Saturday, November 15, 2014
China is spearheading initiatives launched at the just-concluded annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting and calling for a more integrated Asia-Pacific region. Transport authorities in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have signed a contract with Kyrgyzstan, vowing to resume two regular cross-border bus services linking Xinjiang with cities in the neighboring country. One bus will run between Kashgar and Jalal-Abad, and another will run between Artux and Osh. The four cities are important posts in the "Silk Road Economic Belt" that China is actively promoting. In addition to connecting with Asia-Pacific countries by land and sea, China is also promoting regional cooperation in terms of personnel exchange and logistics. China's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that China and the United States will grant each other's citizens business or tourist visas with multiple entries and a maximum validity of ten years. In the past two days, the two countries issued their first round of ten-year visas to citizens of each other's countries. In the eastern metropolis of Shanghai, the APEC initiative known as the Asia-Pacific Model E-port Network is being built. Shen Weihua, vice chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, said the platform will transcend time differences and digitize the customs clearance process to make foreign trade data accessible online. Enterprises in Shanghai will be able to directly make customs declarations to Hong Kong and the United States through the Internet, and companies in other APEC economies will also be able to apply for customs clearance to Shanghai Customs via their own e-ports, he said. In the city of Tianjin, another APEC initiative, the first pilot center for the Cooperation Network on Green Supply Chain of APEC, is under construction. The network aims to conduct applied research on the green supply chain and establish pilot centers and information-sharing websites, said assistant general manager of Tianjin Innovative Finance Investment Company, Mu Lingling, who is in charge of the preparation work. APEC CONSENSUS Twenty-five years after the founding of APEC, the 21-member forum now covers a population of 2.8 billion, or 40 percent of the global total. APEC members produce 57 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and contribute 48 percent of global trade. This year's APEC meetings, which concluded in Beijing on Tuesday, adopted two important documents: "The 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Declaration: Beijing Agenda for an Integrated, Innovative and Interconnected Asia-Pacific," and the "Statement on the 25th Anniversary of APEC: Shaping the Future through Asia-Pacific Partnership." The APEC members made a blueprint agreeing to enhance physical, institutional and people-to-people connections by 2025. The members also agreed to start a joint strategic study on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), marking the official launch of the FTAAP process. The Chinese government has also announced a set of measures to step up cooperation with its APEC partners. During the meetings, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will contribute 40 billion U.S. dollars to set up a Silk Road Fund, providing investment and financing support to carry out infrastructure, resource, industrial, and financial cooperation with neighboring countries. Xi also announced that China will donate 10 million U.S. dollars for institutional development and capacity building for APEC and provide 1,500 training places to help developing APEC members improve their ability in the fields of trade and investment in the next three years. On Wednesday, China and the United States issued a joint statement on climate change to limit greenhouse gas emissions. According to the statement, China pledged that its carbon dioxide emissions will peak around 2030 and the country will increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030. Why should China attach so much importance to building a more integrated Asia-Pacific? Liu Chenyang, director of the APEC research center of Nankai University in Tianjin City, said that during the past three decades more of reform and opening up, China has established close connections with the rest of the world, especially the Asia-Pacific region. "Currently, eight out of the ten most important trade partners for China are APEC members," he said. "China has been moving up the global value chain and will be acting as a connecting link between countries at both the lower and higher ends of the value chain for a certain period of time in the near future." Liu added that a more integrated Asia-Pacific will also contribute to the global economy as a whole. "China has a big role to play in forming the 'big family' of Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific region is vast in territory, and there are development gaps between different economies. The socialist path with Chinese characteristics has set up a new example for development," said Yu Pei, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "China will continue carrying out its obligation to guard the prosperity and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, which is also determined by the traditional Chinese culture of pursuing harmony in diversity and a win-win situation," he said. President Xi Jinping left Beijing on Friday for the G20 Summit in Brisbane and state visits to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. The Summit is slated for Nov. 15 and 16, while the state visits will take place from Nov. 16 to 23. Yu said this is another trip that is expected to enhance cooperation between China and Asia-Pacific countries.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Saturday reiterated that President Obama's expected action on immigration is in its final planning stages. "We’re in the final stages of developing some executive actions," Johnson said. "We have a broken immigration system. The more I delve into it, the more problems I see," Reuters reported. Speaking at the Reagan Presidential Library in California, Johnson told the crowd that the current immigration system has serious problems and to expect comprehensive changes by the end of the year as promised by the president. Johnson provided few details but said Obama's overhaul would strengthen border security. Republicans, who now control the Senate, have warned Obama that unilateral action on immigration would "poison the well" for bipartisan cooperation.
The Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday downplayed reports of Chinese troops training Pakistan Army personnel right across the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir.Addressing a press conference after Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the first day of G20 summit here, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the PM met Chinese President Xi Jinping this morning. Since the PM's attention was not drawn to any such report by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, he had no word with Xi regarding this, Akbaruddin said. Saying that the NSA is monitoring situation, Akbaruddin added that reports may or may not be true. The MEA's comment came a day after a news agency cited a report submitted by the Border Security Force intelligence wing to the NSA as saying that the Chinese troops have been seen training Pakistani Armymen in "weapon handling" techniques bang opposite Rajouri sector of International border. The report, accessed by PTI, said these military manoeuvres were being conducted at forward defence locations of Pakistan which are usually manned by border guarding personnel-- the Pakistan Rangers. Preliminary inputs analysed by BSF also showed some Pakistan Army units have taken over paramilitary posts of Rangers opposite Sriganganagar sector. BSF also found a handful of new observation towers have also been set up by Pakistan in recent past along Abohar and Gurdaspur sectors in Punjab. The BSF intelligence reported that phone intercepts along the border indicate that Pakistan Army and Rangers are planning to deploy snipers and sharp shooters at strategic locations and posts to target Indian soldiers and assets. The Border Security Force intelligence also reported that a special squad of Pakistani Army commandos have been placed at select locations along the IB and LoC, which may attempt to carry out raids and Border Action Team (BAT)-sponsored attacks into the Indian territory. It also said a large grouping of terrorists has been detected along Sialkot area in Pakistan which may be planning to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir at a time when Assembly polls are scheduled in the state. It also said agencies have detected a few launch pads for terrorists to infiltrate along either the International Border (IB) or the Line of Control (LoC). The Indo-Pak border, which has been witnessing a series of ceasefire violations in the last few months is peaceful but tense, in the last few days, the report said. The BSF report said that along the Indo-Pak border in the Sir Creek area near Gujarat about 25 Indian fishing boats and 155 fishermen had been apprehended by Pakistani maritime authorities in the current fishing season. During the spate of recent ceasefire violations in October, the report said, retaliatory action by BSF killed at least 5 jawans on the other side.
Iranian Member of Parliament, Hussain Ali Sheryari, has strongly warned that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can capture the Sunni majority province of Sestan-Balochistan if peace is not restored there. According to a report published in Al Arabia newspaper, Mr. Sheryari issued this warning while addressing session of Iranian parliament. “If the Sunni-Baloch community of Sestan Balochistan is not provided due rights then the region can fall victim to ISIS,” warned Mr. Sheryari. Iranian Parliamentarian raised concern over the increase in religious militancy in border towns of Pakistani Balochistan and mentioned the growing number of clashes between Jaesh-ul-Adl and Iranian Border Security Forces. According to the reports, the warning of Mr. Sheryari fell on deaf ears and the commander of Iranian Armed forces, Mohammad Baqir Zada, rejected the assertion that there is any problem in Sestan-Balochistan. The facts are however contrary to the claims made by Mr. Baqir Zada. In fact there has been a massive increase in the number of incidents in which the Iranian security forces have been targeted in Sestan-Balochistan provinces by Sunni militant organizations.
http://www.tolonews.com/Afghanistan has crushed Pakistan by 54 runs in a 15-over friendly cricket match between the A teams of the two countries attended by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad. Winning the toss and electing to bat first, Afghanistan set a tough target of 155 runs with its only 4 wickets lost while Pakistan could score only 100 with its 9 wickets gone. The total of 154 by Afghanistan includes some brilliant performance by Afghan batsmen in which Najibullah Zadran contributed 60 runs and Samiullah Shenwari scored 27 runs and both of them were not out. However none of the batsman from Pakistan side could help their country to at least get close to the target. Najibullah Zadran of Afghanistan won the man of the match award for his marvelous contribution of 60 runs and was presented a cheque of 100,000 PKR by Pakistan's Premiere.
