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Posts from — May 2016

Constitutional conundrum: edit in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2016.

The illness of the prime minister, currently undergoing treatment in London, has raised a host of practical and constitutional issues. At some point today, he is going to be under a general anaesthetic and unlikely to be able to discharge fully the duties of his office in the hours and days thereafter. The prime minister is said to be “overseeing the government’s affairs” using a range of communication tools and a posse of advisers, including a principal secretary and a military secretary and “other staff members” — all very much in line with his preference never to delegate unless unavoidable. The budget is around the corner and is reportedly on schedule though there are concerns about its security prior to official release. The Panama Papers crisis is downgrading to an inconvenience rather than the full-blown crisis it was till a few weeks ago. Thus and despite the absence of the prime minister from Pakistan, it is — supposedly — very much business as usual.

Business as usual may be the impression the government wishes to have the nation believe, but the reality is very far from that and there is a genuine cause for concern. There have been calls for the appointment of an interim prime minister to cover the PM’s incapacity, specifically the approval of the budget as well as chairing of other important meetings that are a constitutional necessity. There is no precedent for this to be conducted electronically. There is no constitutional provision, which would allow a substitute prime minister. Who or what in terms of an entity would exercise control over nuclear weapons in the event of the chief executive being unable to is also something of a grey area. None of these questions and conundrums is going to be answered in the short term; but it is apparent that with an ailing prime minister who has needed three visits abroad for treatment this year alone, urgent clarification is needed as well as the establishment of formal protocols that will span successive governments and not just the current dispensation. We wish the prime minister a speedy and full recovery — and an early return.http://tribune.com.pk/story/1113032/constitutional-conundrum-2/

May 31, 2016   No Comments

Nisar mysteriously missing from cabinet meeting: By Siddique Sajid in daily times, May 31, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Monday remained mysteriously missing from the most important meeting of the federal cabinet summoned to approve the federal budget for 2016-17.

The notice for special cabinet meeting was sent by the Cabinet Division to all the federal ministers, ministers of state, advisors and special assistants well in advance. Interior Minister Ch Nisar was also invited, but he didn’t turn up.

One of the senior ministers commented that the prime minister was performing his duties from London even when he was not in good health but the absence of one of our senior colleagues from the cabinet meeting had left a bad taste in the mouth. “What kind of message he wants to give,” he wondered.

Sources said at the time of cabinet meeting, the interior minister was chairing a meeting at the NADRA headquarters. They were of the view that even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif felt his absence. Sources said Ch Nisar was not happy with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar looking after the affairs of the PM House as he thought himself to be the most senior minister and entitled to be declared the in-charge by the prime minister in his absence. However, he silently distanced himself after Nawaz Sharif verbally asked Dar to look after the day-to-day affairs of the government.

An interior ministry spokesman, however, said that Ch Nisar was not feeling well and hence could not attend the meeting.http://dailytimes.com.pk/islamabad/31-May-16/nisar-mysteriously-missing-from-cabinet-meeting

 

May 31, 2016   No Comments

Sindh dismayed over only 6pc share in PSDP

Karachi: The Sindh chief minister expressed his disappointment on Monday that the federal government had proposed only Rs12.05 billion for the province from the total outlay of Rs800 billion of the next Public Sector Development Programme.

“This is an injustice with the people of Sindh and not what the prime minister had committed and announced,” Qaim Ali Shah said while presiding over a meeting to review the PSDP 2016-17.

Finance minister Murad Ali Shah told the chief minister said that the federal government has proposed a PSDP of Rs800 billion for the next financial year and only 25 schemes being executed by the Sindh government costing Rs12.05 billion had been included in it.

He added that the prime minister had announced the repair of Guddu Barrage and the construction of a motorway from Hyderabad to Sukkur but these schemes had been ignored in the PSDP.

The finance minister said said the federal government had included 180 new schemes in the next PSDP, of which only 11 are in Sindh and Rs120.77 billion had been earmarked for them – only six percent of the total amount.

The federal government has included 180 schemes of Rs644.54 billion against which Rs120.77 billion allocation has been proposed.

The province/area-wise breakup of the schemes and allocation shows that Punjab has been given 26 schemes costing Rs140.10 billion against which Rs16.599 billion has been allocated constituting 14 percent of the total funds.

Sindh has been given only 11 schemes costing Rs130.475 billion with an allocation of Rs6.55 billion which comes to six percent of the amount.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 18 schemes costing Rs115.92 billion with an allocation of Rs27.21 billion which is 10 percent of the funds.

