Irfan Haider

Jan 102018
 
Trump administration’s attempt at humiliating Pakistan unlikely to work: ex-US envoy Olson

The Trump administration's attempt at “humiliating and penalising” Pakistan for allegedly failing to take decisive action against militant groups hostile to the US is unlikely to work, former American ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson has argued, warning that Islamabad has greater leverage over Washington than is usually perceived.“Pakistan, like most countries, reacts very badly to public attempts to force its hand. It is likely to respond by showing how it can truly undercut our position in Afghanistan,” wrote Olson, who also served as the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an op-ed published in the The New York Times on Tuesday.In his article titled 'How Not to Engage With Pakistan', the former envoy assessed the impact of the US decision to withhold security assistance to Pakistan. "For the past 16 years our military efforts in landlocked Afghanistan have been dependent on transit through and especially overflight of Pakistani territory," he said. "Absent an implausible similar arrangement with Iran, other options are not good." "Without Pakistani cooperation, our [US] army in Afghanistan risks becoming a beached whale," he argued.Giving historical background of Pakistan's policy decisions, Olson noted that Pakistan's security concerns emanating from its perception of India as an "existential threat" had led to its adoption of asymmetric military solutions, such as the alleged use of proxies. Conceding that the US too had supported some of these proxies in the 1980s against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the diplomat said Pakistan "never had an easy option of breaking with Afghan [Read More…]

Jan 102018
 
Diplomats in Islamabad briefed on Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts

Amid increasing criticism and suspension of security aid for Pakistan by the United States, the foreign diplomats stationed in Islamabad were briefed on Pakistan’s achievements and challenges in its counter-terrorism efforts by the top civil-military leadership on Wednesday, the Foreign Office said in a statement.Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Chief of General Staff (CGS) Bilal Akbar, director general military operations (DGMO), director general military intelligence (DGMI) and the foreign secretary briefed the ambassadors and heads of missions of different nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Welcoming the envoys, the foreign minister said that the briefing had been arranged to "inform the diplomatic corps about the massive counter-terrorism efforts that Pakistan [has] undertaken in the last 16 years, more so the developments in the last 4 years", the FO statement read.See: Pakistan’s losses in war on terror fail to impact US discourseThe attendees were provided details of operations Zarb-i-Azb and Raddul Fasaad in eliminating terrorism in Pakistan and apprised of threat "emanating from safe havens and sanctuaries in Afghanistan".They were briefed "on how Indian belligerence and unhelpful posturing is distracting Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts" and that the nexus of Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies is contributing to instability in the country. The FO said the diplomats were also shown evidence of an Indian campaign of "unprecedented ceasefire violations, provocations and insinuations including terrorism in the form of IED attacks against innocent civilians on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control and the Working Boundary". "These Indian activities constitute an unfortunate 'new normal' [Read More…]

Jan 102018
 
Banned INGOs free to work until final decision is taken: Ahsan Iqbal

Fata-based INGOs told to employ locals or risk expulsion The Ministry of Interior on Wednesday allowed previously disbarred International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) to keep working until a final decision is taken on their appeals.The directive was issued by Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal "keeping in view the operational affairs of the INGOs and country's image at international level."In December 2017, the federal government had ordered 21 foreign-funded groups to wrap up their activities and prepare to leave after they failed to re-register under the tougher regulations introduced two years ago.It is pertinent to mention here that INGOs whose registration is cancelled are entitled to an appeal within 90 days. If the appeal is rejected, however, they will have to leave the country within 60 days.The decision to ban the 21 INGOs had been condemned by activists, academics, non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers and civil society organisations, who said the move would have a negative impact on an already under-developed country which needed international support to improve basic necessities such as health and education.The government has long treated foreign-aid groups in the country with suspicion, fearing they could mask efforts to spy on the country.Fata-based INGOs told to employ locals or risk expulsion Meanwhile, the Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions has asked INGOs operating in Fata for their own and workers' records, alleging that these INGOs have started operating "without oversight.""These INGOs obtain funds in Fata's name but they neither utilise the funds properly nor employ any locals," Senator [Read More…]

