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August 30, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan tests night launch of N-capable ballistic missile
• The Army`s Strategic Force Command has conducted the training launch of Ghaznavi, a nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missile, to signal readiness to arch-rival India, which is suspected of planning a misadventure against Pakistan.
• The announcement of the test was made through a tweet by military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, who posted on the microblogging site: `Pakistan successfully carried out night training launch of surface to surface ballistic missile Ghaznavi.
• The test, although planned beforehand, was carried out amid escalating tensions between Pakistan and India over the latter`s move to annul Article 370 of its constitution and end autonomous status of occupied Kashmir.
• While India took a number of steps to pre-empt protests against annexation of occupied Kashmir, including imposition of curfew and communications blackout in the valley, and arrests of nearly 5000 Kashmiris, the move was accompanied by a sharp spike in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and unprecedented additional deployment of troops in held Kashmir. Moreover, India initiated nuclear signalling when its Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, during a visit to nuclear test site Pokhran on Aug 16, indicated the possibility of change in No-First Use policy on nuclear weapons.
2. Govt unveils gas sector overhaul to spur investment
• The government on August 29, 2019 offered another amnesty to powerful industrialists and opened up the LNG sector from much of the government control that it is currently permeated with. In addition, it has also been decided to cut the number of laws, regulations and approvals relating to the energy sector and offer better incentives to investors so as to improve the country`s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business index and revive investor confidence.
• Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan and Special Assistant to the PM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar announced at a news conference on Thursday that the government had promulgated a presidential ordinance for out-of-court settlement of Rs417 billion dispute with the industry over Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC).
3. Nation to observe Kashmir Solidarity Hour today
• Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to the nation to observe Kashmir Solidarity Hour on August 30, 2019 (today) by coming out on roads from 12noon to 12.30pm to give a message to the world that the Pakistani nation stands by the Kashmiris who have been facing unprecedented human rights violations in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK) amid curfew which has entered the 24th day.
• On the call of the prime minister, all education institutions, government and private offices, banks, traders, lawyers and military authorities will take part in Kashmir Solidarity Day events.
• Vehicular traffic and government machinery will come to a standstill. Sirens will be sounded and the national anthem will be played at 12noon across the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend a gathering outside the Prime Minister Office (PMO) and later address the nation from there.
4. India, Pakistan to resume talks on Kartarpur today
• Despite sharp escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the annexation of disputed territory of Kashmir by the former, technical teams from both sides would resume their talks on August 30, 2019 (today) and the two also remain engaged on consular access for convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.
• Speaking at a weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said: `The technical meeting on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is being held on 30 August 2019 at Zero Point. Pakistan remains committed to completing and inaugurating the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as announced by our prime minister and as planned.
• Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had on Aug 8, a day after the National Security Committee chalked out the response strategy to Indian action, made it clear that Pakistan remained committed to completing and opening the Kartarpur corridor.
5. ECNEC approves development projects worth Rs579b
• Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on August 29, 2019 has approved Rs579 billion worth development projects relating to enhancing agriculture productivity, improving water management, making Pakistan green, giving Karachi a facelift and introducing decentralised decision-making.
• The ECNEC meeting was chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Revenue and Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. ECNEC also approved National Programme for Improvement of Watercourse in Pakistan Phase-II. The project would be undertaken in all federating units at a cost of Rs154.542 billion for capacity building of 76,359 Water User Associations for partipatory irrigation management, improvement of 59,427 watercourses across the country and construction of 16,932 water storage tanks and ponds at the farm level with the larger goal of curbing water losses, social mobilisation through capacity building of Water Users Associations, minimisation of conveyance and field application losses, reduction in water-logging and salinity, equity in water distribution, reduction in water disputes, thefts & litigations, poverty reduction through employment generation and increase in crop yields and sufficiency in food.
August 30, 2019: International Current Affairs
6. China will work with Pakistan to safeguard regional stability: Beijing
• Terming the recent visit of the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, Gen Xu Qiliang, to Pakistan very successful, the Chinese defence ministry on August 29, 2019 said that Beijing would work together with Islamabad to strengthen strategic communication, enhance mutual trust and improve defence cooperation to safeguard peace and stability in the region.
• Given the complex security situation in the region, the defence ministry spokesman said, China was willing to work with Pakistan to implement the consensus reached between the two heads of state, strengthen strategic communication, enhance mutual trust and improve defence cooperation so as to jointly safeguard regional stability.
• At his monthly briefing, spokesman Ren Guoqiang remarked that China and Pakistan were strategic partners and iron brothers that helped each other.
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7. US to keep 8,600 troops in Afghanistan even after deal
• President Donald Trump said on August 29, 2019 that the United States would keep a permanent presence in Afghanistan, with 8,600 troops initially, even after a deal was reached with the Taliban.
• `We`re going down to 8,600 and then we make a determination from there,` he said in an interview with Fox News radio. `We`re always going to have a presence.
• Trump also warned that if another attack on the United States originated from Afghanistan `we would come back with a force like … never before.
• US forces were first sent to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil carried out by Al Qaeda, which was sheltered by the former Taliban regime. About 2,400 US troops have died there and around 20,000 have been wounded.
8. Four European countries lose measles-free status
• Measles has returned to four European nations previously seen as free of the illness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is no longer considered eradicated in Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece and the UK. “We are backsliding, we are on the wrong track,” said Kate O’Brien of the WHO’s Immunization Department.
• Measles is a highly contagious and potentially fatal illness that causes coughing, rashes and fever.
• The disease can be prevented through two doses of the MMR vaccine, which is available for free for all young children in the UK.
• Countries are declared measles-free when there is no endemic transmission for 12 months in a specific geographic area.
9. NASA prepares tiny chopper for Mars flight
• Engineers preparing the next American Mars rover have installed one of its most exciting experiments – a chopper.
• The mini-helicopter is regarded as a bonus on the 2020 mission. It will be the first aircraft deployed on another world. If it works, it will be fantastic, but if it doesn’t it won’t detract from the overall goals.
• The US space agency’s (NASA) next Mars rover is a near-copy of the one-tonne Curiosity vehicle that has operated successfully in Gale Crater since 2012. The new mission will be aimed at a different target – a 50km-wide depression called Jezero Crater.
• Engineers are nearing the end of the rover’s assembly at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. They’ve positioned the 1.8kg “Scout” chopper under the big robot. The idea is that the rover will find a safe place to put the aircraft on the ground shortly after landing.
10. Italy PM vows more united country as Salvini leaves power
• Caretaker Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has accepted a mandate to form a new coalition with a vow to lead a “more united, inclusive” Italy, a week after the collapse of his government dominated by nationalists.
• He said Italy should play a leading role in Europe, a marked change from the policies of the right-wing League.
• League leader Matteo Salvini triggered the downfall of the previous coalition.
• His partner, Five Star, has now reached a deal with the centre left.
• Conte, an independent ex-law professor, had already savaged Mr Salvini in parliament last week, accusing him of creating a political crisis for “personal and party interests”.
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