Articles on this Page
- 07/27/16--01:09: _Hindu youth killed ...
- 07/27/16--08:34: _‘Kill me 10 times i...
- 07/27/16--18:39: _UN rights chief cal...
- 07/27/16--18:39: _ECP complete after ...
- 07/27/16--18:38: _Sharif picks Raja F...
- 07/27/16--18:39: _FIA detects ‘irregu...
- 07/27/16--18:40: _New cybercrime bill...
- 07/27/16--18:40: _Turkey orders 47 ne...
- 07/27/16--22:48: _In contrast to Trum...
- 07/27/16--18:39: _Real estate prices ...
- 07/27/16--20:15: _Police rescue 10-ye...
- 07/27/16--18:38: _22 die as rain, flo...
- 07/28/16--06:47: _MQM announces to st...
- 07/28/16--07:20: _Defiant Merkel defe...
- 07/27/16--18:38: _Controversy rages o...
- 07/27/16--23:06: _Virat Kohli sends s...
- 07/27/16--18:39: _Ignoring Pakistan w...
- 07/28/16--01:18: _Indonesia rejects i...
- 07/28/16--01:42: _With eye on China, ...
- 07/28/16--02:49: _UN chief urges Indo...
- 07/27/16--18:39: UN rights chief calls for ban on executions in Indonesia
- 07/27/16--18:39: ECP complete after members take oath
- 07/27/16--18:38: Sharif picks Raja Farooq as AJK PM-elect
- 07/27/16--18:39: FIA detects ‘irregularities, bungling’ in four PCB projects
- 07/27/16--18:40: New cybercrime bill still far from perfect
- 07/27/16--18:40: Turkey orders 47 newspaper journalists, executives detained
- 07/27/16--22:48: In contrast to Trump, Obama lays out optimistic vision for US
- 07/27/16--18:39: Real estate prices up by 70pc from ‘DC-approved rate’
- 07/27/16--20:15: Police rescue 10-year-old boy from marriage with woman
- 07/27/16--18:38: 22 die as rain, floods batter KP, Punjab
- 07/28/16--06:47: MQM announces to stay away from Sindh CM's election
- 07/28/16--07:20: Defiant Merkel defends refugee stance despite attacks
- 07/27/16--18:38: Controversy rages over Waseem Akhtar’s May 12 ‘confessions’
- 07/27/16--23:06: Virat Kohli sends shout-out to Aleem Dar's son
- 07/27/16--18:39: Ignoring Pakistan will be dangerous, says McCain
- 07/28/16--01:42: With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports
- 07/28/16--02:49: UN chief urges Indonesia to halt executions
GHOTKI: Communal tensions ran high in Sindh's Ghotki district on Wednesday, after a Hindu man was arrested for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran a day earlier.
Two Hindu men were shot having tea at a stall in Ghotki's town of Mirpur Mathelo during an attack by a mob Wednesday. One of the victims, 17-year-old Dewan Sateesh Kumar, succumbed to his injuries while his friend Avinash is in a critical condition, police said.
Local leaders of the Hindu community while talking to journalists here demanded protection of their lives and properties in wake of the tensions.
"A local trader Dewan Satesh Kumar has been killed," Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ghotki Masood Ahmed Bangash told Dawn.
He said police with the help of Rangers are trying to diffuse the tense situation, which emerged after villagers in Mehran Samejo near Daharki "caught" a Hindu man desecrating pages of the Quran.
Locals told Dawn that the Hindu suspect, Amar Lal, is a drug addict who had begun living in a mosque after converting to Islam a few month ago, adding that his mental condition is "unstable".
Bilawal condemns unrest in Ghotki
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday took notice of unrest in Ghotki district and directed the concerned officials to ensure community's protection in the district.
According to a statement issued by Bilawal House Karachi's media team, Bhutto-Zardari directed PPP MNA Ramesh Lal to visit the victim's family and offer condolences and solidarity on his behalf.
The PPP chairman asked Sindh government to maintain communal harmony in Ghotki.
"Antisocial elements are fanning hatred and violence," the statement quoted Bhutto-Zardari, adding, "Nobody should be allowed to take the law into his hands."
Earlier in the day, Sukkur Deputy Inspector-General Syed Feroze Shah visited Ghotki to supervise the security arrangements undertaken by police and Rangers.
"Police and Rangers had arrested 84 people involved rioting after the ugly incident of the desecration of Holy Quran in a village near Dharki," Shah told local journalists.
"Police has arrested the accused and interrogation is underway," he added.
Shah met the family of Dewan Sateesh Kumar, who was shot dead while having tea at a stall during a mob attack, and assured full justice.
All big and small towns of Ghotki district including Daharki, Mirpur Mathelo, Ubauro and Khan Pur Mehar remained closed on Wednesday due to communal tensions, with cities deserted for the second consecutive day.
Local leaders of religious parties including Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ) have demanded "severe punishment" for the accused.
In Daharki, where some burnt pages of the holy book were found outside an old mosque, emotionally charged protesters on Tuesday assembled at a section of the National Highway and held a sit-in for five hours, demanding the arrest of the culprit, who was taken into custody by Daharki police.
Soon after the incident, protesters in most of the towns took to the roads and staged demonstrations against the alleged sacrilege. They also burned tyres, tried to ransack shops owned by Hindus and clashed with police.
Sukkur SSP Amjad Shaikh went to the protest site in Daharki along with his team and tried to persuade people to end their sit-in but his vehicle came under attack and sustained damage.
The accused was booked and shifted to an undisclosed location by police. SSP Bangash told Dawn that police and law enforcement agencies personnel arrested over 150 people on rioting charges in overnight raids in the district. He said said heavy contingents of police had been posted at sensitive areas particularly outside the houses of Hindus living in the area.
Pakistan national Zulfiqar Ali is facing imminent execution in Indonesia after being convicted of drug-related charges in a controversial trial.
“Kill me 10 times if I’m found guilty. I’m ready for it. But if I’m innocent then please spare my life,” Zulfiqar told DawnNews.
“We leave our country only to make lives of our family better. We don’t go to other countries to get involved in criminal activities.”
He urged the Pakistan government to take up his case with the Indonesian authorities. Zulfiqar believed that his execution could still be put on hold if both the governments take up the matter on embassy level.
Indonesian authorities notified his family in Gujranwala that Zulfiqar would soon face a firing squad, after he was transferred to Nusakambangan prison island, where executions take place.
