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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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India welcomes outcome of Maldivian President election

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Maldives

New Delhi | India on Monday congratulated opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory in the presidential polls in the Maldives and said the election reflected the country’s commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law.

India also hoped that the Maldivian Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest. “We welcome the successful completion of the third presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.  “We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest,” it said.

According to reports, Solih won the presidential election, defeating President Abdulla Yameen who is known to be close to China. “This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law,” the MEA said.

India’s ties with the Maldives came under strain after President Yameen declared Emergency in the country on February 5, following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

India had criticised the Yameen government for the imposition of the Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The Emergency was lifted 45 days later.

In July, India expressed concern over the announcement of the presidential election without allowing democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, to work in a free and transparent manner.

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White House says four witnesses denies any knowledge of sexual assault by Kavanaugh

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Washington | The White House has doubted the sexual assault allegation by a California professor against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a house party attended by four others, arguing that they have denied any knowledge of the incident or having attended the party.

Ford had alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party some 36 years ago in suburban Washington, a charge denied by Justice Kavanaugh.

“One week ago, Dr Christine Blasey Ford claimed she was assaulted at a house party attended by four others. Since then, all four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party,” White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a late-night statement on Saturday.

The statement came after Ford accepted a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify on her allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. The confirmation of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge now hinges on this hearing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and lawyers of Ford have agreed to a hearing on Thursday, according to media reports.

On September 16, the Washington Post reported on Dr Ford’s allegation of sexual assault taking place at a party attended by Judge Kavanaugh and three other individuals.

The next day, Judge Kavanaugh issued a statement, saying: “This is a completely false allegation.” He urged the Committee to allow him to testify publicly, and in an interview with Committee Counsel, repeated his categorical denial.

A day later, one of the witness, Mark Judge issued a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying: “I have no memory of the alleged incident. I do not recall the party described.”, the statement said.

On September 19, another witness, Patrick “PJ” Smyth issued a statement to the Committee, stating “I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has levelled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

According to the White House, on Saturday, Leland Keyser, another witness, issued a statement to the Committee through her counsel, stating “Ms Keyser does not know Mr Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr Ford.”

“Brett Kavanaugh has been clear from the beginning — he categorically and unequivocally denies this allegation and is eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name,” Kupec said.

“On Monday, Brett Kavanaugh met with Committee counsels to answer questions subject to criminal penalties and offered to testify publicly Tuesday morning. Since then, we have heard about different dates, conditions, and ever changing schedules, but today we appear no closer to a fair hearing.

“But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible,” the White House spokesperson said.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan hits out at India, calls its response “arrogant” for cancelling talks

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Islamabad | India’s decision to cancel the foreign minister-level meeting in New York was “arrogant”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday, asserting that he was “disappointed” by the New Delhi’s “negative” response.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this month.

Announcing the cancellation of the meeting, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the incidents “exposed” the “true face” of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan to the world as well as Islamabad’s evil agenda behind the proposal for talks.

“The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” Kumar said. “Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” Prime Minister Khan said in a tweet.

“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said in a sharp reaction to India’s cancellation of the meeting. Kumar said talks with Pakistan after the “two deeply disturbing” developments would be “meaningless”. “In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” he said.

Reacting to India’s remarks, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Friday that the “so-called ‘disturbing developments'” alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York. He said the alleged killing of a BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, Pakistani rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that the country had nothing to do with it, he said. “Pakistan…categorically reject these allegations…Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” Faisal said.

On the issue of the postage stamps, he said they were issued before the July 25 elections and before Prime Minister Khan assumed office on August 18.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” Faisal said.

“We believe by its ill-considered cancellation of the meeting, India has once again wasted a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development,” he added.

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