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Rajapaksa resigns as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister amid political crisis

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Colombo: Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena in a controversial move, resigned on Saturday as two crucial Supreme Court decisions made the embattled former strongman’s efforts to cling to premiership untenable.

Rajapaksa informed the lawmakers of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) that he has resigned from the post, MP Shehan Semasinghe told reporters.

His son, Namal Rajapaksa, had yesterday said he will quit “to ensure stability of the nation”, after the Supreme Court ordered that he should not exercise the powers of the office he has claimed since October 26.

 

The apex court’s latest ruling came a day after it unanimously declared that the dissolution of Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was “illegal”, in a body blow to the embattled leader, whose controversial decisions plunged the island nation into an unprecedented political turmoil.

Namal Rajapakse said they will join a coalition with President Maithripala Sirisena who triggered the political crisis on October 26 by sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with former foe Rajapakse.

The latest decision of Rajapakse to back down came as the Supreme Court ruled that he and his purported cabinet should not exercise the powers of the office they claim until he could prove his legitimacy.

The court ruling also meant that the country was effectively without a government and heading for a shut down in the absence of parliament voting for a budget for 2019.

In another blow to Sirisena, the highest court ruled on Thursday that his sacking of parliament on November 9 was illegal and cancelled a snap election he had called for January 5.

Rajapakse failed to prove his majority in parliament and was twice defeated in no-confidence motions on November 14 and 16, but refused to step down.

Wickremesinghe also refused to step down since October 26 maintaining that his sacking was illegal. That issue is currently being canvassed before courts.

Political sources said Sirisena was likely to invite Wickremesinghe to form a new government over the weekend and end the power vacuum.

Rajapaksa was appointed as the prime minister on October 26 by President Sirisena in a controversial move after sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe, which plunged the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

Pro-Rajapaksa lawmaker, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, had told reporters that Rajapaksa decided in a meeting on Friday with President Sirisena to resign to allow the President to appoint a new government.

Wickremesinghe is expected to take oath as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister on Sunday.

President Maithripala Sirisena has reportedly agreed to reinstate ousted Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in the post after a discussion with him over the phone on Friday.


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Pakistan will be a very important country in coming future, says Saudi crown prince

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Islamabad :Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman expressed optimism about the economic future of Pakistan, saying his country had been waiting for a leadership like that of Prime Minister Imran Khan to partner with Islamabad in various areas.

Addressing a reception dinner at Prime Minister House hours after arriving in Pakistan, the crown prince — known as MBS for short — said Pakistan is a “dear country” to all Saudis and that the two countries “have walked together in tough and good times”.

He said Pakistan today had a great future in store “with a great leadership”, and noted that the country’s GDP grew by 5 per cent in 2018.

 

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future and we want to be sure we are part of that,” the crown prince said.

Turning towards Prime Minister Khan, he said his country had been “waiting for that kind of a leadership” to partner with and “build a lot of things together”.

He noted that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan today signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for investment cooperation.

“We believe the amount of that kind of investment is US $20 billion,” MBS said. “It’s big, for phase one.”

He expressed the hope that the investment will grow to bigger numbers in the coming years and be beneficial for both the countries.

The Saudi royal said his country would collaborate with Pakistan economically, politically and in terms of security. “We believe in our region, that is why we are investing in it,” he added.

“This is my first trip [to the] east since I became the crown prince and the first country [that I have visited] is Pakistan,” the Saudi royal concluded.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech welcomed the Saudi crown prince and his delegation to the country, saying the Kingdom has always been a “friend in need” to Pakistan.

“For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” the premier said, adding that Saudi Arabia had always been there when Pakistan needed friends.

“I want to thank you for the way you helped us when we were in [a] bad situation,” Khan told MBS, adding that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were now taking their relationship to a new level, where investment agreements would be mutually beneficial for the countries.

The investment would revolve around minerals, tourism, petrochemicals, agriculture, food processing and other areas, he said.

Prime Minister Khan also invited Riyadh to avail opportunities that can arise from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pakistan’s close links with Beijing. “It is an exciting future where we have Saudi Arabia participating in what is going to be, in the next 10 years, probably the country with the biggest GDP,” he added.
Khan told MBS that if it hadn’t been for security concerns, “you would have seen thousands and thousands of people on the streets welcoming you.”

The prime minister’s speech preceded the address of the Saudi crown prince, but once MBS finished, Khan rose again to speak about two issues.

One, he requested MBS to allow Pakistani Haj pilgrims to undergo immigration at the three major Pakistani airports before leaving for Saudi Arabia for their convenience.

Secondly, Prime Minister Khan requested the Saudi authorities to look into the hardships of the Pakistani labourers working in the Kingdom.

“There are some 3,000 [Pakistani] prisoners there and we just would like you to bear in mind that they are poor people who have left their families behind,” Khan said.
Terming it a “special request”, the premier asked MBS to “look upon them [Pakistani labourers] as your own people”.

In response, MBS told Prime Minister Khan he could consider him the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia.

“We cannot say no to Pakistan … whatever we can do, we will deliver that.”

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Saudi crown prince orders release of over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners

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Islamabad:The morning after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman promised to deliver “whatever we can do” for Pakistanis living in the kingdom, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that MBS had ordered the immediate release of over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails.

Prime Minister Imran Khan at a ceremony held to welcome the crown prince at PM House had made a “special request” to MBS to look into the hardships of Pakistani labourers working in the kingdom, and to “look upon them as your own people”.

“There are some 3,000 [Pakistani] prisoners there and we just would like you to bear in mind that they are poor people who have left their families behind,” Khan had said.

 

MBS had responded by assuring the premier to consider him Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Prince Mohammad had continued: “We cannot say no to Pakistan … whatever we can do, we will deliver that.”

Prime Minister Khan in a tweet today said that the crown prince had “won the hearts of the people of Pakistan when he said, ‘Consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia’ in response to my asking him to treat the 2.5 million Pakistanis working in KSA as his own.”

Read more: ‘Pakistan will be a very important country in coming future,’ says Saudi crown prince Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet today said: “As a sequel to Prime Minister of Pakistan’s request, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of KSA Mohammad Bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi Jails.”

This was Prince Mohammad’s first state visit since becoming crown prince. Saudi Arabia has signed agreements worth $21 billion with Pakistan in various fields, including cooperation in power production, establishment of an oil refinery and petrochemical plant, promotion of sports and technical assistance in the standardisation sector.

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Taliban say unable to attend Pakistan talks; blame travel blacklist

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Washington:The Taliban have postponed an unscheduled round of peace talks with the United States set for in Pakistan saying “most” members of their negotiating team are unable to travel because they’re on the US and United Nations’ blacklists.

The statement offered no other details. It did not explain how several members previously were able to travel to meetings in the United Arab Emirates and Moscow.

The Taliban maintain a political office in Qatar, where members of the negotiating team reside.

 

The Islamabad talks were seen as significant, coinciding with the visit of the Saudi crown prince to Pakistan.

The Taliban 14-member team includes five former inmates of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, and Anas Haqqani, the jailed younger brother of the leader of the militant Haqqani network.

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