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QUETTA: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday said that there is no clash between the institutions and the government.

"There is no clash between the institutions and the government, this news only exists in the media," said the prime minister while addressing the media during his visit to Quetta. 

The prime minister was on his first visit to Balochistan after assuming office.

Referring to earlier statements made by PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, the premier said political parties always maintain dialogue with all political forces in the country. 

He added that Zardari would be included in dialogue as "dialogues are politics". 

"This is election year, it is expected all politicians would give more political statements," said Abbasi. 

'Solve Balochistan's problems' 

The prime minister said the incumbent government's objective is to solve the problems of Balochistan and bring it on par to other provinces. 

"Our objective is to solve Balochistan's problems and remove the feeling of helplessness in the province's population," said the prime minister. 

Abbasi added that he has had detailed discussions with Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri.

"When the government came to power in 2013, we all know what the security situation in the province was and we have worked towards making the situation better," said the premier. 

Abbasi said as part of development schemes in the province, gas facilities would be built in all districts of the province for the provision of gas to the people. 

"Another request we received was for solar powered tube wells. The project will be completed in three phases and will ensure the betterment of agricultural facilities in the province," added Abbasi. 

In regards to provision of water to the people, the prime minister said the water resources ministry will work with the provincial government for building as many water reservoirs in the province as possible. 

The premier also said that the health card scheme introduced by Nawaz Sharif in six districts of the province will be expanded across Balochistan and similarly, Benazir Income Support Program would also be expanded in the province. 

Touching upon the topic of exploration activities in the province, Abbasi said that law and order had to be improved first before initiation of such activities. 

"As the situation has improved, more gas blocks are being explored and the remaining will be explored soon."

The prime minister had arrived earlier today in Quetta and was received by the chief minister. 


LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman (PTI) on Saturday raised reservations over the upcoming NA-120 by-polls and said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is not independent and works under the incumbent government. 

PTI's candidate for NA-120, Yasmin Rashid, said the party has not been provided with updated voter lists and the lists provided are missing 35 blocks. 

She also said that the PTI has submitted five petitions in ECP, but have yet to receive a reply after a passage of 10 days.  

Rashid that the list earlier provided by the ECP had 330,000 voters and a later list had 324,000 voters.

"ECP claimed that 6,000 voters had died," said Rashid. 

PTI leaders also said that they have asked the election commission for an updated voter list and they have yet to receive it. 

She also said that Kulsoom Nawaz is the deputy chairman of the same company that her husband Nawaz Sharif was and was disqualified from office due to the same reason. 

"Same clause is applicable Kulsoom Nawaz as it was to her husband," added Rashid.  


LAHORE: Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday directed party leaders and officials to refrain from making comments against the country's institutions.

In a statement, the chief minister said that the party officials should not engage in speculations which could harm the honour of national institutions.

Pakistan cannot afford a clash between institutions, said Sharif.

154370_1997964_updates.jpgThe incident took place in a city some 2,100 kilometres northeast of Moscow in the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi region. Photo: Reuters

MOSCOW: Russian police said Saturday that "terrorism" was not the main angle of the investigation after identifying the attacker who stabbed eight people on the streets of a far northern city of Surgut.

A knife attacker stabbed eight people on the street in Russia?s far northern city of Surgut before being shot by police, investigators said today. 

The male attacker ?carried out attacks on passers-by, causing stab wounds to eight? while ?moving along central streets of the city? at around 11:20am (local time) said Russia?s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes. It said that armed police then arrived and used their weapons on the attacker and ?liquidated? him. 

The incident took place in a city some 2,100 kilometres northeast of Moscow in the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi region.

Two of those stabbed are in a serious condition while five more are in a stable condition, the government of the Khanty-Mansi region said in a statement, calling the attacker so far ?unidentified.? It called for calm over the incident, saying that ?in the interests of public calm and also of the investigation, citizens and media are recommended to use reliable information in assessing the situation until all the circumstances are established.

"The version that the attack was a terrorist one is not the main one," the interior ministry´s press service in the Khanty-Mansi region told the Interfax news agency, saying that the attacker had been identified and may have suffered from psychiatric disorders. 

The attacker "carried out attacks on passersby, causing stab wounds to eight," Russia´s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes said, adding that armed police then "liquidated" the attacker.


ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday issued a show cause notice to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan.

The notice was issued to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the PTI chairman. 

Imran has till August 23 to reply to the notice and the ECP has said that it has jurisdiction to hear contempt proceedings.

At the last hearing on July 25, Khan's counsel Babar Awan had argued that only the high court and Supreme Court can take up proceedings for contempt as per the Constitution.

He said a legal framework needs to be put in place in order for the ECP to take up contempt proceedings, as the 1976 Contempt of Court ceases to exist.

The ECP had issued the contempt notice to Khan on January 24 over his ?scandalous remarks? about the commission.


ISLAMABAD: Former Minister of Interior Chaudhry Nisar will hold a press conference on Sunday. 

Nisar, on Saturday, announced that he will talk to the media at 5pm at Punjab House tomorrow. 

Speculation runs rife that the former interior minister will discuss internal issues of his party, the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) in tommorow's press conference.

Sources close to the former minister and senior PML-N leader told Geo News that Nisar is likely to speak about the country's political situation at large and PML-N's internal party matters.  

