UN chief slams killings in India-held Kashmir, calls for India-Pak dialogue

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has deplored the ongoing killings in India-held Kashmir as security forces there try to stamp out weeks of anti-government protests by Kashmiri civilians, and urged India and Pakistan to settle Kashmir and other issues through dialogue.

“I stand ready to offer my good offices, should it be requested by both sides, to facilitate dialogue in order to achieve a negotiated settlement,” he wrote in a letter he sent in response to a letter from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif apprising the UN chief about the deteriorating situation in Kashmir.

“I deplore the loss of life and hope that all efforts will be made to avoid further violence,” the secretary-general said in his letter, obtained by APP.

At least 70 Kashmiri civilians have been killed and thousands more injured in Indian held Kashmir in clashes with security forces after the killing of a prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani, in a military operation on July 8.

In his letter of August 5, Prime Minister Sharif called for efforts to end the violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people and also to implement the decades-old UN Security Council resolutions providing a framework for the settlement of Kashmir dispute through a plebiscite.

“I appreciated the continued commitment of Pakistan to the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute for the sake of regional peace and security, as you reaffirmed in your letter,” Ban said in his letter.

“The United Nations remains convinced that it is only through dialogue that the outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, including on Kashmir, can be addressed.”

The secretary-general said that he looked forward to meeting the Pakistani leader again during the upcoming seventy-first session of the UN General Assembly to “discuss matters of common interest”.

Pakistan has been actively pursuing the Kashmir issue at various forums at the UN, with Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi focusing on it in her statement at the General Assembly in a debate on human rights.

She also raised the issue during meetings with the UN leadership as well as with the President of the Security Council last month.

Top officials of govt gas pipeline firm sacked for questioning transparency

ISLAMABAD: The government has sacked the chairman and an independent member of the board of directors (BoD) of a state-owned entity executing $15 billion gas pipeline projects after they raised questions of economic feasibility, transparency and record tampering.

Informed sources told  Media that Chairman Nawabzada Shahzad A. Khan and member Zubair Motiwala were unceremoniously removed by the ministry of petroleum from the nine-member board of the Interstate Gas Systems (Pvt) Ltd (ISGS) a day after they put on record in writing what they described as the fudging of proceedings and decisions of the board meetings regarding critical pipeline projects and budgets.

The size of the board was reduced through a notification to seven comprising officials of the ministry and its subordinate companies.

When asked if the two gentlemen were removed for raising questions over transparency and fudging of record of the board meetings, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said: “Not that I know of.”

The ISGS only had an acting chairman for the last few meetings as the board was to be reconstituted due to the expiry of the term of several members, he added.

He declined to comment on issues of transparency and record tampering, saying the ISGS managing director should be contacted to seek comments on the issues.

Mr Khan alleged in a letter sent to the petroleum minister after his sacking that the ministry had “started exerting pressure on the decision making of the board of directors… and tried to manage and implement important decisions through the managing director without authorisation of the board”.

He said he had written the letter as a “whistle blower for the people at the helm of affairs to (ask them to) take appropriate action to restrain those responsible from plundering the state exchequer”.

He said that the structure of $4.7 billion gas pipeline projects — 850km Gwadar-Nawabshah and 710km Karachi-Lahore — had been designed on foreign loans against sovereign guarantees. It will mean the public will pay $20.3bn in the next 20 years though the gas supply will be only 600 million cubic feet per day — half of the promised 1200mmcfd.

He said that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project inaugurated in early 2013 had been shelved by the ministry without knowledge or consent of the ISGS board. “It was reshaped into Gwadar-Nawabshah project without a technical and financial feasibility study. The consultant hired for the Iran-Pakistan project was also given works of a liquefied natural gas terminal and the Gwadar-Nawabshah pipeline without authorisation of the board and in violation of procurement rules as highlighted by independent lawyer Khalid Anwar.”

Mr Khan said that the project had been taken in hand in haste and without proper evaluation and without bidding.

He argued that in the absence of Iran-Pakistan project, there was no justification for the Gwadar-Nawabshah pipeline because a much cheaper option could have been available at Karachi. “The whole process apparently seems to be tainted”.

He said the North-South pipeline with a capital expenditure of $2.2bn promised $526 million annual charges on a “take or pay” basis and the public would end up paying $10.5bn in 20 years.

He said the cost of the gas pipelines ran into billions of dollars and required due diligence, technical evaluation, comparative cost analysis and competitive and transparent process of procurement needs.

He said that he had highlighted some of the deficiencies in the process and called a meeting of the board to discuss them. But instead of rectifying the deficiencies, the ministry moved with mala fide manner and without lawful authority changed the board in violation of the companies’ ordinance, public sector companies’ rules and the article of association of the company.

Earlier, Mr Khan reported on Aug 10 that he had found in the minutes of 100the meeting of the board “certain approvals… whereas in actual no such approval was granted”.

He said that it was not the first case of this kind as the company secretary had also tried to forge the minutes of the 99th meeting and showed approvals that had not been granted by the board. Same was the case with the minutes of the 84th board meeting, he added.

