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Will enter into talks with all neighbours to bring peace in Pakistan: PM Imran Khan

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that the country will enter into talks with all neighbours to normalise ties, as without it peace can’t be brought in the country.

In his an-hour-long maiden address to the nation a day after his swearing in as the country’s 22nd prime minister, Khan identified Pakistan’s challenges on the economic front, announced sweeping changes to bring austerity and revive stagnant economy.

He also lashed out at the previous PML-N government for current debt crisis which has risen to Rs 28 trillion, saying the country had not been as indebted in its entire history as it has been in the last ten years.

“I have talked to all neighbours and Insha Allah, we will improve relations with all neighbours. Without peace (with neighbours) we cannot bring peace in Pakistan,” he said.

Khan, who made an extempore speech while taking help of notes, promised to start the change from his life.

Outlining his governments approach to resolve the issues, Khan stressed on taking austerity measures, working on tax reforms instead of taking loans, rooting out corruption.

He also spoke about revamping the judiciary, educational and health care reforms, civil service reforms, devolution of power, providing jobs opportunity to youths and building dams to end water crisis.

“Never in Pakistan’s history have we faced such difficult economic circumstances. Our debt burden is Rs 28 trillion. We haven’t been as indebted in our entire history as we have been in the last ten years,” he said.

“The interest that we have to pay on our debt has reached to a level that we have to take more debt to repay our obligations. Our external debt obligations have reached a level that we have to contemplate how we are going to grapple with them,” Khan said.

“On one hand we are so indebted, and on the other hand our human development index ranking is very poor,” he said.

“I will not do any business and live a simple life. Those making illegal money are my enemies. You should help me to identify them and stop them,” he said.

He said that he will live in a three-bedroom residence within the official PM House, a place that was reserved for the Military Secretary but Khan has decided to live there. He announced to transform the sprawling PM House into a modern university.

He said there were 524 workers and officials deputed at the PM House but he will keep only two of them.

Out of the 80 vehicles, including 33 bullet proof vehicles, he said he will use only two of them and auction the rest and deposit the money into the national treasury.

Khan said PTI formed governments in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and his governors and chief ministers will not live in palatial official houses.

He said the economy was in bad shape due to debt heaped by the past government. He said 10 years ago, the total debt of the country was Rs 6 trillion which has increased to Rs 28 trillion.

He spoke about the poor human development index of Pakistan and said more than 23 million children were out of schools and 45 per cent children had stunted growth.

Khan once again promised to transform Pakistan into the state of Median which was set up by the Prophet in early years of Islam.

He said Medina state was set up on the principles of rule of law, protection of rights of minorities, progressive taxation, based on merit, education for all and honest leadership.

Khan promised to reform the tax collection machinery, police, judiciary, education system, health and anti-corruption bodies.

He announced to deal with the corrupt elements with iron hand and said all wealth of the country stashed abroad by rich Pakistanis will be brought back.

The prime minister asked overseas Pakistanis to park their money in Pakistani banks and invest here assuring them that their investments will be safe in his government. He promised to facilitate the investors.

Khan announced setting up a task force to cut down the expenses of the government. He also said that he will meet the Chief Justice of Pakistan to draw up a scheme for speedy justice so that all cases were decided within in year.

He also said that civil servants will be rewarded and punished on the basis of their performance.

He also announced to make Pakistan a true welfare state.

“We want to make Pakistan a welfare state. For this we should create compassion in our hearts.”

Khan said that he wished that the PM House be turned into a research university, he will form a committee to figure out how to cut expenses nationwide.

“I also want you to understand that the money we lavish on ourselves could have been spent on those who our state has left behind. ‘Naya’ Pakistan also requires a new ‘soch’ (thinking). We have to think about those who we have left behind,” he said.

On tax reforms, he said instead of trying to rebuild the economy by taking external loans, his government will try and fulfil its needs from within.

“No country can succeed by taking on debt again and again. Debts are taken for brief periods of time. I will be ashamed to go abroad and ask for money. If the leader of the nation has to go and ask for debt, what will my nation be?” Khan added.

He said only 800,000 people out of 200 million pay taxes in Pakistan.

“We will fix the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and assure the nation that I will be responsible for your taxes. It is your responsibility to pay taxes. If we start paying taxes we will get out of deficit,” he said.

He termed money laundering as the biggest problem.

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All leads in global terror attacks ultimately leads to ‘single source’, says PM Modi

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Prime Minister Modi also expressed concern over the Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s party contesting the July 25 elections in Pakistan.

 

Singapore| Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told US Vice President Mike Pence that all the traces and all the leads in the global terror attacks ultimately leads to a “single source and single place of origin”, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

Modi, who held talks with Pence on a wide range of bilateral and global issues of mutual interests on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit here, also expressed concern over the participation of terrorists in the elections in Pakistan.

Briefing the reporters after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said there was some discussion on the issue of terrorism. Pence referred to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the deadly Mumbai terror attack on November 26 and hailed cooperation between the two sides on counter-terrorism, Gokhale said.

Some 166 people were killed in the attack carried out by Pakistan-based 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was caught and hanged after handed down death sentence by an Indian court.

Modi thanked Pence for his words and reminded him that in one way or another all the traces and all the leads in the global terror attacks ultimately leads to a “single source and single place of origin”, without naming any country or organization.

He was apparently referring to Pakistan. A number of terrorist attacks across the world have been carried out by people of Pakistani origin. On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed in a mass shooting by a Pakistani origin married couple in San Bernardino, California.

A Pakistani-origin man was among three knife-wielding militants responsible for carrying out the brutal terror attack in London that killed seven people and injured 49 in June 2017.

