President Arif Alvi on Monday conferred Pakistan's highest civil award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman during a ceremony held at the President House in Islamabad.
According to the citation provided at the President House, Mohammad bin Salman was honoured due to his "outstanding support for reinvigorating Pak-Saudi bilateral relationship".
"It is privilege for me to host this banquet," President Alvi said after presenting the award to the Saudi crown prince. "Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been indispensable partners for a very long time. We have been together for centuries. Our friendship is bound in religion and culture.
"Even though there is geographical distance between us but we are very close in our hearts. The recent visit of the prime minister and your visit has cemented the friendship between us."
The president congratulated the Saudi crown prince on his "modernisation efforts" as well as measures taken to highlight Saudi Arabia's previously "hidden" tourism sites.
"Pakistan, too, is a beautiful country," the president said. "It's at the crossroads. There is a huge change. It is a golden era for Pakistan also. It is open for investment. We have fought terrorism very bravely. We are on the cusp of an era where there could be an increase in prosperity for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia."
Following the president's speech, the Saudi crown prince addressed the audience. "I was honoured to meet the president of Pakistan. I thank you for honouring me with Pakistan's highest award.
"The brotherly relationship between the kingdom and Pakistan focus on the principle of Islamic solidarity. It is a model to be emulated by other nations. Our [countries' relationship] go back 67 years that witnessed continuous development that rendered itself beneficial for both countries.
"The founding fathers for both countries established these relations on the principles of truthfulness, common understanding and mutual respect that go back to the first days of the establishment of Pakistan, post-World War 2.
"Our Pakistani brothers participated truthfully and effectively in the great development project that Saudi Arabia witnessed, especially the enlargement project of Masjid-e-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabwi. More than 2 million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and are contributing to the development of both the countries.
"I wish all the best to the president and the prime minister in the service of this country and its people."
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser and various other leaders were in attendance.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Saudi crown prince said his goodbyes to the president and members of the federal cabinet before leaving for Nur Khan Airbase. As was the case when he had arrived, the prime minister personally drove the car carrying the Saudi crown prince.
Earlier, the Saudi crown prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan had arrived at the President House in a traditional chariot.
The two leaders were escorted by the presidential guard on their way from the PM House to the President House.
President Alvi received the Saudi crown prince upon his arrival at the President House. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry were also present when the Saudi crown prince and the prime minister arrived at the President House.
An assortment of lawmakers under Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani's leadership called upon Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday at the PM House, according to a press release issued by Senate Secretariat.
Sanjrani hailed the crown prince's plan to make a multi-billion-dollar investment in Pakistan, and termed it "a reflection of the international community's faith in Pakistan".
"In addition to mutual assistance and partnership, these investments will also pave way for regional development," the Senate chairman said. "Saudi Arabia's Vision 2020 is the vision of peace, economic growth and prosperity. This visit [of the crown prince] will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the two countries' relations."
Sanjrani hailed the timing of Saudi Arabia's decision to invest in the country, noting that "the situation has changed in Pakistan. The atmosphere for investment and trade is extremely conducive now."
The Senate chair acknowledged the kingdom's "time-tested friendship", adding that the Arab country "has always helped Pakistan in trying times".
Sanjrani said that "both the countries share the same point of view on various political and security issues" and "are in agreement at a multitude of fora".
The chairman of the upper house of the parliament suggested that further efforts be made to boost bilateral trade, make the joint business council active and increase participation in business exhibitions.
During the meeting, Sanjrani also mentioned the Pakistani community based in Saudi Arabia, and credited them for acting as a "bridge between the two nations".
Sanjrani was accompanied by senators Azam Swati, Mushahidullah Khan, Raja Zafarul Haq, Shibli Faraz as well as NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan.
The Saudi crown prince had arrived in Pakistan on Sunday amid heightened security and arrangements in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa saw off Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at Nur Khan Airbase as his first state visit to Islamabad came to an end on Monday evening.
At a joint press briefing prior to Prince Mohammad's departure, Prime Minister Khan thanked him and expressed his happiness over the royal's visit, hoping that he would stay longer next time "so I can show you the beauty of Pakistan and the northern areas."
The prime minister also thanked the visiting dignitary for his announcement this morning to release over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi jails with immediate effect.
"I woke up this morning and when I looked at my mobile phone, I realised ─ after your statement last night saying that you would be Pakistan's ambassador in Saudi Arabia ─ that if you stood in elections here, you would get more votes than me," the prime minister joked, addressing the crown prince who was standing at a podium to his right. "You are extremely popular," he added.
