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December 31, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. 128,000 deaths occur in Pakistan due to climate change every year
• Members of a parliamentary committee were shocked to learn on December 30, 2019 that 128,000 people die due to climate change in Pakistan.
• Members of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights were also told that the average age or lifespan could decreased by two to five years because of environmental pollution.
• The senators were informed that 43pc of pollution in the country is caused by low grade oil being imported and used by the transport industry and energy sector, and Pakistan cannot use environmentally friendly fuel until 2021.
• They were particularly upset to learn that Pakistan`s last oil sector policy came in 1997, and no one has formulated a new policy since that is at par with advancements in technology, development and other requirements.
2. All duties, taxes on cotton import withdrawn
• The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on December 30, 2019 waived all duties and taxes on import of cotton and allowed its import via the Torkham border land route from Afghanistan and Central Asian States to meet the growing demand of the textile value-added sector.
• The decision taken at a meeting of the ECC, headed by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh, will be effective from Jan 15, 2020.
• The government had in 201415 imposed one per cent customs duty along with 5pc sales tax on cotton import. Over the next few years, its import was subject to 3pc regulatory duty, 2pc additional customs duty and 5pc sales tax. The duties were withdrawn in January/ February 2017 and re-imposed in July-August.
• On Oct 4 this year, the Cotton Crop Assessment Committee projected that cotton production at the end of the year would be 10.20 million bales as against the target of 15 million bales for the fiscal year 2019-20
3. Govt nominee for top ECP office retires today
• The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-iInsaf`s (PTI) nominee for the office of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad, retires as secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on December 31, 2019.
• He will be replaced by Zafar Iqbal Hussain, currently serving as the provincial election commissioner, Punjab. A notification to this effect was issued on Monday with the approval of the acting CEC, retired justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi. A BPS-21 officer Mr Hussain is expected to take charge on Jan 1.
• Meanwhile, the matter pertaining to the appointment of CEC and members of the ECP has again been delayed for a week this time because of fog. The parliamentary committee on appointment of CEC and ECP members was to meet on Monday, but the meeting had to be put off for a week as some members of the panel could not reach Islamabad due to foggy weather.
4. Terror-related fatalities declined in 2019 significantly: report
• Pakistan witnessed a nearly 31 per cent reduction in terror and counterterrorism-related fatalities in 2019, according to data released by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) on December 30, 2019.
• According to the research, only two militant outfits Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter groups and the militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for 12and one attacks, respectively, but their own ranks depleted by nearly 30pc. Civilian fatalities declined by about 36pc.
• The report observed a 30.71pc drop in fatalities in 2019 (from 980 in 2018 to 679 in 2019). If Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are counted as separate regions, Balochistan still remains most affected by militancy and insurgency. The largest drop in fatalities was observed in Balochistan (44.2pc), followed by Fata (39pc), Sindh (19pc), and Punjab (11.8pc).
5. Health card facility for transgenders launched
• Prime Minister Imran Khan on December 30, 2019 launched the Sehat Insaf Card facility for the transgender community, the first in the country`s history, to provide succour to the most vulnerable segment of society.
• The prime minister regretted that previous governments never took responsibility for the most vulnerable sections of society, including transgenders.
• The present government, he said, had taken the responsibility of transgender community and would give them a sense of ownership. Pakistan was created on a great idea of sense of justice, humanity and humane feelings for the downtrodden, he added
6. Facebook curbs streaming of PBC bulletins about Kashmir
• Facebook has blocked live streaming of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation`s (PBC) news bulletins for highlighting Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir, Radio Pakistan reported on December 30, 2019.
• However, temporary arrangements have been made to continue live streaming of Radio Pakistan`s bulletins on YouTube, the report added.
• Radio Pakistan in its report included screenshots of earlier warning messages received from the social media giant, dating back to May, warning the public broadcaster of violating `community standards on dangerous individuals and organisations`.
7. China jails scientist who gene-edited babies
• A Chinese court on December 30, 2019 sentenced the scientist who claimed to be behind the world`s first gene-edited babies to three years in prison for illegal medical practice.
• He Jiankui, who shocked the scientific community last year by announcing the birth of twin girls whose genes had allegedly been altered to confer immunity to HIV, was also fined three million yuan ($430,000), Xinhua news agency said.
• He, who was educated at Stanford University, was sentenced by a court in Shenzhen for `illegally carrying out the human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction`, Xinhua said.
• Two of his fellow researchers were also sentenced
8. Rawat becomes India`s first chief of defence staff
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s handpicked Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat was on December 30, 2019 appointed India`s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a day before he was to step down on superannuation.
• `Government has decided to appoint Gen Bipin Rawat as the CDS with effect from December 31, 2019 and until further orders and extension of Gen Bipin Rawat with effect from December 31, 2019 and till such period he holds the office of CDS.
• Gen Rawat is set to retire as the Army Chief on December 31 on completing three years of tenure and will assume charge as the CDS. Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen MM Naravane is scheduled to take over as the 28th Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
9. Croatia sentences ex-PM, Hungary energy firm boss for graft
• A Croatian court on December 30, 2019 sentenced former prime minister Ivo Sanader to six years in jail and the boss of Hungary`s MOL energy group to two years for bribery.
• Sanader already serving time for a separate graft conviction and MOL`s Zsolt Hernadi were convicted for `receiving and giving a bribe` concerning a 2009 deal after the Hungarian firm purchased shares in local oil and gas group INA, the judge said.
• Judge Maja Stampar Stipic said the deal allowed then-PM Sanader to pocket 10 million euros ($11 million)in exchange for granting the Hungarian firm control over INA.
• MOL, whose main shareholder is the Budapest government, has a 49 percent INA stake, while Zagreb holds a 44 percent stake.
10. Sudan sentences to death 27 secret agents for killing protester
• A Sudanese court on December 30, 2019 sentenced 27 intelligence agents to death for torturing and killing a protester early this year.
• It is the first time members of the security forces have been condemned to death in relation to the killing of protesters whose movement toppled veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
• The defendants were found guilty of torturing to death Ahmed al-Kheir Awadh at an intelligence services facility and sentenced to be hanged, judge Sadok Albdelrahman said.
• The teacher was beaten and tortured to death after he was arrested in late January by intelligence operatives in Kassala state in eastern Sudan, the judge said.
• Dozens of protesters from the capital`s teachers` association gathered in front of the court in Khartoum`s twin city of Omdurman, carrying pictures of Awadh.
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