ECP turns down Rangers request for biometric system
PTI wants to end politics of fear in Karachi, asserts Imran
KARACHI: Secretary Election Commission Pakistan (ECP) Babar Yaqoob turned down on Saturday Rangers request to install biometric system in NA-246 constituency ahead of the by-elections.
The ECP secretary said that the commission does not have enough time to implement biometric systems in the constituency and that the move would require many legal and procedural changes.
Yaqoob added that Rangers would be given magisterial powers on polling day, whereby they can arrest offenders in case any voter fraud is reported.
He said 358,000 ballot papers are being printed under the supervision of Pakistan Army and Rangers.
Responding to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) reservations on ‘ghost polling stations’, Yaqoob said they are investigating the claims.
The ECP secretary said there will be no load-shedding on the day of by-polls, while no one except the presiding officer will be allowed to take their cell-phone inside the polling stations.
He hoped that by-elections held in peaceful atmosphere will result in bringing up eligible political leadership.
Meanwhile, PTI chief Imran Khan, while addressing a press conference after reaching Karachi for the party’s April 19 rally, said Karachi couldn’t become the city which it was poised to due to the political fear instilled in the metropolis over the past few decades.
Imran Khan, flanked by Ali Zaidi and Imran Ismail, said “this by-poll holds significance for PTI as the party wants to end the politics of fear in the city and give its people a ray of hope”.
PTI Karachi President Ali Zaidi said they had received confirmed reports that CNICs of voters in the constituency have been confiscated to bar them from casting votes. He urged Rangers to probe the matter and ensure transparency.
Earlier, PTI candidate for NA-246 by poll, Imran Ismail had called on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to play its mandated role to ensure a free and fair ballot on April 23.
“Vote count should be carried out in the presence of the Rangers personnel,” Ismail said while talking to reporters in Karachi. “The paramilitary forces must not leave the polling booths before ensuring the vote count process is completed fairly.”
The PTI candidate alleged that the election commission was not taking notice of violence against their workers and intimidatory tactics being used against them during their rallies. “We have, time and again, requested the ECP to discuss this matter with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM),” he added.
Ismail also alleged that the MQM was collecting identity cards from the locals of NA-246. “We had reported this to ECP before and have done so today as well,” he said.
Imran Ismail says vote count should be carried out in presence of Rangers personnel.
Ismail said they were trying to make the election free and fair, adding that none of its demand would, by any means, give edge to PTI over others.
The PTI candidate said his party had identified at least four ghost polling stations in the constituency: Zubaida Hashmani Ishaqabad, City College Moosa Colony, Metropolitan Foundation School and Siraj-ud-Daula College FC Area.
“ECP has assured that their officers would go in the field to investigate the existence of such ghost polling stations and that they would be closed down,” Ismail said, adding: “City College in Moosa Colony is office of the All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organisation (APMSO) and there is no such place by the name of Zubaida Hashmani.”
Ismail added that there was risk of ballot papers being stolen from printing press.
Hakimullah Mehsud’s close aide among 6 killed in Karachi encounter: police
KARACHI: Karachi police have on Saturday claimed to have killed a close aide of former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Hakimullah Meshud in an exchange of fire, reported Dunya News.
According to details, police raided a terrorists’ hideout in Saadi Town near New Sabzi Mandi. Terrorists opened fire on the police party during the raid, responding to which police also fired and a highly wanted TTP commander Ahmed was killed along with his 5 companions.
SSP Rao Anwar told that the terrorist was a close aide of Hakimullah Mehsud and had come to Karachi for organizing the outfit in Karachi.
It is pertinent to mention here that Ahmed was earlier reported to have been injured in a drone attack.
Weapons and explosives have also been found with the terrorists. Police took the explosives into custody.
CPEC: Joint Pak-China Think Tank launched in China
ISLAMABAD: Prior to President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, a three-day conference in the picturesque Chinese island of Hainan decided to launch a new Joint Pakistan-China Think Tank dedicated solely to research and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
According to a press statement issued here on Saturday, the newly-formed think tank “Research and Development International (RANDI)”, will have two co-chairpersons: Madame Zhao Baige, former minister and currently Member of Parliament and Vice-Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress will be co-chair from the Chinese side and Senator Mushahid Hussain from the Pakistani side.
“The new think tank is the first joint initiative of China and Pakistan, which will be dedicated to research on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said Senator Mushahid, emphasizing that it would also provide an ‘Information Corridor’ to promote perspectives, data and information for policy-makers, students, specialists, scholars and companies of both countries.
The ‘Information Corridor’ will be organised by China’s most prestigious university, Tsinghua University, under the supervision of Professor Li Xiguang, who is also Director of the Center of Pakistan Studies there, who also addressed the conference.