Balochistan has 28 schemes worth Rs43.43 billion with an allocation of Rs28.35 billion which is 16 percent of the total amount.

Gilgit Baltistan has seven schemes costing Rs15.39 billion with an allocation of Rs1.10 billion which is four percent of the amount. The AJK has two schemes of Rs3.73 billion against which Rs765 million have been allocated –  one percent of the funds.

Islamabad has been given 88 schemes costing Rs195.47 billion with an allocation of Rs64.67 billion, 49 percent of the funds.

The chief minister said six new schemes of Sindh with an adequate allocation should be added in the next PSDP including the Indus Highway-Jamshoro Sehwan dual carriageway; the Sukkur Barrage rehabilitation project, upgrading of the flood infrastructure, short-term mitigation and preparedness measures to counter sea intrusion; planting of 25 million trees to combat climate change effects, and the lining of the KB Feeder upper canal for water supply to Karachi.

He said that he would urge the federal government to increase the allocation of some important schemes. The federal government has allocated only Rs500 million for the K-project IV which could be increased to Rs5.3 billion so that it was completed within two years.

This is scheme costing Rs25.551 billion in which federal and provincial governments have to equally share the cost.

The chief minister said the Makhi Farash Link Canal project (Phase-II) was meant to supply water to Thar to meet the requirements of the Thar coal project. The total cost of the project is Rs10.61 billion with the federal and provincial governments equally sharing the cost.  He added that he would urge the federal government to increase its allocation from Rs50 million to Rs2 billion.

Additional chief secretary Mohammad Wassem said that the federal government has proposed only Rs10 million for the lining of distributaries and minors it should be increased to Rs3 billion.

He said an amount of Rs1 billion had been earmarked as the Normal Annual Development Programme (emergent flood scheme) for the whole country, whereas Sindh had submitted many important schemes costing more than Rs16 billion.

The chief minister said this allocation had been reserved for the whole of Pakistan and it should be increased to Rs10 billion.

Waseem told the chief minister that the share of the Sindh government in PSDP for vertical programmes under way in the province came to Rs3.93 billion against which only Rs1.76 billion was released.

The vertical programmes include the expanded program on immunisation, the prevention and control of Influenza; the prevention and control of blindness; hepatitis, the TB control programme, and malaria.

The provincial chief minister said that the Sindh government had provided Rs1.922 billion as bridge financing for the vertical programmes of the health department and he would the federal government to reimburse the funds.  The federal government also has to reimburse Rs842.590 million of the Hyderabad package.http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/124130-Sindh-dismayed-over-only-6pc-share-in-PSDP

May 31, 2016   No Comments

Govt probe hints at BB officials’ links: Report in The Daily Star, May 31, 2016

Dhaka: A government panel probing the $101 million Bangladesh Bank heist blamed the theft on SWIFT again and hinted for the first time at the involvement of central bank officials in its final report submitted yesterday.

Former BB governor Mohammed Farashuddin, who led the panel, handed the report to Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the secretariat.

“Initially, it appeared that none from the BB was involved,” Farashuddin said. But some changes came up, which were included in the report.

The report also contains an analysis of how SWIFT was responsible for the cash flowing out of the BB’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“SWIFT will never be able to evade its responsibility. But we have to solve our future problems with the help of SWIFT,” said the chief of the probe body.

The committee was formed on March 15 more than a month after hackers had stolen the money from the BB’s account.

It was asked to look into how the illegal payment instructions had been issued from Bangladesh Bank and to whom, and examine whether the steps taken by the central bank to stop the payment against the fake orders were appropriate.

The two other members of the committee were Mohammad Kaykobad of the computer science and engineering department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Gokul Chand Das, additional secretary of the Bank and Financial Institutions Division.

The government gave three months’ time to the panel to complete the investigation and submit a report.

The committee submitted an interim report on April 20.

Farashuddin said the final report to a great extent contradicts the interim report because the first one was prepared and submitted in haste.

About 90 percent of the interim report has been changed, he said, crediting the radical changes to the contribution made by three teachers of BUET — a former professor and two associate professors — after the submission of the interim report.

The former governor also said it was not possible for the committee to find out the external cyber criminals involved in the theft.

The probe body gave an outline as to how much money could be recovered.

“We have given an encouraging picture,” Farashuddin said.

“The report highlights the sort of involvement on the side of Bangladesh Bank,” he said, without elaborating further.

