Category Archives: WORLD

PKR strengthens by Rs2.62 against dollar in interbank

The PKR was being traded at Rs229.5 per dollar at 11:30am after appreciating 1.12 percent from yesterday’s close of Rs232.12, data shared by the Forex Association of Pakistan (FAP) showed.

Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (Ecap) General Secretary Zafar Paracha said sentiments had changed mainly because of Ishaq Dar’s return as finance minister due to which the rupee was on an uptrend.

“The rupee was weakening earlier despite news of funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank among others. Overall, the sentiment was negative. Now, there is hope for improvement because of Dar’s reputation for keeping the dollar’s value low and managing the economy better.”

Dar, who has served as finance minister three times previously as well, is most famous for strong-arming the central bank to liberally inject foreign exchange into the market to prop up the rupee and keeping the dollar’s value around Rs90.

Read: Daronomics — The fallacy of fixing currency price

Paracha acknowledged that the country’s economic situation was different now because of the conditions of the International Monetary Fund’s ongoing program, under which Pakistan has agreed to a market-based currency exchange regime.

“Dar cannot fix the dollar. He will face difficulties … but it has to be seen what long-term policies he introduces.”

The Escape general secretary said Pakistan’s debt has been reduced by around Rs1 trillion in the last four days because of the rupee’s appreciation. “This uptrend is very welcome and sentiments have changed after a considerable time.

“Anti-state elements such as speculators had benefitted because of the government’s wrong policies. The government will have to ensure that this uptrend does not change because of its policies.”

He pointed out that the country was facing a shortage of foreign exchange in the long run, adding that while Pakistan had to make payments of $30-40 billion this year, arrangements had only been made for $10bn.

The government should reduce imports and increase exports, and revisit the trade and immigration policies with Afghanistan and Iran because they drained the country’s foreign exchange and reserves, he suggested.

Today is the fifth consecutive session that the rupee has recovered after falling close to an all-time low of Rs239.94 on Sept 22. It has been on an uptrend since Friday, with its value improving by Rs7.59 or 3.2pc over the last four sessions

Analysis: Truth or bluff? Why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia amid the war in Ukraine has made a troubling question much more urgent: Is the former KGB spy bluffing?

Putin cautioned it was no bluff, and Western politicians, diplomats and nuclear weapons experts are divided. Some say he could use one or more smaller, tactical nuclear weapons to try to stave off military defeat, protect his presidency, scare off the West or intimidate Kyiv into capitulation.

Putin’s warning, which was followed by a more specific threat to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine from an ally, might mean the Kremlin is considering an escalation after Russia annexes four Ukrainian regions which it only partly occupies.

Russia’s parliament is expected to declare the regions part of Russia on Oct. 4. Once that happens the way would be clear, from Moscow’s viewpoint, for a possible defensive strike if it felt the territory was under serious threat.

Breaking the nuclear taboo would be a sign of desperation, however, so whether or not Putin does go nuclear may ultimately depend on how cornered he feels in a conflict which has, thus far, humbled rather than defeated a former superpower.

Putin controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, including a new generation of hypersonic weapons and ten times more tactical nuclear weapons than the West, and the United States and the NATO military alliance are taking him seriously.

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“If the choice for Russia is fighting a losing war, and losing badly and Putin falling, or some kind of nuclear demonstration, I wouldn’t bet that they wouldn’t go for the nuclear demonstration,” Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia, told Reuters in August, before Putin stepped up his warnings.

In his most recent comments, Putin explicitly warned the West that Russia would use all available means to defend Russian territory and accused the West of discussing a potential nuclear attack on Russia.

“This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them,” he said.

Such blunt Kremlin rhetoric is very different to the much more nuanced nuclear signals preferred by late Soviet leaders after Nikita Khrushchev took the world to the brink of nuclear war in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told U.S. TV networks on Sunday that President Joe Biden’s administration was taking Putin’s comments “deadly seriously” and had warned Moscow of specific “catastrophic consequences” if it used nuclear arms.

Washington has not spelled out its likely response, but using a nuclear device could trigger a nuclear escalation, which is why most experts believe a massive conventional attack on Russian military assets would be more likely.

Asked if Putin was moving towards a nuclear attack, CIA Director William Burns told CBS on Tuesday: “We have to take very seriously his kind of threats given everything that’s at stake.”

Burns, though, said U.S. intelligence had no practical evidence that Putin was moving towards using tactical nuclear weapons imminently.

