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Pompeo to travel to North Korea with new special envoy

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit North Korea again next week to try to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons, and will take a new US special representative, Stephen Biegun, with him in an attempt to break the deadlock.

Pompeo on Thursday named the Ford Motor Co executive, a veteran Republican foreign policy hand, as the US special envoy to North Korea.

“Steve will direct US policy toward North Korea and lead our efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea as agreed to by Kim Jong Un,” Pompeo told reporters, referring to the North Korean leader.

“He and I will be traveling to North Korea next week to make further diplomatic progress toward our objective,” Pompeo said.

It will be Pompeo’s fourth trip this year aimed at getting North Korea to scrap a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States and his second since an unprecedented June summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim that produced much fanfare but little obvious progress.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo had no plans to meet with Kim in Pyongyang.

“We don’t have that scheduled; we have no expectations of meeting with Chairman Kim. That is not a part of this trip,” she told a regular news briefing.

Biegun said of North Korea: “The issues are tough and will be tough to resolve.” But he added that Trump had created an opening “that we must take by seizing every possible opportunity to realize the vision for a peaceful future for the people of North Korea.”

Biegun served as vice president of international governmental affairs for Ford for 14 years. Prior to that, he was a senior staffer for former President George W Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and he also advised members of Congress on foreign affairs.

Trump hailed the summit in Singapore as a success and even went as far as to declare that the nuclear threat from North Korea was over, but Pyongyang has given no indication that it is willing abandon its arsenal unilaterally.

Pompeo was charged with heading follow-up negotiations, but these appear to have made little progress, with the two sides apparently far apart on the fundamental issue of denuclearisation and the US demand for this before North Korea sees any relief from tough international sanctions.

‘GANGSTER-LIKE DEMANDS’

On his last visit to Pyongyang, in July, Pompeo left hailing progress, only for North Korea within hours to denounce his “gangster-like demands.” He did not meet with Kim on that trip, although he did on his first two visits, which took place before the summit.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump defended his efforts to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, saying he believed North Korea had taken specific steps toward denuclearisation. He said he would “most likely” meet again with Kim.

However, several members of the US negotiating team said they had seen no sign that North Korea was prepared to negotiate seriously until the United States promised relief from sanctions in return.

Some US intelligence and defense officials consider Pompeo’s planned trip to be premature and said the prospects for significant progress appeared dim.

Kelly Magsamen, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian affairs now at the Center for American Progress, said Biegun’s appointment would “hopefully bring focus and coherence” to US North Korea diplomacy.

Joshua Pollack, a North Korea missile expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, noted that Biegun’s background was mostly in Russian issues.

But Pollack said that Pompeo could enhance Biegun’s credibility as a negotiator by personally introducing him in Pyongyang. “That would allow Pompeo to step back somewhat until more groundwork has been laid in working-level talks,” he said.

Biegun’s name was floated earlier this year among a list of contenders to replace Trump’s then national security adviser, HR McMaster, who was ultimately succeeded by John Bolton.

Biegun fills a vacancy that has existed since the late February retirement of Joe Yun, an appointee of former President Barack Obama and a strong advocate for diplomacy with North Korea. Soon after Yun’s departure, Trump embraced a diplomatic approach to Pyongyang that led to the June summit.

North Korea state media last week blamed lack of progress on members of the US negotiating team and said breaking the deadlock would demand “a bold decision on the part of President Trump.”

A commentary in its Rodong Sinmun newspaper said those opposed to dialogue were seeking to derail talks with baseless references to “secret nuclear facilities” in North Korea.

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Mehwish Hayat Louds Using Truck Art for the Rights of the Girl Child

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Tuck Owners, drivers and artists pose with their brightly colored trucks on the International Day of the Girl Child

The Ministry of Human Rights initiative “Truck Art for Awareness and Advocacy for the Rights of the Girl Child in Pakistan” mesmerizes stakeholders.

  • The biggest achievement of this intervention is that Truck owners, Truck drivers and Truck artists own this initiative” says Samar Minallah (Anthropologist/ Pioneer of the Truck Art for Awareness intervention in Pakistan
  • Ministry of Human Rights, Government of Pakistan stands tall for upholding all constitutionally enshrined rights of the girl child” Dr Shireen Mazari, Federal Minister for Human Rights

This year marked over 25 years of the International Day of the Girl Child. The Ministry of Human Rights, government of Pakistan, through the Huqooq-e-Pakistan Programme, in collaboration with the European Union held a launch event on 11th October 2019 at Lok Virsa in the country’s capital, Islamabad.

