Washington, Jan 05: Toughening its stance, the US on Friday suspended more than USD 1.15 billion security assistance to Pakistan for failing to take “decisive actions” against “terror” groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network operating from its soil.
The freezing of all security assistance to Pakistan comes after President Donald Trump in a New Year’s Day tweet accused Pakistan of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven to terrorists” in return for USD 33 billion aid over the last 15 years.
The suspended amount also includes USD 255 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by the Congress.
In addition, the Department of Defense has suspended the entire USD 900 million of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) money to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017 and other unspent money from previous fiscal years.
“Today we can confirm that we are suspending national security assistance only, to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.
“We consider them (terror groups) to be destabilising the region and also targeting US personnel. The US will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan,” she said.
The US, she said, will not be delivering military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law.
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”.
Referring to Trump’s new strategy, Nauert said despite a sustained high-level engagement by Trump administration with the government of Pakistan, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilise Afghanistan and also attack the US and allied personnel.
Department of Defence Spokesperson Lt Col Mike Andrews told PTI that National Defense Authorisation Act 2017 provides up to USD 900 million for Pakistan in the CSF.
Of these funds, USD 400 million can only be released if the Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis certifies that the Pakistan government has taken specific actions against the Haqqani Network.
“At this stage all Fiscal Year 17 CSF have been suspended, so that’s the entire amount of USD 900 million,” Andrews said.
During an interaction with Pentagon reporters, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis did not respond to question if he was in favour of cutting off the aid to Pakistan.
“I prefer not to address that right now because it’s obviously still being formulated as policy. But I’ll give my advice on it to the president. I also agree on some confidentiality there,” he said.
According to a senior State Department official, no decision has been taken on the fate of USD 255 million security assistance to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017.
The deadline for that is September 30 this year.
Mattis along with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have travelled to Pakistan in recent months to deliver tough message to the leadership there. So, this action should not come as a surprise to them, Nauert said.
“They may say it’s a surprise, but what is no surprise is that the President has expressed his concerns, Secretary Tillerson has expressed his concerns, as has Secretary Mattis, and I imagine many other government officials having those conversations with Pakistan,” Nauert said.
Now, the money that has been suspended at this time does not mean that it will be suspended forever, she said.
“Pakistan has the ability to get this money back, in the future, but they have to take decisive action. They have to take decisive steps,” she added.
“People have long asked, why don’t you do more about Pakistan, and I think this sort of answers that question. Obviously, Pakistan is important, an important relationship to the US, because together we can work hard to combat terrorism. Perhaps no other country has suffered more from terrorism than Pakistan and many other countries in that part of the region,” she said.
“They understand that, but still they aren’t taking the steps that they need to take in order to fight terrorism,” she said.
In an interaction with reporters, two senior state department officials insisted that such a move is not a punishment, but to provide an incentive to Pakistan to take more action against terrorist groups.
“We have not done anything that’s irreversible here. All this funding is available to Pakistan, if they undertake to take the measures that we’ve asked of them,” a senior administration official said in response to a question.
“Pakistanis have repeatedly said we don’t care about this money. What matters I think to the Pakistani’s is that it is the symbolism of doing this that it represents a deterioration of our relationship that they care about a great deal,” the official said.
“So we were hoping that this is an incentive that they don’t want to see this relationship deteriorate any further and that they’re going to commit to working with us to try to find a way to put it on a more solid footing,” the official added.
The US and others have long complained that Pakistan gives safe haven to the Afghan Taliban and their allies, the Haqqani network, allowing them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies allegations but President Trump has escalated the criticism against the country since he took office.
The Pakistanis say they have suffered great losses from the longstanding war against Islamist networks and are furious that Trump has failed to acknowledge the role they have played.
Yesterday, the state department accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom. It announced that it was placing Pakistan on a special watch list, pursuant to 2016 legislation. The step does not carry any serious consequences.
India MODIfied, totally
BJP footprint extended across NEWS
New Delhi, May 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday led his Bharatiya Janata Party towards a resounding victory for a second term in office, as his message of nationalism, security, Hindu pride and a New India was wholeheartedly embraced by voters across large swathes of the country.
