Al Qaeda Pakistan chief killed in Lahore raid: Punjab home minister
LAHORE: The head of Al Qaeda in Pakistan was among the four militants killed in Monday's police raid in Sheikhupura district's Kala Shah Kaku area, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada said on Wednesday.
Khanzada named the Al Qaeda leader only as "Abdali" in a news conference and said he and three other operatives were planning an attack on government figures.
"Their leader who was giving them the briefings, who was leading the entire team, was the head of Al Qaeda in Pakistan. His name was Abdali," he told reporters.
The minister later confirmed by telephone that Abdali was one of four killed on Monday when Pakistani forces raided a hideout in the small town of Kala Shah Kaku, a few kilometres outside Lahore.
Officials said they were acting on a tip-off when they raided the militants' hideout and had received intelligence that the group was planning an attack on the provincial headquarters of the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Al Qaeda's South Asian branch leader, Maulana Asim Umar, was the "mastermind of the plan," Khanzada said.
The claims could not be independently verified.
A senior official, who did not want to be named, had earlier told that four terrorists were killed in the encounter. One, identified as Abdali of Muridke, blew himself up to avoid arrest, while three others were killed in a heavy exchange of fire, the official had said.
A huge cache of weapons including AK-47s, rocket launchers and suicide vests and laptops was seized in the raid, police said at the time.
An Al Qaeda presence remains in Pakistan since the killing of top leader Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid by US forces in Abbottabad.
Many militants from the western region near Afghanistan have fled to other parts of the country, officials say, as security forces press on with ground and air offensives in North Waziristan. Pakistan Army has killed more than 2,700 militants during Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan since June last year, following a deadly attack on Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, destroying more than 800 of their hideouts.
Contours of Green Line transport project focus of PM’s Karachi visit
No discussion on City’s law & order
KARACHI: The promised Green Line Rapid Transit System was the focal subject during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with the Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Wednesday.
Water projects and loss of lives due to the unprecedented heatwave came under discussion. However, the participants did not discuss the law and order situation of Karachi.
Secretary Saleh Farooqi briefed participants about the contours of the mega transport project for Karachi, saying that the service is being given from the federal government to the province. Farooqi said that the Green Line, having a capacity of 300,000 passenger trips per day will operate along a 17.8km route, with 21 stations.
“We have given you Rs8 billion for the Green Line project,” Nawaz was quoted as saying to the chief minister. To this, Shah responded by thanking him and saying that the project will cost Rs16 billion.
PM orders for completion of K4 project within two years
Water project K4 also came under discussion, with the prime minister issuing orders to complete the project within two years.
He said the federal government can give Rs10 billion for this project adding that consultancy for K4 should be completed in six months. The K4, a Rs270million project, is designed to double the capacity of Karachi’s water supply system
Nawaz was also briefed on the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme by chief secretary Sindh under which 260 million gallons of water per day would be brought from Kinjhar lake to Karachi, to meet present and future needs of Karachi. The project will be completed in three phases.
The premier directed that a monitoring committee comprising federal and provincial government officials be set up to ensure efficiency and transparency in its execution in a speedy manner. Federal government would share the project cost with the provincial government, he said.
Sindh, fed govt to share Karachi projects’ costs
Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah while speaking at a press conference following PM Nawaz’s visit said that the federal government will put in as much funds in the Karachi projects as the Sindh government.
“Its a five year project, but we will try to complete the first phase of the K4 project within three years,” The CM said while talking about the water project.
The CM further said that PM Nawaz is interested in completing the Green Line project soon to solve the transport issues of the people of Karachi in a speedy manner. He also said that the meeting was positive and the premier extended full support for the Sindh government.
Nawaz orders to punish those who neglected responsibility
PM Nawaz expressed deep grief and sorrow over the heatwave incident. “The whole country sympathises with the affected people in this hour of grief,” he said.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah thanked PM Nawaz for taking personal interest in matters of the province, particularly Karachi.
He briefed the premier on the crisis that hit the city on June 19 which caused hundreds of casualties and the relief measures taken by Sindh government in its aftermath.
PM Nawaz was also apprised that more than 65,000 patients were reportedly admitted in hospitals during this period, out of which around 1,250 lost their lives.
Nawaz said that this was an unprecedented incident in the history of Pakistan and all departments that neglected their responsibilities and added to public misery should be held accountable in a transparent manner. The premier added that lessons should be learnt from such calamities and measures be taken to avoid their recurrence in future. He appreciated the role played by private welfare associations in providing relief to the people.
Those attending the meeting include Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch along with members of the Sindh Cabinet.
LB elections in capital
IHC dismisses PTI petition
ISLAMABAD: A division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday dismissed three identical peritions filed Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) seeking party-based Local Government elections in the federal capital.
Afghan cross-border attack wounds 6 Pakistani security men in SWA
PESHAWAR: Six security personnel were injured in firing and shelling from Afghan security forces in South Waziristan tribal agency on Wednesday.
Afghan security forces early on Wednesday morning fired mortar shells at a security checkpost in the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan.
