Pakistan News

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

LONDON: A pilot believed to be working for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been arrested at a British airport on suspicion of being drunk in charge of a plane, police said on Thursday.

Officers were called on Wednesday evening to the airport serving the northern English cities of Leeds and Bradford where they arrested a 54-year-old man from Pakistan, a statement from West Yorkshire Police said.

The exact circumstances of the arrest were not entirely clear, although the pilot was not thought to be flying at the time.

“At about 10pm last night police were called to Leeds Bradford International Airport where they arrested an airline pilot on suspicion of carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink,” police said.

“The 54-year-old man, from Pakistan, is currently in custody.”

PIA has immediately grounded and suspended one of its pilots upon violation of rules, a PIA Spokesperson said.

In a statement issued, he said the pilot was the captain of PK-776 from Leeds-Bradford to Islamabad.

"Due to unavailability of any alternate, the captain of the flight had to make a night stop at Leeds. Later, the flight departed with a delay of 15 hours."

He said the pilot is still in custody of British Police for further investigation.

Referring to another incident of indecent behavior by three flight stewards in Manchester, the spokesperson said that the management has also suspended them.

They were taken into custody by Manchester Police on complaint made by a British lady. The investigation is still in process.

The spokesperson said that PIA is not responsible for violation of rules or code of conduct committed by its employees.

"PIA will never provide legal or any kind of assistance nor support for individual's act of violation.

"Upon receipt of final report the violators will face further severe action according to rules of corporation," he concluded.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced plans earlier this month to sell off a 26 per cent stake in the ailing national carrier, one of the poorest performing state-run companies in the country.

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan on Thursday raised the issue of American drone strikes in its tribal regions at the United Nations Security Council, calling for their cessation and seeking “urgent” talks to resolve the problem.

“Drone strikes infringe our sovereignty, violate international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, cause civilian casualties and are detrimental to the combined efforts to fight terrorism,” Ambassador Masood Khan told the 15-nation council during a discussion on the situation in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is facilitating the Afghan reconciliation process, but progress is attainable only if all stakeholders share the goals of the peace process," Ambassador Masood Khan said.

“We need to pursue this goal together, with unity of purpose,” the Pakistani envoy said.

Noting that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called attention to the adverse consequences of the use of armed drones, the Pakistani ambassador said: “We call for cessation of drone strikes. Urgent and intense dialogue can help resolve this issue.”

In relation to the issue of drone strikes, Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva, had stated that Pakistan, a primary target of drone attacks, had suffered a heavy loss of innocent lives apart from widespread social and economic costs.

While addressing the opening session of the 24th Human Rights Council, he had said that in recent years, there had been severe human rights violations across the globe, as a result of indiscriminate use of force in the context of counter-terrorism efforts.

Akram had said these included illegal detentions, renditions, and extrajudicial killings including through use of drone attacks.

The All Parties Conference (APC) had recommended raising of the drone issue at the United Nations.

US drone attacks are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington views them as a vital tool in their fight against Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

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