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CCI may restore magistracy system

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: The Council of Common Interests, which is to meet on Wednesday, is expected to restore the Executive Magistracy System in the country, abolished during military rule of retired General Pervez Musharraf, through an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

5508d5f0a6a37The federal government has been advocating restoration of the magistracy system to control the prices of essential commodities and almost all provincial governments have agreed during consultative meetings to support the proposal.

The meeting, to be presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by all the provincial chief ministers (except Balochistan), has been convened after a gap of about 10 months even though the constitution requires the CCI to meet at least once in 90 days. The CCI also comprises three nominees of the prime minister, usually federal ministers.

A proposal by the ministry of petroleum and natural resources for re-regulation and price fixation of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by the government will also come up before the CCI. The LPG pricing was deregulated more than a decade ago, but its pricing had become a political issue because of skyrocketing increases by marketing companies and dealers. The petroleum ministry is now introducing Liquefied Petroleum Gas Production and Distribution Policy, 2014, to fix its pricing in the public sector.

The sources said the CCI was also expected to take up allocation of water for Islamabad and Rawalpindi from Indus River. Some provinces, particularly Sindh, had been opposing the allocation of water from Indus River for Rawalpindi and Islamabad out of combined pool and wanted its deduction from Punjab’s share.

The council is expected to consider an inquiry into corruption allegations in the Kacchi canal project and a request of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seeking monetary compensation for its water being used by Sindh and Punjab out of the water apportionment accord share because of lack of infrastructure in its territory. Sindh and Punjab have refused to pay for the inability of KP and Balochistan to use their share of water.

The meeting will consider purchase of up to 20 per cent of the right shares of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited, Oil and Gas Development Company Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company at their face value under the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan.

The CCI will ponder over permanent absorption of federal employees transferred to provincial governments in the wake of 18th Amendment, many of whom have been unable to get their salaries and promotions over the years.

The council will be presented the Public Debt Management and Supervision Policy under which the federal government keeps a watch on contracting of foreign debt by the provinces, besides taking up the Pakistan Energy Efficiency & Energy Conserv­ation Bill, 2014, and Nepra’s annual report for 2012-13.

The CCI will consider the Pakistan Oil (Refining, Blending, Transportation, Storage and Marketing) Rules for action against violators of mandatory stocks by the refineries and oil marketing companies, particularly in the wake of recent petrol shortage in the country.

The ministry of petroleum and natural resources has brought up for CCI’s consideration the Shale Gas Interim Framework for the pilot projects to offer lucrative incentives for first three shale gas discoveries, requiring comparatively higher investments.

The meeting will also consider a bill for establishment of the Pakistan Halal Authority and a summary for amendment in the petroleum policy 2009 and 2012 and model petroleum concession agreement.

CENSUS: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has recommended to the CCI that all provincial share of resources be allocated on the basis of 1998 census for the next 30 years.

The PBS has floated the proposal on the eve of the CCI meeting to freeze the population ratio of 1998 census to determine share of the provinces of seats of the National Assembly and distribution of shares among provinces under the new National Finance Commission award.

Although it is mandatory to conduct the census every decade, it has not been held for almost 17 years.

A summary submitted to the CCI secretariat shows that the PBS has proposed that the population census may be conducted in one go – the first three days for house listing operation and the following 15 days for main count.

The PBS said that the census may be held with 100 per cent support of armed forces, at man-to-man level as was done in 1998. “No other nationwide activity should be undertaken at least six months before and after the census operation.”

It proposed that the house listing carried out in April-May 2011 may be discarded. Rs13.330 billion may be allocated for conducting the census, the summary said.

According to officials of the ministry of finance and Nadra, the PBS proposals might be opposed by the provinces, especially Sindh and Balochistan.

An official in the finance ministry told Media that the PBS has ruled out the expansion or growth in three small provinces by suggesting freezing of resource distribution mechanism. “The proposal submitted by the PBS is the outcome of cut and paste policy of external models without considering the local context,” he said.

