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Pakistan military warns against ‘irresponsible’ statements by politicians

Press Trust of India

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Islamabad :Pakistan’s powerful military has warned politicians against making “irresponsible” statements against it, saying such remarks were “detrimental” to the country’s stability.
The terse statement by the military came after former Punjab minister and a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Rana Mashhood claimed that the party has struck a “deal” with the “establishment” under which it will form the Punjab provincial government within a few months in the politically crucial state. Reacting to Mashhood’s statement, the military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor described it as “baseless and regrettable”.
The Director General of Inter Services Public Relations, took to Twitter , saying “Attribution of an obvious vested statement by Rana Mashhood is baseless and regrettable. Such irresponsible expressions are detrimental to stability in the country.” The establishment is usually a terminology used for the military institution. The powerful military has ruled coup-prone Pakistan for nearly half of the country’s history since independence in 1947.
Mashhood stirred a controversy by claiming that PML-N chief and party supremo Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif struck an understanding with the establishment to ameliorate the situation for the beleaguered party, the Express Tribune reported.
“The party that won the election was being considered as a horse turned out to be a mule,” he said in an interview to a private TV channel.
“It is now strongly felt that Shehbaz Sharif would have been a better choice. If he had been prime minister, he would have handled things much better,” he said.
Mashhood said that Shehbaz had always been acceptable to the establishment because he talked about harmony between state institutions.
When asked about Nawaz and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s statements pertaining to tensions between the civilian government and the military, Mashhood said: “Things have greatly improved as they [the establishment] have realised that they are banking on wrong people.” Under fire, Mashhood in a tweet said his statement was “quoted out of context”. The PML-N has not only distanced itself from the contents of Mashhood’s interview but also strongly rejected any talk of a deal.
The Punjab province is now governed by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tereek-e-Insaf (PTI), which ended a the rule of the PML-N. The PTI, which came second in terms of seats, managed to form the government with the help of smaller parties and independents.
Deposed premier Sharif said on Wednesday that PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif has taken notice of Mashhood’s claim of a “deal” between the party and the establishment.
Sharif said he did not want to make any other comments as he was “preoccupied”.
The PML-N has suspended the membership of Mashhood over his controversial statement, the party said in a statement.
Shehbaz has constituted a three-member committee to investigate and present its finding on Mashhood’s statement to the party in two weeks, the statement added.


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International

Taliban resumes peace talks with US envoy in Qatar

Agencies

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Islamabad :The Taliban and the United States resumed talks in Doha, Qatar with an aim to end the stalemate over the participation of Afghan government in the negotiations for a political settlement of the conflict.

Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman in a statement said, “Following American acceptance of the agenda of ending invasion of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future, talks with American representatives took place today in Doha.”

Doha meeting happened as the Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan intelligence agency — National Directorate of Security — installation in Maidan Shahr, Kabul, killing and wounding dozens of security personnel.

 

The two sides — US and Taliban — had last met in December 2018 in Abu Dhabi in a meeting facilitated by Pakistan and observed by Saudi Arabia and UAE. It had been agreed at the meeting that the engagement process would be continued. But, arranging the next round of talks became difficult due to the Taliban’s inflexibility over negotiating with the Afghan government. The Taliban have, meanwhile, been insisting that US should instead withdraw its forces and release Taliban prisoners.

There was no word from the US side on the Taliban claim after the latest meeting in Doha that US had agreed to discuss withdrawal plans.

Recently, the Afghan Taliban while rejecting media reports of possible talks with the US in Islamabad and reiterated that they will not deal directly with the Afghan Government.

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International

11 die as ships with Indian, Turkish crews catch fire in Kerch Strait

Agencies

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Moscow:Two ships carrying Indian, Turkish and Libyan crew members had caught fire in the Kerch Strait separating Crimea from Russia, killing at least 11 people, media reports said on Tuesday.

The fire broke out off Russia’s territorial waters. Both vessels were flying Tanzanian flags. One of them was a liquefied natural gas carrier and the other a tanker. The fire broke out as the two ships were transferring fuel from one to the other.

One of the ships, the Candy, had a 17-member crew–nine Turkish citizens and eight Indian nationals.

 

The other, the Maestro, had a 15-member crew–seven Turkish nationals, seven Indian citizens and an intern from Libya, Russian news agency Tass quoted maritime authority as saying.

At least 11 sailors had died, Russian Maritime Agency was quoted by RT news, a Russian television network.

“Presumably, an explosion occurred (on one of the vessels). Then the fire spread to another vessel. A rescue tug is en route,” said a spokesman for the Russian Maritime Agency.

Some three dozen sailors managed to escape the burning ships by jumping off the vessels.

Twelve people have so far been rescued from the sea. Nine sailors were still listed as missing, the spokesperson said.

Severe weather conditions at sea had prevented rescue ships from taking victims to the shore for medical treatment, the report added.

The Kerch Strait is a key waterway that holds strategic importance for both Russia and Ukraine.

It is an important economic lifeline for Ukraine that allows ships leaving the port city of Mariupol to access the Black Sea.

It’s also the closest point of access for Russia to Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed in 2014. A Russian-built bridge over the Kerch Strait opened in May last year. PTI

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Pak shares Kartarpur draft pact, calls India ‘urgently’ to finalise deal

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Lahore/New Delhi: Pakistan said it has shared a draft agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor with India and invited New Delhi to “urgently” send a delegation to Islamabad to “negotiate and finalise” the proposal.

The proposed agreement aims at facilitating travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Darbar Sahib Kartarpur Gurudwara in Narowal, nearly 4 km away from Gurdaspur border on the Indian side.

“The draft agreement between the two governments has been shared with New Delhi through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said in a statement.

 

The move is in line with Pakistan’s policy of promoting inter-faith harmony and religious tolerance and Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood, he added.

Pakistan has appointed Director-General (South Asia and SAARC) as the focal person on its side and requested India to designate its focal person soon.

Pakistan also invited India to “urgently send a delegation to Islamabad to negotiate and finalise the agreement”, Faisal said.

He also tweeted, “Continuing with PM Imran Khan’s initiative, Pakistan, today, shared the proposed draft agreement on Kartarpur Corridor with India. Indian delegation invited to visit Islamabad for an expedited conclusion of the agreement. Keeping promises – Work in progress on Kartarpur Corridor on Pakistan side.”

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district.

Two days later on November 28, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor at Narowal, 125 km from Lahore.

The decision to build the corridor – from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the international border – was taken by the Union Cabinet on November 22.

The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur – the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev – with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.

The corridor was a long-pending demand of the Sikh community. Pakistan had committed to open the corridor in November on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

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