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Some elements in Pakistan can be wrong but a whole nation cannot: Akshay Kumar

Refuting rumours that his upcoming thriller Baby is anti-Pakistan, Akshay Kumar said some elements in Pakistan can be wrong but a whole nation cannot be wrong.

“See, some elements in Pakistan can be wrong but a whole nation cannot be wrong.” Akshay said, according to the First Post.

“Terrorism has no religion, and we believe that religion and country are two different things,” the actor added.

Refuting claims that the movie is anti-Pakistan as “untrue,” the actor said the movie stars three Pakistai actors in crucial roles.

“The film talks very openly about it. The story of Baby is inspired by various real life incidents,” he said.

Commenting on the storyline, Akshay said the movie talks about terrorism, which is a big consideration in today’s world.

RELATED POST: ‘Baby’ openly talks about terrorism: Akshay Kumar

“Terrorism, as a topic, can be seen in every newspaper. So we thought of making people aware about it. The film talks very openly about it. The story of Baby is inspired by various real life incidents,” he said.

Akshay’s playing the role of an undercover agent who tries to prevent terror attacks. The movie will see Akshay packing in a punch as far as action scenes are concerned.

Fuel crisis: Supply to some petrol stations resumes


Several petrol stations in the city received supply from Machike depots on Tuesday, slightly alleviating the fuel crisis that has gripped the city for a week. 

A city government official said 3.1 million litres of petrol had been supplied in the city by Tuesday night. A control room had been set up at the DCO’s office to monitor the sale of petrol.

He said members of the Petrol Pumps’ Association and city government officials would monitor sale of petrol to fuel stations in the city. He said 1.32 million litres had been supplied to PSO pumps, 0.83 million litres to Shell stations, 0.45 million litres to Total stations, 0.24 million litres to Caltex, 165,000 litres to APL and 100,000 to Hesco pumps on Tuesday. The spokesperson said the sale of loose petrol had been banned till further orders.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2015.

Wire tapping: Some foreign missions under surveillance, Senate panel told


The country’s top civilian intelligence agency told a parliamentary panel on Monday that some ‘foreign diplomatic missions’ and the individuals in contact with them were under surveillance by the intelligence network.

Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director General Aftab Sultan, however, did not disclose the names of the missions while briefing the Senate standing committee on rules and procedures. He was summoned over a complaint of PPP Senator Salim Mandviwala who claimed that his telephone was being tapped by the IB on the ‘orders of the high-ups’.

Senator Mandviwala came up with what he called written evidence suggesting that some IB officials have told him that he was under surveillance of the PML-N government. The DG IB said the document was apparently forged. However, when the committee persevered, he promised to check the veracity of the document with his department.

The committee suggested that the names of the foreign missions under surveillance should be made public so that everyone could know the details. The DG IB clarified that “whatever we do is done in national interest”, a term which the lawmakers said was the main cause for such ‘transgressions’.

The DG IB said his bureau has so far tapped the telephones of over 98% terrorists and sometimes it randomly recorded phones of individuals without getting prior approval from the prime minister.

To a question raised by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, the DG IB admitted that there was no clear procedure for tapping telephones of individuals. “Rabbani sahib’s concerns are genuine but sometime we do so only in national interest,” he added.

Asked whether he considered parliamentarians as a security threat, the DG IB said he has high regard for all parliamentarians but he could not rule the possibility of tapping their phones. However, he added that the IB kept the prime minister posted on all intelligence operations.

The DG IB also made it clear that his bureau was not solely responsible for phone tapping. The IB is meant to deal with civilians, while the Inter-Services Intelligence keeps defence officials under the radar, he added.

Another official of the IB told the parliamentary panel that the intelligence network was operating under the Telegraphy Rules of 1974. But he, too, confessed that there was no clear mechanism for focusing individuals.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2015.

Sharing grievances: Karachi’s 650MW electricity supply upsets some ministers: Memon

KARACHI: A handful of federal ministers are not happy with the 650MW of electricity being supplied to Karachi and are trying to create differences between the province and the Centre, said Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Sharjeel Memon.

In a statement issued on Tuesday night, Memon asked the federal government to stop acting like a ‘stepmother’ when it came to Sindh. Karachi generates 65 per cent of the country’s revenue, he said, adding that the metropolis has a right to receive 650MW as it is paying for it.

Memon claimed that most of the power plants installed in the country were bought from the revenue generated by Karachi. He appealed to the prime minister to tell his ministers to refrain from releasing statements against the province.

Memon said the chief minister wrote a letter to the prime minister and sought an extension in the agreement that allows Karachi to receive 650MW. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured that he will review the contract but some ministers are now trying to delay it, he claimed.

Memon demanded that Karachi should receive electricity at the same price as other provinces. The residents will have to bear extra power charges if the federal government made any changes in the prices, he warned. He said that 650MW are hardly three to four per cent of the total power production in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2015.

Kerry indulges in some Dunkin’ Donuts in Islamabad

Police officers stuffing their faces with doughnuts is a stereotype we are all familiar with. But this time, it was not an NYPD officer but none other than US Secretary of State John Kerry who was spotted grabbing a bite of the popular breakfast snack.

