Pakistan News

ISLAMABAD: The Federal minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ashsan Iqbal said that Pakistan and China have entered into a new era of strategic economic cooperation.

The minister said, “While both Pakistan and China enjoy closest political relations we failed to translate this good will into a stong economic cooperation.

The volume of trade between the two countries is meager $12 billion. “iqbal told that “In order to transform Pakistan into a knowledgeable economy we must ensure stability and become a symbol of hard and quality work in the world.”

BIRMINGHAM: Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban after campaigning for girls' right to an education, said books were “the weapons to defeat terrorism” as she opened a new library in her adopted English city on Tuesday.

The 16-year-old gave a speech before unveiling a stainless steel plaque to mark the opening of Europe's biggest public library, the gleaming new Library of Birmingham.

Malala, who was flown to the central English city for surgery last October after being targeted by a gunman as she travelled to school in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat region, said she had challenged herself “that I will read thousands of books and I will power myself with knowledge. Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism.”

She added: “There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word.”

The teenager, who has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, spoke confidently with just a hint of stiffness on the left side of her face.

Malala, who came close to death when the Pakistani Taliban gunman’s bullet grazed her brain, is attending a school in Birmingham, which has a large Pakistani population. Her family has moved to the city to be with her.

The high-tech Library of Birmingham, the latest in a string of projects aimed at regenerating the 1970s-era city centre, has a skin of metal hoops and replaces the nearby brutalist concrete Central Library, which opened in 1974.

The new library contains a million books and houses first editions of William Shakespeare's works.

ISLAMABAD: The government on Saturday raised the prices of petroleum products by up to Rs4.71 per litre, citing the rising trend in the international market.

However, following directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the government made a partial increase of Rs2.5 per litre in the price of high speed diesel (HSD), which is mostly used in agriculture and transport sectors. The summary sent to the prime minister had proposed an increase of Rs3.57 per litre in the HSD price.

“The government has given a subsidy of Rs1.07 per litre in the price of HSD to facilitate consumers following direction of the prime minister,” a senior government official said. Total subsidy on the HSD price now stood at Rs3.63 per litre, he added.

The government has passed on the full impact of increase in prices of all petroleum products, except HSD, to consumers.

The new price of HSD is Rs112.26 per litre.

The price of petrol has gone up by Rs4.64 per litre, from Rs104.50 to Rs109.14 per litre.

The price of kerosene, which is used as a fuel for stoves in remote areas where liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is not readily available, has seen an increase of Rs4.71 per litre, bringing its price up from Rs101.28 to Rs105.99 per litre.

The price of light diesel oil (LDO), mainly used for industrial purposes, has been increased by Rs2.31 per litre, from Rs96.12 to Rs98.43 per litre. The price of high octane blending component (HOBC), which is mainly used in luxury cars, has been increased by Rs5.89 per litre, from Rs132.44 to Rs138.33 per litre.

MIRANSHAH: A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday denied media reports that the government was holding peace talks with the insurgent group.

Shahidullah Shahid, main spokesman for the umbrella Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group told news AFP that no contacts had been made between the group and any government official.

“I categorically deny the holding of peace talks on any level between the Taliban and Pakistani government,” Shahid told AFP from an undisclosed location.

“No contacts have even been made between us, nor have we received any offer to initiate peace talks” Shahid added.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid had earlier told Dawn that the government was in secret talks with the Taliban.

“Unofficial talks between the government side and Taliban are in progress,” Rashid told Dawn on Friday.

Rashid said the government's main objective was to restore peace and it would do everything possible to achieve that.

“We have to rid the country of the menace of terrorism for which all options would be utilised,” Rashid was quoted as saying.

The BBC Urdu, quoting an unnamed senior government official and a Taliban commander, had also reported the beginning of peace talks.

“It is complete propaganda, the government must make it public if it has any proof of any such talks,” Shahid said.

The reports of peace talks emerged almost two weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made an offer to the extremists in his first televised address to the nation since taking office after winning elections in May.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan last Saturday 'removed' a key commander for welcoming Sharif’s call for dialogue.

