Pakistan News

KARACHI: Pakistan will become the first country to offer top-quality education on an integrated online platform that will include free online courses from hundreds of top universities around the world, claimed Dr Prof Atta-ur-Rahman, the former chairman of the Higher Education Commission, at the Second National Conference on Space Science on Monday.

Speaking to Dawn on the sidelines of the first day of the conference, he said that the search engine had been developed. He added that the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Institute of Chemistry would launch the integrated platform for the best available free online courses like MIT open courseware, Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy, Virtual University of Pakistan and other courses next month.

Dr Rahman said that the lack of trained faculty was a major hurdle in educating the masses especially in developing world. And joining hands with world’s top varsities such as MIT and Harvard to deliver excellent academic material would greatly help Pakistan and other developing countries, he added.

According to the former HEC chairman, Pakistan will be the only country to have brought together the great wealth of educational material from around the world on one single platform.

Some 60 research presentations and papers will be presented at the two-day event being organised by the Institute of Planetary Astrophysics (ISPA), the University of Karachi, to celebrate the ‘World Space Week 2013’.

The first day of the two-day conference brought together scholars and experts from Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Institute of Space Technology, ISPA and other institutes.

The official topic of this year’s Space Week celebrations is “Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth”.

In an interesting presentation, Salman Zubair from the department of Geography, Karachi University, shared his findings about road designs and accidents, which according to him, could be curbed using the help of satellite imagery and Geographical Information System.

He also urged road planners to consider the mass awareness about the new road facilities and GIS planning while designing major roads, a lack of which was responsible for 34 per cent accidents directly or indirectly.

Mr Zubair said that Karachi ranked fourth in the world when it came to road accidents.

In another lecture, Mohammad Shafique from the National Centre of Excellence in Geology, the University of Peshawar, said that Pakistan witnessed 138 major disasters over the past 30 years. He said remote sensing and satellite imaging could be used as an important tool in disaster mitigation and management.

Other scholars presented their findings in cosmology, theoretical physics, renewable energy, Mars explorations and other topics related to Space Science, technology and cosmology.

NCSS-2013 has been organised with the collaboration of Suparco, HEC and Pakistan Science Foundation.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday refused to authorise overseas Pakistanis to vote in the local government elections in the absence of legislation at the provincial level, DawnNews reported.

According to the commission, none of the provinces had extended the facility of voting in LG polls to Pakistanis living abroad.

An ECP official said they could not authorise overseas Pakistanis to vote without appropriate legislation at the provincial level.

The official moreover said that overseas Pakistanis were playing a major role in the construction and development of Pakistan, adding that in the past five years, they had sent 55 billion dollars to the country as foreign exchange.

He was of the view that Pakistanis living abroad should be included in the country’s electoral process.

It may be mentioned that an inter-provincial meeting was informed last week that holding of local government elections was not possible this year because provinces had not done basic work to conduct the exercise.

It transpired during the meeting, presided over by acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, that provinces were yet to have complete delimitation, which would have to be carried out afresh on the basis of new census blocks.

ECP secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan told reporters that all provinces had assured the meeting of sending a requisition to the commission for holding LG elections in the first week of December after completing prerequisites for the polls in November.

And after receiving requisitions, the ECP required one month to carry out multiple tasks before announcing the election schedule, he said.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has decided to shut down all compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in Punjab, the most populated province, for three months starting from November.

Federal minister for petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told reporters on Tuesday that due to shortages of gas in winter, all CNG stations in the province will be closed from November to January.

Pakistan suffers from a chronic gas shortage. Many Pakistanis have converted their cars to run on CNG, depending on it as a cheaper alternative to petrol and diesel.

The switch to CNG by both private and commercial sectors as an alternative fuel for motor transport has hampered an already burdened gas supply.

Pakistani households use gas as fuel for domestic usage.

“Our first priority are domestic consumers during the winters, so there will be no gas for motor transport in Punjab,” Abbasi said.

NEW YORK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left for home after a week-long stay during which he single-handedly persuaded his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to take the first step towards improving relations with Pakistan by agreeing on a procedure to defuse tensions along the line of control in Kashmir.

But more important than this agreement was the message he kept sending to the Indians in his statements and interviews to various Indian, Pakistani and US media outlets: let’s put the bitter past behind and “make a new beginning”.

He used his address to the UN General Assembly on Friday to convey the same message, saying that “Pakistan and India can prosper together and the entire region would benefit from our cooperation.”

To Mr Singh, who appeared reluctant to embrace Pakistan so close to the elections, he said: “We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue.”

And at a community dinner at a New York hotel, Mr Sharif told the Pakistanis: “We cannot have prosperity unless we have good relations with our neighbours, India and Afghanistan.”

