Khawaja Asif to embark on three-nation tour to discuss US policy

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Muham­mad Asif will next week embark on a three-nation regional tour for consultations on the new American policy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

The dates for the trip, which would take the minister to China, Russia and Turkey, are being worked out.

The decision to undertake the visit was taken at a meeting of the National Security Committee on Thursday, which deliberated on the new US policy and formulated the response.

Foreign minister’s previously scheduled trip to US delayed

The foreign minister’s previously scheduled trip to the US for bilateral talks with his counterpart, Rex Tillerson, has been delayed for the regional tour.

“Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif will be visiting regional countries for consultations,” FO spokes­man Nafees Zakaria said at a weekly media briefing.

The consultations would be aimed at developing regional consensus on efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

The regional trip, Pakis­tani diplomats believe, will send a strong message to the US that Pakistan cannot be coerced and that the country enjoys broad support in the region.

Both Moscow and Beijing have criticised the US position on Pakistan and have insisted that Pakistan’s importance for peace in Afghanistan and its sacrifices in the fight against terrorism need to be recognised.

There have been multiple statements from China in this regard, including one by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who praised Pakistan’s “great sacrifices” in the fight against terrorism and urged their acknowledgement by the world.

Meanwhile, Russian President’s Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said that Pakistan was “a key regional player to negotiate with” and warned that undue pressure on it could “seriously destabilise the region’s security situation”.

Iran too has joined the countries disapproving the US policy. The Iranian foreign ministry in a statement has denounced the new strategy adopted by the US towards Pakistan and blamed Washington’s opportunistic strategies and unilateral and meddlesome policies for growth in terrorism and extremism in the region.

Mr Zakaria spoke about the fast-paced developments in the region and emergence of new regional partnerships. However, he refused to elaborate how Pakistan plans to position itself in the evolving environment.

FO spokesman underscored that the differences between Pakistan and the US over the new policy did not mean a rupture in ties.

“First of all, we have long-standing relationship with the US. We have worked with the United States for a long time. Our areas of cooperation are diverse and multi-dimensional. I would not endorse your views about parting ways,” he said, adding the “difference of opinion” and “misperceptions” could be addressed through dialogue.

The National Security Committee had a day earlier resolved to “continue to extend all possible cooperation to international community for achieving the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the broader region”.

In reply to a question about the new role assigned to India by the US, Mr Zakaria reiterated Pakistan’s concerns and said that it (India) “plays the role of a spoiler and destabiliser in the region, and also uses Afghan soil against Pakistan”.

Proof in this regard, he said, had already been shared with the international community and the government “will continue to take up this issue both with the US and Afghan leadership”.

After Nawaz, PTI turns its guns on Zardari in Sukkur

  • PTI chief says money that should’ve been spent on province’s education, water, security was looted
  • Shah Mehmood says PTI will go to all districts of Sindh to bring about ‘tabdeeli’

SUKKUR: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, addressing a rally at Lab-e-Mehran Ground on Friday, targeted former president Asif Ali Zardari, saying that Zardari has looted Sindh’s wealth, also adding that, from now on, he (Imran) will play an active role in the province.

He also roared, “I promise you: soon you will hear Zardari asking ‘why was I disqualified’”.

Sindh’s biggest issue is unemployment, he said.

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“Twenty-one years ago when I entered into politics, the conditions of Sindh were better then,” he said.

“The money that was supposed to be spent on your education, water, law and security it was looted,” he said, adding “you have to fight the people who looted your money.”

Meanwhile, PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said people of Sindh have been extremely resilient, adding that the PPP failed to apprehend the murderers of Benazir Bhutto. “Today’s rally seeks to give a new direction to the politics in Sindh,” he said.

“Zardari, pay attention! We are here now. We will go to all districts of Sindh to bring about tabdeeli [change],” promised Qureshi.

Earlier, during his speech, Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rasheed said I just have hope in one person now; “I just want Imran Khan to come to power and improve the lives of the poor.”

“If we bring Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif’s looted wealth back into the country then we can pay back our IMF loans,” he maintained.

With regards to Trump’s statements on Pakistan, he said that “even China and Russia came to our defense; however, the only person who stayed silent was Nawaz Sharif.”

“We will not spare anyone who casts an evil eye towards Pakistan,” said Sheikh Rasheed, adding “the entire nation is standing with Pakistan Army.”