With the elections establishing the 68-year-old Modi as the most popular leader in decades, the partial vote count released by the Election Commission showed that BJP will surpass its 2014 performance.
BJP grabbed a victory bigger than in 2014 – a 300-plus figure with which BJP reached as a single largest party.
The BJP kept its core states – the Hindi heartland, Gujarat and Maharashtra – while posting fresh victories in Bengal, Odisha and the northeast. It has also scored a huge win in Karnataka – a state the Congress rules jointly with HD Kumaraswamy.
“Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again! #VijayiBharat,” PM Modi tweeted.
Modi himself was leading in Varanasi with a margin of over 4.3 lakh votes while party president Amit Shah was ahead in Gandhinagar in their home state of Gujarat by over 5.5 lakh votes.
In the end, BJP’s prediction in the final stages of campaigning of “ab ki baar 300 paar” appeared coming true, as Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s campaign slogan of “chowkidar chor hai” found no resonance among voters.
Markets cheered the trends, as the benchmark BSE Sensex touched 40,000 for the first time and NSE Nifty breached the 12,000 level. The rupee appreciated 14 paise to 69.51 against the US dollar trade.
If the trends stay until final results, the BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance will likely end up with 344 seats, up from 336 in 2014. The BJP, which is now tantalisingly close to the 300 mark in Lok Sabha, had won 282 seats on its own in the last election.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi — Many Congratulations for securing such a big victory for the BJP. I am thankful to the people,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
The results are a ringing endorsement of Modi’s popularity, his government’s achievements in the last five years and his campaign, which centred around national security following the Balakot air strikes, nationalism and Hindutva. He also relentlessly attacked the Congress Party for what he called its dynastic legacy, and blamed it for the country’s woes, including endemic corruption.
The opposition had criticised the BJP campaign as divisive and polarising.
Still, the trend shows that the Modi wave and the party’s brilliant election management swept across geographies, caste lines, age, gender and economic status.
In the politically critical state of Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party combine had posed a stiff challenge, the BJP was leading in 59 of the 80 seats at stake. The SP was ahead in six and BSP in 11. Although the BJP had won 71 seats in the last elections, the performance is much better than what many exit polls had forecast.
The BJP state headquarters in Lucknow was drenched in saffron hue with jubilant party workers wearing saffron stoles, adorning ‘genda’ flowers around their necks and holding lotus cut outs. They also burst crackers and danced to drum beats as women supporters wore saffron attire and painted their nails in the same hue.
In a stark contrast, Congress, BSP and SP offices wore a forlorn look. Under the scorching sun, even shop owners selling campaign material outside the SP office sat in stunned silence as those gathered around the tea kiosks talked in hushed tones
The Congress Party was ahead only in one seat in Uttar Pradesh. Even, Gandhi was trailing BJP’s Smriti Irani in Amethi by nearly 20,000 votes but was clearly ahead in Wayanad in Kerala with a lead of more than 8.3 lakh votes.
“Congress party is feeling dejected and the trends are not in line with the expectations of the party. I would not jump to the results till complete counting has taken place,” Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill told reporters.
“If they (trends) hold, then Congress needs to introspect as to why its campaign failed to resonate with the people of the country,” he said.
The Modi wave not only swept through the Hindi heartland and Gujarat, as was expected, but also rippled through West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh appeared untouched. Even in Telangana, where it was expected to fare poorly, the BJP was ahead in four seats, the same as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
However, Andhra Pradesh threw up a shock in the Assembly polls, which were held simultaneously, voting out of power the Telugu Desam Party of Chandrababu Naidu, and electing Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress.
The Lok Sabha trends were staggering for BJP in the Hindi-speaking states, including those where Congress had won in the recent Assembly elections: in Madhya Pradesh, BJP was ahead in 28 out of 29 seats with a vote percentage of nearly 60; in Rajasthan it was leading in all but one of 25 seats; similarly in Chattisgarh, BJP was ahead in nine compared to Congress’ 2 seats.
Haryana also is expected to send nine BJP MPs out of 10.
