WASHINGTON: The US State Department has said that Pakistan needs to earn the money it gets from Washington while the White House warned that President Donald Trump can follow through his pledge to stop US assistance to Pakistan if it does not change its Afghan policy.
The two statements were part of the regular news briefings at the White House and the State Department o where reporters appeared perturbed about the timing of the tweet Mr Trump sent out at 4am on Monday, threatening Pakistan with dire consequences of its alleged support to the militants.
At the State Department, Spokesperson Heather Nauert seemed aware of the unpopularity of the “do more” phrase and avoided it, at least once. “I don’t want to say that Pakistan can do more, but Pakistan knows what it needs to do,” she said.
But Ms Nauert minced no words when asked why President Trump was threatening to stop US economic and military assistance to Pakistan.
White House’s press secretary says President Trump ‘does what he says’
“They need to better earn, essentially, the money that we have provided in the past in foreign military assistance, they need to show that they are sincere in their efforts to crack down on terrorists,” she said.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reminded Pakistan that President Trump “does what he says” and he will follow through the commitment he made.
Both statements emphasised the point that there’s no immediate reason behind the tweet that seems to have stirred a wave of anti-American sentiments across Pakistan. Mr Trump was only re-emphasising his frustration with Pakistan’s Afghan policy.
“The president is simply following through on a commitment that he made, because this is a president that does what he says he’s going to do,” said Sanders when asked what precipitated President Trump’s tweet about threatening to withhold future US aid to Pakistan.
“We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism, and we want them to step up and do that,” she added, negating the State Department’s effort to avoid using an unpopular phrase.
Despite her denial, reporters at the White House briefing continued to ask Ms Sanders what caused Mr Trump to send out a tweet at 4am.
Some reminded that the US-Pakistan disagreement on the Haqqani network was a long-running dispute between the two governments, so there has to be a reason for sending such a harsh message to Islamabad.
Sanders traced it back to the new Afghan strategy President Trump outlined in August reminding Pakistan that it was not fulfilling its obligations. Another journalist looking for a cause for the tweet referred to Mr Trump’s UN envoy Nikki Haley’s statement, saying that the aid cut for Pakistan was not tied to the United Nations vote on Jerusalem.
“First, in terms of Pakistan, as I said, our goal is that we know that they can do more to stop terrorism, and we want them to do that. That seems pretty simple,” Ms Sanders said.
Responding to the second part of the question — when would the US announce sanctions on the nations that voted against it in the UN on the Jerusalem issue last month — the White House official said: “I think you’ll see some more details come out on that in the next 24 to 48 hours.”
At the State Department, Ms Heather too had to face the same question — “why did the administration choose this week to announce it is withholding aid from Pakistan”?
“Actually, no, we didn’t. That was an announcement that came out back in August, and for some reason, people got interested in it again. But that is not a new announcement that we would hold back on that money,” she responded.
“Pakistan is an important partner. We have a lot of issues in that region. Pakistan knows that, we all know that, and we try to work carefully together on some of those issues,” said Ms Heather.
“The president has made clear in the past also… that the US expects Pakistan to take decisive action against the Haqqani network and other militants who are operating from its soil,” she added.
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.