On July 27, Nisar held a much-awaited news conference that created confusion regarding his resignation following the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers implementation case.

During the presser, Nisar stressed that he was adamant on taking an extreme step last night up till this morning.

Nisar said that after meeting friends in a meeting that lasted four-and-a-half hours yesterday, he was left with one solution, not to take that extreme measure.

?I know that taking a decision at this time could hurt the party leadership and government. But the day the decision comes whether it is in favour or against, I will resign from the ministry and membership of the National Assembly," Nisar told reporters.

This statement by Nisar created confusion and later, required a clarification.

154355_571623_updates.jpgAlastair Cook walks off to an ovation after making 243/Getty Images

BIRMINGHAM: Alastair Cook´s double century put England in a commanding position against the West Indies before James Anderson struck in the inaugural day/night Test in Britain at Edgbaston on Friday.

West Indies were 44 for one in reply to England´s imposing 514 for eight declared, a deficit of 470 runs, when rain ended the second day´s play early in the third session.

Cook´s 243, his fourth Test double century, was the cornerstone of England´s total and the former captain´s dismissal prompted current skipper Joe Root to declare.

That left the West Indies with a tricky nine overs to bat in twilight before the tea interval.

That was time enough for opener Kraigg Brathwaite to be caught behind for a duck off Anderson.

Kieran Powell had made just two when the normally reliable Ben Stokes dropped him in the gully off Stuart Broad.

But come the close, Powell was 18 not out while Kyle Hope, in at nought for one on Test debut, had made a heartening 25 not out for the tourists.

But by that stage both Cook and Anderson, England´s leading Test run-scorer and wicket-taker respectively, had made telling contributions.

England resumed in a strong position of 348 for three in the first of this three-match series and the 50th Test at Edgbaston.

Cook was 153 not out, an innings that had already seen him extend his record tally of England Test centuries to 31.

Significantly it was also Cook´s first Test hundred in 17 innings and the 32-year-old left-handed opener´s tenth score of 150 or more at this level.

Together with Root, who made 136 after winning the toss, he´d put on 248 for the third wicket.

Batting masterclass

Cook was then joined by Dawid Malan, who extended his overnight 28 not out to 65 -- a maiden Test fifty -- in a fourth-wicket partnership of 162 that strengthened England´s grip on the game.

"He gave me a batting masterclass," Malan told reporters of his stand with Cook. "It was the best seat in the house."

He added: "To watch how a master goes at his work, to watch him be as disciplined as he can be shows you what you need to do to be successful at this level."

154355_4323734_updates.jpgJames Anderson removed Kraigg Brathwaite early in West Indies' reply/Getty Images

Both Malan and Cook were dismissed by off-spinner Roston Chase, whose return of four wickets for 113 runs in 26.2 overs made him the most succesful member of an otherwise seam-dominated West Indies attack.

"It´s always good getting wickets," said Chase. "I was lucky enough to get four today but I thought I was a little bit too expensive. My length was a little bit too short to Cooky."

Malan´s pull off Miguel Cummins saw the Middlesex left-hander to a 112 ball-fifty in his fifth Test innings.

Cook then went to his 200 when a misfield by Kyle Hope on the third man rope allowed the ball to trickle through for the opener´s 30th four in 339 balls.

But West Indies did have a success on the stroke of lunch when Chase had Malan caught at slip.

Cook was 213 not out at lunch. But his chances of surpassing his highest Test score of 294, made against India at Edgbaston six years ago, were not helped by a rush of wickets at the other end, with Chase the main beneficiary.

Cook, with tailender Toby Roland-Jones for company, was lbw on review to Chase when he missed an onside flick as a marathon effort of more than nine hours finally came to an end.

154342_1389870_updates.jpgFive people in the swearing-in photo no longer work in the White House. Photo: NYT

Below are the top White House officials who resigned, or were fired, dismissed or reassigned.

FBI Director James B. Comey and Obama administration holdover Sally Q. Yates who was serving as his acting attorney general were fired by the .

Chief strategist: Stephen K. Bannon

154342_9534718_updates.jpgStephen K. Bannon.

Trump decided to remove Bannon only seven months after he got on board. The former chief strategist is a right-wing nationalist who clashed with other senior White House advisers and members of Trump's family. A source close to Bannon said that he had submitted his resignation to the president on August 7.

Communications director: Mike Dubke 

154342_9303420_updates.jpgMike Dubke.

Dubke resigned just after three months of joining the Trump government as the communications director. He told colleagues that the reasons for his resignation were ?personal.?

National security adviser: Michael T. Flynn

154342_1322850_updates.jpgMichael T. Flynn. 

Trump demanded Flynn's resignation more than two weeks after he was told that the national security adviser had lied to the vice president and was vulnerable to blackmail by Russians

Deputy national security adviser: K. T. McFarland

154342_4192289_updates.jpgK.T. McFarland. 

McFarland, who was brought to the White House by Flynn, was named the ambassador to Singapore in mid-May. Her exit was announced just four months after she joined Trump's White House team, the NYT reported. 

Chief of staff: Reince Priebus

154342_494027_updates.jpgReince Priebus.

Priebus was pushed out just six months after he was taken on board. Trump's chief of staff tendered his resignation after the US president told him he wanted to make a change and offered the job to John Kelly.

