Islamabad felt ‘betrayed’ at US criticism, army chief says

Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Islamabad felt ‘betrayed’ at US criticism, army chief says

ISLAMABAD: Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s army chief, told a top US general the nation “felt betrayed” at criticism that it was not doing enough to fight terrorism, the military said on Friday, after US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit.”
Gen. Joseph Votel, US Central Command chief, told Gen. Bajwa during a telephone call this week that the US was not contemplating any unilateral action inside Pakistan, the Pakistani army said in a statement.
Tension between the US and Pakistan has grown over US complaints that the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that target American troops in Afghanistan are allowed to take shelter on Pakistani soil.
Trump’s administration last week announced the suspension of about $2 billion in security aid to nuclear-armed Pakistan over accusations Islamabad is playing a double game in Afghanistan.
Islamabad denies this and accuses the US of disrespecting its vast sacrifices — casualties have numbered in the tens of thousands — in fighting terrorism.
The US aid suspension was announced days after Trump tweeted on Jan. 1 that the US had foolishly given Pakistan $33 billion in aid over 15 years and was rewarded with “nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”
It is not clear what prompted Trump’s tweet, which infuriated Pakistani officials and caught the rest of the US administration off guard.

The Pakistani statement on Friday did not directly refer to Trump’s tweet.
“(Bajwa) said that entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed over US recent statements despite decades of cooperation,” the army said, referring to the phone call between Bajwa and Votel.
The Pakistani assertion that Votel said no unilateral action inside Pakistan was being considered may have referred to the possibility of cross-border US drone strikes and other military missions targeting Taliban and other militant figures outside the border area.
In 2016, a US drone killed the then-leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, prompting protests from Islamabad of a violation of sovereignty.
And in 2011, a secret American raid in the military garrison city of Abbottabad killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on American cities that prompted the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Since Trump took office, there have been several drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region but they have not so far gone deeper into Pakistani territory, though Islamabad believes that is on a menu of punitive actions the US administration is considering.
However, the US military is also concerned that the Pakistani army, which effectively runs foreign policy, might close the air and land corridors on which US-led troops and Afghan forces in landlocked Afghanistan depend for supplies. So far, Pakistan has not done so.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 42 min 37 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”