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American lawmakers move act to designate Pakistan a Terror State

Two American lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a State Sponsor of terrorism

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Pakistani suspects allegedly associated with the Islamic State group wait to appear in an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala, Pakistan, Dec. 29, 2015. VOA

Washington, 22 Sept, 2016: Two American lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a State Sponsor of terrorism. The legislation is introduced by Republican Representatives Ted Poe of Texas and Dana Rohrabacher of California. They accused Pakistan of harboring global terrorist leaders and supporting terror groups. Among those is the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity that opposes the Afghanistan government and the U.S.-led NATO forces in the country.
“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,” the proposed legislation said. “From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the war on terror. And it’s not America’s.”

Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015, VOA
Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015, VOA

Pakistan plays the victim

Pakistan accuses U.S. lawmakers, saying the harsh anti-Pakistani gives a false idea about the government’s efforts to root out extremism. Pakistani officials further claim that thousands of Pakistani lives have been lost in terror attacks.
“Pakistan is not supporting terrorism, it is rather a victim,” Rohail Dar, a leading member of the ruling Muslim League party, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terrorism.”

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On Wednesday, in his speech before UN, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while talking about his government said it has, ” comprehensive strategy of law enforcement and targeted military operations that have produced remarkable results and enabled Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.”
He did not address the problem of terrorist groups targeting neighboring countries from Pakistan.
U.S lawmakers recently urged the U.S. government to cut off the financial and military aid to Pakistan because its “military and intelligence services are still linked to terrorist groups.”
Isolation
U.S. bill has a long way to go before becoming it becomes a law — as a version of it must be passed by both the houses of Congress and has to be signed by the President — “Washington’s tough stance shows the level of global and regional isolation that Islamabad is facing,” analysts said.
“Pakistan has not satisfied the U.S. on the question of its alleged supporfor the Haqqani network, and that is deteriorating the relations with the U.S.,” Peshawar University professor Ijaz Khattak told VOA’s Deewa service. “Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan also are not good. It has tensions with India.”
This week, the deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir has increased the tension between Pakistan and India to the levels that have not been seen since the terror attack on Mumbai in 2008.

A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday's attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir's Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA
A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir’s Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA

India blames Pakistan for allowing the attack to happen. Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh claimed Pakistan to be a terrorist state and further added that it “should be identified and isolated as such.”
The Pakistan government rejected all the allegations and accuses of India of oppressing Kashmiris and violating the human rights.
U.S., Afghan opposition
Islamabad is also at odds with Washington and Kabul over Pakistan’s support of Afghan militant groups.
During a meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Nawaz Sharif, on the side-lines of the U.N. General Assembly, to prevent Pakistan from being used as a shelter for terrorists.
“We have repeatedly asked our neighboring country Pakistan to destroy the known terrorist safe havens, but we, unfortunately, are yet to witness any change in the situation,” Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danesh said Wednesday at the United Nations. “Terrorist attacks are being planned on Pakistani territory.” Days after bombings in New York and New Jersey Danesh’s commented these.

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The bombing suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan years ago. When he was in Pakistan, he spent time in Quetta and Karachi, the considered hubs for the Taliban and many other militant groups.
The two American lawmakers are pushing the bill, “because of the recent Kashmir attack, though perhaps also coupled with the fact that the man accused of staging the recent New York City blasts had spent time in Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, an analyst at Washington’s Wilson Center, a global policy research group. “For these two congressmen, this man’s connections to Pakistan likely reinforced the fact that terrorism has many links to Pakistan.”

by NewsGram with inputs from VOA

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Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif Indicted on Corruption Charges

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Muhammad Safdar
Muhammad Safdar, husband of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of ousted Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, waves from a a vehicle as he arrives at an accountability court in Islamabad. VOA

Islamabad, October 19: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been indicted on corruption charges stemming from information taken from the so-called “Panama Papers.”

The country’s anti-corruption court indicted the 67-year-old Sharif during a hearing Thursday in Islamabad. His daughter Maryam and son-in-law Mohammed Safdar were also indicted. Maryam Sharif and Mohammed Safdar appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A lawyer for the elder Sharif, who is in London with his wife as she undergoes cancer treatment, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Maryam Sharif angrily dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”

Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and removed from office in July after leaked documents last year from a Panama-based law firm revealed the family held a number of unreported overseas assets.(VOA)

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Taliban Warns Phone Companies to Shut Down Their Coverage in Ghazni

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Taliban Ghazni
Members of the Taliban gather in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. voa

Ghazni, Washington October 11: Taliban militants have ordered mobile phone companies to shut down their networks at dark in central Ghazni province, provincial police authorities told VOA.

