Pakistan president Arif Alvi calls for peace with India
ISLAMABAD, March 24: Pakistan wants peace with India and they should focus on health and education, the Pakistani president said on Saturday during on the occasion of its Republic Day.
“We do not believe in war and want to solve problems through dialogue. Instead of war we should focus on education and health,” Pakistan president Arif Alvi said in his speech.
The president, said India had blamed Pakistan for the suicidebomb attack without evidence. “Today’s parade is sending the message that we are a peaceful people but we will never be oblivious of our defence,” Alvi said.
The parade was attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was invited to attend as the chief guest, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Khan said on Twitter earlier that he had received a message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his best wishes for Republic Day and calling for peace and regional cooperation.
“I welcome PM Modi’s message to our people,” Khan said.
“I believe it’s time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues.The dispute over the former princely state of Kashmir sparked the first two of three wars between India and Pakistan after independence in 1947. They fought the second in 1965, and a third, largely over what become Bangladesh, in 1971.
NZ PM Jacinda Ardern received Christchurch mosque shooter’s ‘manifesto’ 9 minutes before attack
CHRISTCHURCH, March 17: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her office received a “manifesto” from the gunman suspected of killing 50 people in two Christchurch mosques minutes before Friday’s attack.
“I was one of more than 30 recipients of the manifesto that was mailed out nine minutes before the attack took place,” Ardern told reporters on Sunday.
“It did not include a location, it did not include specific details,” she said, adding that it was sent to security services within two minutes of receipt.
A gunman had opened fire on Friday prayers at a mosque in New Zealand killing many worshippers and forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown as police launched a massive manhunt. New Zealand Police said death toll has increased to 50.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said that the gunman was a citizen of his country. He also called the shooter an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had said. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” she added.
Wanted to save lives, even if I lost mine: Man who chased New Zealand gunman away
CHRISTCHURCH, March 17: When Afghan refugee Abdul Aziz saw a man brandishing a gun outside his mosque in Christchurch, he ran towards the attacker armed with the only weapon he could find -- a hand-held credit card machine.
Seven people were killed when a white supremacist stormed Linwood Masjid -- the second mosque he attacked on Friday -- as worshippers knelt to pray.
But the death toll could have been much higher if not for the heroic actions of Aziz, an Australian citizen, whose efforts to distract and chase the gunman away have attracted widespread praise.
“You don’t have much time to think, whatever you think of, you just do it, you know,” said Aziz, brushing off the “hero” tag as local Muslims gathered to thank him for saving relatives and friends.
“I just wanted to save as much lives as I could, even if I lose my life.”
Aziz and his four sons were worshipping at the mosque when they heard the loud cracks of gunfire outside the building.
Initially thinking someone was setting off firecrackers, Aziz became suspicious and ran out of the mosque, grabbing a small credit card processing device.
Outside, he was stunned to find an armed man wearing military-style fatigues.
“At first, I didn’t know if he was the good guy or the bad guy. But when he started swearing, I knew he was not the good guy,” he said.
Aziz hurled the machine at Tarrant and then ducked between cars as the self-confessed fascist unleashed a barrage of shots at him.
Aziz then heard one of his sons call out, “Daddy, please come back inside!”
Unhurt, he picked up an empty shotgun the gunman had discarded and shouted “come on here” repeatedly in an effort to draw him away from his sons and the other worshippers.
“When he see the gun in my hands, I don’t know what happened, he dropped the gun and I chased him with my own gun... I managed to throw the gun on his car and smash the car window, and I could see he was a bit frightened.”
The 48-year-old kept chasing the attacker as he sped off in his car. The gunman was apprehended by two armed police officers soon afterwards.
Aziz returned to the mosque where he was met by scenes of carnage. Dead bodies were strewn around the mosque, among them his close friends.
“When I close my eyes, I still see bodies everywhere,” he said. “We are all still in shock, but what can you do. You cannot bring them back.”
Then came another shock.
Aziz said police who arrived after the shooting blocked him from re-entering the mosque, thinking he might have been the gunman as he was seen earlier with the weapon.
“For a long time, I didn’t know if my kids were alive or dead or injured because I couldn’t go inside the mosque,” Aziz said. He later found out all his sons had survived.
Aziz arrived in Australia as a child refugee. He lived in Sydney for almost three decades before moving to Christchurch two-and-a-half years ago.
He says he has nothing but contempt for the attacker.
“A lot of people tell him he is a gunman. But... a man never hurts anybody. He is not a man -- he is a coward,” Aziz said.
He said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from his neighbours after the attacks.
“There’s very nice people around here. When I went home last night, my wife told me all the neighbours, they sent flowers... cards, foods, cakes. They showed all their love.
“That’s why I love New Zealand -- you won’t get that sort of love and that sort of respect anywhere.”
New Zealand mosque shooter who killed 50 may have acted alone
CHRISTCHURCH, March 17: New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in modern history appears to be the act of a lone gunman who attacked worshippers at two mosques out of racial hatred.
The death toll from Friday’s massacre in the South Island city of Christchurch has risen to 50 after another victim was located at one of the crime scenes, police said on Sunday. One person has been charged with murder while three other people apprehended with firearms are not believed to be involved, they said.
“At this point, only one person has been charged in relation to these attacks,” Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters. “I will not be saying anything conclusive until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved.”
