World in Focus (Feb-March 2019)

World in Focus Main Logo


Feb 16: Sarah Mahboob easily won the SN Ladies National Tennis, beating Sara Mansoor in final.

Feb 16: Members of the Balochistan Assembly unanimously nominated Akhtar Hussain Langove of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) as chairman of the provincial Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Feb 17: In the aftermath of the Pulwama incident, India raised the customs duty to 200% on all goods it imports from Pakistan.

Feb 17: The Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) presented its report to the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG) expressing satisfaction over the measures taken by Pakistan to curb terror financing and money laundering.

Feb 17: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrived in Islamabad on his first official visit to Pakistan.

Seven memorandums of understanding (MoUs) envisaging over $20 billion of Saudi investment were signed between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in different fields at a ceremony soon after his arrival in the federal capital.

Feb 17: The FIA arrested three people including two officers of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) for their alleged involvement in leaking question papers of the Central Superior Services (CSS) examination.

Feb 18: Saudi Crown Prince announced to establish a health centre in Swat, the hometown of a Pakistani hero Farman Ali Khan who saved 14 lives during the floods in Jeddah in 2009.

Feb 18: The FBR placed the revised Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation with Switzerland, enabling both sides for access of information on banking and financial details.

Feb 18: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was conferred the country’s highest civil award Nishan-e-Pakistan.

Feb 18: The two-day historic visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman concluded with a significant announcement of releasing over 2,100 Pakistani prisoners languishing in Saudi Arabia’s jails.

Feb 19: The 8th ROPME Sea Area Hydrographic Commission (RSAHC) meeting, being hosted by Pakistan Navy, was inaugurated, in Islamabad, by Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Kaleem Shaukat.


RSAHC is one of the 15 geographically distributed regional bodies established by International Hydrographic Organisation to coordinate hydrographic activities around the globe and promote safety of shipping.

Presently, Pakistan is Chairman of RSAHC which includes North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Strait of Hormuz, encompassing critical oil trade route. Other members of this Commission are Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia whereas France, UK and USA are associate members.

Pakistan has been a leading nation in RSAHC since its establishment in 2000.

Feb 19: Japan signed a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the World Food Programme, under which it would contribute $10.6 million to help fight malnutrition; improve livelihoods and increase resilience to natural disasters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan.

Feb 20: Shakirullah, a Pakistani prisoner who belonged to Pakistani city of Daska, was found dead after being brutally tortured by other inmates lodged at a jail in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan.

Feb 20: A ceremony to honour 50 biggest taxpayers of the country was held at the Prime Minister office.

Feb 20: NAB arrested Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in connection with corruption allegations.

Feb 20: The National Assembly passed a ‘unanimous’ resolution denouncing India for its ‘baseless propaganda’ against Pakistan over the recent Pulwama attack.

Feb 20: The Balochistan government and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) announced to jointly work for the elimination of poppy cultivation and drug trade and for rehabilitation of drug addicts in the province.

Feb 20: The four-day National Livestock Show and Buffaloes Mela began in Pattoki at the Buffaloes Research Centre.

Feb 21: The Punjab government launched ‘Insaf Afternoon Schools’ programme to provide education to the out-of-school children, while reviving Urdu as medium of instructions, with English as subject, up to primary level education in the province under The New Deal 2018-23.

Feb 21: After a marathon meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), the government authorised the armed forces to respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure by India.

Feb 21: The government clamped immediate ban on Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), which work under the leadership of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

Feb 21: The Supreme Court accepted a written apology of Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz and acquitted him of contempt of court for holding a contemptuous press conference against the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Feb 21: The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Major General Ziaur Rehman of Pakistan the Force Commander of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Major General Ziaur Rehman succeeded Major General Xiaojun Wang of China, whose tour of duty ended on Feb 17.

Feb 21: The Punjab government announced abolishing examinations of 5th and 8th classes under Punjab Examination Commission (PEC).

Feb 21: The federal cabinet approved placing the name of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on the ECL.

Feb 22: Chief Minister KP Mahmood Khan announced free technical education for 4,000 men and women of the recently merged tribal districts of the province. He also vowed to develop Government Technical & Vocational Centre for Women, Hayatabad.

Feb 22: Major (Retd) Khwaja Safi Wasiuddin, a grandson of former governor-general and prime minister of Pakistan, Khwaja Nazimuddin, passed away. He was 72.

Feb 22: The third Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) opened with the aim to celebrate the power of words, culture, music and the Sufi teachings of peace and tolerance.

Feb 22: Noting ‘limited progress’ on January 2019 milestones, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) expressed concern over Pakistan’s inability to demonstrate understanding of terror financing risks posed by seven proscribed organisations and elements linked to Taliban.

