Pakistan News

LONDON: A pilot believed to be working for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been arrested at a British airport on suspicion of being drunk in charge of a plane, police said on Thursday.

Officers were called on Wednesday evening to the airport serving the northern English cities of Leeds and Bradford where they arrested a 54-year-old man from Pakistan, a statement from West Yorkshire Police said.

The exact circumstances of the arrest were not entirely clear, although the pilot was not thought to be flying at the time.

“At about 10pm last night police were called to Leeds Bradford International Airport where they arrested an airline pilot on suspicion of carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink,” police said.

“The 54-year-old man, from Pakistan, is currently in custody.”

PIA has immediately grounded and suspended one of its pilots upon violation of rules, a PIA Spokesperson said.

In a statement issued, he said the pilot was the captain of PK-776 from Leeds-Bradford to Islamabad.

"Due to unavailability of any alternate, the captain of the flight had to make a night stop at Leeds. Later, the flight departed with a delay of 15 hours."

He said the pilot is still in custody of British Police for further investigation.

Referring to another incident of indecent behavior by three flight stewards in Manchester, the spokesperson said that the management has also suspended them.

They were taken into custody by Manchester Police on complaint made by a British lady. The investigation is still in process.

The spokesperson said that PIA is not responsible for violation of rules or code of conduct committed by its employees.

"PIA will never provide legal or any kind of assistance nor support for individual's act of violation.

"Upon receipt of final report the violators will face further severe action according to rules of corporation," he concluded.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced plans earlier this month to sell off a 26 per cent stake in the ailing national carrier, one of the poorest performing state-run companies in the country.

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan on Thursday raised the issue of American drone strikes in its tribal regions at the United Nations Security Council, calling for their cessation and seeking “urgent” talks to resolve the problem.

“Drone strikes infringe our sovereignty, violate international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, cause civilian casualties and are detrimental to the combined efforts to fight terrorism,” Ambassador Masood Khan told the 15-nation council during a discussion on the situation in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is facilitating the Afghan reconciliation process, but progress is attainable only if all stakeholders share the goals of the peace process," Ambassador Masood Khan said.

“We need to pursue this goal together, with unity of purpose,” the Pakistani envoy said.

Noting that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called attention to the adverse consequences of the use of armed drones, the Pakistani ambassador said: “We call for cessation of drone strikes. Urgent and intense dialogue can help resolve this issue.”

In relation to the issue of drone strikes, Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva, had stated that Pakistan, a primary target of drone attacks, had suffered a heavy loss of innocent lives apart from widespread social and economic costs.

While addressing the opening session of the 24th Human Rights Council, he had said that in recent years, there had been severe human rights violations across the globe, as a result of indiscriminate use of force in the context of counter-terrorism efforts.

Akram had said these included illegal detentions, renditions, and extrajudicial killings including through use of drone attacks.

The All Parties Conference (APC) had recommended raising of the drone issue at the United Nations.

US drone attacks are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington views them as a vital tool in their fight against Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

MUZAFFARABAD: The intra-Kashmir trade through the two crossing points on the Line of Control (LoC) may meet a tragic fate as Indian officials have refused to accept items which they allege are not from Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

On Aug 29, Indian authorities at their trade facilitation centre in Salamabad, on the other side of Chakothi, returned two trucks from AJK carrying mangoes, saying that the produce belonged to Pakistan, and not Azad Kashmir.

The decision caused anger not only here but also among traders on the India-held side. They went on a strike on Sept 3, saying the standard operating procedure (SOP) had no mention of the origin of a product.

The same day, Indian officials conveyed to their counterparts in AJK that trade could not be carried on for some time because the traders on their side had gone on a strike.

On Wednesday, the AJK Trade and Travel Authority (Tata), which deals with intra-Kashmir trade and travel, sent a written request to officials on the other side for a meeting at the Kaman Bridge on Monday to sort out the issue.

On Monday, Tata Director General retired Brig Mohammad Ismail himself went to the crossing point at 10.30am, but no one turned up from the other side.

