Govt abolishes all discretionary funds of president, PM, MNAs

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on August 24, 2018 (Photo courtesy: Press Information department photo)
Updated 25 August 2018

Govt abolishes all discretionary funds of president, PM, MNAs

ISLAMABAD: Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said a task force will be set up to resolve the problems of slums in order to bring them into the mainstream. 
Briefing media about cabinet decisions in Islamabad Friday evening, the Minister said the government wants to improve the living standard of people and resolve their issues.
The Minister said the cabinet took another important decision to ban the use of all discretionary funds of President, Prime Minister and MNAs as it is an insult to taxpayers.
He added from now onwards, the development projects will be discussed in parliament and their approval will be given after a detailed review.
Fawad Chaudhry the discretionary powers of all the ministers to grant funds have also been revoked.
The Information Minister said funds worth 21 billion rupees were spent by previous government last year. In addition, thirty billion rupees were allocated to MNAs for development projects, making it a huge amount of 51 billion rupees.
He said previous governments used national exchequer like their own property. 
Fawad Chaudhry said as part of austerity drive of Prime Minister, it has been decided that special plane of Prime Minister will not be used for foreign visits. Rather, he will travel in ordinary passenger planes and use the club class instead of business or first class.
This discretion has also been abolished for President, Chief Justice, and other senior officials.
The Minister said cabinet also took the decision to hold a forensic audit of all mass transport projects including Multan Metro bus project, Lahore Orange Train Project, and Peshawar Metro Bus. He said, if needed, FIA will investigate the issues.
The cabinet also decided to start urban tree plantation projects in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and Lahore from next month. The purpose is to make these areas green and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.
He said the cabinet decided that working hours will be changed from 9 am to 5 p.m. and the weekly holiday of Saturday will not be abolished. It will also be ensured that public servants dedicate full time to their jobs during the working hours. 
Commenting on an incident in Faisalabad, Fawad Chaudhry said it was a law and order situation matter between two groups and had no religious dimension.
Replying to a question, the Minister said it is being considered to abolish the Ministry of CADD and merge its employees into other departments.
On a question regarding information ministry, he said there will be visible changes in his ministry soon.
He said PTV and Radio Pakistan have been given directions to give equal coverage to all political parties and their leaders and there is no editorial censorship on both.
He said the duration of English transmissions on PTV and Radio Pakistan will be enhanced in order to give the world a picture of what is happening in the country.
He said PTV World will highlight the regional issues of the country.
Fawad Chaudhry told a questioner that task forces set up by the government are for short-term goals and long-term goals and they will work accordingly.
On another question, a mechanism is being evolved to hold a complete inquiry on Result Transmission System of Election Commission of Pakistan, so that such delays do not occur in future.


Saudi Arabia's KSRelief gifts 100 tons of dates to Pakistan

Updated 3 min 16 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's KSRelief gifts 100 tons of dates to Pakistan

  • Director General of Pakistani Cabinet Division Brigadier Tahir Rashid thanks kingdom for the annual gift
  • Says it reflects on strong and deep-rooted relations between the two countries

ISLAMABAD: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) gifted 100 tons of dates to Pakistan.

Director General of the Pakistani Cabinet Division Brig. Tahir Rashid thanked the Kingdom for the annual gift, adding that it reflects the strong and deep-rooted relations between the two countries.

He praised the pioneering role that Saudi Arabia plays at the Islamic, regional, and global levels.

In Sudan, KSrelief has distributed 1,000 Ramadan food baskets to the neediest families in Red Sea state.

The center also launched a project in Amman, Jordan to distribute 16,550 Ramadan food baskets.


Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Updated 2 min 41 sec ago

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

  • Zahra Khan is a mother of two who runs Feya cafes and shops in London, employs 30 full-time staff, donates 10% profits to coaching for women
  • Khan launched Feya Cares at start of pandemic in collaboration with Young Women’s Trust, works on economic justice for young women

RAWALPINDI: A Pakistani chef and entrepreneur who runs her own café and shop in London has been recognized for her achievements in retail and e-commerce by Forbes, which put her on its prestigious ‘30 under 30’ Europe list this month.
Khan, 30 years old and the mother of two daughters, is the sole founder of two of London’s culinary hotspots – Feya Café and DYCE. She is a graduate of the iconic Tante Marie Culinary Academy and committed to the movement toward female equality in business.
Khan opened her debut eatery Feya Café on Bond Street just months after the birth of her first daughter in 2018. The award-winning DIY dessert parlour and interior masterpiece DYCE was opened in quick succession, followed by the flagship Feya Knightsbridge in December 2019.
Speaking to Arab News, Khan said she was nominated for the Forbes list by her team and did not expect to be recognized. 
“I had just woken up and I knew the list was going to be released [on April 9], but they were meant to send an email as well and my inbox was empty, so I was a bit disappointed,” Khan said in a phone interview. “But then I pulled up the list anyway to see. As I started scrolling down, I saw my name. It was an amazing feeling!”

