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US-Pak row escalates as White house announces more ‘action’

Monitor News Bureau

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Washington, Jan 03: A day after Washington confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan, the White House said that further action against Pakistan would be announced in the next 24-48 hours.
Addressing a daily press briefing on Wednesday, US Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the actions being taken against Islamabad by Washington are a follow-up to Trump’s South Asia policy announced last year.
“The president is simply following through on a commitment that he made,” she said, referring to Trump’s speech in which he had accused Pakistan of “not fulfilling its obligations”.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations,” Trump had said in August last year, warning that vital aid could be cut.
“We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism, and we want them to step up and do that,” the press secretary said on Wednesday, adding that Trump feels Pakistan “is not doing enough” to combat terrorism.
She said that information on further action against Pakistan would be made available over the next couple of days.
“In terms of specific actions, I think you’ll see some more details come out on that in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Sanders told the US media.
The White House’s move to suspend military aid has been seen as the first step to implementing President Donald Trump’s pledge to tighten economic restrictions on Pakistan.
Military aid to Islamabad was cut after Trump, in a tweet, accused Pakistan of being a liar.
The tweet had come in the aftermath of an increasingly terse back-and-forth between Washington and Islamabad since Trump announced his administration’s latest national security strategy.
During the announcement, the US president had been quick to remind Pakistan of its ‘obligation’ to help America “because it receives massive payments” from Washington every year.
“We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” the US president had said.
A Pentagon report to the US Congress, released to the media on Dec 17, had said Washington would also take ‘unilateral steps’ in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge.
Subsequently, US Vice President Mike Pence had, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase on Dec 22, warned that Trump has “put Pakistan on notice” in what was the harshest US warning to Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war over 16 years ago.
The Pakistan Army spokesman, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, had at a press conference last week asserted that the aid Pakistan received from the US was “reimbursement for support we gave to the coalition for its fight against Al Qaeda.”
“Had we not supported the US and Afghanistan, they would never have been able to defeat Al Qaeda,” he had said.
“The armed forces are working with friends and want to continue doing so, but there can be no compromise on our national honour. We do not want a conflict with our friends, but will ensure the security of Pakistan,” he had added.
His briefing was considered perhaps the strongest-ever reaction from Islamabad since US functionaries began alluding to the possibility of unilateral action.
Hitting back at the US, the civilian-controlled Foreign Office (FO) had also warned against the “malicious campaign” being “used to trivialise Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism”, and noted that “allies do not put each other on notice.”
The FO had further complained that recent US statements are “at variance with the extensive conversations we [Islamabad] have had with the US administration”.


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Lockdown fallout: Anxiety, depression cases surge in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Oct 15: Fifty-year-old Fatima (name changed) feels jitters when she recalls the night she saw an SOS from her younger brother flashing on the television news channel.

“Call me immediately,” flashed the message on the scroll of a TV channel. The world blackened out for Fatima when she read the message from her younger brother.

It was after four weeks post abrogation of state’s special status that she heard from her younger brother, who works in a private company in Middle East.

 

Crushed by apprehensions triggered by the sudden message on TV, Fatima developed frequent panic attacks, which landed her at the Government Psychiatric hospital, Rainawari.

 “My wife kept on saying that something bad has happened to him. Despite our reassurances, she was bogged down by negative thoughts which became the reason for the panic attacks,” lamented her husband.

Moreover, he was not able to contact his brother-in-law as there was no functional land-line in the neighborhood. “Going to DC office was out of question given the severe restrictions from our side at that time,” he said

 Similarly 45-year-old Tabassum (name changed) was hovered by the negative thoughts of her daughter’s bleak future which landed her in depression.

She hoped that her daughter will benefit from the 50 percent quota reserved for the female MBBS students.

After the abrogation of article 370, she apprehended that the Centre would do away with the quota, thus, crushing her daughter’s dreams of becoming a doctor.

 “She cried very easily. Her recurrent question would be: Will the government revoke the quota?” said her sister.

A senior consultant at the Psychiatric hospital termed the abrogation of Article 370 as “precipitating” and “perpetuating” factor to the conflict that is already 30 decades old.

“So many Kashmiris studying and working outside couldn’t contact their family members. Those living in Kashmir couldn’t contact their near and dear ones outside the valley, or for that matter inside the vale. This heightened the anxiety levels,” he said

The doctor noted that only 5-10 percent of patients reported at the hospital in August as the patient inflow was impeded by the lockdown.

“In the beginning phase of the communication lockdown, we couldn’t see many patients at the hospitals. They couldn’t reach here due to restrictions. Our essential services were also impacted,” he said.

The doctor asserted that the long terms effects of the ongoing crisis will be worse. “There will be more of depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and acute stress disorders,” he said.

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Omar sporting beard: Image shared on social media

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 15: A day after the mobile services were resumed in the Kashmir valley, the first image of the National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah surfaced on social media.

Abdullah’s latest picture is doing rounds on Twitter and WhatsApp. The picture was reportedly taken when the NC delegation met him in Srinagar.

With a grey beard and short hair, Abdullah looks totally different than what he used to look prior to his detention.

 

The image is shared by various journalists.

Last month, reports surfaced that Omar had pronounced that he would not shave his beard till his release.

Reports also claimed that Abdullah spends time watching Hollywood movies and working out at the gym.

Along with Omar, his father Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were also put into house arrest after the Narendra Modi government scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by diluting the Article 370.

The vice-president of the NC is detained at the government guesthouse at Hari Niwas Palace in Srinagar, while PDP chief Mufti is placed under detention at a JKTDC-owned hut at Chashma Shahi.

Initially, both the leaders were lodged at Hari Niwas Palace.

On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration resumed postpaid mobile services in the Valley.

The mobile services were shut down after the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370. However, prepaid and internet services will remain suspended for now. The Valley has around 66 lakh mobile users out of which 40 lakh use postpaid facilities.

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NIT Srinagar reopens

Agencies

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Srinagar, Oct 15: The National Institute of Technology (NIT) here reopened on Tuesday after being shut for two-and-a-half months.

The institution was closed in view of security concerns in the region post abrogation of Article 370 and the students who belonged to states other than Jammu and Kashmir were sent home.

“All the students were much tensed as the institution was closed for many days following the abrogation of the article 370. Now when it has finally re-opened we all are very excited and happy that we can continue our studies,” Praful, a student told ANI.

 

Mobile services were also restored in J&K on Monday after a span of over two months since the central government’s move to repeal Article 370 that accorded special status to the region.

The decision to restore mobile phone services came days after Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik announced the withdrawal of security advisory for tourists from October 10.

The administration had also said that tourists desirous of visiting the region will be provided with the necessary assistance and logistic support. (ANI)

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