Posts Tagged ‘india’

Imran asks Punjab, KP to fine-tune new LG system

LAHORE: Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan on Sunday granted yet another extension in ,the deadline for local government reforms,, this time by 48 hours, and directed the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to fine-tune the new LG system, besides issuing orders for formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into loss of Punjab’s official record in fire incidents.

During his second visit to Lahore since assuming the Prime Minister’s Office, Imran Khan also chided the Indian leadership’s arrogance and said: “If India hurls threats, it will be given a befitting reply by the Pakistani nation. However, he declared, “Pakistan wants peace, friendship and trade to develop the region.”

He asserted that Pakistan would never bow to any pressure, not even by any super power.

He expressed these views while addressing the bureaucracy after holding meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and his cabinet members to review Punjab’s progress on the government’s 100-day agenda.

Says India will be given a befitting reply if it hurls threats though Pakistan wants peace, friendship and trade

Speaking to police officers and civil servants, Mr Khan said Pakistan wanted to have cordial relations with all nations and promote trade and economic ties to overcome the financial crisis. With a vital geo-strategic positioning, he said, Pakistan could attract massive foreign investment, provided it streamlined its governance system and win investors’ confidence. “I did not go to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to beg but to invite investment for Pakistan,” he explained.

De-politicisation of bureaucracy

In a tacit reference to the Pakpattan incident that resulted in the transfer of a district police officer, Mr Khan said he had allowed the bureaucracy to report any political meddling in official working to top bosses. He took serious note of complaints by two deputy commissioners and a police officer who, he said, had violated the chain of command. “Any move of making complaints public will not be tolerated from now onwards and will invite strict disciplinary action,” he warned.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government wanted to free bureaucracy from political pressure and asked the bureaucracy to seize the opportunity and deliver in the best interest of people. He urged the bureaucracy to shun political affiliations and perform their duties professionally for the well-being of people and the country.

Mr Khan said that PTI members had been instructed that any issue they would face at the hands of bureaucracy should be reported to the chief minister, who himself would eventually sort out matters with the chief secretary and police chief.

“The PTI legislators will not directly interfere in bureaucracy’s functioning,” he promised.

He said bureaucrats should think afresh and serve the masses on merit. “This new mindset actually means Naya Pakistan,” he said, adding that the prime minister and chief minister offices would establish complaint cells to address grievances of the masses.

Three points for new LG system

Following the PM’s meeting with the Punjab cabinet, a separate meeting with CM Buzdar, a senior minister and law minister on local government system, federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry told the media that Mr Khan had held a detailed discussion on new local government system and finalised three basic principles – the LG system should be simple, hold direct elections and ensure empowering elected representatives to serve the masses at the grassroots level.

As the village councils’ experiment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had rendered results, the PM wanted to resize union councils in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, he said. “Village council is a smaller unit catering to some 2,000 to 6,000 people, while each UC in Punjab covers around 30,000 people. The discussion is hovering around whether village councils be created or UC size be reconsidered,” he explained.

Besides, he said, there was a question whether the direct mayor election should be held at tehsil or district level.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister also assigned targets to respective ministers demanding that they should come up to the expectations to the leadership as well as the people of Punjab, who were looking towards them with a new hope. “The incumbent PTI government wanted to behave as a people-friendly government,” he said.

Audit reports of metro bus projects received

The information minister said the prime minister ordered investigation into all fire incidents that burnt important record in government offices.

He said reports of simple audit into metro bus projects in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan had been received but forensic audits would take time. “All these scandals will expose those involved in corruption and they will land in jails,” he asserted.

Answering a question, the information minister said ousted premier Nawaz Sharif’s political future was dark and now he should pray for his personal future as the Hill Metals Establishment case was near conclusion. He said the case found unaccounted for transactions worth Rs800 million to Maryam Nawaz and Rs160 million to a cook’s account. “Nawaz Sharif should bring nation’s money back to Pakistan,” he said.

‘Modi caught in scandals’

Answering a question about Pakistan’s offer and consequent Indian reply, the information minister said Pakistan wanted peace and wanted that the neighbouring atomic powers hold a dialogue on all longstanding issues. While India by cancelling the scheduled meeting of foreign ministers indicated its desire to weaken Pakistan, “this is not possible because only regions rise, not individual countries,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said Indian premier Narendra Modi had been caught in an internal “Rafale scandal” involving $8 billion to $10 billion and wanted to shift public attention from internal to external politics to save his skin. He said Modi should contest his own case instead of shifting the blame on Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Pakistan won’t abandon peace efforts, says Qureshi

WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that ,despite India’s reluctance,, Pakistan would not close doors on its efforts to promote peace in the region.

Addressing a news conference at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, Mr Qureshi also dispelled the impression that Pakistan was being forced to choose between China and the United States. “China has no issue with Pakistan’s efforts to maintain friendly relations with the United States as well,” he said.

The foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s ,offer to open the Kartarpur corridor, for allowing Sikh pilgrims to attend Baba Guru Nanak’s anniversary this year.

“India is reluctant, we will not close our doors,” said Mr Qureshi while defining his government’s policy towards the neighbouring country. “Hiding away from issues will not make them disappear. It will not improve the situation in Kashmir.”

The minister noted that India used incidents that happened in July to cancel peace talks that it agreed to in September.

Mr Qureshi confirmed that he was meeting US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington on Oct 2 and said the decision to hold these follow-up talks was taken during Mr Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month.

US or China?

Asked if Pakistan was finding it difficult to balance its relations with both the United States and China, as the two major powers were vying for influence in the region, Mr Qureshi said: “Both relationships are very important for Pakistan. China is a very important and reliable, friend. We are working on a very, very important project, the CPEC,” he said. “And America is also very important for Pakistan, so we will engage with both. The Chinese understand Pakistan’s position and they have no issue with it.”

Pakistan-India ties

The foreign minister said he was unable to understand India’s refusal to participate in peace talks with Pakistan. “Engagement, no-engagement. Coming, not coming. We desired talks as we believe the sensible way is to meet and talk. They agreed, and then disagreed.”

The minister pointed out that India’s response to Pakistan’s peace offer was harsh and non-diplomatic. “We did not use a non-diplomatic language in our rejoinder. Our response was matured and measured. They adopted a new approach, and moved back.”

Mr Qureshi said that Sushma Swaraj’s “language and tone was unbecoming of a foreign minister”.

Asked if tensions between India and Pakistan could lead to a war between the two countries, the minister said: “Who is talking of war? Not us. We want peace, stability, employment and improving lives. You identify where is the reluctance.”

Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be mistaken for a sign of weakness. “We want peace. It does not mean, we cannot defend ourselves against aggression. We can but we do not have an aggressive mindset,” he said.