Asmatullah Muawiya, the head of the Punjabi Taliban, had said the prime minister had shown maturity.

MIRAMSHAH: Health officials in Pakistan on Wednesday warned of a serious polio outbreak after the disease was detected in 16 children in a tribal district where militant groups have banned vaccination.

Doctor Khayal Mir Jan, the top health official in Pakistan's militant-infested North Waziristan tribal district, on the Afghan border, told AFP that thousands of children were at risk.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the highly infectious, crippling disease remains endemic. Infections shot up from a low of 28 in 2005 to almost 200 last year.

“Polio virus has been detected in 16 children since the Taliban ban,” Jan told AFP. “We are waiting for the result of the stool samples of another 42 children suspected of having the disease.”

Local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur banned polio vaccinations in Waziristan in June 2012, alleging the campaign was a cover for espionage.

Bahadur, who is allied with Afghan Taliban fighting US-led troops across the border, said the ban would remain until the US stops drone attacks in the tribal regions. North Waziristan has borne the brunt of the strikes.

Health officials said the disease is in danger of becoming an epidemic and voiced fears that it could spread to the neighbouring districts if vaccination was not begun immediately.

“Every day we are receiving children with polio, we will have to start an anti-polio campaign, otherwise it's becoming epidemic,” Jan told AFP.

Most of the children affected were under five years old. Jan said nine cases were detected in Mir Ali town while seven were detected in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan.

An administrative official in the area said efforts were underway to talk to militant groups and support from Islamic scholars had also been sought.

Officials said more than 240,000 in North and South Waziristan were at risk due the ban and have not been administered polio drops since the ban.

A World Health Organization official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed: “Scores of polio cases have been reported in North Waziristan.” “Several other children have also been paralysed in North Waziristan but we are waiting for their test results as we don't know what virus paralysed them,” the official said.

KARACHI: A pair of common chimpanzees confined to two small makeshift cages have been living in extremely filthy conditions for more than two weeks as work on their enclosure continued in the Safari Park, it emerged on Sunday.

A visit to the facility showed that the Safari Park administration had separated the chimps named Raju and Babli and kept them confined to two small makeshift cages made within their big enclosure for the past 17 days. This arrangement has been made to strengthen their enclosure they were earlier kept.

The animals appeared restless due to the noise being created by the mechanical and metal work and their restricted movement.

More shocking, however, was to see their small living spaces filled with their excreta and rotten fruit and also that they were deprived of the basic need to drink water at will; there was no water pot inside their cages.

Similar conditions existed in other cages where a few animals were kept.

“We have been hired to secure the enclosure by fixing thick iron grilles on the three sides and to make a roof so that animals could get shade,” a worker at the site told Dawn.

Over 400kg of iron had been used to strengthen the infrastructure and the work would just take another day to complete, he added.

With the addition of another grille, the enclosure secured with a net of three metal sheets was presenting a look of a prison cell for a hardened criminal.

“It doesn’t seem animal-friendly at all. When you look at the enclosure, you develop a feeling of fear rather than love, which ought to be the message one should get at a facility meant to educate the public about animals and their habitat,” said a girl visitor.

Besides, animals shouldn’t be in cages at a Safari any way, she added.

Another visitor said: “The fortified enclosure should have an environment close to their habitat, for instance, growing a few trees inside is not such a bad idea.”

The visitors expressed surprise over the absence of any guide at the facility where animals were kept without providing adequate information about the specific species kept there.

“The identification boards fixed at cages do not provide details about the source from where the animal has been acquired, its age and name. Wrong boards are also attached, for instance cranes are kept in a cage carrying an identification board of peafowl,” a college student visiting the Safari said.

There was also concern over plying of buses for a visit to the area where animals were kept in the open. Soundless vehicles should be introduced with a guide that could educate visitors on animals, they said.

Visitors were disappointed to see that there was no golden tabby tiger in the Safari, though a board with the animal’s picture was displayed in the park.

No inquiry into chimps ‘donation’

It is worth recalling that the pair of chimps was accepted in ‘donation’ by the Safari Park administration over a year ago.