The Paris-based global watchdog against international financial crimes also urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan, particularly those with time lines of May 2019.

Feb 22: International player Hamza Niaz defeated Huzaifa Zahid to win the National Junior Squash Championships.

Feb 23: Huzaifa Abdul Rehman defeated Bader Alabdullah of Kuwaiti to win Syed Tajammul Abbas ITF Pakistan World Junior Ranking Tennis Championship.

In girls singles final. Turkish Aysegul Mert overwhelmed Arina Valitova of Russia to win the title.

Feb 23: Former opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and prominent PPP leader Rana Shaukat Mahmood passed away.

Feb 23: The Foreign Office set up a crisis management cell in view of the heightened tensions with India in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident.

Feb 23: Pakistan Navy flotilla comprising its ships Tariq and Himmat visited Abu Dhabi to participate in the International Defence Exhibition (Idex) and naval defence exhibition (Navdex) and bilateral exercise Nasl al Bahr.

Feb 24: Farhat Hussain Saddique, former national badminton player and father of Test cricketers Imran Farhat and Humayun Farhat, passed away.

Feb 25: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was taken back to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected his petition seeking suspension of his sentence in the Al-Azizia reference on medical grounds.

Feb 25: Prime Minister Imran Khan directed relevant authorities to allow the registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan to open and maintain bank accounts in the country.

Feb 25: Pakistan blind cricket team won the third ODI against Sri Lanka, inflicting a 3-0 whitewash to the hosts.

Feb 26: The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed review petitions filed by Sharif family against its verdict ordering repatriation of its sugar mills from Southern Punjab to its previous places.

Feb 26: Prime Minister Imran Khan principally approved the country’s first National Challenger Bank to facilitate digital transfer of remittances from across the world.

National Challenger Bank is a digital platform to ensure cost-effective and hassle-free remittance transactions in order to discourage illegal means.

Feb 26: The Economic Affairs Division (EAD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $75 million loan agreement to provide additional finance for Mardan-Swabi road improvement project.

Feb 27: Two Indian Air Force MiG 21 aircraft were shot down by the Pakistan Air Force in Kashmir. One pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was arrested.

One plane crashed in the Kohi Rata sector of Azad Kashmir while one crashed in Indian-occupied Kashmir’s Budgam area.

Feb 28: Fulfilling a long-time demand of the people, mobile phone services were launched in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan agency.

Feb 28: In a significant de-escalation move, Prime Minister Imran Khan extended an olive branch to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi by announcing the release of the captured Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan as a peace gesture.

Feb 28: Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Senator Sajjad Hussain Toori the chief whip of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the Senate of Pakistan.

The senator will enjoy the status of a minister of state.

Mar 01: Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Punjab government not to establish any housing schemes on agricultural lands in any big city of the province.

Mar 01: The Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who had been in Pakistan’s custody for about three days, was handed over to the Indian Border Security Force.

A senior official of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and Pakistan’s Foreign Office Director India Desk (Foreign Affairs) Faaria Bugti accompanied the Indian pilot at the Wagah border crossing.

Mar 01: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a joint parliament session that he would not attend the foreign ministers’ meet at the 46th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi.

Mar 01: Pakistan thrashed Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the third and last T20 clash of the blind cricket series to complete a 3-0 whitewash.

Mar 02: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resumed the voluntary repatriation of the Afghan refugees at its centre in Azakhel, Nowshera.

Mar 02: The Ministry of Energy floated Sukuk (Islamic bonds) worth Rs200 billion for Islamic banks in order to partially pay off the circular debt owed to independent power producers (IPPs) and oil and gas utility firms in Pakistan.

Mar 02: A Pakistani scholar and political activist, Jawaid Bhutto, was shot dead in southeast Washington.

Mar 03: The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) president Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Arif Hasan was re-elected as the vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Mar 04: The federal government announced the freezing of accounts and seizure of assets linked to organisations banned by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Mar 04: The World Bank agreed to launch $2 billion projects in Karachi to turn it into one of the most developed and beautiful cities of the world.

Mar 04: The Supreme Court ordered the agencies concerned to meticulously follow the safeguards it has approved for conducting proper identification parade of accused in a murder case.

Mar 05: The Interior Ministry announced that any official delegation with more than three members embarking on a foreign visit will now have to acquire permission of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Mar 05: The Ministry of Finance notified eight private directors of Sarmaya-e-Pakistan Limited (SPL), a holding company established to turn around the fate of the state-owned loss-making entities.

