A new charity in Nazia Hassan’s name aims to educate Karachi’s street children

Providing Karachi’s underprivileged children with an opportunity to gain an education and groom themselves, new initiative the ‘Nazia Hassan Foundation’ will possibly be the first of its kind in the city.

Muniza Basir, mother of the famous Pakistani pop artist, spoke to Images about the family’s latest initiative.

“We are working towards establishing a school here in Karachi, but this is not just any other school in Pakistan. This school is specifically dedicated to the grooming and education of working children on the streets – who have been burdened with the expectation of earning for their entire families at the expense of their own education,” she says.

She further explains, “Our school aspires to offer these children a course on whatever they are already doing as a profession, while also teaching them basic subjects such as English, mathematics, computer skills and history. The aim of this initiative is to brush up skills that would help them flourish in their profession, while also being capable of going and taking up their work in any other place and not having to worry about getting by.”

While they hope to branch out to other parts of Pakistan, Muneeza believes that “charity begins at home”.

“Karachi was where Nazia was born, and like millions of other people – it is her home. We plan on starting out here, and Karachi has the greatest number of such children running around, looking for any kind of work that will get them doh wakt ki roti,” reasons Muneeza.

Since the school has been named after the singer, was it Nazia’s wish to launch her own school?

“Nazia’s wish wasn’t [specifically] to launch her own school, but her wish was for Pakistani children to be able to earn a living, while also being able to get educated so that they don’t ever get left behind. An educational program is good for any poverty-ridden country,” replies Nazia’s mother.

While the students will be taught to work on the skills and talents they already have, music courses aren’t something the family is specifically aiming to seek. “We haven’t thought of it as of now, it all depends on the children. At this moment in time, we only care about putting in hard work,” says Muneeza.

They aim to provide a long term solution to children who grow up on the streets by providing them with diplomas from established universities.

“We will be offering a five-year course for our students, and have been reaching out to universities who can authorise and give these students a diploma. With this diploma, they can earn their livelihood anywhere. As we are sure that the universities will promote this initiative, it is to our great pleasure to announce that our students will now also have the option of pursuing higher education!” she says.

And so far Muniza says that the project has been entirely self-funded. “At this moment in time, I have gotten help from my husband. When I came back to Pakistan, I knew that this is the time to work for the project that Nazia always had in mind. I had another full time responsibility of bringing up Nazia’s little toddler (who is now studying Law and History at King’s College),” she explains.

It didn’t take much to convince Nazia’s father and he was on-board with the idea without any hesitations.

“I saw a building which belongs to our family. I was aware that from a business perspective Nazia’s father would take some time thinking over the prospect before handing it over to me. I asked him hesitantly, “What about this building of yours?” It’s in a prime area to set up a learning centre for children. I remember that it was Nazia’s wish, and she was working on it even at that time. I knew that this property is too expensive to be used as a centre of education, but I was shocked to hear Basir respond with, “What could be more valuable than my beti’s wish, and all these children’s lives and futures?”

Is there a way others can help and contribute?

“At this moment in time, it is our family working on this – but people have already come forward,” she says. “This country has many people who have love for this country, and for the children of this country, in their hearts. When we open a branch to formally accept donations for this school, we’ll be sure to let you know.”

“We believe in education for children no matter what their circumstances, and no matter how poor they are. Education is every little child’s right, says Muneeza. And she is hopeful others will join hands with them so that they can open more schools in other parts of Pakistan.

The tentative name for the school is the ‘Nazia Hassan Foundation’, but Muniza says it may change to Nazia Hassan’s Schools for Studying. So far there is no confirmation of the school’s opening date.

Govt, opposition set for Panama probe legislative war

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition on Friday appeared ready for a legislative war over a law seeking formation of a commission to hold an inquiry into corruption charges, including money laundering.

After the Panama Papers leaks hit the headlines, both sides agreed to form an inquiry commission but a difference of opinion saw the collapse of talks over its terms of reference (ToR).

Two days after the PPP submitted to the Senate secretariat its PTI-backed bill seeking formation of a judicial commission on the scandal involving politicians owning offshore companies, the government on Friday introduced in the National Assembly the Pakistan Inquiry Bill 2016 to replace the 1956 Act on the subject.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said at a press conference that the government was open to discussions to reform the law but the opposition had closed its doors. He said the government was left with no option but to bring its own draft after the opposition submitted its bill seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry into Panamagate.

