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Won’t pay Pakistan as it has done nothing for US: Donald Trump

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Donald Trump

Washington | US President Donald Trump has reiterated that the USD 1.3 billion in aid to Pakistan will remain suspended until the country acts against militant safe heavens inside its territory.

The President’s statement came days after he said that Pakistan does not do “a damn thing” for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad. “I want Pakistan to help us. We’re no longer paying USD 1.3 billion to Pakistan. We’re paying them nothing because that’s what they’ve done to help us. Nothing,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday before leaving for his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays. Over the last few days, Trump has accused Pakistan of not helping the US in its fight against terrorism.

In an interview to Fox News over the weekend, Trump said that people in Pakistan knew that Laden was living in a mansion near their garrison city of Abbottabad, but they did not tell the US and kept on accepting billions of dollars in aid. “And I cut those payments off a long time ago. We’re not paying Pakistan any money because they’re not helping us at all and we’ll see where it all goes,” Trump said.

Early this year, Trump announced to stop all security assistance to Pakistan. “I hope to have a good relationship with Pakistan,” said Trump, indicating that the relationship between the two countries can come back on track if Pakistan took action against terrorist groups and their safe havens. “But right now, we’re paying Pakistan nothing. I cut them off. They were getting USD 1.3 billion a year. They’re not getting anything now,” Trump asserted.

However, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said Trump might be incorrect in saying that Pakistan has not done anything for the US. Over the decades, Pakistan has helped the United States with some of its policy objectives, he said.

“He is right in noting that Pakistan has offered tactical cooperation in return for aid while at the same time undermined the strategic US objectives,” Haqqani told PTI. Pakistani leaders, he said, are being disingenuous in describing the US as “ungrateful”.

Americans have provided over USD 43 billion in military and economic assistance since 1954, helped build Pakistan’s conventional military capability, and bailed Pakistan out of both economic and political crises on several occasions, he said.

Haqqani, who is the director for South and Central Asia at the prestigious Hudson Institute think-tank in Washington DC, said Islamabad would continue to be tempted to go back to old transactional patterns, but not Washington.

“It is the Americans who are likely to be less interested in returning to what I describe in my book on the subject as ‘Magnificent Delusions.’ Not only do Pakistan’s ambitions in Afghanistan conflict with the US plans but the two countries strongly disagree about China’s expanding influence in Asia,” he said.

Observing that only a strategic rethink on the part of Pakistan can lead to a reset in US-Pakistan ties, Haqqani said until then, occasional twitter spats and “we paid a heavy price for being your ally” statements will continue to characterise the unusual relationship.

Ties between the US and Pakistan strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.

In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban active on its soil.

India International

Indian diplomat walks out of SAARC meeting in Pakistan over minister’s presence

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Islamabad | An official of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan staged a walkout of a SAARC meeting over the presence of a minister from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) at the event, according to source here. Diplomat Shubham Singh, left the meeting to register India’s protest over the presence of PoK minister Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed at the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting on the SAARC Charter Day in Islamabad on Sunday.

India considers Kashmir as its integral part and does not recognise any minister for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).  In 2016, India had pulled out of the 19th SAARC summit that was to be held in Islamabad after the deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri. The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to attend. No SAARC meeting has happened ever since.

India called off the foreign minister-level talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in September after the brutal killing of policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and the release of a postage stamp by Pakistan that glorified Kashmiri militant commander Burhan Wani.

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Donald Trump’s potential next chief of staff pick leaving White House

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Washington | The White House official widely touted as Donald Trump’s favourite to succeed his outgoing chief of staff John Kelly is instead leaving the administration at year’s end, he tweeted.

Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, tweeted on Sunday that “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause,” referring to Trump’s campaign.

“Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House.” Trump announced Saturday that Kelly, 68, would leave the administration – the latest key personnel move at a time of mounting pressure from the Russia election-meddling probe that comes amid increased focus on preparing for the 2020 elections.

Shortly after Ayers said he would not take on the role, Trump jumped online to tweet: “I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff.”

“Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda,” he continued, adding that “I will be making a decision soon!” Ayers reportedly would not commit to signing on through 2020 to the president’s irritation.

And according to sources cited by The Washington Post, the youthful but politically savvy senior staffer was “skeptical” of taking the position because of the rocky tenures of Kelly and his predecessor Reince Priebus.

When Kelly was picked in July 2017 to replace Priebus, he inherited a White House plagued by political intrigue and internal disorder, and under a cloud because of the allegations of collusion with Russia.

Other potentials on Trump’s shortlist include Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Republican congressman Mark Meadows, a leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, according to the Post. The impending departure leaves Trump reliant on a reduced group of key advisers even as he prepares to deal in the new year with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The opposition party will have the power to launch investigations, issue subpoenas, and generally make his life more difficult.

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International News

‘I can’t breathe’ were Jamal Khashoggi’s final words: Reports

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Washington | Jamal Khashoggi‘s final words were “I can’t breathe”, CNN has said, citing a source who has read the transcript of an audio tape of the final moments before the journalist’s murder. The source told the US network the transcript made clear the killing was premeditated, and suggests several phone calls were made to give briefings on the progress.

CNN said on Sunday Turkish officials believe those calls were made to top officials in Riyadh. Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, was killed shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The transcript of the gruesome recording includes descriptions of Khashoggi struggling against his murderers, CNN said, and references sounds of the dissident journalist’s body “being dismembered by a saw.”

The original transcript was prepared by Turkish intelligence services, and CNN said its source read a translation version and was briefed on the probe into the journalist’s death. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Sunday meanwhile rejected demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of Khashoggi as sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to hand over suspects in the killing. According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia, however, holds that it was a “rogue” operation gone wrong — a claim undercut by the reported transcript.

For his part US President Donald Trump has refrained from blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, even though the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered the assassination. The murder has damaged Riyadh’s international reputation and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

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