MUZAFFARABAD: Relatives of a Pakistani death row prisoner said yesterday they "felt a wave of life" when his execution was halted to examine claims he was a juvenile when the crime was committed. The reprieve for Shafqat Hussain, sentenced to hang for killing a seven-year-old boy in Karachi in 2004, came just hours before he was due to face the gallows around dawn at a prison in the city. It was his fourth stay of execution in five months in a case that has prompted grave concern among international rights campaigners and the United Nations.
Hussain's lawyers and family claim he was under 18 at the time of the killing, and therefore is not eligible for execution under Pakistani law. They also claim he was tortured into confessing. His brother Manzoor Hussain said relatives gathered in Muzaffarabad, the main town of Pakistani Kashmir where the family hails from, to keep a vigil during the night of the expected hanging. "When we were informed at 3:00 am that he has survived, we felt a wave of life inside us," he said. "We were not expecting this, we had even found a place for his grave in a local cemetery here in Muzaffarabad."
'God will save his life'
Hussain's elderly mother Makhni Begum said she had faith that God would spare her son. "My heart says that my son is innocent. We spent the whole night awake, we received a call at the last moment to say the execution has been postponed," she said in Muzaffarabad. "I bowed to God after this phone call. Now my heart is satisfied that if he is surviving like this, God will save his life." Southern Sindh province prisons inspector Nusrat Mangan confirmed early Tuesday that the hanging-first scheduled for January-had been postponed.
The Supreme Court is to examine the questions around Hussain's age, which his supporters have put at 14 or 15 at the time of the offence. The court met lawyers in the case briefly yesterday morning and arranged a detailed hearing for today, a member of Hussain's legal team said. Rights groups including anti-death penalty campaigners Reprieve and Amnesty International had pleaded desperately with the government not to carry out the execution. Hussain's brother Gul Zaman, who had waited anxiously outside the prison for news of the hanging, told AFP the reprieve was down to pressure from media and rights groups.
Birth date mystery
Hussain's true age has proved difficult to ascertain-exact birth records are not always kept in Pakistan, particularly for people from poor families like Hussain's. The UN estimates that only around a quarter of births in Pakistan are officially registered, one of the lowest rates in Asia. A birth certificate for Hussain circulated in the media several months ago, but it appeared to have been issued only in December and Interior Minister Chaudhry Ali Nisar Khan said there was no proof of its authenticity. The Federal Investigation Agency carried out a probe into his age earlier this year and found he was an adult at the time of his conviction-though the results have not been published officially and Hussain's supporters say the investigation was flawed.
In an open letter on Sunday, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve urged President Mamnoon Hussain to grant Hussain clemency. The letter said Hussain had been coerced into confessing with beatings, electric shocks and cigarette burns. The campaigners also said Hussain's lawyer did an inadequate job at his trial, failing to bring up important evidence or raise the question of his age. Pakistan has hanged more than 130 convicts since restarting executions in December after Taleban militants murdered more than 150 people at a school, most of them children.
A moratorium on the death penalty had been in force since 2008, and its end angered rights activists and alarmed some foreign countries. The Hussain case has drawn particular concern, with a panel of UN rights experts calling on Friday for his hanging to be halted. Hussain, the youngest of seven children, was working as a watchman in Karachi in 2004 when a seven-year-old boy went missing from the neighborhood. A few days later the boy's family received calls from Hussain's mobile demanding a ransom of half a million rupees ($8,500 at the time), according to legal papers. Hussain was arrested and admitted kidnapping and killing him, but later withdrew his confession, saying he had made it under duress._ AFP
KARACHI: The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) on Sunday predicted heavy rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northeast Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir during the coming week.
Heavy rains forecast within the next 24 hours in Malakand, Makran, Kalat, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir are to be accompanied by powerful gusts of wind, DawnNews quoted the PMD.
Rainfull of up to 200 millimetres may occur in these areas within the next 24 hours which could cause flooding.
Excess rainfall in the Kabul River catchment area may also cause flooding along connected riverbanks.
However, lighter rains are expected in Sindh, south Punjab and Balochistan.
Pre-monsoon rains will become monsoon rains by the end of July, and will continue till September.
