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World in Focus (Dec ’18 – Jan 19)

World in Focus (Dec ’18 – Jan 19)

NATIONAL

Dec 16: Pakistan was elected as the Vice President and the Rapporteur of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

Dec 17: The opposition unanimously named JUI-F leader Advocate Malik Sikandar as the leader of opposition in the Balochistan Assembly.

Dec 17: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, during his official visit to Egypt, had an important meeting with General Mohamed Zaki, Commander-in-Chief of Egyptian Armed Forces and Minister of Defence & Military Production and Lt Gen Mohamed Farid Hegazy, Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The COAS also met Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar.

Dec 17: The Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (PILAC) compiled a seven-volume dictionary of Punjabi language, considered the mother of all Punjabi dictionaries in the Subcontinent.

Dec 18: The British Airways announced that it will be resuming flights to Pakistan from June 2019, after a 10-year break. The first flight from Heathrow will reach Islamabad on June 2 next year.

Dec 18: Pakistan was declared the second worst country in the world in terms of gender parity, ranking 148 out of 149 countries in the ‘Global Gender Gap Index 2018’ report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Dec 18: Renowned film, television, radio and stage actor Ali Ejaz passed away. He was 77.

About Ali Ejaz

Ali Ejaz was born in 1941 in Qila Gujjar Singh, Lahore. Popular comedian Munawwar Zareef was his school fellow. Known for his versatility in acting, Ali Ejaz started his career with theatre in the 1960s. Pakistan Television was his second home where he acted in a number of plays and trained a generation of artistes. He was awarded Pride of Performance in 1993. His first film was Insaniyat. He acted in over 100 films and his pairing with actress Anjuman and comedian Nannha (Rafi Khawar) was very popular in the 1980s. His TV plays Khawaja and Sons, Sona Chandi and Lakhon Mein Teen (with Qavi Khan and Athar Shah Khan Jedi) became household names. He launched philanthropic work under the umbrella of his charity Ali Ejaz Foundation in 2015. One of his notable projects was homes for old people in Kala Khatai, near Lahore.

Dec 18: The 3-day international conference on “Central Asian Regional Economic Integration and CPEC: Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward,” organised by the Applied Economics Research Centre, started at University of Karachi.

Pakistan and Central Asia

The unique geographic, demographic and economic characteristics of Central Asian countries make it imperative to pursue regional integration and cooperation if they are to integrate globally. Positioned in a vast land-locked location, Central Asian countries face thick borders among themselves with their Eurasian neighbours and with global markets. There resides a relatively small population in the region and their combined economic mass constitutes only a modest-sized economy. Intraregional integration is the only sure path leading to interregional integration and the definite prerequisites transforming from being land-locked to land-linked. Pakistan and Central Asia have shared a geo-cultural affinity and a long tradition of historical contacts. The current situation and the era of globalisation have set some benchmarks in various fields of applied economics but, at the same time, Central Asia and Pakistan are facing lots of challenges to achieve sustainability of the economy. The CPEC as the flagship component of the Belt and Road Initiative provides a great opportunity serving as a catalyst to further boom the economic, social and cultural ties between Pakistan and the Central Asian countries.

Dec 19: The government appointed Wajid Zia, the head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in Panama Papers case, the Pakistan Railways Police Inspector General (IG).

Dec 19: The Pakistan Dietary Guidelines for Better Nutrition were launched by the Planning Commission’s nutrition section and the FAO.

Dec 19: The late human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir was posthumously awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize. Her daughter Munizae Jahangir received the award from president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa.

Dec 20: Pakistan and China signed an agreement to expand industrial cooperation in diverse fields and attract investment in special economic zones.

Dec 20: Broadcaster, poet and writer Absar Abdul Ali died.

Dec 20: The Congressional Pakistan Caucus Foundation (CPCF) was launched to help foster friendship, understanding and cooperation between the United States and Pakistan.

Dec 20: A Pakistani student Bilal Bin Saqib, who hails from Lahore, was elected as the leader of more than 6870 postgraduate students at the London School of Economics (LSE) Union.

Dec 21: Pakistani environmentalist and Oxford-based academic Dr Abrar Chaudhry was awarded the prestigious British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2018.

Dec 21: Pak-China Joint International Air Exercise ‘Shaheen-VII’ concluded at an Operational Air Base of PAF.

