COAS ‘seriously concerned’ over violation of sovereignty by America
Kh Asif terms Noshki drone strike an ‘attack’ on Pakistan’s sovereignty
RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif in a meeting with United States (US) Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale on Wednesday expressed serious concerns over the US drone strike in Balochistan in which Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was reportedly killed.
The Army chief said the drone attack, which was a violation of sovereignty, was detrimental to Pak-US ties and regional stability and damaged peace efforts, an Inter-Services Public Relations statement said.
The COAS said Pakistan’s efforts, successes and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism are unparalleled.
The US drone strike was the first-ever in Balochistan, which has long been a ‘red line’ for Pakistan.
While the government has long condemned drone strikes, terming them a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, it had already conveyed a set of ‘red lines’ to the US in 2010, specifically mentioning attacks in Balochistan as a no-go area.
Hale called on the Army chief at General Headquarters. The situation arising after the US drone strike in Balochistan came under discussion during the meeting.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday strongly condemned the US drone strike in Noshki and termed it an ‘attack’ on Pakistan’s sovereignty, NNI reports.
Asif said the attack jeopardized the efforts for peace in and stability in Afghanistan, urging all stakeholders for making sincere efforts in this regard.
He added Pakistan is still determined to facilitate Afghan peace process provided all the parties to the conflict demonstrate seriousness in reconciliation.
The minister, however, maintained that the strike that purportedly killed Taliban supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Noshki was an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
“The killing of a Taliban leader on Pakistan soil not only violates our sovereignty, which we strongly condemn,” Asif said in a statement on Twitter.
He said that the US strike has raised doubts about the Afghan peace process. “The drone strike also raises serious doubts about the motives and approach being pursued to achieve peace,” he said.
The defence minister urged the stakeholders to synergize efforts if peace was the objective. He, however, Pakistan’s commitment to peace remains unwavering.
He reiterated Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to peace in Afghanistan.
Nisar gave 48-hour deadline to NADRA for plan to re-verify CNICs
ISLAMABAD: Taking swift action against use of Pakistani CNICs by aliens, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan gave 48-hour deadline to Nadra for preparing a road-map to launch "a National Plan for Re-verification of CNICs of over 180 million population."
The re-verification roadmap has been ordered by the interior minister after questions were raised over a Pakistani passport and CNIC found from drone hit car wreckage site in Baluchistan, that was claimed to be documents held by Mulla Mansoor, a Taliban leader.
The minister was chairing a meeting at Nadra headquarters, also attended by the chairman Nadra, Director General Passport and Immigration, and officials of FIA.
"Nadra has 48 hours for submitting a work plan with a set deadline for initiation of National Plan for Re-verification of CNICs across Pakistan," remarked the interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
"After the emergence of the CNIC the message has gone to the world that Pakistan's CNIC can be used by anyone. This is against our strategic, security and national interest," the spokesman for the interior minister quoted the minister as saying.
"Let's not send a message to the world that Pakistani ID is easily available to anyone who is willing to pay for it. Being a responsible state we will ensure that the usage of CNIC by any alien is completely eliminated after this exercise," remarked the minister for interior.
"This measure would help us to ensure that in future no alien will be able to use Pakistani CNIC and passport, besides removal of those aliens currently holding Pakistani CNIC," directed Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Chaudhry Nisar AlI Khan said that once the road-map is approved for the needed national exercise of re-verification of CNICs by Nadra, it must be ensured that general public remain at ease and "re-verification of CNIC must be done in a most cordial and friendly way."
The interior minister asked to speed up the process of blocking of Pakistani CNICs held by aliens, adding: "national security agencies will also assist Nadra in future for ensuring blocking of CNICs and its verfictaion."
The interior minister also instructed the top level hierarchy of Nadra to address the issue of blockage of CNICs of Pakistani nationals.
"I have received complaints that CNICs were blocked by Nadra of Pakistanis who were citizens of the state, this must be addressed on emergent basis," remarked the minister.
