Satellite images show buildings still standing at Balakot

 Satellite images show madrasa buildings still standing at Balakot days after the Indian Air Force hits the Islamist group’s training camp

High-resolution Satellite images reviewed by news agency Reuters show that a religious school run by terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in northeastern Pakistan appears to be still standing days after the Indian Air Force claimed its warplanes hit the Islamist group’s training camp on the site.

The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4, six days after the airstrike, says Reuters.

A cropped version of a satellite image shows a close-up of a madrasa near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, on March 4, 2019.

Until now, no high-resolution satellite images were publicly available. But the images from Planet Labs, which show details as small as 72 cm, offer a clearer look at the structures the government said it attacked.

The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack.

The external affairs and defence ministries did not reply to emailed questions sent in the past few days seeking comment on what is shown in the satellite images and whether they undermine its official statements on the airstrikes.

The town of Balakot, which was targetted by the Indian Air Force on Feb. 26, 2019.

The town of Balakot, which was targetted by the Indian Air Force on Feb. 26, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Satellite image: Google, DigitalGlobe, Landsat / Copernicus, CNES / Airbus via Reuters

Missed the target?

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years experience in analysing satellite images of weapons sites and systems, confirmed that the high-resolution satellite picture showed the structures in question.

“The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage,” he said. Mr. Lewis viewed three other high-resolution Planet Labs pictures of the site taken within hours of the image provided to Reuters.

Though the government has not publicly disclosed what weapons were used in the strike, sources told Reuters last week that 12 Mirage 2000 jets carrying 1,000 kg bombs carried out the attack. On Tuesday, a defence official said the aircraft used the 2,000-lb Israeli-made SPICE 2000 glide bomb in the strike. A warhead of that size is meant to destroy hardened targets such as concrete shelters.

Mr. Lewis and Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation studies who also analyses satellite images, said weapons that large would have caused obvious damage to the structures visible in the picture. “If the strike had been successful, given the information we have about what kind of munitions were used, I would expect to see signs that the buildings had been damaged,” Mr. Lewis added. “I just don’t see that here.”

Pakistan has disputed India’s account, saying the operation was a failure that saw Indian jets, under pressure from Pakistani planes, drop their bombs on a largely empty hillside.

“There has been no damage to any infrastructure or human life as a result of Indian incursion,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, the director general of the Pakistan military’s press wing, in a statement to Reuters. “This has been vindicated by both domestic and international media after visiting the site.”

Bomb craters

In two visits to the Balakot area in Pakistan by Reuters reporters last Tuesday and Thursday, and extensive interviews with people in the surrounding area, there was no evidence found of a destroyed camp or of anyone being killed.

Villagers said there had been a series of huge explosions but the bombs appeared to have landed among trees.

On the wooded slopes above Jaba, they pointed to four craters and some splintered pine trees, but noted little other impact from the blasts that jolted them awake about 3 a.m. on Feb. 26. “It shook everything,” said Abdur Rasheed, a van driver who works in the area.

He said there weren’t any human casualties: “No one died. Only some pine trees died, they were cut down. A crow also died.”

Mohammad Saddique from Jaba Basic Health Unit and Zia Ul Haq, senior medical officer at Tehsil Headquarters Hospital in Balakot said they had seen no casualties.

REUTERS, NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE, MARCH 06, 2019

Israel offers unconditional help to India

Israel offers unconditional help to India to defend itself: Envoy

Israel has offered unconditional help to India in defending itself, especially against terrorism, asserting that “there is no limit” to its assistance, an assurance which assumes significance amid demands that the government should consider Israeli-type retaliation to terror strikes.

The comments by newly-appointed Israeli envoy Dr Ron Malka came in response to a question on up to what extent Jerusalem will go to help India which has been a victim of terrorism.

