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Curiosity about Saudi invitation to Sharif

Photo from February 15, 2014 shows then Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud being received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his arrival in Pakistan for a three-day official visit.—APP photo
Photo from February 15, 2014 shows then Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud being received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his arrival in Pakistan for a three-day official visit.—APP photo

ISLAMABAD: Coming in the backdrop of anger in Saudi Arabia over its criticism in Pakistan, the surprise ‘invitation’ for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from Riyadh has left many wondering about the agenda of the trip.

The Prime Minister’s Office had in a late night announcement on Friday said: “The newly crowned King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, has sent a special invitation to the Prime Minister to visit the Kingdom in the first week of March.”

The Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security, Sartaj Aziz, told NNP that bilateral cooperation would be discussed during the trip, which would be the first after the completion of succession in Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Mr Sharif’s last visit to Saudi Arabia in January was for the funeral of the king.

No dates for the upcoming trip have been decided as yet even though the Saudi invitation asked Mr Sharif to come over in the first week of March.

Read: Federal minister accuses Saudi govt of destabilising Muslim world

The Saudis haven’t indicated the issues that they would like to discuss during the meeting with Mr Sharif.

But answers, diplomats and foreign policy observers say, could be found in the context. Saudis have been extremely disturbed over allegations in Pakistan about funding from the Kingdom for extremist and terrorist groups.

The Saudi embassy had, in an unprecedented move, tried to clarify its position a fortnight ago. But instead of ending the row, it led to a low-key spat between the embassy and the Foreign Office.

In a veiled rebuttal to embassy’s claim that Kingdom’s funding of seminaries was cleared by the Foreign Office, the spokesperson of the Foreign Office had said that only, “Offers of economic assistance and project based assistance by Saudi Arabia are processed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in consultation with the relevant departments and agencies of the Government of Pakistan.”

Some claim that the delay in the arrival of Abdullah Zahrani, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador-designate to Pakistan, was also because of the underlying tensions in the relationship.

Ambassador Zahrani, according to the source, was expected some eight weeks ago.

There has been no Saudi ambassador in Pakistan for about eight months now. Amb Ali Saeed Asseri was earlier named for a second stint in Pakistan, but his nomination was later withdrawn because of developments in Middle East.

Amb Zahrani is an Asseri protégé having served as his deputy both in Islamabad and Beirut.

Besides the controversy over terrorism funding, Riyadh, a keen follower of Pak-Saudi relations said, was unhappy over Islamabad not fulfilling its part of the commitment of the deal under which it was given $1.5 billion assistance.

The assistance was announced during King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Pakistan last year as the crown prince.

Though Pakistan had been denying that the money was given for some specific objective, the source said it was meant for safeguarding Riyadh’s regional interests.

With the March 31 deadline for a political framework for deal on Iran’s nuclear programme nearing, Riyadh is getting increasingly anxious.

A diplomatic source familiar with the thinking in Riyadh says that KSA needs Pakistan’s help for containing Iran, more than ever and wants to remind Islamabad about its commitment.

Saudi Arabia has been briefed by the US on the progress in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Mr Sharif’s trip to Riyadh would most likely coincide with the meeting between Iran and the six world powers (known as the P5+1: the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China) for finalising the outline for the final accord.

A deal or no deal, Riyadh has its work cut out.

A successfully concluded deal would have strategic implications for Saudi Arabia compelling it to challenge the diplomatic breakthrough. But, failure to conclude an accord would mean that KSA would be required by the West to ratchet up pressure on Tehran.

In both scenarios, the source said, Riyadh would expect Islamabad to side with it.

Mr Sharif, who has investments in Saudi Arabia, is likely to get a different treatment this time. The new set-up in KSA may not be viewing Pakistan as sympathetically as the late King Abdullah did.


