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14 injured as blast targeted Judge Zahoor Shahwani in Quetta

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Fourteen people were injured in the blast when a vehicle belonging to the Anti Terrorism Force  accompanying Justice Shahwani’s vehicle was hit at Quetta’s Zarghon road.

“Balochistan Federal Shariat Court Judge Zahoor Shahwani was the target in the attack,” the Nation daily quoted Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti as saying.

Civilians and security officials were injured in the attack that took place near Al Khair Hospital in Zarghon road.

The explosion comes just after a suicide bombing at the emergency ward of Quetta’s Civil Hospital on Monday that killed over 70 people, mostly lawyers and journalists.

The bomb was planted along the side of the road and exploded as the Anti Terrorism Force’s (ATF) vehicle passed by.

“This is a busy road and the terrorists take advantage of this, planting bombs and fleeing on motorcycles,” Dawn online quoted Bugti as saying.

“These blasts are aimed at sabotaging Independence Day (August 14) activities in Balochistan. I believe these cowardly acts will not bring down our morale. We are in a conflict zone and we will fight with renewed resolve,” the Home Minister said.

Bugti added that three to four kilograms of explosive material was used in the blast.

A combing operation is ongoing throughout Quetta following Monday’s blast.

Another National Action Plan meeting has been by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday to discuss the security conditions of Quetta. The meeting will be attended by Chief of Pakistan Army Raheel Shareef, Interior Minister Chaudary Nisar and other senior police and security officials, the Nation daily added.

America

‘He’s such a dreamer:’ Skepticism dogs U.S. envoy’s North Korean peace efforts

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Kim-Jong-Un

Saddled with the toughest job in American diplomacy, the chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea stands between a U.S. president who insists he doesn’t want to talk and an enemy who shows no interest in listening.

While veteran State Department Asia hand Joseph Yun might be Washington’s best diplomatic hope for reducing the risk of a devastating war on the Korean peninsula, he serves an administration riven by divisions over how to handle Pyongyang.

Image result for joseph yun north korea

On the other side, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, shows little interest in negotiating either, at least not until he has developed a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Despite the daunting obstacles, South Korean-born Yun has told colleagues and others he hopes his diplomatic efforts can lower the temperature in a dangerous nuclear stand-off, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. officials and South Korean diplomats.

Most were deeply skeptical about his chances.

“He’s such a dreamer,” a White House official said, with a note of sarcasm.

“We don’t think this is going anywhere,” said another U.S. official, although he suggested it was still worthwhile to keep engaging at some level with the North Koreans as long as Yun does not appear to be undermining President Donald Trump’s public rejection of direct negotiations.

Trump has told aides that his military threats will drive North Korea to capitulate and rein in its nuclear and missile programs, four White House officials said, a view not shared among most U.S. intelligence agencies.

Yun, however, is quietly pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korean officials at the United Nations and has a mandate to discuss issues beyond the release of U.S. citizens, a senior State Department official told Reuters this week. In June, he secured the release of U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who returned to the United States in a coma and died days later.

‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME’

Trump headed to Asia on Friday as a senior aide warned the world is “running out of time” on the North Korea crisis. Behind the scenes, Yun is trying to keep open a fragile line of communication that could be used to prevent any miscalculation by one side or the other from spiraling into military conflict.

Further aggravating tensions, two U.S. strategic bombers conducted drills over South Korea on Thursday. That followed word from South Korea’s spy agency that North Korea may be preparing another missile launch.

U.S. officials have said privately that intercepting a test missile is among options under consideration, though there is disagreement within the administration about the risks.

In the midst of this is Yun, a soft-spoken, 32-year foreign service veteran who took on the job a year ago, near the end of the Obama administration.

He is grappling with Trump’s strident rhetoric as well as disagreement among the president’s top aides over whether saber-rattling will force Kim to capitulate and what the threshold for any military actions should be, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Concern about Yun’s difficulties has surfaced in Seoul, where he visits regularly and where Trump will travel next week on the second stop of his Asian tour.

Several South Korean officials expressed worry that Yun’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea lack any real underpinning of support from the White House.

