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January 18, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan steps up efforts to salvage stalled US-Taliban talks
• Pakistan on January 17, 2019 affirmed its continued support for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process as it stepped up efforts for salvaging the stalled talks between the United States and Taliban.
• The assurance was extended by the country`s highest political and military offices against the backdrop of breakdown in the US contacts with the Taliban, which were being facilitated by Pakistan, due to the militant group`s persistent refusal to engage with the Afghan government.
• Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a telephonic conversation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, reassured the latter that Pakistan was making `sincere efforts` for a politically negotiated settlement of the Afghan war.
• The Prime Minister Office in a statement said that President Ghani had called PM Khan to discuss recent developments relating to the reconciliation process and thanked him for `Pakistan`s sincere facilitation`. The two leaders agreed `to remain engaged and create an environment for resolving all outstanding issues`, it further said.
• Pakistan had last month facilitated a meeting between the US and Taliban to pave the way for an intra-Afghan dialogue. The meeting was also attended by representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Despite the Abu Dhabi meeting, which was said to have ended on a positive note, the Taliban have continued to refuse to talk to the Afghan government. Their refusal has now become a major roadblock for the continuation of the engagement.
2. SC approves draft Gilgit-Baltistan governance order
• The Supreme Court on January 18, 2019 accorded approval to a freshly proposed presidential order enshrining framework for governance of Gilgit Baltistan, directing immediate promulgation of the order.
• In a landmark judgment announced in the open court, the SC asked the president to promulgate the order on the advice of the federal government in any case within a fortnight.
• `No amendment shall be made to the Order as so promulgated except in terms of the procedure provided in Article 124 of the same, nor shall it be repealed or substituted, without the instrument amending, repealing or substituting (as the case may be) the same being placed before this Court by the Federation through an application that will be treated as a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
• Nothing in this judgement shall be construed to limit the jurisdiction conferred on this Court by the Proposed Order itself; and Const.P. No.50/2018 etc. -: 29 :iii. If the Order so promulgated is repealed or substituted by an Act of Parliament the validity thereof, if challenged, shall be examined on the touchstone of the Constitution,` reads the order.
3. Indian SC judge arrives to attend new CJP’s oath-taking ceremony
• Two senior judges — one from the Supreme Court of India and the other from Canada — arrived here on January 19, 2019 through the Wagah border crossing to attend the oath-taking ceremony of incoming Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in Islamabad.
• Justice Madan Bhimarao Lokur of the Supreme Court of India and Justice Sandra E. Oxner, the founding president of Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute, Canada, crossed the border at around 10am where senior officials of the Punjab government welcomed them. They are accompanied by their spouses.
• Law-enforcement agencies escorted them to Islamabad amid tight security. He said that as per schedule, Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi would reach Islamabad by air to attend the ceremony.
• Besides, five senior judges of Turkey, South Africa and Nigeria would attend the oathtaking ceremony secluded to be held on January 18, 2019 in Islamabad.
4. Pakistan takes up potato duty with Afghanistan
• The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) has decided to call an inter-provincial meeting in Islamabad next week to discuss the issue of 25 per cent duty imposed by Afghanistan on Pakistan`s potato exports since 2015.
• Currently, potato is available in abundance since the arrival of new crop in the market. However, potato price in the market is far less than the expenditure incurred on cultivation, leaving farmers with no choice except to dispose of the root vegetable.
• Protesting farmers in Punjab have been urging the government to announce support price for potato to save them.
• Talking to Dawn, an official of the ministry said the government has contacted Afghan authorities to waive duty on the import of potato from Pakistan.
• Potato from Pakistan reaches Central Asian countries via Afghanistan.
5. Google pays tribute to father of Pakistani cricket
• Google on January 17, 2019 released a doodle in honour of the legendary Pakistani cricketer, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, on what would have been his 94th birthday.
• The search engine giant remembered Mr Kardar who is affectionately known as `The Skipper` with a doodle showing the cricketer play an elegant shot on the front foot.
