Pakistan, US to work towards peace in Afghanistan

Pakistan, US to work towards peace in Afghanistan

Islamabad: Pakistan and the US have agreed to remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan, a media report said on Wednesday. The agreement came during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa here on Tuesday, reports Dawn news.

“Both reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region and discussed measures towards that end. Both also agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement. Wells was on a three-day visit to Pakistan to again seek Pakistani authorities’ help for the Afghan peace process.

She met Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar. During her visit to Kabul, which preceded the Islamabad trip, Wells said the Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”.

According to the US Embassay in Pakistan, Wells’ discussion was consistent with President Donald Trump administration’s South Asia and Afghanistan strategy, reports Dawn. The strategy announced last year signalled that Washington might take coercive steps to push Pakistan to crack down against the Taliban and Haqqani network.

No more danger for Indian Pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar

No more danger for Indian Pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar

July 3, Kathmandu/ Raju Lama. Around 1500 pilgrims to Mansarovar are trapped in hilly reason of Nepal and Tibet both side. Pilgrims from different part of India are in trouble due to heavy rainfall in these regions. Among 1500 pilgrims most of them are in trouble at the hilly site of Nepal lies on Humla district of Nepal at Simikot. Most of pilgrims from India these days visit Kailash Mansarovar to Tibet. Kailash Mansarovar is a famous and important holy place of Hindus. These days from India most of pilgrims travel through Simikot of Humla to Kailash Mansarovar but due to heavy rainfall and bad weather they are in trouble source said. As Indian Embassy and Ministry of External Affairs of India had already informed them to travel carefully and inform on telephone hotlines. Because of heavy rainfall they caused trouble but slowly weather became well so there is no any danger for them source said from Simikot. Nowadays Indian pilgrims choose Nepal's way from UP, Gorakhpur to Nepalgunj. Nepalgunj to Simikot from air and a short tour to Kailash Mansarovar. Locals from Simikot informs that gradually weather is going on well so not more danger for pilgrims but they says if weather will remain same then more casualties can occur.

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6 Indians killed in Nepal road accident

6 Indians killed in Nepal road accident

Kathmandu: Six Indian nationals have been killed in a road accident in Nepal’s Sunsari district close to the Nepal-India border. Four more, including the driver of the jeep, were also injured in the incident late on Monday. They were returning after visiting Bhedetar hill station in Dhankuta district when the incident happened.

The jeep with an Indian number plate plunged deep into the Koshi river that had swollen due heavy rainfall. Three persons were killed on the spot, while three others succumbed to their injuries during treatment, Nepal Police said.

Police Superintendent Ramesh Kumar Lamsal said three bodies were recovered while pulling the jeep out of the river. The occupants belonged to Supaul district of Bihar, he added. The driver, Sushil Kamat, has been arrested. The dead were yet to be identified, Lamsal said.

UN chief condemns Jalalabad terror attack on Sikhs, Hindus

UN chief condemns Jalalabad terror attack on Sikhs, Hindus

United Nations: UN chief Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned the suicide attack in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad city that killed 19 people, mostly Sikhs and Hindus, asserting that any attack targeting civilians is “unjustifiable” and in clear violation of international law.

The UN Secretary General expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and urged all parties to uphold their obligation to protect civilians, including minority communities. “The majority of victims belong to Afghanistan’s small Sikh and Hindu community. The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured,” the UN chief said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General urges all parties to uphold their obligation to protect civilians, including minority communities, and cease targeting civilians and civilian facilities,” he said. An ISIS suicide bomber targeted a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus on their way to meet the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani  in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday.

Some reports said 19 people were killed in the attack and 17 of them were from the minority Sikh and Hindu communities. Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community who had planned to run in the parliamentary elections set for October, was also killed in the attack. The UN Security Council joined in condemning the “heinous and cowardly” terrorist attack for which terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constituted one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice and urged all States…to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities in this regard,” the statement said.

The 15-nation Council also reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the July 1 attack and expressed its concern over the recent spate of such incidents in which civilians have been killed in attacks on schools and medical centres. “The architects of this appalling crime must be brought to justice,” said Ingrid Hayden, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.