“Please save my brother,” his sister said. “He means a lot to us. I don’t know what authorities to ask to, I can only request to please save my brother. He is the only person to look after us.”
“I talked to him over the phone. He says he is innocent, he hasn’t done anything. He has been framed for a crime he never committed,” she told DawnNews.
“Zulfiqar told me that the Indonesian authorities just don’t listen to anything he says. They say they are going to execute him. I’m appealing to the Government of Pakistan to do something. We don’t have time … I can only pray to God that they be merciful towards my brother.”
Zulfiqar, 52, is the only brother to six sisters. He has been languishing in Indonesian jails for 12 years, and was the sole breadwinner for his family.
He was arrested in November 2004 in connection with a 300-gram heroine case in Jakarta. A co-accused in the case, Gurdip Singh, retracted his statement against Zulfiqar, saying the confession had been coerced from him.
Meanwhile, Pakistan government has intensified its diplomatic efforts for saving Zulfiqar.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who is in Laos for an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum meeting, has sought a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the issue, Dawn reported on Tuesday.
Indonesian Ambassador Iwan Suyudhie Amri was also summoned to the Foreign Office over the expected execution.
Pressure mounts to call off looming executions
Indonesia will be “on the wrong side of history” if it proceeds with a fresh round of executions this week, rights groups warned Wednesday, as authorities confirmed 14 prisoners will face the firing squad.
Zulfiqar is a part of the group of drug convicts who have been given notices of their executions and could be put to death as early as Friday.
Indonesia – which has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world – executed 14 drug convicts, mostly foreigners, in two batches last year.
Activists intensified pressure on Indonesia’s leader this week, urging him not to proceed with the third round of executions since he took office in October 2014.
“Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as ‘Jokowi’, will be putting his government on the wrong side of history if he proceeds with a fresh round of executions,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country’s democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice,” added the group’s Southeast Asia head Josef Benedict.
Human Rights Watch urged Widodo to call off the executions and avoid a “potential diplomatic firestorm”, referring to the global criticism Indonesia attracted when it put to death eight drug convicts in April 2015.
Activists lobbying on behalf of Zulfiqar said they would also consider making a final appeal, despite alleging their 52-year-old client was tortured into confessing.
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations human rights chief expressed alarm on Wednesday over reports that 14 people, including a Pakistani, face imminent execution in Indonesia, most of them for drug-related offences, and called on authorities to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.
The executions will reportedly be carried out on Friday at a high-security prison on Nusa Kambangan Island in central Java.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concern over the lack of transparency throughout the process and compliance with fair trial guarantees, including the right to appeal.
(A former senior government official revealed that an internal investigation he conducted into the case of a condemned Pakistani, Zulfiqar Ali, suggested he was innocent, Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.)
“The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein Zeid. “I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza administered the oath on Wednesday to four new members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, marking completion of the ECP.
Abdul Ghaffar Soomro from Sindh, retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi from Punjab, retired Justice Irshad Qaiser from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch from Balochistan took the oath.
The first engagement of the newly appointed ECP members will be the hearing of a disqualification petition against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law retired Capt Muhammad Safdar, scheduled for Thursday. The petition was filed by Nawabzada Salahuddin of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf who had contested the 2013 general elections against Mr Safdar from Mansehra. The grounds for disqualification are alleged concealment of assets of his spouse, Maryam Nawaz.
Talking to Dawn, Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, the petitioner’s counsel, said: “I expect that the new members will assert their jurisdiction without giving in to pressure of the government or any other quarter and believe that it is a chance for them to establish their reputation as independent and impartial components of the ECP.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transpar-ency (Pildat) expressed concern over the delayed and ‘apparently flawed’ appointment of the ECP members.
In a statement, it said that despite the fact that it was known that the four members would retire on June 12, neither the prime minister had initiated the process of consultation with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly nor the speaker constituted the parliamentary committee for the appointments in time.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza administers the oath to four new members of the Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday nominated Raja Farooq Haider as the Leader of the House for the newly-elected Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Since the PML-N claimed an absolute majority in the recently held polls, Mr Haider is sure to become the next prime minister of the region.
PM Sharif had invited the newly-elected members of the AJK assembly to his office, where they were informed about Mr Haider’s selection. The meeting was also attended by senior PML-N leaders, including Raja Zafarul Haq, Khawaja Asif, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ishaq Dar, Pervaiz Rashid, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Minister for Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir.
Following his nomination as AJK’s PM-elect, Mr Haider said: “I will try to live up to the confidence of my leadership. My agenda will be merit, good governance and zero-tolerance for corruption.”
PM Sharif congratulated party office-bearers for running a successful election campaign and securing a majority in the legislative assembly, said an official communiqué released after the meeting.
He said it was their good luck that they were part of Azad Kashmir, living the lives they chose to. In the same breath, he reminded them that they must not forget their brethren, who were facing Indian repression just across the border.
“The issue of Kashmir is part of the United Nations’ incomplete agenda. Pakistan will continue to offer its moral and diplomatic support for the right of self determination of Kashmiris,” the prime minister was quoted as saying. He added that the leadership of Azad Kashmir must also strive to help their brothers and sisters in India-held Kashmir secure independence.
The prime minister also impressed upon the incoming AJK cabinet that their stint in power should be remembered as an era of prosperity and peace for the region for which they have to follow policies based on merit and transparency.
Infrastructural development, health, education and creating of employment opportunities should be the top priority of the new government, PM Sharif said, briefly laying out the development agenda to be followed in the region over the next five years.
Criticising the outgoing PPP government, PM Sharif that said unfortunately no development work was done over the past five years, hence, it was responsibility of the new government to plug areas which were left unattended.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has detected ‘illegalities and misappropriation of funds’ in four projects of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In its initial findings, the agency has detected a Rs8.6 million fake bank guarantee furnished by a contractor and Rs5.6m illegal payment made to another contractor in two separate projects.
The FIA is investigating alleged wrongdoings in the establishment of a bio-mechanical laboratory at Qadhafi Stadium and construction of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Stadium in Larkana, Cricket Academy in Multan and Far End Pavilion at Qadhafi Stadium.
“The agency has issued summons to contractors and consultants of the projects. The PCB management will be summoned subsequently,” an FIA official told Dawn.
However, the PCB has defended its position in the projects and denied having committed any illegality or wrongdoing. “The board has submitted relevant information and documents to the FIA to help it in the investigations. It has also filed counter-claims in the FIA and the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) against illegalities committed by complainant firms,” PCB spokesman Raza Rashid Kitchlew told Dawn.
