Sydney: Australia is considering not sending any government officials to the Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing next year following calls from lawmakers for an official diplomatic boycott, the Sydney Morning Herald said in a report on Thursday.
Australian politicians from the ruling Liberal-National coalition and the opposition Labor party are urging the federal government to boycott the event, which will be held in February, the newspaper reported without citing a source.
"A decision on (Australia's) representation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is yet to be made," a spokesperson for Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said in an emailed response. Australia's foreign affairs department did not respond to a request seeking comment.
China firmly opposes the politicization of the Olympics, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a briefing on Thursday. Attempts at a boycott will not succeed, he added.
Beijing is telling the world to stop the "malicious hyping" and "politicization" of tennis star Peng Shuai. The 35-year-old has not been seen in public for the past three weeks after she alleged China's former vice-premier sexually assaulted her.
Against the backdrop of US concerns about China's human rights record, President Joe Biden last week said the United States was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.
A diplomatic boycott would involve not sending a delegation of officials, but allowing athletes to participate.
Britain has not made any decision on who will represent its government at the Olympics, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not support the idea of boycotts, his spokesman said earlier this week.
The Australian government will await the Biden administration's decision before any commitment to a diplomatic boycott, the report in the Sydney Morning Herald said.
Both the United States and Britain are allies of Australia and the countries in September entered into a security partnership to help Australia build nuclear submarines. The trilateral deal riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia's relationship with China, its largest trading partner, soured after it banned Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities.
Cabinet opines ECP legally bound to hold next by-polls through EVMs: minister
Chaudhry Fawad Hussian says the commission should ensure use of the EVMs in all next elections as the Parliament had given mandate in that regard.
Islamabad: Two weeks after passage of bills related to electoral reforms from joint sitting of the Parliament, the federal cabinet on Tuesday viewed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was bound to hold all the next elections including by-polls through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
“The cabinet while discussing the most important decision on the EVM opined that after amendment in the [election] laws, it is mandatory for the election commission to hold all next by-polls through EVMs,” Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told the media persons after the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“If elections are not conducted through the EVMs, there is another opinion that the government will not be able to fund them,” he said, explaining the existing election laws that only gave legitimacy to the polls via the machines.
He said Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem was of the view that on prima facie, the government could only give funds to the ECP for elections if that were held through EVMs.
The government had formed a committee in that regard and the law ministry would give its opinion on the matter, Fawad added.
The minister said the ECP should ensure use of the EVMs in all the next elections as the Parliament had given mandate in that regard.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan and Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar briefed the federal cabinet on new variant of the coronavirus (Omicron).
It was told that new variant’s transmissibility was fastest among other kinds of the coronavirus and spreading at tenfold pace in those countries where it had been reported.
Lethality of variant and efficacy of vaccine against this variant was yet to be known, he said, adding the federal Cabinet was told that those factors would be determined by next two to three weeks.
The Federal Cabinet has requested the provincial governments to revamp their vaccination drives and appealed to the public to get inoculated at the earliest so that this new variant could be dealt in a way as those of its previous kinds that were tackled in an effective way.
He said the arrival of Omicron was imminent as the steps taken by the government could only delay it for a brief moment of time.
Most important thing to deal with this variant was mask wearing and vaccination of the leftovers, he added.
Fawad said the Federal Cabinet had expressed serious reservations over the videos circulating on the social media networking sites showing that votes were being bought for the upcoming by-election in Lahore.
He said such illegal activities did not come to the fore in the by-election, if steps were taken by the ECP against horse trading in the recent Senate election.
The free and fair polls were lifeline of a democratic system where elections were the basis for formation of government, he said, highlighting the national election watchdog’s effective and important role in that regard.
He urged the ECP to take the matter of purchase of votes by specific political parties in Lahore to a logical conclusion.
Fawad said the Federal Cabinet was briefed by Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz in detail about total number of required EVMs for the elections.
He said formalities for receiving $3 billion dollars in safe deposits and $1.2 billion worth of oil supplies on differed payment from Saudi Arabia had been completed.
The ITFC (International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation) had given additional $762 million to Pakistan which would ensure stability of rupee against dollar, he added.
The minister said a presentation on weekly prices of kitchen items was also given to the Federal Cabinet and it was noted that there had been a steady decline in commodities prices.
Price of sugar had seen substantial decrease in the last one month, he said, lashing out at the Sindh government for delaying crushing of sugarcane’s crops which caused increase in the price of sweetener.
He said prices of essential commodities in Karachi and Hyderabad were quite high which required urgent attention of the Sindh government.