Official sources said that the CCI would discuss a draft policy aimed at giving incentives to motivate the private sector to generate electricity.

The meeting will discuss an amendment to the Indus River System Authority Act, 1992, seeking powers for Irsa to devise a mechanism for giving compensation to any province having a complaint that some other federating unit has stolen its water.

The amendment has been suggested by Balochistan, which accuses Sindh of stealing its water.

At present, the act authorises the authority to resolve only water disputes among the provinces.

The sources said that all other provinces were against the proposal because, according to them, the amendment would open a Pandora’s Box.

The issue of the provincial higher education commissions raised by Sindh is also on the agenda.

The sources said that like Punjab, Sindh had enacted a law to establish its own higher education commission under the 18th Amendment. But the law undermined the federal higher education commission and even repealed the law governing the federal body.

They said that this was unconstitutional and was expected to be opposed by the federal and all other provincial governments.

Nine more prisoners hanged in Punjab jails

LAHORE/JHANG/RAWALPINDI/FAISALABAD/MIANWALI/ATTOCK: Nine more death row prisoners have been executed in various jails across the Punjab province on Wednesday morning.

5508d8076522eWith the recent hangings, so far 48 convicts have been hanged across the country, after the deadly attack on the Army Public School on December 16, 2014.

Lahore

Tahir Shabir, a resident of Sabzazar area, has been hanged to death at the Kot Lakhpat Central Jail for killing a man in 2002.

An anti terrorism court (ATC) had awarded him death sentence under the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA). He had shot a man, Irshad Ali, dead over a petty issue of placing a signboard at a shop.

Jhang

Two convicts Ghulam Muhammad and Zakir Hussain were hanged in the District Jail Jhang.

Ghulam Muhammad had killed his brother-in-law in 2000 over a family dispute. The victim was supporting his sister in an earlier case against the culprit.

Zakir Hussain had killed a man Zulfiqar, who was a custodian of a shrine in 1998. Both the offender and the victim were engaged in a dispute over the custodianship of the shrine.

Both the murderers had been awarded death sentences by the district and sessions court Jhang.

Faisalabad

Two more condemned prisoners, Shafqat and Saeed, were executed in Central Jail Faisalabad over a dual murder charge, established against them.

They had killed two siblings — Arshed and Anwar — in 1998 due to an old rivalry.

A district court had awarded death sentences to both the culprits in 2001.

Rawalpindi

Prisoners Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Shabir have been hanged to death in Adiala Jail Rawalpindi.

They were convicted by a sessions court against charges of murders and attempt to murder.

Furthermore two other death row prisoners, Talib Hussain and Rab Nawaz, are also likely to be executed, in the next few hours.

Mianwali

Another death row prisoner Ahmed Nawaz has been executed in the Mianwali Jail. He was awarded death sentence by a district court for killing a man, Jawed Iqbal, in 1998.

Nawaz and Hashmat Khan were convicted for the murder of Iqbal, however Hashmat had died in the jail custody.

Attock

Asad Mehmood Khan was executed in the Central Jail Attock. He was awarded death sentence in a triple murder case.

Khan had killed three people of a family in 2002.

Executions halted

Meanwhile hangings of three convicts have been halted after their heirs managed to produce agreements between the plaintiffs and defending parties, before the jail authorities. Their cases have been referred to the respective trial courts.

Qadeer Ahmed was scheduled to be executed in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi, while Azhar Mahmood and Muhammad Zaman were set to be hanged in Gujrat.

Appeals rejected

All the hanged convicts had filed petitions in superior judiciary, seeking review of their sentence but the applications were dismissed. Their mercy appeals had also been turned down by President Mumnoon Hussain.

The ruling PML-N government had lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism related cases in the wake of a Taliban attack at the APS Peshawar, which claimed 141 lives, most of them children.

