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December 26, 2018: National Current Affairs
1. China backs Pakistan`s efforts for Afghan peace
• China on December 25, 2018 expressed its support for latest developments in efforts for revival of Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
• Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is currently on a regional tour of four countries Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia to apprise leaders of these countries about the meeting between the United States and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi last week, which was facilitated by Pakistan.
• He met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Beijing in the third leg of his visit.
• FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on his tour to regional countries, has held discussions with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Bilateral and regional issues, especially peace in Afghanistan, were discussed.
• Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Mr Qureshi, who made `a special trip` here, in his meeting with Mr Wang discussed `the latest developments surrounding the situation in Afghanistan` and the two sides reached `broad consensus`.
2. Balochistan home minister changed
• Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan changed portfolios of two ministers on December 25, 2018.
• According to an official notification, the portfolio of Home and Tribal Affairs and Provincial Disaster Management Authority has been taken from Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa and given to Ziaullah Langove, who was minister for forest and wildlife.
• Mir Saleem Khosa will now hold the portfolio of revenue.
• However, it was not known who will head the forest and wildlife ministry.
• It was the second time that the chief minister reshuffled the portfolios of his ministers. Earlier, the portfolio of food had been taken from Ziaullah Langove and given to Asadullah Baloch. However, Mr Baloch refused to head the food department and is now serving as minister for social welfare.
3. Punjab tourism project moving at snail`s pace: WB report
• While Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to develop eco-friendly tourism in Pakistan, from the beaches in the south to fair meadows in the north, a World Bank-assisted Punjab tourism project for economic growth in the province is moving at a snail`s pace.
• The pace of implementation activities needs to be accelerated substantially and despite the fact that the project has initiated a number of activities towards achieving results, three key posts at the project monitoring and implementation unit level remain vacant including project director, says a World Bank report while reviewing the status of the project.
• The project which became effective in October 2017 is meant to increase private sector participation and improve infrastructure services in support of the tourism sector in Punjab.
• According to the report, the incumbent project director is a civil servant and is holding the position on additional charge basis, whereas fresh recruitment will be made from the private sector. Recruitment of these positions has been delayed due to a ban on recruitment placed by the Election Commission and subsequent restrictions imposed by the Punjab planning and development department as per a notification issued on Sept 18 this year.
• It has been decided that a position of civil engineer and tourism specialist will be added to the PC-1, to ensure comprehensive technical input is provided on timely basis.
4. First-ever dedicated freight train launched
• First ever dedicated freight train loaded with 75 cargo containers commenced its journey from Karachi`s Cantonment Railway Station to Lahore.
• The freight train is being launched under public-private partnership with the expected journey time of 48 hours.
• The Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed while inaugurating the service said he was optimistic about the dedicated and regular freight train service for cargo transport.
• He vowed to launch two more dedicated freight daily trains for containers from Karachi to Lahore from Jan 25. He also announced that scheduled freight trains from Karachi to Faisalabad and Sialkot would be launched in near future.
December 26, 2018: International Current Affairs
5. Erdogan invites Trump to Turkey: White House
• Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Turkey in 2019 following a visit by US military officials this week.
• “Our president invited honourable [US President] Trump to visit Turkey. He responded that he might come in 2019,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara.
• White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement that they had received the invitation; noting, however, that it was too early to speak of any plans. “While nothing definite is being planned, the President is open to a potential meeting in the future,” he said.
• The two leaders held a phone call earlier on Sunday to coordinate their efforts at preventing an authority vacuum from developing as the United States withdraws from Syria. Erdogan welcomed Trump’s abrupt decision last week to withdraw American troops, which removed a source of friction between the two countries. A senior US official told Reuters that Trump had not discussed the decision to withdraw with Erdogan in advance.
6. Iran presents budget to counter US sanctions
• President Hassan Rouhani on December 25, 2018 unveiled Iran`s first annual budget since the return of US sanctions, saying it had been adjusted to take account of Washington`s `cruel`measures.
