Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Loan

The government has succeeded in securing a loan of US$173 million (Rs14 billion) from Japan while our country is already under a debt burden of US$54 billion. Though it is being said that this loan will be provided on easy installment, who will pay it off? The common people, of course.

While taking such steps the rulers should remember that the day is not far away when the people of Pakistan will come out on the streets just like the peoples of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Punjab’s request for trying Davis declined

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has declined a Punjab government request seeking trial of ‘US diplomatic official’ Raymond Davis, who is also facing double murder charges, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The Punjab government had asked for instituting a case of espionage against Davis. Police prosecutors had recommended trying Davis for spying on the basis of “strong evidence” against him. However, the federal government’s consent was necessary because Davis claims to be a member of the US diplomatic mission, sources said.
In a letter to the federal government, the provincial authorities had recommended registration of an espionage case on the basis of a confessional statement of Davis that he had made during interrogation, the source added.
Police had recovered sensitive documents and photographs of Pakistan’s defence installations from Davis.
In another letter addressed to the ministry of foreign affairs, the Punjab government has sought the custody of four employees of the US consulate-general in Lahore.
They are accused of crushing to death a Pakistani citizen while they were driving in a marketplace of Lahore on Jan 27 when Davis shot dead two Pakistanis. The police had registered a criminal case against them.
According to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, the accused are hiding in the US consulate general in Lahore. The consulate officials have asked the Punjab government to approach the ministry of foreign affairs for the custody of the four men and their vehicle.
Another source told The Express Tribune that the police have recovered a file from Davis which contained highly sensitive information.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan detained in India

Published: February 14, 2011
Pakistani singer detained for allegedly carrying a huge amount of undeclared foreign currency.
ISLAMABAD: Noted Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday evening by Revenue Intelligence sleuths for allegedly carrying a huge amount of undeclared foreign currency in violation of local currency laws.

Khan, a classical musician-turned hit Bollywood playback singer, arrived on a flight from Karachi and was intercepted by personnel from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence acting on some prior information, the local media quoted official sources as saying.

They said the singer was carrying a huge amount of foreign currency which he did not declare to the immigration authorities. Two other persons accompanying him have also been detained. Khan is being questioned for the currency which is in excess of $100,000.

The 37-year-old, nephew of singing legend Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was earlier, too, involved in a controversy when organisers of a concert in Gurgaon filed a police complaint against him in July last year for his failure to turn up for a show.

Khan has several hit numbers to his credit and is this year’s recipient of the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji from the movie Ishqiya.

Meanwhile in Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik phoned High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik and asked him to keep in touch with the Indian authorities investigating Khan.

Shahid Malik will take up the matter with the Indian authorities to solve the issue, according to a spokesperson for the interior ministry.

“The minister directed the envoy to meet New Dehli high-ups and make every possible effort to get the legendary singer released as soon as possible after fulfilling legal requirements,” the spokesperson added.

According to the state-run television, the minister also directed him to keep a tab on the issue and provide legal and consular support to Khan.

It added that the envoy “has also established contact with airport officials and other relevant authorities in India to prepare a strategy in this regard”.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2011.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

PIA Code Sharing Agreement with Turkish airline

Protests between disgruntle employees and PIA Administration are still at large, most of international and national flights are  canceled or rescheduled. Main reason for protests are non transparency and bad rumors in the air.
Pakistan International Airline as press released on the issues to resolve major rumors,  first of all PIA has not sold its international flying routes to Turkish Airs. Code Sharing agreement is normal practice in international Airline Business. Code Sharing Agreement , is an aviation business arrangement where two airlines share the same flight. A seat can be purchased on one airline but is actually operated by a cooperating airline under a different flight number or code.
The important aspects of the PIA’s notifications are presented below:
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), operates 2-3 frequency per week to most International stations due fleet/point to point traffic constraints. In an endeavor to offer daily connectivity to about 100 International destinations from its major gateways, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, PIA evaluated a result driven opportunity, a partnership that would support a sustainable future, under a joint venture commercial arrangement with Turkish Airlines (TK), an airline that has a large fleet, serves 167 destinations and is a member of Star Alliance.
The plan envisaged will provide daily connectivity for destinations in USA, Europe, Central Asian Region and points in Africa, while connections will also be available for traffic originating west of Istanbul for Middle East and Gulf countries via Istanbul. Tour packages will be possible , as passengers( traveling via Istanbul) with visa for onward destinations  will be able to acquire entry visa for Istanbul on arrival, a facility not available at any en route point.PIA Cabin Crew will serve on board Turkish Airlines flights, Pakistani food, newspapers and in-flight entertainment to a number of destinations served by PIA under the code share arrangement.