Tensions have been rising along the border of Khyber Agency and South Waziristan tribal region over the last few days, say official security sources.
Reports of rising tensions come as the Taliban step up attacks in Afghanistan as a part of their annual offensive.
An Inter-Services Intelligence officer was accused of involvement in a Taliban attack targeting the Afghan parliament building on June 22.
The latest attack on security personnel occurs as operations Zarb-i-Azb and Khyber II ? targeting militancy in the sensitive tribal region of Waziristan have reached their final phases.
Claim of ‘35 punctures’ was political statement: Imran Khan
Says ECP will not be able to repeat what it did in 2013 elections
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan has said that his claim of ‘35 punctures’, which referred to rigging in Punjab’s 35 constituencies, was nothing more than a political statement.
Imran Khan said this in his exclusive interview in Hamid Mir’s program ‘Capital Talk’.
Hamid Mir asked Khan as to why he shied away from speaking on the issue of ’35 punctures’.
Imran Khan also claimed that his party proved that rigging was carried out in general elections of 2013. Terming the general elections 2013 “most controversial”, Imran Khan said that if governments are not changed through vote of masses, the only other option left is martial law.
Talking to media after the hearing of the inquiry commission formed to probe alleged poll rigging, Imran Khan said: “Such elections are futile in which people vote for one party and the government is formed by another.”
Chairman PTI asserted that people came out and martial law was imposed in 1977 after rigging in only 10 constituencies, however, general election 2013 are more controversial.
Khan challenged Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to fill the Miran-e-Pakistan with masses if it claims people are with it.
He went on to say that additional ballot papers were dispatched in some particular constituencies of Punjab, adding that it was not the decision of Election Commission of Pakistan but rather a political one.
The PTI Chairman added that the ECP will no be able to repeat what it did during the 2013 general elections.
Imran expressed satisfaction on the proceedings of the inquiry commission and once again reiterated that PTI will accept whatever the decision of this commission will be.
Iran border guards fire mortar shells into Panjgur
QUETTA: Iranian border forces fired mortar shells at the border town of Panjgur late on Tuesday night. However, no loss of life or damage to property was reported.
According to security officials in Panjgur, Iranian border guards fired five more mortar shells late on Tuesday night which landed in Pakistan, though no one was injured. “Five shells landed in Killi Nakar and Gorkadan area,” a security official told.
This was the third time in a week that Iranian border guards have fired mortar shells into Pakistan. So far, 13 mortar shells have been fired into Panjgur from the Iranian side.
Panjgur Deputy Commissioner Mehrab Shah and assistant commissioner visited Iran to record their protest over the border violations.
Pakistan has repeatedly raised the border violation issue with the Iranian government, which has maintained that its forces will continue to target terrorists who are a threat to peace.
Govt to present bill seeking protection of whistle-blowers
ISLAMABAD: In an aim to curb corruption, the government has decided for the first time to present a bill seeking to protect whistle-blowers; thus, ensuring the protection of journalists as well.
A bill was drafted in this regard and sent to the federal cabinet, recommending protection to whistle-blowers who help expose corrupt officials across the country, the law secretary told the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Human Rights on Wednesday.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed us to get the Cabinet’s approval before we present the draft to Parliament,” Justice (retd) Muhammad Raza Khan. The initiative is being taken to curb corruption in government departments.
Further, the committee rejected another bill by Senator Hamdullah in which he sought to omit clause (2) of Article 248 of the Constitution. The respective clause provides immunity to the president and the governor from criminal proceedings in any court during their service period.
PPP suffers blow in Punjab as Sumsam Bokhari joins PTI
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party suffered another blow in Punjab on Wednesday after former minister of state Sumsam Bokhari along with a group of senior party members from Okara shifted their allegiance to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Sumsam Bokhari, along with other PPP leaders from Punjab, met Imran Khan at his Bani Gala residence in the federal capital. Senior PTI leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen were also present in the meeting.
Talking to media personnel on Wednesday, Bokhari said the PPP had become the ruling PML-N's "B-team" in Punjab as a result of its policy of reconciliation and its role of a friendly opposition. He went on to say that PML-N's governance in Punjab was unacceptable.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said PTI was gaining popularity each passing day, adding that all those who share the party's vision will be accommodated. "There will be no distinction between old and new members, all those on board the party's manifesto will be treated as equals," said the PTI leader.
Ashraf Sohna, the disgruntled former district president of the PPP who joined the PTI earlier this week, was also present alongside Qureshi and Bokhari. Talking to reporters, Sohna said the PPP was no longer a significant political force, adding that "no sensible person would want to indulge in politics from PPP's platform."
Sohna's resignation had sent the PPP into alarm mode, resulting in an emergency meeting of the party's Okara district chapter presided over by Senior Vice President Rana Gul Nasir, which was attended by party office-bearers from all three tehsils of the district.
The party's District General Secretary Farooq Ashraf Sangoka told the participants former district president Ashraf Sohna had been trying to join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf for a few months and was disinterested in the party's activities.
