LAHORE (News Desk) – While Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif is being appreciated by world powers for successful anti-terrorism operation in tribal areas of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia wants him to join its 34-country alliance as commander-in-chief after his retirement from Pakistan Army, a Pakistan’s daily claimed on Thursday.
“Riyadh has asked General Raheel Sharif to take over the position of chief of the coalition force to combat terrorist organisations which are maligning Islamic ideology worldwide,” reported the Daily Jang, quoting unnamed military sources.
The report further added that Raheel Sharif’s appointment as the coalition force commander will not affect Pakistan’s natural position in Saudi-Iran tensions. “Pakistani role in 34-country military alliance will also remain unchanged.”
The Saudi offer comes in light of the general’s increasing popularity in Pakistan and the west due to successful military operation Zarb-e-Azb, which improved law and order situation in Pakistan to a great extent.
As far as Raheel Sharif’s retirement or extension in service as Pakistani Chief of Army Staff is concerned, a statement of the Pakistan army spokesman said that Raheel Sharif will retire on due date, dismissing the ongoing debate over possible extension in Army chief’s service.
Raheel Sharif took over the position of Chief of Army Staff in November 2013 and is due to retire in the end of this year.
General Raheel Sharif is currently in Saudi Arabia to witness 20-country joint military exercise “North Thunder” along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The exercise is being portrayed as show of military power in international media after announcement of anti-terrorism alliance.
Earlier in 2015, Saudi Arabia had announced Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, Palestine, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen; as part of a 34-country alliance which will have its control center in Riyadh according to the statement.
THIS port town is touted as the next modern city full of opportunities for developers and residents alike. Yet, at the moment, the residents of Gwadar wish for nothing more than a continuous flow of water.
Officials say that the future “economic hub of Balochistan” will need 12 million gallons of water by 2020, failure to provide which will put at risk the ambitious plans.
All along the coastal highway leading from Gwadar to the Belar dam, 85km in the south-west, empty water cans are placed by the side of the road by residents from nearby and far-off villages to be filled up by private tankers on their way to Gwadar. Near one such line, a man named Din Mohammad is busy getting water from a recently filled can.
He’s putting it into smaller containers tied to his camel. In broken Urdu, he says that this is the only way his family of 10 gets water that is free of cost. There are other such men on the way to Belar, some of them on foot, going to get water.
There has been a severe water crisis in Gwadar district after the only dam providing water, the Akra dam, dried up at the beginning of this year. The $24m rain-fed project was constructed in the early 1990s to provide water to the villages but ended up becoming the sole provider to Gwadar city instead, explains the sub-divisional officer at the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Mohammad Shaban.
Sitting in his office, which is one kilometre away from Bakhshi Colony near the arterial road of Gwadar, he says that the Akra dam last received rainfall in 2010. Then the dam dried up in 2012, when not enough rain was recorded. “The meteorological department predicts rainfall in the coming two days,” he says. “It’d be good if it rains well, which would be enough for the Akra dam to provide water for the coming five years. Otherwise, we’ll have to look for alternative ways.”
In the wake of the water shortage and the Akra dam drying up, the Belar dam — a catchment area getting water from the Daramb mountain facing the Iranian border on its west — became a junction for private tankers coming from Gwadar. Mohammad Ali and other owners of 120 water tankers in Belar have set up 15 water pumps on the left bank of the dam.
These tankers make 27 trips a month, barring Fridays, to provide water to the residents of Surbandar, Peshukan, Gwadar and Jiwani. At present, residents in Gwadar pay Rs15,000 to avail a private tanker which helps for a week. Mohammad Surabh, a resident of Bakhshi Colony, says tiredly that he pays Rs15,000 for a tanker, “and then we wait for the electricity so that it can be utilised at home. We face a power shortage of eight hours a day due to the maintenance work around the area.”
The alternative source of water, which according to Shaban is a solution to the city’s persisting water issues, is the Mirani dam which is located 43 kilometres west of Turbat city, a five-hour drive from Gwadar city.
“When the dam was being constructed in 2003, there was a clear statement in the PC-1 of the project that Gwadar city will get 20 million gallons of water from the Mirani dam,” adds Shaban. But in the revised PC-1, after retired General Pervez Musharraf’s government, the clause was removed by the incoming government, he explains. This, though a viable solution, he says, will cause conflict in the coming days as both cities need water.
