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Showing posts with label Pakistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pakistan. Show all posts

Friday, July 19, 2019

Pakistan’s #Kalash minority group faces influx of rowdy tourists

Pakistan’s #Kalash minority group faces influx of rowdy tourists

Pakistan’s #Kalash minority group faces influx of rowdy tourists

In a remote valley in Pakistan, dozens of Kalash minority women dance to celebrate spring’s arrival. But, as a gaggle of men scramble to catch them on camera, the community warns an influx of domestic tourists is threatening their unique traditions.

Every year the Kalash – a group of not more than 4,000 people confined to a handful of villages in the north – greet the new season with animal sacrifices, baptisms, and weddings at a festival known as Joshi.

As celebrations kick off, tourists with cameras and phones jostle to get close to Kalash women, whose vibrant clothing and headdresses contrast starkly with the more modest attire worn by many in the conservative Islamic republic.

“Some people were using their cameras as if they were in a zoo,” said local tourist guide Iqbal Shah.

Known for their pale skin and light-coloured eyes, the Kalash have long claimed ancestral links to Alexander the Great’s army – who conquered the region in the fourth century BC.

They worship many gods, while drinking alcohol is a tradition and marriages of choice are the norm – unlike in the rest of Pakistan where unions are often arranged.

However, the community is far from a liberal beacon. Members of the community often wed in their teens, with women poorly educated and expected to perform traditional roles in the home.

Stories about the Kalash are nonetheless frequently fabricated, and this has been amplified in recent years by the proliferation of smartphones and social media.

Defaming the community

One video viewed 1.3 million times on YouTube, proclaims the Kalash “openly have sex” with partners of their choosing “in the presence of their husbands”.

Another calls them “beautiful infidels”, saying “anyone can go and marry any girl there”.

“How could that be true?” asks Luke Rehmat, a Kalash journalist.

“People are systematically trying to defame the community. They are fabricating stories … when a tourist comes with such a mindset, he will try to experience (it).”

In the main Kalash village of Bumburate a hotel manager estimates that about 70% of Pakistani tourists visiting his establishment are young men, who often inquire about where to “find girls”.

According to the tourists who spoke to AFP – most of whom were men travelling in groups – their primary interest in exploring the Kalash Valley was to learn about a new culture.

“We want to be part of this festival but it doesn’t mean that we want to mix up with girls,” says tourist Sikander Nawaz Khan Niazi from Lahore.

But friction has been increasing in recent years. In Bumburate, posters now call on visitors to seek permission from villagers before photographing and signs warn tourists not to harass women.

“If they don’t respect us, we don’t need tourists,” says Yasir Kalash, the vice president of the local hotel association.

“If they respect … our culture and traditions, we must welcome (them).”

Regulating tourism is a cumbersome but vital task for the Kalash, with money from the industry increasingly providing an important source of revenue for the community.

The Kalash – who once inhabited a vast territory stretching from the Himalayas in Kashmir to northern Afghanistan – are now one of the smallest religious minorities in Pakistan, according to Akram Hussain, the director of a local museum.

A recent survey puts their number at just 3,872, living in three remote valleys.

“We are going to die if we are not supported,” says Hussain.

The Kalash, who once inhabited a vast territory stretching from the Himalayas in Kashmir to northern Afghanistan, are now one of the minorities in Pakistan.

Kalash traditions, Hussain argues, can be expensive. Weddings and funerals require families to kill dozens of animals for the festivities, driving them into debt, forcing them to sell off land and leave their ancestral homes.

Cases of conversions to Islam of Kalash women have also been reported, while the increase in tourism has pushed some in the community to shun traditions like Joshi, according to several residents.

Others have begun wearing veils to hide their faces from the prying eyes of outsiders.

“We don’t wear veils as it is not our custom, but some wear them because people take pictures of them from all sides and it makes them feel ashamed,” says Musarrat Ali, a high school student.

The ongoing erosion of the culture at the hands of outside forces is tragic, says Sayed Gul, an archaeologist from Bumburate.

“They don’t want to participate just because of these cameras and this insensitivity,” says Gul.

“If these things are continuously happening … maybe in a few years, there are only tourists, there are no more Kalashis to participate and dance in the festivals.” – AFP 

Fertilizer industry Comes Forward To Support The Government

Fertilizer industry Comes Forward To Support The Government

Fertilizer industry Comes Forward To Support The Government 

Islamabad: 18 July 2019 - The fertilizer industry, in order to prevent adverse situation that could cause Government serious problems, has been providing its major contribution towards the employment and the national exchequer. It fully supports the Government nonetheless anticipates that to receive a positive gesture from GOP regarding the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) settlement.  

Last year the fertilizer industry contributed in the economic growth of the country and became the highest tax payer as it paid Rs. 45 billion taxes which are virtually equal to the net profit the industry had earned. The industry has passed on Rs. 527 Billion benefit to the farmers in terms of lower prices against gas subsidy of Rs. 127 Billion since last 9 years. Furthermore, the industry has been offering its extensive support in uplifting the massed through different social projects.

Understanding the Government’s current situation that it can’t bear the additional burden, the fertilizer industry has decided to give its maximum support to the government on the prevalent price issue. The rise in Feed Gas (62%) and in Fuel Gas (31%) prices which, as a result, influenced the fertilizer prices by Rs. 210 per bag. On the other hand the industry has decided not to pass on the full impact of gas prices on the fertilizer to reduce the burden of high prices from the farmers. As these factors play a significant role in the development of the economy.