"I want to thank you on behalf of the people of Pakistan" for announcing the release of Pakistani prisoners, the prime minister said, also thanking the crown prince for the agreements worth $20 billion that had been signed during his visit.
Prime Minister Khan also noted that with the signing of the new agreements, the existing relationship between the two countries has managed to expand beyond its "narrow confines" and is now "developing into other spheres".
"But what I feel is that this is just the beginning," he asserted. "I think Pakistan's geo-strategic location, the comparative advantage Saudi Arabia has in certain areas, and the advantages that Pakistan has ─ the combination augurs very well for the future."
"We want you to consider Pakistan your second home. The PM House, where you were staying, rest assured that when you are in Pakistan ... [you can] consider it your own house and come and stay there," he told MBS.
Prince Mohammad responded to the prime minster's offer by saying that he also feels "at home in Pakistan".
"We believe in Pakistan's future and that it has a huge opportunity. In 2030, Pakistan will be next to two huge economies. One, China will be the largest economy in 2030, and two, India will be the third-largest economy so Pakistan will definitely benefit from these neighbours," he said.
MBS once again reiterated his faith in the country's leadership. "There is great leadership here to put Pakistan in the right position. We can see it happening."
"We saw the Pakistani economy grow by 5 per cent in 2018 so we believe that Pakistan has huge potential, it could be one of top 20 economies in the future, easily. If the efforts of the leadership, the people of Pakistan, and their allies come together, definitely it can reach that one day."
"So because of that, we believe in Pakistan. Because of our long relations [...] we want to be part of that journey and we want to risk our money, to risk our efforts, to start from day one," he explained.
"What we did today, it's the beginning and we hope in the close future we do more and more partnering with Pakistan," the crown prince concluded.
Prince Mohammad bid goodbye to the army chief, the prime minister and minister Khusro Bakhtiyar on the red carpet before returning to his plane and waving to the crowd from the top of the steps as he departed. The crown prince's next official visit is a trip to India scheduled for Feb 19.
RAWALPINDI: Due to concerns about foreigners visiting sensitive locations without the permission of intelligence agencies, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has been asked to develop software which will contain all information regarding foreigners and the exact number of foreigners in the country and to share the same with law enforcement agencies.
Sources said the provincial government has also been asked to maintain an updated record of foreigners to ensure a strict check on their movement and ensure their security.
The decision was made in a high level meeting held in Islamabad which was attended by senior officials of the federal government and intelligence agencies.
Decision was taken amid concerns about foreigners visiting sensitive locations without permission
The meeting also discussed loopholes in the existing security apparatus for foreigners since many foreigners, especially Chinese nationals, have been working on various development projects including those of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Sources said it was suggested to devise a central mechanism for updating a databank of all incoming and outgoing foreigners because they have been found to be visiting sensitive locations without permission from intelligence agencies and concerned provincial and district governments.
Law enforcement agencies have been asked to keep a check on movement of foreigners.
Details of foreigners visiting Pakistan will be updated on the software along with the purpose of their visit and other details of their stay.
Details of the locations they want to stay at and for how long will be incorporated in the immigration documents of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Provincial governments may maintain an updated record of foreign security cells which are to address issues of foreigners and to maintain a report of their activities.
Observing the increased international investment in the province and the increasing role of foreigners in development activities, the Punjab government has already chalked out fresh standard operating procedures for the security of foreigners.
The fresh guidelines to all divisional police chiefs and commissioners suggested that all foreigners shall report to the district foreigner security cell when they arrive for the first time in the district and will inform the cell about their departure details.
The cell will sensitise them about their responsibilities and will provide them with written instructions regarding their security in English and Chinese.
A computerised database and bio-metric record of each foreigner living or working in the jurisdiction of each police station will be maintained and this record will be tallied with the FIA’s records.
The Special Protection Unit of the police has been established in Punjab for the protection of foreigners working in development projects.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered an end to all commercial activities on military lands in Karachi while ordering Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to summon a cabinet meeting and determine how the city will be restored to the form envisioned in its original master plan.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, which is hearing a case pertaining to illegal constructions in the city, at the outset expressed severe displeasure at the absence of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and cantonment board officials during today's proceedings.
Only Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah, Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani and Advocate General for Sindh Salman Talibuddin were present in court.
The apex court directed all concerned secretaries to take part in the cabinet meeting and ordered them to come up a comprehensive report about how the city will be restored to its planned shape to be submitted in two weeks.
Later, while ordering an end to commercial activities on military land, Justice Gulzar wondered why the armed forces and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were running wedding halls and cinemas.
He inquired if it was their job to do so.
Taking aim at the CAA, he noted that a wedding hall was being operated near the Karachi airport, which had been the target of a terrorist attack in the past.