“The people on the ground are not buying the narrative of the opposition that people are under threat. People are doing well that they are looking forward to the next government of Narendra Modi. We have to realise that Modi’s government inherited very weak economy and he done very phenomenal job (in the last five year),” BJP’s Amit Malviya said.
In Odisha, the BJP made huge gains, forging ahead in six of the 21 seats while the Biju Janata Dal was ahead in 15. In 2014, the BJD had won 20 seats and BJP took one. Odisha also held simultaneous Assembly polls, in which the BJD is set to return to power, indicating that the voters chose smartly, opting for the status quo in both state and centre.
BJP and its ally Janata Dal (United) were ahead in 16 seats each in Bihar out of 40 at stake.
The Trinamool Congress Party was leading in 22 of 42 seats of West Bengal while BJP was ahead in 19, up from two it held in 2014. The Left was wiped out in the state, once its citadel.
The DMK was ahead in 20 seats in Tamil Nadu while the AIADMK was leading in only two. In Kerala, the Congress-led UDF was ahead in 18 out of 20 seats.
As the trends came in, pointing to another tenure of Modi as prime minister, celebrations broke out in the BJP’s party offices across the country with people dancing to the sounds of drums and distributing sweets.
The trends of the ruling party’s leads were in sync with the exit polls, most of which predicted that the NDA would be on course to retain power for a second term.
In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, leaving the Congress with an all-time low of 44 seats against the 206 it won in 2009.
The counting exercise is on in over 4,000 counting centres amid concerns raised by opposition parties over alleged tampering of EVMs. They have asked the Election Commission to ensure transparency in counting.
Election Commission officials said results are expected only by late evening.
The voting was staggered between April 11 and May 19 in which around 67 per cent of the nearly 900 million eligible people exercised their franchise to elect 542 members of the Lok Sabha from a total of 8,049 contestants. For the first time in Lok Sabha polls, the EC is tallying the vote count on Electronic Voting Machines with voter verified paper audit trail slips in five polling stations in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency. It will effectively mean that out of nearly 10.3 lakh polling stations, the EVM-VVPAT matching will take place in 20,600 such stations.
In case of a mismatch, the results based on paper slip count will be considered as final.
Out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, elections were held in 542 constituencies as the EC had cancelled polls to the Vellore constituency on the ground of excessive use of money power.
Victory of democracy: Modi
Monitor News Desk
New Delhi, May 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the people over the BJP’s landslide win in the national elections today, saying it was a victory of “democracy”. On the occasion, he also made three promises to the people – never to do anything with “ill intention”, “never do anything to make a personal fortune” and “every pore, every cell in my body will work non-stop to ensure that the country keeps moving forward”.
The BJP’s performance has exceeded its tally of 2014 today, crossing the 300-mark just three hours into counting. Overall, the NDA has won or is leading in nearly 350 seats – the counting is still on. In 2014, the party won 282 seats, the NDA had won 336. It was the first time in more than three decades that a single party won majority on its own.
The party’s victory, the Prime Minister said, has created a new narrative. “All parties have to introspect” he said.
Targeting the caste-based politics practised in large swathes of the country, he said, “There are only two castes left. These are… the poor. The second – those who remove poverty”.
Uttar Pradesh — the state where caste has been a key component in politics for decades — has given a huge mandate to the BJP for the second time in a row.
In 2014, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal had won 73 of the 80 seats in the state. This time, in face of a challenge from the Grand Alliance of Mayawati and Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav, the BJP has won or is leading in 61 seats.
The alliance, which has a huge support base among the scheduled castes, backward castes and the Muslims, are likely to get less than 20 seats.
“We had gone to the people to know about their decisions… today, crores of people have filled this fakir ki jholi (poor man’s bag)… this is democracy’s biggest incident,” PM Modi said, addressing hundreds of workers at the party headquarters in Delhi.
Defeated Rahul mulls resign?
New Delhi, May 23: Conceding defeat, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP for their landslide victory in the Lok Sabha polls, and said his party will continue to fight the ideological battle with the saffron party.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, he said the Congress Working Committee will meet soon and decide on whether he should resign as party chief following the electoral debacle
The Congress could manage to add only a few seats to its 2014 Lok Sabha tally of 44 seats.