The minister said that Nadra officers and its senior level hierarchy must live up to the emoluments, and perks provided to them since this money is coming from the taxes of the public maintain that "inefficient and underperforming director generals be removed from the service of Nadra."
He directed chairman Nadra to take immediate steps to purge Nadra of corrupt element on a fast track basis. He said that there should be zero tolerance for corruption at all levels and a comprehensive way forward should be put up to him in the next meeting within next few days. - NNI
Afghan Taliban appoint Mullah Haibatullah as successor to Mansour
New Afghan Taliban leader vows no peace talks in audio recording
‘Mullah Mansour was tailed by US intel from Iran’
KABUL: A spokesman of the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday confirmed the death of the group’s chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike.
In a statement sent to media Wednesday, the insurgent group said its new leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a former head of the Taliban’s judiciary and one of two Mansour’s deputies.
It said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a network blamed for many high-profile bombs attacks in Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, will serve as deputies, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said in the statement.
Both of the new deputies had earlier been thought to be the main contenders for the top job.
Akhundzada is a religious scholar known for issuing public statements justifying the existence of the militant Taliban, their war against the Afghan government and the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.
His views are regarded as hawkish, and he could be expected to continue in the aggressive footsteps of Mansour.
The Afghan Taliban’s newly appointed leader on Wednesday vowed there would be no return to peace talks with the government, in an audio recording provided by the group.
“No, no we will not come to any type of peace talks,” the man, identified as Haibatullah Akhundzada, said in the recording provided by the Taliban’s official spokesperson.
Reuters could not independently verify the voice was that of Akhundzada or when it was recorded.
Spokesperson denies issuing audio message
However, spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said the audio was not issued by him.
Two Taliban commanders had provided the audio to reporters late on Wednesday, saying it was an official statement.
One of the commanders said he had received the recording directly from Mujahid, who earlier announced Akhundzada’s elevation.
Mujahid later issued an email from his official account denying the movement had issued an audio.
Reached by telephone, Mujahid said the Taliban were launching an investigation to learn who was distributing the recording.
Former Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour was tracked down by United States (US) spy agencies when he was visiting his family in Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Iran, however, has denied that Mansour entered Pakistan from the Islamic republic.
The WSJ report claims US surveillance drones don’t operate in the Iran-Pakistan border area, due to which intercepted communications and other intelligence allowed agencies to track Mansour down and lay a trap for him as he crossed the border into Balochistan in a white Toyota Corolla.
Armed drones were sent across the Afghan border to lock on to the car and take down the target, officials told WSJ, before the Taliban leader could reach Quetta.
The WSJ said the killing of Mansour in Balochistan was a warning to Pakistan that the US would take action on Pakistani soil without prior notification if necessary.
US President Barack Obama and State Department Spokesman Mark Toner have both said American forces will continue carrying out strikes on Pakistani soil to “remove terrorists who are actively pursuing, planning and directing attacks against US forces”.
Toner during a State Department briefing denied having knowledge of where exactly Taliban chief Mullah Mansour was eliminated. “I don’t have any more clarity of where the actual strike took place. What I can say was in that border region. I just can’t say on which side of the border it was,” he said. - Agencies
US adds two Pakistan-based groups to terror blacklist
WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday designated two Pakistan-based groups with links to the Taliban as global terrorist threats.
As “Specially Designated Global Terrorists”, US citizens are forbidden from associating with the Tariq Gidar Group (TGG) and the Jamaat ul Dawa al-Quran (JDQ).
Any assets owned by the groups in places under US jurisdiction will be frozen, and US law enforcement will be authorized to investigate their activity.
According to the US State Department, the TGG is linked to the Tehreek-i-Taliban — the Pakistani Taliban — and is based in Darra Adam Khel, Pakistan.
The faction, US officials believe, was responsible for the December 2014 massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar that left more than 130 children dead.
