Pakistan can live without US help, says Pakistan foreign minister

The foreign minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif said that Pakistan is making sure to maintain a balance in its relationship with the US and the government has made it clear that Islamabad can live without US’ help but will not compromise on national integrity. Speaking at the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Asif said that relations with the US were not normal after rants by US President Donald Trump, the News International reported on Thursday.

He also stressed that Pakistan could no more host millions of Afghan refugees. The minister highlighted that Pakistan has been again and again seeking help for repatriation of Afghan refugees and to work on border management with Afghanistan. The minister Asif told the meeting that constant jibes at Pakistan were “all accusations to put the responsibility of the US failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan”. “We have to stand up to those who accuse us of harboring terrorists,” the minister said.

The meeting was kept beneath the chairmanship of Senator Nuzhat Sadiq and was attended among others by Senators Farhatullah Babar, Ayesha Raza Farooq, Karim Ahmed Khawaja, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Daud Khan Achakzai and Haji Moin Khan Afridi among others.

UN must step up pressure on Pakistan: US diplomat Nikki Haley

Coming back from a UN Security Council visit to Afghanistan, US Ambassador Nikki Haley underscored on Monday that the Kabul government wants world powers to raise pressure on Pakistan. She joined the 14 other council envoys for talks with top Afghan leaders in Kabul at the weekend as the government reflects holding peace talks with the Taliban to conclude decades of insurgency.

Haley told reporters at UN headquarters, “They feel confident that the Taliban will be coming to the table.” As the peace talks will be Afghan-led, the Kabul government did request that the Security Council have influence in to bring Pakistan onboard. “They did ask us for consensus to put further pressure on Pakistan to come to the table and change their behavior,” the US Ambassador said. Haley said the Afghan government is making extended steps towards stability and added that “continue to make ten steps forward and with Pakistan, they feel like they continue to take steps backward”. “As long as they are supporting terrorism in Pakistan, the Afghan community is continuing to feel it is not safe,” Haley said.

However, Haley did not specify what measures could be taken to pressure Pakistan but the council does have the authority to enforce sanctions. Pakistan has been accused of supporting the Taliban and various militant groups in Afghanistan from a long time to the charges they deny continuously. The US President Donald Trump has stopped US payments of military help to Pakistan worth $900 million, claiming Pakistan is not doing enough to target Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani guerilla group. A question mark also looms over an additional $1 billion of US military equipment for Pakistan.

The US officials consider that Pakistan’s intelligence agency and military have long aided fund and arm the Taliban to fight increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan, whose government is backed by the US. The Afghan government also appealed council to help in addressing narcotics production and trafficking, looking at “every country that moves them,” said Haley.

No case registered against Hafiz Saeed ‘sahab’ in Pakistan, says Pak PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

The Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that there is no case registered in Islamabad against 26/11 terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and no action could be instigated against the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief. “There is no case against Hafiz Saeed sahab in Pakistan, if there were a case, action would have been taken. Action is taken when there is a case registered [against someone],” Pakistan PM Abbasi said in an interview with Pakistan’s Geo TV.

India, again and again, has asked Islamabad to take action against Saeed who is alleged to be the mastermind of 26/11 attack in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed. The US has described Hafiz Saeed as a global terrorist and has also put a bounty of $10 million on his head. As  Saeed’s name on the UN terror list, he has also recently petitioned the global body asking removal of his name since none of the allegations against him – either related to terrorism or otherwise – has been proved in the Pakistan courts.

Following Saeed’s release on November 24, the LeT founder had confirmed that JuD would contest the 2018 general elections in Pakistan beneath the banner of Milli Muslim League (MML), which is still to be registered with the Election Commission. Currently, the Pakistan government banned Saeed’s JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) from collecting donations.

MH370 Search: Malaysia signs contract with US firm to find missing plane

Malaysia has officially signed a USD 50 million deal with a United States firm to trace the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370. “It is my hope that we will find the answer that we seek for nearly four years and bring some closure to this unfortunate incident,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong said while speaking at the press conference. The Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett said that the search operation will commence on January 17.

Even though Malaysia has signed a 70 million dollars deal with Ocean Infinity on Wednesday, it said that the company will be paid only if it finds the missing flight or the recorders. The Boeing Co. 777 aircraft gone missing on March 8, 2014, less than an hour following it took off from Kuala Lumpur airport with 239 people on board. The company will begin search operation in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean west of Australia. The past operations by governments of Australia, China, and Malaysia failed to find the missing plane. Malaysia concluded a 200 million dollars search deal on an area of 120,000 square kilometers last year despite the requests to extend the search area to 25,000 square kilometers to the north.

The Ocean Infinity will find 25,000 square kilometers area on a “no-cure, no fee” basis, which means that it will be paid only if they succeed in finding the plane. “As we speak, the vessel, Seabed Constructor, is on her way to the search area, taking advantage of favorable weather conditions in the South Indian ocean,” Liow said in a statement. He said that the company will be paid 20 million dollars if the place is located within 500 sq km area, 30 million dollars if found within 10,000 sq km, 50 million if found within 25,000 sq km area and 70 million dollars if the plane is being located beyond 25,000 sq km area.