Asked whether the report had been prepared under any pressure, the panel chief answered in the negative.

Upon receiving the report, Muhith told reporters that the main objective of the report was to bring in internal discipline.

“We have so many lacuna and faults. The main goal was to highlight them.”

He, however, declined to comment on the findings, saying that it would be public in about 20 days after he reads it.

Muhith said he would not get any scope to go through the report before the announcement of the annual budget on June 2.

On February 5-10, hackers tried to pull off 35 bank transfers, totalling $951million from the BB account with the Fed.

They succeeded in transferring $81 million, all of which ended up at Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in the Philippines. Within days, much of the money was withdrawn and laundered through casinos in and around the Filipino capital Manila.

Kim Wong, a gambling junket operator in Manila, who admitted to receiving around $15million from two Chinese nationals, has given the money back to the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

The AMLC said another $28 million was still with the Solaire casino resort in Manila and $17 million with PhilRem, a remittance company. Another $21 million was believed to be somewhere in the casino system.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions (SWIFT) denied that its systems were at fault for the heist. The New York Fed also rejected claims that it had executed five payment orders without receiving confirmation it sought from the BB, which caused Bangladesh to lose the money.

Earlier in May, BB Governor Fazle Kabir met New York Fed President William Dudley and senior SWIFT officials in Switzerland in an effort to expedite the recovery of the stolen funds. The parties said they would work together to trace the funds still missing.http://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/govt-probe-hints-bb-officials-links-1232086

May 31, 2016   No Comments

Bangladesh Panel Hints at Possible Insider Role in Central Bank Theft By SYED ZAIN AL-MAHMOOD in The Wall St Journal, May 30, 2016

A Bangladeshi government-appointed committee investigating the theft of $81 million from the South Asian country’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York blamed the Swift interbank messaging service for negligence but also hinted at insider involvement after handing in its final report Monday.

Mohammad Farashuddin, a former central banker who led the committee, said Swift “could not escape blame” for the breach because the secure messaging service provider had exposed Bangladesh Bank’s network to the Internet while installing equipment and software, repeating Bangladeshi claims that Swift has denied.

Speaking after submitting the committee’s final report to the Bangladeshi Finance Ministry, Mr. Farashuddin also pointed to the possible complicity of central bank officials in the theft, one of the largest bank heists in history.

While submitting an interim report earlier this month, Mr. Farashuddin had said his committee found no evidence of insider involvement. On Monday, he said without elaborating that there were “some changes” regarding the possible involvement of Bangladesh Bank officials. He didn’t elaborate, and the committee’s report hasn’t been made public.

A Swift spokeswoman declined to comment on the Bangladesh report. Swift has previously said that Bangladesh Bank is responsible for its own internal security.

Bangladesh Bank fired two senior officials and transferred several others after the heist while the central bank chief resigned after taking moral responsibility. No one has been arrested.

Subhankar Saha, a spokesman for Bangladesh Bank, said Monday that “if anyone within the bank is found to be involved, we will take legal action as appropriate.”

At a news conference earlier this month, Mr. Farashuddin said the hacking had been carried out using malware developed in North Korea and Pakistan, citing forensic evidence.

Brussels-based Swift, whose formal name is Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has been under scrutiny since a number of breaches at customer banks came to light.

The banking industry cooperative, which provides messaging services to thousands of financial institutions world-wide, has issued a series of security alerts in recent weeks, warning customers that the Bangladesh Bank breach wasn’t an isolated incident, but “part of a wider and highly adaptive campaign targeting banks.”

The North Korean Embassy in Dhaka and its mission at the United Nations didn’t respond to requests for comment on Mr. Farashuddin’s earlier claims. The Pakistani Embassy in Dhaka and the Pakistani Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.http://www.wsj.com/articles/bangladesh-panel-hints-at-possible-insider-role-in-central-bank-theft-1464631707

May 31, 2016   No Comments

Pakistani politicians own property worth Rs700 billion in UAE: Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: If the country’s political system is damaged or democracy is derailed because of the current crisis, only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be responsible, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Sunday.

He was addressing the National Press Club’s governing body at his Bani Gala residence in the federal capital.

Stressing the need for strengthening institutions for ensuring the stability of democratic institutions, he maintained that some individuals were dominating the system and political parties.

Insisting that after Panama Leaks, the prime minister had ‘no constitutional right’ to continue as the head of the government, Imran said that as long as Nawaz continued in office, the crisis would continue unabated.

