US wants Pakistan, India to adopt more ‘conciliatory approach’ for regional peace

The United States will like to encourage both Pakistan and India to adopt a more conciliatory approach and resolve their contentious issues in the larger interest of regional peace, a US State Department Spokesman said in Washington.

At a briefing in the State Department, spokesman Mark Toner said the US position on Kashmir remains, which is that the two countries should work out a solution between them. But he added that the US would like to see greater cooperation and greater dialogue between Pakistan and India.

“It’s frankly to the benefit of both countries. That includes, certainly, security issues.”

“We want to see tensions go down, and we want to see, as I said, a greater cooperation between the two countries. Now, we’re not there right now, but that’s certainly our inclination,” the spokesman Toner said.

To a question on peace in Afghanistan, the spokesman said it was in the interests of both India and Pakistan to see a stable, secure Afghanistan emerge from the years of fighting.

And certainly, in the interest of regional security as well, there’s a lot of contentious issues, as you note, between India and Pakistan, but the two countries we would encourage to take a more conciliatory approach to each other and to work through some of these issues for the greater good of the region.”

Asked about the recent visit to the United States by Special Envoys of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Jammu and Kashmir and their demand that human rights violations should be included in the US State Department annual report, Spokesman Mark Toner stated that he could not speak about it.

He, however, stated that the US State Department does get information and seeks out information from a variety of sources in compiling the annual Human Rights Report. The department judges the credibility of that information while compiling the report.

“We certainly will look into any credible allegations of human rights abuses wherever they occur,” he said but added that he could not speak to whether these particular abuses will find their way into the report or not.

“That’s part of the process for compiling the report.”

On the overall situation in Afghanistan, the spokesman said that it had been a difficult season and the situation in Helmand was of a particular concern.

He said the Taliban remain a very resilient insurgency to this date and they have continued to challenge the Afghan government forces.

He said the latest attack in Helmand was just another example and another effort by the Taliban to create and sow instability and undermine the progress that the country has made over the past 15 years.

“Thus far, while the Afghan Security Forces have certainly been challenged, they’ve held the line and they’ve performed remarkably well,” he added.

He, however, said the United States wants to see an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process which still remained the best way to bring about a stable and prosperous future for Afghanistan.

‘Technique to block transmission of dengue virus to humans developed’

LAHORE: Entomologists of the Government College University, Lahore, have successfully genetically modified the aedes aegypti mosquito to block the transmission of dengue virus to humans.

The Zoology Department of the varsity believes “this research has potential to completely eradicate dengue vectors and viruses from Pakistan”.

According to the varsity, a team of GCU entomologists led by Zoology Department’s former chairperson Prof Dr Nusrat Jahan has used Wolbachia, a genus of bacteria, as a biological agent for the genetic modification of the laboratory-reared aedes aegypti mosquitoes.


GCU entomologists genetically modified aedes aegypti mosquito


The Wolbachia-based technique makes the mosquito incapable of carrying and transmitting dengue viruses.

The research team also included PhD scholar Muhammad Sajjad Sarwar, M.Phil scholars Falak Batool and Sozaina Khan, and BSc (Hons) students Zayeema Zainab, Fatima Shahbaz and Ammara Naeem.

The GCU has conducted the research in collaboration with Dr Zhiyong Xi, a professor in Michigan State University and director of SYSU-MSU Joint Center of Vector Control for Tropical Diseases, and developed this technology in Pakistan.

“The team established 21 generations, a locally-isolated Wolbachia strain (WAlbB) from the wild collected aedes albopictus mosquitoes in the laboratory-reared aedes aegypti, population by embryo microinjection.

Using the Wolbachia-based technology the established Wolbachia strain was tested for the potential to suppress aedes aegypti population and block dengue transmission,” the department said, adding initially various strains of Wolbachia were detected with molecular characterization and isolated from different species of locally-collected insects; endosymbiont Wolbachia live naturally in 60 per cent population of insects but not in aedes aegypti which is a major dengue vector in Pakistan.

“A preliminary data indicated that established WAlbB strain in males aedes aegypti when mated with non-infected females gave 100pc suppression of aedes aegypti population in a laboratory. No progeny hatched in this case due to cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI),” Prof Nusrat Jahan said.

He said this approach was especially useful for controlling wild population of dengue vector in our environment with mass release of Wolbachia carrying males.

“Male mosquitoes do not bite or transmit disease. Other experiments on aedes aegyti mosquito cell line (developed for the first time in Pakistan in GCU tissue culture laboratory) and also in caged mosquitoes showed that established Wolbachia reduced the ability of aedes aegypti mosquitoes to transmit dengue viruses.

Laboratory results showed that Wolbachia-carrying female mosquitoes have a lower transmission potential for dengue viruses as compared to non-Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes.”

Prof Jahan said that Wolbachia-carrying aedes has been released in many countries, such as, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam, with no negative impact on public health and ecology.

Wolbachia provides a safe strategy because the bacteria are naturally present in a large population of insects. This is the only novel approach for the sustainable control of dengue disease in Pakistan. This approach is economic (reduces insecticide cost and problem of resistance in vector mosquitoes) and environment friendly.