This arrangement is agreed in principle in the interest of Pakistan International Airline and its customers; however its implementation is subject to approval of regulatory authorities and the Board of Directors.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mumtaz Qadri’s indictment deferred

A court on Tuesday deferred the indictment of the police commando who confessed to killing one of the country’s most liberal politicians.
Punjab Governor Assassin

One of Qadri’s lawyers, Raja Shuja Rehman, the indictment could not take place as planned because the prosecution had yet to provide the defence with six police statements. “The court has ordered that the statements be provided to us and the next hearing has been fixed on February 4. According to the rules, an indictment can be done seven days after statements are provided,” he added.

Yousuf Raza authorised Ambassador to issue visas to US citizens without security clearance by Pakistan

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had authorized the Pakistan Ambassador in Washington to issue visas to US citizens without clearance by security agencies in Pakistan and more than 500 such visas were issued in three days, documents with The News reveal.
Prime Minister Pakistan

The strength of the US Mission in Islamabad has also not only swollen from 280 to about 1,000, including CIA personnel, without any agreement between the two governments nor has the US Embassy provided a list of its officials to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is a common protocol worldwide.

According to a document of the Ministry of Interior that the News has procured as a part of its investigation: “The Prime Minister has been pleased to direct that the Ambassador in Washington will be empowered, with immediate effect, to issue visas valid up to one year without the Embassy having to refer the aforementioned visa applications to the concerned authorities in Pakistan.” The letter further says, “The Pakistan Embassy in US would issue these visas under intimation to the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad.”

Within three days of issuance of this letter, Pakistan’s ambassador in the US issued visas to 500 US officials. Why he was in such a rush has not been explained but sources in the FM say the practice has continued.

The News has procured the list of 436 US officials, who were issued visas in July, 2010. The purpose of visits is shown to be “official business”, “assignment”, “NGO Duty”, “USAID”, “US Army assignment” and “Dyncorps”. It is worth mentioning that due to various security and travel advisories issued by the US State Department, hardly any US businessman or common citizen has visited Pakistan in recent months. For any business deals, Pakistani counterparts are invited to the UAE or other countries in case a meeting is desired by US nationals. The PM’s letter empowering the ambassador flouted the visa policy formulated only months before its issuance. The US Embassy in Islamabad is already undergoing large scale expansion. Well-placed sources in Islamabad have said that the Capital Development Authority has sold 8.2 acres of land (164 kanals) at the rate of US$500 per square yard without bringing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the loop.

The US Embassy is already occupying a vast area of 31.9 acres in Diplomatic Enclave. Initially, in March 2009, the US Embassy tried to acquire 18.5 acres of additional land at nominal rates by directly negotiating with the CDA and without the concurrence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Out of this land, 10 acres of land was located outside the Diplomatic Enclave. It was actually in the green belt and the CDA had offered that land on lease at the rate of Rs 15,000 per square yard. On the observation and interference of the concerned authorities, however, the allocation of 18.5 acres of land to US Embassy was stopped and only 8.5 acres of land at the rate of US$1,000 per square yard was offered.

In October, 2010, the US Embassy again approached Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CDA for the allotment of 8.2 acres of land at the rate of US$500 per square yard.

According to sources, the CDA has accepted the request without bringing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on board. Some of the government officials are also said to be assisting the US in furthering its agenda of expansion by bypassing routine channels. It remains a million dollar question as to why the US Embassy is undergoing such a large expansion without following normal diplomatic protocols.

According to sources, the US Embassy has already undertaken massive construction and it has plans to enhance its control of Diplomatic Enclave. It has already funded building three gates and wants to appoint guards from a security agency. Security cameras and vehicle scanners are also being installed at the gates besides setting up five check posts on the road leading to US Embassy. Sources said 500 foreigners are also likely to come to Pakistan in the garb of labourers.

In Karachi, a huge fortress-like complex on 20.5 acres of land with latest facilities has been constructed for the US Consulate General. It is said that the place will be used as US base for activities in Sindh and Balochistan. According to sources, the US is acquiring land at Gwadar, Quetta and Multan for establishing its consulates.

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