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In maiden Pakistan visit, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar meets PM Shehbaz, President Alvi

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  • Ilhan Omar also meets ex-prime minister Imran Khan.
  • She will also visit cities to get better understanding of Pakistan.
  • Congresswoman is on a four-day visit to Pakistan — April 20-24.

ISLAMABAD: Muslim US Congresswoman Ilhan Abdullah Omar on Wednesday met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi during her maiden visit to Pakistan.

The Congresswoman is on a four-day visit to Pakistan — April 20-24 — where apart from having meetings with the political leadership in Islamabad, she will visit Lahore and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to have a greater understanding of Pakistan’s cultural, social, political, and economic potential, the PM’s Office said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, during their meeting at the PM Office, warmly welcomed her on her first-ever visit to Pakistan and appreciated her courage of convictions and political struggle.

The premier hoped that it would lead to deepening people-to-people ties and strengthen exchanges between the Parliament of Pakistan and the US Congress.

The prime minister underscored that Pakistan valued its long-standing relationship with the United States and wanted to further deepen bilateral cooperation based on mutual respect, trust, and equality.

He highlighted that constructive engagement between the two countries could help promote peace, security, and development in the region.

During the meeting, matters of mutual interest including Pakistan-US bilateral relations as well as regional situations were discussed. Maintaining that the US was Pakistan’s largest trading partner, the prime minister emphasised the need to further enhance cooperation between the two countries, especially in the trade and investment fields.

The prime minister lauded the efforts of the Pakistani diaspora in reinforcing the Pakistan-US ties and added that Islamabad deeply valued their contribution to national development and growth.

The prime minister highlighted the serious human rights situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and stressed the importance of peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, enabling the region to realize its economic potential and promote social progress.

The prime minister emphasised that a peaceful and stable South Asian region can focus on its growth and development. He added that concerted efforts, at the global level, were needed to deal with the scourge of Islamophobia.

In response, the congresswoman thanked the prime minister and hoped that her visit to the country would help strengthen ties between Pakistan and the US Congress.

Omar meets President Alvi

Earlier, the visiting US Congresswoman called on President Arif Alvi at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

Speaking on the occasion, President Alvi said that Pakistan values its longstanding relationship with the US and expressed the hope that the constructive engagements between the two countries would promote peace and development in the region.

He emphasised the need for further improving bilateral relations in various fields for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

He apprised the visiting dignitary about the atrocities being committed by the PM Modi-led government in India against minorities, particularly Muslims.

He said that India was involved in the genocide of Muslims and committed gross human rights violations against them.

He also highlighted the role played by Pakistan in the promotion of peace in the region as well as its sacrifices against the war on terror.

The president underlined that IT is the most important sector for investment and urged US businessmen to invest in this sector.

Omar said that both countries had huge potential to improve and strengthen bilateral relations. She appreciated the role played by Pakistan against Islamophobia, particularly towards the adoption of UN resolution in this regard.

Omar ‘appreciates’ Khan for his stance on Islamophobia

The Muslim US congresswoman also met former prime minister Imran Khan at his residence in Bani Gala, Islamabad.

Sharing a photo of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Ilhan Omar on her Twitter handle, former minister for human rights Shireen Mazari said that matters of mutual interest, Islamophobia, and other issues were discussed in the meeting.

“Ilhan expressed her admiration for Imran Khan and his position on and work against Islamophobia globally,” she wrote.

Speaking on the occasion, Imran Khan appreciated her courageous and principled position on issues, she added

Who is Ilhan Omar?

The 39-year-old Omar belongs to the Democrats and represents the State of Minnesota in Congress. She is one of the two Muslim women elected to the US Congress in 2018.

An experienced Twin Cities policy analyst, organiser, public speaker and advocate, Omar was sworn into office in January 2019, making her the first African refugee to become a Member of Congress, the first woman of colour to represent Minnesota, and one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress.

Born in Somalia, she and her family fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States in the 1990s. In 1997, she moved to Minneapolis with her family. 

As a teenager, Omar’s grandfather inspired her to get involved in politics. Before running for office, she worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota, was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and served as a Senior Policy Aide for the Minneapolis City Council.