Jan 102018
 
Two Chinese men arrested in Karachi over suspicion of ATM fraud

Karachi police on Wednesday took two Chinese men into custody from the Zainab Market area of the metropolis over suspicions they were stealing data of bank customers through ATM skimming devices.Police said they had recovered ATM skimming machines and other equipment from the possession of the suspects.The officials said the suspects had been roaming the area suspiciously close to the ATM of a private bank when they were asked to stop by bank employees.Upon being asked to stop, the two men tried to flee but were caught by citizens and handed over to the police.Saddar Superintendent of Police Tauqeer Naeem informed DawnNews that the Chinese men had also visited the same ATM three days ago."There has been a sharp rise in ATM fraud in Karachi, and the devices that the two men were carrying are similar to the devices used in other cases," SP Naeem said.He said police has gotten in touch with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the suspects had been handed over to the agency.Incidents of ATM skimming fraud have made headlines recently, with HBL Bank confirming that over Rs10 million had been stolen from 559 of its customers' accounts through compromised cards.The transactions had been traced to Indonesia, China, and other countries, HBL had said.The FIA suggests that the use of “obsolete technology” by banks for ATMs and decades-old security systems employed at ATM booths have made them an easy target for any “organised foreign group”. Click for detailed story

Jan 102018
 
IHC upholds restrictions on Aamir Liaquat's media appearances

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday rejected a petitioner's appeal to withdraw his request for a ban on televangelist Aamir Liaquat and upheld an interim ban on the television host who is accused of using television, social media and print media to allegedly spread discord and hatred in the country.Petitioner Mohammad Abbas' lawyer, Barrister Shoaib Razaq, had argued in court in the last hearing of the case in December 2017 that Liaquat does not have any Islamic degree or certification and yet calls himself an aalim (religious scholar) — a title he seems to have appropriated since hosting television show Aalim Online.He urged the court to ban the televangelist from appearing on television and social media or using print media to spread his views."Liaquat used that show for a number of years to create social and religious divide in the country," the petitioner had alleged, adding that the televangelist has handed out fatwas (religious edicts) on kufr (cardinal sin) and treason which have put the lives of a number of people in danger.The petitioner's counsel had also pointed out that the TV show host had repeatedly violated the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority's (Pemra) code of conduct, and accused the media watchdog of failing to do its job. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who is hearing the case, had passed an interim order stopping Liaquat from appearing on various media "until further notice". During the hearing today, Justice Siddiqui rejected Abbas' appeal against the IHC's restrictions on Liaquat and upheld its [Read More…]

Jan 102018
 
FIA to print Altaf Hussain's court summons in international newspapers

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday submitted a report in an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) regarding summoning Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain to court via advertisements in international publications.During a hearing of the Imran Farooq murder case, FIA Special Prosecutor Khawaja Imtiaz told the court that the agency had contacted an advertising firm on December 22 and received an answer on January 5. He added that the summons will be printed in The New York Times and The Guardian, with the total cost amounting to Rs1.3 million. The ATC judge, Shahrukh Arjumand, however, questioned why the FIA had only included Hussain's Pakistan address. He ordered the agency to include the address of MQM founder's residence in Britain.The court was assured that the FIA would release the required funds for the advertisements soon. The report submitted to the ATC included a no-objection certificate issued by the Interior Ministry and a letter from the advertisement firm. FIA had issued arrest warrants for Hussain, who is a suspect in the Imran Farooq murder case, in December last year. Also in December, the Interior Ministry had approved a request by FIA for issuing red warrants of three other suspects in the murder — Anwar Hussain, Iftikhar Hussain and Kashif Khan Kamran.The FIA had said that it would also contact the Interpol headquarter in France to ask for assistance in the ongoing murder investigation.Hussain and other senior members of the party were named as a suspect in the case by the FIA's counter-terrorism wing [Read More…]

Jan 092018
 
Senate committee takes notice of alleged rape, murder of eight-year-old girl in Kasur

The alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kasur sparked protests and a shutter-down strike in the city on Wednesday.People of the area are enraged as this is the 12th incident of this nature in this particular area in Kasur ─ falling within a radius of 2 kilometres ─ over the last year. Police inaction against the perpetrators has sparked protests among locals. The Senate Standing Committee on Interior also took notice of the incident on Wednesday and ordered the Punjab police to take swift action. Committee Chairman Rehman Malik called the incident unforgivable and ordered that the Punjab police submit a report on the matter within the next five days.Malik also said that the Inspector General of Punjab should personally investigate the matter and treat it as a challenge.As the news began circulating on social media earlier in the day, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif took notice of the incident and ordered the speedy arrest of the culprits.Zainab, 8, went to a tuition centre near her house in Road Kot area last Thursday when someone abducted her. Zainab's parents had gone to perform Umrah and, according to the family, were scheduled to return that very day.The panicked family got a footage showing Zainab with a stranger near Peerowala Road in the Saddar police jurisdiction. The video went viral on social media but no clue could be found.On Tuesday, a police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a heap of trash near Shahbaz Khan [Read More…]

