2017 September 15 : AsiaNet-Pakistan

Archive for September 15th, 2017

US Drone Strike Kills 3 Suspected Terrorists in Pakistan

September 15, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD An American drone attack in a remote northwestern border region of Pakistan has killed at least three suspected militants and injured another, said tribal and local security sources.

U.S. officials rarely acknowledge drone strikes on Pakistani soil, but if it is confirmed, Friday’s attack would be the first since President Donald Trump unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia about a month ago.

Sources tell VOA that missiles fired from an unmanned aircraft destroyed a house in sem-iautonomous Kurram tribal district, which borders the Afghan province of Khost.

The house belonged to a local religious cleric, Maulvi Mohib, who was among the slain men. Tribal sources described Mohib as a loyalist of the Haqqani terrorist network, an ally of the Taliban who are fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

In his August 21 policy speech, President Trump accused Pakistan of harboring Haqqanis and Taliban insurgents, warning he would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe haven for terrorist organizations.

He went on to criticize Islamabad for taking billions of dollars of U.S. aid while housing the same terrorists we are fighting.

Pakistani leaders rejected the charges as an attempt to scapegoat” their country for failures of U.S.-led efforts to secure and stabilize Afghanistan.

The CIA-run drone operation resumed in Pakistan in March after a nine month unannounced break, but there have been no confirmed strikes since June 13, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which tracks the U.S. global drone program.

Friday’s drone strike came a day after Pakistani authorities ordered international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans FrontiAres (MSF), to wind up its relief operations in Kurram.

MSN is withdrawing from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, because authorities have refused to issue a no objection certificate (NoC) � without providing any explanation � announced MSF country representative Catherine Moody on Friday.

MSF is saddened by the decision The closure brings to an end 14 years of MSF working with the FATA Health Services in Kurram Agency, a statement from Moody read. Pakistani officials have refused to comment on why MSF has been refused a NoC.

Source: Voice of America

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Leverage in Cambodia Key Question for US, EU

September 15, 2017 |

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA Radio Free Asia has joined the ranks of media outlets shuttered under the now almost blanket smothering of an independent press in Cambodia, as U.S. and European diplomatic efforts have failed, so far, to halt the county’s descent into authoritarianism ahead of elections next year.

The closure of the U.S.-funded outlet, due to what it called intimidation, represents another escalation in opposition to Washington by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Conciliatory overtones made in a news conference Tuesday by U.S. Ambassador William Heidt have failed to halt the government’s campaign to paint Washington as the masterminds of a vast conspiracy involving all major opponents of the government.

“These are extraordinary allegations. The business of diplomacy is normally carried out with careful and respectful language, the kind of language I’m going to use today. Difficult messages are delivered privately first. Friendly nations seek ways to bridge differences,” he told reporters.

Two days later, the government mouthpiece Fresh News posted an article declaring the United States “should take a helicopter to transport its citizens from Cambodia, as it did in April 1975.”

Having spent billions of dollars promoting a stable, nominally democratic Cambodia, the United States and the European Union now have only a beleaguered opposition to show for it. The party’s leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested this month in connection with Washington’s alleged grand plan.

“Basically, after tens of billions of dollars invested in Cambodia, we’re back where we were 25 years ago the more things changed, the more they actually stayed the same,” said Sophal Ear, author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy.

China’s deep pockets are often cited as an unstoppable force whittling away Western leverage in Cambodia, and Beijing has offered public support for Cambodia’s arrest of Sokha.

Returning from China on Wednesday, Hun Sen praised Beijing as “a strong backer who continues to help Cambodia in all circumstance, which no foreign [countries] can break.”

But Cambodia’s economic entanglements are far more complicated than mere aid contributions, and as tension with Western powers intensifies, drastic measures that would be considered unthinkable under normal circumstances could come into play.

Access to markets

Aid to Cambodia is measured in millions of dollars, but export markets are measured in the billions.

The United States is its biggest individual country export market at $3.5 billion, or 22 percent of the total, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), an online resource for economic data. China accounts for just 4.4 percent.

Cambodia also benefits handsomely from preferential access to European markets, with its exports there rising from just above $595 million in 2006 to about $5.25 billion in 2016 � under a scheme that has both labor and human rights clauses. In comparison, Cambodia has an enormous trade deficit with China of around $3 billion, OEC data show.

The EU has withdrawn a country’s access to these markets three times: from Sri Lanka in 2010 for human rights violations carried out during that country’s civil war, from Myanmar in 1997 for forced labor and from Belarus in 2007 for failing to respect the basic rights of trade unions.

“What could trigger such a procedure is a serious and systematic violation of one of the listed fundamental human rights or labor rights conventions,” an EU spokesperson told VOA.