Israel offers unconditional help to India to defend itself, especially against terror: EnvoyLast Thursday, in one of the deadliest attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan-based terror outfit JeM killed 40 CRPF personnel after which there have been growing demands that the government should explore Israeli-type anti-terror operations. Israeli military is known for its precise and quick strikes.

“Whatever India needs to defend itself there is no limit. We are here to help our close friend India to defend itself specially against terrorism because terrorism is the problem of the world and not only of India and Israel,” Malka told PTI in an interview early last week.

Emphasising that the world should fight terrorism and eliminate it by collaborating, he said, “So, we help India, share our knowledge, share our technique because we really want to help our really important friend.”

The 52-year old Malka, who was in Israeli military service from where he retired with the rank of Full Colonel, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him that India was a very “important partner, very important friend and he wants to collaborate to enhance ties and deepen them….To share our knowledge.”

He further said that by strengthening India, Israel was contributing to the world stability and sustainability because India has a very important role in the world stability. “We are just doing it to make the world a better place to live…”

After the Pulwama attack, Malka had also tweeted that “Israel strongly condemns the terror attack in #Pulwama and stands by our Indian friends during this difficult hour. We send our deepest condolences to the CPRF and their families, the people of India and the Indian government following the terrible #KashmirTerrorAttack .

– PTI | 19 February 2019 | New Delhi

Army eliminates terrorists in 100 hrs of Pulwama attack

Jaish leadership eliminated by Army in  Kashmir Valley in 100 hours of Pulwama attack 

The Indian Army on Tuesday said that all the top leadership of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) outfit have been eliminated by security forces in the Kashmir Valley within 100 hours of the terror attack in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed.

Addressing a joint press conference with the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force at the Badamibagh Cantonment Headquarters of army’s 15 corps, Lieutenant General, K.J.S. Dhillion, commander of the Chinar Corps said: “In less than 100 hours of the terror attack in Pulwama we have eliminated the top leadership of the JeM that was being directly handled by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army. “We were tracking the top JeM cadres ever since February 14. The Pulwama terror attack was coordinated by the JeM cadres in Pakistan and the Pakistan Army,” he said.

In 100 hours, Pulwama avenged: ArmyIn the biggest crackdown after the February 14 attack by a suicide bomber that left 40 CRPF troopers dead in Pulwama district, the security forces ringed a militant hideout in Pinglena village, just 10 km from the Thursday’s terror attack site, triggering a gun battle Sunday overnight that continued intermittently till Monday evening.

They killed three militants of the Pakistan-backed JeM, two of them Pakistani nationals identified as Kamran and Abdul Rashid alias Ghazi Umar. Besides, a Major, three soldiers and a civilian were also killed in the initial burst of gunfire by the militants. “In yesterday’s (Monday) operation in Pulwama, we have killed Kamran, who was the operational commander of the JeM in Kashmir together with another Pakistani and a local terrorist of the outfit.”

On Monday’s operation, the Corps Commander said it was the result of complete synergy between the Army, state police and the CRPF.

The senior-most army officer in the Valley did not accept that there was any security lapse that led to the Pulwama terror strike. “What the terrorists have succeeded in doing is only one or two per cent of what was denied to them because of the alertness of the security forces. “There was no restriction on movement of civilian traffic when the lone terrorist managed to get on to the highway and hit the CRPF bus. “Restrictions on civilian traffic during movement of convoys of security forces are in place now,” he said.

Answering a question on the number of security force personnel killed and injuries in Sunday-Monday’s operation, the Corps Commander said that the security forces took casualties because their first priority was to ensure that no civilian life was lost. “We took injuries on our chin to ensure protection to civilians in the area.

“You all know that except for the one civilian casualty that happened when the operation started, the security forces ensured that no civilian casualty occurred during such a long-drawn operation. “The senior officers of the security forces always lead operations from the front. Brigadier Harbir Singh who was injured along with Deputy Inspector General (South Kashmir) Amit Kumar on Monday (who was on leave). “He cut his leave short and reached the site of the operation directly. Both the brigadier and the DIG are doing very well in army’s base hospital and they are out of danger,” he said.

