ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Sunday said mobile phone services would remain suspended on the 9th and 10th of Muharram for security reasons in specified areas of all the cities across the country.
While the PTA did not confirm exact timings, the cellular services — particularly in areas through which processions pass — are expected to remain suspended from morning till 6pm on both days.
A senior official in the Ministry of Interior said that a specific notification had been issued by the government. Without naming localities, the official said cellular services in all the cities across Pakistan would be suspended in the areas identified and indicated by the district administrations and the police in their respective cities for the safety of mourners during processions.
The directions to kill both mobile and broadband services are passed down from the Ministry of Interior to the PTA, which ensures its implementation by passing on the orders to all the operators.
According to an official in the PTA, historically such instructions to suspend mobile phone services are issued at the last minute to ensure maximum security.
According to a list of sectors provided by the capital administration and the Islamabad police, mobile services will remain suspended in sectors G-6 and G-7, Blue Area, I-10 and Khyaban-i-Sir Syed, Rawalpindi on Monday and Tuesday.
While mobile phone services are also suspended in sectors G-9 and G-10, subscribers in Bari Imam may also face inconvenience due to the suspension of cell phone services on Ashura. These areas will remain out of cellular service on requests from the capital administration and Islamabad police to ensure security.
For the past few years, the authorities concerned have been suspending cellular services in the specific areas where Muharram processions are usually held, without disrupting the mobile phone services in other parts of the city.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday Pakistan was committed to timely completion of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and hoped that more Chinese companies would make investments in the country.
During his meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the prime minister highlighted the importance of the proposed CPEC authority for speedy execution of the projects.
Mr Khan also briefed the Chinese FM on the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) and both agreed on more high-level exchanges between Pakistan and China to further promote bilateral ties and shared goals.
During his two-day official visit, the Chinese FM also held meetings with President Dr Arif Alvi, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. During the meetings bilateral, regional and international issues were discussed and both sides agreed to jointly promote regional peace, stability and prosperity.
The prime minister hoped that as the CPEC’s benefits expanded, more Chinese companies would invest in Pakistan and help support Pakistan’s process of industrialisation and its policies of greater agricultural productivity and innovation.
He highlighted that CPEC was a project of great national significance that contributed immensely to revitalisation of Pakistan’s economy.
Visiting foreign minister reaffirms support on Kashmir issue
Mr Khan underscored that friendship with China was cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. He briefed the Chinese side on the evolving situation in IoK following India’s Aug 5 unilateral and illegal action to strip the region of autonomy.
He stressed that the ongoing curfew for 35 days and continued lockdown and communications blockade coupled with massive human rights violations had created a dire humanitarian situation in IoK which needed to be urgently addressed.
Prime Minister Khan said that the curfew and other restrictions needed to be immediately lifted.
To deepen strategic cooperation, Pakistan and China should continue their close coordination and consultation to ensure that peace and stability in the region was maintained, he said.
Wang Yi said that Pakistan-China relationship was based on mutual respect, trust and strong bonds of friendship. He appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to achieve goals of national development under Prime Minister Khan’s leadership, and extended China’s utmost support in this regard.
He noted that with the policies of the government, Pakistan’s economic and financial condition was improving.
Wang Yi emphasised that the CPEC, which was being jointly implemented by Pakistan and China, was a demonstration project of high quality Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.
The Chinese foreign minister conveyed best wishes of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to Mr Khan and said China-Pakistan relationship was rock-solid and unbreakable.
Wang Yi reaffirmed China’s support and reiterated opposition to any Indian unilateral action (regarding held Kashmir) as well as the measures by Delhi that could further complicate the situation.
Both leaders agreed that more high-level exchanges should continue to take place between Pakistan and China to further promote bilateral ties and shared goals of economic development, peace, and security across the region.
Earlier, the Foreign Office issued a joint statement at the conclusion of the two-day official visit of the Chinese foreign minister.
