Mayor blasts govt for overlooking fire department as blaze in Karachi building continues

A third degree fire broke out on the 16th floor of a building on Karachi’s II Chundhrigarh Road early on Saturday morning.

The blaze was later contained by the fire department, but it has yet to be put out completely as the 17th and 18th floor still remain ablaze.

The building was evacuated and one person received minor injuries in the process, however, Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar pointed out to the media that Karachi’s fire department is getting no support from the provincial or federal government.

Akhtar said, “I sent in a list of equipment that needs that needs to be repaired and bought in the fire department, but got no response, as usual. Today this fire was put out by the department and by citizens rescued other citizens, kudos to them for the effort.”

Five fire tenders, a fire snorkel and water bouser have been used to contain the fire, however the fire snorkel can only reach up to the the 14th floor of the building. While the blaze started at the 16th floor and has moved up to the 17th and 18th level.

PM wants loadshedding to end by December

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made it clear to the federal cabinet and the departments concerned that he wants to see an end to electricity loadshedding by Decem­ber this year and will not hesitate to take action against the officials found responsible for gaps in power supply.

Informed sources told Dawn that it was clear from the proceedings of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCOE) — the fourth in 20 days — that the prime minister wanted to declare the country loadshedding-free by December so as to enable his party to face the electorate with confidence in next year’s general election.

The sources said his nervous aides and ministers had advised a cautious approach and wanted completion of trial runs to test sustainability of the transmission and distribution system before coming up with a fresh deadline to avoid another embarrassment.

However, the prime minister repeatedly told the participants in the meeting that he was not ready to allow an extension in the deadline for completion of important generation and transmission projects beyond Decem­ber. An official, however, explained that loadshedding would continue in some rural areas and “security-wise challenging parts” of the country on ‘high-loss-low-recovery grounds’.

The sources said the prime minister was informed that the authorities were already providing electricity to some high-revenue areas without interruption between 12 midnight and 8am in cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad on a trial basis.

Sharif chairs fourth meeting of cabinet body on energy in 20 days and issues a deadline

The prime minister was also told that there was no unscheduled loadshedding even now as hydropower generation had improved and power cuts averaged below five hours. This was in addition to uninterrupted power supplies to the industrial sector.

An official statement said the prime minister expressed displeasure over the current loadshedding schedule. He said it was the government’s responsibility to provide relief to the masses.

“Anticipated planning has not been exercised by the relevant ministries and their organisations for which responsibility must be fixed,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in the statement.

Secretary for water and power Yousaf Naseem Khokhar briefed PM Sharif about the availability and utilisation of idle capacity of plants run by the independent power producers and captive power plants to the extent of 2,000MW and discussed load management plan for the summer. The secretary reported that 866MW of power generation had been restored to the system this month and another 400MW would be added by mid-May.

Khwaja Asif, the Minister for Water and Power, told the meeting that a programme for power system constraints resolution was currently in full swing and would be completed by December.

The prime minister directed the power secretary to constitute a dedicated team for hourly monitoring of the power supply situation. The team must also report on monitoring of power transmission and distribution system as well on a weekly basis.

He directed the water and power secretary to present a line of action for resolution of issues related to idle plants and present a report in two days.

Besides, the ministry was also directed to work out a balanced conversion plan of power generation plants from furnace oil to re-gassified Liquid Natural Gas (RLNG) and coal and present the plan at the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy so as to reduce the cost of electricity for all sectors.

Will reveal who made Rs10bn offer in court: Imran Khan

While addressing a rally at Islamabad’s Parade Ground, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Friday said he will reveal the identity of the individual who offered him Rs10 billion in court.

“Take me to court and I will reveal the identity of the individual,” said the PTI chairman, adding that the ‘messenger’ who brought the offer was also offered Rs2bn for convincing him.

“If I name the person, they will conspire against him,” said Imran.

Imran also announced, during PTI’s first public gathering following the apex court’s verdict on Panamagate, a social boycott of Nawaz Sharif and urged all his followers to do the same.

“Wherever you are, stand up against corruption and raise the slogan of ‘go Nawaz go’,” said Imran to a cheering crowd.

“I assure you that we have reached a point when we will hold a sitting PM accountable for his corruption.”

Referring to the recent Panamagate verdict, Imran said two judges said the prime minister was neither ‘Sadiq’ nor ‘Ameen’ and the other three said further investigation needs to be conducted.

“The Supreme Court also disregarded the letter by the Qatari prince and that was their answer to every question,” Khan said, adding that ministers who loot public money were distributing sweets while declaring victory.

Touching on the controversial meeting between the premier and Indian business tycoon Sajjan Jindal, Imran said the “prime minister does not have courage to look Modi in the eye and confront him over India’s hand in spreading terrorism in Pakistan”.

“Jindal said Nawaz Sharif wants to befriend India but the Army does not let him,” said Imran.

Imran added that he would raise his voice for the rights of Kashmiris wherever he could, while paying tribute to their struggle in India-held Kashmir.

“India’s Modi is campaigning against Pakistan on every front.”

Earlier, Khan had announced his party’s intention to hold a rally in Islamabad to “demand Nawaz Sharif’s resignation”.

Khan’s announcement came a day after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Panamagate case said it would constitute a Joint Investigation Team to probe the Sharif family’s wealth.

