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China protects four key 26/11 perpetrators from UN sanctions

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 China continues to defy the other members of the Security Council and the overwhelming anti-terrorism sentiments by protecting from UN sanctions four key leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that carried out the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

Fourteen years after the attack that killed at least 166 people, Beijing works with Islamabad to undermine anti-terrorism measures against Pakistan-based terrorists behind the carnage.

The four from LeT who got China’s umbrella this year were the group’s commander Sajid Mir, who orchestrated the 26/11 attack; deputy chief Abdur Rehman Makki; deputy chief of the LeT front Falah-I-Insaniyat Foundation Shahid Mahmood, and LeT commander Hafiz Talha Saeed, who is LeT chief Hafiz Muhammed Saeed’s son.

China also put a hold on sanctions on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group’s deputy leader Abdul Rauf.

China had initially allowed eight LeT leaders to be sanctioned, four in the month after the 26/11 attack, and four later, before taking a hardline in support of other LeT leaders in a show of solidarity with Pakistan.

“Our efforts to sanction the perpetrators and facilitators of these terror attacks were blocked in the past for political reasons,” India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said last week at the Security Council.

“These actors continue to walk free and have been organising further cross-border attacks against my country,” she said.

US Permanent Mission’s Political Coordinator John Kelley at the same meeting regretted that only one entity was added to the sanctions list this year and said, “The important work of this committee must remain free from politicisation that only benefits the terrorists.”

The committee paralysed by China’s intransigence was only able to add Khatiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a terror group operating in Syria to the sanctions list this year, while the LeT leaders and another Pakistan-based terrorist have been spared.

The Security Council’s panel, known as the 1267 Sanctions Committee for the resolution setting it up, places individuals and groups under sanctions that include travel bans and financial restrictions for terrorist activities involving the al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and affiliated organisations like the LeT.

The committee includes all the 15 members of the Security Council and gives every one of them the right to place a hold on sanctions, which amounts to a veto.

When the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) met in Mumbai last month, an audio clip of Mir directing the 26/11 terrorists at the Jewish centre was played to focus on the role of the terrorist under Beijing protection at the UN.

At the CTC’s special session in the terrorists’ killing field, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, “The key conspirators and planners of the 26/11 attacks continue to remain protected and unpunished.”

This, he said, “undermines our collective credibility and our collective interests” and until “the masterminds and perpetrators of this attack” are brought “to justice, this task remains unfinished”.

In a video message to the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “That is what the US has been working to do, together with India and other partners for the last 14 years because when we allow the architects of these attacks to go unpunished, we send a message to terrorists everywhere that their heinous crimes will be tolerated.”

In the first flush of global fury against the horror of the 26/11 attack, China in December 2008 did not stand in the way of sanctioning LeT boss Saeed, operations head Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, finance chief Haji Muhammad Ashraf and financier Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq.

Later, four others from the LeT were added to the list: Muhammad Arif Qasmani and Mohammad Yahya Aziz in 2009, and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhattvi and Malik Zafar Iqbal Shahbaz in 2012.

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Pakistan Senate divided over condolences for Musharraf

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The Pakistan Senate was sharply divided over the idea of offering prayers for late President Pervez Musharraf, as the treasury side strongly opposed it while PTI insisted on it and later praised him, and PPP lawmakers condemned the former leader for undermining the Constitution.

Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad to offer prayers for victims of earthquake in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, and Musharraf, who had passed away in Dubai on Sunday, The News reported.

The House echoed with slogans of “no, no” raised by the members from the treasury benches while Mushtaq Ahmad, who sits on the opposition side, also straight away said there will be no prayers for Musharraf and Sanjrani sensed the majority was opposed to it and accordingly urged him to skip him in prayers.

Leader of the Opposition Shahzad Wasim, who was a member of then Musharraf’s cabinet, as state minister for interior and PML-Q senator from 2003-06, wondered what was the harm in offering prayers for him, prompting JI legislator to retort, “he was a certified traitor who broke the Constitution twice” and was responsible for conflagration in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, this could not quiet the leader of opposition and he continued with defending the former military ruler while members from the government rose in their seats and gathered around the chairman’s podium.

