Pakistan News

KARACHI: In a startling development, ARY Digital Network Founder and Chief Executive Officer Salman Iqbal announced the media group has taken over the BOL media network.

According to BOL's website, it is a complete media enterprise consisting of platforms including television, digital media, print media, cinemas & movies, theater and radio.

Speaking today at a ceremony arranged at the BOL TV office, Iqbal said the upcoming channel will start its broadcast in three weeks.

The ARY CEO further said that clearing the pending salaries and unpaid dues of BOL employees would be a key priority. He also vowed to keep the remuneration packages offered to BOL employees as promised.

“The driving force behind this decision was our mission to try and ease the difficulties faced by media persons,” said Iqbal.

He said, “I have created Pakistan’s largest TV channel – so I thought why not take that dream to BOL.”

We are not here to start any confrontation, our reasons are purely aimed to benefit the journalistic community, said Iqbal. “We have always fought for the betterment of journalists.”

ARY Digital Network CEO Jerjees Seja also confirmed on Twitter that ARY has taken over the BOL Network.

With Bin Roye currently gracing the screen and as Bilal Ashraf’s love interest in Hassan Waqas Rana’s under post-production film Yalghaar which is also due to come later this year, a couple of on-air serials and being the face of a brand of soft drink, in two years Armeena Rana Khan has achieved what it takes a decade for others to accomplish.

“It just happened,” Armeena says. “I’m the only one in my family to venture into this field and believe me, it wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t choose acting, it would be better to say that acting chose me instead.”

It all began a few years back when Bollywood narrowed its search down to the girl born to Pakistani parents settled in Canada. “While pursuing my degree in Business Studies in England, I got a call from India for an indie film Huff! It’s Too Much. I told them that I wasn’t an actress, and the modeling assignments through which they selected me was just a hobby … but the director had other ideas.”

And then the debut on Pakistani television. “Wajahat Rauf introduced me on TV through a sitcom, after which I was approached by Hum Films for Bin Roye. I ended up saying yes because of the star cast. I have always been in love with Zeba Bakhtiar, and when I was told that she plays my mother in the film, it was the happiest day of my life!”

Armeena’s debut TV serial Shab-i-Aarzoo ka Alam was followed by Muhabbat ab Nahi Hogi, and they made hers a household name. But there was a slight hitch — language barrier. “Till two years back, I wasn’t very fluent in Urdu, especially when it came to reading scripts. The Bollywood film I did had the script in Roman so that wasn’t a problem, but in Pakistan all scripts are in Urdu. I had to work really hard on my language skills and have somewhat overcome the problem. In Karb, I play a girl who belongs to a family from Lucknow, so my Urdu had to be good if not perfect.”

Armeena plays the main lead in Karb and Ishq Parast, both characters strikingly different. How does she rate her work while sharing the screen with the actors she saw while growing up. “Humayun Saeed and Adnan Siddiqui were iconic performers while I was growing up. Adnan Siddiqui plays my husband in Karb while I get a chance to share the screen with Humayun Saeed in Bin Roye!”

“I take everything in stride,” Armeena says as she explains the reasons behind her happy-go-lucky personality. “Since becoming a full-time actress, things haven’t changed much except that I get to travel a lot between England, Canada and Pakistan.”What is it about Armeena that makes her a citizen of the world? “I am half-Pashtun, half-Punjabi which is why I am very excited about my upcoming feature film that is being produced by Reham Khan in collaboration with Imran Kazmi and Hareem Farooq. I play the main lead and it is about the Pashtun community, so I should thank the genes on my mother’s side as they helped me get the role (laughs).”

Armeena was the first Pakistani actress to walk at Cannes in 2013. “I was the first girl from Pakistan to walk the Red Carpet at the prestigious film festival. I took British director Sheraz Ali’s psychological thriller Writhe to Cannes where I played a serial killer. Another film, Stranger within Me, also got selected for Cannes where I played the main lead. As for the experience, it was wonderful to move around the same place where Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman were also present!”

