Dhaka, Feb 19 (UNB) - In a video message, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said Islamabad will take action if Delhi shares any actionable evidence concerning last week's suicide bombing in occupied Kashmir's Pulwama area which had targeted Indian paramilitary soldiers, reports the Dawn.
While offering cooperation and another chance at a dialogue over the Kashmir issue, the premier also warned India against any act of aggression, saying Pakistan will not hesitate in retaliating to a provocation.
However, he made it clear that he hopes better sense will prevail.
The premier explained he had wanted to respond to the attack right away because Delhi had accused Pakistan of having a hand in the attack, "but we had a very important visit from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, we had an investment conference happening that we had been preparing for for a long time," he explained.
"Therefore, I decided not to respond then, because the attention would have been diverted away from the visit and onto this issue."
"This is why I am responding [now], now that the crown prince has left. And this [message] is for the Indian government," he said.
"First of all, you accused Pakistan. [There was] no evidence. You never thought: 'What would be in it for Pakistan?'," he said. "Would even a fool do such a thing to sabotage his own conference? And even if he [the crown prince] had not been visiting, what benefit would Pakistan get from it [the Pulwama attack]?"
"Why would Pakistan, at this stage, when it is moving towards stability ─ we have fought a war against terrorism for 15 years, 70,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives, terrorism is receding, peace and stability are returning ─ what benefit would we get from it [the Pulwama attack]?" he asked.
"You wish to remain stuck in the past, and each time something happens in Kashmir, you want to hold Pakistan responsible. Instead of trying to resolve the Kashmir issue, start a dialogue or move forward, you want to make Islamabad your whipping boy again and again," the prime minister said, addressing Delhi.
"I am telling you clearly, this is naya Pakistan. It is a new mindset, a new way of thinking. We believe that it is in our interest that our soil is not used for carrying out terrorist attacks in other countries, nor do we want outsiders to come and carry out terror attacks here. We desire stability," he asserted.
"Today, I would like to make the Indian government an offer. Any sort of investigation you wish carried out regarding this incident about the involvement of any Pakistani, we are ready [for it].
"If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved, give it to us. I guarantee you that we will take action ─ not because we are under pressure, but because they [any individuals found involved] are acting as enemies of Pakistan."
"If someone is using Pakistan's soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is [akin to] enmity with us. It is against our interests."
The prime minister added that whenever Pakistan tries to initiate dialogue with India, Delhi's precondition is that terrorism must be talked about.
"We are ready to talk about terrorism. Terrorism is a regional issue [...] We want terrorism in the region to end," he stated. "Pakistan has been the worst affected by terrorism [...] Therefore, we are ready to talk with you."
"[However,] in India, there needs to be a new way of thinking, some introspection: what is the reason these Kashmiri youths have gotten to the point where they have no fear of death anymore? There must be some reason," he said.
"Do you think that this one-dimensional oppression, cruelty, using military to cause issues ─ if they haven't been successful till today, do you think they will be successful in the future?" the prime minister asked, referring to the oppressive tactics used by the Indian government to suppress the local population in occupied Kashmir.
"If today in Afghanistan, after 17 years, the entire world has accepted that there is no military solution and that the issue can only be resolved through dialogue, shouldn't there be discussion about this in India?" he asked.
"We are hearing the voices in India that say 'Pakistan must be taught a lesson', 'Revenge must be taken from Pakistan', 'There should be a strike' ... First of all, what law gives any country to become judge, jury and executioner?" he asked. "What sort of [sense of] justice is this?"
"Secondly, you are facing an election year. And we believe that during the election, [you think] you will get a big boost if you 'teach Pakistan a lesson'," he said.
"If you think that if you can carry out any kind of attack on Pakistan, Pakistan will not just think about retaliating, we will retaliate. There will be no way to respond other than to retaliate," the prime minister warned.
"And after that, where does the matter go? We all know that starting a war is easy. [But] starting a war may be in our hands, ending it won't be. Where it [the tide of war] will go, God knows. That's why I hope that better sense will prevail."
