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Pakistan cannot be held responsible for US failures in Afghanistan: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday made it clear that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for US failures in Afghanistan as Islamabad has been striving for a positive role in the Afghan reconciliation process, Radio Pakistan reported.

Commenting on a tweet of US President Donald Trump, the foreign minister told a private television channel that the international community, including the United States, have acknowledged Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism.

Qureshi stated that the US would have faced more losses in Afghanistan, had Pakistan not provided its support and, in the process, incurred huge losses.

He reiterated that Pakistan wants good diplomatic ties with the US but it is also necessary to keep the record straight.

The foreign minister also stated that Pakistan would formulate its foreign policy keeping in view its interest.

He said that Pakistan was ready to listen to the concerns of the US administration.

Responding to a question, Qureshi stated that Pakistan desired positive engagement with India, however, the New Delhi government backtracked even after agreeing to a dialogue.

US President Donald Trump sparked off a Twitter spat with the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Monday evening when he reiterated the allegations he had levelled.

Trump accused Pakistan of “doing nothing” for the United States despite receiving “billions of dollars” in aid. He defended his administration’s move to cancel financial aid to Pakistan.

We will do what is best for our people, our interests: PM Khan fires back after Trump tweets

PM Khan’s latest rebuttal came after Trump tweeted about Pakistan’s alleged inaction against “Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan”. The US head of state was repeating his statements from his interview on Sunday in which he attempted to justify his administration’s decision to pull “military aid” to Pakistan.

The US president claimed he had pointed out Osama bin Laden in his book “just BEFORE” the 9/11 attacks and that his country “of course” should have captured the Al Qaeda leader “long before we did”.

“President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!..” he wrote.

Reiterating his earlier comment, Trump said the US no longer pays billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan “because they would take our money and do nothing for us”. He cited the capture of bin Laden in Abbottabad and the Afghanistan war as the two areas of alleged inaction by Pakistan.

“They (Pakistan) were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That’s ENDING!” Trump said.

The US president’s tweets were shortly followed by a Twitter post by Prime Minister Khan, who said Trump “needs to be informed abt historical facts”.

“Trump’s false assertions add insult to the injury [that] Pak has suffered in US WoT in terms of lives lost & destabilised & economic costs,” the premier wrote.

“Pak has suffered enough fighting US’s war. Now we will do what is best for our people & our interests,” he concluded.

PM Khan’s response to Trump’s tirade

PM Khan first hit back at Trump’s remarks earlier today, suggesting that Washington assess its efficacy in the War on Terror in Afghanistan instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures.

While speaking, Trump had justified his administration’s decision to cancel military aid for Pakistan by linking it to bin Laden being found in Pakistan in 2011. “They (Pakistan) don’t do a damn thing for us,” the US president had said.

Speaking of the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was found in 2011, Trump said the bin Ladens had been “living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”

However, contrary to Trump’s insinuations, former US president Barack Obama, under whom the raid was carried out, had said last year: “We had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of his presence — that is something that we looked at.”

Trump also added that the US used to give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year, but doesn’t anymore. “I ended it because they don’t do anything for us.”

PM Khan responded to Trump’s statements, saying that Islamabad had decided to “participate in the US War on Terror” although no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

“Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion was lost,” he added, of which “US ‘aid’ was a minuscule $20bn”, the premier said.

In addition to economic losses, the PM highlighted the impact of the US war on Pakistan’s tribal areas. “Our tribal areas were devastated and millions of people were uprooted from their homes. The war drastically impacted the lives of ordinary Pakistanis,” he said.

“Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications (GLOCs/ALOCs),” he added.

“Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?” he asked.

“Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 Nato troops, plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” he suggested.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan, which began to strain in 2011, reached a new low in January when Trump suspended US security assistance to Islamabad over the alleged presence of Afghan militant groups in Fata. The government as well as the military had rejected the charge as incorrect.

The Inter-Services Public Relations had clarified at the time that the Coalition Support Fund, received from the US, is reimbursement of money spent for operations in support of the coalition for regional peace.

Person who doesn’t take U-turn according to situation isn’t a leader: PM Imran

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the leader who cannot take apt U-turn is foolishest.

While talking to media in Islamabad, PM said that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not apt U-turn and lied in the court.

PM Khan said that Shehbaz Sharif does not qualify for the post of chairman Public Accounts Committee (PAC) because a person who is facing corruption charges cannot be appointed as chief of any team.

Shehbaz Sharif s appointment as PAC chairman would portray a negative image of Pakistan at international level.

PM Khan also advised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to lay hand on big fish involved in corruption.

He asserted that amendments in NAB Ordinance are necessary for smooth working of NAB.

Tajikistan launches giant dam for power export to Pakistan

ROGUN, TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan inaugurated on Friday a $3.9-billion hydroelectric power plant, a mega project that will enable the impoverished country to eliminate domestic energy shortages and export electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Built on the Vakhsh River in southern Tajikistan, the plant championed by President Emomali Rahmon is expected to reach a height of 335 metres (1,099 feet) in a decade, becoming the world’s tallest hydroelectric dam.

The first of six turbines in the Rogun hydroelectric dam went on line on Friday, with the power plant expected to reach capacity of 3,600 megawatts – the equivalent of three nuclear power plants – when completed.

At present, Rogun still resembles a vast construction site, with rocky earth covering the territory from which the powerful Vakhsh flowing through the Pamir mountains was diverted.

In 2016, Rahmon, who is a former collective farm boss, climbed into a bulldozer at a groundbreaking for the dam, as a sign of president’s personal attachment to the project.

It will double energy production in the country of nearly nine million people, alleviating a long-lasting, debilitating national energy deficit. Surplus energy will be sold to neighbours such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Plans to build a dam in southern Tajikistan date back to the Soviet era, but the project was scaled up following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In 2017, Tajikistan raised $500 million from an inaugural international bond to help finance the construction.

Authorities hope that once the dam goes online it will generate money to finance further construction.

Observers say the project is massively significant for a country that lost tens of thousands of people in a civil war in the 1990s when rebel groups rose up against the government.

Rogun has become “a concept for national consolidation,” political analyst Abdugani Mamadazimov told AFP.

There have been calls by public figures to rename the dam after Rahmon.

People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan Chairman Saidjafar Usmonzoda told AFP such a tribute would only be fitting given Rahmon’s “heroic accomplishment” making Rogun a reality.

If it ever reaches the planned height of 335 metres, the dam will be 30 metres taller than the recently-built Jinping-I Dam in China and 35 metres taller than Tajikistan’s own Soviet-era Nurek dam, also on the Vakhsh River.

The project overseen by the Italian company Salini Impregilo has a number of risks.

Observers warn that Tajik authorities do not appear to concern themselves with the environmental sensitivities of Rogun, given Rahmon’s close involvement.

Rogun is located “in a highly seismic area and several geological studies have warned about the risks of building such a large dam in this setting,” Filippo Menga, a lecturer in human geography at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, told AFP.

Geopolitical tensions surrounding the project have, for the moment, subsided in a region that suffers from water scarcity.

Uzbekistan’s late leader Islam Karimov once hinted that his downstream agriculture-dependent country might go to war over Rogun and a similar project in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

But Uzbek opposition to the dam has evaporated since Karimov’s death in 2016 and in an incredible turnaround, the 32 million population could become one of Rogun’s early clients.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Deputy Head Engineer Sukhrob Ochilov summed up the celebratory mood surrounding the keystone project.

“I have been waiting for this moment,” he said. “Rogun coming online means the construction of new factories, economic progress and jobs for our people.”