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Pakistani PM Imran Khan calls for UN action on India dispute

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Wednesday for the United Nations to help mediate between nuclear armed India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

“This is a potential flash-point,” Khan said during a media briefing at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, adding that it was time for the “international institutions, specifically set up to stop this” to “come into action”.

The Indian government in August revoked the constitutional autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir, splitting the Muslim-majority region into two federal territories in a bid to integrate it fully with the rest of the country.

Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan. The two countries have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Khan said his biggest fear was how New Delhi would respond to ongoing protests in India over a citizenship law that many feel targets Muslims.

“We’re not close to a conflict right now. What if the protests get worse in India, and to distract attention from that, what if.”

The prime minister said he had discussed the prospect of war between his country and India in a Tuesday meeting with US President Donald Trump. Trump later said he had offered to help mediate between the two countries.

Khan said Pakistan and the United States were closer in their approach to the Taliban armed rebellion in Afghanistan than they had been for many years. He said he had never seen a military solution to that conflict.

“Finally the position of the US is there should be negotiations and a peace plan.”

In a separate on-stage conversation later on Wednesday, Khan said he had told Trump in their meeting that a war with Iran would be “a disaster for the world”. Trump had not responded, Khan said.

Khan made some of his most straightforward comments when asked why Pakistan has been muted in defence of Uighurs in China.

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang province that Beijing describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out “”extremism and give people new skills.

The United Nations says at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

When pressed on China’s policies, Khan said Pakistan’s relations with Beijing were too important for him to speak out publicly.

“China has helped us when we were at rock bottom. We are really grateful to the Chinese government, so we have decided that any issues we have had with China we will handle privately.”

Pakistan is partner for peace – and peace alone: DG ISPR on US-Iran tensions

General Asif Ghafoor DG ISPR

Speaking to a private news channel, the chief military spokesperson laid down the country’s stance on rising tensions in the Middle East after Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a United States air strike in Iraq.

The ISPR director general said Islamabad will not become part of any action that undermines regional stability.

“Pakistan will not be a party to anyone or anything but will be a partner of peace and peace alone,” he quoted Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa as saying.

“Pakistan stands for peace and is making all-out efforts for regional peace,” he added. The army spokesperson noted that Islamabad played a significant role in the Afghan peace process but the regional situation had changed due to Soleimani’s assassination.

He said the army chief had emphasised reducing regional tensions in his conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the attack. Gen Qamar has stressed that the tension between Tehran and Washington should de-escalate and the region should refrain from another war, the DG ISPR said.

Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui also expressed deep concern over the escalating tensions in the Middle East. “Pakistan has viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East, which seriously threaten peace and stability in the region.”

The Foreign Office called for restraint and urged Tehran and Washington to avoid unilateral actions and use of force.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration authorised the resumption of Islamabad’s participation in a US military training and educational program to strengthen military-to-military cooperation on shared priorities and “advance US national security”.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have promised to avenge Soleimani’s death and declared three days of mourning on Friday.

Tens of thousands of people marched in Iraq on Saturday to mourn Soleimani and al-Muhandis, chanting “Death to America”.

On Saturday evening, a rocket fell inside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone near the US embassy, another hit the nearby Jadriya neighborhood and two more were fired at the Balad air base north of the city, but no one was killed, the Iraqi military said in a statement.

Hours later, US President Donald Trump threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacks Americans or US assets.

Riyadh forced Islamabad to skip Malaysia moot: Erdogan

“Pakistan did not participate in the KL summit as time and efforts were needed to address the concerns of major Muslim countries regarding possible division in the Ummah,” said FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqui in a statement.

Pakistan would continue to work for the unity and solidarity of the Ummah, which was indispensable for effectively addressing the challenges faced by the Muslim world, she said.

While confirming that the government had decided against attending the summit, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had also said on Tuesday the decision had been taken in order to assert neutrality as Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had expressed concerns the move could cause a division among the Muslim countries and lead to the setting up of an entity parallel to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

President Erdogan, according to Turkish media, said Riyadh coerced Islamabad into skipping the summit after Prime Minister Imran Khan had confirmed his participation in the event.

Saudi Arabia threatened to expel Pakistani expatriates living in the kingdom and withdraw the amount deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan last year for shoring up foreign exchange reserves, the Turkish president said.

“Unfortunately, we see that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan. Now, there are promises that the country has given to Pakistan regarding the central bank. However, more than that, there are four million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia. They (threaten by saying that they) would send (Pakistanis) back and re-employ Bangladeshi people instead,” Mr Erdogan said.

