Court hears sugarcane subsidy reference against Anwar Majeed, others


Anwar Majeed, sugarcane subsidy reference

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Tuesday heard reference filed under charges of embezzlement of funds and corruption in sugarcane subsidy, ARY News reported.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed reference against Khawaja Anwar Majeed and 39 other accused.

Abdul Ghani Majeed, Hussain Lawai, Salman Younus and other accused were present in the court hearing presided over by accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir.

The NAB submitted its report about accused Nimr Majeed, and Manahil Majeed’s proceeding to abroad. On a query by the judge on their whereabouts, the investigation officer said that the two accused were in the UAE according to the record.

The court asked about reply of the NAB on acquittal petitions filed by accused Hussain Syed, Matanat Ali, Salman Younus and Mustafa Zulqarnain.

The accused had filed petitions in court in a previous hearing for their acquittal under the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Amendment Ordinance 2019.

The NAB will submit its reply as soon as it will be prepared, the prosecutor replied.

Anwar Majeed was not in a position to travel in air ambulance to appear in the case hearing, his counsel Arshad Tabrez told the court during the hearing. “He has been admitted at a hospital since August 2018,” the defence counsel informed the court on a question.

The court extended judicial remand of the accused until March 03.

The reference is filed under charges of embezzlement in funds released by government of Sindh to sugar mills as subsidy for onward payment to sugarcane farmers.

Sugarcane Subsidy Reference

The Government of Sindh through the Cane Commissioner Sindh paid an amount of Rs 3.9 billion to different sugar mills for onward payment to sugarcane growers as subsidy on account of supply of sugarcane for the season 2014-15.

An investigation was conducted on the eight sugar mills of Omni Group owned by Anwar Majeed and his four sons Abdul Ghani Majeed, Nimr Majeed, Mustafa Zulqarnain Majeed and Ali Kamal Majeed.

The investigation revealed that out of Rs728.18 million subsidy granted to the eight sugar mills of Omni Group, an amount of Rs346 million has been allegedly misappropriated by the accused in connivance with their senior employees by showing their low paid staff as sugarcane growers.

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Lahore High Court dismisses child missing case


Lahore High Court

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday dismissed Lahore child missing case, after recovery of Abdul Rafay from Rajanpur, ARY News reported.

The LHC conducted hearing of a petition filed by a mother of three-year-old missing child Abdul Rafay.

The child was presented before the court after his recovery from ‘Katcha’ of Rajanpur. “The father of the child was hiding in Katcha”, the police said.

Upon court’s inquiry, the police said father of the child is in fail after registration of FIR against him.

The court after passing order to hand over the recovered child to his mother dismissed the case.

Read more: LHC summons CM Buzdar in child recovery case

It may be noted that on last hearing of the case on February 6, the LHC had summoned Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar over failure to recovery the child.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Punjab Shohaib Dastagir had appeared before the court on orders of LHC Judge. During the hearing, the LHC judge had expressed displeasure over the response of IGP Punjab in child recovery case.

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NAB approaches SC to set aside LHC order on Javed Latif’s bail  


PML-N lawmaker Javed Latif NAB assets inquiry

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) authorities on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan to annul a Lahore High Court (LHC) decision granting bail to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Javed Latif, ARY NEWS reported.

The plea filed with the apex court today said that the accountability watchdog is currently carrying out an inquiry against the PML-N leader and Member National Assembly in assets beyond means case.

“Due to the LHC order, the NAB officials are unable to arrest and probe him,” the plea said while asking the apex court to set aside the LHC decision on bail.

The NAB further termed the LHC order as an intervention into the NAB inquiry. The watchdog made Latif, his mother, four brothers and a son respondents in the case.

It is pertinent to mention here the politician has been accused of making billions of rupees’ assets in the name of his family members under section 9 (a) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO 1999).

Read More: PML-N’s Javed Latif summoned by NAB in assets case 

The assets of MNA Javed Latif exponentially increased after coming into politics, the sources within NAB said and added that he, before coming into politics owned a 12-marla inherited house in Habib Colony, Sheikhupura, which has now had been extended up to 1.5 acres.

Javed Latif, however, denied the accusations during his appearance at the NAB Lahore and said that the NAB has sought details of her mother’s assets since she was born. He, however, said that they would submit all details with the accountability watchdog.

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UN chief calls for equipping youth with modern technology    


UN secretary general Antonio Guterres

LAHORE: United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres said that youth should be equipped with modern technology as they would play an important role at the UN during the 21st century, ARY NEWS reported.

Addressing the students at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), the UN chief said that keeping in view the challenges ahead there is a dire need of changes in the curriculum currently being followed.

He also stressed upon the importance of climate change and said that they had to take future decisions keeping in view the climate change. “Environmental pollution is one of the biggest global issues today,” he said.

Speaking over unequal distribution of power worldwide, he said bringing equality among the nations and people is not an easy job and any efforts in this regard require a lengthy process.

There are only five countries who enjoy veto power at the UN Security Council, he said and added that power is not a thing that is handed over to anyone instead it is acquired during a process.

He said that the young generation could play its role in safeguarding and propagation of human rights.

While speaking on the Kashmir issue, the UN chief said that basic human rights should be respected everywhere.

It is pertinent to mention here that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would spend a busy day in Lahore on Tuesday.

Read more: Antonio Guterres says UN supports return of Afghan refugees

UN chief along with his delegation reached Lahore from Islamabad on Monday night on a two-day visit to the Punjab capital. Provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht received the UN secretary general on his arrival at the airport.

As per schedule, the UN chief will administer anti-polio drops to children in Lahore, today. Guterres will also visit Shahi Qila and Badshahi Mosque. A dinner will also be arranged in his honour by Governor Punjab Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar.

He will also visit Kartarpur where he will meet members of the Sikh community.

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Rupee rises two paisa against US dollar in interbank market


Dollar

KARACHI: The Pakistani rupee rose by two paisa against the US dollar in the interbank market on Tuesday, ARY News reported.

According to forex dealers, the greenback appreciated by two paisa and is trading at 154.25 against the local currency.

The US dollar picked up eleven paisa against the Pakistani rupee in the inter-bank market on Monday.

Earlier, on Feb 14, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission had acknowledged that economic activity have stabilised in Pakistan and the country made considerable progress in advancing reforms and effective economic policies besides meeting all end-December performance criteria.

The IMF mission released a declaration after concluding dialogues with Pakistan today which stated that the government made steadfast progress on program implementation which will pave the way for its executive board’s consideration of the review.

Read More: Hafeez Shaikh stresses upon need to adopt technological change in business sector

Ramirez Rigo, who led the IMF delegation during talks with the Pakistani officials in Islamabad on the second review of the authorities’ economic reform program, made the statement, “The IMF staff team had constructive and productive discussions with the Pakistani authorities and commended them on the considerable progress made during the last few months in advancing reforms and continuing with sound economic policies.”

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Khursheed Shah produced in assets case hearing in Sukkur


khursheed shah, assets case

SUKKUR: Former leader of opposition Syed Khursheed Shah was produced before Accountability Court Sukkur in assets beyond means case hearing, ARY News reported on Tuesday.

Provincial minister Awais Qadir Shah and Farrukh Shah MPA have been among 18 accused including Khursheed Shah, facing graft charges in a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Khursheed Shah who has been ailing and admitted at National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) Sukkur was brought to the court for hearing in an ambulance under stringent security measures.

Seventeen accused including Awais Qadir Shah and Farrukh Shah were present during the court hearing.

Accountability Court Judge Ameer Ali Mahesar later adjourned the hearing until March 09.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has also nominated two wives, two sons and son-in-law of Khursheed Shah in the reference.

The accountability court had granted bail to Shah in December after the accountability bureau’s delay in filing reference against him. However, the Sindh High Court (SHC) Circuit Bench Sukkur later suspended the accountability court’s orders dated Dec 17 to grant bail to the veteran Peoples Party leader.

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Japan to start trials using HIV treatment for coronavirus


Japan

TOKYO: Japan is aiming to start trials soon using an HIV treatment for the coronavirus, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday.