The TGG is led by Umar Mansoor, who is said to also have ordered the January 2016 attack on a university in Charsadda that left more than 20 dead.
The designation also says that the TGG was behind the 2008 kidnapping and beheading of Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak in Attock.
The second group, the JDQ, is said to be based in Peshawar but to have sworn allegiance to the late leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar.
In addition to this link to the Afghan movement, the State Department says JDQ has alliances with Al-Qaeda and Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Washington blames the group for the 2010 kidnapping of British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan.
Norgrove died after being wounded in the explosion of a grenade thrown by a US Navy SEAL commando during a failed rescue attempt. - AFP
Three FC men shot dead
PESHAWAR: Three Frontier Corps (FC) men were killed when three unknown motorcyclists opened fire on their vehicle at Patang Chowk in Peshawar Wednesday morning.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Abbas Majeed Marwat said the vehicle was approaching Patang Chowk from Ring Road when the assailants fired, killing two soldiers on the spot. A third succumbed to injuries at Lady Reading Hospital.
According to Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Mubarak Zeb Khan, District Officer FC Ameer Badshah and two constables, Gul Rehman and Gul Rasool were on their way to headquarters as usual when their double cabin pickup truck came under fire.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack in an email sent to journalists.
Police surrounded the area and launched a search operation, though no immediate arrests were made. Initial investigation suggests a 9mm pistol was used to kill the men and 12 bullet casings have been recovered from the scene.
Pakistan needs to do more to root out terrorists: US
WASHINGTON: The United States of America has said that it had conveyed to Pakistan that they need to pursue actively terrorist organizations that are using their soil, their territory to find refuge.
In a media briefing, Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesman for the US State Department, said, “We have conveyed to the Pakistani government and authorities before that they need to pursue actively terrorist organizations that are using their soil, their territory to find refuge.”
Toner also said, “We’ve also said before that Pakistan is a country that unfortunately knows the effects of terrorism, the tragedy of terrorism. It’s suffered multiple terrorist attacks, mass casualty terrorist attacks, so it understands the stakes here.”
The spokesman went on to say that “US has been very clear-eyed and very clear in interaction with Pakistan where we’ve believed that they need to do more to root out terrorists, who find safe haven on some of their territory.”
Over alleged killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, the spokesman said a major threat to US military on the ground in Afghanistan has been removed from the battlefield.
To a question, he said, “US do consider the Haqqani Network to be an integral part of Taliban operations and among its most deadly elements. We’re not going to comment on any changes in the Taliban’s leadership structure, except to say that we’ve long called on the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, to join a reconciliation process, and we’ve said this many times.”
Answering another question, Toner said; “we’ve consistently expressed our concern to the highest levels of the government of Pakistan about their continued tolerance for Afghan Taliban groups, and that includes the Haqqani Network.”
US believes that an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process is the way ultimately to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, he said. - Agencies
Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers holds first meeting
ISLAMABAD: The first meeting of Parliamentary Committee, constituted to formulate Terms of References (ToRs) on Panama Papers, was held in the presence of Speaker National Assembly, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq here on Wednesday.
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Ahmad Shah was also present.
The Committee unanimously decided that proceedings of the Committee shall be held in camera.
Copies of letter of Ministry of Law and Justice, addressed to Supreme Court and proposed Terms of Reference (ToRs), prepared by government along with reply of Registrar Supreme Court, were circulated among the members.
Copies of the proposed ToRs of joint opposition were also circulated among members of the Committee.
The Committee unanimously decided that both government and opposition may examine and consider the said ToRs so that these may be finalized with consensus during further meetings of the Committee.
The next meeting of the Committee will be held today at 11am in Committee Room No.5, Parliament House, reports APP.
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on Tuesday approved a 12-member parliamentary committee that will draft the terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed Panamagate inquiry commission.
