Category Archives: Business & Finance

Afghanistan Promoted To Elite Status Of International Cricket

Afghanistan has joined an elite list of countries eligible to compete at the highest level of test cricket after it was voted a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The ICC voted unanimously on June 22 to allow Afghanistan and Ireland to become the 11th and 12th countries to be allowed to face other world powers in five-day test cricket matches, considered the sport’s ultimate honor.

Afghanistan Cricket Board Chief Executive Shafiq Stanikzai called it a huge and remarkable achievement for his country.

The entire nation will be celebrating, he added. “We dared to dream that this would happen, and today it has become a reality.”

Cricket gained popularity in the country during the 1980s and 1990s, brought back by refugees who had fled to Pakistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

ICC chief David Richardson said Afghanistan and Ireland deserved full membership based on “their dedication to improving performance both off and on the field, resulting in the significant development and growth of cricket in their respective countries.”

The last country to be bestowed the honor was Bangladesh in 2000.

Other countries in the elite group are founder members Australia and England, along with South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

SINDH GOVT ANNOUNCES TO PROVIDE SPECIAL RASHAN ALLOWANCE TO BISP BENEFICIARIES

Sindh government has announced to provide Special Rashan Allowance to the beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

An official of provincial Social Welfare Department told Radio Pakistan that under the initiative, two thousand rupees per head will be given to the 1.8 million BISP registered beneficiaries across the province.

________________________________________

Source: Radio Pakistan

Indian Man on Death Row in Pakistan Seeks Clemency From Army Chief

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN � An Indian man on death row in Pakistan after a military court sentenced him on charges of espionage, sabotage and terrorism has appealed to the country’s army chief for clemency.

India had earlier appealed to the International Court of Justice, the highest legal body under the United Nations, in the case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav. India said Pakistan had sentenced an innocent Indian citizen without granting him diplomatic access, which is in violation of an international treaty.

The court ordered Pakistan last month to delay Jadhav’s execution until the final verdict.

Pakistan says Jadhav confessed to being an Indian spy working to disrupt the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a network of railways and roads that is part of the larger One Belt One Road Initiative launched by China.

In a 10-minute video released by the military, the second of its kind, Jadhav said his activities were designed to support separatist groups in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province to “raise the level of insurgency.”

A news release by the Pakistan military’s public relations wing said Jadhav had “expressed remorse” over lives lost and damage caused by his actions and asked for mercy on “compassionate grounds.”

According to authorities, Jadhav claimed to have had a hand in sectarian violence, targeting Shi’ite Muslims, that had plagued Pakistan for a while.

Center of conflict

Balochistan has long been the center of a conflict between separatist insurgents and Pakistan’s military. It is also along the route of China’s planned economic corridor, which involves an investment of upward of $50 billion. The success of the project depends upon securing the routes.

Tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, have been high since a heavily armed group attacked an Indian air force base in Pathankot early last year. India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack.

The two sides have also been exchanging intermittent fire along the Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region.

Source: Voice of America

Taliban Releases New Video of US, Australian Hostages

ISLAMABAD � Afghanistan’s Taliban released a new video Wednesday showing two professors, one American and one Australian, urging U.S. President Donald Trump to negotiate their freedom with the Islamist insurgent group.

American Kevin King, 60, and Australian Timothy Weeks, 48, teachers with the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, were kidnapped at gunpoint near the campus last August.

The Taliban wants freedom for its soldiers being held at the U.S.-run Bagram air base and the Afghan prison called Pul-e-Charkhi in return for freeing the two professors, the hostages said in their video message.

My captors treat me well. They treat me and my colleague Tim Weeks as their guests; but every prisoner’s final wish is to get freedom from the prison, said King, who was seen with a long beard.

King said he recorded the message on June 16.

Plea to Australian PM

For his part, Weeks urged Australian politicians to raise the issue in Parliament, saying the only way for him to go home is for the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to speak to the Taliban and Trump in order to reach an agreement with their captors.

I pray that this happens shortly and that the Taliban soldiers may be returned home to their families for Eid [the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan] and that I may be able to go home to my family and to my friends. Help, please. Thank you, said Weeks.

A U.S. State Department official said later Wednesday, “We are aware of a recent video purporting to feature a U.S. citizen kidnapped in Afghanistan. We are still working to examine the video and are not currently in a position to comment on it.”

“We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. Taking and holding civilian hostages is reprehensible and we condemn such actions in the strongest terms. The U.S. government is committed to seeing our citizens returned safely to their families and the department works closely with agencies across the government to do so,” the official said.

The official said the department would be unable to comment further “due to privacy considerations.”

The Afghan government did not immediately respond to the video.

Second video

This was the second video distributed by the Taliban to the news media since January as proof of life of the abductees in a bid to press for demands.

The hostages are believed to be in the custody of the notorious Haqqani network, an ally of the Taliban.

Barnett Rubin, associate director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University and writer of several books on Afghanistan, said, “The video appears to show that the two men are in reasonable physical health but under tremendous emotional strain, as is natural.

