Indo-Pak tension: Pakistan airspace to remain closed today
Islamabad: All international and domestic flights operations across Pakistan stand suspended on Thursday, said the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Quoting Pakistan’s aviation agency, ARY News also reported that the flight operations would remain shut until further notice.
“NOTAM is still in place & airspace over #Pakistan remains closed. Apology for an earlier tweet that indicated the partial opening of our airspace for commercial aviation. Any further information will be shared accordingly,” the CAA tweeted early on Thursday.
Airlines like Qatar Airways issued a statement on Wednesday wherein it asserted that due to the ongoing situation on the India-Pakistan border, its flights to the airports in Faisalabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and, Sialkot stand temporarily suspended.
On Wednesday, flight operations across eight airports in India – Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Jammu, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kullu and Leh – were shut briefly. Operations later resumed in all the airports. Meanwhile, Air Canada has temporarily suspended its flight services to India, after Pakistan’s decision to shut its airspace.
These measures come in the wake of an Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being captured by the Pakistani army on Wednesday when the Pakistan Air Force violated the Indian air space. Fighter jets from the Indian Air Force repulsed the morning raid launched by Pakistani F-16 fighter jets which prevented damage on Indian troop positions or infrastructure.
India has since sought the immediate and safe return of the personnel, strongly underlining that “no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody.” On Tuesday, India launched an anti-terror strike against a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, in which a large number of terrorists have been killed by the Indian Air Force, according to Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
The air strike was carried out in the aftermath of the February 14 terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which claimed the lives of over 40 CRPF personnel. Pakistan-based JeM staked responsibility for the attacks, which have been widely condemned by the international community. There has been mounting global pressure against Pakistan to stop providing support and a safe haven to terrorists ever since.
2019 Lok Sabha elections will be most expensive in Indian history, says US expert
Washington: The upcoming general elections in India will be the most expensive in Indian history and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic country, a US-based expert has said. The Election Commission of India is soon expected to announce its schedule for the polls to be held to elect 543 members of the Lok Sabha.
“The combined US presidential and congressional elections in 2016 cost USD 6.5 billion. If the 2014 Lok Sabha elections cost an estimated USD 5 billion, there is little doubt the 2019 election will easily surpass that – making India’s elections the world’s most expensive,” Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank told PTI.
“The uncertainty associated with the coming election -polls suggest a narrowing gap between the BJP and the opposition – only provides more fodder for an arms race in spending,” he said.
Vaishnav has emerged as an authoritative voice on Indian elections, in particular, the funding aspects of it, over the years.
“While the outcome of the next general election is up in the air, one attribute about it is already well known: it will be the most expensive general election in Indian history and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic society,” Vaishnav wrote in an op-ed for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a top American think-tank.
Noting that the 2014 general elections costed USD 5 billion, Vaishnav said it was not inconceivable that overall expenditure will double again this year.
“The exorbitant cost of Indian elections has become a cardinal fact of the Indian political economy that is widely acknowledged and lamented – including by politicians and their donors. But it is not simply the material outlays that grab one’s attention, it is the manner in which the money flows,” he said.
Vaishnav rued that in India there is virtually zero transparency when it comes to political contributions. It is next to impossible to either identify who has donated money to a politician or party or to figure out from where a politician has obtained his or her campaign funds, he said.
Very few donors are willing to disclose their political giving for fear of retribution should their preferred party not come to power, he noted.
The system of electoral bond, brought in by the current government, has not helped either, he argued. The system lacks transparency, he said.
Whoa! World’s largest bee spotted for the first time since 1981
Washington: A team of researchers spotted the world’s giant bee which is as big as a human thumb, in Indonesia for the first time since 1981, the media reported on Friday.
The team — natural history photographer Clay Bolt, entomologist Eli Wyman, behavioural ecologist Simon Robson and ornithologist Glenn Chilton — made the stunning “rediscovery” of the elusive critter and took the first photos and video of a living Wallace’s giant bee on January 25, CNN reported.
The team has spent years studying the bee and slogged around in humid Indonesia forests for days before stumbling upon one.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies this species as “vulnerable” due to mining and quarrying. Only two other people have been documented to have seen the Wallace Bee in person before. The first was British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who discovered the giant bee in 1858 while exploring the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan, and entomologist Adam Messer who became the second in 1981.
