Indian journalists say they are intimidated, ostracised if they criticise Modi and the BJP


NEW DELHI: India has constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and by some measures the biggest and most diverse media industry in the world. But journalists here say they are increasingly facing intimidation aimed at stopping them from running stories critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration.

At least three senior editors have left their jobs at various influential media outlets in the past six months after publishing reports that angered the government or supporters of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to colleagues.

Some reporters, as well as television anchors, have told Reuters they have been threatened with physical harm, abused on social media and ostracised by Modi’s administration.

In its annual World Press Freedom Index released on Wednesday, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said that India was now 138th-ranked in the world out of 180 countries measured, down two positions since 2017 and lower than countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Myanmar. When the index was started in 2002, India was ranked 80th out of 139 countries surveyed.

Reporters Without Borders said that “with Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals.”

The group said that “hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies.”

Read More: India drops plan to punish journalists for ‘fake news’ following outcry

Spokesmen for the government declined comment on the accusations by journalists. They did not immediately respond to the Reporters Without Borders report.

However, not all Indian journalists believe there is a problem. Swapan Dasgupta, a member of parliament and a political columnist who supports Modi, said the press freedom ranking was “quite inexplicable”.

“I don’t believe there has been any shrinkage in the freedom of the media in the past few years,” he said in an e-mail.

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a spokesman for the ruling BJP, said allegations of media intimidation were far from the truth.

“On the contrary, the BJP has been a victim of the viciousness of large sections of the media that flourished under the patronage of the Congress, left and other opposition parties,” he told Reuters in e-mailed comments. “The unabashed bias of these media against the BJP has not dented our party’s political growth.”

Some journalists in India say they believe media freedoms are now under even more threat in the run-up to an election due next year. There have been some signs of increasing opposition to Modi’s economic policies and to the BJP’s muscular Hindu nationalism.


“India is going through an aggressive variant of McCarthyism against the media,” said Prannoy Roy, co-founder of NDTV, India’s first private news channel.

NDTV, which some BJP leaders have called the least friendly of India’s television channels, is being investigated for fraud by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The company has called it a witch-hunt.

The government declined to respond to Roy’s comments.

Sagarika Ghose, a columnist with the Times of India newspaper, said she is viciously trolled for any criticism of the administration.

“The minute I write something, I get droves of hate mail,” Ghose said. “I have had death threats and gang rape threats on social media and also through letters sent to my home. They know where I live.”

Ravish Kumar, a news anchor who has been scathing about the government in his programme for NDTV’s Hindi-language channel, said he has been constantly harassed and threatened by pro-government activists.

“This is very organised,” he told Reuters. “They follow me. When I go out to report, a crowd gathers in 10 minutes.”

Reporters Without Borders counted instances of Indian journalists being killed because of what they write.

“At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 were targeted in connection with their work,” it said.

Among them was editor and publisher Gauri Lankesh, a vocal advocate of secularism and critic of right-wing political ideology. A member of a hardline Hindu group has been arrested for the murder of Lankesh, who was gunned down outside her home..

Read More: Reporters Without Borders slams Israel for deliberate shooting of journalists in Gaza

Journalists say that media proprietors, who often have multiple kinds of businesses, are risk averse and can be leaned on by the government.

“Media proprietors are notorious for reading the tea leaves, they get a clear sense of the tolerance level of politicians in power,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, who runs a not-for-profit online news portal called The Wire. “Government ministers have coined this word, presstitute, to describe journalists who are unfriendly to them or who don’t do their bidding,” he said.


Bobby Ghosh, the editor of the Hindustan Times, one of India’s premier broadsheets, quit last September shortly after Modi met the owner of the newspaper. At least two senior journalists familiar with the situation said they were told that Modi was unhappy with Ghosh’s editorial policies.

The journalists told Reuters that Ghosh fell out of favour with the government after he launched a webpage called the Hate Tracker, a database of violent crimes based on religion, race ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

The database was taken down in October.

Ghosh declined to specify why he quit the Hindustan Times.

The prime minister’s office and the newspaper declined requests for comment on the matter.

A letter published at the time from the government’s chief spokesman Frank Noronha said Modi had met the Hindustan Times chairwoman Shobhana Bhartia when she invited the prime minister to attend a conference organised by the newspaper.

“Other related assumptions and insinuations…are baseless and denied,” Noronha said. “The government is committed to the freedom of the press.”

Restrictions on reporting are likely to intensify heading into the election, said Harish Khare, who resigned as editor-in-chief of the widely read Tribune newspaper last month.

“It (the government) will use every resource in its command to pressurise, manipulate, misguide media or any other voice which seeks to be independent of the government,” said Khare, who was for some time the prime minister’s press secretary in the Congress Party government that lost power to Modi and the BJP in 2014.

He told Reuters his relations with the Tribune’s controlling trust nosedived after the newspaper published a story exposing flaws in Aadhaar, the government’s national identity card project.

The newspaper’s trust rejected his accusations. “To the contrary, the Tribune Trust gave an unprecedented award of 50,000 rupees ($765) to the correspondent (who wrote the story) in recognition of the work,” said Officiating Editor K.V. Prasad in an e-mail.

“The editor-in-chief’s departure came close to the end of the tenure.”

($1 = 65.3600 Indian rupees)

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Three terrorists killed, soldier martyred in cross-border fire in Mohmand

cross-border fire

RAWALPINDI: Three terrorists were killed and one soldier was martyred in cross-border fire on Thursday in Mohmand Agency.

Pakistan armed forces’ media wing, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the terrorists opened fire on Pakistani border post in Mohmand Agency from across the border, which was effectively responded by Pakistani troops.

“During exchange of fire, three terrorists were killed. While, soldier Farmanullah, age 21 years, embraced shahadat (martyrdom).”

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‘Till death do us apart’: Imran Khan rubbishes rumours of differences with wife

Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on Thursday categorically denied all rumours of differences with his wife Bushra Maneka, ARY News reported.

Speaking exclusively to ARY News, the PTI chief said that such rumours are spread by rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to gain political benefits.

“As long as we both are alive, we will live together,” said Imran Khan.

A section of media reported this week that Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Maneka has  returned back to her maternal home following a dispute with Imran Khan.


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Comedian Bill Cosby convicted of sexual assault in retrial

Bill Cosby

NORRISTOWN, Pa: Comedian Bill Cosby was convicted on Thursday on all three counts of drugging and molesting a onetime friend in 2004, a decisive victory for prosecutors in one of the first celebrity sexual-assault trials of the #MeToo era.

Cosby, 80, best known as the lovable father from the 1980s TV hit “The Cosby Show,” faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand, who is now 45.

Cosby looked down with a sad expression when the Pennsylvania jury’s verdict was read. Lily Bernard, one of his many accusers, began sobbing. Constand sat stone-faced.

A former administrator for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater, Constand is one of about 50 women who have accused him of sexual assault. All of the other allegations are believed to be too old to be prosecuted. Cosby has said any sexual encounters were consensual.

Read More: Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania

The unanimous decision by the seven-man, five-woman jury came less than a year after a different jury deadlocked in his first trial on the same charges, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors decided to retry him.

The first trial ended just before a flood of sexual assault and harassment accusations against rich and powerful men in media, entertainment and politics gave rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Those high-profile revelations have encouraged women in all walks of life to go public with personal stories of abuse, in some cases after years of silence.

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US-led anti-IS coalition admits 28 more civilian deaths


WASHINGTON: The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq acknowledged on Thursday the deaths of another 28 civilians, increasing the overall toll of non-fighters killed to at least 883.

The coalition said in a statement that it had completed a review in March of 49 reports of potential civilian casualties from air and artillery strikes, of which all but three were deemed not credible.

These three incidents occurred in Iraq and Syria last year.

On May 25, near Al-Mayadin in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, 15 people were killed during an air strike on an IS “media center and headquarters.”

“The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties unfortunately occurred,” officials said in a statement.

An April 27, 2017 strike on an IS headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa saw 11 civilians killed, and a May 16 strike saw two people killed.

ALSO READ: Syria donors fall short without US aid, warn of cruel end-game

Investigators were still looking at another 476 reports from the campaign.

The coalition conducted a total of 29,254 strikes between August 2014 and the end of March 2018 in Iraq and Syria.

Monitoring group Airwars says the number of civilian deaths acknowledged by the US-led coalition is well below the true toll of the bombing campaign, estimating that at least 6,259 civilians have been killed.

The US-led operations to fight IS in Iraq and Syria have largely wound down, with the jihadists ousted from more than 98 percent of the territory they once held.

The coalition’s toll of non-fighters killed dates from 2014.

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Ibrahimovic rules out World Cup comeback: federation


STOCKHOLM: Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who quit the Swedish national squad in 2016, will not make a comeback for the World Cup in Russia, the Swedish football federation said Thursday.

“I spoke with Zlatan on Tuesday. He said that he has not changed his mind regarding the national squad,” the managing director of the national squad, Lars Richt, said in a statement after the player dropped numerous hints of a possible return.

“It’s a no,” Richt added.