The industry is optimistic regarding the GIDC settlement as it is significant and help in determining the relief to the industry. This is only possible through GIDC settlement in order to circumvent adverse effect on agriculture sector.  However, the fertilizer industry has shown its full confidence in his leadership and hope the members of cabinet will appreciate the contribution of industry to national economy and food security.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Malala invited to attend sci-tech conference

Malala invited to attend sci-tech conference

Malala invited to attend sci-tech conference

Islamabad: Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said on Monday that Nobel laureate Malala Yousufzai has been invited to a forthcoming sci-tech conference titled ‘Think Future’ in Pakistan.

“October 17 is the birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (Muslim scholar in British India), the day the international science conference will be held,” he told a press conference in Islamabad.
The PTI leader said Malala will attend the conference, adding that he also wanted the people behind top tech companies to be a part of the event.
“We are sending invitations to Tesla owner Elon Musk, Bill Gates, CEO of Google and Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg to attend the conference in Pakistan,” 

Chaudhry said.
He said the moot’s purpose was to attract the world’s attention towards Pakistan in the field of science and technology.

Huawei to invest around $100 million in Pakistan this year: Huawei to set up its regional headquarters in Pakistan at a cost of $55 million:

Huawei to invest around $100 million in Pakistan this year: Huawei to set up its regional headquarters in Pakistan at a cost of $55 million:

Huawei Can Cooperate In Development Of IT Sector In Pakistan: Makhdum Khusro

Huawei to invest around $100 million in Pakistan this year: Huawei to set up its regional headquarters in Pakistan at a cost of $55 million:

ISLAMABAD: July 17, 2019: Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, while appreciating Huawei’s continued engagement in Pakistan, said that the leading technological company can support in developing and upgrading IT sector of Pakistan.

The Minister was talking to Vice President of Huawei Group, Mr. Mark Xueman, who along-with a delegation called on him in Islamabad on Wednesday. Secretary Planning Zafar Hasan, PD CPEC Hassan Daud and senior officials of the ministry were also present.

Makhdum Khusro noted that Huawei has 25% share in mobile industry of Pakistan and is also the top taxing paying Chinese company in the country. The Minister appreciated Huawei’s engagement with HEC for smart schools project with the latest information and communications technology equipment.

The Minister underlined on exploring new business models for future projects and joint ventures in Pakistan. He said that Huawei can contribute to the Government’s e-governance initiative as well in centralizing data to improve efficiency and productivity. The Minister opined that Huawei can support IT start-up projects in Pakistan to benefit the youth in this important sector.

Vice President of Huawei said that Pakistan is a strategic market for Pakistan and said that the company will invest around $100 million in the country this year. He apprised that Huawei will also set up a regional headquarters in Islamabad at a cost of $55 million that will create job opportunities for young engineers in Pakistan. He further informed that Huawei will also invest $15 million more in its Technical support Centre in Pakistan and it will also hire more work force for the same taking the number of its staff from 600 to 800 this year. He stated that Huawei is eager to initiate more projects in Pakistan on grant funding from Chinese government.

The Minister assured of the ministry’s all possible cooperation in future joint ventures.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Drug addicts, transgenders are the main source of HIV in Pakistan, official says

Drug addicts, transgenders are the main source of HIV in Pakistan, official says

Drug addicts, transgenders are the main source of HIV in Pakistan, official says

Pakistan medical experts call for a massive awareness programme for the prevention of HIV

Dubai: Drugs addicts and transgenders are the main source of spreading HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) in Pakistan, said a senior official.

Medical experts in Pakistan stressed that mass awareness campaigns should be launched to educate people about preventive measures and treatment options for HIV.

Dr Sikandar Memon, the Program Manager of HIV/AIDS Control Programme in Sindh province, said there is urgent need for creating awareness about HIV infection, saying people in Pakistan are either unaware of their infection or hiding it due to social and cultural taboos.

He explained drug addicts and transgenders are the main source of spreading HIV and AIDs and claimed individuals were spreading the infection in Sindh. Unsafe, but common, practices such as reusing syringes and drips caused children being infected with HIV diseases in country, he said.

Acording to World Health Organization , unsafe injection practices and poor infection control is likely to be the most important driver of the outbreak,”

people registered in Aids control programmes

“Awareness is very much needed in general public at large and specifically healthcare providers and awareness programme have been launched in Sindh to minimise the infection of HIV and AIDS”, he added.

He also highlighted the importance of media in creating awareness among masses, saying public awareness seminars should also be organized in this connection.

There was a need to work with parents, and health-care professions, to warn against the rampant overuse of syringes and drips, reportd APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.

Dr Memom said the federal government was in touch with the Sindh health department to provide all out assistance to overcome the alarming situation in the province.

Expert said the disease was also spreading in other part of the country because of quacks as they used instruments which were not sterilized.

Dr Shobah Luxmi, Infectious Diseases consultnat at Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi, said that patients were at particular risk of contracting diseases or viruses at such clinics, where injections were often pushed as a primary treatment option.

“Sharing a needle or syringe for any use, including injecting drugs under the skin (skin popping), steroids, hormones or silicone, could put you at risk of HIV and other infections found in the blood like hepatitis C, she added.

She stressed the need to enforce ban on the reuse of syringes and called for the provision of safe blood transfusions.

children between 2 and 5 contract HIV in Sindh outbreak

Dr Sikandar said tha iternational and national health authorities and organisations working in Pakistan have already become active to curtail the HIV/AIDS outbreak in Sindh. He also stressed the need to control the fear among the people about spreading of the virus.

“Like the patients of diabetes and hypertension take a tablet each day, similarly the HIV positive patients can also take a single tablet daily to weaken the virus,” he added.

According to Dr Zafar Mirza, Pakistani Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Health the reported cases of HIV in Pakistan are way less than actual numbers as according to conservative estimates, there are 163,000 HIV and AIDS cases in Pakistan, of which only 25,000 are registered with the national and provincial AIDS control programmes, and of these 25,000 cases, only 16,000 are getting proper treatment.