Dec 21: Google released a doodle in honour of the legendary Pakistani batsman, Hanif Mohammad, who is also known as ‘The Original Little Master’, to mark his 84th birthday.

Read More: World in Focus (Oct-Nov 2018)

Dec 21: Former chief executive officer (CEO) of University of Sargodha’s Lahore campus Mian Javed Ahmed, who was in Camp Jail in connection with a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry, died in prison.

Dec 23: South Punjab’s first-ever zigzag brick kiln was made operational in Jahanian, Khanewal district.

Dec 24: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Ali Jehangir Siddiqui relinquished his charge. Pakistan’s ambassador for Japan Dr Asad Majeed was designated to become new ambassador in Washington.

Dec 24: Former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was sent back to jail after being sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 7 years along with a fine of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills/ Hill Metal Establishment reference, while he was acquitted in the Flagship Investment reference.

Dec 25: Former MQM MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi was killed in a drive-by targeted attack in Karachi.

Dec 25: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan replaced provincial minister for Home and Tribal Affairs and Provincial Disaster Management Authority Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa with Ziaullah Langove, who was minister for forest and wildlife.

Mir Saleem Khosa will now hold the portfolio of revenue.

Dec 25: Hameed Asghar Shaheen, the founder of the Seraikistan Qaumi Movement, died. He was 81.

Dec 25: Lahore Whites defeated Rawalpindi Region to clinch the National Twenty20 Cup title.

Dec 26: The Pakistan Blind Cricket Council appointed Rabia Shahzadi the first captain of the national women blind cricket team.

Dec 26: Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the authorities concerned to notify the ban on import of furnace oil and implement it with true spirit and instead generate the electricity from LNG and coal in future at the maximum.

Dec 27: Pakistan and the UK signed an amended prisoner transfer agreement that will give convicted offenders in either country the opportunity to serve their sentence closer to home.

Dec 27: The government appointed Farrukh H. Sabzwari the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

Dec 28: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa appointed Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar the Colonel Commandant of Mujahid Force.

Dec 28: The European Union and Pakistan signed two financing agreements – Development through Enhanced Education Programme (DEEP), and Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) – under which the EU will provide assistance of €100 million for enhanced education and growth for rural development programmes.

Dec 28: The Supreme Court (SC) declared the PakTurk International Cag Education Foundation a “terrorist organisation” in the light of the decisions of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and Asian Parliamentary Assembly.

Dec 28: A section of a busy avenue in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, was named after Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Dec 29: The Punjab cabinet held in its first meeting in South Punjab, in Bahawalpur.

Dec 30: The historic educational institution of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Islamia Collegiate School, got first woman principal, Mrs Zohra Tauqir, in its 105-year-long meritorious educational history.

Dec 31: The Joint Venture of Pakistani Company Descon – owned by Adviser to PM on Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood – and a Chinese company, China Gezhouba, won the bid for construction of Rs309 billion Mohmand Dam with capacity to generate 800MW of electricity.

About Mohmand Dam

Mohmand Dam is proposed to be constructed across Swat River at a distance of 5 km from existing Munda Headwork and about 48 km from Peshawar in Mohmand Agency, FATA. It is one of the major projects to be undertaken by WAPDA after a longtime since commissioning of Tarbela and Mangla Dam. This project will not only to contribute 2,862 GWH Mean Annual Energy to national grid but will also supply water to Peshawar City. It will produce Irrigation Area of 16,737 acres to Charsada District and will also be helpful for flood control of surrounding areas. Alongwith that this project would contribute to generate a large chunk of hydropower for meeting the growing demand of electricity and reduce dependence on imported fuels along with provision of jobs opportunities and uplift of areas.

Jan 01: Justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan took oath as the 48th chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

Jan 02: China started building an advanced warship that would be delivered to Pakistan as part of a major arms deal between the two countries.

The Type 054 AP frigate being constructed at a Chinese shipyard for Pakistan Navy (PN) will strengthen its capability to respond future challenges, maintain peace and stability and balance of power in Indian Ocean region.

Jan 02: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government approved appointment of human rights activist Rukhshanda Naz as the first anti-harassment ombudsperson of the province.

Jan 02: Major Geoffrey Douglas Langlands, a known teacher of the Aitchison College, breathed his last. He was over 101. He was also a teacher of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and many others.

Jan 03: Punjab Home Department formed a new joint investigation team (JIT) to conduct a fresh probe into the 2014 Model Town carnage.