Members of SPL include Kamran Y. Mirza, Musharaf Hai, Babar Badar, Zubyr Soomro, Nadeem Babar, Ehsan Malik, Waqar A. Malik and Atif Aslam Bajwa.

Mar 05: Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the reservation of 20 percent quota for overseas Pakistanis for the posts of trade officers in Pakistani missions abroad.

Mar 05: Pakistan challenged the decision of the London Court of International Arbitration to award a penalty of $21 million (Rs2.93 billion) to the country in the Broadsheet LLC case.

The London High Court may take a year to decide the appeal.

Mar 05: Pakistan Navy blocked an intrusion attempt by an Indian submarine in the latest provocative action by Indian forces during the ongoing crisis between the two countries.

Mar 05: Punjab Minister for Information and Culture Fayyaz Chohan resigned from his post, a few days after his remarks against the Hindu community generated controversy.

Mar 05: The Supreme Court endorsed Pemra’s 2016 decision of restricting electronic media in Pakistan from broadcasting Indian content.

Mar 06: The National Assembly approved the PTI government’s second mini-budget.

Mar 06: Syed Samsam Ali Bukhari took oath as provincial information minister.

Mar 07: Hutchison Ports Pakistan received three new remote-controlled quay cranes to mark the beginning of the terminal’s second phase in Karachi. The development makes Pakistan the first country in the South Asia to install semi-automated, cabin-less cranes.

Mar 07: The Chinese government agreed to provide up to $1 billion grant for socioeconomic development and poverty reduction projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Mar 08: Krishna Kumari Kohli chaired the session of the Senate of Pakistan to mark the International Women’s Day.

39-year-old Krishna belongs to the Kohli community from the remote village of Dhana Gam in Nagarparkar and was elected as senator in March after spending many years working for the rights of bonded labourers in Pakistan. She is the first Thari Hindu woman to be elected to the Pakistan Senate.

Mar 09: Citing ‘animosity towards Pakistan’, Islamabad approached Financial Action Task Force (FATF) president Marshall Billingslea seeking removal of India as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Group to ensure ‘that FATF process is fair, unbiased and objective’.

Mar 09: PM Imran Khan phoned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and assured him of cooperation against terrorism.

Mar 11: The newly-installed civil courts in erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) became functional.

Mar 11: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) enforced Benami Act Rules, 2019, for attaching assets, properties and transactions kept on fictitious names to move towards whitening of black economy.

Mar 11: The State Bank of Pakistan launched its finance policy for low-cost housing.

Mar 12: Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and scientists achieved another milestone with successful test-firing of an indigenously-built extended range smart weapon from JF-17 multi-role fighter aircraft.

The successful trial has provided JF-17 Thunder with a very potent and assured day and night capability to engage a variety of targets with pinpoint accuracy, the PAF announced.

Mar 12: Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed a Host Government Agreement (HGA) for implementation of up to $8 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and agreed to set up a working group to finalise an agreement on transmission line of up to 1,000MW electricity.

Mar 12: Balochistan home department approved eight new wings of Balochistan Levies to bring it at par with other law-enforcement agencies.

Mar 13: China blocked a move to turn India’s military embarrassment into a diplomatic advantage by declaring Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masud Azhar a UN-designated global terrorist.

Mar 14: A British Pakistani barrister Zane Malik, who rose to fame winning a record number of human rights and immigration law cases in Britain’s higher courts, was appointed Immigration Judge and also Deputy District Judge.

About Zane Malik

Zane Malik, 32, was born in Azad Kashmir and studied in Islamabad for A Levels. He moved to the UK and studied at East London University for his law graduation. He studied bar at the Lincoln’s Inn and started practicing as a Barrister at 12 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn.

Zane has successfully conducted over 250 high profile leading cases in the courts, including the Supreme Court.

He also has an established private practice where he offers his legal services.

Mar 14: Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the new visa policy under which foreign nationals from 175 countries will be issued three-month e-visas within 7 to 10 working days.

Mar 13: Waqar Ahmad, one of the most outstanding broadcasters of the BBC Urdu Service, passed away.

Mar 15: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) appointed Haris Khalique its secretary general.

Mar 15: Brig. (Retd) Asad Munir, against whom the National Accountability Bureau was conducting multiple inquiries, was found dead.

Mar 15: Pakistan registered a complaint with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) regarding India’s unlawful incursion into the country and destroying forest areas recognised under the Global Bonn Challenge that are a worldwide valued natural asset.

Maternal, child health in Pakistan improves

The results of Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2017-18 have been released by Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) and other international partners who collaborated and provided technical assistance for the study.

