Pakistan News

KARACHI: The provincial government on Wednesday night imposed a ‘mini smart lockdown’ in a city neighbourhood following an abrupt increase in the Covid-19 cases as 60 per cent of positive cases across the country were reported overnight from the provincial capital.

Two localities in Manghopir, district West, were placed under a two-week ‘mini smart lockdown’. The deputy commissioner, West, issued a notification placing Saima Villas and Samama City under the lockdown from October 1 to 15.

All business activities, except for groceries and pharmacies, will remain closed and all public transport including taxis and rickshaws will not be allowed to move in the two localities of the UC 8, having a population of over 4,000, during the lockdown.

The order said that only one person of a family would be allowed outside for buying food items and medicine by displaying original computerised national identity card to the law enforcement agencies.

Officials say 60pc of total cases in country overnight are from Karachi

Earlier, the city administration had decided to identify the localities and neighbourhoods with increased number of Covid-19 cases and imposed a smart lockdown there.

Strict action against SOP violators ordered

It was also decided to take strict and immediate action against violators of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) notified to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Official sources told Dawn that Karachi Commissioner Sohail Rajput while presiding over a meeting with city administration and provincial health department directed the deputy commissioners to immediately seal the schools, restaurants and marriage halls that were found not following the SOPs.

The meeting noted that almost 60pc of the total cases across the country reported overnight were from Karachi, while 4,667 positive cases were reported in the city in September alone.

The deputy commissioners were directed to keep a vigilant eye on the schools, restaurants, marriage halls and public parks to ensure observance of SOPs by public.

The meeting also decided to increase Covid-19 tests at schools.

It also decided that the industry department would keep a strict check on offices, industrial units and factories and the deputy commissioners concerned would take action against violators on the report of the industries department.

The deputy commissioners were also directed to submit to the commissioner office their respective reports on a daily basis.

Two die overnight

Meanwhile, in a statement issued in the morning the chief minister said that 311 new cases of coronavirus emerged when 10,940 tests were conducted raising the tally to 137,109 and two more patients died lifting the death toll to 2,499.

He said that 10,940 samples were tested against which 311 new cases detected and this constituted 2.8pc current detection rate.

“Two more patients died overnight lifting the death toll to 2,499 that came to 1.8 per cent death rate,” he said and added that so far 1,363,079 samples had been tested which diagnosed 137,106 cases all over Sindh forming overall 10pc detection rate.

The CM said that currently 4,255 patients were under treatment, of them 3,978 in home isolation, six at isolation centres and 271 at different hospitals. He added that the condition of 181 patients was stated to be critical, including 38 shifted on ventilators.

Mr Shah said that 215 patients recovered overnight taking the number of patients recovered so far to 130,352 that constituted 95pc.

He said that out of 311 new cases of coronavirus, 221 were detected in Karachi, including 75 in South, 53 in East, 40 in Central, 27 in Korangi, 17 in Malir and nine in West.

The CM said that Hyderabad had 14 cases, Jamshoro six, Badin and Dadu four each, Sujawal three, Ghotki two, Khairpur, Mirpurkhas, Naushahro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur and Thatta one each.

He urged the people of the province to follow SOP and keep themselves, their friends and families safe.

Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday called for impr­oving Pak-Afghan relations by adopting a forward-looking approach rather than remaining stuck in the past.

“Enjoyed meeting Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chair­man HCNR of Afghanistan. We had a very interesting conversation: theme being the past is an invaluable teacher to learn from but not to live in. We must look forward towards the future. I wish him all the success in his mission,” Mr Khan tweeted just ahead of the top Afghan peace official’s departure from Islamabad after a three-day visit.

Mr Khan and Mr Abdullah met on Tuesday. The visit is believed to have helped improve coordination bet­ween Pakistan and Afghanistan on peace efforts.

Mr Abdullah, while participating at a round table discussion hosted by Center for Research and Security Studies said: “I am leaving Islamabad with a good sense, a good impression and a lot of friendly messages.”

On the last day of his visit, Dr Abdullah met President Arif Alvi.

“I had a friendly & constructive meeting with HE Dr @ArifAlvi, President of the I. R. of Pakistan. We discussed the #AfghanPeaceProcess & bilateral relations between #AFG&PAK. President @ArifAlvi expressed his full support for the peace efforts & strengthening of relations,” the Afghan peace official tweeted after the meeting.