OGRA’s summary rejected; POL prices to remain unchanged

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar said on Friday that despite an increase in the prices of petroleum products in the international market, the government has decided not to increase the prices proposed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) for the month of March.
Addressing a press confeogra-s-summary-rejected-pol-prices-to-remain-unchanged-1425082255-3969rence, the minister said that due to the increase in the petroleum prices in the international market, OGRA had proposed an increase in motor spirit (petrol) price by Rs 5.59 per litre, high octane by Rs 12.62, kerosene oil by Rs 7.32 and light diesel rice by Rs 5.5 per litre. The regulator proposed decrease in the price of high speed diesel by Rs 5.49 per litre. “But after using constitutional powers, the government will adjust the prices of petroleum products by reducing duties on petroleum prices,” he said, adding that sales tax on petrol, high octane, kerosene oil and light diesel would be reduced from 27 percent to around 18 percent. However, on high speed diesel, the sales tax would be increased from 27 percent to around 35 percent.
Ishaq Dar said that the prime minister had directed him to devise a mechanism to ensure that the prices of petroleum products remain the same until March 31. Moreover, he said that the Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) would also be reduced by Rs 5.11 per litre on high octane, Rs 2.6 on kerosene oil, Rs 0.85 on light diesel, Rs 0.31 on high speed diesel and Rs 0.18 per litre on motor spirit. He said Pakistan has received a good news form the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) being held in Paris that France has removed the country from its Public Statement (Grey Listing), which contained adverse remarks on Pakistan since February 2012.
He said that the FATF, in its decision about Pakistan, said that it welcomed the country’s significant progress in improving its anti-money laundering laws and combating financing (AML/CFT) for terrorism regime, and noted that Pakistan had established the legal and regulatory framework to meet the commitments in its Action Plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF had identified in June 2010. Ishaq Dar said that Pakistan’s removal from FATF Grey list is a timely and welcome development, “which is an outcome of the tireless efforts made by the economic managers under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif”.
The minister said that the World Bank has formally informed the government that Pakistan has once again become eligible for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) funding after a gap of three years. He said the IBRD funding facility was suspended in March 2012 because at that time Pakistan could not fulfil the required conditions regarding macro-economic stability. He said since Pakistan is now maintaining foreign exchange reserves of more than 2.5 months of projected imports and has satisfied other criteria of World Bank under the Country Partnership strategy (CPS), it will now be able to avail $2 billion worth of IBRD funding during the four-year period of Fiscal Years 2015-19 with annual limit of $500 million.

Can you really get a cold from going out with wet hair?

No doubt you’ve heard this one before – probably from mom or grandma as you rushed out the door one winter morning fresh out of the shower..
But while you might not f1425060510-1779eel so cozy venturing out into the cold with a wet head, doing so doesn’t condemn you to illness. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses; the only way to come down with the bugs is to come into contact with those viruses that cause them, Huffington Post reports.”In order to get an infection you need to be exposed to an infectious agent,” said Dr Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic. “There are several things that circulate during periods of cold weather – influenza and different cold viruses. That’s what you need to get infected. Going out with wet hair is not going to cause an infection. I think it more so just makes people uncomfortable.”
He cautioned that that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go traipsing around in below-freezing temperatures without a jacket or with a wet head. Ultra-cold weather is a stressor on the body, and in extreme cases could lead to hypothermia, which can certainly affect your immune system. Of course, you can catch a cold or flu virus while outside and cold and flu season does overlap with cold weather. Recent research suggests rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, may thrive in low temperatures. But you won’t get an infection simply because your hair is wet. Or because you didn’t wear a jacket, or a scarf, or mittens, either.
“The things to really focus on are respiratory etiquette, meaning if you are sick to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow and good hand hygiene,” said Tosh, who admits this is a tough myth to finally put to rest. “No matter how many times I tell my mom that you can’t get a cold from being in the cold, she still says this,” he said. “And she knows I’m an infectious diseases physician!”

Villiers blasts 162 as South Africa demolish Windies by 257 runs

villiers-blasts-162-as-south-africa-demolish-windies-by-257-runs-1425068466-5256SYDNEY: South Africa captain AB de Villiers hammered the second-fastest century in World Cup history as he led his side to a crushing 257-run victory over the West Indies at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday. De Villiers finished on an unbeaten 162 off just 66 balls as South Africa raced to the second-highest World Cup total of 408 for five, behind only the 413-5 made by India against Bermuda, a non-Test nation, in Trinidad in 2007.
The Proteas’ skipper’s innings was also the fastest 150 in ODIs and de Villiers now has the fastest fifty, hundred and 150 in ODI cricket – all coming against the West Indies. South Africa’s second win of the tournament put them firmly back on track for the quarterfinals after their abject 130-run loss to India and revived their bid for a maiden World Cup title.
On a night for the statisticians, this result also equalled the biggest winning margin, in terms of runs, at a World Cup match set when India beat Bermuda by 257 runs in 2007. De Villiers demolished the West Indians with eight sixes and 17 fours and was particularly savage on West Indies captain Jason Holder, clouting four sixes off the pace bowler’s final over. The fastest-ever World Cup century was made by Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien, off 50 balls, against England in Bangalore during the 2011 tournament.
Gayle blown away: It was a miserable effort in reply by the West Indies as they tumbled to 151 all out off 33.1 overs, with their big guns Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels succumbing early on to Kyle Abbott. Gayle, who blasted a World Cup record 215 with 16 sixes in his last innings against Zimbabwe, exposed his stumps, swung his bat and was bowled middle stump by Abbott for three in the second over. Samuels, who made an unbeaten 133 in the same match, got an outside edge and was caught behind for a duck.
The West Indies lost any remote chance they had with the pair’s exit. Jonathan Carter (10), Dwayne Smith (31) and Lendl Simmons (nought) all fell in the space of seven balls to leave their side at 53-5. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir triggered the collapse and finished with 5-45 from 10 overs. De Villiers, who made his century off 52 balls, teed off late on, plundering 34 off Holder’s penultimate over – two sixes, three fours and a two – and then 30 off his last over. Holder finished with one for 104 off 10 overs.
Apart from the spectacular de Villiers show, there was a solid supporting cast from the South African top order with Hashim Amla contributing 65 off 88 balls, Faf du Plessis 62 off 70 and Rilee Rossouw slamming 61 off 39 balls. Off-spinner Gayle struck in the 30th over with two wickets in three balls, removing du Plessis caught behind for 62 attempting a shot through extra cover and then trapping Amla leg before for 65. But de Villiers and Rossouw began to dramatically up the tempo, raising their hundred stand off 60 balls.
The skipper brought up his 50 off 30 balls and Rossouw’s half-century came off 31 balls. De Villiers unfurled some remarkable shots in the closing overs, easily clearing the ropes. In the last 10 overs the Proteas piled on 150 runs. Rossouw was caught behind off Andre Russell, having struck six fours and a six. Jerome Taylor claimed the catch of the day to dismiss David Miller for 20 with a splendid one-handed effort on the boundary that