Key Findings

Maternal and child health indicators show improvement: While major improvements are visible in the domains of child survival and maternal health care, progress has relatively been slower in nutrition and family planning use among women. Although stunting has declined since 2012-13 when 45% of children under 5 were stunted, still 38% of children in Pakistan are too short for their age. Women in Pakistan are more overweight or obese than ever before—52% of women aged 15-49 in 2017-18 as compared to 40% in 2012-13. The country also has one of the highest fertility rates in the region with an average of 3.6 births per woman. The use of family planning among married women has stagnated around 34% over the last five years. The unmet need for contraception remains high at 17%.

According to the report, 9% of women and 7% of men aged 15 and above have difficulty or cannot function in at least one domain of disability—seeing, hearing, communicating, remembering or concentrating, walking or climbing steps, and washing all over or dressing.

The survey informs that more children in Pakistan are surviving early childhood than ever before. Under-5 child mortality has declined from 89 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012-13 to 74 deaths per 1,000 live births. Moreover, basic vaccination coverage has also improved as 2 in 3 children aged 12-23 months have received all eight basic vaccinations—an increase from more than half of children in 2012-13. Basic vaccination coverage is lowest in Balochistan (29%) and highest in Punjab (80%).

Reproductive health care coverage in Pakistan is also improving. Nearly 9 in 10 women age 15-49 receive antenatal care from a skilled provider such as a doctor, nurse, midwife, or lady health visitor. Additionally, more than half of women have their first antenatal care visit in the first trimester, as recommended. Half of women make four or more antenatal care visits, a notable increase from 37% in 2012-13. More births are delivered in a health facility, from 48% in 2012-13 to 66% in 2017-18. Yet, 1 in 3 births are delivered at home. Generally, families in Pakistan are getting healthier, the survey stated.

World Bank’s Recommendations in Pakistan@100: Shaping The Future

Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future builds on a comprehensive framework including essential elements for a growth strategy that other countries have successfully followed:

1. Accumulation of physical and human capital, which will require both increasing public and private investment;
2. Allocation of resources to their most productive use, through structural transformation and openness to trade and investment;
3. Environmental and social sustainability, to ensure that the unsustainable use of finite resources does not constrain growth in future, and that everybody can benefit from and contribute to growth; and
4. A governance environment that supports growth and the successful implementation of necessary reforms.

The Report argues that Pakistan’s young and growing population of 208 million is its greatest asset. Pakistan can and should turn its large youth bulge into a demographic dividend that drives economic transformation. Achieving that requires a large and diverse set of reforms. This report recommends immediate reform priorities that address identified constraints to accelerating and sustaining growth over the medium term:

Human capital accumulation

Population growth: Reduce fertility rates through the implementation of comprehensive awareness programs to encourage informed decisions on parenthood, including information on birth control, reproductive health, young women’s health, and child development through health, nutrition and stimulation.

Stunting: Implement early childhood development programs including immunizations, deworming and malnutrition treatment.

Human capital spending: As a first step, improve efficiency of public spending. As fiscal space increases, increase spending on health and education.

Physical capital accumulation

Taxation: Improve (i) tax administration, making it taxpayer-friendly, more efficient and better able to leverage modern technology, and (ii) tax policy through simplification and ensuring federal-provincial harmonization and integration.

Allocation of resources

Business environment: Introduce regulatory reforms, leveling the playing field for all firms by reducing red tape, and the scope for excessive discretion and arbitrariness.

Trade openness: Adopt a simple, transparent tariff structure with reduced tariffs and clear and transparent rules governing the use of discretionary provisions. Support greater integration efforts within the South Asia region.

Environmental and social sustainability

Water management: As a first step, strengthen institutions, regulatory frameworks and information systems (monitoring, measuring) for water management. Move toward irrigation rates that promote water saving and efficient use. Eliminate environmentally damaging subsidies.

Social inclusion: Increase female labour force participation from 26% today – which is among the world’s lowest – to 45% by 2047, by providing i) legislative protection to women against discrimination and gender-based violence, and ii) incentives for girls and women’s secondary and tertiary education.


Transparency: Provide transparent and accessible information on politicians’ track-records of reform and service delivery to citizens. Improve transparency of budget documentation.

Accountability: Complete the devolution of responsibilities and resources to local governments. Streamline ICT initiatives to provide avenues for citizens to hold service providers accountable. Provide levers for citizens to sanction public officials and political leaders when policy and service delivery do not meet their expectations.

Thar coal pumps power

At long last, Pakistan has started producing electricity from local Thar coal. The first of two 330 MW units of the 660 MW project located in Thar Block II was tested and energized on March 18. The second 330MW unit will be connected to the national grid in April this year.