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, appeared in the Christchurch District Court yesterday charged with one count of murder. He entered no plea and was remanded in custody until April 5. He is expected to face further charges, police said.
New Zealand is reeling from what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described as a well-planned terrorist attack. Early Friday afternoon, a shooter walked into a packed central city mosque and opened fire, filming and live-streaming the act to social media as he killed 42 people. He then drove across the city to another mosque and continued the rampage, murdering seven more people. Another victim died in hospital.
Fifty people were injured and Christchurch hospital is still treating 36, of whom 12 are in a critical condition. A young child who was transferred to Auckland’s Starship hospital also remains critical.
Tarrant grew up in the small Australian city of Grafton and worked in a local gym as a personal trainer, Australia’s Nine News reported. He left his job in 2010 after the death of his father and traveled extensively. Turkey has confirmed he spent considerable time there, and there are reports he also visited Pakistan, North Korea and Eastern Europe.
Ardern said yesterday that Tarrant spent “sporadic periods of time” in New Zealand and most recently lived in the southern city of Dunedin. He attended a local gym and was a member of the Bruce Rifle Club in the south Otago town of Milton, New Zealand media outlet Stuff reported.
Police recovered two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm after the attacks. Tarrant had a category-A gun license which meant he could legally buy the weapons he used, although there are suggestions the guns were altered to make them more lethal, Ardern told reporters.
She indicated she will move quickly to tighten gun laws, saying a ban on semi-automatic weapons is one possibility that will be discussed by ministers this week.
Gun shops reported increased sales of firearms around the country on Saturday, including semi-automatics, ammunition and magazines, as people rushed to acquire them before the government acts, according to the Newsroom website.
Police said Tarrant was arrested as he fled in a car from the second mosque about 36 minutes after the first call of the attacks came in. He was a direct threat and officers “had to use some force” to effect the arrest, Bush said. Video footage shows armed police pinning the gunman to the ground after running his car off the road in a city street. Two home-made bombs were found in the vehicle.
Tarrant didn’t appear on any government security watch-list, nor did he have a criminal record in New Zealand. Ardern has asked officials to review whether his actions on social media should have brought him to the attention of intelligence agencies.
Tarrant posted a manifesto online before the attack, suggesting a racially-motivated act of terrorism. In a rambling document that’s dozens of pages long, he says he was inspired by Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who was responsible for the deaths of 77 people in 2011.
The events have shocked New Zealand, a peaceful nation of just under five million people in the South Pacific where gun violence is relatively rare. There has been an outpouring of grief and emotion around the country as it struggles to comprehend how something so violent could occur.
The death toll surpasses the 49 deaths during a prisoner of war camp riot in 1943, and is the worst mass-murder since before European settlement in the 1800s.
Christchurch, a city of about 390,000, is still recovering from a 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people and destroyed the central business district.
5 Indians among those killed in New Zealand mosque shootings
HYDERABAD, March 16: The number of Indian killed in the horrific shootings in two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch rose to five on Saturday after Mohammad Farhaj Ahsan, the 30-year-old electrical engineer and three Gujaratis including a father-son duo from Vadodara and a resident of Ahmedabad were declared dead on Saturday. Another 30-year-old man from Telangana’s Karimnagar district, Mohammed Imran Khan, lost his life in the firing on Saturday.
“We have just received a message from New Zealand authorities that Ahsan passed away in the shooting,” his brother Khasim Khan said.
Hailing from Hyderabad’s Tolichowki area, Ahsan had gone to Al Noor Mosque for Friday prayers but did not return home after a gunman opened indiscriminate fire on worshippers.
His wife, Insha Aziz, had got panicky and called Ahsan’s father, Mohammad Sayeeduddin, and mother Imtiaz Fatima.
“My daughter-in-law called us on Friday afternoon and said that Ahsan had gone to the mosque where the firing took place. There was no information about him. We have been in constant touch with her,” Sayeeduddin told reporters.
Ahsan went to Christchurch six years ago and had been working there. He took his wife and two kids – three-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son – there two years ago.
Manzoor Ahmed Khan, who owns Al Manzoor marriage hall in Karimnagar town, said he had received a call from his brother’s family, now settled in Chicago in the US, about Imran’s death.
“Imran fell to the assassin’s bullets at Al Noor Masjid where he had gone for Friday prayers,” Khan told this reporter over the phone. Khan said that Imran, who studied up to Class 12 in Hyderabad, went to New Zealand in search of a job some years ago and got involved in some kind of business activity there.
His father, Masood Ahmed Khan, and the rest of his family left that country and settled in Chicago in the US after some time. Khan did not clarfiy when exactly the family immigrated to New Zealand or when they – apart from Imran – left for the US.
Mehboob Khokkhar, a retired employee of Gujarat Electricity Board, was visiting his son Imran, who has settled in NZ. He was gravely wounded and declared dead on Saturday.
New Zealand mosque attacker charged with murder
CHRISTCHURCH, March 16: Australian-born 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant stood in the dock wearing handcuffs and a white prison smock, as the judge read a single murder charge against him. Harrison Tarrant smirked when media persons photographed him during the hearing and was seen making the white power gesture, according to a news agency.