In this undated photo, Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honouree Zahra Khan tackles a recipe in her kitchen in London. (Photo Courtesy: Zahra Khan

This is how the Forbes listing describes Khan:
“Immigrant Zahra Khan defied Pakistani cultural stereotypes and launched a career in the UK focused on empowering women. The chef and mother of two runs Feya cafes and shops. She employs 30 full-time staff, hires female illustrators to design packaging, and donates 10% of retail profits toward professional coaching for women.”

Khan said she initially went to university to study medicine but then turned toward the culinary world, graduating from the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking, England, before launching Feya in May 2018, whose wares include chocolates along with specialty spices and jams, all packaged in designs that pay ode to women.
Khan has been nominated for the NatWest Everywomen Awards 2020 (The Artemis Award), London Business Mother of the Year 2020 (Venus Awards), Business Owner of the Year and Businesswoman of the Year (National Women’s Business Awards 2020) and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 (Federation of Small Businesses UK).
“In Pakistan, we don’t have as many opportunities for women as men. I recognize that and I also realize that I’m lucky that I’ve got the opportunity to actually move and experience living in different countries,” Khan, who studied at Ryerson University in Toronto before going to culinary school in the UK, said. “It was an eye opener, I learned so much and I wanted to bring about change when I was in the position to give back.” 
Khan launched Feya Cares at the start of the pandemic in collaboration with the Young Women’s Trust, a feminist organization working to achieve economic justice for young women based in London.

This undated photo shows Zahra Khan, a Pakistani chef and entrepreneur, who was recently listed on the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list, in London. (Photo Courtesy: Zahra Khan)

Feya Cares aims to tackle issues faced by women within the professional space, such as racial and gender inequality; 10% of the profits made from the sale of each Feya Retail product are donated to the Young Women’s Trust.
During the pandemic, Khan also launched the Feya Retail Line which features various luxury products such as teas, jams, chocolates alongside a selection of other delectable treats.
“Each product in this retail line carries its own unique message of empowerment and motivation, encouraging women to take a break from the ordinary and celebrate the little things that make us different. With beautifully illustrated, unique packaging, each product in the line-up aims to inspire you to escape reality, explore your imagination, and celebrate fearlessness and diversity,” Khan’s website said.
“Every woman can run her own business, even if it is a small-scale, home-based venture,” said Khan, who launched her own business shortly after becoming a mother of two daughters. “I want to show that it can be done.” 


'Time to end forever war': Biden pushes Pakistan for ‘support’ in Afghanistan exit

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago

'Time to end forever war': Biden pushes Pakistan for ‘support’ in Afghanistan exit

  • President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11
  • Says will ask countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, Russia, China, India and Turkey

ISLAMABAD: US Pre­sident Joe Biden warned the Taliban on Wednesday he would hold them accountable in Afghanistan after the exit of United States troops, and pressed nations, including Pakistan, to play a supportive role.
President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, 20 years to the day after the Al-Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war.
The disclosure of the plan came on the same day that the US intelligence community released a gloomy outlook for Afghanistan, forecasting “low” chances of a peace deal this year and warning that its government would struggle to hold the Taliban insurgency at bay if the US-led coalition withdrew support.
Biden’s decision would miss a May 1 deadline for withdrawal agreed to with the Taliban by his predecessor Donald Trump. The insurgents had threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops if that deadline was missed. But Biden would still be setting a near-term withdrawal date, potentially allaying Taliban concerns.
“We will hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the US or its allies from Afghan soil. The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well,” Biden said in a speech announcing the complete pullout of US troops before September 11. “We will ask other countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey.”
Notably not naming Iran, Biden said that the countries in the region “have a significant stake in the stable future” of Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken over the phone.
“During the conversation matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including latest developments in Afghan Peace Process and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed,” the Pakistani military’s media wing said in a statement.
Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s support for an Afghan led and Afghan-owned peace process “based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.”


India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

Updated 36 min 38 sec ago

India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

  • Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan met in Dubai in January 
  • Back channel diplomacy is aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months

NEW DELHI: Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with close knowledge of the matter told Reuters in Delhi.
Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals have been on ice since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019 traced to Pakistan-based militants that led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan.
Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.
But the two governments have re-opened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months, the people said.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the region but rule only in part.
Officials from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external spy agency, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence traveled to Dubai for a meeting facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government, two people said.
The Indian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Pakistan’s military, which controls the ISI, also did not respond.
But Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani defense analyst, said she believed Indian and Pakistan intelligence officials had been meeting for several months in third countries.
“I think there have been meetings in Thailand, in Dubai, in London between the highest level people,” she said.