GOING NUCLEAR

If Putin did order a nuclear strike inside Ukraine, it would be the first use of nuclear weapons in battle since the United States unleashed the atomic bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Shorter-range lower-yield weapons launched by sea, air or land could theoretically be used against Ukrainian military targets, though their effectiveness in such a scenario is a matter of debate among military experts.

Another option, they say, would be for Putin to detonate such a weapon over a remote and unpopulated area or a body of water, like the Black Sea, as a chilling demonstration of intent.

The radioactive fallout from a small Russian tactical weapon could be limited to around a kilometre (half a mile), but the psychological and geopolitical impact would be felt across the world.

“Putin is playing a high-stakes game of chicken,” said Richard K. Betts, professor of war and peace studies at Columbia University. “If I had to bet money, I would probably bet 3:2 that he would not go nuclear even if he feels desperate, but those are not good odds.”

TRACKING

In a sign Washington is closely monitoring Russia’s nuclear arsenal, flight tracking data on Saturday showed the United States had deployed at least two RS-135s Cobra Ball spy planes, used to track ballistic missile activity, near the Russian border.

Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, said there was no evidence Moscow was gearing up for such a nuclear strike at the moment and that Washington would know “pretty quickly” if it was.

He said it would be a mistake to be complacent about Putin’s nuclear warnings, but that he did not think it would make sense for Putin to go nuclear to defend newly-annexed territory.

“To start a nuclear war to break this taboo that has lasted since August 1945 for such small gains when the Ukrainians have said they won’t stop fighting anyway, and even if the battle stopped he’d find these territories impossible to pacify, would seem like a very odd thing to do,” said Freedman.

Given the irrational nature of using a nuclear weapon in the circumstances, taking the threat seriously entailed assuming it would be an emotional act of desperation from Putin in a situation where he felt threatened, he added.

Betts of Columbia University said: “You can see the pressures he is under and the rationales in his mind about how the use of a small nuclear weapon might work for his purposes to reverse the situation, frighten the West, and get him out of the bind he is in.”

‘EXISTENTIAL STRUGGLE’

Putin says Russia is now fighting for its existence in Ukraine after years of humiliation at the hands of an arrogant West which wants to destroy the former superpower.

“In its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed every line,” Putin said in his Sept. 21 warning.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed tens of thousands, fuelled global inflation and triggered the worst confrontation with the West since the height of the Cold War.

Seven months on, Putin’s forces are facing a fierce counteroffensive from Ukrainian forces armed and trained by Western countries. The better it goes for Ukraine on the battlefield, the higher the chance that Putin might go nuclear, said Betts.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine allows for a nuclear strike after “aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened”.

Kremlin hawks say the West is trying to topple Putin, who has held power in Russia since 1999.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in March that Putin “cannot remain in power” in comments the White House said were meant to prepare the world’s democracies for an extended conflict over Ukraine, not back regime change in Russia.

And in May, Biden said he was trying to work out what to do about the fact that Putin did not appear to have a way out of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had previously dismissed the Russian warnings, but told CBS on Sunday that Putin could now be serious.

“Look, maybe yesterday, it was bluff. Now it could be a reality.”

India bans Islamic group PFI, accuses it of ‘terrorism’

NEW DELHI, Sept 28 (Reuters) – India declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) Islamic group and its affiliates unlawful on Wednesday, accusing them of involvement in “terrorism” and banning them for five years, after authorities detained more than 100 PFI members this month.

The PFI did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment but its now-banned student wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI), called the government action a political vendetta and propaganda.

“We are against the concept of a Hindu nation, we are against fascism, not India,” Imran P.J., national secretary of the CFI, told Reuters.

“We will overcome this challenge. We will revive our ideology after five years. We will also consider going to court against the ban.”

On Tuesday, the PFI denied accusations of violence and anti-national activities when its offices were raided and dozens of its members were detained in various states.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in announcing the ban, said in a statement the PFI and its affiliates had “been found to be involved in serious offenses, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional setup”.

Imran denied any involvement in terrorism.

Muslims account for 13% of India’s 1.4 billion people and many have complained of marginalization under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi’s party denies accusations of discrimination against Muslims and points to data that all Indians irrespective of religion are benefiting from the government’s focus on economic development and social welfare.

The PFI has supported causes like protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims deem discriminatory, as well as protests in the southern state of Karnataka this year demanding the right for Muslim women students to wear the hijab in class.