Saudi-UAE investments

Responding to a question about reports that Saudi Arabia had agreed to invest more than $10 billion in Pakistan, Mr Qureshi said no amounts were discussed in his visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

He said that since the country did not have a foreign minister for four years, Pakistan’s relations with those two important allies suffered but the new government had now launched an effort to re-engage with them.

Mr Qureshi said that since his return from those countries, he has exchanged letters with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their officials would soon visit Pakistan to talk about opportunities. “What you see in the news is not correct,” he added.

US-Pakistan relations

The foreign minister said he had also seen media reports about the restoration of US security assistance to Pakistan but he would not comment on them until he heard it directly from US officials.

He said the US severed security assistance to Pakistan in the past too and the consequences of such disconnects were not good.

“Direct contacts lead to face-recognition and personal understanding, which help improve relations,” said the minister while referring to the US decision to discontinue training facilities for Pakistani defence officials.

Mr Qureshi said the misunderstanding created after the US press statement on Secretary Pompeo’s conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan had been removed. Now, both sides were working on how to re-inject warmth in this old, traditional relationship. He said that during Mr Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad both sides had “very candid, frank and honest conversations” and both civil and military officials participated in those talks. “The US statement about those meetings was also positive, defying the prediction that it would be negative and sticks will come out.”

He disagreed with the suggestion that reference to Pakistan-based terrorist groups in a recent US-India joint statement was negative for Pakistan.

“If you believe that India will not mention terrorism, you are wrong. But this is no reason to worry,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said if India continued to increase pressure on the eastern borders, it would hurt Pakistan’s ability to focus on the western border and those interested in peace and stability in the region must note this.

US-India relationship

The foreign minister said Pakistan understood the US desire to forge a strategic relationship with India but old friends should not be ignored in the enthusiasm to make new friends.

“The US has always benefited from its relations with Pakistan — during the Cold War, the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the war against terrorism,” he said.

Asked why was the US ignoring Pakistan now, Mr Qureshi said that individuals and countries “always look for excuses to justify their failures but everyone owns up a victory. We need to understand this and move this relationship forward. Where we have convergence, we should.”

Postal stamp

The foreign minister also rejected India’s concerns about a postal stamp that showed a Kashmiri freedom fighter. “Hundreds of thousands of people are fighting in Kashmir, not all of them are terrorists,” he said.

US-Taliban talks

“We will use whatever influence we have. Our thoughts are positive. We have a clear conscience,” said Mr Qureshi when asked if Pakistan would use its influence on the Taliban to make them join the peace talks.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Pakistan to raise Kashmir issue at UN meeting

UNITED NATIONS: When some 146 world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, they are expected to discuss issues of international peace and security as several conflicts from Syria to Yemen rage on, defying any resolution.

The Pakistani delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who arrives in New York, which houses the UN headquarters, from Washington on Sunday night. It will be the new Pakistani government’s first senior level interaction with the United Nations.

However, the much-heralded India-Pakistan foreign ministers’ meeting was called off by New Delhi citing an incident in occupied Kashmir.

According to Pakistani officials, a busy programme awaits the foreign minister who will attend at least 40 events and hold about two dozen bilateral meetings.

The highlight of his visit will, of course, be his speech in the General Assembly on Sept 29 in which he will set out the new government’s priorities and its position and policy on key international and regional issue including the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the light of UN Human Rights Council’s report which has cited India of violations. New Delhi bristles at the mention of occupied Kashmir and human rights violations there.

Pakistan’s foreign minister is expected to deliver his speech in Urdu language.

Daunting challenge

This year, the diplomats here say, the big and daunting challenge that looms over the gathering is actually one of the world leader: US President Donald Trump.

It is a known fact that US President Trump is not a fan of the UN. In the past, he has criticised the UN calling it a club of sorts. And he has also proposed steep cuts to US funding for the UN that the world body has said would make it impossible for the organisation to maintain its essential operations.

The US is the biggest financial contributor to the UN in the world and its most important player when it comes to decision-making on issues ranging from food aid to peacekeeping to nuclear non-proliferation.

So now all eyes are on President Trump, who will preside over a UN Security Council meeting which is going to focus on the Middle East, and Iran in particular.

The big question baffling the world leaders is: will President Trump behave like past American presidents have and speak in measured tones about the need for global cooperation on various fronts, diplomats here say.

Or will he try to break things — degrade the UN, issue threats to other countries, and propose actions that suggest the US wants to go it alone.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Pak v Ind: India seal victory over Pakistan in another lop-sided contest

Indian openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan both scored centuries, and produced a batting master class to hand another lop-sided defeat to Pakistan in their Asia Cup 2018 Super Four match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

Pakistan innings

After captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and opted to bat first, Fakhar Zaman and Imamul Haq opened the innings for Pakistan, whereas Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah shared the new ball for India.

Imam-ul-Haq plays a shot during the ODI Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Imam-ul-Haq plays a shot during the ODI Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Following a cautious start, Pakistan were dealt the first blow on the final ball of the 8th over when Haq was trapped leg-before-wicket by Yuzvendra Chahal.

Zaman, who was joined by Babar Azam at the crease, smacked the day’s first maximum in the 13th over bowled by Kuldeep Yadav.

Fakhar Zaman falls on the ground after he was dismissed by India's Kuldeep Yadav. — AP

Fakhar Zaman falls on the ground after he was dismissed by India’s Kuldeep Yadav. — AP

The hard-hitting southpaw smashed another four to Yadav in the 15th over but like his fellow opener, fell leg-before-wicket when trying to sweep one. Replays showed that Zaman may have earned a reprieve had he opted for a review but he decided against it despite consulting his partner.

Sharma, left, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Pakistan's Babar Azam, front. — AP

Sharma, left, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Pakistan’s Babar Azam, front. — AP

In the next over, Pakistan lost another big wicket, this time Azam being the casualty due to Sarfraz Ahmed’s call. Azam responded to a call for a single by the skipper, who then cancelled the call, leaving him in the lurch on the non-striker’s end.

The resultant run-out left Pakistan three-down and needing a major innings from their skipper, who was joined by Shoaib Malik — the last game’s match-winner.

Run weren’t flowing in the first place but the trifecta of wickets dried them up even more. A couple more tight overs followed to leave Pakistan 71-3 after 20 overs.

The duo rotated the strike for the next five overs, taking their side to 92-3 at the halfway mark of their innings.

Sarfraz Ahmed plays a shot during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Sarfraz Ahmed plays a shot during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

While Sarfraz was content at picking up singles, Malik was growing in confidence; he launched Chahal over the long-on boundary in the 28th over, at the end of which the score was 108-3.

Both Sarfraz and Malik hit 4s in the 31st over as they searched for an extra gear in order to ensure that the match remains competitive in the second innings of the game.

Malik brought up his second straight half-century of the Asia Cup 2018 with a single in the 35th over, at the end of which Pakistan were 141-3.