According to the Turkish leader, Pakistan had to fall in line due to its economic difficulties.

Despite this embarrassing disclosure by President Erdogan about Prime Minister Khan’s absence from the KL summit, Malaysia and Turkey have kept Pakistan involved in the project for setting up a television channel for countering Islamophobia.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah tweeted that Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan would together establish the TV channel. He was clarifying a confusion created by a tweet by the official Twitter handle of the summit, which said: “We are also looking into establishing a TV channel which would be a collaborative effort between Turkey, Qatar and Malaysia.”

Malaysian High Commission in Islamabad tweeted the same message.

Pakistan was part of the project originally agreed at a meeting between Prime Minister Khan, his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad and President Erdogan in New York in September. However, the tweets gave the impression that Qatar had replaced Pakistan in the project after Mr Khan skipped the summit.

However, Foreign Minister Abdullah immediately stepped in, and tweeted: “Correction: its Turkey, Pakistan + Malaysia.”

After the clarification from the foreign minister, the Malaysian High Commission too said: “Our apology for the error — the TV channel concerned will involve the participation of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia.”

Pakistan, before opting out of the summit, had committed to three projects involving the countries participating in the Kuala Lumpur process. These projects were about media collaboration, defence and security cooperation and the youth.

Army dismayed as Musharraf gets death for high treason

ISLAMABAD: As a special court awarded death sentence to former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in absent on Tuesday for suspending the Constitution on Nov 3, 2007, the counsel for the convict and the armed forces media wing in separate statements strongly criticized the decision that they said was taken ‘in haste’.

The court, comprising judges of three high courts, awarded the sentence with a dissenting note from one judge who said that instead of capital punishment, the former military ruler should be awarded life imprisonment for imposing emergency and forcibly confining over 60 judges to their residences 12 years ago.

The special court, comprising Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court, will announce the detailed verdict in the high treason case within 48 hours of the pronouncement of the short order.

In a sharp and quick reaction to the ruling, the armed forces media wing said: “The decision given by special court about General Pervez Musharraf, retired, has been received with lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan armed forces. An ex-army chief, chairman joint chief of staff committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor.”

The statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said: “The due legal process seems to have been ignored including constitution of the special court, denial of fundamental right of self-defence, undertaking individual-specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste.”

The ISPR said the armed forces expected that justice would be dispensed in line with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

While addressing a press conference, Barrister Salman Safdar, the counsel for retired Gen Musharraf, who has been in Dubai since 2016, said the court decision was “unconstitutional”.

The lawyer termed this an irony of fate that the trial of the 77-year-old ex-president was concluded “in haste” and “without giving him right of audience” and it was in “violation of the right to fair trial”.

The counsel told the media that Gen Musharraf could file an appeal against the decision within 30 days after receipt of the detailed judgement.

Asked if the ex-military ruler, before filing an appeal, would surrender before the court, Barrister Safdar said the verdict was announced in the absence of Gen Musharraf, who was suffering from multiple diseases and was not in position to surrender due to his fragile health.

The All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML), the political party of Gen Musharraf, also criticised the verdict. However, the party said instead of street protests, it had decided to challenge the verdict at an appropriate forum.

Political adviser to Gen Musharraf, Chaudhry Sarfraz Anjum Kahlon, said: “The verdict delivered by the special court is fundamentally flawed, devoid of legal merit. The legal team is reviewing all available options to overturn the judgment.”

The special court was scheduled to announce a verdict in the high treason case on Nov 28. However, a three-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on identical petitions of the interior ministry and the counsel for Gen Musharraf on Nov 27 restrained the special court from announcing the verdict. The IHC also asked the federal government to notify the prosecutors and suggested the special court to hear the arguments of Barrister Safdar.

On Dec 5, the court expressed displeasure when the prosecution despite having clear directions of the court was not ready for the final arguments. The special court then had to put off the case for Dec 17.

On Tuesday, when the special court resumed proceedings, the prosecution filed three applications for amending the charge-sheet, appointment of commission for recording the statement of Gen Musharraf and the constitution of a medical board to evaluate his health condition.

The prosecution wanted that the charge-sheet be amended to also include former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and former law minister Zahid Hamid as co-accused in the high treason case.

The second application urged the court to constitute a commission to record statement of Gen Musharraf under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code, which was a pre-requisite in the criminal proceedings. The third application requested the court to constitute a medical board to evaluate the health of Gen Musharraf in order to ascertain the factual position as to whether ex-military ruler had not been absconding but was unable to attend the trial proceedings.

The court returned the applications observing that the Supreme Court had already decided these issues, which could not be entertained at this stage.