Sabika Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani scholar participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme in the US, was one of the 10 people killed when a teenage classmate armed with a shotgun and a revolver opened fire in the Santa Fe High School in Texas yesterday.
"We found out about the shooting from a local TV channel and tried, but failed to contact Sabika and her friends," said Sabika's father Abdul Aziz, while adding that they then contacted the YES programme coordinator, who confirmed the news of their daughter's death, "after a four to five hour delay."
According to her father, Sabika — the eldest among three sisters but younger than her brother — was due to return home on June 9. Her family had been counting the days till her return.
Hailing from Karachi, Sabika was described as a brilliant student by her father. She had completed her matriculation from Karachi Public School.
According to the Wall Street Journal, she was an honour roll student at the Santa Fe High School.
US Ambassador David Hale expressed regret at Sabika's death with the following message posted on the US Embassy Pakistan's Facebook page:
"This morning, I called the family of Sabika Sheikh and offered my deepest condolences. As an exchange student, Sabika was a youth ambassador, a bridge between our peoples and cultures. All of us at the US Mission in Pakistan are devastated by and mourn her loss. We will honour her memory."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his condolences in a statement Saturday, saying that “Sabika's death and that of the other victims is heartbreaking and will be mourned deeply both here in the United States, and in Pakistan.”
Aisha Farooqui, the consul general at the Pakistani consulate in Houston, said in an official statement that the US State Department had sent them official confirmation of Sabika's death in the Santa Fe shooting.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika’s family and friends,” a tweet from the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC quoted Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry as saying.
George Lapadat, an exchange student from Romania, who claims that Sabika was one of his friends, took to Facebook to express his grief at Sabika's death.
He said that Sabika "came to the US to learn, to experience, to share and to bring back to her country all the knowledge she acquired during her exchange."
"She was young, vibrant, happy and super-excited to go back to her country. She was going to return in a few days. She has done an amazing job being an ambassador of her country here," the Facebook post read.
Lapadat added: "When she left for this trip, she was supposed to be gone for 10 months... but now she is gone forever."
"And if this [the shooting] is not enough to prove that something is wrong and something needs to change, I don’t know what else would be," he concluded.
Megan Lysaght, manager of the YES programme, sent a letter to students in the program confirming that Sabika Sheikh was killed in the shooting.
“Please know that the YES program is devastated by this loss and we will remember Sabika and her families in our thoughts and prayers,” Lysaght wrote.
She said the program would be holding a moment of silence for Sabika, who is pictured beaming in a shirt that says “Texas” in a photo being shared on social media.
The Pakistan Association of Greater Houston said on Facebook that Sabika was due to go back home to Pakistan for Eidul-Fitr, “May Allah bless her soul and may she RIP,” the statement said.
Additional reporting by Muhammad Raza and Naveed Siddiqui.
چین کے صدر شی جن پنگ نے روسی ہم منصب ولادیمیر پیوٹن دنیا کی طاقتور ترین شخصیت کا اعزاز چھین لیا ہے جبکہ کئی برس بعد پہلی بار ایک پاکستانی شخصیت بھی اس فہرست کا حصہ بنی ہے۔
امریکی میگزین فوربس نے سال 2018 کی طاقتور ترین شخصیات کی فہرست جاری کی جس میں دنیا بھر سے 75 افراد کا انتخاب کیا گیا۔
