Pakistan, West Indies launch World Cup fight

SHARJAH: Former champions Pakistan and the West Indies start a narrow two-way fight for an automatic place in the 2019 Cricket World Cup in a three-match one-day series starting in Sharjah Friday.

Pakistan, the 1992 champions, need to win the series 3-0 to rise one place from ninth while their opponents — champions in the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 — need to avoid a clean sweep to maintain their current eighth spot.

Hosts England and the seven highest-ranked sides in the one-day rankings on September 30 next year will qualify directly for the World Cup.

The bottom four teams in the standings will be joined by six Associate sides in a 10-team qualifying round in 2018 from where two teams will qualify.

Both Pakistan and the West Indies will also play in three one-day matches in the Caribbean next March.

Pakistan also have a tough five-match series in Australia early next year but West Indies will be hard pressed to play England and India before the cut-off date.

Both Pakistan and the West Indies have varied problems in the 50-over game.

Pakistan, ranked number one in Test cricket, have slumped in one-day and are coming on the back of a 4-1 bashing in England, a defeat which almost cost Azhar Ali the captaincy, but he finally survived.

Important step

Ali hopes his players take the confidence of their win in the final one-day against England at Cardiff and a 3-0 whitewash of the West Indies in the preceding Twenty20 series which ended on Tuesday.

“Yes, it will be great if we take that form into the series and that will not only help us in improving our rankings but also take the important step towards the 2019 World Cup,” said Ali.

Pakistan will once again look to exploit their opponents weakness against the spin, which saw them restrict the West Indies to low totals of 115, 144 and 103 in the Twenty20 series.

They have leg-spinner Yasir Shah and two left-arm spinners — Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz plus allrounder Shoaib Malik to launch the assault.

West Indies had shown recent form, having beaten South Africa twice and world number one Australia once in a tri-series on home grounds in June before losing the final to Steve Smith’s team.

Shockingly, they sacked their successful coach Phil Simmons a week before the start of this tour, which evidently affected their performance in the T20 series.

Still, captain Jason Holder put on a brave face. “In the ODI series we want to improve, we had a very good last Tri series with Australia and South Africa so it is important we keep improving,” said Holder.

West Indies will again be without dashing opener Chris Gayle, who is unavailable for the tour, and Andre Russell, missing due to an anti-doping hearing.

The second match will also be in Sharjah on Sunday followed by the third in Abu Dhabi on October 5.

Teams

Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Sohail Khan

West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Jonathan Carter, Johnson Charles, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Sunil Narine, Ashley Nurse, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Samuels

Pakistan captures one Indian soldier at LoC, several others killed

MUZAFFARABAD: An Indian soldier has been captured by the Pakistan army, while Indian soldiers have also been killed in the episode of firing across the Line of Control, it emerged Thursday.

Confusion over the capture of the soldier persists as neither Indian nor Pakistani officials are issuing any official statements on the matter, as yet.

An Indian army official based in New Delhi said, “It is confirmed one soldier from 37 Rashtriya Rifles with weapons has inadvertently crossed over to the Pakistan side of the Line of Control”.

Avoiding connecting the capture to today’s firing incident, he said such incidents of people including civilians crossing the frontier by mistake have happened in the past from both sides.

Building a case in favour of India, he added that those who strayed are returned.

“Pakistan has been informed [of the soldier’s crossing] through the DGMO on hotline,” ANI News quoted Indian Army sources as saying.

Pakistan’s envoy confirms arrest of Indian soldier

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi, while talking to Al Jazeera, confirmed that Pakistan Army has “captured an Indian soldier who was trying to enter” into Pakistani territory.

Lodhi, however, denied that there was any surgical strike inside the territory of Pakistan, as claimed by the Indian forces.

“India is trying to divert global attention from the war crimes it is committing in occupied Kashmir, where more than a 100 people have been killed in cold-blood by Indian forces,” said the Pakistan’s ambassador.

She said that India is trying to provoke a conflict with Pakistan to calm its domestic opinion, because even India’s domestic opinion is questioning its role in Kashmir. “My country [Pakistan] has exercised maximum restraint in the face of what happened in the early hours of Thursday.”

“What we saw on Thursday was cross border shelling, by mortar fire as well as small arms fire. We have captured one Indian soldier who was trying to cross while two Pakistani soldiers were martyred in cross border shelling. But there was no surgical strike inside territory controlled by Pakistan.”

