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September 4, 2018: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistanis own $150bn properties in UAE, SC told
- The Supreme Court on September 3, 2018 sought details of at least 100 persons who had been issued notices by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for not disclosing their assets and properties abroad, after the court was informed that the Pakistanis owned properties worth $150 billion in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone.
- A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, asked FBR chairman Mohammad Jahanzeb Khan that the information be provided to the SC registrar directly at his office in a sealed envelope. In case of any leak, the CJP cautioned the SC registrar and the FBR chairman that they would be held responsible.
- He added that the court did not want to malign or stigmatise any individual.
The observation came when the FBR chairman apprised the SC that it had issued notices to individuals possessing 225 properties in the UK and Shabbar Zaidi of A.F. Ferguson said properties worth $150 billion inthe UAE were owned by Pakistanis.
- The court had initiated suo motu action on reports about illegal money transfer from Pakistan to other countries when it came to its notice that a large number of citizens were maintaining accounts in other countries without paying tax on the money or disclosing it to the relevant authorities.
- A report furnished before the court also highlighted top tax havens with estimated $100 billion stashed in the UK, the US and European Union in addition to the money parked in real estate there, besides $200 billion kept in Switzerland (as per the statement of Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey) as well as Hong Kong, BVI, Bahamas, Channel Island, Seychelles etc.
2. India agrees to allow Pakistan to inspect Kishanganga project
- India has agreed to allow Pakistan to inspect the projects in the Jhelum basin, including Kishanganga hydroelectric project, in the near future and Islamabad will allow New Delhi to carry out inspection of the Kotri barrage over the Indus under Article VIII (4) (c) of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), it has been learnt.
- According to the minutes of the115th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission held between the two countries from Aug 29 to 30 in Lahore, `Pakistan also urged India to arrange for the Special Tour of Inspection of the projects in Jhelum basin including Kishanganga HEP which is pending since 2014, on which ICIW (India`s Commissioner for Indus Waters) gave his assurance to arrange the same promptly.
- During the meeting, the Pakistani and Indian authorities were unanimous about strengthening the role of the Permanent Indus Commission.
- Islamabad also highlighted the need and asked New Delhi to share the information about potential projects at the planning stage for examination.
3. Qureshi, Rabbani renew trust in Pak-Afghan dialogue mechanism
- Pakistan and Afghanistan on September 3, 2018 renewed their confidence in Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) as the most comprehensive mechanism for bilateral dialogue on issues of concern to the two countries.
- This was agreed during a telephonic conversation between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani. The Afghan foreign minister had called Mr Qureshi to greet him on his appointment as foreign minister.
Mr Qureshi too had in one of his earlier pressers expressed his desire to speak to his Afghan counterpart and visit Kabul.
- `Both sides appreciated recent improvement in relations since the launch of the APAPPS process in May 2018. It was noted that the framework provided the most comprehensive institutional mechanism to discuss all mutual issues,` a statement on the conversation issued by the Foreign Office read.
4. Suspension of $300m payment not a new decision: US
- A day before an expected meeting with the new Pakistani government, the Pentagon on September 3, 2018 dispelled the impression that the United States had cancelled its assistance to Pakistan.
- In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Lt Col Koné Faulkner explained that the suspension of security assistance to Pakistan was announced in January 2018 and on September 1, 2018 the Pentagon asked Congress to `reprogramme a suspended amount of about $300 million that Pakistan was to receive from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).
- `CSF is included in the suspension and it remains in place. This is not a new decision or a new announcement, but acknowledgement of a July request to reprogramme funds before they expire,` he said.
- The explanation sends a message to the new Pakistani government that Washington wants to give Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team `some space` to familiarise themselveswith the issues they would be dealing with.
- Any new decision affecting US-Pakistan relations will only be made after Washington has had enough interaction with the Pakistani leadership to understand how it operates.
- Yet, the Pentagon official minced no words in stressing how Washington wants to rebuild its relationship with Islamabad.
5. ADB approves $100m loan to address water shortages
- The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $100 million loan to address chronic water shortages and increase earnings on farms in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province.
- The Balochistan Water Resources Development Sector Project will focus on improving irrigation infrastructure and water resource management in the Zhob and Mula river basins.
- Agriculture accounts for almost two-thirds of Balochistan’s economic output and employs 60% of the province’s 13 million population, but frequent drought and poor water management has put the industry, and those who rely on it, at risk. Poverty rates in the province are almost double the national average.