Dr Ghulam Rasul, the chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department told DawnNews there is no threat of a tropical cyclone within Pakistan's sea limits yet, saying that there is an area of low air pressure approximately 900 kilometres south of Pakistan which had been closely monitored over the past three days.
He explained that there had been practically no decrease nor increase in its intensity, but it had moved slightly northward. While its intensity remains stable, he said, it will not take shape of a tropical cyclone.
Dr Rasul added that once it took on this form and entered Pakistani waters, a formal warning would be issued to fishermen, and the PMD would coordinate closely with concerned agencies and provide updates accordingly.
The meteorologist said that Pakistan's monsoon is affected by El Nino, which typically weakens the monsoon. He said that while there were collectively fewer rains over the July-September time period, there were at least 3-4 episodes of intense rainfall.
Ghulam Rasul said that rains will occur the same way this year, taking place during the month of Ramazan in July.
Section 144 was imposed on Clifton's Sea View beach by Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui because of the annual monsoon spell which brought with it higher waves and stronger currents.
However, despite the imposition of Section 144 banning bathing in the sea ─ but not visiting the seaside ─ large droves of citizens went swimming in the sea to cool off.
Visitors to the beach expressed their dissatisfaction with the ban.
A visitor told DawnNews, "We only got to swim for a short while before they made us get out," while another complained, "We came here not an hour ago and were enjoying it, until security personnel showed up and made us get out."
A Cantonment Board Clifton employee told DawnNews that workers had been stationed across the beach to prevent people from swimming in the sea for their own safety.
Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to send another state of the art satellite into space to fortify its position in space and a sum of Rs. 7 billion has been allocated in the budget 2015-16 for this program.
Pakistan is likely to be able to launch the new satellite in the space by the end of 2018. Headquarter of this satellite program will be set up in Lahore. Work will also be initiated for establishment of satellite station under SPARCO. The new project will be started in the upcoming financial year 2015-16.
The neighboring countries China and India outnumber Pakistan in the quantity of satellites held by them and they are reaping enormous economic and defense benefits from them. On the other hand Pakistan had launched one satellite in space earlier. The launching of the new satellite will usher in new revolution in the domain of communication in Pakistan besides bolstering country’s potential for satellite monitoring and achieving defense targets. This program will also help in ensuring equitable distribution of water among four provinces under 1991 water apportionment accord.
The sources said this objective will be achieved within three years and more 14 billion rupees will be earmarked for this project in the federal budget of next two fiscal years.
ISLAMABAD: Federal auditors have pointed out a number of serious natures of financial and administrative irregularities in the books of the Pakistan High Commission in London, and its three consulates elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
If the audit and inspection reports of the accounts of the high commission and the three consulates, in Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester, for the year 2012-13 are anything to go by, the country’s mission in the UK has not been in able hands.
According to the report, ready to be laid before the National Assembly and taken up by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the national exchequer was deprived of valuable foreign exchange and Pakistani expatriates settled in the UK were inconvenienced by the irregularities.
The unauthorised expenditure of hundreds of thousands of British pounds, the disappearance of visa stickers and passports and the renting out of buildings without mandatory permission and a requirement, have been pointed out as major discrepancies by federal auditors in their report.
In one incident, auditors reported that 21 visa stickers — Serial Nos VG811680 to VG811700 — were found to be missing from the official record. “Misplacement of visa stickers is a very serious lapse. [The] consulate of Birmingham should immediately inform the Directorate General Immigration and Passports, Islamabad, for their cancellation before they fall into the hands of anti-state elements,” the report notes.
Besides recommending a top-level investigation to fix responsibility against the officials involved in the misplacing of stickers, federal auditors have also asked the director general of Immigration and Passports “for issuance of cancellation circular of visa sticker Nos VG811680 to 811700”.
In response to these observations, a spokesperson for the high commission told Dawn that the issue of visa stickers was duly looked into and a report on the matter had already been submitted to the Foreign Ministry. However, the spokesperson refused to comment on the findings of the report.
The audit report also revealed that there were serious anomalies in the revenue figures against passports registered at the Birmingham consulate over the issuance of visas, to the tune of 131,239 British pounds. Under the current exchange rate of one British pound to Rs153.9, this amounts to a loss of over Rs20 million.