PPP Senator Moula Bux Chandio rose to insist that the one who breaks the law is a traitor and argued those defending Musharraf were also traitors.

“You are sitting in the Parliament and have taken oath under the Constitution. You should adopt the path which leads to democracy,” he contended.

He recalled how Musharraf’s indictment in treason case had to be put off for the third time in January 2014, when he went to a military hospital instead of appearing before the court to face the charge, The News reported.

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7.8-magnitude quake kills over 125 in Turkey, Syria

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Over 125 people were killed and more that 400 others injured in Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck a wide area near the two countries’ border, according to authorities.

Ankara/Damascus, Feb 6 : Over 125 people were killed and more that 400 others injured in Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck a wide area near the two countries’ border, according to authorities. The US Geological Survey said the tremor occurred at 4.17 a.m. at a depth of 17.9 km near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, reports the BBC reported.

Addressing reporters, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleymon Soylu said the 10 cities of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis were affected. While Malatya province, north-east of Gaziantep, at least 23 people were killed, in Sanliurfa, to the east, there were 17 deaths, the Minister said, adding that the rest of the fatalities were reported in in Diyarbakir and Osmaniye.

About 440 people were injured.

The initial quake was followed by another one measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale at 4.26 a.m., Xinhua news agency quoted Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), as saying. At least 50 successive earthquakes were recorded with a maximum magnitude of 6.6, said AFAD.

Widespread damage was reported in at least 10 provinces in southern and southeastern Turkey, it added. Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed after a powerful tremor rocked the north-west of the country. In a more recent quake, 117 people died when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Izmir on October 30, 2020.

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Pakistan’s oil industry faces collapse amid liquidity crunch

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Pakistan’s oil companies have warned that the industry is on the “brink of collapse” as the dollar liquidity crisis persists and their cost of doing balloons due to the Pakistani rupees (PKR) devaluation.

To meet the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) demand, the government removed the dollar cap, resulting in the rupee falling to a historic low of 276.58 PKR in the interbank market, Geo News reported.

In a letter to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and Energy Ministry, the Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) said that the “sudden depreciation” of the local rupee has caused losses worth billions of rupees to the industry as their letters of credit (LCs) are expected to be settled on the new rates, “whereas the related product has already been sold”.

The government has also restricted LCs due to dwindling foreign exchange reserves, which fell to $3,086.2 million as of January 27, and are enough for just 18.5 days, Geo News reported.

Pakistan is facing a balance of payments crisis and the plummeting value of the rupee is pushing up the price of imported goods.

Energy comprises a large chunk of Pakistan’s import bill.

Pakistan typically meets more than a third of its annual power demand, using imported natural gas, prices for which shot up following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

These losses, the OCAC said, not only have an impact on the profitability of the sector, which is already under severe pressure, but also on its viability since these setbacks in some cases might exceed the “entire year’s profit for the sector”, Geo News reported.

“It is requested to urgently revise this mechanism and ensure that exchange losses of the sector are fully reimbursed if the viability of the industry and supplies to retail outlets are to be ensured,” the OCAC told the authorities.

The letter mentioned that OGRA has adopted the practice of not fully passing on the impact of the rupee depreciation and instead putting an immense burden on the sector.

Due to the challenges still being faced by the sector of previous exchange rate adjustments and the enormous impact of the current depreciation, the OCAC said it is crucial that OGRA passes the impact of the exchange rates in one go and not stagger this compensation, Geo News reported.

The council added that due to an increase in oil prices and successive depreciation of the Pakistani rupee over the last 18 months, the trade finance limits available from the banking sector to the industry have become inadequate.

As a result of the recent devaluation alone, the LC limits have overnight shrunk by 15-20 per cent, the OCAC said.

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