Smog disrupts GCC-Pakistan flights

This picture taken on November 10, 2017 shows the grand Faisal Mosque covered in heavy smog in the Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Smog disrupts GCC-Pakistan flights

ISLAMABAD: The smog currently plaguing eastern Pakistan shows no sign of abating.
In recent days, it has disrupted flights, forced the government to change school timings, and posed a serious health risk, particularly in the densely populated province of Punjab.
The country’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), has mostly rescheduled, rerouted, or even canceled some of its flights. Over 60 flights were delayed on Friday morning alone, including international and local flights. Several GCC-Pakistan flights were affected.
PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar told Arab News, “PIA has to adjust the timings of its flights due to prevailing weather conditions, and keeping in view safety requirements, as the airline cannot operate flights with poor visibility.” He added that the current weather conditions were “expected to prevail for the next few days.”
The polluted air that blankets cities in Punjab and some areas of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is hazardous to health, especially for the elderly and for children going to school or college early in the morning when the smog levels are high. Doctors have suggested adopting preventive measures when outdoors and using masks when traveling. Hospitals have reported a hike in cases of irritation of the skin and/or eyes, respiratory problems, coughing, and sore throats.
Mansoor Ali Shah, the chief justice of Lahore High Court, has ordered the concerned authorities in Punjab to update the court about measures adopted to control and prevent the smog.
Naseem-ur-Rehman, director of the Environment Protection Department (EPD), told a local television station that a number of preventive measures have been taken: The Punjab government has imposed a ban on farmers burning their leftover crops until December 16, and 150 factories have also been shut down, he claimed.
Police have partially closed several sections of the country’s main highway — known as the motorway — between Lahore and Islamabad because of visibility issues, particularly at night and in the early morning, while some cities have also reportedly made special arrangements to avoid traffic jams and accidents.
Dr. Mohammad Hanif, a Pakistani meteorologist, told Arab News that a lack of rain, dust and emissions from factories and vehicles, and smoke from burnt crops are the leading factors behind the toxic smog.
He added that rain or strong winds would disperse the smog, but there is no rain forecast in the next fortnight.


France’s ban on full-body Islamic veil violates human rights: UN rights panel

Updated 35 min 50 sec ago
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France’s ban on full-body Islamic veil violates human rights: UN rights panel

  • France had failed to make the case for its ban and ordered it to review the legislation, the committee said in a statement
GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Committee said on Tuesday that France’s ban on the niqab, the full-body Islamic veil, was a violation of human rights and ordered it to review the legislation.
France had failed to make the case for its ban, the committee said, and gave it 180 days to report back to say what actions it had taken.
“In particular, the Committee was not persuaded by France’s claim that a ban on face covering was necessary and proportionate from a security standpoint or for attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society,” it said.
Decisions taken by the committee, a panel of independent experts who oversee compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), are not legally binding, but under an optional protocol of the treaty, France has an international legal obligation to comply “in good faith.”
The committee’s findings come after complaints by two French women convicted in 2012 under a 2010 law stipulating that “No one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.”
The Committee said the ban disproportionately harmed their right to manifest their religious beliefs and could lead to them being confined at home and marginalized. It also ordered France to pay compensation to the two women.
The committee’s chair Yuval Shany said the findings were not an endorsement of the full-body veil and that he and several others on the 18-member panel considered it a form of oppression.