“They repeat the demands of the Taliban for a prisoner exchange. It would be wrong to speculate about the sincerity or insincerity of their statements, nor does it even mean anything, as no one can make free decisions under such conditions,” Rubin said. “I don’t want to comment on specific demands as that could disrupt ongoing efforts. I am sure the U.S. and Australian and Afghan governments are doing their utmost.”

Michael Kugleman, a Pakistan-Afghanistan analyst at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan policy research group in Washington, said, “Watching this video is heartbreaking. The professors do not look or sound well, they look nervous, and they appear to be engaging in propaganda on the Taliban’s behalf.”

Execution plans

The video’s release comes at a time when Afghan authorities are reportedly planning to execute a group of Taliban prisoners convicted on terrorism charges.

It is not clear, however, whether Annas Haqqani, a son of the founder of the Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is among the group of prisoners.

Afghan officials have not confirmed the reports, and the Taliban, in response, has threatened to unleash new attacks against all Afghan institutions if the government goes ahead with the executions.

The Afghan insurgents are also holding another U.S. citizen, Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33. They were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2012.

In a video message released in December, the couple urged then-President-elect Trump to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release in return for the prisoners.

Source: Voice of America

SPECIAL SAFETY CELL BEING ESTABLISHED IN PESHAWAR

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in collaboration with Pakistan Army has established a special safety cell in Peshawar to counter organized crimes and protect lives and properties of general public.

A spokesman of the provincial government told our Peshawar correspondent that the cell is working round the clock to help people of the province and tribal areas.

Public can seek help from the cell on helpline number 1425. They can also send messages and whatsapp on mobile number 0333-3331425 in case of any emergency.

Source: Radio Pakistan

US Urges China to Change Calculus on N. Korea Ahead of Security Talks

STATE DEPARTMENT � The United States is urging China to play a more prominent role in combating global terrorism and help change the calculus on North Korea, ahead of high-level security talks with Beijing.

The first round of the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue kicks off in Washington Wednesday.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will host a Chinese delegation led by State Councilor Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Staff Department.

Senior U.S. officials say China has taken a fairly limited profile in counterterrorism efforts. It is not a member of the 68-nation global coalition countering the Islamic State militant group

We would like to see them step up and take more responsibility, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Susan Thornton told VOA on Monday.

Thornton said China has a lot of interest in Iraq, and the U.S. thinks it should be doing more to contribute to the efforts of the international coalition to defeat IS.

Killings concern China

Earlier this month, two Chinese citizens were killed by Islamic State militants after being kidnapped in southwestern Pakistan. In November 2015, IS said it killed Chinese national Fan Jinghui. Both cases triggered grave concern from Beijing.

We have seen them [Chinese officials] become more interested over time, added Thornton, noting the talks are an early feeler on getting China more involved.

On Tuesday, Chinese officials said both countries have been victims of terrorism.

Cooperation is in the interests of both sides, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing.

Leveraging China’s ties to North Korea

On North Korea, the U.S. is looking for China to change the calculus of the isolated regime and exert its leverage as North Korea’s largest trading partner.

The most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region is North Korea, said Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey on Tuesday. We seek to deepen our cooperation to realize the outcome which is in the best interest of peace and security in the region and the world.

The United Nations has blacklisted hundreds of North Korean entities, but many of them try to get business done though China, according to U.S. officials.

The issue is a sticking point between Washington and Beijing that experts say needs to be the focus of frank discussion.

The Chinese remain unconvinced that the U.S. goal is not regime change. The U.S. side remains unconvinced that China’s goal is not to use the North Korean problem as leverage in the relationship, Dennis Wilder from Georgetown University’s U.S.-China Initiative told VOA.

This is a matter of strategic trust that can only be built through this type of dialogue at the most senior levels, added Wilder, who served as the senior director for East Asian affairs at the National Security Council under former President George W. Bush.

‘Freeze’ proposed

Rand Corporation senior defense analyst Derek Grossman notes the last thing Beijing wants is a conflict that would end Kim Jong Un’s regime and unleash new power dynamics at its doorstep.

Grossman said China’s perpetual security concern is reflected in its proposal that the U.S. and South Korea freeze routine joint exercises in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its missile and nuclear programs.

U.S. officials say they welcome actions by countries that have ramped up pressure on Pyongyang, including phasing out the use of North Korean laborers, and denying the landing rights and refueling privileges of North Korea’s national airline Air Koryo.

A lot of the wages of these workers go to the regime and to fund unlawful programs in North Korea, Thornton told reporters.

U.S. officials said Wednesday’s Diplomatic and Security Dialogue is a departure from the Strategic and Economic Dialogue of years past that covered a wide range of issues. Instead, they say this week’s discussion reflects a streamlined approach and will more narrowly focus on key security issues.

South China Sea

Another area in which Washington hopes to make headway is the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing’s island building has raised concerns.

U.S. officials are calling for a binding code of conduct to resolve differences.

All parties should freeze any construction or militarization of features that they have outposts on in this space and make room and create the conditions for diplomacy, said Thornton.

Source: Voice of America