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December 17, 2018: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan asks OIC to take up Kashmir issue
• Urging the world community to `intervene` and stop ongoing blood shed in India-held Kashmir, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has asked the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to immediately convene an inter-ministerial meeting of its Contact Group on Kashmir, saying Pakistan is ready to host the event.
• Mr Qureshi said he had contacted the OIC secretary general to apprise him about the latest situation in occupied Kashmir and Pakistan`s desire for convening of the meeting of the member states in Islamabad.
• Mr Qureshi had told the OIC secretary general that the proposed meeting could also be held in Jeddah, if the participants had any difficulty in travelling to Islamabad. According to the minister, the OIC secretary general responded positively and asked him to submit a formal request.
• Prime Minister Imran Khan through his official account on Twitter also condemned the killings of innocent civilians at the hands of Indian forces in the Pulwama area.
2. 79pc girls quit primary schools in tribal districts: study
• Only one-fifth of the girls enrolled in public sector schools in seven districts of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) continue their education from preparatory class till Class V, as overall 73 per cent students 69pc boys and 79pc girls quit schools during the early years of education, an official report of government educational institutions in the region bordering Afghanistan shows.
• Situation at the middle and secondary school levels is also very discouraging as dropout rate of girls at these stages is 50pc, according to the 102page statistical report compiled by the Education Management Information System (EMIS), directorate of education of newly merged tribal districts.
• The dropout rate in the militancy affected North Waziristan district is 63pc (73pc among girls), which is the highest among the seven districts, but the report does not highlight reasons behind the high dropout rate.
• The tribal districts have 5,890 schools in the public sector with a total enrolment of 677,157 students. While current budget for education is Rs12 billion and Rs5 billion development budget including grant-in-aid, the official study portrays a bleak picture of the state of education in the public sector schools with most of the schools in the districts lying without electricity, drinking water facility and toilets. Only 43pc schools have electricity, 45.2pc have drinking water facility, 45pc have toilets and70pc schools have boundary walls, the EMIS study indicates.
3. Pakistan uses 55 billion shopping bags every year
• Pakistanis use 55 billion polyethylene shopping bags every year, a severe environmental threat, as these high density bags may take over two decades to degrade.
• According to Ministry of Climate Change data, the use of plastic bags is on the rise at the rate of 15 percent per year.
• There are about 8,021 production units in the country with average production capacity of 250-500 kgs per day, majority of them are cottage industry.
• Approximately, 160,000 people are directly, and 600,000 people are indirectly dependent on plastic bag industry.
• After the 18th constitutional amendment, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency is mandated with its function under Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 for protection, conservation and rehabilitation of environment in Islamabad Capital Territory. Pak-EPA had prohibited manufacturing sale and usage through district management but due to weak implementation, plastic bags are available at almost every store of capital no matter small or big.
4. Pakistan elected VP of UN body on climate change
• Pakistan has been elected as Vice President and Rapporteur of the Conference of Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
• Pakistan was one of the two countries elected to this position from Asia-Pacific group, by acclamation.
• The other bodies in which Pakistan secured seats include executive board of Clean Development Mechanism, Standing Committee on Finance, Adaptation Committee, Consultative Group of Experts, and Technology Executive Committee.
December 17, 2018: International Current Affairs
5. US praises Pakistan for promoting Afghan talks
• The United States has said that it welcomes Pakistan`s efforts to promote peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
• The acknowledgement came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Pakistan had arranged another round of talks between the US and Taliban officials but he did not say when and where.
• But Voice of America (VOA) radio`s Dari service reported on Sunday that US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad is likely to meet Taliban representatives in Islamabad on Monday (today). Previous talks were held in Doha, Qatar.
• `The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,` a US embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.
6. Yemen`s hard-won ceasefire at risk after clashes, air strikes in Hodeida
• The UN`s envoy to Yemen called on Sunday for pro-government forces and rebels to respect a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, after repeated clashes between the two sides threatened to unravel a hard-won accord hammered out in Sweden last week.
