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Sardar Rasmesh Singh Arora, the first Sikh member of the Provincial Assembly since 1947.

Sardar Rasmesh Singh Arora, the first Sikh member of the Provincial Assembly since 1947.

LAHORE: Saturday marked a historic milestone for the Sikh community in the province. A Sikh representative, for the first time since 1947, took oath as a member of the provincial assembly in Punjab at its first session.

He was nominated on a seat reserved for minorities on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket.

Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora walked into the assembly hall wearing a traditional white shalwar kamees and an orange turban. Several parliamentarians and assembly officials shook hands with him and welcomed him. Several of his family and friends were there to support him as well.

“As the first Sikh to have taken oath as a parliamentarian in the Punjab Assembly since 1947, I am absolutely delighted to be part of this august house. The position certainly comes with a lot of responsibility. I will not only be representing my own community but all the minorities in the province,” Arora told The Express Tribune after taking the oath.

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Arora hails from Narowal and has been associated with the Pakistan Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee.

“PML-N’s priorities include eliminating load shedding and reviving the economy,” he said, minorities will benefit from these.

Arora said that he would work for the rehabilitation of historical and religious sites of the Sikhs. “Sites sacred to other religions will also be restored through the Evacuee Trust Property Board,” he said.

He said work on the reformation of the Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee was already underway, adding that it would be made more effective and efficient. “I will do the best I can to serve minorities. That is my aim and my party’s policy. That is why I’m here and that is what my oath was about,” he said.

Parliamentarian drives in on a motorbike

While most parliamentarians were seen reaching the assembly chambers on expensive SUVs and luxury cars, one of them chose a different mode of transport. Maulana Ghiyasud Din, a PML-N MPA from Shakargarh, drove a motorbike, with a green number plate reading MPA, to the assembly building.

“There is need to promote simplicity in our culture. That is why I drove a motorbike to attend the first assembly session. We need to cut down on expenses and solve problems like load shedding as soon as possible,” he said.

The effort towards that end needs to start from day one, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2013.
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President Asif Ali Zardari. (Known as Mr. 10 %)

President Asif Ali Zardari. (Known as Mr. 10 %)

LAHORE: Fuelling doubts about the transparency of the May 11 elections, President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the returning officers (ROs) played an important role in the elections.

“If I get [the support of] these ROs, I can win the presidential election,” he said while talking to a delegation of South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) at Bilawal House on Sunday. The PPP did not want to sacrifice ‘another Bhutto’ just for another 25-26 seats, he added.

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Quashing rumours about his plans to step down, President Zardari said he would complete his constitutional term. “If I did not resign at the time of elections [to lead PPP’s campaign], there was no justification for my resignation now,” he said.

He said that the PPP could not run a proper elections campaign in Punjab because of the Taliban threats. Moreover, the judiciary was also against PPP, he added. “The party couldn’t fight on multiple fronts simultaneously.”

Despite reservations, President Zardari said that the PPP has conceded defeat and he will administer oath to the party that has won the mandate. “The opposition leader will be from the second largest party in the National Assembly,” he said. “We would have no issue if PTI becomes the second biggest party and gets the opposition leader slot.”

President Zardari said that the PPP lost 40 to 45 seats because of its poor elections strategy. Asked what would be the party’s strategy if the 2013 elections were held again, the president said he would step down to lead PPP’s election campaign.

He said that Manzoor Wattoo was made the president of Punjab chapter of PPP in view of the traditional biradri politics in the province not because of his ideological stance. Wattoo worked hard but unfortunately his efforts did not yield the desired results, he added.

He said two former premiers from his party – Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf – could not effectively lead PPP’s election campaign. Gilani was busy making efforts for the recovery of his son, while Ashraf was fighting court cases against him.

President also blamed the energy crisis for the poor performance of PPP in the elections. “The PPP government could not handle the electricity crisis and this caused the party’s defeat in the elections,” he added.

About Sindh where the PPP has emerged as the single largest party, President Zardari said that the PPP would form a coalition government with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), though the party has enough seats to form the next government independently.

