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Britain Urges Pakistan To Go After Haqqani Network

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New Delhi: Ahead of the Bonn conference on Afghanistan, Britain’s AfPak envoy Mark Sedwill Friday “regretted” Pakistan’s boycott of the conclave, but at the same time asked Islamabad to pressure and eliminate militant groups like the Haqqani network.

With India being increasingly seen as an important development partner of Afghanistan, Sedwill held talks with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and India’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan S.K. Lambah.

Issues relating to the Taliban reconciliation process, the imperative for eliminating cross-border terror networks and the need for a regional approach to stabilize Afghanistan were among the issues that figured in the discussions.

Talking to reporters after his meetings, Sedwill stressed that although Britain “regretted” Pakistan’s decision to boycott the Dec 5 Bonn conference, it will not affect the larger objectives of the conclave that seeks to chart out Afghanistan’s future beyond 2014, when NATO-led international troops are expected to leave the country.

”It is obviously regrettable that Pakistan is not going to Bonn. But we should not overestimate it. The larger objectives of the Bonn conference are secure,” said Sedwill.

Britain’s AfPak envoy stressed that although Britain sees Pakistan as “part of the solution in Afghanistan,” it has concerns about terror emanating from some militant groups there.

”We will like Pakistan to put pressure on the Haqqani network to either reconcile or eliminate the threat,” Sedwill replied when asked what he thought of the Haqqani network that is suspected to have targeted the embassies of India and the US.

”It’s a vicious militant group that seeks to undermine the stability of Pakistan,” he said.

He said that that the previous governments in Pakistan had supported terror, but now they are confronting it as that country is suffering heavily from home-grown terror networks.

In what may come as surprise to many, Sedwill downplayed rivalry between India and Pakistan over Afghanistan. He said he got the impression after talking to a wide swathe of civilian and military leadership in Pakistan that it was fine with New Delhi’s developmental partnership, but was not comfortable with its military involvement in Afghanistan. 

Lauding India’s developmental assistance to Afghanistan and its recent strategic pact with that country, Sedwill said Britain will like India “to underwrite Afghanistan’s future and development. We strongly welcome India’s strategic partnership pact with Afghanistan”, said Sedwill, adding that London is also in the process of signing a similar pact with Kabul.

He also endorsed India’s regional approach towards stabilizing Afghanistan, saying it was “absolutely critical.”

”A regional role is absolutely critical. It will become more important after 2014,” he said. The envoy, however, added that although there are bilateral frictions between the neighbours of Afghanistan, there is a genuine regional agreement to stabilize Afghanistan.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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