But Sarfraz couldn’t replicate him, holing out in cover off the bowling of Yadav in the 39th over, at the end of which Pakistan were 165-4.

Asif came alive in the 42nd over bowled by Kumar, hitting two massive 6s to go with two 4s. At the end of that over, which leaked 22 runs, Pakistan were 193-4.

Asif Ali plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India. — AFP

Asif Ali plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India. — AFP

Malik’s prized wicket fell in the 44th over when he nicked one to Dhoni when trying to glance one to the fine leg.

In the 45th over, Asif fell prey to his hit-and-miss style, getting bowled out by Chahal as the Pakistani hopes of posting a 250-run target dwindled.

The Indian pacers bowled an extremely tight line and length in the final five overs, rarely giving them the opportunity to free their arms.

In the end, Pakistan finished with 237-7 in their allotted 50 overs.

Bumrah was the pick of the Indian bowlers, picking two wickets for just 29 runs in his 10, and in general being almost unhittable for Pakistani batters.

India innings

The usual pairing of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan opened the innings for India, whereas Mohammad Amir and Shaheen Afridi shared the new ball for Pakistan.

Dhawan struck the innings’ first boundary in the 3rd over and repeated the trick in the 4th as both Indian batsmen looked nonplussed facing the southpaw pair.

Amir’s lack of movement forced Sarfraz to replace him with Hasan Ali, who also conceded a boundary in his opening over, with his punisher being Sharma.

Sharma was given a lifeline in the sixth over when Imam inexplicably dropped an easy catch of his. The India openers made Pakistan pay for that reprieve as they easily dealt with whatever was hurled at them for the next four overs.

Sharma plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Sharma plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

At the end of 10 overs, India were 53-0 — well and truly in the driving seat. And they kept it that way, taking their score to 72-0 at the end of 15 overs as Pakistan’s search for a breakthrough continued.

Dhawan brought up his half-century in the 18th over with a boundary towards the square leg. Sharma followed suit four overs later.

From that point on, the Indian openers started toying with the Pakistani bowlers, finding boundaries almost at will to boost their score to 179-0 at the end of 30 overs.

Like the 50, Dhawan completed his century before Sharma as well, reaching the mark in the 33rd over. The contest, by this point, had long been over.

Pakistan finally found a breakthrough but it was no more than a consolation. Confusion between Sharma and Dhawan saw the latter run out.

Sharma completed his century in the 36th over as India inched closer to another lop-sided victory over Pakistan.

They reached their target at a canter with 63 balls to spare and nine wickets in hand. Dhawan was named the man of the match for his swashbuckling 114 off 100 balls. Sharma finished unbeaten at 111 off 119 balls.

Captains’ comments

Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said of the pitch at Dubai International Stadium: “It looks good to bat on and hopefully we can score enough today.”

“Mohammad Amir is playing today. He’s a main player. Shadab Khan is back as well. Haris Sohail and Usman Khan are out. We want to score 250-plus,” Sarfraz said.

Pakistan had dropped struggling fast bowler Amir against Afghanistan, but he was recalled today after the team’s unconvincing bowling display. Left-arm medium-pacer and newcomer Shaheen Afridi, who took two wickets against Afghanistan, is also in the team today.

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma said he would be happy if his side continued to bowl the way it had during its last two games. “We restricted the teams to decent totals.”

“We have to come out here, bowl well and chase whatever target they give us. Quite happy with the wristspinners. They are still learning, they went wicketless in the last two games, but they know exactly what they are doing.”

“They’ve done it in the past many times. There will be games where they are not successful. That doesn’t mean they are bad bowlers or are not bowling to plan. Sometimes you just have to give credit to the opposition. They understand the pitch here is quite slow and they understand they need to vary the pace,” Sharma said.

Line-ups

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (captain and wicket keeper), Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir.

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (captain), Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wicket keeper), Dinesh Karthik, Kedhar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.

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‘We will strengthen you and you will strengthen the nation,’ PM Khan tells civil servants

Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to completely overhaul the governance systems of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the centre during a televised speech to civil servants on Sunday, which followed a high-level meeting in Lahore.

“There is a dire need to fix the way the police works and to depoliticise bureaucracy. Merit needs to be brought in and laws need to be practiced in letter and spirit,” he stressed.

“Never again, during any other government’s tenure, will you be given the freedom to do your job professionally,” he said.

In the address, he urged civil servants to value the freedom the PTI government will be providing them and not let it go to waste. He assured them that their work will not be interferred with and they will face “no pressure to engage in any wrongdoing whatsoever”.

Referring to the police, he said: “When the institution of police is politicised, it ceases to remain professional. When police starts taking sides, people are no longer willing to place their trust in it.”

Read more: ,Imran promises wide-ranging reforms: ‘All policies for the people’,

He said Pakistan, in the 1960s, had been an exemplary nation where meritocracy thrived “but it was brought down due to politicisation and lateral entities”.

The task now, he explained, was to reverse this direction the nation had been steered towards. He called on civil servants to help him in this initiative.

A warning

PM Khan cautioned, however, that the authority being given to civil servants came with added responsibility.

He said he was “very hurt that a police officer and two bureaucrats publicised what should have been a matter that goes up their chain of command.”

He was referring to the much publicised Pakpattan ‘incident’ which had resulted in the ,transfer of the district police officer, for alleged ‘misconduct’.

“Which government allows such a thing to take place? The IG should have been approached or the chief secretary,” the PM remarked, visibly irked as he further stressed the need for depoliticising the bureaucracy.

Issuing a final warning, the PM made clear that such ‘politicisation’ of the state’s inner workings will never again be tolerated.

“If such a thing occurs again, [which seems to be] based on some [political] agenda, I assure you the people involved will not be left off the hook and will be dealt with very strictly,” he said.

“This is simply an abuse of powers granted by the government [for you] to do good,” he said.

Explore: ,For a democratic Pakistan, more power needs to be given to local governments,

He said that ‘Naya Pakistan’ entails a new mindset and a new way of thinking, and expressed confidence that the nation would surpass the heights he believes it had reached in the ’60s.

“We will strengthen you and you will strengthen the nation,” he said, issuing a call of action to inspire civil servants to serve the people they are tasked with servicing.

“You have to keep your doors open and really listen to the people … so that people walk away satisfied simply because someone listened to them,” he explained.

He said that nationwide complaint cells would also be introduced, including one in the PM House where he will be regularly monitoring performance so that the government can respond in a timely manner to the people’s needs and bring an improvement in their lives.

“I request all police officials to take ownership and personally monitor their police stations so that the common man is not slighted against and justice is served” he said.

Good governance equals investment

The PM said that Pakistan’s problems all largely boil down to poor governance. He said that if governance is improved, Pakistan can secure major investment from abroad.

