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Pakistan: Imran Khan announces 21-member Cabinet, Qureshi gets foreign portfolio



Imran Khan

Islamabad | Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan today announced a 21-member Cabinet, including foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who held the portfolio during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said that out of the 21 names announced, 16 will be ministers while five others will perform their duties as advisers to the premier. The newly-announced Cabinet is expected to take oath on Monday at the President’s House, he said.

According to the list shared by Chaudhry on Twitter, Qureshi has been appointed as foreign minister, Pervaiz Khattak as defence minister and Asad Umer as finance minister. Sheikh Rashid from Rawalpindi has been appointed as Railway minister.

Qureshi was foreign minister from 2008 to 2011 under the Pakistan People’s Party government. He was visiting India during the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 that claimed 166 lives.

Asad Umar is son of former Pakistani Lt Gen Mohammad Umer who was part of army during 1971 war with India. Khattak served as PTI chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province from 2013-18. Three women including Shireen Mazari, Zubaida Jalal and Fehmida Mriza are also part of the cabinet.

The five advisors who have status of ministers include known faces like former banker Ishrat Hussain, businessman Abdul Razzak Dawood and Babar Awan.

According to Pakistan’s Constitution, the size of the federal cabinet should be not more than 11 percent of the total strength of the National Assembly and Senate. Khan’s party said it has nominated party’s veteran lawmaker Dr. Arif Alvi as its candidate for the President of Pakistan.

The presidential election will be held on September 4 – five days before the expiry of the five-year term of President Mamnoon Hussain. Khan, 65, was sworn in as Pakistan’s new prime minister, nearly 22 years after the former cricket hero entered politics.

The chairman of PTI was administered the oath of office by President Mamnoon Hussain at a simple ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr (the President House) in Islamabad.

The PTI emerged as the single largest party with 116 seats in July 25 elections. Its number increased to 125 after nine independent members joined it and final tally reached 158 after it was allotted 28 out of 60 seats reserved for women and five out of 10 seats reserved for minorities.

Khan’s government will be the third consecutive democratic government in Pakistan since 2008 when military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf announced elections after serving as president from 2001 to 2008 following a bloodless coup in 1999. The PPP formed the government in 2008, followed by the PML-N led by jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013.

Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country through various coups for nearly half of the country’s history since independence in 1947.


India International

Stark difference in Indo-US ties since 1998 nuclear tests: Indian envoy




Washington | There is a stark difference in India’s relationship with the US since the 1998 nuclear tests and bilateral ties are now very good, the outgoing Indian envoy here has said. Navtej Singh Sarna, India’s Ambassador to the US since November 2016, is retiring later this month after an illustrious career spanning 38 years.

In his previous stint in the US from September 1998 to June 2002, Sarna served as the minister/counselor at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. During that time India was slapped with US sanctions in the aftermath of the nuclear tests.

“Well, it’s night and day, if I can say that,” Sarna said in response to a question when asked about the difference in the India-US relationship in the past 20 years.  After the nuclear tests, he said though the country was slapped with sanctions, there was new respect and understanding for India.

“There was a new understanding of India’s potential as an economy. There was a new understanding of India’s power as an IT, particularly around Y2K, when suddenly Indians were the ones who were sorting out major problems. And there was an understanding that India had to do its nuclear tests because it lived in a tough neighbourhood,” he said.

Sarna said the visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US last year gave tremendous impetus to the bilateral relationship. Describing Modi’s visit to US as the highlight of his ambassadorship, Sarna said the visit was a tremendous success.

“Today, I think the relationship is in a very good place,” he told the select audience.  Referring to the recent visit of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Sarna said India-US defence relationship has strengthened under the Trump administration.

Early this year, he pointed out, the US renamed one of its commands as US IndoPacific Command. India was given STA-1 Status, he said adding that this is the long run, perhaps may be a hugely significant step. It is very satisfying that India is the only non-NATO country in that category to date.

India was given the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status in August, paving the way for high-technology product sales to the country, particularly in civil space and defence sectors.

In his remarks, Sarna urged the business community, one of the prime drivers of the relationship, to create and sustain good feelings about India across the United States. Sarna also served as the longest-serving spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs and country’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Israel.

