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Setback for Imran Khan Govt as Pentagon cancels $300 Million Aid to Pakistan

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Washington, September 2 :  The US military has announced that it was cancelling $300 million in aid to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” to crack down on terror groups  operating in the country , a new blow to worsening bilateral ties between the two countries.

The US has been pushing Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens in the country, and announced a freeze on aid at the beginning of the year that an official said could be worth almost $2 billion.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy, the remaining $300 million was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in a statement on Saturday.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner said, adding that the $300 million aid, which had earlier been suspended, would be now aimed at spending on other “urgent priorities” due to “a lack of Pakistani decisive actions” in tackling the issue.

The move, which needs to be approved by US Congress, is part of a broader suspension announced in January when Washington had announced that it was cutting almost all security aid to the Islamabad, reports the BBC.

Saturday’s announcement comes before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled visit to Pakistan this week and meet the country’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Imran Khan.

The US State Department has criticised Pakistan for failing to deal with terrorist networks operating on its soil, including the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban with President Donald Trump also accusing Islamabad of deceiving Washington while receiving billions of dollars.

Washington has long complained that Pakistan provides a safe haven to militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda, allowing them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has denied these claims.

Since 2002, Pakistan has received over $33 billion in US assistance, including $14 billion in Coalition Support Funds, a US Defence Department programme to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

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World

5 killed in France building fire

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Paris, Feb 27 (IANS) Five people were killed and seven others injured in a building fire in the French city of Strasbourg on Thursday, the local fire service said in a statement.

According to local media, firefighters responded to the incident at 1.16 a.m. after receiving an alert that there was smoke in the seven-storey building, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some 23 people were rescued and the fire was brought under control.

The cause of the blaze was under probe.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and Mayor Roland Ries of Strasbourg have expressed their condolences to the victims and their families on social media.

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US Commerce Sec Wilbur Ross eyes strengthening economic ties with Pakistan

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US President Donald Trump and Pak PM Imran Khan

Islamabad, Feb 27 : US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Pakistan and explored areas where both countries could renew their economic partnership and step up efforts to enhance economic, trade and investment ties, the media and government officials said on Thursday.

During his visit on Wednesday, the US official along with his trade delegation held detailed discussions with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan, and Abdul Razak Dawood, advisor to the premier on commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment, reports Xinhua news agency.

Khan said that Ross’s visit would help in realizing the shared vision of Pakistan-US leadership to transform the bilateral relationship into a broad-based, multifaceted and economic-centred partnership.

The Prime Minister also underscored the need to “take full advantage of trade and investment opportunities” in Pakistan, stressing the importance of enhancing business-to-business cooperation between the two countries.

During his separate meeting with Dawood, the Commerce Secretary said that several American companies hoped to enhancing their investments in Pakistan, adding that Islamabad and Washington would have to collectively work to promote the volume of their bilateral trade.

“We want to play our full part in the progress and development of Pakistan,” Ross said.

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India calls USCIRF remarks on Delhi violence ‘misleading’

“Instead, reports are mounting that the Delhi police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.”

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New Delhi/Washington, Feb 27 : India on Thursday hit back at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), by calling their scathing remarks on the Delhi violence “factually inaccurate and misleading”.

The USCIRF had said that the Delhi violence in which over 30 people were killed, was specifically targeted against Muslims.

Rebutting their comments, the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said: “We have seen the comments made by USCIRF, sections of the media and a few individuals regarding recent incidents of violence in Delhi. These are factually inaccurate and misleading, and appear to be aimed at politicising the issue.”

The government said that the law enforcement agencies were working on the ground to prevent violence and ensure restoration of confidence and normalcy.

“Senior representatives of the government have been involved in that process. Prime Minister has publicly appealed for peace and brotherhood. We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time,” the statement added.

Earlier, USCIRF had expressed “grave concern over the ongoing violence taking place in Delhi” and accused India of “targeting and potentially disenfranchising Muslims across the country, in clear violation of international human rights standards”.

USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava in a statement had said: “According to reports, several mosques have also been set alight or vandalized. Many Muslim residents have been forced to flee the area. This unrest comes in the wake of widespread protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act following its passage in December 2019.”

“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue,” Bhargava said, adding that the Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all of its citizens.

“Instead, reports are mounting that the Delhi police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.”

USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said the ongoing violence in Delhi and the reported “attacks against Muslims, their homes and shops, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing”.

One of the essential duties of any responsible government, he said, is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith.

“We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence.”

In its annual report last year, the USCIRF classified India as a “Tier 2” country for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious standard for designations as a “country of particular concern (CPC)”, under the International Religious Freedom Act.

The ongoing violence in North-East Delhi erupted after clashes between pro and anti-CAA protesters on Sunday.

Besides the casualties, over 200 others have been injured in the deadliest violence in the national capital in decades.

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