Govt bid to bring amendment against horse trading falls flat

PPP and JUI-F refuse to support ‘show of hands’ proposal for Senate elections g Nawaz urges both parties to rethink their stance by today1425082394-5802

ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML N on Friday failed to garner consensus amongst allies and opposition parties to bring in the 22nd Constitutional Amendment, which would have allowed open ballot, or “show of hand”, in the upcoming Senate elections.

This despite the fact that the opposition and government allies are convinced that the feared horse trading in the Senate elections would bring a bad name to parliament. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his part tried hard, but was not successful in convincing the leadership of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) to support the proposed constitutional amendment. He, however, urged both the PPP and JUI-F to rethink their stance by today (Saturday), as he plans to meet some allied and opposition parliamentary leaders in a likely follow-up meeting.

Officials, however, believe that the draft law, preliminary discussed in the meeting on Friday, will most likely be presented in parliament on Monday or Tuesday in case back-channel diplomacy with opposition and allies works. The draft suggests that elections to the Senate will be held through open voting instead of the secret ballot, the current practice. The proposal also carries suggestion to devise a mechanism to track votes of legislators to establish that the pattern follows party lines, a mechanism being opposed by some political parties.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, called upon the parliamentary leaders to play their role in stopping horse trading before the Senate elections. “We have a joint obligation to check this corrupt practice of buying votes with money and ensure sanctity of the Upper House,” the prime minister said in a meeting with parliamentary leaders, at the PM’s House. Talking to the participants, he said that the Senate, being the Upper House of parliament, is sacred and it is binding upon all political parties to preserve and enhance its sanctity, making the process of its election fully transparent.

However, PPP is said to have opposed the open balloting proposal in the meeting as former PPP prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf described maligning all the members of national and provincial assemblies in “selling and buying of votes” as unfortunate, adding that the PPP not only wanted transparent elections of Senate, but wanted to come up with comprehensive electoral reforms related to national and provincial assemblies. He said that a political consensus should be achieved first and should employ the options that would address all the concerns regarding horse trading in elections of Upper House.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rahman reportedly opposed the new constitutional amendment for secret balloting on the pretext his party was already unhappy by the 21st Constitutional Amendment that established military courts. “We were bitten by the 21st Constitutional Amendment. How would you expect us to extend the favour on the new constitutional amendment?” Fazal asked.

Meanwhile, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar said that his party will support the the amendment, while PTI leader Dr Arif Alvi said that party chairman, Imran Khan, had already welcomed the government’s move. Also, Jamaat-e-Islami’s parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah and Federal Minister for Textile, Abbas Khan Afridi said that they will support the PML N move in this regard.

The prime minister said that it is a matter of concern for all the democratic forces in the country that votes of parliamentarians are being bought and sold. He urged the political parties to put an end to horse trading and save the Senate from corruption, so that democracy could flourish in the country. He said that in the past too parliamentary parties’ leaders were invited to deliberate upon matters of national significance. The prime minister strongly condemned horse trading and termed it “an act of disgrace” for all parliamentarians. He said some people, even without any party affiliation, wanted to contest the Senate election on the basis of money.

“This is not about buying votes, but about buying a parliamentarian’s conscience,” he said. Nawaz referred to media reports about the use of money before the Senate election and said all political parties need to work together to stop this practice.