It was Karachi which played major role in fluctuation of the Sensitive Price Index, he added. Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that with the increase in rice production, the country was likely to earn $4.75 billion foreign exchange. The weekly presentation of kitchen items given to the cabinet transpired that the prices of essential were on declining trend, he added.
He said it showed that 0.67 percent decrease had been registered in prices of essential items of daily use in recent days. In only month period sugar price had come down to Rs 60 per kg, he added.
He blamed Sindh government for increase in Sugar price. “Inflation is rampant in the cities like Karachi and Hyderabad,” he said adding that PTI government was being portrayed as inexperienced party but the party governing the province for over 30 years had failed to check food inflation.
The 40 percent upward trend in sensitive price index (SPI) was due to inflation in Karachi and Sindh, he said adding that the price of tomato had registered 15.4 percent decrease, onion price by 7.4 percent and chicken price had decreased by 6.6 percent recently. Wheat flour bag price had decreased by one percent, he added.
He said Liquefied Petroleum Gas price had decreased by 0.7 percent . Also the country has produced 9 million matric ton rice this year.
The cabinet observed that the Kitchen items were cheapest in Pakistan as comparing to the entire region. The government was doing utmost to minimize the impacts of global inflation, he said.
The minister said in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad a flour bag was available at Rs 1,100 per bag, and same was available at Rs 1,404 per bag in Karachi and Rs 1,443 at Hyderabad due to bad governance of Pakistan Peoples Party’s government.
He said in international market, a sack of urea was available at Rs 10,500 per bag, adding that it was available at Rs 1,700 per bag in Punjab.
A smuggler fetched upto Rs 7 million for smuggling a truck of urea from Pakistan to any other country, he added.
The minister said it was noted that the consumption of urea had abruptly increased in Sindh by 53 percent in last six months. It showed that hoarding was rampant in the province and smugglers were being facilitated in the province, he said, adding
due to this reason Punjab’s farmer was suffering and buying urea from black market. The Sindh government must check the hoarding to provide solace to farmers, he said.
The minister said PTI government had launched a crackdown against hoarders in Punjab, which helped decreasing the price of urea by Rs 400 per bag in the province. Some 347 FIRs were registered against hoarders and 244 were arrested, 21,101 inspections were conducted and 480 warehouses were sealed and Rs 30 million fine was imposed on hoarders in Punjab, he added.
Fawad said in contrary, Sindh government did nothing to check hoarding due to involvement of members of the sitting government.
Divulging cabinet decisions, he said Petroleum Division briefed the cabinet about vacant posts of Managing Director and Chief Executive Officers in the division and attached departments and appraised the cabinet that the appointment process on four vacant posts was continuing.
The cabinet tasked Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam to devise a long term policy to control smog on permanent basis, he added.
The minister said the cabinet okayed enhancing visa duration of Tablighi Jamat from 120 to 150 days, besides providing them E-Visa facility.
Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that Rana Shamim had stated in Islamabad High Court that the circulated affidavit was not issued by him. The question was that how affidavit was published in newspapers, he said, adding it was assumed that Nawaz Sharif was involved in the publication of Shamim’s affidavit.
He said some media persons were involved in the campaign launched against judiciary and army and hoped that the court would take the issue to the logical conclusion.
To a question, the minister said the protest campaign of opposition was seasonal and indeed their own workers did not toing the line of opposition.
He said the price of lentils including Channa and Mong were Rs 115 and 142 per kg respectively in different cities. The same lentil (Channa) were available in Karachi at Rs 195 per kg and Rs 159 kg in Hyderabad.
Giving comparison of tea prices, Fawad said tea was available in Pakistan at Rs 1,309 per kg. Whereas the per kg of tea in Bangladesh was Rs 897, India 1,203, Srilanka Rs 1,170.
The minister warned that our gas reserves were fast depleting and we had to evolve an alternative strategy to deal with the situation.
He said under the gas load management plan, gas supply to the CNG sector would remain suspended from December 1 to February 15, 2022.
He, however, said gas supply would be fully provided to the Independent Power Producers, fertilizer companies and export oriented industries.
The minister said five percent additional gas would be provided to the power plants being operated on the LNG. He said the gas saved from the CNG, cement and Captive Power Plants would be provided to the domestic consumers.
Fawad said the use of electricity was also being encouraged in the winter season and its tariff had been reduced for domestic consumers in order to entice them to shift their appliances such geysers and heaters to electricity.
Court orders former chief judge Rana Shamim to submit original affidavit within 5 days
"Rana Shamim had tried to convince the people to lose confidence in court"
Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday has ordered Gilgit Baltistan former chief judge Rana Shamim to submit the original draft of the original affidavit within five days.