A right-wing extremist who filmed himself on a rampage that left 49 mosque-goers dead, Tarrant, flashed a white power sign as he appeared in Saturday.
A raft of further charges were expected.
The former fitness instructor and self-professed fascist occasionally turned to look at media present in court during the brief hearing that the public were excluded from for security reasons.
Flanked by armed police he flashed an upside-down “okay” signal, a symbol used by white power groups across the globe. He did not request bail and was taken into custody until his next court appearance which is scheduled for April 5.
A short distance away, 39 people were being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds and other injuries inflicted in the massacre. They included a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, who is in critical condition.
Doctors at Christchurch hospital said they worked through the night in 12 operating theatres to do what they could to save the survivors.
For many, the road to recovery will require multiple surgical procedures and many survivors said the mental scars may never fully heal.
The attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques has been labelled terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and is thought to be the deadliest attack directed against Muslims in the West in modern times.
Outside the court, the son of 71-year-old Afghan victim Daoud Nabi demanded justice for his late father, who believed New Zealand to be a “slice of paradise.”
“It’s outrageous, the feeling is outrageous,” he said. “It’s beyond imagination.”
Ardern said the victims came from across the Muslim world, with Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia among the countries rendering consular assistance.
One Saudi citizen and two Jordanians were among the dead, while five Pakistani citizens were missing.
The attack has prompted an outpouring of grief and deep shock in this usually peaceful and hospitable country, which prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution.
Although shops were shuttered and many decided to stay at home, Christchurch residents piled bouquets of flowers at a makeshift memorial near the Al Noor mosque, many accompanied with handwritten letters laden with sadness and disbelief.
“I am so sorry that you were not safe here. Our hearts are breaking for your loss,” read one of the notes marked with a string of x-kisses.
Ardern, who arrived in Christchurch Saturday, said the shooter was not on any watchlist and did not have a criminal record.
“The offender was in possession of a gun licence” obtained in November 2017, and he started purchasing the weapons the following month, she said.
Two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and lever-action gun were used in the attacks.
Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, while police raided a home in the southern city of Dunedin, where Ardern said the suspect was based.
“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now -- our gun laws will change,” she said.
The suspect documented his radicalisation and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy filled far-right “manifesto”.
He live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away in the main Christchurch mosque.
Thirty-six minutes after the police received the first call, Tarrant was in custody.
Commissioner Mike Bush hailed the “absolute bravery” of both police and members of the public “who put themselves in harm’s way” to apprehend the suspect.
“Their intervention may very likely have saved further lives.”
Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is not clear. One man, 18-year-old Daniel Burrough, has been charged with incitement.
Another person who was earlier arrested was said to be a member of the public carrying a firearm who was trying to help.
Tributes to the victims poured in from around the world.
US President Donald Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” in which “innocent people have so senselessly died”, but denied that the problem of right-wing extremism was widespread.
Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.
New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said police had visited Tarrant’s childhood home in the town of Grafton, north of Sydney, and spoken to family members as part of their investigation.
The attack has prompted searching questions about whether right-wing extremism has been treated with enough seriousness by Western governments.
Ali Soufan, a former high-ranking FBI counter-terrorism agent, said the threat needs to be treated with the same seriousness as jihadist violence.
“We are in the midst of a surge of right-wing terrorism that has been metastasising in plain sight while generating only a muted response from domestic counter-terrorism authorities,” he said.
Ardern said she would be reviewing events leading up to the attack to see how the suspect went unnoticed by authorities.
“The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community, nor the police, for extremism,” she said.
“I have asked our agencies this morning to work swiftly on assessing whether there was any activity on social media or otherwise, that should have triggered a response. That work is already underway.”
49 killed in New Zealand mosques attack, gunman an Australian citizen
WELLINGTON, March 15: A gunman opened fire on Friday prayers at a mosque in New Zealand killing many worshippers and forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown as police launched a massive manhunt. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that over 49 people have been killed in the attack, according to a news agency.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the gunman is a citizen of his country. He also called the shooter an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”
New Zealand media reported that between nine and 27 people were killed, but the death toll could not be confirmed. Police said multiple fatalities had occurred at two mosques, but it was unclear how many attackers were involved.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”
Neither Ardern nor police gave a casualty toll.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Friday prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, said a team coach.
New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “as far as we know” multiple fatalities occurred at two mosques. Police had one person in custody but they were not sure if others were involved, and people should stay away from mosques.
Police said earlier they were hunting “an active shooter” in the centre of Christchurch city.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
The online video footage appeared to have been captured on a camera strapped to the gunman’s head.
After parking his vehicle he took two guns and walked a short distance to the entrance of the mosque.
He then opened fire. Over the course of five minutes, he repeatedly shoots worshippers, leaving well over a dozen bodies in one room alone. He returned to the car during that period to change guns, and went back to the mosque to shoot anyone showing signs of life.
Police said the second mosque attacked was in the suburb of Linwood.
All Christchurch schools and council buildings were placed into lockdown.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the Al Noor mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.
“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.
The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” said Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team.
“They are shaken but good.”
The third cricket test was cancelled, New Zealand Cricket said later.
Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed.
“Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand,” Ardern said.
“They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home ... they are us. The persons who has perpetuated this violence against us ... have no place in New Zealand.”