Indeed this is great news for the energy-starved country which has to spend billions of dollars every year on oil and LNG imports to meet domestic requirements of power. The operationalization of these two units managed by ENGRO is expected to cut oil imports worth up to $ 1.6 billion per annum. Had criminal negligence was not meted out to the exploitation of Thar coal, Pakistan today would have been energy sufficient and not required to import oil and gas for power generation. The country had discovered the world’s seventh largest coal reserves of 175 billion tons in 1991 which are more than the combined oil reserves of energy. rich Saudi Arabia and Iran and sixty-eight times higher than Pakistan’s total gas reserves. Given this great potential, the government needs to attract more investment to fully utilize the coal reserves lying in Tharparkar. In fact, the country can produce thousands of megawatts of cheap electricity from this source alone which may help not only bring down the prices of electricity in the country but additional electricity can also be exported. Whilst pursuing the development of coal, local people of Tharparkar should not be overlooked and investment be made in different sectors there including health and education in order to improve their living standard. Apart from Thar coal, efforts should also be expedited towards exploring other natural resources hidden in Chiniot and Balochistan. Security situation stands much improved in all parts of the country and it is time that the government fully facilitates the investors to invest in the exploration of natural and mineral resources. This will not only create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities but will also take the country towards achieving self-reliance and break the begging bowl once and for all.

Mahathir and the march

On this March 23, we had a few reasons to celebrate. It is difficult to believe that the country was at the brink of war a month ago. Today, however, we can safely mark the road to development again with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s departure after attending the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad. His visit left us with renewed optimism with the signing of MoUs on various projects. However, there were a few caveats in which the Malaysian PM removed the onus of a crippling economy from the government.

His statement that the key to rescuing a crippling economy is the creation of wealth, which develops from people and investors, is confounded. This might ring true even for a poverty-stricken country like ours. However, his idea that when people have wealth, they are more likely to pay taxes is dubious in our case; tax evasion and tax avoidance have been committed even by past leaders of this country, let alone the struggling hand-to-mouth shopkeeper. Taxpayers’ money is infused back into the country for infrastructure development but the usurpation of people’s wealth in the past led them to evade taxes. Our tax system required an overhaul by the government. Nonetheless, as we reform our tax system, the investment agreements worth between $800 and $900 million with Malaysia will serve as a boost to our economic sectors in textile, agriculture, and IT, among others.

Linked to the discourse on foreign policy, the Pakistani and Malaysian premiers discussed the rising prevalence of Islamophobia. This was a noteworthy exchange as both premiers represent predominantly conservative Muslim countries. One of their points was that leaders of Muslim nations do not denounce Islamophobic attacks in another Muslim nation. Perhaps non-Muslim New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch massacre has awoken some of them. And, while it is important for Muslim countries to unite and denounce attacks — be they in Europe, the Americas, or Asia — it is important for Pakistan to look within and strive against those spreading vitriol with the aim of peace and tolerance, thereby ultimately achieving the security necessary to invite economic development.


Feb 16: Zimbabwe’s revered and internationally celebrated novelist and poet Charles Mungoshi died aged 71.

About Charles Mungoshi

Mungoshi published 18 books including “Coming of the Dry Season,” a 1972 collection of short stories which was banned under colonial rule in the then Rhodesia. His novel “Waiting for the Rain” 1975 won him the International PEN Award. Twice he won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in Africa and also received the Noma Award for Writing from Africa four times. His works included novels, plays, poetry and short story collections in English and his native Shona language. Some of his works have been translated into various languages including German, Russian and Japanese. In 2011, one of his poems was on permanent display at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle.

Feb 16: Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried.

Feb 17: The three-day international security conference entitled Munich Security Conference concluded in Munich, Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders voiced dismay at a range of Trump decisions deemed hostile to America’s NATO allies.

Feb 17: Melbourne Renegades clinched their first Big Bash League title after they defeated Melbourne Stars in the final.

World in Focus (Feb-March 2019)

Feb 17: Saudi Arabia’s state arms producer Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and a French government-majority firm Naval Group signed an agreement on a joint venture to boost the kingdom’s navy.

Feb 17: Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu relinquished the role of foreign minister and handed over the job to Israel Katz, a right-wing rival from within his Likud party.

Feb 17: Iran launched a new locally-made submarine, the Fateh (Conqueror), which is capable of firing cruise missiles.

Feb 17: Unseeded Elise Mertens beat top seed Simona Halep in the Qatar Open final to capture the biggest title of her career.

Feb 19: Sixteen US states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia – sued President Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare a national emergency to fund a wall on the southern border with Mexico, saying the move violated the constitution.