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Gilani takes notice of prolonged electricity outage, summons petroleum minister.

KARACHI: Loadshedding and power protests continued in Punjab, with the electricity shortfall quoted at 8,000 megawatts and some areas reported to be without power supply for longer than eight hours at a stretch.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has taken notice of the prolonged electricity outages and has summoned the petroleum minister.

Authorities said in order to cope with the increasing shortfall of power supply, loadshedding had to be stretched to longer hours.

Grid stations in different areas of Lahore have been shut since 7am. Moreover, due to prolonged absence of power supply in southern Lahore, the city suffers from a shortage of water supply as well. Areas like Jhang, Toba Tek Singh and Chiniot receive power supply for only three hours a day.

Various cities under FESCO (Faisalabad Electricity Supply Company) go through 20 hours of severe loadshedding. While more than 22 hours of loadshedding in villages has disturbed daily life routines.

Sukkur and internal Sindh cities face 12hours of loadshedding daily, while villages go through 16 hours of no power supply. As a result of the severe energy crisis, businesses are suffering, and hundred thousands of labourers are unemployed.

Passenger train set on fire

Three bogeys of a passenger train were set on fire by angry protestors in Kamoke. The train was travelling to Sialkot from Lahore.

Pakistan Railways has temporarily suspended services of at least 20 trains travelling from Lahore to Rawalpindi, including four Railroad cars, two Awam Express trains, Lasani, Allama Iqbal and Khyber Express.

According to GM Railways, this step has been taken to avoid protesters from damaging further more trains.

The protestors had first pelted the train with stones, forcing the passengers out, before setting it on fire. No casualties were reported in the incident.

Earlier in Kamoke, protestors had also tried to set grid stations on fire.

Civilians protest against loadshedding

Infuriated mobs in different areas of Faisalabad carried out rallies against the ongoing power crisis, while enraged people pelted stones and broke windows of three private banks near Dhandiwala. Protestors damaged ATM machines and CNG stations in the area.

Protests continued despite baton charging by the police. The mob looted stores and stole from fruit vendors.

Traffic was blocked by burning tyres on Marine Road.

Protestors armed with sticks in Khanewal, forcefully shut down shops of the area. The SHO of the city arrived on the scene, infuriating the mob even further. As a result the SHO took hostage in a house, on which the protestors started stoning the building.

The demonstrators were dispersed through aerial firing and shelling which injured seven.

Demonstrations also took place in Jahaniya, Pakpattan and Lahore.

Infuriated protesters barged into the LESCO (Lahore Electricity Supply Company) office, burning documents and furniture, and ran away with the electricity wires.

Protests continued for several hours while police was nowhere to be seen.

The GT Road was shut down due to the protests at Sadhuki.

Wapda offices and educational institutions were set on fire near Sargodha.

The Gepco office was set on fire in Hafizabad, while at Zafarwal, Federal Minister Tariq Anees’ caravan was stopped. Three people were injured when the guard opened fire.

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Two killed in retaliatory firing from guards present at MNA Riaz Fatiana’s house in Kamalia.

Protests against loadshedding in Punjab have intensified, with demonstrators beginning to target the homes of MNAs and MPAs.

Outraged civilians targeted the home of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) MNA Riaz Fatiana in Kamalia. Two people were killed as a result of retaliatory firing from guards present at Fatiana’s house.

Police and protesters continued to clash regularly in the area.

In Khanewal, protesters attacked Heraj house and set a portion of it on fire.

Protests continue in Punjab, Sindh

Civilians continued to protest against the power crisis in various areas of southern Punjab including, Dera Ghazi Khan, Vehari, Muzaffargarh, Lodhran, Bahawalpur, Mian Channu, Chichawatni, Kabirwala, Haroonabad, Yazman, Rajanpur and Layyah.

Sukkur, Shikarpur, Larkana, Jacobabad and various other areas of Sindh are also suffering from hours-long power outages, where infuriated mobs have protested.

At least 10-12 hours of loadshedding in cities and 12-16 hours of no power supply in villages has miserably affected businesses and industries.

