Category Archives: ISLAMABAD

Traffic plan in place ahead of predicted snowfall in Murree

RAWALPINDI: With another spell of snowfall predicted in Murree, a comprehensive plan has been chalked out by traffic police for the convenience of those whose access to the hill station had been restricted, following the tragic death of 22 tourists in a blizzard last week.

Drivers with valid licenses will be allowed to travel to the hill station between 5am and 5pm. “Not more than 8,000 vehicles per day would be allowed to enter Murree Hills in normal weather conditions,” said a notification issued by the authorities concerned. However, these restrictions will not be applicable to residents of Murree, Azad Jammu, and Kashmir (AJK) and official vehicles.

Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Taimoor Khan on Sunday reviewed the traffic plan during a session with Deputy Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Ajmal Satti.

According to the plan, in addition to 268 personnel of the district police that will be deployed to facilitate tourists, three DSPs, 20 inspectors, 125 traffic wardens, 100 traffic assistants, and 20 district police tourist guides will be deployed in the hills.

Special pickets have been established on all routes that lead to the hill station to avert trouble and tourists have been asked not to park their vehicles on the side of the road so that flow of traffic remains smooth.

“Avoid taking selfies while parking on the road or driving. Avoid one-way violations and wrong overtaking to make your trip safer,” the CTO said, adding mechanically fit vehicles with tool kits that must be taken for the journey.

Rawalpindi police’s radio station (88.6) and all official pages of the traffic police will keep providing updates to citizens about the weather so they may equip themselves in case of emergency.

Tourists have been advised to keep essential food items with them and refrain from keeping car windows completely shut while chains must be used on tires so the vehicle does not slip.

A police spokesman urged tourists to cooperate with deployed officials as they were working in severe weather conditions. Sector in-charges and staff at all toll plazas and entrances have been asked to facilitate tourists too.

Orders have also been issued for the deployment of heavy machinery for immediate removal of snow from roads beside the distribution of awareness pamphlets among the tourists. Officials have been asked to immediately remove snow from roads and sprinkle salt.

Furthermore, emergency numbers of all departments should be kept with staff while the duty officer will post numbers of all departments in his office so relevant officials may be contacted in time. Cranes and two trucks will be present at key points for the timely assistance of tourists, lifters, and beat in-charges will be patrolling the area.

It was also discussed in the meeting that along with landline numbers, a mobile phone number should also be provided so that timely assistance could be provided in case of breakdown of communication during heavy snowfall.

The staff has been asked to perform their duties with full capacity, sense of responsibility, and teamwork to maintain an uninterrupted flow of traffic.

Indian media bodies slam Kashmir Press Club ‘coup’

NEW DELHI: Indian media bodies have deplored the forcible takeover of the Kashmir Press Club in Srinagar by a group of journalists who raided the precincts on Saturday under the watch of armed police — a month before fresh elections are due to be held there on Feb 15.

The takeover, described by media spokespersons as a coup, took place under the cover of a Covid lockdown ordered by the government at the weekend.

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) said on Sunday it was “dismayed at the government move to close the Press Club of Kashmir”.

The DUJ statement said the authorities had renewed the licence of the Kashmir Press Club on Dec 29 after the issue had hung fire for months. Once the renewal notice was received, the Press Club belatedly announced elections.

Now the licence renewal has been suddenly cancelled, ostensibly beca­use of an adverse intelligence report. “This volte face is inexplicable.”

The DUJ slammed what it said were arbitrary and unabated arrests, detentions and questioning of journalists in Kashmir. “On Jan 5, Sajad Gul, a trainee journalist with Kashmir Walla, was arrested for (allegedly) fomenting anti-government feelings. Last year Salman Shah and Suhail Dar were arrested for ‘breach of peace’. Journalist Aasif Sultan has been in jail since Aug 27, 2018, and awaits trial.

The Delhi-based Press Club of India slammed the takeover.

Former Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti expressed their shock over the ‘coup’ by some journalists supported by the official machinery.

Taking to Twitter, National Conference Vice President Omar wrote: “There is no government this `journalist’ hasn’t sucked up to & no government he hasn’t lied on behalf of. I should know, I’ve seen both sides very closely. Now he’s benefited from a state-sponsored coup.

According to newslaundury.com, a fact-checking portal, the leader of the takeover — Saleem Pandit — was among the journalists invited to meet foreign diplomats brought to the Valley on a tour conducted by the Indian government in Jan 2020.

“At 1.45 pm, the group’s head, journalist Saleem Pandit, arrived in an armoured cavalcade comprising a bulletproof Ambassador and a Scorpio along with his security detail.”

Within an hour an announcement was made through the Press Club’s official WhatsApp group and email address, that “various journalist organisations across Kashmir valley unanimously decided to form an interim body of three members with M. Saleem Pandit as president, Zulfikar Majid, bureau chief of Deccan Herald as General Secretary and Arshid Rasool, Editor of Daily Gadyal as treasurer of the Club till elections are held in free and fair manner”. The statement released did not specify the name of journalist organisations supporting the move.

News laundury quoted a member of the last elected body as likening the takeover of the press club to the stalling of elections of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA).

French teachers strike over ‘chaotic’ COVID-19 strategy for schools

PARIS, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of French teachers angry with the government’s COVID-19 rules walked off the job on Thursday and took to the streets to demand better protection for pupils and staff against infection.