The team went from termite nest to nest in the forests of remote islands known as the North Moluccas, photographer Bolt said. They had some information about the bee’s habitat and behaviour from Messer’s paper, and they examined satellite imagery to become familiar with the terrain.
The team also knew that the giant bee tended to be found in the lowland forest and tree-dwelling termite nests. However, deforestation in Indonesia has ramped up in the past decade to pave way for agriculture which has resulted in the shrinking of the bee’s natural habitat.
Pakistan Army given nod to respond ‘decisively’ and ‘comprehensively’ to any ‘aggression’ by India
written by Sajjad Hussain FPJ Islamabad: Even as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan banned the terror outfit JuD, he authorised the military to “respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure” by India. Khan, who chaired a key meeting of the National Security Committee, said the Pakistan government was “determined to demonstrate” that it is capable of protecting its people.
The meeting also concluded that “Pakistan is not involved in any way, means or form in Pulwama incident and it was conceived, planned and executed indigenously”, according to the statement.
It further said Pakistan has offered to seriously investigate the “incident.” ‘‘We expect India to positively respond to these offers,” the statement said, adding that based on the investigation or any tangible evidence provided, Pakistan shall take action against anyone found using its soil. The NSC further urged the global community to play its part in resolving the Kashmir issue.
In a video message on Tuesday, Khan had assured India that he would act against the perpetrators of the Pulwama terror attack if New Delhi shares “actionable intelligence”, but warned against any “revenge” retaliatory action. Ahead of the NSC meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Khan and Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa held a one-on-one meeting during which they discussed region’s security situation.
UN chief calls on India, Pakistan to take ‘immediate steps’ to defuse tensions
United Nations: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on India and Pakistan to take “immediate steps” to de-escalate tensions between the two nations following the Pulwama terror attack, reiterating that his good offices are available if both sides ask.
The already sour relations between India and Pakistan have worsened over the past week as New Delhi blamed Islamabad for the Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Both countries have called back their envoys for “consultations.” “The Secretary General stresses the importance for both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to de-escalation, and his good offices are always available should both sides ask,” the UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters here Tuesday at the daily press briefing.
Dujarric was asked about a meeting Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the UN has sought with the Secretary General and about Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying the UN must step in to diffuse tensions between the nations. “Looking at the situation in general between India and Pakistan, we are deeply concerned at the increasing tensions between the two countries in the wake of the attack on Indian security personnel on February 14 in Pulwama,” Dujrraic said.
He said Pakistan’s mission at the UN requested for the meeting with the Secretary General. In a separate issue, Dujjaric said that in response to questions on a recent incident involving the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, known as UNMOGIP, the observer group reported on February 16 that a UN vehicle in the city of Jammu was surrounded by a group of protesters who placed a Pakistan flag in front of the vehicle.
“The vehicle attempted to bypass the flag but was unable to do so. The Mission has informed both Indian and Pakistani authorities of this regrettable and unavoidable circumstances of the incident. The Mission also requested India to provide additional escorts and will be conducting an investigation,” he said.
Mongolia shuts KFC over food poisoning
laanbaatar: Mongolian authorities have temporarily closed all KFC restaurants in the country after more than 200 customers suffered food poisoning symptoms and dozens were hospitalised. The first cases emerged earlier this month, with 16 people showing symptoms of food poisoning, including diarrhoea, vomiting and high fever after eating at the fried chicken franchise.The department decided to shut down the country’s 11 KFC restaurants — all based in the capital – while it investigates what happened.
A preliminary investigation found that 35 employees at a restaurant were not thoroughly vetted to handle food, with most of them having blank medical examination reports, which is illegal. The restaurant also lacked internal hygiene management. A strong bacteria known as Klebsiella spp was detected in water at the restaurant. Traces of E-coli were also found in a soda machine, and four people contracted the Shigella germ – which causes diarrhea and fever — after coming into contact with KFC staff.