The new JIT will be headed by Inspector General National Highways and Motorway Police (NH&MP) A. D. Khawaja.

Among the members of the new probe team are Lt Col Muhammad Attiqueuz Zaman of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt Col Irfan Mirza of Military Intelligence (MI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) Deputy Director Muhammad Ahmed Kamal and Gilgit-Baltistan DIG (Headquarters) Qamar Raza.

Jan 04: Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace during his first official visit to Turkey.

Jan 04: The federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments agreed to share their resources from the divisible pool to fund the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

Jan 04: Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) finalised the terms and conditions of a support package of about $6.2 billion that involves $3.2bn worth of oil supplies on deferred payment, besides a $3bn cash deposit.

Jan 04: The army inducted indigenously produced A-100 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) into its Artillery.

Jan 05: The Pakistan-China joint military exercise codenamed ‘Warrior-VI’ ended near Kharian.

Jan 05: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Balochistan government signed an agreement for a $107 million project aimed at improving irrigation infrastructure and water-resource management in the province.

Jan 07: Four Rear Admirals of Pakistan Navy – Athar Mukhtar, Muhammad Fayyaz Jilani, Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi and Asif Khaliq – were promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral.

Jan 09: Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the removal of managing directors of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).

Jan 09: During its three-day conference in Sydney, Australia, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), reportedly, expressed a degree of satisfaction over Pakistan’s efforts and action plan to combat money laundering and terror financing under international obligations and indicated certain areas to do more before May 2019 to get out of the grey list.

Jan 09: Pakistan Army Air Defence displayed its fire power capability at Air Defence firing ranges near Karachi.

The firing was displayed in the two-week event of Exercise Al Bayza–2019.

Jan 10: President Dr Arif Alvi accepted the resignation of Federal Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati.

Jan 11: Cases of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission were transferred to the Anti-Corruption Special Court, after the recently enacted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission (Repeal) Act, 2018 for dissolution of the commission and Ehtesab courts.

Jan 11: Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the appointment of Ijaz Wasti as Chief Economist, Government of Pakistan.

Jan 11: The government reconstituted the 9th National Finance Commission (NFC) to give new award for sharing of federal divisible resources among the centre and provinces.

The commission will be headed by Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umar and comprise four provincial finance ministers and four non-statutory members.

The non-statutory members, one from each province, include Dr Salman Shah from Punjab, Asad Sayeed from Sindh, Musharraf Rasool Cyan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mahfooz Ali Khan from Balochistan.

Jan 11: The Supreme Court imposed a levy on companies selling mineral water and beverages at a rate of Re1 for every litre of surface water extracted by them.

Jan 12: Ahmad Nawaz, a survivor of the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar attack, was given the Point of Light award by the Prime Minister’s Office in the United Kingdom (UK) for rendering services as an anti-radicalisation youth activist.

Jan 12: The Supreme Court (SC) ordered an end to all the commercial activities on the military lands in Karachi.

Jan 12: Islamic scholar and spiritual head of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Hamdullah Jan Dagai passed away at the age of 104.

Jan 14: South Africa completed a series clean sweep over Pakistan with a 107-run win on the fourth day of the third and final Test at the Wanderers.

Jan 14: Renowned television actor Safia Khairi passed away, aged 86.

Jan 14: The Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) appeal against the Sept 19, 2018, order of the Islamabad High Court that had suspended the jail terms awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in the Avenfield Apartments reference.

Jan 14: Manzoor Ahmed Kakar, the secretary general of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), won the by-election held on a Senate seat that fell vacant after Senator Azam Khan Musakhail of the PkMAP passed away.

Jan 14: Freelance reporter Asad Hashim was named the winner of the 2018 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize for his coverage of problems being faced by Pakhtuns, and blasphemy issues in Pakistan.

Jan 15: Prime Minister I ran Khan appointed Nadeem Afzal Gondal his official spokesperson.

Jan 15: Sardar Amer Altaf, a recently elected PML-N legislator from Sudhnoti, clinched victory in election for the office of Deputy Speaker of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly.

The Mini-Budget

The second supplementary finance bill presented by Finance Minister Asad Umer contains bold proposals given that it supports tax incentives to productive sectors including industry, agriculture and services worth an estimated Rs. 10.8 billion while it seeks to enhance revenue by Rs. 4.398 billion rupees giving a net loss of Rs. 6.8 billion. It has also extended fiscal incentives to stock market in the hope that trades will pick up in the exchange and lead the way to an increase in economic activity.

