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LG election in cantonment areas: NADRA provides final electoral rolls to the Election Commission

ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has delivered the final electoral rolls to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to be used for conduct of local government (LG) elections in cantonment areas across the country, a spokesman of NADRA stated here on Thursday.

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The spokesman said that NADRA had been given very strict timelines by the Supreme Court for this task, which some of the leading experts of the country considered difficult to meet. He added that NADRA was already working overtime to resolve CNIC backlogs and verification of votes from different constituencies. However by using its citizens’ database and dedicated teams to work on this project, NADRA has completed the task assigned to it for provisioning of updated electoral rolls for local bodies elections in cantonment areas countrywide.

The spokesman said for the first time in the history of local bodies elections NADRA has included photos of voters – living in cantonment areas of the country – in the computerised electoral rolls. The step was taken in light of the demand raised by a number of political parties and civil society organisations with regard to various discrepancies in electoral rolls including multiple or duplicate entries in electoral rolls of previous local bodies election.

In Pakistan, he said, for many years electoral rolls for cantonment areas of the country were prepared only through door-to-door enumeration and there was absence of any authentic data to back the process up. The management of NADRA took this daunting task as a challenge and service to the people of Pakistan, he added. He said, to meet the deadlines, the NADRA chairman directed the staff to work 24/7 and use all its available resources for completion of the task within the stipulated time.

The spokesman further said that during this period, 84,442 fresh CNICs were provided by NADRA to ECP for registration as voters. After the public display process carried out by ECP, NADRA made its data acquisition resources available for digitisation of the Section-18 entries, he stated.

Meanwhile, stating the statistics of the voters the spokesman added that there are 1,010,245 male and 862,494 female voters (total 1,872,739 voters) in the final electoral rolls for cantonment areas, which belong to 29 districts of the country. He said that timely provision of the final electoral rolls has made it possible to receive nomination papers from April 2 in compliance of the orders of the Honourable Supreme Court.

Military courts sentence six hardcore terrorists to death

ISLAMABAD: The new military courts have sentenced six men to death for involvement in terrorism and a seventh to life imprisonment, the military spokesman said on Thursday.

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“Army chief confirms death sentence of 6 hard core terrorists tried by the recently established military courts,” Major General Asim Bajwa said in a message on Twitter. “Seven hardcore terrorists involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, men slaughtering, suicide bombing, abduction for ransom, colossal damage to life and property were tried by military courts,” the military said in a subsequent statement that named the seven men. It said those convicted could take their cases to the court of appeal.

The government established nine military courts in January after Pakistan Taliban terrorists attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 134 pupils and 19 adults. The courts expanded the military’s powers, giving them the authority to try civilians accused of terrorism. Critics say the new rules cede too much ground to the military. A recent Reuters investigation into military trials under the old system found frequent allegations of torture. Families of defendants claimed the accused were sometimes not given lawyers or access to evidence.

It also found that military officials could dissolve courts whose verdicts they disagreed with and retry the defendants. Appeals took place after the military chief had confirmed the death sentences, meaning any appeal judge who granted clemency would have to overrule a powerful figure. But many Pakistanis support the military courts, saying it is necessary to bypass the moribund civilian system. The police and civilian courts have been neglected for decades, the conviction rate is very low and there is a backlog of more than a million cases.

Police are frequently accused of torture and receive little training in how to conduct an investigation. Lawyers and judges are poorly paid and often subject to bribes or intimidation. The Interior Ministry said last month more than 50 cases had been sent to the military courts. It did not release details. The military is holding thousands of people in internment camps, according to a senior military official. It is not clear when or if they will be tried.

The six hardcore terrorists involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, man slaughtering, suicide bombings, abduction for ransom, colossal damage to life and property were tried by military courts, established under the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015. In view of the nature and gravity of offences preferred against each, six terrorists have been awarded death sentences and one life imprisonment by the military courts. “Today, sentences of death have been confirmed by the Chief of Army Staff, Director General, ISPR,” Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa tweeted on social media.