Later, the government completely reinstated capital punishment for all offences that entail the death penalty.

The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the government to re-impose the moratorium on the death penalty.

Some 8,000 convicted prisoners are in a death row in various jails across the country.

Three metro stations vandalised in Youhannabad riots

LAHORE: As several areas of the city remain besieged by demonstrators two days after the Taliban attack on churches in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighbourhood, an enraged mob on Tuesday vandalised three Metro Bus stations and destroyed a bus.

5507ecf3af641The Metro Bus station in Youhanabad reportedly incurred the worst damage while those of Nishtar Colony and Dhulwa neighbourhoods were partially damaged.

According to authorities, ticket-vending machines worth Rs10 million were smashed to pieces by the violent crowd.

The ongoing violence which took place as funeral services of those slain in the church attacks were being held, are in spite of the presence of security officials in large numbers.

Episodes of mob violence have been taking place for the past two days, and were also the cause behind the suspension of motorway bus service.

Thousands of Christian protesters burnt tyres and attacked cars and petrol pumps with stones and sticks hours after the attacks.

The loss incurred by the National Treasury due to the destruction of infrastructure by the mob is estimated in millions of rupees.

At least 15 people were killed and more than 70 injured when two Taliban suicide bombers attacked churches in Lahore on Sunday, sparking mob violence in which two other suspected militants died.

The bombings occurred during prayers at two churches located around half a kilometre apart in the city’s Youhanabad neighbourhood that is home to more than 100,000 Christians, officials said.

Sunday’s attacks — claimed by the Taliban’s splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — were the worst on the community since a devastating 2013 double suicide-bombing in Peshawar that killed 82 people.

Prime Minister calls for CCI meeting after 9 month gap

ISLAMABAD: Amid concerns that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) had not convened for over nine months, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has called a meeting of the CCI tomorrow at the PM office in Islamabad.

5507e09366f6cA spokesperson to the PM told NNP that the meeting would be chaired by the prime minister himself, and would be attended by the chief ministers of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan.

Additionally, chief secretaries and federal ministers who are members of the council would also be in attendance.

The meeting is expected to touch upon many issues of national interest. CCI meetings typically tackle a long agenda and are regarded as the highest decision-making forum in the government.

The discussion of controversial decisions such as the allocation of natural resources and the provincial budget is often reserved for council meetings as opposed to cabinet meetings.

Chief ministers at the CCI are expected to tackle the rationing of electricity and gas by province, and the census.

Earlier this week, members of the PPP, Syed Naveed Qamar, Shazia Marri, Dr Azra Fazal, Nafisa Shah and Belum Hasnain stated in a call-attention notice that the non-convening of the CCI meeting for nine months was “causing grave concern amongst the public”.

The PPP workers criticised the government for the delay in convening the CCI meeting, and accused the rulers of violating Article 153 of the Constitution.

Under sub-clause 3 of Article 153, the Council of Common Interests is required to meet at least once in three months. This provision was inserted in the constitution by means of the 18th Amendment.

The opposition wanted the CCI to take up a number of important national issues including the national census, privatisation of state institutions, and the change of route of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.

Now, there is a fresh meeting reportedly scheduled for this week and perhaps, with the matter being taken up in parliament, it will finally be held.

Just a sample of the more than one dozen items on this week’s agenda further underlines the CCI’s relevance and importance. The population and housing census is to be discussed, as is the permanent absorption by the provincial governments of federal government employees transferred under the 18th Amendment.

In addition, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code; the Indus River System Act, 1992 (which deals with water distribution between the provinces); and the federal petroleum policy are to be discussed.

Each one of those agenda items could consume an entire meeting by itself. Now, owing to the tardiness and neglect of the federal government, they are all on the agenda of the same meeting.

The neglect of the CCI also underlines a wider problem: the PML-N government’s almost total lack of interest in institution building and preference for ad hoc, extra-parliamentary and extra-institutional decision-making.