In an appearance on ABC television’s late night Jimmy Kimmel show on April 18, the new star of LA Galaxy teased fans that he may come out of retirement to play in Russia.

Read More: Ibrahimovic strikes twice as Manchester United clinch League Cup

Known for his swagger, the athlete said “it wouldn’t be a World Cup” if he didn’t play, adding: “I’m going to the World Cup, yes.”

The 36-year-old who last played at a World Cup with Sweden in 2006, retired from the Swedish team after the 2016 European Championship.

He said last month he wanted to concentrate on settling into his career in Major League Soccer before thinking about the World Cup.

Ibrahimovic, a father of two, became the latest in a long line of ageing stars to swap the heights of European football for the MLS. He also took a massive pay cut when he left Manchester United for LA Galaxy.

Ibrahimovic has 31 winners’ medals collected in spells with Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

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UK corporate giants sign pact to cut plastic waste

plastic waste

LONDON: More than 40 British companies including major retailers and soft drinks companies on Thursday pledged to eliminate unneccessary plastic packaging as part of an anti-pollution push.

The 42 firms, responsible for 80 percent of plastic packaging sold in Britain, have signed up to a pact that aims to tackle plastic pollution over the next seven years through a series of measures.

These include cutting down on single-use plastic packaging, making all plastic packaging reusable or recyclable and stipulating that 30 percent of all plastic packaging include recycled material.

Corporate giants such as Coca-Cola, Asda, Procter & Gamble and Marks & Spencer have all signed up the “UK Plastics Pact” amid growing concern over the problem of plastic pollution, particularly in the oceans.

Read More: Britain to ban sale of plastic straws in bid to fight waste

“This requires a whole-scale transformation of the plastics system and can only be achieved by bringing together all links in the chain under a shared commitment to act,” said Marcus Gover, head of the sustainability campaign group WRAP, which is leading the project.

“That is what makes the UK Plastics Pact unique. It unites everybody, business and organisation with a will to act on plastic pollution. We will never have a better time to act, and together we can.”

The group hopes that the pact will spread globally.

Britain announced last week that it plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England, as part of a push to tackle global marine pollution.

Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will launch a consultation on banning the single-use items later this year, ahead of legislation on the issue.

“The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban,” May said at the time.

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Giant sloth vs. ancient man: fossil footprints track prehistoric hunt


BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND: Scientists have uncovered evidence of ancient humans engaged in a deadly face-off with a giant sloth, showing for the first time how our ancestors might have tackled such a formidable prey.

Standing over 2 meters tall, with forelegs tipped with claws, giant sloths lived until around 11,000 years ago. Most scientists believe over-hunting by humans eventually led to their extinction.

Fossilised footprints in the salt flats of White Sands National Monument, in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico, reveal humans walking in the exact footsteps of a giant sloth and then confronting it, possibly hurling spears.

“The story that we can read from the tracks is that the humans were stalking; following in the footsteps, precisely in the footsteps of the sloth,” said Matthew Bennett, one of a team of scientists behind the discovery.

“While it was being distracted and turning, somebody else would come across and try and deliver the killer blow. It’s an interesting story and it’s all written in the footprints,” said Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographical sciences at Bournemouth University in southern England.

At the White Sands National Monument, researchers identified what are known as “flailing circles” that show the rise of the sloth on its hind legs and the swing of its fore legs, likely in a defensive motion.

In addition to tracks of humans stalking the sloth, there are more human tracks further away. From this, scientists infer that the humans worked as a group, with a separate team distracting and misdirecting the sloth to outwit it.

The flailing circles are always associated with the presence of human tracks. Where there are no human footprints, the sloths walk in straight lines, but where human tracks are present the sloth trackways show evasion, with sudden changes in direction.

Thanks to new 3D modeling techniques, the fossilized footprints have been preserved using a system developed by Bennett. Using a standard digital camera to take images from 22 different angles, his computer algorithm builds up an ultra-precise 3D rendering of the footprint.

“What this evidence does is for the first time shows us how they might have tackled one of these big beasts and the fact that they were almost certainly doing it routinely is important,” Bennett told Reuters at his university.

“Getting two sets of fossil footprints that interact, that show you the behavioral ecology, is very, very rare,” he said.

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India is democratic country but denies right of Kashmiris for plebiscite: Mushahidullh


ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullh Khan on Thursday said India is a democratic country but denies the right of Kashmiris of holding plebiscite.

“The presence of 0.7 million Indian army personnel is negatively impacting environment of the area. They are using fossil fuels and weapons and deteriorating the environment,” he said while talking to a delegation of All Parties Hurryiat Council in a meeting at Ministry of Climate Change, Islamabad.

He also told the delegation that ideology always won in physical war. The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government, the ministry and people of Pakistan fully supported the Kashmir cause, he added.

The present government highlighted the issue through international forums and diplomatic communities, he said.

Senator Mushhaidullah Khan highlighted during the meeting that Kashmir cause is also directly related to climate change.

He further said I have been following Kashmir issue since my childhood .The meeting in Muzafafrabad on Kashmir issue was on my advice. Because I suggested to hold that meeting closed to Kashmiris .

He also stressed that the ruling government brought back Kashmir cause on top agenda of the government. This issue caught the attention of the world after the martyrdom of freedom fighter Burhan Wani, he added.

Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Romina Khursheed Alam also highlighted that Pakistan conducted an international conference to highlight Kashmir problem and show solidarity.

Ghulam Muhammad Safi, the convener of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Azad Jammu and Kashmir highlighted that Kashmir issue was human right issue and climate change issue as well.

“The Siachin glaciers are located in that area. The brutalities of Indian forces are negatively impacting glaciers as well.

“The Hindutva government started steps to convert majority into minority. The Muslim population has started migration from the area, where Asifa was raped and murdered, due to fear.

“In Kashmir, all our leaders are fighting for their freedom. The college and university students holding Pakistani flag are on roads to fight for their freedom. India is furious to see Pakistani flags in hands of students,” he said.

He further stressed that Pakistan had to play an active role. He demanded to keep Kashmir on top of manifesto for next elections.

Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullah khan agreed to forward this suggestion to keep Kashmir issue on top of manifestos of all the political parties.

The meeting was attended by Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Romina Khursheed Alam, Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education Punjab MPA Mehwish Azmat Hayat, Syed Ijaz Safi, Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, Mehmood Ahmed Saghir and other representatives of All Pakistan Hurriyat Council.

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‘People will even vote for Khawaja Asif’s shadow’

Khawaja Asif

ISLAMABAD: In her first reaction to the Islamabad High Court verdict declaring Khawaja Asif disqualified to hold public office, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz on Thursday said that Asif has been disqualified in a “fixed match”, ARY News reported.

In a series of tweets, Maryam Nawaz Sharif took a jab at the petitioner in the case-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Usman Dar- by saying that he (Dar) got Asif disqualified from court when he could not beat him in elections.

“Go get him disqualified in a fixed match who you can’t beat in polls but remember, people will even vote for Khawaja Asif’s shadow,” wrote Maryam Nawaz on Twitter.

Khawaja Asif had beaten PTI’s Usman Dar by more than twenty one thousand votes in the 2013 general elections from NA-110 constituency.

Maryam Nawaz, who has a huge following on Twitter, also changed her profile picture with an old picture of her and Khawaja Asif.

Earlier in the day, the Islamabad High Court disqualified foreign minister and long time PML-N loyalist Khawaja Asif for violating election laws.

The ruling by the Islamabad High Court was the latest in a series of court decisions that have gone against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N).

Last July, its leader Nawaz Sharif was ousted from the premiership by the Supreme Court over graft allegations and then barred from politics for life by another decision earlier this month.

Asif — who had earlier served as the country’s minister of defence — was found guilty of failing to declare several work permits in the United Arab Emirates, a violation of Pakistan’s election laws.

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After Khawaja Asif, PTI gears up for Ahsan Iqbal’s disqualification

ahsan iqbal

ISLAMABAD: After the disqualification of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is gearing up for the disqualification of another federal minster.

Minister for Interior and Planning, Development & Reforms Ahsan Iqbal is also known to posses an iqama (work permit) for a Saudi-based company.

In this regard, PTI chairman Imran Khan has reportedly contacted legal counsel Babar Awan and instructed him to make preparations and file a case seeking Ahsan Iqbal’s disqualification.

PTI leader Abrar-ul-Haq, who contested the 2013 general elections against Iqbal in Narowal, will file an application in the Islamabad High Court.

Furthermore, a copy of the iqama and a statement by Ahsan Iqbal on social media site Twitter that he possesses an iqama, but had revealed it his nomination papers, will also be presented as evidence in the case.

It may be noted that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and foreign minster Khawaja Asif were also disqualified for life on similar circumstances for failing to disclose an iqama for UAE-based companies.

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ICC aims for tougher ball-tampering sanctions in months


Cricket’s world body said Thursday it wants tough new sanctions against ball tampering in place within months as it struggles with the fallout from the cheating scandal involving top Australian players.

International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson said football-style red and yellow cards would be among the measures considered as it seeks to bring back a “culture of respect” to the game.