He alleged that some ISGS officials were working in two other government companies without approval of its human resource committee or BoD and drawing salaries and perks from three companies simultaneously. Also salaries of “certain staff members” were raised abnormally without approval from the board while critical posts were kept vacant to create justification for hefty payments of Rs2.5bn made to a consultancy firm that has not started ground work so far.

Mobin Saulat, Managing Director of the ISGS, said that tampering with the minutes of the board meetings was “impossible” because they were recorded, transcribed and then circulated to all board members. The minutes were finally approved by the board chairman once all members cleared them after corrections.

He said that the minutes of the 99th and 100th meetings of the board had not been approved yet and added that the board also discussed issues on government directives.

He said the reconstitution of the board was due now and the ministry had also changed boards of other public sector companies in recent months.

Mr Saulat said that he had had an association with Shahzad Khan over the past few years during which there had been no difference of opinion between them on Iran-Pakistan and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipelines or other pipelines and the projects had achieved many milestones with the approval of the board of directors. “Mr Khan did not raise any objection to the projects during the board meetings but perhaps he had some political differences with the ministry”, he said.

CM CONGRATULATES PML-N’S MUMTAZ QAISARANI ON WINNING PP-240 BYE-ELECTION

LAHORE, Aug 18 (APP): Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday congratulated PML-N candidate Mumtaz Qaisarani on winning bye-election of PP-240 Taunsa, Dera Ghazi Khan. He said that honesty and transparency had succeeded.

Shehbaz Sharif said that success in bye-election was expression of the confidence by the people in the policies of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

He said the result of bye-election had proved that people were with those doing the politics of public service.APP

Senator Talha Mahmood praised President Erdogan for showing bold leadership during the crisis of the coup.

Turkish President Reception Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday received the All Parties Parliamentary Delegation at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.

During the meeting, that lasted for 90 minutes and was held in a cordial and very relaxed atmosphere, President Erdogan thanked both the Houses of Parliament of Pakistan for unanimously passing resolutions in support of democracy in Turkey.

President Erdogan also condemned the terrorist incident in Quetta and condoled with the families, adding that ‘Turkey supports Pakistan in the struggle against terrorism.’

He told the visiting parliamentarians that he would soon pay a visit to Pakistan to thank the Pakistani people for standing by Turkey in this hour of need.

Senator Talha Mahmood  said that the parliamentary delegation includes 8 political parties from across the political spectrum from both the government and opposition from all the provinces of Pakistan, who express full solidarity and support to Turkey’s defense of democracy.

Talha Mahmood praised President Erdogan for showing bold leadership during the crisis of the coup and taking the initiative of mobilizing the people to resist the coup attempt.

Senator Talha Mahmood termed the relationship between Pakistan and Turkey as “special, extraordinary bond between two countries who are part of the same Ummah”. He presented a `fatwa’ of 51 prominent Ulema of all schools of thought, supporting Turkish democracy and the constitutional government of President Erdogan.

Senator Talha express views to implement justice and role on the Heart of people that was the reason Turkh Nation rush toward the Power, Who wanted to disable the Government. 5 year Children to 100 years Old citizen were on road against the Military Crises and support you. History of Turkh Nation is full of effort for Islam, We respect for all.

The meeting was attended by Senator Mushahid Hussain,Senator Leader of the Delegation&Senator Muammad Talha Mahmood ,Seanator Javed Abbasi (PML-N), Senator Sehar Kamran (PPP), Munaza Hassan, MNA (PTI),Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi (National Party), Sahibzada Tariqullah (Jamaat Islami) and Senator Sitara Ayaz (ANP).

 

Afghanistan’s several groups affiliating with ISIS: US State Dept

WASHINGTON: American State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner has said that several groups in Afghanistan are affiliating themselves with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

While delivering a press briefing in the United States capital, Toner demanded Afghan Taliban to subdue themselves to the constitution and play their role in restoring peace.
He stated that Taliban must understand what political leadership of Afghanistan asks of them. Long battle is not the solution to problems, he said adding that the United States would continue to support those who are striving for peace and stability in Afghanistan including country’s army.

He said that the United States made efforts to stop funding of terrorists across the globe but total halt to sponsorship remains a challenge.

Toner said that the United States was deliberating over the situation caused by Russian access to Iran soil.

He further said that steps taken by Russia are hindering efforts made by the US to end aggression in Syria.

While answering a question about a third splinter group of Afghan Taliban after United States drone strike killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May, the deputy spokesperson said that further division sure does make reconciliation process complex but not impossible.
Further explaining his answer, Toner said that it becomes harder to get consensus if number of factions is large.

Meanwhile, he welcomed fighting among different factions of Taliban as it would make the extremist group weaker thus innocent lives would be saved.

However, adoption of the constitution and laying down weapons remains United States much desired solution, he cleared.

Another question that explored possible informal alliance between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Taliban in Afghanistan, he said that there definitely was possibility and the department has witnessed that before elsewhere.

“We’ve seen it in Libya and elsewhere, frankly for it to expand or to reach out its tendrils, if you will, into different places that are ungoverned spaces, and certainly that’s true for Afghanistan,” Toner said.

The United States government, he said was in contact with Afghan officials and security forces to stop it from happening.