Indian PM Modi warns Pakistan of strong response for Kashmir attack

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute at Palam airport in New Delhi on February 15, 2019 as he stands next to the coffins containing the remains of Indian paramilitary troopers who were killed after a suicide bomber rammed a car into a bus carrying them in south Kashmir the day before. (India's Press Information Bureau/Handout via REUTERS)
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This handout photo shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking during the inauguration and foundation stone laying ceremony of various development projects in Jhansi, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Feb. 15, 2019. (India’s Press Information Bureau via AFP)
Updated 15 February 2019

Indian PM Modi warns Pakistan of strong response for Kashmir attack

  • India withdraws Most Favorite Nation (MFN) status accorded to Pakistan
  • Islamabad denies link with the attack

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday promised a strong response to a car bombing in Kashmir that killed 44 paramilitary that his government blamed on Pakistan, ratcheting up tensions with the nuclear-rival.
The attack on a military convoy in Jammu and Kashmir where India has been battling an insurgency was the worst in decades and comes just months before Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalists face a tight general election.
“We will give a befitting reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to de-stabilize us,” Modi said in a speech soon after he called his security advisers to consider a response to the attack that has provoked an outpouring of anger on social media and demands for retribution.
The Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility soon after a suicide bomber rammed his car laden with explosives into a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force personnel on Thursday.
The Indian government said it had incontrovertible evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack. Islamabad rejected the suggestion it was linked to the attack.
India will take all possible diplomatic steps to ensure the “complete isolation” of Pakistan, cabinet minister Arun Jaitley told reporters soon after the cabinet committee met at Modi’s residence.
As a first step, this would include India removing most favored nation (MFN) trade privileges given to Pakistan, Jaitley said.
“The ministry of external affairs will initiate all possible steps, and I am here referring to all possible diplomatic steps which have to be taken to ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan,” he said.
But bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is barely $2 billion per year and Modi facing a tough election is likely to come under pressure for a more muscular response.
He took office in 2014 promising to tackle Muslim Pakistan, with which India has twice gone to war since independence from Britain in 1947
Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan. The neighbors both rule parts of the region while claiming the entire territory as theirs.
The last major attack in Kashmir was in 2016 when militants raided an Indian army camp in Uri, killing 20 soldiers. Modi responded with a surgical strike on suspected militant camps across the border in Pakistan Kashmir weeks later.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the latest Kashmir attack a matter of “grave concern.”
But in a brief statement early on Friday it added: “We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to the State of Pakistan without investigations.”
The White House urged Pakistan in a statement “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil.” It said the attack strengthens US resolve to step up counter-terrorism cooperation with India.


Pakistan probes multibillion-rupee losses from cargo misdeclaration

Updated 04 February 2020

Pakistan probes multibillion-rupee losses from cargo misdeclaration

  • Incidents of fraud reported at Torkham, Quetta and Karachi customs stations
  • Automation of the system needed to prevent corruption in duty collection, experts say 

KARACHI: Pakistan’s tax authorities are investigating a series of fraud incidents at the country’s main customs stations, which inflicted multibillion-rupee losses on Pakistan’s economy, an official confirmed on Sunday.

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) spokesman Hamid Ateeq Sarwar told Arab News an investigation “is underway” and its findings will be shared with the public. 

The FBR’s Directorate General of Customs Intell­igence and Investigation, in early January, uncovered a case involving a network of top officials suspected of a large-scale practice of cargo misdeclaration which it estimates resulted in state losses of billions of rupees.

A report by the directorate sent to the FBR chairman indicated that “organized fraudulent activity (is) taking place at Torkham Customs station through which foreign origin goods are being smuggled.” An initial investigation disclosed that 110 vehicles carrying imported goods have passed the checkpoint on the border with Afghanistan uncharged, the document seen by Arab News reads. 

Similar incidents of misdeclaration were detected in Karachi and Quetta, where more than 900 containers were cleared without paying duties. 

Customs experts are calling for all officials involved in the incidents to be punished. “No matter how influential those involved are they should be given exemplary punishment so that such incidents are prevented in future,” Abdul Qadir Memon, lawyer and former president of the Karachi Tax Bar Association, said.

While corruption appears to be the main obstacle to the FBR’s sound functioning, according to Memon, the problem could be solved by technology. “Automation of the system and installation of scanners at customs stations is key to eliminating corrupt practices. Improvement in the audit system may prevent under-invoicing,” he told Arab News.

The incidents of mass fraud are yet another blow to the FBR, which at the same time is facing a leadership crisis, with its chairman Syed Shabbar Zaidi’s health reportedly deteriorating due to acute stress.

The FBR is also facing a shortfall of around Rs218 billion against its revised revenue target of Rs2.62 trillion set for the July 2019–January 2020 period. 

All these result in an atmosphere of uncertainty, which “is the worst one can afford at this moment. Revenue mobilization is necessary for Pakistan’s economic viability as a state,” taxation expert Dr. Ikram ul Haq told Arab News.

The developments raise concerns over the International Monetary Fund (IMF) second quarterly review of Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout program. IMF representatives arrived in Islamabad on Monday.