Mob lynching is ‘worst kind of terrorism’, says Nisar

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has reiterated his strong condemnation of the mob that brutally killed two men in the aftermath of the deadly church bombings in Lahore’s Youhanabad area, saying that the lynching witnessed on Sunday is “the worst form of terrorism”.

5507f8f3a3170Nisar, speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday, invoked the example of earlier attacks on imambargahs and mosques, and said that a violent mob reaction like that in Youhanabad was not witnessed in those incidents.

“A similar incident occurred right in the heart of Paris where a synagogue was attacked,” Nisar added, “But the minority Jews did not react violently in the French capital.”

While he acknowledged that minorities have been targeted in the country for the last 14 years, he added that heartrending incidents across the world do not trigger violent reactions like in Lahore.


Outline of Chaudhry Nisar’s address in Parliament:

  • Those involved in Youhanabad lynching will be punished
  • Not possible to secure every mosque, imambargah in the country
  • Shafqat Hussain case should not be politicised
  • Call for country to become an open, liberal, independent and democratic society

“Shias were attacked in Shikarpur and Quetta but no reaction was witnessed like the one in Lahore — what message did the burning of two men send to the world?” he said, adding that the burning of the two men and damage to government installations is the “worst form of terrorism”.

He added that the mob was promoting the agenda of terrorists. “The intention of the terrorists is to spread sectarian strife. Naeem was an innocent citizen,” Nisar said, referring to one of the deceased men who has been identified by his family.

Nisar expressed appreciation for the efforts of senior Christian leaders of Lahore to defuse the situation, but warned that strict action would be taken against those who lynched and burnt the two men. “The incident is a cause of humiliation for our country, police, courts and government.”

“We have recorded the faces of many culprits courtesy of the media, we shall take action against each and every one of them.”

He highlighted that the dead include “seven Muslims as well”, although he soon added, “I am giving this statement only to clarify the records since the death of one person, be it Muslim or Christian, is tantamount to the death of all humanity.”

‘Impossible to secure all places of worship’

Nisar admitted that it was not possible for authorities to secure each mosque and place of worship in the country.

He said police did not have enough manpower to depute three to four personnel at every place of worship let alone schools.

“We cannot shutdown our markets, schools or places of worship. This is what the terrorists want. We have to become an open, liberal, independent and democratic society,” said the federal interior minister adding that, “We have limitations, but there has been improvement.”

He also appealed for focus to be shifted on the improvement which has taken place in the country rather than on individual incidents.

Nisar said that the country is in a state of war and the nation will have to unite and remain prepared for any threat.

He appreciated the efforts of the parliament in maintaining unison in the country and said that through the combined efforts of the nation the terrorists will be sent to hell.

‘Do not politicise Shafqat Hussain case’

Earlier, the federal interior minister spoke about the issue pertaining to the execution of a condemned prisoner, Shafqat Hussain, who is said to have been juvenile at the time of committing the crime and appealed that the case should not be politicised.

“I respect the reaction to the issue but have to ask why the issue was not raised in and outside the courts when the ATC had handed down the punishment in 2004 or when the appeal was presented in a high court in 2006 and in the apex court in 2007,” Nisar said.

He further asked as to why had anyone not questioned the rejection of the convict’s appeal by the then president of Pakistan in 2012.

The federal interior minister said that the government had forwarded the proposal of conducting a DNA test of the prisoner and added that, “The Sindh government has written to us today that the DNA test of the convict cannot be conducted since it would negate all previous legal proceedings.”

He said that if the PPP or any other party wants a stay on the execution then they should also advise a way to prove that the age of the convict recorded in the official documents is incorrect.

Nisar reminded that any action in this regard would have to be taken within the next 36 hours as that is the deadline to the execution.

He also said that, “The rights of the aggrieved party have to be considered as well, as the victim was a seven-year-old boy from Karachi, as well as a Pakistani.”