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Pakistan

Will the new broom sweep clean?

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Lahore was clean. It is not so anymore. Lahore had a functioning waste management system. It is not so anymore. Lahore was envied by Karachi. It is not so anymore.

Shehzad Hussain Butt Profile Shehzad Hussain Butt

The road that led to this point is winding with twists and turns but not too long.

As begin most misadventures by this government, so did this one, with the positive intention of ending corruption and mismanagement inside Lahore Waste Management Corporation. Provincial Minister for Industries, Mian Aslam Iqbal, was given the additional charge of supervising waste management. Hearing of tales of corruption inside the LWMC, Aslam Iqbal sought written explanations. In reply, Chairman Amjad Ali Noon unleashed a barrage of accusations at the Minister himself. He sought time with the Chief Minister to complain about the matter. Unsuccessful in meeting Usman Buzdar, Amjad Ali Noon hit the jackpot when he met the Prime Minister himself. Till the last news poured in, Noon was not performing his departmental duties while Aslam Iqbal had restrained himself after the volley of attacks launched towards him.

There is still time for Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to take notice of the report handed over to him by the IT Department and the forensic report handed over to him by Auditor General’s office.

A problem that LWMC might have to confront sooner than later is that of the 14,000 workers enlisted under its banner, almost 5,000 are ghost employees. PSO provides almost 400,000 liters of fuel to LWMC, of which 315,000 liters are used while 85,000 liters remain unaccounted for. Who is hiding these details? And who will answer for the fact that appointments on higher positions were not made in a transparent manner? Where is the record for contracts given to private entities which would let us know at what rate is waste picked up from the city? What work were female socializers doing while they were hired to create awareness campaigns? Why was a war of allegations started as soon as a monitoring report was demanded? And why is the CFO reluctant to release the details of payments released to private firms?

Questions are being asked about why senatorial contracts were given at 59% higher than the set rates to a firm in Sargodha. About what is stopping Amjad Ali Noon and CEO Imran Ali Sultan are not acting on the forensics report themselves, which points the finger at many wrongdoings. And about who has threatened to file defamation suits, the details of which will be made public soon enough.

From 1947 till 1987, a team of 10,000 was employed to clean up the city. Daily wagers would look after a city of more than 3.5 million. Back then, Lahore was spread over 100 wards, dotted with an open drainage system. With time, the city was divided into zones. In 1990, eight deputy mayors were selected and 8 zones were carved out for them to govern.

In August 2001, the City District Government was founded, after which Lahore was divided into six towns, namely, Shalimar, Wagah, Daata, Gulberg, Nishtar and Iqbal Towns. After 2005, three more towns were added to the mic, Samanabad, Aziz Bhatti and Ravi Town.

Finally, in 2010, the Solid Waste Management Company came into being.

According to Aslam Iqbal, Lahore’s waste can be managed with just Rs. 7 billion per annum as opposed to the Rs 14 billion it is costing. If the employees hired for their jobs actually do what they are paid to, then the matter of ghost employees, too, can be settled. Vehicles can be monitored through video monitoring to cut down fudging in petrol allowances. LWMC can start the process of standing on its own feet instead of relying on foreign or private companies.

Lahore produces about 6,000 tons of waste daily. Corruption fudged this figure to 16,000 to 20,000 tons, costing billions more to the treasury.

Those in charge of cleaning the city are instead cleaning up the exchequer. Soon, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar may wake up from his slumber and dispatch these corrupt elements to the dustbin of history.

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World

Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, says UN Court

International Court of Justice says Israeli settlements are in violation of international law

