Woman dies ‘unattended’ on hospital floor in Lahore

LAHORE: A 60-year-old woman breathed her last on the floor of Jinnah Hospital on Monday evening after she was allegedly denied treatment at three state-run hospitals.

Zahra complained of severe pain in chest early in the morning and was brought to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) from a Kasur village on a taxi at around 11am.

Doctors at the emergency ward ‘diagnosed’ her with some kidney problem and referred her to Services Hospital, a male relative accompanying the body in an Edhi ambulance told Dawn outside the Jinnah Hospital mortuary.

Not willing to be named, the relative said the medics at the Services Hospital examined Zahra on a stretcher near the entrance to the medical emergency ward and referred her to Jinnah Hospital on account of unavailability of any bed.

Doctors examined her at the Jinnah emergency at around 3pm and referred her to Medical Unit I.

“Since no bed was available in the unit, a doctor asked us to wait outside. The patient was kept waiting for three hours or so until she breathed her last,” said the relative.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the death of the woman due to non-provision of medical aid and ordered an inquiry.

He directed that the matter should be thoroughly investigated and a report be presented.

The chief minister said the persons responsible for negligence should be identified and action be taken.

Uncertainty about military courts affects terror cases fate

KARACHI: Since the federal government is still undecided about the fate of military courts set up two years ago under a special law, the Sindh apex committee deferred a decision about the referral of nine terrorism cases to the interior ministry on Monday.

Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the Sindh chief minister, told Dawn that the apex committee meeting took no decision about sending the nine cases to military courts as these courts will cease to exist this week if no fresh legislation is carried out.

The military courts were set up in January 2015 under the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, commonly known as the 21st Constitution Amendment. The special legislation, a part of the National Action Plan, had a sunset clause by virtue of which it would expire on Jan 7 and the military courts would cease to exist.

Sindh Home Secretary Shakeel Mangnijo told a meeting of the provincial apex committee on Monday that a subcommittee of the apex body — Sindh Legal Committee — had completed scrutiny of nine terrorism cases to be sent to the military courts for trial.

The legal committee, headed by the home secretary, includes the law secretary and one official each from the police, Rangers and Intelligence Bureau. The body thrashes out a list of the cases, presents them before the apex committee and then sends them to the interior ministry after the chief minister’s approval.

The interior ministry carries out a scrutiny of the cases before rejecting or referring them to military courts.

The meeting, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, was also attended by top military officials in the province.

Besides, the home secretary informed the meeting that over the last two years the Sindh government had recommended a total of 105 cases to the interior ministry, but the latter referred only 29 of them to military courts. Currently, he added, 19 such cases were being heard by military courts.

The ‘indifferent’ attitude of the federal government towards the implementation of key provisions of the National Action Plan also came under discussion.

A statement quoted Murad Ali Shah as telling the meeting: “We are holding the 19th apex committee meeting today which speaks louder of our commitment, but I am sorry to say that the federal government has failed to implement some important clauses of the National Action Plan.”

The chief minister said the federal government’s policy on issues like banned outfits and repatriation of illegal immigrants was “not clear”. He also regretted that the National Counter Terrorism Authority had not started functioning as yet.

Maula Bux Chandio, the CM’s adviser on information, later said at a news briefing that the federal government had not implemented the NAP provisions pertaining to seminaries, illegal arms and banned outfits.

He said illegal weapons were not manufactured in Sindh and it was the federal government’s duty to stop transportation.

“Sincerity of purpose is needed for efficient implementation of the National Action Plan.”

However, PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry contested Mr Chandio’s statement, claiming that normality had returned to Karachi because of efforts made by the federal government.

US initiates process for resolving Pakistan-India water dispute

WASHINGTON: The US administration has initiated the process for peacefully resolving the current water dispute between India and Pakistan without waiting for an invitation to do so, official sources told Dawn.

The latest dispute concerns two hydroelectric power plants — Kishanganga and Ratle — that India is building on the Indus rivers system. Pakistan believes that the projects violate the design parameters of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), which provides specific criteria for such plants.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry called Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and discussed with him different options for an amicable settlement of the dispute. After the call, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale also met Mr Dar in Islamabad at the finance ministry for further talks.

Read: US wants amicable solution to water row

The initiative stems from the fear the US administration shares with the World Bank that the dispute, if dragged, may harm the treaty that has effectively resolved water disputes between India and Pakistan for more than half a century.

The IWT is a water-distribution agreement between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank and signed in Karachi on Sept 19, 1960. It recognises the bank as the main arbitrator and suggests appointing neutral experts and a court of arbitration for resolving disputes.

Pakistan has asked the World Bank to appoint chairman of the court of arbitration while India has demanded appointment of a neutral expert.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wrote to the finance ministers of India and Pakistan, informing them that he has ‘paused’ the requested arbitration and asked them to decide by the end of January how they wanted to settle the dispute.

On Dec 23, Finance Minister Dar told the bank that Pakistan was not withdrawing its request and since the process had already been “inordinately delayed,” the bank should appoint chairman of the court of arbitration as soon as possible.

Two days later, Dr Kim called Mr Dar for further talks, followed by Secretary Kerry who called the finance minister during the Christmas holidays.

It is unusual for a US official to do so, particularly because the Obama administration completes its final tenure on Jan 20.

Usually, the outgoing administration leaves such issues for the incoming administration to tackle.

“But seriousness of this dispute, particularly the fear that it may harm the treaty, forced Mr. Kerry to make this call,” an official source told Dawn.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that since the United States has facilitated the Indus Waters Treaty, it feels obliged to take a proactive role in this matter.

The treaty requires appointment of chairman of the court of arbitration and its three members within 60 days after a disputing party asks for arbitration.

If the two countries fail to appoint umpires, the two parties prepare a draw of lots and request a “person” mentioned in the treaty to select the umpire.

While the chairman can be selected by either the secretary general of the United Nations or president of the World Bank, technical members can be selected from a draw of lots by president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or rector of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London.

The legal umpire can be selected from a draw of lots by either chief justice of the United States or lord chief justice of England.

Pakistan took its case to the World Bank in Sept 2016, urging the bank to prevent India from making illegal constructions on Neelum and Chenab rivers.

The differences on the designs of the two plants were discussed but could not be resolved in the 108th, 109th, 110th, 111th and 112th meetings of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters, comprising one commissioner from each country, which is responsible for the implementation of the treaty.

Secretary-level talks followed but they also failed.

On Aug 19, Pakistan formally requested the government of India to refer the dispute to the court of arbitration, as provided in Article IX of the treaty.

The Indian media reported in September that New Delhi had decided to suspend water talks until “Pakistan-sponsored terror” in India ends.

And last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also threatened to choke the flow of water into Pakistan if it does not stop terrorists. This caused Islamabad to fear that India was determined to complete the two plants and was buying time to do so by dragging the talks.

Pakistan wants a court of arbitration, instead of a neutral expert, because only the court can take a decision that’s legally binding.

An expert can only give a technical opinion, giving India more time to complete the projects.