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Saudi Arabia to finance 3 CPEC projects in Pakistan

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Islamabad, Sep 28 : The government of Saudi Arabia has signed three grant agreements with Pakistan to finance three road infrastructure and energy projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“These agreements have been inked in line with the understanding reached during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia,” Information Minis­ter Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference here on Thursday.

The agreements were signed by the Saudi envoy and the officials of Pakistan’s Finance Ministry, reports Dawn news.

“The first step has been taken as three grant agreements have been signed. This is a very positive step and bodes well for relations between the two countries,” the Minister added.

Giving a briefing about the federal cabinet’s meeting held earlier in the day, he said that a high-level Saudi delegation will arrive in Pakistan on Sunday for mate­rialising the deal between Islamabad and Riyadh.

More agreements would be inked next week between a high-level Saudi delegation and Pakistani officials, Chaudhry said.

The accords will be related to Reko Diq’s gold and copper mines and the oil refinery at Gwadar Port, and the delegation would comprise the Saudi investment team, minister for petroleum and minister for energy.

“During the Prime Minister’s recent visit, Saudi Arabian leaders including Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman were eager to finalise the deal within days despite the fact that such agreements require months for materialising,” the Minister said.

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He’s always going to be for us: Trump on Kanye’s prez bid

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Washington, July 10 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has brushed off reports of American rapper Kanye Wests bid for the November presidential election and his subsequent comments that he no longer supported the President, according to media reports.

“He is always going to be for us, and his wife is going to be for us,” The Hill news website quoted Trump as saying on Thursday in a Fox News interview, referring to West and reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.

Trump brushed off comments that West made earlier this week, telling Forbes that he was “taking the red hat off”, referring to the President” signature red “Make America Great Again” campaign baseball caps.

The President maintained that he thought the rapper will support him in his re-election bid.

“(He”s a) very good guy. He is a person that I get along with very well,” Trump said.

“At the end I think he would support us over anyone else, we have to stop the radical left from taking over our country.”

In a tweet on July 4, the 21-time Grammy winner said: “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States… #2020VISION.”

It was not immediately clear which party the 21-time Grammy winner would pick in his apparent challenge to Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

While there is no official deadline to enter the presidential race, candidates must meet certain filing requirements under Ballot Access Laws that vary by state.

The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states, including California.

But while speaking to the Forbes magazine earlier this week, West said that he should be allowed extra time due the coronavirus pandemic.

“I”m speaking with experts, I”m going to speak with Jared Kushner, the White House, with Biden,” The Hill news website quoted West as saying to Forbes.

The rapper has sparked speculation over the years that he would potentially enter the presidential race one day, most recently in November 2019, when he said he planned to run in 2024, according to a report by the Daily Mail newspaper.

In 2018, he visited Trump at the White House, wearing the “Make America Great Again” cap and delivered a speech in which he discussed alternate universes and his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which he said was actually sleep deprivation, the report added.

Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian has also met the President on more than one occasion lobbying for criminal justice reform.

–IANS

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Middle East

Targeted killing of Iran’s Soleimani unlawful: UN report

According to the report, the strike near the Baghdad airport on January 3 was in violation of the UN Charter with insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack.

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Geneva, July 10 : Without an actual imminent threat to life, the targeted killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike earlier this year was unlawful, according to a latest UN report.

Presenting the report to the UN Human Rights Council Thursday on the use of force under drones technology, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the US action constituted an arbitrary killing, reports Xinhua news agency.

“In light of the evidence that the US has provided to date, the targeting of General Soleimani, and the deaths of those accompanying him, constitute an arbitrary killing,” Callamard said in her report.

According to the report, the strike near the Baghdad airport on January 3 was in violation of the UN Charter with insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack.

No evidence has been provided that General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, specifically was planning an imminent attack against US interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified, the report said.

Also no evidence has been provided that a drone strike in a third country was necessary or that the harm caused to that country was proportionate to the harm allegedly averted, the report added.