Keeping in view the fact that the opposition had a majority in the Senate and the government in the National Assembly, the minister expressed the hope that the matter would ultimately be decided at a joint session of parliament.

He said the government had given more powers to the inquiry commission under the proposed bill and was ready to further reform the draft in a professional manner.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Ports and Shipping Minister Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Zafarullah Khan and Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman were also present.

Mr Dar accused the opposition of confining its bill to the Panama Papers to save its own leaders owning non-Panama offshore companies. He said the opposition was also against an inquiry into the cases of loans written off under political influence and illegal transfer of money abroad.

He said the opposition’s bill targeted the prime minister, although his name had not appeared in the Panama Papers. He added that the prime minister had already said that his family members mentioned in the papers would appear before the commission of inquiry.

He said the opposition had adopted an irresponsible parliamentary attitude, adding that various bills of the government passed by the National Assembly had been amended by the opposition in the Senate and the government had accepted them with amendments and got them adopted by the National Assembly.

“The opposition at that time said it was its right. Now we will also use our right,” Mr Dar said, giving a clear indication that the opposition bill, even if passed by the Senate, would be blocked in the National Assembly.

The law minister said the inquiry commission had been given more powers under the bill as sought by the Supreme Court – an apparent reference to criticism of the earlier law by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali who had observed that any commission formed under the 1956 Act would be “toothless”.

Hasil Bizenjo said the government had tried to prepare the law in consultation with the opposition for money laundering and other corruption cases, but the opposition did not want it to go beyond the Panama Papers. “They have declared the prime minister guilty and have also prescribed a sentence for him.”

Anusha Rahman said the opposition’s bill was aimed at nabbing the person whose name was not in the Panama Papers and an attempt was being made to target the prime minister in a ‘roundabout manner’. She said she was amazed to see that the word publicly had also been defined in the opposition’s bill that sought the proceedings to begin with the person who had publicly offered himself for accountability.

The government team termed the opposition’s bill a mala fide agenda meant to seek protection and immunity for many forms of corruption.

In June, after a series of meetings of the parliamentary committee on the Panama Papers issue, the opposition parties had decided not to hold further talks with the ruling coalition after the government’s refusal to accept their ToR for a Panama-specific probe.

The opposition alliance had rejected the government-prepared ToR and presented its own version demanding that the judicial commission begin the inquiry with the prime minister. The opposition bill includes all their proposed ToR which the government has already rejected. The bill asks the commission to first investigate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members and then proceed against others named in the Panama Papers.

However, the text avoids naming PM Sharif or his office, instead referring to: “respondents, including their family members, who have publicly volunteered for accountability or have publicly admitted holding of assets and properties or offshore companies abroad”.

The commission is bound to complete the inquiry against the prime minister in three months – with the option for a one-month extension – while it will get 12 months to proceed against all others whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers.

Salient features of govt bill

Under the government bill, the federal government will specify the time period within which the inquiry is to be conducted, but may extend it on a request by the commission. The commission will have the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

The chairman or any officer, not below the rank of BPS-17 authorised by the chairman, may enter any building or place where the commission has reason to believe that any books of account or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found and seize any such books or take extracts or copies.

The commission will have the powers of summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath, requiring the discovery and production of any documents and requisitioning any public record.

The commission will have the same powers as the high court to punish for contempt any person who abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the commission, disobeys any orders of the commission or scandalises it. Executive authorities will act in aid of the commission. The final and interim reports of the commission will be made public.

Earlier during the day, the bill was presented on the floor of the house by Law Minister Zahid Hamid. In his remarks, Mr Hamid claimed that the government had come up with the most comprehensive law possible in the current circumstance.

Recalling Supreme Court’s observations made in response to the letter written by the prime minister for setting up a commission to probe the Panama Papers leaks, the law minister said: “The proposed bill covers all areas towards which the top court has referred to.”

The SC was for expanding the scope of investigations since it involved complex crimes such money laundering and setting up of offshore companies.

Accusing the opposition parties of stonewalling the government’s honest efforts for the formation of a purposeful commission, the law minister said: “Opposition only seems interested in engaging Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama commission.”

In response, PPP leader Syed Navid Qamar said it was a breach of the parliamentary traditions to defend a bill at the time of its presentation. He said for all practical purposes this bill was meant to protect the prime minister after the names of his children had appeared in the Panama Papers. “Certainly, following the leaks, people have genuine queries about the finances of the prime minister and his family which need to be answered, but this bill practically stops us from doing so.”