The government has incorporated two critical pieces of legislation in the supplementary finance bill that, if passed, may lead to greater revenue in times to come but one of them militates against the stated aim of documentation of the economy. First and foremost, the finance minister introduced the concept of provisional assessment of offshore assets that envisages enabling the government to assess and tax foreign assets held by resident Pakistanis and in the event of non-payment of assessed tax, appropriate their local assets to recover the tax due. This would obviate the need to undertake cumbersome and arduous proceedings in foreign jurisdictions for tax recovery/appropriation of foreign assets. This as a possible key source of additional revenue has been a primary objective of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Secondly, the finance act second amendment bill is to restore the presumptive tax regime for commercial importers. This measure, if approved, will undo a major shift that was made in the tax policy by the Finance Act 2018 that had abolished presumptive tax regime for importers whereby the tax collected at the import stage was to be the minimum tax liability and not the final tax liability.

Seed money of Rs5bn would be offered as interest-free loan to the housing sector, and the facility would remain in place from tax years 2020 to 2023.

Another key move was the announcement for settlement of Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) arrears against various industries that would come up for approval before the cabinet on Thursday. The finance minister hinted at bringing down the overall rate of GIDC for all sectors to reduce the cost of doing business, besides a 50pc cut in these rates for the fertiliser sector that he believed would reduce fertilizer price by Rs200 per bag. To facilitate businesses with minimum FBR interface, the minister announced that withholding agents were no more required to file monthly withholding statements, but only biannual statements. The finance minister also announced steps cajoling the newspaper industry, small shopkeepers and owners of marriage halls in the form of reduction in tax rates. Also included in the reduced duty rates or removal of regulatory duty are import of raw material/inputs for 135 tariff lines meant for plastic, footwear, tanning, leather, home appliances, diapers and chemical sectors. Most of these steps would come into force on March 31. Regulatory duty was also announced for removal of input materials of around 200 tariff lines for manufacturing of automobile parts by local vendors.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa 26th Chief Justice of Pakistan

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, who was sworn in as the 26th chief justice of Pakistan on January 18, 2019, was born on December 21, 1954 in Dera Ghazi Khan.

A brilliant student more than five decades ago, the 64-year-old top court judge secured the fifth position in his matriculation exams in 1969 from the Multan Board. In 1973, he appeared for the bachelor’s exams from Government College Lahore at Punjab University and secured the first position, after which he did his master’s in English language and literature in 1975.

His successful academic career continued as he attended the Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge, obtaining a master’s degree in law with a specialisation in Public International Law.

Later, he was called to the bar on July 26, 1979, at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London. Barrister Khosa was then appointed as a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in May 1998.

On February 18, 2010, Justice Khosa was elevated to the position of a Supreme Court judge. He will remain the country’s top judge for 11 months and is scheduled to retire on December 21, 2019. Justice Khosa will be succeeded by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who will head the apex for over one year till October 25, 2024.

Poetic Justice

Widely known for adding lyrical flair to his observations and judgments — most recently in the landmark Panama papers verdict that he opened with a quote from Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” – Justice Khosa, in Gillani’s case authored a separate six-page note wherein he quoted famed Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran’s “Pity the Nation”.

The note became subject of media coverage all over the country, but lesser known was the top court judge’s love for literature which he enunciated through his dissenting note in the split 2:3 Panama case verdict that removed Nawaz Sharif as the country’s premier.

“Behind every great fortune there is a crime,” Justice Khosa noted while pointing out an epigraph by Honore de Balzac selected by Puzo, saying, “It is ironical and a sheer coincidence that the present case revolves around that very sentence attributed to Balzac.”

In Aasia Bibi blasphemy case, Justice Khosa passed several remarks that attracted the public attention. Acquitting Aasia, Justice Khosa said that she “appeared to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”

He had ended the ruling by quoting a hadith pledging, “Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I [Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)] will complain against the person on the Day of Judgement.”

Besides dispensing poetic justice, Justice Khosa has authored multiple books during his career, including “Heeding the Constitution”, “Constitutional Apologues”, and “Judging with Passion and Breaking New Ground”.

He also edited and compiled “The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973” with all amendments up to date.