Besides Soleimani, the US airstrike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq”s Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces.

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India

Cattle smuggling on Bangladesh border to go up before Eid: Intel

So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF’s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.

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New Delhi, July 9 : With just three weeks to go for Eid-ul-Adha, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, the Border Security Force (BSF) has deployed more force on India-Bangladesh border apprehending surge in cattle smuggling — an annual affair, but which dropped by 96 per cent last year.

As the festival — which is also called ”Qurbani Eid” — will be celebrated on July 31 this year, the BSF’s intelligence wing has alerted its border units about activities of cattle traffickers, considering the rising demand from Bangladesh.

The BSF, which guards the India-Bangladesh border, said the price of animals is higher than before this time due to rains being in full force and high water level in rivers flowing along the border.

Every year, a BSF official said, incidents of animal trafficking increase before Eid-ul-Adha along the 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border, the fifth-longest in the world, and spanning Assam (262 km), Tripura (856 km), Mizoram (180 km), Meghalaya (443 km), and West Bengal (2,217 km).

The business of cattle smuggling has been flourishing in West Bengal since many years because influential people are said to be involved. But since last year, the BSF”s South Bengal Frontier has almost stopped cattle trafficking.

It has been learned from reliable sources that the process of licensing ”Cattle Haats” in the border areas of Bangladesh is going to be completed soon. These ”Cattle Haats” see trade of most of the cattle smuggled from India.

The price of cattle in Bangladesh has increased significantly during this time of the year. At present, a buffalo of large size which is available in India for Rs 50,000 is priced in Bangladesh at about Rs 1.50 lakh and a bull of large size at Rs 80,000, an official said.

“Cattle smugglers who are involved in this nefarious and illegal business have several hundred crores (rupees) and put the lives of many poor, illiterate and unemployed youths at stake by luring them for a few thousand rupees,” the officer said.

Another officer said the more strict the border, the more money is paid to these youths who are called ”Rakhals” in the local language.

For every head of cattle taken across the international border, a ”Rakhal” gets Rs 8,000-10,000. For this money, the kingpin cattle smuggler puts the life of ”Rakhal” at stake.

Many of these ”rakhals” lose their lives while doing these illegal acts by drowning during floods, getting bitten by snakes, hit by lightning, being trampled by cattle, getting killed in a gang war or in BSF firing, BSF spokesperson Krishna Rao told IANS.

Rao said the BSF have made all their preparations to meet the challenge of cattle smuggling this year in the run-up to Eid.

“Border Security Force battalions deployed in Malda and Baharampur sectors have completed their preparations and are committed to thwart the nefarious designs of smugglers,” the officer said.

In the most vulnerable Border Out Posts (BoPs) such as Neem Teeta, Harudanga, Madanghat and Sovapur in Malda and Murshidabad districts, additional troopers and resources have been deployed, he said.

“In fact, the Ganga river enters Bangladesh from India under the responsibility of these border posts. When the water is released from the Farakka Dam, this river gets flooded which is exploited by cattle smugglers,” the officer said.

Explaining the method, the official said, the traffickers put the cattle in the river upto 8 to 10 km upstream.

“Before putting them in the river, they tie the legs of the cattle, put a bandage over the eyes and finally tie two banana stems on either side of the animal to keep it afloat.”

The BSF top brass took several calibrated measures to curb the menace last year as the trade promotes an approximate Rs 10,000 crore beef export industry of Bangladesh.

During this rainy season, the BSF has increased the deployment of night cameras, tractors, and speed boats to prevent animal trafficking before Eid-ul-Adha.

”Rakhals” of India and Bangladesh, at times, try to smuggle up to 400-500 heads of cattle, and attack the border guards with sharp-edged weapons, sticks and stones and bricks. Many times, they also fire with home-made firearms and hurl explosives

So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF’s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.

Its new Inspector General, Ashwani Kumar Singh has given clear instructions that attack on BSF personnel by these smugglers would not be tolerated and that trans-border crimes will be stopped at any cost.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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