According to details, Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah took up contempt of court case over the affidavit of Rana Shamim.
During the proceeding, Justice Athar Minallah remarked that Rana Shamim had tried to convince the people to lose confidence in court.
He remarked that if the original affidavit was found different from the affidavit being reported. Then the responsibility will be on the newspaper.
Rana Shamim told court that his affidavit was sealed one, but he did not know which affidavit was reported.
IHC CJ Athar Minallah directed the former GB chief judge to submit his original affidavit in the court along with his written response in the case within five days and adjourned the hearing of the case for seven days.
Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan requested the court to take action against Rana Shamim.
The court adjourned the hearing till December 7.
CJP Gulzar for returning military land not under defence use to govt
The army is there for the country's defence and not for doing business, he remarked.
The law didn't allow land meant for defence purposes to be used for commercial gains and that such land should be returned to the government after its strategic use, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday said on Tuesday.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice and comprising Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan resumed the hearing on the issue of military lands being used for commercial purposes.
During the hearing, the chief justice again snubbed Defence Secretary retired Lt Gen Mian Mohammad Hilal Hussain over commercial establishments being built on military land.
"The law's intention is not that defence land is used for any other purpose," Justice Gulzar reiterated. "If the land is not being used for defence then it will go back to the government."
"This is government land," the top judge said, noting that cinemas, petrol pumps, housing societies, shopping malls and marriage halls were being constructed on land meant for defence.
"General sahib, these are not defence purposes," he told the defence secretary, asking the attorney general to explain how the defence ministry would "limit the land's use to defence".
The court said it would interpret the law concerning the land of cantonment boards in light of the Constitution, with Justice Amin remaking: "This is also very important for the institution's own reputation."
The CJP then turned to the attorney general, saying "They must be made to understand the law, who will do that?"
He said a retired major had given the land of Global Marquees, a wedding venue near Gora Qabristan, on lease to a private party, and asked whether he had the authority to do so.
"The army did not take any action against the retired major," the CJP said, noting that millions of rupees were being earned through Global Marquees on a daily basis.
The CJP ordered authorities to demolish a wall built next to Kala Pul as well as the Grand Convention Hall "today".
The CJP expressed dissatisfaction over a report submitted by the defence secretary regarding the case, saying the report "claims the illegally built buildings have been demolished, but they are still there".
The defence secretary responded that he would visit the sites in person and take pictures to compile a new report.
"This situation is a cause of embarrassment for the army and us both," CJP Ahmed remarked, following which the attorney general offered to withdraw the report submitted today.
The court directed him to submit a detailed report within four weeks, identifying the purposes of each piece of cantonment land.
"Under the law, strategic land will only be used for defence purposes," the CJP told the defence secretary.
The secretary informed the court that the scope of the term "strategic objectives" was "wide", saying commercial activities also fell into the category of "strategic defence".
"Whenever the army goes to the borders, these activities are carried out for the purpose of welfare and to keep the morale of the army high," Hussain explained.
At this, the CJP said: "Secretary sahib everything is fine, but where is the cantonment there? All we can see there are houses."
Justice Ahmed pointed out that schools and marriage halls had also been built on Faisal Base land.
"It is being said that Masroor and Korangi airbases are being shut and [perhaps] commercial activities will be started there," the CJP added.
He noted that cantonment land had to be returned to the government after defence objectives were met.
"The army should not compromise on its bigger objectives for petty business," Justice Qazi Amin remarked, adding that the military should be mindful of the sanctity of its institution.
CJP Ahmed pointed out that shopping malls had also been built on defence land in Lahore and Quetta, saying "it is not clear how the Ministry of Defence will sustain these activities."
The defence secretary informed the court that a joint committee of all three armed forces had been formed to check violations of the law.
The CJP further said that "allotting houses to senior army officers does not fall under defence purposes."
"How can the army carry out commercial activities on state land?" he questioned, emphasising that state land should not be "exploited".
Justice Ahmed said the issue was not limited to Karachi, but such violations were common across the country.
Justice Amin said it was incomprehensible why the army needed to indulge itself in business, while the CJP noted that "the army has constructed a tall building on Gizri Road overnight."
He asked that if constructing cinemas, marriage halls and houses were "defence activities" then what was actual defence.
The CJP further said the land sold by some army officers for a few hundreds of thousands had been used to build houses that were now worth tens of millions.
"All the land of cantonments must be restored to its original condition," the CJ said, adding the SC would also review all of the army rules and laws in light of the Constitution.
"The army is there for the country's defence, not for doing business," the CJP remarked.
Later the bench adjourned the hearing for four weeks.
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