Former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa and former inspector general of police (IGP) of Balochistan and a Director-General FIA Tariq Masood Khosa are Justice Khosa’s brothers.

Gender Gap

The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, an annual report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), has indicated that it will take centuries to achieve gender parity in workplaces around the globe. However, there had been some improvements in wage equality this year compared to 2017, when the global gender gap widened for the first time in a decade. But the report warned that these were offset by declining representation of women in politics, coupled with greater inequality in their access to health and education. At current rates, the global gender gap across a range of areas will not close for another 108 years, while it is expected to take 202 years to close the workplace gap.

Regarding Pakistan, the report said, “Pakistan (148) makes some good progress this year in wage equality as well as on the Educational Attainment subindex. However, this progress is insufficiently rapid to avoid the country being overtaken by a number of faster-improving countries at the lower end of the Index’s global rankings.”

Saudi Cabinet reshuffle

On Dec 27, Saudi Arabia reshuffled its cabinet in the first major change in government since the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

King Salman remained the head of the cabinet and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman kept his positions as deputy premier and defence minister. The Council of Political and Security Affairs also remained under the leadership of the crown prince.

King Salman appointed Ebrahim Al Assaf as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Adel Al Jubeir who held the portfolio since 2015 as State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Member of the Cabinet.

Turki Al Shabana was named Minister for Media (Information).

Other royal orders appointed Prince Abdullah Bin Bandar as Minister for National Guard and removed Prince Mohammad Bin Nawaf Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud as Ambassador to the UK, Prince Faisal Bin Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud as Prince of Aseer, and Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz as President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

King Salman appointed Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz as Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, Prince Faisal Bin Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz as advisor to King Salman, and Musaad Al Aiban as National Security Advisor.

King Salman also appointed Faisal Bin Nawaf as Emir of Jouf, replacing Prince Bader Bin Sultan, and Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al Faisal as President of the Sports Commission, replacing Turki Al Shaikh.

Majed Al Qasbi was appointed the head of the newly-formed General Commission for Exhibitions and Conferences, Ahmad Al Khateeb Chairman of the General Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Turki Al Shaikh president of the General Commission for Entertainment and Turki Bin Saud Bin Mohammad Bin Abdul Aziz Advisor at the Royal Court.

INTERNATIONAL

Dec 16: The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the most important climate conference since the conclusion of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 – ended in Katowice, Poland.

Nearly 200 countries agreed, very next day, on a set of rules to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, called the Paris Agreement rulebook.

Dec 16: Indian teenage fast bowler Rex Singh wrote his name in the record books by becoming one of a select band of bowlers to take all 10 wickets in an innings.

Dec 16: Salome Zurabishvili was sworn in as Georgia’s first female president.

About Ms Zurabishvili

Zurabishvili was born in France to a Georgian family who fled the Bolshevik regime to Paris in 1921. She studied international relations at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Sciences before a 30-year career as a French diplomat, with postings to the United Nations, Washington and Chad. Her career in French diplomacy culminated in a posting to Tbilisi, where then-president Saakashvili appointed her as foreign minister. She then joined the opposition as a member of parliament and became one of Saakashvili’s fiercest critics.

World in Focus (Dec ’18 – Jan 19)

Dec 16: Belgium defeated former champions the Netherlands in sudden death to win their maiden men’s hockey World Cup title, at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India.

Dec 16: Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for the 5th occasion.

Dec 17: Miss Philippines Catriona Gray, 24, was crowned Miss Universe. She finished first ahead of the South African and Venezuelan finalists.

Dec 17: United States diplomats and Taliban representatives met in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for talks facilitated by Pakistan on finding a negotiated settlement of the war in Afghanistan.

The meeting was also attended by officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Dec 18: Hamid Nehal Ansari, an Indian who illegally crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan in 2012 and was convicted for spying and forging documents in 2015, was handed over into Indian authorities, days after conclusion of his punishment.

Dec 18: Lionel Messi received his record fifth Golden Shoe award for leading all of Europe’s football leagues in scoring last season.

Dec 18: The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Geneva and agreed to convene a new Syrian Constitutional Committee early in 2019.

Dec 18: Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel resigned.

Dec 19: The UN-brokered cease-fire agreement for Yemen’s Hodeida, which was struck at the UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, came into effect.

Dec 19: India imposed president’s rule in Indian-held Kashmir, after the expiry of the six-month governor’s rule.