“I congratulate Narendra Modiji and BJP for their electoral victory. People of India have decided that Narendra Modi will be the PM again and I fully respect that,” Gandhi said.
“The Congress will continue to fight its ideological battle with BJP unitedly,” he added, asking the party workers not be afraid.
Gandhi also congratulated Smriti Irani on her victory in Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh from where he had won for three consecutive terms since 2004. (PTI)
Narendra Modi: Thank you India! The faith placed in our alliance is humbling and gives us strength to work even harder to fulfil people’s aspirations.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Congratulations, my friend @Narendramodi, on your impressive election victory! The election results further reaffirm your leadership of the world’s largest democracy. Together we will continue to strengthen the great friendship between India & Israel. Well done, my friend!
Rahul Gandhi: I accept the verdict of the people of India. Congratulations to the winners, Mr Modi & the NDA.
Mamata Banerjee: Congratulations to the winners. But all losers are not losers. We have to do a complete review and then we will share our views with you all. Let the counting process be completed fully and the VVPATs matched
Imran Khan: I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia
Arvind Kejriwal: I congratulate Sh Narendra Modi for this historic win and look forward to working together for the betterment of the people of Delhi.
Amit Shah: This win is a victory for the whole of India. The youth of the country is a triumph of the hopes of the poor, the farmer. This grand victory is a triumph of public confidence in Prime Minister Modi Ji’s five-year development and strong leadership.
Omar Abdullah: Congratulate the BJP & NDA for a stellar performance. Credit where credit is due PM Modi Sahib & Mr Amit Shah put together a winning alliance & a very professional campaign. Bring on the next five years.
Mehbooba Mufti: Congratulations to Narendra Modi ji for a historic mandate. Today surely belongs to BJP and its allies. Time for Congress to get an Amit Shah.
Shah Faesal: Congratulations to @narendramodi @BJP4India for the landslide win. The mandate must be respected. We in J&K are hopeful that tempers will be allowed to calm down.
Valley dumps PDP, NC back in business, BJP retains turf
Srinagar, May 23: On the day Modi wave swept the entire country, National Conference retained its core support base and won all the three seats from the Kashmir Valley while Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP faced drubbing across Kashmir including in their own backyard.
BJP, on the other hand, retained Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh seats.
National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah, party leaders Mohammad Akbar Lone and retired High Court Judge Justice Hasnain Masoodi won from Srinagar, Baramulla, and Anantnag Parliamentary constituencies respectively.
Farooq maintained healthy lead since morning when the counting started at Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre. Farooq got 106427 votes with a voter percentage of 57.13 out of 186832 votes polled. His main rival PDP’s Aga Syed Mohsin and Peoples Conference candidate Irfan Raza Ansari polled 36609 and 28668 votes respectively. Srinagar constituency registered 14.1 per cent polling in the elections.
This is Farooq’s fourth win in Lok Sabha elections. National Conference president, who has been three time chief minister, has lost only one election in his 49-year long political career.
Farooq was first elected as a member of Lok Sabha in 1980. However, he returned to state politics in the wake of failing health of his father and National Conference leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1981.
Farooq succeeded Sheikh as chief minister in September 1982 following latter’s death. He won 2009 Lok Sabha polls and became the union minister in UPA government. He however suffered the first ever defeat in 2014 when he lost to the then PDP’s candidate Tariq Hamid Karra.
Farooq made a comeback when he won the 2017 by-polls after Karra resigned from the PDP and Lok Sabha in 2016.
NC’s Mohammad Akbar Lone emerged winner from the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat. He got 131869 votes while his nearest rival Peoples Conference candidate Raja Aijaz Ali baged 102212 votes. The biggest surprise of the elections was that Independent candidate and former MLA Langate Engineer Rashid stood third with 100042 votes. PDP’s Abdul Qayoom Wani was distant fourth with 52766 votes.
Compared to Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies, turnout was slightly better in Baramulla constituency where 34.61 percent electorate cast their ballot. Around 447019 voters had cast their vote in Baramulla constituency.