"This issue will only be resolved through dialogue and talks," he concluded.
Beijing, Feb 19 (AP/UNB) — The Iranian foreign minister's passionate defense of Iran's interests at the Munich Security Conference has made him "a famous person" in China, his Chinese counterpart told him Tuesday, as the sides met amid efforts to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is leading an Iranian delegation to Beijing that includes parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and the ministers of finance and petroleum, as well as the CEO of the country's central bank.
Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been trying to preserve the 2015 deal meant to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States last year.
"Yesterday evening I saw on TV how you defended the rights of Iran loud and clear at the Munich Security Conference," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Zarif. "I think an audience of hundreds of millions of Chinese also watched what you said and you are a famous person now."
A perception held by many Chinese that the U.S. seeks to contain their nation's global rise generates sympathy among the public for Iran and other countries, such as Venezuela, identified by Washington as hostile powers.
Zarif told the Munich conference on Sunday that a barter-type system known as INSTEX set up last month by France, Germany and Britain to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, and thereby evade possible U.S. sanctions, fell short of commitments to save the nuclear deal.
He addressed the conference a day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence prodded Germany, France and Britain to follow Washington in withdrawing from the deal and to "stop undermining U.S. sanctions."
Wang made no direct comments on China's position on the deal in opening remarks before reporters on Tuesday, but said he was "really delighted" to meet with Zarif "given the major changes in the Middle East and the international landscape."
"I would like to take this opportunity to have this in-depth strategic communication with my old friend to deepen the strategic trust between our two countries and to ensure fresh progress of the bilateral comprehensive and strategic partnership," Wang said.
Zarif responded by saying Iran's relationship with China "is very valuable to us."
"We consider the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China as one of our most important relations," he said.
Prior to parliamentary speaker Larijani's departure from Tehran, China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying that Iran and China have "close and amicable" relations in diverse areas, and that both sides have enjoyed the support of each other in the international arena.
China has long sought to balance its relations in the Middle East between rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — one of its chief suppliers of crude oil — while remaining a friend to Israel.
Iran is also an important source of crude imports to China, which has also invested in manufacturing and other industries in Iran.
Islamabad, Feb 19 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan recalled its ambassador from India and appealed Tuesday for U.N. help to de-escalate and defuse tensions with New Delhi after last week's attack in India's sector of disputed Kashmir that killed at least 40 Indian troops.
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors soared following the attack in which a militant rammed an explosive-laden van into a paramilitary bus last Thursday. It was the worst attack against Indian government forces in Kashmir's history. On Monday, four Indian soldiers, three suspected militants, a police official and a civilian were killed as Indian soldiers searched for militants.
India blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a "jaw-breaking response" while Pakistan warned India against linking it to the attack without an investigation.
According to Tuesday's statement, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres alleging that "for domestic political reasons, India has deliberately ratcheted up its hostile rhetoric against Pakistan and created a tense environment."
Also, Pakistani Ambassador Suhail Mahmood was asked Monday to return home from India, after New Delhi recalled its own envoy from Islamabad.
"It is with a sense of urgency that I draw your attention to the deteriorating security situation in our region resulting from the threat of use of force against Pakistan by India," Qureshi said.
There were expectations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who concluded a two-day visit to Pakistan on Monday and travelled on to India, could encourage the two South Asian neighbors to try to resolve their issues through talks.
India's Ministry of External Affairs said it had no comment on Pakistan's letter to the U.N.
India and Pakistan each administer a part of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars over it.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or established as an independent country.
Nigeria, Feb 19 (AP/UNB) — Nigeria's president says security forces should be "ruthless" ahead of the country's postponed election and that anyone who tries to disturb the vote "will do so at the expense of his own life."
President Muhammadu Buhari spoke Monday as both Nigeria's ruling party and top opposition party condemned the last-minute decision to delay Saturday's vote until Feb. 23.