‘Naya Pakistan’ with ‘nayi soch’ should show ‘naya action’ against terror groups: India
NEW DELHI, March 9: The government on Saturday said that if Pakistan claims to be a ‘Naya Pakistan’ with a new line of thought, then it should show it in terms of action taken against terror groups.
Addressing media, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that Pakistan has failed to take any credible action against the Jaish-e-Mohammed and other terror organisations operating from its soil.
Kumar said, “It is regrettable that Pakistan still continues to deny Jaish-e-Mohammed’s claim of taking ownership of Pulwama attack. Pakistan Foreign Minister said and I quote ‘they (JeM) have not claimed responsibility for that (Pulwama attack)’... Is Pakistan defending the Jaish-e-Mohammed and acting as its spokesperson?”
The MEA spokesperson also dismissed Pakistan’s claim that its air force downed two aircraft of the Indian Air Force. “Only one aircraft was lost by us. Pakistan is spreading false propaganda,” asserted Kumar adding, “If Pakistan has a video recording of shooting down two aircraft of the Indian Air force, why it has not shared the evidence with the international media.”
On Pakistan’s refusal to admit that Pakistan Air Force lost one F 16 fighter jet when it attempted to target military facility in India, Kumar said there is evidence to show that IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down their aircraft.
“There are eyewitness accounts and electronic evidence that Pakistan deployed F-16 aircraft and that one F-16 was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan. We have asked USA to also examine whether the use of F-16 against India is in accordance with terms and conditions of sale,” he said.
The MEA spokesperson’s statement comes a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that his government would not allow the country’s soil to be used for terror purposes against any country.
He said that the same script is playing out in Pakistan that was seen after terror attack on Parliament in 2001, in Mumbai in 2008 and in the days following attacks in Pathankot and Uri. He said Pakistan has to show “credible, verifiable and sustainable action” against terrorist outfits.
“If Pakistan claims to be a ‘Naya Pakistan’ with ‘Nayi Soch’ then it should demonstrate ‘Naya Action’ against terrorist groups and cross border terrorism in support of its claims,” he said.
“Pakistan will be judged not by the words they speak, but the actions they take. Besides issuing notifications in the gazette, they have to dismantle terrorist infrastructure,” he added.
India-Pakistan: A pessimistic scenario, at least in the short term
By Gareth Price
LONDON, March 9: Our strategic expert traces the origins of the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan and weighs up some distant hope of improvement in relations between the South Asian neighbours.
The pattern of terrorist attack in India by a group, at best, tolerated, at worst, actively supported, by the Pakistani state, followed by some degree of military conflict is depressingly familiar to followers of South Asia.
Sadly, the impasse between India and Pakistan finds supporters in both countries. The pre-eminent position of Pakistan’s military is at least in part predicated by the existential threat that India is seen to pose. India did, of course, assist in the bifurcation of Pakistan in 1971, when East Pakistan split off to form Bangladesh. And any Indian voices raised in support of Baluchi independence, for instance, are seen to confirm that India remains committed to the further destruction of Pakistan.
Many in India would prefer, if they have to have an adversary, for China to be that threat. But for now, Pakistan is seen to serve as a proxy for China, which many believe uses Pakistan to prevent India’s rise, thereby ensuring China’s pre-eminence in Asia.
The only alternative to continued hostility, if not outright conflict, would be dialogue, but it is more than a decade since the last serious talks took place. That process ended with the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and Pakistan’s failure to take action against the alleged perpetrators continues to undermine the relationship.
Part of the problem with dialogue is that both countries frame the challenges to their relationship differently. For India, Pakistan’s approach to terrorist groups operating against India from Pakistan is the priority. This issue, though, joins others which reinforce the point that Pakistan is untrustworthy. In particular, India is highly sceptical of the role Pakistan plays in Afghanistan. This scepticism of Pakistan’s motivations leads to a conclusion that talking to Pakistan is a waste of time. Talks have been held in the past, and Pakistan has not followed through and taken the requisite action.
Pakistan’s view, however, is that the reasons for the poor relationship stem from the disputed status of Kashmir, since 1947 divided between the two countries. While India argues that the status of Kashmir has already been resolved, for Pakistan it remains a sore left-over from Partition, and a pre-requisite for improved relations.
To circumvent this intransigence, from the 1990s until 2008 the two countries tried to engage in a “composite dialogue”, discussing a range of issues, including Kashmir, at the same time. The logic made sense, but the lack of progress on the issue of Kashmir prevented deepened engagement in other fields. In the absence of any notable trust-building successes on other issues, the two countries plunged quickly into hostility following the Mumbai attacks, and have remained in such a state ever since.
Are there any reasons for optimism? Probably not in the short-term, but following the Indian General Election, due to be held by May this year, one of the occasional windows of opportunity may open. The proximity of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, to his country’s military is one possible reason. His openness for dialogue, and for the relationship to be reset, is positive. And while the military may not be committed to peace with India, predicating its prominent position within Pakistan on the existential threat from its neighbour, it does not have an adversarial relationship with Khan. Previous efforts by civilian leaders in Pakistan to open up to India have been used by the military to undermine their leadership. However, whether Pakistan feels able to visibly crack down on militants which it certainly used to nurture – a clear pre-requisite for engagement – remains the unknown. Occasionally, some militants have been put under house arrest, then quietly released. To gain India’s trust would certainly require something more substantive.