The top army officer said that the details about the terror strike and the breakthrough made in identifying everybody involved in the plot cannot be shared with the media right now as investigations were still in progress.

Answering a question about whether one of the two slain militants in Monday’s operation was Ghazi, who masterminded and directly handled the Kashmiri JeM suicide bomber, the Corps Commander said: “So many Ghazis have so far come and gone.  “Whosoever picks up a gun against the country will be killed and eliminated,” he asserted.

The top army officer made a request to parents especially mothers in the Valley to ensure that their children who have picked up guns come back to the mainstream by surrendering their weapons. “Mothers have an important role in ensuring that their children remain safe. They must ask those children who have picked up guns to give them up,” he added.

 – IANS | 19 February 2019 | Srinagar

Pakistan PM warns India against retaliatory action

Pakistan PM Imran Khan warns India against retaliatory action

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday assured India that action would be taken against the perpetrators of the Pulwama attack if New Delhi shares “actionable intelligence”, but warned against any retaliatory action on his country.

In a video message to the nation, Khan responded to the Indian allegations on Pakistan’s involvement in the attack in Kashmir on last Thursday. The suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group left 40 CRPF personnel dead.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation on February 19, 2019. Photo: Twitter/@PTIofficial

Stating that Pakistan wants “stability in the region”, Khan said, “If India has evidence or actionable intelligence, they should give it to us and we will take action.”

He said that he has come across calls for attack on Pakistan through the Indian media and warned, “If India retaliates, we will not think and retaliate back.”

“It is easy to start a war but difficult to end it,” Khan said. The premier said, “I want to ask India if they want to live in the past?” “Its not in our interests that somebody from here goes out to do terrorism, nor that somebody comes here and does terrorism,” he added.

He said, “The Kashmir issue, like the Afghan issue, will be resolved through talks.

“If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved. Give it to us. I guarantee you we will take action – not because we are under pressure, but because they are acting as enemies of Pakistan.

“I have been hearing and seeing on the Indian media that politicians there are calling for revenge from Pakistan. If India thinks it will attack Pakistan, then we will not just think but retaliate. Starting a war is in our hands, it is easy. But ending a war, that is not in our hands and no one knows what will happen.

“Its not in our interests that somebody from here goes out to do terrorism, nor that somebody comes here and does terrorism. I say it clearly this is a Naya[new] Pakistan and a new mindset. India talks about including terrorism in dialogue with Pakistan. Terrorism is a big issue facing this region and we want to eliminate it. If someone is using Pakistan’s soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is enmity with us. It is against our interests.”

‘Busy with Saudi Crown Prince visit’

Mr. Khan said he did not respond to India’s allegations as he was busy with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country.

“India accused Pakistan without any evidence and without thinking how this [attack] would benefit us. Would even a fool try to sabotage such an important visit as that of the Saudi crown prince” he asked.

“We have been fighting against terrorism for the past 15 years. How will Pakistan benefit from such incidents? Kashmiris are not afraid of death anymore. There must be a reason for that. Should there not be a discussion in India on this? Which law in the world allows everyone to become a judge and jury?,” he said.

Questioning whether India “wants to resolve the issue through military”, he said, “This has never been a successful measure.”

Minutes after the address, Mr. Khan’s official Instagram and Facebook accounts posted a picture of him — scowling and cross-armed — along with a message that read: “Don’t mess with my country”. (The Instagram post has now been removed).

Pak. Minister pleads with U.N

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi pleaded with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to intervene, saying India was threatening to “use force against Pakistan” and abandon a vital water treaty.

“It is imperative to take steps for de-escalation. The United Nations must step in to defuse tensions,” wrote Mr. Qureshi in a message shared with journalists.

