The "Layalpur Post" Global

10 questions if FATF is biased against Pakistan

The decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to keep Pakistan in its grey list till June 2021 despite the fact that it addressed 24 out of 27 action items has raised serious questions over the approach of global terror-financing and money-laundering watchdog.

ISLAMABAD, March 16, 2021(APP): The decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to keep Pakistan in its grey list till June 2021 despite the fact that it addressed 24 out of 27 action items has raised serious questions over the approach of global terror-financing and money-laundering watchdog. Ignoring to include India and Afghanistan in its list even with credible evidence available, it is not out of place to point that the FATF accountability laws are being used for splintering and fracturing strategically selective countries like Pakistan.

Here are the 10 questions on FATF’s discriminatory approach towards Pakistan:

1.Why FATF shut its eyes after the United States Treasury department’s Finance Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) exposed the involvement of Indian Banks, including state-owned banks in $1.53 billion money laundering used for terror-financing?

2.Why the same 27-point action plan has not been handed over to India on proof of India’s terror-financing to outfits including DAESH and TTP?

3.Why FATF has not greylisted India despite clear evidence of human rights violations in Kashmir?

4.Why the Indian spying on Pakistan’s soil through its serving navy commander Kulbhushan Jadhav never became FATF’s case of discussion?

5.Why Afghanistan is not on any list of FATF despite the fact that multiple international and U.S. authorized reports pointed out huge amounts of illegal money flowing in and out of Afghanistan?

6.Why Pakistani journalists at the virtual plenary session at FATF Headquarters in February were not given a chance to question but an opportunity was given to several Indian reporters?

7.The Greylisting caused $38 billion direct loss to Pakistan. For a poor economy like Pakistan, badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic’s burden, why FATF failed to translate its appreciation practically by not upgrading Pakistan out to the white list?

8.Why Pakistan was subjected to perhaps the most challenging and comprehensive action plan ever given to any country despite it made sacrifices in the war on terror with its economy suffering $250 billion loss?

9.Why FAFT has not clarified the apprehension that international organizations dealing with tax matters and illicit financing should not be used as an instrument to pressurize developing countries?

10.Isn’t Pakistan’s presence among under-developed countries currently on the FATF grey list is an easy example of ‘Pick the Odd one Out’? – Albania, Barbados, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Morocco, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Senegal, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

In the last meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) the body appreciated Pakistan for the significant progress made on the entire action plan. “To date, Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items,” FATF stated in its plenary meeting held on February 25. The FATF also acknowledged the continued high-level political commitment of Pakistan to combat terrorist financing which, according to the FATF statement, has led to significant progress across comprehensive countering financing of terrorism plan.

Federal Minister for Industries and Production, Muhammad Hammad Azhar said that Pakistan had completed almost 90% of its current Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action-plan with 24 out of 27 items rated as largely addressed and the remaining 3 items partially addressed. According to a timeline by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, there has been an improvement in Pakistan’s relations with the Financial Action Task Force.

PM discusses bilateral ties, COVID-19 with crown prince Abu Dhabi

 

ISLAMABAD, Feb 06, 2021(APP,LPP): Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday had a telephone conversation with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and discussed the bilateral and regional ties as well as the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The two leaders reaffirmed the existing close fraternal relations between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, and reiterated the resolve to further solidify and strengthen the multifaceted bilateral relationship, a press release issued by Prime Minister office said. They also exchanged views on COVID-19 pandemic and regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, agreed to continue working closely for enhancing bilateral ties as well as cooperation in multilateral organizations.

PM for special focus on skill development to nurture academia-market linkage

 

ISLAMABAD, Feb 06, 2021(APP,LPP): Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday while stressing on vocational training and skill development said imparting modern skill training could better help explore youth’s potential. Chairing a meeting for promotion of knowledge economy in the country, the prime minister said technical and professional training should be designed in accordance with the market’s needs besides building a strong linkage between educational institutions and the market.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, secretaries of planning and education ministries, head of Prime Minister’s Task Force on Science and Technology Dr Attaur Rehman, Professor Shoaib Khan, Professor Nasir Khan and senior officers attended the meeting. Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood apprised the meeting of the various initiatives for promotion of knowledge economy in the country while Dr Attaur Rehman put forward proposals to promote artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other sciences.