The leaders of top playing nations demanded harsher punishment and more powers for umpires to act against cheating and misconduct at ICC meetings in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata this week.

“There was clear direction received that we want to move toward stricter and heavier sanctions for ball tampering and all other offences that are indicative of a lack of respect,” he told a press conference.

Read More: Pakistan coach backs Smith to come back stronger

Ex-Indian Test star Anil Kumble is to lead a player legends committee to recommend the sanctions.

The ICC chief said the new punishments would be decided in June and July.

Richardson said the punishments would also cover “other offences that are indicative of a lack of respect for your opponent, for the game, the umpires”.

“We want penalties in place that are a proper deterrent. Fines are not proving to be the answer,” he said.

The ICC was criticised after it banned Australia skipper Steve Smith for only one Test over his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last month in which batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught trying to alter the ball.

After a wave of public anger, Cricket Australia later banned Smith and his deputy David Warner for 12 months. Bancroft was given a nine-month suspension.

“Quite honestly we were worried about poor player behaviour before that,” said Richardson.

“There have just been too many incidents of sledging, ugly abusive language and dissent.”

He said letting umpires send off and book players “will be part of the discussion.

“When it comes to time wasting and things like that we want the umpires to take more on-field actions.”

Richardson said he was not convinced that red and yellow cards “will be as easy to implement as in other sports”.

Umpires have since last year already been able to send off players for violence and other extreme behaviour but this has not yet been used.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), guardians of the game rules, have been among the influential groups calling for red cards.

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No 2019 Cricket World Cup fixtures at Olympic Stadium

world cup

LONDON: London’s Olympic Stadium will not stage any matches at next year’s 2019 Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

The International Cricket Council released the full fixture schedule for its showpiece men’s one-day international tournament on Wednesday.

There had been speculation that the London Stadium, which has a capacity of some 60,000 — more than double that of Lord’s and nearly three times that of The Oval, London’s other established major international cricket venue — might be used as a World Cup venue in a bid to attract new audiences to the game.

But the ground, now known as the London Stadium and home to Premier League football club West Ham, has been ignored amid reports that the cost of converting into a ground for cricket — a sport it has yet to stage — was too expensive.

Tournament hosts England begin the 2019 World Cup against South Africa at The Oval on May 30.

Meanwhile the showpiece first-round fixture between sub-continental rivals India and Pakistan is a day/night clash at Old Trafford on June 16.

Reigning champions Australia will launch their title defence on June 1 against qualifiers Afghanistan in a day/night match in Bristol.

In all, 11 venues will be used with all 10 teams in a slimmed-down World Cup involved in an all-play-all first round before the top four advance to the semi-finals.

Edgbaston, in Birmingham, and Manchester’s Old Trafford will stage the semi-finals on July 9 and 11 respectively, with the final at Lord’s, the ‘home of cricket’ on July 14.

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Deepika Padukone reveals the quality she likes about Ranveer Singh


Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh have been in a relationship for more than five years, and there are rumours that the couple will solemnize their relationship at the end of the year.

The two have never spoken about their relationship with the media, but have always called each other ‘special’. Unlike his contemporaries Ranveer has always remained vocal about his love for Deepika.

With the rumours of their wedding spreading like wildfire, Deepika, too, is opening up to the idea of being vocal.  A month calling Ranveer ‘mine’, she talked at length about the qualities that she admires in Ranveer.

“Everything other than the most obvious. I am bored when people say they love his energy. The man has so much more,” she told Filmfare Middle East.

“He is an extremely good human being. He is kind and good to people. He is very real, emotional and sensitive. He is a man who is not afraid to cry and I love that about him. He is a man!” she added.

In an earlier interview with Film Companion, Deepika spoke about reports of her wedding and working after marriage in the media.

“It’s too much a part of my life for me to say I can walk away from it. But I think that home, family, parents, marriage is very important for me. Today I can see myself as a working wife or mother. I think I’d drive everybody around me mad if I didn’t work.”

Ranveer had answered questions about his marriage to India Today saying: “I don’t know where that’s coming from, but yes, of course, these are things I think about… As much as I am consumed by work at the moment, these things are on my mind. But there’s nothing decisive, as of now,” he had said.

Ranveer and Deepika have worked together in three Sanjay Leela Bhansali films- Ram Leela, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat.

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Paratha-wala found involved in abduction of child

child abduction

KARACHI: Police recovered a minor boy from captivity of a paratha-wala (who makes parathas at a hotel) man in Hyderabad on Thursday, ARY News reported.

The kidnapper, Liaquat Kakar, who makes parathas at a local hotel in Sohrab Goth, Karachi, abducted a seven-year-old child and made him hostage at a house in Hyderabad. He demanded Rs0.5 million ransom from parents of the child for his release.

Anti-Violent Crime Cell (AVCC) Police had arrested Kakar from Super Highway two days ago when he was receiving ransom money, said SP AVCC Police.

In a confessionary statement, the suspect told police that he belonged to Qila Abdullah, Balochistan, and stayed for sometime in Hyderabad before coming to Karachi, where he started working in a hotel in Saddar.

He said he used to chit-chat with the child and strengthened relations with him who would regularly come for parathas at the hotel.

Read More: Child abductions on the rise in Lahore

“I would also take him to visit recreational places nearby and when I had become sure that the kid was ready to go with me, I took him to Hyderabad,” he said.

Police said the suspect tied the child with ropes and demanded Rs0.5 mn ransom.

Police have also asked parents to keep an eye on their children so that they could not make any such kind of relations with strangers.

Read More: CM Sindh breakfasts at Quetta-wala’s hotel

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ICC awards international status to all T20I matches


KOLKATA: The International Cricket Council on Thursday gave the green light to award international status to all Twenty20 matches between members along with plans to introduce global rankings in the format.

The move across both men’s and women’s cricket, is part of the wider strategic aim of using the T20 format to globalise the game. New minimum standards will be introduced making it as easier to play international cricket in a sustainable and affordable way.

All women’s teams will be awarded T20I status on July 1, whilst all men’s teams will be awarded T20I status on January 1, 2019 following the cut-off point for qualification to the ICC World T20 2020.

The rankings for women and men will be introduced in October 2018 and May 2019 respectively. The decision was made on the final day of a week of ICC meetings in Kolkata.

Move toward stricter sanctions towards ball-tampering 

The ICC Code of Conduct review was also discussed with both the ICC Board and member chief executives united in their commitment to address player behaviour.

There was clear direction to move towards stricter and heavier sanctions for ball tampering and other offences which were indicative of a lack of respect, this would include abusive language, send-offs and dissent to an umpire’s decision along with the creation of a culture of respect that embodies the spirit of cricket on and off the field of play.

Champions Trophy 2021 scrapped, replaced by World T20 

ICC members signed a new Future Tours Programme (FTP) for 2019-2023 that introduces a World Test Championship and an additional ICC World T20 event in place of the Champions Trophy in 2021.

This provides opportunities for 16 teams to compete at a global level with a sub-regional, regional and global qualification process every two years, giving more regular cricket to more members.

The final structure of the FTP (19-23), which received unanimous backing, includes ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and 2023, ICC World T20 in 2020 and 2021, ICC World Test Championship final in 2021 and 2023, World Test Championship Cycle 1 from 2019-2021 and Cycle 2 from 2021-2023, ICC Cricket World Cup Qualification League between 2020-2022 apart from all other bilateral series.



ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said:  “We are particularly pleased with the unanimous agreement to award all T20 bilateral games international status and the move to create a global ranking system for T20Is.

“We are committed to growing the game and T20 is the vehicle through which we’ll do this and removing restrictions and having all members ranked is a positive step forward.

“We have already introduced a regional qualification pathway for the ICC World T20 in 2020 which is now underway and we will continue to evolve our qualification structures across all three formats to enable Members to play regular cricket and grow the game.”

Richardson added: “The message from everyone gathered in Kolkata was loud and clear – we must act to create a culture of respect that protects the integrity of the sport. We all have a responsibility to the game and its fans and the strength of feeling around the board table today means we have a unique opportunity to improve the behavior and culture across cricket.

“We are currently in the process of confirming the individuals to support us on this review and they will meet alongside the Cricket Committee in May and make recommendations to the Board in June.”

ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said: “I would like to commend our Members on reaching agreement on the FTP which means the ICC World Test Championship and ODI league are now cemented into the calendar. Extending international status for all T20 bilateral games and creating a global rankings table is a positive step forward in growing cricket around the world using the shortest format of our game.

“The code of conduct review is a crucial piece of work and my fellow board directors and I are committed to seeing an improvement in player behavior and ensuring a culture of respect across our sport. We will consider tougher sanctions as we work to create a culture of respect.”

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Understanding Kim: Inside the US effort to profile the secretive North Korean leader

WASHINGTON: US intelligence experts are trying to build a profile of Kim Jong Un to give President Donald Trump a competitive edge in one of the most consequential summits since the Cold War, but they face a huge challenge – figuring out a secretive North Korean ruler few people know much about.

Following a long tradition of arming US presidents with political and psychological dossiers of foreign leaders ahead of critical negotiations, government analysts are gathering every new bit of information they can glean about Kim and making adjustments to earlier assessments of what makes him tick, US officials told Reuters.