So while it is true that Chinese foreign investment in and aid to Cambodia increased dramatically � in 2015 its foreign direct investment eclipsed all other countries combined at around $1 billion � the assertion that the West’s relationships with Phnom Penh are rendered meaningless as a result is not the full picture.

“The last thing Hun Sen would want would be to provoke the U.S., whether the Congress, White House or U.S. trade representative, to raise Cambodia’s market access to the United States. Unrest by textile workers would destabilize the Hun Sen regime and provide grist for the opposition mill,” said Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

There are more than 700,000 registered garment workers in Cambodia in an industry heavily reliant on Western markets.

Bigger fish to fry

Some are interpreting new U.S. visa restrictions on Cambodians as a punitive measure. But other than that and the usual statements expressing concern and urging transparency, the response in the West has been muted, especially in Washington.

“I can only surmise that the State Department is in disarray with the new Trump administration, a new secretary of state with little experience in diplomacy, vacancies at the senior level, and impending budget cuts,” Thayer said.

“There has been no response by the Trump administration to Hun Sen’s cancellation of military exercises with the U.S. earlier this year. Since Trump’s Afghanistan speech, in which he nixed nation-building and democracy promotion, who at State will take any initiative against Hun Sen?” Thayer asked.

Trump has also abandoned U.S. participation in one of the State Department’s sharpest diplomatic tools in Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Meanwhile, higher priorities are bountiful, even in Asia.

“Whether we like it or not, Cambodia is not one of the so-called hot spots of global politics. The international community’s focus is on countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Myanmar,” said Barbara Lochbihler, vice chair for the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Source: Voice of America

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Pakistani Official Says Three Killed In Suspected U.S. Drone Strike

September 15, 2017 |

A regional official in Pakistan says a suspected U.S. drone strike targeting a house used by militants has killed three people in the northwest of the country.Baseer Khan Wazir, senior administrator of the Kurram tribal district along the border with A…

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Pakistani Supreme Court Rejects Challenges To Ruling That Ousted Ex-PM Sharif

September 15, 2017 |

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has rejected petitions for a review of a decision it made on July 28 that disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office over allegations of corruption.The five-judge panel on September 15 dismissed the petitions f…

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US: Nuclear Ban Treaty Undermines International Security

September 15, 2017 |

GENEVA A senior U.S. arms control official said Friday that Washington would never become a party to the treaty banning nuclear weapons because the accord undermines international security and does nothing to resolve threats posed by North Korea’s nu…

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TURKEY TO CONTINUE UNCONDITIONAL COOPERATION TO MAKE PAKISTAN ECONOMICALLY & SECURITY-WISE STRONG: ERDOGAN

September 15, 2017 |

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.Turkish President said that his country wants to see Pakistan politically, economically as well as security-wise fully strengthened and will continue …

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China, Russia, India Intensify Role in Afghanistan to Fight Homegrown Militants

September 15, 2017 |

BEIJING A decision by the BRICS nations to name and denounce specific terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere is sparking debate among academics and analysts in China.Earlier this month, the group, comprised of Brazil, Russia, …

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Pakistani Official Says Three Killed In Suspected U.S. Drone Strike

September 15, 2017 |

A regional official in Pakistan says a suspected U.S. drone strike targeting a house used by militants has killed three people in the northwest of the country.Baseer Khan Wazir, senior administrator of the Kurram tribal district along the border with A…

Read More

Leverage in Cambodia Key Question for US, EU

September 15, 2017 |

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA Radio Free Asia has joined the ranks of media outlets shuttered under the now almost blanket smothering of an independent press in Cambodia, as U.S. and European diplomatic efforts have failed, so far, to halt the county’s descent into authoritarianism ahead of elections next year.

The closure of the U.S.-funded outlet, due to what it called intimidation, represents another escalation in opposition to Washington by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Conciliatory overtones made in a news conference Tuesday by U.S. Ambassador William Heidt have failed to halt the government’s campaign to paint Washington as the masterminds of a vast conspiracy involving all major opponents of the government.

“These are extraordinary allegations. The business of diplomacy is normally carried out with careful and respectful language, the kind of language I’m going to use today. Difficult messages are delivered privately first. Friendly nations seek ways to bridge differences,” he told reporters.

Two days later, the government mouthpiece Fresh News posted an article declaring the United States “should take a helicopter to transport its citizens from Cambodia, as it did in April 1975.”

Having spent billions of dollars promoting a stable, nominally democratic Cambodia, the United States and the European Union now have only a beleaguered opposition to show for it. The party’s leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested this month in connection with Washington’s alleged grand plan.

“Basically, after tens of billions of dollars invested in Cambodia, we’re back where we were 25 years ago the more things changed, the more they actually stayed the same,” said Sophal Ear, author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy.

China’s deep pockets are often cited as an unstoppable force whittling away Western leverage in Cambodia, and Beijing has offered public support for Cambodia’s arrest of Sokha.

