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Pakistan, Uzbekistan agree to further deepen, expand strategic partnership

Pakistan, Uzbekistan agree to further deepen, expand strategic partnership

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Pakistan, Uzbekistan agree to further deepen, expand strategic partnership
Pakistan, Uzbekistan agree to further deepen, expand strategic partnership

Pakistan and Uzbekistan on Thursday agreed to further deepen and expand their strategic partnership in all areas and decided to conclude a treaty on strategic partnership.

This was agreed during the meeting held here between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who was a two-day (March 3-4) state visit of Pakistan at the invitation of the former.

According to a joint statement “Next Steps in the Strategic Partnership” issued here, leaders of the two countries held comprehensive consultations and considered all aspects of bilateral relations, paying special attention to the development of cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, science and technology, culture, education, security and defense and regional connectivity.Emphasizing the centuries-old historical, religious, cultural and scientific ties between the two peoples and based on previously reached agreements, “the parties agreed to further deepen and expand strategic partnership in all areas and in this context, decided to conclude a treaty on strategic partnership.”

The two leaders also exchanged views on issues of global and regional importance, intensifying contacts in international forums, including within the framework of the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Economic Cooperation Organization.

They reaffirmed their commitment to close interaction based on common positions and to continue the practice of mutual support at international and regional forums on all issues of mutual interest.

The Prime Minister congratulated President of Uzbekistan on the chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in 2022 and expressed Pakistan’s full support for Uzbekistan’s activities within the SCO and OIC, including the holding of the SCO Summit in the second half of 2022.

The President of Uzbekistan expressed the readiness to provide support to Pakistan’s initiative to create a poverty alleviation mechanism during the period of Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the SCO.

Welcoming the 30th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, the two leaders agreed to celebrate this milestone in a befitting manner by organizing joint activities.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev shared his vision on the “New Uzbekistan” strategy and stated that the reform process was aimed at the socio-economic interests of the people of Uzbekistan and the region as a whole.

The Strategy lays emphasis on strengthening economic diplomacy and sets tasks to bring existing relations with South Asia, in particular with Pakistan, to a new level of strategic partnership, he added.

Highlighting the achievements in the socio-economic sphere, Prime Minister Imran Khan outlined his vision of the “Naya Pakistan” centered on social justice and economic security.

He said that Pakistan’s main emphasis has shifted from geo-politics to geo-economics.

The Prime Minister shared details about the “Ehsaas” program aimed at reducing poverty and underscored that Pakistan’s “Qaumi Sehat Card” (National Health Card) program is the first initiative in the field of medical micro-insurance for the citizens of Pakistan.

The two leaders stressed the importance of developing institutionalized cooperation between the two countries within the five main pillars of Pakistan’s “Vision Central Asia” political and diplomatic, trade and investment, energy and connectivity, security and defense and people-to-people relations.

Noting with satisfaction the intensification of the exchange of high-level visits between the two countries, the leaders warmly recalled the positive agreements in the areas of trade and investment, customs, military education, culture and tourism, as well as visa facilitation for representatives of business community and tourist groups, reached within the framework of official visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Republic of Uzbekistan on July 15-16, 2021.

The two leaders agreed to expand cooperation between the parliamentary bodies, exchange visits of the leaders of the Senate and the National Assembly of Pakistan and the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan and hold meetings between the established inter-parliamentary groups of friendship and cooperation.

The leaders noted with satisfaction that over the past five years, bilateral trade has increased fivefold, and despite the pandemic, it grew by another 50 percent last year.

The two leaders welcomed the signing of Preferential Trade Agreement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan and the entry into force of the Transit Trade Agreement. These agreements are the sign of the beginning of a new era in bilateral trade relations and will serve to increase mutual trade by utilizing existing opportunities.

The leaders welcomed the convening of 7th session of the Uzbek-Pakistan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation, 2nd round of Bilateral Political Consultations, the Joint Business Forum and the 4th meeting of the Business Council, held on February 28, March 2, 2022.

They welcomed the understandings reached as a result of these meetings in textiles, pharmaceuticals, building materials, banking and finance, the chemical industry and other areas.

The leaders noted with satisfaction the interregional cooperation and linkages.

The leaders recalled the outcomes of the International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities” held on July 15-16 2021 in Tashkent.