Lone was higher education minister in the Omar Abdullah’s government. Earlier he also served as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
From restive Anantnag constituency, retired High Court Judge Justice Hasnain Masoodi emerged as a winner. He defeated his nearest rival and Congress chief GA Mir. PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti stood third.
Masoodi got 39898 votes while Mir and Mehbooba got 32534 and 30068 votes respectively. Around 122898 votes were polled in Anantnag constituency. It was Mehbooba’s first defeat from south Kashmir, which was considered the bastion of the PDP.
Meanwhile, Union Minister in PMO, Jitendra Singh sealed victory in Udhampur over Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh after he secured 711199 votes to take a massive lead over his rival who got 365443votes. This is second Jitendra Singh’s consecutive win from Udhampur.
In the Jammu Lok Sabha seat, BJP candidate Jugal Kishore romped home with 830861votes while his Congress rival Raman Bhalla got 546403 votes.
BJP also managed to win the lone seat in Ladakh. Its candidate Jamyang Tsering Namgyal secured 38338 votes against 29004 of independent candidate Sajjad Hussain who was supported by NC and the PDP. The Congress which contested five seats in Jammu and Kashmir couldn’t win a single seat.
BJP state general secretary, Ashok Kaul said that they had already predicted that party will win three seats in the state.
“People of the state have reposed faith on us. We are hopeful that in assembly elections the party will do well,” he said adding that time will also come when people in the Valley will also help BJP to win seats.
Mehbooba tastes second defeat in her 23-yr old political career
Srinagar, May 23: The 2016 unrest seems to have returned to haunt former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti who tasted first ever defeat from her pocket borough of south Kashmir.
Hailing from Anantnag’s Bijbehara area, Mehbooba was contesting against National Conference candidate Justice Hasnain Masoodi and Congress leader GA Mir.
What was surprising that she not only lost to Masoodi, who was making his political debut but she stood third in the contest. PDP had won Anantnag parliamentary seat in 2014. Later that year the party won 11 of 16 assembly segments of south Kashmir.
Anantnag recorded a low overall turnout of just 8.76% in 2019 polls. Mehbooba polled 30068 votes while Masoodi and Mir got 39898 and 32534 votes respectively.
The PDP chief won the Anantnag seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when she defeated the then NC candidate Mehboob Beg, who later switched sides and joined the PDP.
The seat fell vacant in June 2016 after Mehbooba resigned, when she became the chief minister. She later won the Anantnag assembly seat which had fallen vacant after the demise of her father and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
“I’ve been fortunate to get the love &affection of my people. They have every right to express their anger for my failings. Accept their verdict with humility. Congratulations to winning candidates from NC. I’m grateful to my party workers and colleagues”, Mehbooba tweeted after her defeat
“Leaving behind the bitterness of the campaign Mehbooba also reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when she congratulated him for the victory. “Congratulations to Narendra Modi ji for a historic mandate. Today surely belongs to BJP and its allies. Time for Congress to get an Amit Shah”, she said in another tweet.
This is the second electoral defeat of Mehbooba since she joined politics in 1996. She had earlier lost the 1999 Lok Sabha polls from Srinagar to the NC’s Omar Abdullah.
Mehbooba made her maiden entry to the Parliament in 2004, by defeating National Conference candidate Mehboob Beg by more than 38,000 votes from Anantnag constituency.
Historically, no political party or leader has got the consecutive second term in the south Kashmir parliamentary seat. In 1989 parliamentary polls, PL Handoo of National Conference emerged winner from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat.
Though, the parliamentary polls were again held in 1991 in the country, the elections could not take place in Kashmir due to volatile situation. This had prompted the Centre to promulgate an ordinance to defer elections for the seat.
In 1996 polls, the Janata Dal candidate Muhammad Maqbool Dar emerged winner from this Lok Sabha constituency. Mufti Muhammad Sayeed won the south Kashmir Parliamentary seat in 1998 on the Congress ticket.
In 1999, the Lok Sabha seat of south Kashmir was won by the National Conference candidate Ali Muhammad Naik. The elections were conducted against the backdrop of than National Conference leader Saifuddin Soz, who voted in defiance of the party whip against the BJP-led coalition government during the confidence motion in Lok Sabha. He later joined the Congress party.