At present, Gwadar city needs 4.6 million gallons of water; the Akra dam was supplying 2.5 million gallons. So the city was already short of some two million gallons of water, says the director-general of the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA), Dr Sajjad Hussain Baloch.
“We witness a dry spell every two to three years. As a temporary step, the chief secretary of the province has made the desalination plant in Karwat, located in Gwadar, partially functional which is providing 500,000 gallons of water to the city,” he claims, adding that the Balochistan Development Authority (BDA) wants the plant to be fully functional by the end of the month.
However, sources within the PHED say that the plant, which was initiated in 2006, faced delays in its functioning and was “forcibly made functional” after a push from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last November.
NAB found that the water pipelines needed to supply water to the city were missing. The source further adds that Karwat is providing 200,000 gallons of water rather than the amount claimed by the GDA DG.
The construction of two other dams — the Sawwar dam undertaken by the provincial government and Shaadi Kaur by the federal government in 2012, both located in and around Pasni, Gwadar district — is yet to be completed, which authorities say is at the root of the problem.
SDO Shaban says: “If these dams had been completed in time, we wouldn’t have had to to rely on other sources of acquiring water. Embezzlement and a lack of funds is another issue which needs to be sorted before the water shortage snowballs into a bigger conflict between the towns.”
Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2016
For years, Pakistan has denied that the Afghan Taliban enjoys a safe haven on its soil or that Islamabad could do anything to end their violent campaign in Afghanistan that has seen tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and international troops killed since 2002.
But in an unusually candid admission, Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, says that Islamabad has considerable influence over the Taliban because its leaders live in the country.
"We have some influence over them because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities. Their families are here," he said. "We can use those levers to pressurize them to say, 'Come to the table'. But we can't negotiate on behalf of the Afghan government because we cannot offer them what the Afghan government can offer them."
Aziz made the comments at Washington's Council on Foreign Relations think tank on March 1. He added that Islamabad pressured Afghan Taliban leaders to participate in the first-ever direct talks with the Afghan government on July 7, 2015.
"We have to use these levers and [have] restricted their movements, restricted their access to hospitals and other facilities, and threatened them that 'If you don't come forward and talk, we will at least expel you'," he said of the tough message Islamabad sent to Taliban leaders, most of whom are believed to be operating out of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan Province.
"[We told the Taliban leaders that] we have hosted [them] enough for 35 years, and we can't do it anymore because the whole world is blaming us just by [their] presence here," he said.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States, and China last week agreed on a road map to end the Afghan war through negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.
Taliban representatives are expected to join Afghan officials in the first round of peace talks in Pakistan during the next few weeks.
Aziz, however, took pains to convince Washington's audience that Islamabad has abandoned its support for the Islamist militant groups.
"After our government came into power in 2013, there has been a significant change in our policy. We are now moving against all terrorists without discrimination," he said.
Speaking alongside US State Secretary John Kerry on February 29, Aziz said Pakistan now has little interest in fomenting violence in neighboring Afghanistan.
"Who would like to set one's own neighbor on fire with the hope of saving one's backyard?" he asked.
This article was originally published on gandhara.rferl.org and has been reproduced with permission.
QUETTA: The security forces in Balochistan claimed to have killed seven suspected militants during operations carried out in Kech and Kohlu districts of the province on Wednesday.
Four suspected militants were killed during an exchange of fire in Kohlu district in the evening, while there suspects, including a key commander of the outlawed Baloch Republican Army (BRA), were killed in Kech district earlier in the day.
The spokesman for Frontier Constabulary, Khan Wasey, said the miscreants killed in Kohlu district belonged to an outlawed militant organisation operating in the area. Two suspects were injured during exchange of fire.
He said five sanctuaries were also demolished during the search operation in the aftermath of the killings. A cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered from the possession of suspected militants, said Wasey.
Earlier, the security forces acted on a tip-off regarding the presence of militants in Dasht area of district Kech and killed three miscreants belonging to the BRA.
Wasey said a key militant commander of the banned outfit was also among the dead and added that security forces had also recovered weapons from their possession.
The spokesman further said the militants were involved in killings of labourers working at Shadi Kor Dam.
The outlawed Baloch Republican Army (BRA), one of the major insurgent groups operating in Balochistan, is believed to be the militant wing of the separatist Baloch Republican Party (BRP).
Brahmdagh Bugti, who is the grandson of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and is living in self-exile in Switzerland, heads the BRP.
Dasht Tehsil of Kech district is considered to be one of the sensitive areas of Balochistan.
