ISLAMABAD: The Chinese social media giant TikTok issued a cryptic statement on Saturday which called for lifting of the ban on the app in return for a vague assurance centred on the “allocation of resources” to the Pakistani market.
“If the Government of Pakistan decides to reopen access to our services in the future, we will certainly assess our allocation of resources to this market,” the carefully worded statement said.
According to some estimates, the app has been installed 43 million times in Pakistan, with 14.7 million of those coming in the year 2020 alone. The app was banned in the country on Oct 9 with the regulator citing “obscenity” as the reason.
Last Monday the app’s management said they had held a virtual meeting with Pakistani officials to iron out any differences and strengthen content moderation. But on Saturday the management said no further response had been received from the government. The statement hailed the creative energies brought by Pakistani users to the platform, and said the company was prepared to invest further in Pakistan if differences could be resolved.
“Our services remain blocked in the country and we have received no communication from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA),” the statement said.
“This is why we are disappointed that our users and creators in Pakistan are still unable to access TikTok, more than one week after our services were blocked by the PTA,” the press release said, adding that, “TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and joy, and that is just what we’ve done in Pakistan”.
“After TikTok was blocked in Pakistan, we continued to engage with the PTA to demonstrate our commitment to comply with local laws and further enhance our content moderation capacity. Though the PTA acknowledged and appreciated these efforts, our services remain blocked in the country and we have received no communication from the PTA.”
“We continue to hope that our productive dialogue with the PTA can bring assurance of the government’s commitment to a stable, enabling environment whereby we can explore investing further in the market, including in the inspiring talent we’ve seen thrive on TikTok.”
Due to the ban, “Pakistan’s vibrant online community was still unable to showcase its talent and creativity to the hundreds of millions of users worldwide; we look forward to being able to reconnect with the energetic and talented youth of Pakistan and play our role in the success story of Pakistan,” the statement added.
TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance company of China, has around 20 million active users per month, making it the third most popular social media app in the country after Facebook and WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, the information technology ministry spokesman strongly reacted to the statement of TikTok, saying that IT Minister Syed Aminul Haq had already stated recently that lifting of the ban rested on TikTok “abiding by local laws and not violating the traditions of the nation.”
The spokesman said TikTok would be allowed to operate in Pakistan if it followed rules and fulfilled all regulatory requirements to the satisfaction of the government.
A senior PTA official said the TikTok management was clearly conveyed during the virtual meeting that compliance with the authority’s instructions was essential.
“The only issue is that TikTok is not providing a timeline for the results of the action it intends to take,” the official said, adding that an application could not operate in a completely independent environment without any restriction or respect to religious and societal norms.
“Internet content has to be safe from all threats; it should respect the sentiments of other communities and sections of society,” the official added.
TikTok had upgraded its community guidelines in September and also issued its Urdu version after PTA’s final warning. But complaints from the telecom regulator continued to pour in of objectionable content being posted on the platform.
An appeal has also been filed in the Islamabad High Court against the ban on the video-sharing app by a private citizen who argues his business has been badly affected by the ban.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020
KARACHI: The provincial government on Wednesday night imposed a ‘mini smart lockdown’ in a city neighbourhood following an abrupt increase in the Covid-19 cases as 60 per cent of positive cases across the country were reported overnight from the provincial capital.
Two localities in Manghopir, district West, were placed under a two-week ‘mini smart lockdown’. The deputy commissioner, West, issued a notification placing Saima Villas and Samama City under the lockdown from October 1 to 15.
All business activities, except for groceries and pharmacies, will remain closed and all public transport including taxis and rickshaws will not be allowed to move in the two localities of the UC 8, having a population of over 4,000, during the lockdown.
The order said that only one person of a family would be allowed outside for buying food items and medicine by displaying original computerised national identity card to the law enforcement agencies.
Officials say 60pc of total cases in country overnight are from Karachi
Earlier, the city administration had decided to identify the localities and neighbourhoods with increased number of Covid-19 cases and imposed a smart lockdown there.
Strict action against SOP violators ordered
It was also decided to take strict and immediate action against violators of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) notified to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Official sources told Dawn that Karachi Commissioner Sohail Rajput while presiding over a meeting with city administration and provincial health department directed the deputy commissioners to immediately seal the schools, restaurants and marriage halls that were found not following the SOPs.
The meeting noted that almost 60pc of the total cases across the country reported overnight were from Karachi, while 4,667 positive cases were reported in the city in September alone.
The deputy commissioners were directed to keep a vigilant eye on the schools, restaurants, marriage halls and public parks to ensure observance of SOPs by public.
The meeting also decided to increase Covid-19 tests at schools.
It also decided that the industry department would keep a strict check on offices, industrial units and factories and the deputy commissioners concerned would take action against violators on the report of the industries department.
The deputy commissioners were also directed to submit to the commissioner office their respective reports on a daily basis.