They will rely in part on the impressions drawn by CIA director Mike Pompeo, who just weeks ago became the first Trump administration official to meet Kim. Pompeo, Trump’s pick to become secretary of state, came back from Pyongyang privately describing the young North Korean leader as “a smart guy who’s doing his homework” for the meetings, according to one US official, who described Pompeo’s personal view of Kim for the first time.

The profile will also include intelligence gathered in past debriefings of others who have interacted with Kim, including ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman, Kim’s former classmates at a Swiss boarding school and South Korean envoys, other US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

All of this is being used to update the US government’s classified file on Kim’s behavior, motives, personality and leadership style to help Trump and his aides develop a strategy for dealing with Kim at the expected first-ever meeting of US and North Korean leaders.

Read More: Hopes for peace as Kim takes historic step to inter-Korean summit

A White House official declined to confirm any specifics about the drive to better understand Kim, except to say: “There is a robust whole of government effort under way to prepare for the president’s summit,” which is targeted for late May or early June.

Despite that, direct knowledge of Kim remains limited – a “black box,” according to one US official familiar with the profiling efforts – especially given the scarcity of spies and informants on the ground and the difficulties of cyber-espionage in a country where Internet usage is minimal.

When Kim first came to power, the CIA predicted that Kim’s rule might be short-lived. Seven years later that prediction has been dropped and he is now seen as a shrewd and ruthless leader. More recently, many US experts were caught off-guard by how nimbly Kim shifted from his saber-rattling drive to build a nuclear missile arsenal to diplomatic outreach.


The emerging US consensus on Kim is similar to what many outside experts have publicly concluded. He is seen as a “rational actor,” said US officials – not the “total nut job” that Trump once branded him. He craves international stature but his main aim is “regime survival” and perpetuating his family dynasty, suggesting it will be hard for him to agree to full nuclear disarmament, the officials said.

He is ruthless enough to have had relatives executed but now feels secure enough in power to gamble on Trump, they said. In terms of personality, he is seen more like his charismatic grandfather, Kim Il Sung, than his more camera-shy father.

His dispatch of his sister to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February and a rare appearance by his wife when South Korean envoys visited in March demonstrates an effort to humanize his leadership abroad, they added.

Shielded by North Korea’s extreme opaqueness, Kim has posed a special set of profiling problems for US spy agencies. US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a speech earlier this month that North Korea’s leadership was “one of the hardest collection components out there” for intelligence gathering.

US experts will be closely studying both Kim’s words and body language at his historic summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, officials said.

Read More: G7 ministers meet on Russia, Iran and North Korea threats

US intelligence analysts have spent years examining Kim’s family history, speeches, photos and video, and they are now closely analyzing images and reports of his recent high-profile meetings with South Korean and Chinese officials.

US authorities have also interviewed North Korean defectors and even resorted to second-hand sources such as the memoir of a Japanese sushi chef who once worked for the Kim family, several officials and experts said.

Amid the scramble to put together the Kim profile, the US officials said another challenge was determining how much information to give Trump – known to have little patience for detailed briefings or lengthy documents – and then persuading him not to act purely on gut instinct, as he often does with foreign leaders.

Briefers are expected to limit their presentation to an abridged version, accompanied by photos, maps, drawings and video, the officials said.

It will not be the first time intelligence officers have relied on visual aids to help get him up to speed on North Korea.

Early in his administration, Trump was shown a scale model of North Korea’s sprawling nuclear bomb test site with a removable mountaintop and a miniature Statue of Liberty inside so he could grasp the size of the facility, two US officials said.

A White House official declined comment on the episode.

Trump’s defenders say he is adept at absorbing facts visually. “His successful building career means he was very good at studying architectural renderings and floor plans. So he’s a visual learner, and it works well for him,” the White House official said.


For decades, US administrations have ordered up profiles of foreign leaders, especially those of adversaries such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Fidel Castro of Cuba. Many other governments conduct similar studies.

Such assessments, which originated with the US government’s efforts to better understand Germany’s Adolf Hitler, have sometimes been deemed helpful to US policymakers.

Former President Jimmy Carter wrote in his memoir “Keeping Faith” that in-depth profiles of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat paid “rich dividends” in helping him reach a 1978 peace accord.

But the “know thy enemy” practice has been far from fool-proof.

For instance, initial bare-bones assessments of Kim put together soon after he took power in 2011 suggested he was possibly too inexperienced to survive internal struggles but that if he did he would likely be more interested in reforming North Korea’s battered economy than pursuing nuclear weapons.

“It’s never perfect,” acknowledged Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist who founded the CIA’s center for the study of political personality and has profiled both Kim and his father. “But we need to do our best to understand how Kim sees the world.”

Post, now in private psychiatric practice in Maryland, said he was consulted recently by a Trump aide who was due to brief the president. He declined to elaborate on what advice he gave.

”We all listen to the forensic psychiatrists of the intelligence community,” said Wendy Sherman, a former US negotiator with North Korea who traveled to Pyongyang with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000 to meet Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.

But she suggested face-to-face contact was the best way to take the measure of a North Korean leader. ”I’m sure Mike Pompeo, having gone with an intelligence team, came back with a lot of useful information,” she told Reuters.

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WATCH LIVE: Government launches National Economic Survey 2017-18

Interior minister Ahsan Iqbal

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal is launching Pakistan Economic Survey (2017-18). The document provides an overview of the national economy, highlighting performance and achievements in different sectors during the current fiscal year

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Messi scores in trademark tussle in EU court


BRUSSELS: Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi may register his name as a trademark for sports equipment and clothing, the EU’s second highest court said, as he was famous enough to overcome phonetic similarities with Spanish bicycle clothing brand Massi.

The case reached the EU General Court after the Spanish brand successfully complained to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The EUIPO said that Messi and Massi were almost identical visually and phonetically and some would find it difficult to the tell the two apart, but the court disagreed.

“Mr Messi is, in fact, a well-known public figure who can be seen on television and who is regularly discussed on television or on the radio,” the court said on Thursday.

Widely considered one of the world’s greatest soccer players, Lionel Messi, 30, scored his 600th professional goal last month and is the all-time highest scorer for both Barcelona and Argentina’s national team.

The court said that even though some people may not know Lionel Messi, this was unlikely to be the case for those buying sports equipment.

Massi can still appeal the decision at the EU Court of Justice.

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Thirteen children killed after train hits school bus in India

school bus crashes train 13 children dead India

MUMBAI: Thirteen children in India were killed on Thursday when a train hit their school van at an unmanned crossing, the second major accident involving school children in a little over two weeks.

The Police were investigating the cause of the accident in Uttar Pradesh state but authorities said the van driver was responsible for safety at the unmanned crossings.

 “Railways is not responsible in case of unmanned level crossings,” said Ashwani Lohani, chairman of the Indian Railway Board.
Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, told reporters at the site that the accident was possibly a result of negligence on the part of the van driver, who he said was wearing headphones at the time.

Eight children and the driver were injured and taken to the hospital, police said. There were 22 children in the vehicle.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said an inquiry had been ordered and his ministry would pay 200,000 rupees ($3,000) to the families of those killed.

 Lohani said that in the long-term, the solution was the replacement of all unmanned crossing in the huge railway network with bridges or tunnels for roads.

“We are working on it, but it will take time,” he said.

On April 9, at least 24 children and three adults were killed when a school bus plunged off a mountain road in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.

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Syria is death trap for civilians, UN refugee chief warns


BRUSSELS: Civilians can no longer flee fighting and bombing raids in Syria because borders are so tightly controlled and neighboring countries are overwhelmed by refugees, creating some of the worst suffering in modern times, a top U.N. agency chief said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was warning of a new disaster if the rebel-controlled Syrian city of Idlib was the next target of the Syrian military.

“The country is becoming a trap, in some places a death trap for civilians,” Grandi told Reuters during a donor conference for Syria.

“There is an entire population out there that cannot bear its refugees anymore, that is suffering from one of the worse ordeals in modern history.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said last month about 511,000 people had been killed in the war since it began in March 2011.

Some 5.5 million Syrians are living as refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and now account for a quarter of Lebanon’s population. Another 6.1 million people are still in Syria but have been forced to flee their homes.

Grandi is hoping to raise $5.6 billion from international donors for emergency humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees this year, but that money is not for Syria itself, instead going to help host countries such as Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the United Nations estimates that more than 400,000 civilians trapped in besieged areas throughout Syria.

That the number could rise dramatically because 2 million people live in northwestern Idlib region, the largest populated area of Syria in the hands of insurgents fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

Some aid agencies are predicting suffering on an even greater scale than during the siege of Aleppo last year and in eastern Ghouta and Raqqa this year if the Syrian army and its Russian and Iranian backers turn their full fire on Idlib.

Tens of thousands of fighters and civilians have fled to the area from parts of the country which the army has recaptured with the help of Russia and Iran.

“Idlib is where an area where a lot of fighters have transferred,” Grandi said. “If fighting moves more decisively to that area, it could be very dangerous for civilians.”

