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Don’t confront the State, PM Imran Khan warns people protesting Asia verdict

Press Trust of India

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Islamabad: Talking tough, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan told hardliners not to “confront the State” and refrain from vandalism after the Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman sentenced to death for committing blasphemy.

Prime minister Khan addressed the nation through a video message and his address was solely focused on the Asia Bibi verdict.

Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, who was on a death row for eight years for blasphemy, was acquitted by the apex court in a landmark verdict which evoked protests, death threats from hardline groups and cheers from human rights advocates.

 

“I ask these elements (protestors) to avoid confronting the State. But if they opted to do so, the State will fulfil its responsibilities,” Khan said.

“We will protect life and property of people…We will not let them (protestors) involve in vandalism or close down the roads,” he said, referring to protestors blocking a highway linking the capital Islamabad with garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Many parts of Karachi were paralysed due to the protests and most of the main roads were shut down by the protesters who are burning tyres and pelting stones at vehicles.

Khan appealed to the public to remain calm and refrain from joining those trying to create law and order problem in the name of Islam.

The prime minister said that he was forced to give the address after the reaction by protestors against the verdict and the kind of language they were using against State institutions.

Khan also flayed a video clip of a leader of protestors on social media in which he said that the judges who gave the verdict were liable to murder.

“How a State can function in such circumstances…Those involved in this are not doing any service to Islam. They are in fact enemies of Islam,” Khan said.

Referring to the protesters who have disrupted routine life across the country, he said: “If the Supreme Court does not issue a verdict according to their wishes, will they come out on the roads?” The Prime Minister also said Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and no law can be made against the teachings of Islam.

He said the verdict was issued in the light of the Constitution of the country which is also based on Islam.

He said the government was working hard to improve the economy and the protestors were creating hurdles to get political mileage out of the verdict.

“We are already facing such tough economic hurdles. We have yet to take a day off… we are struggling continuously to uplift the people [and] to improve the conditions of the underprivileged,” he said.

“The people are to bear the brunt of this. The labours who are reliant on daily wages… how will they survive?” he asked.

Prime minister Khan held a meeting with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed the security situation in the country due to the protest the verdict.

Information minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that Khan and Bajwa “discussed overall situation and important affairs during the meeting.” Gen Bajwa was also targeted by a protest leader who in a video message asked senior army officers to rebel against the army chief.

Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy in 2009.

She was convicted by the trial court in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. Her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in 2014.

She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

She appealed against the conviction in the Supreme Court, which for the first time heard the case in July 2015.

Bibi was the first woman who was given death sentence under the blasphemy laws.

According to officials, Bibi might be flown out of Pakistan due to threat to her life.

It is not clear where she will go as several countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to her.


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International

‘Window dressing, made no difference,’ says US on Hafiz Saeed’s previous arrest

Agencies

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Washington: The Trump Administration expressed doubts over Pakistan’s intentions in arresting terrorist Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the mastermind of the 2001 Parliament attack and the 2008 Mumbai attack, saying his previous arrests made no difference either to his activities or that of his outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“We’ve seen this happen in the past. And we have been looking for sustained and concrete steps, not just window dressing,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday, ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US next week.

Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist was arrested on Wednesday — the seventh times since December 2001, when he was nabbed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.

 

“Let me reassure you, we are clear eyed about the history here. We’re under no illusions about the support that we could see from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to these groups. So we will look for concrete action,” the official said when asked about the actions that Pakistan has taken against terrorist group and if the US believes in them.

“I noticed that Pakistan has taken some initial steps such as pledging to seize assets of some of these terrorist groups. And, of course, they put under arrest yesterday Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks,” said the official requesting anonymity.

But the official quickly noted that this was the seventh time that Saeed was arrested since 2001 attack on India’s Parliament when he was detained right after that attack and was subsequently released.

“That is why we are very clear eyed and realistic when you see him arrested” as he has been arrested and released in the past. “So we would look to see that Pakistan take sustained action in actually prosecuting these people,” the official said.

“Quite frankly, the previous arrest of Hafiz Muhammed Saeed hasn’t made a difference and the LeT has been has been able to operate. So we’re monitoring the situation,” said the senior administration official as reporters asked questions on the links between Pakistani intelligence services and terrorist groups.

