Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pakistan - Most water sources in Islamabad unsafe, says report

Around 53 per cent of water samples taken from filtration plants and other sources in Islamabad contain high bacteria.
A report submitted to the Islamabad mayor’s office by the Water Quality Control Cell (WQCC) of the civic agency shows that along with filtration plants, water from a number of tube wells and overhead tanks is also contaminated and unsafe for human consumption.
In late July, the WQCC collected a total of 55 samples from different water sources across Islamabad. “Of the 55 samples, 26 samples were found safe to drink, while the remaining 29 samples were found unsafe,” says the report, which was issued on July 29.
Incidentally, while a few areas had at least one source of clean drinking water, sectors G-6, G-7, and I-9 had zero sources of clean water between them, forcing residents who cannot afford bottled water to travel long distances to get water or risk falling sick.
“‘Unsafe’ means that the water contains excessive levels of bacteria, chloride, and fluoride,” said WQCC Deputy Director Nadir Hussain Soomro.

Soomro attributed a number of factors to the appalling test result, including irregular cleaning of supply lines and overhead tanks, and setting up tube wells which are too shallow to provide clean water.
Although the issue of inconsistent water quality at filtration plants is well-known among citizens, the extent of contamination in secondary water sources is worrying.
Only three of the eight tube wells checked provided acceptable water, while two of the ten water tanks tested were safe to take a drink from. Earlier this year, the cell tested 11 water filtration plants, seven of which were unsafe to drink from.
Soon after the report was issued, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the CDA to ensure the supply of “superior” quality water to residents of Islamabad. The report suggests the directive has been ignored. Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz admitted that after inspecting some of the filtration plants and overhead tanks across Islamabad, he found their condition to be “unsatisfactory”.
He said that majority of the water filtration plants were not being run by the CDA as the civic agency has outsourced them to private contractors.
“The WQCC report has just been released but it has not arrived at my table,” Aziz said, adding that action would be taken against those responsible.
The mayor said that he was working with local government representatives to improve the situation while noting that it would take some time to make discernable progress.

Pakistan - Punjab’s missing children

The epidemic of child kidnappings in Punjab has reached such alarming proportions that even the Supreme Court has been forced to take notice. So far this year, 767 children have been abducted, mainly from larger cities in the province. At a hearing of the case in the Supreme Court this week, the police showed that their only policy for dealing with this horrifying trend is to bury its head in the sand. The report presented to the court by the police admitted that many of the children have not been recovered, prompting Justice Saqib Nisar to say that the responsibility for this lies foremost with the police. In the last six years, 6,793 children have been abducted in the province, according to the police report, out of which nearly 600 still have not been recovered. Just last week, the IG Police Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera tried to play down the rash of kidnappings saying that in most cases the children have left their houses because of domestic violence or other personal reasons. If that is indeed what is happening, it shouldn’t prove too difficult for the police to track them down – and yet that has proven beyond their abilities.
The policy devised by the IG Police to deal with child abductions does not inspire much confidence either. He has announced that every SHO would be bound to immediately lodge an FIR after receiving an application by parents of their child being abducted. That this most basic duty of a police officer needs to be spelled out in a special policy only shows the lethargy of the police. The policy has also called for snooker clubs and video game arcades to be monitored and action launched against ‘professional’ beggars. Quite what harassing poor people living on the streets or watching children playing games has to do with tackling kidnapping was left unexplained. The police in Punjab should have learned what happens when they are negligent after the horrifying case in Kasur last year when hundreds of children were molested for years and the authorities turned a blind eye to complaints. Children are among the most vulnerable in our society and have been used for everything from prostitution to working as child jockeys in the Gulf. Clearly the police feel trafficking might be behind these kidnappings since ransom has usually not been demanded. This is why they have contacted the police in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for help. That help should be provided before we lose even more of our precious next generation.;postID=7042290727806198301

Bilawal Bhutto condemns ‘inaction of govt’ over abduction of 715 kids from Punjab

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday expressed grave concern over kidnapping of 715 children in Punjab within last month, ARY News reported.
“Data about these ill-fated and innocent children brings in one’s mind horrific imaginations and criminal silence. Inaction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif government on this human disaster should be condemned in strongest terms,” he said in a press statement issued here.
The PPP chairman said that this was pathetic and tragic part of the report that three children were kidnapped daily from Lahore’s Badami Bagh but the Punjab government was pressurizing the parents of the abducted kids to treat them as missing children to hush up the matter.
Bilawal said, according to the reports, most of the kidnapped children belong to poor families which further aggrieves the concerns in the wake of use of innocent children in terrorist activities and brainwashing them into suicide-bombers.

