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America, China and ‘Absolutely Not’

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“Absolutely not” are the two words that have remained talk of the town in terms of relations between Pakistan and the United States in the past few days.

Imran Yaqub Khan Profile Imran Yaqub Khan

How will the relations between the two countries go after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan? These two words are much significant in the backdrop of Pak-US relations.

What the US is thinking after quitting Afghanistan? What will be its priorities in the region? An important statement of US President Joe Biden carries much significance in this perspective. When he was asked by a reporter regarding the US policy towards Afghanistan last Saturday, the US president said “Ask me something else and positive”. This means now the US regime isn’t only winding up its 20-year military expeditions in Afghanistan, but is also not even ready to discuss Afghanistan. But side by side the instability and violence is being feared in Afghanistan.

The Taliban are increasing their influence in various districts after the ‘silent’ departure of US forces. Where does Pakistan stand in this fast-changing environment? What our political and military leadership is thinking about it? Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a detailed visit to Gwadar- the port city of Balochistan- on Monday last and the most important thing during his trip was his speech in which he (Imran Khan) highlighted three points in a clear tone.

“India is the biggest loser in Afghanistan. The Indian regime wants to enhance its influence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces so that an important country in the region could become its ally to create further difficulties for Pakistan. However the premier seemed optimistic that India isn’t getting “desired’ results while being staying in India. He further said in his speech that the Biden administration is perplexed over current situation in Afghanistan. If President Biden’s statement has to be kept in mind the situation is the same as depicted by the premier. The way the US emptied the biggest airbase of Bigram overnight is an indication that, “we are leaving and you deal the situation on your own”.

Third important point in the PM’s speech was a hint to resume negotiations with the disgruntled elements in Balochistan and declare Gwadar a focal point of Pakistan in future. The talks with miscreants mean to bring peace to Balochistan. The ‘absolute’ peace means more economic activities, and opportunities for businesses and jobs. Eventually Balochistan will start competing with other provinces. The Gwadar’s importance carries much weight in this context. Gwadar’s development and peace in Balochistan are equally important for both Pakistan and China.

Where Prime Minister Imran Khan said “absolutely not” to the US there he has taken principled stand during his interviews and statements that Pakistan will side with China. According to him, the US and the western countries could not create rife in the Sino-Pak bond even by pressuring through certain means. In this scenario, Gwadar is once again in news and any progress on CPEC simply means China wants to promote trade activities in the region and ultimately China’s influence would grow further. China is ready to play its important role in Afghanistan after the US departure. With the advancement of the Taliban a question arises if they (Taliban) are capable of bridging the gap of balance of power in Afghanistan? Another question comes to minds what role China can play in Afghanistan especially when the Chinese government follows the policy of non-interference.

China is ready to cooperate with the Taliban in case violence grows in the war-torn country and disturb Afghan border with China. China is already in contact with the Taliban in this regard. The international media is keeping an eye on what China is thinking about it and what is its next move? Recent news published in the Financial Times quoted an Indian official as having said China after extending cooperation to the Taliban wants to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure in Afghanistan. As Pakistan is the most important ally in the region, China will use Pakistan for funding to the Taliban in this regard.

Another diplomat claimed in the same story that China would extend help to the Taliban on Pakistan’s request. China in return would require that Taliban discontinue their relations with the militants group- China calls it Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement- present along the Chinese border with Afghanistan. According to the United Nations’ Security Council the group has 3,500 fighters and some of them are present in Afghanistan close to China’s border. The UN and the US enlisted the movement in the list of terrorist organizations in 2002, but last year the US had removed it from the said list.

China blames the movement for committing anti-state activities in Sinkiang province and has already stressed upon the Central Asian Republics (CARs) like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan to act against the militant group. In May this year the Chinese Foreign Minister had made it clear to the foreign ministers of CARs to act against three-pronged powers of extremists, terrorists and separatists.

The major objective behind this action is to protect the Silk Route (that China says is their belt and Road initiative). The project envisioned by Chinese president Xi Jinping aims to build infrastructure in countries and creating Chinese influence over there.