Published by Hussnain Bhutta

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The Hague: The United Nations' highest court said on Friday that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and settlements there are illegal and should be withdrawn as soon as possible, in its strongest findings to date on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The advisory opinion by judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), known as the World Court, was not binding but carries weight under international law and may weaken support for Israel.
"Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the regime associated with them, have been established and are being maintained in violation of international law," President Nawaf Salam said, reading the findings of a 15-judge panel.
The court said Israel's obligations include paying restitution for harm and "the evacuation of all settlers from existing settlements".
In a swift reaction, Israel's foreign ministry rejected the opinion as "fundamentally wrong" and one-sided, and repeated its stance that a political settlement in the region can only be reached by negotiations.
"The Jewish nation cannot be an occupier in its own land," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
The opinion also angered West Bank settlers as well as politicians such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, whose nationalist religious party is close to the settler movement and who himself lives in a West Bank settlement.
"The answer to The Hague - Sovereignty now" he said in a post on the social media platform X, in an apparent appeal to formally annex the West Bank.
Israel Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, one of the largest settler councils, said the ICJ opinion was "contrary to the Bible, morality and international law".
'NO COMPLICITY'
The ICJ opinion also found that the U.N. Security Council, the General Assembly and all states have an obligation not to recognise the occupation as legal nor "render aid or assistance" toward maintaining Israel's presence in the occupied territories.
The United States is Israel's biggest military ally and supporter.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called the opinion "historic" and urged states to adhere to it.
"No aid. No assistance. No complicity. No money, no arms, no trade...no actions of any kind to support Israel's illegal occupation," Palestinian envoy Riyad al-Maliki said outside the court in The Hague.
The case stems from a 2022 request for a legal opinion from the U.N. General Assembly, predating the war in Gaza that began in October.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem - areas of historic Palestine which the Palestinians want for a state - in the 1967 Middle East war and has since built settlements in the West Bank and steadily expanded them.
Israeli leaders argue the territories are not occupied in legal terms because they are on disputed lands, but the United Nations and most of the international community regard them as occupied territory.
In February, more than 50 states presented their views before the court, with Palestinian representatives asking the court to find that Israel must withdraw from all the occupied areas and dismantle illegal settlements.
Israel did not participate in the oral hearings but filed a written statement telling the court that issuing an advisory opinion would be "harmful" to attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The majority of states participating asked the court to find the occupation illegal, while a handful, including Canada and Britain, argued it should refuse to give an advisory opinion.
The United States had asked the court not to order the unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian territories.
The U.S. position was that the court should issue no decision that could hurt negotiations toward a two-state solution on a "land for peace" principle.
In 2004 the ICJ gave an advisory ruling that an Israeli separation barrier around most of the West Bank was illegal and Israeli settlements were established in breach of international law. Israel dismissed that ruling.

(Curtsy Reuters)

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Regional

Why the Secret Service keeps failing

Days after the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, lawmakers and watchdogs are taking the US Secret Service to task over how a gunman could have made it to a rooftop with an AR-15-style rifle just 400 feet away from the former president,…

