QUETTA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday inaugurated the Gwadar-Hoshab (M-8) road and reviewed the work being carried out on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
During the inspection of the newly constructed M-8 route, General Raheel Sharif personally drove the prime minister in an open-top vehicle.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt Gen Asim Bajwa added that the locals were overjoyed with the progress of the CPEC project.
The inauguration ceremony of M8 was attended by Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Commander Southern Command Lieutenant General Amir Riaz and other high ranking military and civilian officials.
“The land-locked Central Asian states are interested in trade via the Gwadar port,” said the prime minister while addressing the attendees.
He stated on the occasion that CPEC would open new vistas of development and prosperity in the region in general and benefit the country in particular.
-Photo courtesy ISPR
Photo courtesy ISPR
The prime minister also praised the services and sacrifices rendered by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) during the construction of the ongoing project.
“Despite security problems, work is in full-swing on construction of roads in Balochistan,” added Nawaz.
The premier elaborated that after completion of CPEC and other related projects, Balochistan would not be dependent for financial aid on the federal government.
"CPEC would ensure economic development of Balochistan", he said, adding that the people of the province would be major beneficiaries of the mega project.
"Projects cannot be completed through mere slogans, rather a strategy is needed for completion of projects", he said.
The prime minister also reiterated his commitment on the occasion and said efforts were being made to develop Balochistan and bring it at par with other parts of the country.
Earlier in January, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had inaugurated the western route of the (CPEC) in Balochistan's Zhob and laid the foundation stones of two key projects: upgradation of the Zhob-Mughal Kot section of the Dera Ismail Khan-Qila Saifullah Highway (N-50) and the Qilla Saifullah-Waigam Rud Road section of the Multan-Dera Ghazi Khan-Qilla Saifullah Highway (N-70)
The CPEC is a 3,000-kilometer network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas from Gwadar Port to Kashgar city, northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013, the CPEC will act as a bridge for the new Maritime Silk Route that envisages linking three billion people in Asia, Africa and Europe.
An official agreement on the corridor was signed between the two countries in May this year during President Xi Jinping's historic visit to Pakistan.
Map courtesy: Planning Commission
A flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative as well, the CPEC intends to revive the ancient Silk Road with a focus on infrastructure, and constitutes the strategic framework of bilateral cooperation.
The project links China's strategy to develop its western region with Pakistan's focus on boosting its economy, including the infrastructure construction of Gwadar Port, together with some energy cooperation and investment programs.
It also involves road and railway construction including an upgrade of the 1,300-km Karakoram Highway, the highest paved international road in the world which connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountains.
The CPEC will reduce China's routes of oil and gas imports from Africa and the Middle East by thousands of kilometers, making Gwadar a potentially vital link in China's supply chain.
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned yesterday against American “deceit”, just days after the end of sanctions under a nuclear deal that the central bank said would unblock $32 billion. The remarks underscored the still-strained relations between Tehran and Washington, which unveiled new missile-linked sanctions against Iran on Sunday almost as soon as the nuclear-related measures were scrapped. In his first comments since the atomic agreement was implemented at the weekend, Khamenei told President Hassan Rouhani in a letter to “guard against deceit and violations of arrogant states particularly the United States”.
Rouhani wrote to Khamenei on Monday to provide an update after the UN atomic watchdog declared Saturday that Iran had met conditions stipulated in the nuclear deal. “We have to watch if the other parties fulfil their commitments,” the supreme leader wrote in response. Washington cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979, when its embassy in Tehran was stormed by students, months after the Islamic revolution, leading to a 444-day hostage crisis. Khamenei has never endorsed repairing relations with the US and has largely followed a similar tack to Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who dubbed America the “Great Satan”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s prime minister offered yesterday to host talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia aimed at resolving disputes between the Middle Eastern rivals. Nawaz Sharif met Rouhani in Tehran, a day after meeting Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh. After his meeting with Rouhani, Sharif told reporters that Iran had expressed an interest in improving relations with Saudi Arabia and would appoint a focal person for future talks. Sharif said he would speak to Saudi Arabia to encourage the appointment of a focal person, and described reconciling the two countries as Pakistan’s “prime duty and sacred mission.” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said that Islamabad is deeply concerned at the recent escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Recession and Unemployment Opening up to the world cannot completely fix the economy, Rouhani said yesterday in a televised speech, warning the “difficult road has just begun”. “Today is just the start for an innocent human who was kept chained unjustly by the hands and feet for 12 years,” said the president. “Sanctions are gone but there is a long way between sanctions and development,” he said, speaking to an economics conference in Tehran. “Today, our main problem is unemployment and recession, the lack of a booming economy and many structural and economic deficiencies.”
