Top US general says ‘not giving up’ on Pakistan ties

In this Nov. 29, 2016 file photo released by Inter Services Public Relations, Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa who says he received a phone call from the head of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Vogel, offering assurances that the United States would not unilaterally hit targets inside Pakistan. (Inter Services Public Relations via AP)
Updated 15 January 2018

Top US general says ‘not giving up’ on Pakistan ties

BRUSSELS: The top US military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said on Monday he was committed to the US-Pakistan relationship, which has been strained in recent weeks as Washington piles pressure on Islamabad to crack down on militants.
“Do we agree on everything right now? No we don’t. But are we committed to a more effective relationship with Pakistan? We are. And I’m not giving up on that,” Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters during a trip to Brussels.
The United States has long blamed militant safe-havens in Pakistan for prolonging the war in neighboring Afghanistan, giving insurgents, including from the Haqqani network, a place to plot attacks and rebuild their forces.
Still, Pakistan is a crucial gateway for US military supplies destined for US and other troops fighting a 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s administration, frustrated over Pakistan’s failure to do more to combat militants, announced a plan to suspend up to roughly $2 billion in US security assistance.
That triggered outcry in Islamabad. Pakistan’s military said its army chief told US General Joseph Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, that Pakistan “felt betrayed” by US criticism.
In a possible sign of efforts to improve relations, Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, met with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Pakistan on Monday.
A statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Wells “acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism” and “underlined the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation” to fight terrorism.
Dunford was careful in his public remarks but made clear that Votel would continue to lead the military-to-military discussions. Dunford said he and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would also contribute to that dialogue.
“I’m not going to talk about the relationship in public because I’m committed to try to improve the relationship and I do believe that the military-to-military dialogue led by General Votel, with occasional reinforcement from Secretary Mattis, myself and others, is the right approach,” Dunford said.


India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

Updated 56 sec ago

India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

  • Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested at his residence in Srinagar
  • ‘We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be’
NEW DELHI: A Parliament member who is a senior pro-India politician in Indian-controlled Kashmir was arrested Monday under a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.
Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested at his residence in Srinagar, the summer capital and main city of the disputed Himalayan region.
“We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be,” said Muneer Khan, a top police official.
Abdullah is the first pro-India politician who has been arrested under the Public Safety Act, under which rights activists say more than 20,000 Kashmiris have been detained in the last two decades.
Amnesty International has called the PSA a “lawless law,” and rights groups say India has used the law to stifle dissent and circumvent the criminal justice system, undermining accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.
The PSA came into effect in 1978, under the government of Abdullah’s father, who himself was a highly popular Kashmir leader.
The law, in its early days, was supposedly meant to target timber smugglers in Kashmir. After an armed rebellion started in the region in 1989, the law was used against rebels and anti-India protesters.
Abdullah’s residence was declared a subsidiary jail and he was put under house arrest on Aug. 5 when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government in New Delhi stripped Jammu and Kashmir of semi-autonomy and statehood, creating two federal territories.
Thousands of additional Indian troops were sent to the Kashmir Valley, already one of the world’s most militarized regions. Telephone communications, cellphone coverage, broadband Internet and cable TV services were cut for the valley’s 7 million people, although some communications have been gradually restored.
On Aug. 6, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah denied to the lower house of Parliament that Abdullah had been detained or arrested.
“If he (Abdullah) does not want to come out of his house, he cannot be brought out at gunpoint,” Shah said, when other parliamentarians expressed concern over Abdullah’s absence during the debate on Kashmir’s status.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court sought a response from the central government and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking to produce Abdullah before the court.
Many anti-India protesters as well as pro-India Kashmiri leaders have been held in jails and other makeshift facilities to contain protests against India’s decisions, according to police officials.
Kashmir’s special status was instituted shortly after India achieved independence from Britain in 1947. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, but each control only part of it.
India has often tried to suppress uprisings in the region, including a bloody armed rebellion in 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed since that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.