Dec 19: The UN General Assembly formally ratified a UN deal on migration by a large majority – but without the support of the United States and a string of other countries.

Twelve countries abstained while five nations – the USA, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Israel – voted against it.

Dec 20: US President Donald Trump announced a stunning order to pull American ground forces from the war-ravaged nation as the Islamic State group has been “beaten” in Syria.

Dec 20: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani met in Ankara. They vowed to work closer to end the fighting in Syria.

World in Focus (Dec ’18 – Jan 19)

Dec 21: US Defence Secretary James Mattis stepped down in response to President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw roughly half the US troops (7,000) from Afghanistan.

Dec 21: Germany closed its last black coal mine, a 200-year-old industry that once fuelled the country’s economic growth.

Dec 22: Saudi Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, a half brother of King Salman, died at the age of 87.

Defiantly liberal and dubbed the ‘Red Prince’ Talal bin Abdul Aziz was known as a tireless advocate of reform.

Dec 22: Brett McGurk, the special US envoy to the coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State group, resigned.

Dec 22: Uzbekistan thrashed Kazakhstan to win the FIH Haier Hockey Open series at the National Hockey Stadium, Lahore.

Dec 23: Hamas denounced Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s plan to dissolve the Palestinian parliament.

Dec 23: A volcano-triggered tsunami left 200 plus people dead and hundreds more injured after slamming without warning into beaches around Indonesia’s Sunda Strait.

Dec 23: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appointed Amrullah Saleh the country’s new interior minister and Asadullah Khaled the defence minister.

Dec 23: Egypt appointed Major General Khaled Megawer to serve as the head of the country’s military intelligence service, replacing Mohamed al-Shahat.

Dec 23: Dr Jiko Luveni, the first female speaker of Fiji’s Parliament, died at the age of 72.

Dec 25: Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev expanded targeted sanctions against Ukrainian individuals and legal entities.

Dec 25: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest rail-road bridge.

Dec 25: Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a grand ayatollah who headed Iran’s judiciary during fierce crackdowns on dissidents, journalists and activists, died at the age of 70.

Dec 26: Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting was formally inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

Ponting was named in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame along with former India captain Rahul Dravid and England woman wicketkeeper-batter Claire Taylor during the ICC Annual Conference in Dublin in July 2018.

Dec 26: Dale Steyn became South Africa’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker when Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman became his 422nd victim on the first day of the first Test.

Dec 26: US President Donald Trump signed a bill to honour fallen Muslim US Army Captain Humayun Khan.

The bill, filed by Congressman Tom Garrett in July 2017, renames a post office in Charlottesville, a city in Virginia, after Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Dec 27: French conglomerate Vinci bought control of Gatwick airport, Britain’s second-busiest, for nearly 3 billion pounds.

Dec 27: Russia tested a new strategic weapon, the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which flies 27 times faster than the speed of sound, making it impossible to intercept and essentially makes missile defences useless.

Dec 27: The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus, Syria, the latest sign of efforts to bring the Syrian government back into the Arab fold.

Dec 27: The lower house of India’s parliament, Lok Sabha, approved a bill to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling that declared Muslim practice of instant divorce unconstitutional.

Dec 29: Norman Gimbel, the Oscar and Grammy-winning lyricist behind “Killing Me Softly,” “The Girl From Ipanema” and the theme from iconic sitcom “Happy Days” died aged 91.

Dec 30: Bangladesh held its 11th national parliamentary election. As per the results, Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) won a landslide of 288 votes out of 300.

Dr Saleem Akhtar

On Dec 30, renowned critic, short story writer and educationist Dr Saleem Akhtar passed away. He was 84.

Dr Saleem Akhtar was born in Lahore on March 11, 1934. He got his early education in Pune, India, where his father was posted in military accounts. He did matriculation from Faizul Islam High School, Rawalpindi, and BA from Govt Degree College, Lower Mall, Rawalpindi. After a brief stint with a newspaper in Peshawar, he left the job and did MA Urdu as a private candidate. He also did a diploma in Library Sciences. His master’s degree got him a job as a lecturer at Emerson College, Multan in 1962 where he taught for eight years before being transferred to the Govt College, Lahore. During his teaching career, he also completed his PhD. He retired from the college as assistant professor in 1994.