PM Khan is expected to visit Afghanistan soon.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2020

Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umer Sheikh on Monday apologised to the motorway gang-rape victim for his earlier remarks implying that she shared responsibility for her rape.

Last week, two ‘robbers’ allegedly gang-raped a woman at gunpoint in front of her children in Lahore's Gujjarpura area after she was stranded on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.

Following the incident, the CCPO invited criticism when he pontificated that the victim had failed to take due precautions before setting off for her journey.

According to the Lahore police chief’s logic, the woman could have avoided being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He said she should have taken the more populated GT Road to Gujranwala instead of going via motorway, and that she ought to have checked how much fuel her car had before setting off.

Speaking to reporters today, the CCPO said that he had "apologised earlier as well".

"I did not mean anything wrong or [to give a wrong] perception and if any misunderstanding was caused because of me, then I apologise from the depths of my heart to my sister who was abused and to all sections of society who were saddened or angered.

On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said Inspector General of Police (IG) Inam Ghani had issued a show-cause notice to Sheikh over his remarks.

The CCPO had given an "irrelevant statement", Buzdar had said.

"The IG has issued him a show-cause notice [for this statement] and directed him to submit a reply within seven days," the CM added.

Buzdar said legal action would be taken against the CCPO after the submission of his reply.

Earlier today, the Lahore High Court chief justice also expressed displeasure over the police chief's comments.

"What kind of an inquiry is this where the departmental head is holding the victim responsible for the incident?" remarked Justice Qasim Khan, referring to the CCPO's comments.

"The entire Punjab cabinet should have apologised for the Lahore police chief's remarks," he added.

"If an investigation is being carried out with such a mindset then who knows what is reality and what is made up," Justice Qasim Khan said.

Demand for CCPO's removal

The CCPO's comments had triggered a strong reaction from civil society and human rights activists, who condemned the statement and called for his removal from office.

Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell director Nida Aly said that "women are already subjected to extraordinary pressures, intense security considerations to exert their constitutionally protected right to freedom of movement".

"On the other hand, the law enforcement agencies, supposed to protect citizens, are led by the people like CCPO Umar Sheikh who chose to do victim blaming to change the narrative just to hide their own incompetence. In reality, they end up unveiling their deep-rooted misogynistic nature and lack of gender sensitisation," she said.

She added the CCPO’s statement meant he was misfit for the post and that he should be immediately discharged of it.

Aurat March Lahore’s organiser Hiba Akbar said women in Pakistan need fundamental and structural changes at all levels of society alongside solid preventative policies to stop sexual assault.

"We want police, judiciary and the government to make policies that don’t question women about their whereabouts, travel or clothes. They should rather invest their efforts in preventative measures for an end to this violence," she suggested.

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has warned against efforts he said being made to discredit the country and its armed forces and said that army with the cooperation of the nation will win the “fifth generation or hybrid war”.

“We are facing the challenge that has been imposed on us in the form of the fifth generation or hybrid war. Its purpose is to discredit the country and its armed forces and spread chaos. We are well aware of this danger. We will surely succeed in winning this war with the cooperation of the nation, by the will of Almighty Allah,” Gen Bajwa said at a ceremony held at the General Headquarters on Sunday as part of celebration of Defence and Martyrs’ Day.

On the occasion, he conferred awards on military personnel for acts of gallantry during various operations.

The families of the martyrs and Ghazis, senior serving officers and soldiers attended the ceremony. As many as 40 officers were awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz (military), 24 officers and soldiers were awarded Tamgha-i-Basalat and a soldier was awarded the United Nations Medal. The medals of the martyrs were received by their family members.

Warns against efforts to discredit armed forces; rejects any unilateral decision on Kashmir issue

The army chief warned against war. “I want to send a message to my nation and the world that Pakistan is a peace-loving country. But if war is imposed on us, we will befittingly respond to every aggression. We are always ready to defeat nefarious intentions of the enemy.”

Gen Bajwa said the nation had gone through great trials during the past 20 years. There was a state of war on the eastern and western borders and there were trials like earthquakes and floods, he said, adding the nation fought a nerve-wracking war against terrorism and extremism in which thousands were killed and millions were displaced.