آرمی چیف جنرل قمر جاوید باجوہ اس فہرست میں شامل واحد پاکستانی شخصیت ہیں جبکہ ٹاپ 10 میں بھی ایک مسلم رہنما موجود ہیں۔
پاکستانی آرمی چیف دنیا کے 68 ویں طاقتور ترین شخص قرار پائے جبکہ سعودی ولی عہد شہزادہ محمد بن سلمان 8 ویں اور بھارتی وزیراعظم نریندرا مودی 9 ویں نمبر پر رہے۔
امریکی جریدے نے آخری بار یہ فہرست 2016 میں جاری کی تھی جس میں مسلسل چوتھی بار ولادیمیر پیوٹن طاقتور شخص قرار پائے تھے تاہم اس بار یہ اعزاز چینی صدر کے نام رہا، جبکہ امریکی صدر ڈونلڈ ٹرمپ تیسرے، جرمن چانسلر اینجیلا مرکل چوتھے، دنیا کے امیر ترین شخص اور ایمازون کے بانی جیف بیزوز 5 ویں، پوپ فرانسس چھٹے، مائیکرو سافٹ کے بانی 7 ویں اور گوگل کے شریک بانی لیری پیج 10 ویں نمبر پر کھڑے ہیں۔
2016 کی فہرست میں ڈونلڈ ٹرمپ دنیا کے دوسرے طاقتور ترین شخص قرار پائے تھے جبکہ جرمن چانسلر تیسرے نمبر پر تھیں مگر چوتھے نمبر پر موجود چینی صدر چھلانگ لگا پر پہلی پوزیشن پر چلے گئے۔
فیس بک کے بانی مارک زکربرگ 13 ویں، ایرانی سپریم لیڈر آیت اللہ خامنہ ای 17 ویں نمبر پر ہیں۔
حیران کن طور پر سعودی فرمانروا جو گزشتہ فہرست میں 16 ویں نمبر پر تھے، اس بار فہرست سے ہی آﺅٹ ہوگئے ہی، جبکہ متحدہ عرب امارات کے صدر خلیفہ بن زاید النہیان 43 ویں اور ترک صدر رجب طیب اردگان 48 ویں نمبر پر رہے۔
واضح رہے کہ فہرست مرتب کرنے کے لیے منتخب کیے گئے افراد کے حوالے سے سب سے پہلے یہ دیکھا جاتا ہے کہ ان کا، آبادی کے کتنے حصے پر اثر و رسوخ قائم ہے۔
اس کے بعد یہ جانچ کی جاتی ہے کہ ان افراد میں سے ہر ایک کو، مالیاتی وسائل پر کتنا اور کس حد تک کنٹرول حاصل ہے۔
سربراہان مملکت کے حوالے سے ملک کی جی ڈی پی دیکھی جاتی ہے جبکہ کمپنی مالکان کے لیے ان کے اثاثوں اور ریونیو کا جائزہ لیا جاتا ہے۔
فہرست میں شامل کیے جانے والے افراد کے حوالے سے تیسرے نمبر پر اس بات کا تعین کیا جاتا ہے کہ انہیں کتنے شعبوں میں اثر و رسوخ حاصل ہے۔
چوتھے نمبر پر اس بات کا یقین کیا جاتا ہے کہ فہرست میں شامل افراد اپنی طاقت متحرک طور پر استعمال کر رہے ہیں یا نہیں۔
RAWALPINDI: There were slight problems with delivering baggage to passengers at the new Islamabad International Airport (IIA) which have now been resolved, according to a statement issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
No major incidents or disruptions were witnessed on the first day the airport started operation.
“This is ample proof that the [CAA] has rehearsed extensively before commencing its operations otherwise such giant projects do have a few problems in the beginning,” the statement says.
It goes on to say that all operations at the new airport are being monitored and that the few initial problems are being addressed on an emergency basis. All stakeholders, including the airlines, are coordinating to ensure smooth operations.
Airside operations, the most sensitive part of airport operations, are also going smoothly, it says.
The transition to the new airport was conducted without disturbance of the flight schedule and such transitions are generally achieved after closing down airports for a day or two, the statement says.
The new airport can seat 4,500 passengers in its lounges at a time and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. It is the largest airport in the country and can serve nine million passengers and 150 metric ton cargo every year while its modular design enables expansion so it can serve 25 million passengers every year by 2025.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2018
LAHORE / NAROWAL: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal narrowly escaped an assassination attempt during a corner meeting in his constituency in Narowal on Sunday — an act that was condemned by prominent individuals, political parties and other institutions in the country, which is set to go to the polls in a few months’ time.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) retired Capt Arif Nawaz told Dawn that they had arrested a suspect, a 22-year-old man, from the spot in the Kanjroor town of the Shakargarh tehsil, who confessed to opening fire on the minister due to the Khatm-i-Nubuwat issue.