A second possible cause for optimism is India’s broader regional engagement. Intuitively, if India has a poor relationship with Bangladesh and Nepal, there is little reason to suppose it could have a stronger relationship with a country with which it has gone to war on several occasions. But India is gradually learning the requirements to be a benevolent regional hegemon. While there remains scope for much more, various energy trading arrangements with Bangladesh and Nepal, along with Bhutan, provide some form of a template for broader regional engagement.
Third, and possibly less convincing, is the Nixon visiting China theory. That is, that a more hardline Hindu nationalist government offers the best hopes of securing a deal with Pakistan. There was little evidence of this in Narendra Modi’s first term in office, but were he to secure re-election, particularly following his recent demonstration of resolve against Pakistan, he may be in a better position to engage. And while the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir is important to the secular Congress Party – secular meaning different religions co-existing, rather than the Western conception – it has less importance to the BJP’s agenda.
The zero-sum construction of the relationship between India and Pakistan presents significant opportunity costs for both countries. Bilateral trade – much of which at present is conducted through the Gulf – has scope to rise by tens of billions of dollars, according to numerous reports. Before Partition the vast majority of goods made in what became Pakistan were sold in what became India. Yet current trends are for what little trade there is to be to reduced.
Further, issues that were previously (relatively) positive are being securitised. The Indus Waters Treaty survived a number of conflicts. Yet now the threat of curtailing water has become part of India’s armoury, rhetorically at least, against Pakistan.
But the low base of the relationship can also enable relatively easy wins to take on a greater significance. In the mid-2000s, “cricket diplomacy” allowed a degree of cross-border interaction which facilitated some degree of progress in political negotiations. In similar vein, Imran Khan’s quick decision to repatriate a captured Indian pilot may, in time, be seen as a moment at which the relationship started to be recalibrated.
That said, the challenge of improving the relationship vastly outweighs that of undermining it, as various Islamist groups have proven time and again.
@ Dr Gareth Price is Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme, at Chatham House – the Royal Institute of International Affairs – in London.
Won’t allow militant groups in Pakistan, carry out attacks abroad: Imran Khan
ISLAMABAD, March 8: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said no militant group would be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil and carry out attacks abroad, days after his government began a crackdown against Islamist militant organisations.
“This government will not allow Pakistan’s land to be used for any kind of outside terrorism,” Khan said on Friday while addressing a public rally in southern Pakistan. “We will not allow any militant group to function in our country now.”
Pakistan began a crackdown against militant groups this week amid growing international pressure in the wake of a bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir by a militant group based in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s crackdown on terror groups an ‘eyewash’, says US news website
ISLAMABAD, March 7: Pakistan’s latest crackdown on banned terror groups are merely an “eyewash” to placate the West in the wake of major terror attacks emanating from the country’s soil, a US-based news website which reports on the war on terror has commented.
Pakistan on Tuesday said that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s son and brother were among 44 members of the banned militant outfits taken into “preventive detention”, amid mounting pressure from the global community on it to rein in the terror groups operating on its soil.
Islamabad also said it is shuttering institutions that belong to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a designated terrorist group that is an alias for Lashkar-e-Taiba. The crackdown came amid tensions with India following a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14 by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.
India recently handed over the dossier to Pakistan to take action against the JeM for the Pulwama terror attack. “If the past is any guide, the efforts are merely eyewash to placate Western governments in the wake of major terror attacks emanating from Pakistani soil,” the Long War Journal has commented.
“That’s because Pakistan has claimed it has shut down JuD offices and detained its top leaders in the past, only to allow the offices to reopen and the leaders free months later,” it said on Wednesday.
Ironically, Pakistani generals and government officials routinely state that terrorist groups are not permitted to operate on Pakistani soil. Yet the JuD operates freely in Rawalpindi, the city that headquarters Pakistan’s military, the website noted.
Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its successor, JuD, has been placed under “protective custody” at least four times in the past two decades, only to be released, it noted. “Even when he was in purported custody, Saeed was free to travel and give sermons at LeT/JuD-run mosques in Lahore,” it recalled.
Saeed’s ties to both the Pakistani state and global terrorist groups such as al Qaeda are indisputable, it said, adding that the Pakistani state supports Saeed and his organisation, which has offices across the country. Pakistan also routinely rounds up known terrorist leaders and places them under protective custody, only to release them when foreign pressure wanes, the article said.
Dangerous jihadist commanders such as Masood Azhar (Jaish-e-Mohammed), Qari Saifullah Akhtar (Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami), and Malik Ishaq (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) have been detained numerous times, only to be freed, it noted. “There is little reason to believe this latest ‘effort’ will be any different,” the Long War Journal concluded.
‘22 terrorist training camps, including 9 of JeM active in Pakistan’: Indian official
WASHINGTON, March 7: As many as 22 terrorist training camps, including nine of Jaish-e-Mohammed are active in Pakistan, but no action is being taken against them, a senior Indian official said in Washington on Thursday, warning that New Delhi will carry out operation similar to that of the Balakot airstrike if there is an act of terrorism coming from across the border.
In a pinpointed and swift air strike that lasted less than two minutes, India pounded JeM’s biggest training camp in Pakistan on February 26, killing up to 350 terrorists and trainers who were moved there for their protection after the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in which 40 soldiers were killed. The JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama strike.