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Days after the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, lawmakers and watchdogs are taking the US Secret Service to task over how a gunman could have made it to a rooftop with an AR-15-style rifle just 400 feet away from the former president, let alone fire a weapon. As more details trickle in, it’s clear that the Secret Service failed to properly do its job. “It was unacceptable,” the agency’s director, Kimberly Cheatle, told ABC News, adding that she doesn’t plan on resigning. Onlookers, for example, spotted the suspicious man on the roof and reported him to police before the shooting. And according to CBS News, three snipers assisting the Secret Service were actually stationed inside the building that the shooter used during the campaign rally. While the Secret Service has argued that some blame lies with local law enforcement, which it partnered with for the rally, the agency is ultimately responsible for securing the event. The Secret Service’s failures over the weekend aren’t some isolated incident, but can be viewed as the natural outcome for a scandal-ridden agency that has long been in need of reform. The Secret Service has been dogged by controversies in the past decade, from Trump’s politicization of the agency to a lack of transparency around the January 6 insurrection, when it deleted its agents’ text messages in the days leading up to the attack. Several other high-profile incidents have shown the Secret Service caught flat-footed, as was the case in 2014, when an intruder with a knife jumped the White House fence and walked in through the front door. The general culture at the agency has also received plenty of criticism, too, like when allegedly drunk agents crashed a car at the White House in 2015 or when agents had to be sent back home from Colombia in 2012 after hiring sex workers while providing security for then-President Barack Obama. Perhaps most importantly, one of the agency’s chief failures has been a lack of transparency and a reluctance to admit when mistakes happen. That’s especially alarming given that the Secret Service is tasked with protecting the nation’s highest-ranking officials, all while political violence is on the rise. If events like the assassination attempt over the weekend are to be avoided in the future, the agency needs to change. The Secret Service should be more transparent In 2011, a gunman with a semi-automatic rifle fired multiple shots at the White House. According to reporting by Washington Post reporter Carol D. Leonnig, who has extensively covered the Secret Service, “nobody conducted more than a cursory inspection of the White House for evidence or damage.” In fact, it took days for the agency to realize that bullets had actually hit the White House — only after a housekeeper had noticed broken glass — and to alert President Barack Obama of the shooting. That incident underscores how slow the agency can be when it comes to recognizing or reporting security lapses. It also shows how reluctant it is sometimes to learn from its mistakes. “There was no, ‘Hey, let’s get everyone together and let’s review what happened,’” Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who served on Obama’s security detail, told CBS News in 2021 about the incident. That’s why the agency requires more routine oversight, which starts with being more publicly transparent about its failures. After the Trump assassination attempt, Congress announced that it will hold a hearing with the Secret Service director on July 22. President Joe Biden also said he’s ordered an independent review of the event to understand what happened. Those are good steps. But what’s clear is that the Secret Service is in need of more oversight generally, and not just after major operational failures. One solution is for Congress to broaden its investigation of the Secret Service beyond what happened at Trump’s rally and make its findings public. It should answer questions like how many close calls there have actually been — incidents where luck played more of a role in security than actual protocol. Have there been growing ties between white supremacist groups and the Secret Service? Has the agency fully addressed issues surrounding its “frat boy” work culture? Is the Secret Service properly reviewing its own security procedures after incidents like the White House shooting in 2011? “Time and time again, the Secret Service has chosen to cover up a problem rather than fix it,” Leonnig, who wrote the book Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, told CBS News in 2021. “This is a great agency ... but it needs a house cleaning; it needs help.” How the Secret Service has evolved Most people think of the Secret Service as the organization that protects the president and other high-profile officials. But when it was founded in 1865, the Secret Service was part of the Treasury Department and tasked with detecting fraud and counterfeit currency. It wasn’t until 30 years later that it started providing informal protection of then-President Grover Cleveland. And after the assassination of President William McKinley, the Secret Service added protecting presidents to its official duties. The Secret Service still investigates financial crimes and fraud and provides protective details to presidents, their families, and other officials like the vice president or presidential candidates. But in 2003, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the agency was moved to the Department of Homeland Security. One of the most visible ways that the agency has changed is how many more people it protects today than in the past. According to a 2021 report by the National Academy of Public Administration, while the Secret Service declined to provide an exact number of how many people it protects, it showed that the number of travel visits by protectees increased from just under 3,200 in 2010 to over 4,000 in 2018. That’s in part because Trump designated Secret Service protection for his adult children, who often traveled internationally, and other staff members in his administration. The Secret Service can generally decline providing protection for people other than those required by statute — like the president and vice president — based on its assessed security risk, but it often provides protection well beyond what is required of it. Where the Secret Service goes from here Transparency is the first step to a reformed Secret Service. But what’s already known about the agency shows there’s plenty of room for improvement. John Koskinen, the former commissioner of the IRS who worked on the 2021 NAPA report on the Secret Service’s workforce, found that the agency needed more staffing. “The place ran better if they had enough people, but they were chronically understaffed,” Koskinen said. According to the report, employee turnover and a lack of sufficient hiring resulted in a staff that was less experienced, overworked, and stretched too thin. “The major finding was that as the staffing increased, employee satisfaction increased,” Koskinen said, meaning that more staffing would lead to less turnover as a result of burnout. Koskinen believes Congress should focus on the lack of sufficient staffing, especially given the expanding scope of the Secret Service’s mission. The number of people it protects, for example, has grown, with requests like Trump’s for Secret Service protection for his adult children and top officials just before he left office. It’s not clear, however, whether staffing problems had anything to do with the security lapses at Trump’s rally. The agency did hire over 600 new employees in 2023, and the Secret Service had recently bolstered security around the former president before the incident. That’s all the more reason for Congress to expand its investigation beyond what went wrong at Trump’s rally to get a full picture of how big of a problem staffing actually is — before committing more funding to the agency so that, if needed, the money can be properly directed. One question that Congress should ask that could help address the Secret Service’s needs — from transparency to resources — is whether the Department of Homeland Security is where it should be housed. Before the 9/11 attacks, the Secret Service was part of the Treasury Department. But since it moved to Homeland Security in 2003, people have questioned whether it receives enough scrutiny or accountability, blending into a massive bureaucracy of over 250,000 employees. “Are they given the right visibility in light of the importance of their job, or do they get lost day in and day out of that huge organization?” Koskinen said. Now, with the Secret Service under renewed scrutiny, Congress has a chance to review the agency’s transparency, staffing problems, and the scope of its mission. And it might be time to rethink how the agency approaches all three.
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Health

Poliovirus detected in Balochistan, cases rise to nine

1.5-year-old child from Zhob's Union Council Hasanzai Urban-II has been diagnosed with poliovirus

Published by Noor Fatima

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Quetta: The presence of the poliovirus has been confirmed in Zhob district of Balochistan, after which the number of polio cases in the country has increased to nine.

A 1.5-year-old child from Zhob's Union Council Hasanzai Urban-II has been diagnosed with poliovirus.

In this regard, Prime Minister Coordinator for Health Dr Malik Mukhtar said that nine children have been affected by poliovirus this year.

Ayesha Raza, focal person of anti-polio, stated that the most effective way to prevent polio is multiple doses of the polio vaccine.

The Coordinator National Emergency Operations Center Muhammad Anwaar-ul-Haq added that six anti-polio campaigns have been conducted so far this year, and different strategies are being adopted to keep children safe.

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