Former ISI official commits suicide ‘over harassment by NAB’

ICMD, March 15, 2019 - Former intelligence official and defence analyst Brigadier (r) Asad Munir committed suicide on Friday over alleged harassment by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). According to police, Munir’s body was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his apartment situated in the Diplomatic Enclave. Following the legal procedure, the body was handed over to his family who refused to allow the autopsy. Reportedly, Munir was under stress after emergence of media reports that NAB has decided to file a reference of abuse of office against him. In a meeting held on Thursday, the anti-graft watchdog had decided to investigate Munir, a former member of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), and others for allegedly abusing their powers to restore a plot in F-11 of Islamabad while violating rules and regulations. In a suicide note circulating on social media, allegedly written by Asad Munir and addressed to the chief justice of Pakistan, he said that “a reference has been filed against me by the anti-graft body over the restoration of a plot back in 2008 but it was restored by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman”. “The NAB has made my life miserable; the authority has placed my name on Exit Control List and initiated three investigations and two inquiries against me in just a year,” Munir wrote. “I have already submitted my asset details,” the note said. “I am further committing suicide to avoid humiliation, being handcuffed and paraded in front of the media,” he wrote in the note, urging the chief justice to take notice of conduct of the NAB officials “so that other government officials are not convicted for the crimes they have not committed”. Islamabad Superintendent of police (SP) Sayad Aziz said a first information report (FIR) cannot be registered as the family does not want to have a post-mortem examination conducted on the body. A senior doctor at PIMS hospital said while post-mortem examination was not performed, superficial marks on the body are consistent with the cases of suicide. The doctor said there was no indication of any resistance, and ruled out the possibility that he may have been murdered.

France freezes assets of JeM’s Masood Azhar

ICMD, March 15, 2019 France has decided to freeze the assets of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) founder and leader Masood Azhar, the French government said on Friday. A joint statement issued by the French interior ministry, finance ministry and foreign ministry said that France will also discuss putting Masood Azhar on a European Union list of people suspected of being involved in terrorism. The decision by the French authorities comes days after China put on hold their joint request along with Britain and the United States to put Azhar on the United Nations terror. It was the third time that the UN Security Council was considering a request to put the JeM chief on the UN sanctions blacklist, which will subject him to a global travel ban and assets freeze. In a note sent to the UN Security Council, China had said that it needed more time to examine the sanctions request targeting Masood Azhar. “We already stressed China’s position on the listing of terrorist organizations and individuals in the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on many occasions. China has all along participated in relevant discussions in a responsible manner and in strict accordance with the rules of procedure and provisions of the 1267 committee.

Senate Committee takes notice of cloudiness surrounding CPEC projects

ICMD, March 15, 2019 - Senate Special Committee on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Friday took notice of the cloudiness surrounding CPEC related projects. The committee, chaired by Senator Sherry Rehman, directed the Ministry of Planning, Development & Reforms to give concrete information on CPEC projects with groundwork, progress, and timelines from the next meeting onwards instead of providing open source information. “Why is the committee not being apprised about the details of the projects? We come across more information in the newspapers compared to what’s imparted to us during the committee meetings. It is the Ministry’s responsibility to address the queries of committee members as they have serious reservations that need to be heard and responded to,” the former Senate opposition leader said as the committee was briefed regarding CPEC projects. Members from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan especially were unanimous in protesting the lack of groundwork in their respective provinces including Gwadar, which is supposed to be the centerpiece of the CPEC maritime Silk Road linkage. The committee was further briefed on the 8th JCC held in Beijing in December 2018 and members sought details into the current situation of various projects under CPEC as well as about further negotiations with the Chinese government. Rehman expressed reservations as neither the timeline nor the terms and conditions of the CPEC projects were furnished by the government. Saying that nothing can be kept hidden from a parliamentary committee, the Chair of the CPEC Committee in Senate said “We are leading delegations into China and China is asking questions. It is asking about the progress being made on the CPEC projects and here we are, kept in the dark by our government”. The Committee was told that during the 8th Joint Coordination Committee, a Memorandum of Understanding on industrial cooperation was signed and Pakistan has succeeded in securing a separate $1 billion grant for socio-economic development which will come in three years and will be spent in less developed areas of the country. The committee was told that the project of M-1 will be implemented in phases and that finalization of the preliminary design was in its final stage. It was told that the desalination plants in Gwadar are now a part of the socio-economic development projects. Component of agricultural investment has also been added in CPEC projects which will include co-branding, value chain food processing, fisheries, and livestock. The senator expressed concern regarding gaps in communication. She said a general understanding among Pakistani people, especially regarding Special Economic Zones is that China would singlehandedly make CPEC work. She suggested, “It would be better if Pakistan did at least half the work here and took road shows to China to attract investors. We need the jobs and growth generated by this opportunity. Our inability to coordinate responses and streamline frameworks or build consensus should not stand in the way of momentum.”