We would like Pakistan to come to the table and help us in fight against terrorism, US tells Pakistan

In between the reports that Pakistan has suspended its military and intelligence cooperation with America, the US has expressed hope that Islamabad would “come to the table” and demonstrate a willingness to “aggressively” fight terrorist groups that operate from its territory. As per the media reports, Pakistan’s decision to suspend military and intelligence cooperation with America took place following President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and suspended security help to it.

When US Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein was asked to comment on Pakistan’s reported move, he said that “We’re hopeful for future cooperation from Pakistan”. “We stand ready to work with Pakistan in combating all terrorists without distinction, and we hope to be able to renew and deepen our bilateral security relationship when Pakistan demonstrates its willingness to aggressively confront the Taliban network, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist and militant groups that operate from its territory,” Goldstein said. He added that the US has been clear on this issue to Pakistan. Saying the suspension of security help is not a cutoff and no funds have been reprogrammed, Goldstein said that “We would like Pakistan to come to the table and assist us in this effort”.

On Thursday, the US announced that it would not provide military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan. A Pentagon spokesperson said on Monday that the US had conveyed to Islamabad to take “concrete steps” against terror groups to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in help. Goldstein said, “The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism, and its security forces have been effective in combating the groups that target Pakistan’s interest. So, it’s to their benefit to join with us in helping resolve this matter.” “We always look at that; but again, it’s a suspension and not a cutoff. We haven’t reprogrammed the funds. We’re hopeful that Pakistan will come back to the table and do what they told us that they would do,” he added.

The US and others have long criticized that Pakistan offered safe shelter to the Afghan Taliban and their allies, the Haqqani Network, letting them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan denies the allegations habitually.

Sikh groups ban entry of Indian officials in 16 more Gurudwaras in Canada, 96 in the US

Days following 14 gurudwaras in Canada’s Ontario area banned the entry of Indian government representatives, more gurudwara management committees in Canada and the US followed the line and barred Indian officials, RSS and Shiv Sena members from entering gurudwaras under their control. The announcement on the matter was made on Sunday at New York’s Gurudwara Sikh Cultural Society following religious worshipers organized to observe the death anniversary of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who were given death penalty killing former PM Indira Gandhi.

The Sikh Coordinator East Cost and American Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee representative Himmat Singh said, “Total 116 gurdwara management committees had participated in teleconference on Saturday night and 96 of these gurdwaras had confirmed agreement to proposal to bar entry of Indian officials in gurdwaras, along with representatives of RSS and Shiv Sena.” Singh claimed that some gurudwaras couldn’t affirm due to technical flaws in teleconferencing. “We have been getting emails of many gurdwaras and numbers will increase further,” added Himmat Singh. The US president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Surjit Singh, headed by Simranjit Singh Mann, also supported the resolution to ban entry of Indian officials. “Following Ontario gurdwara committees, we have been making it official that Indian officials will not be allowed for any intervention in management of gurdwaras in US. There will be no ban if someone visits Gurdwaras in personal capacity as devotee,” Singh added.

Adding to it, 16 gurudwaras in British Columbia and Alberta provinces of Canada passed a similar resolution on January 4. “This initiative was moved forward in western Canada by Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar (Surrey, BC) and Gurdwara Dasmesh Culture Centre (Calgary, AB) and a total of 16 Gurdwaras in BC & Alberta agree and support that sewadar of Gurdwara Sahibs reserve the right to bar access to the stage and entry to officials of the Indian government. This would include, but not be limited to, Indian elected officials, Indian Consular officials, and members of organizations like RSS and Shiv Sena.” It added that “To be clear, no individual is being banned from Gurdwara Sahibs, but Indian representatives in official capacity will not be permitted to address the sangat”.

“Although this policy of restriction exists informally, it is due time for a formal declaration. This step is being taken not to restrict access to the Guru, but rather to ensure that the Gurdwara Sahib remains independent from the interference of corrupt officials who represent a government that for the last four decades has committed genocide against the Sikh community and has never had positive intentions in dealing with Sikhs as a separate nation of people,” the statement added.

Pakistan army chief urges government to improve relations with India

In the rarest gesture, the Pakistan army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa urged the country’s lawmakers to develop relations with India, affirming them that their efforts would be backed by the Army. Bajwa words came following backdrop of continued American stress to Pakistani leadership on mending ties with India. At the Senate committee of the whole House during his first appearance before a Parliamentarian forum on Tuesday, Bajwa told lawmakers that “The military is ready to back political leadership’s initiative for normalization of relations with India”.

The general was invited by Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and also attended by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Naveed Mukhtar. Top military officers such as Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Major General Asim Munir were also present. The session went on for almost four-and-a-half hours. Citing senators, the prominent Pakistan daily Dawn said Gen Bajwa said to the legislatures that he wants to normalize relations with all neighbors and urged politicians to try to improve relations with India. He also ensured that their efforts would be purely supported by the army.

The army chief’s offer was mainly important because a common perception has been made that the army was against peace efforts with India. Gen Bajwa, on the other hand, also added that a large part of Indian military deployments was mainly against Pakistan. Bajwa alleged India of provoking instability and terrorism in Pakistan, saying that New Delhi had developed a powerful nexus with Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security.