The fake bank guarantee was furnished by the contractor of the Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Stadium project with the connivance of PCB officials, the agency suspects.
In the Cricket Academy project, the FIA probe has discovered that the PCB dealt with the mobilisation cost (Rs5.6m) separately from the bidding amount and paid it to the contractor.
“This is illegal and it was not possible without the collusion of both parties — the PCB and the contractor,” an FIA official said.
In the Far End Pavilion project, the FIA is investigating excessive payment made to the contractor in violation of rules, thus causing a loss of millions of rupees to the PCB.
“The board has allegedly made excessive payment against the work completed in the project,” the official said.
The installation of the bio-mechanical laboratory project has been delayed for an indefinite period and the contractor is claiming a loss of millions of rupees. The contractor firm, the U.Q. and Sons, has accused PCB Chief Operating Officer Subhan Ahmad of not providing electric drawing and releasing payments as per agreement.
As a result, he has told the FIA, the project which was about to be completed has hit snags and costly equipment the PCB has acquired for the laboratory in 2006-07 has become outdated.
In the absence of the laboratory in Lahore, the contractor has alleged, the PCB is sending cricketers abroad for the test and bearing huge expenses on it.
The FIA is also investigating why consultants were not appointed for the project according to the rules of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority and the PEC.
The complainant firm has blamed Subhan Ahmad and others at the helm in the PCB for ‘reported illegalities’ in the project. But the board denies it though it admits that one of its officials — retd Col Mohammad Bashir — was involved in wrongdoings and subsequently sacked.
Replying to Dawn’s queries, the PCB spokesman said: “In the bio-mechanical lab case, complainant Marzouk Munir Qazi has not disclosed full facts. An employee of the contractor in Aug 2015 was caught while offering Rs100,000 bribe to the project consultant. The contractor admitted this before a PCB inquiry committee and on its recommendations the board terminated the contract in Dec 2015.
“The PCB informed the contractor about reconciliation of accounts but he chose to file frivolous complaints in a mala fide manner just to blackmail the board.”
The spokesman said that the PCB had fired Col Mohammad Bashir, who was working in the infrastructure department, on recommendations of the inquiry committee for being in “collusion with the contractor”.
He said that the machinery acquired for the laboratory had not become outdated and had been put to use by the current PCB administration in a joint project initiated in collaboration with the Lahore University of Management Sciences. “In fact the bio- mechanical lab at the university was inaugurated by the PCB chairman earlier this year.”
About the Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Stadium project, the spokesman said: “The contract was awarded to the contractors through public tender process. The issue of the fake bank guarantee was being dealt with Col Bashir, whose failure to deal with such discrepancies led to his removal from the PCB. The issue of verification of the bank guarantee did not arise till after completion of the project at which point it was a closed transaction. Thus, the PCB has incurred no loss.”
About the Cricket Academy project, he said: “The said amount (mobilisation cost) was an advance payment required due to hurdles being faced in the completion of the project. The payment was later adjusted against the total contract amount and the PCB did not suffer any loss.
“For the Far End Pavilion project, the additional payment was not excessive and it had to be made due to revision of designs by the consultant, the National Engineering Services Pakistan.”
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
ISLAMABAD: The version of the cybercrime bill tabled before the Senate on Wednesday still includes most of the provisions that have been criticised as ‘draconian’ attempts to crack down on citizens’ freedom of expression and their ability to access information.
However, the new draft of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015 does take into account a number of suggestions relating to toughening up certain areas of the law.
For example, the version that was passed by the National Assembly in April contained no mention of clamping down on recruitment and financing of terrorists – two major areas of concern in the post-National Action Plan (NAP) scenario.
The fresh draft has incorporated these offences, as well as a separate section on ‘hate speech’, as subsections of section 10, which deals with ‘Cyber-terrorism’.
Terror recruitment and financing have been tackled in latest draft; only one of HRCP’s concerns addressed
But civil society groups are not satisfied with what changes have been made. Only one of the concerns – regarding hate speech – highlighted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a letter released on Tuesday, have been addressed in the draft.
Haroon Baloch of the digital rights group Bytes for All told Dawn: “There is still no definition of ‘hate speech’; the amended section is very broad and open to interpretation. There is no mention of ‘malicious intent’ or ‘dishonest intention’, it simply says ‘whoever prepares or disseminates information’. This could be interpreted to mean anyone in the information chain.”
The bill takes a stern view of offences against the modesty of minors, incorporating harsh sentences for those who attempt to entice, blackmail or portray minors in sexually explicit situations, even more so than the punishment prescribed for similar crimes committed against adults.
The law still allows the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to enforce its version of the defamation ordinance, as section 18 of the bill, dealing with ‘Offences against dignity of a natural person’, is still a part of the bill.
However, under subsection (4) of section 34, which deals with ‘Unlawful online content’, aggrieved parties will be allowed to file review applications with the authority within 30 days to seek undoing of any order passed by it.
There are certain changes to the law that have been made keeping in mind the unique nature of the medium that the law seeks to regulate.
For example, through an amendment in clause 1, the law’s jurisdiction has been greatly expanded. “[The law] shall also apply to any act committed outside Pakistan by any person of the act constitutes an offence under this act and affects a person, property, information system or data located in Pakistan,” reads Section 1 of the new draft.
This, according to lawyer Saroop Ijaz, will pose a practical problem. “Section 4 of the Pakistan Penal Code already deals with extra-territorial offences, but it makes sense to include something like this in the law, due to the nature of the Internet, where crimes against the state can be committed from outside its physical jurisdiction.”
“There is no international criminal regime with regards to cybercrime, so the lack of an implementation mechanism will render this section nearly unenforceable,” said Mr Ijaz, who is also the Pakistan representative for Human Rights Watch.
In addition, under section 26, which deals with ‘Establishment of investigation agency’, a new stipulation has been added: “The investigation agency shall establish its own capacity for forensic analysis of the data or information systems and the forensic analysis reports generated by the investigation agency shall not be inadmissible in evidence before any court for the sole reason that such reports were generated by the investigation agency.”
While on the face of it, it seems that both the functions of investigation and prosecution have been handed over to the same agency – ostensibly the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) – and their reports have been deemed admissible in court, Saroop Ijaz maintains things are more complicated than that.
