2017 WAS COSTLIEST YEAR FOR NATURAL DISASTERS IN THE US

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Natural disasters cost the United States $306 billion in 2017 says the country’s scientific agency National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), making it the costliest year for natural disasters in US history.

2017 has been a year of extreme weather events in the US, including hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, drought and freezes and the wildfire season is expected to continue in 2018 as well.

The assessment released by NOAA for 2017 says the US experienced 16 weather and climate disasters, with each of them costing more than $1 billion.

The disasters included 1 freeze, 1 drought (affected multiple areas), 1 wildfire (affected multiple areas), 2 floods, 3 major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria) and 8 severe storms and took at least 362 lives.


Following graphic shows natural disasters that cost the US 16 billion dollars. (Photo courtesy: NOAA)

The ongoing wildfire season in many western US states has caused dozens of wildfires in the country and their smoke has been visible from the space. They so far have cost $18 billion in damages.


This satellite image shows the wildfires that took place in US in 2017. (Photocourtesy: NASA)

But the three hurricanes cost the US most in damages, totalling around $265 billion with Hurricane Harvey becoming the costliest hurricane in US history in terms of the destruction it wreaked.

Hurricane Harvey lashed many states of the US in August, caused widespread flooding and displaced thousands.

NOAA estimates say the hurricane cost $125 billion, $17 billion more than the cost of estimated damage by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that had inundated 80 per cent of New Orleans.

Hurricane Maria that made landfall in September cost US $90 billion, becoming the third costliest hurricane in US history.

Hurricane Irma, that just followed Hurricane Harvey, cost the US $50 billion, the fifth costliest in US history of natural disasters, the NOAA assessment says.

Like 2017, the 2005 hurricane season including Katrina had left huge destruction behind killing over 1,000 people.

Information from the US National Hurricane Centre shows Dennis, Cindy, Ophelia, Rita, Wilma were other hurricanes of the season that cost US $211.2 billion.

But the deadliest hurricane season in US history has been 1,900 when Galveston killed 8,000 people and caused damage worth $104.3 billion.

Since then, advances made in predicting hurricanes and in fact, other weather phenomenon, have been able to reduce loss of lives to a greater extent as evident from the 2017 hurricane season, which though caused second most widespread damage in US history, the human cost was limited to 103 deaths.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN CHANTS DEATH TO AMERICA, WILL INTRODUCE BILL TO STOP US AID: SENATOR RAND PAUL

The article originally appeared on India Today on 5 January.

A Republican US Senator has said that he would soon introduce a bill to end US aid to Pakistan.

Rand Paul who represents Kentucky in the US Senate posted a video on Twitter and YouTube in which he said Pakistan had always back-stabbed the United States and should not receive even a penny of US taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

He says the US should not give even one penny to countries like Pakistan, that burn the American flag and chant death to America.

He asserts that countries like Pakistan that stonewall access to information in fighting terrorism don’t deserve American money and goes on to appeal, “I say we should stop now sending the hard-earned tax dollars to Pakistan. We have sent Pakistan over $33 Billion since 2002. What did we get for it?”

Highlighting Pakistan’s double-dealings and treachery, he further says, “Pakistan didn’t help us even in finding Osama bin Laden even though he was living in one of their cities for years. Then they jailed the informant who helped us get bin Laden. They have allowed suspected terrorist to operate from their country. Some say Pakistani intelligence agents actually aid and abate terrorists. It is wrong.”

Citing US President Donald Trump’s New Year Day announcement a breakthrough, that enough was enough and no more aid to Pakistan as the country had only lied and deceived America in the name of helping in the war on terror in spite of receiving $33 Billion of US aid in last 15 years, Rand says he is going to introduce a bill in coming days to end aid to Pakistan.

“President Trump has publicly called to end their aid, and is currently holding up over $200 million of it. I want to end all of it and I am introducing a bill to do just that in coming days”, he added.

He says his bill intends to take the money that would have gone to Pakistan and put it in an infrastructure fund to build roads and bridges back at home.

In another video message posted on YouTube that shows people in Pakistan burning Indian, American and Israeli flags and demonstrating against Donald Trump, Senator Paul asks some tough questions.