In the afternoon, Ehsanul Haq, custodian of intra-Kashmir trade at the Salamabad centre, met Azad Kashmir’s Trade Facilitation Officer Basharat Iqbal and handed him a copy of a ‘notification’ from India’s Central Board of Excise and Customs, stating that the goods which had their origin in Pakistan, and not in AJK, could not be allowed to be traded across the LoC.

Talking to Dawn, Brig Ismail said he was disappointed by the attitude of the Indian government as it was returning even those goods which both sides had included in the list of 21 tradable items.

He said everybody knew that the two parts of Kashmir were not producing most of those items in bulk and they were coming from India and Pakistan.

“But while imposing restrictions on us, they want us to accept whatever they send from there,” he said.

The DG said that since the trade was on a barter basis, it could hardly be carried forward with such an attitude by the Indian authorities.

“Returning trucks laden with fresh fruit and vegetables simply means inflicting huge losses on traders from this side,” he said, adding that the AJK authorities had never returned a single truck from the other side.

He said the events unfolding over the past few weeks suggested that the Indian government was looking for excuses to shut down this activity.

“We want this trade to continue, but on the basis of equality and mutual understanding.”

The trade across the Line of Control is conducted four days a week — from Tuesday to Friday.

MIRAMSHAH: At least two militants were killed as security forces repulsed an attack on a checkpost in Dattakhel Tehsil of North Waziristan tribal region whereas one solider was also wounded in the attack that took place early on Wednesday.

An indefinite curfew was imposed on the Bannu-Miramshah Road following the incident.

"The militants had launched a huge attack on the Khar Qamar checkpost at night and after a gunbattle of about half an hour, the attack was repulsed during which two militants were killed," an Inter Public Service Relations (ISPR) officer confirmed.

The official added that one solider was also inured in the attack.

Meanwhile curfew was imposed on Bannu-Miranshah road for an indefinite period after the attack and security forces were carrying out a search operation in the area.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday gave a go ahead for privatising 26 per cent shares of the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in “an open and transparent manner to make it competitive and service-oriented.”

He also directed the Ministry of Privatisation and Civil Aviation Division to initiate the process of privatisation, while ensuring complete transparency, adherence of all relevant codal formalities and guidelines of the superior courts.

This would not only help provide people quality service, but would also improve the overall image of the national flag carrier locally and internationally, said an official press release.

The prime minister gave these directions while chairing a meeting on PIA at the Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad. Sharif said the government was fully committed to reform and restructure all the ailing state enterprises.

He also directed the PIA management to focus on their operational efficiency, cut down their wasteful expenses and promote qualified professionals to compete modern day environment in the air transport industry.

Earlier, while reviewing performance of the PIA, PM Sharif expressed his deep concerns over mismanagement in its affairs and was saddened to observe that the airline had not come up to the expectations of the people.

The premier was also briefed about the problems and issues confronting the PIA, such as its declining service standard, lack of reliability and punctuality, pilferages, lack of quality manpower, training and job rotation, ageing fleet, over-staffing and high loans resulting in heavy financial cost.

He directed the PIA management to cut down its losses in the short term, in order to make it a viable entity for privatisation. The prime minister also directed that all the policy decisions to revitalise the public sector organisation would be made by its board of governors.

Moreover, the premier directed to ensure full transparency in the decision-making process to protect public interest.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Parvez Rashid, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other senior officials.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will release former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as soon as this month to help advance peace efforts in neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief said on Tuesday.

Baradar is one of the four men who founded the Taliban movement in 1994, and is believed to be a close aide and one of the most trusted commanders of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban. He was captured from the port city of Karachi in February, 2010.

Afghanistan has been pushing Pakistan to release former Baradar, whose release they believe would prove fruitful in negotiations with Taliban militants prior to the withdrawal of US and Nato forces from the war-torn nation.

“In principle, we have agreed to release him. The timing is being discussed. It should be very soon ... I think within this month,” Sartaj Aziz, advisor on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told news agency Reuters.