Militants in the area have been targeting security forces and pro-government personalities in the area since the past ten years.
The current unrest in the province gained in intensity after the 2006 killing of 79-year-old Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a revered figure for many rebels.
Why do retention and enrolment rates in Pakistan drop drastically beyond the primary school level? The Pakistan Education Statistics 2014-15 factsheet compiled by Alif Ailaan shows that 62 per cent of students attend government schools, but only 20pc of all government schools provide higher education.
Private schools bridge the gap left by a shortage of government schools, but not everyone can afford a private school education, Saman Naz at Alif Ailaan tells Dawn.com over the phone.
While the number of out-of-school children (OOSC) has decreased by 1 million ─ from 25m to 24m ─ and retention rates have improved, almost half all children between the ages of five and 16 are out of school and more than 18m have never seen the inside of a classroom
Gender disparity is also evident in school enrolment rates, with over half of all girls out of school compared to 43pc of boys.
And although improvements have been made in school infrastructure, many schools do not have school buildings, while others lack buildings in satisfactory condition, as well as other basic facilities like toilets, drinking water and electricity.
Nearly 24m ─ 47pc ─ of Pakistan’s estimated 51m children between the ages of five and 16 are out of school. While the dropout rate is a serious concern, enrolment remains the major challenge.
Of the 24m out-of-school children, 18.6m have never attended school, while 5.4m enrolled at some point but dropped out.
Balochistan has the highest proportion of out-of-school children, followed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). As many as 70pc of children in Balochistan and 60pc in Fata are out of school.
Despite a five-year trend depicting increasing enrolment rates, many children are still out of school and more girls than boys are not in school ─ 12.8m girls remain out of school compared to 11.2m boys.
Of all the children enrolled in primary school in Pakistan, 69pc are retained until class 5 and only 28pc until class 10. The good news is that this is a 3pc increase from the 25pc of previous years.
Enrolment and retention vary by province. Balochistan and Fata’s retention rates until class five are the lowest at 34pc and 32pc respectively, while Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Islamabad have the highest rates at 93pc and 92pc respectively, with a national overall of 69pc.
Enrolment drops drastically after the primary level, but more steeply so for girls than boys.
Boys continue to outnumber girls at every stage of education. Nearly 10m boys and 8.1m girls are enrolled at the primary level; this drops to 1.9milion boys and 1.4m girls at the higher level, and just 1m boys and 700,000 girls at the higher secondary level.
Although 87pc of primary schools are public schools, there is a greater proportion of private schools providing middle and higher education, at 62pc and 60pc respectively.
This may be because 80pc of government schools are primary schools, while only 11pc are middle schools, 8pc high schools and 1pc higher secondary schools.
The shortage of public schools at higher levels of education appears problematic as 62pc of the student population attends government schools, while about 38pc attends private schools.
Despite improvements in government school facilities, a lot remains to be accomplished, the factsheet says.
About 9pc of schools operate without a school building, while 38pc operate without a building in satisfactory condition. The problem is most pronounced in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, where 31pc of government schools and an additional 29pc of single-classroom schools operate without a building.
Sindh's government schools are even worse off than Balochistan's in this respect, with 17pc of schools operating without a building, and an additional 32pc of single-classroom schools without a building ─ in comparison to Balochistan's 14pc and 30pc respectively in both categories.
44pc of government schools operate without electricity, 28pc without toilets and 34pc without drinking water. In light of recent attacks on schools in Pakistan, the absence of a boundary wall in 30pc of all government schools is a also a source of concern.
While poor quality of teaching is regarded as one of the reasons for the high dropout rates in schools, data reveals 51pc of government school teachers have at least a Bachelor's degree in education.
Of the 49pc who don't have university-level degrees, 30pc have a PTC qualification, while 8pc are communal teachers. Around 7pc have received other training, while 1pc are untrained.
The greatest number of single-teacher primary schools is in Balochistan, where over half of all schools have only one teacher.
Balochistan is followed by Sindh, where almost half of all schools at the primary level have a single teacher. There are no single-teacher schools in Islamabad.
Islamabad boasts the lowest student-teacher ratio, with 16 students for every teacher. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has the highest student-teacher ratio, with 42 students for every teacher. The average student-teacher ration in Pakistan is 33:1.
Alif Ailaan, an organisation run by a team of media and strategic communications specialists, put together the Pakistan Education Statistics 2014-15 factsheet.