Iran hopes that steps to ease its isolation, including the re-admission of its banks to the SWIFT system of international transactions, will inject new vigour into the economy. The central bank said that $28 billion (25.8 billion euros) of the unfrozen funds would go to it and $4 billion “will be transferred to the state treasury as the share of the government”. The assets, which had been held in foreign banks, will be kept “in centralised and safe accounts” abroad, central bank chief Valiollah Seif was quoted by state television as saying, adding that the money could be used to pay for imports.
Iran’s economy suffered greatly under the international sanctions that since 2006 targeted the Islamic republic’s nuclear program and financial systems. Under the previous hardline government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inflation topped 40 percent. But moderate Rouhani, whose election in 2013 heralded more than two years of nuclear negotiations with world powers, managed to curb inflation to 13 percent.
Foreign Investment Iran needs annual foreign investment of $30-$50 billion to reach an eight percent growth target and cash in on sanctions relief, the president said Sunday. “Untapped potential in many industries indicates that domestic demand alone cannot drive the economy” towards that goal, he said, signalling a shift in policy. Iran announced a major boost of 500,000 barrels per day in oil production on Monday – a move Tehran had long planned for once its nuclear deal with world powers took effect.
The next budget starting in March is based on a projected oil price of $40 per barrel price and exports of 2.25 million barrels per day. Iran, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), now produces 2.8 million barrels of oil per day and exports just over one million barrels. Low oil prices and years of US and European Union sanctions that barred much of Iran’s foreign oil sales hammered its income from crude. But despite global prices falling below $30, Iran intends to increase production to recoup lost market share. – AFP
PESHAWAR: Unidentified gunmen entered Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkha’s Charsadda town Wednesday and opened fire on students and faculty members as they gathered at the school for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of the activist and leader whom the school is named after.
The mastermind of the APS Peshawar attack, Umar Mansoor, of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Geedar group has claimed the attack through a post on his Facebook page, adding that four attackers were sent to the university.
However, a spokesperson from the TTP, Mohammad Khorasani, issued a conflicting statement shortly after Mansoor's claim, in which Khorasani condemned the attack, terming it "against Shariah".
Khorasani also warned that those "using the naming of TTP will be brought to justice".
As the military announced the end of the clearance operation, mass casualties were feared in the attack reminiscent of the deadly December 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left over 140 dead — most of them students.
Sources added that the four attackers were wearing suicide vests but were killed by security forces' before they could detonate their explosives.
Police confirm 21 dead
Military says 4 attackers killed, gunfire over
Armed assailants scaled university walls and opened fire
Multiple blasts were heard along with continuous heavy gunfire
3,000 students enrolled at university
University premises secured
Military spokesperson Lt.Gen Asim Bajwa stated that the university premises has been cleared and four attackers have been killed. Security personnel, including Special Services Group (SSG) personnel were tasked with clearing the university premises and and securing the civilians inside.
The terrorists gave stiff resistance to security forces as they engaged in an operation to clear the school over several hours. Intelligence sources said eight to 10 terrorists were inside the university, adding that they were between 18 and 25 years old, were wearing civilian clothes and had their faces covered.
Snipers had taken position around the premises, with monitoring being provided by aerial assets.
Security forces also cordoned off a one-storey house, situated around a kilometre from the university's boundary wall, where three terrorists were believed to be holed up. It was later declared clear by military personnel.
The families of students lined up outside the school. Most of the boys belonged to Dir, Hangu and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Journalists and all other non-essential personnel were asked to stay back in order to not interfere with the ongoing security operation. Up to 20 ambulances entered the university to rescue the injured.
Provincial Minister Shah Farman told journalists 54 security guards were stationed at the university. He said around 200 people were present in the examination hall, all of whom were rescued and "timely action by police and army has prevented large scale damage".
“The death toll in the terrorist attack has risen to 21,” regional police chief Saeed Wazir told AFP without specifying if the toll included the four militants the army stated it had killed.
Most of the student victims were shot dead at a hostel for boys on the campus.