Iran summons Pakistan envoy
Tehran: Iran’s foreign ministry on Sunday summoned the Pakistan ambassador after Tehran accused Islamabad of harbouring a jihadist group, which it says is behind a deadly suicide attack on its security forces. “The Islamic Republic of Iran expects Pakistan’s government and army to seriously confront the terrorist outfits that are active on its border with Iran,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The suicide bombing on Wednesday killed 27 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards travelling on a bus in the volatile south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which straddles the border with Pakistan. Iran Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari on Saturday blamed Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency for sheltering the jihadists. “
The government of Pakistan must pay the price for harbouring these terrorist groups and this price will undoubtedly be very high,” Jafari told mourners gathered at funerals for the dead in the city of Isfahan. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also linked the perpetrators of Wednesday’s attack to “the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries
Sex abuse summit: World bishops head to Vatican
Vatican City: Pope Francis gathers bishops from around the world at the Vatican this week for a hotly-awaited summit on tackling the wave of child sex abuse scandals assailing the Catholic Church.
The heads of around 100 bishops’ conferences from every continent will convene from Thursday to Sunday for the meeting on the protection of minors, with victims’ groups demanding that a concrete action plan on fighting paedophilia be drawn up.
The pope, who asked the bishops to speak to victims of abuse in their respective countries before the Rome convention, has tried to dial down “inflated expectations” for a cure-all. Several victims were also invited to the Vatican.
“I ask you to pray for this meeting,” the pope said Sunday, adding that he wanted the meeting “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time.” The conference aims to be an opportunity to improve awareness of the global phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, despite many in Africa, Asia and the Middle East being in denial of what they call “a Western problem”.
China closes Mt Everest base camp to combat garbage issue
Beijing: China has banned the entry of visitors who don’t have climbing permits into the core zone of the Mount Everest National Nature reserve in Tibet to better conserve the environment of the world’s highest mountain. But for travellers, who have a climbing permit, the mountaineering activities will not be affected, according to the reserve, which was set up in 1988.
Covering an area of around 33,800 square km, including a 10,312-square km core zone, the reserve is home to one of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Recently, a report went viral online claiming the Qomolangma base camp was “permanently closed due to heavy pollution.”
In Tibet, the the 8,848-metre high Mount Everest is called as Mount Qomolangma. The deputy director with the reserve’s administration, Kelsang said ordinary tourists are banned from areas above Rongpo Monastery, around 5,000 metres above sea level. A new tent camp will be set up nearly two-km away from the original one, the state-run Xinhua news reported.
Though ordinary visitors can’t go beyond the monastery, it won’t affect them from appreciating the mountain. Travellers who have a climbing permit can go to the base camp at an altitude of 5,200 metres, and mountaineering activities have been approved by the regional forestry department.
US asks Pakistan to freeze funds of designated terror groups, supports actions against JeM
Washington: US on Friday asked Pakistan to “freeze without delay” the funds and other financial assets of the UNSC-designated terrorist networks and their leaders. It also said it fully supports “actions to prevent” the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed “from conducting future attacks”.
Pakistan-based JeM has claimed responsibility for the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday that left at least 45 CRPF soldiers dead and five others critically wounded. A State Department spokesperson told PTI, “Pakistan outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed in 2002. However, the group still operates in Pakistan. The US designated JeM as a foreign terrorist organization in December 2001, and we fully support actions to prevent them from conducting future attacks.”
In addition, the UNSC designated JeM on its 1267 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qa’ida Sanctions List in 2001, the official noted. “We expect Pakistan to uphold its responsibilities pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions to deny safe haven and support for terrorists and to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of individuals and entities on the UNSC 1267 sanctions list,” the spokesperson said in response to a question.
The official, however, did not divulge if the US has taken up the issue with the Pakistani leadership directly after the Pulwama terrorist attack. In various statements and on social media, the Trump administration has asked Pakistan to deny safe haven and end support to terrorist organizations.
The spokesperson also refrained from making any comment over China blocking India’s move to designate Jaish chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. “Our views on Masood Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed are well known. The JeM has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and is a threat to regional stability,” the spokesperson said. “UN Sanctions Committee deliberations are confidential, and as such we do not comment on specific matters,” the official said.