He says the continued US gesture makes no sense, “What I find particularly troubling is, US continues to give money to Pakistan over a billion dollar of taxpayers’ money, to a country that imprisons the gentleman, the physician who helped us get Osama bin Laden” and concludes that as Pakistan only understands negotiation from strength so he is proposing a vote on ending aid to the country.

Senator Rand Paul has been fighting to end US aid to countries like Pakistan and in fact came up with a bill to stop US aid to the Palestinian authority in 2015. And the time seems opportune this time as both, Pakistan and Palestine, are on Donald Trump’s radar.

President Trump has threatened to stop US aid to Palestine as well.

After Trump’s New Year Day shocker, his administration has, in fact, increased pressure on Pakistan manifold and the message is clear, shape in or shape out.

First America withheld a scheduled $255 million military financial assistance to Pakistan the same day Trump tweeted his intent. Then White House came with a statement asking Pakistan to do more in the war on terror.

Yesterday it sent Pakistan a list of 27 Haqqani Network terrorists and demanded action against them by 15 January and shortly before Rand Paul’s video message, in another decisive blow to Pakistan, announced that it was suspending all military, technological and financial assistance to Pakistan till it shows proof that it has taken decisive action against terrorists.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN WILL BECOME ANOTHER NORTH KOREA IF IT DOESN’T STOP NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL: US

The article originally appeared on India Today on 5 January.

US National Security General H R McMaster has said that Pakistan uses terror as state policy and goes after terrorists ‘very selectively’ and if the country tries its nuclear capability as a lever to blackmail others, it would end up as another North Korea.

McMaster, a former US Army General, was speaking on US President Donald Trump’s New Year Day tweet on Pakistan in a Voice of America interview.

He said that the tweet speaks for itself where Trump blamed Pakistan for being a lying and deceitful country in spite of receiving huge US aid and helping those very terrorists the US hunts in the Afghanistan and pledged ‘no more US aid to Pakistan’.

McMaster said Pakistan’s double-dealings have frustrated Donald Trump and America. He said by very selectively going after terror groups, hitting some while choosing others as an arm of its foreign policy, Pakistan has not only betrayed the values America hoped would make for a great partnership, but also its own people.

“What’s frustrating at times is we see Pakistan operating against the interests of its own people by going after these groups only selectively, by providing safe havens and support bases for Taliban and Haqqani network leadership that operate out of Pakistan as they perpetuate hell in portions of Pakistan and in Afghanistan,” he said.

“America has great sympathy for the Pakistani people and in particular, how much they’ve suffered at the hands of terrorists who have victimized so many Pakistanis with mass murders, with that horrible mass murder in a school a few years ago,” McMaster says in the interview and emphasizes that for its own sake, the Pakistani government must go after these groups less selectively.

Putting the Trump tweet in a clear perspective, his NSA says this is not a blame game but an effort to communicate clearly to Pakistan that the US relationship can no longer bear the weight of contradictions, and that we have to really begin now to work together to stabilize Afghanistan, emphasizing that doing so would hugely benefit Pakistan.

PAKISTAN WOULDN’T WANT TO BECOME A PARIAH STATE

McMaster warns if Pakistan doesn’t want to become a pariah state, it will have to stop going after terror groups only selectively, and will have to stop providing safe havens and support bases and other forms of support for leadership.

On asking if any other country may step in to aid Pakistan in case the US pulls out, McMaster says he doesn’t think any country including China would like Pakistan to continue its support for terror groups like the Taliban or the Haqqani Network.

China may be Pakistan’s all-weather friend and has defended Pakistan in the wake of Trump tweet but it has a terrorist problem on its southern border that does have connections back into Pakistan, “It’s not going to be any other country in the region, certainly, who will want Pakistan to continue this, really, pattern of behaviour that we’ve seen, where it goes after these groups only selectively, while it sustains and supports others who act as an arm of its foreign policy.”

NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL WILL MAKE PAKISTAN ANOTHER NORTH KOREA

On the possibility of Pakistan using its nuclear capability as a leveraging tool, or to extort or blackmail, something that North Korea is doing, McMaster says he doesn’t think so, “It would just be unwise for any Pakistani leader – I can’t imagine a Pakistani leader using nuclear weapons to extort or for blackmail. That’s the day when Pakistan would become North Korea.”