Communications director: Anthony Scaramucci

154342_236089_updates.jpgAnthony Scaramucci.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly fired Scaramucci just a week after he joined as the communications director, after a vulgarity-laced telephone call with a New Yorker reporter was made public. 

Press secretary, communications director: Sean Spicer 

154342_5621311_updates.jpgSean Spicer. 

Spicer resigned, telling Trump that he disagreed with his hiring of Scaramucci as communications director. He lasted on Trump's White House team for six months. 

Deputy chief of staff: Katie Walsh

154342_7455843_updates.jpgKatie Walsh.

Walsh was forced out by Jared Kushner and other West Wing officials just two months after she joined. She joined the pro-Trump outside group America First Policies.

Senior director for intelligence, NSA: Ezra Cohen-Watnick

154342_6678097_updates.jpgEzra Cohen-Watnick.

More than six months after he was appointed by Flynn, Cohen-Watnick exited Trump's White House team. He was pushed out by Lt Gen H. R. McMaster, who succeeded Flynn.

Deputy chief of staff, NSC: Tera Dahl

154342_1123180_updates.jpgTera Dahl.

A former writer for Breitbart News who was appointed by Flynn, Dahl left the White House for a post at the United States Agency for International Development in less than six months after she was appointed as the deputy chief of staff of NSC. 

Middle East adviser, NSC: Derek Harvey 

154342_1803243_updates.jpgDerek Harvey. 

No explanation was given for the exit of Trump's Middle East Adviser for NSC. Harvey was appointed by Flynn and was widely reported to have been at odds with McMaster. His exit came after more than six months of his joining. 

Director in the strategic planning office, NSC: Rich Higgins

154342_9274576_updates.jpgRich Higgins.

Higgins was forced out after writing a memo arguing that Trump was being subverted by an array of foreign and domestic enemies, including ?globalists? and officials of the ?deep state.? 

Senior assistant press secretary: Michael C. Short

154342_7249452_updates.JPGMichael C. Short.

The senior assistant press secretary quit Trump's team just six months after he came on board. Short, who had been close to Spicer, resigned shortly after Scaramucci confirmed to reporters that he was planning to fire Short. 


ISLAMABAD: Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed on Saturday said the NRO will not happen at any cost in the country.

Addressing a press conference, Rasheed lashed out at Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq after the latter was reported to be preparing a reference against SC judge Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.


Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met United States Central Command Commander General Joseph L Votel on Saturday.

During the meeting, the prime minister and US commander spoke about relations between both the countries and discussed the security situation of Pakistan.

According to sources, the US commander was apprised on the operations under way against terrorist groups across the country, especially the tribal areas.

Others in attendance at the meeting included Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir.

154345_8388440_updates.jpgCOAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa at Dr Ruth Pfau's burial 

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa reached Karachi on Saturday to attend the burial of Dr Ruth Pfau, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

COAS General Qamar Bajwa attended the burial ceremony of Pakistan?s ?Mother Teresa? Dr Ruth at the city's Gora Qabristan, where she was laid to rest with full national honours. 

Among the dignitaries present at Gora Qabristan to attend Dr Ruth?s burial were President Mamnoon Hussain, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, IG Sindh, Corps Commander Karachi, DG Rangers and Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah along with his cabinet was also present at the burial.

Dr Ruth passed away earlier this month after dedicating a lifetime to fighting leprosy in the country.

Armed forces carried the casket containing Dr Ruth's body to St Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi?s Saddar area in a gun convoy - the highest military honour at a funeral last accorded to humanitarian icon Abdul Sattar Edhi. The casket was draped in the national flag of Pakistan.

A 19-gun salute was also offered during the funeral proceedings.

German-Pakistani national Dr Ruth breathed her last after prolonged illness on August 10, 2017 at a private hospital in Karachi. She was 87. 

154337_2920355_updates.jpgA message demanding money is seen on a monitor of a payment terminal at a branch of Ukraine's state-owned bank Oschadbank after Ukrainian institutions were hit by a wave of cyber attacks earlier in the day, in Kiev, Ukraine, June 27, 2017. Photo: Reuters file 

KIEV: The Ukrainian central bank said on Friday it had warned state-owned and private lenders of the appearance of new malware as security services said Ukraine faced cyber attacks like those that knocked out global systems in June.

The June 27 attack, dubbed NotPetya, took down many Ukrainian government agencies and businesses, before spreading rapidly through corporate networks of multinationals with operations or suppliers in eastern Europe.

Kiev's central bank has since been working with the government-backed Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and police to boost the defenses of the Ukrainian banking sector by quickly sharing information.

"Therefore on Aug. 11....the central bank promptly informed banks about the appearance of new malicious code, its features, compromise indicators and the need to implement precautionary measures to prevent infection," the central bank told Reuters in emailed comments.

According to its letter to banks, seen by Reuters, the new malware is spread by opening email attachments of word documents.

"The nature of this malicious code, its mass distribution, and the fact that at the time of its distribution it was not detected by any anti-virus software, suggest that this attack is preparation for a mass cyber-attack on the corporate networks of Ukrainian businesses," the letter said.

Ukraine - regarded by some, despite Kremlin denials, as a guinea pig for Russian state-sponsored hacks - is fighting an uphill battle in turning pockets of protection into a national strategy to keep state institutions and systemic companies safe.