– PTI |19 February 2019 | Islamabad

ICJ refuses Pakistan’s request to adjourn Jadhav case

ICJ refuses to entertain Pakistan’s request to adjourn Kulbhushan Jadhav case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) refused to entertain Pakistan’s request to adjourn the hearing in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav to appoint a new ad-hoc judge. The four-day hearing in the Jadhav case opened Monday at the ICJ headquarters in The Hague amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following one of the worst terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group that killed at least 40 CRPF soldiers.

ICJ refuses to entertain Pakistan's request to adjourn Jadhav casePakistan, which is presenting its case today, asked the judge to adjourn the case, citing the illness of it ad-hoc judge. Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the ad-hoc judge for Pakistan in the ICJ suffered a cardiac attack ahead of the hearing.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan, who is representing Pakistan, at the start of the hearing said: “We applied our right provided to us that we can appoint an ad hoc judge. “But since our judge is indispensable at this point. In light of the above Pakistan would like to place before the court that another judge to be sworn in which right has been provided under article 35-5 and the judge be given ample amount of time to go through the briefings before going ahead with arguments,” he said.

But the the world court declined Pakistan’s plea and asked it to continue argument in the absence on ad-hoc judge.

On the first day of hearing, India urged the ICJ to annul Jadhav’s death sentence and order his immediate release, saying the verdict by a Pakistani military court based on a “farcical case” hopelessly fails to satisfy even the minimum standards of due process.

Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017. His sentencing evoked a sharp reaction in India.

India moved the ICJ in May the same year for the “egregious violation” of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan by repeatedly denying New Delhi consular access to the 48-year-old Indian national.

Under Article 31 of the Statute of the Court, a State party to a case before the International Court of Justice which does not have a judge of its nationality on the Bench may choose a person to sit as judge ad hoc in that specific case.

It follows that the composition of the International Court of Justice will vary from one case to another, and that the number of judges sitting in a given case will not necessarily be 15.

-PTI |19 February 2019 | The Hague

Navjot Singh Sidhu removed from ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’

Navjot Singh Sidhu removed from ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’

Following uproar over his remarks on Pakistan after the Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been dropped from the popular “The Kapil Sharma Show” on television.

According to a source close to the show, Mr. Sidhu will no longer be part of the Sony Entertainment Television comedy. The Punjab Minister, who has been for several years part of Kapil’s show, had on Friday during a media interaction, said, “Nations cannot be held responsible for the dastardly acts of terrorists. The terrorists do not have deen, mazhab (sect and religion). There are good, the bad and the ugly. Every institution has them. Every nation has them. The ugly need to be punished…”

Navjot Singh Sidhu. File

While the terror attack evoked widespread condemnation and calls for action against Pakistan, Mr. Sidhu said that the dialogue with Islamabad should continue.

“Wherever wars are fought and such things (terrorist attacks) happen, dialogue also continues simultaneously. There is a need to find a permanent solution to (issues between India and Pakistan). Such people (terrorists) have no religion, no country and no caste. When a snake bites, its anti-dote is also snake poison,” Mr. Sidhu had said.

His comments led to a huge uproar, with hashtags like #BoycottSidhu #BoycottKapilSharmaShow and #BoycottSonyTV trending on Twitter.

Asked if the decision comes after his remarks, the source said: “There might be other reasons as well, but this thing is surely one of them.” Confronted by media on Saturday regarding his removal from the TV show, Mr. Sidhu walked away, refusing to comment, sat in his SUV and drove away.

Mr. Sidhu’s official Public Relations Officer (PRO) told IANS that the minister had not made any comments regarding the Sony TV development. He said that the minister was in Moga on Saturday to offer condolences to CRPF martyr Jaimal Singh and was later scheduled to visit Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala and Amritsar.

There were also reports that he has been replaced by Archana Puran Singh on the show. But the source declined to comment on the same.