The Pakistan secretariat of the new Joint Think Tank, RANDI, will be located at the Pakistan-China Institute in Islamabad, while its China secretariat will be co-hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the China Institute of Reform & Development (CIRD), two top Chinese think tanks.
A work plan for 2015 was also approved at the conference, which was attended, among others, by former finance minister Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, Chairman, Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Dr Saeed Ellahi, energy and economic experts including representatives of the Board of Investment, and Gwadar Development Authority.
The think tank will provide the institutional and intellectual foundation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has now become
the flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s vision of the Central Asian Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road. - APP
Sufi Muhammad acquitted in 16 cases
PESHAWAR: A local anti-terrorism court on Saturday cleared the chief of the banned Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), Maulana Sufi Muhammad, in 16 more terrorism cases.
Sufi Muhammad was acquitted due to as lack of evidence against him in the cases, all of which were registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
Judge Abdul Rauf of the ATC, which was conducting proceedings inside the Peshawar Central Jail, also issued orders to transfer the remaining three cases against the TNSM chief to courts in Swat.
The trial of Sufi Mohammad in different terrorism cases have been conducted inside the maximum security Peshawar Central Prison for security fears.
Sufi, who is the father-in-law of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah, was arrested in 2009 during the final phase of the military operation against militants led by his son-in-law in Malakand region.
He has been in prison since his 2009 arrest.
J&K Police accept lapses
NEW DELHI: The Jammu & Kashmir Police has admitted on Saturday that security personnel violated the standard operating procedure while firing at a mob during clashes in Narbal village of Budgam district in the valley in which a teenager was killed.
A police statement issued on Saturday in Srinagar said: “Today (Saturday) morning in Narbal (Magam) area there were reports of stone pelting on vehicles plying on Narbal-Gulmarg road.”
“Police along with paramilitary forces were deployed to contain the situation. The deployed forces came under heavy stone pelting. To control the situation, they fired a few rounds resulting in injuries to a local youth, namely Suhail Ahmad Sofi, son of Abdul Ahad Sofi resident of Narbal, Magam,” the statement said.
“Unfortunately the injured later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. We regret the unfortunate incident and extend our sympathies to the bereaved family. Preliminary inquiry conducted in the matter indicates that the forces deployed have acted in violation of the laid down SOP,” the statement added. “An FIR Number 34/2015 under the Ranbir Penal Code has been registered in police station Magam and further action would follow,” it said. - AFP
Indian occupation forces kill teenager in IHK
SRINAGAR: A teenager was killed Saturday after India’s paramilitary fired on protesters in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said.
The killing took place at Narbal area on the outskirts of Srinagar city.
“A teenager Suhail Ahmad was brought dead to our hospital this morning,” Dr Ajaz Mustafa, superintendent at SKIMS Bemina hospital told Xinhua. “He had bullet wound in the back side near renal area.”
Reports said a crowd of people took to streets in the locality to protest arrest of separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat on sedition charges. According to a police official the protesters hurled stones at India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), who retaliated by firing warning shots.
The Muslim majority areas of the region are observing shutdown on the call of Hurriyat (freedom) Conference leader Syed Ali Geelani to protest killing of youth in southern town of Tral earlier this week, arrest and detention of separatist leaders and what he described as biased coverage by the Indian media of events in the restive region.
On Friday police prevented a separatist rally in the town.
However, protests broke out in Srinagar and Tral after Friday afternoon congregational prayers. Protesters set ablaze Indian national flag during protests and 24 people including policemen were injured in the clashes.
Bhat was arrested on Friday from his home in Habbakadal area on charges of provoking people to hoist Pakistan’s national flag during a rally on Wednesday.
Analysts in Srinagar said the killing is likely to fuel further protests in the restive region.
A separatist movement and guerrilla war challenging New Delhi’s rule is going on in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of sending armed militants to Indian-controlled Kashmir. However, Islamabad says it only provides moral and political support to Kashmiris. - Xinhua
Grenade attack in Karachi’s Bolton Market leaves 3 injured
KARACHI: A grenade attack in Karachi’s Bolton Market on MA Jinnah Road on Saturday left three people injured. Two motorcyclists attacked a shop in Bolton Market with a grenade which exploded with a loud blast. The three injured people were moved to Civil Hospital with the help of people in the vicinity.
Fear gripped the locality and surrounding shops were shut down as police collected evidence from the scene of the incident and started investigation.
Last month, a school in North Nazimabad also came under a grenade attack when unknown motorcyclists hurled a hand grenade at the school near KDA roundabout. The attackers also dropped a ‘threat letter’ in the school premises before escaping from the scene. A day before this attack, a similar incident took place when unidentified attackers hurled a grenade at a mosque in Karachi’s Orangi Town area.
