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US cuts Pakistan’s aid by USD 440 million

The agreement was signed in 2010 to make operational the Kerry Lugar Berman (KLB) Act that was passed by the US Congress in October 2009 to disburse $7.5 billion to Pakistan over a period of 5 years.

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Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) The US has cut its aid to cash-strapped Pakistan by $440 million, bringing its commitments to just $4.1 billion.

The decision to cut Pakistan’s economic assistance was officially conveyed to Islamabad about three weeks before the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US, the Express Tribune reported.

The aid was disbursed under Pakistan Enhanced Partnership Agreement (PEPA) 2010. The agreement was signed in 2010 to make operational the Kerry Lugar Berman (KLB) Act that was passed by the US Congress in October 2009 to disburse $7.5 billion to Pakistan over a period of 5 years.

However, soon after PEPA agreement was made effective the relations between Pakistan and the US started deteriorating and reached nearly its lowest ebbs in decades. This also affected the actual commitments and disbursements under the KLB Act.

The report said the commitments under the KLB earlier stood at nearly $4.5 billion. Now, after the cut the aid will come down to $4.1 billion.

The KLB was aimed at making investments in Pakistan’s economic infrastructure, particularly in energy and agriculture, to help the country recover from its energy and water crises, improve the daily lives of the Pakistani people and increase opportunities for economic growth.

In September 2018, the US military cancelled $300 million in aid to Pakistan over its failure to take action against militant groups.

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.

During his meeting with Imran Khan in July, US President Donald Trump had hinted that he was unlikely to lift the freeze of security assistance to Islamabad till the time he was satisfied with Islamabad’s actions against terrorist network.

“We were paying $1.3 billion to Pakistan in aid for many years. The problem was Pakistan was not doing anything for us,” Trump had told Khan.

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London’s 1st Trans Pride receives Overwhelming’ support

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London Trans pride

London, Sep 15 The first-ever Trans Pride in London’s Soho Square has received “overwhelming” support as hundreds of people turned out for the event, the media reported on Sunday.

Organiser Lucia Blayke said about 1,500 people turned up for the event on Saturday, the BBC reported.

The event started with a march from Hyde Park Corner to Soho Square, the capital of London’s LGBT+ scene.

“It’s been absolutely incredible and overwhelming. I was not expecting this many people to turn up and to march with such unity,” said Blayke.

The organiser added that the response to the event was far more positive than she had expected.

“I was concerned about safety, concerned about numbers but it’s been really smooth, it’s been safe…”

The sentiment was echoed by an attendee who said: “Everyone here knows what you’re going through, it was definitely needed.”

The event had a celebratory feel to it, with many trans and non-binary people being supported by friends.

“I’ve only recently come out as trans and it was the first event for trans so we all came down to celebrate it,” another attendee said.

According to the UK government, there are approximately 200,000-500,000 trans people in the country.

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Help Kashmiri children return to school: Malala to UN

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Malala Yousafzai

London, Sep 15 Nobel Prize laureate and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai has urged the UN to act and work towards helping Kashmiri children return to school amid the ongoing restrictions in the valley.

“I am asking leaders, at #UNGA and beyond, to work towards peace in Kashmir, listen to Kashmiri voices and help children go safely back to school,” Dawn news quoted Yousafzai as saying in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday.

Restrictions were imposed in the Kashmir Valley since India on August 5 revoked Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and also bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.

“I am deeply concerned about reports of 4,000 people, including children, arbitrarily arrested and jailed, about students who haven’t been able to attend school for more than 40 days, about girls who are afraid to leave their homes,” she wrote.

In her tweets, Malala also shared her account of corresponding with people over the past week belonging to various walks of life, including journalists, human rights lawyers and students.

“I wanted to hear directly from girls living in Kashmir right now. It took a lot of work from a lot of people to get their stories because of the communications blackout. Kashmiris are cut off from the world and unable to make their voices heard,” she said.

Yousafzai has also commented on the Kashmir issue in the past where she had appealed for an end to the conflict in the region after relations between India and Pakistan nosedived following the revocation of Article 370.

She had called on all South Asians, the international community and authorities to respond to the Kashmiris’ suffering.

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‘Kashmir restrictions hindering Muharram processions a negative’

Reporter asked him about the Babri Masjid, which he said needs to be preserved as a centuries-old site, and about overcoming inter-faith tensions surrounding it.

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United Nations, Sep 14 : The head of a UN body to promote cultural and religious harmony has said that the restrictions in Kashmir that prevented Shias from holding their Muharram procession is a “negative”.

“Anything that puts obstacles or don’t allow people to respect each other is negative,” Miguel Moratinos, the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), said on Friday while replying to a reporter’s question.

“The time has come that we are all one humanity, and we have respect each other,” he said.

The reporter had asked him about the restrictions in Kashmir that hindered the holding of the Muharram processions this week to commemorate the martydom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

Another reporter asked him about the Babri Masjid, which he said needs to be preserved as a centuries-old site, and about overcoming inter-faith tensions surrounding it.

Moratinos did not directly answer the question, but spoke about a project of the UNAOC in association with UNESCO to identify and map historical religious sites.

“We already know some of the main historical centres, but with this mapping exercise we will identify the symbolical places, the ones that have historically played a fundamental role in their communities in their faith. And so they will have special treatment,” he said.

On Thursday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, a programme to be led by Moratinos.

Guterres asked Moratinos to develop the plan after the terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand in March.

The plan provides an “action-oriented” programme to prevent attacks against places of worship and guarantee the safety of the faithful to worship in peace, the UNAOC said.

Guterres said: “When people are attacked because of their religion or beliefs, all of society is diminished. Houses of worship around the world must be safe havens for reflection and peace, not sites of bloodshed and terror.”

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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