Armeena says she idolises Bollywood actress Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah, believing they can’t be bettered in any universe. “I have always been fond of Aamir Khan and currently I love Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s work, they are fabulous actors in their own rights. As for my favourites in Hollywood, I can watch Meryl Streep and Dame Judi Dench any day. I also admire the humanitarian work Angelina Jolie does because that’s something I would like to take up as well in future.”

The ravishing Armeena believes that the sky is the limit when it comes to acting and that’s why she will not stop after doing films in Pakistan. “The international market is very vast and there aren’t many Pakistani actors there except for a few like Faran Tahir. I have done indie films in England and I am currently in talks with people in Hollywood for a crossover film. I plan to make a name for myself and Pakistan wherever I go, even if it takes me to Hollywood.”

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif made it clear on Saturday that the Pakistan Army is "acutely aware" of the campaign by "rivals" against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asim Bajwa said on Twitter.

The army chief vowed that the armed forces are prepared to "pay any price to turn this long cherished dream into a reality".

During his visit to Panjgur and Turbat in Balochistan where he inspected the under-construction road network of the project, the army chief said, "CPEC and Gwadar Port will be built and developed as one of the most strategic deep sea ports in the region at all costs."

The ISPR spokesman said Gen Raheel was apprised during a briefing that as many as 11 units of Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) have been employed in Balochistan for the construction of an 870 kilometre-long stretch of roads at five different locations simultaneously.

Out of the the 870km-long road, 502 km of roads have already been completed in less than one and half year on special directives issued by Gen Raheel.

The army chief lauded the FWO for their untiring efforts in the construction of such a vast road network across Balochistan against all odds at an "amazing pace" and paid tributes to FWO soldiers for sacrificing their lives for undertaking this national project.

Emphasising the importance of the CPEC project, the army chief said that the roads will link Gwadar Port with the rest of the country "to yield the real envisioned dividend of the port and corridor" in order to transform the lives of people and bring prosperity to the region.

Speaking to notable individuals of the area, the COAS paid rich tributes to the proud and valiant people of Balochistan and thanked them for their unconditional cooperation and support for these projects, assuring them that these projects will serve their best interests.

The COAS said that the potential of Balochistan as a regional hub for trade in goods and energy will only be realised with a national approach for its security and development.

Gen Raheel emphasised that a secure and peaceful environment was a must to push all the planned development work.

He also lauded the law enforcement agencies for bringing a significant change in the overall security situation of the province. He commended the Frontier Corps and police for recently conducting successful operations against foreign-funded militants who were involved in disruption of law and order in the province.

The COAS said that ongoing operation Zarb-i-Azb was not only an operation but a concept for a terror-free Pakistan. It will continue to target all militants without any discrimination and hunt down terrorists across the country to achieve the end objective, he said.


LANDI KOTAL: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif has said that all terrorists and their facilitators, abettors and financiers will soon be apprehended and brought to justice.

During a visit to the front positions of security forces in Tirah valley on Friday, he said terrorists’ strongholds in the agency had been reduced and now the fight was in progress in the remaining few pockets, close to the Pakistan-Afghan border. The noose, he added, had been tightened around terrorists and they would not be allowed to regroup.

The army chief said the area where the operation was being carried out was heavily infested with IEDs, mostly of foreign make. After the North Waziristan Agency, terrorists in Khyber Agency are also using the most rugged terrain as their strongholds.

Gen Raheel Sharif spent the entire day with troops and met tribal elders before visiting Jawaro, an area near the Afghan border, to review the progress of operation in its concluding phase.

He praised the troops for their professional commitment and sacrifices rendered to restore peace and normality in the troubled Khyber Agency.

On his arrival in the agency, the army chief was received by Corps Commander 11 Corps Lt Gen Hidayatur Rehman. He also visited a de-radicalisation centre in Bara, where tribesmen who surrendered during the Operation Khyber are getting education and vocational training.