4500 vagrants arrested as Karachi police moves to launch crackdown against beggar mafia

KARACHI: ICMD, March 14, 2019 Karachi police on Thursday launched a special crackdown to arrest professional beggars and their handlers with the purpose to curb this menace. Following directions of Additional IG Karachi, Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh, special teams have been constituted to ensure the arrest of beggars and their handlers, while 4500 vagrants, including women and children, have been rounded up during the anti-vagrancy drive. Police have conducted a special survey in the port city and identified 104 localities in various areas to further intensify the operation against beggar mafia which is involved in various crimes and creating hurdles in the smooth flow of traffic. According to the list prepared by police, 27 points have been identified in District South, 21 in the District East, 10 in Malir, 18 in District Korangi, 16 in the District Central, 8 in District West, while 4 spots in City Area where beggar mafia is active. Police chief directed the officials and traffic police for high vigilance and monitoring against the mafia to curb the begging practices around commercial centers, signals, and other business areas. He also urged the public not to be duped by vagrants who deploy various tricks to seek their sympathy. To eliminate this major evil of society which produces many other social tribulations, different NGOs are establishing Social Welfare departments. -- TN

Ayyan Ali's plea for cancellation of arrest warrants rejected

ICMD, March 13, 2019 The Lahore High Court registrar office on Wednesday rejected a plea filed by model Ayyan Ali seeking the cancellation of her arrest warrants. In an objection attached to the petition — that Ali had submitted through Advocate Aftab Ahmad Bajwa — the high court registrar said that the case cannot be fixed for hearing as the model is not in the country. Ali, who is indicted in a currency smuggling case, was declared a proclaimed offender by a special court last week after she failed to appear despite multiple summons by the judge. She has not appeared before the court since 2016. The trial court also ordered confiscation of her assets. In the petition, Ali says that she wants to appear before the trial court to prove her innocence in the case. Her lawyer said that Article 10-A of the Constitution ensures right of a transparent trial to every citizen of the land and requested the court to suspend the arrest warrants. He added the non-appearance of the petitioner before the trial court was neither deliberate nor intentional but due to her illness. The counsel urged the court to accept the petition and set aside the impugned orders of the trial court and allow the petitioner to submit fresh surety bonds and appear for trial.

