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India, Pakistan To Revive Bilateral Trade Panels






India, Pakistan To Revive Bilateral Trade PanelsIndia and Pakistan have agreed to revive all committees that were set up before the Mumbai attack so as to resume measures to facilitate trade, a media report said. Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar and his Pakistan counterpart Zafar Mahmood led the April 27-28 talks aimed at boosting business between the two countries. Khullar said trade should be significantly promoted. “This is a process that was interrupted and that must resume and go on. It must acquire significantly fast momentum if only to catch up for the time that we have lost,” Dawn quoted Khullar as saying.

Trade talks were suspended in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 that left 166 people dead. India-Pakistan ties were considerably strained following the terror attack. The report said both countries agreed to revive all those committees/working groups that were constituted before the Mumbai attack so as to resume work on measures for facilitation and promotion of trade. There is potential for bilateral trade to go up to an estimated $6.5 billion from the current $2 billion.

On the second day of the talks, India may seek ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status and broach the possibility of exporting electricity and petroleum products.

Dawn quoted sources as saying that the Indian delegation had agreed to eliminate all Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Pakistan wants India to remove several NTBs. Indian officials have, however, maintained that there exist no Pakistan-specific NTBs, saying they are for all imported goods.

They have agreed to exchange a list of 20 products for export and worked out procedures for their trade facilitation.

A decision was also taken to revive the geographical indication (GI) joint working group to resolve a row over the ownership of super basmati rice. “A meeting of the group will be convened much before June 15 to discuss the issue.”

The Indians told their counterparts that a sum of Rs.1.5 billion has allocated for developing infrastructure at the Wagah border. “The Indian government is determined to promote trade at the Wagah border,” sources said, quoting an Indian official.

Zafar Mahmood said the talks had an “open agenda” and they would discuss “all the issues” of interest. “I believe that this meeting will take the dialogue process forward and by the end of the meeting all issues relating to facilitation and promotion of bilateral trade could be addressed with consensus,” he was quoted as saying.




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



Nawaz sharif

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




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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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus



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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