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Unless Pakistan Curbs “high-profile terrorist attack” towards India, ties will Worsen: US

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Terrorist Attack in Mumbai, India. Image source: kartikdora.wordpress.com
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New Delhi, May 12, 2017: The US intelligence chief has slammed Pakistan for its failure to curb support to anti-India militants and warned Islamabad that ties between the two countries would deteriorate if there is another “high-profile terrorist attack in India”.
“They might deteriorate further in 2017, especially in the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan,” Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats said during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

Coats also sought progress into the 2016 Pathankot attack probe as he presented the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment of threats to US national security.

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“Islamabad’s failure to curb support to anti-India militants and New Delhi’s growing intolerance of this policy, coupled with a perceived lack of progress in Pakistan’s investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016,” he said.

Last year, Jaish-e-Mohamed militants attacked the Indian airbase in Pathankot on January 2 and killed seven security personnel.

Coats said easing of heightened Indo-Pakistani tension, including negotiations to renew official dialogue, will hinge in 2017 on a sharp and sustained reduction of cross-border attacks by terrorist groups based in Pakistan and progress in Pathankot air base attack investigation.

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Testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence along with key intelligence officials, Coats said that New Delhi-Islamabad relations remain tense following two major terrorist attacks in 2016 by militants crossing into India from Pakistan.

“Increasing numbers of firefights along the Line of Control (LoC), including the use of artillery and mortars, might exacerbate the risk of unintended escalation between these nuclear-armed neighbours,” he added.

On Pakistan’s pursuit of tactical nuclear weapons, Coats said it “potentially lowers the threshold for their use”.

Islamabad has developed short range tactical nuclear missiles to counter India’s Cold Start doctrine.

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According to the statement, the smaller and more mobile nuclear weapons were more prone to falling in the hands of non-state actors during any crisis situation as they would be outside the relative security of a storage site.

Coats said that Pakistan-based terrorist groups present a sustained threat to US interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan.

“The threat to the US and the West from Pakistani-based terrorist groups will be persistent but diffuse. Plotting against the US homeland will be conducted on a more opportunistic basis or driven by individual members within these groups,” he said.

Noting that Pakistan will probably be able to manage its internal security, Coats said anti-Pakistan groups will probably focus more on soft targets.

“The groups we judge will pose the greatest threat to Pakistan’s internal security include Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, ISIS-K, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e Jhangvi al-Alami,” he said.

Coats said that the emerging China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will probably offer militants and terrorists additional targets.

Talking about Afghanistan, Coats in his statement said: “The overall situation in Afghanistan will very likely continue to deteriorate, even if international support is sustained.”

“Endemic state weaknesses, the government’s political fragility, deficiencies of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), Taliban persistence and regional interference will remain key impediments to improvement,” he said.

Coats expected Taliban to make gains in 2017 and worsening of the ANSF “due to a combination of Taliban operations, ANSF combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support, and weak leadership.” (IANS)

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Pakistan’s Court Summons TV Team for ‘Disrespecting’ Valentine’s Day Ban

On February 14, Geo TV’s popular Report Card show dedicated a 15-minute segment to discussing the justification of the court’s ban on Valentine’s Day coverage and celebrations

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People buy flowers to celebrate Valentine's Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan's media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, has instructed all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine's Day. VOA

A Pakistani court has summoned several TV reporters from the country’s largest private TV station over accusations of “ridiculing” last year’s ruling that barred Valentine’s Day celebrations and its media coverage across the country.

On February 14, Geo TV’s popular Report Card show dedicated a 15-minute segment to discussing the justification of the court’s ban on Valentine’s Day coverage and celebrations.

Two of the panelists in the show questioned the rationale for the ban.

Hasan Nisar, a prominent Lahore-based political analyst, declared the restrictions “illogical” and “ridiculous” for society.

“I do not even have anything to say on it, it’s funny,” Nisar said.

Echoing Nisar, Imtiaz Alam, a leading reporter and panelist of the show, said the restrictions were “useless.”

“How can the court interfere as it is against the fundamental rights of the people? Do we have Taliban regime in Pakistan?” Alam asked.

“This is a cultural martial law and curfew to enforce the extreme ideologies. This is a sick mindset, and the moral policing through PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Authority] is shameless,” Alam said.

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Valentine's Day
People buy flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan’s media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, has instructed all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine’s Day. VOA

Court order

Last year, on February 13, Islamabad’s High Court declared Valentine’s Day celebration un-Islamic and imposed a ban on any public or official celebrations.

The government reinstated the ban for a second consecutive year earlier this month to comply with the court’s ruling.

PEMRA also issued a fresh directive to remind its TV and radio licensees to refrain from promoting the day on their stations.

“Respondents are directed to ensure that nothing about the celebrations of Valentine’s Day and its promotion is spread on the electronic and print media,” PEMRA’s notification reads.

On charges of failing to adhere to the court’s order and PEMRA’s instruction, Islamabad court summoned the Geo TV host, two guests and the chief executive officer of the station to appear before the court next week and defend themselves in a contempt-of-court case.

“This act of the host and the participants apparently is tainted with malafide, ulterior motives, aims to undermine the authority of the court and to disrespect the order passed by the court, which clearly comes within the definition of the contempt of court,” the court said, according to local media.

The ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations and sensitivity toward it are not new in Pakistan. Some political and religious groups, such as Jamaat-i-Islami, have carried out rallies and protests against the celebration of the day, declaring it “unethical and un-Islamic.”

There have been instances in the past where local authorities prohibited the February 14 festivities in different cities across the nation.

In 2016, President Mamnoon Hussain also warned Pakistanis to stay away from celebrating Valentine’s Day, declaring it was “not a part of Muslim tradition, but of the West.”

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Valentine's Day
A couple buys flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 13, 2017. A Pakistani judge has banned Valentine’s Day celebrations in the country’s capital, saying they are against Islamic teachings. VOA

General debate

Valentine’s celebrations have increased in Pakistan over the last decade, particularly among the country’s youth.

The enforcement of the ban on its celebration and media coverage for a second consecutive year has sparked a larger debate among some of the country’s liberal and conservative circles.

A section of the society defends the celebrations and considers them harmless, though for others the day does not have any place in their religious practices or their traditions.

Pakistan, for the most part, is a conservative Muslim society. Public displays of affection are not the norm and often are viewed as unacceptable.

But some Pakistanis, like Saleema Hashmi, a Lahore-based artist, and renowned educator, believe the system is focusing on “irrelevant issues” at the expense of more important and pressing issues the country faces.

“Don’t our courts have better things to do instead of passing rulings on celebrating a mere romantic day?” she asked. “I do not understand how celebrating or denouncing Valentine’s Day can impact our religion, traditions, social or cultural norms.” (VOA)