However, Grandi and other aid agencies predict they will have nowhere to flee to because Turkey’s southern border with Syria at Gaziantep is tightly controlled, mainly letting aid supplies through to Idlib, forcing refugees deeper into Syria.

“I think we are going to lose not only a generation but a population,” Grandi said.

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Income, education tied to physical function in old age: study

old people income

NEW YORK: People with lower socioeconomic status may have fewer years of good physical functioning in old age than their more affluent, educated counterparts, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined data on socioeconomic status, chronic medical problems, and walking speed – a proxy for physical functioning – for 109,000 adults ages 45 to 90 from 24 countries in Europe, the U.S., Latin America, Africa and Asia. Socioeconomic status includes income, education and occupation and offers a snapshot of how class shapes opportunities within a given society.

At age 60, men of low socioeconomic status had the same walking speed as 67-year-old men with high socioeconomic status, meaning the poorer and less educated people had almost seven fewer years of good physical functioning, the study found.

Women at age 60, meanwhile, lost more than five years of good physical functioning when they had low socioeconomic status, compared to their more affluent counterparts.

“The impact of poor socioeconomic conditions on functioning is comparable to that of major risk factors such as smoking or physical inactivity,” said lead study author Silvia Stringhini of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at Lausanne University Hospital and Lausanne University in Switzerland.

Plenty of previous research has linked poverty, a lack of education and limited job prospects to an increased risk of chronic disease and premature death, researchers note in the BMJ. Along the way, many people experience a decline in physical functioning, which is thought to be caused by the combination of limited resources and complex medical problems.

The current study builds on this thesis by showing that in addition to any chronic health problems that may hasten physical decline, socioeconomic status is an independent risk factor for worsening function. This means some poor people who are otherwise healthy may still have an increased risk of losing physical function.

Men and women of low socioeconomic status, for example, lost more than five years of physical functioning to a lack of exercise, the study found. They also lost five to seven years of good functioning due to obesity, and about six years from diabetes.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how socioeconomic status might directly impact health or physical functioning.

Even so, the results suggest that doctors and policy makers should focus on socioeconomic status as a risk factor for premature aging, the authors conclude.

Efforts to promote disability-free aging will take on heightened importance as the global population ages, particularly because improvements in healthy aging haven’t kept pace with gains in life expectancy, said Dr. Rachel Cooper, author of an accompanying editorial and a researcher at the University College London in the UK.

“Socioeconomic adversity is, alongside other risk factors, an important target in global efforts to extend disability-free life expectancy,” Cooper said by email. “These new findings provide further empirical evidence in support of renewed calls for action to address global increases in socioeconomic inequality as a matter of urgency for the benefit of the health and wellbeing of our ageing global population.”


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Syria donors fall short without US aid, warn of cruel end-game


BRUSSELS: International donors raised $4.4 billion in emergency aid for Syria and its neighbors this year on Wednesday, but the total fell well short of the U.N. target for 2018 after the United States failed to submit a pledge.

Humanitarian agencies also pleaded for peace before the Syrian military and its Russian and Iranian backers turn their firepower on the rebel-controlled Syrian city of Idlib, warning of civilian suffering on a greater scale than during the siege of Aleppo last year.

“What I fear is a very cruel battle engulfing Idlib. We cannot accept the war moves towards what is essentially a gigantic refugee camp,” Jan Egeland, a senior U.N. adviser on Syria, said of the northwestern region.

“There have to be talks to spare the civilians from the fighting,” he said, adding that 2.5 million people were at risk.

Britain, Germany and France were among those offering new money for refugees at the conference, which brought together 86 governments, aid groups and financial and regional institutions.

Pledges of $3.4 billion also came in for 2019-2020 and the EU’s humanitarian chief, Christos Stylianides, said the bloc and its member states offered the lion’s share of the sum.

But the figure was less than the $6 billion gathered for 2017 as U.S. President Donald Trump cuts foreign aid.

“A number of important donors have not yet been in a position to confirm their financing for 2018,” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told a news conference. “That includes the United States, which has been providing more than $1 billion a year to Syria and the region in recent years.”

While the United Nations said more money may still come in, Washington is reviewing its Syria policy, including humanitarian support, and Trump has questioned the value of such aid.

The European Union, which along with the United States is the world’s biggest aid donor, is also struggling to agree with its member governments on a second package of three billion euros ($3.66 billion) for refugees in Turkey.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag told the conference the EU must do more on the crisis in Syria, which has also triggered a spike in immigration to Europe that has posed a challenge for the bloc’s governments since 2015.


Humanitarian aid will also go to Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which are overwhelmed with some six million Syrian refugees.

“The war hasn’t stopped, people are still being bombed and live in refugee camps. The pledges today show that the conditions for Syrians will only get worse in the future,” said Rouba Mhaissen, a Syrian-Lebanese activist working for refugees.

The failure to reach the U.N. goal at the pledging conference showed the challenge for Syria as other conflicts, from Afghanistan to Myanmar, also demand attention and money.

Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Development Programme, said there was a risk of so-called donor fatigue because of the sheer length of the multi-sided war.

“It is a natural phenomenon as the conflict continues year after year,” Steiner said. “In 2018, the humanitarian drama … is actually at its peak.”

The international community’s split over Syria was also highlighted by the fact that Damascus was not taking part in the conference organized by the EU. Russia sent no top state officials and was only represented by its EU ambassador.

The envoy, Vladimir Chizhov, challenged the EU’s line that the West would only focus on humanitarian assistance but provide no money for reconstruction of Syria for as long as Assad does not share power with the opposition.

But the West has ruled that out, seeing money as its best leverage to try to force Assad into peace talks, so far in vain.

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Pakistan’s qawwali music fights to be heard after Amjad Sabri’s death

Amjad Sabri

KARACHI: Nearly two years after Pakistan’s foremost qawwali singer Amjad Sabri was gunned down in Karachi, the devotional music of Islam’s Sufi mystical sect is struggling to survive, as fears of sectarianism and modern pressures slowly drown out its powerfully hypnotic strains.

Thousands poured into the streets near Sabri’s family home after his death for his funeral, a rare public display of affection in Karachi.

“He was a rockstar of the masses,” explained journalist and musician Ali Raj, who studied under Sabri.

His murder was just the latest in a series of blows in recent years to strike at the heart of qawwali, which has thrived in South Asia since the 13th century.

“I am still in shock,” Sabri’s brother Talha told AFP from his family home adorned with pictures of his superstar sibling, whose fame spanned the subcontinent and beyond.

Heart-breaking: Amjad Sabri’s last words to killers

“Why do they hate qawwali? Why do they hate music?”

Embraced widely as a part of Pakistan’s national identity, qawwali has played a key unifying role, with city-dwellers and villagers flocking to Sufi shrines for concerts.

Performances traditionally last hours, with a troupe of musicians interweaving soulful improvisational threads under lyrical, lilting vocal lines to a steady beat of thundering rhythms on dholak and tabla drums and hand clapping, sending fans drifting into trance-like transcendent states.

The genre entered a golden age in the 1970s as singers known as qawwals battled for prestige, with the Sabri Brothers — led by Amjad’s father, Ghulam Farid Sabri — and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan finding audiences around the world.

Following the death of Ghulam, Amjad took the helm and slowly carved out his place as Pakistan’s most prominent qawwal, becoming a fixture on national television and radio.

But now musicians worry that his murder — and the fear it sparked — has hastened the decline of qawwali.

– Fear, faith and finances –

At Cafe Noor in Karachi where qawwals have gathered for decades, musicians said business has been falling for years, with fewer shrines willing to host performances.

Sectarian militants have targeted Sufis, a mystical sect of Islam, for years — with the Taliban and increasingly the Islamic State sending suicide bombers to attack shrines over what they see as heretical displays of faith.

Just months after Sabri was killed, IS claimed back-to-back attacks on shrines in the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh that killed more than 100 people combined.

Earlier this month, the military approved death sentences for two militants linked to Sabri’s killing.

‘Security fear’: Amjad Sabri’s family decides to leave Pakistan

But questions linger over who ordered the murder — the Pakistani Taliban, or another group — forcing his brother to spend months guarded by elite paramilitary rangers.

Such fears, meanwhile, are not the only factors triggering qawwali’s decline.

Inflationary pressures have also kept the qawwals’ working-class fanbase from hosting shows. Increasingly only the middle class or elite can afford to pay a qawwali group to perform at parties or weddings.

“In the good old times, even a poor man… would manage to organise qawwali,” explained singer Hashim Ali, saying he is now lucky to play four or five shows during religious periods compared to dozens in the past.

The rise of more globalised interpretations of Islam has similarly chipped away at qawwali’s popularity, as Muslims in Pakistan increasingly depart from the subcontinent’s syncretic religious traditions and look to the Middle East for guidance.

“People access… (qawwali music) as a part of their faith,” said Ahmer Naqvi, chief operations officer for Pakistani music app Patari.

“A lot of the younger population is abandoning the ways that the older generations worshipped.”

Increasing conservatism has also hit the genre.