The COAS underlined that Pak­istani security forces had rendered many sacrifices for the establishment of peace in different parts of the world by becoming part of the United Nations peacekeeping force.

“We want peace in the whole world and especially in our region. Pakistan’s key role in peace efforts in Afghanistan is a testament to that, but our neighbour India has, as always, taken an irresponsible stance,” he said.

The army chief said that India by illegally abrogating the special status of illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir had once again threatened the peace of the region.

He said there was no doubt that Kashmir was a recognised dispute and Pakistan did not accept any unilateral decision in this regard.

He said that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had declared Kashmir the jugular vein of Pakistan. “This is part of our faith. We will not show any flexibility in this regard.”

“Pakistan’s armed forces are fully equipped, vigilant and aware. And God willing, they are ready to respond immediately and with full force to any move of the enemy,” he said.

The army chief said that armed forces of Pakistan in September 1965 had defeated an enemy many times greater in might than it. He said that recently

Pakistan had again demonstrated this in response to the failed air strike at Balakot and the enemy should have no doubt about it.

He said Sept 6, 1965 was an indelible chapter in the history of Pakistan. “This is the day when countless stories of unity of the nation, love of homeland, sacrifice and bravery were marked in history.”

“It is not just a day for the nation but evidence to our courage and we also commemorate the martyrs of 1948, 1965, 1971, the Kargil War and the war on terror,” Gen Bajwa said.

He paid tribute to the families of the martyrs and said: “I salute them. I assure them that we will never forget the sacrifice of their loved ones. Our martyrs are our heroes and the nations that forget their heroes are annihilated.”

The COAS said that the entire nation was indebted to the patience and sacrifice of the families of the martyrs. “Just as the martyrs are the pride of the whole nation, so are you our pride,” he added.

The army chief congratulated the officers, junior commissioned officers and soldiers who received the awards at the ceremony.

“Time has tried us many times and we have succeeded every time. Pakistan is a living reality. Our blood, our passion and our actions will bear witness to this on every front,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2020

Punjab Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas on Monday said schools in the province would reopen in phases from Sept 15.

His comments came as the federal and provincial governments sat together to decide on reopening of 300,000 educational institutions, closed due to the pandemic for almost six months, across the country.

A meeting of the inter-provincial education ministers’ conference (IPEMC) is ongoing, according to the education ministry and a countrywide decision on opening of schools is expected later today.

The ministers are discussing implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in educational institutions as well as making the students and parents aware about precautionary measures, it said.

The meeting is also deliberating on the phase-wise opening of schools.

Meanwhile, Raas said on Twitter that schools in Punjab would open in phases with students in class nine and 10 returning on Sept 15, students in class six to eight returning on Sept 22 while those in class nursery to five will return to school on Sept 30.

Raas said no double shifts would be allowed while all schools would follow the alternative day schedule according to which 50 per cent of total students would come to school one day while the remaining 50pc would attend the next day.

Last week, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani had said that the sub-committee of the steering committee for education had recommended that schools in the province be opened phase-wise from Sept 15.

“If the final decision is to open educational institutions on Sept 15, then classes nine and above should be opened in the first phase and one week after that on Sept 21, classes six to eight be opened and one week after that, that is Sept 28, the classes from pre-primary to five should be opened so that if any cases of Covid-19 come up during this time, we can control it immediately,” the committee recommended.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan education departments have said they will follow the decision taken by the federal government in this regard.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that allowing former premier Nawaz Sharif to leave the country was a "mistake" and that his government "regretted" the decision.

" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wide-ranging interview to ARY News on Thursday night, the prime minister hinted that the government was pressurised into sending Nawaz abroad, saying that the reports presented to the government suggested that the PML-N supremo was severely ill.

 

The former prime minister was last year allowed to leave for London for medical reasons after he was diagnosed with an immune system disorder. He was convicted in a corruption reference and is nominated in multiple references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The federal cabinet, he said, had held a long debate over whether the government should let Nawaz leave on humanitarian grounds.

Furthermore, the prime minister added, the court had declared that the government would be responsible, should anything happen to Nawaz. The premier also recalled that PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif submitted indemnity bonds worth Rs7 billion, promising Nawaz would return to the country.