He underlined the need to address the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. “The spread of communicable diseases exposes the deficiencies inherent in our healthcare system and our cultural practices,” he noted.

He recentluy told Pakistani media that a high-level international rapid response mission has been dispatched to to various areas especially in the Sindh provinc of Pakistan to ascertain the cause of the HIV outbreak, to advise on mitigation measures, and to suggest ways to avoid similar recurrences in future.

Responding to the HIV outbreak in Ratodero in Sindh, Dr Zafar said that the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acceded to Pakistan’s request for a thorough investigation into the outbreak, He added that the Sindh government, with the assistance of the federal government, has so far carried out blood screening of 21,375 people, of whom 681 have tested positive for HIV.

“The most striking feature of the outbreak is that of these 631 cases, 537 cases are children in the two to five years age bracket, followed by children aged between 5-15 years,” Dr Zafar said.

Referring to the potential underlying causes of HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks, Dr Zafar cited reuse of syringes, use of unscreened blood for transfusion purposes, non-adherence to protocols for infection prevention and control, and unprotected sexual practices as the key challenges.

Read on Source

Income of Communications Ministry increased by 51%, Revenue rises to Rs 43 billion

Income of Communications Ministry increased by 51%, Revenue rises to Rs 43 billion

Income of Communications Ministry increased by 51%, Revenue rises to Rs 43 billion

ISLAMABAD (MVT WebDesk): The income of the Ministry of Communications has increased by 51 percent and revenue of the ministry has risen to Rs 43 billion as per a report of performance and expenditures of the Ministry of Communications during the last eleven months issued by the federal government.

The Minister for Communications Murad Saeed has so far recovered Rs seven billion and deposited the amount to the national kitty.

The report said that billions of rupees were also recovered under the anti-encroachment campaign of the government; however, the recovery ratio during last regime was nil.

A new system containing facilities such as e-billing, e-tendering, and mobile app has been introduced in the Ministry to enhance transparency.

The report said that different projects of national highways will be completed from three to six months.

In previous government, the minister and parliamentary secretary received Rs 35, 91,000 and 48, 52,000 respectively in terms of TA & DA(s); however, the incumbent Communications Minister Murad Saeed did not spend a single penny of the national exchequer to cover the fuel or transport expenses and has not even claimed the TA&DA allowances.

PTA blocks 1862 websites containing contents related to impersonation/fake accounts

PTA blocks 1862 websites containing contents related to impersonation/fake accounts

PTA blocks 1862 websites containing contents related to impersonation/fake accounts

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has processed a total of 1,862 URLs/websites containing contents related to impersonation/fake accounts. In accordance with the Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA), the PTA is empowered to block / remove online content which is unlawful under the act including fake accounts.

The PTA has constituted a dedicated cell ‘Web Analysis Cell (WAC)’ to receive / process complaints requiring internet content regulation. A standard operating procedure (SOP) has been devised to execute the process in an effective manner.

In accordance with the SOP, complaints from individuals and stakeholders (government departments) requiring blocking / regulating web content of different categories including defamation / impersonation are received through an electronic portal, email and postal media.

At present, 30 federal and provincial government organisations / offices are assessing e-portal to register their complaints. For filing of complaints by general public, the PTA has notified a dedicated email address i.e.

On receipt of a complaint, the PTA issues necessary directions for blocking / removing the alleged content to telecom licensees. In case any content for fake account hosted on a secured platform like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the relevant administration is requested to remove the content or block the fake account.

Since laws of Pakistan do not apply on such platforms, therefore, they take action in accordance with their community standards. As far as the content removal/blocking for impersonation / fake account is concerned, the PTA has processed 1,862 such URLs/websites including 106 pages of Dailymotion, 923 accounts of Facebook, 13 of Instagram, 341 Twitter accounts, 268 accounts of YouTube, and 211 others. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has raised a Cyber Wing which reported about 85 fake accounts including 13 Facebook and 72 Twitter accounts.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

CNIC condition not applicable on purchases below Rs 50,000 - say KTBA ex president

CNIC condition not applicable on purchases below Rs 50,000 - say KTBA ex president

CNIC condition not applicable on purchases below Rs 50,000 - say KTBA ex president

KARACHI: The condition of providing CNIC details is not applicable on purchases up to Rs50,000 by a person, said Zeeshan Merchant, former vice president of Karachi Tax Bar Association (KTBA).

He highlighted key changes to sales tax law made through Finance Act, 2019 at a seminar organized by KTBA on Thursday.

He said the condition of CNIC has been waived where retailers supply goods to ordinary consumers for own consumption with transaction value not exceeding Rs50,000, including sales tax.

He said that obtaining CNICs of unregistered buyers had also been postponed till August 01, 2019.

It has also been expressly provided that the supplier will not be penalized for the wrong declaration of CNIC number by the buyer in case of sales made in good faith.

He said that through Finance Act, 2019 the threshold for cottage industry had been increased up to Rs3 million from Rs2 million.

The Finance Act, 2019 relaxed certain conditions in order to cater sales to registered sector, the condition for CNIC had been done away with provided the buyer’s NTN is mentioned on the invoice.

Asif Haroon, Senior tax practitioner while highlighting key changes to Income Tax said that various sectors of the economy had been brought under minimum tax regime.

These sectors include: commercial imports, brokerage and commission, non-resident persons for certain services, local supply of goods, execution of contracts and income from CNG stations.

He pointed out another change through which the concept of filer and non-filer had been abolished.

He said that a new Tenth Schedule has been introduced to Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 where rate of withholding tax had been enhanced by 100 percent for persons not appearing on the Active Taxpayers List (ATL).

