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Pakistan PM Imran Khan visits UAE to seek financial assistance

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Imran Khan

Dubai | Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in the UAE on Sunday on a day-long visit to the Gulf country, where he is likely to seek financial assistance to minimise the cash-strapped Pakistan’s dependence on an IMF bailout package.

Khan, who is visiting the UAE for the second time in the last two months, met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces, at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Finance Minister Asad Umar among other officials, the Express Tribune reported.

“The purpose of the visit is to seek billions of dollars in aid as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) becomes unusually tough on Pakistan on the fiscal and monetary fronts, which is hindering early conclusion of talks,” the paper said. Pakistan wants USD 6 billion financial assistance from the UAE in the shape of cash deposits and oil on deferred payments, it added. The two sides may sign a memorandum of understanding on the financial assistance package, the paper quoted a cabinet minister as saying. Finance Minister Umar, however, denied that there is any link between the IMF conditions and the PM’s UAE visit.

Last month, Khan had a stopover in Dubai on his return from Saudi Arabia in September.  Saudi Arabia had agreed to provide Pakistan with a USD 6 billion rescue package during Khan’s visit to the Gulf Kingdom.

Early this month, Prime Minister Khan visited China, which reportedly agreed to provide USD 6 billion in aid to Pakistan. Khan will visit Malaysia later this week where he is likely to seek monetary assistance. Pakistan was facing a USD 12 billion financing gap for the current fiscal year.

The Pakistan government is keen to minimise the amount borrowed from the IMF by getting loans from “friendly” countries like Saudi Arabia, China and Malaysia as officials in Islamabad believe that the global lender could attach tough conditions.

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Three MPs quit UK PM May’s party over Brexit

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London | Three MPs resigned from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservative party on Wednesday over what they described as a “shift to the right” on issues such as Brexit.

Anti-Brexiteers Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen wrote to May, informing her of their decision just hours before she heads to Brussels to seek concessions from the EU on a withdrawal agreement to get it passed through Parliament before the March 29 deadline.

May, who is now left with an even shakier majority in the House of Commons than before, said she was “saddened” by her colleagues’ move but insisted the government was on the right track as she made her appearance for the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.

The three MPs, who will now join the breakaway Independent Group created by seven Opposition Labour MPs who had resigned earlier this week, said Brexit has “re-defined the Conservative Party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it” and there had been a “shift to the right”.

“Brexit has re-defined the Conservative party undoing all the efforts to modernise it. There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hardline ERG (European Research Group), which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy,” the MPs said in their letter, in reference to the hardline Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg led ERG group within the Tories.

“The country deserves better. We believe there is a failure of politics in general, not just in the Conservative party but in both main parties as they move to the fringes, leaving millions of people with no representation. Our politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part,” the letter adds.

Soubry is a former government minister as part of former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Cabinet, while Wollaston is Chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee. Allen was elected to Parliament in 2015 and has been an outspoken MP since.

“I am saddened by this decision these are people who have given dedicated service to our party over many years, and I thank them for it,” May said in her statement in response to the spate of resignations.

She admitted that the UK’s membership of the EU has been a source of disagreement in the party, adding that by implementing the decision of the British people, she is doing the “right thing” for the country.

The new splinter group calling itself the Independent Group was created on Monday by seven former Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey with an eighth Labour MP Joan Ryan joining the ranks on Tuesday.

It would now seem like the group is gaining some momentum as the members move away from their party benches to sit independently in the Commons.

The common factor uniting different sides of the political divide in the form of the new splinter group is the contours of Britain’s exit from the EU, with some demanding a second referendum to let the British public have another say and others unhappy with the deal on the table.

May will seek to revisit the withdrawal agreement during her meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who has repeatedly ruled out the reopening of the draft agreement reached at the end of last year.

Unless both sides are able to strike an amicable deal on Britain’s exit that can pass through the UK Parliament in time for the March 29 deadline, the UK is set to crash out in a chaotic no-deal Brexit with no arrangements in place.

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Putin warns new missiles could target ‘decision-making centres’

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Moscow | President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia would have to deploy missiles targeting “decision-making centres” if Washington sends missiles to Europe.

The announcement comes after the US said it would withdraw from a key Cold War-era arms treaty over what it said were Russian violations, prompting a mirror move from Moscow.

“Russia does not intend to be the first to deploy such missiles in Europe,” Putin said during an annual state of the nation address.

“If (the US) develops and deploys them in Europe… this will dramatically exacerbate the international security situation, creating serious threats to Russia,” he said.

“I’m saying this clearly and openly, Russia will be forced to deploy weapons that can be used… against the decision-making centres that are behind the missiles systems which threaten us.”

He earlier accused Washington of using “far-fetched accusations” to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement.

Putin said he understood concerns about the bilateral deal, namely that other countries could continue to develop weapons that are banned for the US and Russia.

“The current state of affairs of course raises questions,” he told the audience of lawmakers and celebrities.

“Our American partners should have been honest… and not use far-fetched accusations against Russia to justify their unilateral withdrawal from the treaty,” he added.

The United States has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the INF by developing banned weapons and this month President Donald Trump said Washington was starting a process to withdraw from the treaty.

In a tit-for-tat move, Putin said Moscow was also leaving the treaty and beginning work on new types of weapons that would breach the agreement.

Many analysts say abandoning the treaty effectively signalled the start of a new arms race.

The INF deal was signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.

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China closes Tibet to foreigners for sensitive anniversaries

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Beijing | China is keeping foreign travellers out of Tibet during sensitive political anniversaries.

Travel agencies contacted on Wednesday said foreign tourists would not be allowed into the Himalayan region until April 1. It’s not clear when the ban started, although some monitoring groups said it started this month.

March 10 is the 60th anniversary of an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, while anti-government riots occurred March 14, 2008, in the regional capital Lhasa.

While the foreigner travel ban is an annual occurrence, the occasion of the 60th anniversary is drawing special attention from the authorities. Amid heavy security on the ground, Tibet is almost entirely closed to foreign journalists and diplomats and information about actual conditions there is hard to obtain.

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