Even before Karachi’s Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar shrine — famed for hosting performances — was attacked by the Taliban in 2010, organisers had imposed restrictions on shows for years as part of a campaign against qawwali’s hashish-smoking fans.

The pressure has compelled more qawwals to try their hand at fusion, or even branch into more financially viable genres such as pop. Only a minority have embraced social media to promote themselves, journalist Raj said.

But they face an uphill battle.

“The youth… they don’t know what exactly qawwali is,” said fan Muhammad Saeed, 24, citing the popularity of contemporary music at home and from abroad, during a private show in Islamabad.

– ‘Under pressure’ –

After 16 years playing by his brother’s side, Talha Sabri said he has struggled to find his place on stage until Amjad’s own sons are old enough to perform.

“We are under pressure,” he said, with his long hair and neatly trimmed beard cutting a stark resemblance to his brother.

But even as he fears the possibility of extremists striking again, he refuses to be cowed.

“Regardless of these threats, we have to keep on,” he said.

For Sabri’s mother Asghari Begum however, the murder of her son marked a turning point for qawwali, ringing the death knell for its future.

Her family previously made it through the tumultuous 1980s, when political parties and gangs battled for turf, turning Karachi’s streets into killing fields.

But they were respected then, passing unscathed through the city’s numerous pickets.

Amjad’s death proved things have changed.

“He has gone now,” she said. “And the passion of qawwali has gone with him.”

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Real life ‘transformers’ auto-bots unveiled in Japan

Tokyo auto-bots humanoid

TOKYO:  A Transformers-style, humanoid robot that can shapeshift into a sports car in about 60 seconds was unveiled in Japan on Wednesday.

The “J-deite RIDE” robot is the brainchild of Kenji Ishida, CEO of Brave Robotics and a fan of anime movies featuring robots that could transform or combine with each other.

“I grew up believing that robots had to be capable of such things, which became my motivation to develop this robot,” Ishida told reporters.

The blue and white robot is 3.7-metres (12 feet) tall and can carry two passengers as it transforms into a car or humanoid form.

Some people may view the robot as an “expensive toy”, but it was intended to inspire others, Ishida said.

The RIDE was co-developed with Asratec, a robot consulting firm, and amusement ride manufacturer Sansei Technologies.

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Explainer: The budget-making process in Pakistan

budget 2018

Budgets are mostly laced with hype and controversies and this year is not any different for the Pakistan Government. This is the first time in history that a government elected for a tenure of five years is going to present six budgets.

It has already triggered a debate over the legality of the government’s move to present a budget that will continue after completion of the incumbent administration’s tenure.

It seems that this will be the first year in five years’ term of this government when an un-elected person, Dr Miftah Ismail, who currently holds the position as an Advisor to the Prime Minister, would deliver a budget speech.

Traditionally budgets are announced by an elected member of the National Assembly or Senate.

Also for the first time, the budget is being presented nine weeks before the closing of the ongoing fiscal year.

Understanding the budget-making process

A budget is an estimate of income that reflects the country’s social, economic, fiscal and financial responsibilities for a set period of time. A budget is a government document presenting the government’s proposed revenues and spending for a financial year.

Known as the Annual Financial Statement of the country the budget presented is according to the governing law covered by various articles of the constitution of the country. The bill can be tabled either in National Assembly or in the Senate. But the money bill can only be tabled in National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament.

This document is presented by the finance minister and after passage of the finance bill in the parliament, approved by the President within 30 days of its passage to become a law.

The fiscal year in Pakistan starts from July 1st. The Budget proposals, made by the Finance Ministry and considered and approved by the Cabinet, are presented in the Parliament. There is no formal provision in the rules of procedure for a pre-budget discussion or consultation on the part of the Ministry to engage the public or the Parliament on fiscal matters and issues.

When approved by the Cabinet, the Finance Minister, on behalf of the Government, delivers his Budget speech in the National Assembly.

No other business is allowed in the House on that day.

The stages of the discussion of the Budget are as follows:

  • General Discussion on the Budget
  • Discussion on Appropriations
  • Discussion and voting on Demands for Grants

What are the Parliamentary rules?

According to the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, the Speaker allots days for the different stages of the Budget. It requires two days to lapse between the days the Budget is presented and the first day of the General Discussion. The Rules prescribe that not less than four days should be allotted for the General Discussion. Any member can move a cut-motion to reduce the amount of demand. Each Demand for Grant is discussed and voted upon. Consequently, a Vote of Account is taken and the Finance Bill is passed. The Budget is submitted to the Senate for recommendations. The Senate can make recommendations on the Budget to the National Assembly within seven days. These recommendations are not binding on the National Assembly.

The debate duration

The annual budget generally is presented in the National Assembly during the 2nd week of June and is passed by the beginning of last week of June. This process generally takes 12 to 17 working days for the various stages in budget debates.

Since 2003, it had been made essential that the budget statement is copied to the Senate at the same time as its presentation to the National Assembly. The Senate which is upper house of the Parliament can discuss the budget proposals and make recommendations to the National Assembly. These recommendations are accepted upon the federal government’s approval.

Some of the areas in which the Parliamentary Budget Process in Pakistan needs urgent improvement are as follows:

There are currently 41 National Assembly standing committees and Senate of Pakistan has 28 standing committees. Each of this committee is corresponding to a federal ministry or division.

  1. The period allowed between the presentation of Budget and its passage is too short for any meaningful debate or input by parliamentarians.
  2. There is no provision and tradition of parliament led pre-budget consultation with parliamentarians, civil society and citizens at large.
  3. Individual parliamentarians and the Parliament as an institution, lack the infrastructure to give research and analysis support for an effective Budget debate in the Parliament.
  4. The Budget relating to Defense services lacks details. Even the distribution among the three services such as Army, Air Force and Navy is not provided.
  5. The Standing Committees both of National Assembly and Senate, which are mostly formed in line with the Ministries and Divisions, have not been assigned any role in the Budget process. Even the Standing Committees on Finance does not play any role in the Budget process.


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Pakistan dismisses worries over Indian missiles activities

Pakistan India missiles activity

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has no frustration regarding Indian missile activities but international community must take notice of such aggressive behavior, says foreign office.

During his weekly media briefing foreign office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Thursday said that Pakistan possess full capacity to answer Indian actions in same manners.

Dr Faisal said that Indian official including its Prime Minister keep giving provocative statements against Pakistan even in other countries.

“Pakistan has always maintained a dignified attitude and has retaliated only when it was necessary”, he added.

He said that political vendetta is at its peak against Kashmiri leaders. “Even women leaders and activists are being arrested on the ground that they protested along with the students against the rape and murder of a Muslim minor girl at Kathua”, he added.

“We note with concern the acquittal by the Indian courts in the Mecca Masjid blast. The gradual acquittal of accused of Samjhota terrorist attack, including the mastermind Swami Aseemanand, makes a travesty of the Indian judicial system”, Dr Faisal said.

Mecca Masjid blast is related to us because Pakistan has regularly lodged its concern with India regarding the lack of progress in the Samjhota terrorist attacks, in which more than 42 innocent Pakistanis lost their lives, despite a lapse of more than a decade, spokesperson said.

Replying to another question he said India is making a complete mockery of its justice system, especially while dealing with Saffron terrorism and terrorist acts committed under the garb of Hindutva and Hindu fundamentalism.

Replying to a question he said all the counter terrorism actions taken by Pakistan are in our own national interest. “We do not lodge such operations on anyone’s orders, we always have given priority to our national interests”, he said.

Regarding the recent visit of US officials to Pakistan he said that both the countries have discussed issues of mutual interests including US diplomat Col Joseph.

Dr Faisal reaffirmed that the Pakistan’s relations with China are strongest in terms of diplomatic, economic, political and historical sphere. “Pakistan has no insecurity regarding other countries’ mutual relationship”, he added.

Replying to another question, he said that Pakistan wished peace and stability in Korean Peninsula and any step towards the normalization would contribute in global peace.

He also condemned the heinous suicide attacks that targeted the innocent civilians at voter registration centers in Kabul and Baghlan provinces in Afghanistan last week.

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First of its kind underwater restaurant to open in Norway

new underwater restaurant in norway

NORWAY: Europe’s first underwater restaurant is set to open its gates early in 2019 in the south of Norway. The structure features a 36-foot wide panoramic window and is designed to become a part of the marine surrounding. The menu will feature local authentic seafood.

The restaurant named “Under” is designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, famous for its work on the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. It will stand on the seabed five meters below the surface, with thick walls designed to withstand the most variable sea conditions.

“One of the benefits of this building is how it links nature and land, and how you can come safe from the land and in a very dramatic way go down through this concrete tube to the nature at sea level, and experience what normally is not experienced,” said Rune Grasdal, lead architect on the project.

Visitors will witness three levels and a capacity of up to 100 people. Below the entrance and the cloakroom, there will be a champagne bar, to mark the transition between shoreline and ocean. Further down there will be a dining room, with two long tables and several smaller ones positioned in front of the large acrylic window, which will be 13 feet tall.

Grasdal said it’s important people feel secure and not claustrophobic. To achieve this, the design team took into consideration a myriad of elements, like natural materials — such as oak — and good lighting.

