D8 Summit begins in the shadow of violence
D8 Summit begins in the shadow of violence
The string of attacks on Shiite Muslims and police and troops underscored the immense security challenge in a country where Taleban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists bitterly oppose the US-allied government.
Twenty-three people were killed and 62 wounded overnight in Rawalpindi, the twin city of summit venue Islamabad, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the summit guests.
Police used lamps and torches to work through the night and confirmed the final death toll after daybreak. It was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since 29 people were killed in the northwestern district of Khyber on June 16 and the worst attack on Shiites since Feb. 17, when a suicide bomber killed 31 people in northwestern Kurram.
The Pakistani Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack. It also claimed an explosion Wednesday that killed two people near a mosque in Karachi, and attacks targeting security forces in the northwest which officials said left five police dead.
The Taleban has been fighting an insurgency against security forces since 2007, one of the chief reasons why Pakistan so rarely hosts international events.
“It seems the new breed of religious zealots wanted to tell the D8 dignitaries all about the mess the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been turned into,” said the country’s independent human rights commission in a statement.
But Pakistan has been determined that the Developing Eight summit will present a different image of the country as it gathers together Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan to promote trade.
The summit opened more than three hours late with an address from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan intended to hand over chairmanship of the D8 to Pakistan.
Islamabad has said it wants the summit to strengthen its international standing and help “remove misconceptions (about the country) created in a section of international media.”
The capital was in lockdown to safeguard the event. Thousands of extra police and paramilitaries deployed and schools were closed, yesterday was declared a partial public holiday and motorcycles were banned close to government installations.
India yesterday also asked Pakistan to increase security at its Embassy in Islamabad, fearing possible demonstrations or reprisals over its execution of militant Mohammed Qasab for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The Pakistani Taleban has threatened to avenge the execution and demands that Kasab’s body be repatriated, the spokesman told AFP by telephone.
Aside from the unrest in Pakistan, eight days of violence between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas will loom large over the D8 proceedings.
Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi — who was thanked by the United States for helping to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas — bowed out of the talks as his office said he would now stay home to monitor the truce.
Among nations in the D8, which was founded in Istanbul in 1997, Nigeria is the only member which is not majority-Muslim. Its population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians.
British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels
- MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019
- The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament
LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a showdown with her pro-EU MPs on Wednesday over parliament’s role in the final Brexit deal, which could influence her entire negotiation strategy.
MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019.
May says she expects to get an agreement with Brussels, but warned that any attempt to tie her hands could undermine the ongoing negotiations.
She averted a rebellion by pro-EU MPs in her Conservative Party on the issue of parliamentary powers last week with a promise of a compromise, but within days they had rejected her proposal as inadequate.
Instead they worked with peers to introduce their own amendment to the unelected upper House of Lords, which agreed it by a landslide on Monday.
The amendment now returns to MPs in the elected lower House of Commons, where Conservative rebels will ally with opposition parties in a bid to finally make it law.
May’s spokesman refused to say if he believes the government has the numbers to win the vote, but made clear that no more concessions would be forthcoming.
“We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords,” he said, adding that it “would undermine our ability in the negotiations to get the best deal for the country.”
“We will be retabling our original amendment,” he said, adding: “We hope that all MPs will be able to support the government’s position.”
The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament.
May commands only a slim majority in the 650-seat Commons, made possible through an alliance with Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.
A victory for the pro-EU rebels would embolden them ahead of debates next month on Britain’s future trading relationship with the European Union, which they are seeking to keep as close as possible.
It would likely anger euroskeptics, who accuse the rebels of seeking to thwart Brexit.
They are also becoming increasingly frustrated with the withdrawal process under May’s leadership.
Leading Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve denied he was trying to undermine the government or stop Brexit, but warned that if parliament rejected the final Brexit deal, there would be a crisis.
“That’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat,” he told Sky News television.
“The very reason I’ve prompted this amendment is to provide a mechanism to make sure that we don’t come to government collapse immediately.”
But euroskeptic Conservative MP Graham Stringer said Grieve and his supporters were only interested in “sabotaging the whole process.”
“The purpose of the latest Grieve ruse is to give parliament the power to delay or stop Brexit,” he said.
Despite agreement on Britain’s financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights, the Brexit talks are progressing slowly, and there are few hopes of a breakthrough at an EU summit later this month.
Both sides are still publicly aiming for an agreement in October, but this is looking more and more difficult.
Negotiations are currently stalled on how to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, and neighboring EU member Ireland when Britain develops its own trade and customs policies.
“Serious divergences” remain over Northern Ireland, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday after a final round of talks between London and Brussels ahead of the European summit.
The British government has also yet to decide on what it wants from the future economic relationship.
It has been clear about one area, security cooperation — but many of its proposals were on Tuesday knocked back by Barnier.
He said Britain could not stay in the European Arrest Warrant, take part in meetings of policing agency Europol or access EU-only police databases.
“We need more realism about what is and what is not possible,” he said.