The state cyber police and Security and Defence Council have said Ukraine could be targeted on Aug. 24 with a NotPetya-style attack aimed at destabilizing the country as it celebrates its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union.


ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq has filed a reference against Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in Supreme Judicial Council for calling him Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's loyalist.

As per the reference, the speaker has objected over Justice Khosa's remarks made in the April 20 judgment over the Panama case. Sadiq has stated the remarks reflected the judge's bias as none from the bench passed any such statements.

The reference, documents of which are available with Geo News, quotes the April 20 judgment, stating Justice Khosa attributed failure on the part of the speaker to enquire into or investigate the matter or to refer the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan against Nawaz...

Moreover, the reference adds, the speaker was elected by majority vote of the House comprising members from both the treasury and opposition benches. Therefore, it reads, to call the speaker a nominee or loyalist of the prime minister was a misstatement and contrary to the facts.

In his reference, Sadiq has written that the comments were only made by Justice Khosa and no one else from the bench. "This clearly smacks of personal grudge or bias of the honourable judge."   

However, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Talal Chaudhry has said no such complaint has been filed yet. 

154336_8694536_updates.jpgWhile Afghanistan's red, black and green tricolour flag adorned many Kabul streets, the day will largely go unobserved by ordinary Afghans, who are frustrated by the deteriorating security situation. Photo: AFP

KABUL: Afghan security forces were on high alert Saturday as the war-weary country, reeling from a number of high-profile deadly attacks, marked its independence day with muted celebrations.

There was an increased police presence in the capital Kabul where President Ashraf Ghani hosted a private ceremony for Afghan dignitaries.

"All of our police units are on the highest state of alert and they are placed everywhere across the city," Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid told AFP.

"We have increased the number of police checkpoints in and around the diplomatic quarters (too)," he added, amid fears that the Taliban would mark the anniversary with a large-scale attack.

August 19 commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, which granted Afghanistan full independence from Britain, although the country was never part of the British empire, after three bloody wars.

While Afghanistan´s red, black and green tricolour flag adorned many Kabul streets, the day was largely going unobserved by ordinary Afghans, who are frustrated by the deteriorating security situation and the lack of progress by the US-led international coalition forces.

As in recent years there are no public ceremonies planned in the capital.

The city has been on edge since a massive truck bomb ripped through its diplomatic quarter during morning rush hour on May 31, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians, in an unclaimed attack.

Taliban insurgents are currently at the peak of their summer fighting season and have launched several deadly assaults around the country in recent weeks.

Ghani welcomed dozens of Afghan officials for a morning ceremony at the presidential palace and laid a wreath at the independence minaret inside the defence ministry compound.

"A very happy Independence Day to everyone in AFG," Ghani said on Twitter.

"This day was earned with lots of sacrifices. We must pay homage & celebrate this legacy."

Trump mulls next step

While some Afghans changed their Facebook profile pictures to the Afghan flag or to Amanullah Khan, the king who secured Afghanistan´s independence, others lamented that the fight against the Taliban, now in its 16th year, meant there was little to celebrate.

"What independence day are we talking about when we are still at war with terrorism and don´t seem to be winning against it?" one user wrote on the social media site.

The day got under way as US President Donald Trump wrapped up a meeting of his national security team at Camp David on Friday as he tries to forge a new strategy for Afghanistan.

Trump must decide if he wants to continue on the current course, which relies on a much reduced US-led NATO force to help Afghan partners push back the Taliban, or try a new approach, such as sending more troops or even withdrawing altogether.

General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, offered his congratulations on "98 years of independence".

"We look forward to many years of continued friendship and cooperation," he said in a statement.

Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed, who has been likened to Kim Kardashian for her skin-tight clothing and selfies, has said she will stage a concert despite threats from conservatives who oppose women performing in public.

"The concert will one hundred percent be held on Saturday evening," she told Tolo News late Friday. 


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LAHORE: A man who was seriously injured after a policeman allegedly pushed him off of a road adjacent to an underpass succumbed to his wounds on Saturday, Geo News reported.

According to the injured man?s family, Zohaib was travelling with his friends on Tuesday when a policeman allegedly stopped the car in Lahore?s Garden Town vicinity and demanded a bribe. Upon refusal, he pushed the man off the road ? seriously injuring him in the process.

The family of the deceased man, who was then under treatment at Jinnah Hospital, made an appeal for justice to the Punjab chief minister and senior police officials.

?An investigation into the incident is under way,? SP Model Town Division Hunain Haider told Geo News on Tuesday. 

154322_1636055_updates.jpgTrump made no decision on whether he would commit more troops to America's longest war

US President Donald Trump reviewed an array of options for a strategy on Afghanistan with his top national security aides, but made no decision on whether he would commit more troops to America's longest war.

Friday's meeting was the latest in a series of high-level discussions on Afghanistan and a broader security strategy for the South Asia region that has been bogged down by internal differences.

Trump was briefed extensively "on a new strategy to protect America's interests in South Asia", White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters, after the meeting at the Camp David Maryland retreat.

"The president is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time," Sanders said.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top national security officials went into the meeting backing a modest increase in troops. At a mid-July meeting, they had thrown their weight behind 3,000 to 5,000 additional US and coalition soldiers.

?Anti-globalists,? who were led by Steve Bannon before he was fired on Friday as Trump's chief strategist, backed withdrawing US forces, U.S. officials said.