Jan 092018
 
Pakistan has suspended military and intelligence cooperation with US: defence minister

Worsening relations Pakistan has suspended military and intelligence cooperation with the United States in the wake of US President Donald Trump's allegation that Pakistan has given the US "nothing but lies and deceit" and suspension of security aid for Pakistan, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said while addressing a gathering at Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad on Tuesday.Speaking during a seminar titled 'Contours of Security Environment of Pakistan', Khan said the US is facing defeat in Afghanistan despite spending billions of dollars. He alleged that the US is using Pakistan as a 'scapegoat' for its failures in Afghanistan. "Pakistan does not want to put a price on its sacrifices but wants them to be recognised," the defence minister said, adding that Pakistan will not allow Afghanistan's war to be fought on Pakistani territory.Khan also said that the US is busy in a blame game against Pakistan rather than providing it with assistance to secure the Pak-Afghan border. Answering a question on the occasion, the minister said that Pakistan took the right steps by blocking Nato supplies to Afghanistan in the aftermath of 2011 attack at Salala check post. But Pakistan is not taking the same route after Trump's recent tirade as it is a "leverage we want to use at the appropriate time", he clarified.The defence minister said Iran, China and Russia are as important to the region as the US and reaffirmed Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif's statement signalling that the alliance between Pakistan and the US is over. [Read More…]

Jan 092018
 
Senators express displeasure over 'presidential pardon' for convicted Rangers personnel

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday expressed grave concern over reports of a presidential pardon granted to Rangers personnel convicted in the 2011 Sarfraz Shah murder case. On Sunday, a section of media had reported that the president had granted pardon to five convicted Rangers personnel, namely Shahid Zafar, Muhammad Afzal Khan, Baha-ur-Rehman, Muhammad Tariq and Manthar Ali. However, Dawn had found that the provincial authorities concerned have yet to receive an official confirmation of the president’s pardon.Senator Farhatullah Babar nonetheless termed the development a "cruel joke" as he highlighted the issue. "Official sources quoted in the media reports lent the news credibility," Babar added.He had especially asked the chairperson's permission to discuss the matter after the conclusion of the meeting's agenda."This is an unacceptable affront to the rights of victims and their families. Are uniformed personnel given the license to brandish guns and kill innocent people at will and with impunity?" he asked.He said that he was unable to forget the "terrified young man beseeching his killers to not take his life with folded hands, and the sadistic pleasure writ large on the man's face as he pulled the trigger." "The images of this shameful incident will continue to shake the nation's conscience for years to come," he said, adding that a presidential pardon handed to the convicts "will only make the shameful images more horrifying." The senator also worried that pardoning the convicts without the victim's family's consent would further embolden law enforcement [Read More…]

Jan 092018
 
7 killed as suicide bomber targets police truck on Quetta's Zarghoon Road

Quetta's security challenges At least seven people were killed on Quetta's Zarghoon Road when a suicide bomber rammed into a parked police truck on Tuesday, injuring 16 people, police said. Five policemen and two passers-by were among those killed, Inspector General of Balochistan Police Moazzam Jah Ansari told reporters. He said eight policemen were injured in the attack. Volunteers move the body of a policeman at the site of the suicide bomb attack in Quetta. — AFP According to Associated Press, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a suicide bomber targeted a police contingent returning from duty at the provincial assembly building. IG Ansari said the suicide bomber had walked up to the scene and blew himself up near the back of the police truck. He said the earlier impression that the attacker could have travelled to the truck on a motorcycle was not correct.Bomb Disposal Squad officials said 10 kilograms of explosives had been used in the attack. Most deaths occurred due to the impact from ball bearings and pellets stored in the bomber's suicide jacket, said the IG.IG Ansari while talking to reporters said he could "tell in advance" that the suicide bomber must have come from across the Afghan border, as DNA tests showed suicide bombers involved in previous attacks in Quetta were foreign nationals too.He said the terrorists had targeted police in the attack and not the Balochistan Assembly, which is in the same area, as the blast occurred an hour [Read More…]

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