The data presented in the factsheet was collected at a district level and compiled at the provincial and regional levels from the Annual School Census (ASC), which is regularly conducted every year by provincial and regional Education Management Information Systems (EMIS).
EMIS reports published annually since 1992 provide data on key indicators.
Each province/region is responsible for providing data to NEMIS for compiling ASC data at the national level, which frames the core of the Pakistan Education Statistics factsheet.
ISLAMABAD: Secretary Privatisation Commission Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera on Tuesday confirmed that the government was moving ahead with the privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
He said all queries about the process would be answered after the financial adviser finalises the transaction structure of the airlines.
“Currently, it is under consideration to bifurcate PIA into core and non-core businesses. The core business will comprise PIA flight operations, landing and handling, kitchens, training and education, engineering and healthcare, which will be handed over to the strategic investor,” Mr Sukhera said.
“The non-core business such as real estate and hotels would not be handed over to the strategic partner.”
The secretary was briefing the National Assembly standing committee on finance in the Parliament House. The meeting was chaired by Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh of the ruling PML-N.
The official said a report compiled by the FA would be sent to the PC board and subsequently to the cabinet committee on privatisation for a final decision.
He informed the committee that the non-core business of PIA included real estate assets such as Roosevelt Hotel in New York, a hotel in Paris, other hotels and an engineering complex in Karachi. “But these would not be handed over to the strategic partner when the airlines is privatised,” he added.
He said the transactional structure of the PIA would be finalised once the Senate approves the PIA bill. The National Assembly has already passed the bill.
The officials faced a barrage of questions from the members belonging to PTI and PPP. Over the repeated failure of the officials to answer some of the queries, Asad Umar of the PTI staged a walkout.
Mr Umar had asked about the reasons behind the jump in the PIA losses. He said the accumulated losses of the national flag carrier stood at Rs34 billion in 2007 and jumped to Rs254 billion in seven years.
“Why they cannot answer even a simple question? Either they are incompetent or hiding something,” he said while walking out of the committee room.
However, Dr Nafisa Shah of the PPP continued grilling the officials. “Will the strategic partner bear the losses worth around Rs255 billion of the PIA,” she asked.
The officials of the Privatisation Commission told the committee that the operational revenues of the PIA stood at Rs112 billion to Rs116 billion between 2008 and 2012, which declined to Rs91 billion according to the provisional results on December 31, 2015.
The fuel cost, which stood at 30 to 35pc in 2011, has now declined to 13pc of the total operation cost in the wake of the declining oil prices in the international market.
But Dr Shah wondered how the PIA losses increased manifold when the fuel cost decreased. In reply to a question about the employees’ salary bill, the officials said it stood at 15 to 16pc of the total PIA expenditures.
The chairman of the committee decided to summon the relevant authorities, including the PIA management, to brief the members on the financial details of the national flag carrier since 2000 to ascertain the reasons that increased the losses despite a reduction in the fuel prices.
Anyone who had watched Tere Bin Laden was disappointed to hear that the movie's leading man, Ali Zafar wouldn't be returning for the sequel.
Well, fret not: you'll still see him in the flick, just in a cameo this time. The singer turned actor will be making a special appearance in a song titled 'Six Pack Abs', which he naturally had to bulk up for.
Talking to the Mumbai Mirror, the 35-year-old recalls all the hard work he put in to get his new buff frame: "I had a strict schedule of three months to get into shape. I was off carbs and sugar and worked out twice a day before shooting kicked off. After we wrapped up, I binged on ice cream and parathasfor a month!"
"I was given the task of composing, writing and singing the song; I had a lot of fun with it. It's like an interesting take on the item number concept and the trend of acquiring abs to ensure a hit song," he elaborates on the song itself.
He also said that he lent the track a vintage Bollywood feel with a modern hook and quirky lyrics: "Everybody who hears it for the first time bursts out laughing."
While that's all well and good, we're still wondering why he didn't return in a main role for Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive.
"Tere Bin Laden and its makers are close to my heart. It was like we made history, with the first film of our careers going on to garner a cult following, coupled with it being the first venture where a Pakistani actor was cast as the protagonist, paving way for several others. When the sequel came underway, Abhishek (the director) and I were excited about it but as an actor I wanted to try something challenging, so he decided to just cast me in this interesting number!"
The film is slated for release on 19 February this year. It stars Manish Paul, Pradyuman Singh and Piyush Mishra; while stories of the first film and the second are linked, they are not in continuity.