Pakistan News

ISLAMABAD: A powerful explosion on Thursday hit Faizabad bridge just after the convoy of the former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf passed by it, DawnNews reported.

Musharraf was being shifted late night from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) to his farmhouse when the huge blast occurred just after the convoy crossed the bridge.

According to sources, almost four to six kilogram of explosive material was planted in a pipeline of a nearby footpath.

The intensity of the blast caused about a foot deep hole in the ground at the site of the incident.

Moreover, the police claimed that the attack was aimed to target the former president.

However, no casualties were reported in the incident.

Musharraf's spokeswoman, Aasia Ishaq, said the retired general was fine and reached his home safely but that it was up to the authorities to make sure nothing happens to him.

''All extremist and terrorist forces want to kill Musharraf,'' said the spokeswoman. ''If anything happens to Musharraf, the government will be responsible.''

The police had registered a case in Islamabad's Secretariat police station against the incident.

The former military dictator was admitted to the AFIC on Jan 3 when he was on his way to a special court set up for his high treason trial for abrogating the constitution and detaining judges in 2007.

However, the general’s convoy took a detour to the hospital in Rawalpindi when he suddenly started suffering from chest pain.

Musharraf had been receiving several threats to his life since the time his trial began.

In April 2013, 45 kilograms of explosives were discovered in a car abandoned near Musharraf’s farmhouse when he was being taken back there after his appearance in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi.

Furthermore, in the same year on Dec 24, the police discovered five kilograms of explosive materials, weapons and ammunition close to the route that former dictator was due to take from his house to the court meanwhile on Dec 30, the police recovered four packets of explosive materials near Musharraf’s farmhouse.

This year on March 10, the Islamabad police chief, the chief commissioner and the Interior Ministry warned that terrorists affiliated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda have planned to target the retired General based on a letter sent to Home Secretary Punjab.

Consequently, the ministry advised extreme vigilance and fool-proof security measures be taken to avoid any untoward incident.

Moreover, the officials in the capital police, interior ministry and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) said yesterday that Musharraf’s personnel security in-charge visited the farmhouse and security around his farmhouse in Islamabad is also being enhanced over his expected arrival there.

 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia loaned $1.5 billion to Pakistan last month to help Islamabad shore up its foreign exchange reserves, meet debt-service obligations and undertake large energy and infrastructure projects, Pakistani officials have told Reuters.

The Saudi assistance has contributed to a sharp recovery of the Pakistani rupee, which rose to a nine-month high of 97.40 from 105.40 against the dollar between March 4 and 12, its strongest rally in 30 years.

“On a personal guarantee of the prime minister, Saudi Arabia has given $1.5 billion, which has helped bail out the rupee,” one senior Pakistani government official close to the deal told Reuters, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to disclose the source and purpose of the funding.

The governor of the Saudi central bank declined to comment, and officials gave no details of the loan terms.


 


Another top official who is based in Lahore said the money went into an account known as the Pakistan Development Fund set up to channel money from “friendly countries” like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We have a promise of a total $3 billion, of which $1.5 billion has been received so far,” the second official said. “Most recently, we got $750 million from the Saudis.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has long enjoyed close relations with the Saudi royal family. After his second term as prime minister was ended by a military coup in 1999, he was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi financier and member of the House of Saud, has described Sharif as “Saudi Arabia''s man in Pakistan”.

Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar confirmed on Wednesday that $1.5 billion was received under the development fund but declined to comment on the source.

“Why do you want to expose our friends?” he told reporters. “The countries who have helped us don''t want us to disclose the source.”


NEW FUND


Dar announced the creation of the new fund on Feb 18, the same day Saudi crown prince and deputy prime minister Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud concluded a three-day-visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan's new army chief, General Raheel Sharif, also met King Abdullah and top Saudi military commanders during a trip to the kingdom two weeks before the new account was set up.

Other high-profile Saudi visitors to Pakistan this year have included Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal and Prince Salman bin Sultan, the country''s deputy defence minister.

According to the finance ministry, gross official reserves - including the latest injection of $1.5 billion - stood at $9.52 billion on March 11. A third loan tranche of $550 million from the International Monetary Fund, expected before the end of March, will push reserves close to $10 billion.


 

Pakistan is expected to receive $150 million from the Islamic Development Bank in March, as well as $150-200 million under the Coalition Support Fund, reimbursements for assistance in the U.S.-led coalition''s Afghanistan war effort.

Pakistan will also launch eurobonds of $500 million in May and plans to raise billions of dollars in privatisation revenue by June.

An increase in foreign investment and remittances by overseas Pakistanis have also helped lift the rupee. Remittances increased by 11 percent to $10.2 billion during the first eight months of this fiscal year.

The finance ministry has also attributed the currency's recovery to punitive action against exporters withholding export receipts abroad and warnings to foreign exchange speculators.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Internet campaigners said Thursday there was no excuse for the government to maintain its ban on YouTube, after a US court ordered the removal of an anti-Islam film.

The video-sharing website has been blocked in Pakistan since September 2012 over its failure to take down the “Innocence of Muslims” movie that sparked furious protests around the world.

A US appeals court on Wednesday ordered Google, which owns YouTube, to remove the film after a lawsuit brought by an actress who says she was tricked into appearing in it.

Pakistani technology think-tank Bytes for All said that with the removal of the crude movie, regarded as highly blasphemous by many Muslims, the government had no reason to maintain the ban.