“We’re currently preparing to start clinical trials using HIV medication on the novel coronavirus,” Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a daily press briefing.

He added that he could not comment on how long it would take for the new drug to be approved.

Japan now has seen over 500 coronavirus cases, with more than 450 of them from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths in China’s central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak rose by 93 to 1,789 as of Monday, the province’s health commission said on its website.

There had been a further 1,807 cases detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the province to 59,989.

Most of the new deaths on Monday were in Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. Wuhan reported 72 new deaths, down from 76 on Sunday. A total of 1,381 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus.

New confirmed cases in Wuhan stood at 1,600, down from 1,690 on Sunday.

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Naimal Khawar shares loved-up picture with Hamza Ali Abbasi


Hamza Ali Abbasi, Naimal

Pakistan’s much-loved celebrity couple Naimal Khawar and Hamza Ali Abbasi’s latest photo is breaking the internet.

The artist took to Instagram to share a loved-up photo of the couple, taken at her sister Fizza Khawar’s nikkah in Islamabad.

“If only he had hair on his nikkah, this is what he would look like,” Naimal remarked referring to the Waar actor going bald post-Hajj.

The couple tied the knot in August last year.

The starlet, who started her acting career in 2017, bid adieu to it seven months before her marriage.

Hamza also announced to quit the entertainment industry to embark on a spiritual journey a few months after his marriage.

He now uses social media to express his views on different issues while his wife keeps fans updated by sharing photos.

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SHC extends Sharjeel Memon’s bail in assets case


SHC Sharjeel Memon bail

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday extended bail of Sindh’s former minister and Pakistan People’s Party leader Sharjeel Memon till April 7, ARY News reported.

Sharjeel Memon and other accused appear before the court for the hearing.

Justice Umar Siyal rejected National Accountability Bureau’s reply over amendments in NAB law.

“This is not the right answer over the amendments in NAB law”, Justice Umar Siyal said to NAB’s counsel after submission of reply in the SHC.

On the objection raised by the honourable judge, the NAB’s lawyer said they will submit complete report in another case on February 28.

The court after summoning the reply from DG NAB Karachi and Sukkur in the plea, extended Sharjeel Memon’s bail till April 7.

He was arrested by the accountability bureau in 2017 and remained in jail for 20 months.

References against Sharjeel

The assets beyond means corruption reference accuses PPP leader Sharjeel Memon and others suspects of financial irregularities.

The reference also stated presence of records, which confirm charges of making assets beyond known sources of income by the suspects. The accused persons are facing over Rs2.27 billion corruption charges.

Another reference against Memon is also under proceeding over his alleged involvement in corruption worth Rs5.75 billion. Memon is accused of awarding government advertisements at exorbitant rates when he was Sindh’s information minister.

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Zafar Mirza urges nation to actively participate in anti-polio campaign


Dr Zafar Mirza

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza urged the entire nation on Tuesday to actively partake in administration of polio vaccine to children in order to defeat the menace.

He said that a five-day countrywide anti-polio drive in underway, while 2,65,000 anti-polio workers were taking part in the drive across the country.

“Government is taking concrete steps for the eradication of polio across the country, said PM’s aide Zafar Mirza in a statement on Tuesday.

He further said that govt had introduced  “Sehat Tahaffuz” helpline ‘1166’  to provide health-related information services to the people. Zafar Mirza said: “Through the helpline, people can obtain immediate assistance to their queries and concerns related to Polio and routine immunization services.”

It may be noted that a five-day countrywide anti-polio drive commenced from Monday to immunize over 39.4 million children. Around 2,65,000 anti-polio workers are participating in the drive across the country.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 6.7 million children under the age of five years will be administered the vaccine.

In the vaccination drive, 19.9 million children will be administered polio vaccine in Punjab, 9.26 million children in Sindh and 2.46 mln children in Balochistan.

In Islamabad 3,56,000 children, Azad Kashmir 6,90,000 children and in Gilgit-Baltistan 2,40,000 children under the age of five years will be administered the vaccine.

Secretary-General United Nations will also administer police vaccine to children in Lahore on February 18.

Read more: Five new cases of polio surface across country

According to reports, overall count of polio cases across the country had reached 134 in 2019 with 91 cases in KP, 24 cases in Sindh, eight in Punjab and 11 in Balochistan.

In the new year so far 17 polio cases have been reported across the country.

Terming polio eradication as a national cause and a collective responsibility, government officials have urged all segments of the society, donor agencies and government institutions, to make coordinated efforts to save the future generations from life-long disabilities.

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Wuhan hospital director dies of coronavirus


Wuhan doctor

A hospital director at the epicentre of China’s virus epidemic died Tuesday, state media said, the latest medical worker to fall victim to the coronavirus which has spread across the country.

The COVID-19 virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan late last year, has spread to more than 72,000 people and killed 1,900 in China.

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, died Tuesday morning after “all-out rescue efforts failed,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

He is the first known hospital director to have died from the coronavirus.

At least six other medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been infected, according to official figures.

Liu’s death was initially reported by Chinese media and bloggers shortly after midnight on Tuesday — but the stories were later deleted and replaced with reports that doctors were still attempting to save him.

The hospital director’s death has echoes of the death of Wuhan ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who had been punished by authorities for sounding the alarm about the virus in late December.

Li’s death prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger against the authorities, who were accused of mishandling the crisis.

People took to social media once more to mourn Liu on Tuesday, with many users on the Twitter-like Weibo platform drawing comparisons between Liu’s death and Li’s, which was also initially reported by state media and then denied hours before being finally confirmed again.

Doctors in Wuhan face shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift hazmat suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, because of a lack of medical staff, health workers have told AFP.

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Knightley says film ‘Misbehaviour’ highlights battle for equality


Keira Knightley, Misbehaviour

LONDON: Keira Knightley said her new film Misbehaviour, the true story of how the Women’s Liberation Movement disrupted the 1970 Miss World competition, felt relevant at a time when people were still fighting for equal treatment.

Knightley, 34, plays a member of the Women’s Liberation Movement, which storms the stage of the London theatre where the beauty pageant was being held. That year Miss Grenada won, the first time a black competitor had taken the crown.

The themes of feminism and racism appealed to the actress, she said, as they had ongoing resonance in a world where equality still felt a long way off.

“What I loved about this film was that conversation because it felt so very relevant to what we’re still talking about today,” Knightley told Reuters in an interview.

Back in 1970, Miss World was the most-watched TV show on the planet with more than 100 million viewers, meaning the protest created quite a stir. Misbehaviour opens in British cinemas on March 13, starring Greg Kinnear as pageant host Bob Hope, the comedian, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Miss Grenada.

Knightley is even more conscious of women’s rights and related issues like the #MeToo movement which calls out sexual misconduct across the entertainment, politics and business industries, because she is raising two young daughters.

“With social media…I do completely worry about that with my kids and I worry about the kind of images that they’re going to be bombarded by,” she said.

But Knightly believes progress has been made and the film pays tribute to the women who helped achieve that.

“I think you have to honor and mark the women that created that great progress before us,” she said.

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Suicide of ‘Love Island’ host sparks demands for tougher UK media rules


Love Island, host, suicide

LONDON: The death of one of Britain’s most famous TV stars, Love Island host Caroline Flack, has sparked a debate over the behavior of the tabloid press and whether social media companies need to do more to remove toxic content.

The 40-year-old Flack, the former presenter of the hugely popular reality show Love Island and a winner of Britain’s version of Dancing with the Stars, was found dead in her London flat on Saturday after she committed suicide.

Friends of the presenter have accused the tabloid press and social media trolls of hounding her after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend in December, a charge she denied.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman called her death a tragedy and said social media companies needed to do more to make sure that robust processes were in place to remove unacceptable content.

“Caroline Flack was relentlessly trolled online, but this trolling was amplified and legitimized by the mainstream press and they should not be allowed to dodge their share of the blame,” said Tracy Brabin, the opposition Labour Party’s culture spokeswoman.

