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Archive for the ‘ABOUT PAKISTAN’ Category

This is the end of the 400-meter-long secret tunnel which connects India-Pakistan and was recently unearthed in Jammu & Kashmir. PHOTO:

JAMMU: Indian authorities on Saturday discovered a 400-metre long tunnel, running between India and Pakistan, along the International Border in Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir, reported Press Trust of India.

“We have discovered a tunnel running between Pakistan and India in Samba district,” the report quoted Superintendent of Police (SSP) Samba Israr Khan as saying.

The SSP was further quoted as saying that the tunnel was detected after an area caved-in at two or three places due to rains near the Border Security Force’s (BSF) Chillayari Border Out Post (BOP). He added that the tunnel, with a dimension of 3×3 foot, was running between Chillayari BOP and Pakistan’s Numberiyal BOP.

Dug at a depth of 25 foot below the ground level, it was 400 meters long on the Indian side, the SSP said adding “we are confirming whether the tunnel is operational or not.”

The tunnel, which seemed to be freshly constructed, had air supply through a 2 inch pipe, he said adding “we are looking into all aspects.”

Commenting on Pakistan facing a lot of pressure from the militants to infiltrate them into the Indian Territory, the SSP said, “Since it is difficult to push in militants to the Indian side, they decided to set up a tunnel to facilitate infiltration.”

Spies were also providing bogus information regarding Mujahideen camps and their activities to their Indian handlers.

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ISLAMABAD, July 4: The food security situation in Pakistan has worsened over the past four years, resulting in a drastic increase in the proportion of population falling below the minimum acceptable level of dietary consumption, according to a United Nations report.

According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals report for 2012, two-digit inflation and high food inflation significantly decreased the purchasing power of people, especially the poor.

The report expressed fears that Pakistan was lagging behind the target of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and indicators show that the target would not be achieved by 2015, the deadline for achieving MDGs.

The report expressed concern over a number of factors that have contributed to under-achievement against most of MDGs.

These include the slow economic growth or less than three per cent over the last three to four years.

With a labour force increasing at a rate of 3.2 per cent, the slow economic growth is not creating sufficient jobs for the new entrants to the labour market.

Besides poverty and unemployment issues, the income inequality in the country has always been on the rise. The share of consumption of the lowest quintile is currently 9.6 per cent against 40.3 per cent for the highest quintile. There also exist widespread gender inequalities.

The share of women in wage employment is the slowest in South Asia and Pakistan is not an exception to it.

Additionally, there are regional pockets where status of development is worst than other areas.

Notwithstanding the challenges, the report said, there are a number of opportunities to build on.

The increase in the share of provinces in NFC award and the 18th Amendment for decentralisation of governance at the provincial level will help development partners to work more closely with the end beneficiaries.

According to the report, Pakistan adopted 18 targets and 41 indicators against which the progress is measured. However, time series data against only 33 indicators were available.Of the total 33 indicators, progress on 20 indicators is lagging behind, slow on four indicators, on track three indicators, off-track one indicator while targets against five indicators have been met.

On a total of five indicators, Pakistan is either ahead or has achieved the target.

With regard to access to improved water source, Pakistan achieved the target when three sources of improved water, tap water, hand pumps and electric motor propelled water, are taken into account.However, the Pakistan MDG report of 2010 has not included ‘electric motor’ in the category of improved water source which makes the status at around 63 per cent against the 92 per cent.

According to the report, Pakistan has made some progress in combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; and promoting gender equality and women empowerment. However, progress rate is slow and additional efforts will be needed if the targets are to be achieved by the 2015 deadline.

On a positive note, the report recognised that Pakistan has one of the highest ratios of women parliamentarians in South Asia.

While bullish on the success recorded, the MDG report warns that the 2015 deadline is fast approaching and in order to achieve outstanding goals, governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector need to intensify their contributions.

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Pakistani officials accused up to 60 Afghan soldiers of crossing into Pakistani territory and sparking clashes that killed two tribesman.

PESHAWAR: Pakistani officials accused up to 60 Afghan soldiers on Monday of crossing into Pakistani territory and sparking clashes that killed two tribesman.

