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US secretary of state likely to visit Pakistan in September to hold talks with Imran Khan

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to visit Pakistan in the first week of September to hold talks with newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan on issues of mutual interests, a media report said today.

Pompeo, who is expected in Islamabad on September 5, would be the first foreign dignitary to meet Prime Minister Khan, Dawn reported, quoting the diplomatic and official sources. Khan, 65, was sworn in as Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister at a simple ceremony in Islamabad yesterday.

The US has welcomed the swearing-in of Khan as new Prime Minister and said that it was looking forward to work with Pakistan’s new civilian government to promote peace and prosperity in the country and in the region.

The relations between Pakistan and the US nose-dived after President Donald Trump in January accused Islamabad of giving nothing to Washington but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists.

The US Congress also passed a bill to slash Pakistan’s defence aid to USD 150 million, significantly below the historic level of more than USD one billion per year.

Citing its sources, the paper said that during his talks with Pakistani officials, Pompeo may focus on two major issues: efforts to revive once close ties between the two countries and Pakistan’s support for a US-led move to jump-starting the Afghan peace process.

Alice Wells, who heads the Bureau for South Asian affairs at the State Department, may also accompany Pompeo, the paper added. In recent statements, US officials have expressed the desire to restore their once close ties with Pakistan.

In her speech at the Pakistan Embassy earlier this week, Wells not only welcomed Khan’s election but also expressed the desire to work with his government for resolving difficult issues.

Wells noted that the new leader had also recognised the importance of US-Pakistan relationship in his public statements and in his first meeting with US Embassy officials in Islamabad.

In his victory speech last month, Khan said he wants a balanced relation between Pakistan and America which should be mutually beneficial, not one sided.

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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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