Addressing the meeting, the prime minister said the country’s future was linked with the promotion of education. He said as a considerable size of country’s population comprises youth, their potential could be utilized only by equipping them with modern sciences. Calling the promotion of education as government’s priority, Imran Khan said it would play it’s full part to accomplish the goal.

He said the government’s educational reforms were not merely meant to elevate the education standards but also inculcate high moral values in the students’ personalities. Moreover, the purpose of introducing subject of Seerat-un-Nabi (Peace Be Upon Him) in higher classes was to acquaint the students with the Islamic teachings.

Kashmir will now head towards freedom: PM Imran Khanhopes

ISLAMABAD, Feb 06, 2021(APP,LPP): Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed the hope that Kashmir will now head towards freedom as Indian designs to crush the Kashmiri people through unilateral actions of August 5 last year have also failed. “They (India) decided to crush the Kashmiris on August 5, 2019, who rather stood more resolute and firm. They (India) cannot suppress the Kashmiri people for long,” the prime minister said talking to a private television channel (Hum News) on Friday night after addressing a public gathering in Kotli in connection with the Kashmir Solidarity Day.

Imran Khan said no one could suppress a population for long as evident from history. When a nation decides to achieve freedom, no force can oppress them, he added. He said the world had understood the seriousness of Kashmir issue, which was raised at international level, including the United Nations Security Council. “That is why I am hopeful, it will now move towards freedom,” he reiterated. Commenting about the revelations of EU DisinfoLab, the prime minister said India had a clout abroad for being a big country and market. It tried to isolate Pakistan but contrarily, the country had got unprecedented international acceptability as compared to the past.

To a question, the prime minister said he was unsure whether the Biden administration would indulge in the mediation of Kashmir dispute, as offered by his predecessor Donald Trump. However, he added, the sanity had prevailed in the world vis-à-vis the issue. After 50 years, the issue was discussed by the UNSC thrice, which showed that it had become an international issue. He said it was now difficult for India to prolong its atrocities as the world was witnessing the situation. Pakistan had offered talks to India provided it restored the Article 370 to revive the special status of the territory.

About the opposition’s criticism, Imran Khan said he would be turned good for them if he gave them an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) in their corruption cases. He said the opposition parties could hold a long march but the people would never take to streets to protect their corruption. In Lebanon, South America and Iraq, the people took to the streets against the corruption of their leaders, not to protect that, he remarked. Referring to the Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif, he said having laundered public money, he was sitting abroad along with his sons, nephews and brother-in-law, and expected the people in Pakistan to protest for him.

He said the government would try to bring Nawaz Sharif back as there were international laws allowing that, though the extradition was a lengthy process. He said the people were aware of the government’s efforts to turn around the economic situation, which were also coming to fruition in the form of boost in exports and textile industry. The people, he said, also knew that the incumbent government had inherited the a debt-burdened country. About the opposition’s refusal to accept Justice (retd) Azmat Saeed as head of the Broadsheet committee, he said they were habitual of accepting only their favourite judges.

President signs ordinance for Senate polls through open ballot

ISLAMABAD, Feb 06, 2021 (APP, LPP): President Dr Arif Alvi Saturday signed an ordinance amending the Election Act 2017 to provide for holding the Senate election through open ballot. Through Election (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, the president amended sub-section VI of section 122 of the Election Act 2017. The ordinance, released by the President House, will come into force if the Supreme Court, hearing Reference No 1 of 2021, opined that the matter was not in its purview.

In such a case, the Senate election scheduled in March this year would be held through open ballot. “Provided that in case the Supreme Court of Pakistan gives an opinion in Reference No 1 of 2021 filed under Article 186 of the Constitution that elections for the members of Senate do not fall within the purview of Article 226 of the Constitution, the poll for elections for members of the Senate to be held in March, 2021 and thereafter shall be conducted by the Commission through open and identifiable ballot,” the ordinance says.

Moreover, according to the ordinance, the Election Commission would show the ballot to the political party of it requested for the same after the election. “Provided further that after the elections for members of Senate, if the head of the political party requests the Commission to show the ballot cast by any voting member of his party, the Commission shall show the same to the head of the political party or his nominee.” Following is the text of the ordinance:

AN ORDINANCE
further to amend the Elections Act, 2017

WHEREAS it is expedient further to amend the Elections Act, 2017 (XXXIII of 2017),

AND WHEREAS the Senate and the National Assembly are not in session and the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action:

NOW, THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 89 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to make and promulgate the following Ordinance:—

1.Short title and commencement: – (1) This Ordinance shall be called the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance. 2021.
(2) It shall come into force at once.
(3) It extend to the whole of Pakistan.

