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SC orders federal govt to provide PTI with a ground between H-9, G-9 areas to hold jalsa

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the federal government to provide the PTI with a ground between the H-9 and G-9 areas of Islamabad to hold its public gathering.

When the hearing resumed after a break, the attorney-general told the three-member bench that the ground, which will be given to the PTI, only had the capacity to accommodate 10,000 people. 

He also added that a Sunday bazaar and the Sirinigar Highway were close to the venue.

However, the bench did not pay any heed to the advice of the Attorney-General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali and directed the government to provide security to the PTI’s gathering within three hours.

During the hearing, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked PTI’s lawyer Babar Awan when the gathering will be held.

“Till when will the gathering go on for?” asked Justice Ahsan.

To this Awan, replied that the decision is for the political leadership to take.

In response, Justice Ahsan remarked that the apex court can change its order, amend or take it back. He added that the bench will be monitoring the developments.

“Talks between the government committee and PTI committee should be held at 10pm tonight at the chief commissioner’s office,” said the court. It directed the deputy commissioner, interior secretary, and inspector-general Islamabad to make sure the meeting take place.

“Arrested political leadership and workers should be freed at once,” said the court. It also ordered the government to follow the point agreed between the JUI-F and PTI during the former’s 2019 long march.

“Any new clause should be included in the agreement through mutual consultation and the court should also be informed about it,” said the bench.

Before the break, the court had directed the authorities concerned to hold consultations over permission for the PTI rally on H9 ground and update the court on the outcome.

The directives came during a hearing of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association’s (IHCBA) plea against the government’s decision to block roads to stop PTI’s “Azadi March” taking place today (Wednesday) in the federal capital.

A three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Ahsan, was hearing the plea. Islamabad chief commissioner and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Akbar Nasir Khan appeared before the court during the hearing.

PTI’s counsel Babar Awan presented the party’s request for permission to hold a rally at the H9 ground.

Awan informed the court that Imran Khan has four demands which include the provision of H9 ground for the rally, the release of all the arrested party workers and leaders, and the removal of all the barricades that are blocking routes leading to Islamabad.

AGP Ausaf conveyed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s message that he believes in the rule of law. He said that the premier has formed a committee which will decide on the venue for the PTI rally and the use of words.

The AGP assured the court of protecting every citizen.

SC orders provision of alternative venue for PTI rally

Earlier, the court had directed the authorities concerned to provide an alternative venue for the PTI to hold a rally.

SC’s Justice Ijazul Ahsan directed the Islamabad chief commissioner to prepare a traffic plan for the PTI rally and submit a report after compliance with orders by 2:30pm.

“Make an offer of an alternative venue to the PTI and inform the court about the outcome after negotiations.

“The administration should present a complete plan of action which allows the protest, but keeps roads open so that the protesters can reach peacefully and go back home afterwards,” Justice Ahsan said.

The judge sought assurance from the authorities that there won’t be any violence and that roads will not be closed.

Moreover, the court directed PTI’s counsel to give names if the party fears arrest.

Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi remarked that the Islamabad IGP and Interior secretary should review their policies.

The judge warned the IGP to understand his responsibilities and fulfil them.

“You have been appointed four days ago. Stay within your limits as you already have enough burden of cases and allegations,” Justice Naqvi said.

‘Will entire country be shut down over every protest’: Justice Ahsan

Justice Ahsan questioned if the entire country will be shut down whenever there is a protest. 

“The government basically wants to disrupt routine life by blocking roads across the country,” the judge remarked.

Earlier, Attorney-General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf requested the court to give him time to take instructions from the government.

Accepting the request, the court allowed AGP Ausaf to take directives from the government during a break in the hearing till 12pm.

Justice Ahsan remarked that news reports show that all exams have been postponed and roads and businesses have been closed. He said that all schools and public transport services are shut, with an emergency imposed on the hospitals in the capital city.

Responding to the judge’s remark, AGP Ausaf said that he is not aware of the details. He requested the court to give him time to gather information.

“Everyone knows what is happening in the country. Economically, the country is undergoing a critical phase and is on the verge of bankruptcy,” he said.

At this, AGP Ausaf suggested the court avoid making remarks on the economy. He went on to say that he is fundamentally against blocking roads, but the PTI threatened a “bloody march”.

“Taking steps had become inevitable for the protection of people and their property,” AGP said, adding that the court should keep the context behind the government’s decision in view.

At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the Constitution doesn’t say anywhere to close the entire country down.

AGP Ausaf argued that the Constitution doesn’t say anywhere that armed men shouldn’t be stopped, either.

‘Imran’s life in danger’: AGP

While referring to PTI’s application for permission to stage a protest, Justice Ahsan inquired from the city administration about the decision on the request.

Replying to the court’s query, AGP Ausaf informed the court that PTI sought permission for staging a sit-in at Srinagar Highway but the request was rejected.

He claimed that Imran Khan’s life is in danger as intelligence agencies say there is a threat of a suicide attack on the ex-prime minister.

“You are going away from the actual issue. Why are Lahore, Sargodha and the rest of the country closed if the government has an issue with the sit-in at Srinagar Highway,” Justice Ahsan remarked.

He asked who reported the security threat, to which the interior secretary said that two intelligence agencies and the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) reported it.

‘Police barging into lawyers’ houses’: IHCBA

Meanwhile, IHCBA President Shoaib Shaheen claimed that the police are barging into lawyers’ houses to arrest them. He referred to the raid at former judge Nasira Iqbal’s house.

“Both the protesters and government are bound to follow the Constitution and law,” he said.

At this, AGP Ausaf argued that how could armed men be allowed to protest. “Where did the armed men come from when the protest hasn’t even started?” IHCBA president objected.

He said that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has staged a sit-in at the Srinagar Highway twice and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has led a long march in the past, therefore a venue can be designated for the protesters to stage the protest.

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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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