20 Newly painted trucks transverse across Pakistan to ensure the right message reaches the right audiences. Trucks, moving billboards, here are becoming vehicles for spreading awareness regarding educating girls, and truck art is making its way to bridge communication gaps between key stakeholders involved in ensuring rights are given to the girl child

“Let’s pledge to give girls a better brighter future” said Mehwish Hayat, the appointed Goodwill Ambassador to the Rights of the Girl Child by the Ministry of Human Rights,  in her talk engaging with the participants of the launch event.

Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of the Girl Ms. Mehwish Hayat addressing during a function to mark International Day of Girl Child (Advocacy and Awareness through Truck Art) at Lok Virsa

 “The brightly painted trucks through Pakistan’s indigenous truck art support us in creating awareness as well as amplifying a message to begin advocacy from within the grassroots of Pakistan from the remotest of areas” says Minallah.

She further added that Hayat Khan, a truck workshop owner, extended great cooperation in this regard and played a pivotal role in convincing other truck drivers to change the paintings on their rides.

The Launch evnt was attended by over 400 participants. A gathering with all relevant players present to commemorate the Day of the Girl Child. The event marks not only the beginning of a new era of the amplification of the rights of the girl child but also is a testiment to the fact that the Pakistani society is proud of its traditional art forms and the role community members like truck owner, drivers and artists are taken up for the cause.

Truck Artist Tahir Hayat adds finishing touches as he paints “Let me study, I will brighten the future”

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari, European Union Ambassador to Pakistan Mrs. Androulla Kaminara and Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of the Girl Ms. Mehwish Hayat jointly distributing certificates among the artists during a function to mark International Day of Girl Child (Advocacy and Awareness through Truck Art) at Lok Virsa.

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5 Peaceful Travel Destinations in Pakistan

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There are two types of people, ones who like to trek thousands of miles up to the mountains and others who like to stay in a cozy place, camp on the bank of a beautiful lake or those who would just like to be surrounded by beautiful nature in a hut or a dome. At one point, we do not want to explore but just want to enjoy the beauty around us. Even the trekkers need relaxation sometimes.

So, here we suggest 5 places where you can go and have a peaceful getaway without any trek, struggle or a travel hassle involved.

Sharan Forest

Untouched dense forest reserve in KPK, this place is located in Kaghan. All you have to do is to take a jeep from Paras and you will be in the forest within 1.5 hours. Now, the stop depends on the nature of your comfort and your requirement. If you are a person of extreme comfort, Chinar Family Resort should be your go-to place. Surrounded by a breathtaking view of mountains and forest; this place is a sheer beauty if described in one word. Beautifully maintained, having proper facilities of rooms and every food item available on order, this family resort provides you with the best in the middle of a forest.

If you are an adventurous person with an idea of cooking your own food but having a comfortable sleeping pod; you can always book these camping pods set up by the government of KPK that will provide you a serene view, a cozy room and the choice to cook your own food.

If your soul needs an adventure in open air with your camps on, go for camping outside this youth hostel that was built by the British and is now a perfect camping spot for a thrilling experience.

Naltar Valley

Again, known for its dramatic mountain scenery, another unruffled world, away from the hubbub, Naltar Valley is a pure magic. Setting up a camp near one of the lakes, far away from human existence, in the middle of mountains is an experience which is pure bliss. There is also an option available of staying at skiing resorts with comfort in your room but the exuberance of spending a night in a camp and getting up to the majestic view of the lake right in front of you cannot be compared with anything else.

Borith Lake 

A hamlet in the surroundings of Borith Lake to the northwest of Husseini, a village near Gulmit, Gojal, Borith is located in the upper Hunza. The lake can be reached through jeeps and is surrounded by calm and quiet mountains with little or no human interaction. The best and only comfortable place to live in Borith is The Borith lake hotel and resort. The option of camping is always available to wake up to the astonishing view of the lake.