“Stop your contempt,” and “We’re fed up with tests” teachers proclaimed on banners in rallies across France, calling for the government to provide them with FFP2 face-masks and to stop changing the rules so often.null

Teachers, parents and school directors have struggled to cope with the many twists and turns in COVID rules on schools. New testing requirements announced a day before schools restarted after the Christmas holidays and changed twice since increased the anger.

“We had reached such a level of exasperation, tiredness, and anger that we didn’t have any other option but to organise a strike to send a strong message to the government,” said union leader Elisabeth Allain-Moreno.

Many at the rallies called for the resignation of Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. A government source said he was unlikely to lose his job so close to April’s presidential election.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will, however, meet teachers’ representatives later on Thursday, his office said, in a sign the government was keen to try and quell their anger.

The government has so far stood by its policy to keep classes open and requiring all pupils in contact with an infected person to get tested three times. Some degree of complication is the price to pay to keep schools open, it said.

“I know it’s tough, but a strike does not solve problems. One does not strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM TV earlier this week.

Infections have surged in schools as France has set records with close to 370,000 new daily cases, sending families scrambling to get their children tested.

“My children and I, we’re fed up with getting tested every other day,” said Corinne Courvoisier, the mother of seven-year old twins, who had joined the protest rally in Nice.

“We started testing Nelson and Elsa on Friday because there was a suspicion of a positive COVID-19 test in Nelson’s class, so Friday, then Sunday, then Tuesday, and then yesterday we were sent a letter from the director that there was another suspected case in Elsa’s class … We’re never seeing the end of it.”

Unions said 75% of teachers in primary schools and 62% in high schools walked out, while the Education Ministry said less than half those numbers did. Strike turnout was unusually high in either case.null

Some schools closed due to the strike, others were open only for children of health workers while some operated as normal.

“The pandemic has put the spotlight on a policy of drastic staff reduction in public education,” teacher Laurence Fourteuil said at the Paris rally.

“It’s not against the virus that we’re on strike. We are on strike against policies that are already attempting to squeeze staff.”

Two brothers reunite at Kartarpur after 74 years

NAROWAL: The Kartarpur Corridor reunites two brothers who separated 74 years ago amid chaotic partition.

Muhammad Siddique, 80, and Habib, 78, separated 74 years ago at the time of partition. They hugged and cried and garlanded each other on the happy occasion of reunion.

The Kartarpur administration distributed sweets.

Siddique, a resident of Phugaran village on the outskirts of Faisalabad district, said he had contacted a Sikh social worker from Canada two years ago. He said the social worker had helped reunite the two brothers.

According to Siddique, his brother and sister had gone to his grandparents’ house with his mother in 1947.

“A civil war was raging on and my father and other family members decided to migrate immediately to save lives and we came to Pakistan,” he said.

Habib from Indian Punjab said it was the happiest day of his life.

The corridor is playing an important role in reuniting friends and relatives who separated during partition.null

The two brothers visited Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and the officials also gave them gifts.

TTP confirms senior leader Khurasani’s death, calls it ‘huge loss’

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Wednesday confirmed the death of senior leader Mufti Khalid Balti alias Mohammad Khurasani, whose killing in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan was revealed this week.

The current TTP spokesman, who also shares the Mohammad Khurasani alias with Balti, confirmed his death in a statement but shared no details of how he had died.

A senior security official from Pakistan had confirmed Balti’s killing on Monday, saying he was the current TTP spokesman. However, TTP had said Balti was not holding any position.

A militant source told Dawn.com that Balti’s funeral was held in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province on Tuesday and he was buried there.null

Meanwhile, the current TTP spokesman said in a statement that the group “lost a religious scholar and expert of political affairs”, deeming it a a “huge loss”.

He said Balti joined the TTP when he migrated in 2011 and had remained active since. He was arrested in 2015 and remained imprisoned until last year before being killed on Jan 9 (Sunday).

Earlier, the Pakistani security official said Balti, aged around 50, was involved in several attacks on the people and security forces of Pakistan.

Balti had been visiting Kabul frequently since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August last year, the official added.null

He had been making efforts for uniting various TTP factions and planning terrorist attacks with TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, the official said, adding that Balti had recently hinted at carrying out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Despite confirmations from Pakistan and TTP itself, a spokesman for the Afghan government had denied the killing of the senior TTP member and said that no such incident had taken place.

“I do not confirm these reports. They are not true. No such incident has taken place on this (Afghan) side,” Afghan government spokesperson Bilal Karimi had told Dawn.com when asked for a comment on Balti’s killing.

Hailing from Gilgit-Baltistan, Balti had been an operational commander of the TTP for the past several years.

In 2007, he joined the banned Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi in Swat and established close ties with Mullah Fazlullah, a former head of the TTP. He had cordial and close relations with TTP members of all tiers, officials said, adding that Balti played a vital role in the TTP’s propaganda campaign.

Officials said Balti ran a terrorist hideout in Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s Miramshah town and had fled to Afghanistan in the aftermath of operation Zarb-i-Azab. In 2014, he served as the head of the TTP media committee.

He was arrested in 2015 in Nangarhar by Afghan forces and remained at Bagram and Pul-i-Charkhi jails, according to a former TTP member, who was aware of Balti’s activities.

Balti, and other TTP militants, were freed last year in August when the Afghan Taliban resorted to releasing prisoners during their military offensive.

He was also the person who had called the media in Pakistan and Afghanistan to claim the 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.