Pakistan News

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has conferred Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa with the King Abdulaziz Medal of Excellent Class for his "distinguished efforts in consolidating and strengthening bonds of friendship and joint cooperation and developing Saudi-Pakistani relations", the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Sunday.

Gen Bajwa, who was visiting the Kingdom, was received by Prince Mohammed, with whom a meeting was held on a host of issues, the SPA reported.

The meeting reviewed bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in the military fields, and opportunities for developing them. The two sides also deliberated upon a number of issues of common interest.

"In implementation of the order of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, HRH the Crown Prince decorated the Commander of the Pakistani Army with King Abdulaziz Medal of Excellent Class in recognition of his distinguished efforts in consolidating and strengthening bonds of friendship and joint cooperation and developing Saudi-Pakistani relations," the SPA said.

Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Staff Lieutenant-General Fayyad Al-Ruwaili, and a number of senior officials from both sides were also present on the occasion.

KARACHI: With a spiraling energy crisis brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine putting pressure on global fuel reserves, a key member of the federal cabinet admitted on Satur­day that the country simply could not compete with the buying power of European countries who were also potential customers for the same reserves that Pakistan desperately needed.

According to State Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik, Pakistan’s failure to find a bidder for liquefied natural gas (LNG) slots had forced authorities to shift to alternative sour­ces of energy for power generation, which would take a month or so to yield results.

“The situation is that we have carried out two rounds of tenders of three to four tenders each, but no one responded to them,” he said in reply to a question put to him by a journalist during a media interaction on the sidelines of a two-day conference organised by the Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).

“Since supply from Russia is suspended due to the war with Ukraine, European countries are also buying gas from everywhere it’s available. As a result, LNG, which was priced at $4 two-and-a-half years ago, is no longer available for even $40. So, Russia’s war [with Ukraine] created a real crisis,” he said.
Musadik Malik says ‘pain’ from power shortages to last till at least July 15; govt exploring alternative means of energy generation
His thoughts came a day after the country failed to find a bidder for three LNG slots and received the highest-ever rate for another slot for the last week of July as European customers lapped up spot market quantities to compensate for the Russian supply disruption amid widespread electricity shortages.
The state-run Pakistan LNG Ltd (PLL) had floated a tender on June 16 for four cargoes — one each in the first and second weeks, and two in the last week, of July. However, no bidders came forward for the July 2-3, 8-9, and 25-26 delivery windows.
It is worth noting that this was the third futile attempt by PLL to have an LNG cargo in the first week of July. The earlier two tenders, issued on May 31 and June 7, attracted only two and one bidder, respectively, but none was technically responsive. Hence, the bids were returned unopened.
The minister told reporters point-blank: “We don’t have enough energy right now. The gas is not available and we can’t afford such expensive gas. So what we are doing is arranging alternates. The recent increase in production, imports of coal and furnace oil is part of the same strategy,” Senator Malik said.
Sharing the fresh moves the government was making to meet the growing energy glut, he referred to the import of five ships worth of furnace oil within a month and the larger amount of coal acquisition to keep power production units running.
Senator Malik was also confident that nature would favour them with the upcoming monsoon, which could help turn the tide of the power crisis to a large extent.
However, he cautioned that the ‘pain’ caused by power shortfall and loadshedding could take weeks to heal, adding that the situation was only likely to improve after July 15.
“We produce around 6,000MW to 8,000MW through hydel energy, but for that you need a certain amount of water flow,” he said. With an increase in imports of furnace oil and coal as alternative energy sources and the approaching monsoon rains that would improve water flows to enhance power generation through hydel energy, he said the government hoped to see some relief after July 15.
Senator Malik said he was sure that the Shehbaz Sharif’s government would have to pay a “political price” for these fresh measures, but termed them critical for saving the teetering economy that was brought to the brink of collapse by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government by its failure to foresee the growing demand for energy. Things had only gotten worse after the breakout of war between Russia and Ukraine, he said.
“We know what the political price of all these tough decisions is,” he said, adding: “Don’t you think we know that these decisions will hit our vote bank? We know it well. But what other options we have?”

“Should we sit idle and keep watching as the country turns into Sri Lanka? The PTI government did the same. They planted the landmines for the country’s economy for their political gains. We are here to save the country, not our politics,” the state minister concluded.

Pakistan on Saturday strongly rejected and opposed the Indian government's reported plan to hold a G20 event in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) next year.
According to a report published in The Indian Express on Friday, India has decided to host the meetings of the G20 in the disputed region next year and formed a five-member committee to coordinate the event.

