NDMA, Focus ink deals on capacity building

NDMA, Focus ink deals on capacity building

By Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) Pakistan, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), signed a memorandum of understanding in Islamabad, says a press release. Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qadri, Chairman NDMA, and Nusrat Nasab, Executive Officer FOCUS Pakistan, signed the MoU, which entails cooperation in the field of capacity building of staff members and resource mobilization for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programmes; initiation and execution of joint DRR projects, based on the Public-Private-Partnership model and shared advocacy for mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction by enhancing response capacity and awareness at different levels. Federal Minister for Climate Change, Rana Muhammad Farooq Saeed Khan, was also present at the signing ceremony. As part of the MoU, the two organisations will exchange knowledge and expertise, contributing towards improvement of planning, preparedness and response capacity in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction. In the past, NDMA and FOCUS have worked collaboratively on multiple projects implemented in different parts of the country. The MoU will initially remain valid for three years, till 2016. Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Zafar Iqbal, NDMA Chairman, said that the human induced and natural hazards facing Pakistan are immense and the risks can be reduced through collaboration and cooperation at different levels. He expressed hope that the MoU between NDMA and FOCUS Pakistan will pave ways for promoting DRR at the national level. Ms. Nusrat Nasab, Executive Officer of FOCUS Pakistan said that the different agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network and its affiliated institutions have been contributing to the development of Pakistan for many decades now. She said that Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change are among the top concerns of the century and the challenges can be overcome by working closely with relevant government departments. She termed the signing of the MoU as an important step in the right direction and acknowledged the able leadership of Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qadri for making it possible.



Cases against Zardari closed for ever

Cases against Zardari closed for ever

By Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Money laundering and graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in the courts of Switzerland cannot be reopened, says a letter by the Swiss authorities in response to the communication sent by the Pakistan government following the Supreme Court’s order. Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Farooq H Naek revealed this on Saturday. The cases against President Zardari, his late spouse Benazir Bhutto and others were closed in the Swiss courts in 2009 after then Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Malik Muhammad Qayyum wrote a letter to the Swiss authorities concerned in this regard. Earlier, on the orders of the Supreme Court in the NRO case, the government had written a letter to the Swiss authorities to withdraw the letter written by the AGP. The Swiss authorities, after a detailed perusal of the letter in the light of the law of the land, informed the Pakistan government that the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari could not be reopened. Farooq H Naek said that the letter of the Swiss authorities was delivered to President Zardari. On the issue of writing the letter to the Swiss authorities, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was found guilty of contempt of court and was disqualified by the Supreme Court. Afterwards, incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf complied with the SC orders and wrote the letter to withdraw the earlier letter written by the AGP but the letter could not get the cases against Zardari reopened. According to the BBC, in the letter received by the Law Ministry, the Swiss authorities state that Asif Ali Zardari, being the president, has complete immunity, and till Zardari holds the office of the president, no prosecution can take place against him. 


Kalash customs through the eyes of a girl

Kalash customs through the eyes of a girl

By Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: In a remote valley at the Afghan-Pakistan border, the last 3,000 Kalash pagans live encircled by a community of Muslims and Afghan refugees. At the approach of the winter, they pray, dance and sing to celebrate the rebirth of the seasons and their culture. Among them, a young woman must choose between making a change in all aspects of her life or let her traditions endure. This is the theme of an award-winning documentary by Swiss filmmaker, Gael Metroz, which was screened for a select number of guests at the residence of the Ambassador of Switzerland and Mrs Bubb. Welcoming his guests, the ambassador said a few words about the filmmaker adding that he and his wife Regula value the cultural diversity of Pakistan and therefore they had decided to screen the documentary, which showcased the people of the Kalash Valley Hoping the audience would be just as engrossed by the film as they were, he invited them all to stay on for refreshments after the screening. Gael lived in the Kalash Valley for a year – it is one of the ‘fragile cultures’ of the world, with a fast dwindling population that is either migrating to other parts of Pakistan for a better living conditions or is being pressurised to change its traditional way of life by economic constraints and the wave of religious dogma that is sweeping the country. The documentary, titled, ‘Kalash – The Last of the Infidels’ tells the story of the customs, rituals and practices of the Kalash through the eyes of a young girl who favours the traditional way of life. It is fascinating to see the different aspects of their lifestyle and the fact that they remain cheerful although life is difficult in many ways, especially if you have never visited the area. After the film, Ambassador Bubb asked Siraj ul Mulk, who hails from the ruling family of Chitral, to say a few words. Siraj explained the reasons for the dwindling population, but said there was hope it would survive. In this context he mentioned a British author who had written about the Kalash in 1850 and stated they would survive at the most another twenty years! “That was over a century ago and they are still there,” he said. In 2004 Gael Metroz graduated in French Literature, Philosophy and Art History at the University of Lausanne. He has been awarded with many literary prizes, such as the Prix de la Sorge in 2004 and the Prix Nicolas Bouvier in 2008. After writing and directing the play L’Enfant Dechu, he decided to focus on his career as an author, director and journalist. In order to let the journey around the world come to an expression through images, Metroz didn’t stop filming while he travelled to Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Burma, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, India and Nepal. While working as a journalist, he published his experiences on television, on the radio and in several newspapers.