Dr Akhtar was a giant of Urdu literature with a big contribution to it, not only in the form of books he had written but a long career of teaching. He wrote 88 books on different topics like criticism, psychology, religion and culture and in various genres, including short stories, novelettes and travelogues.

Dr Akhtar’s book, Urdu Adab Ki Mukhtasar Tareen Tareekh, is one of his most known works. His early short stories had romantic and emotional themes. Among his popular short stories are: Aik Mehbooba Aik Tawaif, Sweetheart, Kath Putli, Do Rastay Aik Pul and Machar. His short story collections such as Muthi Bhar Saanp, Adahi Raat Ki Makhlooq and Kadwe Badam got very popular. He was awarded Pride of Performance in 2008.

Dec 31: International Cricket Council crowned India’s Smriti Mandhana as woman cricketer of the year.

Dec 31: Britain appointed Ben Elliot its first food waste chief to help drive a campaign to reduce the millions of tonnes of food binned every year by restaurants, supermarkets and manufacturers.

Jan 01: The United States and Israel officially quit the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Jan 01: Right-wing nationalist Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to crack down on political corruption, violent crime and ignite a moribund economy with deregulation and fiscal discipline, was sworn in as Brazil’s president.

Jan 02: Two women defied a centuries-old ban on entering Sabarimala temple, a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Kerala.

Jan 02: An acting defence chief, Patrick M.Shanahan, replaced US Secretary of Defence James Mattis at the Pentagon.

Jan 02: Almost a third of new cars sold in Norway last year were pure electric, a new world record as the country strives to end sales of fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2025.

Jan 03: A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon, in a global first that boosts Beijing’s ambitions to become a space superpower.

Jan 04: China tested its most powerful non-nuclear weapon, dubbed the “Mother of All Bombs”.

Jan 04: Private data stolen from hundreds of German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, was released online.

Jan 05: Top seed Aryna Sabalenka won the Shenzhen open, defeating the three-time finalist Alison Riske.

Jan 05: Roger Federer became the most successful player in Hopman Cup history when he became the first player to win three Hopman Cups, teaming with Belinda Bencic for the duo’s second consecutive title.

Jan 05: New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka and won the ODI series.

Jan 05: The Istanbul-based Orthodox patriarch signed the formal decree confirming the creation of an independent Ukrainian church, marking a break with the Russian church.

Jan 05: A Japanese sushi entrepreneur paid a record $3.1 million for a giant tuna.

Jan 06: Malaysia’s king Sultan Muhammad V abdicated in a historic first for the country.

Jan 06: The Sao Paulo Shimbun newspaper printed its final edition, ending a 72-year run as a vital reference point and voice for Brazil’s Japanese community, the largest in the world outside of Japan.

Jan 07: Former US Defense Secretary Harold Brown, who while being in the Carter administration, championed cutting-edge fighting technology, died at age 91.

Jan 07: India won a historic first-ever series in Australia.

Jan 08: Amazon, for the first time, closed out the trading session as the world’s biggest publicly-traded company, overtaking Microsoft and other fellow tech behemoths.

Jan 08: Moshe Arens, the Israeli politician and statesman who was one of the last of his country’s founding generation of right-wing, liberal Zionists, died. He was 93.

Citizenship Bill, 2016 & the Hinduisation of India

On January 8, India’s lower house of parliament approved a bill that would grant residency and citizenship rights to undocumented non-Muslim immigrants, sparking protests in the country’s northeast. The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 seeks to amend the 1955 Citizenship Act to make Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from three Muslim-majority countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan – eligible for Indian citizenship. This would mean migrants belonging to these religious communities who entered India without the necessary documents prior to 2014 would not be imprisoned or deported and would gain permanent citizenship after six years of residency in India.

The governing Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) main strategist for the northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma, recently exposed the real purpose of this bill: protecting India’s so-called Hindu identity.

Soon after the bill was passed, the minister argued that this decision may have prevented Muslims from taking control of Assam’s 17 assembly seats and the Muslim leader of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Badruddin Ajmal, from becoming the chief minister.

By using the potential electoral success of Muslim Indian citizens, who have every right to contest and hold public positions, as a way to legitimise the citizenship bill, Sarma clearly demonstrated that the purpose of this bill is not to “help” anyone, but to protect and promote Hindu supremacy in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also previously admitted that the bill is tied to his party’s desire to make India a Hindu nation that prioritises the rights of Hindus irrespective of their citizenship.