Hoping to recast an often strained relationship with a crucial neighbor, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan made his first state visit to Pakistan on Friday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that screening of Pakistani passengers would be carried out at international airports if Pakistan failed to control the spread of polio virus.It has also sought complete data of Pakistanis who had traveled abroad during the last six months. Pakistan did not fully comply with the travel restrictions that were imposed in mid 2014, claimed a statement issued by WHO. It threatened that if Pakistan did not take appropriate measures immediately Pakistani passengers would be screened at international airports. Expressing its concern over the rapid spread of the crippling virus in Pakistan, the international organisation has set a six-month deadline for Pakistan to eradicate polio completely. In May this year, WHO had made mandatory for every Pakistani traveling abroad to present polio virus inoculation certificate.
The Express TribuneFormer prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said on Friday mid-term elections would not be in the country’s interest. Talking to reporters at Multan airport, Gillani said the Pakistan Peoples Party was ready for polls whenever they were held but holding mid-term elections would not serve democratic governance. He said the PPP was playing the role of responsible opposition to avoid causing harm to the country. Responding to a question about arrest warrants issued against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri, Gillani said the situation could have been contained if both leaders had not been stubborn. He said arresting the two leaders would make them look like political victims, which, he added, was exactly what they wanted. Commenting on some provocative statements by Sheikh Rashid, Gillani said no one really listened to him. He said people preaching hate and inciting violence should be ignored. Gillani said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was leader of the youth, adding that leaders from other political parties were ageing. He appreciated the development projects announced by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for Multan, adding that he should focus on completing projects started by the PPP government. He welcomed the announcement that Multan had been declared a big city, saying the move was long due.
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo has said that his party has always played a decisive role for salvaging democracy and that there is no chance of establishment of an undemocratic set up in the country. Talking to party workers, who called on him on Friday, Wattoo said that all constitutional institutions, including judiciary and parliament, were functional and enjoyed complete support from masses. Wattoo said that he did not foresee midterm elections in the country at the moment because neither the prime minister would resign nor was there any possibility of disqualification of the prime minister by the court. Emergence of both of these scenarios was most unlikely, he predicted. He ruled out the allegations of supporting incumbent government and clarified that the PPP was only supporting democracy as salvation in order to brighten up future of the country which hinges on continuity of democratic system. He said that the present government had been discredited by the people because it had failed to deliver which was evident from excessive load-shedding of electricity and gas; worsening law and order situation and higher rate of inflation. He urged the government to immediately undertake necessary initiatives for the constitution of judicial commission to investigation rigging allegations. “It should not miss this opportunity to diffuse the situation,” he suggested. Wattoo criticised the action of the government regarding issuing arrest warrants for Dr Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, adding that it was a political move; therefore, it would spoil comparatively enabling political environment in the country. Meanwhile, PTI and PML-N workers joined the PPP on Friday and expressed their full confidence in the leadership of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo. Wattoo also nominated Milk Asif Awan as deputy secretary general of the PPP’s Punjab chapter. PPP Punjab Secretary General Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, while addressing the corner meeting, welcomed the new workers and said that their joining would further strengthen the party in Lahore. Malik Sohail predicted that a large number of workers of other parties would join the PPP. “The PPP is destined to take off under the leadership of Bilawal,” he added. Other party leaders also spoke on the occasion.