Feb 19: World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award, while American gymnast Simone Biles won the Sportswoman of the Year prize.

Feb 20: US President Donald Trump signed an order outlining his vision for a new “Space Force” that could one day become a separate military branch.

Feb 20: Senior lawyer Harish Salve, who is representing India in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case before the International Court of Justice, replied to Pakistan’s submissions at the Peace Palace in The Hague, seat of the Court.

Feb 20: A Chinese military court sentenced a senior general Fang Fenghui, a former chief of a top defence department, to life in prison after finding him guilty of corruption.

Feb 21: West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle broke former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi’s record of most sixes in international cricket with his 477th big hit.

Feb 21: Kazakhstan’s long-ruling President Nursultan Nazarbayev dismissed the government, under the premiership of Bakytzhan Sagintayev, citing a lack of economic development despite the Central Asian nation’s vast energy resources.

Feb 21: As many as 70 people died in a major fire that engulfed several buildings in a centuries-old neighbourhood of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.

World in Focus (Feb-March 2019)

Feb 22: Saudi Arabia stripped citizenship from Hamza bin Laden, the son of slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Feb 22: Australia finalised Aus$50 billion deal to buy 12 attack-class submarines from the Naval Group consortium, partly owned by the French state.

Feb 22: The Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, swore in Murad Ebrahim, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as interim chief minister of the so-called Bangsamoro region in the south, the culmination of a peace deal to end a separatist insurgency that had killed some 150,000 people since the 1970s.

Feb 22: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visited China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Saudi Arabia signed 35 economic cooperation agreements with China worth a total of $28bn at a joint investment forum during the visit.

Feb 23: Sri Lanka completed a historic series triumph against South Africa.

Feb 23: President Donald Trump nominated Kelly Craft, currently the US ambassador to Canada, to replace Nikki Haley as his envoy to the United Nations.

Craft will not hold a Cabinet-level position, as Haley did, after Trump decided to downgrade the post.

Feb 23: A fire at the Aero India show destroyed 300 cars.

Feb 23: President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir named Mohamed Tahir Ela, former governor of the agricultural state of Gezira, as his country’s new prime minister.

He also sacked his vice president Bakri Hassan Saleh, replacing him with Defence Minister General Awad Ibnouf.

World in Focus (Feb-March 2019)

Feb 24: European and Arab leaders gathered in Cairo for their first summit aimed at stepping up cooperation on trade, security and migration.

Feb 24: Voters on the Japanese island of Okinawa rejected the relocation of a controversial US military base.

Feb 24: Saudi Arabia’s Princess Rima bint Bandar was named as the Kingdom’s first woman ambassador to the USA.

She has replaced Prince Khalid bin Salman, the younger brother of the powerful crown prince.

Feb 25: With participation of top Taliban leader, Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, the Afghan Taliban and US officials resumed their peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

Feb 25: Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan became the first bowler to take four wickets in four balls in a Twenty20 International.

Feb 27: Nigeria’s incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari won another term in office.

Feb 27: The world’s first 5G-powered, telementored operation was carried out in Spain.

Feb 28: A UN probe said Israel may have committed crimes against humanity in responding to last year’s unrest in Gaza, as snipers “intentionally” shot civilians including children, journalists and the disabled.

Feb 28: The World Trade Organisation sided with Washington in a dispute it filed three years ago over ‘unfair’ Chinese subsidies to producers of wheat and rice.

Feb 28: The Indian government imposed a ban on Jamaat-i-Islami Jammu and Kashmir and declared it as an ‘unlawful association’ under Section 3 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

Feb 28: The US-North Korea summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal, with President Trump saying he decided to ‘walk’ in the face of Kim Jong Un’s demands to drop sanctions.

Mar 02: Canada allowed a US extradition request for an executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei to face charges over possible dealings with Iran to proceed.

Mar 03: The 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer became the second male player to win 100 tour-level tournaments in the professional arena.

Jimmy Connors is the other player to reach the milestone, and the American ended his career on 109 titles.

Mar 04: The United States deployed its advanced THAAD missile defence system temporarily to Israel for a joint military exercise.

Mar 04: Indonesia and Australia signed a long-awaited multi-billion-dollar trade deal, some nine years after negotiations first started.

Mar 04: President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia’s obligations under the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, in response to Washington’s decision to withdraw.

Mar 05: Malaysia became a member of the International Criminal Court.

The ICC is the world’s only permanent war crimes court and aims to prosecute the worst abuses when national courts are unable or unwilling. But the tribunal in The Hague has come under fire over high-profile acquittals, while Burundi became the first country to quit the court in 2017 and the Philippines also had announced its intention to withdraw.