“I have just come back from a tour of UAE. We did not go there begging but to ask for funds. Their condition always is that our governance be improved and red tape reduced.”

He said that that Pakistan’s foremost priority should lie with improving governance, not only to fix internal deficiencies but to also create a more welcoming environment for investment which Pakistan sorely needs.

“Pakistan has great geo-strategic importance in the region. The biggest market right now, China, lies right to our north. India, if our relations with them improve, then they are the world’s second-biggest market.”

“I do hope that this ,arrogance that the Indian leadership has, [displayed] goes away. They have this misconception … when we reach out for friendship it is because we know that if our relations improve, the sub-continent has a real chance of defeating poverty.

“Our gesture should never be misconstrued as weakness. We are a nation that will never take pressure from anyone, be it a global power, lying down,” the premier said.

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Pak v Ind: After Dhawan, Sharma brings up his 100 as India inch closer to lop-sided victory

India are 229-1 after 37 overs against Pakistan in pursuit of the 238-run target to chase in their Asia Cup 2018 Super Four match being played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

The usual pairing of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan opened the innings for India, whereas Mohammad Amir and Shaheen Afridi shared the new ball for Pakistan.

Dhawan struck the innings’ first boundary in the 3rd over and repeated the trick in the 4th as both Indian batsmen looked nonplussed facing the southpaw pair.

Amir’s lack of movement forced Sarfraz to replace him with Hasan Ali, who also conceded a boundary in his opening over, with his punisher being Sharma.

Sharma was given a lifeline in the sixth over when Imam inexplicably dropped an easy catch of his. The India openers made Pakistan pay for that reprieve as they easily dealt with whatever was hurled at them for the next four overs.

Sharma plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Sharma plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

At the end of 10 overs, India were 53-0 — well and truly in the driving seat. And they kept it that way, taking their score to 72-0 at the end of 15 overs as Pakistan’s search for a breakthrough continued.

Dhawan brought up his half-century in the 18th over with a boundary towards the square leg. Sharma followed suit four overs later.

From that point on, the Indian openers started toying with the Pakistani bowlers, finding boundaries almost at will to boost their score to 179-0 at the end of 30 overs.

Like the 50, Dhawan completed his century before Sharma as well, reaching the mark in the 33rd over. The contest, by this point, had long been over.

Pakistan finally found a breakthrough but it was no more than a consolation. Confusion between Sharma and Dhawan saw the latter run out.

Sharma completed his century in the 36th over as India inched closer to another lop-sided victory over Pakistan.

Pakistan innings

After captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and opted to bat first, Fakhar Zaman and Imamul Haq opened the innings for Pakistan, whereas Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah shared the new ball for India.

Imam-ul-Haq plays a shot during the ODI Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Imam-ul-Haq plays a shot during the ODI Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Following a cautious start, Pakistan were dealt the first blow on the final ball of the 8th over when Haq was trapped leg-before-wicket by Yuzvendra Chahal.

Zaman, who was joined by Babar Azam at the crease, smacked the day’s first maximum in the 13th over bowled by Kuldeep Yadav.

Fakhar Zaman falls on the ground after he was dismissed by India's Kuldeep Yadav. — AP

Fakhar Zaman falls on the ground after he was dismissed by India’s Kuldeep Yadav. — AP

The hard-hitting southpaw hit another four to Yadav in the 15th over but like his fellow opener, fell leg-before-wicket when trying to sweep one. Replays showed that Zaman may have earned a reprieve had he opted for a review but he decided against it despite consulting his partner.

Sharma, left, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Pakistan's Babar Azam, front. — AP

Sharma, left, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Pakistan’s Babar Azam, front. — AP

In the next over, Pakistan lost another big wicket, this time Azam being the casualty due to Sarfraz Ahmed’s call. Azam responded to a call for a single by the skipper, who then cancelled the call, leaving him in the lurch on the non-striker’s end.

The resultant run-out left Pakistan three-down and needing a major innings from their skipper, who was joined by Shoaib Malik — the last game’s match-winner.

Run weren’t flowing in the first place but the trifecta of wickets dried them up even more. A couple more tight overs followed to leave Pakistan 71-3 after 20 overs.

The duo rotated the strike for the next five overs, taking their side to 92-3 at the halfway mark of their innings.

Sarfraz Ahmed plays a shot during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

Sarfraz Ahmed plays a shot during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India — AFP

While Sarfraz was content at picking up singles, Malik was growing in confidence; he launched Chahal over the long-on boundary in the 28th over, at the end of which the score was 108-3.

Both Sarfraz and Malik hit 4s in the 31st over as they searched for an extra gear in order to ensure that the match remains competitive in the second innings of the game.

Malik brought up his second straight half-century of the Asia Cup 2018 with a single in the 35th over, at the end of which Pakistan were 141-3.

But Sarfraz couldn’t replicate him, holing out in cover off the bowling of Yadav in the 39th over, at the end of which Pakistan were 165-4.

Asif came alive in the 42nd over bowled by Kumar, hitting two massive 6s to go with two 4s. At the end of that over, which leaked 22 runs, Pakistan were 193-4.

Asif Ali plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India. — AFP

Asif Ali plays a shot during the Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India. — AFP

Malik’s prized wicket fell in the 44th over when he nicked one to Dhoni when trying to glance one to the fine leg.

In the 45th over, Asif fell prey to his hit-and-miss style, getting bowled out by Chahal as the Pakistani hopes of posting a 250-run target dwindled.

The Indian pacers bowled an extremely tight line and length in the final five overs, rarely giving them the opportunity to free their arms.

In the end, Pakistan finished with 237-7 in their allotted 50 overs.

Bumrah was the pick of the Indian bowlers, picking two wickets for just 29 runs in his 10, and in general being almost unhittable for Pakistani batters.

Captains’ comments

Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said of the pitch at Dubai International Stadium: “It looks good to bat on and hopefully we can score enough today.”

“Mohammad Amir is playing today. He’s a main player. Shadab Khan is back as well. Haris Sohail and Usman Khan are out. We want to score 250-plus,” Sarfraz said.

Pakistan had dropped struggling fast bowler Amir against Afghanistan, but he was recalled today after the team’s unconvincing bowling display. Left-arm medium-pacer and newcomer Shaheen Afridi, who took two wickets against Afghanistan, is also in the team today.

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma said he would be happy if his side continued to bowl the way it had during its last two games. “We restricted the teams to decent totals.”

“We have to come out here, bowl well and chase whatever target they give us. Quite happy with the wristspinners. They are still learning, they went wicketless in the last two games, but they know exactly what they are doing.”

“They’ve done it in the past many times. There will be games where they are not successful. That doesn’t mean they are bad bowlers or are not bowling to plan. Sometimes you just have to give credit to the opposition. They understand the pitch here is quite slow and they understand they need to vary the pace,” Sharma said.