The IGP said they were also investigating involvement in the incident of any facilitators.
IGP says suspect has been arrested and is being interrogated
A couple of months ago, a shoe was hurled at Interior Minister Ahsan at a PML-N workers’ convention in Narowal, his hometown.
District Police Officer (DPO) Imran Kishwar told reporters the suspect — Abid Husain, a resident of nearby Verum village — had managed to slip into the corner meeting. He apparently carried a 30-bore weapon, which he pulled out and fired at the minister from a distance of some 15 yards. The incident happened moments after Mr Iqbal had finished his speech.
The police officer said the minister suffered a bullet wound in his right shoulder, whereas later reports said the bullet had landed in Mr Iqbal’s abdomen after grazing his arm.
He was rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital, Narowal. Witnesses and police said the minister was lucky in that the people standing around him overpowered the assailant before he could fire a second shot at his target.
The policemen then arrested the suspect, seized the weapon and shifted him to a police station.
The DHQ hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Muhammad Younus, said the bullet had fractured Mr Iqbal’s arm before hitting him in his abdomen area.
The minister was later airlifted to the Services Hospital, Lahore, to undergo surgery.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who was present at the airport when the helicopter carrying the patient landed there, said in a tweet that Mr Iqbal was in high spirits.
Police had increased security at the hospital and high-ups visited the medical facility to check the security arrangements.
Punjab Minister Zaeem Qadri told media personnel that doctors were conducting a procedure to take out the bullet from the minister’s abdomen. He said Mr Iqbal was conscious and talking to people around him.
State Minister for Interior Tallal Chaudhry confirmed the arrest and criticised a court order regarding reduction in security for prominent individuals.
Ahmed Iqbal, the minister’s son, urged the nation to pray for his father’s recovery.
The attack, along with condemnations, brought back fearful memories of the last general elections, in 2013. Violence and threats in the lead-up to the polls had then prevented many major political parties, including the PPP, ANP and MQM, from freely canvassing for votes.
The security situation would most probably be on top of the agenda for the meeting of the PML-N convened on Monday.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack. Mr Abbasi also issued directives to the Punjab IGP to submit a report on the incident.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the Punjab chief minister called the interior minister and inquired about his health.
Maryam Nawaz said in a tweet: “Shooter is only a vehicle. Those patronising them, those inciting them for political gains & those using them to settle scores real CULPRITS.”
Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and PML-Q’s Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi also condemned the attack. “We have to put a stop to such incidents,” said Mr Zardari.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman expressed regrets at the incident and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah condemned it.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also condemned the attack on the minister.
“Political differences notwithstanding, physical targeting of any politician is simply not acceptable. Sadly, intolerance and violence are becoming endemic in our society,” Shireen Mazari said in a tweet.
Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq demanded that the hidden elements behind the incident be uncovered.
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa condemned the incident and sent his best wishes for Mr Iqbal’s early recovery.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2018
A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor on Monday lashed out former premier Nawaz Sharif's counsel Khawaja Harris for "needlessly questioning" the prosecution witness regarding non-admissible documents.
"Mr Khawaja is basing his questions on documents that we [the prosecution] are not relying upon," NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar claimed during the Avenfield corruption reference hearing, adding that the cross-examination must be limited to "relevant facts".
The argument between the two lawyers occurred when Harris was cross-questioning the star prosecution witness Wajid Zia, who had been the head of the joint investigation team (JIT) which had collected evidence in the Panama Papers case on Supreme Court's orders.
Harris had questioned Zia about the international law firm Guernica, that was hired by the JIT during the investigation of Panama Papers case and had provided Nawaz's iqama as well as Capital FZE's trading license.
However, the communication with the law firm had not been included in the JIT report, neither had it been exhibited in court as evidence since it was classified as a source document.
