1bn saplings to be planted by mid-2021: PM’s aide

ISLAMABAD: The government will successfully achieve its target of planting one billion saplings by the middle of this year, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said on Tuesday while addressing participants of a press conference.

“The biggest weapon to tackle challenges of climate change is the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami initiative. As we restore destroyed forests, in the first phase the plan is to plant 3.2 billion saplings till 2023. We call it the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami because the present government is here to stay. We are on target so far. Numbers of saplings in nurseries across the country have gone from 90 million to 300 million,” he said, adding the first phase of plantation will be completed by June/July 2021.

Pakistan has been listed among the top ten countries, most vulnerable to impacts of climate change since the last two decades. This issue must be addressed urgently for the survival of future generations as it affects economy, water resources, national security and so on.

“Scientific study shows that average temperature in Pakistan has risen by 1°C. This may seem less but the rise can be disastrous especially for agriculture and the economy. The variability of rains has increased by 20pc. This means the timing of rainy seasons have shifted, while summers have extended. Every year an extra day is added to the summer season,” he said.

According to the SAPM, urban flooding such as the one witnessed in Karachi last monsoon, was a new threat as cities and towns turn into concrete jungles. “Today Karachi has turned into a heat island. The previous government is responsible for wiping out 70pc trees and greenery in Lahore alone. These phenomena are a reality. The best solution is planting more trees, especially in cities. The numbers of glacial lakes in Pakistan’s North have also increased from 50 to 130, according to estimates, in just three years, which is ‘very’ alarming for us,” he added.

Several projects fall under the TBTT initiative such as increasing the number of protected areas, bee harvesting and establishment of a wildlife conservation centre in Islamabad. The PM will soon announce more areas the government intends to protect.

These projects are being monitored by provinces, then by the federal government and thirdly by third parties like Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which will present yearly reports, he added, while sharing images and videos in his presentation.

The videos showed various barren locations, some freed from land mafia where the Ministry of Climate Change had planted forests a year ago that are now flourishing into forests.

“The international community, ministers, artists and especially environmental organisations, have recognized success of the TBTT initiative asking all nations to follow Pakistan’s example. Climate change will remain a challenge, which ever government comes into power. The best solution is planting as many trees as possible,” he added.

Dawn, February 10th, 2021

Five ‘foreigners linked with RAW, NDS’ remanded in CTD custody

KARACHI: The administrative judge of the antiterrorism courts on Tuesday remanded five foreigners held for allegedly working for the Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies in police custody.

The Counter-Terrorism Department on Monday claimed to have foiled a major terrorist activity in the metropolis by arresting five Afghan nationals for having links with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

On Tuesday, the investigating officer of the case produced the suspects before the administrative judge of the ATCs to seek their physical remand for interrogation and investigation.

He informed the court that the gang of held suspects was busted in an intelligence-based operation carried out in Shah Latif Town.

The IO submitted that the suspects engaged in an encounter with personnel of law enforcement agencies who managed to arrest them.

He mentioned that the suspects were planning to target key government installations, including the Sindh Assembly building.

The IO said that an explosives-laden rickshaw prepared by them to use in terrorist activity was recovered from their possession along with explosives and arms.

He mentioned that some eight cases pertaining to encounter, possessing illicit weapons and explosives and attempted murder were registered against them.

He requested for 14-day physical remand of the suspects in the custody of the CTD for interrogation and completion of investigation and other legal formalities.

However, the judge remanded them in the custody of the CTD till Feb 20, directing the IO to produce them on the next date along with an investigation report.

A day earlier, the CTD chief had said a suspected militant was killed and five of his accomplices were arrested during a pre-dawn raid on their hideout following a deadly gunfight.

Dawn, February 10th, 2021

US administration to seek ‘productive’ ties with Pakistan, says scholar

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration would like to rebuild America’s relationship with Pakistan and make it more productive than it has been during the recent past, says a senior US scholar.

At a recent briefing on the new US administration’s foreign policies, James M. Lindsay, a senior vice president at the Council for Foreign Relations, also predicted a better understanding between the White House and the Pentagon on the deployment of American troops in Afghanistan.

Since their inauguration on Jan 20, several Biden administration officials have endorsed the Pentagon’s position that Washington could not withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by May, as stipulated in the US-Taliban peace agreement signed last year.

“The Biden administration would hope to find a way to improve relations with Pakistan,” said Mr Lindsay while responding to a question at the briefing which was arranged by the US State Department’s Foreign Press Centre.

Noting that the United States had had “a longstanding relationship with Islamabad,” Mr Lindsay pointed out that during this period both sides had also developed “lots of differences and grievances”. But “I think the Biden administration would like to do what it can to make that relationship more productive,” he added.

The US scholar argued that the Biden administration had inherited a complicated US relationship with Pakistan, and some of the issues between the two countries “sort of resonant here in the United States”.

One such issue, he said, was a recent Supreme Court decision in Pakistan to overturn the conviction of Ahmed Omer Sheikh, the prime suspect in the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

The US Justice Department as well as the new Secretary of State Antony Blinken have urged Pakistan to ensure that those involved in the murder do not go free. Both also offered to bring Sheikh to the United States to face a trial in this country if Pakistan is reluctant to go ahead with the proceedings.

Mr Lindsay said that the administration would also have significant concerns about human rights issues in Pakistan and they did worry about “whether or not Pakistan is doing everything it can to prevent, contain, deter terrorists”.

Another major concern for the new administration would be the relations between India and Pakistan, he added, while pointing out that “it’s the one place in the world in which two nuclear-armed countries abut one another and have tense relations”.

Mr Lindsay also listed the China-Pakistan relationship among the issues that the Biden administration would like to discuss with Pakistan’s rulers, adding: “I think there’s … concern in a Biden presidency about the nature of the evolution of Pakistan’s relations with China.”

Dawn, February 10th, 2021