PM Imran Khan, General Qamar Javed Bajwa discuss country’s security situation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting on Monday to discuss the security situation of the country.

Sources said that the meeting between the prime minister and the army chief was also attended by members of the federal cabinet and other officials.

The meeting took place a few hours after PM Imran lashed out at the opposition, alleging that their criticism of the army and the government during the multi-party conference on Sunday was an attempt to appease India.

“No one is bothered by the APC’s decision. The nation is aware of the faces [that were] sitting in the APC and their personal goals,” sources had quoted the prime minister as saying in an earlier meeting attended by party representatives and spokespersons.

The premier, sources added, asked the government ministers and PTI members to respond “with reason and logic” to the opposition’s criticism. PM Imran was quoted as saying that “in a democracy, allinstitutions work under the government” and that the opposition’s criticism was “pointless and an attempt to divert attention from their corruption”.


Phase 3 clinical trial for vaccine being developed by China begins in Pakistan

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday announced the launch of phase 3 clinical trials in Pakistan for a potential vaccine being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics for the novel coronavirus.

Trials for phase 1 and 2 for the vaccine were held in China. Pakistan, under a public-private partnership between the National Institute of Health (NIH) and CanSino, is among the countries which will carry out phase 3, the NCOC statement said.

The country’s drug regulator last month gave the go-ahead for the country’s first phase 3 clinical trial for CanSino’s candidate.

Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar said that 40,000 people will participate in the trial, which is being held in seven countries across the world. Around 8,000 to 10,000 of these will be from Pakistan, he said.

Umar said initial results of the trial are expected in four to six months.

Addressing a press conference alongside NIH Executive Director Maj Gen Aamer Ikram on Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan termed the trial an “important step” in which Pakistanis would also take part.

Maj Gen Ikram said it was an “honour” for the country that it was participating in the phase 3 trial of a vaccine for the first time.

“The entire world is looking towards a vaccine right now. There are seven vaccines for which trials are being conducted — three of them developed in China. This CanSino vaccine is based on recombinant technology in which an adino-vector is made deficient. The virus vector and cell culture has been procured from Canada,” he said.

Speaking about how the study is conducted, he said that in the pre-clinical phase, the vaccine is tried on animals. “This was done in China at the start of the year. It was safe and immunogenic.

“Then there is a phase 1 trial which was again conducted in China and its results were good. In this phase, the safety and efficacy [of the vaccine] on the human body is looked at.

“The phase 2 trial was conducted on 508 people — which is considered a big trial — and when the results were found to be good, [the study] was published in scientific journals,” he said.

He added that the technology for the CanSino vaccine was similar to that of the Oxford vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca. A chimpanzee adino-vector was used in the AstraZeneca vaccine while a human adino-vector was used for this vaccine, he disclosed.

He said phase 3 trial was the biggest and most difficult stage. “[The NIH] has accepted this challenge and we are grateful to the patronage of the NCOC and the Ministry of Health.”

He said that the trials have been launched from today and 8,000 to 10,000 volunteers would be inducted through a formal system.

A medical examination of the volunteers would be carried out after which the vaccine would be administered to them. Ikram added that the NIH would follow up with them for 12 months but the results of the vaccine would be expected in three months.

The vaccine would be available in the market in five to six months once its results were analysed and it was approved, said Ikram.

“This is the vaccine that has already been approved and is being administered to army officials and policemen in China. Therefore, its safety is ensured,” he concluded.

Johnson says plan to break Brexit treaty needed to counter EU’s ‘revolver’

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday a bill that would break international law by breaching parts of the Brexit divorce deal was needed because the European Union had not taken a “revolver off the table” in trade talks.

Johnson accuses the EU of threatening to use the withdrawal treaty agreed in January to put up trade barriers between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, and even to impose a food blockade, the latest brinkmanship of a four-year saga since Britain voted narrowly to leave the bloc.

The EU says Johnson’s plan would wreck trade talks and propel the United Kingdom towards a messy Brexit. A derivatives industry source said on Monday the European Commission had delayed a decision on euro clearing, ramping up the pressure.

As Britain’s House of Commons began debating the Internal Market Bill, which the EU has demanded London scraps by the end of September, Johnson said the bloc had shown in talks it was prepared to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths.

He said the bill would stop the EU using part of the Brexit divorce deal relating to Northern Ireland as leverage by threatening to block exports from elsewhere in the UK to the province.

“The intention of this bill is clearly to stop any such use of the stick against this country,” he said. “That’s what it does. It’s a protection, it’s a safety net, it’s an insurance policy and it’s a very sensible measure.”

However, Johnson, who has a majority of 80 in the lower house of parliament, is facing a growing rebellion from lawmakers in his Conservative Party.

All of Britain’s living former prime ministers have expressed concern about his plan.

His previous finance minister, Sajid Javid, said he could not support the bill unless it was amended.

“Breaking international law is a step that should never be taken lightly,” Javid said in statement. “Having carefully studied the UK Internal Market Bill it is not clear to me why it is necessary to do so.” Conservative lawmaker Rehman Chishti, who was Johnson’s special envoy for freedom of religion, quit his role over the issue while Johnson’s former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who is influential with colleagues, was also critical.

“No British minister should solemnly undertake to observe treaty obligations with his fingers crossed behind his back,” Cox said in The Times newspaper.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, who was self-isolating due to a possible coronavirus case in his household, said he would oppose a bill that broke international law.

Johnson’s plan to explicitly break international law has plunged Brexit back into crisis less than four months before Britain is finally due to leave the EU’s orbit at the end of a transition period.