He termed the introducing tenth schedule was another effort for documenting the economy.

Late filers can become part of ATL by paying surcharge at the applicable rates. On filing of returns, the taxpayers can claim refund of tax withheld in excess of the actual tax liability.

The period during which the names of such persons do not appear in ATL, refund will not be issued during that period.

Moreover, the said period will also not be considered for the purposes of additional compensation for delayed refund, he added.

Immunity allowed under Section 111(4) of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 has been reduced to Rs.5 million from Rs10 million for foreign remittance through banking channels.

Further displaying of business license by every person engaged in any business, profession or vocation, even where they are not required to obtain NTN.

The tax authorities have also introduced simplified tax regime for small businesses, construction businesses, medical practitioners, hospitals, educational institutions and any other sector specified, he added.

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger; new UN report reveals stubborn realities of ‘immense’ global challenge

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger; new UN report reveals stubborn realities of ‘immense’ global challenge

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger; new UN report reveals stubborn realities of ‘immense’ global challenge

After nearly a decade of progress, the number of people who suffer from hunger has slowly increased over the past three years, with about one in every nine people globally suffering from hunger today, the United Nations said in a new report released on Monday.

This fact underscores “the immense challenge” to achieving the Zero Hunger target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019.

The report, launched on the margins of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) – the main UN platform monitoring follow-up on States’ actions on the SDGs – currently under way in New York, breaks down statistics by region, and shows that hunger has risen almost 20 per cent in Africa’s subregions, areas which also have the greatest prevalence of undernourishment.

Although the pervasiveness of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean is still below seven per cent, it is slowly increasing. And in Asia, undernourishment affects 11 per cent of the population. Although southern Asia saw great progress over the last five years, at almost 15 per cent, it is still the subregion with the highest prevalence of undernourishment.

“Our actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder, not only in scale but also in terms of multisectoral collaboration,” the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) urged in their joint foreword to the report. 

Hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade.

The annual UN report also found that income inequality is rising in many of the countries where hunger is on the rise, making it even more difficult for the poor, vulnerable or marginalized to cope with economic slowdowns and downturns.

“We must foster pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities and set ourselves on track to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” the UN leaders said.

 Food insecurity
This year’s edition of the report takes a broader look at the impact of food insecurity – beyond hunger.

It introduces, for the first time, a second indicator for monitoring Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Target 2.1 on the Prevalence of Moderate or Severe Food Insecurity that shows that 17.2 per cent of the world’s population, or 1.3 billion people, lacked regular access to “nutritious and sufficient food”.

“Even if they were not necessarily suffering from hunger, they are at greater risk of various forms of malnutrition and poor health”, according to the report.

The combination of moderate and severe levels of food insecurity brings the estimate to about two billion people, where in every continent, women are slightly more food insecure than men.

Low birthweight still a major challenge
Turning to children, the report disclosed that since 2012, no progress has been made in reducing low birthweight.

Additionally, while the number of under-age-five children affected by stunting has decreased over the past six years by 10 per cent globally, the pace of progress is too slow to meet the 2030 target of halving the number of stunted children.

Furthermore, overweight and obesity continue to increase throughout all regions, particularly among school-age children and adults.

Income inequality increases the likelihood of severe food insecurity – UN report

To safeguard food security and nutrition, the 2019 report stresses the importance to economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles when they arrive, while avoiding cuts in essential services.

It maintains that the uneven pace of economic recovery “is undermining efforts to end hunger and malnutrition, with hunger increasing in many countries where the economy has slowed down or contracted”, mostly in middle-income nations.

Moreover, economic slowdowns or downturns disproportionally undermine food security and nutrition where inequalities are greater.

“Income inequality increases the likelihood of severe food insecurity, and this effect is 20 per cent higher for low-income countries compared with middle-income countries”, the report spells out.

The report concludes with guidance on what short- and long-term policies must be undertaken to safeguard food security and nutrition during episodes of economic turmoil or in preparation for them, such as integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts using pro-poor and inclusive structural transformations.


Over 820 mln people hungry in 2018: UN report

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 (Xinhua) -- World hunger is on the rise in absolute number and more than 820 million people were hungry in 2018, a UN report said Monday.

After decades of steady decline, the trend in world hunger, as measured by the prevalence of undernourishment, reverted in 2015, said "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019" report launched at the UN headquarters in New York.

While the ratio remained largely unchanged in the past three years at slightly below 11 percent, the absolute number of people who suffer from hunger slowly increased, reaching 821.6 million in 2018, it said.

The 2018 figure compared with 811.7 million people in 2017, 796.5 million people in 2016 and 785.4 million people in 2015.

The report was produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.

According to FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva who spoke at the launch, this year, the report used a new indicator -- the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) -- to measure the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity.

While severe food insecurity is associated with hunger, people experiencing moderate food insecurity face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have been forced to compromise on the quality or quantity of their food.

FIES shows an estimated 2 billion people have experienced moderate or severe levels of food insecurity, amounting to 26.4 percent of the world population.

In a geographic breakdown, hunger is on the rise in almost all subregions of Africa, where the prevalence of undernourishment has reached 22.8 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. The Caribbean also sees a high level of hunger, which stands at 18.4 percent.

In Asia, despite great progress in the last five years, Southern Asia is still the subregion where the prevalence of undernourishment is highest, at almost 14.7 percent, followed by Western Asia, at over 12.4 percent.

Looking across regions, the undernourished population is distributed unevenly, with the majority living in Asia -- more than 500 million. The number has been increasing steadily in Africa, where it reached almost 260 million people in 2018, with more than 90 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the launch of the report, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, "Using new data from UNICEF and WHO, we were able to report for the first time on low birthweight, which is a key risk factor for death, as well as stunting, lower IQ and a higher risk of being overweight, obese and one day developing heart disease or diabetes."