In 2016 she was elected as the Minnesota House Representative for District 60B, making her the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States and the first Somali-American State Legislator. Rep. Omar served as the Assistant Minority Leader, with assignments to three house committees; Civil Law and Data Practices Policy, Higher Education & Career Readiness Policy and Finance, and State Government Finance.

Omar has staunchly supported Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and has often tweeted her support for them.

In 2019 after the annexation of Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Omer had called for an immediate restoration of communication; respect for human rights, democratic norms, and religious freedom; and de-escalation in Kashmir, saying that the international organisations should be allowed to fully document what is happening on the ground.

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Massive power breakdown hits Pakistan

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  • Minister says power generation units are temporarily shut in winter at night.
  • Says frequency variation in national grid triggered outage.
  • Says ministry trying to restore power in next 12 hours.

LAHORE/KARACHI/QUETTA/ISLAMABAD: A countrywide power breakdown, triggered by a “frequency variation” in the national grid early Monday morning, has left large parts of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta without electricity. 

Power Minister Khurrum Dastagir, while talking to Geo News, said that the power generation units are temporarily shut down in winter at night as an economic measure to save fuel costs.

“When the systems were turned on at 7:30am this morning one by one, frequency variation was reported in the southern part of the country between Jamshoro and Dadu. There was a fluctuation in voltage and power generating units were shut down one by one due to cascading impact. This is not a major crisis,” said the federal minister as the country plunged into darkness for the second time in four months.

The minister said that his ministry has started restoring some grid stations in Tarbela and Warsak. 

“Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and some grids of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) have already been restored,” claimed the minister.  

Talking about the breakdown in Karachi, the minister said that the matter in the port city is complicated as it has a complete electric supply system.

A shopkeeper speaks with a customer (not pictured) at a medical store during a country-wide power breakdown in Karachi, Pakistan January 23, 2023. — Reuters
A shopkeeper speaks with a customer (not pictured) at a medical store during a country-wide power breakdown in Karachi, Pakistan January 23, 2023. — Reuters

“We provide K-Electric about 1,000-1,100 megawatts routinely, however, it will be restored within a few hours. It is not certain how long will it take to sort this issue. However, my target is to restore electricity in the country in the next 12 hours,” said the minister. 

Before the energy ministry’s announcement, different power distribution companies had confirmed the breakdown.

According to Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO), the two transmission lines have tripped leaving 22 districts of Balochistan, including Quetta without power.

Karachi power update

Meanwhile, K-Electric spokesperson Imran Rana said that at approximately 7:34am today, the national grid experienced a loss of frequency, affecting the power supply to multiple cities across Pakistan

“This has also cascaded to KE’s network affecting power supply to Karachi,” Rana said, adding the KE’s network is safe and protected.

“Our teams are actively monitoring the situation and enabling restoration efforts.”

An IESCO spokesperson said that its 117 grid stations were without electricity.

Meanwhile, PESCO also confirmed the outage in areas where it supplies electricity. 

This is the second time within four months that a country was hit by a major power breakdown.

NEPRA takes notice

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), in a statement, said that it has taken “serious notice” of the power outage and directed the National Transmission & Despatch Company (NTDC) to submit a “detailed report”.

The statement also said that the regulator has previously imposed fines on similar outages in the 2021 and 2022. It also shared that NEPRA has consistently issued directives and recommendations on tackling such events in future.

Previous breakdown 

In October of last year, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Multan, and Faisalabad were hit by a power outage.

At that time, the power minister said that nearly 8,000 megawatts of power went offline.

Back then, Dastagir had said that the simultaneous faults in two power lines, which had triggered the breakdown, at the same time was concerning for the government. He had also announced that an in-depth inquiry was ordered and promised action.

A timeline of power breakdowns in Pakistan

The country’s generation and distribution network has suffered eight major power breakdowns during the last nine years.

In 2014 and 2017, nationwide blackouts were caused by a fault in Tarbela Power Station while fog, frequency variation and the Guddu Power Plant fault were blamed for breakdowns in 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Every time the party in power announced to conduct a comprehensive probe and vowed to rectify the issues but nothing has happened despite multiple inquiries.

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Punjab ordered to issue divorce certificates to non-Muslims

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  • Lahore High Court directs provincial authority to frame rules within 90 days.
  • Petitioner says issue is faced by many members of Christian community.
  • NADRA’s Registration Policy allows change of marital status on basis of affidavit.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) Wednesday directed the Punjab government to frame, within 90 days, rules under which union councils would issue divorce certificates to members of Christian and other non-Muslim communities in Pakistan.

