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

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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.

 

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If India attacks, Pakistan will retaliate: Imran Khan on Pulwama attack

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Islamabad | Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that if the Indian government thinks to attack Pakistan, they will face retaliation from its neighbours.

Issuing a policy statement on the Pulwama Attack, Imran Khan said,” If you (Indian govt) thinks you will attack us and we will not think of retaliating, we will retaliate. We all know starting a war is in the hands of humans, where it will lead us only God knows. This issue should be solved through dialogue.”

Responding to India’s claim of having a role in the Pulwama attack where 40 CRPF personnel were killed, Imran Khan said,”It is in our interest that nobody from our soil spreads violence.” Assuring a action on the people involved in the attack, Khan said,” I want to tell Indian govt that we will take action if evidence is found against anyone from Pakistan.” He further questioned that Pakistan won’t be benefited by the attack when it is moving towards stability.

Criticising the Indian government over the rise of involvement of Kashmiri youth is militant activity, Khan said,”India needs to introspect why the youth in Kashmir has become indifferent to death, how the govt has forced them to comply through Army’s presence.” The cricketer turned politician also blamed the Indian government that it is blaming Pakistan without any evidence.

40 CRPF personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in a terrorist attack when a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist identified as Adil Ahmed rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the bus they were travelling in. More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, many of them returning from leave to rejoin duty in the Valley, were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora.

 

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Pakistan seeks urgent UN intervention to de-escalate fresh tensions with India

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Islamabad |
 Pakistan has sought the UN’s urgent intervention to “defuse tensions” with India, the Foreign Office said Tuesday, following one of the worst terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir in which over 40 Indian soldiers were killed.

On February 14, at least 41 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in Kashmir’s Pulwama district in a suicide attack claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group. The attack has heightened bilateral tensions with both New Delhi and Islamabad calling back their envoys.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, seeking his help to reduce the tensions between the two countries, Pakistan Foreign Office said. “It is with a sense of urgency that I draw your attention to the deteriorating security situation in our region resulting from the threat of use of force against Pakistan by India,” Qureshi wrote in the letter.

India has rejected any third party intervention in the Kashmir issue and has maintained that all outstanding matters in Indo-Pak ties should be resolved bilaterally.

Qureshi, in his letter, said the Pulwama attack on Indian CRPF soldiers was ostensibly and even by Indian accounts carried out by a Kashmiri resident. He said attributing the attack to Pakistan even before investigations was absurd. He alleged that for domestic political reasons, India deliberately ratcheted up its hostile rhetoric against Pakistan and created a tense environment.

Qureshi wrote that India has also hinted that it may abandon the Indus Waters Treaty, asserting that it would be a grievous error. “It is imperative to take steps for de-escalation. The United Nations must step in to defuse tensions,” Qureshi said.

He said India must be asked to conduct an open and credible investigation in the terror attack. “You may also consider asking India to refrain from further escalating the situation and enter into dialogue with Pakistan and the Kashmiris to calm the situation down,” he wrote. The foreign minister requested that the letter should be circulated to members of the Security Council and General Assembly.

Pakistan has repeatedly asked the UN to intervene in Kashmir. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also sought the US’ intervention, saying America was the “most relevant” party to get involved in Kashmir issue.

The US, however, has time and again reiterated that it is for India and Pakistan to discuss and decide on the pace and scope of their bilateral relationship.

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Trump tells Venezuela military to back Guaido or ‘lose everything’

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Miami | US President Donald Trump has urged Venezuela’s military to accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s amnesty offer, or stand to “lose everything,” as a crisis deepened over President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to let in desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to the viability of Guaido, who has denounced Maduro’s re-election last year as fraudulent and in January declared himself interim president, a move recognized by some 50 countries. He has given the Maduro government until Saturday to let shipments of mainly US aid into the country, which is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food and medicine exacerbated by hyperinflation.

Addressing supporters and Venezuelan expatriates in Miami, Trump said on Monday he had a message for officials helping keep Maduro in place. “The eyes of the entire world are upon you today, every day and every day in the future.

“You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept president Guaido’s generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen.

“Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro. If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.” Guaido has set a target of signing up to a million volunteers to help bring in the aid, with 600,000 already registered. “On February 23, we have the opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans,” he said.

Maduro countered with his own announcement of 300 tonnes of aid from Russia, which he said would reach Venezuela by Wednesday – three days ahead of a potential showdown brought about by his February 23 deadline. Speaking at an official event broadcast on TV, Maduro said the shipment contained “high-value medicine.” Maduro has previously announced the arrival of aid from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.

Earlier, opposition officials hit out at state internet provider CANTV for blocking the website where volunteers are signing up to help bring in the US aid stockpiled in Colombia just over the border from Venezuela. A second aid collection center is due to begin operations in Brazil’s northeastern state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela. But there is much uncertainty over the aid in Brazil, with officials there saying they have no information at this point.

Military officials in Roraima said they had yet to receive orders, although a collection center could be set up quickly, with some businesses having already provided warehouses to that effect. A third center is due to open this week on the Dutch island of Curacao, off Venezuela’s north coast.

The humanitarian aid standoff is due to come to a head this weekend, when caravans of buses are set to carry volunteers to border entry points to meet and transport arriving cargo. It is unclear how Guaido will overcome the border barriers put up by the Venezuelan military, on Maduro’s orders.

Volunteer groups have begun meeting in “humanitarian camps” in several Venezuelan states to organize and prepare for the arrival of the aid to alleviate hardship from an imploding economy has driven an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans to migrate from the oil-rich country. Maduro, who denies the existence of a humanitarian crisis, dismisses the opposition moves as a “political show” and a cover for a US invasion.

“Whoever prevents the entry of humanitarian aid is condemned to spend the rest of their lives fleeing international justice, because that is an international crime,” US Senator Marco Rubio said as he toured the Colombian collection center in Cucuta on Sunday.

Three US military cargo planes delivered several dozen tons of food assistance to Cucuta on Saturday. Another US aircraft is due in Curacao from Miami on Tuesday.

Guaido has ordered the armed forces to let the aid pass, but they remain loyal to Maduro, who has instructed his army to prepare a “special deployment plan” for the 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) border with Colombia.

Maduro has dismissed the humanitarian assistance as “crumbs” and “rotten and contaminated food,” while blaming shortages of food and medicine on US sanctions.

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