The United Nations in Afghanistan expressed its condolences to the loved ones of those killed and wishes a full and speedy recovery to the injured. Elsewhere in Nangarhar, in the Khogyani district, three civilian night watchmen were killed, at least two of them beheaded, and a school torched on Saturday in the latest instance of an Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) campaign against schools and educational workers.

Today, one of several missiles fired into Jalalabad hit the Najmuljihad high school with other projectiles landing nearby. There were no reports of casualties. UNAMA is also concerned by recent incidents impacting health facilities. Last month a mortar hit the Andar district hospital in Ghazni province killing a doctor and a vaccination worker.

Yesterday, in the northern province of Faryab, three civilians, including a woman and child, were killed and several other civilians, mainly women and children, were injured in an Afghan National Army helicopter attack in the Pashtun Kot district. The attack allegedly targeted Taliban combatants at a health clinic where civilian patients were also receiving treatment.

The United Nations stresses that all parties to the conflict must at all times uphold their obligations to protect civilians and reiterates its call to immediately cease targeting civilians and civilian objects, including schools and health facilities, in compliance with the international humanitarian law.

Indian American judge Amul Thapar emerges strong contender for US Supreme Court

Indian American judge Amul Thapar emerges strong contender for US Supreme Court

New York: Indian American federal appeals court judge Amul Thapar has emerged as a “serious” contender for a spot in the US Supreme court and has been interviewed for the position by President Donald Trump, according media reports.

He was one of four judges interviewed for the position on the nation’s highest court by Trump on Monday, according to The Washington Post and other media outlets that quoted unnamed sources who had been briefed about the meetings.

Trump’s Spokesperson Sarah Sanders confirmed that he met for 45 minutes with four candidates, but would not identify them. Trump has said he would announce his pick next Monday. Thapar was appointed by Trump last year to the federal Sixth Circuit Appeals Court based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that covers four states including his home state of Kentucky.

Considered a conservative, Thapar, 49, had served as a federal prosecutor before President George W. Bush appointed him a judge of the federal court for Eastern Kentucky by in 2007. Thapar has the backing of Mitch McConnell, the influential Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky, for the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last month.

“I think he’s absolutely brilliant, with the right temperament,” McConnell said on Saturday. The Washington Post said Trump’s meeting with Thapar “was described by several White House aides as both a gesture of respect for the Senate GOP leader and evidence that he is in serious contention”.

He is the second Indian-American judge to be a leading contender for the Supreme Court showing the community’s reach across both parties and its influence. Washington Appeals Court Judge Sri Srinivasan was among the top choices considered by then President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court in 2016.

Obama ultimately picked Merrick Garland but McConnell blocked the nomination refusing to take it up for Senate’s consideration citing the presidential election coming up later that year. Earlier on Monday, Trump appointed his Deputy Principal Press Secretary Raj Shah to a key role in the difficult process of getting his nominee for the Supreme Court approved by the Senate.

“Raj Shah will oversee communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies,” Sanders said in a statement. Legalised abortion that many countries like India take for granted is looming over the selection of the next Supreme Court judge, with many Senators making it the litmus test to vote for or against a nominee.

It is likely that a case involving abortions may come up before the Supreme Court leaving open the possibility a conservative majority bench could overturn its 1973 ruling legalising it. During his election campaign Trump changed his stance and came out as an opponent of abortions and said that he would appoint judges with the same view.

But he said last week that he would not discuss with candidates their views on abortion. The Republicans have slender two-vote lead in the 100-member Senate and at least one Senator from the party, Susan Collins, has said that keeping abortions legal would be a requirement for supporting the Trump nominee and another, Lisa Murkowski, has previously opposed efforts to overturn the 1973 ruling.

The 49 Democrats and the two independents are all expected to oppose any Trump nominee and Shah will have to work with Republicans in Congress to get a majority backing for the candidate. However, other factors such as immigration, the powers of the president and any possible litigation involving the 2016 election of Trump and the alleged Russian interference are at play.

Thapar is widely considered to conservative in his approach, which aligns him with Trump and his base. His father, Raj Thapar, told Courier Journal that his son is so conservative that he “nearly wouldn’t speak to me after I voted for Barack Obama.”