Britain is once again discussing the role of its tabloid press, just weeks after Prince Harry and his wife Meghan moved to Canada, partly to avoid what they said was misleading and unfair reporting.

While tabloids such as Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail play a key role in launching the careers of many reality TV stars, they also tend to track their every move and relationship, and recycle some of the most toxic online criticism to generate new headlines.

A public inquiry was held into Britain’s media in 2011 after Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World newspaper admitted hacking into the voicemails of thousands of public figures to get scoops, sparking a major scandal that shook the press, police and politicians at the time.

Just hours before ITV’s Love Island was due to return on Monday after two days off air, hundreds of thousands of people had signed online petitions calling for another inquiry and tougher rules around the way the press can cover celebrities.

One petition called for a ban on the use of anonymous quotes, the invasion of privacy, the publication of private information and medical records.

Flowers lie outside British presenter Caroline Flack’s old house in Islington, London. Photo: Reuters
LOVE ISLAND

The daughter of a Coca-Cola sales representative, Flack began as a pizza waitress but became one of the most prominent female leaders of Britain’s boom in reality television.

After a period as an actress in the early 2000s, she became a presenter of shows such as The X Factor and won Strictly Come Dancing in 2014.

On Love Island she presented a dating show that brings together young single men and women who have to couple up in a sunshine-soaked villa to win fame. Their intimate relationships, including in the bedroom, are broadcast on television while the public choose who to vote off the show.

Only those who avoid being dumped stand a chance of winning.

Flack had stepped down from presenting “Love Island” after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend in December, a charge she denied. Her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, did not support the prosecution.

Flack herself had talked in the past about her problems with depression, and in December she used Instagram to thank those who had shown their support.

“This kind of scrutiny and speculation is a lot… for one person to take on their own,” she wrote. “I’m a human being at the end of the day and I’m not going to be silenced when I have a story to tell and a life to keep going with.

“I have nothing but love to give and best wishes for everyone.”

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Unchained melody: Traditional Pashtun music revived as security improves


Traditional music , Pakistan

For years the distinctive twang of Pashtun music was drowned out by rattling gunfire and deafening explosions as musicians in Pakistan’s northwest were targeted by militants.

But, as security improves, a centuries-old tribal tradition is staging a comeback.

Performances that once took place in secret are returning. Shops selling instruments are open and thriving again, while local broadcasters frequently feature rising Pashto pop singers in their programming.

And new, up and coming bands like Peshawar’s Khumariyaan have reached rare, nationwide acclaim after appearing on the popular Coke Studios broadcast, where they fused traditional sounds with modern tastes — spreading Pashtun music far from its native homeland.

“Music is the spice of life… it has been a part of our culture from time immemorial,” says Farman Ali Shah, a village elder and Pashto poet in Warsak village near Pakistan’s tribal areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pashtun music is characterised by the rabab, a Central Asian stringed instrument, played to the beat from tablas drums, with songs salted with florid lyrics describing the pain of unrequited love or calls for political revolution.

“For centuries we were a liberal society,” explains rabab player and member of the National Assembly Haider Ali Khan from Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

“We love our religion but at the same time we love our traditional music.”

Yet the slow creep of extremism had been threatening that tradition for decades.

Beginning in the 1970s more hardline Islamist movements started gaining influence in the Pashtun areas along the border with Afghanistan, promoting strict interpretations of the religion including dismissive takes toward music.

The shift towards violent extremism intensified with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the later Taliban regime of the 1990s.

After the US invasion of 2001 toppled the Taliban, militancy erupted across the border in Pakistan also. A Pakistani Taliban movement formed and took control of the country’s tribal areas and swathes of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“The extremists were killing artists and singers in the society to create fear,” explains singer Gulzar Alam, who was attacked three separate times and later left Pakistan, fearing for his life.

“If you remove the culture from a community, tribe, or ethnic group the community will be eliminated.”

Public performances were all but halted as waves of suicide bombers unleashed havoc.

CD markets were bombed, instrument shops destroyed, and musicians were intimidated or either outright targeted.

Singers and musicians fled en masse, while others were gunned down.

A brave few continued to invite musicians to play in private shows at hujras and weddings, albeit without large sound systems that could possibly attract militants.

“They were asking people to stop music but villagers never accepted them,” says Noor Sher from Sufaid Sang village, where his family has been making rababs by hand for 25 years.

Amid the chaos the art form was also maintained thanks to increasing numbers of Afghan musicians also fleeing violence in their own country who resettled in places like Peshawar, opening music schools that kept the tradition alive.

Roots of violence 

The Pakistani military began intensifying efforts to push the militants out in 2014, and security has dramatically improved in the years since.

“Now the situation is good, very good. We can play anywhere, whenever people invite us,” says rabab player Akhtar Gul during a performance at a hujra — a traditional Pashtun community space.

As music has returned to its traditional settings in the country’s northwest, slick broadcasts like Coke Studio have helped introduce Pashtun acts to millions of music fans across South Asia.

Many still remain cautious in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, fearing the gains are tenuous at best. Some interviewed by AFP refused to criticise militants, fearing their eventual return.

And while the insurgents might have been pushed back, conservative attitudes toward music continues to resonate in the area.

For Abdul Latif, 24, his love of playing the rabab is largely kept secret from his family who consider such instruments to be out of sync with Islam.

“This is a part of Pashtun culture but I think my family lacks awareness,” he says.

For musicians like Alam who were forced to flee their homes, the damage runs deeper.

“It takes a lot of time, to set the mind or brain of the artists free from fear,” says Alam from Kabul where he is waiting for a response to an asylum request with the United Nations.

“You can change the policy of a government with a stroke of a pen, it doesn’t take much time,” adds the the lawmaker Khan.

“But to change the mindset you’ve created in two or three decades it’s not easy for that mindset to change.”

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Policeman martyred, two others injured in DI Khan police van bomb attack


Policeman DI Khan

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: A blast targeting a police van martyred a policeman and wounded two others in Kalachi, DI Khan on Tuesday, ARY  News reported.

According to local police, the police vehicle was targeted, when the policemen were on their way to discharge their duties in anti-polio campaign.

Identity of the injured and martyred policemen remained unknown, according to initial reports.

Getting the information rescue teams reached the spot and shifted injured and the body to nearby medical facility. Meanwhile, the security forces have cordoned-off the area after the incident.

Further investigation underway.

Read more: Terrorist attack at police check-post in DI Khan foiled

In a separate terror attack in DI Khan in July, last year, at least nine people including four policemen were killed and scores of others were injured in shooting and blast attack in Dera Ismail Khan.

A suicide blast at District Headquarters Hospital Dera Ismail Khan also injured 15 people.

At least two policemen were martyred when armed terrorists had opened fire at a check post in Dera Ismail Khan district. According to reports, the incident took place at Kotla Syedan police post in DIK district.

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UN Chief Antonio Guterres to spend busy day in Lahore


antonio guterres Lahore schedule

LAHORE: Schedule of today’s (Tuesday) engagements of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Lahore, has been finalized, ARY News reported.

UN chief along with his delegation reached Lahore from Islamabad on Monday night on a two-day visit to the Punjab capital.

Provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht received the UN secretary general on his arrival at the airport.

As per schedule, UN secretary general will administer anti-polio drops to children in Lahore, today. Mr. Guterres will also visit Shahi Qila and Badshahi Mosque. A dinner will also be arranged in his honour by Governor Punjab Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will also meet students at the University of Sciences and address them. Antonio Guterres will also visit Kartarpur where he will meet members of Sikh community.

Read more: Antonio Guterres says UN supports return of Afghan refugees

On Monday, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres had met Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and attended International Conference for Afghan refugees in Islamabad.

During his meeting with the UN chief, Prime Minister Imran Khan had highlighted Pakistan’s generosity in hosting millions of Afghan refugees for the last four decades.

He had reaffirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support for efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The premier had highlighted the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as a result of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019. He added that India’s belligerent rhetoric, intensified ceasefire violations on the LoC, and other aggressive actions were imperiling peace and security in the region.