2. Amendment of section 81, Act XXXIII of 2017.– In the Elections Act, 2017 (XXXIII of 2017), hereinafter called as the said Act, in section 81, in sub-section (1), for the word “An”, the expression “Subject to section 122, an” shall be substituted.

3. Amendment of section 122, Act XXXIII of 2017.– In the said Act, in section 122, in sub-section (6), for full stop at the end, a colon shall be substituted and thereafter, the following two provisos shall be added. namely –

“Provided that in case the Supreme Court of Pakistan gives an opinion in Reference No 1 of 2021 filed under Article 186 of the Constitution, that elections for the members of Senate do not fall within the purview of Article 226 of the Constitution, the poll for elections for members of the Senate to be held in March, 2021 and thereafter shall be conducted by the Commission through open and identifiable ballot:

Provided further that after the elections for members of Senate, if the head of the political party requests the Commission to show the ballot cast by any voting member of his party, the Commission shall show the same to the head of the political party or his nominee.”

4. Amendment of section 185, Act XXXIII of 2017.– In the said Act, in section 185, for the word “An”, the expression “Subject to section 122, an” shall be substituted.

Pakistan High Commission Canada marks 5th Feb. asKashmir Solidarity Day

ISLAMABAD, Feb 6, 2021 (APP, LPP): Pakistan High Commission in Ottawa and Consulate General of Pakistan in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal arranged a series of programmes, webinars and media interviews to highlight the human rights violations in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and express solidarity with Kashmiris facing the worst kind of oppression under illegal Indian occupation.

The day’s leading event was a high-level webinar hosted by the High Commission and Consulate General Toronto and Vancouver and attended by AJK President Sardar Masood Khan, High Commissioner Raza Bashir Tarar and leading human rights activists, including Karan Rodman, Robert Fantina, Ken Stone and Dr. Zafar Bangash, a press release issued by the High Commission said.

Raza Bashir Tarar made introductory and closing remarks while the keynote address was given President Sardar Masood Khan who called Kashmir a human rights Armageddon that the world could ill-afford to ignore. Raza Bashir Tarar said that there was no way to whitewash and spin the appalling human rights situation in IIOJK. He said it was heartening to note that India’s elaborate ruse was finally unravelling as in latest debacle in the form of EU DisinfoLab and the world was waking up to the fact that India was not all about Namaste, Yoga and Non-Violence and all these things were masking something very sinister and terrible.

Meanwhile, local Canadian human rights and civil society organisations and groups also arranged separate webinars on the Kashmir Solidarity Day, including one arranged by Justice for All Canada which was attended among others by Chairman Kashmir Solidarity Council Javed Rathore, Member UK Parliament Afzal Khan, Congresswoman RashidaTlaib, George Washington University Prof Dr. Imtiaz Khan and Karen Rodman.

Kashmir Committee Ottawa also arranged a webinar which was also attended and addressed by High Commissioner Raza Bashir Tarar. President All Parties International Kashmir Coordination Committee Great Britain Nazir Ahmed Qureshi, Lord Qurban Hussain and Carleton University Ottawa’s Prof Rehani Hashmi also addressed the webinar. Similarly, Canadian Muslim Media Club also arranged an online seminar on ‘Conflict in South Asia: Its Ramification on Regional Prosperity’ which was chaired by Consul General of Pakistan Vancouver Janbaz Khan who used the event to highlight the dangers lingering Kashmir issue posed to the regional peace and stability.

The Pakistan High Commission also arranged a virtual exhibition of paintings, drawings, billboards, posters, streamers and bridge-banners highlighting the importance of Kashmir Solidarity Day. Special documentaries and songs dedicated to the Kashmir struggle were also broadcast on the social and local electronic media. High Commissioner Raza Bashir Tarar also attended an hour-long exclusive programme in the prime time of Toronto 360 TV in which he highlighted the Indian brazenness and bravado in subjecting the defenceless Kashmiris to endless atrocities.

Anti-coup protest on streets of Myanmar's second city

MANDALAY, February 5, 2021: A group of protesters waved banners and chanted anti-coup slogans in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay on Thursday in the first such street protest against this week’s army takeover, images on social media showed. Video on Facebook showed around 20 people outside Mandalay Medical University. One banner read “People protest against military coup”. “Our arrested leaders, release now, release now,” the protesters chanted.