The medical superintendent at District Headquarter Hospital, Charsadda confirmed 18 dead. DHQ Charsadda's officials also stated that casualties had cuts on the bodies, probably inflicted from a sharp-edged weapon.
An Edhi volunteer earlier said he had seen the bodies of at least 15 persons.
One Rescue 1122 official said, "The boys section [of the hostel] has been affected. Victims have mostly been hit by bullets."
"Around 90 per cent of the area has been cleared. Over 70 per cent students have been rescued."
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) provincial spokesperson Shaukaut Yousafzai said between 50 to 60 people were wounded. He added there was no prior threat about an attack.
Special assistant to chief minister, Mushtaq Ghani said the critically injured victims shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and that security in the province has been on high alert for 10 days.
At least three to four security guards were injured, an eye-witness who managed to come out of the premises said. The Associated Press quoted police as saying gunmen killed an assistant professor and a student in the attack.
Dr Syed Hamid Hussain, an assistant professor who was killed in the attack — DawnNews
DIG Saeed Wazir confirmed that two students and assistant professor Dr Hamid, who taught organic chemistry at the school, have been killed in the attack.
“All students have been evacuated from the hostels, but militants are still hiding in different parts of the university and some students and staff are stuck inside,” Wazir said.
Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif reached Charsadda to boost the morale of the security personnel who took part in the operation. He was accompanied by Corps Commander Peshawar.
Television footage showed soldiers entering the campus as ambulances lined up outside the main gate and anxious parents consoled each other.
Security personnel pictured outside the university — Reuters
Eyewitness: 'The attackers were just like us'
A student speaking to DawnNews said the attackers who has penetrated the building appeared to be young.
"The attackers were like us ─ they were very young. They carried AK-47 guns. They wore jackets like the forces do... We were in the hostel sleeping as we don't have classes.
"There are no classes at the university currently, there may be around 200-300 students in the hostel."
A view of the Bacha Khan University — courtesy university Facebook page
"There was firing between attackers and security forces. After everything was over, the army men knocked on our room and told us we were safe."
Eyewitness: 'I saw a militant firing'
Geology student Zahoor Ahmed said he had tried to leave his hostel after hearing shots fired.
“(We) were stopped by our chemistry lecturer who advised us to go inside.
He was holding a pistol in his hand,” he said.
“Then I saw a bullet hit him. I saw two militants were firing. I ran inside and then managed to flee by jumping over the back wall, “
Eyewitness: 'Attackers took positions'
According to one eyewitness who escaped the university, the attackers had taken position at the entry points of the school. "I saw three attackers engaged in an exchange of fire with security guards of the university. One was positioned at the roof, another near the corner and the third near the wall."
"We rescued the university's guards and then I saw the attackers engage the arriving police party."
Attackers are believed to be on the second and third floors of the campus buildings.
Shabir Khan, a lecturer in the English department, said he was about to leave the hostel for the department when firing began.
“Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began,” Khan said. “I have no idea about what's going on but I heard one security official talking on the phone to someone and said many people had been killed and injured.”
Eyewitness: 'My friend was killed'
A student speaking to DawnNews said two security personnel were killed. "A hostel friend of mine was killed, two security personnel were killed as well."
"The gunmen attacked the registrar office. Our professor was killed, his name is Hamid. Some students have also been killed. A friend of mine was so scared he jumped from the university building."
Eyewitness: 'We had no firearms to protect ourselves'
A computer science student who was rescued from the university said the poetry recital event to commemorate Bacha Khan's death anniversary was to begin at 10:30am.
"The university [security] on common days is enough to perplex students. They have five security checks. But the security is only for students and not VIPs," he said.
"In the beginning, there was just firing. There were attackers in the stairwell. We had no arms to counter them."
"In the Pushto Department and Computer Science blocks I saw at least three attackers."
Emergency imposed at hospitals
Rescue officials say some 50 students were rescued from the premises.
Out of these 50, five students were injured and have been shifted to District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ), Charsadda for treatment. An emergency has been imposed in all hospitals of the area.
A view of military personnel at the Bacha Khan University. — DawnNews
'University not adequately secured'
An eyewitness rescued from the university said the university was not adequately secured, especially at the backside of the building, which had low boundary walls.
