ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa reached Tehran on Sunday on a three-day official visit, the first by a Pakistani army chief in over two decades.
His arrival in Tehran was announced by military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor through a tweet. No formal statement was, however, issued revealing the caution with which the two sides are dealing with the visit that is seen by many as a major development in bilateral relations.
“COAS arrived Tehran, Iran on official visit. Scheduled to meet Iranian civilian and military leadership,” the ISPR director general tweeted.
It is expected that besides his meetings with top Iranian leadership, the army chief would also meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
The visit is expected to narrow the trust deficit between the two neighbours that profess to have ‘brotherly relations’, but have for long been on the opposite sides of the regional alignment and global politics. Their geo-political differences have manifested themselves in lack of cooperation on security issues between the two neighbours.
Key concern in Islamabad vis-à-vis Tehran is the growing Indian influence in Iran, which has predominantly been on the economic and trade side. There have been suspicions about India using Iranian soil for espionage in Pakistan. Tehran, meanwhile, is worried about presence of terrorist groups along the Pak-Iran border that have been targeting Iranian border forces.
Islamabad further has reservations about Tehran’s involvement in disputes in Arab world. Iran on the other hand suspiciously looks at Pakistan’s close ties with Arab monarchies.
Gen Bajwa has since the early days of his tenure worked on improving relations with Tehran. In this regard, he met Iranian envoy to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost several times over the past few months – at least three of which were made public. His approach towards Iran was driven by his understanding that “enhanced Pak-Iran military-to-military cooperation will have positive impact on regional peace and stability”.
The move for improvement in ties has been necessitated by evolving regional situation particularly the emergence of the militant Islamic State group as a major security threat and US plans for an open-ended stay in Afghanistan, which both sides see as detrimental for their interests in the region.
Director General Noor Institute of Strategic Studies Tehran Dr Sadollah Zarei, speaking at Islamabad Policy Institute, said: “Trump’s new policy for the region has made it all more important for the two neighbours to cooperate.”
Iran was one of the few countries to voice support for Pakistan after the latter was severely criticised by President Trump while unveiling Washington’s new policy for the region. Later Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif toured Tehran as part of his visit to regional countries for consultations on Trump’s policy.
Dr Zarei said there was a strong desire in Tehran for better relations with Pakistan.
Earlier visits by Gen Raheel Sharif (2016) and Gen Pervez Musharraf (2000) were not official visits by the army chief. Gen Raheel had accompanied the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif on a trip to Tehran for attempted mediation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, whereas Gen Musharraf went there as the country’s chief executive for participation in ECO Summit.
Analysts believe the start of a military dialogue between Pakistan and Iran would grant credibility to Pakistan’s policy of neutrality in the Middle East/Gulf even if they aren’t immediately able to make major strides towards better relations.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2017
LAHORE: According to Motorway Control Room, Motorway M-2 from Lillah interchange to Lahore, M-3 from Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad and M-4 from Gojra to Faisalabad have been closed for all kinds of traffic due to dense smog and zero visibility.
The road users can access to Helpline 130 and Control Room number 051-9231001 to avoid inconvenience.
The drivers have also been advised to reduce speed and maintain safe distance.
Meanwhile, Punjab government is making concerted efforts for the prevention of smog across the province.
According to spokesman of the provincial government Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, 236 industrial units, accused of spreading pollution, have been sealed while FIR has been lodged against 60 units.
He said that farmers are being informed about the adverse effects of smoke from burning of munds of rice crop. –Samaa/app
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has returned the petitions filed by a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader seeking detailed scrutiny of funding records submitted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), observing that the petitions had been filed under a law that no longer exists.
In two letters sent to PTI leader Farrukh Habib, the ECP pointed out that the applications had been filed under the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 and the Political Parties Rules (PPR) 2002. However, since those laws were repealed in the Elections Act 2017, the ECP could not take action under them.
“The commission has decided that the petition may be returned with directions to re-submit the same in accordance with the provisions of Elections Act 2017, and the Election Rules 2017,” the identical letters read.
Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, who had moved the petitions on behalf of Mr Habib, said there was no bar on the ECP to take cognisance of the matter raised in the petitions. “Both parties have submitted their accounts under the Political Parties Order 2002, hence as per the law, action could only be taken under the PPO because the complaint is with regard to the period between 2013 and 2015 when the PPO was in force,” he remarked.
Petitions filed under law that no longer exists
He was of the view that the present law could be used to initiate proceedings against both parties, but punitive action would have to be enforced under the previous law.