He said that his party was shaken by these reports and would take up this horrendous issue at all available forums as the PPP considers children as the future of our nation and protecting them from all the dangers was the prime responsibility of the state and the society.

Pakistan - Prime Minister’s silence

It has been over three years since the last general elections. The PML-N government came into power with promises of ending energy shortfall, boosting the economy, and ridding people of other social problems. Three years into their tenure and most of the problems persist. The only progress witnessed has been in the economic sector, but that too has come at the cost of foreign debts. Opposition parties, mainly Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, were protesting on the streets and contesting the election results merely a year after the polls. Now, they are again threatening for street agitation on the Panama Papers issue. Amid all this chaos, it is the public that is suffering as government is focussed more on defending itself against allegations rather than concentrating on the issues that are crippling the country’s economy.
Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has been lately busy in meetings to decide on the issues relating to the extension of the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and the protest movement of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek. Although there are many speculations in the media circles, there has not been any official word from the Prime Minister’s office.
PML-N came into power with an almost two-third majority in the National Assembly. Moreover, it has won virtually all by-elections as well as local body elections held throughout the country. Moreover, the recent triumph in the AJK elections also speaks volumes of people’s trust in the current government. Government should reciprocate people’s mandate entrusted to it, and form an independent judicial commission for investigations into the Panama Papers issue. No matter how trustworthy the panel is among the masses or the opposition, there is a protocol that needs to be followed, and investigations should be held against the alleged wrongdoings. The sooner government is able to clear its name from the issue, the better it would be for the people of Pakistan as government will be able to focus solely on the issues the people are facing.
The prerogative of the appointment of new army chief or extension of the present one solely rests upon the prime minister. It is he who will make the final decision, and he has every right to remain silent on the issue. Although there is no need to answer useless questions circulating in the media, there should be an active spokesperson of the prime minister to deal with any such concerns. Everywhere around the world, be it the White House, 10 Downing Street or any other office of the country’s premier, an official spokesperson is present to brief the media on all related questions on the premier’s activities. The Prime Minister’s office does not need a spokesperson merely for press briefings; it should maintain its presence on social media for a wider outreach to the masses. The news of prime minister’s activities should not be coming from his relatives, as has happened in recent past, but from the official spokesperson.

Pentagon not to pay Pakistan $300 million in military reimbursements

The Pentagon will not pay Pakistan $300 million in military reimbursements after U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter decided not to tell Congress that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network, a U.S. official said.
Relations between the two countries have been frayed over the past decade, with U.S. officials frustrated by what they term Islamabad's unwillingness to act against Islamist groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.
"The funds could not be released to the Government of Pakistan at this time because the Secretary has not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said on Wednesday.
The $300 million comes under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations. Pakistan is the largest recipient.
"This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over the last two years," Stump said.
According to Pentagon data, about $14 billion has already been paid to Pakistan under the CSF since 2002.
The decision by the Pentagon is a sign that while it sees some progress by Pakistan in its military operations in North Waziristan, much work remains.
Pakistan rejects harboring militants but says there are limits to how much it can do as it is already fighting multiple Islamist groups and is wary of a "blowback" in the form of more militant attacks on its soil.
"Pakistan does not draw any distinction between any terrorists and we have taken up the fight against terrorism and the terrorist elements within Pakistan," Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria told reporters in Islamabad on Thursday.
"These reimbursements enable the United States to support Pakistan's ongoing counterterrorism efforts in a manner that serves shared interests of both the countries."
Relations between the United States and Pakistan were tested in May by a U.S. drone strike that killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Pakistani soil.
There has been growing resistance in the U.S. Congress to sending money to Pakistan. Many lawmakers have expressed concern about its nuclear program, commitment to fighting terrorist organizations and cooperation in the Afghanistan peace process.

In March, Republican Senator Bob Corker said he would use his power as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to bar any U.S. funding for Islamabad's purchase of $700 million of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-16 fighter jets.