Aziz added Baradar would not be handed over to Afghanistan directly as some in Kabul had hoped, and would be instead released straight into Pakistan.

A member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, set up to coordinate peace efforts, welcomed the prospective release but called on Pakistan to coordinate his release with them.

“We hope that they work in coordination with Afghanistan's High Peace Council,” said Mohammad Ismail Qasemyar.

Karzai at the end of August asked Pakistan to help open direct dialogue between his government and the Taliban. He was infuriated by the opening in June of a Taliban office in Qatar, considered a precursor towards talks with US officials.

Karzai's office said it would respond later to Baradar's prospective release, and Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP the militia was assessing the situation.

The announcement of Baradar's prospective release comes days after the release of seven Taliban prisoners by Pakistan, including Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, brother of Mullah Dadullah Akhund, a brutal commander killed by British forces in Helmand.

This was the third batch of Taliban detainees to be released by Islamabad. Twenty-six prisoners were set free in two groups last year.

Pakistan said it had freed the militants ‘to facilitate’ the troubled Afghan reconciliation process. However, news of release of Taliban fighters last week was coldly received in Kabul where authorities downplayed it as a ‘minor step’.

ISLAMABAD: Asif Ali Zardari, one of the most powerful civilian presidents the country has ever had, is set to vacate Aiwan-i-Sadr on Sunday after holding the office for a record five years.

He will make history by becoming the first elected president to complete his constitutional tenure and to be replaced by an elected individual.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, the President’s spokesman, told Dawn that after guard of honour on Sunday, Mr Zardari would leave for Lahore, where he would be received by PPP leaders at Bilawal House. He confirmed that his belongings had already been sent to Karachi.

During his days as president, Mr Zardari remained in the eye of the storm for holding dual office and faced allegations of using the Aiwan-i-Sadr for partisan politics and ignoring key issues facing the country. But on the other hand, his supporters say he made history by taking steps for strengthening democracy and made possible the transition of power from one civilian government to another.

Mr Zardari kept on drawing his power as chairman of PPP during most of his tenure, but the situation is likely to change as Mamnoon Hussain’s traits are seen to be in contrast. He has no personal powerbase like Mr Zardari and hence the office of president will now once again become a ceremonial figurehead.

Mr Zardari’s fans and followers praise him for his role in the passage of important pieces of legislation, including laws empowering women against domestic violence and sexual harassment. They also point out the passage of 18th Amendment as a major achievement of Mr Zardari, pointing out that he voluntarily surrendered his vast power to strengthen parliamentary democracy.

His aides describe as baseless propaganda the reports that Mr Zardari will spend most of his post-retirement life abroad and insist that he will stay in Pakistan and reorganise PPP which suffered a crushing defeat in the May 11 elections. Many criticise him and his policies for a decline in the popularity graph of the party, but his aides defend him by saying that he faced crisis after crises, and even managing to survive in this environment was an achievement. They cite the tension with judiciary, Memogate scandal and ‘conspiracies by state and non-state actors’ as some of the reasons which kept him restricted.

Mr Zardari rose to prominence after his marriage with Benazir Bhutto in 1987. Between 1993 and 1996, he held various cabinet positions in the second Benazir-led government. He was arrested on charges of corruption in late 1996, following the collapse of the Benazir government. Although incarcerated, he nominally served in parliament after being elected to the national assembly in 1990 and Senate in 1997.

He was released from jail in 2004 and went into self-exile in Dubai, but returned home in December 2007 following Ms Bhutto’s assassination, days after promulgation of the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by then military ruler retired General Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Zardari was one of the beneficiaries of the NRO which was purportedly aimed at promoting national reconciliation, fostering mutual trust and confidence amongst holders of public office and removing the vestiges of political vendetta and victimization. As the co-chairman of PPP he led his party to victory in the 2008 general elections. He spearheaded a coalition that forced Gen Musharraf to resign, and was elected president on Sept 6, 2008.

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