Gunmen kill 3 in targeted attack in Quetta
QUETTA: Two assailants on a motorcycle Wednesday shot dead three welders at a shop in Quetta, in what police said was an ethnically motivated attack.
“Unknown gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead three welders at a shop and fled,” senior police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema told AFP.
He said it appeared to be an “ethnic” killing as the victims were from Punjab.
Aitzaz Goraya, another senior police official confirmed the shooting and casualties.
Police sources told that the killing took place at Quetta’s Sirki Road adding that all the victims received multiple bullets.
The dead bodies were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta for postmortem. Traffic was suspended and shopkeepers pulled down their shutters after the attack.
Levies constable shot dead
In a separate incident, militants opened fire at a Levies check post in Balochistan’s Pishin district, killing a Levies constable. The slain official was deployed at Badizai check post in Pishin. The assailants managed to escape unhurt from the site in this incident as well. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. - AFP
Saudi Prince Alwaleed pledges entire $32b fortune to charity
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Wednesday pledged his entire $32-billion (28.8-billion-euro) fortune to charitable projects over the coming years.
The prince said in a statement that the “philanthropic pledge will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world.”
He said the donation “will be allocated according to a well-devised plan throughout the coming years” but stressed there was no time limit on when the donation would be spent.
Alwaleed said he would head a board of trustees tasked with spending the money, adding that his pledge would still be used after his death “for humanitarian projects and initiatives”.
The magnate belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of king Abdullah, who died on January 23.
In the conservative kingdom, Alwaleed, who holds no government rank, is unusual for his high profile and periodic comments about economic issues.
At a press conference, he said his pledge was modelled on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropic funds in the United States.
“This is very much separate from my ownership in Kingdom Holding,” Alwaleed told reporters on the 66th-floor headquarters of the publicly listed company which he chairs.
As well as media investments, Kingdom Holding has interests ranging from the Euro Disney theme park to Four Seasons hotels and Citigroup. - AFP
US, Cuba restoring diplomatic ties after 54 years
HAVANA/WASHINGTON: The United States and Cuba are set to announce the restoration of diplomatic relations on Wednesday, the result of a two-year courtship between former Cold War rivals who severed ties in 1961.
The senior U.S. diplomat in Havana on Wednesday delivered a letter from President Barack Obama addressed to Cuban President Raul Castro about the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The text of the letter was not immediately disclosed.
Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of the U.S. interests section, handed the letter to Cuba’s interim foreign minister, Marcelino Medina, at the Cuban foreign ministry. The two shook hands in front of a Cuban and a U.S. flag.
Obama was due to speak at 11 a.m. from the White House’s ceremonial Rose Garden.
Cuba’s President Raul Castro confirmed in a letter to US President Barack Obama on Wednesday that Washington and Havana will reopen embassies as early as July 20.
“I am pleased to address this letter to you to confirm that Cuba has decided to reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States and open permanent diplomatic missions in our respective countries, on July 20, 2015,” the missive says. - AFP
Climate Change Ministry sets up high level think tank
ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Climate Change has set up a high-level think-tank which will support the ministry time to time in taking better and informed decisions in various areas of climate change and allied issues.
The think-tank, called Consultative Group on Climate Change, has been formed on the directives of the Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, according a press release issued here.
The director-general of the ministry will lead the consultative group on climate change, as secretary (ex-officio), according to the ministry’s notification.
The 27-member think-tank comprises, among others, members of national and provincial assemblies, senators, renowned scientists, researchers, climatologists, glaciologists, weather scientists, agriculturists, academicians, water, environment from government and non-governmental sectors.
Senator Dr. Ayesha Raza Frooq, MNA Maryam Aurengzeb, MNA Romina Khurshid Alam, MPA Punjab Assembly Syed Uzma Qadri, MPA Balochistan Assembly Raheela Durani, Director-General Pakistan of Pakistan Meteorological Department Dr. Ghulam Rasul, Special Advisor to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation’s Secretary-General Dr. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Former head of the Global Change Impact Study Centre (GCISC) Dr. Arshad M. Khan, former chairman of Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resource Dr. Muhammad Akram Kahlown, Dr. Ghulam Raza Bhatti of the Higher Education Commission, Chairman Pakistan Business Council (Dubai) Khwaja Tanvir, among others, have been selected as members of the country’s first think-tank on climate change.
“The consultative group on climate change shall assist the ministry in taking better, viable and knowledgeable decisions in the fields of climate change, forestry, international climate change negotiations, boosting awareness about climate risks at public and all levels and possible remedies to strengthen country’s resilience against climate change-induced disasters, particularly floods, heat waves, shifting rainfall patterns, erratic summer and winter seasons,” said Senator Mushahidullah Khan, federal minister for climate change.
PTI MNAs paid salaries despite eight-month absence
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNAs who did not attend the assembly session for eight months were paid ten months salary.
Salaries were paid to those 24 PTI MNAs including Imran Khan who had submitted their resignations in August 2014 during the sit-in. Each MNA was paid approximately Rs800,000.
The PTI MNAs were paid approximately Rs20 million and their salaries were paid as their resignations were not accepted.