According to the statement, Wang Yi also called on President Dr Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and met Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
During the meetings, both sides had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Both sides reiterated that the time-tested all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan remained unaffected by any adverse regional and international development and continued to move from strength to strength.
Both sides reaffirmed that China-Pakistan relationship was a priority in their foreign policies, and committed to build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.
Both sides agreed to maintain frequent mutual visits and meetings at the leadership level and continue to hold bilateral meetings between their leaders on multilateral occasions.
They noted that China and Pakistan had enjoyed mutual understanding and support on issues concerning each other’s core interests. They reiterated the resolve to implement consensus reached by the leadership of both countries to enhance strategic mutual trust and improve all-round cooperation to jointly promote regional peace, stability and prosperity.
The Chinese side reaffirmed its support for Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and national dignity, in choosing its development path in light of its national conditions, in working for a better external security environment, and in playing a more constructive role in regional and international issues.
Both sides believed that the CPEC, as a pioneering project of the BRI, had entered a new phase of high-quality development. They agreed to continue to firmly push forward the construction of CPEC, complete its ongoing projects in a timely manner, and realise its full potential by focusing on socio-economic development, job creation and better livelihood and accelerating cooperation in industrial parks and agriculture.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over the close cooperation between the two countries at multilateral fora and resolved to deepen strategic coordination and consultation. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and support for multilateralism, free trade and win-win cooperation. Both sides agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation on regional and international affairs.
Both sides underlined that a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia was in common interest of all parties and agreed that parties needed to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and equality.
Both sides also exchanged views on the situation in India-held Kashmir.
The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation, including its concerns, position and urgent humanitarian issues.
The Chinese side responded that it was paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir and reiterated that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.
Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation on the Afghan issue and support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. Both sides welcomed the positive progress achieved in the negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the US, and called on all Afghan political stakeholders, including the Taliban, to start intra-Afghan negotiations to form a future political structure acceptable to all parties so that peace and stability might be achieved in Afghanistan at an early date.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019
LAHORE: A law and order situation was reported at Gulshan-i-Ravi late on Friday when several charged students set the private school on fire in the wake of the death of their colleague who was tortured to death by the schoolteacher.
According to the initial reports, several people, most of them students of the American Lycetuff School, turned up there all of a sudden with carrying petrol bottles.
They threw petrol bottles on the school branch where 10th class student Hunain Bilal was allegedly tortured to death by his teacher Mohammad Kamran and set it on fire.
The heavy contingent of the police was immediately dispatched while the fire brigades also rushed to the site.
Iqbal Town Division SP Mohammad Ajmal said the police managed the situation and arrested some of the attackers red-handed.
He said most of the students of the same school were among those who vandalized the school building late on Friday. However, the Rescue 1122 firefighters acted timely and curtailed the fire.
He said the fire was controlled before it spread to the entire building. Only a few rooms were damaged.
He said the police were trying to find out the miscreants who provoked the underage students to commit such crime.
The deployment of the police was intensified outside the school building in order to avoid any untoward incident.
“Protestors have dispersed due to the timely response of the police,” the SP said. The police arrested the schoolteacher shortly after he thrashed and tortured Hunain.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2019
Amnesty International India on Thursday launched a global campaign in a bid to highlight the human cost of the month-long lockdown in occupied Kashmir.
"The draconian communication blackout in [occupied] Kashmir is an outrageous protracted assault on the civil liberties of the people of Kashmir," read a press release by the human rights watchdog.
"In response to this indefinite communication blackout, Amnesty International India has launched the campaign #LetKashmirSpeak on 5 September, 2019 – which marks a month of the communications blackout, to ask for immediate lifting of the lockdown," stated Amnesty International India.
"While landline telephones have been announced to be restored, their obsoletion in the recent past will fall woefully short in facilitating communication for the 8 million people of Kashmir."
On August 5, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Kashmiris of the constitutional rights they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order. An indefinite curfew was imposed in occupied Kashmir and elected leaders were put under house arrest.
By repealing Article 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris, as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government, see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority occupied Kashmir with Hindu settlers.