The administration, according to sources, took the animals without seeking information about the conservation status of the species and looking into the donor’s credentials.

The Safari director was not available to comment.

The park administration failed to give a satisfactory reply when they were asked about the global sensitivities attached to the trade of chimpanzees while the then administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) that ran both Safari Park and Karachi zoo, responded by saying that he might return the animals to the ‘donor’.

However, even after a year the administration neither returned the animals, nor instituted an inquiry to look into the credentials of the ‘donor’.

Sources said that the pair of common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) were reportedly handed over to the Safari Park by a businessman. Both species of chimpanzee, the common chimpanzee and the bonobo, are listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

They are also listed in the Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Flora and Fauna, which means trade in these species is prohibited except in cases when the purpose is pure scientific research and education.

Import permits for such species could only be issued to the government-run facilities for wild animals and that, too, required an export permit from the country from where the animals were being imported and an import permit from the country which would receive them.

The sources further said that no licence had been issued for the import of chimpanzees in the country in a decade.

PESHAWAR: Sweat poured down Judge Fazal Wadood’s back as he sat perched behind a desk inside the custom-built green bus court.

The latest weapon in Pakistan’s battle against a creaking judicial system, the $98,000 mobile court allows Judge Wadood to preside over cases and disputes that have dragged on for years because of the slow grinding process involved in regular courts.

The situation has helped build frustration among the people and increased calls for Islamic sharia law at the government’s expense.

The bus has been set up by the high court in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province.

Boasting a portrait of Pakistan's founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the bus is designed to go directly to the people, resolving their daily disputes in some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the country.

Part of a $15 million project, with 25 per cent financed by the government in northwest of Pakistan and the rest by international donors, the mobile court aims to strengthen both the present judicial system and state institutions.

Musarat Shah, a 72-year-old widower locked in a five-year land dispute, was one of the first on board the bus, which has the white crescent and star of the Pakistani flag emblazoned on its side.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Shah, furious with the slow pace of the regular court system. “Multiple commissions were held. One commission finished and demanded another commission, and it was taking us nowhere.”

After hearing her case, Judge Wadood summoned a group of mediators who agreed to go off and inspect her land, before setting another hearing in a week's time.

Marc-Andre Franche, the head of UNDP in Pakistan, stated that the mobile court, which is an attempt at strengthening the judicial system, was one of the main ways to counter the influence of non-state actors.

Eight judges and 18 lawyers have been trained in conflict resolution to find quick solutions in simple cases that risk dragging on for years, clogging up the judicial system.

On its first one day, with the bus stationary in a car park in the Hayatabad suburb of Peshawar, Wadood together with a registrar and stenographer tapping away on a laptop, handled nearly 30 cases.

Chairman of the arbitration council, Mohammad Osman Khan, says the work consists of speedy mediation between parties in different conflicts normally faced in daily life, such as property battles, family problems and others.

However, the mobile court faces certain challenges in its path to success, which will help authorities determine whether it is worth rolling out further courtroom buses.

One of the major challenges is the inbred jirga system, which consists of traditional gatherings of tribal elders who typically mediate similar disputes at a local level.

Judgments passed at such gatherings by the elders are considered law in the tribal area.

Human rights organisations criticise their decisions as arbitrary.

The director of the judicial academy in Peshawar, Hayat Ali Shah, believes that the two systems can coexist.

“A civil litigation in KPK comes to the court only when the jirga and others fail. So hopefully there will be no competition,” Shah said.

He was hopeful the mobile initiative would be effective.

Although, it remains unclear how many villagers will opt for the mobile court rather than the traditional jirga system.

Security is another challenge that is being faced at present by the mobile court. So far, its work is limited to Peshawar’s suburbs. It is followed by an armed police escort.

The authorities are trying to agree on extra security precautions for when the bus travels to more dangerous parts of the northwest, away from the heavily protected city of Peshawar.

But Judge Wadood is not afraid of death. He feels providing justice to the common man is more important than worrying about safety.

“Such problems are everywhere,” he said, with regards to situations in different cities. “We don’t fear working here or there.”

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