“It should be an exciting experience but people should also feel secure and well when sitting down there.”

Head chef, Nicolai Ellitsgaard plans to offer a menu that will follow the flow of the seasons, with local vegetables in spring/summer and mushrooms and nuts in the winter, with shellfish influencing most dishes year-round.

Environmental considerations have guided the design, which is housed in a coarse concrete shell to invite mussels to cling on. Outside of opening hours, the unit will double as a marine biology research centre, with planned experiments to study the behaviour of marine life through shifting seasons.

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Khawaja Asif now must know ‘what is sharam and what is haya’, says Fawad Chaudhary

Khawaja Asif PTI

ISLAMABAD: After the Islamabad High Court order declaring Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif disqualified in Iqama case, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is unquestionably the happiest party rejoicing the court decision.

Speaking to media after the court verdict, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhary taunted at the PML-N bigwigs saying, “it’s great to know that along with Ali Baba, his 40 thieves are also getting caught.”

He commended party leader Usman Dar for “effectively pursuing the case against Asif”.

“Now Kh Asif will know what is ‘sharam’ and what is ‘haya’,” remarked the PTI leader in reference to Asif’s popular jibe at the PTI chairman in the assembly that later became associated as ‘signature line’ of the [now disqualified] foreign minister.

Usman Dar, who had filed a plea against Asif that resulted in disqualification of the PML-N minister, said “Kh Asif ridiculed Imran Khan & Shireen Mazari on floor of the house, defamed SKMH and insulted Pakistani public after Panama papers too. What went around is finally coming around.”

“Kh Asif ridiculed my leader Imran Khan in assembly. That’s the day I decided I will get this person ousted out of the assembly,” said emotionally charged Dar.

He thanked Jahangir Tareen for guiding him during this case. Tareen was also disqualified by the court under Article 62(1)(f) because of his misstatement regarding the ownership of the Hyde House property and failure to declare it in his nomination papers.

On April 10, a larger bench of the high court had reserved its verdict over the petition filed by PTI member Usman Dar, seeking disqualification of the foreign minister for concealing the facts about holding an Iqama [foreign work permit] of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The bench was hearing the petition filed by Usman Dar, announced its decision today as the notice was already issued to all parties concerned.

During the last hearing, the court inquired that how a person doing a full-time job could oversee a ministry in Pakistan. To this, Asif’s counsel said that his client was working for a Dubai-based bank before elections.

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Iqama case: IHC disqualifies foreign minister Khawaja Asif

Khwaja Asif disqualification verdict IHC

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has been disqualified by the Islamabad High Court under Article 62 of the Constitution for concealing facts about holding an Iqama [foreign work permit].

The bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akther Kiyani announced the verdict.

On April 10, a larger bench of the high court had reserved its verdict over the petition filed by PTI member Usman Dar, seeking disqualification of the foreign minister for concealing the facts about holding an Iqama [foreign work permit] of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The bench was hearing the petition filed by Usman Dar, announced its decision today as the notice was already issued to all parties concerned.

Read: Ink thrown at foreign minister during speech in Sialkot

During the last hearing, the court inquired that how a person doing a full-time job could oversee a ministry in Pakistan. To this, Asif’s counsel said that his client was working for a Dubai-based bank before elections.

How did the case initiate against Khawaja Asif?

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Usman Dar, who had contested against Asif during 2013 general elections in the NA-110 constituency from PTI’s platform, filed a petition against Khawaja Asif, arguing  that Asif hid the fact of holding an Iqama, or a foreign work permit, in his nomination papers.

Dar, through his counsel Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, nominated Asif, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Assembly secretary as respondents and sought relief under Article 199(1)9b)(ii) read with Article 63(1)(f).

Earlier, Mohmand had argued before another larger bench that Asif in his nomination papers mentioned himself as a businessman whereas his Abu Dhabi Iqama proved that he was and still is an employee of a company in a different capacity.

The petitioner had adopted a stance that Asif is ineligible to hold the office of MNA as well as federal minister for being a party to an ‘unlimited term employment contract’ between him and the International Mechanical and Electrical Company (IMECL) – a limited liability company located in Abu Dhabi and existing under UAE laws.

“Asif has been hired as a full-time employee of IMECO since July 2, 2011 and served at various positions, including legal and special advisor,” the PTI leader claimed in his petition.

According to the contract signed between two parties, Asif was to receive a monthly basic salary of AED35,000 along with a monthly allowance of AED15,000.

Asif was still receiving the salary and allowance while serving as foreign minister, the petitioner claimed while requesting the court to disqualify him.

Khawaja Asif had earlier submitted a letter of a UAE-based International Mechanical and Electrical company in the court stating that he had never served as full-time employee of the firm.

It merits to note here that the employment permits of two federal ministers –  Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal – were surfaced after the Panama joint investigation team (JIT) unearthed ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s UAE-based Iqama (work permit).


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US couple with 13 sons gives creative middle name to number 14

Michigan couple

MICHIGAN: A Michigan couple had a little bit of fun naming their 14th son.

Kateri and Jay Schwandt welcomed the birth of their son on Wednesday. Jay Schwandt said they’ve decided to name him Finley Sheboygan Schwandt.

The name doesn’t appear to have any ties with the Wisconsin city. It’s inspired by a tale his father-in-law told them about a Native American chief who was the father of many boys, Jay Schwandt said. The chief believed his last child would be a girl. When the baby was a boy, the chief named him Sheboygan for “she is a boy again.”

There’s “no chance” the couple will have another child, Jay Schwandt said, though he’s made similar statements before.

“This realistically is the end of the road as far as making babies,” he said.

Kateri Schwandt has said she’s used to large families, as one of 14 children herself.

“Each little one that has entered our family has brought something special to the entire makeup of the family and without anyone of them it wouldn’t feel right,” she said.

The couple lives in Rockford, north of Grand Rapids. They have no daughters. The couple’s oldest son is in his 20s. A documentary about the family is set to be released by the Lifetime Network in June.

It’s (another) boy! Family with 13 sons gets No. 14

There will be no shortage of hand-me-downs for this Michigan kid.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Kateri and Jay Schwandt welcomed the birth of their 14th son on Wednesday, five days before he was due. They have no daughters.

The couple’s oldest son is in his 20s.

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‘You need strong not smooth arms on the field’ says Sana Mir

Sana Mir

Former Pakistan women cricket team captain Sana Mir evoked a positive response from the social media mongers after she posted a powerful message for aspiring female athletes saying you need to be strong, not flawless to win on the field.

Referring to a popular brand’s TVC where the concern was more about how she looked rather than her skill, deeply unsettled the national star.

“The worst thing is that instead of sending a message to young girls that the colour or texture of their skin does not matter, we are promoting body shaming and objectification,” says Mir.

She further added that it is not the case of just one ad but the entire mindset that needs to change.

“We – corporate sponsors and celebrities – always talk about our concern regarding the objectification of women in different professional settings. It infuriates us most of the time… We see endless posts and statuses on social media expressing our anger. But when it’s time to walk the talk, I have seen very few sponsors or celebrities actually take a stand to support women being comfortable in their own skin.”

She added a collage of women from her team to her post asking the world;

“Are the talent, passion and skill of a girl, not enough for her to play sports?”


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PTI flags and banners taken down in Lahore ahead of Imran Khan visit

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has invited people to the party’s political gathering at the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on April 29th.

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf power show rallies have truly intimidated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) as PTI’s banners and posters welcoming the PTI’s Chairman were taken off overnight in Lahore city.

Banner and posters displayed throughout the city including Mall road and Jail Road were taken down before PTI’s rally on 29th.

According to reports PTI’s workers tried to stop unidentified persons from taking down the banners but were mostly unsuccessful. None of the persons arrested as they fled the scene as soon as the party workers approached them.

Chairman Imran Khan had advised all his workers to gather at Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore to mark the 22nd foundation day of PTI.

He sent out a video message to his supporters saying that 22 years ago PTI’s foundation was laid. He encouraged workers and his followers to celebrate the day and pray for the stability and progress of the party.

He also advised the workers of PTI to gather at Minar-e-Pakistan on April 29th with their families and relatives to mark this auspicious day.

Previously while addressing the rally in Mardan, Imran also said that the Lahore rally will also mark the nation’s testimony to support the now defunct Panama JIT chief Wajid Zia and said that the entire nation is standing with him.

PTI  has also brought to surface a letter indicating that they have officially taken permission from the PHA Director-General to put up banners and flags before the rally.

Prior to this on March 31 PTI claimed that the PML-N led Punjab government was tearing down welcoming banners, posters and party flags put up ahead of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s visit to the provincial capital. Khan was visiting to supervise the party’s membership drive.

File Photo

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Pakistan, India to conduct first-ever military drills together

Pakistan India joint military drills SCO

MOSCOW: Pakistan and Indian militaries will make a history by participating together in multi-nation military exercise in Russia’s Ural Mountains in August this year.

The military exercise will be organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a bloc of Eurasian countries of which Russia, China, India, and Pakistan are a party to.