Another eyewitness said that attackers threw a grenade, injuring a guard and then entered the school.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Member of Provincial Assembly Arshad Ali told Dawnnews that the attackers entered the university after scaling its walls.
MPA Fazal Shakoor, who was elected from Charsadda, says army contingents have also arrived at the scene and that firing is continuing.
Former provincial health minister Shaukat Yousafzai speaking at the site said, "This is a frontline province. We are fighting Pakistan's war in this province."
"This is international terrorism. This province is a target of terrorism. We are making full efforts to combat terrorism and it has dropped. The backs of terrorists have been broken and they are breathing their last. This stunt is an attempt to breathe life into their cause."
Soldiers gather outside Bacha Khan University where an attack by militants took place, in Charsadda. -Reuters
Eyewitnesses report having heard three blasts inside the university.
The state-run PTV quotes DSP Charsadda as saying that three armed men entered the university premises and opened fire. Television reports added that a large contingent of security forces had reached the site.
A helicopter of the Pakistan Army is monitoring the situation from the air. — DawnNews
Speaking to DawnNews via telephone, a woman inside the university says intense firing is underway. The woman asked for help, saying assistance be sent to the premises.
The attack on the university comes on the death anniversary of Bacha Khan and it began as a mushaira (poetry recitation) was underway at the premises. Around 3,000 students are enrolled at the university.
Vice Chancellor Fazal Rahim told reporters that the university teaches over 3,000 students and was hosting an additional 600 visitors on Wednesday for the recital.
“There are male and female staff members and students on the campus,” Fazal said, adding he had been on his way to work when he was informed of the attack.
Shabir Khan, a lecturer in the English department, said he was about to leave his university housing for the department when firing began.
“Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began,” Khan said. “I have no idea about what's going on but I heard one security official talking on the phone to someone and said many people had been killed and injured.”
A wounded person is being rescued from the Bacha Khan University.— Dawnnews
Security forces had earlier conducted search operations in adjoining areas and claimed that four wanted men had been arrested. Weapons and army and police uniforms were also recovered from the arrested men.
Charsadda is a district in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and has been a scene of several militant attacks during the past decade. The region is mostly rural in its makeup and lies 40 kilometres from Peshawar.
2011-15: Attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan
Condemnations pour in
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a statement issued from Zurich said he is "deeply grieved" over the attack at the university.
"Those killing innocent students and citizens have no faith and religion," the statement said. "We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland."
The premier has also announced a national day of mourning tomorrow (Jan 21), and the national flag would be lowered to half-mast.
The prime minister is in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said, "I will visit Charsadda and the attack site to review the situation. I will review if we are at fault or not."
"We are all on the same page, the whole nation stood united after the APS attack."
The PTI chairman added that they have also asked KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to return as soon as possible from England.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack and offered his condolences to the families of the deceased.
Attack was feared
Rumours of possible terrorist attacks on schools had been circulating in Peshawar and surrounding rural areas over the last week, forcing some schools to close educational institutions early.
District administration had directed some schools to close their campuses for one day (last Saturday) insisting there were reports of possible terrorist attacks on them.
Pakistan Army soldiers reach the university where the attack is underway and a number of staff and students are believed to be held hostage
A telephone operator with the university who was rescued by security forces speaks to the media.
An eye-witness told DawnNews the firing began around 9:15 am and attackers managed to enter the premises of the university from the back walls.
A rescue official told DawnNews ambulances under police and army supervision were engaged in rescuing people inside the varsity.
PTI provincial spokesperson Shaukaut Yousafzai said 'terrorists are breathing their last and wanted to pull something in their last days'
Asfandyar Wali, who is a grandson of Bacha Khan, said it was condemndable that despite the National Action Plan (NAP), little came about in terms of curbing terrorism.
Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif arrives at the Bacha Khan University
ISLAMABAD: Police’s special branch has issued an alert about possible protests in the capital over the ongoing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The special branch informed the Central Police Office (CPO) about the need to enhance security measures in and around the embassies and diplomats of the two countries, police sources told Dawn.
In response, directives were issued by the CPO to the police to make proper security arrangements for the installations. Besides, the concerned security wing of the police was directed to approach the diplomats of the two countries and inform them about the need for tight security. They were also needed to restrict their movements in the city.
Police officials said as relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran had strained, supporters of both countries may hold protests, which may also lead to sectarian tensions.