Two die overnight
Meanwhile, in a statement issued in the morning the chief minister said that 311 new cases of coronavirus emerged when 10,940 tests were conducted raising the tally to 137,109 and two more patients died lifting the death toll to 2,499.
He said that 10,940 samples were tested against which 311 new cases detected and this constituted 2.8pc current detection rate.
“Two more patients died overnight lifting the death toll to 2,499 that came to 1.8 per cent death rate,” he said and added that so far 1,363,079 samples had been tested which diagnosed 137,106 cases all over Sindh forming overall 10pc detection rate.
The CM said that currently 4,255 patients were under treatment, of them 3,978 in home isolation, six at isolation centres and 271 at different hospitals. He added that the condition of 181 patients was stated to be critical, including 38 shifted on ventilators.
Mr Shah said that 215 patients recovered overnight taking the number of patients recovered so far to 130,352 that constituted 95pc.
He said that out of 311 new cases of coronavirus, 221 were detected in Karachi, including 75 in South, 53 in East, 40 in Central, 27 in Korangi, 17 in Malir and nine in West.
The CM said that Hyderabad had 14 cases, Jamshoro six, Badin and Dadu four each, Sujawal three, Ghotki two, Khairpur, Mirpurkhas, Naushahro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur and Thatta one each.
He urged the people of the province to follow SOP and keep themselves, their friends and families safe.
Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday called for improving Pak-Afghan relations by adopting a forward-looking approach rather than remaining stuck in the past.
“Enjoyed meeting Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman HCNR of Afghanistan. We had a very interesting conversation: theme being the past is an invaluable teacher to learn from but not to live in. We must look forward towards the future. I wish him all the success in his mission,” Mr Khan tweeted just ahead of the top Afghan peace official’s departure from Islamabad after a three-day visit.
Mr Khan and Mr Abdullah met on Tuesday. The visit is believed to have helped improve coordination between Pakistan and Afghanistan on peace efforts.
Mr Abdullah, while participating at a round table discussion hosted by Center for Research and Security Studies said: “I am leaving Islamabad with a good sense, a good impression and a lot of friendly messages.”
On the last day of his visit, Dr Abdullah met President Arif Alvi.
“I had a friendly & constructive meeting with HE Dr @ArifAlvi, President of the I. R. of Pakistan. We discussed the #AfghanPeaceProcess & bilateral relations between #AFG&PAK. President @ArifAlvi expressed his full support for the peace efforts & strengthening of relations,” the Afghan peace official tweeted after the meeting.
PM Khan is expected to visit Afghanistan soon.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2020
Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umer Sheikh on Monday apologised to the motorway gang-rape victim for his earlier remarks implying that she shared responsibility for her rape.
Last week, two ‘robbers’ allegedly gang-raped a woman at gunpoint in front of her children in Lahore's Gujjarpura area after she was stranded on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.
Following the incident, the CCPO invited criticism when he pontificated that the victim had failed to take due precautions before setting off for her journey.
According to the Lahore police chief’s logic, the woman could have avoided being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He said she should have taken the more populated GT Road to Gujranwala instead of going via motorway, and that she ought to have checked how much fuel her car had before setting off.
Speaking to reporters today, the CCPO said that he had "apologised earlier as well".
"I did not mean anything wrong or [to give a wrong] perception and if any misunderstanding was caused because of me, then I apologise from the depths of my heart to my sister who was abused and to all sections of society who were saddened or angered.
On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said Inspector General of Police (IG) Inam Ghani had issued a show-cause notice to Sheikh over his remarks.
The CCPO had given an "irrelevant statement", Buzdar had said.
"The IG has issued him a show-cause notice [for this statement] and directed him to submit a reply within seven days," the CM added.
Buzdar said legal action would be taken against the CCPO after the submission of his reply.
Earlier today, the Lahore High Court chief justice also expressed displeasure over the police chief's comments.
"What kind of an inquiry is this where the departmental head is holding the victim responsible for the incident?" remarked Justice Qasim Khan, referring to the CCPO's comments.
"The entire Punjab cabinet should have apologised for the Lahore police chief's remarks," he added.
"If an investigation is being carried out with such a mindset then who knows what is reality and what is made up," Justice Qasim Khan said.
The CCPO's comments had triggered a strong reaction from civil society and human rights activists, who condemned the statement and called for his removal from office.
Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell director Nida Aly said that "women are already subjected to extraordinary pressures, intense security considerations to exert their constitutionally protected right to freedom of movement".
"On the other hand, the law enforcement agencies, supposed to protect citizens, are led by the people like CCPO Umar Sheikh who chose to do victim blaming to change the narrative just to hide their own incompetence. In reality, they end up unveiling their deep-rooted misogynistic nature and lack of gender sensitisation," she said.
She added the CCPO’s statement meant he was misfit for the post and that he should be immediately discharged of it.
Aurat March Lahore’s organiser Hiba Akbar said women in Pakistan need fundamental and structural changes at all levels of society alongside solid preventative policies to stop sexual assault.