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Stocks fall after Apple warns on coronavirus impact


stocks Apple coronavirus

TOKYO: Asian shares fell and Wall Street retreated from record highs on Tuesday after Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said it will not meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter as the coronavirus outbreak slowed production and weakened demand in China.

The warning from the most valuable company in the United States sobered investor optimism that economic stimulus by Beijing and other countries would protect the global economy from the effects of the epidemic.

S&P500 e-mini futures ESc1 dipped as much as 0.3% in Asian trade.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.65% while Tokyo’s Nikkei .N225 slid 1.0%. Shanghai shares .SSEC dipped 0.2%, having gained in nine of the past 10 sessions largely on hopes for policy support by Beijing.

“Apple is saying its recovery could be delayed, which could mean the impact of the virus may go beyond the current quarter,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“If Apple shares were traded cheaply, that might not matter much. But when they are trading at a record high, investors will be surely tempted to sell.”

Asian tech shares were also hit. Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) dropped 2.1%, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) (2330.TW) lost 1.7% and Sony (7267.T) shed 2.6%.

As China’s authorities try to prevent the spread of the disease, the economy is paying a heavy price. Some cities remained in lockdown, streets are deserted, and travel bans and quarantine orders are in place around the country, preventing migrant workers from getting back to their jobs.

Many factories have yet to re-open, disrupting supply chains in China and beyond, as highlighted by Apple.

“Lifting travel restrictions is taking longer than expected. Initially we thought lockdowns would end in February and factory output would normalize in March. But that is looking increasingly difficult,” said Ei Kaku, currency strategist at Nomura Securities.

Nomura downgraded its China first-quarter economic growth forecast to 3%, half the pace of the fourth quarter, from its previous forecast of 3.8%, and added there was a risk it could be even weaker.

Also hurting market sentiment was news that the Trump administration is considering changing U.S. regulations to allow it to block shipments of chips to Huawei Technologies from companies such as Taiwan’s TSMC (2330.TW), the world’s largest contract chipmaker.

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China’s Hubei province reports 93 new coronavirus deaths, toll mounts to 1,789


China coronavirus

BEIJING: The number of deaths in China’s central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak rose by 93 to 1,789 as of Monday, the province’s health commission said on its website on Tuesday.

There had been a further 1,807 cases detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the province to 59,989.

Most of the new deaths on Monday were in Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. Wuhan reported 72 new deaths, down from 76 on Sunday. A total of 1,381 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus.

New confirmed cases in Wuhan stood at 1,600, down from 1,690 on Sunday.

Read more: Chinese doctors using plasma therapy on coronavirus, WHO says ‘very valid’ approach

China’s financial hub of Shanghai on Monday had 332 infected cases, one of whom died in recent weeks. Lu Hongzhou, professor and co-director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, said that 184 cases were still hospitalized, including 166 mild cases, while 18 were in serious and critical conditions.

He said the hospital had set up a special clinic to administer plasma therapy and was selecting patients who were willing to donate. The blood would be screened to check if he or she had other diseases like hepatitis B or C, he added.

“We are positive that this method can be very effective in our patients,” he said.

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Toxic gas leakage: Today’s meeting of Sindh cabinet postponed


Toxic Gas Sindh Cabinet

KARACHI: Sindh cabinet today’s (Tuesday) meeting has been postponed amid mysterious toxic gas leakage in Kemari, Karachi, ARY News reported.

According to spokesperson of Sindh chief minister, the meeting will now be held on Wednesday at 3pm at New Sindh Secretariat Building.

In the wee hours of Monday night, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah visited city’s private medical facility and inquired about the health of gas-affected persons. He also directed the administration to use all resources to provide best treatment to the patients.

The CM Sindh assured the affected persons of provision of best health facilities to them.

Murad Ali Shah was accompanied by Murtaza Wahab and other government officials.

After holding a joint inspection of the affected areas, the investigators of key institutions found clues of the toxic gas spreading from a cargo ship docked at Karachi port, claimed sources.

Read more: Investigators find clue of toxic gas spreading in port areas of Karachi

At least 220 people have thus far have been struck by the looming gas and have been hospitalised since Sunday.

More people falling sick due to the toxic gas vapours in the air continue to file in for treatment at hospitals in Karachi.

Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas leakage has surged to seven as one more fell prey to the toxic gas at midnight on Monday.

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Queen Elizabeth II’s nephew in latest royal marriage split


David Armstrong-Jones divorce

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II’s nephew David Armstrong-Jones is set to divorce, a spokesman said Monday — the second marriage split in the British royal family announced within a week.

Armstrong-Jones, 58, the son of Queen Elizabeth’s late sister princess Margaret, and his 49-year-old wife Serena have been married since 1993.

“The Earl and Countess of Snowdon have amicably agreed that their marriage has come to an end and that they shall be divorced,” a spokesman for the couple said.

“They ask that the press respect their privacy and that of their family.”

The earl is the first person in the line of succession to the throne who is not a direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth.

He was born fifth in line but is now 21st in the order of succession.

Known professionally as David Linley, the Earl of Snowdon is a furniture maker and was the chairman of Christie’s auction house.

The couple have two children: Charles, 20, and 17-year-old Margarita.

The news comes after Queen Elizabeth’s oldest grandchild Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn announced last Tuesday that they have separated and will divorce.

Phillips, 42, and his Canadian wife Autumn will share custody of their two daughters and both remain in Gloucestershire, southwest England.

Phillips is the son of the monarch’s daughter Princess Anne and her first husband Mark Phillips. He is the eldest of her eight grandchildren.

He has no royal title and has never carried out duties on behalf of the royal family and so does not receive a public income.

He was born fifth in line to the throne but is now 15th.

The marriage breakdowns have piled more misery on the royal family.

They come after Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry and his US wife Meghan quit their royal roles last month in search of financial independence, and moved to Canada.

Meanwhile the monarch’s second son Prince Andrew stepped back from all royal duties in November following a public outcry over his friendship with US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

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Storm Dennis wreaks deadly havoc across flood-hit Britain


Storm Dennis disasters UK

LONDON: Britain on Monday battled the fallout from Storm Dennis after the second severe storm in seven days left one woman dead over the weekend.

Winds of more than 90 miles (140 kilometres) an hour, along with more than a month’s worth of rain in 48 hours in some places, led officials to issue rare “danger to life” warnings.

A 55-year-old woman was found dead after being swept away by near the flood-prone town of Tenbury Wells in western England.

“We are all devastated,” her family said in a statement after a body was discovered.

James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, which is responsible for flood protection, said more than 400 homes in England had been flooded while at least 1,000 agency staff were working “to protect and support those communities which have been hit”.

“This is not yet over,” he told BBC radio.

“We still have many flood warnings in force and we may still see significant flooding in the middle of this week from larger rivers.”

The storm also pummelled much of France, with some 20,000 people without electricity on Monday after suffering power cuts in the northwest.

In Britain, more than 600 warnings and alerts — a record number — were issued on Sunday, extending from the River Tweed on the border of England and Scotland to Cornwall in the southwest.

After a day of torrential rain, major flooding incidents were declared in south Wales and parts of west central England.

In northern England, the defence ministry deployed troops in West Yorkshire, which had also been hit by flooding from last weekend’s Storm Ciara.

There were fears that rivers there could burst their banks.

Storm Dennis disasters UK

Newly appointed environment secretary George Eustice said the government had done “everything that we can do with a significant sum of money” to combat increased flooding.

“We’ll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme,” he said.

Youth climate activists gathering for a national conference in Staffordshire, west central England, were forced to cancel the event because of the storm.

“There’s a bleak irony in our being beaten back by climate change,” 15-year-old attendee Sophia said in a statement released by organisers.

Two rivers in south Wales burst their banks on Sunday, prompting rescue workers to launch operations to evacuate hundreds of people and their pets trapped in their homes.

Police said a man in his 60s died after entering the River Tawe, north of the Welsh city of Swansea, but later clarified that the death was not “linked to the adverse weather”.