Myanmar’s army seized power on Monday, overthrowing popular elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is detained and now faces possible charges for import infringements over the alleged possession of six unauthorised walkie-talkies. Previous Myanmar juntas had a history of bloody suppression of street protests.

Torture allegation high in Afghan detention centres: UN report

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 05, 2021(APP,LPP): “Torture and ill-treatment” of detainees persist in Afghan prisons, with nearly a third of those accused of security and terrorism-related allegations subjected to abuse, a new United Nations report said Wednesday. The report, released jointly by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Geneva-headquartered UN Human Rights Office, concluded that the percentage of detainees who had been tortured had fallen slightly over the 15 months to March 2020 to 30.3% from 31.9% in the previous two years, but remained “alarming”.

For the report, U.N. officials interviewed a total of 656 detainees, held in 63 government facilities across the country, between January 2019 and March 2020, when physical detention visits were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The alleged torture included beatings, suffocation, and electric shocks. The U.N. says 30% of those interviewed provided “credible and reliable” accounts of abuse and mistreatment. “Torture can never be justified. It has lasting consequences for victims, their families and society,” Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“I recognize the efforts made by some Government Ministries and Institutions, but much more needs to be done to bring this practice to an end. In particular, perpetrators must be held accountable,” she said. “This would increase confidence in the rule of law and can be a contributing factor towards peace.” said the envoy. According to UNAMA, the report looks only at government facilities and not those of the Taliban or other anti-government elements, due to lack of access. The percentage of credible allegations of incidents of torture and ill-treatment committed by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) was recorded at 30.3 per cent, down from 31.9 percent for 2017-2018.

Allegations of torture in Afghan National Police (ANP) custody was 27.2 per cent, a decrease from the previously recorded 31.2 per cent. A reduction in allegations of torture in National Directorate of Security (NDS) custody from 19.4 to 16 per cent was noted. Notwithstanding the incremental progress and efforts made by the Government of Afghanistan, it remains a matter of serious concern that more than 30 per cent of all interviewees provided credible and reliable reports of torture and ill-treatment, the report said. Some sharp regional differences are noted in the number of allegations made by detainees.

There was a particularly high number of allegations of torture and ill-treatment concerning the ANP in Kandahar, with 57.7 per cent of complaints. The report also noted the disturbing reports of enforced disappearances allegedly linked to the ANP in Kandahar. The report states that there remains considerable scope for improvement to safeguarding those rights. For example, in almost no instance of detention either by the ANP or NDS, were detainees informed of their rights, able to access a lawyer, or went through medical examination, prior to questioning by officials.

Detainees’ ability to contact their families in early days after their arrests remained low, with 27.2 per cent in ANP custody and 19.7 per cent in NDS custody. Among further concerns are that nearly half of all persons detained by the ANP and NDS assert that they were asked to sign or thumbprint a document without knowing its content. The report expresses particular concern with the practice of solitary and incommunicado detention in NDS custody. In addition to other measures, UNAMA recommends the creation of an independent national preventive mechanism on torture described in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Such a dedicated mechanism would have the authority and enhanced capacity and expertise to inspect all detention facilities, conduct follow up investigations and make detailed technical recommendations on prosecution of perpetrators and remedial measures. Establishing such a mechanism would require concerted and sustained support from the Afghan Government and the international community, it said.

Ensuring availability, appropriate prices of basic commodities govt’s foremost priority: PM

ISLAMABAD, Feb 5, 2021 (APP,LPP): Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that besides making the availability of basic commodities certain, ensuring appropriate prices was foremost priority of the government. He directed the administration of Utility Stores Corporation (USC) to ensure the ample availability of basic goods at all outlets. The prime minister was presiding over weekly review meeting regarding the availability and prices of basic commodities across the country. The meeting was attended by the relevant Federal and Provincial Ministers, Secretaries, Chief Secretaries and other senior officers.

The prime minister directed the Ministry of National Food Security to complete at the earliest the assessment work regarding the future requirement of basic commodities like wheat and sugar so as to ensure advance arrangements in that regard. He directed all the chief secretaries to ensure the implementation of price list through active and effective role of the administration. The prime minister ordered to ensure immediate action against the officers committing any negligence in that respect.

