Mattis says will try to work with Pakistan ‘one more time’

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks on Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 04 October 2017

Mattis says will try to work with Pakistan ‘one more time’

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday the United States would try “one more time” to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump would turn to options to address Islamabad’s alleged support for militant groups.
Relations between the two countries have been frayed over the past decade. While officials have long questioned the role Pakistan has played in Afghanistan, the comments by Mattis are likely to cause concern in Islamabad and within the Pakistan military.
“We need to try one more time to make this strategy work with them, by, with and through the Pakistanis, and if our best efforts fail, the president is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary,” Mattis said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Mattis added that he would be traveling to Islamabad soon, but did not give more details.
Reuters first reported that possible Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
When asked by a lawmaker whether revoking of Pakistan’s major non-NATO ally was among the options being considered to deal with Islamabad, Mattis said: “I am sure it will be.”
In a separate Senate hearing on Tuesday, the top US military officer said he believed Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, had ties to militant groups.
“It is clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,” Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Pakistan embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The United States in 2012 designated the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terrorist organization. The year before, US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top US military officer, caused a stir when he told Congress that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI directorate.
Pakistan argues that it has done a great deal to help the United States in tracking down terrorists and points out that it has suffered hundreds of deaths in Islamist militant attacks in response to its crackdowns.
US officials have told Reuters that the United States will send about 3,500 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Dunford said that the current cost for the United States in Afghanistan was about $12.5 billion a year, and the new strategy would cost an additional $1.1 billion.


Dhaka’s Uber drivers warn of more protests if demands not met

Updated 1 min 53 sec ago

Dhaka’s Uber drivers warn of more protests if demands not met

  • Push for increase in base fare, reducing commission from 25% to 12%

 

DHAKA: Uber drivers in Bangladesh said on Tuesday that they would launch more protests if the authorities failed to meet the demands highlighted in a nine-point program.

It follows a day-long protest staged by the drivers’ union of the popular ride-sharing service and the Bangladesh drivers’ association on Monday.

The nine demands from Uber drivers include an increase in the basic fare, fixing the fare per kilometer and reducing Uber’s commission from 25 percent to 12 percent.

Uber drivers are also pressing for trips to be assigned under the “Destination” option in the app, ensuring the security of drivers; compensating drivers if passengers damage the vehicles; taking action against drivers only after a thorough investigation of complaints; and making it compulsory for passengers to provide their image in their Uber accounts.

“We had two meetings with the Uber authorities in Dhaka last August and September to realize our demands but there was no result. So finding no other alternative, we observed the 24-hour strike on Uber service,” Belal Ahmed, secretary of the Dhaka ride-sharing drivers’ union, told Arab News.

“We are now observing the initiatives taken by the Uber Bangladesh management in regard to our demands. If they don’t listen to us we will announce fresh tougher programs within the next couple of days,” Ahmed said.

San Francisco-based ride-sharing company Uber launched its operations in Dhaka in November 2016, making it the first ride-sharing company to provide its services there.

Other local operators — Pathao, Shohoz, O Bhai, O Car, Car Bangla, Pick me — followed soon after by offering services in the cities of Dhaka, Chottogram and Sylhet.

“We want a perfect ‘way bill’ for our trips which we don’t get in some cases due to technical problems in the Uber app. In these cases, we had enjoyed an adjustment from Uber which has been stopped for the past five months causing a huge loss for the drivers,” Shamim Hossain, president of the Bangladesh ride-sharing drivers’ association, told Arab News.

Justifying the drivers’ demand to reduce the commission given to Uber, Hossain said that all other local ride-sharing operators charged only 15-20 percent commission.

“Uber is not investing in the cars. As an app service provider, they are just bridging the passengers and drivers and charging 25 percent of our income, which is very high,” Hossain said.

Commuters in Dhaka expressed their dissatisfaction over the drivers’ protest.

“The drivers can’t take the passengers as hostage to realize their demand in any situation. It’s a service- oriented issue and drivers should act in a more rational way,” Monowara Begum, 36, an employee of a corporate house in Dhaka, told Arab News.

“We have become dependent on Uber services as they are the most reliable and available. So, both the parties should find a sustainable solution to mitigate the crisis. This sort of strike cases huge disruption in our daily lives,” Momin Ullah, 49, a businessman of Dhaka, told Arab News.

The Uber Bangladesh authority did not comment when contacted by Arab News. A statement released by Uber Bangladesh on Monday read: “We regret the disruption caused to the rider and driver-partner community, due to a small group of individuals. We strive to provide reliable and safe transport options to get around the city and hope to minimize any distress caused.”

“We are committed to providing reliable, convenient and safe transport options to our riders, while providing access to flexible income opportunities for our driver partners. We always prioritize the wellbeing of our driver-partners and have processes in place to address concerns and issues through our Partner Sheba Kendras and in-App feedback,” it said.

Uber operates in more than 550 cities around the world.