Meanwhile the bodies of two men were pulled from rough seas off the south coast of England on Saturday as the storm barrelled in.

Britain’s Coastguard said it had sent a helicopter and rescue team to join navy and other search vessels after receiving reports of a man overboard in the sea near Margate, Kent.

“After many hours of searching, a body was sadly found in the water… and was brought to shore,” it added.

Around the same time in nearby Herne Bay, emergency responders discovered another dead man following reports a person had been pulled from the sea, according to Kent police.

In a timely announcement the Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, said Monday it would invest £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) in a state-of-the-art supercomputer to improve forecasting.

The government claims it is the world’s “most powerful weather and climate supercomputer”.

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France confirms first case of ruinous tomato virus


France tomato virus

PARIS: Tomato plants in France’s far-west Finistere region have been contaminated with a destructive virus that can lead to whole crops being wasted, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

A farm had been isolated and greenhouses full of tomatoes would be destroyed, as there is no known treatment, it said.

The tomato brown rugose fruit virus, known as ToBRFV, leads to rough discoloured patches on the fruit that render it unsellable — and officials warned earlier that its spread would have “major economic consequences” for farmers.

The virus, which is not harmful to humans, was first reported in 2014 at greenhouses in Israel before it spread to Europe and America.

“We have received the results from the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety of the samples from the Finistere and… they have been contaminated by the virus,” the ministry said.

Growers in Spain and Italy — the EU’s biggest tomato producers — have been affected, as have some in the US and Mexico, and Britain announced its first cases last July.

Germany managed to eradicate an outbreak in several greenhouses by ripping out the plants and destroying them, and then treating the soil with disinfectants.

France promised in early February to carry out hundreds of checks on plants and seeds, on top of regular inspections.

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Investigators find clue of toxic gas spreading in port areas of Karachi


Mysterious toxic gas clue Karachi port

KARACHI: After holding a joint inspection of the affected areas, the investigators of key institutions have found clues of the toxic gas spreading from a cargo ship docked at Karachi port, citing sources, ARY News reported on Monday night.

Sources revealed that the mysterious gas is spreading from a cargo ship docked at Karachi port.

Heavy contingents of law enforcement agencies including Rangers deployed on the entrance and exit routes of the affected areas. Rescue and security teams have distributed face masks among the citizens.

Commissioner Karachi told media that a cargo ship was shifted some goods to Karachi Port Trust (KPT) from where the gas leakage was spotted after the inspection. The KPT administration has been ordered to halt off-loading of containers from the ship, he added.

In his media briefing, the commissioner said the gas spread was stopped when the ship doors were closed, whereas, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has directed the authorities to inspect all items loaded in the containers.

Read: Mysterious toxic gas starts spreading in other areas of Karachi

It is also decided to check the mobile phone history of the patients admitted to the hospitals.

Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah said it is necessary to check air quality to spot the source of the mysterious gas. He added that Pakistan Army is assisting the authorities to check the air quality of the affected sites, whereas, the experts from Suparco [Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission] have also collected samples to investigate the issue.

He directed the chief secretary to conduct the necessary medical examination of the patients.

Read: Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas surges to seven

“If we find it necessary to evacuate Railway Colony for finding the source of the gas than go ahead with it as we will have to help the citizens at any cost.

CM Shah has also visited a private hospital to inquire about the health of patients affected by the mysterious gas. He was accompanied by his adviser Murtaza Wahab and other senior officials.



Moreover, the session of the provincial cabinet was also postponed by the government in view of the deteriorated situation in Kemari. The spokesperson to the chief minister said that the cabinet session will be held on Wednesday at 3:00 pm in New Sindh Secretariat.

According to preliminary reports, the gas has reached the jurisdiction of Ranchore Lines, whereas 86 more have fallen ill due to ingestion of hazardous air caused by the gas.

Read: Case registered with Govt of Pakistan as plaintiff in Karachi gas leak incident

The sick have been transferred to local healthcare facilities for further medical treatment.



At least 220 people have thus far have been struck by the looming gas and have been hospitalised since Sunday.

More people falling sick due to the toxic gas vapours in the air continue to file in for treatment at hospitals in Karachi.

Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas leakage has surged to seven as one more fell prey to the toxic gas at midnight on Monday.

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Fawad Chaudhry reveals govt’s policies to be adopted for social media platforms


Fawad Chaudhry policies social media regulations

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chaudhry, has reiterated its demand for regulating all social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others in order to void its wrong usage, ARY News reported on Monday.

Fawad Chaudhry, while talking exclusively to ARY News programme ‘Power Play’, urged to regulate social media platforms in order to ensure for stopping its wrong usage. He alleged that different companies and segments of the society were running propaganda over the laws.



He asked critics to spot legal flaws in the regulations, however, he admitted that the laws shouldn’t be misused by the governments as a political tool to suppress criticism lodged by its opponents. However, the debate for leaving the platforms unregulated is completely useless, he added.

Read: IT Ministry releases Statutory Regulatory Orders for social media

“I accept that right to expression is a fundamental right but there are three more fundamental rights we should also discuss here including the right of honour, right of privacy and the right of dignity. It is not a good tradition to defame others or attack privacy through a YouTube channel.”

“Social media is not left unregulated nowhere across the globe, hence, the debate should not be opened whether to bring the platforms within the boundaries of laws. The plan to regulate social media is not part of a political tactic [against opponents] and the high court will also give recommendations on it.”

“We witness many groups exist on social media [platforms] including Facebook and Twitter being engaged in criticism for the whole day. These groups have been created with the cost of Rs30,000. Are these groups are in favour of rights of dignity and honour nor crossing any boundary?”

Read: Pakistan achieves major breakthrough with social media giants: sources

The minister said it is important to scrutinise the way of implementing the laws. He admitted that the laws of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were also used positively and negatively, however, it is unworthy to launch criticism on regulations.

When questioned for the federal government’s attempt to secretly enforcing the laws without holding any debate in the Parliament, Fawad Chaudhry rejected the claims by saying that the regulations had discussed in the parliament in 2016 and it is a part of Section 22 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Statutory Notification issued by the Ministry of Information Technology with a list of Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) to regulate social media received criticism across Pakistan.

Read: Fawad Chauhdry says regulating social media is in public interest

Earlier on February 14, Fawad Chaudhry had said that regulating social media is in public interest.

In his tweet, Fawad Chaudhry said, one cannot criticize the United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK) over strict regulations but for Pakistan, some elements want zero regulation.

The minister further wrote that to bring companies in Pak economic laws framework registration is imperative and the law regarding regulation of the social media was passed in the tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

OBLIGATIONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY AND SPECIAL MEASURES

Under the order social media companies must comply with the demands of the social media coordinator which may include the following:

  • The mentioned website must remove objectionable content within 24 hours of being notified.
  • If the content is deemed extremely insensitive then the social media platform must remove the notified object within 6 hours.
  • Social Media must uphold religious and security related sensitivities of the region they are operated in.
  • Social media websites must ensure the curtailment of content related to extremism and/or hate speech.
  • Stopping the influx of fake news and live streams that could compromise national security.

It has also been revealed that social media giants are directed to open Pakistan offices soon enough and register themselves with the government.

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Mysterious toxic gas starts spreading in various areas of Karachi


Karachi gas leakage

The mystery gas poisoning the air in Karachi has started spreading into other areas in Karachi after initially starting out from the Kemari port area of Karachi, ARY News reported on Tuesday.

According to preliminary reports, the gas has reached the jurisdiction of Ranchore Lines, whereas 86 more have fallen ill due to ingestion of hazardous air caused by the gas.

Read More: Case registered with Govt of Pakistan as plaintiff in Karachi gas leak incident

The sick have been transferred to local healthcare facilities for further medical treatment.

220 people have thus far have been struck by the looming gas and have been hospitalised since Sunday.

More people falling sick due to the toxic gas vapours in the air continue to file in for treatment at hospitals in Karachi.

Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas leakage has surged to seven as one more fell prey to the toxic gas at midnight on Monday.