He said the decision would also raise questions pertaining to the audit of the PTI’s funding records.
“If the PTI is reluctant to initiate proceedings against the other parties under the same law, it may also ask for same treatment, or at least it will give impression of selective justice,” he noted.
In two separate ‘complaints’ filed with the ECP, Mr Habib, a central leader of the PTI, had accused the PML-N and the PPP of concealing their sources of funds and companies registered by them in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, and sought cancellation of election symbols allocated to them “for their failure to meet legal requirements for eligibility to obtain the symbols”.
According to the complaint against the PML-N, the party had relied on non-quality control review-rated firms for audits, and had adopted an incorrect reporting format. In all divisions, no sources of funds were declared, the accounts were contradictory, did not comply with the mandatory requirements of the PPO or the PPR, and violated Article 6 and 13 of the PPO read with Rules 4 and 6 of the PPR.
“The respondent political party may be generating money from prohibited sources but since they have consciously failed to provide any information, it is clear that the respondent political party is attempting to conceal where the money is being generated from,” the complaint read.
It said that the PML-N had received funds under the category “other revenue” which failed to disclose what the sources of revenue were or explain how such exorbitant funds could be raised under the category of ‘other revenue’. “This revenue could be coming from a foreign company or foreign government or from a multinational, but no disclosure is being made clearly in order to conceal this information so that nobody can question the person or organisation which is sending these funds,” said the petition. It alleged that the PML-N operated a private limited company in the UK, which had not been disclosed in the documents submitted to the ECP.
According to the complaint filed against the PPP, the party’s account statements between 2009 and 2012 were not available either due to non-filing or for reasons best known to the party. The accounts of 2013 began with an opening balance of Rs41.47m from previous years, however, where that opening balance was generated from was not disclosed. “Therefore,” the complaint said, “no source of opening funds in the accounts of the year 2013 has been disclosed, thus it was upon this August Commission to have asked for it under Rule 10 of the PPR, which was not done and were therefore not looked into.”
The complaint said the PPP had a company, the PPP LLC, registered under US laws to collect funds for the party. As per details of the company, the funds had been collected from foreign nationals and the government of Pakistan in large amounts. “This is against the spirit of the PPO as contributions from foreigners or the Government of Pakistan, are prohibited under the PPO. Furthermore, the PPP has failed to disclose the existence of this LLC established in USA.”
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2017
KARACHI: There is a wall mural in the compound of a rundown textile mill located in the Hindu-majority Mahalaxmi area of Mumbai that carries a haunting verse penned down by Urdu poet Muqtida Hasan Nida Fazli in the aftermath of Partition: “Hindu bhi sukoon se hai Musalmaan bhi sukoon se, Insaan pareshaan yahaan bhi hai wahaan bhi” (Hindus are at peace, Muslims are too, it’s the humans who are worried here [India] and there [Pakistan] too).
While it is rare to come across such reminders of coexistence on the streets of India and Pakistan, it is even less common to chance upon the Urdu nastaliq script in the Hindu-dominated areas of India. Recently, however, artists Zeenat Kulavoor in Mumbai and Sanki King in Karachi, intent on bringing the language to the fore, initiated the project Pehle Aap to convey messages close to their hearts using the art form of murals, and in the process, draw their communities together. Using their distinct forms and perspectives, the two artists began a conversation in Urdu through murals on four walls — two each in Mumbai and Karachi. “You get to see the Urdu script in India only in Muslim-clustered areas and, that too, as part of signage holders for stores or outside a masjid. With the location of my wall, I wanted to break this Muslim-centric aspect and use Urdu in a neutral and artistic manner in a space where the younger minds can relate to the message and appreciate it,” Kulavoor told Dawn.
To begin the conversation, Kulavoor painted Pehle Aap in her first mural in the compound of Shakti mills. She began the conversation with the phrase which translates to “after you”, as a sign of respect towards popular street artist Abdullah, commonly referred to as Sanki King.
Sanki, a close follower of Pakistani poet Jaun Elia’s work, responded to Kulavoor’s mural with a series titled Inqilaab, which has been inspired by a poem by Elia.
“Both of my walls are painted in North Nazimabad in Karachi, where I live. One of my murals reads: “Pak o Hindustan ke funkaro; Aqal o deewangi ke dildaro; Bin tumhare hai shauq ke rumna; Tum se hai aab e Jhelum o Jamna” (O artisans of Pakistan and India, the ones enamoured by wisdom and insanity, zest amp and zeal go astray without you, the flow of Jhelum and Jamuna is there because of you),” Sanki King said, adding that he had already planned two other murals in a different area to keep the conversation going.