In a bid to mitigate risks, the insurgent group has asked telecom operators in Ghazni province to halt operations from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in order to make it difficult for the Afghan forces to get intelligence and tips on militants through mobile phones.

The insurgent group has destroyed several telecom towers in the restive province over the last three days.

“The recent uptick in airstrikes against militants is causing increasing casualties in Taliban ranks. The militants want to destroy telecom towers to disturb communications,” Fahim Amarkhil, a police spokesperson in Ghazni told VOA.

The Taliban has said Afghan and U.S. forces use the network signals to locate the group’s fighters.

In addition to Ghazni, the insurgent group has asked mobile phone companies to halt their networks’ coverage in several other provinces as well, an official of a major cell phone company in Kabul told VOA on the condition of anonymity.

The official added that in many cases, the operators have no option but to comply with what the insurgents want.

The disruption in telecom services have angered customers in Ghazni who rely on mobile phone as their only means of communication. The residents fear that if the government does not address the issue in a timely manner, the telecom companies may end their operation in the province.

“Some time ago, the Taliban had warned the telecom companies to pay taxes to the Taliban, not to the government, and the issue was resolved,” Jamil Weqar, an activist in Ghazni told VOA. “But this time, they destroyed the towers which has created many problems [for customers],” he added.

The telecommunication sector in Afghanistan has made tremendous progress following the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a new government in the post-2001 era. With little to no access to cell phones and the internet 15 years ago, the country now has more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers, covering more than 85 percent of the population.

New strategy

The communication blackout comes as the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is increasing military pressure on militant groups across the country. The new plan includes a more intensive use of airpower against militants.

The latest official data shows U.S. forces dropped 751 bombs in September against the Taliban and militants linked to the so-called Islamic State terror group in Afghanistan. This is the largest number of bombs dropped on militants in a single month since 2012.

“This increase can be attributed to the president’s strategy to more proactively target extremist groups that threaten the stability and security of the Afghan people,” according to a summary from the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command.

U.S.-backed Afghan forces are trying to regain control of areas and districts lost to the Taliban across the country.

The government has said it controls nearly two-thirds of the country’s 407 districts. Taliban reportedly control 33 districts, less than 10 percent of the national total. Around 116 districts are “contested” areas, according to a recent U.S. military assessment. (voa)

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NAB Court Issues Arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif’s Children, Son in Law on Corruption Charges

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Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif. wikimedia

Islamabad, Sep 26: The National Accountability Bureau court in Pakistan issued arrest warrants for the children and son-in-law of the former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The arrest warrants were issued after they failed to appear for a hearing in the court on Tuesday.

The court also announced that it would indict next week Nawaz Sharif for corruption, reports Efe news.

“Judge Mohammed Bashir issued arrest warrants with the possibility of bail against his children Hasan, Husain and Maryam and her (Maryam’s) husband Mohamed Safdar Awan because they did not appear before the court and ordered them to do so on October 2,” the court’s spokesperson Mohamed Irfan said.

The bail amount was fixed at 1 million rupees ($9,490) for each.

Khawaja Haris, the lawyer of the Sharifs, argued that Sharif’s children could not appear before the court as they were in London with their mother Kulsoom, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer.

The former Prime Minister, after missing the first hearing on September 19 because he was in London, attended Tuesday’s hearing to request permission to miss the next hearing due to his wife’s illness.

The judge said the court would indict him on corruption charges on October 2, for which his presence would be necessary. After that, it would decide if he was required to continue to appear for the hearings.

The Sharifs had been summoned before the court on September 15 after the National Accountability Bureau, an anti-corruption body, opened three cases against them following an order by the Supreme Court on July 28.

The three cases are related to ownership of the property at an exclusive zone in London, the creation of the firms Azizia Steel and Hill Metal and the Flagship investment firm as well as another 15 companies.

On July 28, Sharif was disqualified from serving as Prime Minister for not declaring income from his son’s company, following investigations into the so-called Panama Papers.