Read More: Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas surges to seven  

According to details, people with severe breathing problems were brought to the hospital after inhaling the poisonous gas reportedly emitted from a container carrying chemicals used to preserve peas in Keamari area of Karachi.

The exact causes of the deaths have not yet been ascertained, hospital sources said and added that that three of the victims were in critical condition.

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Chinese doctors using plasma therapy on coronavirus, WHO says ‘very valid’ approach


coronavirus-China-plasma-therapy

SHANGHAI/GENEVA: Doctors in Shanghai are using infusions of blood plasma from people who have recovered from the coronavirus to treat those still battling the infection, reporting some encouraging preliminary results, a Chinese professor said on Monday.

A top emergency expert at the World Health Organization (WHO) said later that using convalescent plasma was a “very valid” approach to test, but that it was important to get the timing right to maximize the boost to a patient’s immunity.

The coronavirus epidemic is believed to have originated in a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, and has so far killed 1,770 people and infected more than 70,000 in mainland China.

China’s financial hub of Shanghai on Monday had 332 infected cases, one of whom died in recent weeks. Lu Hongzhou, professor and co-director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, said that 184 cases were still hospitalized, including 166 mild cases, while 18 were in serious and critical conditions.

He said the hospital had set up a special clinic to administer plasma therapy and was selecting patients who were willing to donate. The blood would be screened to check if he or she had other diseases like hepatitis B or C, he added.

“We are positive that this method can be very effective in our patients,” he said.

There are no fully licensed treatments or vaccines against the new coronavirus, and the process of developing and testing drugs can take many months and even years.

‘VERY IMPORTANT AREA’

Convalescent plasma has been proven “effective and life-saving” against other infectious diseases, including rabies and diphtheria, Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, told reporters in Geneva.

“It is a very important area to pursue,” Ryan said.

“Because what hyperimmune globulin does is it concentrates the antibodies in a recovered patient. You are essentially giving the new victim’s immune system a boost of antibodies to hopefully get them through the very difficult phase.

“So it must be given at the right time, because it mops up the virus in the system, and it just gives the new patient’s immune system a vital push at the time it needs it. But it has to be carefully timed and it’s not always successful.”

Ryan added: “So it is a very important area of discovery, and I believe they are starting trials on that in China. But it is a very valid way to explore therapeutics, especially when we don’t have vaccines and we don’t have specific antivirals.”

As well as using plasma therapies, the Chinese doctors are also trying antiviral drugs licensed for use against other infections to see if they might help.

Scientists are testing two antiviral drugs and preliminary results are due in weeks, while the head of a Wuhan hospital had said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.

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Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas surges to seven  


KARACHI: Death toll in Karachi’s mysterious gas leakage has surged to seven as one more fell prey to the toxic gas on Monday night, ARY News reported.

According to the details, as many as 86 more people with severe breathing problems were brought to the hospital after inhaling the poisonous gas reportedly emitted from a container carrying chemicals used to preserve peas in Keamari area of Karachi.

The exact causes of the deaths have not yet been ascertained, hospital sources said and added that that three of the victims were in critical condition.

Sources said the gas emitted during the offloading of chemicals from a cargo ship anchored at Keamari port.  The toxic gas has created panic among the people in nearby areas as well.

The teams of Pakistan Navy has  also reached the spot to assist the rescue and the relief operations in the area.

Read More: Death toll jumps to six in Karachi’s mysterious gas leakage incident

Earlier in the day, death toll had jumped to six in a mysterious gas leakage in Keamari port area of the metropolis and over 100 affected were shifted to the various healthcare facilities of the city.

According to details, six people pronounced dead including two women and dozens of hospitalized after falling unconscious. Three dead individuals were identified as Maymar Begum, Rizwan, and Ahsan.

Initial reports claimed that more than 25 people had been affected by the poisonous gas that spread in the Jackson Market area near the shipping port, local police, and other law enforcement agencies had cordoned off the area to conduct a search operation after a thorough search the area was declared clear for commuters after the initial gas release.

The spokesperson of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in a statement had claimed that reports pertaining to the gas being released by a recent ship that had anchored down at the port were untrue.

 

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At least 23 killed in Niger refugee stampede: officials


refugee stampede

MAIDUGURI: At least 23 people died in a stampede as Nigerian refugees rushed to get food and clothes in a community centre just over the border in Niger on Monday, officials said.

The refugees were queuing to get supplies in the town of Diffa, Nigerian regional officials told.

Read More: UNHCR praises Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees

The area is home to almost 250,000 displaced people, according to the United Nations. Many of them have fled attacks by Boko Haram and other armed groups in northeast Nigeria.

Boko Haram has staged regular raids into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon, killing thousands..

Read More: Antonio Guterres says UN supports return of Afghan refugees

Many of the dead are women and children who were trampled to death.

A local official said he was astonished at the situation. “Normally, people who are entitled to the handouts send a representative to Diffa to pick it up. But this time, the refugees themselves decided to come and get it, travelling dozens of kilometres (miles).”

 

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UK warns won’t accept EU-ruled ‘level playing field’


UK european union

Britain’s trade negotiator warned Monday that his government would not accept EU supervision of its economy in exchange for close trade ties. 

Senior diplomat David Frost told academics in Brussels that London intended to set its own laws following Brexit and not follow EU-imposed “level playing field” rules.

“It isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure — it is the point of the whole project,” he said.

Frost’s speech at the Free University of Brussels took place as EU member states were drawing up a mandate for their own negotiator, Michel Barnier.

Some capitals, in particular France, are pushing for a deal in which Britain would have to sign up to EU-supervised regulation in exchange for privileged access to the huge European single market.

But Frost, adding detail to the position championed by British prime minister Boris Johnson, said London wanted a typical trade deal of the kind Brussels signed with Canada.

“It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us — to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has,” Frost said.

“So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so-called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing.”

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Hundreds of Americans flown home from cruise ship, 14 with coronavirus


Coronavirus

CALIFORNIA: More than 300 American cruise liner passengers, including 14 who tested positive for coronavirus, were flown home to military bases in the United States after two weeks under quarantine off Japan.

The cruise ship Diamond Princess, which with more than 400 cases has by far the largest cluster outside China, has become the biggest test so far of other countries’ ability to contain an outbreak that has killed 1,770 people in China and five elsewhere.

A ground crew in anti-contamination suits met the chartered jet that touched down at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas, and passengers could be seen climbing down the stairs wearing face masks in the pre-dawn mist. Another flight landed at Travis Air Force Base in California hours earlier.

All the passengers were taken into a two-week quarantine.

Although U.S. officials had said passengers with coronavirus symptoms would not be repatriated, 14 passengers found at the last minute to have tested positive were permitted to board the planes. The U.S. State Department said the infected passengers were kept in isolation on the flights.

Across mainland China, officials said the total number of coronavirus cases rose by 2,048 to 70,548. That was slightly more new cases than were reported on Sunday, but hundreds fewer than reported on Saturday.

Read More: Coronavirus: US to evacuate Americans aboard cruise ship

Chinese authorities say the stabilisation in the numbers is a sign that measures taken to halt the spread of the disease are having an effect.

However, epidemiologists say it is probably still too early to say how well the outbreak is being contained within China and its central Hubei province, where the virus first appeared. Official figures of new cases have levelled off in the past, only to jump suddenly after changes in methodology.

“The real issue is whether we are seeing efficient community transmission outside of China and at the present time we are not observing that,” Mike Ryan, head of World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said at a news conference in Geneva.

China has responded to the COVID-19 virus by locking down Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, a megacity of 11 million people, and imposing restrictions in a number of other cities.

But the ruling Communist Party is also under pressure to prevent the economy from crashing and get people back to work.

Read More: Cruise passengers shunned over coronavirus to head home

China’s central bank cut the interest rate on its medium-term lending on Monday, which is expected to pave the way for a reduction in the benchmark loan prime rate on Thursday. Beijing has also announced plans for cuts in taxes and fees.