Mar 05: New Delhi was declared the world’s most polluted capital city in 2018.

The Indian capital, home to more than 20 million people, was followed by the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka and Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, according to the study by IQ AirVisual, a Swiss-based group that gathers air-quality data globally, and Greenpeace.

Mar 05: China announced a 7.5 percent increase in its military spending for the year 2019, lower than last year.

Mar 05: US President Donald Trump announced his plan to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States.

Mar 06: Japanese architect Arata Isozaki was awarded the Pritzker Prize, considered architecture’s highest honour, for a lifetime of work that found global resonance while mining local traditions.

Mar 06: North Korea restored part of a rocket test site it began to dismantle after pledging to do so in a first summit with US President Donald Trump last year.

Mar 07: President Donald Trump revoked a policy set by his predecessor requiring US intelligence officials to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside war zones.

Mar 07: In the annual report to the UN Human Rights Council, the United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet warned India that its “divisive policies” can cause hindrance to New Delhi’s economic growth.

Mar 07: Thai Raksa Chart, a key party linked to Thailand’s powerful Shinawatra clan, was dissolved by a court, over its bid to field Princess Ubolratana as candidate for premiership.

Mar 07: The 28 member states of the European Union backed a decision to reject a proposal from the EU executive to add Saudi Arabia to a blacklist of countries suspected of being lax on terrorist financing and money laundering.

Mar 08: Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s centre-right government resigned after failing to push through a flagship social and healthcare reform package.

Mar 08: Former media executive Bill Shine resigned as President Donald Trump’s communications director.

Mar 08: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a one-time presidential hopeful, head of the country’s judiciary.

Mar 08: India’s top court named a three-man panel including a famous guru to resolve a seemingly intractable and highly emotive dispute raging for decades over the flashpoint religious site of Ayodhya.

Mar 08: South Korea and the US formally signed a deal on Seoul’s increased payment for the US troop deployment.

Mar 08: India signed a $3 billion deal to lease a third Russian nuclear-powered submarine for 10 years, giving Delhi a boost in the Indian Ocean against Pakistan and China.

Mar 09: A 116-year-old Japanese woman Kane Tanaka was recognised as the world’s oldest person by the Guinness World Records.

She was born on 2 January 1903, the year when the Wright brothers launched humanity’s first powered flight, according to Guinness.

Mar 09: England bowled West Indies out for 45, the second lowest total in international Twenty20 history, to win by 137 runs as they registered their biggest win in the format.

The West Indies total was six more than the 39 made by the Netherlands against Sri L anka in 2014 and is the lowest score made by a full member test-playing nation in a T20.

Mar 10: North Koreans voted in an election in which there can be only one winner.

Leader Kim Jong-un’s Workers’ party has an iron grip on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea but every five years it holds an election for the rubber-stamp legislature, known as the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Mar 10: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah e al-Sisi tapped a senior military officer General Kamel al-Wazir for the post of transport minister.

Mar 10: The Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas chose a longtime adviser Mohammed Ishtayeh as his new prime minister.

Mar 11: The World Health Organization launched a strategy to protect people worldwide over the next decade against the threat of influenza.

Mar 11: Sudan’s parliament approved a nationwide state of emergency of six months instead of one year as ordered by President Omar al-Bashir.

Mar 11: The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, a key figure in the battle against the Islamic State group, received Iran’s highest military award, the “Order of Zulfaqar”. Soleimani is the first to receive the award since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Mar 11: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his withdrawal from a bid to win another term in office.

Mar 12: The European Union expanded its tax haven blacklist by 10 countries, adding the United Arab Emirates and Bermuda despite the objections of powerful member states such as Italy.

Mar 12: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Sweden-based think tank, revealed that India was the world’s second largest importer of major arms in 2014-18 and it accounted for 9.5 percent of the global total.

Mar 12: British lawmakers crushingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to quit the European Union.

Mar 12: Turnout in North Korea’s single-candidate elections hit 99.99 percent this year.

Mar 12: A British-led scientific mission to document changes taking place beneath the Indian Ocean broadcast its first live, television-quality video transmission.

Mar 13: The United Nations withheld payments to the countries that contribute troops to its peacekeeping operations worldwide, including Ethiopia, India and Pakistan, after the US cost-cutting measures which created a hole of about $220 million.

Mar 13: A quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to manmade pollution and environmental damage, the United Nations said in a landmark report on the planet’s parlous state.

Deadly smog-inducing emissions, chemicals polluting drinking water, and the accelerating destruction of ecosystems crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people are driving a worldwide epidemic that hampers the global economy, it warned.