Thapar was born in Detroit and his family wanted him to become a doctor, but he chose law instead, the newspaper said. Raj Thapar told the newspaper that his son’s only dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice. Amul’s maternal grandfather had impressed on him how Mahatma Gandhi had defeated the British using non-violence, Raj Thapar told the newspaper.

According his father, Amul had converted to Catholicism when he married Kim Schulte, a real estate agent, Courier Journal reported. Thapar’s mother Veena Bhalla sold a successful restaurant after 9/11 to work as a civilian clinical social worker to help soldiers returning from the battlefield, the newspaper reported quoting McConnell.

According to Thapar’s bio for a convention of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association his father had come to the US to study and after graduating went to work for Ford Motor Company. Later, he bought a share of a heating and air conditioning company.

Myanmar downgraded in US trafficking report

Myanmar downgraded in US trafficking report

Yangon: Myanmar is not doing enough to tackle human trafficking, according to a US State Department report that downgraded its ranking to the worst tier. The annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report said Myanmar slipped backward on its trafficked person’s index to Tier 3 for failing to protect Rohingya Muslims fleeing a military crackdown in Rakhine state.

More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to escape military retaliation following attacks by militants on police posts in August 2017. The United Nations and the United States have said the violence amounts to “ethnic cleansing”.

The vast majority of the fleeing Rohingya settled in sprawling refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Many were women and children who have become prey for traffickers, the report said.

The Rohingya were “subjected to exploitation — or transported to other countries for the purpose of sex trafficking — as a result of their displacement,” it said.

It also said some Rohingya children were abducted in transit and sold into forced marriages in India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“The Government of Burma does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” it said, using the former name for Myanmar.

Myanmar officials did not immediately reply to AFP’s request for comment.

Myanmar and Bangladesh later signed an agreement to repatriate the Rohingya but many fear returning without guaranteed basic rights such as safety, freedom of movement and citizenship.

The camps in southeast Bangladesh were recently battered by monsoon rains, forcing thousands to shift in the face of deadly landslides.

On Thursday the World Bank approved a $50 million grant for a project to improve health, education, water supply and sanitation in the camps, the first instalment in a series that could total as much as $480 million, it said in a statement.

Rights groups have accused Myanmar’s security forces of extrajudicial killings, rape and arson as part of the campaign against the stateless Rohingya, which the military denies.

The TIP report ranks 187 countries using its three-tier index. A Tier 3 ranking could lead to non-trade related sanctions.

Myanmar joined China, Russia, Laos, South Sudan and North Korea in the lowest Tier 3 ranking in this year’s report.

Thailand and Pakistan were upgraded to a Tier 2 from the Tier 2 Watchlist, which refers to countries who are not doing enough to protect trafficked people, but “are making significant efforts” to do so.


Turkey’s Erdogan celebrates poll win

Turkey’s Erdogan celebrates poll win

Erdogan transformed Turkey first as PM from 2003 to 2014 and then as president, giving the country a much more assertive profile on the international stage.

Istanbul : President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday celebrated winning five more years in office with sweeping new powers after a decisive election victory, as Turkey’s opposition raised bitter questions over the conduct of the polls.

  A night of triumph for Erdogan saw the man who has dominated Turkey for the last one-and-a-half-decades declared winner of Sunday’s presidential polls without needing a second round and lead his ruling party-led alliance to an overall majority in parliament.
Erdogan, whose victory was wider than predicted by many analysts, immediately vowed to “rapidly” implement the new presidential system agreed in an April 2017 referendum that opponents fear will give him autocratic powers, reports AFP. The president, 64, declared victory in Istanbul before returning to Ankara to deliver a triumphant speech at 3:00 am to tens of thousands of supporters from the balcony of the headquarters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“Turkey has given a lesson in democracy to the entire world,” he added, pointing to a turnout of 88 percent.

His main rival Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who had challenged Erdogan with an energetic campaign and earlier accused the authorities of “manipulation”, maintained an unusual silence after the results were announced but was due to make a statement later on Monday. “Victory in the first round,” trumpeted the headline in the Hurriyet daily. But the pro-opposition BirGun took a different line: “An unfair election,” it said, adding that the way results had been delivered had given rise to “doubts”.

The candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party Selahattin Demirtas came third on 8.4 percent, a position all the more remarkable given he has been jailed on charges of links to Kurdish militants since November 2016.

Nationalist politician Meral Aksener suffered a disappointing night coming fourth on 7.3 percent.

The AKP won 293 seats in the 600 MP chamber but the MHP did far better than expected, winning 50 seats and giving their alliance a clear majority, according to the results published by Anadolu.Congratulations for Erdogan flooded in from Turkey’s partners in the Islamic world and allies who also have tetchy relations with the West, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin who praised Erdogan’s “great political authority”, the Kremlin said.

The European Union and United States were keeping a close eye on the poll.

Erdogan has transformed Turkey first as prime minister from 2003 to 2014 and then as president, allowing Islam a greater role in public life and giving the country a much more assertive profile on the international stage.


From Ataturk to Erdogan: Five things to know about modern Turkey

From Ataturk to Erdogan: Five things to know about modern Turkey

Ankara, Turkey: The modern state of Turkey emerged out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire to become a powerful strategic nation that borders Greece to the west and Iran to the east.
It has been ruled since 2002 by the Islamic-rooted conservative party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has overseen some of the biggest changes since modern Turkey was created in 1923.
But in presidential and legislative polls on Sunday, Erdogan and his party will face the biggest test at the ballot box to their one-and-a-half-decade grip on power.
Here are five facts about Turkey.
– Successor to an empire –
At its peak, the Ottoman Empire ruled a swathe of territory extending from the Balkans to modern Saudi Arabia, including the holy sites of Islam.

But the Empire suffered centuries of decline and its end was confirmed by defeat in World War I, in which it had fought on the side of imperial Germany.

After a War of Independence, Turkish military leaders including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were able to salvage a modern state extending from Thrace to Mesopotamia, declaring the creation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has sought to rebuild its Ottoman-era influence in the Middle East, notably in Syria and Iraq as well as the Balkans and also Africa.

– Secular, Western democracy –
Ataturk, Turkey’s first president until his death in 1938, turned the country towards the West and made secularism one of its founding principles.

Multi-party democracy was introduced in 1946. Under Ataturk’s successor Ismet Inonu, Turkey remained neutral in World War II.

In 1952 it joined NATO along with its one-time foe Greece with the strong backing of the United States, keen to ensure Ankara never fell into the orbit of the USSR.

Critics have accused Erdogan of increasing authoritarianism, presiding over a creeping Islamisation and changing Turkey’s Western tilt. But the president insists he is committed to a secular republic anchored in NATO.

– Scarred by coups –
Turkey’s powerful military ousted incumbent governments in coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

The 1960 coup was followed by the hanging of ousted prime minister Adnan Menderes — Erdogan’s political hero — along with two ministers.

After coming to power, Erdogan clipped the wings of the military in a bid to make political interventions by the army far less likely.

But in July 2016 he survived a coup attempt by a renegade army faction.

Erdogan said that attempt was ordered by his one-time ally, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who denies the charges.

Erdogan then declared a state of emergency that has seen some 55,000 people arrested in an unprecedented purge. He — and the opposition — have vowed to lift the emergency after the elections.

– Host to refugees –
The country of over 80 million has sought to boost its influence, staunchly opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war but then working closely with his ally Russia to end the conflict.

Turkey has taken in around 3.5 million Syrian refugees, who live mainly in the southeast and Istanbul, as well as smaller numbers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2016, it signed a deal to limit the flow of refugees to Europe after one million crossed the Aegean through Turkey in 2015. The deal was seen as a boost to Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union but the process has floundered ever since.

Turkey has given passports to a few tens of thousands of Syrian refugees bur critics say it lacks a strategy to deal with their long-term presence.

– ‘Kurdish problem’ –
The non-Muslim minorities on the territory of modern Turkey were forced out in the 20th century and only small populations remain today.

Armenians regard the killings and massacres of their ancestors as genocide, a term vehemently disputed by Turkey. Most Greeks left the country in the population exchanges of 1923.

By far Turkey’s largest ethnic minority are the Kurds. They make up a fifth of the population and have long complained of being denied their rights in what they call the “Kurdish problem”.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984 in a bloody insurgency that has left tens of thousands dead.