Pakistan, Afghanistan face threats by non-state actors: Afghan army chief
KAKUL: While addressing the 132nd passing out parade of Pakistan Military Academy on Saturday, Afghan Army Chief Sher Mohammad Karimi emphasised that Pakistan and Afghanistan must cooperate closely in order to rid the region of the menace of terrorism, said a report published on Radio Pakistan.
General Karimi further said that the region has suffered four decades of war. However, the objective of peace is still achievable. He added that greatest threat for the region is from terrorists and militants who have no religious or moral values and know no boundaries.
He also said that Pakistan and Afghanistan’s common enemies are terrorists and both countries must ensure support from the people in order to win the war against these non-state actors.
While talking about the ongoing strategic dialogue between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the army chief expressed optimism and said that it will help achieve peace and stability in the region.
He also lauded the Pakistan Army by mentioning that it is ranked amongst the best armies, adding that he feels proud to attend the passing-out ceremony of Pakistan Army cadets. The army chief also handed out trophies and swords of honour to the outstanding cadets.
Gen Karimi had the distinction of being the first foreign dignitary to be the chief guest at the ceremony, which marks the commissioning of officers on completion of their two-year-long training course at the country’s premier military academy.
The Afghan army chief’s participation as chief guest at the passing out parade of the 132 PMA Long Course signifies a transformation in bilateral relations over the past few months, particularly defence cooperation which once suffered from mutual mistrust.
ANI chief Tariq Mehboob dies in custody
KARACHI: Anjuman Naujwanan-i-Islam (ANI) chief and member of Sunni Ittehad Council Tariq Mehboob died in custody on Saturday, however, it is not clear whether his death took place in Central Jail Karachi or Rangers’ custody.
While officials initially asserted that Mehboob died of a heart attack, his family suspects foul play and alleges that he was tortured.
Last week, Mehboob and seven others were picked up by paramilitary force personnel near Yousuf Plaza in Block 16 of Federal B area, and shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation.
The ANI chief was accused of providing refuge to target killers which is punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
Two days earlier, Mehboob was produced in an anti-terrorism court (ATC) which remanded him in Rangers’ custody for 90 days under the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO).
However, a press release issued by the Rangers said the accused was sent for 90 days Preventive Detention by ATC in Central Jail on April 16 after completing all legal formalities for further investigation.
The press release added that he did not die in Rangers’ custody and that he died in Central Jail Karachi.
After completion of legal formalities, his body was shifted to a hospital where a post mortem was conducted. The cause of his death was kept reserved.
MQM demands formation of judicial commission to probe Mehboob’s death
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Nadeem Nusrat demanded the formation of a judicial commission to probe the death of ANI chief Tariq Mehboob.
The MQM leader said Mehbood was a citizen of Karachi and his death had grieved each and every worker of the MQM as well as the people of Karachi.
Pak, US agree to further strengthen bilateral cooperation
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States have agreed to intensify engagements in the coming months to further strengthen and deepen bilateral cooperation in all areas.
Consensus to this regard was developed in a meeting between Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar and US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the State Department.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Finance here Saturday said during the spring session of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the finance minister met the US Deputy Secretary of State.
The finance minister was also joined by Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani and Secretary Finance Waqar Masood.
Recalling the recent high level exchanges from both sides especially the visit of Commerce Secretary Pritzker to Islamabad in March, to attend the US Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, the two sides agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation.
Ishaq Dar shared important achievements in the economic sector that led to upgrading of Pakistan’s economic outlook in recent months with the Deputy Secretary of State.
He said sound economic policies pursued by the government had resulted significant decrease in inflation, growing foreign exchange reserves, stable exchange rate and shrinking fiscal deficit.
He said the government would continue to undertake structural reforms for creating investment-friendly environment especially in energy, infrastructure development, large scale manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
The finance minister also briefed the US side on the ongoing efforts for return and rehabilitation of temporarily displaced persons to their homes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas following the clearing of areas by the successful military operations.
Noting the significant improvement in the security situation in the country, Deputy Secretary Blinken stressed the need to continue building momentum on expanded trade, investment and economic cooperation between Pakistan and the United States.
The two sides also agreed that energy remained the vital area with immense potential for enhanced cooperation. In this context, it was emphasized that the forthcoming meeting of the Working Group on Energy should review the entire range of collaboration to assist Pakistan in overcoming its energy deficiency.
The two sides also discussed the situation of peace and security in the border region. It was agreed that a collective response of the international community was imperative to address the emerging threats to international peace and security. - APP
SC to hear Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal on Monday
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has fixed the hearing date for Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) death penalty verdict.
The two judge bench of the apex court, comprising of Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Umar Ata Bandial, will take up Qadri’s appeal on April 20.
On March 9, the IHC had dismissed Qadri’s appeal against his two capital punishments awarded by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in October 2011.