An official order issued by IOJK's housing and urban development department on Thursday revealed that the committee was formed in response to a June 4 communication from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

Separately, a Hindustan Times report said that this would be the first major international "summit" to be held in occupied Kashmir after the Indian government revoked its special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office today, Pakistan condemned the neighbouring country's plans, stressing that occupied Kashmir was an internationally recognised “disputed” territory between Pakistan and India.

The territory has been under forcible and illegal occupation of India since 1947 and this dispute has remained on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council for over seven decades.

The FO observed that India was responsible for "widespread atrocities and egregious human rights violations" in the region. "Since its illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019, Indian occupation forces have killed 639 innocent Kashmiris in extra-judicial murders.

"Numerous reports of the UN, including the two commissioned by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2018 and 2019, have re-confirmed ongoing Indian atrocities against the Kashmiri people," the statement highlighted.

It continued that contemplating the holding of any G20-related meeting/event in occupied Kashmir was in utter "disregard of the globally acknowledged disputed status of the territory" and was a "travesty" that the international community could not accept under any circumstances.

"It is expected that in case of any such controversial proposal from India, which would be designed to seek international legitimacy for an illegal and tyrannical occupation continuing for over 7 decades, the G20 members will be fully cognisant of the imperatives of law and justice and would reject it outright."

Pakistan also strongly urged the international community to call upon India to end its gross and systematic violations of human rights in IOJK, revoke its illegal and unilateral actions, and free all political prisoners including the true Kashmiri leaders.
"The only way to lasting peace in South Asia is by granting the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir their inalienable right to self-determination as pledged to them in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions," the FO added.
Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that the FO's response was on India planning to host a G20 "summit" when the response was actually on a planned G20 "meeting/event". The error is regretted.

A Karachi court on Saturday instructed the provincial health secretary to constitute a medical board to determine the age of Dua Zehra — the girl who went missing from Karachi in April and was recovered from Punjab earlier this month.

Dua has in previous court hearings said she is 18 years of age, and a medical test ordered by the Sindh High Court found she was 17. The SHC later ruled that Dua, who claims she had contracted marriage of her own accord, was free to decide her fate.

Subsequently, her father, Mehdi Kazmi, challenged the SHC verdict in the Supreme Court where his petition was disposed of as "it didn't fall in the jurisdiction" of the apex court. In that hearing, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar asked the petitioner if they had challenged Dua's medical report. The three-member bench had further told Kazmi to approach the relevant forums for the formation of a medical board to determine his daughter's age.

During the hearing at the Court of Judicial Magistrate East today, the petitioner and his counsel, Jibran Nasir, contended that the police challan focused on two aspects: Dua's age and her statement.

In the police challan, the teenager's age is stated to be 17 years, while her father says she is 14 and has Nadra documents to prove it.
Nasir told the court that the SC had told them to move Dua to a shelter home and re-determine her age through a medical board. He then presented the top court's order to the judicial magistrate.
"The SC also said that the SHC's order would not become a hindrance in this procedure," he said.
He also pointed out that the police had declared the case "C-class" without even determining her age and Zaheer — the man Dua was said to have contracted marriage with, Zaheer Ahmad, had not been arrested yet.

At one point during the hearing, the judicial magistrate asked the plaintiff's lawyer why they hadn't challenged Dua's statements in court to which Nasir replied that two separate statements had been recorded by the teenager.

"In Lahore, Dua was forced to lodge a fake request against her father and cousin accusing them of threatening her and Zaheer. But she never mentioned any of this in front of the judicial magistrate," he said.

"Even in the high court, nothing was said about the father and cousin," he added, arguing that the statement was not "independent".

Subsequently, the judicial magistrate returned the case challan to the police, directing it to further investigate it and collect evidence regarding the true age of Dua through a medical board.

In a tweet later, Nasir revealed that their right to challenge the teenager's age certificate — which was presented before High Court pursuant to which Dua was set at liberty — had been honoured.
"The same report was prepared by one medical expert and not a medical board," he added.
'Zaheer can't be charged for kidnapping' Separately, in a media talk outside court, the investigating officer in the case said that the police had no grounds to charge Zaheer with kidnapping and had taken him into protective custody.

"We have investigated the case from every angle and found out that the girl went with her own free will," he said. "Dua and Zaheer became friends on the online game PUBG and had known each other for three years. They decided to get married there."
The officer added that they had obtained a copy of the SC order and would further study the case.
The case
On April 16, Dua's parents filed a first information report alleging that their daughter had been kidnapped when she left the house to dispose of some trash. The incident had provoked an outcry, especially on social media, which had prompted authorities to take notice.