Minister for Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh told the meeting that in the month of January 2021, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was recorded at 5.7% as against 14.6% recorded in the corresponding month of previous fiscal year. Similarly, the CPI recorded at 8.2% during July-January period of the current fiscal was also lower when compared with 11.2% recorded during the same period of last fiscal, he added. The meeting was told that the comparison based on the latest statistics depicted significant decline in CPI.

It was further told that the prices of sugar, eggs, onion etc. have recorded decline whereas the price of wheat flour had shown stability. The meeting was also briefed about the situation of official release of wheat along with the details of price differential at whole sale and retail levels in various districts. It was told that price differential at whole sale and retail levels depicted the failure of market committees. The meeting decided to immediately abolish the existing market committees in the two provinces ruled by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and hand over the responsibilities to District and Tehsil administrations till the constitution of new committees comprising competent people through a transparent process.

It was decided that in case of non-implementation of price list, action would be taken against the relevant Assistant Commissioner. The meeting was also briefed about the various measures taken in the light of Sugar Inquiry Report to keep the price of sugar under control. It was decided that the process of installation of cameras in Sugar Mills would be quickened. Besides, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will provide the provincial governments with details of sales tax collected in the head of sugar so as to make the system transparent. The meeting was told that owing to the effective measures taken by FBR, the collection of sales tax from sugar had recorded 84% increase during July-January period of the current fiscal year.

Innovation-cum-technology fastest way to emerge as knowledge economy: President

President Dr. Arif Alvi inaugurating the National Ideas Bank at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

ISLAMABAD, Feb 4, 2021 (APP, LPP): President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday said the fastest way for Pakistan to emerge as a strong knowledge economy was through promotion of innovative entrepreneurship based on information technology. “Innovation and emerging technologies together can open up new vistas of development and prosperity for Pakistan,” the President said at the inauguration of National Idea Bank, here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

The National Idea Bank – a collaboration among academia, government, and industry – is aimed at addressing indigenous problems using technology and innovations in business and governance models. President Alvi said in the world of digitalization, Pakistan needed to establish a mechanism comprising thinkers and practitioners to identify innovative ideas for different organizations. He expressed confidence that National Ideas Bank as a knowledge-intensive system would contribute to rapid pace of development compared with the conventional brick and mortar setups.

He said innovative ideas could resolve an industry problem or a social challenge in a more effective and efficient way. The President said every knowledge-based product starts with an idea to improve quality of life on planet, may it the historic ideas of Galileo, Archimedes or Newton that concluded to theories and well-established facts. He mentioned his strong interest in information technology, recalling his early years’ love for ‘mathematical games’ columns published in Scientific American magazine. The President lauded the efforts of Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications and Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology Karachi for establishing the setup to accept ideas by the people on a regular pitch schedule.

He also expressed satisfaction over growth of IT-related exports during last six months, terming it an important step in attaining rapid development. Minister for IT Syed Amin ul Haque said the credit for the idea of National Identity Bank belonged to President Arif Alvi with the process patronized by IT ministry, hosted by Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, and funded by the incubation platform, Idealist.com. He said under Prime Minister’s vision of Digital Pakistan, the IT Ministry was taking steps in right direction and mentioned projects in progress including local manufacturing of smart phones and launch of e-parliament system with electronic tablets to replace file system by June.

Founder Idealist Hassan Syed said with 49 types of emerging technologies world over, there existed huge opportunity for Pakistan to create social and commercial value of products through innovation. He said under the National Ideas Bank, a panel of independent and experienced judges with both technology and business experience would select a number of winning ideas in national interest to be supported by the partnering organizations.

He said the panel of judges would be formed on March 23, while the ideas would be showcased on August 14, the country’s Independence Day. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of IT and Telecom and Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology was signed in October to collaborate actively in collecting and supporting innovative ideas.

PM Assures to Meet Hazara Community After Burial of Slain Miners

ISLAMABAD, Jan 8, 2021: Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday assured the Hazara community that he would visit them the same day they buried the slain miners and said the perpetrators of the heinous incident would be brought to justice. Addressing here at the inauguration of Special Technology Zones Authority, the Prime Minister said all demands of the Hazara community following the Mach incident had been accepted, however said making the burial of killed miners conditional with his visit was inappropriate.

“I have sent a message to the Hazara representatives that as soon as they bury their martyred community members, I will visit and meet them,” he said. Imran Khan said he was deeply grieved by the tragic deaths of the Hazara community, which he said had suffered a lot over the decades, and lost precious lives, and suffered economic losses. Expressing solidarity with the Hazara community, the Prime Minister said the government stands by them in their hour of grief.

