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SOUTH ASIA

US-Pak In A Last Tango Move?

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The tension between Islamabad and Washington is being stretched to the limit. Reports from Washington say US officials are trying to “limit” its counter-terrorism alliance with Pakistan. But this time, it appears, the situation could be more damaging, especially for Islamabad, because its duplicity and denials are being exposed as it possibly dances its last tango with Washington.

This could be serious because the presidential election in the US is less than a year away, and the American people are fatigued and fed up spending trillions of dollars on the Afghan war and on Pakistan at a time when some unemployed families have almost nothing to put on their dinner tables.

According to some surveys, most Americans believe Pakistan should not be given any aid because it has not been honest in its dealings with the US. So Americans do not trust Pakistan. Pakistanis have been blaming the US for all their troubles.

The irony is it was the Afghan situation that brought the two together; again, it is Afghanistan that is driving a wedge between the two so-called allies. What was clear to serious South Asia watchers a decade ago is now becoming clearer to everyone. The US and Pakistan say they are allies, but in fact they are at cross-purposes in Afghanistan.

Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf decided to join Bush in the war against Al Qaeda after 9/11 because India offered its help to fight terror. Musharraf feared India may use its new rapport with the US to expose Pakistan’s covert role in spreading terrorism in Indian Kashmir and elsewhere.

The US was also comfortable in accepting Pakistan’s help as it had used it to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union. So Bush had no qualms using Pakistan a frontline state to break the Al Qaeda and Taliban nexus. It was clear to some experts, however, that this alliance was fragile, born out of convenience.

The dichotomy is now loud and clear. The US wants a free and democratic Afghanistan that will help further US foreign policy goals. 

But Islamabad fears a democratic Afghanistan will be very close to India. And the only way Pakistan can keep India out of Afghanistan is through the Taliban. Pakistani officials have said they will not let India flank their country from the east and the west.

So, over the last 10 years Pakistan pretended to help the US, but only to the extent where Washington will continue to give economic and military aid to Pakistan. At the same time, Islamabad wanted to make sure that once international forces quit Afghanistan, the Taliban would take over and limit the Indian presence. 

That is why it fights the Taliban in Pakistan but avoids US pressure to kill or capture the militants belonging to the Haqqani faction of Taliban creating havoc for US forces in Afghanistan.

So, with their own hidden agendas, Pakistan and the US have been indulging in a tango. It could prove to be the last tango for Islamabad.

Musharraf used Bush as an ATM. Whenever economic or military aid to Pakistan was under discussion in Washington, he freed one or two Al Qaeda leaders. His critics have alleged that he even handed over some innocent Pakistanis as Al Qaeda activists to win American favors.

But Barack Obama, right from the beginning, has refused to tango with the Pakistani military chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Even as the presidential candidate he declared he will not hesitate to bomb Pakistani territory if terrorists take refuge there. Now, with his second term at stake, Obama has to look tougher than even before.

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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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