After nearly 10 days, on April 26, the teenage girl was recovered from Okara. In a video statement that day, Dua had said that she wasn't kidnapped and had married Zaheer of her "free will".

She had said that she had left her house of her own accord. "I have married out of free will. No one forced me. I'm happy with my husband here. For God's sake, don't bother me," she had stated.
Dua had also claimed that her parents were lying about her age.
Subsequently, she and Zaheer approached a Lahore district and sessions court and filed a petition against Dua's father and cousin.

Meanwhile, the police had also filed a plea in court demanding that Dua be sent to Darul Aman. However, the magistrate rejected the request and had allowed the teenager "to go wherever she wanted to".

On the other hand, Dua's parents were adamant that their daughter had been kidnapped and said that she had been forced to give the statement.

The teenager's father had also approached the SHC in May with a plea against the Punjab's court's orders. Kazmi had stated in the petition that as per her educational, birth certificates and other records, Dua’s age was 13 and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 it was illegal to marry a minor.
He had asked the court to order a medical examination of his daughter. In the following days, Karachi police repeatedly failed to produce the teenager in court earning the judges' ire.
On June 6, the SHC had ordered an ossification to determine Dua's age. She was also sent to a shelter home for the time being after she refused to meet her parents.
Two days later, the court ruled that the teenager was at liberty to decide who she wanted to live with. During the hearing, the IO filed his report along with age certificate issued by the office of the police surgeon which stated that as per the opinion of doctors and the Civil Hospital’s department of radiology, the bone age of the alleged abductee was between 16 and 17 years of age.

In its order, the bench said the petition had served its purpose as it was only to the extent of the whereabouts of the alleged minor/abductee.

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan on Saturday approached the Supreme Court to challenge the coalition government's recent amendments to the National Account­ability (NAB) Ordinance, contending that they will "virtually eliminate any white-collar crime committed by a public office holder".

The changes were criticised by Imran and his party, with the PTI chairman saying the move would destroy the country.

The bill, along with the one on election reforms, was passed by the National Assembly and Senate last month. After its approval from both houses, the president's assent was required for it to become law.

However, Alvi sent back the bills, following which the government convened a joint sitting of the NA and Senate, which approved them. Alvi again refused to sign them, terming them "regressive", and sent them back. But procedurally, 10 days after a joint sitting passes a bill, it is considered law even if the president refuses assent.

In the petition filed today, the ex-premier named the Federation of Pakistan through its secretary Law and Justice Division and the NAB through its chairman as respondents in the case.
In his request, Imran requested the court to adjudicate upon a question of "great public importance with reference to the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens under articles 9 (security of a person), 14 (inviolability of dignity of a man, etc), 19A (right to information), 24 (protection of property rights) and 25 (equality of citizens) of the Constitution.

NAB amendments The NAB (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 states that NAB's deputy chairman, to be appointed by the federal government, would become the acting chairman of the bureau following the completion of the tenure of the chairman.

The bill has also reduced the four-year term of the NAB chairman and the bureau's prosecutor general to three years. After approval of the law, NAB will not be able to act on federal, provincial or local tax matters. Moreover, the regulatory bodies functioning in the country have also been placed out of NAB's domain.

It says that "all pending inquiries, investigations, trials or proceedings under this ordinance, relating to persons or transactions … shall stand transferred to the concerned authorities, departments and courts under the respective laws."

It has also set a three-year term for the judges of the accountability courts. It will also make it binding upon the courts to decide a case within one year. Under the proposed law, it has been made binding upon NAB to ensure the availability of evidence against an accused prior to his or her arrest.
According to one of the key amendments, the act "shall be deemed to have taken effect on and from the commencement of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999".

KARACHI: Unlike the 2018 general elections, the country’s military wants to stay away from providing security for upcoming polling exercises. But while their personnel will not be deployed inside polling stations, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been assured of their availability as a ‘quick reaction force’ (QRF) in case a need arises during electioneering.
This was revealed by ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan in an interaction with journalists after chairing a meeting regarding the upcoming by-election in Karachi’s NA-245, which had recently fallen vacant after death of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain.
“The ECP chief has recently sent a letter to the army chief seeking deployment of army troops for security [of the electoral process],” he said.
“However, it’s now a policy of the armed forces that they want to stay away from the polling stations. We can’t comment over that. But it’s our utmost desire that there should be more than just flag marches and QRF. That’s why the letter was sent to the army chief.”
ECP official says military, paramilitary personnel will remain in third-tier of security ring, will be available for ‘quick response’

While he didn’t comment on how sustainable the policy would prove to be, Mr Khan was sure that the upcoming local government elections in Sindh and by-polls across the country were likely to be held under similar guidelines.