’IT IS FRAUGHT’
Such meetings have taken place in the past too, especially during times of crises but never been publicly acknowledged.
“There is a lot that can still go wrong, it is fraught,” said one of the people in Delhi. “That is why nobody is talking it up in public, we don’t even have a name for this, it’s not a peace process. You can call it a re-engagement,” one of them said.
Both countries have reasons to seek a rapprochement. India has been locked in a border stand-off with China since last year and does not want the military stretched on the Pakistan front.
China-ally Pakistan, mired in economic difficulties and on an IMF bailout program, can ill-afford heightened tensions on the Kashmir border for a prolonged period, experts say. It also has to stabilize the Afghan border on its west as the United States withdraws.
“It’s better for India and Pakistan to talk than not talk, and even better that it should be done quietly than in a glare of publicity,” said Myra MacDonald, a former Reuters journalist who has just published a book on India, Pakistan and war on the frontiers of Kashmir.
.”..But I don’t see it going very far beyond a basic management of tensions, possibly to tide both countries over a difficult period — Pakistan needs to address the fall-out of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while India has to confront a far more volatile situation on its disputed frontier with China.”

DIALLING DOWN THE RHETORIC
Following the January meeting, India and Pakistan announced they would stop cross-border shooting along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir which has left dozens of civilians dead and many others maimed. That cease-fire is holding, military officials in both countries said.
Both sides have also signalled plans to hold elections on their sides of Kashmir this year as part of efforts to bring normalcy to a region riven by decades of bloodshed.
The two have also agreed to dial down their rhetoric, the people Reuters spoke to said.
This would include Pakistan dropping its loud objections to Modi abrogating Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019, while Delhi in turn would refrain from blaming Pakistan for all violence on its side of the Line of Control.
These details have not been previously reported. India has long blamed Pakistan for the revolt in Kashmir, an allegation denied by Pakistan.
“There is a recognition there will be attacks inside Kashmir, there has been discussions as to how to deal with it and not let this effort derailed by the next attack,” one of the people said.
There is as yet, however, no grand plan to resolve the 74-year-old Kashmir dispute. Rather both sides are trying to reduce tensions to pave the way for a broad engagement, all the people Reuters spoke to said.
“Pakistan is transiting from a geo-strategic domain to a geo-economic domain,” Raoof Hasan, special assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, told Reuters.
“Peace, both within and around with its neighbors, is a key constituent to facilitate that.” 


India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

Updated 14 April 2021

India, Pakistan held ‘secret talks’ to try to break Kashmir impasse 

  • Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan met in Dubai in January 
  • Back channel diplomacy is aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months

NEW DELHI: Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, people with close knowledge of the matter told Reuters in Delhi.
Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals have been on ice since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019 traced to Pakistan-based militants that led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan.
Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.
But the two governments have re-opened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalizing ties over the next several months, the people said.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the region but rule only in part.
Officials from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external spy agency, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence traveled to Dubai for a meeting facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government, two people said.
The Indian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Pakistan’s military, which controls the ISI, also did not respond.
But Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani defense analyst, said she believed Indian and Pakistan intelligence officials had been meeting for several months in third countries.
“I think there have been meetings in Thailand, in Dubai, in London between the highest level people,” she said.

’IT IS FRAUGHT’
Such meetings have taken place in the past too, especially during times of crises but never been publicly acknowledged.
“There is a lot that can still go wrong, it is fraught,” said one of the people in Delhi. “That is why nobody is talking it up in public, we don’t even have a name for this, it’s not a peace process. You can call it a re-engagement,” one of them said.
Both countries have reasons to seek a rapprochement. India has been locked in a border stand-off with China since last year and does not want the military stretched on the Pakistan front.
China-ally Pakistan, mired in economic difficulties and on an IMF bailout program, can ill-afford heightened tensions on the Kashmir border for a prolonged period, experts say. It also has to stabilize the Afghan border on its west as the United States withdraws.
“It’s better for India and Pakistan to talk than not talk, and even better that it should be done quietly than in a glare of publicity,” said Myra MacDonald, a former Reuters journalist who has just published a book on India, Pakistan and war on the frontiers of Kashmir.
.”..But I don’t see it going very far beyond a basic management of tensions, possibly to tide both countries over a difficult period — Pakistan needs to address the fall-out of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while India has to confront a far more volatile situation on its disputed frontier with China.”

DIALLING DOWN THE RHETORIC
Following the January meeting, India and Pakistan announced they would stop cross-border shooting along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir which has left dozens of civilians dead and many others maimed. That cease-fire is holding, military officials in both countries said.
Both sides have also signalled plans to hold elections on their sides of Kashmir this year as part of efforts to bring normalcy to a region riven by decades of bloodshed.
The two have also agreed to dial down their rhetoric, the people Reuters spoke to said.
This would include Pakistan dropping its loud objections to Modi abrogating Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019, while Delhi in turn would refrain from blaming Pakistan for all violence on its side of the Line of Control.
These details have not been previously reported. India has long blamed Pakistan for the revolt in Kashmir, an allegation denied by Pakistan.
“There is a recognition there will be attacks inside Kashmir, there has been discussions as to how to deal with it and not let this effort derailed by the next attack,” one of the people said.
There is as yet, however, no grand plan to resolve the 74-year-old Kashmir dispute. Rather both sides are trying to reduce tensions to pave the way for a broad engagement, all the people Reuters spoke to said.
“Pakistan is transiting from a geo-strategic domain to a geo-economic domain,” Raoof Hasan, special assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, told Reuters.
“Peace, both within and around with its neighbors, is a key constituent to facilitate that.”