No compromise on independence of judiciary: CJP

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Monday asserted that no one under the ambit of law would be allowed to undermine the independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Constitution.

“The Constitution mandates in its preamble that the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured,” observed the CJP while speaking at the opening ceremony of new judicial year 2020-21.

The ceremony was also addressed by Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) vice chairman Abid Saqi and Supreme Court Bar Association president Syed Qalb-e-Hassan.

The Supreme Court chief justice said that neither justice could be delivered nor the fundamental rights of people protected unless judges were fully independent and under no external pressure.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The statement from the top adjudicator at this crucial juncture attains significance against the backdrop of widely accepted perception about the shrinking space for dissent and authority of the legal system, commented a senior counsel on condition of anonymity.

Says this year has been most challenging due to coronavirus pandemic

The CJP emphasised that under the Constitution and the law, no one was allowed to undermine the independence of judiciary, assuring that in the times to come, the judiciary at all levels would continue striving to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution to foster justice in all circumstances and ensure the rule of law in the country.

Referring to the concept of the judicial year, he said this occasion held great significance as it provided an opportunity to scrutinise the past performance, celebrate successes, discover shortcomings and ascertain the reasons to set new goals and devise new policies to achieve such objectives.

The chief justice asked why the courts were so very important for the functioning of the constitutional system and why the courts were tasked with protecting people’s basic and fundamental rights. He then went on to answer these by saying that “ours is a government of laws, not of men. Yet, laws, on their own, are of little use”.

The chief justice observed that every judge of the superior judiciary was under solemn oath to discharge duties honestly to the best of his ability and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution and the law and, in all circumstances, to do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

“I must say that it is not only a privilege to be a judge but a heavy duty is cast upon judges, even under the oath, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and not allow their personal interest to influence the official conduct or official decisions,” he observed.

The chief justice said this year had been one of the most challenging ones in the country’s history due to the coronavirus pandemic. Besides having been faced with other challenges like delay in disposal of cases, the pandemic posed a severe, unseen and intricate challenge to the court’s ability to function, he added.

“In the circumstances, we had to take wise and considerate decisions,” he said, adding that one among those was whether the court should remain open. Indeed, many, if not most, courts around the world chose to shut themselves off from the public, he said.

Referring to the overall institution and disposal of cases in the apex court, the chief justice said a total of 42,138 cases were pending at the beginning of the judicial year. During the pre-coronavirus period, about 8,817 fresh cases were instituted and about 6,752 decided. During the post-Covid-19 period, 7,046 cases were filed and 5,792 decided, leaving the closing balance of 45,455 cases.

“With the zeal to clear the backlog, judges volunteered to forego most of their vacations and continued to perform their duties. By adopting such measures, about 12,544 cases were disposed of during the previous judicial year,” the chief justice said.

Similarly, during the pre-Covid-19 period, from Sept 1, 2019 to Feb 29, 2020 (153 working days), 173 model criminal trial courts decided 21,553 murder and narcotic cases. During that period, 152 model trial magistrate courts decided 61,795 cases, while 119 model civil appellate courts decided 33,502 cases. In this way, total 444 modal courts, in all, decided a massive number of 116,850 cases in just 153 days. The pandemic has also hampered the progress of model courts. During the period between March 1 and Sept 11 this year, 437 modal courts could decide 16,487 cases in about 154 days.

Pakistan’s efforts made Afghan talks possible, says Bajwa

ISLAMABAD: With the United States seeking continued support for peace in Afghanistan, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa on Monday credited Prime Minister Imran Khan for Pakistan’s role in the start of intra-Afghan talks.

The COAS was talking to US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who was visiting Pakistan along with his delegation.

Mr Khalilzad’s latest trip to Pakistan came a day after the start of long-delayed dialogue between the warring Afghan factions in Doha. The talks kicked off with a high-profile ceremony that was, besides the Afghan government and Taliban delegations, attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chairman of Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and senior diplomats from several countries.

At the inaugural ceremony, a number of European countries praised Pakistan for its contributions to the peace process.

Secretary Pompeo had at the ceremony thanked Qatar for its support and said his country “will never forget the solidarity of our many allies and partners who have stood with us in the long struggle to end this war”.

Credits Imran for facilitating Doha dialogue

The Inter-Services Public Relations, the military’s media affairs wing, said Mr Khalilzad “greatly appreciated” Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace process saying “it could not have succeeded without Pakistan’s sincere and unconditional support

Pakistan says it facilitated the US-Taliban agreement signed in February, got the warring sides to observe ceasefire on Eid, and helped break the stalemate over the prisoners’ release that had been delaying the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Gen Bajwa said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan has given clear vision regarding peace and connectivity in the region and all elements of national power are united towards making that vision a reality to ensure long-awaited peace, progress and prosperity in the region.”

In a statement on Mr Khalilzad’s trip, the US embassy said he “stressed the need for ongoing regional and international support for this historic opportunity for peace”.

Prime Minister Khan in his statement on the start of the talks had said Pakistan had fulfilled its role for peace in Afghanistan though he assured that his government would continue to support the peace process.

It is believed that despite the stated commitment of all countries to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process, external support would be required for the dialogue to succeed.

Till Sunday night, the talks in Doha had focused on “the schedule and principles for the upcoming meetings,” to quote Taliban’s political office spokesman Dr Mohammad Naeem. They still had not begun discussing the contentious issues. Getting a ceasefire is likely to pose the biggest challenge to the progress of the dialogue.