The PTI chief said that corruption was considered to be a major issue in the wake of Panama Leaks, adding that politicians in both developed and developing countries damaged public interests.

He said that after the advent of social media, people were more aware of their political rights, adding that people also wanted to eradicate corruption for ensuring transparency in institutions.

According to Imran Khan, Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats owned property worth Rs700 billion in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Accusing incumbent government of weakening intuitions, he criticised the appointments of the chairman of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Deputy Governor Saeed Ahmed, adding that their roles in these institutions were inappropriate.

Stressing upon the need for keeping the working of such institutions within their domains, he said that Pemra, instead of continuing its role as a regulator, was working under the control of the government.

“We are committed to strengthening democratic institutions and democracy,” Imran said, adding that PTI was working as an institution instead of being controlled by a single individual.

Comparing Pakistan’s prime minister with his British counterpart David Cameron, the PTI chief insisted that the latter was facing “immense public pressure to relinquish his post” despite the fact that he had shares in his father’s offshore companies before assuming the office of the prime minister.

“PM Cameron’s only fault is to pay less in taxes, he did not abuse his powers,” Imran said, adding that the Pakistani prime minister indulged in corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.

Criticising the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Imran said that it was not an independent institution; instead it was working under government’s control. He added that the ECP should function within its constitutional domain.

According to him, there was no hope for holding free, fair and transparent elections under this election commission.http://tribune.com.pk/story/1112695/current-political-crisis-pm-blame-democracy-derails/

May 30, 2016   No Comments

No Zardari-Nawaz understanding on PanamaLeaks: PPP By Asim Yasin in The News, May 30, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) broke its silence on reports of a meeting between former president Asif Ali Zardari and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, saying that no understanding had been reached with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the PanamaLeaks issue.

The PPP stated that Asif Zardari held no meeting with Fazlur Rehman in London recently and the assertion in a section of the media that the PPP co-chairman had reached some understanding on the issue of PanamaLeaks with the prime minister was untrue and baseless.

In a statement, the PPP stated when the attention of the former president was drawn to a report on a private TV channel implying that in the spirit of reconciliation Zardari had arrived at some understanding with the prime minister on the issue, Zardari not only contradicted these reports but also stated categorically that the party had already decided to pursue the PanamaLeaks issue to its logical conclusion.

“A parliamentary committee has already been set up which is engaged in drawing up the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for investigation and how to proceed in the matter and there is no question of ignoring it,” the PPP statement while quoting Zardari said.

The former president said the party had arrived at a well-considered stance on the issue after due deliberations not only within the party but also with all the political parties.About Fazlur Rehman’s assertions that he has indirectly managed reconciliation between Zardari and Nawaz, the statement said the Maulana was just dreaming.

“Media reports calculated to give any impression that he (Zardari) may have a different stance on the issue are untrue and baseless and seems to be motivated to create confusion,” the statement added.http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/123858-No-Zardari-Nawaz-understanding-on-PanamaLeaks-PPP

May 30, 2016   No Comments

JI chief warns of anti-corruption march to Islamabad ZAHIRUDDIN in Dawn, May 30th, 2016

CHITRAL: Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq has threatened that his party will stage a long march to Islamabad to protest against corruption and corrupt rulers and called for setting up of a special court for the accountability of politicians with an authority to award rigorous punishment to convicts.

Addressing a public gathering here on Sunday, he vowed to be firm and steadfast in the fight against corruption which had made lives of the poor miserable and deprived 20 million children of basic education.

If corruption, VIP culture and profligacy by rulers came to an end, he said, every Pakistani would acquire free education and healthcare facilities and homeless people houses of their own.

“It is a pity that Lowari Tunnel project was launched five decades ago but it is yet to be completed. All this is due to rampant corruption which enables the rulers to enjoy luxuries at the cost of the poor,” Mr Haq said.

The Jamaat had resolved to launch a revolt against the system infested with evils, he said.

He claimed that except the JI, leadership of all political parties had been found to be owners of off-shore companies and said that it served as an eye-opener for people to observe that honest and competent leadership was the characteristic of only his party.

Regarding the crisis over off-shore companies, he said that the government had already wasted much time and the situation was fast heading to the point of no return, adding that the rulers would soon find themselves in shackles.

The gathering was also addressed by local JI leaders Mushtaq Ahmed Khan and Maulana Jamshed Ahmed, District Nazim Maghfirat Shah, Tariqullah, a member of the National Assembly, and former MNA Abdul Akbar Chitrali.