The report said one in seven newborns, or 20.5 million babies globally, suffered from low birthweight in 2015, and no progress has been made in reducing low birthweight since 2012.

Moreover, the number of children under five years affected by stunting, by contrast, has decreased by 10 percent in the past six years, but still 149 million children are stunted.

Hunger is on the rise globally, and so is obesity in almost all countries, contributing to 4 million deaths globally, the report said.

The prevalence of overweight is increasing in all age groups, with particularly steep increases among school-age children and adults.

One reason behind the trend, the report said, is that most school-age children do not eat enough fruit or vegetables, regularly consume fast food and carbonated soft drinks, and are not physically active on a daily basis.

At least 28 dead, dozens missing after Neelum Valley flash floods

At least 28 dead, dozens missing after Neelum Valley flash floods

At least 28 dead, dozens missing after Neelum Valley flash floods

MUZAFFARABAD: At least 28 people have died and dozens more, including women and children, are missing after heavy rains and flash floods wreaked havoc in Azad Kashmir’s Neelum Valley on Monday.

Over 150 houses in the Laswa area of the valley were damaged and dozens of people were swept away in floods that officials said were caused by a cloudburst.

Many structures in Laswa’s main market, including two mosques, were also completely destroyed. Traffic flow in the area has been severely disrupted, while cell phone and internet services are also affected.

Several people are still stranded in their houses and efforts are underway to evacuate them.

Teams including officials from the district administration, disaster management authority and local police are conducting rescue operations in the area.

State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) Director Operations Saaedur Rehman Qureshi confirmed the death toll and said it was likely to rise over the coming hours.

He said the deceased include 10 Islamic missionaries from the Tablighi Jamaat, four of whom were from Lahore, five from Faisalabad and one from Sheikhupura.

Officials also confirmed the deaths of five people, including a little girl, after a touring jeep fell into River Neelum. One person survived the accident and was admitted to hospital in critical condition.

“We are frantically searching for more missing people. This is a popular tourist spot so there is a strong probability of the death toll increasing. An emergency control room has been established in Muzaffarabad (058-21921643) to supervise and coordinate the rescue operation.”

Cloudburst is a rare phenomenon in which a large amount of water pours down on the ground due to the burst of clouds. Normally rainfall over 100 mm per hour is considered as a cloudburst.

Last week, a flood hit several villages in Golen Gol area of Chitral district after a glacial lake burst its banks overnight, toppling electricity poles and inundating roads and farmlands.

The glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) occurred after the Jam Ashpar glacier – a popular tourist destination in Chitral – exploded overnight.

This was the first GLOF since 2015, when a similar incident killed at least three people and caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure and affected more than a quarter of a million residents in Chitral.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Govt allocates a record 20bn for Sports, Tourism for next fiscal year-2019-20

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Govt allocates a record 20bn for Sports, Tourism for next fiscal year-2019-20

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Govt allocates a record 20bn for Sports, Tourism for next fiscal year-2019-20

PESHAWAR: The government of KP has allocated a record of Rs. 20 billion for a total of 75 schemes of Ministry of Tourism, Sports, Archeology, Culture and Youth Affairs including 43 ongoing and 32 new schemes for the next fiscal year-2019-20.

Presenting budget-2019-20 in the Provincial Assembly, Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said the top priority of the govt is promotion of tourism sector and sports.

He said for tourism Rs 3.7 billion allocated for tourism promotion and destinations development through World Bank assisted under KITE program. He disclosed that Rs. 1 billion has been earmarked for tourism roads in the Malakand and Hazara divisions and for promotion of unexplored tourist spots and Rs. 150m for access to Sheikh Badin tourist site in Dera Ismail Khan.

He said that Rs.300m for various tourism activities across the province, construction of recreational park at Hund Swabi, Rs 500m for Development of 1000 playing facilities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rs 350m for establishment and up-gradation of 7 sports complexes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rs. 70m for promotion of hockey and squash throughout the province and establishment of the tourism police were the other projects enlisted in ADP. Provincial Finance Minister said that a total of Rs. 3806.000m has been allocated for 43 ongoing and Rs. 2090.240m for 32 new schemes.

There are 43 ongoing schemes for which Rs. 3806.000m has been allocated and 32 new schemes with an allocation of Rs. 2090.240m, thus the aggregated total reached to Rs. 5896.240m. In the 43 ongoing schemes Rs. 3806.000m allocated wherein it has multi-purpose gigantic sports projects from Chitral to Dera Ismail Khan, tourism projects and projects for youth affairs.

He said, despite financial crunch facing by the government, it has introducing 32 new schemes with an allocation of Rs. 2090.240m. Besides this there is a separate allocation of Rs. 5.5bn for the merged tribal districts for the development of sports infrastructure and Rs. 5.5bn has been allocated for the construction of 1000 grounds at Tehsil and District levels.

Out of the total 5.5bn Rs. 2.2bn would be spend in the year-2019-20 in the first phase and similarly in the second phase Rs. 2.3bn would be spend in 2020-21. In the overall break, the department of archeology would get Rs. 433.052m for the total 15 schemes including 13 ongoing and two new schemes.

Rs. 418.052m has been allocated for 13 ongoing schemes and Rs. 1600 allocated for two new schemes.

The department of Culture would get Rs. 200m for five schemes including two ongoing schemes with an allocation of Rs. 145.000 million and Rs. 55.000m for three new schemes.

A record increase has also been made in the sports budget that touches Rs. 6 billion.

