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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.

South Asia

Pakistan Supreme Court orders ex-PM Nawaz Sharif removed as head of his political party – judge

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nawaz sharief

ISLAMABAD: In another blow to the ruling PML-N, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday ruled that a disqualified individual cannot head a political party.

The apex court elaborated that a person disqualified under Article 62, 63 of the Constitution can not head the party. As a result of this verdict, all decisions taken by Nawaz as PML-N’s president stand null and void.

As a consequence, Senate tickets issued by Nawaz are also declared void, throwing the fate of March 3 Senate elections in doubt.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar concluded on Thursday the hearings of several petitions against the recently-passed Elections Act 2017.

A three-member bench had been hearing several petitions challenging specific clauses of the act that led to Nawaz Sharif’s appointment as party president following his dismissal as prime minister last year.

During today’s hearing, the chief justice remarked that the country’s leadership is respectable, adding that the media misreported the court’s remarks.

Chief Justice Nisar also observed that there is no reason for the apex court to use words like thief, adding that the fallout of the issue is unacceptable.

Addressing the Pakistan Peoples Party counsel Latif Khosa during the hearing, the chief justice remarked that there would be a difference in rallies held by you or [slain party leader and former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto.

Another petitioner’s counsel, Farogh Naseem, argued that there is a precedent of a court order against a political party’s head.

The chief justice remarked that in other countries intra-party elections are held but the situation is different in Pakistan.

“The party head is an important position,” the chief justice observed, adding that in Pakistan people are willing to sacrifice their lives for their leaders.

Disqualification to party president
Following Nawaz’s disqualification as prime minister in July 2017 in the Panama Papers case, the ruling party managed to amend the Constitution to allow the former premier to retain his chairmanship of the PML-N.

As a result, the Elections Act 2017 was passed by Parliament bringing Nawaz back as the party president despite his disqualification from the National Assembly.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, MNA Jamshaid Dasti, National Party and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), among others, challenged the law for allowing a disqualified parliamentarian to become a party head.

The petitions, challenging specific clauses of the Elections Act 2017, state that Nawaz’s appointment as party president is in violation of Clause 5 of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Article 17 of the Constitution.

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South Asia

Imran Khan gets married for a third time, marries faith healer Bushra Maneka.

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Imran Khan

Imran Khan is no more single, and it’s official. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has confirmed that their chairman has tied the knot for a third time.

Photographs of Imran Khan’s Nikah with Bushra Wattoo have been unveiled. The photographs show Imran and a veiled Bushra along with several others, including PTI leaders Awn Chaudhry and Zulfi Bukhari.

On January 3, media was abuzz with reports of the PTI chief having contracted a third Nikah with the lady he used to visit for spiritual guidance.

But the party said that the Nikah ceremony was solemnised in Lahore on Sunday by Mufti Saeed.

Party spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry has wished the couple a happy married life.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

After much drama, Imran had broken his silence about his third marriage last month, clarifying that he had only sent a wedding proposal to Bushra and was awaiting her response.

According to a statement issued by the spokesperson for the PTI chief, Imran had sent a marriage proposal and the lady had sought time to consult her family, especially her children, before making any decision.

The statement insisted that the PTI chief would announce it publicly if Bushra accepted the marriage proposal.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

Last month, a local newspaper had claimed that Imran had already married for a third time and the woman in question was someone he used to visit for spiritual guidance.

The report also claimed that the wedding was held in Lahore on January 1 and was attended by Imran’s close aides.

In response, the PTI said an extremely private and sensitive matter was made the subject of an erroneous story leading to all manner of public conjecture.

“This has put an unacceptable burden, especially on the children of Bushra and Khan, who have had to learn of such a private and intimate issue from the media,” the statement said.

Stressing the need for restraint, Imran had urged the media to “give the two families, especially the children, their privacy”.

Imran Khan was previously married twice, but neither of his marriages lasted. He married Jemima Goldsmith, a British socialite, in 1995. The relationship ended in divorce in 2004. He then married journalist Reham Khan in 2015, but the marriage ended after just 10 months.

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Lavrov, Tillerson discuss need for urgent North Korea negotiations: Moscow

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Lavrov Tillerson

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stressing the need to start a negotiations process.

“The sides were united in the opinion that nuclear missile projects in North Korea violate the demands of the UN Security Council,” the Russian foreign ministry said after the two men spoke by telephone.

Lavrov “once again highlighted that it is unacceptable to exacerbate tensions around the Korean peninsula with Washington’s aggressive rhetoric toward Pyongyang and increasing military preparations in the region,” it said.

“It was underlined that it is necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible,” the statement said, adding that it was Tillerson who initiated the call.

The UN Security Council on Friday slapped new sanctions on North Korea that will restrict oil supplies vital for its missile and nuclear programmes, the latest response to Pyongyang’s ICBM test last month.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the United States, while North Korea insists the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.

Pyongyang has slammed the UN sanctions as an “act of war”.

Moscow has called for talks between North Korea and the United States, warning of a “risk of uncontrolled escalation”. Russia has also criticised Washington’s military drills with South Korea saying it provokes Pyongyang.

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