Geeta may leave for India by 26th

KARACHI: Geeta is finally set to go home. The 23-year-old deaf and mute Indian girl recognised her parents through a picture sent by the Indian High Commission to Faisal Edhi’s email address about 10 days ago.

56206fe867892The Edhi Foundation made the announcement on Thursday after getting confirmation from Geeta.

Minutes after the media frenzy ended at the foundation’s head office in Mithadar around noon, Faisal Edhi, accompanied by his father Abdul Sattar Edhi and a few staff members, said: “A day before the high commission sent another picture which included her four brothers and a sister. The family lives in the Indian state of Bihar. She recognised all of them as soon as we showed it to her.”

However, there is a problem. He said: “Her family claims that Geeta is married and has a son. When I asked Geeta, she denied being married or having a son. So far this is the only issue we are dealing with. The Indian government knows about it and its foreign ministry asked us to get her DNA test done so that she could go to the right family.”

Faisal Edhi said Geeta would leave for India by Oct 26. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has issued her a visa and the Indian High Commiss­ion has given her travel documents.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah told journalists in Islamabad that all formalities had been completed for her repatriation and Indian response about the mode of her return was awaited.

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “Geeta will be back in India soon. We have located her family. She will be handed over to them only after the DNA test.”

Speaking about the initial confusion about her residence in India, Faisal Edhi said the confusion persisted because the Edhi Foundation staff lost the earlier file which had her personal details.

“She was brought to us 13 years ago by Rangers personnel who found her near our side of the border (in Punjab),” he said, adding that initially Geeta had lived at various Edhi centres in Punjab.

Faisal Edhi said Rangers brought her to Karachi because they didn’t want to take her to a prison cell, which was a usual course they took with people found near the border without documents or identification.

He said that what they knew about her story, which Geeta told them in sign language, was that she had a spat with her family and left home. After walking for hours she caught a train which brought her to Pakistan.

On the second floor of the Edhi head office building, Geeta looked calm, sitting on a bench near a window. As soon as a staff member informed her in sign language that there’s someone here to meet her, she went straight to her temple room asking him to bring everyone there.

Looking a bit tired after answering media questions about her journey back home, a babysitter at the foundation, Humaira Faiz, asked her questions on behalf of journalists in sign language. The first thing she showed was a framed picture of her parents, with other pictures of her siblings pasted together for her. When asked if she was finally ready to go home, she pointed to her small cupboard in the corner of the room.

“Everything is already packed, she says,” added Humaira, laughing with her.

Asked if she would miss this place, she smiled and nodded.

AP adds: India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi on Thursday that Geeta would come after her travel documents were sorted out.

A man identified by Geeta as her father said she was lost in a village fair, according to a New Delhi news channel.

Mr Swarup said the government had identified two institutions which were meant for people like Geeta with disabilities in case the DNA test was not conclusive.

NAB told to report on ‘graft’ in Metro project

LAHORE: A Lahore High Court division bench on Thursday sought a report from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on a petition alleging Rs72 million corruption in Lahore Metro Bus Service project.

Petitioner “Pak-German Company”, dealing in electrical parts, alleged that Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) former deputy director Najaf Iqbal, officers of Lahore Development Authority Shabana Najaf and Faisal Farid committed corruption to the tune of Rs72 million during execution of the project.

Advocate Khurram Masood Kiyani, counsel for the company, told the bench that the respondent officers misused their powers and received millions of rupees from the petitioner-company as illegal gratification. The company had supplied different electrical equipment for the project.

He said an application was submitted to the NAB with all evidences of the alleged corruption in the MBS project but no action was taken so far. The counsel asked the court to order the NAB to initiate an inquiry into the alleged corruption.

The bench headed by Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa directed the Punjab chapter of NAB to submit its report on the matter within two weeks.

ASIF HASHMI: A Lahore High Court division bench on Thursday linked any action by the NAB against former chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Asif Hashmi with the permission of the court.

The bench also sought assistance from attorney general and advocate general Punjab on legitimacy of the NAB Ordinance challenged by Mr Hashmi.

The ex-chairman of the board stated that Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) had held a detailed inquiry into the case of sale of the board’s land to DHA.

The petitioner’s counsel told the bench that trial of the case before an FIA court was at final stage and many co-suspects were already acquitted of the charges.

However, the counsel said, NAB also initiated an independent inquiry into the matter. Since the NAB Ordinance was not ratified by the parliament and lapsed, he asked the court to restrain the bureau from taking action against the former chairman of ETPB.

The bench stopped the NAB from taking action against the petitioner without prior permission of the court and adjourned hearing till Oct 29.

SC grants bail to woman accused of blasphemy

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday granted the bail plea of a woman who had been incarcerated for three-and-a-half years under blasphemy charges.

562031d45439bA three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, granted bail to Waliha Irfat – currently incarcerated at the Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore – with directions to submit bail bonds worth Rs25,000, on an appeal against an Aug 28 Lahore High Court verdict rejecting a similar plea.

Rights activist Asma  Jahangir represented Ms Irfat before the apex court and argued that she be granted bail until the case was concluded.

Soon after the court order, Ms Jahangir told Media that Ms Irfat had been detained since 2012, despite the fact that under the third proviso incorporated into Section 497 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), no woman could be kept behind bars for more than six months, unless convicted.

In her petition, Ms Jahangir pleaded that her client was innocent and being a Muslim, she could not even conceive of committing such a heinous crime.

