Monday, November 6, 2017

Deadly Smog Blankets Pakistan, India, Causing Accidents and Illnesses

At a Glance
Smog that has shrouded much of Pakistan and India caused road accidents and triggered respiratory ailments in residents. Officials say at least 10 people have been killed and 25 injured on roads due to poor visibility. It's expected to linger until mid-month. Residents have been advised to wear face masks and limit road travel.
Smog that has been clogging the air in much of Pakistan and India caused highway accidents and triggered respiratory problems, forcing many residents to remain indoors, officials said.
Pakistani meteorologist Mohammad Hanif said the pollution, which is the result of dust, burning crops and emissions from factories and brick kilns, is expected to stick around until the middle of the month. He has advised people to wear face masks to protect against respiratory illnesses.
At least 10 people have been killed and 25 have been injured in road accidents due to poor visibility in parts of the Punjab province as of Monday, according to highway police official Mohammad Arshad. Authorities have advised people to limit their road travel.
Average air pollution in Pakistan's major cities is about four times higher than the World Health Organization limits.
Similar problems have been reported in the Indian capital, New Delhi, where air quality was rated "very poor" on Saturday. Some private schools in New Delhi have suspended sports and outdoor activities.
India's Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi ahead of last month's Hindu Diwali festival to try to curb air pollution in the notoriously smoggy city. Though reports said air quality was better than last year, pollution levels in the capital hit 18 times the healthy limit the night after the festival, as many dodged the ban.

Snapped after India-Pakistan wars, Bangladesh to revive railway links with India

Train lines that were snapped after the partition of the country in 1947 and wars in 1965 and 1971 will now be restored.
Bangladesh will restore the railway lines with India at 12 places, which were snapped after the partition of the country in 1947 and wars in 1965 and 1971, for stronger bilateral ties, its railways minister has said.
“This is with a view to improving people-to-people contact and boosting bilateral trade,” Bangladesh railways minister Mohammad Mazibul Hoque said during his visit to Agartala last week for a two-day programme Setubandhan or bridge of bonding.
The tracks that survived the war were abandoned after India converted the meter gauge lines to broad gauge. Tripura’s transport minister Manik Dey said he raised the issue of railway connectivity during his meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka two years ago.
“Dhaka asked India to conduct a survey of all the missing rail links between the two countries,” Dey said.
Of the 12 old links, land acquisition for the one linking Tripura’s capital Agartala to Akhaura in Bangladesh on the Indian side has also been completed. This project will include the laying of 15 km of track – 5 km in India – and is estimated to cost Rs 967.5 crore and scheduled to be completed by December next year.
The Agartala-Akhaura line is the outcome of an agreement between New Delhi and Dhaka in 2013. The track is envisaged to be the part of the Trans-Asian Railway between Istanbul and Singapore via Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Agartala-Akhaura railway line would facilitate carriage of goods to and from both the countries and greatly benefit India’s land-locked northeastern states.The journey time between Agartala and Kolkata, via Bangladesh, would be reduced by a third, from 1,613km through mountainous terrain to a mere 514km.
Former railways minister Suresh Prabhu and Hoque laid its foundation stone on July 31 last year.
The Tripura government has also proposed rail connectivity between the state’s Jawaharnagar and Kalay in Myanmar via Mizoram’s Darlawn covering a distance of 257 km. A 95-km stretch is missing from an old railway line connecting Kalay and Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia.
Tripura was connected through other rail lines to Bangladesh more than half a century ago. These included Belonia-Feni (Bangladesh), Khowai-Akhaura via Balla in Bangladesh, and Amarpur to Bhairab Bazaar (Bangladesh). Assam was also connected through lines between Karimganj and Mahishasan up to Chittagong in Bangladesh.
West Bengal has four old tracks that lead to Bangladesh.
“The northeast suffered economically after the rail lines for transporting tea and other products of the region were cut off by the mid-1960s,” chairperson of Tripura Industrial Development Corporation Pabitra Kar said.
Rajen Gohain, the junior railway minister, said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government is determined to empower the northeast through broad gauge connectivity.
“We are committed to doing what the region needs for faster communication,” he said.

