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US govt shuts down for second time

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US govt shuts down

Washington, Feb 9: The US federal government officially shut down on Friday for the second time in three weeks after a single senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, held up a vote on a far-reaching budget deal that would have staved it off.

Senators are still expected to vote in favour of the deal in a series of votes that will most likely begin around 1 a.m., reports The New York Times.

If the House approves the deal, the government would have reopened before the workday begins.

Angered at the huge spending increases at the centre of the deal, Paul, a Republican, delayed passage for hours with a demand to vote on an amendment that would keep in place strict caps on spending that the deal would raise.

“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Paul said.

“I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?'”

The shutdown comes on the heels of a three-day closure brought about by Senate Democrats last month, The New York Times reported.

As midnight approached, Paul did not relent, bemoaning from the Senate floor what he saw as out-of-control government spending and repeatedly rebuffing attempts by his fellow senators to move ahead with a vote.

The text of the deal, stretching more than 600 pages, was released late Wednesday night, revealing provisions large and small that would go far beyond the basic budget numbers.

The accord would raise strict spending caps on domestic and military spending in this fiscal year and the next one by about $300 billion in total. It would also lift the federal debt limit until March 2019 and includes almost $90 billion in disaster relief in response to last year’s hurricanes and wildfires.

The deal had been expected to sail through the Senate, and the House had planned to vote on it later Thursday, until Paul took his stand.

In last month’s closure, the vast majority of Senate Democrats voted to block a bill that would have kept the government open, only to retreat a few days later and agree to end the closure.

IANS

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All options under study: Imran’s advisor on India’s MFN move

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Protest against CRPF Attack

Islamabad, Feb 16 (IANS) Pakistan will consider all available options to retaliate for the Indian governments decision to withdraw the Most Favo­ured Nation (MFN) status, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Advisor on Commerce Razak Dawood has said.

India withdrew the MFN status it gave to Pakistan in 1996 following the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that has till now claimed the lives of 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.

Dawood said on Friday that Pakistan might take unilateral measures against India or revoke concessions under the South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement (Sapta) and might take up the issue in the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation, Dawn online reported on Saturday.

“We would not overreact… We would take action with great care,” he added while addressing the media at the office of board of investment on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit.

A Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist crashed a car bomb into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama district on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway on Thursday, making it the worst ever attack on security forces on any single day since a separatist campaign broke out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989. It drew international condemnation.

The attack further damaged the already tense India-Pakistan diplomatic relations, with New Delhi saying it had evidence of Islamabad’s involvement in the carnage. Pakistan, however, dismissed accusations that it had links with the militants behind the attack.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua met the envoys of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, France and UK – on Friday and denied her country’s role in the dastardly strike.

India, however, rejected Janjua’s claims and said the “links are clear and evident and for all to see”, noting that JeM was based in Pakistan.

A spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry termed as “preposterous” demands for an investigation saying there was a video of the suicide bomber declaring himself a member of the JeM.

India also demanded that Pakistan take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is currently in Munich, slammed India, saying that New Delhi should have acted more responsibly and engaged themselves with Pakistan by sharing evidence.

“Accusing Pakistan is very easy, you pass the buck,” he said.

“Pakistan has been very clear, our viewpoint is clear, and, specifically, the stance of this government has been plain and simple: we desire peace,” Qureshi said.

“We desire good relations with our neighbours, we neither wish to opt for the path of violence nor has this ever been part of our intentions,” he added.

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Saudi Crown Prince’s Pakistan visit delayed in wake of Pulwama terror attack

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Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

New Delhi, Feb 16: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan has been delayed by a day. He is now scheduled to arrive in the country for a two-day visit starting from February 17 (Sunday), Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Earlier, the Saudi Crown Prince was slated to arrive in Islamabad on Saturday, but now the visit has been postponed by a day. The Pakistan foreign ministry did not divulge the reason behind the change in schedule, adding that the bilateral engagements “remains unchanged,” The Dawn reported.

This will be the Saudi Crown Prince’s maiden visit to Pakistan since becoming the heir to the throne in 2017. Security has been beefed up in the Pakistani capital ahead of his arrival.

The sudden change in schedule comes after Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF soldiers. Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Denouncing the deadly assault, Saudi Arabia on Friday reinforced its support to India against terrorism and extremism, wishing for the speedy recovery of the wounded.

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US for India’s bid to name JeM Chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist

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John Bolton

New Delhi, Feb 16: The United States on Saturday, has extended support for India’s bid to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton in a telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, backed India’s right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism.

Bolton offered all assistance to India to bring the perpetrators and backers of the attack promptly to justice. NSA Doval appreciated US support.

The suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy carrying troopers towards Srinagar had blown up a bus when an explosives-packed SUV hit into the paramilitary vehicle, claiming lives of 40 troopers at the spot on February 14.

“The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan cease to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

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