Samsung sees further $3bn profit hit from Note 7 crisis

Samsung on Friday said the crisis over its exploding Note 7 smartphones would cost another $3 billion-plus in lost profit over the next two quarters, but hoped expanded sales of its other flagship handset would help cushion the impact.

The profit warning came two days after the South Korean electronics giant slashed its operating profit for the third quarter by $2.3bn.

After a recall problem with the large-sized Galaxy Note 7 turned into a full-blown crisis, Samsung announced earlier this week that it was scrapping the model entirely ─ a devastating move for a company that prides itself on the quality production of cutting-edge technology.

On top of the third-quarter loss, Samsung said the drop in sales arising from the decision to discontinue the Note 7 would continue to impact profit margins in October-March ─ including the crucial holiday buying season.

It estimated an operating profit loss in the fourth quarter at around the “mid-2 trillion ($2.2 billion) won range” and 1.0 trillion won for the first quarter of 2017.

“Moving forward, Samsung Electronics plans to normalise its mobile business by expanding sales of flagship models such as the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge,” the company said in a statement.

Samsung announced a recall of 2.5 million units of the oversized Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in early September after several devices exploded or caught fire.

When replacement phones also started to combust, the company eventually decided to kill off the Note 7 for good.

The company blamed faulty batteries made by an unnamed supplier ─ widely believed to be its sister company Samsung SDI.

Brand costs

But numerous experts and analysts said the problem may have been with the handset’s underlying technology, and Samsung’s decision to rush the launch of the smartphone ahead of the latest iPhone from arch-rival Apple.

In its statement, Samsung vowed to “focus on enhancing product safety for consumers by making significant changes in its quality assurance processes”.

Industry analysts have suggested the Note 7 fiasco could end up costing Samsung a great deal more, with major losses tied to the harder-to-calculate damage done to brand reputation.

“And this figure doesn’t take into account the huge marketing costs for Samsung to win back customer loyalty and to regain the trust of mobile carriers,” said Greg Roh, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities.

“It will have to spend a lot of money to recover and much work has to be done.” The stock market, which has largely factored in the inevitable hit Samsung will be forced to take, reacted calmly to Friday’s announcement.

Samsung’s share price was up 1.3pc by the close of trading after opening in negative territory, down 0.4pc.

S.R. Kwon, an analyst at Dongbu Securities, said Samsung’s loss forecast was largely aimed at muting speculation about just how bad the profit downturn was likely to be.

Various analysts have estimated a financial cost to Samsung of anywhere between $10bn and $20bn.

“Samsung want to get the discussion over with. It’s like they are telling the market: ‘Stop speculating about something you don’t know’,” Kwon said, adding that the final fourth-quarter earnings would be critical for assessing the real damage done by the crisis.

“Then we’ll know whether it was able to cover the loss with its other models,” he said.

Box-office jingoism: The Hindi film industry is facing its ugliest Diwali in years

Before militants attacked an Army camp in Uri last month, the October 28 release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was being regarded as a multiplex-friendly movie, while Shivaay – which is also slated to be released on the same day – was seen as being better suited to the single screens.

The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India appears to have forced this perception to become reality. The association, which represents 450-odd single screen establishments in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa, announced on Friday that it has directed its members to not screen movies featuring Pakistani, singers or musicians. The immediate casualty of the decision is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Pakistani star Fawad Khan.

“It is not a ban – we have suspended the release of all such films,” Datar told Scroll.in. “We have taken this decision keeping public sentiment in mind. The public is angry, and we have only respected their feelings. We have not taken this decision under any political pressure.”

Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, which has made Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, has not officially responded to the controversy.

The exhibitors’ association is framing its decision as a response to the September 18 Uri attack that left 19 soldiers dead. In the aftermath, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party – which has its headquarters in Mumbai, the nerve centre of the Hindi film industry – has repeatedly asked for Pakistani actors to leave the country. Over the past few days, the party has reiterated its decision to oppose Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

So it wasn’t surprising that Amey Khopkar, the head of the party’s film wing, Chitrapat Kamgar Sena, expressed support for the stance adopted by the exhibitors’ association.

The move comes weeks after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association banned Pakistani actors and technicians from working in India. IMPPA later clarified that the ban was applicable to future projects and not completed films such as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and the Shah Rukh Khan-starrerRaees, which has Pakistani actress Mahira Khan as the heroine. The president of IMPAA, TP Aggarwal, reiterated this position on Friday.

Datar said that nationalist sentiment was more important than commerce. “So many films with Pakistani actors and singers in them are being reshot,” he said, suggesting that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil should take the same expensive route. “What is more important, patriotism or making money?”

The diktat against Pakistani artists will hold even if state governments assure cinema owners of protection against attacks, said Sharad Doshi, a member of the exhibitors’ association who was present at Friday’s meeting. The association has previously highlighted the problems faced by owners of single-screen theatres, such as high taxes and falling footfalls. “We have to start somewhere to support our country, our nation and our soldiers,” said Doshi. “Let them reshoot the film [Ae Dil Hai Mushkil] and substitute the stars.”