In the petition, the plaintiff has submitted that the case does not fall under Section 302 (murder with intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which recommends death penalty, but under Section 302(b), which carries punishment of life imprisonment.
Justice (retd) Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, a former chief justice of Lahore High Court (LHC), is also defending Qadri voluntarily.
Meanwhile, the federal government has challenged the IHC’s verdict. A senior official of the federal government has revealed to The Express News that the interior ministry has moved an appeal against the IHC’s March 9 judgment, wherein charges of terrorism against Qadri have been omitted.
The IHC set aside his conviction under section 7 of the ATA but upheld the death sentence under 302 of the PPC, meaning that Qadri is guilty of murder but not terrorism. The federal government has strong reservation over the high court’s findings to set aside the terrorism charges against Qadri, said the official, adding that terrorism is itself defined in the Anti-terrorism Act 1997.
The IHC has found that none of the prosecution witnesses, barring one, and neither the investigating officer nor the prosecution evidence suggest that Qadri’s act amounted to an attempt to create panic, to intimidate and terrorize the public, or to create a sense of fear and insecurity among the public.
However, the interior ministry, on April 8 moved an application in the apex court, requesting to give seven days’ time to file a proper appeal along with paper books in this case. Under the SC’s rule, the appeal should be filed within 30 days. The SC is yet to fix the federal government’s appeal against the IHC judgment on April 20.
Earlier, the federal government faced embarrassment when an Advocate on Record, namely Safdar Hussain Shah, refused to file the interior ministry’s application in this matter because he was not in favour of the death penalty being awarded to Qadri. The federal government later engaged another AOR, Sadiq Baloch, to file the application.
Kabul pessimistic about Islamabad’s approach to restart peace process: Report
KABUL: The Afghan government is pessimistic about Pakistan’s lukewarm approach to restart a stalled peace process with the Taliban, sources said.
President Ashraf Ghani visited Pakistan soon after he sworn-in as president of the country, which led to normalization of bilateral relations.
His visit to Islamabad led to series of contacts between Kabul-Islamabad. Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) visited Kabul four times since then.
Pakistani had been holding out assurances to completely support Ghani and to bring Taliban on negotiating table with the Afghan government. The talks were expected to take place in March, 2015 but no breakthrough could be achieved in this regard.
On Friday, President Ghani chaired a meeting of National Security Council (NSC) and discussed the talks process and subsequent Pakistan’s pledge in greater detail, sources close to the meeting told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The NSC expressed grave concerns and resentment over Pakistan role for not being able to expedite the process.
A well-placed source said Pakistan initially showed interest to bring Taliban to Kabul for peace parleys but Afghan government demanded that Islamabad should stop support Taliban.
However, “Pakistan is not ready to stop supporting Taliban”, he added. A senior official in the government said Pakistan only verbally held out support to keep the peace process forward but was not willing to take practical steps.
He also said Islamabad did not ensure to stop support militants if the peace talks with the militants failed. The source also confirmed that there was difference of opinion regarding peace talks with Taliban among government officials.
First deputy of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mohammad Khan said: “Time will prove how much Pakistan is sincere when talks with militants will be held.”
Pakistan civilians and army officials pledged several times to demonstrate sincerity and take serious steps to keep the peace process toward success. But security incidents on border areas and recent surge in violence put a big question mark on tall claims of Pakistani officials. “President Ashraf Ghani has clearly said spring is a testing season for Pakistani claims. If there is increase in security incidents then it is an ample proof that Pakistani claims are not genuine,” Khan recalled.
Dr. Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a political analyst and Professor at Kabul University, said the government of Afghanistan took steps for peace but could not achieve any results. He said Pakistan played tricks and focused only on its own interests but Kabul failed to understand and accepted demands of Pakistan.
Zaland said Kabul took decision in haste and sent soldiers for training to Pakistan. He said Pakistan did not take concrete steps to address issues pertaining to peace process past. “The government can’t differentiate between friends and foes and kept India on one side only to gain the favour and support of Pakistan,” he remarked.
But Akhter Munir, press attaché at Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, said: “Pakistan is sincere to keep the peace process forward on track. Peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interests of Pakistan and Islamabad always support Kabul to achieve durable tranquility.”
Talking to Pajhwok Afghan News, he said that peace and stability were linked to peace and prosperity in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Peace, he said was a process that would take time. He expressed optimism that recent increase in diplomatic contacts between the two countries would help facilitate the peace process and leave positive impact on bilateral relations.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, director of High Peace Council, stated that peace was the prerequisite for progress and development of both the countries. Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project and Central Asia and South Asia (CASA-1000) project could only be implemented if there was peace and stability in the region.
Taliban and governments in the region reached to the conclusion that greater peace was the only key to regional stability and solution to problems, he said, suggesting that governments should take Taliban into confidence to pave way for talks and get the desired results.