"We want police, judiciary and the government to make policies that don’t question women about their whereabouts, travel or clothes. They should rather invest their efforts in preventative measures for an end to this violence," she suggested.
RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has warned against efforts he said being made to discredit the country and its armed forces and said that army with the cooperation of the nation will win the “fifth generation or hybrid war”.
“We are facing the challenge that has been imposed on us in the form of the fifth generation or hybrid war. Its purpose is to discredit the country and its armed forces and spread chaos. We are well aware of this danger. We will surely succeed in winning this war with the cooperation of the nation, by the will of Almighty Allah,” Gen Bajwa said at a ceremony held at the General Headquarters on Sunday as part of celebration of Defence and Martyrs’ Day.
On the occasion, he conferred awards on military personnel for acts of gallantry during various operations.
The families of the martyrs and Ghazis, senior serving officers and soldiers attended the ceremony. As many as 40 officers were awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz (military), 24 officers and soldiers were awarded Tamgha-i-Basalat and a soldier was awarded the United Nations Medal. The medals of the martyrs were received by their family members.
Warns against efforts to discredit armed forces; rejects any unilateral decision on Kashmir issue
The army chief warned against war. “I want to send a message to my nation and the world that Pakistan is a peace-loving country. But if war is imposed on us, we will befittingly respond to every aggression. We are always ready to defeat nefarious intentions of the enemy.”
Gen Bajwa said the nation had gone through great trials during the past 20 years. There was a state of war on the eastern and western borders and there were trials like earthquakes and floods, he said, adding the nation fought a nerve-wracking war against terrorism and extremism in which thousands were killed and millions were displaced.
The COAS underlined that Pakistani security forces had rendered many sacrifices for the establishment of peace in different parts of the world by becoming part of the United Nations peacekeeping force.
“We want peace in the whole world and especially in our region. Pakistan’s key role in peace efforts in Afghanistan is a testament to that, but our neighbour India has, as always, taken an irresponsible stance,” he said.
The army chief said that India by illegally abrogating the special status of illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir had once again threatened the peace of the region.
He said there was no doubt that Kashmir was a recognised dispute and Pakistan did not accept any unilateral decision in this regard.
He said that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had declared Kashmir the jugular vein of Pakistan. “This is part of our faith. We will not show any flexibility in this regard.”
“Pakistan’s armed forces are fully equipped, vigilant and aware. And God willing, they are ready to respond immediately and with full force to any move of the enemy,” he said.
The army chief said that armed forces of Pakistan in September 1965 had defeated an enemy many times greater in might than it. He said that recently
Pakistan had again demonstrated this in response to the failed air strike at Balakot and the enemy should have no doubt about it.
He said Sept 6, 1965 was an indelible chapter in the history of Pakistan. “This is the day when countless stories of unity of the nation, love of homeland, sacrifice and bravery were marked in history.”
“It is not just a day for the nation but evidence to our courage and we also commemorate the martyrs of 1948, 1965, 1971, the Kargil War and the war on terror,” Gen Bajwa said.
He paid tribute to the families of the martyrs and said: “I salute them. I assure them that we will never forget the sacrifice of their loved ones. Our martyrs are our heroes and the nations that forget their heroes are annihilated.”
The COAS said that the entire nation was indebted to the patience and sacrifice of the families of the martyrs. “Just as the martyrs are the pride of the whole nation, so are you our pride,” he added.
The army chief congratulated the officers, junior commissioned officers and soldiers who received the awards at the ceremony.
“Time has tried us many times and we have succeeded every time. Pakistan is a living reality. Our blood, our passion and our actions will bear witness to this on every front,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2020
Punjab Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas on Monday said schools in the province would reopen in phases from Sept 15.
His comments came as the federal and provincial governments sat together to decide on reopening of 300,000 educational institutions, closed due to the pandemic for almost six months, across the country.
A meeting of the inter-provincial education ministers’ conference (IPEMC) is ongoing, according to the education ministry and a countrywide decision on opening of schools is expected later today.
The ministers are discussing implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in educational institutions as well as making the students and parents aware about precautionary measures, it said.
The meeting is also deliberating on the phase-wise opening of schools.
Meanwhile, Raas said on Twitter that schools in Punjab would open in phases with students in class nine and 10 returning on Sept 15, students in class six to eight returning on Sept 22 while those in class nursery to five will return to school on Sept 30.
Raas said no double shifts would be allowed while all schools would follow the alternative day schedule according to which 50 per cent of total students would come to school one day while the remaining 50pc would attend the next day.
Last week, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani had said that the sub-committee of the steering committee for education had recommended that schools in the province be opened phase-wise from Sept 15.
“If the final decision is to open educational institutions on Sept 15, then classes nine and above should be opened in the first phase and one week after that on Sept 21, classes six to eight be opened and one week after that, that is Sept 28, the classes from pre-primary to five should be opened so that if any cases of Covid-19 come up during this time, we can control it immediately,” the committee recommended.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan education departments have said they will follow the decision taken by the federal government in this regard.