Prime Minister Modi also expressed concern over the Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s party contesting the July 25 elections in Pakistan.

“He (Modi) did point out that the mainstreaming of people involved in the Mumbai attacks in a political process which has taken place in the recent elections in Pakistan should be a matter of serious concern not just to the two countries – India and US – but to the international community,” Gokhale said.

Some of the dreaded Pakistani militant leaders, accused of spreading religious hatred and instigating sectarian violence, were among hundreds of candidates in the July 25 elections.

Hafiz Saeed-led banned Jamat-ud Dawah, a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, had fielded its candidates from the platform of little known political entity Allah-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT).

Another extremist outfit Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which was banned in Pakistan till early this year, had also fielded dozens of candidates including those who are on Pakistan’s terrorism watch list.

“There was some good understanding of the areas of how we move forward in building cooperation on counter-terrorism and both countries recognized that this is a challenge which we have to fight together and to fight along with the rest of the international community,” Gokhale said.

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PM Modi meets premiers of Australia, Thailand in Singapore

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Modi also said he was confident that his visit to Singapore would impart fresh momentum to New Delhi’s growing partnership with ASEAN and East Asia Summit nations.

 

Singapore| Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday held bilateral meetings with the premiers of Australia and Thailand and discussed ways to further strengthen ties, including in areas of trade, defense, and security.

Prime Minister Modi began his two-day visit to Singapore Wednesday by delivering his keynote address at the prestigious Fintech Festival.

He became the first head of government to address the world’s largest event on financial technology.

The prime minister held bilateral meetings with his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Thailand General Prayut Chan-o-cha on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit here.

“PM Narendra Modi met with PM of Australia Scott Morrison on the margins of East Asia Summit in Singapore. Both leaders had a good discussion on deepening ties in trade and investment, defense and security and other areas of bilateral cooperation,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.

“PM Narendra Modi met PM of Thailand General Prayut Chan-o-cha on sidelines of EAS Summit. Cooperation in trade and investment, defense and security and connectivity were discussed,” he said in another tweet.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Modi’s meeting with Morrison was “fruitful”.

Modi also held bilateral meetings with global leaders, including US Vice President Pence and Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong.

During his visit to Singapore, Modi will attend the East Asia Summit, an ASEAN-India informal meet, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership summit.

Before leaving for Singapore, Modi said in New Delhi that his participation in the ASEAN-India and East Asia summits symbolized India’s “continued commitment” to strengthen its engagement with ASEAN members and with the wider Indo-Pacific region.


Modi also said he was confident that his visit to Singapore would impart fresh momentum to New Delhi’s growing partnership with ASEAN and East Asia Summit nations.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten Southeast Asian countries, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other Asian states.

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Firefighters battle blazes on two fronts in California, 50 dead

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Paradise | Thousands of firefighters battled blazes in northern and southern California on Tuesday as body recovery teams searched the remains of houses and charred cars for victims of the deadliest wildfire in the history of the US state.

At least 50 deaths have been reported statewide so far from the late-season wildfires, and with hundreds of people unaccounted for, the toll is likely to rise. Most of the fatalities have been caused by the so-called “Camp Fire” in and around the town of Paradise, population 26,000, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Sacramento.

“Today an additional six human remains were recovered, which brings the total to 48. All six of those remains were located in Paradise, and they were located within homes,” Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference. Another two deaths have been reported from the “Woolsey Fire,” north of Los Angeles.

Paradise, which is home to many retirees and has experienced an unusually dry fall, was virtually razed to the ground by the fast-moving “Camp Fire” blaze. Residents have recounted harrowing tales of fleeing the fires on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs. Others escaped by driving through tunnels of smoke and fire as flames licked at their vehicles on gridlocked roads dotted with abandoned cars.

Melissa Schuster, a member of the Paradise town council, told ABC News that the entire town “is a toxic wasteland right now.” “We have teams — you know, coroner teams — that have to go house to house and vehicle to vehicle,” Schuster told ABC.

The “Camp Fire,” which erupted on Thursday, has ravaged 130,000 acres (50,600 hectares) of land and is 35 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Butte County, where the blaze is located, has seen less than an inch of rainfall in more than 30 weeks. The “Camp Fire” has destroyed more than 6,500 homes and 260 commercial properties. Battling the blaze are more than 5,600 fire personnel, some from as far away as Washington state and Texas.

The “Woolsey Fire,” which also began on Thursday, has razed 97,114 acres (39,300 hectares) and has been 40 percent contained. Cal Fire said more than 3,500 fire personnel were battling the “Woolsey Fire.” “We’re starting to get a handle on this fire,” said Captain Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department in an online briefing.

“I’m not feeling nearly the amount of wind and it’s a little bit cooler this morning.” The “Woolsey Fire” has destroyed 435 structures including the 100-year-old Paramount Ranch where HBO’s “Westworld” and other popular television shows and movies were filmed.

The fires have forced a quarter of a million people to flee their homes and seven evacuation shelters have been set up in Butte County, three of which are already full, according to the authorities.

On Monday, President Donald Trump — at the request of state authorities — declared that a “major disaster” exists in California. The declaration provides for federal assistance to aid state firefighting and recovery efforts in the counties of Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles.

Trump had earlier earned the ire of state officials with a claim that “gross mismanagement” of forestry in the state was responsible for the damage.

California Governor Jerry Brown said he expects the fires could be worse in the years to come. “Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that the dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify,” Brown said. The “Woolsey Fire” on the southern end of the state has devoured mansions and mobile homes alike in the coastal town of Malibu.

Over the weekend, the “Woolsey Fire” engulfed parts of Thousand Oaks, where a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday. Among those who lost their homes was the pop star Miley Cyrus, who tweeted that her “house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong.”

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