He puts a very vital question before the Pakistani leadership, “Does Pakistan want to become North Korea? Doesn’t look too appealing a model to me. So, I think Pakistan could be on a path to increase security and prosperity, or it could be on a path to replicating North Korea. I think that’s an easy choice for Pakistani leaders.”

©SantoshChaubey

GOOD IDEA! SAYS DONALD TRUMP ON BILL TO END ALL FINANCIAL AID TO PAKISTAN

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

US President Donald Trump has supported the move by his party’s Senator Rand Paul to bring a bill in the US Congress to end all financial assistance to Pakistan.

Trump, while retweeting Rand Paul’s tweet this morning about bringing such a proposal, said it was a good idea. Rand Paul, a Republican Senator had tweeted yesterday that he was going to introduce a bill to end all aid to Pakistan.

Donald J. Trump Retweeted Senator Rand Paul

Rand Paul posted a video message along with his tweet where he voiced concern over Pakistan’s double-dealings and treachery saying the US should not give even a penny to Pakistan. He says the US should stop wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money on a country that prides in burning the American flag and chanting death to America. Instead, the money can put to better use here, in America, he adds.

Rand Paul narrates how Pakistan has betrayed America, “Pakistan didn’t help us even in finding Osama bin Laden even though he was living in one of their cities for years. Then they jailed the informant who helped us get bin Laden. They have allowed suspected terrorist to operate from their country. Some say Pakistani intelligence agents actually aid and abate terrorists.”

2018 has come as a shocker for US-Pakistan ties. On the New Year Day, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that from now onward no more US aid to Pakistan. His blunt declaration called Pakistan a lying and deceitful country that had betrayed the American trust by sheltering the terrorists who harm US interests in Afghanistan in spite of receiving $33 Billion over the last 15 years.

Trump’s tweet began a rapid downward spiral in US-Pakistan ties that was already strained after Trump’s inaugural as the President of America last year. Trump has been a vocal Pakistan critic highlighting Pakistan’s betrayals like housing Osama bin Laden, Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the terror groups on the radar of the US.

Soon after Trump’s New Year Day tweet, the US announced to withhold military financial assistance to Pakistan worth $255 Million and yesterday, it announced to suspend all aid to Pakistan, technological and financial, till Pakistan came out clean on its responsibility to wipe out all forms of terror emanating from its soil. Since the New Year Day, the White House has released a formal statement demanding Pakistan to do more against terror and has handed over a list of 27 Haqqani Network terrorists against whom it wants action by 15 January.

©SantoshChaubey

HAFIZ SAEED THREATENS TO SUE PAKISTAN’S DEFENCE MINISTER FOR 100 MILLION FOR DEFAMING JAMAAT-UD-DAWA

Hafiz Saeed, a UN and US designated global terrorist, has sent Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir (spelt Dastgeer by Saeed’s lawyer) a notice demanding written apology and seeking forgiveness for calling him a terrorist and his organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) a terror organization in a BBC interview.

Dastgir, in case fails to do so, will have to face civil and criminal action in courts with a defamation suit of Rs 100 million and a possible jail sentence upto two years, the notice sent yesterday by Hafiz Saeed says.

Dastgir had in the interview on 3 January said that action against Hafiz Saeed’s organizations Jamaat-ud JuD, the front of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned terror outfit, and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), was not taken under US pressure.

He said, instead, the step was taken under Pakistan Army’s Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad after Pakistan’s own internal assessment and serious deliberation. Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad or operation for elimination of discord was launched in February 2017 with an aim to eliminate the residual and latent threats of terrorism like sleeper cells from Pakistan.

“It is not that we will take up arms against our own country — that time has passed and these terrorists cannot attack their own country with guns and Pakistan would now make calculated decisions so that the children can remain safe in schools,” Dastgir further added.

Pakistan’s Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a directive which bars JuD, FIF and other organizations listed by the United Nations Security Council from collecting donations. Pakistan’s financial regulator has also prohibited people to make donation to such proscribed organizations and individuals.

The action came soon after US President Donald Trump’s tweet on the New Year Day saying no more US aid to Pakistan and calling the country a liar and deceitful partner and was largely seen as taken under US pressure.