Other options which were to be discussed included keeping the status quo of some 8,400 US troops, a modest hike, or a small reduction that would focus on counter-terrorism operations enhanced by drone strikes and intelligence-gathering, they said.

A US official said that during a trip to Afghanistan earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the United States would have a sustained commitment to Afghanistan.

More than 15 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government for giving al Qaeda a sanctuary where it plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there is no sign to an end in fighting.

US intelligence agencies assessed in May that the conditions in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through next year, even with a modest increase in military assistance from America and its allies.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican and advocate of a stronger US role in Afghanistan, urged Trump in a statement to "listen to his generals. At the end of the day, Afghanistan is about American homeland security - not building empires."

Pakistan factor

The Camp David discussions have also been complicated by differences over taking a harder line on Pakistan for failing to close Afghan Taliban sanctuaries and arrest Afghan extremist leaders.

154322_79001_updates.jpgUS military and intelligence officials are concerned that a Taliban victory would allow al Qaeda and Daesh?s regional affiliate to establish bases in Afghanistan from which to plot attacks against the United States and its allies

Finalizing a regional security strategy has been held up by Trump's frustration with a lack of options for defeating the Taliban and ending the longest foreign conflict in US history.

At the meeting in mid-July, Trump said Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, for not winning the war.

The delay for a decision left an opening for Erik Prince, the founder of the former Blackwater military contracting firm and the brother of Trump?s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to propose replacing US forces in Afghanistan with mercenaries.

The plan made its way into the White House, according to a senior administration official.

There is no indication, however, that the proposal ? promoted by Prince in media interviews ? garnered serious attention and it was not among the options prepared for consideration at Camp David, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

McMaster, Mattis, Dunford and retired Marine General John Kelly, the president?s chief of staff, are opposed to this plan, according to US officials.

It was not known whether Prince's proposal was brought up at the meeting.

With Afghan security forces struggling to prevent Taliban advances and the country?s political leadership all but paralyzed by infighting, Nicholson in February requested thousands of additional US troops to bolster US military trainers, advisers and special forces.

US military and intelligence officials are concerned that a Taliban victory would allow al Qaeda and Daesh?s regional affiliate to establish bases in Afghanistan from which to plot attacks against the United States and its allies.

154321_6825771_updates.jpgPhoto: File

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) on Saturday said hot and humid weather is expected in most parts of the country in the next 24 hours.

Monsoon currents from the Bay of Bengal are likely to penetrate upper and eastern parts of the country from today evening. A fresh westerly wave is likely to approach upper parts of the country in next 24 hours.

Rain and thunderstorm are expected at a few places in Malakand, Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Kashmir.

Weather in the past 24 hours

The weather remained hot and humid in most parts of the country on Friday. However, rain and thunderstorm occurred at isolated places in Malakand, and FATA.

Total rainfall (mm) during the last 24 hours

KP: Malamjabba 16, Parachinar 12, Dir 03.

Yesterday's highest maximum temperatures

Turbat 45°C, Bhakkar 44°C, Sibbi 43°C.

Data courtesy: Pakistan Meteorological Department

154319_4701050_updates.jpgTrump´s generals have called the Afghan conflict a stalemate

HAGERSTOWN, UNITED STATES: US President Donald Trump assembled his national security team at the Camp David presidential retreat Friday to forge a way ahead in Afghanistan, almost 16 years after the war began.

Trump must decide if he wants to continue on the current course, which relies on a relatively small US-led NATO force to help Afghan partners push back the Taliban, or try a new tack such as adding more forces -- or even withdrawing altogether.

The White House released a statement Friday afternoon saying Trump had been briefed by his national security team on "a new strategy to protect America´s interests in South Asia" -- indicating that no decision had yet been reached.

"The president is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had initially promised to provide a new plan for Afghanistan by mid-July.

But Trump appears dissatisfied by initial proposals to add a few thousand more troops, and the strategy has been expanded to include the broader South Asia region, notably Pakistan.

We are "coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future," Mattis told reporters Thursday.

Trump´s generals have called the Afghan conflict a stalemate, and even after years of intensive help from NATO, Afghanistan´s security forces still are struggling to hold back an emboldened Taliban.

In an early move to address the situation, Trump gave Mattis broad powers to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

But several months later, the level remains stuck at about 8,400 US and about 5,000 NATO troops.

Meanwhile the situation is as deadly as ever, with more than 2,500 Afghan police and troops killed between January 1 and May 8, continuing a deadly trend from previous years.

154319_9301331_updates.jpgTrump assembled his national security team at Camp David to forge a way ahead in Afghanistan

The Taliban published an open letter to Trump this week warning him against sending more US troops and calling for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces.

"Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economic might," the letter stated.

Private army

Frustrated by the fragile security situation in a war that has cost more than $1 trillion in fighting and reconstruction, and more than 2,400 US combat deaths, Trump is considering a range of approaches.

One of these is a plan provided by Erik Prince, who founded the private security company Blackwater. It would replace most US forces with a private army of around 5,500 contractors who would train Afghan soldiers and join them in the fight against the Taliban.

Mattis opposes the use of private contractors except in limited cases. His own plan is centered on adding nearly 4,000 more troops and increased air power.