He said what to talk about forcing the government to respond to the queries, the bill in its present form even didn’t allow asking a question. The PPP leader said as part of the opposition he rejected this bill now and would do it so when it came back for final voting.

PTI parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi echoed the argument presented by the PPP leader. Mr Qureshi said that during eight sittings of the ToR committee, the opposition parties had tried their best to reach to some agreement, but the government was unwilling to listen anything against the prime minister.

This bill, argued Mr Qureshi, was only to muddle the issue of Panama Papers which the opposition was fully determined to take to its logical conclusion.

India gives Vietnam $500m for defence spending

HANOI: India said Saturday it is giving Vietnam half a billion dollars in credit to boost defence ties, the latest security deal between the two nations seeking to counter Beijing’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement during a visit to Hanoi, which has gone on a spending spree in recent years to expand and modernise its military arsenal amid territorial disputes with Beijing in the strategically vital waterway.

“I am also happy to announce a new defence credit for Vietnam of $500 million for facilitating deeper defence cooperation,” Modi told reporters after signing the deal.

Prime Minister Narendra gestures next to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam (R) as he is greeted during a visit to the Quan Su pagoda in Hanoi on Sep 3 ─ AFP
Prime Minister Narendra gestures next to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam (R) as he is greeted during a visit to the Quan Su pagoda in Hanoi on Sep 3 ─ AFP

He did not specify details of the arrangement, but traditionally such lines of credit would oblige Vietnam to sign contracts with Indian companies.

About 50 per cent of India’s trade passes through the South China Sea, where Beijing has built up islands and outcrops capable of supporting military activities to the chagrin of Vietnam and other claimants.

Vietnam’s prime minister praised its close friendship with India Saturday during the visit ─ the first by an Indian premier in 15 years and part of New Delhi’s “Act East Policy” to strengthen economic and security ties with east Asian neighbours.

“(We) discussed matters concerning the East Sea,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told reporters.

“All sides must peacefully solve East Sea disputes based on international laws,” he added of the contested waterway, where the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also have claims.

The latest defence deal follows a similar announcement in 2014 when India agreed to give Vietnam a $100 million line of credit to buy naval patrol boats, a move that likely rankled China.

Beijing has previously criticised India’s cooperation with Vietnam in the defence sector, and India has its own frosty history with China following a brief but bloody border war in 1962.

Friends in the region

Vietnam was the eighth largest importer of arms between 2011 and 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, up from a rank of 43 in the previous five-year period.

The communist country is increasingly looking to new partners to replace or update Soviet-era military equipment, including the United States which lifted a Cold War-era arms embargo in May.

Vietnam expert Carl Thayer said Modi’s trip was Vietnam’s way of showing it has other friends in the region.

“Vietnam is playing that game: ‘Come on, China, get close to us, cooperate, but if you don’t we can move to India or we’ll go talk to you after the prime minister of India has just been through,’ ” he said.

India and Vietnam signed a dozen agreements in all, including a $5 million deal to build a technology park in the coastal resort city of Nha Trang.

Vietnam is pushing to become a key player in Southeast Asia’s tech scene as it looks to diversify exports beyond manufacturing and agriculture.

Modi also visited the tomb of Vietnam’s independence leader and communist crusader Ho Chi Minh, posting a photo on Twitter of the monument where the embalmed national hero is on display, saying:

“Paid tributes to one of Asia’s tallest leaders, the great Ho Chi Minh.”

Modi is scheduled to fly out later Saturday to attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou China along with other world leaders.

He will then head to Laos for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and will attend an ASEAN-India Summit on September 8.

Senate body to consult stakeholders on gas cess

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Special Committee on Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) criticised the government on Friday for failing to rectify anomalies in the cess and noted that the textile sector was getting undue favours.

The meeting, chaired by Senator Ilyas Bilour, noted that the captive power plants (CPPs) of textile units were enjoying exemption under the GIDC Act of 2015, and recommended they should be treated on a par with the industrial sector.

The committee decided to consult all the stakeholders in resolving the issue of outstanding amount of Rs100 billion against various consumers on account of GIDC.

Briefing the participants, Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the government has not waved off the outstanding amount of any segment of the economy.

The committee decided to invite all stakeholders in the next meeting for consultation so that a reasonable solution can be reached.

Mr Abbasi said the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority included GIDC in the price of compressed natural gas (CNG) and all CNG outlets have collected it from end-consumers; therefore, the sector must have to pay the amount.