Erdogan in the first years of his rule took unprecedented steps towards giving the Kurds greater rights and opened talks with the PKK. But a ceasefire unravelled in 2015 and violence continues, with still no peace deal in sight.


Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un meet to take place at 9 am on June 12: White House

Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un meet to take place at 9 am on June 12: White House

Washington: US President Donald Trump would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at 9 am Singapore time on June 12, the White House announced today. “I can tell you the president has been receiving daily briefings on North Korea from his national security team, and I can also tell you the schedule tentatively, for that first meeting will be on June 12 at 9:00 AM Singapore time, and take place June 11, 9:00 PM East Coast time,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference.

The Trump administration, she said, is actively preparing for the June 12 summit between the US President and the North Korean leader. “The advance team in Singapore is finalising logistical preparations and will remain in place until the summit begins. In the DMZ, the US Ambassador’s delegation continues diplomatic negotiations with the North Korean delegation. Discussions have been very positive, and significant progress has been made,” Sanders said. Last week, Trump met with a top North Korean official at the White House to plan for the summit. The official handed him a letter from Kim Jong-un.

“I am not going to get into the specifics of the letter, but as the president said, they were interesting, and we feel like things are continuing to move forward, and good progress has been made, and we’re continuing to prepare for the president’s summit,” Sanders said. When asked whether Trump supports a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, she said the focus of the administration right now was the President’s meeting with the North Korean leader. “And the President will make his views known directly to him when we’re in Singapore, and our focus will continue to be on denuclearisation,” Sanders said.

Responding to a question on “maximum pressure” policy on North Korea, the press secretary said the US policy towards Pyongyang has not changed. “Our policy hasn’t changed. And as the president stated, we have sanctions on. They’re very powerful, and we would not take those sanctions off unless North Korea denuclearises,” she said.

Virginia politicians try to woo Indian Americans ahead of polls

Virginia politicians try to woo Indian Americans ahead of polls

Washington: Ahead of mid-term polls in November, political parties in the US state of Virginia are trying to woo Indian Americans as their increasingly swelling number can play a key role in deciding the election results. At a time when the voting percentage in mid-term elections is coming down, the Indian American community, whose number has increased significantly in recent years, can make a big impact by coming out to vote in large number and deciding the winner, said Delegate David Reid.

Seeking a re-election from the Virginia Assembly District 32, Reid urged Indian-American to be politically active. The population of Indian Americans in the Virginia suburb of Washington DC has increased significantly in the past one decade. In 2010, there were more than 100,000 Indian Americans in Virginia, an increase of 112 per cent since 2000. However, there has been a substantial surge in the Indian American population. Neighbourhoods like Ashburn in Loudon County in the last few years have emerged as Little India.

Nearly a dozen political leaders, delegates and those running for various elected offices this November turned up at an event organised by Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) in the Ashburn suburb of Washington DC yesterday. “This is a recognition of the increasing presence of Indian Americans in Virginia,” said Satish Korpe, a member of the IAFPE.

Observing that the community has “not been that active or that involved” in the past, Delegate Mark Keam called for increasing the presence of Indian Americans and other Asian groups in politics. “We have to make change in the country where we live. We have to have representation,” he said. Until the community has people who represent them directly, they need to elect people who can make policies favourable for them.

A former State Department official Alison Friedman, running for Congress from Virginia, said she is inspired by the two school girls she met in a remote Bihar village where she visited in her role as an American diplomat. “First time I went outside of US is India. I went to a school in Bihar where people were studying under the tree,” she said.

“Make sure that your rights are secure in America. Who we are in the government, not only impacts your community, but also the entire world. If they can do it in Bihar, we can do it here,” said Friedman, who is seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock from the 10th Congressional District of Virginia.

Bharat Bhargava, a former Bush Administration official, said that Indian Americans have come a long way and have accomplished a lot in various parts of life, but there is need to increase their presence in politics. Indian American Sant Gupta, past president of local Durga Temple, said that Indian Americans need to actively participate in the general elections.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who was vice-presidential candidate for the 2016 presidential elections, sent a lengthy video message for the event in which he praised the contribution of Indian Americans in the country and the State. Kaine, an influential Democratic Senator is seeking re-election in the November polls.