• `The special envoy expects the two parties to respect their obligations as per the text and spirit of the Stockholm Agreement and to engage in the immediate implementation of its provisions,` envoy Martin Griffiths tweeted.
• He said the UN was working with Yemen`s Saudi backed government and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels to ensure the accord on Hodeida reached on Thursday was `implemented timely and properly`.
• Clashes shook Hodeida on Sunday after air strikes and deadly fighting on the outskirts overnight, residents said.
7. Georgia`s first female president sworn in
• Georgia on December 16, 2018 swore in its first female president, Salome Zurabishvili as opposition parties continue to denounce her election as fraudulent and demand snap parliamentary polls.
• The inauguration paved the way for a new constitution to come into force, transforming the country into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president.
• Opposition parties have refused to recognise Zurabishvili`s election last month and tried to hold a protest rally outside the royal residence. But the plan was thwarted by police, who on Sunday morning blocked a kilometres-long opposition motorcade on a road leading from the capital Tbilisi to Telavi.
• Zurabishvili was backed in the election by the ruling Georgian Dream pany of Georgia`s ex-premier and billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili, Georgia`s richest man, stepped down as prime minister in 2013 after just a year in office but is still widely believed to be Georgia`s de facto ruler.
• Zurabishvili was born in France to a Georgian family who fled the Bolshevik regime to Paris in 1921. She studied international relations at the Paris Institute of Political Sciences before a 30-year career as a French diplomat, with postings to the United Nations, Washington and Chad.
8. Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque
• Iraqis on December 16, 2018 laid the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul`s Al-Nuri mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against the so-called Islamic State group.
• The famed 12th century mosque and minaret, dubbed Al-Hadba or `the hunchback`, hosted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi`s only public appearance as IS chief, when he declared a self-styled `caliphate` after the jihadists swept into Mosul in 2014.
• The structures were ravaged three years later in the final, most brutal stages of the months-long fight to rid Iraq`s second city of IS.
• On December 16, 2018, dozens of government officials, religious figures, United Nations representatives and European ambassadors gathered in the large square in front of the battered mosque to see the foundation laid.
• Abdullatif Al-Humaym, the head of Sunni Muslim endowments in Iraq, set down the stone in a simple ceremony. It bore a black Arabic inscription: `This cornerstone for the rebuilding and restoration of the Al-Hadba minaret and the Great Al-Nuri Mosque was laid on December 16, 2018.
9. Qatar to invest $20bn in US energy sector
• Energy-rich Qatar, under blockade by its Gulf neighbours plans to invest more than $20 billion in the US energy sector over the next five years.
• Saad al-Kaabi, minister of state for energy affairs and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, told that Qatar is looking to invest in US oil and gas sectors as well as unconventional resources.
• “North of $20 billion will be invested over the next five years in the United States in different projects,” Kaabi told the Doha Forum. He said Qatar’s main target was to revive the multi-billion dollar Golden Pass LNG terminal in Texas.
• Qatar Petroleum owns 70pc of the project, with ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips splitting the rest.
December 17, 2018: Sports Current Affairs
10. Belgium clinch maiden hockey World Cup in dramatic style
• A gritty Belgium defeated former champions the Netherlands in sudden death in a thrilling summit clash to win their maiden men`s hockey World Cup title at the Kalinga Stadium Bhubaneswar, India on December 16, 2018.
• Olympic silver medallist Belgium created history by eking out a 3-2 win in the penalty shoot-out after the final match of the game`s showpiece event ended in a goalless draw.
• It was a great day for Belgium hockey as the country registered its second biggest international title after the Olympics silver in Rio in 2016. In the last edition of the World Cup at The Hague in Netherlands, Belgium had finished fifth.
• The Netherlands, on the other hand, failed to match Pakistan`s record of a fourth world title for the second consecutive edition. The Dutch had finished runners-up to Australia four years ago in front of their home crowd. They last won a World Cup title way back in 1998 in Utrecht.
• Incidentally, it was the Netherlands` second consecutive match that went to shoot-out in the tournament after their victory over Australia in the semi-finals on December 15, 2018.