In the worst ever terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir since militancy erupted in 1989, a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber on Thursday rammed his vehicle packed with explosives into a CRPF bus on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Pulwama district, killing at least 40 troopers on the spot.

After the strike, India rejected Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua’s claims denying her country’s links to the attack, saying that JeM, which claimed responsibility for the strike, is based in Pakistan, and the “links are clear and evident and for all to see”.

The attack has left the security establishment stunned as it created the biggest casualty of security personnel in a single day in peace time.

IANSMUMBAI, FEBRUARY 16, 2019

ISI role in Pulwama terrorist attack; suspects US expert

ISI role in Pulwama terrorist attack; suspects US expert 

American experts suspect the role of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI in “supporting the masterminds” of the Pulwama terrorist attack in which at least 37 CRPF personnel were killed. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.

The experts on South Asia said the terror strike shows the United States has failed to persuade Pakistan to act against Jaish-e-Mohammad and other terrorist groups. “The self-proclaimed involvement of JeM in the attack raises serious questions about the role of the ISI in supporting the masterminds of this operation,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, told PTI.

Image result for US experts suspect Pak spy agency ISI role in Pulwama terrorist attack

The terrorist attack, which has direct footprints inside Pakistan, poses the first major challenges to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, said Riedel, who is now a scholar at the Brookings Institute think-tank. “This will be a real challenge for Imran Khan, the first serious challenge of his administration,” he said.

Anish Goel, a former National Security Council official in the previous Obama administration, said the horrific attack highlights just how actively Pakistan-based terrorist groups still operate in Kashmir. “By claiming such quick credit for the attack, Jaish-e-Mohammed is clearly indicating that they will continue to cause trouble in the region and stoke tensions between Pakistan and India,” he said. “In the wake of this attack, there will likely be increased pressure on Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi to take action against all militant groups still active in Kashmir,” said Goel.

Alyssa Ayres from the Council on Foreign Relations said, “Unfortunately, the attack also shows the limits of US and international policy efforts to date to persuade Pakistan to take serious action against these groups. The urgent question is what else the international community can do.”

According to Moeed Yusuf from the US Institute of Peace, the current situation has all the making of an India-Pakistan crisis. “Prime Minister Modi cannot take it lying down but Pakistan isn’t going to be able to absorb any Indian action either. Things are simply too tense between India and Pakistan,” he said.

Ironically, the biggest deterrent to any escalation is the presence of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in the region, he said. “Salman arrives in Pakistan Friday and is coming to India too. His visit will be seriously overshadowed. The Saudi relationship is too important for either side to want that to happen,” he noted.

“I think the damage to India-Pakistan relations is going to be immense – even if the situation doesn’t escalate. The hope was that India and Pakistan will get back to talking after the Indian elections later this year. I think the hawks on both sides are going to make it very difficult for that to happen now,” Yusuf said. “Terrorist attacks as in Kashmir are not possible without an ideology or theology that justifies terrorism and brainwashes its followers that massacring others leads a person to paradise. The terrorist mindset must be removed along with the terrorist infrastructure on the ground,” said noted Hindu scholar David Frawley.

The latest attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed is another example of how Pakistan’s intelligence services continue to sponsor terrorist incursions into India, Washington-based Hindu American Foundation said. “While it’s heartening to see that a wide swath of the international community is unequivocally condemning the attack, such statements of solidarity must be backed up by actions which help bring to an end the ability of such terrorist groups to kill with impunity and destabilize the region,” the foundation said.

Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP)-USA in a statement demanded that United Nations designate Masood Azhar as global terrorist. “China should be ashamed of itself in blocking Azhar’s ban at the UN. Indian diaspora demands that if Pakistan is sincere in seeking peace with India, it should arrest Maulana Masood Azhar and his cohorts and disband all terrorist organisations station in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is a pariah nation anyhow and if it wants to exist in the real world, it should not play games, resort to lies, and abet terrorism. It should get rid of all terrorist organization from its soil,” it said. “It’s long past time for Pakistan’s establishment to root out these fanatic groups, many of which operate in the open and with the support of elements of the Pakistani state. It’s unacceptable. And it’s outrageous the world didn’t draw a collective red line on this a long time ago,” Jeff Smith of the Heritage Foundation said.