Both the complainant Abdul Manum Shah and the prosecution witness Mohammad Boota have categorically stated, in their statements as well as sworn affidavits, that they had not seen the alleged desecration themselves, the appeal argued.

Abdul Manum Shah, who was a security guard at the Punjab Housing Society in Lahore, had filed an FIR on March 3, 2012, at the Factory Area Police Station under Section 295B, which deals with desecration of the Holy Quran.

In his complaint, the security guard had stated that he saw a woman crying near the Dogar Service Station. Upon inquiry, she accused Ms Irfat of defiling the holy book.

Soon after her arrest, Ms Irfat applied for bail, which was rejected by an additional sessions judge on July 10, 2012. She then applied for post-arrest bail before the LHC, but that was withdrawn on July 31.

She then filed a second bail petition before the additional sessions judge, which was also dismissed on Sept 27, 2013. She then applied for bail a third time before the same judge, who dismissed the petition again on April 11 this year.

Finding no reprieve, she then moved the LHC, seeking bail on June 13. The bail matter was heard by four different benches and finally, on Aug 28 bail was denied.

She then moved an appeal before the Supreme Court, which was finally allowed.

Ms Irfat’s appeal stated that the evidence recovered from her was planted with the connivance of another prosecution witness, due to a previous enmity. In addition, it claimed, the petitioner suffered from a mood disorder and displayed impulsive personality traits, and her treatment was not possible in prison since she needed drug treatment and psychotherapy.

PM’s US trip to be marked by tense diplomacy

ISLAMABAD: Confronted with the hard choice of accepting or rejecting the United States bargain on nuclear mainstreaming, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to the White House will be marked by tense diplomacy.

56203301ac913“The prime minister will be paying an official visit to the United States on 20-23 October,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said at the weekly media briefing. He pointed out that a comprehensive agenda would be discussed during the visit, including bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, education, defence, counter-terrorism, health and climate change.

Pakistani officials wouldn’t say anything about the nuclear deal being offered by the Obama administration, which in an undiplomatic description entails curbs on its nuclear programme in return for being allowed entry into nuclear cartels like ‘Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)’ that regulate the global nuclear trade and a nod to civil nuclear cooperation.

US officials are relatively more forthcoming on this as they officially admit that topics to be discussed at the White House meeting include non-proliferation.

It will be after a very long time that the nuclear issue will take the centre stage in a meeting at this level.

The issue came into limelight following recent leaks in US media about the deal being discussed by the two countries. But the discussion has been taking place for some time now.

At the last round of the US-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability and Non-proliferation Working Group in June in Washington, the two sides had agreed on “the desirability of continued outreach to integrate Pakistan into the international non-proliferation regime”.

Pakistan has been asking the United States for a civilian nuclear deal since 2008 and has also been building its case for admission into the NSG. In this regard, Pakistan lately updated its export control list for sensitive technologies and goods to make it compatible with international regimes. The move was praised by the US. But the strings attached to President Obama’s offer are unlikely to be acceptable to Pakistan.

“Yes we want a nuclear deal and are candidates for NSG membership, but there is no desperation for this. The Americans probably misread us,” a senior Pakistani official said in a background briefing on the issue.

“It would be difficult for us to compromise on the core interests. We did not build the nuclear programme as a status symbol, it’s there because of the unfriendly neighbourhood in which we live,” he added.

The official response is, however, available in the form of the statement of the National Command Authority (NCA) that met last month soon after the receipt of the invitation from President Obama for the meeting.

The NCA, an apex policymaking body of the country’s strategic programme, had then said that Pakistan was being compelled to maintain ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence’ because of India’s rapidly growing nuclear programme and absence of a conflict resolution mechanism. The situation, it had warned, was upsetting the strategic stability in the region.

Therefore, the thinking in Islamabad is that the deal being offered by the US should be on the same terms as granted to India, and not on new conditions.

Prime Minister Sharif would in this context also flag the issue of continuing tensions with India and the stalled peace dialogue.

President Obama would definitely try his best to strike a deal with Mr Sharif more for personal reasons. He would certainly like to add another feather to his cap after the Iran deal by getting Mr Sharif to agree on restricting his country’s nuclear programme, which is often described as the fastest growing in the world.

Media outlets asked to observe sanctity of Muharram

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has directed all TV channels, FM radios and cable TV operators to observe the sanctity of Muharramul Haram.

A circular in this regard was issued on Thursday warning all media outlets against relaying or telecasting any programme which compromises on the sanctity of the holy month.

TV channels in particular have been asked to exercise their utmost responsibility and extra care while conducting religious programmes as they should not, in any manner, incite or fan religious discrimination, intolerance and hatred.

The circular stated that no programme shall be aired in contravention to the Pemra Code of Conduct which inter-alia discourages passing derogatory remarks about any religion or sect/community or uses words contemptuous of religious sects and ethnic group or which promotes communal and sectarian disharmony.

Similarly, no programme would be tolerated which may provoke hatred against individual or group on the basis of race, ethnicity and religious orientation.

The electronic media has been directed to follow the great Islamic principles of human values such as faith, tolerance, courage, brotherhood and fraternity for the prosperity and welfare of the country as well as Muslim Ummah.

The Pemra chairman said that any disconformity to afore-stated directives would be taken seriously that may result into imposition of heavy fines, suspension/revocation of licences of violators under Pemra law.