“It was observed that consular receipt on account of passports, visas and endorsement have not been properly accounted for by the mission. There is difference of 131,239 British pounds in the actual receipt as per passport register and amount shown in the cash book,” the report says.
However, the spokesperson contended that the matter was a simple “accounting mistake” which had been duly rectified.
The report also carried an audit para that pointed out “wasteful, avoidable and unnecessary expenditure on the account of hired accommodation for the then-high commissioner, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, amounting to £132,567.”
According to the report, Mr Hassan initiated the renovation of the high commissioner’s eight-bedroom official residence at 93, Winnington Road. Responding to the request, the officer concerned at the Foreign Office said, “Renovation work has to be completed within six months of the hiring of a temporary residence. Therefore, the hiring of the temporary residence and the renovation work of the embassy residence should coincide.”
However, the commissioner shifted to the rented accommodations almost seven months before the commencement of renovation work at a cost of 4,100 British pounds per week. “The financial impact of this decision … is around 114,800 British pounds,” the report says.
The report notes that the high commissioner shifted to his rented accommodations before the tender for renovation was published. The auditors have suggested that a high-powered inquiry be conducted to fix responsibility and ascertain whether it was a financially prudent decision to shift residence prematurely and whether precious foreign exchange that was wasted as a result may be recovered from the person(s) at fault.
When asked for response, the spokesperson said that the Foreign Ministry had granted permission for the high commissioner’s extended stay in the rented building. However, according to a federal auditor, it was up to the PAC to decide whether the expenditure was permitted or not.
Auditors have also termed irregular an expense of 57,138.75 British pounds, in lieu of hiring vehicles for former president Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to London.
“Audit is of the view that visit of prime minister and president to London is a recurring phenomenon and hence should not be treated as emergent incident; in this regard high commission should have, as per Pakistan Procurement Regulator Authority Rule 8, floated tenders to obtain competitive rates for hiring of vehicles, rather than doing it on piecemeal basis, and lowest competitive bidders should be on their panel so that in future they can contact them to obtain quick and spot quotations,” the report said.
Federal auditors suggested that the Pakistan High Commission in London should issue tenders to seek competitive rates for vehicle rentals so that future visits by the president, prime minister and other dignitaries can be done based on competitive rates.
The “wastage” of 27,600 pounds has also been reported from the Manchester consulate, which supposedly hired “an unnecessary building”.
In the Bradford consulate, federal auditors have reported a loss of 460,800 pounds by paying commission to a courier company against the rules. “During the course of audit it was observed that Bradford consulate had processed and issued 12,800 visas in 2012-13; however audit was perplexed to observe that the consulate gave 36 pounds per visa to a courier company without approval.”
The audit wasn’t provided any plausible justification for the payment of commission at the cost of oversees Pakistanis. A loss of 334,692 pounds and 456,732 pounds was also reported from consulates in Manchester and Birmingham respectively on the same account of commission to the courier company. However, the spokesperson insisted that the passport handling by a courier company was endorsed following PPRA rules, including the stipulation for competitive tendering.
KARACHI: A very senior and highly influential pilot of Pakistan International Airlines caused a serious air safety hazard when he operated a Trans-Atlantic long haul flight without mandatory rest, putting the lives of over 350 passengers to unnecessary risk in April, it emerged on Sunday.
Sources said the national flag carrier did not check the violation of air safety rules though the PIA spokesperson claimed a thorough inquiry would be conducted into the incident that happened in the first week of April.
The sources said no punitive action was taken against the pilot, Qasim Hayat. The PIA did not share information about the inquiry with the media despite the passage of over three weeks.
This was not the first such incident of compromise on air safety as another pilot, Amir Hashmi, had been involved in such violation at least twice in the past, the sources said. They added that no punitive action had been taken against him, lending courage to other pilots to put the life of air travellers at unnecessary risk.
They said the record of pilot Qasim Hayat (ID No: 38790) was far from ideal / satisfactory. During his tenure in office as the PIA director (flight operations), he did not take any punitive action against Mr Hashmi, also the chief of Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (Palpa), who had violated at least twice the law regarding 24-hour rest.
Even the Civil Aviation Authority did not take any punitive action against Mr Hashmi for violating the CAA law — Air Navigation Order (ANO) — which prescribed at least 24-hour rest for the crew before they operated long flights, the sources explained. The rest was made mandatory because fatigued crew could lead to a disaster, the sources said.