A total of 2157.937m allocated for 33 different schemes including 19 ongoing schemes with an allocation of Rs. 1740.697m, and Rs. 417.240m allocated for 14 new schemes.  For the next fiscal year a total of Rs. 2865.251m earmarked for a total 20 different ongoing and new schemes with Rs. 1302.251m for eight ongoing projects and Rs. 1563.000m for 12 new schemes. The youth affairs Directorate would get Rs. 240.000m for a total of two schemes – on is ongoing and the other is new.

Rs. 200.000m allocated for the ongoing projects and for one new scheme, Rs. 40.000 million allocated respectively.

The Shiekh Badin tourism site would cost Rs. 417m, formulation and implementation of Marketing mix strategy for tourist destination in KP Rs. 25m, establishment of Tourism Complex at Peshawar Rs. 80mn, Construction of Recreational Park at Hund Swabi Rs. 90m, holding of important tourism festivals in KP Rs. 100mn, small scale tourism promotion activities in KP Rs. 80m, development of entertainment areas and establishment of recreational facilities for promotion of tourism in KP Rs. 100mn, strengthening of planning cell of tourism and sports department Rs. 30m, establishment of Sports Complex in Karak Rs. 300mn, establishment of Academic Sports Degree Awarding Discipline at Islamia College Peshawar Rs. 10.000 million, Establishment of 2 Sports Stadium (1 for UCs and one for UCs in Peshawar Rs. 250mn, up-gradation of Peshawar Sports Complex, Qayyum Stadium Rs. 480mn, establishment of Sports Stadium near GT Road around UC Chamkani/Lala Kallay, Peshawar Rs. 132.760 million, establishment and Rehabilitation and up-gradation of Sports facilities in District Mardan Rs. 415mn, construction of multi-purpose International standard Indoor Gym in PK-21 District Buner Rs. 180mn and establishment of Hockey turf at Swat Rs. 80mn.

The govt has allocated Rs. 2.5 billion for roads development of tourism sites in Malakand, Rs. 2.4 billion for Hazara and establishment of Female Indoor Sports facilities at Divisional Headquarters in KP Rs. 600.000 million.

The motor-sports arena would be developed at cost of Rs. 96.000 million as the total project would cost Rs. 8.106.469 million on these ongoing project. The tourism has some key projects for the promotion of tourism sector as declared by the govt to be in its top most priority along with sports and youth affairs.

Main focus has been given for the approach roads to the tourism sites likewise a road approach to Shiekh Badin tourist site the govt has allocated Rs. 417.000 mn.‑APP

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims, asks DAVID ROSE

Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims, asks DAVID ROSE

Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims, asks DAVID ROSE

  • Shahbaz Sharif leads Pakistan's main opposition party and was a chief minister 
  • Up to £500million of UK foreign aid has been poured into his province, Punjab
  • But, investigators claim, his family was laundering some of the money in Britain 

Meet Shahbaz Sharif. He’s the leader of Pakistan’s main opposition party and, before losing power last year, spent ten years as chief minister of the country’s biggest province, Punjab – home to 110 million people.

For years he was feted as a Third World poster boy by Britain’s Department for International Development, which poured more than £500 million of UK taxpayers’ money into his province in the form of aid.

Last year the head of DFID’s Pakistan office Joanna Rowley lauded his ‘dedication’, while her colleague Richard Montgomery gushed that under Shahbaz, Punjab was ‘reforming at a pace rarely seen’.

Shahbaz visited Downing Street when David Cameron was Prime Minister, has held talks with successive international development secretaries – Andrew Mitchell, Justine Greening and Penny Mordaunt – and hosted Boris Johnson when he was Foreign Secretary.

Last year he was guest of honour at a party to celebrate the Queen’s birthday at the British High Commission in Lahore, photographed toasting Her Majesty with mango juice.

The leader of Pakistan's main opposition party Shahbaz Sharif pictured with then UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, in November 2016. Investigators say the politician, who was also chief minister of the Punjab, has embezzled tens of millions of pounds of UK public money and laundered it in Britain +4
The leader of Pakistan's main opposition party Shahbaz Sharif pictured with then UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, in November 2016. Investigators say the politician, who was also chief minister of the Punjab, has embezzled tens of millions of pounds of UK public money and laundered it in Britain

Yet, say investigators, all the time that DFID was heaping him and his government with praise and taxpayers’ cash, Shahbaz and his family were embezzling tens of millions of pounds of public money and laundering it in Britain.

They are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from DFID-funded aid projects.

Last night, Shahbaz’s son Suleman denied the allegations against him and his family, saying they were the product of a ‘political witch-hunt’ ordered by Pakistan’s new prime minister, the former cricketer Imran Khan. ‘No allegation has been proven. There is no evidence of kickbacks,’ he said.

According to the watchdog Transparency International, Pakistan comes just 117th in the world integrity index and ‘corruption is a major obstacle’ there. DFID admits it is ‘well aware’ that Pakistan is a ‘corrupt environment’. However, since 2014, DFID has given more aid to Pakistan than any other country – up to £463 million a year.

Last week, The Mail on Sunday – which has campaigned against Britain’s policy of spending 0.7 per cent of national income, currently about £14 billion a year, on foreign aid – was given exclusive access to some of the results of a high-level probe ordered by Khan, who won elections last year. We were also able to interview key witnesses held on remand in jail, including a UK citizen Aftab Mehmood.

He claims he laundered millions on behalf of Shahbaz’s family from a nondescript office in Birmingham – without attracting suspicion from Britain’s financial regulators, who inspected his books regularly.

Last year, this newspaper disclosed the case against Pakistan’s former prime minister, Shahbaz’s brother Nawaz Sharif, who had built up a London property empire worth £32 million.

Convicted of corruption, he is now serving a seven-year jail sentence. But according to Pakistani investigators, the wealth accrued by Shahbaz and his family is still greater.