The notice sent by Hafiz Saeed under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002 of Pakistan calls comments by Dastgir in the interview falsehoods, absolutely baseless, unfounded and intended to malign JuD and compares it with the the Edhi Foundation, a nationwide NGO in Pakistan founded by revered philanthropist and humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi, who passed away last year, and says calling members of such an organization as persons who hit the children at school with bullets is nothing short of a sin.

Hafiz Saeed had also served a similar defamation notice of Rs 100 million to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in September 2017. The notice came after Asif called terrorists and terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hafiz Saeed liabilities but decried the US pressure to neutralize them as these very terrorists used to be the “darling of the United States just 20 to 30 years back.”

©SantoshChaubey

US AND PAKISTAN NO LONGER FRIENDS, SAYS PAKISTAN’S FOREIGN MINISTER

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has declared US and Pakistan are no longer friends and the bilateral ties need a serious revisit. He, in fact, was so acerbic during an interview that he went on the say that US was a friend who always betrayed and added that in case of any US aggression, “Pakistan would respond in a manner that would reflect the nation’s will.”

“The US behaviour is neither that of an ally nor of a friend. It is a friend who always betrays,” Asif said in a television interview. He said Pakistan could survive without the US assistance as it had done during the Pressler Amendment, “They did it in the past as well, which is evident from our history. They have always betrayed us in hard times.” He also advocated a tough resolution by the Pakistani parliament on the issue reflecting the national sentiment.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister doubted US motives in Afghanistan, blaming a nexus between US and India as, according to him, instability in the region suits both, “They, the US and allies, have best and highly equipped forces. How come they could not perform in Afghanistan? Why there is 9000 tons of opium being produced in Afghanistan and why is Daesh present there in as much as nine provinces.”

Asif asserted that his views on the matter should be seen as Pakistan’s official response as “he had no individual worth and he was just a public representative.”

Asif’s blunt remarks contradict the stand taken by the Pakistan Army on US President Donald Trump’s latest accusation that Pakistan has given the US nothing but lies and deceit thinking of US leaders as fools and now is the time to stop the financial aid to Pakistan. He blamed Pakistan for giving safe haven to the terrorists the US hunts in Afghanistan in spite of receiving $33 Billion of US aid in last 15 years.

After Trump’s latest accusation, the US withheld scheduled $255 million military financial assistance to Pakistan. The White House released a statement asking Pakistan to do more in the war on terror and today came up with a list of 27 Haqqani Network terrorists and wants action against them by 15 January.

In Pakistan Army’s first official response yesterday, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Director-General (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan Army, though had said that no amount of coercion could dictate Pakistan but had also added that* “as far as Pakistan was concerned, it considered them (the US) as allies” declaring that “the Pakistan-US relationship has had its ups and downs but still, they were friends.”

When asked about reports emerging that the US is not willing to consider Pakistan a friend and ally anymore, he said Pakistan could have chosen the erstwhile USSR as its ally but instead preferred the US and still considers the country as its ally.

He, in fact, termed the US-Pakistan tension an issue of misunderstanding. He said Pakistan had taken action against the Haqqani Network but the US should give some time for its effects to become visible, “effects of these operations cannot be visible immediately. Only time will show how effective these operations were in establishing peace within the region.”

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN ARMY TO US: NO AMOUNT OF COERCION CAN DICTATE US; WE HAVE SPENT 10 TIMES OF WHAT YOU GAVE US

Pakistan Army has reacted sharply on US President Donald Trump’s latest accusation that Pakistan is a liar and deceitful country and did little in the war on terror in spite of receiving $33 Billion of US aid in last 15 years.

In what is being seen a first official response from Pakistan’s most powerful institution that has ruled the country for most of its independent years, in an interview with Geo News, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Director-General (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan Army, said no amount of coercion could dictate Pakistan and dismissed the US claims on financial military assistance.

The spokesperson said the amount received by Pakistan from US for its participation in the war against terror under the Coalition Support Fund should be seen as reimbursement and not aid, and in fact the amount paid so far by the US to Pakistan, $15-20 Billion, falls hugely short of the amount spent by Pakistan in the same period, “We received an amount between $15-20 billion in coalition funds for our military expenditure in Afghanistan, while the national exchequer incurred $123 billion in losses.”

