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February 07, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Punjab Minister Abdul Aleem Khan caught in NAB dragnet
• In what appears to be a setback to the ruling government in Punjab, its powerful senior minister Abdul Aleem Khan has been arrested by the country`s anti-graft body for apparently possessing assets beyond his known sources of income and other corruption allegations.
• After his arrest, the minister submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, saying it was not `morally right` for him to stay in office. Mr Khan`s arrest, some believe, may empower CM Buzdar and the group hostile to Mr Khan within the PTI that is led by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar.
• Mr Khan on February 6, 2019 appeared before a combined investigation team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Lahore with reference to his alleged offshore companies (mention of which was made in the Panama Papers leak), income beyond means and the acquisition of land in various Lahore housing societies through benami bank accounts.
2. Offshore oil, gas exploration accord signed with Russia
• Russia has signed an agreement with Pakistan on offshore oil and gas exploration activities, besides laying a pipeline to supply gas to the country from its Middle East resources through the sea link.
• The inter-corporate deal was signed by Managing Director of Inter-State Gas Systems Limited of Pakistan Mobin Saulat and Deputy Chairman of Gazprom International of Russia Vitaly A. Markelov here on February 6, 2019. Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan witnessed the signing ceremony between the two companies.Appreciating the expanding trajectory of relations between Russia and Pakistan, the minister welcomed Gazprom`s interest in the off shore gas pipeline project and termed it a manifestation of multifaceted cooperation between the two countries.
• The project envisages transporting of gas molecules from Gazprom`s sources in the Middle East onwards to Pakistan with the possibility of extending it further to South Asian countries. The pipeline will follow an integrated approach including other ancillary projects such as underground gas storage, desalination and other power projects.
• Current Federal Minister for Petroleum: Ghulam Sarwar Khan
3. Pakistan not to attend WTO e-commerce talks
• As more than 75 member countries of the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation (WTO) sit down to design a framework to govern e-commerce, Pakistan has decided to not be a part of these negotiations.
• On Jan 25, 2019, around 75 WTO member states, who make up for the 90 per cent of the total global e-commerce market share, decided to launch negotiations to regulate online marketplaces.
• Pakistan is totally cut off and isolated from multilateral trading system and has opted out of the forum while the group of countries has agreed to develop rules under the ambit of multilateral trade system.
• Former commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan was once leading the e-commerce debates at the WTO forum and the previous government had also directed the ministry to draft e-commerce policy.
• Current Adviser for Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment: Abdul Razak Dawood
4. NFC award to be based on 2017 population census
• Amid provincial opposition to finance additional federal responsibilities, the reconstituted 9th National Finance Commission (NFC) agreed on February 6, 2019 to base next resource distribution award on sixth population census of 2017 and involve provinces in dialogue with the International Monetary Fund.
• The maiden meeting of NFC, presided over by Finance Minister Asad Umar, also constituted six working groups on various subjects and agreed upon the need for additional resource mobilisation to face challenges of sustainable fiscal structure, equitable social development and poverty alleviation.
• While the larger provinces Sindh and Punjab raised questioned the performance of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and advocated more collection role to provinces, Sindh specifically opposed any move to finance mainstreaming of the tribal region saying it was always a responsibility of the centre which should transfer its proportionate funding to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
5. ADB’s first ATM installed in Quetta
• Deputy Speaker of National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri on February 6, 2019 inaugurated the first ATM of the Agriculture Development Bank in the provincial capital.
• The Agriculture Development Bank has commenced the ATM service in Balochistan to ease the financial woes of its consumers.
• The Agriculture Development Bank has been providing loans to farmers which have eased their woes.
February 7, 2019: International Current Affairs
6. Taliban continue talks with Afghan politicians in Moscow
• The Taliban entered a second day of unprecedented talks on February 6, 2019 with powerful Afghan politicians in Moscow, as they pursue a leading stake in the war-torn country.
• The rare public appearance saw Taliban officials spelling out their vision for Afghanistan in front of rolling cameras and a host of political heavyweights, including former president Hamid Karzai.
• The insurgents sidestepped President Ashraf Ghani, sitting down instead with his chief rivals at an extraordinary meeting which saw Karzai and other sworn enemies of the Taliban praying with the militants.
• No government official was invited, despite Ghani offering to talk peace, underscoring the Taliban`s hostility toward the increasingly-marginalised Kabul administration.
• The Moscow meeting took place a week after the Taliban held separate talks aimed at ending 17 years of fighting with American negotiators in Doha, where too Ghani was not invited to the table.
7. Greek PM visits Turkey to improve strained ties
• Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on February 6, 2019 visited the disputed landmarks of Hagia Sophia and a now-closed seminary in Turkey, in a sign of detente in the neighbouring countries` strained ties.
• Istanbul`s Hagia Sophia, a former church and mosque that is now a museum, often sparks tensions between Christians and Muslims over Islamic activities held there.
• Its secular status allows believers of all faiths to meditate, reflect or simply enjoy its astonishing architecture of what is one of the most emblematic edifices of human civilisation.
• But calls for it to serve again as a mosque have caused anger among Christians and raised tensions between historic foes and uneasy Nato allies Turkey and Greece.
• Tspiras` symbolic visit to the Hagia Sophia came on the second day of his first trip to Turkey in four years.
8. Macedonia takes big NATO membership step
• The small Balkan country of Macedonia took a big step on February 6, 2019 towards becoming the 30th member of NATO, the world`s biggest military alliance.
• In a move that marked the end of a long dispute with Greece over Macedonia`s name, and less than two decades after NATO deployed troops to the country as it teetered on the brink of civil war, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov led an `accession protocol` signing ceremony at the alliance`s Brussels headquarters.
• Montenegro, the last country to join NATO, had to wait about a year for all members to formally endorse its accession protocol.
• Greece is set to become the first to do so this week.
9. Lebanon names Arab world`s first female interior minister
• Lebanon`s new interior minister assumed her post on February 6, 2019, becoming her country`s and the Arab world`s first female official in charge of powerful security agencies.
• Raya El Hassan welcomed the challenge, saying Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri put his trust in her and gave her `this big responsibility`. `As the first female minister of interior, I have to prove the woman`s ability to assume an exceptional portfolio, she said at the handover ceremony from her predecessor who had been in the post for five years.
• El Hassan, who holds a Masters` degree from George Washington University and is a member of Hariri`s Future Movement Pany, is one of four women in the 30-member cabinet a record for female political representation in Lebanon.
• El Hassan is used to headlines. She chaired one of Lebanon`s major private public pannerships designed to develop the pon city of Tripoli and in 2009, she became the first Arab woman finance minister a post she kept for two years.
February 7, 2019: Sports Current Affairs
10. Pakistan grab consolation win in third T20
• Pakistan finished their tour of South Africa with a 27-run consolation win in the third and final Twenty20 international at Super Sport Park on February 6, 2019.
• The tourists owed their win to the new-ball bowling of left-arm spinner Imad Wasim and left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi as they defended a moderate total of 168 for nine.
• The pair restricted South Africa to 30 for two in the first seven overs and the hosts were always behind the required rate as they limped to 141 for nine in their 20 overs.
• South Africa won the series against the world`s top-ranked Twenty20 international team 2-1, adding to a 3-0 success in a three match Test series and a 3-2 win in a five-match one-day series.