Mr Sharif also used that speech to tell the Pakistani military establishment that the country couldn’t afford to continue to increase its defence budget, so they too should support his moves to improve relations with India. He said he was toppled in 1999 because he was trying to improve relations with India.

When Mr Singh used a joint White House news conference with US President Barack Obama to call Pakistan “an epicentre of terrorism” and declared that any solution to the Kashmir dispute had to be based in Pakistan’s acceptance of the valley as “an integral part of India,” Mr Sharif came under tremendous pressure from some of his aides and the Pakistani media to “give a befitting response”. But he ignored such suggestions, reminding his aides not to forget that Mr Singh’s party was going to an election.

Throughout this period, Mr Sharif focused on the meeting, working quietly with the Indian side on a possible understanding that would promote peace without causing any political damage to him or Mr Singh. They came up with a plan to end clashes along the LoC, hoping that it would stop unnecessary blood-letting in a sensitive area where any mistake can lead to a larger conflict.

The plan worked and the two prime ministers tasked their military officials to “suggest effective means to restore the ceasefire and a way forward to ensure that that remains in force and in place”, as Indian National Security Adviser Shivshanker Menon explained.

The military officials will also “establish a joint mechanism for not only investigation of incidents on the LoC, but also to ensure there is no recurrence of violence”, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani added.

While the understanding itself was important, the two briefings also had a pleasant surprise for the Pakistani and Indian media covering the event.

In the past, such briefings were mostly held separately. Officials from both sides ensured that every journalist from the other side was forced out of the room before the briefing began.

It was different this time. Pakistani journalists were treated with cookies and tea as they came to the Indian briefing room and were not asked to leave when the briefing began. And before Mr Menon spoke, Pakistani officials distributed written invitations among Indian journalists, telling them that they were “welcome” to attend a briefing by the Pakistani foreign secretary at a nearby hotel. As Mr Menon’s briefing ended, a group of Pakistani journalists guided their Indian colleagues to the hotel.

But such gestures were not enough to hide ugly realities.

After the Indians left, Pakistani television channels, shown constantly at the Pakistani media room, focused on a rally that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi held hours before the Sharif-Singh meeting, criticising the Indian prime minister for pursuing peace with Pakistan. He conveniently forgot that it was a BJP prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who took forward the dialogue process in 2003-04.

The channels also ran a statement from some militant groups in Pakistan, telling Mr Sharif that he was “betraying the nation” by engaging India in peace talks.Meanwhile, the Indian channels were focusing on a non-issue, Mr Sharif allegedly calling Mr Singh a “dehati budhiya.” Although Pakistani officials strenuously denied the allegation, saying that the remarks were falsely attributed to Mr Sharif, the channels continued to play it up.

The understanding on ending LoC violations also could not hide the fact that both sides were still unwilling to discuss more serious issues. The foremost among such issues is Afghanistan where both India and Pakistan have been vying for influence. The deadline for the 2014 withdrawal of US and Nato combat troops from Afghanistan has further intensified this competition. The Pakistanis fear that India will use its influence in Afghanistan to create trouble in the bordering areas. Indians fear that Pakistan can once again recruit Afghan militants in an armed conflict in Kashmir.

Yet, there were no discussions on Afghanistan in the Sharif-Singh meeting, “although it was mentioned”, as Mr Menon said.

There also was no understanding on the resumption of a composite dialogue process between the two countries. The Indians are believed to have said that they would wait to see if the plan for ending LoC violations worked before committing themselves to the composite dialogue.

Other major issues — Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen — were also just mentioned as neither side appeared ready to tackle them at this stage.

Yet, peace was a clear winner on this muggy Sunday morning in New York where India and Pakistan made yet another “new beginning” for peace. If it’s a real beginning or a false start, only time will tell.

ISLAMABAD:The 8th Annual Expo Pakistan 2013, the biggest in the series in terms of number of participants and international buyers, kicked off in southern Pakistani economic hub Karachi on Thursday, with around 1,000 foreign buyers from 70 countries participating.
President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain inaugurated the event at the Governor House with a commitment to make Pakistan a preferred destination for business. The biggest ever four-day Expo Pakistan would continue at the Expo Centre from September 26-29 September 2013. The President informed the delegates from abroad that the Expo Pakistan would offer them a good opportunity to explore the countrys potential.
The event organized by Trade Development Association of Pakistan (TDAP) offers a complete basket of Pakistans export sector with over 1500 domestic and international exhibitors displaying their products.