“In Pakistan, the primary law of evidence is the Qanoon-i-Shahadat 1984. The general legal principle is that when there is a general law, the special law (in this case, PECB) trumps the general law. However, the only mention of electronic crimes in the Qanoon-i-Shahadat is in article 164, which deals with production of evidence which is made available due to modern devices.”
In his opinion, there was nothing in this section that restrained a judge from exercising his discretion regarding the admissibility of evidence.
When the draft bill was tabled in the Senate on Wednesday, journalists in the press gallery protested and walked out to register their dissatisfaction with the law, which in their view seeks to curtail journalistic freedom.
But although IT Minister Anusha Rehman tried to placate them by saying that the bill expressly excludes both electronic and print media outlets, there are still stipulations in the bill that can hamper journalistic practices.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
ANKARA: Turkish authorities issued warrants on Wednesday for the detention of 47 former executives or senior journalists at the Zaman newspaper, which was associated with the US-based Muslim cleric who the government says is behind Turkey’s failed July 15 coup.
At least one journalist, former Zaman columnist Sahin Alpay, was detained at his home early on Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Zaman, which was linked to Fethullah Gulen’s religious movement, was raided by police and seized by the government in March as part of a clampdown on the group.
Earlier this week, Turkey issued arrest warrants against 42 other journalists, of whom 16 have been detained for questioning. Tens of thousands of other state employees with suspected links to Gulen have been suspended from their jobs in sectors including education, health care, city government and even Turkish Airlines.
In a statement Wednesday, the Turkish military said as many as 35 warplanes, 37 helicopters, 74 tanks and three navy vessels were used by the plotters in their failed coup attempt.
At least 8,651 military personnel were involved, it said, adding that they constituted 1.5 per cent of the Armed Forces’ personnel. The country’s energy minister, meanwhile, lamented what he said was a lack of strong support from European nations and the United States toward Turkey’s efforts to counter the “anti-democratic” process.
“Until now, we have not received the backing and the statements that we, the whole of Turkey, expect from these countries,” said Berat Albayrak, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law. He warned that a lack of support for Turkey could harm ties with allies. “There is a need for an intelligent and rational review by our interlocutors,” Albayrak said.
15,000 detained so far
Turkish authorities have detained more than 15,000 people, including more than 10,000 soldiers, following the July 15-16 failed coup attempt, broadcaster CNN Turk on Wednesday cited interior minister Efkana Ala as saying.
A total of 8,113 people have been formally arrested pending trial, the broadcaster cited Ala as saying.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
Journalist gather outside a court building to support their colleague journalist Bulent Mumay, who was detained Tuesday in connection with the investigation launched into the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, in Istanbul, Wednesday, July 27. — AP
PHILADELPHIA: President Barack Obama painted an optimistic picture of America's future in a rousing speech on Wednesday that offered full-hearted support to Hillary Clinton in her campaign to defeat Republican Donald Trump and become the first woman elected US president.
“There has never been a man or woman, not me, not Bill (Clinton) — nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States,” Obama said to cheers at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.” After Obama's speech, Clinton joined him on stage where they hugged, clasped hands and waved to the crowd.
Obama and Clinton were rivals in the hard-fought campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination. After winning that election to become America's first black president, he appointed her his secretary of state.
Speaking to delegates, Obama offered an alternative to businessman Trump's vision of the United States as being under siege from illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism and losing its way in the world.
“I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before,” Obama said at the Wells Fargo Center.
Clinton made history on Tuesday when she became the first woman to secure the presidential nomination from a major party.
When she formally accepts it on Thursday, she will become the Democratic standard-bearer against Republican nominee Trump in the Nov 8 election.
Obama took aim at Trump's campaign slogan and promise to “Make America Great Again.” “America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump,” he said.
“Preach!” members of the crowd shouted. “Best president ever,” someone screamed.
Obama listed what he described as a series of advances during his two terms in office, such as recovery from economic recession, the Obamacare healthcare reform and the 2011 killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Nodding to voters' concerns, Obama said he understood frustrations “with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions” and the slow pace of economic growth.
“There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures, men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten,” Obama said.
Democrats have buttressed Clinton with a star gathering of current and past party notables at this week's convention.
By contrast, many prominent Republicans were absent from the party convention that nominated Trump for the White House last week.
But Trump got a boost in opinion polls from his convention. He had a 2-point lead over Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday, the first time he has been ahead since early May.
At the convention on Wednesday, US Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, described billionaire Trump as “a one-man wrecking crew” who cannot be trusted in the Oval Office.
US President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appear onstage together after his speech on the third night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 27. — Reuters
ISLAMABAD: The real estate sector submitted details of the current market rates to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Wednesday, showing an average increase of around 70 per cent in property prices from existing deputy commissioner-approved (DC) rates.
The 13-member delegation of retailers, led by Arif Jeewa — senior vice chairman of the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) — submitted market rates of properties in 18 cities across the country.
The 18 cities include Islamabad, 10 cities from Punjab, three from Sindh and two each in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
“This list is an enhancement from the DC-approved rates and FBR officials are evaluating it,” Mr Jeewa told Dawn.
The next meeting between the two sides is scheduled to be held on Thursday (today), and will be chaired by Haroon Akhtar Khan, special assistant to the prime minister on revenue.
FBR conducting comparative analysis of property prices in 18 cities
The decision to update property rates in these cities was made during a meeting between representatives of the real estate sector and the FBR on July 21, while the government decided to withdraw the proposal of establishing ‘valuators’ to counter-check property rates.
To update current market rates within a week, the 13-member committee forwarded the list of DC-approved rates to the association of real estate agents and developers in each respective city.
The list of DC rates contains several categories depending upon the size of the city — for example, DC-approved rates in Karachi have five categories, starting with Category A1, which includes areas like Bath Island, Clifton, Dhorajee and the KDA Officers Scheme, etc. This is followed by Category 1, and so on to Category 4, which includes areas such as Liaquatabad, Landhi, Korangi, Keamari, Hawkesbay, etc.
The government has decided to charge withholding tax on the sale and purchase of property and capital gains tax after the final value of the property is determined.
It has been estimated that charging tax on the sale and purchase of property at updated rates would help the government bag up to Rs10 billion during the current financial year. However, officials maintain that the move is aimed at “documenting the economy”.
An FBR official told Dawn that the evaluation was under way, but differences have been deducted.
“The rates have been vetted and verified from market experts and the rates are being analysed,” the official said, adding, “An initial comparative analysis of the rates provided by the real estate industry and those collected by the FBR shows that some rates are reasonable, but there is significant divergence in some areas.”