• The president announced a 20 per cent increase in public sector wages in a sign of the economic challenges the Islamic republic has faced since the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal earlier this year.
• The speech gave only a few general points of the budget -which will now be scrutinised and voted on by parliament -but acknowledged the pressure Iran was under.
• `Last year we faced some problems,` Rouhani told parliament in a televised speech, referring to the widespread protests that hit the country almost exactly a year ago, sparked by anger over economic and political conditions.
7. Wamda Capital to launch second $70m fund
• Wamda Capital, the venture capital (VC) company that emerged out of an entrepreneurship platform set up by Abraaj Capital, is planning the first close of its second $70 million investment fund in early 2019.
• According to a report published in The National, a UAE based publication, Wamda Capital is planning the first close of its second $70 million (Dh257m) investment fund in early 2019. The venture capital company that emerged out of an entrepreneurship platform set up by Abraaj Capital, the region`s largest private equity firm.
• Wamda Capital, the Dubai VC company, was launched with an inaugural $70m fund in 2015. `It is now courting the same set of investors but hopes to attract new partners, said Fares Ghandour while talking to the Gulf daily.
8. Russia expands economic sanctions on Ukraine
• Russia on December 25, 2018 expanded its economic sanctions on Ukraine, adding more than 250 people and businesses to a blacklist first announced at the start of November.
• According to a decree by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, 245 individuals and seven companies, mostly in the energy and defence sectors, were sanctioned by Moscow.
• Relations between Moscow and Kiev have deteriorated since a pro-Western government came to power after the 2014 revolt against a pro-Russian leader, Moscow`s annexation of the Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine.
• A total of 567 individuals and 75 Ukranian companies now face Russian economic sanctions, which put a freeze on any assets they have in Russia.
9. Governor of Mexican State dies in helicopter crash
• Martha Erika Alonso, the governor of the Mexican state of Puebla, died on December 24, 2018 in a helicopter crash.
• Mexican Public Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said that the crash had been caused by a technical problem. “The helicopter had an apparent malfunction, it is not clear so far which one,” Durazo said at a press conference, adding that it was yet to be established what exactly technical fault occurred.
• According to Mexico’s Televisa TV channel, the governor was aboard the helicopter with her husband Rafael Moreno Valle Rosas, who used to serve as governor of Puebla in 2011-2017. Moreno Valle also died as a result of the accident, the broadcaster added. The helicopter crash was earlier reported by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who entrusted the government with responding to the situation. The Mexican president has also expressed condolences to the relatives of the deceased couple. “I personally express my deepest condolences to the relatives of senator Rafael Moreno Valle Rosas and his wife, State of Puebla governor Martha Erika Alonso.
December 26, 2018: Sports Current Affairs
10. Lahore Whites clinch National T20 Cup
• Saif Badar’s sparkling unbeaten knock of 34 runs steered Lahore Region Whites to 2-wicket victory over Rawalpindi Region in the National Twenty20 Cup final played at Multan Cricket Stadium on December 25, 2018.
• While chasing the target of 163 runs, Lahore Whites were off to good start as they gathered 42 runs for the first wicket stand. M Nawaz took first wicket of Salman Butt, who was playing at 13. Younger brother Umar Akmal then joined elder brother and captain of Lahore Whites Kamran Akmal and both added 35 runs for the second-wicket partnership, as Kamran fell prey to Hammad Azam at his individual score of 42 runs, which he collected in 31 balls hitting three boundaries and 2 towering sixes.
• After that, they kept on losing wickets on regular interval as they were struggling at 97-5. Man-of-the-match Saif Badar then steadied Lahore Whites innings as he kept one end intact and kept the scoreboard ticking, thus helping his side register a 2-wicket victory. Saif remained unbeaten at 35 off 23 deliveries hitting one four and two sixes while Umar Akmal contributed 34 off 21 with the help of 5 fours and one six and Wahab Riaz hit 9-ball 18 runs.