Pakistan is a “global epicentre of terrorism and it needs to take verifiable and credible steps against terrorist organisations and terrorists”, said the official on condition of anonymity. The official also accused Pakistan and its leadership of being in denial mode and trying to create a war hysteria kind of situation between the two nuclear-weapon states. “As many as 22 terrorist training camps, including nine of JeM are still being run in Pakistan and there has been no action against them,” the official said.
The Balakot airstrike conducted by India was a counter-terrorism operation, which was well within the international laws. However, a day after on February 27, Pakistan attacked Indian military installation with as many as 20 fighter jets, the official claimed. “Instead of taking action against terrorist groups, Pakistan escalated the situation and indulged in war hysteria by doing things like declaring emergency in Karachi, blocking air traffic and creating rumours, which is part of its familiar pattern,” the official said, adding, “India on the other hand exercised restraint.” Islamabad now bears the responsibility to end terrorism, the official said and warned that “India will carry out retaliatory counter-terrorism operation like the one on February 26, deep inside Pakistan, anytime there is an act of terrorism coming from across the border”.
Referring to the recent actions taken by Pakistan against several terrorist groups, the official said that these actions are “nothing unusual” as the country takes such steps after every terrorist strike in India. “These actions”, the official described, “are a revolving door policy, under which house arrest of terrorist leaders simply means keeping them in luxurious accommodation”.
They are released once the situation becomes normal, the official said.
But after the Pulwama attack, India has set “a new normal”. “For every terrorist attack coming from across the border, India will retaliate and there will be a price that the neighbouring country would have to pay.” Accusing Pakistan of being a state sponsor of terrorism, the official said there is a feeling in India that Islamabad is unlikely to stop funding terror activities “unless the cost of it is too heavy for it to pay”.
Asserting that India has the right to self-defence, the official told reporters that New Delhi by successfully carrying out strikes inside Pakistan “has been able to call the Pakistani bluff” on the nuclear front. “This will not work in the future,” the official said and warned Pakistan that “there will be reprisal” for every act of terrorism.
Responding to a question, the official said India has given to the US details of the violation of the end user agreement by Pakistan when it used F-16 fighter jets and advanced missiles against India on February 27.
India, the official said, is very closely engaged with the US and has support of the Trump administration. The official also said India is opposed to any IMF bailout packages to Pakistan. Pakistan has received as many as 21 bailout packages, including seven in the recent past, from the IMF. However, none of them have been able to address the economic woes of Pakistan because the money intended to improve the economy and developmental purposes have been diverted for non-civilian means.
Pak Govt takes over Lahore headquarters of Hafiz Saeed-led terror group Jamaat-ud-Dawa
ISLAMABAD, March 7: In its continuing action against terror and proscribed organisations, the Pakistan Punjab’s government on Thursday took over the Lahore headquarters of both the Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) and its wing Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) as part of the objectives to be achieved under the National Action Plan (NAP). Both JuD and FIF were added to the list of organisations proscribed in Pakistan on March 5.
In a statement, the Punjab home department said that it had taken over the headquarters of the JuD and the FIF and that it had taken over the madrassas and facilities of the banned groups, adding that the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) was being sped up.
Under the crackdown on banned groups, a total of 121 people detained and nearly 400 facilities operated by the organisations were taken over across the country, till Thursday.
The action against groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa was launched on Tuesday against the backdrop of mounting international pressure on Pakistan to counter the activities of terrorists operating from its soil following the Pulwama suicide bombing, which was claimed by JeM.
The interior ministry said in a statement “law enforcement agencies have taken 121 people under preventive detention as of” Thursday. Provincial governments had taken over the management and administration of 182 seminaries, 34 schools and colleges, 163 dispensaries, 184 ambulances, five hospitals and eight offices, it said.
“The operation against proscribed organisations is an ongoing process and continues under National Action Plan (NAP) 2014. Interior ministry is actively working in coordination with provincial governments and law enforcing agencies,” the statement said.
A meeting of Corps Commanders chaired on Thursday by Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa discussed the crackdown. Bajwa called for a “continued state of vigilance and alertness so as to be prepared for response to any threat”, a military statement said. He called for further efforts to “accelerate implementation of NAP while rendering full assistance to other state institutions”.
On Tuesday, minister of state for interior Shehryar Afridi said 44 members of banned groups had been detained, including JeM chief Masood Azhar’s brother Abdul Rauf Asghar and son Hammad Azhar. There has been no official word on the status of Azhar, though foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has confirmed he is in Pakistan.
Media reports said the crackdown was largely focused on JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, both fronts of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Both groups were banned by Pakistan on Tuesday.
The reports said provincial governments had taken over scores of JuD and FIF facilities in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta. Punjab province has formed special police teams to work with security agencies for the drive, the reports added.
The Auqaf department posted administrators at the facilities and imams of mosques were removed and replaced with other clerics. Officials said the staff of other facilities will be retained only if they are cleared by security agencies. Authorities replaced signboards of JuD and FIF with those of district administrations. “Now all these institutions would be running under the district administration,” a senior official said.