“The blackout has now been a month old and cannot be prolonged any further by the Indian government as it has grossly impacted the daily lives of Kashmiri people, their emotional and mental well-being, medical care, as well as their access to basic necessities and emergency services. It is tearing families apart,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.
“While the region of Jammu has begun to see easing of the lockdown in many districts, most of Kashmir still remains under a severe communications blackout. Depriving an entire population of their right to freedom of expression, opinion and movement for an indefinite period is akin to taking the region back to the dark ages," said Patel.
"‘Naya Kashmir’ cannot be built without the Kashmiris. The country is yet to hear from Kashmir after a month of being repeatedly been told by the Indian government that all is normal. This is not normal. Let Kashmir speak."
The statement said that while Amnesty International India acknowledges that the Indian government may have legitimate security concerns "which may merit reasonable restrictions on right to freedom of expression in certain circumstances", it does not believe the current shutdown complies with requirement of necessity, proportionality and legality set out under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party.
"Instead, it deprives the entire population of Kashmir of their right to freedom of expression and opinion and access to crucial information, thus inflicting a form of collective punishment on the 8 million people of Kashmir. Lack of transparency on the criteria used to cut off all communication services and what mechanisms are available to challenge the sweeping restrictions puts India in a clear violation of its international obligations."
The press release by the organisation noted "sketchy reports coming out of the region have highlighted unattended medical emergencies, mass arrests and detentions, children and youth being picked up in the middle of the night, torture of civilians, indiscriminate use of tear gas, rubber bullets and pellet guns at protestors".
According to Reuters, pharmacists say there are shortages of drugs at some private pharmacies due to logistical issues, particularly thyroid, diabetes, anti-depressant and cancer drugs.
A Reuters reporter saw a chemist in the Jawahar Nagar area of Srinagar turn back half a dozen customers asking for common drugs on Wednesday, saying he didn’t have any left.
"All this with the backdrop of heavy military presence and a history of serious human rights violations in the region. This adds to the heightening of tensions and feelings of insecurity at a time when families are unable to contact each other and ensure their wellbeing – as many young and aged remain locked in their homes," added the press release.
"The attempts to restrict the freedom of press, like in the case of journalist and author Gowhar Geelani who was arbitrarily stopped at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi from boarding his flight to Germany, have further compounded the effect of the communication blackout," said the watchdog.
"According to a recent Kashmir Press Club statement, at least three senior Kashmiri journalists were asked to vacate government accommodations as soon as possible, which is ‘nothing but harassment aimed at coercing journalists to toe a particular line’.
"The government’s attempts to create a public opinion of ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir while curbing the freedom of independent press have usurped the voice of the people. This excessive censure has not only affected the public’s right to know and threatened basic freedom of expression norms but also put the lives of journalists, health practitioners and service providers at risk, increasing their chances of being harassed, intimidated and detained in connection with their work," stated Amnesty International India.
“Given the chronic impunity for abuses committed by security forces in the past in Kashmir and a lack of unconditional and unconstrained access to the news from the valley, the situation calls for lifting of the communications blackout without any further delay and to listen and engage with the people of Kashmir," urged Patel.
"This is no more a clampdown on just the communication systems of Kashmir, but a clampdown on the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris.”
The issue of the lockdown is also pending before the Indian Supreme Court, which has issued a notice to the federal government on all petitions challenging the revocation of Article 370. Five judges will start a regular hearing in October.
ISLAMABAD: The telecom regulatory authority on Saturday extended the registration date for all such mobile devices that come with dual SIMs and have separate international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) till Sept 15.
Two weeks ago, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had asked all subscribers with dual SIM mobile phones to register their IMEI numbers before Aug 31.
The PTA had said earlier that there had been instances where subscribers who own handsets with dual SIMs have registered one IMEI number against the slot they use. Most users do not utilise the second slot and have either not registered the IMEI number against it or have forgotten to do so. Mobile device users with one IMEI registered, and the second IMEI not registered are advised to register all IMEIs.