Even so, economists expect China’s economic growth to slow. Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday lowered its 2020 GDP growth forecast to 5.2%, making it likely China would miss a goal to double GDP over the decade to 2020.

CRUISE SHIPS

Around half of all known cases of the virus outside China have been found aboard the Diamond Princess, which was ordered to stay under quarantine at the port of Yokohama on Feb. 3.

Several other countries have announced plans to follow the United States in bringing passengers home. Around half of the 3,700 passengers and crew are Japanese.

Matthew Smith, an American passenger who remained on the ship after refusing to board the voluntary repatriation flights, tweeted that staying behind was the “best decision ever”.

“US Gov’t said they would not put anyone on the planes who were symptomatic, and they ended up knowingly and intentionally putting on 14 people who actually have the virus,” he wrote.

Authorities around the world were also trying to track down passengers from another cruise liner, the Westerdam, which was turned away from ports across Southeast Asia for two weeks before docking in Cambodia on Thursday.

Read More: Japan cruise ship virus cases jump to 218

One American passenger who disembarked in Cambodia tested positive for the virus in Malaysia on Saturday.

Carnival Corp., which operates both cruise liners, said it was cooperating with authorities in trying to trace other passengers from the Westerdam. None of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew had reported any symptoms, it said.

Hundreds of passengers are still in Cambodia, either on the ship or in hotels.

Holly Rauen, a passenger from Fort Myers, Florida, said she and others will be tested by Cambodian authorities. “We have no idea when we get to get home,” she said.

Those who have returned home will be contacted by local health authorities, the company’s Holland America Line unit said.

CHINA BACK TO WORK?

After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China needs to get back to work or suffer severe economic consequences. There is a proposal to delay the opening of the annual session of parliament, due on Feb. 24.

Some cities remain in lockdown, streets are deserted, employees are nervous, and travel bans and quarantine orders are in place around the country. Many factories have yet to re-open, disrupting supply chains in China and beyond.

In Japan, where data showed on Monday that the economy had already shrunk last quarter at the fastest pace in almost six years, the impact of the virus is expected to show up in the current quarter, stoking fears of a recession.

Read More: Thousands from cruise ship freed after coronavirus tests

Trade-dependent Singapore downgraded its 2020 economic growth forecast and has said a recession is possible. It is set to unveil measures to cushion the blow on Tuesday.

Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon have decided to limit the March 1 race to top-level athletes, banning 38,000 general participants, a person with knowledge of the issue told Reuters.

Japan’s Imperial Household Agency said it would cancel Emperor Naruhito’s public birthday address on Feb. 23, his first since his coronation last year. The event regularly attracts tens of thousands of people to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo.

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‘Govt striving to enforce complete ban on sale, manufacturing of plastic bags’


Malik-Amin-Aslam

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam on Monday urged the masses to stop using plastic bags for being unhealthy and unfriendly towards environment.

He chaired a second meeting on implementation of polythene bags regulations, 2019.

Malik Amin Aslam urged the participants to arrange cleanliness campaign, public awareness drive and enforcement of laws, especially in urban areas of Islamabad.

Representatives of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA), Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICT) and Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) were present during the meeting.

Read More: LHC stops departmental stores from using plastic shopping bags

The representatives presented their inputs and affirmed to stop using polythene bag in public and to ensure the infringements would be fined strictly.

They apprised the adviser about a large number of polythene bags confiscated by implementation teams and fines/penalties collected to date.

Malik Amin Aslam said the government is working to implement a complete ban on the use of polyethene bags and its manufacturing, trading and sale in Islamabad.

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Woman brings creative idea to make sleeping bags for homeless people


A woman has created life-saving sleeping bags from empty crisp packets to help homeless rough sleepers survive the winter cold weather.

A 45-year-old woman, Ms Pen Hutson, from Hastings in East Sussex started ironing empty crisp wrappers together after the homeless charity she works for couldn’t provide a sleeping bag to everyone.

She brought a creative idea to create bivi bags using empty crisp packets which took only four hours.

“With homelessness on the rise, the demand is ever-growing,” Mirror UK quoted the woman, who started the life-changing project last November.

Pen, who has worked alongside the charity ‘Surviving the Streets’ for the past year and a half, explains: “I was lying awake in bed one night thinking what would it be like waking up in a crisp packet?”

A social media page was then set up for the project, which quickly gained 3,000 followers – at a rate so quickly it crashed the page.

The sleeping bags are made from crisp packets – donated by the YMCA and the general public – which have been washed, dried out and cut open to a landscape format.

Pen has also developed survival sheets which only use 44 crisp packets, and even over the shoulder bags. With so many donations, the cost of making the bags and survival sheets has only been the cost of having the iron on, which is used to seal materials together.

Plastic sheets have been donated from Hastings Sofa Company, near where Pen lives, which would have otherwise ended up in landfill.

“I don’t want to be putting more rubbish on the streets, so they need to be good quality,” she continued.

After raising £700 online, Pen is now on an 11-part tour of the UK spreading awareness and running workshops with schools, colleges and community groups to teach people how to make the potentially life-saving sleeping bags.

Her plan was to stop once the money ran out, but now says that her “heart is in the project” and she has struggled to step away.

Pen has continued working towards her goal of taking the bivi bags nationwide.

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Dr Yasmin urges parents to get children vaccinated against polio


Yasmin Rashid Nawaz Sharif

LAHORE: Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid on Monday urged parents to get their children vaccinated against polio, ARY News reported.

Talking to a private news channel, Dr Yasmin Rashid urged the entire nation to ignore false propaganda against polio vaccination and actively participate in the ongoing anti-polio drive across the country.

 She urged the religious scholars, media and all stakeholders to help convince people to vaccinate their children against the crippling disease.

The minister underscored the need for countering baseless propaganda against polio vaccine especially on social media.

Read More: Countrywide anti-polio campaign begins today

Earlier in the day, a five-day countrywide anti-polio drive to commence from today (Monday) to immunize over 39.4 million children.

The vaccination drive will continue from February 17-21, while it will be extended to seven days in more sensitive areas, sources had said.

Around 2,65,000 anti-polio workers will participate in the drive across the country. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 6.7 million children under the age of five years will be administered vaccine.

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President Alvi urges world leaders to play role against Islamophobia


ISLAMABAD: President Dr. Arif Avli on Monday urged the world leaders to play their due role against Islamophobia across the globe.

Addressing a banquet hosted in honor of the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, President Avli said that India should allow the team of UNMOGIP to visit occupied Kashmir. He also demanded India to open the occupied valley for international media.

Alvi shared concerns over India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August last year in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

He underlined the fundamental obligation of the United Nations to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, pledging the right to self-determination to the Kashmiri people, Radio Pakistan reported.

The president highlighted the immense contributions made by Pakistan over the 40 years in hosting Afghan refugees and providing them economic and political security. He also highlighted Pakistan’s efforts in combating climate change and achieving sustainable development.

Read More: In meeting with UN chief, PM highlights possibility of false flag operation by India, brutalities in Kashmir

Commenting on rising polarization in world, the president said countries are building walls and letting the people drown in the Mediterranean Sea but do not allow entering into their premises.

President Alvi expressed hope that peace process in Afghanistan will bring prosperity and development in the region.

In his address, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that Pakistan is a frontline state, which is successfully fighting the challenges of climate change.

He said Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

The UN chief said Pakistan is a peace-loving nation, which have rendered remarkable sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

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In meeting with UN chief, PM highlights possibility of false flag operation by India, brutalities in Kashmir


pm imran khan un secretary general

ISLAMABAD: United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday.

During the meeting, the prime minister highlighted Pakistan’s generosity in hosting millions of Afghan refugees for the last four decades. He also noted that the people of Pakistan drew inspiration to host refugees from the teachings of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.).

Prime Minister Khan underscored that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

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He reaffirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support for efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He stressed that the establishment of sustainable peace in Afghanistan and creation of conducive environment and “pull factors” which would facilitate the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland in dignity and honour.

The premier highlighted the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as a result of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019. He added that India’s belligerent rhetoric, intensified ceasefire violations on the LoC, and other aggressive actions were imperiling peace and security in the region.