ISIS Might Have One Last Escape Route: Pakistan

The fall of its de facto Syrian capital Raqqa last month signaled the death of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East. On Friday, Syrian troops retook Deir ez-Zor, the last major city with an ISIS presence, just as Iraqi forces took over the crossing in al-Qaim, near the group’s final urban stronghold.
As the group flees the Middle East, it has two obvious destinations: Central and South Asia. Central Asia has accounted for upwards of 5,000 ISIS troops, and South Asia has 40 percent of the global Muslim population – and indeed an entire dedicated ISIS faction – making the region the natural destination for fleeing militants.
The greatest lifeline for ISIS might come from the jihadists that form the large chunk of ISIS Khorasan: the leaderless factions of the Pakistani Taliban.
On October 19, a statement attributed to the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA), a Taliban faction that has pledged allegiance to ISIS, said that the group’s Umar Khalid Khorasani has succumbed to injuries following a U.S. drone strike. A day later the group’s Telegram account denied the claims. Since there weren’t any images, audio or video footage in the denial, this appears to be a classic Taliban tactic of denying a leader’s demise long after they’ve been killed.
This is how Mullah Omar was “kept alive” for over two years and how Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Fazlullah might still be posthumously leading his group – another Taliban faction only confirmed their leader’s death from last year after news broke of Khorasani being killed.
Therefore, there’s more than a fair chance that both the TTP and JA might be leaderless – and aimless – as things stand, and perhaps as desperate for some breathing space as their fellow jihadists in the Levant.
JA in particular has collaborated with ISIS – at least on paper – on many terror attacks over the past two and a half years. This year’s deadliest attack in Pakistan, when a Sufi shrine was bombed in Sehwan leading 88 dead, was jointly claimed by ISIS and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, with the Khorasan faction taking responsibility for August’s attack on the military truck in Quetta.
From ISIS Khorasan’s formal announcement in January 2015, which had been preceded by ISIS graffiti and literature popping up across Pakistan, jihadist factions as diverse as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) – which is dedicated primarily to the extermination of the Shia – and Jamaat-ud-Dawa – which claims to focus on Kashmir jihad – have overlapped with ISIS in Pakistan.
Furthermore, considering that the Pakistan is now formalizing the mainstreaming of many of these jihadists by making them bona fide political players in the country, and the fact that the state continues to encourage jihadamong sections of the population, the lure of the ISIS caliphate alone can sustain the group in the country, even with limited operational presence.
The UN Humanitarian Response Plan Mid-Year Review reports the doubling of “attacks attributable to the Islamic State of Khorasan (from 128 to 237)” in Afghanistan, with the group expanding its presence to seven provinces in the first half of this year. This rise has corresponded with the group’s depletion of resources in Iraq and Syria.
Even so, while Islamic State’s functional presence remains mostly in Afghanistan, where they are rivaled for supremacy by the Afghan Taliban – despite recent ISIS ascendancy – it is Pakistan where a bulging vacuum for a jihadist umbrella remains.
What the Pakistani state will do if and when ISIS and the Taliban regroup in unison, with some of their allies perhaps sitting in the Parliament, remains to be seen.

Pakistan: End enforced disappearances now

Amnesty International is alarmed by reports it has received of a wave of enforced disappearances that have taken place over recent days, particularly of activists in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, and calls upon the Pakistani authorities to immediately carry out independent and effective investigations with a view to determining the fate and whereabouts of all missing people. Where they are in the custody of the state to either release them or charge them with a recognisable criminal offence. Anyone reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for enforced disappearances must be held to account through fair trials.
While some of the people who were reported to have been disappeared have been returned home over recent days, there are credible reports that others still remain missing. Enforced disappearances are a blight on Pakistan’s human rights record, with hundreds and possibly thousands of cases reported across the country over the past several years. Victims of enforced disappearances are at considerable risk of torture and other ill-treatment and even death. To date, not a single perpetrator of the crime has been brought to justice.
The Commission on Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received nearly 300 cases of alleged enforced disappearances from August to October 2017, by far the largest number in a three month period in recent years.
After its last visit to Pakistan, in 2012, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, noted that there is “a climate of impunity in Pakistan with regard to enforced disappearances, and the authorities are not sufficiently dedicated to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and hold the perpetrators accountable.” Amnesty International notes that this situation has not improved over the past five years.
Pakistan’s authorities must publicly condemn enforced disappearances, recognize enforced disappearances as a distinct and autonomous offence, and call for an end to this cruel and inhumane practice. Pakistan has thus far failed to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – a glaring omission that casts an unflattering light on the country’s claims to be committed to the highest human rights standards.
The UN Human Rights Committee - the treaty-monitory body that oversees how States implement and comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – took note of Pakistan’s record on enforced disappearances and recommended that the country: “Criminalize enforced disappearance and put an end to the practice of enforced disappearance and secret detention,” and “Ensure that all allegations of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings are promptly and thoroughly investigated; all perpetrators are prosecuted and punished with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crimes”.
On October 16, Pakistan became one of 15 states elected by the UN General Assembly to serve as members of the UN Human Rights Council, from January 2018 to December 2020. In its election pledges, Pakistan said that it is “firmly resolved to uphold, promote and safeguard universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
For that claim to be taken seriously, and for Pakistan to fulfil “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” expected of all Council members, it must make ending enforced disappearances a priority and hold all suspected perpetrators - including military and intelligence personnel – to account, through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
Once confined to the restive territories of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Baluchistan, enforced disappearances have spread to other parts of the country, including urban centres and major cities. In early January 2017, five human rights defenders were abducted from the capital Islamabad and parts of Punjab province. Four of the defenders returned to their homes between 27 and 29 January. Two of the defenders have since said that they were threatened, intimidated and tortured by people they believed to belong to military intelligence.
After the last Universal Periodic Review in 2012, Pakistan’s government made a commitment to take “effective measures against enforced disappearances” and to “combat impunity for all those who attack human rights defenders”. Later this month, when Pakistan’s human rights record is subject to scrutiny again, the government must finally take urgent steps to turn those commitments into reality.