Returning from China on Wednesday, Hun Sen praised Beijing as “a strong backer who continues to help Cambodia in all circumstance, which no foreign [countries] can break.”

But Cambodia’s economic entanglements are far more complicated than mere aid contributions, and as tension with Western powers intensifies, drastic measures that would be considered unthinkable under normal circumstances could come into play.

Access to markets

Aid to Cambodia is measured in millions of dollars, but export markets are measured in the billions.

The United States is its biggest individual country export market at $3.5 billion, or 22 percent of the total, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), an online resource for economic data. China accounts for just 4.4 percent.

Cambodia also benefits handsomely from preferential access to European markets, with its exports there rising from just above $595 million in 2006 to about $5.25 billion in 2016 � under a scheme that has both labor and human rights clauses. In comparison, Cambodia has an enormous trade deficit with China of around $3 billion, OEC data show.

The EU has withdrawn a country’s access to these markets three times: from Sri Lanka in 2010 for human rights violations carried out during that country’s civil war, from Myanmar in 1997 for forced labor and from Belarus in 2007 for failing to respect the basic rights of trade unions.

“What could trigger such a procedure is a serious and systematic violation of one of the listed fundamental human rights or labor rights conventions,” an EU spokesperson told VOA.

So while it is true that Chinese foreign investment in and aid to Cambodia increased dramatically � in 2015 its foreign direct investment eclipsed all other countries combined at around $1 billion � the assertion that the West’s relationships with Phnom Penh are rendered meaningless as a result is not the full picture.

“The last thing Hun Sen would want would be to provoke the U.S., whether the Congress, White House or U.S. trade representative, to raise Cambodia’s market access to the United States. Unrest by textile workers would destabilize the Hun Sen regime and provide grist for the opposition mill,” said Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

There are more than 700,000 registered garment workers in Cambodia in an industry heavily reliant on Western markets.

Bigger fish to fry

Some are interpreting new U.S. visa restrictions on Cambodians as a punitive measure. But other than that and the usual statements expressing concern and urging transparency, the response in the West has been muted, especially in Washington.

“I can only surmise that the State Department is in disarray with the new Trump administration, a new secretary of state with little experience in diplomacy, vacancies at the senior level, and impending budget cuts,” Thayer said.

“There has been no response by the Trump administration to Hun Sen’s cancellation of military exercises with the U.S. earlier this year. Since Trump’s Afghanistan speech, in which he nixed nation-building and democracy promotion, who at State will take any initiative against Hun Sen?” Thayer asked.

Trump has also abandoned U.S. participation in one of the State Department’s sharpest diplomatic tools in Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Meanwhile, higher priorities are bountiful, even in Asia.

“Whether we like it or not, Cambodia is not one of the so-called hot spots of global politics. The international community’s focus is on countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Myanmar,” said Barbara Lochbihler, vice chair for the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Source: Voice of America

Read More

US Drone Strike Kills 3 Suspected Terrorists in Pakistan

September 15, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD An American drone attack in a remote northwestern border region of Pakistan has killed at least three suspected militants and injured another, said tribal and local security sources.

U.S. officials rarely acknowledge drone strikes on Pakistani soil, but if it is confirmed, Friday’s attack would be the first since President Donald Trump unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia about a month ago.

Sources tell VOA that missiles fired from an unmanned aircraft destroyed a house in sem-iautonomous Kurram tribal district, which borders the Afghan province of Khost.

The house belonged to a local religious cleric, Maulvi Mohib, who was among the slain men. Tribal sources described Mohib as a loyalist of the Haqqani terrorist network, an ally of the Taliban who are fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

In his August 21 policy speech, President Trump accused Pakistan of harboring Haqqanis and Taliban insurgents, warning he would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe haven for terrorist organizations.

He went on to criticize Islamabad for taking billions of dollars of U.S. aid while housing the same terrorists we are fighting.

Pakistani leaders rejected the charges as an attempt to scapegoat” their country for failures of U.S.-led efforts to secure and stabilize Afghanistan.

The CIA-run drone operation resumed in Pakistan in March after a nine month unannounced break, but there have been no confirmed strikes since June 13, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which tracks the U.S. global drone program.

Friday’s drone strike came a day after Pakistani authorities ordered international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans FrontiAres (MSF), to wind up its relief operations in Kurram.

MSN is withdrawing from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, because authorities have refused to issue a no objection certificate (NoC) � without providing any explanation � announced MSF country representative Catherine Moody on Friday.

MSF is saddened by the decision The closure brings to an end 14 years of MSF working with the FATA Health Services in Kurram Agency, a statement from Moody read. Pakistani officials have refused to comment on why MSF has been refused a NoC.

Source: Voice of America

Read More