Line-ups

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (captain and wicket keeper), Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir.

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (captain), Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wicket keeper), Dinesh Karthik, Kedhar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.

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Pakistan still willing to open Kartarpur crossing despite India’s ‘unfortunate’ decision: Chaudhry

Despite Indian government’s refusal to engage in dialogue, Pakistani authorities are willing to open the Kartarpur border crossing so that Sikh pilgrims can visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib without a visa, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in an ,interview to Hindustan Times, on Saturday.

Talking to the Indian publication, Chaudhry said that while ,India’s decision to cancel the meeting, — which was to be held between both countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly — was “unfortunate”, citizens should not be made to suffer.

Explore: ,What the Indian media is saying about Modi govt’s cancellation of UNGA meeting with Pakistan,

“This is an issue of the ordinary people, Sikhs and other Indian pilgrims, and an issue of faith,” he said in a phone interview. “They shouldn’t suffer and we want to formalise the informal proposal the Pakistan army chief made to [Punjab State Minister Navjot Singh] Sidhu.”

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Last month, Sidhu had visited Pakistan to attend Prime Minister Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony. He had also ,met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa,, who told him that “when [Sikh community] celebrates the 550th birthday of Baba Nanak [...] we’ll open the Kartarpur-Sahib Corridor.”

In his interview to Hindustan Times, Chaudhry reiterated the government’s stance to look for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue — which he said was the basic issue between Pakistan and India — and said that New Delhi had “wasted a wonderful opportunity [for peace] by rejecting the prime minister’s offer”.

On Friday, the Indian government had cancelled the meeting following domestic pressure just a day after it agreed to it. Pakistan, in response, ,voiced its “deep disappointment”, not only over the reasons cited for the cancellation of the meeting — the alleged killing of India’s Border Security Force’s soldier and Pakistan’s decision to release stamps honouring Kashmir freedom fighter Burhan Wani — but also over “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”.

Also read: ,’Pakistan has nothing to lose’ — analysts weigh in on Modi govt’s U-turn on UNGA meeting,

During his interview, Chaudhry said that while Pakistan had “several options” including war, the government considers it “foolish” to adopt a confrontational approach. Pointing out that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, Chaudhry asked: “Can’t we look for a solution to our problems through dialogue?”

Chaudhry said that India’s sudden change of heart is a result of the country’s domestic problems. He pointed out that elections in India were a few months away and “anti-Pakistan rhetoric sells” in the country.

He also rubbished India’s accusations of Pakistan’s interference in held Kashmir.

“It is wrong to hold Pakistan responsible for the ongoing struggle in held Kashmir,” he said, but reiterated that: “Pakistan supports Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom.”

He further said that Pakistani authorities had “solid evidence” of Indian interference in Balochistan.

Kulbhushan Jadhav — an Indian spy who is under the custody of Pakistan’s armed forces — is sufficient proof of India’s interference in Balochistan, Chaudhry said.

He said that Pakistan was ready to hold talks on every issue, but the efforts cannot remain one-sided.

“We cannot change our neighbours,” the information minister said. “India has to decide [its future strategy].”

“Pakistan extended an offer of peace”

Talking to the media at home, Chaudhry said that the Pakistani government had “talked about peace” and wanted to hold talks with India as both countries have had “bitter experiences” in the past.

“Pakistan and India have been fighting for the past 70 years. Both [countries] are nuclear powers. If a war breaks out, then the country that is left standing can keep talking,” he said.

Referring to an ongoing ,corruption scandal surrounding Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,, Chaudhry repeated his claim that New Delhi’s decision to cancel the meeting was influenced by domestic pressure.

“Just like Nawaz Sharif was caught up in the Panama Papers, Modi is now caught up in the Rafale planes scandal,” the information minister said.

He insisted that the development of the region was vital for the progress of India and Pakistan.

“In India, there is a mindset that in order for the country to progress, they must weaken Pakistan. But if you study history, this is not the case. The region must be strengthened for the countries to develop. Our army chief has also stressed this point earlier,” he said.

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Modi asked to resign for corruption in French jet deal

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced calls for his resignation over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after former French president Francois Hollande was quoted as saying New Delhi had influenced the choice of a local partner.

Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.

In recent months, the opposition has questioned the government on the choice of billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as Dassault’s local partner instead of a state-run manufacturer with decades of experience.

Opposition’s calls come after former French president Hollande says Indian govt influenced choice of local partner

On Friday, Hollande, who cleared the intergovernmental deal when he was in office, was quoted as saying New Delhi had put pressure on Dassault to choose Reliance.

“We had no choice. We took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fuelling a political storm in India.

Under Indian defence procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 per cent of the contract in India to help it build up its manufacturing base and wean off imports.

For that, the French firm picked Reliance and not Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the state-run giant that has been producing planes for decades, most of them Russian under licence.

“The PM personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to Franois Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to …Anil Ambani,” Rahul Gandhi, the president of the main opposition Congress party, said in a tweet. “The PM has betrayed India.”

Modi had no “moral right” to remain in power after the revelations from Hollande, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

Smaller parties also joined the attack on Modi who is already under pressure to shore up his political base ahead of a series of state elections this year followed by a national election in 2019.

The defence ministry said in a tweet that neither the French nor Indian government had had a say in the matter. “The report referring to fmr French president Mr Hollande’s statement that GoI (government of India) insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified. It is reiterated that neither GoI nor French govt had any say in the commercial decision.”

Reliance did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dassault denied the report, saying it had picked Reliance as a partner for industrial reasons.

“This is Dassault Aviation’s choice, as (Dassault) CEO Eric Trappier explained in an interview published in MINT newspaper on April 17,” the company, which also makes Falcon business planes, said in a statement.

“Dassault Aviation and Reliance have built a plant in Nagpur for manufacturing parts for Falcon and Rafale aircraft. The Nagpur site was chosen because of the availability of land with direct access to an airport runway, an essential condition (for) aeronautic activities.” The French foreign ministry published a statement saying French authorities were not involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners involved in the Rafale deal.

“The French government is in no way involved in the choice of the Indian industrial partners which have been, are or will be, chosen by French companies,” the statement said.

“In accordance with the Indian procedure, French companies have full freedom to choose the Indian industrial partners they consider to be most pertinent and then to propose to the Indian government for approval the offset projects they want to carry out in India with local partners to respect their obligations,” it added.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018

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Qureshi, Pompeo meet on Oct 2 for ties reset

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan will resume their effort to reset a once close relationship on Oct 2, when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in the US capital.

Mr Qureshi has reached Washington on a 10-day official visit to the US that includes talks with the Trump administration and the new Pakistani government’s first interaction with the United Nations.

The visit caught international attention earlier this week when India accepted a Pakistani proposal for a meeting between their foreign ministers in New York and even the US State Department welcomed the move, calling it “terrific news”.