“It is very irresponsible of India to act this way. We want the international community to urge restraint upon India,” she maintained.

Also read: What is a ‘surgical strike’?

On Pakistan’s side, two officials based in Chhamb sector said the Indian soldier with weapons was captured at 1330 local time on Thursday.

Separately, security sources confirmed the same to Media. The sources said a 22-year-old Indian soldier by the name Chandu Babulal Chohan was taken into custody by Pakistani forces.

They added that at least eight Indian soldiers were killed. The bodies of the Indian soldiers have not been recovered by the Indian Army from the site of the skirmishes at the LoC. Security sources claim an attempt to recover the bodies by the Indian Army has not been made yet as they fear coming under fire from Pakistan Army troops.

In his show Capital Talk on Geo News, Hamid Mir said that 14 Indian soldiers were killed in two sectors. Defense analyst Major General (Retd) Ijaz Awan, who was on his show, confirmed his claim.

Early morning firing

An exchange of fire between Pakistani and Indian LoC troops began at 2:30am and continued till 8:00am in the Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel and Lipa sectors in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the ISPR statement said.

“Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing on the LoC.”

Shortly after the exchange of fire, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence held a joint press conference in New Delhi in which DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh alleged that surgical strikes were conducted by the Indian army on “terror launch pads along the LoC”. The strikes will not continue, he said.

The Indian DGMO claimed that “some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launchpads along the Line of Control”.

“The Indian army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launchpads. Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them… The operations aimed at neutralising the terrorists have since ceased.”

Pakistan rubbished the Indian claims of conducting a surgical strike.

“The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by Indian to create false effects,” a military statement said.

“This quest by the Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as a surgical strike is fabrication of the truth. Pakistan has made it clear that if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil, the same will be strongly responded.”

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) said Pakistan’s airspace would be safeguarded at any cost. “PAF is always alert and ready to issue a befitting response to foreign aggression,” a spokesperson said.

Pakistan Army the most battle hardened force in the world: COAS

RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan Army is the most battle hardened army in the world and this is primarily due to the highest standard of physical fitness, professionalism and motivation of officers and men who face the challenges dauntlessly, said Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif.

He said this at the finals of the fourth COAS Young Soldiers Inter-Central Physical Agility and Combat Efficiency System (PACES) Championship at the FF Centre during a visit to Abbottabad on Thursday. He also awarded prizes to the winners.

A total of 406 contestants from 22 regimental centres participated in the championship. Sepoy Sheeraz Khan did 1,214 push-ups in 30 minutes to clinch the first position in this category.

Sepoy Jamshaid Khan stood first in the chin-ups competition by doing 68 chin-ups. Sapper Akmal Hussain did 2,134 sit-ups to secure the first position in the category. Sepoy Muhammad Asif was declared `fit of the fittest’ in the competition by securing 2,474 points.

The COAS appreciated the participants along with their trainers for achieving very high standards of physical fitness and professionalism, said an ISPR release.

Stage set for PTI’s Raiwind march

LAHORE: Several thousand supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from different parts of the country reached Adda Plot on Raiwind Road on Thursday to participate in the “accountability movement” seen by many as a “do-or-die” act of Imran Khan.

Caravans of supporters started pouring in the city a day ahead of a march on Raiwind being organised by the PTI to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family to explain their position over “proof of their corruption” published in the Panama Papers some six months ago.

A stage was being erected and seating arrangements were being made till late night in Adda Plot — close to the prime minister’s Jati Umra residence.

Mass gathering started picking up momentum late in the evening as the PTI leaders, including its chairman Imran Khan, led rallies from different parts of Lahore and Raiwind to the protest venue.

Mr Khan is already in an aggressive mood and has announced that he will send a strong message to Mr Sharif as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of skirmishes along the Line of Control.

Mr Khan says he has exhausted all forums, including peaceful protests, and hinted that he may move his party to second stage of an “aggressive agitation” to compel the prime minister and his family to explain how they have set up offshore companies and stashed huge money and bought expensive flats abroad.

Talking to journalists, he said his party had planned the march to send a message to Mr Sharif but now, in the backdrop of alleged Indian “surgical strikes”, it would also send a strong message to the Indian premier. “I will effectively respond to Narendra Modi which Nawaz Sharif has so far failed to do.”

In the wake of alerts that Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing and its Afghan counterpart had planned terrorist activities to target the PTI march, Mr Khan sounded undeterred, saying such threats had always been conveyed whenever the party planned to raise voice against the rulers’ corruption and rigging in 2013 general elections.