What was initially hailed as a win by the PML-N later became an embarrassment for the party as its opposition touted the 2:3 split verdict — neither a clean chit, nor a disqualification — with a strongly-worded dissenting note by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa as an indication that the court had been unable to find Nawaz Sharif innocent.

WB official in Delhi to break water treaty stalemate

WASHINGTON: The World Bank’s vice president for the South Asia region, Annette Dixon, is now in New Delhi for talks aimed at breaking the stalemate over a water dispute between India and Pakistan, official sources told Dawn.

They said Ms Dixon went to India on Tuesday, but the Indians did not publicise the visit as they discourage international mediation in their disputes with Pakistan.

The World Bank, however, is recognised as an arbitrator in the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that distributes waters of the Indus and its tributaries between India and Pakistan.

The latest dispute concerns two hydroelectric projects — Ratle and Kishanganga — that India is building over one of the tributaries. Pakistan views these projects as a violation of the treaty and wants the World Bank to appoint a court of arbitration. India opposes the proposal and has asked the bank to depute neutral experts to further probe the matter.

Pakistan sees the Indian approach as aimed at buying time to complete the two projects and argues that since a neutral expert has no legal authority, the expert’s decision is not legally binding.

As the two sides stick to their positions, the World Bank finds itself in a tight spot and is softly urging both sides to resolve the dispute through talks as it has the potential to undermine the water treaty.

Pakistan fears that India wants to go beyond the treaty by bringing in neutral observers. “We do not want to encourage any process outside the IWT, even showing an inclination to consider that option could hurt the treaty,” said a senior Pakistani official while explaining why Islamabad is reluctant to accept the Indian demand.

Sources in Washington say the World Bank also is against wasting more time and is trying to persuade both sides to start negotiations on the matter.

The decision to send Ms Dixon to New Delhi also shows the importance the bank attaches to the issue. Her assignment at the bank includes promoting poverty reduction projects in South Asia. She oversees lending operations and bank-funded projects worth more than $10 billion a year.

Pakistan and India were scheduled to hold three-day talks on the 850MW Ratle and 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric projects at the World Bank headquarters in Washington on April 12, but India refused to send its delegation. Pakistan, however, had informed the bank that it would attend the talks, if held as scheduled.

Initially, the World Bank wanted to host secretary-level talks between Pakistan and India in Dubai, but Pakistan proposed that the venue be changed to Washington. Pakistani authorities had announced that Annette Dixon would personally attend the talks and facilitate both countries in resolution of disputes on run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects being constructed in India-held Kashmir.

The Indus water commissioners of both countries met in Islamabad last month to discuss the designs of three proposed hydroelectric projects — Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and Miya — in held Kashmir and flood supply data.

Pakistan says India has not shared the designs of the three projects.

The Ratle hydroelectric project is in initial stage and Pakistan has objections to its design. The Obama administration also played a supporting role in encouraging the talks, but so far the Trump administration has not indicated its approach.

US says ‘major conflict’ with North Korea possible, China warns of danger of escalation

US President Donald Trump said a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, while China said the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control.

Trump, speaking to Reuters on Thursday, said he wanted to resolve the crisis peacefully, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, although a military option was not off the table.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there was a danger that the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control, China’s foreign ministry said.

Wang made the comments in a meeting with a Russian diplomat on Thursday at the United Nations, the ministry said in a statement.

China, the only major ally of North Korea, has been increasingly uncomfortable in recent months about its neighbour’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in violation on UN resolutions. The United States has called on China to do more to rein in Pyongyang and Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his efforts, calling him “a good man”.

“I believe he is trying very hard. I know he would like to be able to do something. Perhaps it’s possible that he can’t. But I think he’d like to be able to do something,” Trump said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that China had asked North Korea not to conduct any more nuclear tests. Beijing had warned Pyongyang it would impose unilateral sanctions if it went ahead, he added.

“We were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own,” Tillerson said on Fox News, without specifying what sanctions he was referring to.

Tillerson did not say when China made the threat and there was no immediate confirmation from Beijing. He is due to chair a meeting with UN Security Council foreign ministers on Friday, where he said he would stress the need for members to fully implement existing sanctions as well as possible next steps.

China banned imports of North Korean coal in February, cutting off its most important export, and Chinese media this month raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to the North if it unleashed more provocations.

Missile defence, carrier group

In a show of force, the United States is sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday. South Korea’s navy has said it will hold drills with the US strike group.

Admiral Harry Harris, the top US commander in the Pacific, said on Wednesday the carrier was in the Philippine Sea, within two hours’ striking distance of North Korea if need be.

Harris also said a US missile defence system being deployed in South Korea to ward off any possible North Korean attack would be operational in coming days.

However, Beijing has been angered by the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, missile defence system, complaining that its radar can see deep into China and undermines its security.

Trump said in the interview he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the THAAD, which he estimated at $1 billion. South Korea, one of Washington’s most crucial allies in the region, said the US would have to bear the cost, pointing to possible friction ahead.

The spokesman for Moon Jae-in, the frontrunner in South Korea’s May 9 presidential election, said on Friday that deployment of THAAD should be “immediately suspended” ahead of a decision by the next government.

Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the US with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile tests, including one this month, a day before a summit meeting between Trump and Xi in Florida.

Any direct US military action would run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among US forces in both countries.

Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.

“As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on North Korea and other countries on Thursday to avoid behaviour or rhetoric that could increase tensions around Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

North Korea, technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, regularly threatens to destroy the US and says it will pursue its nuclear and missile programmes to counter perceived US aggression.