Pakistan asks Karzai to pardon jailed journalist

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday appealed to Afghan president Hamid Karzai to issue a pardon to a journalist facing a four-year jail term in Afghanistan for “contacting terrorists”.

Faizullah Khan, a reporter with the private TV channel ARY news, was arrested in April by Afghan security forces in Nangarhar province.

He was sentenced earlier this month to four years in jail for entering without travel documents and communicating with militant sources.

Pakistan’s Information Minister Pervez Rashid urged Karzai to issue a presidential pardon.

“I appeal to Afghan president Hamid Karzai to use his powers,” to pardon Faizullah Khan, Rashid said in a press conference in capital Islamabad.

Rashid said Pakistan was also using diplomatic channels for the release of its journalist.

“Both the ministry of interior and the ministry of information have been pursuing this matter from day one, the day he was arrested,” he added.

Rashid said Pakistan respected Afghanistan’s judicial system and was appealing the verdict in an Afghan court.

Wafiullah Usmani, the head of the national security court of Nangarhar, in eastern Afghanistan, last week told AFP that Khan had no travel documents at the time of his arrest.

Khan was arrested with two members of the Pakistani Taliban on the Afghan side of the border, he said.

Pakistani journalist organisations have staged protest rallies across the country and have demanded the Afghan government release Karachi-based Khan before the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, expected on Tuesday.


Polio case reported in Balochistan after two-and-a-half years

QUETTA: A case of polio virus has been detected in an 18-month-old girl in Qilla Abdullah district, Balochistan — the first polio case in the province in two-and-a-half years.

The newest case brings the total number of cases this year in Pakistan to 102.

According to Jawahir Habib, a communication specialist for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Balochistan, the virus was detected in 18-month-old Bibi Nazu Bibi, who had come from Karachi to Qila Abdullah in March 2014.

“The family belonged to Qila Abdullah — a district that shares a border with Afghanistan — but had been living in Karachi for the past four to five years,” Habib added.

The detected polio virus type is said to be Wild Polio Virus (WPV 1). It is yet to be investigated whether it came from Afghanistan, Karachi or Balochistan.

Habib said the province had remained polio-free for two-and-a-half years. However, it was detected twice this year in samples collected from the sewage system in Quetta.

The reason for the emergence of the new case could not be known, with some officials claiming it was as a result of refusing to have polio drops administered based on religious grounds, while others said campaigners had missed the child.

“The child was missing during the campaign as the family lived [in Karachi for five years], and came here four months ago,” an official of an organisation working on the polio campaign said, on condition of anonymity.

There are two transit points near Karachi and Lasbela district of Balochistan where polio drops are administered to children entering Balochistan, while there are six to seven transit points near Quetta.

However, a World Health Organisation (WHO) doctor said that the family had refused to administer polio drops.

“The family lived in Karachi, where they had refused to administer polio drops to their children. [They also refused it in Qila Abdullah],” the WHO doctor, who requested not to be named, said.

On the other hand, another health official said it seems the child was missing because the organisation does not have any record.

“We do not have any record that a family refused [to have drops administered] in [the] recent campaign in Union Council Maizai of Qila Abdullah district,” he said.

According to UNICEF, there were more than 20,000 families who had refused to administer polio drops to their children in recent campaigns citing religious reasons.

“Around 75% families were persuaded to administer polio drops. These refusal cases often emerge in the northern areas of Balochistan — which comprises Quetta, Qila Abdullah and Pishin,” said Habib.

However, she added most of the refusal cases were reported because of frequent campaigns — as they say they cannot administer polio drops twice a month. But they are often persuaded by social mobilisors.

As many as 73 cases were detected in Balochistan solely in 2011, and Qila Abdulla was declared the high-risk area as it had the highest number of cases in Pakistan in 2011. Since then, this was the first case confirmed on Thursday by WHO and UNICEF.

Health Minister Rehmat Baloch and district health officer (DHO) in Qila Abdullah could not be reached for comments.

The Balochistan Health Department convened an emergency meeting on Friday (tomorrow) in Quetta to discuss the situation.


US, Koreans favourites at LPGA International Crown

BALTIMORE: South Korea and the US will be the favourites in an eight-nation showdown for global women’s golf supremacy when the inaugural .6 million LPGA International Crown team matches begin Thursday.

Asian and Australian stars have their first chance to compete in a team format against American and European rivals who meet in the biennial Solheim Cup event.

“Every time I see Solheim Cup I’m so excited,” said Taiwan’s former world number one Tseng Yani. “I wish I were part of it. I was always hoping I could play in an event like this because golf is very lonely.

“To play on this stage, I don’t know how to describe it. I just hope I don’t cry on the first tee when I hear my country’s song.”

The eight top teams based on 2013’s year-end world rankings earned berths in the event, with the actual four women on each team decided by the world rankings at the end of March.

The Americans edged South Korea for the overall top seed and the host US women will play in Group A against Taiwan, Spain and Thailand, while Group B sends the Koreans against Australia, Sweden and Japan.

Each team will play two four-ball matches Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the five winningest teams will advance to Sunday’s final 10 singles matches to decide a champion.

“We’re here to wear the crown,” said world number one Stacy Lewis of the US.

“It’s something we’ve needed for a long time, getting the Asian players involved. They have more than deserved an event like this, so I’m interested to see how it all plays out.”

And when it comes to the Koreans, Lewis says, “They are a great team. I don’t care what the numbers say. They are going to be a hard team to beat.”

Being bumped from the top seed by the Americans eases the pressure and adds some motivation for South Korea, said former world number one Choi Na-Yeon.

“When we were number one, all players had a lot of pressure but we also had great pride,” said Choi.

“When we moved back to number two we were a little released from the pressure but got some motivation to get back where we were. We will really try our best.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2014.

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