When asked about reports emerging that the US is not willing to consider Pakistan a friend and ally anymore, he said Pakistan could have chosen the erstwhile USSR as its ally but instead preferred the US and still considers them as allies, “As far as Pakistan is concerned, we consider them as allies. Our relationship has had its ups and downs but still, we are friends.”

He said Pakistan had taken action against the Haqqani Network but the US should give some time for its effects to become visible, “Effects of these operations cannot be visible immediately. Only time will show how effective these operations were in establishing peace within the region.”

He said any misunderstanding between the countries at this juncture would negatively affect their efforts in Afghanistan to establish peace and blamed India for differences between Pakistan and US.

He even tried to paint Nikky Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN and an Indian-American, as responsible for worsening US-Pakistan ties, “US should find out the elements which are aiming at deteriorating the US-Pakistan cooperation.”

He also took on Trump’s new South Asia policy that seeks an increased Indian role in the region and while boasting Pakistan’s nuclear capability, said a single country could not be assigned the role to guarantee peace in the region, “We are a nuclear power and a responsible nation; we don’t need a security guarantee from anyone and will continue our role in establishing peace in the region.”

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN: US CANNOT DICTATE US, ACTION AGAINST HAFIZ SAEED NOT UNDER US PRESSURE

Pakistan Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir has lashed out at the United States. In an interview with BBC Urdu, Dastgir said “it was not possible anymore for the US to dictate terms to Pakistan by withholding aid,” Geo News reported.

In an apparent effort to maintain tough posture after the latest humiliation by US President Donald Trump, he said the action against Hafiz Saeed’s organizations, Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), a Lashkar-e-Taiba front, and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), was not taken under US pressure.

Instead, the step was taken under Pakistan Army’s Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad after our own internal assessment and serious deliberation, Dastgir added. Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad or operation for elimination of discord was launched in February with an aim to eliminate the residual and latent threats of terrorism like sleeper cells.

He further said, “It is not that we will take up arms against our own country — that time has passed and these terrorists cannot attack their own country with guns” and asserted that “they would now make calculated decisions so that their children can remain safe in schools”.

Pakistan’s Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a directive which bars JuD, FIF and other organizations listed by the United Nations Security Council from collecting donations. Pakistan’s financial regulator has also prohibited people to make donation to such proscribed organizations and individuals. The action came soon after Trump’s tweet and was largely seen as taken under the US pressure.

After Donald Trump called Pakistan a liar and deceitful country in his very first tweet of the year on January 1, and the US subsequently suspended $255 Million military assistance package to Pakistan, the country has been rushing to find ways to respond to the latest accusation by Trump who has been a tough taskmaster to please and Pakistan has been in his firing line regularly.

The initial response by Pakistan obviously was to downplay the accusation made.

Its Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the tweet by Trump didn’t hold any importance. Later on, he offered the US conduct an audit of its assistance money with all cost paid by Pakistan. Dastgir exhorted Pakistan was capable of defending its motherland. Three high level meetings, first by Pakistan Army, next by its all powerful National Security Council and the third by its Federal Cabinet have been held and another one is scheduled for Friday to discuss the matter.

©SantoshChaubey

AUDIT OUR EXPENSES, PAKISTAN MINISTER FIRES BACK AT TRUMP; REPORT SAYS ISLAMABAD PLANNING REVIEW OF TIES

The article originally appeared on India Today.

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Mike Pence Warns Pakistan, Pakistan in Denial, Pakistan Isolated, Pakistan Terror Groups, Safe Haven, Terror Haven, Trump Afghanistan Policy, Trump South Asia Policy, US Pakistan Ties, US Puts Pakistan on Notice, US South Asia Policy

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Donald Trump could hire a US-based audit firm to verify the USD 33 billion figure he cited in a furious tweet on New Year’s Day.

In that post, the US President lamented that the US had “foolishly given” Pakistan that amount of money over a 15-year period. In return, Pakistan had given Washington “nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” he added.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he said. The news agency PTI later quoted a White House official as saying the US, “does does not plan to spend the USD 255 million in FY 2016 in Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan at this time.”