The top US diplomat who is on a visit to Pakistan for a strategic dialogue with Pakistani officials posted a picture of himself on social networking site, Twitter as he visited a Dunkin Donuts outlet in Islamabad.

Dressed in a blue suit with his grey hair combed back, the diplomat’s decision to stop over and buy doughnuts also bodes well for the current talks he is having with the top civilian and military leadership of the country.

The diplomat’s pit stop has also raised eyebrows as he did not  indulge in a traditional Pakistani breakfast but a culturally popular American breakfast. And comes in striking comparison to elaborate breakfasts and meals for Pakistani officials during their meetings and visits.

The state-run Radio Pakistan also tweeted a picture of Kerry’s pit-stop at the doughnut outlet.

But that was not it, other people joined it commenting on their take of the diplomat’s tweet.

Forged export certificates: Cases of some fumigation service providers sent to FIA

KARACHI: Officials of the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) have said the department has started referring cases of some fumigation services providers to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for submitting forged government certificates with export consignments to different countries.

“The government has started criminal proceedings against the fumigation services firms, which are responsible for the ban on
exports of different Pakistani commodities to the United States, Mexico, Russia and other countries,” a top DPP official told The Express Tribune.

DPP is one of the 14 organisations working under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and provides quarantine facilities to fruit and vegetable growers and exporters.

The government action has already made some of the companies uncomfortable and in response they are accusing senior DPP officials of indulging in corruption and nepotism.

To explain the government’s stance, the DPP in a press release issued on Friday said the department had neither taken any action against the registered fumigation companies nor had they been restricted from their business of fumigating plants and plant materials.

“Actually, some suspended and blacklisted companies are now presenting misleading facts to avoid legal action,” the release said.

According to the Plant Quarantine Rules 1967, the fumigator is not competent to file an application for import permit, phytosanitary certificate and release order or obtain any of these from the DPP.

They are only responsible for fumigation of plant and plant material under the supervision of the department.

Taking a serious notice of the growing illegal activities, the government placed a ban on some of the fumigation service providers.

Industry officials say the government took a step in the right direction as it was necessary, especially after serious warnings and restrictions by the US, Mexico, Russia and EU states.

Owing to the interceptions because of the presence of pests in fumigated consignments and to protect the image of the country, exporters of agricultural commodities have been advised to file applications for the phytosanitary certificate, release order and import permit by themselves or through their clearing agents registered with the Customs department, according to the press release.

The exporters should only take fumigation services from the registered service providers instead of filing and obtaining all certificates through them.

The unregistered ones had also been involved in blackmailing the exporters and importers and charging high prices for their fumigation services, it added.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2015.

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On the road: For some artists, the streets serve as galleries

ISLAMABAD: Commercial art galleries and private studios are a bastion for art critique, dialogue and business in the urban capital. Art exhibitions — a frequent affair that connect artists with potential art buyers and collectors — offer networking opportunities and a platform to showcase artwork on a large scale.

However, Munir Ahmed Khan, 35, cannot afford the same luxury. An artist of humble origin, Khan has been painting for a long time and got to hone his creative skills at the Rawalpindi Arts Council a few years ago.

A painted hard-paper sheet dangles loosely from his motorcycle while a diverse collection of paintings of various sizes and colour palettes line the fence of Kohsar Park, next to an outdoor florist’s setup.

“People really understand art over here, especially impressionism,” said Khan, who has been coming to the same spot to exhibit his artworks for about six months. Previously, he would set up his make-shift gallery at Peshawar Mor but had to relocate owing to construction of the Metro Bus Project.

If he were exhibiting the same paintings in a gallery, he added, they would sell for much more. At the moment, the highest he sells a painting for is Rs5,000. Small hand-painted postcard-sized paintings make for interesting miniature art pieces.

Landscape and architecture are the artist’s forte. Depicting historic buildings and monuments of Old Lahore and Rawalpindi, he has also painted congested market squares and crumbling structures in Multan and Murree. One also finds abstract artworks, graffiti-inspired strokes and Warholian pop art elements of style in his contemporary paintings.

Khan owes his expertise in oil paints to the late artist Arjumand Awan and in water colours to Ehsan Ali Qureshi. He has also has also dabbled in pen-and-ink and mixed media.

“My paintings are largely driven by my mood and the place I’m painting in. I also paint on-the-spot. Paintings have a charm of their own, which no photograph can ever replace,” he said.

None of the paintings in his collection are framed. “Portability and space management are an issue over here, so I just roll up the paintings or put them in a bag,” he said, pointing towards a black satchel.

Khan, who is based in Farash Town in the capital’s outskirts, shows up at his modest workplace at the posh market from 11am to 5pm every day except Friday.

“I’ve been asked by Capital Development Authority personnel to vacate this space and have also been warned by the police against exhibiting my work here,” he said, adding that he will write an application to the Margalla police seeking permission to continue exhibiting his artworks in the same spot. “Or else, I will try my luck elsewhere,” he said, with the hint of a sad smile.

To create and sell more paintings is his only resolution for the coming year. “This is my only source of income,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2014.