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March 27, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan shares compliance report with FATF team
• The visiting nine-member mission of Asia Pacific Group (APG) — an affiliate of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — on March 26, 2019 asked Pakistan to grant the powers of terror financing probe to the FIA, dissemination of Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) to the Counter Terrorism Departments (CTDs) and ensure effective coordination among the Centre and provinces to combat terror financing and money laundering.
• However, during the maiden meeting with the visiting APG mission, the Pakistani side gave strong arguments and said the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) was sharing the STRs with the law enforcing agencies (LEAs) and CTDs.
• The FMU also shared its data with the APG mission to demonstrate that the STRs were also shared with CTDs where required. The nine-member visiting APG mission comprises Gordon Hook, Executive Secretary; Shannon Rutherford, Deputy Director; Mohammad Rashdon, Deputy Director; Ashraf Abdullah from Maldives, Boby Wahyun Hernawan from Indonesia, Gong Jingyan from China, Ian Collins from the UK, James Prussing from the US, and Mustafa Necmeddin from Turkey.
2. Reform programme discussed with IMF officials
• Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on March 26, 2019 discussed a reform programme for a possible bailout package, including fiscal framework and external account.
• The two sides are expected to resume formal negotiations on the package after April 14.
• `High fiscal deficit and major revenue shortfall during the current year stood out as the weakest areas and thus top challenges,` a senior official told Dawn.
• The power sector was also a weak area. The discussions focused on how the authorities would tackle these challenges next year now that major slippages during the current year were a fait accompli.
3. Pakistan opens airspace for all flights
• Pakistan on March 26, 2019 opened its airspace for all domestic and international flights after keeping it closed for 28 days because of escalation in tensions with India.
• The country had partially resumed flight operations from Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta earlier this month.
• Now flight operations from all airports for international and domestic routes will be resumed as per schedule, but transit flights will stay suspended.
• Flight operations were suspended after Pakistan closed its airspace on Feb 27 for all international and domestic flights in the wake of the security situation.
4. Wapda awards contract for Mohmand Dam
• Following the World Water Day celebrated last week, Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) has taken a giant leap forward for development of precious water resources in the country by awarding the delayed-for-decade contract for civil and electro-mechanical works of Mohmand Dam Project to a joint venture (JV) comprising the China Gezhouba Group of Companies (CGGC) of China as the lead firm and DESCON of Pakistan as its partner. The final contract is worth Rs.183.523 billion, saving Rs. 18 billion from the approved PC-I.
• The contract agreement signing ceremony was held here at WAPDA House, wherein the representatives of WAPDA and CGGC-DESCON JV signed the contract agreement on behalf of their organizations. WAPDA Chairman Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain (Retd), WAPDA Member, senior officers, project authorities and high-ups of CGGC and DESCON were also present on the occasion. It is worth mentioning here that WAPDA has been able to successfully realign Mohmand Dam Hydropower Project after a delay of decades, removing the legal, financial and technical snags.
5. Scientists given civil awards
• On behalf of the President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, conferred Civil Awards to the eminent scientists and engineers working in Pakistan Strategic Institutions for their meritorious services.
• The investiture ceremony was held at Joint Staff Headquarters, Rawalpindi. Five recipients were conferred Sitara-i-Imtiaz, 9 Pride of Performance and 2 Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, said the ISPR
March 27, 2019: International Current Affairs
6. Nasa cancels first all-women spacewalk due to lack of right size suits
• What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after US space agency NASA cancelled the first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.
• Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been due to step into history books in a spacewalk on Friday, during the final week of Women`s History Month.
• But McClain will now give up her place on the mission to her male colleague Nick Hague, NASA announced late on March 26, 2019.
• `Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station,` NASA said in a statement.
7. Five EU nations reject Trump move to accept Golan as Israeli territory
• Five European countries that sit on the UN Security Council on March 26, 2019 rejected US President Donald Trump`s decision to recognise the Golan as Israeli territory and voiced concern the move could have broad consequences.
• Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Poland insisted that the European position had not changed and that the Golan remained Israeli occupied Syrian territory, in line with international law enshrined in UN resolutions.
• `We do not recognise Israel`s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights, and we do not consider them to be part of the territory of the state of Israel,` Belgian Ambassador Marc Pesteen de Buytswerve told reporters.
• Three UN Security Council resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from the Golan, which it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, in a move that was never recognized internationally.
8. Khalilzad to visit Islamabad, Kabul again
• Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for Afghanistan, began a fresh tour that will take him to Islamabad and Kabul, besides other capitals in the region, for a new round of talks with the Taliban, the State Department said on March 26, 2019.
• Mr Khalilzad will also visit Belgium, Britain, Jordan and Uzbekistan as he seeks global sup-port for a peace deal. The trip is scheduled to run through April 10.
• The envoy met representatives from China, Russia and the European Union last week.
• The State Department did not confirm Mr Khalilzad would hold fresh talks with the Taliban, but said he would stop in Qatar, the usual location for negotiations with the militants. Khalilzad`s trip is `part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations`, the State Department said.
9. Pentagon to assemble nuclear rocket in orbit by 2020
• According to the report, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has requested at least $10 million for its Reactor on a Rocket (ROAR) programme.
• The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency intends to assemble a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system in orbit, Aviation Week reported, citing the Pentagon’s 2020 budget.
10. Brazil’s ex-president Michel Temer freed from jail
• Brazil’s ex-president and alleged head of a graft ring, Michel Temer, was freed from jail on March 26, 2019 after a judge said there were no legal grounds for his detention.
• Temer, accused of leading a sophisticated embezzlement and money laundering scheme, was the second ex-president of the Latin American country to be caught up in a sprawling anti-corruption probe called Car Wash that has claimed scores of political and corporate scalps.
• The 78-year-old predecessor of the current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was arrested Thursday in Sao Paulo and placed in “preventative detention” in Rio de Janeiro — a decision overturned by judge Antonio Ivan Athie, citing the lack of legal justification.