The ban is likely to stir an outcry among opponents of the government, which retains broad public support and a comfortable majority in parliament eight years after Modi first became prime minister.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which works with the PFI on some issues but was not included in the ban, said the government had struck a blow against democracy and human rights.

“Freedom of speech, protests and organisations have been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime against the basic principles of the Indian constitution,” the SDPI said in a statement.

“The regime is misusing the investigation agencies and laws to silence the opposition and to scare the people from expressing the voice of dissent. An undeclared emergency is clearly visible in the country.”

Some SDPI office were raided and some of its members were detained this month.

The government said in a notification it had banned the PFI and affiliates CFI, Rehab India Foundation, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.

The government said it found a “number of instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups”, adding that some of its members had joined Islamic State and participated in “terror activities” in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Imran said the government had provided no proof to back up the accusation that PFI were involved in terrorism or working alongside Islamic State.

India has been the victim of some major militant attacks over the past two decades, most linked to Islamists based in neighbouring Pakistan.

The PFI came together in late 2006 and was launched formally the next year with the merger of three organisations based in south India.

It calls itself a “social movement striving for total empowerment” on its website.

Sopore Mandi lost Rs 500 Cr due to halted fruit trucks on Sgr-Jmu highway

In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, fruit growers staged a peaceful protest demonstrated, in Sopore town of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district against the halting of fruit-laden trucks along the Srinagar-Jammu highway.

Notably, fruit growers and buyers across the Kashmir valley are continuously protesting time to time over the halting of trucks along the national highway, but despite protests nothing happened

Scores of fruit growers assembled inside fruit mandi Sopore and demanded smooth transportation of fruit-laden trucks along the highway.

The president of Fruit Mandi Sopore, Fayaz Ahmed Malik, talking to the media maintained that they have already suffered heavy losses during the last several years due to natural calamities and continued blockage of the Srinagar-Jammu highway and now unnecessarily stopping of fruit-laden trucks are compounding to their miseries. He said the authorities are unnecessarily stopping trucks and it seems they deliberately want the fruit growers to suffer.

Fruit growers in occupied Jammu and Kashmir have called for opening of trade routes via Azad Jammu and Kashmir for the apple and other businesses with the outside world.

President buyers association, Fruit Mandi Sopore Mudasir Ahmed Bhat told a local news agency, that the halting of trucks along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway leads to a loss of around 500 crore rupees to the growers, buyers, and dealers in the month of September only.

He said, that a buyer suffers a loss of 4-5 lac rupees per truck as the authorities are unnecessarily stopping trucks and it seems they deliberately want them to suffer. “Who is going to pay the losses?” asked Mudasir.

the fruit growers, on Monday, closed the fruit market in protest against Modi government’s unannounced economic blockade by halting thousands of trucks laden with apples on the Srinagar-Jammu highway for past 20 days.

US report exposes Indian Army’s propaganda campaign

The report titled “My Heart Belongs to Kashmir: An Analysis of a Pro-Indian Army Covert Influence Operation on Twitter” took cognizance of a Twitter network that was recently suspended and concludes that the network was consistent with the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based Chinar Corps..

The report pointed out that the purpose of the Twitter accounts in the network was to praise the Indian Army for their military successes and provision of so-called humanitarian services in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The report said the accounts also criticized Pakistan and China who are rivals of India.

The Chinar Corps is responsible for military operations in the Kashmir Valley. The Corps also has social media accounts where it consistently promotes a positive image of the Indian Army despite its internationally recognized human rights violations in IIOJK. Moreover, the social media accounts of Chinar Corps were suspended and blocked for short periods of time on multiple occasions for “coordinated inauthentic activity”.

Last month, Twitter identified a network of over 1000 accounts that tweeted about India and Pakistan. Twitter suspended the network for violating its Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy and said that the presumptive country of origin was India.

The SIO report noted that while the network was not attributed to any actor or organization, there were many similarities to the Chinar Corps. It stated that the content of the Twitter network is consistent with the Chinar Corps’ objectives, praising the work of the Indian Army in IIOJK.

The network was made up of several Twitter accounts posing as fake Kashmiris with images taken from elsewhere on the internet, for instance, Getty Stock Images.

“Tweets tagging journalists aimed either to bring events to the attention of reporters or to bring the reporter to the attention of followers – often in an apparent attempt to target the reporter for what was framed as anti-India content,” the report further revealed.

It is to mention here that Stanford Internet Observatory is a program of the Cyber Policy Center which is a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies and the prestigious Stanford Law School in the US.