“Things are clearly not easy for him,” one South Korean diplomat said. “Yun is precisely that person (to talk to North Korea), but Trump is killing the whole process.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Sept. 30 the United States was probing for a diplomatic opening, only to be slapped down by Trump, who told him via Twitter this was a waste of time.

At the same time, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who regularly briefs Trump on intelligence matters and is considered one of the most hawkish voices on North Korea in the president’s inner circle, has apparently gained stature.

Several officials familiar with those discussions say Pompeo is feeding Trump assessments that U.S. military threats will force Kim to bow to U.S. demands for nuclear disarmament, a position that some U.S. intelligence officers privately contest.

The CIA declined comment.

NORTH KOREAN NEGOTIATOR ‘SHOCKED’

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Yun has become diplomatically “untethered,” not fully connected to a core U.S. approach that is emphasizing economic sanctions and the threat of military action rather than diplomacy.

The one tangible achievement of Yun’s diplomatic efforts in the past year was winning the release of 22-year-old Warmbier in secret talks with North Korean officials in Oslo and New York. Yun flew to Pyongyang in June to medically evacuate Warmbier.

When Choe Son Hui, head of the North Korean foreign ministry’s North America bureau, met Yun in Oslo, she was unaware of how serious Warmbier’s condition was, a source in Washington knowledgeable about the matter said.

But once she learned about it she was “shocked” and Yun was summoned urgently to meet a North Korean diplomat in New York, which quickly led to Warmbier’s return home, the source said.

Warmbier’s death complicated Yun’s efforts as it contributed to a chilling of U.S.-North Korean contacts around that time, the State Department official said.

STUMBLING IN THE DARK

Despite Trump’s threats of military action against Pyongyang, the State Department official said Yun’s view was “the less you engage diplomatically, the more likely you are in the dark.”

Even so, Trump’s rhetoric has raised questions among allies, and possibly even in North Korea, about how serious, if at all, his administration is about diplomacy and how much of a mandate Yun may have to pursue it.

Trump “personalized” the conflict – deriding Kim as “Little Rocket Man” – against the advice of his national security and intelligence experts, some of whom warned it could be counterproductive, a senior national security official said.

Another official pointed out, however, that Trump, who in May said he would be honored to meet Kim, had not hurled any fresh insults at Kim in recent days, raising hopes for an altered approach.

A South Korean official in Seoul said it was necessary for Washington to have someone in contact with North Korea to help spur future negotiations if they are ever to take hold.

But Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told Japan’s NHK television this week: “What we cannot afford to do is enter into these long, drawn-out negotiations that allow North Korea to use these negotiations as cover for continuing their nuclear and missile programs.”

Former U.S. negotiators sympathize with Yun, whose authority to negotiate has been undercut by the tug-of-war between a White House breathing fire and a State Department pushing a peaceful solution.

“Nobody doubted my authority,” said Wendy Sherman, one of the lead U.S. negotiators who achieved the 2015 deal under which

Iran agreed to restrain its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions. “All of this undermines our ability to do the job.”

Robert Gallucci, who was chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994 and has had recent contact with Yun, said the envoy is “realistic about the challenges of negotiating in the current atmosphere, including the tone set by the president, but he believes in the mission even as his approach is guided by realism.”

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South Asia

Trump puts Pakistan on notice on Afghanistan, seeks Indian help

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Donald Trump

Washington/New Delhi, Aug 22 : President Donald Trump has unveiled his long-awaited Afghanistan policy, warning the US will take action within Pakistan if it did not stop backing terrorists battling American forces. And in a first for an American President, Trump brought India directly into the equation by assigning a strategic role for New Delhi.

In an address to the nation on Monday from Fort Myer near Washington, Trump put long-time ally Pakistan on notice with a virtual ultimatum that it “has much to lose” by backing terrorists.
He accused Islamabad of sheltering “the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people”.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately.”

In an implied warning to Islamabad, he added: “These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide – that no place is beyond the reach of American arms.”

Trump also asked India “to help us more with Afghanistan” and said a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America was to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the US”.