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China ups pressure as tech executive’s hearing goes into Tuesday




Vancouver (Canada) | A jailed Chinese technology executive will have to wait at least more day to see if she will be released on bail in a case that has raised U.S.-China tensions and complicated efforts to resolve a trade dispute that has roiled financial markets and threatened global economic growth.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport December 1 the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce. The U.S. has accused Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says Meng and Huawei misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

After a second daylong session, Justice William Ehrcke said the bail hearing would continue Tuesday. In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley noted the Huawei executive has vast resources and a strong incentive to flee as she is facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years. Gibb-Carsley later told the judge that if he does decide to grant bail it should include house arrest. David Martin, Meng’s lawyer, said Meng was willing to pay for a surveillance company to monitor her and wear an ankle monitor but she wanted to be able to travel around Vancouver and its suburbs.

Scott Filer of Lions Gate Risk Management group said his company would make a citizen’s arrest if she breached bail conditions. Martin said Meng’s husband would put up both of their Vancouver homes plus USD 1 million Canadian (USD 750,000) for a total value of USD 15 million Canadian (USD 11.2 million) as collateral.

The judge cast doubt on that proposal, saying Meng’s husband isn’t a resident of British Columbia a requirement for him to act as a guarantor that his wife won’t flee and his visitor visa expires in February. The prosecutor said her husband has no meaningful connections to Vancouver and spends only two or three weeks a year in the city.

Gibb-Carsley also expressed concern about the idea of using a security company paid by Meng. He said later that USD 15 million Canadian (USD 11.2 million) would be an appropriate amount if the judge granted bail, but he said half should be in cash. Meng’s arrest has fueled U.S.-China trade tensions at a time when the two countries are seeking to resolve a dispute over Beijing’s technology and industrial strategy.

Both sides have sought to keep the issues separate, at least so far, but the arrest has roiled markets, with stock markets worldwide down again Monday. The hearing has sparked widespread interest, and the courtroom was packed again Monday with media and spectators, including some who came to support Meng.

One man in the gallery brought binoculars to have a closer look at Meng, while outside court a man and woman held a sign that read “Free Ms. Meng.”  Over the weekend, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canadian Ambassador John McCallum and U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad.

Le warned both countries that Beijing would take steps based on their response. Asked Monday what those steps might be, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said only, “It totally depends on the Canadian side itself.”  The Canadian province of British Columbia has already cancelled a trade mission to China amid fears China could detain Canadians in retaliation for Meng’s detention.

Stocks around the world fell Monday over investor concerns about the continuing US-China trade dispute, as well as the cloud hanging over Brexit negotiations after Britain’s prime minister postponed a vote on her deal for Britain to quit the European Union. In the U.S., stocks were volatile, tumbling in the morning and then recovering in the afternoon.

The Huawei case complicates efforts to resolve the U.S.-China trade dispute. The United States has slapped tariffs on USD 250 billion in Chinese imports, charging that China steals American technology and forces U.S. companies to turn over trade secrets.

Tariffs on USD 200 billion of those imports were scheduled to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1. But over dinner December 1 with Xi in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Trump agreed to delay the increase for 90 days, buying time for more negotiations.

Bill Perry, a trade lawyer with Harris Bricken in Seattle, said China’s decelerating economy is putting pressure on Xi to make concessions before U.S. tariffs go up.

“They need a trade deal. They don’t want the tariffs to go up to 25” percent, said Perry, who produces the “US-China Trade War” blog. “This is Damocles’ sword hanging over the Chinese government.” Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, has become the target of U.S. security concerns because of its ties to the Chinese government.

The U.S. has pressured other countries to limit the use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information. Lu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, accused countries he didn’t cite by name of hyping the “so-called” threat. “I must tell you that not a single piece of evidence have they ever presented to back their allegation,” he said.

“To create obstacles for companies’ normal operations based on speculation is quite absurd.

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India International

Indian diplomat walks out of SAARC meeting in Pakistan over minister’s presence





Islamabad | An official of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan staged a walkout of a SAARC meeting over the presence of a minister from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) at the event, according to source here. Diplomat Shubham Singh, left the meeting to register India’s protest over the presence of PoK minister Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed at the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting on the SAARC Charter Day in Islamabad on Sunday.

India considers Kashmir as its integral part and does not recognise any minister for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).  In 2016, India had pulled out of the 19th SAARC summit that was to be held in Islamabad after the deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri. The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to attend. No SAARC meeting has happened ever since.

India called off the foreign minister-level talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in September after the brutal killing of policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and the release of a postage stamp by Pakistan that glorified Kashmiri militant commander Burhan Wani.

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