Mar 14: Qatar’s cabinet approved proposals to allow foreigners to own property and be granted residency at the same time.

Mar 14: British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to seek a delay in Britain’s exit from the European Union, setting the stage for Prime Minister Theresa May to renew efforts to get her divorce deal approved by parliament.

Mar 15: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that eight years of war in Syria have left more than 370,000 people dead including 112,000 civilians, 21,000 children and 13,000 women.

Mar 15: The United States announced it would deny visas to members of the International Criminal Court involved in investigating the actions of US troops in Afghanistan or other countries.

Mar 15: China’s parliament approved a foreign investment law that was fast-tracked and may serve as an olive branch in trade talks with the United States.

Mar 15: Israeli aircraft struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight.

Mar 15: At least 49 people were shot dead and 48 others, including four Pakistanis, wounded during Friday prayers in a ghastly attack on two New Zealand mosques.

Mar 15: Damkerng Mungthanya, a 26-year-old blind Thai teacher, won recognition for his determination and service from King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Mar 15: The annual US report on human rights cited widespread human rights violations in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, both by government forces and militant groups.

Mar 15: Tens of thousands of young people skipped school across the globe to march through the streets for an international day of student protests aimed at pushing world leaders into action on climate change.

Mar 15: India’s Supreme Court scrapped cricketer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth’s life ban for match-fixing.

New Zealand shows the way

New Zealand has been in shock since the devastating white supremacist attack that took the lives of 50 people inside and around two Christchurch mosques. But unlike March 15, when the island nation’s tiny Muslim minority prayed alone, today they are joined at their mosques by thousands, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The Azaan for Friday prayers was heard across New Zealand followed by a two-minute silence nationwide as a show of support for the victims.

Imam Gamal Fouda of the Al Noor Mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were martyred, told the crowd, “The terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart. But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable … We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.”

Prime Minister Ardern, wearing a headscarf like most of the Muslim and non-Muslim women present, also made a short speech in which she quoted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to explain that New Zealand mourns with every victim’s family.

Halfway across the world, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers in Istanbul suggested a comprehensive global strategy to tackle rising Islamophobia. At the same meeting, New Zealand FM Winston Peters assured that Muslims in his country would feel safe and secure. Qureshi reminded that the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment by populists in the West had led us to this place. “Every bullet fired by the terrorist was an assault on the values of pluralism and diversity that underpin modern multicultural societies,” he added while suggesting a slew of reforms to help curb Islamophobia and fight terrorism based on ideologies such as white supremacy and Hindutva.

But since Qureshi said little to inspire unity, we must return again to Christchurch. In the words of Imam Fouda, “The victims did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope.” That hope is a world where we love — not tolerate, but love — all others, regardless of their gender, colour, caste, or religion.

Shahnaz Begum: the Soulful Voice

The mention of Shahnaz Begum, who passed away in Dhaka recently, reminds us of the black-and-white TV days, and of the unqualified love of the land which she conveyed through her sweet, tuneful voice. Sohni dharti Allah rakhay and Jeeway, Jeeway, Jeeway Pakistan are two of the country’s most loved and inspiring songs. It was these two numbers that almost five decades ago brought Shahnaz Begum (later Shahnaz Rahmatullah) fame and followers in droves. As fate would have it, it turned out to be a parting gift for the Pakistani people from the Bengali singer, who returned to Dhaka. Her journey towards greater melodic maturity continued in the newly established Bangladesh, earning her many accolades from both ordinary listeners and those who sat on award-giving juries. But quite remarkably, in Pakistan, she was through all these years celebrated on a massive scale — purely on the basis of the two patriotic numbers and a few ghazals that she had recorded in Urdu. There was no ebbing in her popularity, her youthful voice etched in memory for all times to come. Pakistanis would always be eager to catch a glimpse of Shahnaz Begum, just as they would be keenly following the news about the latest activities of Runa Laila, a Bengali singer of exceptional talent who once dared rival Madam Noor Jehan.

Shahnaz Begum’s passing is a reminder of the complementary relationship the two wings of Pakistan had until the creation of Bangladesh. She was one of the many from the eastern part who enriched Pakistani art — and there are a number of others whose talent first emerged in the then eastern wing of the country, not least among them all-time top actors Shabnam and Nadeem. There is a long list of creative people from East Pakistan in all areas of the arts whose names come to mind as a major influence on evolving Pakistani expression and Pakistani memorabilia. The past may be another country, but what’s common and shared is too powerful to be denied.

World in Focus (Feb-March 2019)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.