We do not need any lecture on democracy: PM

We do not need any lecture on democracy: PM

By Our Correspondent

DASU: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf while referring to the government’s critics said that it did not need any lessons on democracy. The prime minister laid the foundation stone for the Rs2 billion, 63-km-long Thakot-Dasu road and vowed to continue development work for the masses and the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), despite opposition. Addressing a gathering after the ceremony, Raja announced a 40 percent raise in the “Hard Area Allowance” for Kohistan. He also directed WAPDA chairman to immediately fulfil the promises made to the local people and warned of swift action in case of non-compliance. The prime minister directed repair of local schools by the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (ERRA) and promised increase in quota of the area in medical and engineering colleges. Raja was earlier briefed about the Thakot-Dasu road, which will be constructed in 30 months and provide an easy access to the 4,320MW Dasu Power Project, besides serving as an alternative route to the Karakoram Highway. The prime minister strongly dismissed criticism against the developmental projects of the government. “We will not stop serving the masses or stop developmental work as it benefits them.” He also rejected the criticism against the Benazir Income Support Program and said it was a service for the poorest of the poor and will not be allowed to end. He said the people of Pakistan will continue to support this programme, through the power of the ballot. Raja said BISP will continue and will further expand. He told those who were criticising it that the government will raise the disbursement amount to Rs 5,000 and even Rs 10,000. Prime Minister Raja said the government did not have time to indulge in mudslinging or counter the propaganda of the critics, as it was busy initiating developmental projects for the masses. “There is no need to teach us what is democracy and how to serve the masses,” he said while referring to the critics on television talk shows. “We are not among those who run away, we will stand up and fight the critics and prove that the people of Pakistan see the PPP as a sign of hope that will not shy from any sacrifice in serving them,” Raja asserted. He lauded the work of MNA Mehboobullah Jan for initiating the arduous task of constructing 29 roads in a difficult terrain. He accepted all the demands put forward by Mehboobullah Jan and said he understands the problems he raised. The prime minister also raised slogans of “Jeay Bhutto” and asked the gathering to vote for the PPP so that the developmental projects could continue. Prime Minister Raja said the beautiful and serene surroundings of the area served as an attraction for the tourists from around the world, besides an important link to the Central Asian Republics. He said it was his desire to meet the people of Kohistan, who were ardent supporters of the PPP. He said he too was an ordinary worker of the PPP and believed in the vision of its leaders Zufikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. Raja also noted that the PPP had begun its current tenure in very difficult times.


GB a separate entity” GBUM

GB a separate entity” GBUM

By Our Correspondent

SKARDU: Chairman Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM) Manzoor Husain Parwana has said that Gilgit-Baltistan is neither part of Kashmir nor Pakistan. Those who are trying to link the region with any other country are wrong. He said that Gilgit-Baltistan was a party to the issue of Kashmir but it is not part of the state of Kashmir. Gilgit-Baltistan has its own geographical, historical, cultural and political history and significance and its people are a separate nation. Mr Parwana said that the decision of the parliamentary committee of Pakistan not to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province of Pakistan was correct and the people of the region welcomed it. He said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by all definitions were a separate nation and fulfil the criteria to have a separate state of their own. Making the region a province of any country will be an injustice with the two million people of the area, he maintained. The parliamentary committee decision also vindicated the long-standing stance of the nationalist parties of Gilgit-Baltistan that the region was not constitutional part of Pakistan, he added. The GBUM chief said that had it been possible to make the region a separate province Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could have make it. He said those who were trying to merge the region with Kashmir or Pakistan on the basis of some sectarian considerations were doing no service to the people. Because of such an approach, the people of the region have been deprived of their basic rights for the last over six decades, he added.