Though their next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, an FBR official maintained that a comparative analysis of both rates could take another day, and that final rates might be determined by Friday.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
—Photo Courtesy: Aliraza Khatri
PESHAWAR/LAHORE: At least 22 people were killed and over 60 others injured as widespread downpour and flash floods wreaked havoc in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab on Wednesday.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department issued an alert for glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in Chitral district and asked the authorities concerned to adopt precautionary measures.
On July 2, flash floods claimed 29 lives in Chitral.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said in a statement that three people lost their lives in Abbottabad and two in Upper Dir in rain-related incidents. Three people were injured in the two districts. It said two houses in Haripur and one residential quarter in Abbottabad collapsed.
Met department issues alert for glacial lake outburst flood in Chitral
Flash floods killed a man and his wife near Shamlay Kali in Battagram district. According to officials, the couple was crossing a watercourse when a violent current swept them away. Local people recovered their bodies.
The Met office said widespread rains lashed Malakand, Hazara, Peshawar and Mardan divisions while southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its adjacent tribal areas received light rains.
Abbottabad town received 90mm of rainfall, Malam Jabba — a tourist resort in Swat district — 44mm, Peshawar 20mm, Risalpur 21mm, Cherat 19mm, Kohat 2mm, Saidu Sharif 9mm, Dir 9mm and Pattan 18mm. Heavy rains brought the temperature down in the region, but Peshawar experienced an extremely humid weather.
Five people, two women among them, died and 17 others suffered injuries when a passenger van plunged into a deep ravine in the Nakka Kalley area of Orakzai agency. The van going to Hangu from Sattarsam skidded during heavy rain while negotiating a sharp turn. The injured were taken to the Civil Hospital.
Floodwater in Wari sub-division of Upper Dir swept away a boy and a girl. According to Wari police, three children, identified as Talha, Khuzeefa and Saad Khan, were on their way home from a bazaar in the area. They were crossing a stream when the floodwater swept them away. Local residents, however, succeeded in rescuing Saad. The bodies of the other two were later recovered.
Sahibabad police recovered the body of a girl who drowned in a stream in Narhand Khwar area. The body was shifted to Wari hospital for identification.
Life was paralysed in Abbottabad district, where three people were killed and three others injured in rain-related incidents. Damage to properties was also reported in parts of Galiyat and Abbottabad city. Power supply was disrupted in different areas of the district.
Roof of the house of one Mohammad Yousaf caved in, killing his two sons — 12-year-old Ihsanullah and seven-year-old Imranullah. His wife Zulekha Bibi was taken to the DHQ Hospital, Abbottabad, with injuries
Fifteen-year-old Noor Bibi was buried alive after the roof of her house collapsed in Lora area.
It started raining on Tuesday night and continued till Wednesday afternoon. Several houses collapsed in Bilal Town, Hassan Town, PMA Kakul road, Sethi Masjid locality and Narian area.
Heavy rain lashed northeast Punjab from Lahore to Rawalpindi, leaving seven people dead and 38 others wounded.
Regional tributaries of River Chenab swelled after the rainfall in the Sialkot region. The Met department forecast medium to high flood in the region over the next 24 hours. A peak of high to very high flood is expected in River Jhelum [upstream Mangla] and medium to high in River Chenab during this period.
Rain was caused by the combination of a westerly wave and very strong monsoon current penetrating upper and central parts of the country up to 7,000 feet. Heavy to moderate rain was also reported from some cities in Azad Kashmir.
The worst hit was Gujranwala where the Met department reported a record 199mm of rain by 8pm. Its highest-ever recorded rain in a single day is 130mm and monthly average 200mm.
Four people were killed in Sialkot and two in Gujrat in rain-related incidents. Over 20 people were injured in the two cities and in Gujranwala.
One person was killed and 18 others were injured in rain-related incidents in Rawalpindi. Naeem Raza, a 35-year-old poultry worker, died after the roof of his room collapsed during heavy downpour. Fifteen passengers were injured when a tree fell on a Mansehra-bound bus near Rawat.
According to the Met department, Gujrat received 158mm of rain (also a record), Sialkot (Cantt 123mm, airport 110mm), Rawalpindi (Chaklala 88mm, Shamsabad 84), Islamabad (Golra 88mm, Z.P. 85mm, Bokra 60mm, Saidpur 33mm), Jhelum 77mm, Mangla 74mm, Murree 56mm, Mandi Bahauddin 55mm, Joharabad 54mm, Sargodha 49mm, Chakwal 29mm and Kakul 79mm.
Rain lashed Lahore in the late afternoon after dark clouds created premature darkness. Streets turned into rivulets, especially in the downtown where rain was heavy than in other parts of the city.
Inundated roads unleashed traffic jams and travelling by the dug route of the Metro train was hazardous. Power supply was another major victim of rain. The Met office recorded 68mm of rain in Misri Shah, 60mm at Lakshmi Chowk and 35mm in Gulberg.
The Met department forecast rain-thunderstorm accompanied by gusty winds with isolated heavy falls at a number of places in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Sargodha, Faisalabad and Sahiwal divisions, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, Fata and Kashmir on Thursday and Friday. Scattered rain was also expected in Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Zhob, Kalat, Nasirabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur divisions and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The expected heavy downpour may cause flash floods and landslides in the vulnerable areas of Punjab, KP, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
SIALKOT: People wade through the inundated Railway Road after torrential rain lashed the city on Wednesday.—PPI
KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmakers on Thursday announced to stay away from the upcoming election for Sindh chief minister slot in Sindh Assembly.
Speaking outside the Sindh Assembly building, MQM lawmakers Syed Sardar Ahmed and Khwaja Izharul Hassan said MQM will neither support nor oppose a candidate for Thursday's election for the post of Sindh chief minister.
The party legislators said that the decision was taken following party's disappointment over Sindh government's reluctance to delegate powers to local bodies, lack of good governance and a poor law and order situation in the province.
MQM leader Mehfooz Yar Advocate also demanded from the government to release MQM's 133 missing persons and free party's mayor nominee Wasim Akhtar so that he can contest the upcoming mayoral elections.
"The results of electing Qaim Ali Shah unopposed for last eight years were disappointing. We will stay away from this voting drama," Izhar said, adding that he and his party has no hopes from a 'change of face' in the Assembly.
Sindh's ruling party, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) had decided on Sunday to replace the octogenarian chief minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, with a relatively young man to what many believe face tough challenges ahead.