"Now we feel embarrassed. Now he [Nawaz] has started doing politics [from] there as well and, when you see him, it seems like there is nothing [wrong] with him.

"We did not give and NRO, we tried our best to do what we could, but the medical opinion presented to us was that if we didn't do anything, he [Nawaz] could die, that he might not even reach London. This is what we were told and after that we would have been held responsible. So after that we sent him in good faith."

When asked if he would order an inquiry in order to confirm if he was presented with "fake reports", the prime minister said that he had been in contact with Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid — whom he described as a "die-hard, visionary worker" of the ruling PTI — at the time and she conveyed all medical opinions regarding Nawaz's condition. He said that Dr Faisal, who is an expert of infectious diseases, had concluded that Nawaz's platelets count did not pose much of a threat but some related diseases may lead to serious problems.

In response to a question, the prime minister admitted that a royal had asked the government to let Nawaz leave, but refused to take a name citing "international relations".

"They (Sharifs) do have connections abroad. But they (the royal) did not assert it, they said it in a very polite manner. It wasn't like 'if you don't do this, this will happen'."

He, however, insisted that the request from the unnamed king was "not an issue" for him.

"I would never have allowed [Nawaz to leave] if medical opinion did not suggest that his life in danger."

Prime Minister Imran also lamented that the country had suffered in the past because "there have always been two laws, one for the powerful and one for the weak".

He criticised the infamous verdict passed by then chief justice Mohammad Munir that "justified martial law" and added that it "showed that might is right".

FATF blacklist

The PM also addressed the recent opposition move to block two bills regarding measures in compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). He pointed out that the country was placed on FATF grey list during PML-N's tenure and the PTI government had introduced the bills in order to prevent the financial watchdog from placing Pakistan on its blacklist.

He warned that if Pakistan was placed on the blacklist, the country would suffer the same challenges as Iran as all international organisations would stop dealing with the country. As a result, he said, the rupee would fall which would lead to inflation.

"People talk about inflation now. If we are placed on the blacklist, we will experience inflation that would ruin our economy."

He repeated that the incumbent government had inherited a crumbling economy, which has only now started to recover. If Pakistan was placed on the blacklist, the country "would face destruction that India is working towards".

He condemned the opposition for blocking the legislation despite knowing that India has been trying to place Pakistan's name on the blacklist for the past two years. He said that the opposition is insisting that the government takes out money laundering sections from the bills and have also proposed 34 amendments in the NAB Ordinance which essentially mean to "dig a grave and bury NAB in it".

Ten more people died in various rain-related incidents in Karachi on Friday, police and officials said, with the overall death toll during the three-day spell of torrential rains in the city rising to 40.

Major thoroughfares and roads in several parts of the city remain submerged in rainwater and many areas continue to face power outages, a day after the city was wrecked by record-breaking rains.

As rescue and relief operations continued to restore some semblance of normalcy to the metropolis, new losses of lives came to light.

A 14-year-old boy, Arshad, died after drowning in the inundated Clifton underpass near Do Talwar. His body was shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), according to Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of the hospital.

Another boy, Khalilullah, drowned in the Polo Ground; his body was also brought to the JPMC.

According to an Edhi Foundation spokesperson, a 50-year-old man drowned in the inundated Punjab Chowrangi underpass on Thursday evening but his body was recovered on Friday.

The body of an unidentified man who drowned was found floating in a stream near Football Chowk in Hawksbay. The body was retrieved and shifted to the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, the charity's spokesperson added.

The official also said as many as 300 families who were stranded in rain accumulated water in New Nazimabad housing society were rescued by three teams of the charity in boats and shifted to safe locations.

The body of another unidentified drowned man in his 40s was recovered from a drain in North Nazimabad's Block-L, a Chhipa spokesperson said. The body was shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

Moreover, the body of an unknown man in his mid-20s was found floating in a creek near Korangi Crossing which was shifted to hospital, the official added.

A 21-year-old man, identified as Taimur Yacoob, drowned in a drain in Manzoor Colony. His body was shifted to the JPMC.

The body of another young man who died after drowning in a drain in Liaquatabad on Thursday was recovered today.