The army chief praised tribal people for their support to the campaign to cleanse the agency of terrorists and for their resolve not to allow terrorists to return to the area. He paid rich tributes to troops and tribal people who sacrificed their lives and those who were wounded.

AIR STRIKES: Mean­while, at least 20 suspected militants were killed and 18 others injured in air strikes on Friday.

The Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement that Air Force planes pounded militant hideouts in different parts of Tirah valley in the morning, killing at least 20 militants. It claimed that some important militant commanders and foreigners were among the dead.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has won the first order for its JF-17 Thunder jet fighters, an air force spokesman said Monday, a long-held goal for the nation which wants to boost its military exports.

The latest models of the jets, which are locally produced in cooperation with Pakistan's close ally China, are lightweight multi-role aircraft capable of Mach 2.0 (twice the speed of sound) with an operational ceiling of 55,000 feet.

Speaking to AFP from the Paris Air Show by phone, Air Commodore Syed Muhammad Ali said an order for the plane had been finalised but declined to give details.

“That's the case, we've finalised the order,” he said, citing sensitivities for not naming the client, the number of aircraft or the date of delivery.

A report on the aviation website quoted another senior officer, Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, as saying the sale had been made to an “Asian country” and the delivery would take place in 2017.

The report added that 80 people were promoting the JF-17 in Paris this year, reflecting a significant marketing push.

Pakistan's large and well-funded military has long been a major importer of defence equipment, particularly from China.

But Pakistan is hoping the updated JF-17, along with Pakistani-made tanks and surveillance drones, will help increase military exports and bring in much-needed foreign exchange.

Analysts believe the major selling point of the JF-17 is its cost, which is likely to be substantially less than the $16-18 million cost of an US-made F-16.

The Paris Air show runs from June 15 to 21, with the final three days open to the public.

SLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Monday underscored that Pakistan will not hold dialogue with India on her terms, adding that there can be no dialogue without the water issue and Kashmir as topics for discussion.

Speaking to media representatives in Islamabad after an inauguration of the 10th meeting of heads of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries, Aziz said that even if cordial terms are not possible with India, Pakistan wants to maintain tension-free relations with her.

Sartaj reiterated that Pakistan will take up India's anti-Pakistan statements with the United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

President Mamnoon condemns Indian propaganda against CPEC

While addressing the convocation ceremony of 'National Security and War Course' at National Defence University in Islamabad on Monday, President Mamnoon condemned Indian propaganda against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, said a report published on Radio Pakistan.

The president urged people not to over-react on the statements and stand by the government to rebut in a suitable manner. He reiterated that the nation must support the government and armed forces to overcome challenges.

The President also said that other countries' reservations on the project are baseless and the government is focused on completing the corridor with all seriousness, as it is significant for Pakistan's future.

Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address at Dhaka University blamed Pakistan for spreading terrorism and fear in neighbouring India.

Earlier, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, in a shocking and radical statement, had asserted that terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists.

“India will take proactive steps to prevent a 26/11 type attack,” Press Trust of India quoted him saying.

Commenting on the shocking utterances of the Indian Defence Minister, a defence analyst said the statement was appalling and beyond comprehension.

The Senate last week passed a unanimous resolution strongly condemning recent provocative statements made by the top Indian leadership, including the threat of attacks on Pakistani territory.

The resolution had said that the House emphasises that Pakistan would never allow its territory to be violated by India under any pretext, and that Pakistan's armed forces are capable of issuing a befitting response to any such incursion.

The Upper House of Parliament had urged the international community to take notice of India's provocative statements, which did not bode well for regional peace and affected prospects of sovereignty and stability.

During Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's visit to Pakistan in March, despite clear commitment from both sides to narrow divergences and build on convergences, there was no timeline given for resumption of bilateral engagement.

“We’ll move when both sides are ready. We’ll remain in touch and see how and when to take the next step,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry had said while replying to a question and hastened to add that there was a need to seriously addressing each other’s concerns.