Given Urdu’s dying popularity and influence in India and other parts of the world, and the cultural disconnect among the youth, what inspired the two artists to begin this conversation?
Recently, Sanket Avlani — the curator of the project — got the chance to tag along with a friend to meet artists who specialised in Urdu calligraphy in ‘purani Dilli’ (old Delhi). The katibs (calligraphers) not only gave them a glimpse into their writing styles but also shared the reason why Urdu script was fading out in the region.
“They believe the language has suffered because it is often linked to a particular people, religion or agenda. And that’s what needs to be changed,” Avlani told Dawn, emphasising the language’s role as a vehicle of peace.
In order to explore the origins and history of the nastaliq script, and to re-introduce it to aspiring artistes, Avlani and his team at Design Fabric — a Mumbai-based arts and design publication — produced the “Urdu Issue”, an audio-visual exhibition involving photography, the work of calligraphers, poetry recitals, short films, and murals — inspired by Urdu.
“Among the various projects introduced under the “Urdu Issue”, the collaborative aspect of Pehle Aap stood out the most. We [the team and Sanki] got to know each other through Skype calls and Facebook, and never expected the output to be this meaningful,” said Madhuvanthi Mohan, community manager and creative producer at Design Fabric.
The organisers have announced an open call to other artists based in India and Pakistan to join in and continue the mural conversation in their respective cities in order to keep alive the universality of language.
Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2017
Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has announced to provide free education for transgenders across the country, DawnNews learned on Tuesday.
The university, that offers distance learning, will offer education from matriculation to PhD as well as vocational training to transgenders without any charges. The students will be able to choose any subject they wish to study.
AIOU Vice-Chancellor Shahid Siddiqui told DawnNews that the university aims to educate and train transgenders so that they can play a productive role in society.
"There are a lot of stigmas in our society due to which transgenders are shunned by society," he said. "By offering them free education and training, we hope to make them a part of mainstream society."
The students who will enrol in the programme won't be required to come to university and educational equipment will be provided to them at their doorstep, the VC added.
"They will receive education like any other student," he said.
Siddiqui said that all regional centres of the university had started to receive applications from candidates.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Pakistan to deliver a tough message on the importance of fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on Pakistani territory.
Tillerson arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday, a day after traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan in conditions of strict secrecy. He met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif and the heads of the army and intelligence services.
Tillerson told Abbasi that Pakistan is “so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship.”
Abbasi said Pakistan is “committed in the war against terror.”
“We have produced results and we are looking forward to moving ahead with the US and building a tremendous relationship,” he said.
“The US can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror,” Abbasi said.
“We appreciate the understandings that we agreed and we appreciate the engagement.”
In Afghanistan on Monday, Tillerson had told reporters that Pakistan's cooperation on counter-terrorism is essential for a good relationship with the US.
His comments echoed those of other top US officials who have been pressing Pakistan on the matter.
He said Pakistan needs to “take a clear-eyed view” of its position and act.
“Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan,” he said. “So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
Earlier this month, the campaign appeared to produce some success when Pakistani security forces assisted with the release of a Taliban-held US-Canadian family after five years in captivity. However, officials cautioned that action needed to be followed with additional steps.
Tillerson, who will visit India after Pakistan, is in South Asia to outline the Trump administration's new strategy for the region, which is heavy on combating extremist groups.
Last week, CIA director Mike Pompeo said that for the strategy to work, the Taliban must be convinced they have no hope of winning militarily in Afghanistan and that means making it impossible for them to cross the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border and hide inside Pakistan.
“To do that you cannot have a safe haven in Pakistan,” he said. But he added that the US had low expectations.
US officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye or assisting the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network. Pakistan routinely denies colluding with the militants.
In early October, Gen Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional hearing that it was clear to him that Pakistan's intelligence service had connections to militant groups.
Pakistan has struggled to shake off suspicion that it wields a malign and strategic interest in Afghanistan, on its western border.
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has notified reduction in sales tax rate on import of finished goods of textile and leather.
A notification SRO1070 was issued on Monday by amending the SRO1125 of 2011. As per decision, the sales tax was reduced to 6 per cent from standard 17pc on import of these finished products for consumption in domestic market.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017