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December 5, 2018: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan, US to work as team on Afghanistan
• Pakistan and the United States December 4, 2018 agreed to work as a team to resolve the Afghanistan issue and hold reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
• Speaking to US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said peace in Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan.
• Qureshi assured that Pakistan will continue its cooperation with fair intentions for political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
• Khalilzad’s visit came days after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in securing a “negotiated settlement” to the war in Afghanistan.
• This comes as Washington steps up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, more than 17 years after the invasion of Afghanistan. In his letter, Trump said a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated. “In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation,” it added.
• Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan had welcomed US President Donald Trump’s letter seeking Pakistan’s cooperation for reconciliation process in Afghanistan
2. PM asks Facebook to check misuse of social media
• Prime Minister lmran Khan on December 4, 2018 urged the Facebook management to play its role in checking misuse of social media in spreading fake news, violence and hate content.
• During a meeting with Simon Milner, Vice President of Public Policy, Facebook Singapore, who called on him at the Prime Minister Office, Mr Khan underscored the need for putting in place `a robust mechanism to effectively check misuse of social media in spreading false news, violence and hate content`.
• `Facebook, with its large number of subscribers, can play a significant role towards checking negative attempts that threaten our society and social values,` he said.
• Special assistants to the PM Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari and Iftikhar Durrani and senior officials also attended the meeting.
• The prime minister said a huge potential existed for Facebook to develop online communities within Pakistan in the field of social service, especially in promotion of community health services and raising health awareness campaigns in remote areas of the country.
3. Government unveils austerity plan
• The PTI-led government has introduced austerity plan for the current fiscal year including imposing ban on creation of new jobs and purchase of vehicles to control the rising expenditures of the country.
• The Ministry of Finance, through a notification, has directed all ministries and divisions to follow the austerity measures during current fiscal year. The government has not changed the austerity measures, which have been followed from last few years.
• The Ministry of Finance has once again introduced old-fashioned austerity measures for the ongoing financial year that may have little impact on the country’s overall expenditures.
• Pakistan’s budget deficit was recorded at Rs541.7 billion during the first quarter (July to September) of the ongoing fiscal (FY2019). The deficit went up mainly due to massive increase in expenditures. The country’s expenditures have stood at Rs1.64 trillion as against the revenues of Rs1.1 trillion during July-September period of FY2019. Expenditures increased due to massive spending on defence and interest payments.
4. Pakistan, Iran agree to fully support Afghan peace efforts
• Pakistan and Iran have agreed to extend full support to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
• This consensus was reached during the 10th round of Pak-Iran Bilateral Political Consultations held here.
• Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Iran`s Deputy Foreign Minister Syed Abbas led their respective delegations at the meeting.
• An official statement about the meeting said: `It was noted that fully supporting an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process was the best way to overcome the serious security and politico-economic challenges faced by Pakistan and Iran.
• The two neighbours also agreed on having a `coordinated approach` on Afghanistan for `safeguarding their core interests The statement noted that `Pakistan and Iran, as the major geographic neighbours of Afghanistan, also have commonality of views and future approach to restore complete peace and stability in the country`.
December 5, 2018: International Current Affairs
5. US assured of support for peace in Afghanistan
• Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on December 4, 2018 reaffirmed Pakistan`s support for the Afghan peace process in his meeting with US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
• `Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan`s best interest, Mr Qureshi tweeted after his meeting with the visiting US special envoy.
• Ambassador Khalilzad is on his third visit to Pakistan since he took charge of the office dealing with peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in September.
6. US takes aim at China, Iran & Russia over treaty violations
• US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at China, Iran, Russia and others on December 4, 2018 for violating numerous treaties and multi-state agreements, and he questioned whether many pillars of international trade and diplomacy are still relevant.
• Pompeo said the Trump administration is no longer willing to accept such transgressions and is acting to reform institutions that have formed the basis of the post-World War II global order. He said a lack of American and European leadership over the last 30 years had contributed to the malaise.
• `After the Cold War ended, we allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode: It failed us, and it failed you,` he said in a speech to the German Marshall Fund in Brussels.
• China, Iran and Russia all deny the charges, which the US makes frequently.
7. NASA deep space probe reaches asteroid deemed potential Earth threat
• NASA`s deep space explorer Osiris-Rex flew on December 4, 2018 to within a dozen miles of its destination, a skyscraper-sized asteroid believed to hold organic compounds fundamental to life as well as the potential to collide with Earth in about 150 years.
• Launched in September 2016, Osiris-Rex embarked on NASA`s unprecedented seven-year mission to conduct a close-up survey of the asteroid Bennu, collect a sample from its surface and return that material to Earth for study.
• Bennu, a rocky mass roughly a third of a mile wide and shaped like a giant acorn, orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth and is thought to be rich in carbon-based organic molecules dating back to the earliest days of the solar system. Water, another vital component to the evolution of life, may also be trapped in the asteroid`s minerals.
• Scientists believe that asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic level analysis of samples from Bennu could help prove that theory.
8. Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels
• Israel’s army said December 4, 2018 it has discovered Hezbollah tunnels infiltrating its territory from Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them, a move likely to raise tensions with the Iran-backed group.
• The surprise announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels over regional dangers, with both having repeatedly warned about the activities of Iran, Israel’s main enemy. Netanyahu said he discussed the operation with Pompeo and called the tunnels a violation of a UN resolution aimed at ending a 2006 war between Israel and Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
• “Whoever tries to harm Israel’s security will pay dearly,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
• “We will continue with further activities, covert and overt, to ensure Israel’s security.”
• US President Donald Trump’s White House gave its full backing to the operation, with National Security Adviser John Bolton saying “we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation.”
9. Xi arrives in Portugal to boost trade ties
• Xi stressed the importance of China’s relationship with Portugal as part of a broader network of trade links stretching across Asia, Africa and Europe
• Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Portugal on December 4, 2018 for a two-day visit to boost economic ties, despite concern in some EU capitals over China’s growing influence across the continent.
• His two-day stay will include the signing of cooperation agreements, one of which will bring the southwestern port of Sines into what China calls the “new Silk Road”.
• The initiative offers loans to build railways, roads and ports across Asia, Europe and Africa.
• Portugal is an important hub in the land and maritime silk routes.
December 5, 2018: Sports Current Affairs
10. Air Marshal Aasim elected WSFP president
• Air Marshal Aasim Zaheer, Vice Chief of the Air Staff, was unanimously elected as president of Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan (WSFP) during the general council meeting here at Air Headquarters on December 4, 2018.
• All the member associations, departments and all office-bearers of WSFP along with representatives of Pakistan Olympics Association (POA) attended the meeting.