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has, after many weeks and repeated requests, finally responded to a serious air safety violation committed by a senior pilot. However, rather than addressing the issues raised in media reports on the subject, they have issued a sweeping statement stating that no violation was ever committed by the pilot and safety of the flight was not compromised.

PIA documents, however, suggest otherwise.

Pilot Qasim Hayat had operated a Lahore-Toronto flight on April 7, 2015 without taking the mandatory 24 hours rest, violating not only the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules, but also violating his schedule prepared by PIA. Though scheduled to travel from Islamabad to Lahore on April 5, he instead left for Lahore on the night of April 6 and then operated the Toronto-bound flight early morning on April 7, taking a break of less than 10 hours.

PIA spokesperson Aamir Memon in his response said, “Capt Qasim Hayat has not committed any violation and did not compromise any safety issue by performing PIA flight PK789 (Lahore-Toronto). The pilot initially scheduled for the flight suffered from personal grief due to a sudden death in the family therefore, Capt Qasim was requested to take the flight to avoid inconvenience to the passengers. He was medically fit, rested and acclimatised.

“The matter was thoroughly looked into both by the PIA and CAA and decided on merit and only they have the authority to do so and nobody else. Besides, the flight (Lahore-Toronto-Lahore) departed and arrived back safely without any safety issue,” adds the PIA response.

PIA documents, however, tell a different story.

A PIA document captioned ‘Details for Crew Route 789 on Sun, 5 Apr 2015’ for Qasim Hayat (ID 38790) says that: “Qasim Hayat will travel through flight PK657 from Islamabad to Lahore on Sunday and take a 39 hour rest at a Lahore hotel (name and telephone number of which are also provided) and then operate flight PK789 from Lahore to Toronto (on aircraft number AP-BGY) on April 7. He was scheduled to take a 73 hours and 46 minutes rest at Delta Chelsea Hotel in Canada. He had to operate the return flight PK782 (Toronto-Karachi) on Friday April 10 and then go to Islamabad on April 11.”

This was the scheduled journey of Qasim Hayat, but he did not follow the first leg of the trip (Islamabad-Lahore) as had been scheduled, which delayed his arrival at Lahore cutting short the 39 hour rest, as planned, to less than 10 hours – well short of the mandatory 24-hour rest.

Another PIA document captioned ‘Virtual Coupon Record’ for Capt Qasim Hayat says that he took flight PK655 on April 6, 2015 from Lahore to Islamabad. The status of the ticket is “used”. The document confirms that Qasim Hayat had travelled from Islamabad to Lahore on April 6.

This reporter had asked Mr Memon many simple and specific questions weeks back but he has not bothered to respond to them. The questions were: when did Capt Qasim Hayat travel from Islamabad to Lahore; when did he operate the flight from Lahore to Canada in the first week of April 2015; mention all the times and dates; departure from Islamabad for Lahore; arrival at Lahore; departure from Lahore to Canada.

Rather than responding to these questions, Mr Memon issued a sweeping statement, which is not in conformity with the PIA documents mentioned above.

If the initially-scheduled pilot could not operate the flight owing to personal reasons, any other pilot, who had taken at least 24 hour mandatory rest at Lahore, could have been deputed to operate the flight. Even pilot Qasim Hayat was acceptable if he had followed the schedule given by PIA which provided more than the mandatory rest in Lahore.

As far as the safe return of PIA’s flight operated by Qasim Hayat is concerned it was sheer luck that the 300-plus passengers on board arrived safely otherwise the airline was taking a huge and unnecessary risk by sending a less-rested pilot on a long-haul flight. In aviation circles it is said that sending a fatigued crew on flight duty is an invitation to disaster.

Equally irresponsible is the attitude of CAA spokesperson Pervez George as this reporter had asked him for the CAA’s version on the issue many times in the past many weeks and if any inquiry had been initiated about this serious air safety violation. Despite repeated phone calls and emails he has not yet responded showing how serious the CAA takes its role as the aviation regulator in the country.

It is high time that the federal government initiate a high-level enquiry in to this violation headed by experts who will function independently of PIA and CAA.

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