In a sign of Trump´s frustration, the president reportedly told Mattis and General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they should replace General John Nicholson, who heads up US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Mattis has come to his general´s defense, saying this week he "is our commander in the field. He has the confidence of NATO, he has the confidence of Afghanistan, he has the confidence of the United States."

Senior Republican Senator John McCain, a longtime critic of the war-fighting policies of Barack Obama, has expressed exasperation over Trump´s lack of Afghanistan policy.

McCain said if a new plan hadn´t been fleshed out by September, he would offer his own -- based on the "advice of some our best military leaders" -- that he would tack onto a massive military spending bill.

The Camp David summit was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, chief of staff John Kelly, and other members of the National Security Council including Dunford, who is traveling and tuned in via videoconference.

Kelly´s son, a Marine lieutenant, was killed in 2010 in a roadside bomb blast while on patrol in Afghanistan´s Helmand province.

154304_9145839_updates.jpgRecep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey and Chairman of the Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), greets an audience in the Sincan district of Ankara, August 14, 2017. AFP/Adem Altan

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday urged ethnic Turks in Germany to reject its main parties in upcoming elections, prompting a sharp warning from Berlin to stop the "unprecedented" meddling.

Erdogan called on ethnic Turks to ignore Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their partners in the grand ruling coalition, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

They should also reject the Greens, he said, branding all three parties "enemies of Turkey".

The president's attack ? one of his strongest-ever tirades against any EU state ? escalated an already intensifying diplomatic crisis between two NATO allies with longstanding historical links.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD was quick to react, condemning Erdogan's comments as an "unprecedented act of interference".

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter: "We expect foreign governments to not interfere in our internal affairs."

Erdogan issued his call in televised comments to reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers.

"I tell all my kinsmen in Germany... not to vote for them. Neither the Christian Democrats nor the SPD nor the Greens. They are all enemies of Turkey," he said.

He accused the SPD and CDU of playing a game of "the more you beat up Turkey, the more votes you get" during the election campaign.

"You need to support political parties there now which do not display enmity to Turkey," he said.

'Teach a lesson'

Erdogan did not make it clear which German political party he would like people to support in the polls for the Bundestag on September 24.

But he said he expected voters of Turkish origin to "teach a lesson to the parties which are disrespectful to Turkey" when they cast their votes in a "struggle for honour".

Tensions have spiralled between Germany and Turkey in recent months.

Berlin has lambasted Ankara over the magnitude of the crackdown that followed last year's failed coup, which has seen several German citizens arrested, including journalists.

Ankara meanwhile has accused Berlin of failing to extradite suspected Kurdish militants and coup plotters who have taken refuge there.

Turkish German journalist Deniz Yucel, the Istanbul correspondent of the Die Welt daily, has been held in jail in Turkey since February ahead of trial on terror charges.

German journalist Mesale Tolu has been held on similar charges since May, while activist Peter Steudtner was arrested in a July raid.

According to German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer, there are 10 Germans, including dual nationals, in custody in Turkey.

Gabriel's SPD ? whose candidate for the chancellorship is ex-EU parliament speaker Martin Schulz ? and Merkel's CDU are rivals in the election. But they have been in broad agreement on the policy regarding Turkey within the coalition.

The opposition Greens meanwhile have pushed for an even tougher line against Ankara.

The Greens' co-leader Cem Ozdemir, who is himself of Turkish origin, said Erdogan's comments showed that people who support democracy and oppose repression and corruption in Turkey are "quite simply considered to be traitors and enemies".

'Lost all proportion'

Erdogan said it was not Turkey's responsibility to reduce the tension as Germany was to blame, even accusing Berlin of being out of step with EU membership requirements.

But Gabriel denounced his comments as "an unprecedented act of interference in the sovereignty of our country". Erdogan was seeking to incite people in Germany against each other, he said.

The SPD's Schulz meanwhile, said Erdogan had "lost all sense of proportion" in a tweet.

"And all the more we stand on the side of all those who are struggling for a free and democratic Turkey," he added.

There are an estimated three million people of Turkish origin in Germany. Many of them came, or are the descendants of those who came, to West Germany as Gastarbeiter (guest workers) from the 1960s, to make up for a postwar labour shortage.

Analysts say that some 1.2 million people of Turkish origin will have the right to vote in the September polls as German citizens.

In the past, Turkish-origin Germans have inclined to the left, with most voting for the SPD.

But Erdogan is also popular with Turks living in Germany, and 59 percent of the votes cast by Turkish citizens resident in Germany went to his ruling party in November 2015 parliamentary polls.

154299_7385953_updates.jpgSinger-Songwriter Taylor Swift arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala (Met Gala) to celebrate the opening of 'Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology' in the Manhattan borough of New York, May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

LOS ANGELES: Taylor Swift, one of the most popular celebrities on social media, wiped all her accounts on Friday, sending fans into a frenzy over whether the pop singer had been hacked, was preparing to launch a new album, or was about to reinvent herself.

Swift, who has 85 million Twitter followers and 102 million Instagram followers, deleted all of her Instagram photos, her posts on Tumblr, and removed her avatar from her Facebook page where all postings prior to December 2015 were missing.

The "Blank Space" singer also deleted years of Twitter posts, and her official website showed just a black screen.

"I'm scared to go to sleep thanks to Taylor Swift like what if she drops a new song," tweeted an anxious fan called Anu using the handle @shadesoftaylor.