The joint military drill will focuses on preventing terror attacks and dismantling terror networks. They have been dubbed “Peace Mission 2018.” The SCO training will be held between the end of August and beginning of September in the Ural Mountains in Russia.

Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman  said India would be participating in the multi-nation military exercises despite tensions with China and Pakistan.

Pakistan India joint military drills SCO

“Our shared neighborhood facing a range of issues such as cross-border terrorism, extremism, cyber security, and narcotics trafficking. These issues require solutions based on cooperative frameworks that involve all countries and stakeholders.

“India will participate strongly in SCO Peace Mission joint military exercises being held in Russia later this year. We believe the cooperation in SCO framework will help further strengthen India’s bilateral defense ties in the region.”

In the past, Pakistan and Indian soldiers have operated together as peacekeepers under the missions conducted by the United Nations. However, this will be the first-ever military exercise in which both the countries will operate together in a mock operation against terrorists.

The SCO was established in 2001 by founding members China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. It has since grown to encompass India, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan, with four other countries holding “observer” status and another six acting as “dialogue” partners.

The Eurasian organization serves the economic, security, and political interests of its member states. Observers include Iran, Afghanistan, and Belarus, while Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, are among the nations holding dialogue partner status.

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Sindh govt to present only three-month budget

Murad Ali Shah

KARACHI: The Sindh Government will unveil the budget for 2018-19 but it would be limited to only three months.

According to Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, the reason to limit the budget to three months is taken in view of the general elections so that the next government could bring changes in the budget as per its priorities.

He made this statement while talking to reporters after inaugurating the China-Pakistan Skilled and Technical Education International Conference.

‘After elections, the next government can make the budget for the remaining nine months as per its priorities’.

The chief minister clarified that allocations for development and non-development expenditures, including salaries, would be made for the whole financial year in the budget, but the authentication to utilise it would only be given by the Sindh Assembly up to September.

Shah said there would be two parts of the budget, which he said would be presented in the Sindh Assembly on May 5. The first part would be supplementary which deals with the expenditures of the current financial year.

“Similarly, we will allocate budget for the ongoing development schemes for the whole financial year 2018-19 so that the schemes could be completed, but again, the authentication for their utilisation will be made only for three months, up to September only,” he said.

The CM added that it would help the next government to make budgetary changes in accordance with its priorities.


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‘SMS service operational for policemen’s families’

SMS service policemen Lahore

LAHORE: The city police are actively working towards facilitating the heirs of martyred and retiring staffers through its one of a kind SMS service Welfare Eye, said Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Amin Wains on Tuesday.

The App was inaugurated by the CCPO last year.  This application is designed after several complaints from the families of martyred policemen as they were getting difficulties in obtaining benefits from different welfare projects designed for them.

He expressed these views during a ceremony in which Wajahat Ali, the son of late sub-inspector Abdul Majeed, was handed the keys to a motorcycle. Our officers and officials are assets for the department and the Lahore police force appreciates their services, he maintained.

He also vowed not to abandon the families of martyred, retired policemen while also promising to remain in constant communication, extending all possible assistance and cooperation to the families.

Under the app, the deserving families can send an SMS to the number 0301531515 if they need any help regarding welfare package. Five lady constables are assigned the task to deal with the families of deceased policemen to solve their problems.

The families had to face problems when visiting different offices to get their issue resolved.

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IHC to announce verdict on Khawaja Asif disqualification plea today

ISLAMABAD: A bench of the Islamabad High Court will announce its verdict over a plea seeking disqualification of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif from public office today.

A larger bench of the high court had reserved its verdict over the petition filed by PTI member Usman Dar, seeking disqualification of the foreign minister for concealing the facts about holding an Iqama of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akther Kiyani was hearing the petition filed by Usman Dar, will announce its decision today as the notice has been issued to all concerned parties.

During the last proceeding, Khwaja Asif’s counsel had requested the bench to grant more time so that he could resubmit reply in the case.

Justice Aamer Farooq observed that the case had been pending for the last six months and the court could not delay the proceedings anymore.

Khawaja Asif had earlier submitted a letter of a UAE-based International Mechanical and Electrical company in the court stating that he had never served as full-time employee of the firm.

During the last hearing, the court inquired that how a person doing a full-time job could oversee a ministry in Pakistan. To this, Asif’s counsel said that his client was working for a Dubai-based bank before elections.

The verdict was reserved earlier this month on April 10. According to the cause list of Islamabad High Court, the verdict is due after 1:00 PM today.

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Pakistan shares ‘formula’ for achieving sustainable peace with world leaders at UNGA

maleeha lodhi UNGA

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has underscored the need for addressing the underlying causes of longstanding conflicts at a big gathering of world leaders convened to help strengthen a new approach to sustaining peace, which aims to put prevention at the heart of the UN’s work.

“The path towards durable peace begins with a clear understanding of the root causes and nature of conflict,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, said during the high-level debate in the General Assembly on sustaining and building peace.
She said while UN member states agreed on the importance of achieving and sustaining peace, they had not translated that broad agreement into real progress on the ground.

Sustained political processes must be at the core of all peace endeavours, covering all phases of conflict, the Pakistani envoy told the distinguished gathering.

It was the largest gathering of heads of state and government and ministers at UN Headquarters since the general debate in September 2017, and a “key legacy” event for the General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak’s presidency, as his spokesman put it.

The two-day meeting was convened by the Assembly President in line with General Assembly resolution 70/262 and Security Council resolution 2282 (2016), renewing the United Nations’ commitment to conflict prevention, as embodied in its Charter.

In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi emphasized that sustainable peace cannot be achieved until the underlying causes of conflict are adequately addressed. They include poverty; foreign occupation, external interference and interventions, political and economic injustice; ethnic, tribal and religious tensions; and also environmental degradation.

After outlining factors that were vital to the success of sustaining peace efforts, she said greater coherence and synergy across the United Nations system was needed, as were regional strategies that included the full participation of national actors. She also highlighted the importance of supporting the role of women and youth, as well as restructuring and prioritizing funds for peace-building activities.

“Building peace is hard work; sustaining it is, often, harder still,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“What we need are capacities to provide early warning, address the root causes, and include all stakeholders in trying to find comprehensive solutions,” she added.

In opening remarks, Assembly President Lajcak said that, while there had not been another world war since the founding of the United Nations, the Organization had not been there when people needed it. “We could have done more to respond to conflicts and more to prevent them from happening atall,” he said. With people facing unending conflict in parts of the world, a new approach was needed. The signs were already there: rising intolerance, hate speech and disregard for the systems that we had spent 70 years building.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that, two years after the General Assembly and the Security Council had adopted twin resolutions on sustaining peace, it was time to look at progress and forge a common path ahead. Remarking that more countries were experiencing violent conflict than at any time in nearly three decades, he highlighted the record numbers of civilians being killed or displaced by violence, war and persecution.

Emphasizing the central message of his report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, he said the coherence of international efforts to support Governments and their people must be enhanced. But, without progress on financing, efforts could be futile. Noting that $233 billion had been spent on humanitarian interventions, peacekeeping and hosting refugees, he said more must be invested in prevention” above all because it saved lives.


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‘Game of Thrones’ author announces new book

Game of Thrones new book

NEW YORK: American author George R.R. Martin Wednesday announced a new book to be released in November — but fans may be disappointed to learn it’s not the highly-anticipated sixth installment of the hit “Game of Thrones” saga.

“Fire and Blood” is set several centuries before “Game of Thrones” in the same fantasy world of Westeros, the author said on his blog. Martin stressed it is not a novel, but rather a historical text setting out the history of Westeros’ Targaryen dynasty.

Since 2012, the author has published several passages from the new book. Publisher Bantam Spectra did not respond to a request for comment about the upcoming release, but the book is already available for presale online.

As for the sixth “Game of Thrones” book — “The Winds of Winter” — Martin said: “No, winter is not coming… not in 2018, at least.”

Between 1996 and 2011, Martin published five volumes of the “Game of Thrones” series — letting six years pass between the fourth and fifth.

Since the sixth season of the phenomenally popular television show based on the series, the writers have not directly relied on Martin’s books — and in any case, producer HBO took many liberties with the original story in previous seasons.

The series — whose eighth and final season is expected in 2019 — has already scooped up a record 38 Emmy Awards.


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Economic Survey to be launched today

Pakistan economic survey

ISLAMABAD: The government will launch the Economic Survey 2017-18 today to share key economic indicators and the performance of different sectors of the economy during the year.

The survey would highlight the main features of the government’s economic policies, which was resulted in macro-economic stability and growth rate of about 5.8 per cent.

The survey would cover the development of all the important sectors of economy, including growth and investment, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, fiscal development, money and credit, capital markets, inflation, debt and liabilities.

The survey will also highlight the performance of agriculture, education, health and nutrition, besides showing the overall population, labour force and employment, poverty, transport and communication and per capital income, it is reported.

It would also highlight issues of environment, contingent liabilities, tax expenditure as well as economic and social indicators.

The government would also launch the annual plan, highlighting government’s preparation and planning for the upcoming fiscal year in different sectors of national economy.

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A step forward

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