On Monday, the party formally nominated senior Sindh minister Syed Murad Ali Shah as their candidate for the slot.
The party's dominance is likely to ensure an easy win for Murad Ali Shah, however, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had nominated its MPA Khurram Sher Zaman as their candidate for the coveted position.
The party lawmakers announce they will neither support nor oppose a candidate for the CM Sindh slot.─ DawnNews screengrab
BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday rebuffed calls to reverse her welcoming stance toward refugees in the wake of a series of brutal attacks in the country.
Merkel, who interrupted a summer holiday to face the media in Berlin, said the four assaults within a week were "shocking, oppressive and depressing" but not a sign that authorities had lost control.
The German leader said the assailants "wanted to undermine our sense of community, our openness and our willingness to help people in need".
"We firmly reject this," she said at a wide-ranging news conference.
Merkel repeated her rallying cry from last year when she opened the borders to people fleeing war and persecution, many from Syria, which brought nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees to the country in 2015.
"I am still convinced today that 'we can do it' -- it is our historic duty and this is a historic challenge in times of globalisation," she said.
"We have already achieved very, very much in the last 11 months."
Merkel was speaking after a axe rampage, a shooting spree, a knife attack and a suicide bombing stunned Germany, leaving 13 dead, including three assailants, and dozens wounded.
Three of the four attackers were asylum seekers, and two of the assaults were claimed by the Islamic State group.
Merkel said that she would not allow jihadists, following a series of deadly attacks in France, Belgium, Turkey and the US state of Florida as well as Germany, to keep her government from being guided by reason and compassion.
"Despite the great unease these events inspire, fear can't be the guide for political decisions," she said.
"It is my deep conviction that we cannot let our way of life be destroyed."
While the German political class has largely called for calm, opposition parties and rebels from Merkel's own conservative bloc have accused her of exposing the country to unacceptable risks without stricter controls on people let in.
"Islamist terrorism has unfortunately arrived in Bavaria," the state's interior minister Joachim Herrmann told reporters Thursday, renewing calls by his Christian Social Union party for an upper limit on the number of new asylum seekers.
"We are awaiting urgent action from the federal government and Europe -- now is the time to act."
The deadliest attack came on Friday when a German-Iranian teenager who was born and raised in Munich opened fire at a downtown shopping mall, killing nine people before turning the gun on himself.
He had been under psychiatric treatment and investigators say he was obsessed with mass shootings, including Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik's 2011 massacre.
They have ruled out an Islamist motive, saying the assailant had far-right "sympathies".
On July 18, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan or Pakistan slashed train passengers and a passer-by with an axe and a knife in Wuerzburg before being shot by police.
And on Sunday, a failed Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up outside a music festival in Ansbach, wounding 15 people at a nearby cafe after being turned away from the packed open-air venue. IS claimed both attacks.
Already steeped in grief and shock, Germans were further rattled by news that a Syrian refugee had killed a 45-year-old Polish woman with a large kebab knife at a snack bar in the southwestern city of Reutlingen Sunday in what authorities called a personal dispute.
"Taboos of civilisation are being broken," Merkel said. "These acts happened in places where any of us could have been."
The German attacks came with two state elections looming in September, in Berlin and in Merkel's fiefdom of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, an economically depressed state on the Baltic coast.
The rightwing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party hopes to make a particularly strong showing there with a campaign against "Islamisation", which would deal Merkel a stinging blow one year ahead of a general election.
Merkel's popularity had suffered earlier this year, following a rash of sexual assaults in the western city of Cologne on New Year's Eve blamed mainly on Arab and North African men.
But her poll ratings had recently recovered as the refugee influx has slowed dramatically due to the closure of the Balkan migrant route and an EU deal with Turkey to stem the flow.
Analysts are awaiting new data to see what impact the recent attacks have had on her support.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a press conference in Berlin.─AFP
KARACHI: Although police claimed on Wednesday that Waseem Akhtar, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader and its Karachi mayor-designate, had “confessed to his involvement” in the May 12, 2007 mayhem before a “joint investigation team”, the legality of the JIT itself and the veracity of his alleged confession are questionable.
While Mr Akhtar and his party insisted that he had made no “confession” or even a disclosure about the May 12 events, police claimed that they had a JIT report in which Mr Akhtar confessed that he planned the violence on the instruction of the party’s high command.
Police not only showed Mr Akhtar arrested in seven cases relating to the May 12 episode, but also leaked to media an alleged investigation report in which he apparently took responsibility for the violent events that occurred in 2007.
Mr Akhtar, who was arrested on July 19 in a case over treatment of “wounded terrorists” and militants at Karachi’s Dr Ziauddin Hospitals, was remanded in police custody on July 21 in two cases regarding “listening to the speeches” of MQM chief Altaf Hussain.
When the remand ended on Tuesday (July 26), the investigation officer produced him before the administrative judge of the antiterrorism court and claimed that Mr Akhtar had also been arrested in seven cases pertaining to attempted murder and arson on May 12, 2007. He requested the court to remand him in police custody.
The court, however, turned down the IO’s request and sent Mr Akhtar to prison on a judicial remand.
While any claim made by police in remand papers is not a confession — an admission of guilt is of no legal import if not recorded before a judicial magistrate — TV channels flashed “breaking news” that Mr Akhtar had “confessed to his involvement in the May 12 mayhem”.
Several TV channels held talk shows on the alleged confession without examining whether he had really done so.
Although the Sindh home department has not notified any joint investigation team comprising officials of intelligence agencies, police and Rangers to interrogate Mr Akhtar, TV channels claimed that they had seen the report of a JIT in which Mr Akhtar — who was adviser to the Sindh chief minister on home affairs in 2007 — admitted that he had planned the May 12 mayhem in the city to sabotage the visit of the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
A senior police officer told Dawn that Mr Akhtar had said “many things” during interrogation, but made no “confessional statement”.
Seven police officials — a DSP, four inspectors and two sub-inspectors of Malir police — investigated the Karachi mayor-designate, but they named themselves a joint investigation team.
According to their report, Mr Akhtar had “confessed” that he planned the May 12, 2007 violence with the help of then in charges of MQM’s Lyari and Gulshan sectors and on the directives of the ‘party high command’.
The report went on to read that the sole purpose was “to prevent any rally being taken to receive the then deposed chief justice of Pakistan at Karachi airport”.
‘False, concocted stories’
The Muttahida said that its mayoral nominee had not given any ‘confessional statement’ about the May 12 happenings in police custody.