Taylor's publicist did not return calls for comment, but the development follows a busy two weeks for Swift, who earlier this month ended a six-month absence from the public spotlight to testify at a high-profile groping trial in Denver, Colorado.

Swift, 27, was on Monday awarded the symbolic $1 in damages that she had sought after a federal jury in Denver found that a radio DJ had grabbed her bottom while posing for a photo with her in 2013.

Her unflinching testimony describing the incident was applauded by fans and women's rights groups for highlighting the issue of sexual assault. Swift later made a donation to the sexual violence campaign and support group Joyful Heart Foundation.

Some fans speculated on Friday that Swift, whose last album was the best-selling 1989 in 2014, may be clearing out her accounts before releasing new music.

Others wondered if she had been hacked, while some thought the country-turned-pop star might be planning an image makeover.

"I woke up literally 7 minutes ago what in the world is going on with Taylor Swift," wrote one fan, Jordyn, on Twitter.

"Is the new era coming or she has been hacked ??,." tweeted another confused fan, using the handle TaylorSwiftNow.

Usually ubiquitous on social media and red carpets, Swift largely dropped out of public view earlier this year after a highly publicized but short-lived 2016 summer fling with British actor Tom Hiddleston, and feuds with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and Katy Perry.


BOSTON: Boston officials are planning road blockades and even banning food vendors from the historic Boston Common as they step up security around a "Free Speech" rally on Saturday featuring right-wing speakers, aiming to avoid a repeat of last weekend's violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

Some 500 police officers will be on the streets around the popular tourist destination. They are planning to close some roadways to vehicles, mindful of the car attacks that killed a woman in Charlottesville and 13 in an attack in Barcelona on Thursday.

"We all know the tragedy that happened in Barcelona. That only makes us more vigilant," said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, who was the department's second-in-command during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Saturday's rally has drawn intense concern from city and state officials following the violence in Charlottesville, when white supremacists at a "Unite the Right" rally fought in the streets with anti-racism protesters. A woman was killed at that event when a man said to have neo-Nazi sympathies crashed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring another 19 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump's response to that event, including his statement on Tuesday that there were "very fine people" on both sides of last weekend's conflict, has drawn wide-spread condemnation from both Democrats and Trump's own Republican Party.

Rallies are also expected later on Saturday in Texas, with a the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter holding a rally to remove a "Spirit of the Confederacy" monument from a public park and civil rights activists in Dallas planning a rally against white supremacy.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city had granted a permit for Saturday's event but would not tolerate violence. Sticks, bats and weapons of all kinds would be banned, he said.

"We are going to respect their right to free speech. In return they have to respect the safety of our city," Walsh said. "If anything gets out of hand, we are going to shut it down."

The rally could be dwarfed by a "Fight White Supremacy" march starting in the city's historically black Roxbury neighborhood and ending at the Common, which organizers expect to draw thousands.

A few hundred people are expected to attend the "Free Speech" rally on Boston Common, the nation's oldest public park. Speakers include Kyle Chapman, a California activist who was arrested at a Berkeley rally earlier this year that turned violent and Joe Biggs, formerly of the right-wing conspiracy site Infowars.

Organizers of the rally on Facebook denounced the violence and white supremacist chants of the Charlottesville event.

COVER IMAGE: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks after a meeting on gun violence prevention outside the White House in Washington, US, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/Files

154298_401880_updates.jpgA balloon carries cameras and other equipment that will be used to monitor the coming solar eclipse during a test launch with students and faculty with the College of Charleston for the Space Grant Ballooning Project on board a US Coast Guard response boat at sea near Charleston, South Carolina, US, August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill

CHARLESTON: Next week's solar eclipse will be streamed live online for the first time, from the vantage point of helium-filled balloons across the United States, providing the public with sky-high views as the moon blocks the sun.

A team of researchers from Montana State University has partnered with NASA to participate in the Space Grant Ballooning Project to send more than 50 high-altitude balloons 80,000 feet (24,384 meters) up to capture the solar eclipse as it crosses the country on August 21.

"We'll see the variations from coast to coast to see what the eclipse does over landscapes," Cassandra Runyon, director of the South Carolina Space Grant Consortium, said excitedly at a test launch on Thursday.

During the eclipse, the moon will pass between the sun and Earth from west to east, and cast a shadow on Earth.

On the east coast of Charleston, South Carolina, the last location in the continental United States over which the eclipse will pass, Runyon and her team of professors and students will launch balloons from a U.S. Coast Guard boat five to six nautical miles (9 km to 11 km) offshore.

The eclipse shadow was expected to move at 2,000 miles per hour in Oregon and slow down to 1,500 miles per hour in South Carolina, Runyon said.

The latex balloons, which are roughly 9 feet (2.7 m) tall when filled with helium, will be equipped with high-definition video cameras, still cameras and computers. They will be launched from roughly 50 U.S. locations and transmit the images back to Earth.

The balloons will be filled with enough helium to lift them roughly 1,000 feet per minute reaching an altitude of 80,000 feet.

Using a ground station antenna, team members on land will live stream the video online at stream.live/.

"I think it's very powerful to have that off-the-earth perspective," said Angela des Jardins, director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium at the Montana State University.