The president's comments brought an outcry from some Nigerians since he signed a pledge last week to contribute to a peaceful election.
But a ruling party chieftain in Rivers state, Eze Chukwuemeka, said the comments didn't endorse "jungle justice, as some people are putting it. As leader, you don't sit down and watch while your nation is going down the drain."
The electoral commission has allowed election campaigning to resume.
London, Feb 19(AP/UNB) — Seven British lawmakers quit the main opposition Labour Party on Monday over its approach to Brexit and anti-Semitism — the biggest shake-up in years for one of Britain's major political parties.
The announcement ripped open a long-simmering rift between socialists and centrists in the party, which sees itself as the representative of Britain's working class. It's also the latest fallout from Britain's decision to leave the European Union, which has split both of the country's two main parties — Conservatives and Labour — into pro-Brexit and pro-EU camps.
Many Labour lawmakers have been unhappy with the party's direction under leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who took charge in 2015 with strong grass-roots backing. They accuse Corbyn of mounting a weak opposition to Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for leaving the EU, and of failing to stamp out a vein of anti-Semitism in the party.
Those leaving Labour have between nine and 27 years' experience in Parliament and represent constituencies across England but still make up only a small fraction of Labour's 256 lawmakers, or of the 650 total members of Parliament. But this is the biggest split in the Labour Party since four senior members quit in 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party.
Luciana Berger, one of those who quit Monday, said Labour had become "institutionally anti-Semitic."
"I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation," the 37-year-old politician said at a news conference alongside six colleagues.
Labour leaders have admitted that Berger, who is Jewish and pregnant, has been bullied by some members of her local party in northwest England.
Labour has been riven by allegations that the party has become hostile to Jews under Corbyn, a longtime supporter of the Palestinians. Corbyn's supporters accuse political opponents and right-wing media of misrepresenting his views.
There have long been signs that British voters' 2016 decision to leave the EU could spark a major overhaul of British politics. May's own Conservatives are in the throes of a civil war between the party's pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings. Labour is also split.
Many Labour members oppose Brexit — which is scheduled to take place in less than six weeks, on March 29 — and want the party to fight to hold a new national referendum that could keep Britain in the 28-nation bloc.
But Corbyn, who spent decades criticizing the EU before becoming a lukewarm convert to the "remain" cause in the 2016 referendum, is reluctant to do anything that could be seen as defying voters' decision to leave.
"I am furious that the leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit, which will cause great economic, social and political damage to our country," said Mike Gapes, one of the departing lawmakers.
Gapes said he had been a Labour Party member for half a century and "have always considered myself Labour to my core."
The seven members of Parliament said they will continue to sit in the House of Commons as the newly formed Independent Group.
Corbyn said he was "disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945."
The Labour lawmakers who quit in 1981 eventually became today's Liberal Democrats, a centrist party that has failed to topple the dominance of the two bigger parties.
The new group of seven stopped short of forming a new political party, but the seeds have been sown. The new group has a name, a website and a statement of principles, which argues for a mix of pro-businesses and social-welfare measures and a pro-Western foreign policy that is closer to the "New Labour" of former Prime Minister Tony Blair than to Corbyn's old-school socialism.
Their statement said the Labour Party "now pursues policies that would weaken our national security; accepts the narratives of states hostile to our country; has failed to take a lead in addressing the challenge of Brexit and to provide a strong and coherent alternative to the Conservatives' approach."
The departing lawmakers said they would not be joining the Liberal Democrats, and urged members of other parties to help them create a new centrist force in British politics.
"We do not think any of the major parties is fit for power," said lawmaker Angela Smith. "People feel politically homeless and they are asking and begging for an alternative."
Victoria Honeyman, a lecturer in politics at the University of Leeds, said history suggests the breakaway group will struggle to gain traction in British politics.
"It's very cold out there as an independent," she said. "It's all well and good leaving because you believe the party has moved away from you, but you can often achieve more from being inside the tent."