• Born on Jan 17, 1925, in Lahore, to a prominent cricket-playing family, Mr Kardar was educated at Islamia College and travelled to England to represent India in Test play. He went on to play for Oxford and Warwickshire County Cricket Club where he was coached by the esteemed New Zealand cricketer Martin Donnelly.
• Following partition in 1947, Mr Kardar joined the Pakistani team and campaigned for the country to earn full Test status, which was finally granted in 1952.
• An important character in the cricket history of Pakistan, he captained the national team in their first Test series in 1952. Although India emerged victorious in the series, Pakistan achieved their first Test win under his stewardship in their only second Test outing in Lucknow.
January 18, 2019: International Current Affairs
6. Trump favours Palestinian state on most of W. Bank
• An Israeli television channel said that US President Donald Trump`s Middle East peace plan would propose a Palestinian state on as much as 90 percent of the occupied West Bank, with a capital in East Jerusalem but not including its holy sites.
• The White House, which has kept details of the plan under wraps and said its release could still be months away, dismissed the report by Israel`s Reshet 13 TV as inaccurate speculation.
• Citing what it said was a source briefed by the Americans, the television report said the plan would entail Israel annexing Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank while isolated settlements would either be evacuated or their construction halted.
• Trump wants the proposed Israeli moves to be supplemented by territorial swaps with the Palestinians, and for East Jerusalem`s walled Old City site of major Jewish, Muslim and Christian shrines to be under Israeli sovereignty, but with the joint management of Palestinians and Jordan, the report said.
7. Louisville renames its airport after hometown hero Muhammad Ali
• The US city of Louisville in Kentucky has decided to rename its airport after hometown hero and boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016.
• The announcement comes just a day before Ali would have turned 77.
• The new name of the airport will be Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, officials announced on January 16, 2019.
• In a statement posted on Facebook the airport said its board `voted meaningfully` to recognise his legacy as a Louisville native by renaming the airport in his honour.
• The airport`s three-letter location identifier, SDF, will not change.
8. Human diet causing grave damage to planet: study
• The way humanity produces and eats food must radically change to avoid millions of deaths and `catastrophic` damage to the planet, according to a landmark study published on January 19, 2019.
• The key to both goals is a dramatic shift in the global diet roughly half as much sugar and red meat, and twice as many vegetables, fruits and nuts, a consortium of three dozen researchers concluded in The Lancet, a medical journal.
• `We are in a catastrophic situation,` said co-author Tim Lang, a professor at the University of London and policy lead for the EAT Lancet Commission that compiled the 50-page study.
• Currently, nearly a billion people are hungry and another two billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
• Unhealthy diets account for up to 11 million avoidable premature deaths every year, according to the most recent Global Disease Burden report.
9. China`s moon cotton experiment ends in freezing lunar night
• A cotton seedling that sprouted on the moon has been left to die as China`s historic lunar lander continues a freezing night-time nap that will last as long as two earth weeks, scientists said.
• The Chinese space agency announced earlier this week that the seed had germinated inside a special canister aboard the Chang`e-4 probe, after the spacecraft on Jan 3 made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon.
• The mini biosphere which operated for over 212 hours was shut down as planned on January 19, 2019, said Chongqing University, which designed the experiment.
• The lander also carried potato and arabidopsis seeds a plant of the mustard family as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast.
10. Facebook shuts hundreds of Russia-linked pages, accounts
• Facebook said on January 17, 2019 it removed hundreds of Russia-linked pages, groups and accounts that it says were part of two big disinformation operations targeting users outside the US The social media company said its latest effort to fight misinformation came after it found two networks `that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour` on Facebook and its Instagram service.
• Facebook`s head of cyber security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a blog post that one network operated in countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The other focused on Ukraine. `We didn`t find any links between these operations, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing, Gleicher said.
• According to Facebook, the people running the accounts represented themselves as independent news sources and posted on topics lil(e anti-Nato sentiment and protest movements.