A flow diagram showing how some of the UK taxpayers' cash was laundered by the politician. As much as £500million of the UK foreign aid fund was poured into his former province, Punjab, by Britain's foreign aid budget +4
A flow diagram showing how some of the UK taxpayers' cash was laundered by the politician. As much as £500million of the UK foreign aid fund was poured into his former province, Punjab, by Britain's foreign aid budget

The Mail on Sunday can reveal:

Legal documents allege that Shahbaz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from a fund established to rebuild the lives of earthquake victims – to which DFID gave £54 million from UK taxpayers;
Investigators have launched inquiries into alleged thefts from DFID-funded schemes to give poor women cash to lift them out of poverty and to provide healthcare for rural families;
Stolen millions were laundered in Birmingham and then allegedly transferred to Shahbaz’s family’s accounts by UK branches of banks including Barclays and HSBC;
Self-confessed Birmingham money-launderer Aftab Mehmood told the MoS that he had his accounts audited every three months by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – who failed to notice anything was amiss;
Britain’s National Crime Agency is working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is discussing the possible extradition of members of Shahbaz’s family who have taken refuge in London;
Aware of how widespread corruption is in Pakistan, DFID has been running a £1.75 million project designed to ‘reduce the exposure to fraud and corruption’ of UK aid. But although it says it is already vigilant, DFID admits that, to date, it has referred just one individual to the Pakistani authorities for trying to steal UK funds.
Last night, former International Development Secretary Priti Patel, who is widely tipped to rejoin the Cabinet if Boris Johnson becomes PM, demanded an inquiry. She told the MoS: ‘As someone who has served as Secretary of State at DFID, I find it shocking that British funds may have been abused, especially given the background of poverty in Pakistan which aid is meant to alleviate.

‘We spend millions on anti-corruption initiatives and yet it seems clear that Britain is still a money-launderers’ paradise.

‘It’s vital we now co-operate with the Pakistani investigation, to ensure those allegedly responsible come up against the full force of the law.’

According to Duncan Hames, policy director of Transparency International, corruption often first comes to light through evidence of money- laundering: ‘First you identify suspicious transactions in the banking system and then you follow the money trail back to discover where they came from.’

Indeed, this is how the investigation into Shahbaz and his family began. After winning election on a pledge to combat corruption, Imran Khan set up a special team to deal with it, the Asset Recovery Unit, headed by a UK-educated barrister. They have examined a series of suspicious transactions running to many millions and shown that Shahbaz’s family’s assets grew enormously during the years he was in power.

A confidential investigation report, seen by this newspaper, says the family was worth just £150,000 in 2003 but by 2018 their total assets had grown to about £200 million. Among other properties, Shahbaz owns a 53,000 sq ft palace in Lahore, which has its own large security force.

According to the report, the family’s legitimate income sources could not account for their riches.

The money, the report says, was channelled from abroad – via several elaborate money-laundering schemes, in which Britain played a central role.

The report claims laundered payments were made to Shahbaz’s children, his wife and his son-in-law Ali Imran. But it adds that Shahbaz ‘was the principal beneficiary of this money-laundering enterprise, by way of spending, acquisition of properties and their expansion into palatial houses where he lived.’

One of the most audacious schemes was said to be focused on Birmingham. The report lists 202 ‘personal remittances’ from the UK and the United Arab Emirates into the bank accounts of Shahbaz’s wife, two sons and two daughters.

Under Pakistani law, before the recipients could accept these payments into their accounts, they had to sign ‘due diligence’ forms saying they had been sent as ‘investments’ by people they knew personally.

Samples – signed by Shahbaz’s family – have been seen by this newspaper. But investigators claim the reality was different.

British high commissioner Thomas Drew and chief guest Shahbaz Sharif toast to the Queen's birthday in Lahore +4
British high commissioner Thomas Drew and chief guest Shahbaz Sharif toast to the Queen's birthday in Lahore

‘We noticed that someone called Manzoor Ahmed had sent a series of 13 payments from Birmingham worth £1.2 million to Shahbaz’s wife Nusrat and his sons Hamza and Suleman,’ said one investigator, who asked not to be named. ‘But who was he?’

He was traced through his identity card, whose number was on the forms. In the words of the report, he turned out to be ‘a small home-based tuck shop owner’ in a remote village, who scraped a living selling poppadoms. Needless to say, he had never had £1.2 million, nor travelled to England.

Another man who was said to have sent about £850,000 to Shahbaz’s family from Birmingham via HSBC was Mehboob Ali, a Lahore ‘street hawker’, who lived from taking tiny commissions from collecting old banknotes and changing them into new ones.

When I met him in Lahore, he was visibly terrified. He said: ‘When I discovered my identity had been stolen, my life overturned. I never met any of these people. But my old clients think I must have done something wrong, because the investigators interviewed me.

‘Now I try to live by selling glasses of lime juice and it’s hard to feed my family.’

Sending the money to Shahbaz’s family apparently from these and other poverty-stricken ‘investors’ was Briton Aftab Mehmood, the proprietor of Usman International, a money-changing firm in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham.

Arrested during a visit to Pakistan in April, he agreed to meet me in a hot, airless room at Lahore’s city jail.

He explained how the money-laundering worked. ‘I would just receive a fax from Pakistan with the names of the people I was to wire money to. I knew who they were: they were famous. It wasn’t my business to ask where the money came from. I simply transferred it, and I did it through the proper channels.

‘I was audited by HMRC every three months. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t money-laundering. I always passed with flying colours. That meant I had no problem with the banks.’

So where had this money come from? In fact, say investigators, it had been taken as kickbacks and ‘commissions’ from government-run projects and delivered by ‘cash boys’ in bulging sacks to the office of Mehmood’s Lahore contact, Shahed Rafiq. In jail, Rafiq confirmed this, adding: ‘I don’t know where the cash came from. It was just business.’