Read More: Antonio Guterres says UN supports return of Afghan refugees

He also highlighted the possibility of false flag operation by India to divert global attention from its unacceptable actions in IOJ&K.

The prime minister underscored the Kashmiri people continued to look to the United Nations to honour its commitments for the realisation of their right to self-determination, as enshrined in numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

Read More: Pakistan will continue to play role in Afghan peace process: PM Khan

He stressed that Climate Change posed an existential threat to mankind. He assured the Secretary General that Pakistan would work hand in hand with the global community to pursue swift implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. The prime minister also highlighted the landmark 10 Billion Tree Tsunami.

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Researchers develop smart jumpsuit for infants to spot neurological issues


Smart jumpsuit infants neurological issues

LONDON: A smart jumpsuit has been developed by researchers of the University of Helsinki in Finland that accurately measures the spontaneous and voluntary movement of infants from the age of five months – data that can help in assessing abnormal neurological development, among other things.

The assessment of spontaneous and voluntary movements is part of the neurological examination of infants.

Previously, the quantitative tracking of children’s spontaneous motility in the natural environment has not been possible, Gulf News reported.

Instead, children have been primarily qualitatively assessed at the physician’s or physiotherapist’s practice, which requires taking into account the fact that the infant’s behaviour in the practice setting does not necessarily entirely match that seen at home.

“The smart jumpsuit provides us with the first opportunity to quantify infants’ spontaneous and voluntary movements outside the laboratory,” said Sampsa Vanhatalo, Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

“The child can be sent back home with the suit for the rest of the day. The next day, it will be returned to the hospital where the results will then be processed,” Vanhatalo added.

Vanhatalo said that the new analysis method, published in the journal Scientific Reports, quantifies infant motility as reliably as a human being would be able to do by viewing a video recording.

After the measurement, the infant’s actual movements and physical positions will be known to the second, after which computational measures can be applied to the data.

“This is a revolutionary step forward. The measurements provide a tool to detect the precise variation in motility from the age of five months, something which medical smart clothes have not been able to do until now,” Vanhatalo said.

The data gleaned by the smart jumpsuit is valuable, since the detection of abnormalities in the neurological development of infants at an early stage enables early support.

Brain plasticity is at its strongest in early childhood, and is benefited by measures supporting development, which are targeted at recurring everyday activities.

The pathogenic mechanisms underlying developmental disorders are complex, but preterm birth, perinatal brain damage and the lack of early care, as well as insufficient stimulation in the growth environment aggravate the risk of developmental problems.

Developmental disorders in today’s pressure-dominated world pose a considerable risk that can lead to learning difficulties and obstacles in the competition for education and jobs, said Leena Haataja, Professor of Paediatric Neurology at the University of Helsinki.

Furthermore, they are a risk factor associated with exclusion from contemporary society.

“The early identification of developmental disorders and support for infants’ everyday functional capacity in interaction with the family and the growth environment constitute a significant factor on the level of individuals, families and society,” Haataja said.

In the future, smart jumpsuit can be used for the objective measurement of how various therapies and treatments affect children’s development.

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PM Imran Khan urges out-of-the-box remedies for countries gas, electricity woes


PM Imran Khan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Gas, Electricity

Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed to bring out-of-the-box solutions in an effort to control prices of electricity and gas on a sustainable basis.

He was chairing a high-level meeting to reduce electricity and gas prices and provide relief to domestic consumers and industries in Islamabad on Monday.

Read More: US envoy Khalilzad calls on PM Imran

The Prime Minister said that without taking into account the interest of the country, expensive and illogical agreements and arrangements were made by the previous governments which jacked up prices of electricity and increased circular debt.

Imran Khan said that the top priority of the present government is providing relief to people with low-income and promotion of industries.

Read More: Fed govt mulls over tax relief for basic commodities to lower prices

At the direction of the Prime Minister, various proposals were made in order to stabilize and reduce electricity prices for domestic consumers and industries.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Petroleum Nadeem Babar presented suggestions for a long-term plan to reduce gas prices.

Read More: Pakistan Will Continue To Play Role In Afghan Peace Process: PM Khan

The Prime Minister was told that in order to prevent power theft, effective measures have been taken which resulted in an income of 122 billion rupees.

The monthly increase of 38 billion in circular debt has been reduced to 12 billion which will be reduced to zero by the end of this year.

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Advocate Shahid Tattlah murdered, Missing SSP becomes prime suspect


SSP Mufakhar, Advocate Shahid Tattlah

Senior Superintendent of Punjab Police (SSP) Mufakhar Adeel’s friend who was detained yesterday in relation to the ongoing investigations has confessed to killing the missing advocate-general Shahid Tattlah, ARY News reported.

According to details, the mysterious case has started to come to its logical conclusion with the detained friend of SSP Mufakhar Adeel, Asad Bhatti confessing to carrying out the murder of former advocate general Shahid Tattlah who went missing the same day as the SSP himself.

Read More: SSP Punjab police reported missing from Johar Town, Lahore

Bhatti in his statement said that he and his friend, SSP Mufakhar Adeel got into a verbal spat with the former advocate general and killed him together.

He further revealed that a police constable from police lines, Kila Gujjar was called upon by SSP Mufakhar to wash the scene of the heinous murder.

Read More: Former advocate general allegedly kidnapped in Lahore

Bhatti maintains that the reason for the sight of murder being washed was not to remove evidence, rather it was washed so the rented place can be given back to the landlord in a clean state.

The house was rented by Bhatti and Mufakhar for the past 10 days.

Read More: Major breakthrough made in missing SSP, advocate general case: sources

Local police have initiated raids at varying locations to apprehend the servant of Mufakhar Adeel’s wife who had made acid drums available to Asad Bhatti.

Mufakhar was a regular visitor of Balochistan where he partook in the sports of hunting and jeep rally racing.

Read More: Missing SSP Mufakhar Adeel’s third wife surfaces, was bearing all his expenses

Teams have been dispatched to the province to catch the wanted police officer.

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‘Hunarmand Pakistan’: SAPM inaugurates hi-tech courses for youth


Usman-Dar

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Youth Affairs Usman Dar on Monday inaugurated hi-tech courses for youth under the incumbent government’s flagship Kamyab Jawan Program at NUTECH.

The Rs30 billion Hunarmand Pakistan programme will be executed by NAVTTC under Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP).

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Initially, with Rs9.84 billion allocation spreading over 20 months, the SIP aims at imparting hi-tech and conventional skills to 1,70,000 youth.

The program aims to prepare Pakistani youth in hi-tech and conventional skills including digital skills, financial inclusion, social entrepreneurship and micro-business support for employment and economic empowerment of youth.

“We want to invest in our youth for adequately building their capacities for matching job market. Our focus is on imparting relevant and required skills to our youth”, said the SAPM during a briefing session by Rector NUTECH.

Read More: Kamyab Jawan Program will help resolve unemployment issue: Usman Dar

Under PM’s Kamyab Jawan program, hi-tech courses offered by NUTECH Skills Development Department (NSDD) includes Computer Graphics (UI/UX), Cloud Computing, Robotics, Mobile App Development and IoT (Internet of Things).

After the inauguration ceremony, Mr Dar addressed the faculty, support staff and students wherein he applauded the role and hard work of NUTECH and NAVTTC for successful launching of the programme

He said that the programme will enhance skilled manpower and increase the employability of the youth in Pakistan.

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US envoy Khalilzad calls on COAS Bajwa, discusses Afghan peace process


RAWALPINDI: The United States Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad called on Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

 According to the military’s media wing, matters of mutual interest including overall regional security situation and ongoing Afghan Reconciliation Process were discussed in the meeting.

Earlier today, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM Office in Islamabad.

Read More: US envoy Khalilzad calls on PM Imran

The two had discussed the Afghan peace process and emerging regional situation.

Earlier, Zalmay Khalilzad had met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to discuss progress thus far made towards talks with the Taliban to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

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A step forward

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