The US “remains concerned” about terrorist groups that continue to operate in Pakistan, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Haqqani network. “We do have concerns about link between these groups and Pakistan intelligence services in military. That’s no secret,” the official said.

The US, the official said, welcomes Prime Minister Khan’s pledge that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used by militant groups and its vocal leadership and the Trump Administration is pressing for a new direction in this regard.

According to the official, the US has seen some initial steps with Pakistan pledging to seize the assets of some of these terrorist leaders, pledged to reform the madrasa and has taken under administrative control some of the facilities owned by these groups.

Prime Minister Khan himself said that Pakistan cannot reach its full potential unless it has peace and stability in the region. Of course, peace and stability in the region would require it to crack down on the terrorist and militant groups that are creating the instability, the official said. Pakistan really needs to prove that this time they are something different, he said.

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It’s our America: Michelle Obama weighs in on Trump

Agencies

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Washington: Former first lady Michelle Obama added her voice to the Democratic outcry following President Donald Trump’s attack on four ethnic minority congresswomen, saying “there’s a place for all of us.”

“What truly makes our country great is its diversity… Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for all of us,” Obama tweeted, without mentioning Trump.

“We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.”

 

Trump has come under intense fire after he attacked four first-term Democratic congresswomen known as the “Squad.”

In a rare move, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Tuesday rebuked Trump for “racist comments” after he said the four should “go back” to their countries of origin if they are not happy in the United States.

But chants of “Send her back!” directed at Somali-born congresswoman Ilhan Omar broke out at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rally in Greenville, North Carolina on Wednesday night.

Trump claimed to reporters in the Oval Office the following day that he was not pleased by the taunts and attempted to cut them short.

Television footage, however, showed he let the chant continue for more than 10 seconds before he resumed speaking.

“Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday when asked about the chants.

“She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you,” he added about Omar.

The first-term lawmakers — all but one of whom, Omar, were born in the United States — are of Hispanic, Arab, Somali and African-American descent.

Some Republicans have urged Trump to tone down the rhetoric, but the president has made it clear that attacks on the “Squad” will be a centerpiece of his 2020 re-election strategy — despite the risk of inflaming racial tensions and widening the partisan divide.

Omar responded to the chants by condemning Trump’s “racist remarks” and branding him a “fascist.”

The president’s “nightmare is seeing a Somali immigrant refugee rise to Congress,” she told supporters when she returned home to Minnesota Thursday night.

“We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president, because his policies are a nightmare to us,” she said through a megaphone to the cheering crowd at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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During talks with Pak PM, Trump to seek release of doctor who helped track Osama

Agencies

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Washington: US President Donald Trump, during his meeting next week with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, would seek the release of jailed Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, a senior administration official said Friday.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House on Monday.

“This is an extremely important issue to the President and the American people. I think Pakistan could demonstrate its leadership role in the region and among the international community by freeing Dr Afridi who remains unjustly imprisoned in Pakistan,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday.

 

Before being elected as the president of the United States Trump had said during his campaign that he will get Afridi freed within two minutes from Pakistan.

Afridi helped the CIA track down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2011. He was later arrested and is currently serving a jail-term in Pakistan.

In an interview to Voice of America, the lawyer and family of Dr Afridi, expressed hope that Trump and Khan would discuss his release.

“Dr Afridi can’t sleep properly due to harsh conditions and sweltering heat as there is no window in the cell where he is kept. Imran Khan is visiting the US, but if Dr Afridi remains in pain, then I think the visit won’t be a success,” his lawyer Qamar Nadeem told the VOA.

The United States has requested Pakistan to free Dr Afridi, the senior administration official told a group of reporters ahead of the Monday meeting between Trump and Khan.

“We have clearly and regularly communicated this to Pakistan at the highest level in public and private and will continue to do so until he is released. Pakistan’s leadership will be judged by treatment of Dr Afridi, while he remains in prisons. We are calling on Pakistan to release him,” said the senior administration official.

Describing Dr Afridi as a “hero”, the senior administration official said that he helped the US capture the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist incident in history.

“This is something that is of the utmost importance to us. It is likely to come up (during the meeting),” the official said, adding that it remains a very important issue for the US. He has been unjustly imprisoned, the official said.

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