It was the latest in a series of escalating cross-border attacks reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are inflaming tensions along the porous border as NATO prepares to end its combat mission against the Taliban in 2014.

In Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, security officials said two tribesmen were killed in Upper Kurram district in clashes with 60 Afghan army soldiers.

Another tribesman was also wounded “after they traded fire with Afghan army soldiers on seeing them inside Pakistani territory,” a senior official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The clashes lasted for more than 90 minutes after which security forces were sent to the area on the Afghan border, he said.

Local residents said the Afghans were pursuing attackers fleeing Shehar-e-Nau village in Paktia province.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence agency said cross-border fire had killed four people, including a woman and a child, and wounded six others, in the last week.

Both countries blame each other for harbouring Taliban fighters active on both sides of their 2,400 kilometre border, fanning distrust between Kabul and Islamabad, and complicating a peace process in Afghanistan.

Kabul threatened to report Islamabad to the UN Security Council over what it alleges is the shelling of villages, while Islamabad said it would protest formally to Kabul against the latest incursion.

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Recently released Indian spy Surjeet Singh claims that Sarabjit Singh has converted Islam and is now known as Sarfaraz,  Sarabjit is currently imprisoned at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail and has been sentenced to death for his alleged role in bomb blasts.

Surjeet was recently released from Kot Lakhpat after 30 years. The Indian national had been arrested by Pakistani police on charges of spying during the regime of Ziaul Haq.

In addition to the claim of Sarabjit’s conversion, Surjeet has also claimed that another Indian prisoner in Pakistan, Kirpal Singh, had also converted to Islam and is now known as Mohammed Din. He was speaking to the media at the information centre of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee during his visit to the Golden Temple.

Sarabjit’s sister, while confirming that she heard Kirpal be called by a Muslim name, has denied that her brother has converted. Dalbir Kaur said:

This is not true at all. Sarabjit was a Gursikh, is a Gursikh and will remain a Gursikh. He has kept photos of Sikh gurus in jail and a Sikh religious book. He regularly recites from that book.

Kaur said her brother had been addressed as Sarabjit or Manjit when she had last visited him in jail.

The dramatic events on Tuesday night had drained Sarabjit’s family after Pakistan announced that the Indian prisoner in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail — sentenced to death for his alleged role in bomb blasts – would be released after his sentence was commuted to life. Hours later, though, it was clarified that it was not Sarabjit but another Indian prisoner, Surjeet Singh, who was being released.

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ISLAMABAD: At the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2012, Pakistan may be free of poppy cultivation, but the country still provides a vital transit route for smuggling of drugs worth $30 billion from neighbouring Afghanistan.

Speaking at the launch of the World Drug Report 2012 on Tuesday, officials from the United Nations welcomed the decline in poppy cultivation in Pakistan. In the same breath, however, they added that the country is a major route for the smuggling of drugs cultivated in Afghanistan, primarily through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, and that drug cultivation can resurface in these areas if the Anti-Narcotics Force is not strict in its surveillance.

One-third of drugs produced in Afghanistan are smuggled to other countries via the coastal areas of Balochistan, the UN officials added.

Global numbers

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the annual report about the state of drug cultivation, production, usage and transport in New York on Tuesday.

According to the report, at least 5% of the world’s adult population, or about 230 million people, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010. Some $68 billion is generated globally from illicit drugs annually, and is mainly used in terrorist activities, human trafficking and the smuggling of arms.

According to the UNODC, $27 to $30 billion worth of drugs are smuggled from Afghanistan, via Pakistan, to other parts of the world annually; of this, drugs worth $1.5 billion stay in Pakistan.

Drug abuse and illicit trafficking continue to have a profoundly negative impact on development and stability across the world, the report says. Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, bringing misery to thousands of other peoples, insecurity and the spread of HIV, the report adds.

Drug cultivation

Global opium production amounted at 7,000 tonnes in 2011, up from the low levels of 2010 when diseases wiped out almost half of the crop yield.