Recently, I have started wondering whether we as a nation have finally become completely inured to violence. It is no consolation that violence at the individual or the group level is quite prevalent all over the world. Perhaps the sort of violence that has diminished the world over is that which is perpetrated by states against other states. However, where nation states have stepped back, non-state actors have taken over. Today, the sort of violence that I am thinking of is that which led to the horrible killing of two Christians in a city near Lahore. The circumstances in which a pregnant woman — a mother of three — and her husband were burnt to death are reasonably well known. However things might have started, it was a rampaging mob of ‘ordinary’ people that eventually perpetrated this tragedy. No, it was not a group of brainwashed seminarians or members of some outlawed extremist religious group that were responsible for what happened. The perpetrators were a group of people that could well be living in any neighbourhood next to any one of us. And that is the most horrifying aspect of this tragedy. Have we as a people become so inured to violence, torture and murder that we can embark upon such an action at the slightest real or imagined provocation? Blasphemy is serious business. Any words or actions deliberately meant to hurt the sensibilities of any religious group or attempts to desecrate their scriptures are all undesirable and there are laws that adequately and perhaps excessively cover such actions. Even if blasphemy is a crime under the law, it still does not mean that ordinary people should take the law into their own hands and act as judges as well as executioners. I am sure that when all this was going on the local police and local bureaucrats were well aware of what was happening; there is no evidence that any of them — and I repeat: any of them — made any effort to stop this atrocity from being committed. Over the years I have thought quite a bit about the problem of blasphemy as it affects religious minorities in Pakistan and also as an extension of the impression all this leaves of the image of Pakistan abroad. Without being an apologist for any side, there are three important observations that are in order. The first and foremost is that even though blasphemy is a crime punishable by death, there have been no executions for this crime in Pakistan though many have been so convicted. This might seem insignificant but I think that whatever else one might have to say, the fact that nobody has ever been executed in Pakistan for blasphemy says a lot. The second observation is that, very often, the ‘safest’ place for those accused of blasphemy is in a jail. I would call it a sort of protective custody. This observation is becoming a bit dicey of late. I used to think that jail was a safe place for people accused of blasphemy but there have been two recent incidents where jail guards killed two such inmates. If this becomes more common then we will have a serious problem. As far as the question of setting the blasphemy accused free on bail or for good is concerned, that is fraught with danger because the return of such persons to their original community takes on political and religious overtones. And once the local mullah gets involved, bad things will happen inevitably. The third observation is that in a country where uttering anything in public that is even the least bit uncomplimentary about any important Muslim religious figure could well lead to serious consequences, it is unlikely that any sane and reasonably intelligent person would commit such an action. That then presumes that those actually guilty of blasphemy are either not quite sane or are at least severely mentally challenged. Other than that, most of those accused of blasphemy are members of religious minorities that do not subscribe to Islamic theology and doctrinal difference could well be claimed as blasphemy. Even in this category, an accusation of blasphemy is often used for the sake of revenge, to force people out of the community for the sake of their property or, worse, to make an example of them as probably happened in this case. There are always going to be bad people who will do bad things. What really bothers me about this latest atrocity is that like many such incidents in the past where the victims were members of a minority community, officials did not try to prevent the atrocities. Even our chief minister of Punjab, who has a penchant for firing bureaucrats and police officers at a mere whim, did not take any action against those public officials who let all this happen. Or, if he did, he must have done it so discreetly that nobody has heard anything about it. That is the real problem. Either out of fear of being branded pro-blasphemy or because of actual sympathy for the cause of anti-blasphemy rioters, members of our political and official establishment rarely try to intervene to protect the victims. Yes, much sympathy and distribution of taxpayer money follows such riots but rarely are there any dismissals of government officials who stood by and let such riots happen. And rarely, if ever, the mullah who incited the riot or the leader of the rioters who stood to receive some gain end up in jail. And if either of them does get arrested, they will be garlanded profusely by members of our legal fraternity and become ghazis (holy warriors) overnight. Of course, if ever presented in court, they will be released in short order for “lack of evidence”. Can anything be done? Essentially, what needs to be done is to make sure that the law is actually implemented and followed. Yes, the law.By Syed Mansoor Hussain