No government can assure protection against violence, he added. “We don’t have the machinery to stop attacks,” Doshi said. “You cannot prevent 100 people from buying tickets and entering the cinemas and creating a ruckus. And if the public sees policemen standing out a cinema, they won’t enter it anyway.”

Much is at stake for both Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay. The films are being released during Diwali, an extremely lucrative period for the industry. Ajay Devgn, the director and producer of Shivaay, had announced the release date before Johar’s Dharma Productions, and his anger at having to share his business with Johar resulted in an ugly public spat involving allegations of corruption.

Both films will appeal to different, if overlapping, sections of the audience. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a romance, while Shivaay is an action thriller in the mould of the Liam Neeson starrer Taken. Until the Uri attack, the industry feeling was that both films could co-exist happily . The trade logic was that Shivaaywould be programmed more heavily in single screens, while Ae Di Hai Mushkil would dominate multiplex screens. The decision by the exhibitors’ association will force this division into place at least in the cities in which the organisation holds sway.

The directive comes a week after exhibitors in Delhi pointed out that they would incur heavy losses if they had to drop Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The movie’s trailer has proven popular, and its songs have been chart-toppers. “It’s a Karan Johar film – isn’t the investment in the movie that of an Indian?” a theatre owner told the Times of India newspaper. “We will show the film in our cinemas across all territories unless there is a blanket ban on the film or the government decides to stop screening of all such films. Unless we find ourselves in such an impossible situation, the films will be screened.”

The statement of the exhibitors’ association is carefully worded, since only the courts and the Central Board of Film Certification can ban films, pointed out Akshaye Rathi, a prominent distributor and exhibitor in Maharashtra. “The association has made this decision to protect its members,” Rathi said. “At a personal level, I am all for not working with Pakistani artists from now on, but do not punish Indian filmmakers and studios who made these films at a time when ties between India and Pakistan were cordial. Ae Dil Hai Mushkilwas made when there were talks going on between the countries, so it is wrong now to punish the filmmakers for it. Don’t work with Pakistani artists any more, and don’t issue them visas, but why punish Indians?”

The row that ensued after the announcements of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and IMPAA diktats will only get uglier. Very few industry representatives are willing to speak out against the bans for fear of being seen as unpatriotic. Those who have, including Salman Khan and Mahesh Bhatt, have been pilloried for their remarks. Others, such as Devgn and Akshay Kumar, have taken care to declare their political leanings and publicly declare their support for the strike on Pakistan.

The only IMPPA member to speak out against the ban was the president’s son. Producer Rahul Aggarwal resigned from IMPPA and put out a Facebook post that criticised the decision. Rahul Aggarwal is still talking to his father, he told Scroll.in, but they have both declined requests to appear on television shows together.

Aggarwal remains opposed to the ban, and said that his position seems to have persuaded IMPPA to at least clarify that its decision does not apply to completed projects such as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees. “It is a small step, but it is something,” he told Scroll.in. “Forget Pakistani artists for a moment, their numbers are truly insignificant. Think of the Indians whose blood and sweat have gone into these movies. They too are members of the same film industry.”

Aggarwal also warned that bans and directives will only fuel communal politics. “Look at what has happened to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who could not appear in a Ramlila production in his home town,” Aggarwal said. “Do we really need all this at this point?”

State Bank explains relocating of some functions to Lahore

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) explained once again on Friday why some of its SBP Banking Services Corporation (SBP-BSC) functions have been shifted to Lahore.

Earlier, the move was criticised by a Sindh minister who said the central bank was being gradually shifted to Lahore.

Five out of 11 departments of the SBP-BSC, having oversight functions relating to currency management, banker to governments, internal audit, foreign exchange operations and implementation of Development Finance Group (DFG)-related policies, performed at the office level on a transactional and day-to-day basis are being partially relocated to Lahore, the SBP said.

It said the central region includes Lahore, Bahawalpur, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Multan and Faisalabad offices. Eleven out of 16 field offices are located in central and north regions, which share 60 per cent of SBP’s workload, engage 62pc of its human resources and provide coverage to two-thirds of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) chests.

A majority of chest branches of NBP and those of commercial banks is also functioning in these regions, said the SBP. Coin distribution and upcountry remittances of fresh banknotes to Peshawar, Muzaffarabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Rawalpindi and Islamabad offices are managed by the Lahore office, the SBP said. “The bulk of currency operations are handled in central and north regions,” it added.

The sizeable workforce with necessary supervisory powers will be retained at the Karachi head office to meet the needs of the south region, the SBP noted.

FPCCI’s concerns: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has opposed the decision of the federal government to shift some of its functions from Karachi to Lahore.

This announcement has created great anxiety in the business community across the country in general, and Karachi in particularly, according to a statement released by the FPCCI on Friday.

It termed the move “unfair,” adding that sub-offices of the SBP already operate in other cities of the country.