- “Agriculture is the backbone of Bolochistan’s economy,” said ADB Principal Water Resources Specialist Yaozhou Zhou. “This project will build irrigation channels and dams, and introduce efficient water usage systems and practices, to help farmers increase food production and make more money.”
September 4, 2018: International Current Affairs
6. UN court hears case over strategic Indian Ocean islands
- Mauritius told UN judges on September 3, 2018 that the Indian Ocean nation was strong-armed by former colonial power Britain into giving up part of its territory as a condition for gaining independence half a century ago, in a case that could have an impact on a strategically important US military base.
- The claim came as judges at the International Court of Justice began hearing arguments in a UN General Assembly request for an advisory opinion on the legality of British sovereignty over the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean that include Diego Garcia, home to a major US military base.
- `The process of decolonisation of Mauritius remains incomplete as a result of the unlawful detachment of an integral part of our territory on the eve of our independence,` Mauritius Defence Minister Anerood Jugnauth told judges.
- Mauritius argues that the Chagos archipelago was part of its territory since at least the 18th century and was unlawfully taken by the UK in 1965, three years before the island nation gained independence. Britain insists it has sovereignty over the archipelago, which it calls the British Indian Ocean Territory
- The Chagossians have fought in British courts for years to return to the islands. In 2016, the Supreme Court rejected their most recent appeal.
7. UAE names first astronauts to go to space
- The United Arab Emirates has selected its first two astronauts to go on a mission to the International Space Station. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum named the new astronauts as Hazza al-Mansouri, 34, and 37-year-old Sultan al-Neyadi.
- Sheikh Mohammed, the UAE`s vice president and prime minister, last year vowed to send four Emirati astronauts to the space station within five years. The UAE has its sights set on space with a programme worth 20 billion dirhams ($5.4 billion), according to Sheikh Mohammed.
- The astronaut programme would make the UAE one of only a handful of states in the Middle East to have sent a person into space, as it looks to make good on a pledge to become a global leader in space exploration.
8. Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar secrets case
- Two Reuters journalists accused of breaching Myanmar’s state secrets law while reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims were jailed for seven years September 3, 2018, fuelling international outrage a week after the army was accused of genocide.
- Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who have been held in Yangon’s Insein prison since their arrest in December, were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act, a draconian British colonial-era law which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
- New UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “shocked” by Myanmar’s jailing of two Reuters journalists for seven years and called for their immediate release. “I was shocked,” the former Chilean president told reporters on her first day as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “The trial was a travesty of justice.” “I urge Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release Kyaw Soe Oo and Thet Oo Maung,” she said in a statement.
- Britain called for the “immediate” release of two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar on Monday, saying the verdict had “undermined freedom of the media”.
September 4, 2018: Science / Technology Current Affairs
9. Egypt unearths one of oldest Nile Delta villages
- One of the oldest villages in the Nile Delta has been discovered after archaeologists unearthed artefacts dating to the fifth millennium BC.
- Remains of the village were uncovered by a French-Egyptian team at Tel Samara, in northeastern Egypt. Similar structures dating to the period between 4,200 BC and 2,900 BC “have never been found in that region,” said Ayman Ashmawy, the ministry’s antiquities chief.
- The only similar discovery has been the village of Sais, in the Gharbia governorate north of Cairo, Ashmawi added.
- In the Dakahlia governorate northeast of the capital, uncovered a number of silos containing numerous animal bones and vegetable residue. Archaeologists, who had been working at the site since 2015, also found pottery and stone tools at the site according to the ministry statement. The discoveries “confirm the presence of stable communities in the humid areas of the Delta from the fifth millenium BC,” said Frederic Geyau, head of the Tel Samara mission.
- The findings have offered “a unique occasion to learn more about the prehistoric communities which lived in the Delta” before the Pharaonic rule, he added
September 4, 2018: Sports Current Affairs
10. Cook to retire from int’l cricket after India series
- Alastair Cook announced on September 3, 2018 he would retire from international cricket after the fifth Test against India, with England’s leading Test run-scorer saying he had “nothing left in the tank”.
- The 33-year-old Essex left-hander has amassed 12,254 runs at 44.88 including 32 hundreds, while his run of 158 consecutive Test appearances is a world record. But the former England captain, who has played in 160 Tests in total, has struggled for runs recently and averages a meagre 18.62 from nine Tests this year.
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