Secretary TDAP Rabia Javeri Agha highlighted the importance of the Expo Pakistan event saying it was the best platform for displaying the economic potential of Pakistan showcasing a diversity of Pakistani products.
The foreign buyers including 15 companies from Kuwait are largely attending the expo. Buyers from USA, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Iran, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Korea, Brazil, Poland, Bangladesh, Libya, China, South Africa, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Morocco and UAE are also attending the expo.
The Expo Pakistan is presenting local products including Agro Foods, Beauty Products, Constructions Material, Defense Products, Designer Wear, Engineering Manufacturing, Furniture, Garments, Gems Jewelry, Handicrafts, Handloom Traditional Textile, Home Decor (Carpet Rugs), Home Textile Related Products, Kitchen Equipment, Knitwear, Leather, Leather Accessories, Mineral Metals, Pharmaceuticals, Services, Sportswear/ Sports Goods, Stationary Products and Surgical Instruments.
Pakistani exhibitors received orders worth USD 580 million last year as some 900 foreign buyers visited Expo Pakistan 2012 and TDAP expects over 1,000 buyers generating business deals of over USD 700 million this year. This year the largest delegations of businessmen are coming from Japan and Malaysia, each with over 80 members. Most of the international store chains from Far East and South East Asian regions said that buyers from these regions want to buy Pakistani products mainly because the costs of production in these regions have increased significantly in the last few years compared to Pakistan. 

WASHINGTON: Critics of US drone strike policy say the US is blocking a Pakistani opponent of the strikes from accompanying a Pakistani teacher and his family who want to visit Congress to discuss the loss of a family member in a strike.

Shahzad Akbar, who has sued the CIA over drone attacks, planned to accompany the Pakistani teacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his family to Washington to discuss the 2012 death of the teacher's mother.

Activist filmmaker Robert Greenwald says the State Department granted visas to the teacher's family, but not to Akbar and the teacher won't travel here without the lawyer accompanying him.

Greenwald said the teacher ''wanted to talk about what it means when your 67-year-old mother is killed by a drone.''

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirms Akbar's visa application, but says decisions are confidential.

QUETTA: A major earthquake hit a remote part of western Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 46 people and prompting a new island to rise from the sea just off the country’s southern coast. The United States Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude quake struck 145 miles southeast of Dalbandin in Pakistan’s quake-prone province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran. The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the seabed to rise and create a small, mountain-like island about 600 meters off Pakistan’s Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea.

Officials said the quake, which struck at 4:29 pm (1129 GMT), demolished dozens of houses in Awaran, 350 kilometers southwest of the Baluchistan provincial capital Quetta. Its epicenter was 20 kilometers below ground. The area is sparsely populated and most buildings are mud-built. But the US Geological Survey issued a red alert, warning that heavy casualties were likely based on past data.

Asad Gilani, one of the most senior officials in the Baluchistan administration said that at least 46 people had been confirmed killed and 100 injured in the quake. “A large number of houses have collapsed in the area and we fear the death toll may rise,” said Rafiq Lassi, police chief for Awaran district. The provincial government declared an emergency in Awaran and the military mobilized medical teams as well as 200 soldiers and paramilitary troops to help with the immediate relief effort.

“We have received reports that many homes in Awaran district have collapsed. We fear many deaths,” Jan Muhammad Baledi, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, said on the ARY news channel. “There are not many doctors in the area but we are trying to provide maximum facilities in the affected areas.” Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.

Abdul Qudoos Bizinjo, deputy speaker of Baluchistan’s parliament, told Dunya TV there were reports of “heavy losses” in Awaran. Damage to the mobile phone network was hampering communications in the area, he said. Awaran district has an estimated population of around 300,000, scattered over an area of more than 21,000 square kilometers.

Tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital and even Dubai in the Gulf, while office workers in the Indian city of Ahmedabad near the border with Pakistan ran out of buildings and into the street in panic. In April a 7.8-magnitude quake centered in southeast Iran, close to the border with Baluchistan, killed 41 people and affected more than 12,000 on the Pakistan side of the border. The Red Crescent in Tehran reported no damage from the latest quake.

Office workers in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi rushed out of their buildings. “My work table jerked a bit and again and I impulsively rushed outside,” said Noor Jabeen, 28. “It was not so intense but it was terrible,” said Owais Khan, who works for a provincial government office. “Whenever I feel jolts it reminds me of the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir,” said Amjad Ali, 45, an IT official standing in the street. The 7.6 magnitude quake in 2005 centered in Kashmir killed at least 73,000 people and left several million homeless in one of the worst natural disasters to hit Pakistan.

Baluchistan, Pakistan’s largest but least populous province, is believed to have substantial gas and oil reserves, but it is violent and unstable. It is a flashpoint for growing violence against minority Shiite Muslims and has suffered attacks blamed on Taleban militants. It also suffers from an ongoing separatist insurgency which began in 2004 when Baluch rebels rose up to demand a greater share of profits from the province’s mineral resources.- Agencies


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