“We think that now the government of Pakistan has been left with no excuse to continue blocking access to YouTube,” Shahzad Ahmed from Bytes for All told AFP.

“But the ban on YouTube has got more to do with the government's desires and efforts to impose censorship, content filtering and moral policing and we are fighting against them in court through a constitutional petition.”

There was no immediate response from the government.

Religion in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the population are Muslims, is a very sensitive topic and perceived insults to the faith can spark violent reactions.

The American-made “Innocence of Muslims”, triggered protests across Pakistan that left more than 20 people dead.

Free-speech campaigners in Pakistan have complained of creeping censorship in the name of protecting religion or preventing obscenity.

In November 2011 the telecommunications authority tried to ban nearly 1,700 “obscene” words from text messages, which included innocuous terms such as “lotion”, “athlete's foot” and “idiot”.

In 2010 Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over alleged blasphemy.

It continues to restrict hundreds of online links.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will hold long-awaited auctions for 3G and 4G telecoms licences this April, the finance minister said on Friday, a step that could help boost the cash-strapped country’s foreign reserves.

A 3G licence will cost $295 million and a 4G licence will cost $210 million, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said.

He said the government would be looking for full payment, or a 50 per cent payment with the rest to be paid in five equal installments over five years, with an interest rate of three per cent.

There are about 132 million mobile phones in use in Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

The telecommunications market was deregulated in 2004 and foreign firms such as Etisalat have invested heavily in recent years.

HANGU: At least nine suspected militants were killed on Saturday when gunship helicopters pounded insurgent hideouts in Thall village in Hangu district, security officials said.

“Gunship helicopters engaged the hideouts after confirmed reports of the terrorists' presence,” said one of the unnamed security officials.

Officials said the military launched the attack after confirming reports about the presence of militants in Thall.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

According to sources, gunship helicopters pounded suspected militants’ positions in Tora Wari and Dar Samand areas of Thall, following which nine militants were killed whereas several hideouts were destroyed.

Sources added that gunships continued to hover after the shelling whereas panic spread in the area.

Hangu borders the northwestern tribal region of Orakzai, one of Pakistan's seven lawless districts on the Afghan border considered to be the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants.

These were the second air attacks against Pakistani Taliban militants this month in retaliation at strikes by insurgents, which have derailed peace talks.

Earlier this week, at least 35 militants were killed as fighter jets targeted suspected insurgent hideouts in three different tehsils of the North Waziristan tribal region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had authorised the strikes, according to a source in his office.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella grouping of numerous militant factions, has been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, carrying out a number of bomb and gun attacks, often on military targets.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the government, announced on January 29, stalled this week due to a recent surge in insurgent attacks and a claim by a Taliban faction on Sunday that it had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers.

Government mediators have set a ceasefire as a precondition for another round of talks but Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the TTP, on Friday blamed Islamabad for the deadlock and asked the state to declare a ceasefire first.

اسلام آباد: سعودی عرب کے ولی عہد سلمان بن عبدالعزیز اعلیٰ سطح کے وفد کے ہمراہ پاکستان کے تین روزہ سرکاری دورے پر اسلام آباد پہنچ گئے ہیں۔

ڈان نیوز کے مطابق سعودی ولی عہد کی راولپنڈی چکلالہ ایئربیس آمد پر وزیراعظم نوازشریف نے خود ان کا استقبال کیا۔ اس موقع پر انہیں انیس توپوں کی سلامی بھی دی گئی۔

ولی عہد سلمان بن عبدالعزیز کے وفد میں خزانہ و منصوبہ بندی کے وزیر محمد بن سلمان، وزیر تجارت طوافک بن تفضان اور وزیرمملکت برائے امور خارجہ نذار بن عبید بھی شامل ہیں۔

سلمان بن عبدالعزیز تین روزہ دورے کے دوران وزیر اعظم نواز شریف اور صدر ممنون حسین سے بھی ملاقاتیں کریں گے جبکہ دونوں ممالک کے درمیان دفاع اور تجارت کے شعبے میں اہم معاہدوں کا امکان ہے۔

پاکستانی قیادت سعودی شہزادے سے پاکستانی افرادی قوت کو سعودی عرب میں مواقع فراہم کرنے کی بھی بات کرے گی۔

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will get the associate membership of CERN by June this year which will be beneficial for industrial sector, human resource development and technology transfer in key areas of radiofrequency technology.

Head of CERN delegation Dr Sergio Bertolucci said this while addressing a press conference here today along with Chairman Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Dr Ansar Parvez.

Dr Parvez said it will raise the collaboration level between Pakistan and CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research laboratory Geneva.

He said that Pakistan fulfills all the criteria for becoming a CERN associate member, adding that the industrial base and experience of high precision manufacturing enables Pakistan to make significant contributions to the CERN program.

Replying to a question, the PAEC chairman said that collaboration with CERN is not limited to scientific organisations such as PAEC and National Center for Physics (NCP).

“As soon as Pakistan becomes associate member of CERN, it will provide new and innovative avenues of research and development for our scientists and researchers,” he said.

Briefing the media, Dr Bertolucci said Pakistan has incredible potential for advancement in science and technology, adding that Pakistani scientists are talented and there is hope for more sustainable future.

Replying to a question, he said that Pakistan meets the criterion for becoming associate member of CERN, which includes ability of scientists and engineers, capacity and thirdly clear understanding of stakeholders.

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