Then, turning to the armed forces, he asked what a wedding hall was doing operating so close to the Central Ordnance Depot, meant for stockpiling active ammunition and weapons.
"Have some fear of God!" he thundered.
He also asked why walls were being erected along main thoroughfares based on the wishes of an armed forces officer, who, judge said, wishes to use them (the walls) to generate revenue from billboards.
"And, behind these walls, big buildings are being constructed," he noted. "If they [the people involved] had their way, they would be constructing buildings on the streets."
Rejecting a report presented by the Sindh government and Karachi Development Authority officials, Justice Gulzar lambasted provincial officials for "singing lullabies" for the court.
"This report of yours is of no use," Justice Gulzar thundered. "If we passed an order on the basis of this report, your entire government will be sent reeling."
"Don't tell us bedtime stories," Justice Gulzar censured the Sindh advocate general. "You do know AG sahab, what it means to sing someone lullabies? It means, 'Listen to this lullaby and go to sleep'."
"We are not here to be sung to sleep," Justice Gulzar said.
"You have a good secretary in Mumtaz Ali Shah, and yet you have been able to achieve nothing," he complained.
The court ordered that the Sindh government's report be submitted along with formal architectural plans and suggestions.
"Let me make it clear: This city will be restored to its original master plan," Justice Gulzar asserted.
"Look at at what the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has done to the coastal strip," he remarked.
"They have encroached so far into the sea that if they had their way, they would build another city on the sea itself.
"The owners of DHA will [then] encroach on the entire sea all the way to America and plant their flags there," the judge commented.
"They are currently wondering how they can make inroads into India as well," he added.
The apex court also ordered the occupation of the Sewerage Treatment Plant-II (TP-II) to be dealt with.
Justice Gulzar asked the managing director of the Water Board if the land had been emptied yet, to which the director said the issue had been handed over to the KMC as per the court's orders.
The court subsequently ordered the land to be turned into a public park. Similarly, the court ordered that Askari Park, which was made on the land of the old 'Sabzi Mandi', be handed over to civil authorities.
The much-awaited inauguration ceremony of the Mohmand Dam has been postponed again this month, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai told DawnNewsTV. A new date for the ceremony has yet to be announced.
The ceremony for the dam was to be held on January 2 but was rescheduled due to a controversy that emerged following the award of the contract of the hydropower project.
The chief justice had last week taken offence over not being informed about the rescheduling of the ceremony and had said he may not attend.
Justice Nisar has paid close attention to the issue of water scarcity and had ordered the creation of the Dam Fund in July last year ─ a fund that appeals to the general public and overseas Pakistanis for donations for the construction of the Mohmand Dam and the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
The top judge's initiative was later joined by the prime minister. Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, according to State Bank of Pakistan data in December 2018.
Justice Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan were to be the chief guests of today's event.
The dam contract was awarded on a single-bid basis to a consortium of three companies led by Descon, a company previously by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, in which he and his family members currently hold ownership stakes.
A second contestant for the bid, a consortium comprising the Frontier Works Organisation, Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered, some top-ranking national contractors cited by Dawn said earlier.
The award of the bid to the Descon-led consortium raised questions about a possible conflict of interest and the process of the award.
Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda claimed the controversy around the award of the dam's contract has been created "on the agenda of international powers".
He said that Dawood had already resigned from the company before the bidding was held on July 18 ─ before the new government came to power. He added that the PM's adviser had nothing to do with the contract and had no way to influence the bidding process.
Descon only holds 30pc of shares in the consortium and the bids were evaluated by technical experts comprising Nespak, an Australian company, and another foreign firm, according to Vawda.
Wapda Chairman Hussain said that it was coincidental that the single bidder's price was also almost the same as estimated by the government and insisted there was no conflict of interest in the award of the contract to a company having links with a sitting cabinet member.
Although Hussain agreed that Descon was linked to Dawood, he maintained it had nothing to do with the bidding conducted by Wapda and dismissed the notion that he or the body was facing pressure over the groundbreaking of the project.
Abdul Razak Dawood in a statement also explained that he had founded and headed Descon like several other business ventures, but had disclosed all his business associations in writing to the prime minister and resigned from these positions before joining the government to ensure transparency and avoid conflict of interest.
The construction of the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam ─ which will be situated on the Swat river in the Manda area ─ is said to be imperative to resolve the problems of water scarcity and electricity shortfall in the country.
A sum of Rs2bn has been allocated for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.
Work on the dam will begin this month and is expected to be complete within five years. It will have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and generate 800 megawatts of electricity. It will also irrigate 16,000 acres of land and increase agricultural production in the area.
