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January 16, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan, US agree on carrot and stick policy for Taliban
• Pakistan and the United States have agreed on carrot and stick policy for the Afghan Taliban as they aim to establish peace in Afghanistan.
• Western media reports claimed Pakistan had detained a senior member of the Afghan Taliban – a significant step after Islamabad had released some Taliban leaders recently to please the Afghan government and woo the Afghan Taliban for talks.
• Hafiz Mohibullah, religious affairs minister when the Taliban ran Afghanistan before the 2001 US-led invasion, was detained in Peshawar.
• The reported detention came ahead of a visit to Pakistan by US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is touring the region for meetings aimed at bringing an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
• Khalilzad had recently held a series of meetings with the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
• US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs Alice Wells are expected to discuss the future strategy today (January 16) with the Pakistani counterparts
2. Islamabad, Kabul agree on prisoner exchange
• Afghan Ambassador Shukrullah Atif Mashal on January 15, 2019 claimed that Kabul and Islamabad had agreed to work out a mechanism for swapping prisoners, who had either completed their prison terms or were granted ball but couldn`t be freed due to certain reasons.
• The ambassador said the prisoners` issue had come under discussion during a recent visit of foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Kabul.
• He said both sides had agreed on the exchange of prisoners.
• Mr Mashal said the Afghan embassy`s team would visit various prisons in Pakistan for identification of prisoners.
• `Many prisoners arrested in pity nature offences in the two countries should be released,` he said.
• The ambassador said a 10-member team of Afghan government would visit prisons in Pakistan to und out prisoners, who had either completed their jail terms or were granted
3. Pakistan, Afghanistan to crack down on Hundi
• Pakistan and Afghanistan January 15, 2019 condemned Hundi (illegal money transactions) and agreed to take effective measures to curb illegal money transactions.
• It was agreed during a meeting between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan and Afghan Ambassador Shakirulla Atif Mishal here at the Chief Minister House.
• The two sides agreed that money laundering was not only illegal but also devastating for any country’s economy. They agreed to use banking channels for promotion of legal trade between the two countries.
• They further agreed to extend the scope of state to state, people to people and trader and students’ exchange programmes by providing facilities to investors and increasing trade volume.
4. Gondal appointed prime minister`s spokesperson
• Prime Minister Imran Khan has reinforced his media defence team by appointing political heavyweight Nadeem Afzal Gondal as his official spokesperson.
• A notification issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) on January 15, 2019 said: `The prime minister is pleased to appoint Nadeem Afzal Gondal as spokesperson for the prime minister with immediate effect and until further orders, in an honorary capacity.
• Before Mr Gondal`sappointment, the prime minister`s media team already had on it Iftikhar Durrani, the PM`s Special Assistant on Media with the status of a minister of state; Yousuf Baig Mirza, the PM`s Special Assistant on Media Affairs; Muhammad Sarfaraz, a deputy secretary and head of the PM`s official media cell; and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the government spokes-man.
5. NAB deputy prosecutor general resigns
• The deputy prosecutor general of National Accountability Bureau, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mohammad Jamil, has resigned from his post after serving on the position for around seven years.
• Amid shortage of prosecutors with the NAB in the province, Mr Jamil has sent his resignation to the NAB chairman citing personal reasons for his act.
• Mr Jamil is a senior advocate who has appeared for NAB in scores of cases.
• Due to shortage of prosecutors, the prosecution team headed by the deputy prosecutor general in the province had been facing problems while defending NAB cases before the Peshawar High Court as well as the accountability courts.
• Last month, four other prosecutors had resigned.
• With the resignation of Mr Jamil, the number of prosecutors with the NAB has reduced to seven.
January 16, 2019: International Current Affairs
6. Parliament sinks May`s Brexit deal by 230 votes
• British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May`s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin on January 15, 2019, triggering political upheaval that could lead to a disorderly exit from the EU or even to a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave.
• Parliament voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst parliamentary defeat for a government in recent British history. Scores of her own lawmakers both Brexiteers and supporters of EU membership joined forces to vote down the deal.
• Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promptly called a vote of no confidence in May`s government, to be held within 24 hours.
• With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the United Kingdom is now ensnared in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project that it joined in 1973.
• May`s crushing loss, the first British parliamentary defeat of a treaty since 1864, marks the collapse of her two year strategy of forging an amicable divorce with close ties to the EU after the March 29 exit.
7. UN chief pushes for 2-state solution in talks with Palestinians
• Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during which the UN chief reiterated that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only path to peace.
• UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres also congratulated Abbas during January 14, 2018’s meeting on the election of Palestine to preside over the Group of 77, a bloc of 134 mainly developing nations and China that promotes their collective interests at the United Nations. Abbas will take over the chairmanship from Egypt later today. “It was a good meeting,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters as President Abbas left UN Headquarters.
• Palestine, a non-member observer state at the UN since November 2012, won the presidency of the Group of 77 in October, with 146 countries voting in favor, three opposed (the United States, Israel and Australia), and 15 abstaining.
• Founded on June 15, 1964 by the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries”, G77 is now a coalition of 134 developing nations whose aim is to enhance common economic interests
8. Facebook to invest $300m in local journalism
• Facebook announced on January 15, 2019 that it will invest $300 million over three years in various projects related to journalism, especially to promote local news, which has been hit hard in the digital age.
• The move comes with online platforms under pressure for dominating the internet advertising ecosystem, making it harder for news organisations to make a transition to digital.
• “People want more local news, and local newsrooms are looking for more support,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president in charge of global news partnerships, said in a blog post. “That’s why today we’re announcing an expanded effort around local news in the years ahead.” The initiative includes a $5 million endowment to the Pulitzer Center to launch “Bringing Stories Home”, which will foster coverage on topics that affect local communities — funding at least 12 local in-depth, multimedia reporting projects each year
9. Chinese cotton seed sprouts on moon
• A small green shoot is growing on the moon in an out-of-this-world first after a cotton seed germinated on board a Chinese lunar lander, scientists said on January 15, 2019.
• The sprout has emerged from a lattice-like structure inside a canister since the Chang`e-4 lander set down earlier this month, according to a series of photos released by the Advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University.
• `This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface,` said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment.
• The Chang`e-4 probe named after a Chinese moon goddess made the world`s first soft landing on the moon`s `dark side` on Jan 3, a major step in China`s ambitions to become a space superpower.
January 16, 2019: Sports Current Affairs
10. FIFA suspends funding to cash-starved PFF
• The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) of Ashfaq Hussain Shah has been left high and dry.
• After the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed last week that it had suspended funding to the PFF in the wake of a newly-elected body led by Ashfaq taking over its Pakistan affiliate on the orders of the Supreme Court at the turn of the year, global football body FIFA said on January 15, 2019 that it has done the same.
• `Due to the current situation at the PFF, FIFA can confirm that funding from the FIFA Forward programme has currently been suspended,` a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn. `We have no further comment on the matter and that any further updates will be communicated in due course.
• FIFA`s Members Association Committee will decide further course of action.
• Ahead of the election last month, FIFA had said that any election of the PFF on the orders of the Supreme Court is tantamount to `third-party interference` which is a contravention of the FIFA statutes.