Indian officials said they were monitoring the crackdown in line with a decision to work with the world community to maintain pressure on Pakistan to deliver on its international counter-terrorism commitments. They continued to be sceptical of the action taken so far, saying it appeared to be a repeat of the crackdowns seen after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2016 terror strike on Pathankot airbase.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said tensions with India had reduced and the threat of war had been eliminated. The meeting of Corps Commanders said the military is determined to defend Pakistan “against any misadventure or aggression”.
Pak crackdown on Jaish chief’s brother, son
ISLAMABAD/ NEW DELHI, March 5: Pakistan on Tuesday said it had detained 44 members of banned groups, including the brother and son of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, in action that comes against the backdrop of mounting international pressure on the country to crack down on terrorists operating from its soil.
Minister of state for interior Shehryar Afidi and interior secretary Azam Suleman Khan announced the detentions at a news conference in Islamabad, saying the move was aimed at securing Pakistan’s future.
Masood Azhar’s brother Abdul Rauf Asghar, who was accused of masterminding the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase in India in 2016, and Azhar’s son Hammad Azhar are among the detained persons, officials said. The other detained people were not identified and there was no official word on the status of Azhar.
Khan acknowledged a dossier on JeM provided by India contained the names of Asghar and Hammad Azhar. “This is across the board — we don’t want to give the impression that we’re against one organisation,” he said.
Late on Tuesday, Pakistan issued a fresh list of banned groups, inclduing the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).
The two had earlier been on a “watch list” of the interior ministry. JuD and FIF were earlier designated by the US and the UN as fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the terror group founded by Hafiz Saeed that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The action came almost three weeks after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 Indian troopers were killed, and for which the JeM took responsibility. Indian officials reacted with scepticism to the announcement of the detentions, saying successive governments in Islamabad had made commitments about the country’s soil not being used for terrorism since 2004.
“If this is a Naya [new] Pakistan with ‘naya soch’[new thinking] , we expect to see naya action on the ground,” one government official said, referring to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments in recent days that there has been a change of mindset on the issue of terrorism in the “Naya Pakistan” he is building.
A brief statement from Pakistan’s interior ministry said, “44 under-observation members of proscribed organisations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hammad Azhar, have been taken in preventive detention for investigation.” The statement added the action was taken following a meeting in the ministry on Monday to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) on terrorism.
Pakistan finalised the NAP after a terror attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014 killed nearly 150 people, most of them children. However, the implementation of NAP has so far focused on action against terror groups such as the Taliban that carried out attacks within Pakistan and little has been done to counter anti-India groups such as JeM and LeT.
Afridi said, “We are determined about the supremacy of law in Pakistan. We won’t allow the use of our soil against any country. Action will be taken across the board so that Pakistan’s soil cannot be misused at any level by anyone. That is the ultimate objective.”
Khan said all banned groups will be targeted under the action, which is expected to continue for a fortnight, and their assets will be taken over if necessary. Further action will be taken against the detained people after investigations, he added.
Pakistan has conducted similar crackdowns on banned groups in the past in the aftermath of major terror attacks, such as clamping down on JeM after the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, the rounding up of JuD operatives and sealing of the group’s offices and facilities after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and a crackdown on JeM and the detention of Masood Azhar after the 2016 Pathankot attack.
Within weeks and months, the operatives under “preventive detention” were quietly freed by the security establishment or released on the orders of courts. Hafiz Saeed was placed under house arrest at least thrice since the Mumbai attacks, the latest instance being in 2018 to apparently prevent Pakistan being placed on a watch list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
People in New Delhi familiar with the developments said former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf first made a commitment about Pakistani soil not being used for terrorism against India in 2004, and this was reiterated recently by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “This commitment is important but it isn’t enough,” said a second official who asked not to be named.
In its interactions with interlocutors around the world, India will focus on pressuring Pakistan to deliver on its counter-terrorism commitments, the people said. “We are reaching out to all countries to appeal to members of the UN Security Council to get Pakistan to deal with terrorism on the ground, and there can be no deflection of attention,” the official cited in the second instance said.
“The government’s position is that we have to fight terrorism on our own, but we have to build international pressure on Pakistan,” the official said.
This pressure will include measures for designating Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by UN’s 1267 Committee. “If Azhar gets sanctioned, irrespective of what action Pakistan takes, it will be more difficult for Pakistan to say they aren’t the epicentre of terrorism,” the official added.
3 small bombs found at London airports, rail station
LONDON, March 5: Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command on Tuesday evening launched an investigation after three suspicious packages containing improvised explosive devices were received at three separate locations across London, including near the Heathrow airport.
No arrests were made and there were no flight disruptions, but the police said the command is treating the incidents as linked and keeping an open mind on investigations. The packages were A4 sized white postal bags.
The packages were assessed by specialist officers to be small improvised explosive devices that appeared capable of igniting an initially small fire when opened.
The first package was discovered in a building in Hounslow, near Heathrow. It was opened by staff, causing the device to initiate, which resulted in part of the package burning. Specialist officers attended and made the device safe, the police said.
A Heathrow spokeswoman said the airport would assist the police investigation into the “criminal act”.
The second package was found at the busy Waterloo train station, where it was not opened. The third was discovered at the City Aviation House in the London City Airport in Newham. Staff were evacuated from the building and the package was not opened. No one was injured.