India, however, ended the short-lived excitement by abruptly calling off the meeting, although the State Department still urges “the Indians and Pakistanis … to sit down and have a conversation together” that could lead to “a good, strong bilateral relationship in the future”.

For Pakistan, however, Qureshi-Pompeo meeting was always more important, as they seek to rebuild their relationship with a power that for decades was a close ally.

It was during Mr Pompeo’s first visit to Islamabad earlier this month that the two sides agreed to “reset” their ties on more pragmatic grounds, instead of seeking the revival of a blanket relationship that disappointed both.

Both sides, however, have their own interpretations of the so-called pragmatic expectations.

The United States sees this as end to all cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, cessation of “terrorist” attacks into India and preventing extremist groups from collecting funds inside Pakistan.

Unless Pakistan does that, there will be no resumption of the security assistance that was suspended in January this year. A news item in a US newspaper, The Washington Times, however, claimed that the Trump administration is divided over whether to resume the aid now.

Although played up in the Pakistani media, the news item also hinted that Washington expects the new Pakistani government to take steps that could lead to the resumption of aid. This, in plain language, means no security aid until cross-border attacks stop.

Pakistan too has its own expectations and top on this agenda are:

Revival of the once close relationship, US support for Pakistan’s efforts for a bailout package from the IMF, and also to help prevent the international financial watchdog, FATF, from putting Islamabad on its black list. Pakistan is already on the grey list.

The United States believes that Pakistan can still influence Taliban insurgents — particularly the Haqqani Network — to persuade them to join the Afghan peace process.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018

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PML-N, PPP hold govt responsible for diplomatic debacle with India

ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major opposition parties have held the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government responsible for ,the latest diplomatic debacle, following New Delhi’s refusal to hold a meeting between the two foreign ministers in New York and questioned the “haste being shown by Prime Minister Imran Khan in making efforts to mend fences with India”.

The leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) allege that the government has not done its homework and assessed the situation before approaching India for a meeting, terming the talks offer through a letter written by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart a “misstep”.

PML-N President and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif has called on the international community to take notice of the jingoistic statement of the Indian army chief, while stating that “Pakistan is more than capable of defending and responding to any aggression by New Delhi”.

Shahbaz calls on world community to take notice of Indian army chief’s jingoistic remarks

In a tweet, Mr Sharif wrote, “The bellicose & irresponsible statement by the Indian army chief exposes the Indian designs to the world that should immediately take note of New Delhi’s threatening posture. Pakistan extending an olive branch to India should never be misconstrued as weakness.”

“Pakistan’s unwavering patriotic soldiers stand steadfast to defend with might and fury against unprovoked aggression from any threat. While the nation stands united with their intrepid military and against the cowardly threats,” he added.

Talking to Dawn here on Saturday, former foreign minister and PML-N MNA from Sialkot Khawaja Mohammad Asif said it seemed the government was “not prepared” from day one, adding that “too much keenness being shown by the prime minister” showed “weakness on our part”.

“Giving them (India) too much reflects haste on our part to mend fences with India,” he said, adding that he was not against normalisation of relations between the two neighbouring nuclear states, but “dignity must be maintained”.

Mr Asif regretted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had written the letter in which he “talked about terrorism” without realising that the US and India had recently issued a joint statement after the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to New Delhi and Islamabad which was “dead against” Pakistan.

“They (US and India) raised all kinds of allegations against Pakistan and you are talking about terrorism (in the letter). This is a sign of weakness (on our part),” Mr Asif said, while criticising Mr Khan for stating in the letter that “Pakistan remains ready to discuss terrorism”.

Moreover, he said, Mr Khan had offered “olive branch” to India at a time, when it was committing serious human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

The senior PML-N leader also criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that “he is playing to the gallery” as part of election campaign in his country. He said the PML-N government had always found India’s attitude “unrealistic and obstructive”.

Similarly, PPP Vice-President and the country’s former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman said the government should have done its homework before approaching India for a meeting, especially after the initial response.

“Right now, however the Indian Govt and Army chief response is both immature and irresponsible. What are they threatening Pakistan about?” she questioned. “They have crossed all diplomatic norms and protocols to emerge as a belligerent nuclear power that is only looking to externalise its own extremisms,” writes Ms Rehman on her official social media page on Twitter.

“So (the) Modi government suddenly found Pakistan government evil over a stamp issued on 24th July, and a Kashmir killing ruse. Weak diversion from domestic crisis over #Hollande Bombshell and #RafaelDeal; anxiety over earlier UN report and session where Delhi may have to defend Kashmir atrocities,” she writes.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018

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We are ready for war, but choose to walk path of peace: Pakistan Army

Moments after ,Times of India reported inflammatory statements by Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, on Saturday, the Pakistan Army spokesperson responded by saying: “We [Pakistan Army] are ready for war but choose to walk the path of peace in the interest of the people of Pakistan, the neighbours and the region”.

These remarks were made by Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor while talking to Dunya TV.

According to TOI, the Indian army chief said India “needs to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that the terrorists and Pakistan Army have been carrying out”. “Yes, it’s time to give it back to them in the same coin, not resorting to similar kind of barbarism. But I think the other side must also feel the same pain,” the Indian army chief was quoted as saying.

Gen Rawat’s comments came shortly after Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter earlier on Saturday to respond to ,India’s cancellation of the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), ,calling New Delhi’s reaction “arrogant and negative”,. “All my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” added PM Khan.

Responding to Gen Rawat’s statements, Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan has a long-standing record of fighting terrorism, adding “we know the price [that is paid] for peace”.

Read: ,India cancels New York meeting with Pakistan, says PM Khan’s ‘true face revealed’,

“We have struggled to achieve peace in the last two decades. We can never do anything to disgrace any soldier,” he asserted, strongly denying the claims made by India that hold the Pakistan Army responsible for the killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier.

“They have in the past as well laid the blame on us for mutilating the body of a fallen soldier. We are a professional army. We never engage in such acts.

“As far as the issuance of postal tickets is concerned, the UN released a human rights violation report following which the then interim government issued those tickets highlighting the plight of Kashmiris.

“To turn this into an excuse that the peace process has been tainted or that Pakistan has somehow changed its stance, is inappropriate,” the ISPR chief said.

Related: ,Islamabad ‘deeply disappointed’ over New Delhi’s cancellation of meeting between FMs,

“There is a freedom struggle going on in the Indian occupied Kashmir, and Burhan Wani onwards, it is completely a political movement,” Ghafoor said, adding that the struggle for independence has become a part of the DNA of Kashmiris and this is now the third generation which is willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause.

“They [India] should come forward for a dialogue. Whenever attempts for dialogue have failed, it is because India has run away from the table.

“The government of Pakistan’s offer still stands for India to come forward and hold talks with us,” the ISPR chief said.