Afghanistan maintained its position as the largest producer and the country’s opium production increased by 61%, from 3,600 toms in 2010 to 5,800 tonnes in 2011.

High prices and increase in demand are making opium production more attractive to farmers in South East Asia, the report says.

Poppy cultivation in South East Asia jumped 16% – from 41,000 hectares in 2010 to almost 48,000 hectares in 2011. Overall cultivation of opium doubled in South East Asia.

Externalities

Illicit drugs and related criminal networks undermine the rule of law, the report says.

Central America, for instance, faces rising levels of violence fuelled by transnational organised crime and drug trafficking. The region is now home to the highest homicide rates in the world.

Meanwhile, development in Afghanistan is being hindered by the highest rates of opiate prevalence in the world. In parts of Myanmar, farmers are trapped by food insecurity compelling them to grow poppies as a cash crop.

The challenge is also greatly testing West and Central Africa, which lies along one of the main drug trafficking routes to Europe.

Moreover, transit countries are no longer simply links in the chain of supply. About half of the cocaine trafficked through West and Central Africa now remains in the region.

Solutions

The drug, crime and corruption conventions of the UN form a solid basis for global solutions to these challenges, the report states, adding that these instruments offer a balanced approach to halt trafficking, promote viable alternatives to the farmers of cash crops, and offer drug users their health and human rights.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.

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Four engineering students in Peshawar built a one-seat Solar car, but look forward for the government’s support to take their project forward.

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The allocation has been made despite an official announcement that the premier will soon vacate the PM House. PHOTO:

ISLAMABAD:  Hard times demand austerity. Yet, despite the government’s tall claims of austerity, next year’s budget for the upkeep and maintenance of the Prime Minister House’s gardens is roughly Rs20 million, a 39% increase from the previous year’s budget.

The allocation has increased the total budget of the Prime Minister House’s gardens from Rs14.33 million in 2011-12 to Rs19.92 million in 2012-13 and itself speaks volume of lavish spending by the government.

Interestingly, the allocation has been made despite an official announcement that the premier will soon vacate the PM House, which is located on a hill overlooking Islamabad, and shift to a smaller house to observe ‘simplicity’ and austerity.

Finance Minster Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had announced in his budget speech that the PM House will be transformed into an international institute of advanced studies and the premier would relocate to a smaller residence.

According to details, the Prime Minister’s Estate Gardens will be maintained by as many as 73 gardeners. The combined salaries of these gardeners, including allowances, come up to Rs18.5 million for 2012-13; whereas last year, these gardeners only cost Rs13.31 million.

The lavish spending is not the only exception, as one can literally find hundreds of such heads while going through the voluminous ‘Pink Book’, containing every detail of the budgetary allocations except for the defence budget.

As if the extravagant spending on the PM’s ‘royal garden’ was not enough, the government has allocated another Rs37.4 million to be spent on the conveyance and motorcars of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. Again the allocation is Rs12.7 million or 51.4% higher than the previous year’s budget.

Out of that amount, Rs20.5 million has been earmarked for domestic travel and transport expenses of the premier, which has also increased by 52% or Rs7 million from the previous year’s budget.

For repair and maintenance of these expensive vehicles, a sum of Rs11 million has been allocated, which is Rs5 million or 83% higher than this year’s budget.

In addition to that, the government has allocated Rs15 million in the Cabinet Division budget for repair and maintenance of cars, mostly used by the premier. Some of these pool vehicles are also used by military officials and top politicians, including former prime ministers Mian Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Interestingly, despite a ban on the purchase of new vehicles, the government has allocated Rs2 million for the PM House to purchase a new vehicle, according to the budget documents.

For purchasing plants and machinery for the PM’s House, a sum of Rs0.1 million has been earmarked while another amount of Rs0.2 million will be spent on repair and maintenance of machinery and equipments.

The government has announced an Rs2.96 trillion budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It will borrow Rs1.18 trillion to fill the gap between its income and the proposed size of the budget.  A whopping Rs702.8 million has been allocated for meeting the expenses of the PM’s House —  an 28.6% or Rs156.2 million increase from the previous year’s budget.

Course: Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2012.

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