The committee comprises six government ministers and six opposition lawmakers:
- Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar
- Ports and Shipping Minister Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo
- Defence Minister MNA Khawaja Mohammad Asif
- IT Minister MNA Anusha Rehman
- Housing and Works Minister MNA Akram Khan Durrani
- Railways Minister MNA Saad Rafique
- Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif
- PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan
- Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Shah Mehmood Qureshi
- Jamaat-i-Islami MNA Sahibzada Tariqullah
- Awami National Party Senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour
- PML-Q MNA Tariq Basheer Cheema
The speaker may replace any member of the committee on the request of the leader of the parliamentary party concerned, a notification issued by the NA Secretariat says. The committee will consider options for inquiring into issues raised by the Panama Papers including offshore companies, transfer from Pakistan of funds originating from corruption, commission or kickbacks, and written-off bank loans.
It will also determine the priority level of each of the above. The formulation of ToRs and a timeline for submission will be decided by the committee, which must submit a report to Parliament within two weeks.
Cannot take any action over Panama leaks under existing law: FBR chief
ISLAMABAD: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Nisar Muhammad Khan said on Wednesday the body cannot take any legal actions against the Pakistanis named in Panama Papers leaks under existing laws.
“We have limitations of laws … and will ask [the government] for revamping [of laws] in this budget,” he told inquisitive members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) held in Islamabad.
His statement comes in the wake of political storm that was triggered in the country after opposition parties protested over inaction of concerned authorities.
The government has been under tremendous pressure since the Panama Papers revealed the names of around 220 Pakistanis, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s immediate family members, keeping offshore accounts in international tax havens.
Although Khan has pointed finger at stumbling blocks for the FBR, he did not specify which particular law or provision had stopped them from taking action on its own.
It was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shafqat Mehmood who invited attention of the FBR chairman over the leaks and first reaction of the latter was to point out in return that “Panama Papers is not on the agenda [of PAC meeting]”.
But Mehmood seemed resolute enough to get some answers from the chairman and for that matter he put a hypothetical situation before him and asked: “Do you wait for orders or take action on your own when you [FBR] learn about a case of tax evasion through media reports or any other source?”
“We take action on our own,” replied the chairman.
When asked if he has taken any action against a legion of Pakistanis named for having offshore companies, the FBR chairman did not give a direct answer and said FBR had not taken any action but “I can assure you that we are doing our homework”.
After repeated questions, Khan explained ‘homework’ as looking into their [those named in Panama Papers] declarations.
Balochistan’s former finance adviser arrested by NAB
QUETTA: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested former finance adviser to CM Balochistan, Khalid Langove, from court premises on Wednesday after the court rejected his bail application.
Langove was at Balochistan High Court (BHC) for the submission of his bail application.
NAB officials, after arresting Langove, moved him to their regional headquarters for further interrogation amid tight security.
A divisional bench of the BHC comprising Justice Jamal Mandokhail and Justice Hashim Kakar rejected the bail application submitted by Langove.
Baz Muhammad Kakar, lawyer for Langove, presented his client and pleaded his innocence.
Langove earlier failed to appear before NAB on Thursday in relation to the mega corruption scandal in Balochistan, despite prior notice.
The anti-corruption watchdog had summoned the former finance adviser to answer some questions regarding the recently unearthed corruption scandal in Balochistan.
NAB had recovered more than Rs730 million from the residence of Balochistan Finance Secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani. Following Raisani’s arrest and the recovery of embezzled money, the provincial finance adviser Khalid Langove immediately offered his resignation from the post.
Khalid Langove said that he resigned because his department is facing such grave allegations of corruption and foul play, which does not morally allow him to stay in his post.
Langove belongs to one of the ruling coalition partners, National Party (NP), and was elected as member of the Balochistan Assembly from Kalat district. He was given the slot of adviser of the chief minister on finance by Dr. Malik Baloch led Balochistan government.
PM farmers relief package
Supreme Court directs AGP to submit report
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) to submit reply over Prime Minister’s farmers relief package.