During his speech, earlier, PTI Sukkur leader Mubeen Ahmed Jatoi said PPP was creating propaganda that Imran Khan won’t come to Sukkur.

“PPP failed to even make streets for the people of Sukkur,” he pointed out during his brief address. “After Punjab, the tsunami has come to Sindh.”

Administrative and security arrangements for the event were completed ahead of time, with an estimated 1,500 police personnel deployed for the event.

Reports of baton charge were also reported at the site in order to control the rowdy crowd.

Imran Khan had reached Sukkur at 6PM and headed straight for the site of the rally.

Party workers had started amassing at the venue around 2PM.

Earlier in the day, in a special video message on Thursday, the PTI chairman urged supporters to attend the rally, while regretting that, lately, he was not able to visit Sindh because of his time-consuming ‘struggle’ in the Panama Papers issue.

Nawaz Sharif is still PM, says Asif Zardari

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Friday claimed that former PM Nawaz Sharif is still the prime minister because the PM himself says so.

He added that former PM Nawaz Sharif wants to create ‘Greater Punjab’ to further his business interests.

In an interview with ARY News, he maintained that the former prime minister wanted to make ‘Greater Punjab’—a term which is used for the proposed merger of two Punjabs in India and Pakistan—to further his business interests across the Pakistani and Indian part of the province.

When asked if he is talking about an actual “merger of the two Punjabs”, he claimed that he is talking about a business zone between the two Punjabs as Indian politician Lalu Prasad once told an American president that “we can do business with Nawaz”.

“I believe in it [especially considering] when you make your forces weak; when you don’t keep a lobbyist in US.”

The former president said that Nawaz, despite having good terms with the Indian PM Modi, never spoke a word over the killing of innocent Kashmiris.

Zardari added that it is yet to be seen if Nawaz contests 2018 polls or not but there is no denying of his political role.

Zardari strongly believed that it was him who, despite being a president, gave powers to the parliament, gave NWFP the “true” name of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and made efforts to bring angry Baloch people into the national fold.

India not an effective partner to bring peace in the region: Zakaria

ISLAMABAD: A country like India that is involved in state-sponsored terrorism cannot be an effective partner in bringing peace to the region, said Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria in his weekly briefing on Friday.

He was speaking in reference to US President Donald Trump’s speech on the Afghan war, in which he directed India to provide more assistance and development to Afghanistan.

While expressing Pakistan’s reservations regarding the US’ acknowledgement of ‘India’s important contributions to Afghan stability’, the spokesperson said that the extremists have found their way into India’s governing bodies.

“The extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other such organisations are already influencing the Indian judiciary’s decisions at this time, while the Indian army is lending its support to the RSS as well,” Zakaria said. He added that there are unresolved issues on a wide range of matters that India has with various countries, which is why it cannot be expected to maintain peace in the region.

Reiterating the point made by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif after yesterday’s national security meeting, he said that Pakistan outrightly rejects the US accusations that the country is harbouring terrorists and providing them ‘safe havens’.

“No other country in the world has made the kind of sacrifices that Pakistan has made in the fight against terrorism,” he said adding that Pakistan would continue its struggle against terrorism for the sake of its own national interests.

Dengue virus claims one more life in Peshawar

Dengue virus has claimed the life of one more victim in Peshawar on Saturday, raising the death toll to eight.

According to details, the victim was being treated at the Khyber Teaching Hospital in the provincial capital.
The outbreak continues to wreak havoc in Peshawar as 69 new cases surfaced in the city on Thursday.
According to the Punjab government’s spokesman, the medical teams working in Peshawar had treated 2,062 patients and screened 595 individuals as of Tuesday. Out of 595, 175 people were diagnosed with dengue.
Earlier, the KP Health Department had sought assistance from the provincial education department in containing the dengue outbreak.
In a letter written to the education department, the health authorities emphasised the need for raising awareness in students about the mosquito-borne virus.
The education officials were instructed to advise students to wear full sleeves and use mosquito repellent ointments. Moreover, administrations of educational institutes were directed to modify the morning assembly timings as the dengue mosquito strikes in that time period.
The administrations have also been directed to halt all construction activities till the outbreak is over, arrange regular awareness sessions with students and teachers, and ensure no container is left with standing water where mosquitoes could breed.
As many as three doctors would be available 24/7 to give service to dengue patients on helpline established at Provincial Disaster Management Authority, a notification issued by KP Health Department had said.