WASHINGTON: The US is keeping “all options” on the table to deal with Pakistan if it does not take decisive action against the Taliban and the Haqqani network and dismantle their safe havens, the White House warned today.
The warning came after the US suspended about $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan+ for failing to clamp down on terror groups.
The freezing of all security assistance to Pakistan comes after President Donald Trump in a New Year’s Day tweet accused the country of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists in return for $33 billion aid over the last 15 years.
“The US does have a range of tools that we’re looking at beyond just the security assistance issue to deal with Pakistan and to try to convince it to crack down on the Taliban and Haqqani network,” a senior Trump administration official told reporters.
“Certainly no one should doubt the US resolve to address this threat and all options I would say will be on the table,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
While some policy makers have been asking the White House to revoke the non-NATO ally status of Pakistan and put pressure on the country through multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, Pentagon generals have indicated unilateral actions.
However, the official refrained from divulging any of the options that the administration is considering against Pakistan.
“I’m not able to comment on specific steps at this time. But nobody should doubt our resolve in trying to address these threats. We’re looking at all options. We hope that we can cooperate with Pakistan. But we do have options that we’re considering,” the official said.
The US wants action against the existing safe havens of the Taliban and the Haqqani network and demolish its ability to carry out strikes across the border in Afghanistan, the Official said and expressed hope that Pakistan would take actions that the US was seeking.
“….that will allow the relationship to return to a more positive trajectory,” the official said.
In August, while unveiling his new South Asia strategy, Trump had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”.
Trump’s new policy, the official said, is driven by the his desire to have a successful strategy in Afghanistan.
“We firmly believes that for the future of the region, Pakistan needs to crack down on these terrorist elements. Unless they take a comprehensive approach to the terrorism problem it is going to threaten US interests and everybody’s interests including Pakistan’s,” the official said.
He said the announcement of the suspension of the security assistance to Pakistan clearly reflected the US’ frustration over Pakistan’s failure to crack down on all terrorists who find shelter on its territory.
“There has been ample time for Pakistan to show it is taking our request seriously. Unfortunately, we have not seen the kind of meaningful action that we were seeking,” the White House official rued.
Responding to a question, the official said US has “a number of tools in its toolkit” and can “take unilateral” steps.
But at this time, the US prefers to cooperate with Pakistan and is hopeful about it, the official said.
“And we want to indicate Pakistan our seriousness about the issue of dealing with safe havens,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the US would restore the suspended security assistance to Pakistan if it takes action against terrorist groups.
“We would restore the aid if we see decisive movements against the terrorists, who are as much of a threat against Pakistan as they are against us,” Mattis told reporters.
US Congress committee urges India to end communication blackout in Kashmir
India’s communication blackout is having a “devastating impact” on the lives and welfare of the people of Kashmir, a powerful U.S. Congressional Committee has said, urging New Delhi to lift its more than two-month long restrictions in the Valley.
Restrictions were first imposed across Kashmir on August 5 when the Centre announced its decision to revoke all provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Normal life has remained affected in Kashmir for over two months as main markets continue to be shut and public transport off the roads.
Mobile services remain suspended in Kashmir except in Handwara and Kupwara areas in the north, while Internet services — across all platforms continued to be snapped in the Valley since August 5.
“India’s communication blackout in Kashmir is having a devastating impact on the lives and welfare of everyday Kashmiris,” House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a tweet on Monday.
“Its time for India to lift these restrictions and afford Kashmiris the same rights and privileges as any other Indian citizen,” it said.
The House committee comes nearly a month after Indian-American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal, along with 13 other US Congressmen, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.
The Asia-Pacific and Non-Proliferation Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on human rights in Kashmir and other parts of South Asia on October 22.
India has categorically told the international community that its move to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution was an internal matter and has also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.
Pakistan appoints Munir Akram as UN envoy
n a major reshuffle of diplomats, Pakistan on Monday removed Maleeha Lodhi and appointed Munir Akram as the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
The development came merely a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan returned from the US, where he raised the Kashmir issue in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly last week.
“Ambassador Munir Akram has been appointed as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York, in place of Dr Maleeha Lodhi,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
However, it gave no reason for her removal.
In his speech that went on for about 50 minutes, far exceeding the 15-minute limit for UN speeches during the General Debate, Khan devoted half of his address to the Kashmir issue, warning that if there’s face-off between two nuclear-armed neighbours, the consequences would be far beyond their borders.
His war rhetoric was in sharp contrast to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s peace message from the same podium few minutes earlier in which he said India is a country, that has “given the world, not war, but Buddha’s message of peace.”
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.
The Foreign Office statement said Akram would be stationed at the UN’s New York headquarters.
He is an experienced hand who served as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN from 2002 to 2008.
He was dismissed by the then president Asif Ali Zardari over his disagreement in presenting the case of assassination of Benazir Bhutto to the United Nations.
Akram had also courted controversy after he was accused of domestic violence by his partner, Marijana Mihic, in December 2002 while serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN. The case was reportedly settled out of the court and he was not charged with the crime due to his diplomatic immunity.
Akram specialises in multilateral diplomacy with considerable experience over the years at the UN’s New York and Geneva chapters. He studied at the Karachi University and graduated with a Masters degree in Political Science and a Bachelors in Law, the statement said.
Among other transfers approved by the prime minister include appointment of Khalil Ahmad Hashmi, presently serving as Director General (UN) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva.
Besides, Muhammad Aejaz, Additional Secretary at MoFA, has been appointed as Hungary Ambassador; Syed Sajjad Haider, serving as Charge d’ Affaires in Pyongyang, as Kuwait Ambassador; Imran Ahmad Siddiqui, serving as Consul General in Toronto, as Dhaka High Commissioner; Ahsan KK Wagan, serving as Charge d’ Affaires in Niamey, as Ambassador of Oman; and Major General Muhammad Saad Khattak as Sri Lankan High Commissioner.
Other appointments include Abdul Hamid as Consul General in Toronto and Abrar Hussain Hashmi as Consul General in Houston.
US lawmakers urge PM Modi to lift communications blackout in Kashmir
Indian-American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal along with 13 other US Congressmen have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.
A statement, addressed to Prime Minister Modi, was issued jointly by Congressmen Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr, Judy Chu, Pramila Jayapal, Carolyn Maloney, Gerald Connolly, Ilhan Omar, Barbara Lee, Al Green, Zoe Lofgren, Andy Levin, Mike Levin, James P. McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, and Katie Porter.
“On behalf of thousands of families across the country who have been unable to contact family in Jammu and Kashmir, we are urging Prime Minister Modi to lift the communications blackout and address the ongoing humanitarian concerns,” the lawmakers said in the joint statement.
Restrictions were imposed when New Delhi had on August 5 scrapped the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated in into Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Asserting that the abrogation of Article 370 of its Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was its “internal matter”, India has defended imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists.
“India is an important US partner and the world’s largest democracy. As such, we hope that the Government of India will demonstrate leadership and lift these restrictions. The people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve the same rights as any other citizen of India,” the statement said.
The joint statement, the lawmakers said, is in response to the imposition of media blackout starting August 5, leaving millions in Jammu and Kashmir without access to mobile phones or the internet while many others have been detained.
“As a result, family members in the United States and elsewhere have had no ability to contact loved ones in Jammu and Kashmir, leading to concerns about their welfare,” said the statement, the lead in which was taken by Congressman Cisneros, who is a Member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and an Executive Board Member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
The restrictions in Kashmir have been lifted in phases from many parts of the Valley as the situation improved with passage of time.