“I have sent a message to the Hazara representatives that as soon as they bury their martyred community members, I will visit and meet them” Imran. He said most of the slain miners were the sole breadwinners of their households and assured them that the government would fully compensate their families. He said the tragic incident at Mach was part of the conspiracy hatched by India as per intelligence reports. The Prime Minister said the enemies of Pakistan were bent upon creating a situation leading to sectarian chaos and mentioned that intelligence agencies had already foiled four similar terrorist incidents.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had visited the sit-in of the Hazara community and agreed to accept their demands. However, the community demanded that they would not bury the slain colliers, till the Prime Minister visits them. Ministers Ali Zaidi, Zulfi Bukhari the Balochistan government and opposition leaders have also appealed the Hazara community not to delay the burial. On the launch of STZA, Imran Khan said Information Technology was a revolutionary sector that needed to be exploited by companies in the country to meet the demands of the contemporary world.

He said only those companies gained during coronavirus pandemic that adapted to IT well in time. He said the main objective of the establishment of Special Technology Zones was to give incentives to the IT sector and to make it flourish for the benefit of the country. He said with the second youngest population in the world, Pakistan could utilize the IT sector in providing employment to its youth. Also, the Pakistani nationals working in other countries could benefit from the Special Technology Zones, he added.

The Prime Minister said great responsibility lay on Chairperson STZA Amer Ahmed Hashmi for creating a boom in the IT sector of Pakistan. Earlier, the Prime Minister inaugurated the Special Technology Zones Authority which will focus on the growth of the scientific and technological ecosystem. Khan said the Special Technology Zones Authority will serve to create a space for foreign investors, indigenous companies, and educational and training institutes to collaborate for Information Technology-driven industrial revolution in Pakistan.

The Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) is a leading government body mandated to promote the national innovation system in Pakistan. The launch marks the beginning of an era of the dedicated and integrated national knowledge-based ecosystem in Pakistan. The specific mandate of STZA is to lead the development of Special Technology Zones (STZs) in the country. These zones will help increase high-tech exports of Pakistan and facilitate technology transfer from major global Science and Technology hubs.

Chairman STZA said the zones would foster skills development, job creation, technology transfer and new economic value generation. Industrial clusters formation has not only led to rapid industrialization and social development of countries like China, Japan, and South Korea, but have become the global best practice for high-speed growth and development.

PM Lauds Exporters, Ministry for Outshining India, BD in Exports

ISLAMABAD, Jan 7, 2021 (APP): Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday congratulated the exporters and commerce ministry over positive growth of the country’s exports during the last two months, contrary to the negative trend in India and Bangladesh. According to official data, Pakistan’ exports grew by 8.32 percent in November last year against -9.07% of India and 0.76% of Bangladesh.

Similarly, Pakistan’s exports jumped by 18.30% in December 2020 unlike a drop by -0.80% of India and -6.11% of Bangladesh. The prime minister said as per the regional export trends, the exports of India and Bangladesh for November and December 2020 showed negative growth, unlike Pakistan. “I wish once again to congratulate the exporters and the Ministry of Commerce for this achievement,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

Phase-Wise Reopening of Educational Institutions from Jan 18: Shafqat Mahmood

ISLAMABAD, Jan 04, 2021 (APP):The Federal government on Monday announced phase-wise reopening of the educational institutions from January 18, closed on November 26, 2020 as a precautionary step to combat COVID-19 in the country. This was announced by the Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan in a joint press conference here after taking final decision at National Command and Operation Center (NCOC).

The administrative and teaching staff was allowed to rejoin their institutions from January 11 after the end of the winter vacations. The secondary and higher secondary students having boards’ examinations, contrary to online, were allowed to resume physical classes at their respective institutions. While all the universities and higher education institutions will resume their classes from February 1st, 2021, the minister said. The board exams scheduled in March and April, he said, had been delayed and would now be held in May-June. This step was taken to give students more preparation time, lost due to the closure of institutions amid COVID, he added.