ICE Dome- Nathia Gali

The world’s first LED embedded in the structure, ICE Dome in Nathia Gali is one of its kind. With a warm and homely ambiance, this place is a whole new experience to live and enjoy nature. With Nathia Gali being the oldest spot for a vacation in the north, this concept of the dome is unique with a blend of camping and a comfortable room giving you services with the proper easement. Surrounded with green view isolated and peaceful, book this dome and enjoy your vacation away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Rumbur-Kalash

Rumbur is one of the three Kalash valleys in Chitral. With a polytheist belief, you will find these people to be extremely loving, hospitable and liberal. There are not many rental places except for a few wooden rooms that are surrounded by amazing views and a touch of old school charm. You can either hire people to cook food for yourself or you can do it on your own. Having a totally different tradition, culture and religion, these people are a great company and the place offers a completely different aura in terms of experience. This valley, being isolated and uncommercialised, will let you experience the essence of life in a small valley.

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Quashing the Travel Myths with the Globetrotter; Mishaal Hashmi

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We all are in awe as to why suddenly and rapidly traveling has become one of the most discussed topics among every generation. Is it because there are more awareness and access to information available on groups regulated by frequent travelers or has it simply become a trend to follow? To debunk a few myths and to know more about traveling and its ever-growing business, we got in touch with Mishaal Hashmi; the founder and admin of the very popular group “The Travel Diary, a social media community leader and an entrepreneur. 

1) “Traveling has only become a fashion statement”

I feel more than a fashion statement, travel has become a statement period. People are now identifying what makes them happy and traveling is something that makes us all happy. People have become smarter and therefore are better equipped to indulge in this love for exploration. Traveling is essential to discovering yourself. If identifying your needs and happiness is a trend, then let’s happily acknowledge it is.

2.People are more into taking pictures to show around rather than enjoying the moment and a certain destination.”

The ease of connecting to social media does make it appear so. However, if you look at it positively, it’s real-time experience sharing with your people. It becomes a window for others to share in your experiences. The hardcore traveler will document but live in the moment. Those who document and not enjoy the experiences, lose out on the essence of travel.

3. “There are no checks and balances on travel companies. It’s more like a business and less about providing facilities to people.”

There is a need for proper government rules and regulations to keep travel and tour operators in check. It is quite necessary for the promotion of tourism in our country. Registered businesses with decades of reputation are a good option. The novice traveler in an attempt to save money falls prey to dubious tour operators. Till we don’t research and pay fair rates to legitimately registered businesses, travelers will continue to be exploited.

4. Your favorite travel Spot till now?

South East Asia will always have a special spot in my heart. I go back repeatedly and every time fall in love all over again.

5. How does The travel Diary play a part to boost tourism in Pakistan?

The Travel Diary has given people a platform to share their love for traveling. When you gather a diverse group of people who are eager to share their experiences, you realize that travel is not an unattainable dream. From budget management to airline deals, exploration of new destinations and the members rallying up for each other in various countries of the world; The Travel Diary has given many people the courage as well as the guidance they needed to take a leap.

6. How do you think The Travel Diary is a reliable source for travel-related queries. How do you moderate the suggestions? 

The group is getting larger even as we speak. We employ moderators in different countries. As well as seasoned travelers who can corroborate what is being said. It is a large forum and managing it is a monumental task. We are trying our best and more often than not are successful.

7. What is the worst thing or a common mistake Pakistanis do while traveling in a different country? 

Trying to find shortcuts for everything. There are legitimate ways and then Pakistanis trying to be penny-wise end up being pound foolish.

8. How can we encourage women-oriented travel companies in Pakistan?

There is an encouraging trend as of late. Women are looking to travel with other women on holidays and exploratory trips. It takes time but getting such groups together empowers a lot of solo female travelers. Again, we are moving to new norms and traveling for women is fastly becoming easier.

9. What is your take on women traveling solo outside Pakistan

I would say I love it. Not only do I encourage it, but I also propagate it. It’s on my bucket list. My girlfriends and I are soon heading out for our dream holiday. Just at the end of this month, The Travel Diary is taking its first international trip and I am so happy that half of our travelers are women looking for a travel adventure.

10. Running this group is just a hobby”

It was never a hobby. The page was a work of love. The group started with my search for people who were as passionate about traveling as I was. I never dreamt that it would become a platform of such epic proportions and become so vital for Pakistan’s travel culture. It is still my heart and soul. The group is not a hobby but a labor of painstaking love.

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