‘Indian govt trying to divert public’s attention’

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry also promptly issued a response, backing the DG ISPR’s statement. “Pakistan and India are nuclear powers; a war is out of question,” he said.

The information minister termed the Indian army chief’s statement an attempt to divert the attention of Indian public from the ,mega corruption scandal, and the subsequent calls for resignation faced by PM Modi-led BJP government.

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Chaudhry said that the Indian army chief’s statement was inappropriate and that the general must refrain from using statements as a political tool.

“The Indian army chief needs to understand that he is not a BJP leader,” Chaudhry remarked, adding that “the world stands witness to who wants war and who wants peace”.

“As a peace-loving nation, Pakistan desires peace [with India],” he stressed, highlighting the fact that peace will be in the benefit of billions across both nations.

He said that Pakistan had reached out in hopes for peace and will continue its efforts to that end.

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‘Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India,’ says PM Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday took to Twitter to respond to ,India’s cancellation of the meeting, between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), calling New Delhi’s response “arrogant and negative”.

“Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” said PM Khan. “However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”

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The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government on Friday had ,called off the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers, — just a day after ,confirming the development,.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had announced the cancellation in a strongly worded statement, saying: “It is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of the new Prime Minister Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office,” he said. “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless.”

However, the reasons cited by India for cancelling the talks have raised questions as they are not recent developments. The MEA spokesperson referred to the “killing of Indian security forces” allegedly by “Pakistani entities” and Islamabad’s decision to release stamps allegedly “glorifying terrorists” as the reasons behind the cancellation of talks.

The Foreign Office, in a statement on Friday night, pointed out that the alleged killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier took place two days prior to the ,Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting,.

“When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, the Pakistan Rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that Pakistan had nothing to do with it. Pakistan Rangers also extended help in efforts to locate the soldier’s body,” said the FO statement issued on Friday night. “These facts were known to the Indian authorities and a part of the Indian media also reported that Pakistan had refuted its involvement. Yet, this motivated and malicious propaganda continued.”

Islamabad also raised the point that the postage stamps mentioned in the Indian statement were issued before the July 25 elections, following which Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office.

FO had also taken exception to the language and tone of the Indian statement, saying: “Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication.”

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No precedent of how India ‘trampled diplomatic norms’ by cancelling meeting: FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said he was “deeply saddened” by how New Delhi first accepted and later ,backtracked from a meeting between Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj.

Speaking to reporters at Islamabad airport before departing on a visit to the United States, the minister said it was their understanding that it would be beneficial for the entire region if countries sat down for dialogue and find solutions to the outstanding issues.

“I was deeply saddened by how India first accepted our goodwill gesture and then backtracked from it,” he said.

Qureshi said the Indian government had to “look for reasons” to justify cancelling the meeting after initially agreeing to it, adding that New Delhi had used the issue of stamps of Kashmiri freedom fighters as an “excuse”.

He said it was inappropriate on India’s part to state a development from July (the issuance of stamps) as the reason to cancel the meeting that was due to take place in September.

“It was an opportunity [for progress in bilateral ties], which I think India’s domestic circumstances did not allow to materialise,” the foreign minister said.

“There is no precedent of how diplomatic norms were trampled” by India in the cancellation of the meeting, he added.

New Delhi had on Friday called off a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), just a day after confirming the development.

India Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, confirming the development, cited “unclean intentions” on Pakistan’s side.

The MEA spokesperson referred to the “killing of Indian security forces” allegedly by “Pakistani entities” and Islamabad’s decision to release stamps allegedly “glorifying terrorists” as the reasons behind the cancellation of the meeting.

Pakistan Post had issued 20 special postage stamps on July 24, according to ,The Nation,, carrying photos of Burhan Wani and his two associates. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri freedom fighter, was slain by Indian troops in 2016.

Although the stamps were issued on July 24, a day before the general elections were held, the issue was ,raised by Indian media, in the 24 hours after New Delhi agreed to the meeting.

US engagements

Foreign Minister Qureshi will reach Washington today on a visit that includes talks with the Trump administration and the new Pakistani government’s first interaction with the United Nations.

The minister’s first official engagement of this week-long tour is an address to the Pakistani community in Washington, and the same day he flies to New York to attend the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, which began on Sept 18.

The high-level General Assembly debate, however, begins on Sept 25 and is scheduled to last for nine working days. Qureshi is expected to address the General Assembly on Sept 29.

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Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the president-elect of the 73rd session, will chair the debate on “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”

The main event of Qureshi’s visit, however, is an expected meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington.

This would be a follow-up to their first meeting in Islamabad earlier this month when they agreed to work together to “reset” the troubled relations between their countries.

A tweet by the Government of Pakistan quoted the foreign minister as saying that he will present Pakistan’s stance on different matters at the UNGA session. He also expressed the confidence that his meeting with Pompeo “will prove to be important in taking forward bilateral relations with Washington”.

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Former French president fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

Former French president Francois Hollande has fuelled controversy over ,India’s multi-billion-dollar 2016 purchase, of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying that France was given no choice on the Indian partner for manufacturer Dassault.

His comments on Friday stoked debate over a subject which has gained significant traction in India in recent weeks, since the opposition Congress party accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favouring a private conglomerate over a public company in the aircraft deal.

The party alleges Modi gave preferential treatment to industrialist Anil Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance Group, to the detriment of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Officials in India and France say Dassault had freely chosen to partner with Reliance, despite Ambani having no previous experience in the aeronautics sector.

“We did not have a say in that,” Hollande told investigative website Mediapart.

“It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani.”

“We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” added Hollande, who was president of France from 2012-2017.

French firm Dassault had spent years negotiating a deal for 126 fighter jets to be manufactured in India with HAL, but talks had stalled.

On taking office, the Modi government cancelled the negotiations and decided to directly purchase 36 jets made in France.

Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016.

“That is why, moreover, this group (Reliance) did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet.”

Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday, the former French leader insisted that France “did not choose Reliance in any way”.

When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”.

‘The PM has betrayed India’

Contacted by AFP, France’s embassy in New Delhi did not comment.

India’s defence ministry wrote on Twitter that neither the Indian nor French government “had any say in the commercial decision”.

The French foreign ministry later issued a statement saying that “the sole obligations of the French government were to assure delivery and the quality of the equipment”.

Paris was “in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners,” it added.

For its part, Dassault Aviation said in a statement on Friday that the contract was “a government-to-government agreement”.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has led the opposition’s focus on the deal, wrote, “Thanks to Francois Hollande, we now know he (Modi) personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.”

“The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi added.

Foreign manufacturers obtaining arms contracts in India are obliged to reinvest a portion of the sums collected in India.

Under the Rafale deal, France must spend amounts totalling around half the eight billion euros ($9.4 bn) paid by the Indian government.

Dassault has invested more than 100 million euros in its joint venture with Reliance.

