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US suspends 1.66 bn dollar security aid to Pakistan: Pentagon

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Washington, Nov 21:The US has suspended USD 1.66 billion in security assistance to Pakistan after President Donald Trump’s directive, the Pentagon has said, in what experts believe is a strong signal of American frustration.

The Pentagon’s statement came days after President Trump said Pakistan did not do “a damn thing” for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad.

“USD 1.66 billion of security assistance to Pakistan is suspended,” Col Rob Manning, spokesman of the Department of Defence, told reporters in an e-mail response to questions on Tuesday.

 

No further breakdown of the suspended security assistance to Pakistan was provided.

According to David Sedney, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary Defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia during the previous Obama administration, the blocking of military assistance to Pakistan, which began in January this year, is a strong signal of American frustration.

“But, so far Pakistan has taken no serious steps to address the core US concern–that Pakistan tolerates and often encourages groups which use violence against Pakistan’s neighbours,” Sedney told PTI.

“Pakistan’s leaders have promised cooperation, but beyond words, serious cooperation has not happened, therefore President Trump is frustrated and so are most Americans,” he said in response to a question.

“This frustration does not ignore the suffering that Pakistani people have undergone. It just asks Pakistan to recognise that it should act to help stop the suffering of others,” said the Senior Associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Previously, Sedney was at the Department of State and the National Security Council, as well as Acting President of American University of Afghanistan. He was part of the Pentagon when Laden was killed in a raid by US commandoes in Pakistan’s Abbottabad.

Over the last few days, Trump has said that people in Pakistan knew about the presence of Laden.

“I agree with the views of Carlotta Gall of the New York Times who reported in her book ‘The Wrong Enemy’ that a very small group of very senior Pakistani military leaders knew about Laden’s presence in Pakistan. I have not seen any evidence that his presence in Abbottabad was widely known by many in Pakistan,” Sedney told PTI in an interview.

While Pakistan has suffered terribly from terrorism by Islamic extremists, Islamabad has also enabled extremist groups that attack its neighbours, he observed.

After years of dithering, in recent years, Pakistan’s security forces have moved strongly against the extremists that threaten the Pakistani state, Sedney said.

“What the US seeks, what President Trump is asking for, is for Pakistan to take the same kind of measures against the Taliban, Lashkhar-e-Taiba and against all groups in Pakistan that threaten Pakistan’s neighbours,” he said.

“But, we still see the Taliban moving weapons, fighters and money through Pakistan. We still see Taliban commanders taking refuge in Pakistan, keeping their families in Pakistan, holding meetings and conducting training in Pakistan and shipping explosives from Pakistan into Afghanistan,” Sedney alleged, adding that leaders of sanctioned organisations were acting freely in Pakistan and speaking publicly in favour of violence.

If Pakistan took some strong measures against the Taliban, peace would come to Afghanistan quickly, he said.

 


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Time for talks over, world must act now: PM

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New Delhi, Feb 18: The Pulwama attack which claimed the lives of 49 CRPF men shows that the time to hold talks on “terrorism” is over and there is an urgent need to unite against such elements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.

The Prime Minister, who was holding talks with Argentina President Mauricio Macri, said dithering to take action against militants and their supporters will be like encouraging militancy.

“Brutal attack in Pulwama proves that time for talks have passed. Now the entire world needs to unite against ‘terrorism’ and its supporters and take strong actions,” PM said.

 

President of Argentina Mauricio Macri said, “I would like to convey my condolences to the victims of the cruel attack (Pulwama) perpetrated just a few days ago. We condemn every kind of terrorist attack. I am truly pleased to be able to working together to fight this scourge on mankind.”

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Cross LoC trade, bus service suspended

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Srinagar, Feb 18: The cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan via Poonch has been suspended in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed last Thursday.
“Since the incident, no truck was allowed to cross the Line of control hence affecting the trade,” an official said.
He added that Poonch-Rawalakot cross-LoC bus service too has been suspended till further orders.
President, Cross LoC trade Union, Pawan Anand told The Kashmir Monitor that 60 trucks are stranded at trade centre (Chakan Da Bagh).
“We got orders to suspend the trade,” he said.
Pawan said that at least they have endured more than 4 crore of losses due to the trade suspension.
He added that most of the trucks are loaded with grapes, tomato, banana, tamarind and ser (zeera).
Besides Poonch, the cross-LoC trade also takes place through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in Uri.
However, DC Baramulla, Nasir Ahmad Naqash, confirmed that Uri has not received any order for trade suspension yet.

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MBS conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan: Saudi vows to ‘de-escalate’ India-Pakistan tension

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Islamabad, Feb 18: Saudi Arabia vowed to “de-escalate” rising tensions between Pakistan and India during a high-profile summit in Islamabad Monday as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prepares to travel from Islamabad to New Delhi.
The kingdom’s foreign minister spoke at a press conference in Islamabad as Pakistan recalled its envoy from Delhi for “consultations”, the latest development in a fresh diplomatic crisis between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Delhi has vowed to retaliate after a suicide blast which killed over 40 Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir on Thursday, the deadliest attack in Kashmir in recent decade.
The attack has sparked widespread calls in India for action against Pakistan.
“Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, neighboring countries, and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
The pledge came as the crown prince, widely known as “MBS”, prepared to head for India later Monday, at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Pakistan.
India is garnering diplomatic support after the attack and has vowed to “isolate” Pakistan diplomatically in the international community, saying it has “incontrovertible evidence” of Islamabad’s role.
Pakistan has rejected the allegations.
Meanwhile, Pakistan President Arif Alvi on Monday conferred the country’s highest civil award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — on Saudi Crown Prince.
Mohammad bin Salman was honoured due to his “outstanding support for reinvigorating Pak-Saudi bilateral relationship”, Dawn reported.
Following the Pakistan president’s speech, the Saudi crown prince, as per Dawn, addressed the audience. “I was honoured to meet the president of Pakistan. I thank you for honouring me with Pakistan’s highest award.
“The brotherly relationship between the kingdom and Pakistan focus on the principle of Islamic solidarity. It is a model to be emulated by other nations. Our [countries’ relationship] go back 67 years that witnessed continuous development that rendered itself beneficial for both countries.
“The founding fathers for both countries established these relations on the principles of truthfulness, common understanding and mutual respect that go back to the first days of the establishment of Pakistan, post-World War 2.
“Our Pakistani brothers participated truthfully and effectively in the great development project that Saudi Arabia witnessed, especially the enlargement project of Masjid-e-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabwi. More than 2 million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and are contributing to the development of both the countries.
“I wish all the best to the president and the prime minister in the service of this country and its people.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Saudi crown prince said his goodbyes to the Pakistan president and members of the federal cabinet before leaving for Nur Khan Airbase. As was the case when he had arrived, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan personally drove the car carrying the Saudi crown prince.
On Sunday, MBS signed $20 billion in investment deals with cash-strapped Islamabad and vowed to free thousands of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi custody.

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