The last part of the scheme was ingenious. How did Rafiq ensure that when Mehmood wired money to the accounts in Pakistan, he was not out of pocket? The answer is that Mehmood’s company in Birmingham also did legitimate money transfers and had thousands of clients who wanted to send money to relatives in Pakistan.

Shahbaz’s son, Suleman, told the MoS: ‘This is a witch-hunt against my family. It is similar to what happened at Guantanamo Bay, and under apartheid in South Africa. There is a clique around Imran Khan (pictured) which is trying to shut out the opposition and they are picking out my family members in order to harass them.’ +4
Shahbaz’s son, Suleman, told the MoS: ‘This is a witch-hunt against my family. It is similar to what happened at Guantanamo Bay, and under apartheid in South Africa. There is a clique around Imran Khan (pictured) which is trying to shut out the opposition and they are picking out my family members in order to harass them.’

If he was asked to send £100,000 to one of Shahbaz’s sons, he would simply wait until he had funds from UK customers who wanted to send equivalent sums to Pakistan.

Then, instead of wiring the money to his customers’ relatives, it is claimed he would send it under the names of fake investors to Shahbaz’s family’s bank accounts. In Lahore, Rafiq would give the relatives the stolen money which had been brought by the cash boys. The investigators say payments made by this method totalled £21 million – but were merely the tip of the iceberg.

They say they have traced a further £9.1 million from ‘ghost’ investors who do not exist, and fake loans and investments in family companies. Their value, they claim, amounts to a further £160 million.

Having established the scale of the money-laundering, the investigation is now moving into phase two – finding out where and how the laundered funds were stolen.

This is a witch-hunt against my family. It is similar to what happened at Guantanamo Bay, and under apartheid in South Africa. There is a clique around Imran Khan which is trying to shut out the opposition and they are picking out my family members in order to harass them  - Shahbaz’s son, Suleman
One case has already come to court – a guilty plea by Ikram Naveed, the former finance director of ERRA, Pakistan’s Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction Authority, set up after the devastating quake of 2005, which received £54 million from DFID between then and 2012, both for immediate relief and long-term schemes to rebuild victims’ lives.

Naveed is described in Pakistan as the ‘right hand man’ of Ali Imran – Shahbaz’s son-in-law who is married to his daughter Rabia.

Naveed pleaded guilty and confessed last November to embezzling about £1.5 million from ERRA during the period DFID was funding it, of which he passed on almost £1 million to Ali Imran.

Naveed said half of this was transferred directly from ERRA’s accounts – a claim confirmed by banking records. Ali Imran has been summoned to answer questions from investigators, but has failed to appear – because he is in London, and refuses to speak to them. He did not respond to a request for comment from the MoS. Other family members, who documents suggest received laundered millions, have also sought refuge in Britain, including Shahbaz’s son, Suleman.

An internal DFID report, drawn up in 2008, warned that ERRA ‘had yet to develop effective and transparent accountability systems’. Nevertheless, DFID continued pumping millions into ERRA. The report stated that DFID aid to ERRA was not ‘earmarked’, but paid into its general budget.

Yesterday, a DFID spokesman said: ‘The UK’s financial support to ERRA over this period was for payment by results – which means we only gave money once the agreed work, which was primarily focused on building schools, was completed, and the work audited and verified.

‘The UK taxpayer got exactly what it paid for and helped the vulnerable victims of a devastating earthquake. We are confident our robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud.’

The investigators are now examining evidence that other DFID-funded schemes were embezzled.

One is the Pakistan National Cash Transfers programme, for which DFID has provided nearly £300 million since 2012, giving payments of £100 a month to mothers in poor families. Before Imran Khan became prime minister, inquiries had begun into payments to ‘ghost’ claimants which were being siphoned off – but the investigation was shut down while Shahbaz’s party was in power. It has now been reopened, and investigators are conducting a fresh survey of how the money was spent, and whether women who got the stipend actually exist.

A further investigation is under way into alleged thefts from maternal and child health programmes.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz has already been summoned numerous times to answer investigators’ questions, while his son, Hamza, is being held for questioning in custody.

Shahbaz’s son, Suleman, told the MoS: ‘This is a witch-hunt against my family. It is similar to what happened at Guantanamo Bay, and under apartheid in South Africa. There is a clique around Imran Khan which is trying to shut out the opposition and they are picking out my family members in order to harass them.’

Asked about the payments he allegedly received from the poppadom seller and other questionable sources, he said: ‘The law allows foreign remittances and each and every penny I received came through proper banking channels, cleared by the State Bank of Pakistan. [The investigators] are just releasing funny stories in the media. I deny their version. I have done everything according to the law.’

Imran Khan’s Asset Recovery Unit chief Shahzad Akbar said yesterday: ‘Our investigations have already uncovered evidence of money-laundering on a vast scale, much of it conducted via the UK.

‘The international community needs to get much more serious about this: despite concern expressed by world leaders, money can still be plundered from developing countries such as Pakistan and washed in the global banking system with only minimal checks. Our investigations into the sources of the money which was laundered are ongoing, but it already appears that some of it – perhaps very large sums – may have been stolen from aid and development projects financed by British taxpayers.

‘There have been claims that the current government is doing all this for political reasons.

‘Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘The people of Pakistan have suffered from organised criminal activity on a colossal scale and this has damaged the country’s economy. If we did not pursue these investigations, we would be negligent in our duty.

‘We are working closely with the National Crime Agency and the Home Office. We are grateful for this assistance and we hope it will ensure that theft and money-laundering of this magnitude will never happen again.’

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