FIRs registered against protesters

FIRs were registered against 1,770 unknown protestors in three different police stations of Faisalabad.

Twelve hundred cases were registered at Madina Town police station, 500 at Mansoorabad police station and seventy FIRs were filed at Samanabad police station against unknown people for carrying out protests against the on-going energy crisis.

The cases registered include offences of damaging banks, CNG stations, looting from shops and blocking the roads.

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Lahore: Another Pakistani student Sitara Akbar set new world record in O levels and also holds the title of the youngest Pakistani candidate in IELTS. 

Sitara Brooj Akbar, at the age of 11, passed six O level subjects including Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. In addition to this honour, Sitara also holds the title of being the youngest Pakistani candidate of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and successfully attained seven bands out of nine, scoring 7.5 in the testing system.

“My daughter is a great fan of Dr Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s sole Nobel laurete and aims to become a top researcher in the field of biochemistry,” says her mother.

The little genius from Chiniot (Punjab) has been making headlines across local media but is yet to receive any recognition from the Government.

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At least 50 per cent of Punjab police are overweight, says spokeswoman Nabila Ghazanfar.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani police commander has ordered tens of thousands of pot-bellied officers to diet or quit frontline duties, officials said Monday in what one newspaper dubbed the “battle of the bulge”.

Habibur Rehman, police chief (Inspector General) in the country’s most populous province Punjab, has ordered 175,000 personnel not to allow their waistlines to exceed 38 inches, spokeswoman Nabila Ghazanfar told AFP.

“I’m on a diet and if I can do it, why can’t you?” she quoted Rehman as telling officials last month in the province.

At least 50 per cent of Punjab police are overweight, Ghazanfar said.

A local daily said the number of overweight officers in the city of Rawalpindi stood at more than 77 per cent, adding that “policemen appear to be losing the battle of the bulge”.

Police said officers had been given until June 30 to shape up and those deemed too fat from July 1 would not be given jobs in the field.

“Police officials are joining gyms, jogging and doing other exercise, including a lot of running to become thin and slim,” Ghazanfar said.

Overweight officers are ineffective and “cannot chase bandits, robbers and other criminals properly”, she added, blaming the problem on under-staffing.

“We have a shortage of personnel, what can you expect when one official is doing the job of six people? They don’t get time for physical fitness,” she told AFP.

Another official who did not wish to be named said 100 stations were initially singled out for the exercise order, but Rehman later decided to send warning letters to the entire Punjab police force.

He said the chief believed people only had pot bellies “if they commit a sin or if they are sick”.

“It is my guess that the department will assess progress and if necessary the deadline may be extended,” a senior official said, requesting anonymity.

The country is ranked 165 of 194 on the Forbes list of fattest countries, with 22.2 per cent of the population considered overweight despite immense poverty faced by millions in the country.

Local reports have put the figure at 25 per cent.

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DG KHAN: Five girls were allegedly gang raped by border military police personnel near Fort Monroe in Dera Ghazi Khan (DG Khan), 

The girls, who were visiting Fort Monroe, recorded their statements saying that the policemen took them to a check post for “routine checking” where they raped them.

A case was registered against five people identified by the girls but only three of the accused were arrested, whereas all policemen present in the police station were suspended.

Border military police commandant Tariq Ali Basra said that strict action would be taken against those involved.

“We have suspended all 14 personnel who were present in the station,” said Basra.

“Three were suspended on the straightforward allegations on them whereas the rest were suspended for negligence.”

He further said that a preliminary inquiry had been completed upon which the FIR was lodged.

“Now, an there will be a legal investigation based on the FIR which will reveal the degree of involvement of each accused,” said the commandant.

The girls, according to Basra, revealed little about themselves. “They did not give any address. They just said that they were from Lahore,” said Basra, stating that the girls were hesitating in giving any information about themselves.

“Even the man who was accompanying them was not related to them. He told me one of the girls was his friend since eight months and she and her friends came here sightseeing.”

Basra said that the accused did not have a history of offences and this was the first accusation against them.

The girls will be given a medical examination today to confirm the accusation.

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