The completion of the project will require 8,668 acres of land mostly in Mohmand tribal district and some parts of Bajaur and Malakand.
WASHINGTON: Exploring the possibility of an Imran-Trump meeting will be one of the priorities of Pakistan’s new envoy who arrives in Washington on Monday to take charge of the effort to renew once close relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
Dr Asad Majeed, until recently Pakistan’s ambassador in Tokyo, replaces Ali Jehangir Siddiqui who was sent by the PML-N government days before its departure but stayed here for more than seven months from May 9 to Dec 25, 2018.
On Jan 2, US President Donald Trump expressed his desire to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks on US-led efforts to jump-start the Afghan peace process. “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakistan [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” he said.
This week, reports in the US, Pakistani and Indian media claimed that both Washington and Islamabad are exploring the possibility of bringing Mr Khan to Washington for a White House meeting with President Trump.
Diplomatic sources in Washington, however, say that such a meeting can only materialise if there’s a tangible progress in US-Taliban talks.
The two sides have already held several meetings but the next round, scheduled in Saudi Arabia later this month, is still being finalised.
Ambassador Majeed, who was Pakistan’s deputy ambassador in Washington till 2015, is expected to focus on this proposal as a trade partnership would be more durable.
Also important for him is to revive Pakistanis lobbies on the Hill that once played an effective role in promoting bilateral ties but have become ineffective due to internal disputes and lack of interest. Ambassador Siddiqui did make some efforts to revive this tradition but he could only do so much in his brief tenure.
The new envoy’s efforts to re-engage with the Pakistani-American community will be restricted by a US ban that prohibits Pakistani diplomats from travelling outside of a 25-mile radius around Washington without approval.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2019
KARACHI: In its take on Pakistan’s peace overtures to India, the army on Saturday showed its support to resolve all issues with the neighbouring country on the table, seeing new government’s utmost sincerity in taking the initiative that it said should not be taken as its weakness.
The resolve came from the top military command as Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his address to a passing-out parade also called for “fight against hunger, disease and illiteracy, then to fight against each other”.
While addressing the passing-out parade of 110th Midshipmen and 19th Short Service Course at Naval Academy, the COAS touched upon key issues related to the country’s defence and modern technology transforming the nature of warfare and warned that the “unannounced war against us” was yet to be over.
“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” the army chief said.
COAS tells newly inducted navy men to be ready to respond in case of surgical strike in battlefield, cognitive domain, media or cyberspace
“Wars bring death, destruction and misery for the people. Ultimately, all issues are resolved on the table through negotiations that is why we are trying very hard to help bring a lasting peace in Afghanistan by supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace plan. Similarly, our new government has extended a hand of peace and friendship towards India with utmost sincerity but it should not be taken as our weakness. Peace benefits everybody. It is time to fight against hunger, disease and illiteracy, then to fight against each other.”
Before sharing his thoughts about relations with the neighbouring countries, Gen Bajwa narrated the armed forces’ sacrifices to restore peace to the country and warned the young naval personnel about the challenges ahead. “Please remember, we are yet to get out from terrorism or sabotage phase of an unannounced war against us that the subversion phase has also started,” he said.
“Like the terrorists before, the protagonists of the new threats are, at times, our own people. Mostly misguided by ambitions, blinded by hate, ethnicity or religion or simply overawed by social media onslaught, some of our own boys and girls readily fall victim to such dangerous or hostile narratives.”
The response to such onslaughts or threats could not always be kinetic in nature, he said, suggesting the armed forces to deal with them in cognitive domain by producing or propagating a superior narrative. “But this can only happen if you have developed the ability to handle unwarranted criticism with patience and possess better intellectual skills to respond to such threats with logic and reasoning. You will be required to lead your troops, who rank amongst the finest in the world, into the battlefield with full zeal and confidence,” he said.
The COAS highlighted the need for adopting technologies amid growing advancement in science and technology, fast-changing faces of war threats and long-lasting impact of modernisation. “Modern technology has transformed the nature of warfare and has tilted the balance squarely, in favour of those nations that have embraced the change readily,” he said.
Gen Bajwa told the young navy men to keep themselves “abreast with the latest developments in the field of science, technology and warfare. But frankly speaking, even that will not be sufficient as the ever-increasing threat of hybrid war, to which we are subjected to, will need a totally new approach and change of traditional mindset.
“Therefore, you have to prepare and enable yourself to read the environment, gauge the enemies’ latest moves and be ready to respond, even when a surgical strike exists only in cognitive domain or media or even when the attack comes, not in the battlefield but in cyber space, or against country’s ideological frontiers.”
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2018