According to analysts, by ensuring stability in Afghanistan China wishes to protect Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan and CARs and aims to open corridors of investments in Afghanistan. China has always adopted cautious approach towards sending its army outside, but it can become the part of peace-keeping missions in Afghanistan if resolutions of the United Nations are implemented.

Instability in Afghanistan and rise of extremism are disturbing factors for China as for as situation in Sinkiang is concerned. Keeping in view its economic interests, it will be difficult for China to keep itself aloof of the political and security situation in the region. The US is leaving Afghanistan with mere promises of continuing with air assistance. Here another question arises if stable Afghanistan is crucial for China, is isn’t the same for the US?  

 

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Pakistan

Law Minister Tarar dispels impression of depriving overseas Pakistanis of right to vote

"Recent legislation is only aimed at enabling the Election Commission of Pakistan to devise a strategy to ensure the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis"

Published by Siddra Sumreen

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Islamabad: Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar has dispelled the impression that the government is going to deprive overseas Pakistanis of the right to vote.

Talking to the media, along with PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi and Senator Kamran Murtaza in Islamabad on Friday, he said overseas Pakistanis are a precious asset of the country and we cannot deprive them of their right to vote.

He said recent legislation is only aimed at enabling the Election Commission of Pakistan to devise a strategy to ensure the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis in a transparent manner.

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World

Israeli forces shoot and kill Palestinian teen in West Bank: health ministry

The death raises to five the number of Palestinian teenagers killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank in a month

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed a teenager during an operation in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The ministry identified the slain teen Zaid Ghunaim, 15. It said he was wounded by Israeli gunfire in the neck and back and doctors failed to save his life.

The death raises to five the number of Palestinian teenagers killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank in a month. Israeli-Palestinian violence has intensified in recent weeks with near-daily arrest raids in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and tensions around a Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, cited witnesses as saying Ghunaim came upon the soldiers in al-Khader and tried to ran away but the troops fired at him. Online videos purportedly of the aftermath of the shooting show bloodstains near a white car parked in a passageway.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which has stepped up its operations in the West Bank in response to a series of deadly attacks inside Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israeli forces “deliberately” shot at Ghunaim with the intention to kill him.

On Sunday, Israeli ultranationalists plan to march through the main Muslim thoroughfare of the Old City of Jerusalem. The compound houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The hilltop site is also the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

SOURCE: AP NEWS

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Japan to reopen to foreign tourists after two-year pandemic closure

Japan will allow the entry of people on tours with fixed schedules

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Tokyo: Japan will open its borders to foreign tourists in June for the first time since imposing tight pandemic travel restrictions about two years ago, but only for package tours for now.

Beginning June 10, Japan will allow the entry of people on tours with fixed schedules and guides, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

Japanese government has announced it will end a two-year pandemic closure and reopen to tourists from 98 countries and regions – including Britain, the US, France, Spain, Canada and Malaysia – next month, but travelers will only be allowed in as part of the tour groups.

The decision comes after the government last week said it would test allowing small group tours with visitors from the US, Australia, Thailand and Singapore from this month.

Japan will also expand the number of airports that accept international flights to seven, adding Naha in its southern Okinawa prefecture and New Chitose near Sapporo in northern Hokkaido.

For most of the pandemic Japan has barred all tourists and allowed only citizens and foreign residents entry, though even the latter have periodically been shut out.

All arrivals have to test negative for Covid before traveling to Japan and many must be tested again on arrival, though triple-vaccinated people coming from certain countries can skip the additional test as well as a three-day quarantine required for others.

Tour groups are expected to take responsibility for ensuring visitors respect Japan’s near-universal mask-wearing and other measures that have helped keep the toll from Covid comparatively low.

Just how many people will be able to take advantage of the careful reopening is unclear as Japan is planning to double a daily entry cap, but only to 20,000.

The Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has said he wants to ease border control measures, but moves are expected to proceed slowly, with strong public support for the current restrictions.

Japan welcomed a record 31.9 million foreign visitors in 2019 and had been on track to achieve its goal of 40 million in 2020 before the pandemic hit.

SOURCE: AFP

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