Regarding the upcoming local bodies elections in Sindh and the off-and-on by-elections in different parts of the country, the ECP secretary made it clear that troops would not be deployed at polling stations, though the paramilitary Rangers force would “stay close to the polling stations”.

When contacted, an ECP official confirmed that the armed forces had, in recent months, opted for positioning as the third tier of security for protective arrangements during recent elections — both the by-polls and local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Police authorities, backed by the paramilitary forces — Pakistan Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary — performed duties as part of the first and second tier.

In the 2018 elections, the ECP had granted broad judicial powers to the armed forces at polling stations in a rare move that had attracted serious criticism by the majority of political parties and human rights groups. At the time, about 371,000 troops were deployed across the country to control security arrangements; about three times the number deputed for the 2013 polls.

The ECP secretary’s thoughts came a day after the commission sought assistance from the armed forces to conduct by-polls in different national and provincial assembly constituencies of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as both phases of the local government polls in Sindh.

In a letter written to Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja stated that in view of the charged political atmosphere and the extreme political polarization in the country, deployment outside polling stations would be required for by-polls in four Punjab Assembly constituencies of Lahore (PP-158, PP-167, PP-168, PP-170), one KP assembly seat (PK-7), and one National Assembly constituency in Sindh (NA-245).

He also criticised comments from various political circles, including PTI chief Imran Khan, who had questioned the role and performance of the constitutional body. Claiming that all arrangements were in place for the first phase of local polls in Sindh, Mr Khan said that polling was scheduled to be held on June 26 in four divisions — Sukkur, Larkana, Shaheed Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas. The ECP mentioned that the Pakistan Rangers would have another task — in addition to providing security — on polling day. “The Pakistan Rangers, Sindh would also give security to election materials and supervise its due safe transportation,” he said. “We don’t see any hurdle on our part in Sindh local bodies elections. We have appealed to the people, parties and candidates to cooperate with us for peaceful elections, but if any individual or group creates a law and order situation, the law would take its course, which would lead to action in line with the set rules.”

He also claimed to have made progress in the action against those found involved in violence and mismanagement during the recent NA-240 by-polls in Karachi and said the ECP would make sure punishments were handed down to all those responsible for violence on June 16, which left one man dead and around a dozen injured.

KARACHI: As consumers struggle to cope with high food prices and utility bills, flour millers on Tuesday further increased prices of various varieties of flour by Rs6 per kg.
The new rate of flour no. 2.5 has been fixed at Rs88 per kg which was Rs82 per kg last week and Rs78 per kg in the last week of May.
Similarly, fine flour and maida (super fine flour) carry new rates of Rs91 per kg as compared to Rs85 per kg last week. These fine flour varieties were tagged at Rs81 in the third week of May.

A miller quoted the new rate of a 10 kg flour bag at Rs885, which was Rs785 a month back.
A retailer said the price of chakki flour has risen to Rs100 from Rs90 a month ago. The branded 10 kg bags of Bake Parlour and Ashrafi fine flour sell at Rs950, while the five kg bag price hovers between Rs480 and Rs490.
According to a flour miller in Karachi, makers have been demanding hassle-free movement of wheat to Karachi from growing areas in Sindh for over a month. The Sindh Food Department had set up check posts in the interior Sindh to curb the free movement of grain to Karachi.
He attributed the price increase to a rise in the open market rates for 100 kg wheat flour bags—which are now selling for Rs7,800–8,000, up Rs7,200 from the third week of May—as well as rising transportation costs due to a Rs119 per litre increase in diesel rates in the last month.
Karachi, being a non-wheat producing area, has been facing a wheat crisis since the start of the wheat procurement season. He said the millers in Karachi could not afford to sustain any delay in the arrival of grain from the interior Sindh.
He added that the Sindh Food Department had only given millers hollow assurances about the restoration of free wheat movement to Karachi from interior Sindh but no practical steps had been taken.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Flour Millers Association (PFMA) had requested that the food department either completely stop wheat supply from Sindh areas to Karachi or ensure full availability of the grain. “This cat and mouse game by the food department may result in any untoward situation in the coming days, such as a stoppage of flour supply to the megacity. In this situation, the food department would be responsible,” the PFMA said.
Last month, the association urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to allow free movement of wheat and wheat products to ensure availability of the basic food item at a reasonable price.
“Flour mills also purchase wheat from the open market along with government agencies. There should be no ban on the purchase of wheat by millers,” PFMA stressed.

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