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
Trump likely to extend sanctions relief for Iran

US President Donald Trump is expected this week to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, citing progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington's participation in the landmark accord, according to US officials and others familiar with the administration's deliberations.But Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter said. The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehran's willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.The individuals two administration officials, two congressional aides and two outside experts who consult with the government weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They cautioned that Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R McMaster and that no final decision had been made. They said heated discussions were going on within the administration and with key Republican lawmakers.The State Department and White House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Trump must decide by Friday to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran's central bank or re-impose the restrictions that President Barack Obama suspended two years ago.The old, central bank sanctions largely cut Iran out of the international financial system, and are considered to be the most powerful of the penalties imposed by the [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
Journalist Taha Siddiqui beaten by '10-12 armed men', escapes 'attempted abduction'

Islamabad Police on Wednesday began investigating an "attempt by 10-12 armed men" to abduct journalist Taha Siddiqui.Siddiqui was "beaten [and] threatened with death", said journalist Asad Hashim in a tweet.Hashim, who accompanied Siddiqui to Koral police station, added that Siddiqui's belongings were also taken. According to informed sources, Siddiqui was piled into a car by the armed men but managed to escape by jumping out of the moving vehicle. Superintendent Police Dr Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui, who is the Pakistan bureau chief at World Is One News, approached police soon after the incident.Siddiqui posted a message via journalist Cyril Almeida's Twitter account, recounting the details of the kidnapping attempt. He started the tweet by identifying himself and clarifying that he was using Almeida's account.Siddiqui went on to say: "I was on my way to [the] airport today at 8:20 am when 10-12 armed men stopped my cab [and] forcibly tried to abduct me." Speaking to DawnNews, SP Tanveer reiterated that Siddiqui was in a private taxi when he was stopped by armed men. In his post, Siddiqui further said that he had managed to escape the kidnapping attempt and that he was "safe and with the police now.""Looking for support in any way possible," Siddiqui added, ending his tweet with the hashtag #StopEnforcedDisappearances.In May last year, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had issued a notice to Siddiqui, known for posting comments on social media against the military, and asked him to appear before its counterterrorism wing. Siddiqui had filed [Read More…]

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
King Salman reaffirms Saudi support for independent Palestinian state

During a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul Aziz reaffirmed the Kingdom's support for an independent Palestinian state, Arab News reported on Wednesday. In his conversation with the Palestinian head of state, King Salman emphasised Saudi Arabia's support for the rights of the Palestinian people and their desire to have Jerusalem as their capital, Arab News reported, quoting the state-run Saudi Press Agency. Read: Trump’s decision on Jerusalem reflects the influence of powerful allies in his inner circlePresident Abbas thanked the king and expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia's historic support for the Palestinians, Al Arabiya added.Last year, the Kingdom had called US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital an "irresponsible and unjustified" move. Trump's decision ended seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of the disputed city and prompted an almost unanimous diplomatic backlash across the world.“Palestinians have the right to East Jerusalem as their capital," King Salman had said on December 14 during an annual speech in which he outlined the Saudi government's priorities for 2018. “The Kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he had added.However, the absence of the king and his son, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman ─ both of whom had remained in close contact with Trump over the Middle [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…]

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