Des Jardins said this will be the first time that a solar eclipse will be streamed live online.

The project will allow scientists to study the sun's corona and the lunar orbit, providing practical experience for students and making this major scientific event accessible to the public, des Jardins said.

The Aug. 21 event marks the first total solar eclipse visible anywhere in the lower 48 states since 1979.

154285_7212558_updates.jpgSamantha Geimer speaks to the media after attending a hearing regarding the 40-year-old case against filmmaker Roman Polanski in Los Angeles, California, US, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files

LOS ANGELES: A Los Angeles judge on Friday rejected a request by the woman who was raped by director Roman Polanski 40 years ago to have the criminal case against him dismissed.

Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon ruled that Polanski remained a fugitive from justice and that the court could not dismiss a case "merely because it would be in the victim's best interest".

The ruling follows the first appearance in June in the case by Samantha Geimer, who was 13 years old when Polanski sexually assaulted her in Los Angeles in 1977.

The director, who admitted raping Geimer, spent 42 days in pre-trial custody. He then fled the United States, fearing a plea bargain with prosecutors would be overruled and that he would get a lengthy prison term.

The Chinatown director, who turned 84 on Friday, has never returned and numerous attempts by his lawyers to strike a deal without him spending more time in prison have failed.

"The defendant in this matter stands as a fugitive and refuses to comply with court orders," Gordon wrote.

Geimer went to Los Angeles Superior Court in June pleading for his case to be resolved, saying she had forgiven Polanski years ago and wanted the case put to rest "as an act of mercy to myself and my family".

Geimer, who has three sons and now lives in Hawaii, said in June that Polanski had apologized to her years ago, but that she continued to remain a victim because of media attention each time there was a new development in the case.

Gordon on Friday also rejected a request by Polanski's attorney, Harland Braun, to unseal testimony about the 1977 plea deal. Braun had hoped to use the testimony to persuade European authorities to rescind the international arrest warrant against Polanski.

Two recent bids by the United States to extradite Polanski, from Switzerland and Poland, have failed.

Braun says Polanski wants to be able to travel freely and to visit the grave in the United States of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered in Los Angeles by followers of Charles Manson in 1969.

Polanski's career has flourished despite the notoriety of the rape case. In 2003, he won an Oscar for directing the Holocaust film "The Pianist" but did not travel to the United States to collect it.

Braun on Friday expressed frustration at the failure to resolve matters.

"This case is 40 years old, with an 84-year-old defendant and a 50-year-old victim requesting that the matter be resolved... It appears that a resolution of this case should be simple," he said.

154295_5290056_updates.jpgA car belonging to the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra is parked next to a house, which was razed by an explosion when suspected radicals used gas canisters shortly before midnight on Wednesday in Alcanar, Barcelona, Spain, August 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Gonzalez

ALCANAR: It looks like the site of an earthquake - a heap of rubble and tangled wreckage that marks the spot where a two-storey home was destroyed by a massive gas explosion just before midnight on Wednesday.

Spanish police said they initially thought the blast in the small coastal town of Alcanar, which killed at least one person and injured seven, was connected to a clandestine drugs laboratory.

Now they are linking it to the deadly attack that took place less than 24 hours later, when a white van swerved at speed down Barcelona's most famous boulevard and mowed down people at random, killing 13.

Josep Lluis Trapero, police chief for the region of Catalonia, said on Friday that investigators believed the authors of the van attack had originally planned to trigger a bomb using gas canisters, of which about 20 were discovered in the ruins of the collapsed building.

The people there were 'manipulating' the propane and butane canisters at the time of the accidental explosion, he said.

This had forced the conspirators to scale down their plans and to hurriedly carry out more "rudimentary" attacks in Barcelona and the resort of Cambrils, where a group of men drove a car at pedestrians and police before being shot dead. One woman was killed in the Cambrils incident.

"The Alcanar blast triggered the attacks? It's not what they had in mind initially," Trapero said.

"Our hypothesis is that an attack was being prepared for some time from this Alcanar house," he added. "The blast has prevented a larger bombing from happening."

Unknown neighbours

It is still unclear who lived in the two-storey foreclosed house in the small Montecarlo neighbourhood, a rundown area between a cement factory and the sea. After thriving during Spain's boom years before the financial crash, it is now occupied mostly in summer, by just a handful of tourists and locals.

Neighbors told Reuters the place had been illegally occupied for months but nobody had ever seen any of those who lived there.

"A friend of mine owns the house on the other side of the street but we've never seen anything," said Marc Esteban Carmona, a 22-year-old university student.

"Initially we were joking about it. OK, a drug laboratory exploded, but that's it. But now I'm a bit more freaked out."

At least two men were in the house when it was wiped out by the blast on Wednesday night and at least one was killed by the explosion, the police said. They said they found biological traces that could be from a second body, though it was too early to confirm.

A man who survived the blast is now under arrest in the city of Tortosa after being treated for his injuries at the local hospital. His identity was not revealed.

According to local emergency services, the seven injured people were four French, an Italian, a Moroccan and a Spaniard.

Nuria Gil, a 50-year-old entrepreneur who lives in Montecarlo all year long, said she was aware the house had been occupied for several months but was not sure whether it was by the same people or by different groups.

"I never bumped into anybody (?) It's a very quiet area. I thought I lived in paradise," she said.