The new US policy, a reversal of Trump’s threats during the Presidential campaign to quit Afghanistan, was hailed by Kabul and New Delhi. But the Taliban denounced it — so did leading figures in Pakistan.

Trump presented his strategy for the 16-year Afghanistan war, three weeks before the anniversary of 9/11 attacks on the US by the Al Qaeda which was then based in that country.

He said from the Oval Office he now saw things differently after receiving advice on Afghanistan.

But he stuck to a core tenet of his policy, limiting American missions: “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”

The Taliban warned on Tuesday that the US would lose many more lives in Afghanistan.

“If America doesn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan soon, Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said.

India, which enjoys close ties with Kabul, welcomed Trump’s “determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists”.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was “grateful” to Trump “for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism”.

There was no reaction from the Pakistan government but leading politicians slammed Trump.

“Blaming Pakistan will not win the war for the US in Afghanistan nor will embracing (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi,” said Shireen Mazari, a PTI member in the National Assembly.

Trump declared: “We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image – those days are now over.”

“The next pillar of our new strategy is a change in our approach to Pakistan,” he said. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.”

He added he would not set any timetables as his predecessor Barack Obama had.

“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating IS (Islamic State), crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.”

The other danger he saw was from Pakistan’s backing for terrorists against India. “The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.”

He said he wanted India’s help but made it appear a transactional issue by referring to New Delhi’s trade with the US.

India pledged a $1 billion package for Afghanistan in 2016.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed India’s role outlined by Trump.

“India will be an important partner in the effort to ensure peace and stability in the region and we welcome its role in supporting Afghanistan’s political and economic modernisation,” he said.

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South Asia

Myanmar must ‘allow Rohingya to leave camps’

Panel led by ex-UN boss Kofi Annan says camps where tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are trapped should be closed.

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Rohingya

A panel led by former UN chief Kofi Annan says Myanmar needs to close the squalid camps in Rakhine State, where thousands of persecuted displaced Rohingya Muslims have been trapped for nearly five years, and allow them to return home.

“It’s really about time they close the camps and allow the people in the camps, particularly those who have gone through the (citizenship) verification process, access to freedom of movement and all rights of citizenship,” Annan told Reuters on Thursday by telephone from Geneva.

This screen grab taken on January 4, 2017 from a YouTube video shows policemen standing guard around Rohingya minority villagers seated on the ground in the village of Kotankauk during a police area clearance operation on November 5, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

More than 120,000 Rohingya Muslims have languished in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) since they were driven from their homes by extremist Buddhists in 2012.

Most are not allowed to leave the bleak displacement camps, where they live in rundown shelters with little access to food. They have also been denied access to basic education and healthcare.

“We have made recommendations that can be implemented now and help improve the situation,” Annan said.

Ghassan Salame, a member of the body, also said at the launch of the body’s interim report in the Myanmar city of Yangon on Thursday that the commission calls for “an independent investigation into the violence in Rakhine.”

The report calls for the Myanmar government to ensure “security and livelihood opportunities at the site of return/relocation” for those leaving the camps. It also suggests building new houses for the displaced Muslims.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s office said it would implement the “large majority of recommendations” without giving more details.

Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its treatment of the Rohingya. Suu Kyi, who has received the Nobel Peace Prize, has been incapable of containing the violence against the minority community.

Rakhine has been under a military siege since October 2016 over a raid on a police post that was blamed on the Rohingya. A four-month crackdown on the minority group has seen some 75,000 Rohingya Muslims flee to Bangladesh.

A Rohingya refugee girl carries a baby inside a refugee camp in Sitwe, in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar, on March 4, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

UN investigators, who interviewed Rohingya escapees in neighboring Bangladesh, have blamed Myanmar’s government forces for responding with a campaign of murder, gang rape and arson that they say may amount to genocide.

On Monday, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, warned that the Southeast Asian country may be seeking to “expel” all members of the Rohingya Muslim community from its territory.

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has said treatment of the Rohingya merits a UN commission of inquiry and review by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Buddhist-dominated Myanmar has a history of discrimination against Muslims, considering the Rohingya illegal immigrants.

Rights groups and governments have challenged the claim, arguing that the Rohingya had historical roots in the country.

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