They said Islamabad-based pilot Qasim Hayat was scheduled to fly from the capital on April 5 to Lahore, where he had to stay and take rest for around 39 hours before flying to Toronto on April 7. But the PIA pilot preferred to delay his travel to Lahore until April 6 night. While he reached Lahore in the late hours of April 6 via PK 655, he did not take complete rest and embarked upon the journey to Canada early next morning (April 7). By doing this, the senior pilot exposed the life of over 350 Toronto-bound passengers to serious and unnecessary danger, the sources said.
When the airline was asked by Dawn about the departure and arrival time and date of the Islamabad-Lahore flight that the senior pilot had taken and the departure time of the Lahore-Toronto flight in the first week of April, the PIA did not answer initially. But after repeated requests by this reporter to get an answer, PIA spokesperson Aamir Memon said: “Your query highlights the concern PIA considers sacrosanct. We are verifying the matter in all areas of airline operations and will conduct a thorough inquiry and take appropriate action.”
Attempts to approach Mr Hayat could not succeed as he left for the US to spend his vacation soon after his return from Canada to Pakistan on April 10.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Monday that the two-day visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping will usher in a new era of development in Pakistan.
Talking to the top executives of three leading Chinese companies, China Huaneng Group, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and Zonergy Corporation at the prime minister house, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the government would extend all possible facilitation to the Chinese companies to ensure timely completion of the planned projects.
The premier appreciated the role of the companies for undertaking various projects in Pakistan including ones that are part of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (PCEC) Project.
He said that Pakistan is facing acute shortage of energy and the government has made a commitment to the people of Pakistan to meet this shortage during its tenure, hence a lot of emphasis is being laid on timely completion of these projects, particularly those in the energy sector.
Nawaz was pleased to note that ICBC, the largest bank in the world, will look into the possibility of setting up economic zones in Pakistan.
Leaders of the Chinese delegation said the strong Pakistan-China friendship provides an excellent platform for boosting business relations between the two countries and said they are pleased to be part of building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Federal Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Muhammad Asif, Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan's Ambassador to China Masood Khalid and Secretary Water and Power Younus Dagha also attended the meeting.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Islamabad on his maiden visit to Pakistan on Monday. The much anticipated visit is the first by a Chinese president to Pakistan after nine years.
The Chinese president was received at the Noor Khan airbase by President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif and members of the prime minister's cabinet.
Accompanying the Chinese president is a high-level delegation comprising businessmen, high-level functionaries of the Communist Party of China and senior government officials.
A 21-gun salute and guard of honour was presented to welcome the Chinese president.
Children clad in colourful traditional clothes waved Pakistani and Chinese flags and sang anthems of Pakistan-China friendship as the Chinese President and the first lady passed by, Radio Pakistan reported.
The Chinese President shook hands with the children who also showered rose petals on the visiting guest. Traditional folk dance was also presented on the occasion.
KARACHI: Pakistani lawmakers’ call for the government to remain neutral on the escalating crisis in Yemen has evoked a strong response from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries,” UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash said.
Speaking to renowned Emirati newspaper Khaleej Times, Garhash warned Pakistan of having to pay a “heavy price” for taking on what he called an “ambiguous stand”. He added that Pakistan should take a clear position “in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Arab Gulf cooperation Council”.
“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” Gargash tweeted moments after the Pakistani parliament passed the resolution insisting on neutrality in the Yemen conflict.
Gargash went to symbolise Pakistan’s resolution as equivalent of siding up with Iran instead of the Gulf. “Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries,” Gargash said.
“Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments,” he added.
The statement comes a day after the Parliament passed a unanimous resolution vowing to defend Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and the holy places of Makkah and Madinah. None of these locations appear to have so far been threatened by the conflict.
“Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in the fighting in Yemen,” the resolution stated, adding that “the Parliament of Pakistan ... underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis”.
“[Parliament] desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis,” it stated.
The Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against Houthi rebels on March 26 in support of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after they seized the capital and forced him to flee to Aden. The government of Pakistan has so far not announced a decision on Saudi Arabia’s request for Islamabad to join a coalition fighting Houthi rebels by contributing jets, navy ships and ground troops.