At least 37 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

-PTI |15 February 2019 | Washington

US suspends over 1.1 billion USD assistance to Pakistan

Toughening its stance, US suspends over 1.1 billion USD assistance to Pakistan 

Toughening its stance, the US suspended more than USD 1.15 billion security assistance to Pakistan for failing to take “decisive actions” against terror groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network operating from its soil.

The freezing of all security assistance to Pakistan comes after President Donald Trump in a New Year’s Day tweet accused Pakistan of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists in return for USD 33 billion aid over the last 15 years.

The suspended amount also include USD 255 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by the Congress.

In addition, the Department of Defense has suspended the entire USD 900 million of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) money to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017 and other unspent moUS suspends over USD 1.1 bn assistance to Pak over terror groupsney from previous fiscal years.

“Today we can confirm that we are suspending national security assistance only, to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.

“We consider them (terror groups) to be destabilising the region and also targeting US personnel. The US will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan,” she said.

The US, she said, will not be delivering military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law.

In August, while unveiling his new South Asia strategy, Trump had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”.

Referring to Trump’s new strategy, Nauert said despite a sustained high-level engagement by Trump administration with the government of Pakistan, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilise Afghanistan and also attack the US and allied personnel.

Department of Defence Spokesperson Lt Col Mike Andrews told PTI that National Defense Authorisation Act 2017 provides up to USD 900 million for Pakistan in the CSF.

Of these funds, USD 400 million can only be released if the Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis certifies that the Pakistan government has taken specific actions against the Haqqani Network.

“At this stage all Fiscal Year 17 CSF have been suspended, so that’s the entire amount of USD 900 million,” Andrews said.

During an interaction with Pentagon reporters, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis did not respond to question if he was in favour of cutting off the aid to Pakistan.

“I prefer not to address that right now because it’s obviously still being formulated as policy. But I’ll give my advice on it to the president. I also agree on some confidentiality there,” he said.

According to a senior State Department official, no decision has been taken on the fate of USD 255 million security assistance to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017. The deadline for that is September 30 this year.

Mattis along with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have travelled to Pakistan in recent months to deliver tough message to the leadership there. So, this action should not come as a surprise to them, Nauert said.

“They may say it’s a surprise, but what is no surprise is that the President has expressed his concerns, Secretary Tillerson has expressed his concerns, as has Secretary Mattis, and I imagine many other government officials having those conversations with Pakistan,” Nauert said.

Now, the money that has been suspended at this time does not mean that it will be suspended forever, she said.

“Pakistan has the ability to get this money back, in the future, but they have to take decisive action. They have to take decisive steps,” she added.

“People have long asked, why don’t you do more about Pakistan, and I think this sort of answers that question. Obviously, Pakistan is important, an important relationship to the US, because together we can work hard to combat terrorism. Perhaps no other country has suffered more from terrorism than Pakistan and many other countries in that part of the region,” she said.

“They understand that, but still they aren’t taking the steps that they need to take in order to fight terrorism,” she said.

In an interaction with reporters, two senior state department officials insisted that such a move is not a punishment, but to provide an incentive to Pakistan to take more action against terrorist groups.

“We have not done anything that’s irreversible here. All this funding is available to Pakistan, if they undertake to take the measures that we’ve asked of them,” a senior administration official said in response to a question.

“Pakistanis have repeatedly said we don’t care about this money. What matters I think to the Pakistani’s is that it is the symbolism of doing this that it represents a deterioration of our relationship that they care about a great deal,” the official said.

“So we were hoping that this is an incentive that they don’t want to see this relationship deteriorate any further and that they’re going to commit to working with us to try to find a way to put it on a more solid footing,” the official added.