Objecting to Harris' questioning, the NAB prosecutor during today's hearing, said that it was not legally allowed for the defence to refer to source documents during cross-questioning. He further said that Nawaz had already admitted that he had been an employee in an earlier Supreme Court hearing. The court upheld Muzaffar's argument and forbade Harris to question Zia about source documents any further.
Muzaffar further said that Harris had asked "similar questions 15 times", to which the latter replied that he had to ask the same thing in different ways "to reach the truth".
"It has been 11 days yet his [defence counsel's] cross-questioning has not come to an end," Muzaffar railed. "He does not want to get to the truth, he wants to intimidate [the witness]."
A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on July 28 had directed NAB to file references against Nawaz and his children in six weeks in the accountability court and directed the trial court to decide the references within six months.
The Supreme Court also assigned Justice Ijazul Ahsan a supervisory role to monitor the progress of the accountability court proceedings.
The former premier and his sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been named in all three NAB references, while Maryam and husband Safdar have been named only in the Avenfield reference.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday accused India of harassing its diplomats and their families in the country and threatened to pull out the families if the intimidation did not stop.
A demarche was made to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and external affairs ministry in Delhi, a diplomatic source revealed.
“It is becoming difficult for the Pakistani diplomats posted in India to keep their families with them due to increase in harassment incidents,” the source said.
It has become difficult for Pakistan embassy staff to keep their families there, reads a demarche made to Indian high commission
Harassment of families would not be tolerated at all, he maintained.
He pointed to the incidents over the past three days in which the children of Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner were stopped and harassed on their way to school. In another incident a senior diplomat was harassed while moving in Delhi.
The source said diplomatic vehicles were being stopped on different pretexts and searched. Members of diplomatic staff are also abused in public and a number of accidents of vehicles have happened.
Indian employees of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, he said, were also being stopped from coming to work.
Relations between Pakistan and India have historically been tense, and the tensions aggravated under the BJP government.
Frequent ceasefire violations have been reported on the Line of Control and Working Boundary by India; in fact the highest number of breaches took place last year since the 2003 ceasefire accord took effect leaving 87 people dead.
Meanwhile, former president and co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari in a statement condemned harassment of Pakistani diplomats and declared it a serious violation of diplomatic norms.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2018
ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Tuesday endorsed ‘recalibration of foreign policy’ for making it more regionally focused and said the fight against terrorism would be dictated by national interests.
“The committee agreed on the importance of recalibrating the foreign policy framework to bring more focus on countries of the region,” said a statement issued by PM Office following the meeting that was held to review international and regional situation.
The meeting took place after a US-led move — which also involved Britain, France and Germany — got Pakistan included in the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list, although the decision would take effect from June. During this period Pakistan and the FATF would negotiate the action plan that the former would pursue after being put on grey list.
National interests to dictate fight against terrorism
Presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the NSC meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Miftah Ismail, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Hayat and the three services chiefs.
The committee, which is the highest civil-military coordination forum, agreed to launch new initiatives to enhance economic partnerships with ‘friendly countries in the region and beyond’ for win-win cooperation. No specifics were given about the economic partnerships that Pakistan wants to develop.
Meanwhile, the US has continued to put pressure on Pakistan to act against the alleged Haqqani network sanctuaries and address the shortcomings in its counter-illicit financing regime.
Senior US official Lisa Curtis repeated this message during her two-day trip that ended on Tuesday.
It was decided at the NSC meeting that the counter-terrorism and counter-extremism actions would continue. “Our policies will continue to be formulated and implemented in light of our national interests,” it added.
“Consistent and continued engagement with Afghanistan,” was underscored at the meeting as the participants reiterated the contours of the strategy to deal with issues emanating from Afghanistan such as effective border management and early repatriation of Afghan refugees.
The NSC only reaffirmed commitment to strengthen China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project noting that it was contributing to the development of Pakistan, the region and beyond.
The members were particularly encouraged by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s recent visit to Moscow. During his visit last week, Pakistan and Russia announced setting up of a commission for promoting military cooperation and expressed alarm over Daesh’s growing footprint in Afghanistan and the indifference of US-led Nato forces to the problem.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2018