In many parts of the country, the divorce certificates are not issued to non-Muslims by union councils that instead claimed such certificates were “not issued to the Christian community.” This is an issue for members of the said community because, without a divorce certificate, they cannot request the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to update their marital status while applying for the renewal of their identity cards.

The matter was brought to the attention of the LHC during the case Shumaila Sharif vs the secretary union council etc.

The petitioner in her appeal requested that the court is a writ of Mandamus — an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly — against the relevant union council and direct it to issue her the divorce certificate.

The case proceedings

The petition was heard on December 16 last year and the presiding judge was Judge Tariq Saleem Sheikh.

During the proceedings, the counsel of the petitioner, Advocate Umar Saeed, said that the issue was faced by several people in the Christian community and was not a one-off incident.

Citing Section 33 (1)(j) of the Punjab Local Government Act 2022 (PLGA 2022) — which mandates that union councils ensure registration of births, deaths, marriages and divorces for all the communities without discrimination — and Article 36 of the Constitution, which expressly requires the state to protect the minorities’ legitimate rights and interests, the counsel argued that by refusing to issue the requisite certificate, the council was failing to fulfil its legal duty.

Additionally, Advocate Kashif Alexander, the court’s amicus curiae on the matter, contended that obtaining a divorce certificate is a legal right that cannot be denied.

Together the two emphasise that while the Constitution of Pakistan (1973) does not explicitly guarantee the right to identity, Article 9 (right to life) and Article 14 (dignity of man) safeguard that right. Therefore, any citizen whose marital status changes due to the dissolution of marriage by divorce has a fundamental right to obtain a divorce certificate from the competent authority and then have their CNIC updated/revised.

The Additional Advocate General has little to defend the respondents and said that the provincial government was taking steps to address the complaints of the Christian community regarding the non-issuance of divorce certificates.

The verdict

During the proceedings, it was brought to the court’s attention that NADRA’s Registration Policy dated 06.04.2021 (Version 5.0.2) allowed a change of marital status of a divorcee on the basis of an affidavit in the prescribed form.

In light of this, the court directed that until the provincial government framed the requisite rules needed for the issuance of the divorce certificate by the union council, NADRA shall accommodate the Christian community in accordance with the Registration Policy 19.

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Anchor Mishal Bukhari passes away at 38

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Mishal Bukhari, a renowned journalist and anchorperson, has passed away at the age of 38 after battling cancer for two years, Daily Jang reported. 

The news of Mishal’s demise was announced by her husband, Ameer Abbas, who is also a renowned anchorperson, on Twitter. 

“My wife, journalist Mishal Bukhari, a beautiful heart, an incomparable personality, an incredibly patient, unbelievably brave woman, left an unbearable shock after fighting cancer for two years,” Abbas wrote.

The funeral prayers of the journalist will be held at 1pm in Jamia Masjid-al-Muntazir in Lahore today.

Mishal, who was an award-winning broadcast journalist, was born on  July 8, 1984, in Karachi. She started her career as a news anchor on a private TV channel. She also worked for Pakistan Television.

The news of her sad demise triggered an outpour of reactions from fellow journalists and politicians, who offered their condolences.

“Remembering #mishalbukhari our host #AppTV who lost battle against cancer in Lahore on Tuesday evening. Thoughts of our team members with whom she worked are with her parents, family,” wrote Rauf Klasra.

Former deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri offered condolences and prayed for the departed soul and her family members. 

Maritime Affairs Minister Faisal Subzwari prayed for the family members and the deceased journalist. 

Columnist Dr Shahid Masood also offered his condolences and prayers. 

Pakistan lost another journalist at the very outset of 2023 after 2022, a year riddled with several tragic deaths including senior Pakistani journalists. The last year saw the shocking deaths of famous televangelist Aamir Liaquat Hussain, anchorperson Arshad Sharif and Jang Press president Imran Aslam.

In July 2022, the news of sudden death of Hussain sent shock waves across the country. This was followed by the tragic death of Sharif, who was shot dead in a case of “mistaken identity” by Kenyan police in Nairobi in October.

Later in December, Aslam, a giant of journalism, passed away during the course of treatment at a local hospital.

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