At a press conference, senior MQM leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel read out a hand-written note from Mr Akhtar in which he denied and condemned “all false and concocted” stories claiming that he had taken responsibility for the May 12 violence.
The letter, which Mr Akhtar gave to his lawyers during a meeting at the Karachi central prison on Wednesday, read: “I have not made any new disclosures or given a confessional statement with regard to the May 12 [incidents]. I repeated my previous statements that there should be an open inquiry by the superior judiciary.”
Mr Akhtar requested all media houses to verify any “negative news” about him before airing it.
Mr Jameel said that the “fake and fabricated” investigation report made by certain police officials was solely aimed at defaming Waseem Akhtar.
“He remains the MQM’s candidate for the office of Karachi mayor and will soon be honorably acquitted in all cases.”
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
India's cricket star and Test skipper Virat Kohli on Wednesday gave a shout-out to Hassan Dar, son of Pakistan's top umpire Aleem Dar. The video message got instantly popular on social media.
"Keep up with your hard-work and dedication and keep believing in yourself," said the explosive batsman.
Aleem Dar and Kohli are in West Indies these days as India are playing the hosts in a four-match Test series.
Kohli invited Hassan to meet him whenever Aleem officiates matches involving India, and promised to send him a signed bat.
Kohli, 27, due to his flamboyance and consistency, has a lot of fans around the world. Many Pakistani cricket fans, despite their team's arch-rivalry with the Indian neighbours, also admire the right-hander and aspiring cricketers look forward to learn the secrets of his success.
Hailing from Delhi, the middle-order batsman averages 51 and 46 in ODIs and Tests respectively and is a live-wire as a fielder.
The former India U-19 captain is also a media-savvy personality and is one of the fittest athletes in the world.
WASHINGTON: The Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, John McCain, has urged the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan to overcome their differences and get down to the business of fighting terrorists.
In an opinion piece published in The Financial Times on Tuesday, Senator McCain argued that without Pakistan’s cooperation, the US mission in Afghanistan would become “immeasurably more difficult”.
“The sooner the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan get down to the business of fighting their common terrorist enemies together, no matter where they hide, the better off the nations, the region and the world will be,” he wrote.
Mr McCain visited the Pak-Afghan region in the first week of July and in Pakistan, he met civilian and military leaders and discussed counterterrorism efforts with them. He also visited North Waziristan.
He wrote that the visit had convinced him that the US mission in Afghanistan was the same now as it was in 2001: to disrupt and defeat terrorist networks. He also realised that enhanced cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan was essential for defeating these terrorists.
The visit, he added, has also convinced him that the strategic imperative for improved relations between the US and Pakistan was clear: the safety of American troops and the success of their mission in Afghanistan. It was also important for the stability of the region and for the national security of both Pakistan and the US.
The senator noted that limitations on US assistance to Pakistan and congressional reluctance to approve subsidies for the sale of defence articles had added to existing tensions between the two governments.
“Despite this and other recent difficulties, the US and Pakistani leaders cannot allow ambivalence and suspicion to fester. Common interests in counterterrorism, nuclear security and regional stability are too important and too urgent,” he wrote.
Senator McCain acknowledged that for too long, the US has viewed the bilateral relationship only through the prism of Afghanistan. “To achieve real progress, the US must make clear its enduring commitment to Pakistan’s stability and economic growth”.
He also urged Pakistan to “take on and eliminate havens for terrorist groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad that operate within its borders, attack its neighbours and kill US forces”.
“This will be difficult for Pakistan. It will require political will and entail costly sacrifice in blood and treasure. That is why there will be sceptics in the country opposed to decisive efforts to defeat extremism,” he noted.
The senator pointed out that sceptics had advised Pakistani leaders not to confront the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan as well but they dealt successfully with TTP terrorists after Peshawar school attack in December 2014.
“During my visit to Miramshah in North Waziristan, I saw the city’s bazaar that once housed bomb-making factories, arms dealers and office fronts for terrorist groups,” he wrote. “Thanks to the actions of Pakistani soldiers, this death market is no more.”
Senator McCain argued that now Pakistan had the opportunity to “prove the sceptics wrong again” by taking on terrorist groups that targeted Afghan, Indian and US forces in the region with the same energy with which it had pursued the fight against the Pakistani Taliban.
“By taking on all terrorist groups operating in its territory, Pakistan will find that the US remains willing and able to assist in this fight and develop an enduring strategic partnership,” he concluded.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016
CILACAP: Indonesia Thursday rejected appeals from the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) to halt the execution of 14 drug convicts including foreigners, as speculation mounted they could face the firing squad in a matter of hours.
The group, including Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali and citizens of Nigeria, India and Zimbabwe as well as Indonesia, have been placed in isolation on a prison island where Jakarta carries out executions.
Authorities stepped up preparations with ambulances carrying coffins seen crossing over to Nusakambangan island.
Family members say they have been told the convicts will be executed on Thursday night, according to a lawyer and diplomat — who were angry as it was earlier than they thought was allowed.
Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir defended the looming executions as “pure law enforcement”.
“I need to emphasise that all the legal processes of the convicts have been completed, all their rights have been fulfilled — we target the drug traffickers and not users,” he said.
Jakarta faced accusations of breaking its own laws by apparently planning to hold the executions on Thursday.
Diplomats and lawyers say they were given the legally required three days notice of the plan on Tuesday afternoon and believed the earliest it could happen was Friday.
“I am very concerned — this cannot happen,” Ricky Gunawan, a lawyer for a Nigerian convict set to face the firing squad, told AFP.
“It is clearly against the law. This execution has been completely under secrecy from the start.”
Syed Zahid Raza, the deputy Pakistani ambassador in Jakarta, said the family of a Pakistani man, Zulfiqar Ali, had been informed he would be executed Thursday night. Ali's family carried out a protest in Lahore on Wednesday against his imminent execution.
Spokesman Nasir said his ministry had fulfilled all their obligations by notifying foreign representatives.
Pakistan has been angered about the planned execution of Ali — whom rights groups claim was beaten into confessing — and summoned Indonesia's ambassador in Islamabad this week to convey their concerns.
The attorney general's office, which oversees executions, could not be contacted for comment.
Indonesia last carried out executions in April 2015 when it put to death eight drug convicts, including two Australians, sparking international outrage.
But President Joko Widodo has defended the use of the death penalty to combat rising narcotics use.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Wednesday called on Indonesia to end the “unjust” use of the death penalty, while the EU urged Jakarta to stop the “cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent”.