Three people died due to electrocution, including a man in the Defence Housing Authority and an 18-year-old woman, who suffered an electric shock in Qayyumabad. Her body was shifted to the JPMC to fulfil legal formalities.

Police said that a 30-year-old security guard, Javaid, was found dead inside a house in DHA Phase IV. The body was shifted to the JPMC where doctors confirmed that he had died of an electric shock.

A resident named Saleem Nazeer told Dawn that his brother Waseem, 34, and mother had travelled from Usmania Colony to Korangi to offer condolences over the death of a relative on August 25. They were riding a motorcycle when strong waves of water swept them away from a stream in Korangi and their whereabouts were still not known. He urged the authorities to make efforts to locate his family members to end their anxiety.

Also on Friday, at least 10 families were rescued and moved to safe locations after the Orangi nullah overflowed, according to Karachi Commissioner Dr Sohail Rajput. The commissioner said that more than 8,000 rain-affected people of districts West, Malir and Central were being provided food at their homes or relief camps.

At a press conference, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that the five spells of heavy rains this monsoon season have so far claimed 80 lives, including 47 in Karachi.

Power outages made worse by network disruptions

Pakistan Meteorological Department data showed that as much as 84mm of rain was received in the Gulshan-e-Hadeed area of Karachi between 11am and 2pm on Friday. Other parts of the city received little to no rain.

In an update on the power situation in the city, Karachi Electric said several areas were "inaccessible due to high water levels".

The company further said that many of its vehicles on their way to areas such as DHA and Surjani, which are among the worst affected areas of the city, remain stranded.

 

Power was restored in some areas, the company said, adding that its "teams are coordinating with relevant authorities to ensure swift power restoration to other locations".

"Power will continue to remain closed until all standing water is cleared."

In the evening, KE shared a letter written by its CEO to DHA and Clifton Cantonment authorities, urging them to "ensure urgent dewatering and drainage so KE teams can restore power".

It said urban flooding remained the biggest challenge to power restoration. "Even after mobilising additional resources including equipment, vehicles and field teams, we are unable [to reach] locations."

 

Disruption in signals of several networks across the city was also reported, leading Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab to clarify that provincial authorities had not restricted the use of mobile phones for today.

"The restriction will only be in selected areas where Muharram processions take place on the 9th & 10th," he said in a tweet.

 

Meanwhile, a spokesman of cellular company Mobilink (Jazz) said the infrastructure in several areas of the city was damaged from flooding due to which services were disrupted.

The company said technical teams were working to repair infrastructure and that services will be resumed as soon as possible.

Replying to citizens on Twitter, Telenor said that services had been affected due to "maintenance activity" being carried out in the city.

 

Ufone also said that services had been affected due to the rainfall. "Rest assured our teams are working around the clock to restore services for you, as soon as possible," the company said.

 

Will visit Karachi next week, says PM

Later in the day, during a National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan told Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah that he will visit Karachi next week.

"I will sit with you to draw up a complete plan to help Sindh government," the prime minister was quoted as saying by a statement released by Sindh CM House.

Chief Minister Shah thanked the prime minister for calling him and offering assistance. Shah said that Karachi had faced a "disaster" and added that rains had affected almost the entire Sindh province.

CM chides affected residents for encroachments

Earlier, Chief Minister Shah headed out on a tour of Karachi, visiting Nursery, Rashid Minhas Road and Yar Mohammad Goth among other areas, where he was briefed about the water drainage situation.

On his visit to Yar Mohammad Goth, the chief minister heard complaints of power outages and other issues being faced by the residents.

Shah also chided the people for "building houses in the belly of the Malir River".

"The entire city is sinking because of your encroachments," he said. "You blocked Malir River in the name of Agha Town".

During his visit to Nursery, residents told Shah that the drainage system was badly affected due to construction on the right side of Sharae Faisal.

 

 

The chief minister instructed the managing director of the Water Board to review the city's master plan and submit a report on the matter. Shah said he wanted to know which of the buildings had affected water drainage in the metropolis.

The CM was told that the drainpipe crossing Rashid Minhas road, which has caved in due to rain, has "contracted" resulting in the flooding of Drigh Road underpass. Officials said the underpass would be cleared of water as soon as it was drained by the pipe.

The chief minister also directed authorities to repair the road in question.

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