gomal were deviating from the prescribed rules and principles despite the clear and explicit decisions of the public accounts committees.
Speaking in the meeting, Shaukat Ali Yusufzai made it clear that universities should ensure congruence in their financial rules. He said that still the rules of certain universities are in conflict with the decisions of courts and previous PACs. He said that responsibilities of PAC include streamlining the financial matters of the public departments adding energies would be focused to achieve the objective. - APP
Petroleum Minister says ready to resign over fuel crisis
ISLAMABAD: Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said he is ready to relinquish his post if it helps end the petrol crisis.
Speaking to media on Wednesday, he dispelled the notion that the crisis might resurface next month.
Abbasi said POL prices would further go down by February 1 and that price of per liter petrol would be equal to sale price of per Kg CNG.
Responding to a question, the minister said that as to why OGRA kept issuing notices to oil companies if it was not responsible for the petrol crisis.
Abbasi said 20,000 ton furnace oil was being provided to power sector on daily basis while 12 days of stock was also available.
He said besides making arrangements for additional reserves of petrol, the ministry has also made arrangements to meet the demand of 19,000 metric ton per day.
JC recommends elevation of Justice Baqar to SC
New CJ for FSC
ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday recommended that Sindh High Court (SHC) Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar should be elevated to the Supreme Court.
In his stead, they deliberated on and decided to appoint Justice Faisal Arab as the new Sindh High Court CJ. Justice Arab is currently heading the special court which is hearing the high treason case against former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
A member of the commission aware of the decisions taken, said that Justice Arab will continue to preside over the special court even after taking over the reigns as Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court.
Musharraf's lawyer, Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, has already observed that the elevation of Justice Arab will not restrict him from hearing the treason case.
At the moment, there are 16 judges serving in the apex court with one seat vacant. If his elevation is confirmed by a parliamentary body, Justice Baqar will serve in the apex court till April 2022.
Meanwhile, The commission has also recommended that Federal Shariat Court's Judge Riaz Ahmad Khan as the court's chief.
Justice Riaz was appointed as an FSC judge in June 2014, after he retired from the Islamabad High Court.
Earlier, Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan was serving as FSC's CJ. But last month, he was appointed as the chief election commissioner.
Imran censures Muslim leaders’ silence over Charlie Hebdo cartoons
ISLAMABAD: While condemning the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan held the leadership of the Muslim world responsible for what happened in France as a result of their publication.
He said no religion could be insulted on the pretext of freedom of speech. "The French publication occurred due to the negligence of Muslim leaders," the PTI chief said while addressing the Ulema Mashaikh Conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.
He said that the conditions for Pakistan and Muslims have worsened because of their own actions.
"…We should have stood against oppression and injustice a long time ago," he said. "We will never achieve our goals unless we stand for our rights."
Imran said that it was not fair to blame religious seminaries for fanning terrorism.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan reiterated his long-standing stance that the general polls of 2013 were the most rigged elections in the history of Pakistan.
"…How will democracy flourish when the government has been formed through rigging," said the PTI chairman.
Pakistan figures above regional countries on economic freedom index
WASHINGTON: Pakistan has greater economic freedom than other major regional economies, the latest worldwide Index of Economic Freedom determines while taking into account improvements the country has made over the last year.
Released by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, the Index assigns Pakistan an economic freedom score of 55.6, making its economy the 121st freest in the 2015 Index.
The country's score has increased by 0.4 point since last year, reflecting improvements in investment freedom and freedom from corruption, according to the annual Index which covers 10 freedoms - from property rights to entrepreneurship in 186 countries.
The Index reveals that Pakistan, though categorized among mostly unfree economies, is ranked 25th out of 42 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and fares better than its two large neighbors India and China, ranked 128th and 139th respectively on the worldwide index.
Regionally, Pakistan figures higher than India and China, respectively placed at 26th and 30th.
"Pakistan's economic freedom has advanced modestly in recent years.
Since 2011, economic freedom in Pakistan has increased by 0.5 point, led by advances in investment freedom, monetary freedom, and freedom from corruption," the report says while also noting challenges in some other categories.
Among Pakistan's other neighbours, Iran's economic freedom score is 41.8, ranked 171st in the 2015 Index.
Compared with Pakistan, India's economic freedom score is 54.6, down by 1.1 points from last year, with modest improvements in business freedom, property rights, and freedom from corruption offset by declines in labour freedom and trade freedom. India is ranked 26th out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and its overall score continues to be below the regional and world averages.
"India's level of economic freedom is unchanged over five years. The state's presence in the economy remains extensive through state-owned enterprises and wasteful subsidy programs that cause chronically high budget deficits."
China's economic freedom score is 52.7, making its economy the 139th freest in the 2015 Index. Its overall score is 0.2 point higher than last year, with modest improvements in freedom from corruption, business freedom, and labor freedom largely offset by declines in investment freedom and the control of government spending.
Over the past five years, economic freedom in China has improved by less than 1.0 point, continuing its patchy and uneven progress since 1995.
Among major South Asian economies, Sri Lanka is ranked 21st out of 42 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and its score is just below the world and regional averages.
Bangladesh's economic freedom score is 53.9, making its economy the 131st freest in the 2015 Index. Its overall score has decreased by 0.2 point since last year, with improvements in labor freedom, freedom from corruption, and monetary freedom outweighed by notable declines in investment freedom and business freedom. - APP