The division bench of the apex court comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Qazi Faez Isa heard the case.
During the course of proceedings, Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked that the money collected from masses through taxes was not property of the government.
The government should get approval from the Parliament before spending the amount, he added.
He asked that how money can be spent without Parliament’s approval.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali said that according to Article 84, the government can spend money without Parliament’s approval.
He said that the money can be spent from supplementary budget which later could be approved from the Parliament.
The court asked under which law the notification for PM farmers relief package was issued. On which the Attorney General told that there was no specific law but the administration had the right to spend money according to the Constitution.
The court directed the AGP to submit reply and adjourned hearing of the case till today. - APP
Pakistani jailed in Italy for terror threats
ROME: A Milan court on Wednesday sentenced a Pakistani and a Tunisian to six years in prison for threatening terror attacks in Italy via social media.
Tunisian Lassad Briki, 35, and Pakistan national Muhammad Baqas, 27, will be deported after serving their sentences, the judge said after agreeing to the maximum sanction requested by prosecutors.
The two men were arrested in July 2015 in Brescia in northern Italy on suspicion of setting up a Twitter account from which they posted messages threatening to attack iconic Italian monuments like Milan’s Duomo and the Colosseum in Rome.
The threats were accompanied by photos of the monuments and written in Italian, French and Arabic.
“We are on your streets, we are everywhere,” one post read. “We are identifying the targets and await the X hour.”
The sentences were handed down despite the prosecutor in charge of the investigation saying at the time of the arrests that “there was no sign of even the beginning of a move (beyond words) to action.”
The two men had however downloaded an online “manual” which covered the production of home-made explosives, carrying weapons and operating clandestinely on the Internet. - AFP
Opposition in KP Assembly stages sit-in against delayed appearance of Speaker
PA passes Health Foundation, Child Protection & Welfare (Amend) bills
PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly adopted three resolutions and passed two bills during fourth sitting of the 18th session, observes Free and Fair Election Network in its Daily Factsheet on Wednesday.
"The House adopted three resolutions i.e. to recall Pakistani ambassador to Bangladesh after execution of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh Chief, restore BOL media group license to prevent thousands of staffers from being unemployed and prepare education report at the constituency instead of district level.
"The House passed two bills, including the KP Health Foundation Bill, 2016 and the KP Child Protection and Welfare (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
"Two bills - the KP Limitation (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the KP Appointment of GAVI Employees Bill 2016 - were also introduced in the House.
Meanwhile, the members of opposition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Wednesday expressed annoyance over on one hour delayed appearance of Speaker and members of treasury benches in the House from the time given.
The opposition staged a sit-in in front of the speaker desk and blamed PTI for its failure to run affairs of the province properly, adding that due to apathy of the provincial government, the members of treasury benches have also lost interest in House.
The KP Assembly was to resume proceeding at 1500 hours, but it started with a delay of 40 minutes that caused annoyance among about 30 opposition members who came on time and staged sit-in for 20 minutes before the speaker’s desk in the House.
Meanwhile, Munawar Khan of JUI-F assuming the role of Speaker asked Abdul Sattar of PML-N to recite from the Holy Quran so that the proceedings of the House could be initiated.
Parliamentary leader of PML-N Sardar Aurangzaib Nalotha slammed the provincial government of PTI for not ensuring presence of its cabinet members and MPA in the House.
He said it was matter of shame for the government that its members did not take interest in the House and also caused disgrace to the assembly.
He asked the KP government should have quit if it could not even bring change in attitude of its assembly’s members.
Syed Jafer Shah of ANP, Nighat Orakzai and Fakhr-e-Azam of PPP and Shiraz Khan of PML-N also spoke on the occasion and criticized the provincial government.
Later, the opposition ended the sit-in when Deputy Speaker Mehr Taj Roghani came to house to chair the proceedings followed by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and other cabinet members. - APP