Pakistan denies US drone strike targeted insurgents on its soil

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Pakistan denies US drone strike targeted insurgents on its soil

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif denied that Monday’s US drone strike near the porous Pak-Afghan border targeted insurgents on Pakistani soil.

Speaking to an English daily on Tuesday, Asif said the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is not clearly demarcated, which could cause uncertainty about which side of the border the attack took place on.

The onslaught of missiles reportedly targeted a meeting of the Haqqani network of insurgents in Kurram, a remote tribal agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, near the Afghan border.

Officials told AFP that the death toll from a US drone attack on a compound used by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network has risen to 26.

“The first drone strike killed five fighters from the Haqqani network and, minutes after, a second drone then fired two more missiles after militants arrived to retrieve dead bodies from the rubble,” said a senior government official in Kurram. “So far 26 dead bodies have been retrieved and drones are still flying in the sky.”

No fatalities were reported from two drone strikes on Tuesday in Afghanistan's Paktia province, bordering Kurram Agency. A total of four drone attacks were reported this week and eyewitnesses said drones have been present in the area since Monday.

There has been a notable decline in drone strikes in Pakistan under US President Donald Trump’s administration, compared to the previous two administrations, Asif said. He claimed that was testament to his ruling party’s success in eliminating terrorism in the country.

Asif also stated that Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban has decreased, while that of other countries bordering Afghanistan has increased.

A statement issued by Pakistan Army’s public relations arm, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), also denied reports of US drone strikes in its territory.

“There has been no air violation along the Pak-Afghan border in that area, nor any drone strike in Kurram (despite reports),” it said.

It clarified that “Military operations are being conducted in Khost and Paktia, Afghanistan by Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and Afghan Forces, opposite Kurram Agency,” adding that “during the last 24 hours, a number of air engagements have taken place in those areas inside Afghanistan with reports of heavy losses to terrorists.”

ISPR added, “Following the (Chief of Army Staff’s) visit to Afghanistan, coordination between the forces has enhanced. RSM quickly shared details about said operation within Afghan territory.

“Better security coordination will take both countries towards enduring peace and stability defeating the common enemy,” it concluded.

Contrary to this statement, however, security officials earlier confirmed to Arab News that a US drone attack which took place at 13:55 on Sept. 15 had killed three Afghan militants in Ghuz Ghari village in Kurram Agency, approximately 1 km inside Pakistan territory. The Foreign Office denied that claim.

An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media, told Arab News that the target was a high-value former Taliban militant, who apparently survived the strike as he was at Friday prayers.

A retired Pakistani intelligence official told Arab News that a tacit agreement between the US and Pakistan still exists and that Islamabad has adopted a policy of “plausible deniability” on drone strikes.

“Nearly every strike has been made in close coordination with us,” he said. “They don’t unilaterally select and strike a target without our consent and assistance.”


Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

Updated 14 December 2018
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Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

  • Congress party accused Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense as a domestic partner
  • India’s Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence of commercial favoritism

DELHI: India’s Supreme Court said Friday it would not probe the government’s multi-billion dollar decision to buy French fighter jets.
The opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense, owned by billionaire Anil Ambani, as a domestic partner.
Reliance has no aeronautical expertise and was chosen ahead of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which does, triggering allegations of a scam.
But the court said there was no evidence of commercial favoritism.
“Having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue. Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” the 32-page verdict said.
“We can’t compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft and it’s not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It isn’t a job of the court to compare pricing details. The country cannot afford to be unprepared or underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only fourth generation, but even fifth generation aircrafts, of which we have none,” the court added.
Indian defense procurement rules state that a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean it off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale jets, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip it was Reliance Defense that got the contract.
“In our opinion, the Supreme Court judgment is totally wrong. The campaign will certainly not drop and we will decide if we will file a review petition,” one of the main petitioners Prashant Bhushan said after the verdict.
“This isn’t the first time when the Apex court has failed us in ordering a probe in cases of high-level corruption,” he told reporters.
Congress said the Supreme Court was not the forum to rule on such a sensitive defense contract.
“The verdict of the Supreme Court is a validation of what the Congress party has stated months ago. Only forum is a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which can probe the entire corruption in Rafale deal,” said the party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
Ambani denied there had been a scam, saying the allegations were politically motivated, while the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“Truth always triumphs. Court’s judgment on the Rafale deal exposes the campaign of misinformation spearheaded by Congress president for political gains,” president of the BJP Amit Shah said.
Dr. Satish Mishra, from the Observer Research Foundation think-tank, said that the court verdict did not mean that the Rafale deal was beyond reproach.
“It only means that the court does not have enough evidence to order a probe into the deal,” he told Arab News. “If the government does not have anything to hide then it should order an independent inquiry or set up a joint parliamentary team to clear the doubts raised by the opposition, otherwise the charges will remain in the public domain. The BJP is in a defensive mode after the defeat in the regional elections. Allegations of corruptions have sullied the image of Modi, the only asset that the party has. I don’t think the verdict in any way vindicates the PM or the BJP.”