The US and others have long complained that Pakistan gives safe haven to the Afghan Taliban and their allies, the Haqqani network, allowing them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies allegations but President Trump has escalated the criticism against the country since he took office.

The Pakistanis say they have suffered great losses from the longstanding war against Islamist networks and are furious that Trump has failed to acknowledge the role they have played.

Yesterday, the state department accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom. It announced that it was placing Pakistan on a special watch list, pursuant to 2016 legislation. The step does not carry any serious consequences.

-PTI | 05 January 2018 | Washington

World Bank says India allowed to construct hydroelectric power plants under Indus Waters Treaty

Big win against Pakistan as World Bank says India allowed to construct hydroelectric power plants under Indus Waters Treaty

In a big win for the country at the World Bank, the world body has allowed India to construct hydroelectric power plants on the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers.

Big win against Pakistan as World Bank says India allowed to construct hydroelectric power plants under Indus Waters Treaty

In a big win for the country at the World Bank, the world body has allowed India to construct hydroelectric power plants on the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers.

The go-ahead from the World Bank came days after the conclusion of secretary-level discussions between India and Pakistan on the technical issues over the Indus Waters Treaty.

The talks between the two side were conducted in a peaceful environment and concluded on a good note.

“Both India and Pakistan have agreed to continue discussions over the Indus Waters Treaty and reconvene in September in Washington, DC,” the World Bank said in a brief statement.

According to ANI, India is permitted to construct the Kishenganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants on Jhelum and the Chenab rivers as specified in the Indus Waters Treaty.

However, Pakistan has opposed whether the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the treaty.

“The plants are on respectively a tributary of the Jhelum and the Chenab Rivers. The treaty designates these two rivers as well as the Indus as the “Western Rivers” to which Pakistan has unrestricted use. Among other uses, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers subject to constraints specified in Annexures to the treaty,” the World Bank stated in a fact sheet.

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory.

The World Bank stated in its fact sheet that Pakistan has asked it to facilitate the setting up of a Court of Arbitration to look into its concerns about the designs of the two hydroelectric power projects. However, India has asked for the appointment of a Neutral Expert for the same purpose.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim had announced in December 2016 that the World Bank would pause before taking further steps in each of the two processes requested by the parties.

Since December 2016, the World Bank has worked towards an amicable resolution of the matter and to safeguard the Treaty.

With ANI inputs

-August 2, 2017, Washington

Nawaz Sharif shown the door in Panama Papers case

Nawaz Sharif shown the door in Panama Papers case

Nawaz Sharif, who has a tight control over his party, is expected to appoint brother Shahbaz Sharif as Pakistan’s next premier.

 Nawaz Sharif shown the door in Panama Papers case – What next?
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down and disqualified the PML(N) chief for life from his post after Joint Investigation Team (JIT) found his family’s wealth was far above their earnings in the Panama Papers case.

With Sharif’s tenure coming to an unceremonious end, all eyes are on his ruling PML-N party, which has a majority in the Parliament.

Sharif, who has a tight control over his party, is expected to appoint brother Shahbaz Sharif as Pakistan’s next premier. Shahbaz is the chief minister of Punjab province.

Three of Sharif`s four children — Maryam, his presumptive political heir, and his sons Hasan and Hussein — were implicated in the papers.

Pakistan is due to hold a general election next year. But with no clear succession in place, Sharif and the party which bears his name, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), faces an uncertain future for now.

Sharif may also challenge the order before another SC bench.

Given Pakistan’s long history of military coups, all eyes are also fixed on Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Sharif, who became Prime Minister for the third time in 2013, had earlier denied wrongdoing and had warned that his ouster would destabilize Pakistan at a time when the economy was rebounding after a decade of political and security chaos. Sharif was the country’s 20th Prime Minister.

-July 28, 2017, Islamabad