The IMEI number is only used for identifying the device and has no relation to the subscriber. The number is used by the PTA to identify valid devices and therefore can be used for stopping a stolen phone from accessing the network in the country.
The PTA said that it will evaluate all such requests, and validated cases will be registered accordingly. It also warned of legal action if an applicant submitted incorrect information. Devices with already one IMEI against one SIM slot registered will not face service disruptions.
To check the status of a mobile device, the PTA has advised subscribers to dial *#06# and SMS each 15 digit IMEI to 8484.
The PTA said that subscribers were advised to have all IMEIs (dual SIM) of their mobile devices registered under its indigenous new mechanism called Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
DIRBS has been developed to counter smuggling and use of knock off mobile handsets in the country.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday raised the plight of Kashmiris, who have been living under a lockdown for four weeks in occupied Kashmir, while separately addressing the 56th Convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
Speaking at the event, Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful for the US Elections 2020,India's move to annex occupied Kashmir as "unacceptable".
"I am also deeply concerned about the situation in Kashmir where the Indian government has revoked Kashmiri autonomy, cracked down on dissent and instituted a communications blackout.
"The crackdown in the name of security is also denying the Kashmiri people access to medical care. Even many respected doctors in India have acknowledged that the Indian government-imposed restrictions on travel are threatening the life-saving care that patients need," he said.
"The communications blockade must be lifted immediately and the United States government must speak out boldly in support of international humanitarian law and in support of a UN-backed peaceful resolution that respects the will of the Kashmiri people," the senator stated.
Prime Minister Imran in his address, via video link, spoke about the need to understand the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party — said to be a parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"I am trying my best but from ISNA's platform you have to make the concerted effort to make people understand this phenomenon which has taken over India. You have to make the Western societies understand the RSS."
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday admitted a petition for regular hearing filed against the appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by President Dr Arif Alvi using his discretionary powers.
President Alvi appointed Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Kakar from Balochistan on Aug 22 against two the vacant posts previously held by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch from the respective provinces.
The chief election commissioner (CEC) refused to administer the oath to both members-designate and wrote a letter to the law ministry, observing that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with relevant articles of the Constitution.
The CEC also cited the judgement of a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2013 which held that the president did not enjoy discretionary powers in the appointment of CEC and ECP members.
CEC refused to administer oath to both members-designate after president named them using his discretionary powers
The CEC made it clear that he would not administer the oath to members appointed ‘unconstitutionally’ by the president.
Subsequently, the ECP secretary did not receive the joining reports of Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar.
Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon challenged the appointments in the IHC, saying that the criteria for the appointment of CEC and members had been laid down in the Constitution and the notification issued for the appointment of members on Aug 22 was in violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.
The petitioner pointed out that due to the “grave illegality, the chief election commissioner has refused to administer oath” to the newly appointed members.
He said there was no constitutional provision which allowed the president to appoint Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar by invoking his discretionary powers. The petitioner said that after the passage of the 18th Constitution Amendment, the president had lost his discretion powers to appoint ECP members.
The petition further contended that the entire process of appointment of ECP members had been marred by violation of the Constitution.
It said that the initial consultation between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition did not take place on the matter. Then a deputy secretary of the Foreign Office sent nominations to the leader of the opposition on behalf of the government, which were latter withdrawn.
According to the petition, the president, prime minister and secretary of parliamentary affairs could not complete the constitutional process due to mala fide and the five-member bench of the Supreme Court had specifically provided guidelines for appointments in the ECP.
The petition further said that the appointment of both members-designate had been made without following the due process and it was marred with nepotism and favoritism and requested the court to set aside these appointments.
The petition cited President Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, the secretary of parliamentary affairs, CEC, Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar as respondents.
After initial hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah admitted the petition for regular hearing and issued notices to the respondents and sought their reply in a fortnight.
The court also put attorney general on notice for the next date of hearing on Sept 12.
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019