The committee chairman complained that the government was not providing relief in gas tariff to the industrial sector of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that ignoring the province was injustice.

The representatives of the textile sector who were invited to the committee blamed the ministry of finance for creating a mess by showing GIDC as revenue in the budget documents, saying that the government has only spent Rs280 million from GIDC on gas infrastructure development projects out of over Rs200 billion collected under the head.

Meanwhile, the petroleum minister after consulting the officials said that the GIDC collection of over Rs100 billion was still outstanding against various consumers, including CNG outlets, fertiliser and cement plants, general industry, etc.

The committee has recommended that GIDC issue should be treated sector-wise as all sectors are ready to pay but not retrospectively. It has further recommended that the CNG sector should be given a sympathetic consideration and the exemption should be provided in pursuance of court orders.

Azhar’s captaincy on line, young ODI players, team management may continue

LAHORE: Pakistan one day cricket team’s below-par show against England in the on-going five-match ODI series has earned it widespread criticism from fans and critics alike.

However, while the majority of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) think tank members have given a thumbs down to skipper Azhar Ali for failing to motivate the team, they believe that the current set of players and the team management should be given at least six more months before they should come under the scanner for a possible revamp.

 Media learnt on authority here on Friday that chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, who selected the squad for England ODI series, has conveyed to the PCB that it would be premature to bring major changes in the team and it should be given a further six months to prove their mettle.

Pakistan, languishing at a poor ninth spot in world ODI rankings, have lost all four ODIs to England so far under Azhar’s leadership and have failed to put up a fight which is in stark contrast to the handsome performance put up by Pakistan Test team earlier on the tour when they drew 2-2 with the hosts under Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy.

According to sources close to the PCB think tank, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed has been favoured to take over from Azhar. Sarfraz is Pakistan’s T20 captain and will lead the team against England in the one-off match at Manchester on Sept 7.

Read: ‘I can win matches with both bat and ball,’ says Imad Wasim

“After the tour we should sit down to analyse the performance of the team and the performances of each captain (Misbah, Azhar and Sarfraz) in different formats and then we should decide to make any change,” a PCB official told Media.

“Sarfraz is the only available choice in place of Azhar and though it is not an ideal choice for us, we have no other suitable candidate for the ODI captaincy in sight,” the official said while speaking on condition of anonymity.

“All-rounder Imad Wasim is definitely a player who can be suitable for this post, but it will be premature to hand over such a big responsibility to him. However, if Sarfraz also fails to improve the ODI team’s performance, Imad is definitely the next candidate for PCB.”

Azhar has now led Pakistan in 24 ODIs during the past 14 months, losing 15 matches, winning eight and one ended in no result.

Interestingly, the official said the PCB had been expecting the below par show from the ODI team in England and is ready to give six months time to the newly inducted players and the team management to prove their potential.

However, the board is looking to relieve Azhar of the captaincy duties.

Meanwhile, Test discard wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, in a media talk on Friday, said that the responsibility of the sluggish performance in the ODI series should not only be put on the captain as the entire team is responsible for it.

Read: We’ll know by tour-end who we can and can’t take, warns coach Arthur

“It will be not the right solution to put all the responsibility of defeat on captain Azhar Ali as the entire team is responsible for the poor show against England,” Kamran said.

“You can’t win matches with a meager total of 250 on the board and we need big hitting players who can hit the ball powerfully,” he said. “We need lot of improvement at the grass roots level, especially at the club level cricket to produce good ODI players.”

In another interesting development, it was learnt that undisciplined players Umar Akmal is likely to return for the upcoming series against the West Indies in UAE in Oct-Nov.

A PCB official, while confirming the reports about young Akmal, ruled out any immediate return for the other undisciplined player, opening batsman Ahmad Shahzad who has been out of favour with the selectors of late.

“We have kept both Umar and Ahmed away from the team to teach them a lesson and to bring improvement in their attitude which had not exemplary in the past,” said the official.

“The PCB now expects both the players to change their attitude and play with more responsibility. They have also met chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq to assure him that there will be no further complains from their side in the future.”

In the first attempt the selectors may give Umar a chance against the West Indies and may be later Shahzad could come in too,” said the PCB official.

“There is also a proposal under consideration to send Ahmad Shehzad with Pakistan-A team to Zimbabwe this month as it could help the Board to assess his attitude and performance before taking a final decision about his comeback into the national team.”

The national selection committee is in the process to select the Pakistan A team for the tour of Zimbabwe, starting from Sept 23.