The officials said the in charges of the police stations had also been asked to monitor movement of people who were in the police watch list under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
It isn’t difficult to see why Pakistan hungers for entertainment. We are perpetually swamped with social, economic and security crises and get little respite. Even the highly anticipated international cricketing events have been taken away from us.
On the other hand, Pakistani television is the victim of a savage ratings game, where producers are unwilling to experiment with fresh programming ideas. In the morning, ridiculous talk shows are broadcast where both hosts and guests lack the skill and charisma required to create content worth watching.
The evenings are even more depressing. News channels offer the most mind-numbing programmes that quickly disintegrate into shouting contests, and our dramas recycle each other's material so relentlessly they should probably be given a Greenpeace award.
As a result, gardens, shopping malls and fast food joints are swarming with people during the weekends.
Like many others, I was a little stunned to learn that the Punjab government has signed a contract with a Chinese company named the ‘Golden Bean Industry Group’ to build a world-class theme park and aquarium in Lahore for a whopping private investment of 36 billion rupees. It is said that this park will boast rides as spectacular as those at Disneyland.
Certainly, such an agreement will create jobs and attract future businesses, all of which speaks well of the Punjab government’s vision of turning Lahore into a modern city.
Yet, there are some who question if a soulless theme park is really necessary in a country deprived of power, food, education and one that is also fast losing its heritage sites?
Others ask if it’s not more important to consider investing in the promotion of tourism in our northern areas which are breathtaking to behold.
Let’s be realistic. These attractions are created to serve the public, not to draw in tourists. Yes, modernising our northern areas will make them more attractive for visitors from overseas, but foreigners at the moment are keeping away, mainly because of security issues.
Moreover, modernising our northern areas will not affect the life of young city dwellers in Islamabad, Lahore, and Rawalpindi looking for immediate gratification that a theme park would provide.
The most vocal complaints over the Lahore park are coming from affluent Pakistanis who can visit Dubai, Sri Lanka, Thailand or travel to Europe or the United States frequently. Well, this theme park is probably not being built for them anyway.
Pakistan comfortably boasts its share of private country clubs, theme parks and sports clubs, but the majority of these are too expensive for the average Pakistani to afford. Someone with a membership to a theme park told me he was glad it was expensive as it kept the ‘riffraff out’. The memberships here cost several thousand a month, while the initial fee stands on average at over Rs500,000.
This sort of elitism has started to affect our malls as well. Centaurus Mall in Islamabad introduced an entrance fee to shield itself from ‘Pindi boys’.
On the other hand, public theme parks in Pakistan — affordable to middle class citizens — are disorganised, unhygienic, lack security and offer facilities that pale in comparison to private theme parks.
Judging by its record of the Metrobus project, we can only hope that the Punjab government is going to ensure that this private theme park is accessible to everyone.
Does the average citizen not deserve the same degree of entertainment as the affluent?
However, I am admittedly concerned about the company putting this together. Details on the Golden Bean Industry Group are difficult to find on the Internet. The other theme parks they have built in China, such as the Fantasy Park of Changchun city and Jiangnan Park of Jilin City, have little presence online, which is rare in this day and age. The project will apparently be completed in less than two years.
At this point, safety is my biggest concern. And with a track record of poor maintenance in projects across the country, we should stand firm, make sure our safety is taken into account and refuse to accept any more preventable deaths.
RAWALPINDI: Whatever her fate, it seems Ayyan Ali will not be able to get back her half a million dollars until she files an appeal with the Collector of Adjudication, Islamabad.
A senior official of the customs prosecution wing revealed that the model will have to file an appeal with the Collector of Adjudication to get her money back. Ms Ali was apprehended while travelling with half a million US dollars. The amount was seized by customs when she was checking in for a flight to Dubai at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) on March 14 this year.
Although Ms Ali was released on bail on July 16, she cannot travel abroad or get back her money and passports.
“She even had to inform the trial court before leaving for Karachi after the court proceedings ended,” the official said.
He said in the event that the collector of adjudication rejects her appeal, she will have to file another appeal with the Customs Tribunal, then the Islamabad High Court and eventually the Supreme Court provided all of her appeals were rejected at lower levels.
“Neither she, nor the trial court, asked customs for the custody of her passports or her mobile phones, which are being kept as ‘case property’ with customs,” the legal expert said. He said all her belongings were confiscated by customs in March, including her two passports.