Scotland Yard said as a precaution, DLR services to London City Airport were suspended for some time but were soon resumed. Flights to and from the airport were not affected. The police issued advice to transport hubs across London to be vigilant for and report suspicious packages to police.
Kim Jong-un proposes continuation of dialogue after Hanoi summit
By Lee Je-hun
HANOI, March 2: The message that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered after the second North Korea-US summit in Hanoi ended without an agreement was clear and simple: dialogue and negotiations should continue. To elaborate, Kim proposed that constructive dialogue be used to arrange a third summit at which denuclearization measures and incentives are exchanged to the extent permitted by trust between the two countries and in accordance with the principle of step-by-step, simultaneous action.
Kim’s message was communicated through two different channels. First, the Rodong Sinmun published a big-picture assessment of the summit. Second, Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho got into the methodology and the nuts and bolts in his late-night press conference. Both of these channels have a high degree of official credibility. The Rodong Sinmun is the official organ of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). Ri Yong-ho is North Korea’s official representative to the outside world.
News about the Hanoi summit on Feb. 28 appeared on the first and second pages of the Mar. 1 edition of the Rodong Sinmun. Kim has a smile on his face in all 13 of the photos that ran in the newspaper. The article was fairly short, about 400 words long, but contained no criticism of the US. Kim’s message as reported by the newspaper can be summarized as follows: Kim wants to “continue productive dialogue to resolve these issues” and hold a “new summit” (his third with the US) to “resolve the issues discussed in the Hanoi summit.”
The newspaper described the talks in Hanoi as “a meaningful opportunity to develop North Korea-US relations in line with the interests of the two peoples.” The failure to reach an agreement was not a “breakdown” or a “collapse” but was one of the “unavoidable challenges and twists and turns” that are bound to occur in a long process.
Take the following sentence: “Though the walls of enmity and confrontation that have been built up in our 70 years of hostile relations are high and though there are unavoidable challenges and twists and turns on the journey toward ushering in a new history, [Kim and Trump] expressed their confidence that, if they forged ahead hand in hand and made the most of their wisdom and patience, it would be fully possible to achieve groundbreaking developments that match the goals and desires of our two peoples.”
In addition, the newspaper said, the two leaders had a “constructive and candid exchange of opinions,” and Kim “bade farewell [to Trump] with the promise of a new meeting.”
Ri Yong-ho announced key points of Kim’s proposal to Trump during press conference
The late-night press conference that Ri Yong-ho held at the Melia Hanoi hotel after midnight on Feb. 28 communicated a message that was unprecedented both in its form and substance.
Ri announced the key points of the plan that Kim presented to Trump in the summit to the global press by reading a two-page document. Ri was accompanied at the press conference by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who spent five minutes answering questions from the reporters gathered at the venue. There are few examples of the North Korean authorities holding a press conference with a purpose other than castigating someone and then holding an official question-and-answer session to boot.
“When the North Koreans told the press that what Chairman Kim had asked for in his summit with President Trump was not relief from all the sanctions but from some of the sanctions, they were apparently trying to take immediate action to prevent an impression that was negative to North Korea from spreading. What the press conference was offering was not a rebuttal but an explanation,” said a senior official in the South Korean government.
According to this press conference, the denuclearization measures that Kim offered in Hanoi were the permanent dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex and a document promising the permanent halting of nuclear weapon tests and long-range missile test launches. One notable aspect of the plan to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex was how it specified the scope (“all facilities for producing nuclear materials, including plutonium and uranium”), inspections and verification (“in the presence of US experts”) and the parties carrying out the dismantling (“joint work by technicians from the two countries”).
“The permanent dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, including inspections and verification by the US and a joint work process involving the US, is a new proposal that the North Koreans have never offered before,” said a former high-ranking official who’s familiar with the negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear program.
Discussions likely to remain at deadlock without progress for time being
“This principled position of ours won’t change in the slightest degree, and even if the Americans propose negotiations again, there won’t be any changes in our plan,” Ri stated during the press conference, apparently ruling out the possibility of North Korea asking for the resumption of negotiations or making more concessions. These remarks need not be taken at face value. While Ri said that Kim’s proposal was “the biggest step toward denuclearization that we can take at the present moment [. . .] given the current level of trust between our two countries,” Ri notably left the door open for more steps: “when we move through the phase of confidence-building, we’ll be able to make faster progress in the denuclearization process.”
These remarks adhere to the principle of “step-by-step and simultaneous action” publicly elaborated by Kim in the second North Korea-China summit in May 7, 2018, while also suggesting that North Korea’s offer could change depending on the US’ corresponding measures.
Even though Kim is expressing his “very serious commitment to negotiations,” in the words of a high-ranking government official, the prevailing view is that affairs on the Korean Peninsula are likely to remain at “a deadlock without any progress” for the time being. The problems are the major gap between the deals offered by the two sides and by Trump’s vulnerable position domestically.
“Yongbyon represents at least half of North Korea’s nuclear capability, and it’s very unfortunate that Trump walked away from the negotiations without really trying to reach a compromise. It’s time for the South Korean government to maximize its role by coming up with a creative plan,” the former high-ranking official said.
The Rodong Sinmun also made an indirect appeal for South Korea, China and Russia to play a role as mediators and facilitators, describing the Hanoi summit as “a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the peace and safety of the Korean Peninsula, the region and the world.”