PSL 2019: Watson takes Gladiators to the finals, defeats Zalmi

ICMD, March 13, 2019 Quetta Gladiators defeated Peshawar Zalmi by 10 runs in the Qualifier round of Pakistan Super League 4 on Wednesday, thereby qualifying for the finals later this week. The game was completely changed in the last over owing to Shane Watson who, despite not having bowled in the tournament, performed remarkably taking the two most important wickets and breaking the partnership of Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy back-to-back. Quetta's innings After Zalmi won the toss and opted to field first, they dealt an early blow to the Gladiators, dismissing their in-form opener Ahmed Shehzad (1 off 4 balls) in just the 2nd over. But the Gladiators were stacked in in-form-openers department. With Shehzad gone, Shane Watson took charge, hitting Peshawar Zalmi bowlers almost at will. Watson and Ahsan Ali took the score to 53-1 after 5 overs and 96-1 after 10. The Gladiators finished their innings at 186-6. Man-of-the-match Watson led the scoreboard with a 71-run knock followed by Ali with 46 runs. Wahab Riaz picked up two wickets for Zalmi while Sameen Gul, KA Pollard, TS Mills and Hasan Ali each picked up a single wicket. Peshawar's innings The first wicket for Zalmi fell in the sixth over of the innings with Kamran Akmal out at 22. Captain Darren Sammy remained the lead scorer for Zalmi (46) until he was run out by Sarfaraz. His 21-ball knock was supported by KA Pollard, who contributed 44 runs to his team's total. The 'Yellow Storm' as they are known were 107-5 at the end of 15 overs in pursuit of the 187-run target. As the overs went by, Zalmi lost two more wickets. Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali, both not out, faced three balls between them and contributed as many runs. Zalmi finished their innings with 176 runs on the scoreboard at the end of 20 overs, 10 runs shy of their goal, and the match thus went to the Gladiators. For Quetta, Mohammad Hasnain took two wickets while Rilee Rossouw, Mohammad Nawaz, Ahsan Ali and Watson picked up one wicket each.

Army may take a key role in development of Reko Diq

ICMD, March 12, 2019 The Pakistan Army is taking a key role in the development of one of the world’s biggest untapped copper and gold deposits, which is currently stalled by a multi-billion dollar legal wrangle with foreign mining firms, multiple sources familiar with the situation said. The Reko Diq mine has become a test case for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ability to attract serious foreign investment to Pakistan as it struggles to stave off an economic crisis that has forced it to seek an International Monetary Fund bailout. Ten current and former provincial and federal government officials and mining sources familiar with the project in the Balochistan region say the “military has become the most important voice on the future of Reko Diq”, which it sees as a strategic national asset. “The military will not only be in a position to decide which investors develop the deposit, but an army-controlled engineering firm, Frontier Works Organization (FWO), is positioning itself to be a member of any consortium involved,” they said. In a statement in response to Reuters’ questions about its role in Reko Diq, the military spokesman’s office said: “(The military) may only participate in government’s plan of development of Reko Diq, as per national requirements.” But it acknowledged that FWO, best known for building roads through Pakistan’s rugged and border regions, has developed “substantial” mining capability in recent years and would be interested in taking a role in the project. “If an opportunity arises of participating in developing Reko Diq, FWO may work at par with other competitors (or) companies provided the project is financially viable (or) suitable,” the statement said. When asked, a spokesman declined to elaborate on the statement. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said civilian authorities in Balochistan were in charge of Reko Diq and, along with Khan, would take a decision, but added that the military “and all other stakeholders are obviously important players”. Khan’s spokesman Iftikhar Durrani said Balochistan province was in charge of Reko Diq, and referred questions to the provincial government and the military spokesman’s office. “The military has taken a front seat,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the book “Military Inc.”, which analyses the army’s business interests and influence in Pakistan. “They’ve understood that the economy is important for having a strong military,” she said. “Control of the economy also gives the military a handle over expanding their business interests.” Buried at the foot of an extinct volcano near the frontier with Iran and Afghanistan, the mine’s development has long been delayed by a dispute with previous investors in the project, Canada’s Barrick Gold and Chile’s Antofagasta. The government is urgently trying to settle the dispute as a World Bank arbitration tribunal, which ruled against Pakistan in 2017, is in the next few months expected to announce how much in damages the country must pay to the foreign firms, who are claiming more than $11 billion. The dispute relates to the withholding of a mining lease. Islamabad is also trying to find new partners to invest in the project. State-run companies from resource-hungry China have long coveted Reko Diq and more recently Saudi Arabia has shown interest, according to Pakistani officials. Some Western diplomats say the Reko Diq dispute has been a significant foreign investment deterrent, with international businesses unnerved at how Pakistan dealt with the companies that had pledged to invest $3.3 billion to develop the country’s then-biggest mining project. Barrick Gold and Antofagasta, whose joint venture Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) discovered vast mineral wealth in Reko Diq, say they had invested more than $220 million by the time the Balochistan government, in 2011, unexpectedly refused to grant them the critical mining lease needed to keep operating. Pakistan argued its move was legitimate because TCC’s feasibility study was incomplete and the country’s Supreme Court voided the deal in 2013. But in 2017 the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled against Pakistan. TCC did not respond to requests for comment and Antofagasta and Barrick Gold both declined to comment. Reuters could not determine whether either company would be willing to return to the project. The last serious attempt at settling the Reko Diq case was scuppered in 2016 by the military, which vetoed paying hundreds of millions of dollars to TCC, according to a senior Balochistan official and two former senior officials in Islamabad. But the military has since changed its stance and is more open to a settlement with TCC, according to a lawmaker close to the military and a source close to Prime Minister Khan.. In response to a Reuters question about blocking the previous settlement effort, the military said: “Let’s see how the case progresses.” It did not elaborate or comment on whether it was playing any role in the latest negotiations. Some mining experts say a likely solution would be for a new investment consortium to pay the settlement fee on behalf of cash-strapped Pakistan in exchange for future royalty fees or mining rights. Information Minister Chaudhry said Pakistan was engaged in negotiations with “both” the current investors about a settlement and also potential new investors, with interest coming from the Middle East and Europe. He declined to name the potential investors. Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar said in October that Saudi Arabia has inquired about investing in Reko Diq and another government official confirmed talks were ongoing. Saudi Arabia did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Reko Diq. During Crown Prince bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan last month, the kingdom pledged to invest $2 billion in mineral development projects, though the provisional agreements were vague and did not mention any specific projects. -- Agencies