Earlier, a procession was taken out from Drosh which converted into a public meeting at the Polo Ground. It was said to be one of the few mammoth political gatherings in the history of the venue.http://www.dawn.com/news/1261535/ji-chief-warns-of-anti-corruption-march-to-islamabad

May 30, 2016   No Comments

Security challenges in Balochistan: EDITORIALin Dawn, May 30th, 2016

BALOCHISTAN, the so-called strategic asset that is always seemingly bleeding, has been in the news for several reasons lately. There has been, of course, the global focus on it ever since Akhtar Mansour, the Afghan Taliban leader, was killed while travelling across Balochistan. Since then, the elevation of Haibatullah Akhundzada, allegedly an event that took place in Balochistan, has sustained the interest in Pakistan’s geographically largest province. Balochistan has also been in the spotlight because of aggressive new claims by the security establishment and its allies that the province has been virtually overrun by foreign spies, from Afghanistan, India and, for now, several unnamed countries. Yet, the original security problem there – a low-level Baloch insurgency that is now the longest in the province’s history – continues. The outgoing month has been especially bloody, with losses on both sides as militants have claimed bomb and gun attacks and security forces the elimination of militants in firefights. Is there hope for Balochistan?

Perhaps the first step that needs to be taken is for the country to come out of its denial over Balochistan. Political leaders like Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti may rail against the NDS and Afghan refugees, but the IED that killed two FC personnel in Awaran and the two dead bodies of government employees recovered over the weekend from Kech occurred in areas that are hardly Afghan stamping grounds. Meanwhile, the political government in Islamabad appears to have all but given up on a political settlement in Balochistan despite the PML-N having installed its own party’s leader in the province as chief minister. The overall media, too, by its lopsided coverage of Balochistan has exacerbated the national problem of perceptions and understanding of what ails the province. With the aggressive, almost hysterical, coverage of claims of foreign interference in Balochistan in recent weeks, the disaffected Baloch may well be wondering if they were better served when their province was effectively under a national news blackout. More than ever, there is a yawning chasm between what is alleged to be taking place in Balochistan and what the swathes of the Baloch population are experiencing.

Ultimately, if the Baloch insurgency is to be brought to an end, the lead will have to be taken by the political class. The security establishment, now under three successive army chiefs spanning over a decade and a half, has demonstrated that it still sees Balochistan from a regional security prism rather than as a province with legitimate socioeconomic and political grievances. But is the political class capable or willing to take lead on Balochistan? http://www.dawn.com/news/1261472/security-challenges-in-balochistan

May 30, 2016   No Comments

Two killed, several hurt in Balochistan attacks: report in The Nation, May 30, 2016

QUETTA – Two people killed including a securityman were killed and several others injured in separate attacks of violence in Balochistan on Sunday.

At least six people including women and children were injured when unknown culprits hurled a hand grenade at a house on College Road in border town of Chaman.

Police sources said that unknown men threw a hand grenade at a house on College Road in the city, leaving six persons injured.
The assailants managed to escape from the scene.

Rescue teams rushed to the scene and shifted the injured to hospital for medical treatment.
The wounded included women and children and the blast also damaged two vehicles parked in the house.
The windowpanes of nearby houses were smashed.

The law enforcement agency cordoned off the entire area. According to preliminary investigation, the family said that they had no enmity with anyone.
Further probe was underway.In a separate incident, two people, including a Levies man, were gunned down by unidentified men on motorcycles in Turbat.

Levies officials said unknown assailants opened fire at them in the Zamran area and fled. Both victims sustained multiple bullet wounds and died on the spot.
The bodies were shifted to a nearby hospital for postmortem.

Levies personnel reached the site of the attack and initiated an investigation into the incident.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

TRADER KIDNAPPED: A trader was kidnapped by unidentified armed kidnappers in the City on Sunday and businessman and tribesmen kept Chaman-Quetta National Highway blocked in protest for several hours.

According to police sources, Abdul Nafey was on his way home from hospital where he went for his mother’s check-up when his car was intercepted by the armed men, who took him away to an unknown destination.

The traders and tribesmen blocked the National Highway to protest his abduction, due to which traffic remained suspended for several hours.

However, after pursuasion by the district management officials they dispersed peacefully.The law-enforcement agencies cordoned off the entire area to trace the suspects.http://nation.com.pk/national/30-May-2016/two-killed-several-hurt-in-balochistan-attacks

May 30, 2016   No Comments