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US looks forward to working with Imran-led govt

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WASHINGTON: As Pakistan forms a new government, the United States looks for opportunities to work with it to advance the goals of security and stability in South Asia, the State Department said .
In a statement on Wednesday’s election that gave Imran Khan and his party a clear edge over others, a spokesman for the State Department also expressed concern over some developments.
“As Pakistan’s elected leaders form a new government, the United States will look for opportunities to work with them to advance our goals of security, stability, and prosperity in South Asia,” the spokesperson said.
“We are concerned by reports of constraints placed on freedoms of expression, association, and the press leading up to the elections.”
Asked to comment on the election results, the spokesperson said: “We are awaiting official results from the Electoral Commission of Pakistan and observer missions to release their preliminary findings.”
Meanwhile, The Financial Times in a report observed that election in Pakistan produced a rare victory for a candidate who comes from outside the country’s two major dynasties, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos.
Other media outlets also noted this change in the stories published or broadcast in the United States since Wednesday evening, when election results from Pakistan showed Imran Khan and his party emerging as a clear winner.
The FT article pointed out that Imran Khan projected himself on the campaign trail as a fighter against corruption, willing to take on the country’s established political elite. “But his opponents say he has been supported and funded by the armed forces,” the report added.
The Bloomberg financial wire reported that Imran Khan’s win would clear the way for Pakistan to “open negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over another, much-needed bailout”.
The reported noted that investors in Pakistan were “already expressing relief at the prospect of an outright win after expectations of a hung parliament”.
The report warned that the PTI leader’s alleged link to Pakistan’s Islamists would be viewed with concern in world capitals and pointed out that in one of his past statements he threatened to shoot down US drones if they entered the Pakistani territory in his government.
Khan maintains that “America’s presence (in Afghanistan) puts him in direct conflict with US President Donald Trump”, the report added.
Bloomberg also noted that Khan, who won power as an anti- corruption crusader, has emphasised the need for more transparency in the $60 billion CPEC projects.
“For now, he may choose to focus on Pakistan’s economy rather than battle the country’s powerful generals over foreign policy and national security issues,” Bloomberg observed.
An agency report published on some news sites noted that religious extremists and banned groups failed miserably in Pakistan’s elections.
Although the extremists had fielded hundreds of candidates, only one appeared to be winning a provincial assembly seat from Karachi, it added.
A Washington Post article noted that PML-N had rejected the results, claiming the election was rigged and other major political parties were also backing this claim.
Although the rigging allegation had cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the entire electoral exercise, it would not prevent the PTI from forming the next government, the report added.
“The PTI-led government would take office, and the opposition parties would concurrently maintain a strong protest movement to pressure the new government for the foreseeable future,” the Post added.
The report noted that if rigging allegations led to a protest movement, the political parties led by the PML-N, could boycott the newly elected parliament and demand a repeat election.
“But such a call would require deep coordination between all major political parties … (and) with the PPP in a strong position to easily form one provincial government, there is no obvious reason to believe they would collaborate.”
The Foreign Policy magazine also carried a report on its website, noting that Pakistan’s foreign relations “are the most frayed they have been in decades” as Imran Khan prepares to take over.
The report noted while the United States and Afghanistan accused Pakistan of allowing Taliban militants to operate out of sanctuaries in Pakistan, the dispute with India over Kashmir was growing tense.
“Pakistan has once more been placed on a terrorism-financing watch list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, rendering it ever more internationally isolated,” it added.
The report stressed the need for dealing with the growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan if Mr Khan wanted to improve his country’s ties with Washington.
The report also noted that before his election, Mr Khan presented himself “as a leader of conscience who would better safeguard Pakistani honour by engaging with the United States on more equal terms”.
But “once Khan is finally and safely in power …, he may no longer need to surf Pakistan’s permanent wave of popular anti-American sentiment with such dedication”, the report added.

 
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International

Sri Lanka bombings death toll rises to 359, 18 more suspects held overnight

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Colombo: Police say the death toll in the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.
The prime minister warned that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks and released images that purported to show the attackers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.

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UN says over 250 killed, over 1,200 injured in Libya battle

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TRIPOLI: At least 264 people have been killed and over 1,200 wounded in weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Libya’s capital, the World Health Organisation said , as African leaders gathered in Cairo to discuss the crisis.
The agency called on Twitter for “a temporary cessation of hostilities, and for all parties to respect humanitarian law”.
Eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital on April 4, as his self-styled Libyan National Army pledged “to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries”.
Forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, launched a counter-attack at the weekend.
The fighting has since eased somewhat as both sides appeared to be preparing for the next phase of the battle.
Fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs has so far displaced at least 35,000 people, UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya Maria do Valle Ribeiro said on Monday.
“Displacement is continuing at an increasing rate every day,” she said, warning that the figures were a conservative estimate.
The two sides have reached a near stalemate since armed groups backing the GNA launched their counter-attack on Saturday.
An AFP team on the ground at the weekend confirmed that GNA-aligned fighters had pushed the frontline back several kilometres in the southern district of Ain-Zara, around a dozen kilometres south of the city centre.
Another frontline is a little further southwest, around the districts of al-Swani and Qasr ben-Ghachir, around 30 kilometres from Tripoli, on a key road between the capital and the old international airport.
Occasional bursts of gunfire — and heavier projectiles — have been audible, sometimes resonating in the city centre.
“It is calm on most fronts,” Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for GNA forces, said.
“Orders were given to forces on the perimeter of Tripoli airport to consolidate their positions,” he said.
Haftar’s force said on its official Facebook page it had received “significant” reinforcements, particularly in the west.
Valle Ribeiro said civilians were being displaced every day, while some had been trapped by fire including “heavy artillery and… shelling in some densely populated parts of the city”.
“Any country that has leverage should be using that leverage to ensure that civilians can be protected,” she said.
African leaders were due to meet in Cairo at the behest of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss the violence.

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Israel to name Golan settlement after Trump

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JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan after US President Donald Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.
Netanyahu, who has been on a trip to the region with his family for the week-long Passover holiday, said in a video message that he would present a resolution to the government calling for a new settlement named after the US president.
“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said.
Trump again broke with longstanding international consensus on March 25 when he recognised Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The decision came only two weeks ahead of a tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.
Trump has shifted US policy sharply in Israel’s favour since taking office, most notably by recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel annexed 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan it seized in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.
Around 18,000 Syrians from the Druze sect — most of whom refuse to take Israeli citizenship — remain in the occupied Golan.
Some 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, spread over 33 settlements.

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