Bilawal Bhutto condemns killing of a Pakistani diplomat in Jalalabad

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has forcefully condemned the killing of a Pakistani diplomat in the Afghan city of Jalalabad,and termed it both shocking and dangerous.
In a statement, the PPP Chairman said that providing protection to foreign diplomats and their families was the primary responsibility of the Afghan government.

He said that the murder of a Pakistani diplomat, Nayyar Iqbal, is a matter of serious public concern, with implications for bilateral ties between the two countries. He urged the Afghan authorities to conduct an expeditious investigation into this tragedy and to strengthen security protocols for Pakistani diplomats in their country.

Kal Bhi Bhutto Zinda Tha Aaj Bhi Bhutto Zinda Hai..

PPP holds protest rallies on Bilawal Bhutto’s call

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) workers took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the raise in prices of petroleum products on Sunday.
Following the call from PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the protests were held in all divisional headquarters of the country.
Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the fuel prices hike imposed by PML-N’s federal government, the PPP workers held demonstrations outside press Clubs in cities.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had increased petroleum prices, especially after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif. “It appears that PML-N government wants to create chaos and punish the masses,” said a PPP worker during the protests.
Protest demonstrations were held in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Multan, Muzaffarabad, Skardu, FATA, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana, Nawabshah, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Kashmore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Gujrat, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalpur, Tank, Upper Dir, Mardan, Kohat, Mansehra, Bannu, Chitral, Dera Ismail Khan, Gwadar, Loralai, Turbat, Ziarat, Khuzdar, Qallat, Lasbella, Punjgur, Sibi, Nasirabad and Tharparker.
Addressing the protesters, the PPP leaders thanked Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for mobilising the workers even in the remotest corners of the country.
Bilawal had strongly condemned increase in petroleum prices and termed it victimisation.
“The PML-N government’s decision has affected every Pakistani household,” the PPP leader had said in a statement.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had said that PML-N government was pursuing flawed economic policies. “The poor are being squeezed and prices of the utilities have gone through the roof,” he had said. The PPP chairman had demanded the immediate withdrawal of the raise in petroleum prices.

Nawaz responsible for bringing country to critical juncture: Aitzaz

Senior Leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Aitzaz Ahsan on Sunday accused the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of bringing Pakistan to a critical juncture.
“He [Nawaz] has ridiculed the country’s legal system by not abiding by the National Accountability Bureau’s laws,” Ahsan lashed out at the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) president.
He said that the former president Pervez Musharraf and former prime minister and PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gillani had set a better precedent by obtaining bail.
“Nawaz is responsible for bringing Pakistan to the critical juncture that it stands on today.”
The PPP leader blamed the NAB for neither arresting Nawaz nor adding his name to the ECL.
“Nawaz was disqualified due to holding a valid Iqama — which is a documentissued to employees of a foreign company,” he said. “He could not be the prime minister of Pakistan and employed by a foreign company simultaneously.”
Ahsan went on to claim that the Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also hold work permits of a foreign country.
He alleged that Pakistan’s decision are being made in London, referring to recent PML-N meetings in England’s capital including a huddle attended by senior leadership of the ruling party.

Asif Zardari strongly criticized Nawaz govt for false claims of ending load-shedding

Former President of Pakistan and President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari has strongly criticized Nawaz government for false claims of ending load-shedding.
Asif Ali Zardari said that on one hand people are facing load-shedding of up to 20 hours and on the other rulers are busy in minting money through commission. Every sector is facing crisis whether it be health or education. Nawaz government is insensitive towards hardships faced by the people of Pakistan. More cases of corruption by Sharif family and ruling elite will soon be exposed, he said.
Former President said that PPP faced victimization by all three tenures of Sharif governments but PPP got relief through courts.  Now Sharif family wants to avoid accountability in the garb of lame excuses but the people are well aware of their tactics. Sharif family will not succeed to hoodwink the people of Pakistan. He called for equal treatment in accountability process.
Asif Ali Zardari accused Imran Khan of promoting foul language in politics and harming opposition. Imran Khan is devoid of political acumen and his claims of change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been fully exposed. His style of politics is the biggest hurdle for change. People will reject negative politics of Imran Khan in next elections. PPP will win next elections and form governments n the center and provinces.
Former President Zardari condemned the Punjab Government for the kidnapping of leader of Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen Nasir Shirazi and said that Punjab Government is responsible for this incident. He demanded immediate recovery of Nasir Shirazi.

Video - PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto address in Bhitt Shah