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has arrived on a two-day visit on the invitation of the prime minister. The visit is aimed at improving relations between the two neighbouring countries, mired since long in continuing distrust and a confidence deficit. No one knows what will happen to Afghanistan after 2014. Commentaries on the future of Afghanistan are uncertain at best. The country is facing a myriad problems with solutions scarce insofar as Afghanistan’s indigenous capacity to deal with them is concerned. Looking beyond the immediate issue of the Taliban threat, the newly installed government headed by President Ashraf Ghani seems determined to steer the country to safer shores. Very few doubt his intention and ability to overcome this challenge. After coming to power through a controversial presidential election, President Ghani is striving to reorder Afghan’s foreign policy and in the process garner legitimacy for his rule, still in peril because of the difficulties in implementing the agreement between him and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in the new unity government. The government in Afghanistan cannot afford the current power haggling between the erstwhile rivals, especially when the US is withdrawing from the region and with it the donors’ commitment to keep the Afghanistan economy stable seems fraught with uncertainty. Afghanistan is far from able to stand on its feet through its own economic and military strength. Even after 13 years of western occupation and with a total outlay of $ 100 billion on social services, the Afghan economy is incapable of providing jobs to the youth and revenue to the state. The US and NATO have promised to inject annually $ eight billion for the Afghan National Army and the economy. However, if the civil war already in the making flares up, there will be even less motivation for the donor countries to foot the bill. Ashraf Ghani has to bring Afghanistan’s warring factions, particularly the Taliban, to the negotiating table, stabilize relations with neighbouring countries and keep the channel for foreign aid open. All these challenges are dependent for their solution on a stable government in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani has been unable to form his cabinet so far because of power sharing disagreements with the Abdullah camp. That may weaken his negotiation options in the upcoming donors conference in London next month. Stability in Afghanistan is as much a challenge for its own people as for the region. Afghanistan’s conflict has been instrumental in galvanizing terrorism across the world over the last four decades by now. Unfortunately, the war on terror has provided no solution to this conundrum, sinking Afghanistan, the region and areas further abroad into more wars. In this context, Pakistan’s perceived role as a potential troublemaker meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan, informed amongst other reasons by our India-centric concerns, needs revisiting. Though Pakistan has by now also received its own share of suffering at the hands of home grown terrorists and is fighting a war against them in FATA, the success of this mission will only benefit Afghanistan if terrorism, as stated by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif during his recent visit to Kabul, becomes a common cause between the two countries. The Pakistan government’s desire to see an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political solution to its civil war would remain unachievable unless the Pakistani military too is on board. Ashraf Ghani would like to return with this assurance from the Pakistan military and the government. Pakistan has a lot to offer to Afghanistan in trade and economic corporation. The Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission has agreed last January to take bilateral trade from $ 2.5 billion at present to $ five billion by 2015. The agreements made by the commission should be reviewed and implemented at the earliest. Two-way trade and Pakistani investment in Afghanistan would also provide an impetus to control cross-border smuggling, which hurts the revenues of both countries. The first visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan should be made historic by Pakistan living up to its words of letting Afghanistan settle its problems on its own without external interference and aiding the neighbouring country to emerge from the long tunnel of war and bloodshed of the last four decades.
Chakwal police have arrested a Christian man from Lahore over an alleged act of blasphemy. According to police sources, the 40-year-old man was booked for blasphemous remarks made by him. He holds a Masters degree in computer science and used to run a website and also wrote blogs on it. According to the sources, he used derogatory language against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in his blogs. Also read: 50 villagers held over burning of Christian couple to death On July 4, 2010, a man posted a comment on the website of a private TV channel and alleged that the accused was committing blasphemy in his blogs. On June 9, 2011, Mohammad Saeed, a resident of Talagang in Chakwal, filed an application in the City Police Station against the accused and a case was registered under Section 295C. According to police, the accused went into hiding after the registration of the case. He was arrested from Lahore after about three and a half years. SP Rawalpindi Range Jabbar Hussain is investigating the case.The accused will be produced before a court in Talagang on Saturday.
Asfandyar criticises PTI performance in KPK by dawn-news Awami National Party (ANP) president Asfandyar Wali Khan on Friday criticised Imran Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, saying that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have failed to fulfill their election promises, DawnNews reported. Speaking to ANP workers in Peshawar, Asfandyar said that the PTI should honour election vows they had made to the youth. He said that Imran Khan would not be allowed to escape without fulfilling the promises he made during the 2013 election. He criticised the PTI chairman and KP chief minister, accusing them of “dancing on a container in Islamabad,” while people were being killed in the province. The ANP leader said that the protests in federal capital were "an insult to dharna’s." He also said that the KP government had mishandled the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had arrived in Bannu following the start of Operation Zarb-i-Azb. Meanwhile, Asfandyar termed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan a positive development. “I pray to God that talks between the two countries are successful,” said the ANP leader. He said that peace could not prevail in Pakistan without Afghanistan being stable.