‘Key conspirator’ of Pulwama attack gunned down

ICMD, March 11, 2019 Indian police claimed on Monday that ‘one of the key conspirators’ behind a suicide attack that killed over 40 paramilitary personnel in the occupied valley had died in a shootout with security forces. Mudasir Khan, who was shot dead on Sunday, was described by authorities as a top commander belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), who claimed the February 14 bombing in Pulwama district. The attack on a convoy of paramilitaries in the disputed valley was the deadliest in decades and led to an airstrike against what the Modi administration claimed a JeM training camp on Pakistani soil in Balakot. Pakistan, which denies supporting JeM, responded by shooting down two Indian warplanes and capturing one pilot, whose return two days later pulled the nuclear-armed countries back from the brink of a full-scale war. Police in Held Kashmir claimed that an investigation had revealed that Mudasir was one of the key conspirators of the deadly attack on Indian forces. Mudasir was shot in Tral — a town in Pulwama district where the suicide bombers struck — along with another gunman who the Indian police claimed was from Pakistan.

Nawaz can get himself treated in Sindh if he wishes: Punjab govt

ICMD, March 11, 2019 - Punjab government spokesperson Shahbaz Gill Monday said Nawaz Sharif is free to get himself treated in Sindh if he wishes to. Reacting to a meeting between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the Kot Lakhpat jail, Gill said there is no politics being done over the health issue of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo. At a joint press conference along with Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid, Gill said Nawaz Sharif can get his treatment done from a hospital of his choice. “Bilawal Bhutto offered Nawaz to have his treatment done from a hospital in Karachi, and we have no objection to it,” he said. “However, I just want to convey to Mian sahib that he is currently in a safe province,” he said, adding that there is nothing lacking in the medical facilities being provided to the former prime minister.

Four policemen injured in Quetta explosion

ICMD, March 11, 2019 - Four policemen were injured in an explosion in Quetta's Mian Ghundi area on Monday. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema said a Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) vehicle had been targeted. The explosive material had been installed in a motorcycle targeting a police vehicle. The injured are being shifted to a hospital. As per the police sources, the blast also damaged the police vehicle. Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan strongly condemned the blast saying in a statement that such "cowardly acts by terrorists could not undermine the resolve of security forces.