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August 18, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Steps taken to boost diplomatic push on Kashmir
• A special Kashmir Cell is being set up at the Foreign Office with desks on the issue at key Pakistani missions abroad to intensify the diplomatic push in support of the Kashmir cause.
• The decision was taken at the first meeting of the committee constituted by the prime minister to discuss and recommend policy options for the government in legal, political, and diplomatic domains for enhancing support of the Kashmir cause.
• The committee is headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
• Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Mr Qureshi, who was accompanied by chairman of the Parliamentary Kashmir Committee Fakhar Imam, Special Assistant to the PM Firdous Ashi1 Awan, Director General South Asia at Foreign Office Dr Muhammad Faisal and military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, said instructions had been issued for the creation of Kashmir Cell.
• Kashmir desks would also be created in Pakistani missions and focal persons would be designated to coordinate the effort.
2. PM launches health plan for people with disabilities
• In line with his vision of universal health coverage, Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 17, 2019 launched Sehat Sahulat Programme for persons with disabilities and their families in Pakistan and said his government`s vision was based on the principles of lifting the conditions of the downtrodden and weaker segments of society.
• There is provision of burial support as Rs10,000 per death (if occurs at hospital). There is facility of inter-provincial / inter-district portability for availing free-of-cost services from any empanelled hospital in Pakistan.
3. Aamir Khan appointed SECP chief
• The federal government on August 17, 2019 notified appointment of Aamir Khan as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) with immediate effect.
• The Federal Cabinet had already approved his appointment in its Aug 9 meeting replacing Farrukh Sabzwari who had been made one of the five commissioners in the SECP.
• It was also noted that devolution of many functions and duties was essential and the commission was exercising over regulations.
4. BNP leader Amanullah Zehri shot dead in Khuzdar
• Balochistan National Party (BNP) leader Nawabzada Mir Amanullah Khan Zehri and three other people were gunned down by unknown armed assailants in Khuzdar district on August 17, 2019.
• Nawabzada Mir Amanullah Khan Zehri along with his 15-year-old grandson Mardan Niaz Khan Zarakzai was on his way home to Noorgama Zehri area from Bulbul area in vehicles when his convoy was passing Crash Plant some armed assailants riding motorcycles opened indiscriminate firing on the convoy and managed to escape from the scene.
• As a result, Nawabzada Amanullah Zehri, his grandson and his two security guards namely Sikandar Khan resident of Manjushori area of Nasirabad district and Nisar Ahmed resident of Zehri died on the spot after receiving multiple bullet injuries.
5. Punjab districts to have Anti-Land Grabbing Cells
• The Punjab government has set up Anti-Land Grabbing Cells at district level for redressing complaints about land mafia.
• Grade-18 officers will head the cell that would take action against land mafia after verification.
• The initiative has been taken on the direction of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. All administrative departments, autonomous bodies, development authorities and police would be duty bound to extend full support to the cells for curbing the crime, he said, adding, all divisional commissioners would submit consolidated monthly report to the director complaints at CM office. To oversee and monitor the working of these cells, Provincial Anti-Land Grabbing Cell has been established at the CM Office. Director Complaints would be focal person.
August 18, 2019: International Current Affairs
6. How long should Kashmiris wait for peace, US media asks UN
• The US media reminded the UN Security Council (UNSC) on August 17, 2019 that it`s responsible for maintaining peace in the world, and this responsibility includes redressing the woes of the Kashmiri people and defusing tensions between India and Pakistan.
• `As the (United Nations) diplomatic arm that`s supposed to protect international peace and security, the Security Council should move quickly to get between the two nuclear-armed opponents if there is a significant flare-up, CNN said in its report on the council`s consultative meeting on Kashmir, held in New York on Friday.
• `But for now, it`s only agreed to talk, rather than act,` the report added. CNN then asked the world body how much longer the people in South Asia should wait for the UNSC to play the role of a peacemaker in Kashmir. `Will 50 more years pass before the Council takes up again the hot topic of Kashmir?` asked CNN while pointing out that it took UNSC more than 50 years even to hold a consultative meeting on the disputed land.
• A Washington Post editorial reminded Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he was `playing a dangerous game`.
7. Executions in Iran among the world`s highest: UN
• The UN expert on human rights in Iran says last year saw increasing restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and continuing violations of the right to life, liberty and a fair trial in the Islamic Republic, including 253 reported executions of adults and children.
• Javaid Rehman said in a report to the General Assembly circulated on August 16, 2019 that while the number of executions was the lowest since 2007, `the number of executions remains one of the highest in the world.` The significant decline, he said, is attributed to enforcement of a 2017 amendment to Iran`s anti-narcotics law that saw the number of executions for drugrelated offences drop from 231 in 2017 to at least 24 in 2018.
• Rehman expressed concern that Iran has more than 80 offences punishable by the death penalty, including adultery, homosexuality, drug possession etc. He said many of the offences are not considered serious crimes under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
8. White House confirms progress made in Afghan peace talks
• The White House signalled progress on August 16, 2019 in preparations for a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying that discussions between President Donald Trump and his top advisers went `very well`. Trump met at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course with national security advisers including Defence Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, the White House said.
• Also present were national security point man John Bolton and the US special envoy for the talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad.
• `Discussions centred around our ongoing negotiations and eventual peace and reconciliation agreement with the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. The meeting went very well, and negotiations are proceeding,` deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
9. Sudanese army, civilians seal power-sharing deal
• Sudan`s main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on August 17, 2019 signed a final power-sharing deal that paves the way for a transitional government, and eventually elections, following the overthrow of long-time leader Omar al Bashir.
• Stability in Sudan, which has been grappling with an economic crisis, is seen as crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.
• One of Sudan`s top generals, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is deputy head of the military council, and opposition alliance representative Ahmad al-Rabie had initialled the agreement on Aug 4 and were the main signatories on Saturday.
10. Nasa picks headquarters for Moon lander
• A Nasa facility in Alabama that developed the giant rocket for the Apollo programme in the 1960s will play a key role in sending astronauts down to the Moon’s surface in 2024.
• The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville will lead the development of a vehicle that will land astronauts on the body for the first time since 1972.
• The decision was announced by Nasa’s administrator Jim Bridenstine.
• But it’s a disappointment for Texas, which was in the running.
• The White House wants to send a man and a woman to the South Pole of the Moon in five years, under a programme called Artemis.