Relatives carry a photograph of Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali, who was sentenced to death in 2005 for heroin possession in Indonesia, during a protest in Lahore on July 27, 2016. A rights group urged Islamabad to try to halt the execution of a Pakistani drug convict in Indonesia after his family was notified he would soon face a firing squad. Zulfiqar Ali, 52, was transferred on July 25 to Nusakambangan prison island off Java where executions take place, and Indonesian authorities have told Pakistani officials his execution is imminent. / AFP PHOTO / ARIF ALI — AFP or licensors
NEW DELHI: An Indian conglomerate has started building the country's first trans-shipment port, conceived 25 years ago, and the government will construct another $4 billion facility nearby to create a shipping hub rivaling Chinese facilities in the region.
New Delhi will grant billionaire Gautam Adani $240 million so-called “viability gap” funding to help the new port at Vizhinjam, on India's southern tip, win business from established hubs elsewhere in Asia.
Once Vizhinjam, in the state of Kerala, is operational the federal government will start building the port of Enayam in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, said a senior shipping ministry official. Enayam alone will save more than $200mn in costs for Indian companies every year, he said.
India's 7,500 kilometre coastline juts into one of the world's main shipping routes and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to capitalise on that proximity by developing ports that can shift freight on to huge vessels capable of carrying up to 18,000 20-foot containers.
By bringing onshore cargo handling now done at entrepots in Sri Lanka, Dubai and Singapore, Modi's government expects cargo traffic at its ports to jump by two-thirds by 2021 as India ramps up exports of goods including cars and other machinery.
The lack of an Indian domestic transshipment port forces inbound and outbound containers to take a detour to one of those regional hubs before heading to their final destination.
New Delhi expects the new ports to save Indian companies hundreds of millions of dollars in transport costs, as well as ease concerns over the growing strategic clout in South Asia of rival China, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Sri Lankan ports at Colombo and Hambantota.
Adani wants the Vizhinjam port, which an arm of his Adani Group is building at a cost of around $1bn, to be operational in 2018. The port lies hard by the Gulf-to-Malacca shipping lane that carries almost a third of world sea freight.
“The port can attract a large share of the container transshipment traffic destined for, or originating from, India which is now being diverted primarily through Colombo, Singapore and Dubai,” said an Adani Group executive who declined to be named.
But officials acknowledge that it would be difficult for the new ports to win international clients unless they offered discounts.
“A major part of trans-shipment is happening at nearby ports. We can win some of that business,” said A.S. Suresh Babu, who heads a government agency set up by Kerala to facilitate the construction of Vizhinjam.
“There's a viability issue in the first few years. Already the Chinese are operating there. So unless you give some discount you can't attract these ships. So that's why the government of India has approved the viability gap funding.”
India is worried about China's expanding reach in the region through port investments in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives. China is also developing Pakistan's Gwadar seaport as part of a $46bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
China had also wanted to partner with an Indian company to build the Vizhinjam port, but its proposal was rejected by the government on grounds of national security.
India has not banned Chinese firms from investing in its ports, but takes a cautious approach as most ports are also used for “strategic purposes”, said the shipping ministry source.
That is a euphemism for dual-use port facilities that could also be used by naval vessels. The docking of a Chinese nuclear submarine at Colombo's commercial port in 2014 shocked India's security establishment and has added urgency to New Delhi's push to strengthen its port infrastructure.
Vizhinjam port will have dedicated berths for India's navy and coastguard, according to a government note seen by Reuters.
India is also seeking to extend its commercial and strategic reach as it tries to catch up with China, pledging up to $500mn to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar to give it trade access to Iran, Afghanistan and the hinterlands of Central Asia, now largely blocked by Pakistan.
“We want Indian ports to compete with the best ports in the world in various parameters like turnaround time, efficiency, last-mile connectivity, infrastructure etc,” India's Shipping Ministry said in a statement to Reuters.
But analysts remain sceptical that India can complete the transshipment ports, given that it has taken a quarter of a century to get the Vizhinjam port plan this far after legal disputes and lack of security clearance from the federal government delayed previous attempts to build it.
“Very few days or weeks pass without news of a new hub port proposal in Southern India,” said Andy Lane, a partner at maritime and port consultant CTI Consultancy.
He added that, as Colombo was a “low cost and highly efficient” port, container shipping lines were unlikely to easily consider a switch to India.
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday appealed to Indonesia's government to halt the imminent execution of drug convicts and urged the president to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Ban recalled that under international law, the death penalty should be used for the most serious crimes and said “drug crimes are generally not considered to meet this threshold”.
The appeal came as Indonesian authorities stepped up preparations for the execution by firing squad of 14 drug convicts including foreigners from Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe.
Ban issued a plea to the “government of Indonesia to stop the reportedly imminent execution of a number of prisoners for alleged drug-related crimes”, said a statement from his spokesman.
The UN chief “urges President Joko Widodo to consider declaring a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Indonesia and to move towards its abolition.” The United Nations opposes capital punishment.
Pakistan to try 'till last moment' to halt Zulfiqar Ali's execution: FO
Pakistan is in talks with Jakarta and remains hopeful about the possibility of clemency for Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani citizen who is likely to be executed in the next 24 hours on a prison island in Indonesia.
Addressing a weekly briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Islamabad is in touch with top officials in the Indonesian capital and will keep up efforts to halt Ali's iminent execution 'till the last moment'.
Indonesia has rejected appeals from the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) to halt the execution of 14 drug convicts including foreigners and Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali, as speculation mounted they could face the firing squad in a matter of hours.
Syed Zahid Raza, the deputy Pakistani ambassador in Jakarta, said Ali's family had been informed he would be executed Thursday night. Ali's family carried out a protest in Lahore on Wednesday against his imminent execution.
Pakistan has been angered about the planned execution of Ali — whom rights groups claim was beaten into confessing — and summoned Indonesia's ambassador in Islamabad this week to convey their concerns.
Ali was arrested in November 2004 in connection with a 300-gram heroine case in Jakarta. A co-accused in the case, Gurdip Singh, retracted his statement against Zulfiqar, saying the confession had been coerced from him.
Meanwhile, Pakistan intensified its diplomatic efforts earlier this week for saving Ali.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who was in Laos for an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum meeting, sought a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the issue, Dawn reported on Tuesday.
Indonesian Ambassador Iwan Suyudhie Amri was also summoned to the Foreign Office over the expected execution.