He said the government was afraid of the PTI and employing ‘mean tactics’ to deter people from participating in the march. But, he added, the nation was united and would express unity by joining him at the Raiwind march in a bid to “oust the corrupt mafia” from the corridors of power.

When asked whether India had launched cross-border strikes to “save somebody in Pakistan”, he said Mr Modi’s statement that Mr Sharif’s had made the speech at the United Nations “under pressure” implied that the latter was under pressure from Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and did not himself want to highlight Indian atrocities against Kashmiris.

“The army chief and the entire nation are on the same page,” the PTI chief said.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has warned that the PTI will be solely responsible for any mishap in the wake of the threat alerts.

Meanwhile, Faisal Vawda, PTI leader from Karachi, met Imran Khan and briefed him about the party’s strategy to face the tactics employed by the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Punjab government to disturb the peaceful march on Raiwind.

The PTI has set up a helpline to disseminate information about any untoward incident and the “PML-N’s Gullus”, a reference to rowdy elements allegedly patronised by the ruling party.

Many caravans of PTI supporters will reach Lahore on Friday (today). On Thursday, the party workers in four-wheelers and motorcycles moved in the city while raising slogans against Mr Sharif and his government.

Imran Khan visited the protest venue in Adda Plot late night and said people’s unity would help send the “looters of national wealth” behind the bars.

In the evening, PTI senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Wagah Border and witnessed flag lowering ceremony. He said Pakistan had the ability to effectively respond to India’s ceasefire violations along the LoC. He said India was living in fool’s paradise if it thought that it could unnerve Pakistan by stopping water or withdrawing from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.

The nation would respond to India and “a trailer will be shown at the Raiwind march,” he said.

US urges India, Pakistan to exercise restraint

WASHINGTON: The United States reminded India and Pakistan on Thursday that nuclear capable states do not threaten to use atomic weapons in any conflict.

The US government also categorically said that it considered the Sept 18 attack on an Indian military facility in Uri a terrorist attack.

The warning to avoid a nuclear conflict followed reports in the international media that both Indian and Pakistani governments had intensified their rhetoric and hinted at the possibility of nuclear military actions against each other.

“Nuclear-capable states have the responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities,” a spokesperson for the US State Department told Dawn when asked to comment on these reports.

“Let’s be clear – the attack against the Uri army brigade headquarters was a terrorist attack, and we have strongly condemned it,” said the US official when responding to a series of questions from Dawn on the current situation along the Line of Control.

“We have seen the reports and are following the situation closely,” said the US official without confirming or denying if India had indeed carried out surgical strikes inside Azad Kashmir. “We urge calm and restraint on both sides. We understand that the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been in communication, and we believe continued communication is important to reduce tensions,” the official added.

While referring to cross-LoC attacks inside India-held Kashmir, the State Department official called the Uri incident a terrorist attack.

“We have repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, including the recent attack in Uri,” the official said.

“We continue to urge actions to combat and de-legitimise terrorist groups like Lakshar-e-Taiba, Haqqani network, and Jaish-i-Mohammed.”

The spokesperson said that US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday and reiterated his strong condemnation of the Uri attack. “He condemned terrorism in all its forms, and cautioned against escalation of tensions.”

Responding to another question on the broader issue of Kashmir, the US official said: “The pace, scope, and character of any discussions on Kashmir is for India and Pakistan to determine. We support any and all positive steps by India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes.”

Earlier in the day, the White House too called the Uri incident a cross-border attack and urged Islamabad to combat and delegitimise Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and their affiliates.

US National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice made the demand in a telephone call to her Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Wednesday for condemning the Uri attack.

India claims Pakistan-based militants carried out the attack. Pakistan rejects the charge as baseless and claims that India stage-managed the incident to discredit a popular uprising in the Valley. Indian troops have killed more than 100 protesters, blinded hundreds and injured more than 10,000 in a brutal crackdown on Kashmiri protesters.

In her call to Mr Doval, Ambassador Rice “strongly condemned the Sept 18 cross-border attack on the Indian army brigade headquarters in Uri” and offered condolences to the victims and their families, said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

Ambassador Rice also affirmed President Barack Obama’s commitment to redouble US efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world, Mr Price said.

“Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimise UN-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and their affiliates,” Mr Price said in a statement.