India — the world’s largest defence importer — has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing territorial disputes with its nuclear-armed neighbours, including a strengthening China.

It intends to use compensations payments such as in the Rafale deal to create a local defence industry.

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Indian troops launch massive operation in IHK’s Pulwama district

In India-held Kashmir, Indian troops launched a massive cordon and search operation in several villages of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday.

According to the Kashmir Media Service, the troops cordoned off Lassipora, Armula, Alaipora, Batnur, Garbug, Naupora Payeen, Hajdarpora and Acchan areas of the district and launched door-to-door searches.

The operation comes following the ,killing of three Indian police personnel, posted in India-held Kashmir reportedly by armed Kashmiris, who have been waging a struggle for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

The three were taken hostage when Kashmiri fighters raided over a dozen homes of police officers in two southern Kashmir villages, Indian officials said, adding that bullet-riddled bodies of the kidnapped policemen were recovered on Friday.

The killings came days after the region’s largest group fighting for Kashmir’s independence asked officers to quit the Kashmiri police force and stay away from operations targeting pro-independence fighters.

A fourth policeman who had resigned from the police days earlier was also among those taken hostage early on Friday. The former officer was released unharmed, Indian police said.

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Islamabad ‘deeply disappointed’ over New Delhi’s cancellation of meeting between FMs

The Pakistan government on Friday said it is “deeply disappointed” after New Delhi announced to cancel the meeting of foreign ministers of India and Pakistan — which was to be held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York — and blamed India for “once again wasting an opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship”.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said that the ,reasons cited by the Indian side, for the decision to cancel the foreign ministers’ meeting, within 24 hours of its public confirmation, are entirely unconvincing.

“The so-called ‘disturbing developments’ alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York,” Islamabad said.

Know more: ,India cancels New York meeting with Pakistan, says PM Khan’s ‘true face revealed’,

Clarifying its position on the matter, the Foreign Office said that the alleged killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

“When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, the Pakistan Rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that Pakistan had nothing to do with it. Pakistan Rangers also extended help in efforts to locate the soldier’s body.

“These facts were known to the Indian authorities and a part of the Indian media also reported that Pakistan had refuted its involvement. Yet, this motivated and malicious propaganda continued.

“Pakistan takes this opportunity to categorically reject these allegations once again. Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” read the Foreign Office statement.

The other reason cited by the Indian ministry referred to the issuance of 20 special postage stamps by Pakistan Post on July 24, highlighting the gross violation of human rights by Indian forces in held Kashmir.

Islamabad clarified that the postage stamps mentioned in the Indian statement were issued before the July 25 elections, following which Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office.

“The stamps highlight the gross and systematic human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which were extensively documented also in a comprehensive report issued by the ,United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as late as June 2018.

“By falsely raising the canard of ‘terrorism’, India can neither hide its unspeakable crimes against the Kashmiri people nor can it delegitimise their indigenous struggle for their inalienable right to self-determination,” the Foreign Office maintained.

Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The Foreign Office also expressed disappointment over the “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”, and termed it “unfortunate”.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” read the statement.

Putting the record straight, the Foreign Office mentioned that PM Imran Khan had, in his first public comments after his electoral success, outlined a forward-looking vision of Pakistan-India relations.

“He had clearly stated that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two. In the same spirit, PM Khan in his reply letter endorsed PM Modi’s call for ‘constructive engagement’ and proposed the meeting of the two foreign ministers in New York to discuss a way forward on bilateral and Saarc-related matters,” it clarified.

Terming it an “ill-considered cancellation of the meeting”, the Foreign Office accused India of “once again wasting a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development”.

“Pakistan has always desired peaceful and good-neighbourly relations with India, on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. In our view, dialogue and diplomacy are the only constructive way forward for the two countries to address mutual concerns, rebuild trust, resolve longstanding disputes, and establish durable peace in South Asia.

“For its part, Pakistan will persist with its quest for peace and development. But, as we have consistently emphasised, our approach will continue to be guided by the aforementioned principles and the dictates of national dignity,” read the Foreign Office statement.

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Islamabad expresses ‘disappointment’ after New Delhi backtracks from talks

The Pakistan government on Friday expressed “disappointment” after New Delhi announced to cancel the meeting of foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, to be held on the sidelines of UNGA in New York, and blamed India for “once again wasting an opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship”.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office said that the ,reasons cited by the Indian side, for the decision to cancel the foreign ministers’ meeting, within 24 hours of its public confirmation, are entirely unconvincing.

“The so-called ‘disturbing developments’ alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York,” Islamabad said.

Know more: ,India cancels New York meeting with Pakistan, says PM Khan’s ‘true face revealed’,

Clarifying its position on the matter, the Foreign Office said that the alleged killing of BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

“When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, the Pakistan Rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that Pakistan had nothing to do with it. Pakistan Rangers also extended help in efforts to locate the soldier’s body.

“These facts were known to the Indian authorities and a part of the Indian media also reported that Pakistan had refuted its involvement. Yet, this motivated and malicious propaganda continued.

“Pakistan takes this opportunity to categorically reject these allegations once again. Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” read the Foreign Office statement.

The other reason cited by the Indian ministry referred to the issuance of 20 special postage stamps by Pakistan Post on July 24, highlighting the gross violation of human rights by Indian forces in held Kashmir.

Islamabad clarified that the postage stamps mentioned in the Indian statement were issued before the July 25 elections, following which Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office.

“The stamps highlight the gross and systematic human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which were extensively documented also in a comprehensive report issued by the ,United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as late as June 2018.

“By falsely raising the canard of ‘terrorism’, India can neither hide its unspeakable crimes against the Kashmiri people nor can it delegitimise their indigenous struggle for their inalienable right to self-determination,” the Foreign Office maintained.

Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The Foreign Office also expressed disappointment over the “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”, and termed it “unfortunate”.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” read the statement.

Putting the record straight, the Foreign Office mentioned that PM Imran Khan had, in his first public comments after his electoral success, outlined a forward-looking vision of Pakistan-India relations.

“He had clearly stated that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two. In the same spirit, PM Khan in his reply letter endorsed PM Modi’s call for ‘constructive engagement’ and proposed the meeting of the two foreign ministers in New York to discuss a way forward on bilateral and Saarc-related matters,” it clarified.

Terming it an “ill-considered cancellation of the meeting”, the Foreign Office accused India of “once again wasting a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development”.

“Pakistan has always desired peaceful and good-neighbourly relations with India, on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. In our view, dialogue and diplomacy are the only constructive way forward for the two countries to address mutual concerns, rebuild trust, resolve longstanding disputes, and establish durable peace in South Asia.

“For its part, Pakistan will persist with its quest for peace and development. But, as we have consistently emphasised, our approach will continue to be guided by the aforementioned principles and the dictates of national dignity,” read the Foreign Office statement.

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