Although identities of the convicts were not mentioned, this is the first instance where the military courts prosecuted terrorists following the December 16 massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar. The convicts also have a right to appeal, the military spokesperson added. Military courts were established as part of the National Action Plan against terrorism, after a brutal attack on an army-run school in Peshawar killed over 130 people, mostly schoolchildren.

It is estimated there are more than 8,000 Pakistanis on death row. Rights groups say many convictions are unsafe. A moratorium on hangings was lifted for terror-related crimes after a Taliban attack in December killed more than 150 people, mostly children, at a school in Peshawar. But officials had widened the capital punishment policy to include all prisoners on death row whose appeals had been rejected. Human rights groups say that prisoners often do not receive a fair trial within Pakistan’s outdated criminal justice system and that poorly-trained police often use torture to force confessions.

Pakistan has said death punishments were being carried out in accordance with the law and the constitution of the country and that other countries must respect “our Constitution and judicial system”. The Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam has said executions in Pakistan did not violate any international agreement. She said that removal of moratorium on death punishment would not affect Pakistan’s GSP Plus Status. The spokesperson said measures being taken by the government of Pakistan were in accordance with the laws of the land. “It is state’s responsibility to protect lives of its citizens, we do not force our values on other countries and expect others to respect our values and system,” she added.

Shafqat’s lawyers concerned about premature conclusion to FIA inquiry

551d3cc0e43cfLAHORE: The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) in a press release on Thursday raised concerns that reports in the media based on ‘anonymous sources’ claim the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has concluded its inquiry into Shafqat Hussain’s age prior to the submission of evidence by his lawyers, who had been summoned to make submissions on April 2.

The JPP, which is representing Hussain, said that if the FIA has made a decision without examining the evidence presented by the defendant, “its conclusions simply cannot be trusted”.

The Ministry of Interior has not responded to the JPP’s requests for details regarding the inquiry procedure, and they believe this shows a lack of transparency.

The JPP says media reports claim the FIA has “only considered police, jail and court records”, which they believe to be “insufficient evidence to discover Shafqat’s true age”.

A 2015 Supreme Court judgement by Justice Khosa was cited by the JPP: “Recording of an accused person’s age at the time of recording his statement under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is invariably based upon a cursory visual assessment which can substantially be off the mark, as proverbially, appearances can be deceptive.”

The JPP maintains that the only official document showing proof of Hussain’s age is his birth certificate — and to discount the evidence in favour of “‘cursory visual assessments which can be substantially off the mark’ brings the veracity of the inquiry into further question”.

In a press conference on Mar 24, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali had said “At this time, what is on record is that when he went to jail, the jail doctor wrote his age as 25 years, and the jail authorities recorded it as being 23 years.”

He also said that these records had not been contested at any point during the course of trial. “If you have a certificate, bring it to the attention of the interior ministry, bring it to the attention of the committee formed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA),” Nisar said.

The JPP has called for an “independent, unbiased inquiry into both Shafqat’s age and the torture he suffered on his arrest”.

Pakistan offers mediation to resolve Yemen conflict

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday offered its role to arrest the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, as it reiterated its resolve to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

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“Pakistan stands committed to playing a meaningful role in arresting the deteriorating situation in the Middle East,” a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif maintained.

“In the same context and to facilitate early resolution of the crisis and to promote peace and unity of the Muslim Ummah, the prime minister will be contacting the leadership of brotherly countries,” a statement issued by the PM House after the meeting convened to undertake a comprehensive review of the prevailing situation in the Middle East read.

Pakistan calls upon the United Nations, OIC, and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution of the crisis, the meeting concluded.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif, Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and Acting Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Khan Hasham Bin Siddique and other senior officials.

After the meeting, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters that Pakistan has not decided to send it troops to Saudi Arabia. However, he added, if there was a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the brotherly Islamic country, Islamabad would use all its resources to defend it.

He said that a high-level delegation of Pakistan is leaving for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to meet Saudi officials to review the volatile situation in the region. He said Pakistan holds in high esteem its friendship with Saudi Arabia. He said Pakistan doesn’t want to become part of any sectarian war.