Jan 10: A German court threw out a lawsuit by Pakistani plaintiffs against clothing retailer KiK over a deadly 2012 fire at a Karachi garment factory, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

Jan 10: Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared winner of DR Congo’s presidential election.

Jan 10: Indian parliament approved a bill providing a 10 percent quota in government jobs for the poor members of upper castes who have been excluded from existing quotas for low-ranking castes.

Jan 11: Macedonia’s parliament passed an amendment to the constitution to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia, as agreed with Greece to put an end to a 27-year dispute.

Jan 12: American Tennys Sandgren claimed his first ATP tour title with a comprehensive straight sets win over Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the Auckland Classic final.

Jan 12: The United Nations stepped up its battle against starvation in Yemen with a US$32 million transfer of funds from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to the humanitarian relief effort in the war-scarred country.

Jan 12: A partial US government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the US-Mexico border entered its 22nd day, making it the longest shuttering of federal agencies in US history.

Jan 13: A high-ranking Yemeni intelligence official Brigadier General Saleh Tamah, who was injured in a Houthi rebel drone attack on the country’s largest Al-Anad air base, died.

Jan 13: India and five Central Asian countries along with Afghanistan held the first-ever meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue which also saw the participation of Afghanistan in the ministerial level meeting in Samarkand.

Jan 14: Jordanian King Abdullah II met Iraq’s president and prime minister in Baghdad, in the monarch’s first trip to Iraq in more than a decade.

Jan 14: Lionel Messi took his all-time La Liga scoring record to 400 goals.

An Unwanted Cricket Record

On Jan 14, China women team was skittled out for just 14 runs at a tournament in Bangkok — the lowest ever score in a Twenty20 international match, for men or women. In reply to the United Arab Emirates’ massive 203 for 3, China were bowled out in under an hour and with 10 overs to spare at the Thailand T20 Smash.

The Thailand T20 Smash includes fellow cricketing underdogs Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar.

It is not the first embarrassment to befall Chinese cricket against Asian nations who Beijing dominates in economic and political terms, but struggles to match on the wicket.

In October last year, China’s men made a dismal 26 against Nepal at a World Twenty20 qualifier, a total bested in just 11 balls.

China is a newcomer to world cricket, having fielded its first international team at the 2010 Asian Games. Its women’s team is ranked 25th of 47 countries playing women’s T20, according to the International Cricket Council website.

Jan 15: The International Cricket Council named Manu Sawhney as its new chief executive officer to replace David Richardson.

Jan 15: British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin.

Jan 15: The International Criminal Court acquitted former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo of war crimes.

Pakistan Security Report 2018

Posting a decrease of about 29 percent from the year before, as many as 262 terrorist attacks took place in Pakistan in 2018, including 19 suicide and gun-and-suicide-coordinated attacks. In all, 595 people lost their lives – a decline of 27 percent from those killed in such attacks in 2017 – and 1,030 others were injured in these attacks, which were launched by different militant, nationalist/insurgent and violent sectarian groups.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), its splinter groups, mainly Jamaatul Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar, as well as other militant groups with similar objectives such as local Taliban groups, Lashkar-e-Islam and ISIS-affiliates perpetrated 171 terrorist attacks which killed 449 people and injured 769 others. Meanwhile nationalist insurgent groups, mainly Baloch, carried out 80 attacks which claimed 96 lives and wounded another 216 people. As many as 11 terrorist attacks were sectarian-related which killed 50 people and inflicted injuries to 45 others.

Terrorists employed diverse weapons/tactics to hit their targets mainly including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of various types (118 attacks), firing/shootout (99 attacks), suicide blasts (19 attacks) and hand grenades 18 attacks. Less frequently employed attack tactics included 4 rocket attacks, and 2 incidents each of mortar shelling and sabotage. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including erstwhile FATA agencies, faced the highest number of terrorist attacks compared to all other regions of Pakistan. A total of 125 reported attacks from the province claimed 196 lives and inflicted injuries to another 376 people.

In terms of terrorism-related casualties, Balochistan was the most affected region of the country in 2018 where 354 people were killed and 589 others were injured in 115 reported attacks from there. Most of these terrorism-caused casualties in Balochistan resulted from attacks perpetrated by religiously inspired militant groups such as the TTP, Hizbul Ahrar, ISIS-affiliates and some other similar unknown militants.

World in Focus (Dec ’18 – Jan 19)



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