The two leaders agreed on the need to fast track measures to further expand the connectivity agenda and economic integration.

They acknowledged key role of agreed connectivity corridors which envisage expansion of trade links through offering investment opportunities in the transport network, power pipelines and Special Economic Zones in the interests of the two countries, region and beyond.

The leaders reaffirmed the important role of the Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project for the future of the region. It was agreed to evolve a joint “Road Map”, which includes measures to develop a feasibility study for the project and start construction work on both sides.

They acknowledged that the Trans-Afghan Railway project is the most economical and shortest route connecting Central Asia with Pakistan’s ports of Karachi, Gwadar and Qasim.

The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of air, rail and road connectivity.

Recognizing with satisfaction the steady development of bilateral cooperation in security and defense, the two leaders agreed to intensify dialogue and constructive cooperation between the armed forces of both countries, including through inter-staff talks and joint military exercises, training and exchange of professional experience.

They welcomed the establishment of Uzbekistan-Pakistan Joint Commission on Security which held its first meeting in Islamabad on November 2, 2021.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Shavkat Mirziyoyev acknowledged the common cultural heritage and centuries-old fraternal ties and reaffirmed their commitment to further expanding cultural ties and relations between the two nations.

In this regard, they welcomed the holding of the first Joint Seminar on the life of Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur in Islamabad.

The leaders reviewed the progress of joint cultural and media projects, including the translation of Pakistani serials into Uzbek language and joint production on Babur.

The leaders agreed to strengthen the cooperation between the leading education institutions of the two countries.

The leaders praised the development of cooperation in the field of tourism and welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on ziyarat tourism.

In order to facilitate tourism and business linkages between the two countries, the Leaders agreed to launch regular flights on the routes “Tashkent – Lahore” and “Islamabad – Tashkent”.

The leaders expressed deep concern on the continuing trend of Islamophobia. Supporting the efforts of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to mark the International Day against Islamophobia on 15 March, the sides agreed to cooperate in the UN General Assembly.

Uzbekistan expressed its full support for Pakistan’s candidacy for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for 2025-2026.

The leaders agreed to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and emphasized that peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential to advance connectivity agenda which will lead to regional prosperity.

The importance of economic assistance to Afghanistan and un-freezing of Afghan foreign bank reserves was also stressed.

Read more: Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Khojaly Genocide

Uzbekistan expressed its gratitude to Pakistan for hosting 17th extraordinary session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Afghanistan on December 19, 2021.

Prime Minister Imran Khan briefed the Uzbek side on the latest developments in Jammu & Kashmir, including concerns, position and pressing issues at the moment.

The leaders stressed the importance of cooperation and dialogue to resolve all outstanding regional disputes and achieve the goal of lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed his thanks to the Prime Minister of Imran Khan and the people of Pakistan for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to him personally and the Uzbek delegation and expressed his best wishes for their continued progress and prosperity.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to pay an official visit to Uzbekistan at a convenient time.

The declaration was signed in duplicate on March 3, 2022 in Islamabad in Uzbek and English.

Earlier, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have expressed commitment to revive the traditional cooperative partnership through improved connectivity.

At a joint press stakeout with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Islamabad on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said it is matter of satisfaction that trade between the two brotherly countries increased by 50 per cent in last one year while joint ventures between the business communities of the two countries enhanced by 5 per cent.

The Prime Minister said we have decided to resume direct flights between the two countries that will not only improve connectivity but will help promote tourism and trade.

He said train route with Uzbekistan will help boosting linkages with Central Asian States which will also benefit the war torn Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said both countries will jointly produce a film on Mughal Emperor Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad Babur.

He said he has shared his narrative on human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir to the Uzbek President.

The Prime Minister said the United Nations should fully implement the international law against human rights violations in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Over Afghanistan issue, the Prime Minister said we will be lobbying to unfreeze the assets of Afghanistan.

He said campaign will be launched to devise ways and suggest measures for the recognition of Afghanistan.

Earlier, the two countries signed different Memorandum of Understandings including Strategic Partnership and Preferential Trade Agreement.

Other agreements include cooperation in the field Television and Radio, Promotion of Pilgrimage Tourism, cooperation in the field of environment and climate change, Action Plan of practical measures in the field of security and cooperation in Railways.

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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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