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January 26, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Visa-on-arrival facility extended to 50 countries
• With an aim to boost tourism industry and foreign investment, the government on January 25, 2019 announced a new visa policy encouraging tourists from 50 countries to avail themselves of visa-on-arrival facility and providing e-visa to citizens of 175 countries.
• This is the first time in decades that a formal policy is being introduced to allow citizens of such a large number of countries to get the visa on arrival, as the visa-on-arrival facility was previously available to nationals of 24 countries only.
• For many other countries, a very liberal visa policy was being framed. The condition for obtaining NOC for foreigners to travel to places like Gilgit Baltistan, and even for many cantonment areas is also being lifted, they added.
• Sikhs holding Canadian and British passports would be allowed to avail the offer.
• Pakistan missions would be allowed to grant (multiple) entry visa with five-year validity and one-year stay to foreigners of Pakistani origin and their spouses. Multiple-entry visa for family`s visit with five year validity would be issued within seven to 10 working days after receiving an application.
2. SBP gets final tranche of $1bn from S. Arabia
• The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced the arrival of another $1 billion deposit from Saudi Arabia on January 25, 2019. This is the final tranche of $3bn in cash support that the Kingdom had pledged for Pakistan back in October 2018.
• The first two tranches were received in November and December last year. With this third tranche, the total cash support pledged by the Kingdom now stands fully disbursed.
• On January 24, 2019, the SBP also received $1bn from Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD).
• The central bank signed an agreement with ADFD for $3bn on Jan 22 following which $1bn was remitted in the SBP account on Jan 24. This quick inflow provided instant help to fast depleting foreign exchange reserves of the country and lent stability to the exchange rate.
• The SBP reported that on Jan 18 its reserves had fallen to $6.636bn, hitting five-year lows, however, with the inclusion of $2bn, the reserves will now rise to $8.636bn.
3. NA passes bill to increase number of IHC judges amid protest
• The National Assembly on January 25, 2019 passed a bill to increase the sanctioned strength of Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges from seven to 10, including the chief justice, amidst protest by the opposition.
• The house rejected the amendments proposed by the opposition. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khagan Abbasi proposed an amendment to the bill to bound the judges to provide details of their assets for the last Eve years and the annual taxes paid by them.
• The Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill 2018 had been introduced in the National Assembly by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan on Dec 21.
• Established under the IHC Act 2010, the high court became functional in Jan 2011.
4. PM okays list of cultural activities for 2019
• The government has decided to hold a number of cultural activities in the country in a bid to revive the tourism industry.
• Chairing a meeting on January 25, 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a go-ahead to officials concerned for holding a number of events this year, which will be held at federal, provincial and district levels.
• The planned events include literary meetings, Gilgit-Baltistan Festival, Qawali festivals, Urs of Shrine, Shindore Polo Festival, Pakistan Culture Carnival, film festival, folk festival, Kartarpur festival, and Cholistan Jeep Rally. A number of music shows are also part of the agenda.
5. Diaspora bond to be launched on 31st
• The government is set to launch a dollar-denominated diaspora bond Pakistan Banao Certificate (PBC) on Jan 31 to tap into the international savings of overseas Pakistanis for building foreign exchange reserves.
• The certificates would be of two maturities one of three years at about 6.25pc return and another with five-year maturity carrying 6.75pc return. Four banks had been selected to complete the transactions.
• The PBC would be launched worldwide jointly by the government and the State Bank of Pakistan. The rules governing the certificates were approved by the federal cabinet on Thursday because it was the first ever transaction of its nature that targeted only overseas Pakistanis.
6. Versatile actor Roohi Bano passes away
• Roohi Bano, known for her remarkable performances as one of the first few leading actors to appear on Pakistan television, passed away after a long illness on January 25, 2019.
• Bano was in Istanbul, living with her sister Robina Yasmeen and the latter`s son. She had been ill for some time and medical reports showed that both her kidneys had failed. She was put on a ventilator when her condition deteriorated. She died after 10 days.
• Bano had arrived back in Turkey in November as she was weary of her surroundings and also needed treatment.
• Bano had been buried temporarily (amanatun) in Istanbul after no response from the government in Pakistan about taking her body to Lahore.
January 26, 2019: International Current Affairs
7. Trump announces end to longest ever US shutdown
• US President Donald Trump said on January 25, 2019 that he has reached a deal with congressional leaders to reopen the US federal government after a record-breaking 34-day shutdown.
• The deal paves the way for a temporary three-week reopening during which Trump aides will negotiate a deal with Democrats opposing his plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
• `I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,` President Trump said in remarks from the White House Rose Garden. `As everyone knows I have a very powerful alternative but Pm not going to use it at this time.
• US lawmakers, who negotiated the deal, however, told various US news networks that the pact does not include funds for building the wall. President Trump, a Republican, had previously vowed to reject any deal that did not include $5.7 billion to fund the wall, his signature campaign pledge.
• Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, flatly refused to provide funds for the wall which, they argue, negates key American values.
8. Myanmar army chief must be prosecuted: UN
• Myanmar`s army chief should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, a UN human rights investigator said, adding that holding perpetrators to account for crimes was necessary before refugees who fled the country could return.
• Yanghee Lee, the United Nations` Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, was speaking during a trip to Thailand and Bangladesh, where she met officials and Rohingya driven out of western Rakhine state after an army crackdown in 2017.
• `Min Aung Hlaing and others should be held accountable for genocide in Rakhine and for crimes against humanity and war crimes in other parts of Myanmar,` said Lee, who is barred from the country, referring to the military`s commander-in-chief.
9. EU adds S. Arabia to draft terrorism financing list
• The European Commission has added Saudi Arabia to an EU draft list of countries that pose a threat to the bloc because of lax controls against terrorism financing and money laundering, two sources said on January 25, 2019.
• The move comes amid heightened international pressure on Saudi Arabia after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom`s Istanbul consulate on Oct 2.
• The EU`s list currently consists of 16 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and North Korea, and is mostly based on criteria used by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body composed by wealthy nations meant to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
• But the list has been updated this week, using new criteria developed by the EU Commission since 2017. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries added to the updated list which is still confidential, one EU source and one Saudi source said. Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to request for comment.
• The move is a setback for Riyadh at a time when it is striving to bolster its international reputation in order to encourage foreign investors to participate in a huge transformation plan and improve financial ties for its banks.
January 26, 2019: Sports Current Affairs
10. South Africa win rain-hit match despite Imam-ul-Haq`s heroics
• Imam-ul-Haq hit a century and delivered a message to his critics but could not prevent South Africa from winning the rain-hit third one day international here on January 25, 2019.
• Imam`s 101 spurred Pakistan to an imposing 317 for six but South Africa won by 13 runs according to the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method after rain twice stopped play during their reply.
• When the second interruption brought the match to an end, South Africa were 187 for two after 33 overs, ahead of the DLS par of 174, with Reeza Hendricks and captain Faf du Plessis unbeaten on 83 and 40 respectively.
• Imam had strong words for what he said were his critics after making his fifth century in his19th one-day international.
• As he took the single which took him to his hundred, he pointed to his mouth as his lips move d vigorously, then put a finger to his lips. He was out two balls later, caught in the deep.