Shafqat Mahmood said that the decisions were taken in the Inter Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) in consultation with all other stakeholders. IPEMC meeting was unanimous to open up education sector across the country, he added. The minster said the children’s health was incumbent government’s top priority and another review of the COVID situation on January 14-15 would be made before opening of the educational institutions. Earlier, in his talk, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan said that the country was witnessing

downward trend on corona cases in second wave mainly due to timely decision of closure of the educational institutions. Dr Faisal said that strict preventive measures were adopted to avoid further spread of coronavirus in the country and ensuring implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Ban on public gatherings, marriages halls and restaurants resulted in to decrease of number of corona cases. He also commended National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) for efficient work against the pandemic. He also acknowledged the role of frontline health workers and concerned federal and provincial public and private institutions for playing remarkable role to combat COVID-19.

He said that strategies were made to control corona keeping in view the global information, focusing on data with integration of local data in a scientific way. Input from concerned stakeholders was also considered to avoid any missing aspect, he added. He advised the citizens to continue following the social distancing, use of mask and other precautionary measures to stop further increase of local transmission of COVID-19 in the country.

Biden's Adviser Says Iran's Missile Program Must Be 'on Table' in JCPOA Talks

WASHINGTON, Jan 4, 2021: In December 2020, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the issue of Tehran's ballistic missile program is "non-negotiable", outlining that the US president-elect, Joe Biden, is "well aware of it". Speaking to CNN host Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, Biden's incoming national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that Tehran's ballistic missile program "has to be on the table" when it comes to negotiations regarding the possible US return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or so-called Iran nuclear deal.

"Our view is that ballistic missiles, and Iran's ballistic missiles has to be on the table as part of that follow-on negotiation", Sullivan told Zakaria, when asked what the Biden team will seek to achieve in nuclear talks with Iran. "We also believe that there can be conversations that go beyond just the permanent five members of the Security council, and that involve regional players as well. And that in that broader negotiation, we can ultimately secure limits on Iran's ballistic missile technology."

Sullivan shared concerns that Iran is "closer to nuclear weapons than it was a year ago", noting that the 3 January, 2020, US assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Soleimani, did not make America safer and has not contributed to US interests in the Middle East. The incoming national security adviser's comments come not long after the Iranian president stressed that Iran's ballistic missile program is a "non-negotiable" issue.

“The Americans were trying for months to add the missile issue (to the nuclear talks) and this was rejected. (President Donald) Trump was uninformed and did not know about the matter, but Mr. Biden is well aware of the details of the deal,” Rouhani said during a televised press conference in Tehran, cited by Reuters. “I have not heard Biden say that we have to reach another agreement in order to return to the nuclear deal, that is what Trump says."

Iran has demanded that the US change its own policies, referring to the damage made to Tehran by US sanctions and Trump's 2018 unilateral exit from the JCPOA. Tehran also denounced Washington for attempts to lecture others on nuclear proliferation, pointing out that the US has "thousands of nuclear warheads, proliferated such weapons and the related know-how, used it against a non-nuclear-weapon state, and threatens others with the possible use of them". "Indeed, such a country is not even entitled to talk about non-proliferation concerns,” Iran's envoy, Gharib Abadi, told the International Atomic Agency’s board of governors in November, 2020, cited by Tasnim.

As US President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he will restart negotiations to return the US to the JCPOA nuclear deal with Tehran, Rouhani expressed confidence that Washington will return to the agreement, adding that the “three-year resistance of the Iranian nation will force the future US administration to succumb to the people and return to their commitments and break the sanctions.” In 2018, the US president withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement, alleging that Tehran had violated the terms and imposing harsh sanctions on the country. Trump's move to exit the US from the deal prompted Iran to step away from the JCPOA commitments that saw the Islamic republic reducing its nuclear capability.

Tensions were further strained after the assassination of Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, committed on a direct order by Trump one year ago. The general, accompanied by a deputy chairman of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed in Iraq, while leaving the Baghdad International Airport. Trump at the time claimed that Soleimani was "a monster" who was allegedly plotting "imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel", Tehran, however, remains outraged with the fatal drone strike that killed the IRGC general, calling it "an act of terror".

President Extends New Year Greetings; Prays for Freedom of Oppressed, Country’s Prosperity

ISLAMABAD, Jan 01, 2021 (APP): With the onset of year 2021, President Dr Arif Alvi Friday extended New Year greetings to the countrymen and prayed for good time ahead for the distressed and oppressed people.

“Happy New Year,” the president wished on Twitter and prayed for prosperity of the country and countrymen as well as for their happy life. He prayed to Allah Almighty to bless the people facing brutal oppression in Kashmir, Palestine and anywhere in the world with peace and freedom.

Moreover, the president also prayed for help of the sick and those in financial, personal, or emotional distress.