The minister said around 900 Pakistani army doctors and trainers are currently stationed in Saudi Arabia. “Neither Pakistan has sent any troops to Saudi Arabia nor any decision has been taken in this regard so far,” he said. “All stakeholders will be taken into confidence before making any decision on deployment of troops.”

To a question, he made it clear that Saudi Arabia had not so far asked for sending Pakistani troops to Yemen.

Joyous welcome for rescued Pakistani families

KARACHI: A PIA aircraft safely brought to Karachi on Sunday night 502 Pakistanis and a senior diplomat from the war-torn Yemeni city of Hodeida. The Boeing 747 Jumbo also carried a pet cat owned by a female passenger, a source in the national flag-carrier said.

55187b6c445e6 13024_10155372190930442_7325667733002562353_n 10434367_10155372190935442_3510143347717636391_n 10473574_10155372192780442_5997018972923843448_n 11081055_10155372192840442_5627331698264131945_n 11082573_10155372190940442_7751797237201947915_nCries, sighs and jubilation ran on the anxious faces of dozens of families waiting for hours outside the international arrival lounge of the Jinnah Terminal when they saw the status about the much-awaited plane blaring as ‘Landed’.

Every family had a story to tell, but they had a uniformly happy climax when they saw passengers coming out of the arrival lounge one by one.

However, the families were annoyed at a raucous group of PML-N workers whose sloganeering and occupation of all gates denied them the ultimate happiness by getting the first sight of their beloved ones coming out.

“Why are they politicising such a purely humanitarian matter?” asked Khurram who was hugged by his minor daughter waiting for his mother-in-law coming from Yemeni capital Sanaa.

“Their aggressive attitude shows they want to get our votes for saving our loved ones,” he said bitterly.

Katherine, 55, was waiting for her 28-year-old daughter Nida Andleeb, 28, and son Sunil, 27, who worked as nurses in a hospital in Sanaa.

“We have talked to them all the time till they boarded the plane. We even heard the sound of explosions as loudly as it was happening right here,” she said.

Imran Victor, husband of Andleeb and himself a male nurse in Sanaa till six months earlier, said he returned to Karachi because of some domestic problems, but now he was hugely worried about his wife and brother-in-law because of Saudi strikes on Yemen.

He said that reaching Hodeida from Sanaa was possible through a difficult five-hour mountainous track and the journey was even difficult when the security situation was so fragile.

“But, they made it,” he smiled.

Nafeesa, a resident of Korangi, said her husband Abdul Aleem was a boiler operator at an oil installation in Yemen and the security conditions in the Arab country had worried her a great deal.

The airport was full of television cameras and journalists that virtually outnumbered security officials and even the families.

The families were also not happy by the forced tactic of employees of the PIA’s Air League, an affiliate of the ruling PML-N, as they had been asked to hold large banners inscribed with slogans thanking the prime minister and the PIA administration for getting their relatives back home.

PIA officials said 150 of the 502 passengers belonged to Karachi and other cities of Sindh. The rest would be taken by another plane to Lahore and then Islamabad.

A PIA spokesman said another aircraft was ready to leave for Yemen to bring back more stranded Pakistanis.

The officials said they got confirmation of 100 more Pakistanis reaching Hodeida from Sanaa. Another flight will be on its way on Monday morning to lift the rest of Pakistanis from the southern Yemeni city.

The officials said the aircraft had been available since Saturday but could not take off for Yemen for want of permission from the Foreign Office in Islamabad. Besides, they said, around 200 Pakistanis were stranded in Aden city where airport was not accessible, but the city’s port was free.

They said a Pakistan Navy frigate left Karachi on Sunday morning for the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden to take part in the evacuation operation.

A navy statement said the ship would be readily available in the Gulf of Aden to respond to any situation according to the national requirements.

It said the naval forces, because of their inherent attributes of rapid mobilisation, reach and their endurance coupled with sealift capability “are extremely useful in the humanitarian assistance/evacuation operations”.