In response to Trump’s tweet, Khawaja Asif suggested that an audit would “let the world know who is lying and deceiving.”

REVISION OF TIES

Meanwhile, the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune reported today – citing sources – that Islamabad “will completely revise its relations policy” with the US, if “if the US reduces or suspends aid to Pakistan or places any sanctions.”

The newspaper also quoted sources as saying Pakistan “has…decided to reduce dependency on the US in different fields and look for alternatives.”

“It will also speed up the process of implementing its strategy for increasing diplomatic, trade and other relations with China, Russia and other countries,” the Tribune said.

EMERGENCY MEETING

Today, Pakistan held an emergency meeting of its National Security Council, in a desperate bid to find a way to respond to Trump’s accusations.

The meeting was chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and was attended by the Khawaja Asif, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, navy and air-force chiefs and other high-ranking civil and military officers. Pakistan has also called a Federal Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Its Parliamentary Committee on National Security will meet on Friday to discuss the matter.

“The meeting discussed the way forward in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s recent anti Pakistan remarks,” is all that a three-line Radio Pakistan brief said after the meeting.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN QUESTIONS RATIONALE BEHIND TRUMP’S LATEST ACCUSATIONS BUT DESISTS FROM ISSUING AN OFFICIAL RESPONSE

Pakistan today held the emergency meeting of its National Security Council in a desperate bid to find a way to respond to the latest accusations levelled against it by US President Donald Trump but no details of the meeting have been made public so far. “The meeting discussed the way forward in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s recent anti Pakistan remarks,” is all that a three-line Radio Pakistan brief said after the meeting.

But Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, did indicated what transpired in the meeting when he questioned the the rationale behind Trump’s latest accusations. In a tweet, after the meeting, he questioned the figure of $33billion quoted by Trump and asserted that “he can hire a US based Audit firm on Pakistan’s expense to verify the figure and let the world know who is lying and who is deceiving.”

The meeting was called after the most direct and hard hitting warning by Trump yesterday that Pakistan had given the US nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of US leaders as fools in spite of the US giving Pakistan more than $33 Billion in aid over the last 15 years.

Trump, in his first tweet of 2018, termed the US aid to Pakistan by his predecessors foolish as Pakistan gives safe haven to the terrorists the US has been hunting in Afghanistan and declared that there would be no help to Pakistan. No more! In what is being seen as a follow up of Trump’s tweet to tell Pakistan that the US is going to walk the talk this time, it soon suspended a part of its military assistance to Pakistan, $255 Million for FY2016, linking it with how Pakistan is going to behave in future.

The meeting was chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and was attended by the Khawaja Asif, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, its navy and air-force chiefs and other high-ranking civil and military officers. Pakistan has also called its Federal Cabinet meeting on Wednesday while its Parliamentary Committee on National Security will meet on Friday to discuss the matter.

The all-important NSC meeting, seeking a desperate way to respond to the latest Trump warning saw the Pak envoy in the US, Aizaz Chaudhry, being summoned. The meeting had inputs of Pakistan army to shape its response. Shortly before the NSC meeting, Pakistan army held its Corps Commanders’ conference and prepared its list of suggestions on Pakistan’s official response, Dawn News* reported.

INITIAL RESPONSE BY PAKISTAN

The initial response by Pakistan yesterday was to downplay the Trump tweet. Its Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, while reacting on Trump’s charges, said it held no importance, “We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance.” He said Pakistan was “ready to give all account for every single penny to America in public”. The country’s Defence Minister exhorted that Pakistan was capable of defending its motherland. Pakistan even summonsed the US envoy in Pakistan, David Hale, to lodge its protest on Trump’s tweet.

TRUMP’S LATEST IS NOT UNEXPECTED

Trump’s tough talk came a week after the US Vice-president Mike Pence had warned that the US President had put Pakistan on notice for its dubious role in the war against terror. While on a surprise visit to Afghanistan on 22 December, Pence had bluntly warned that “for too long Pakistan had provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations but those days were over as President Trump had put Pakistan on notice.”

Before that, while unveiling his first National Security Strategy on 18 December, Trump had given Pakistan some tough dressing-down reminding Pakistan that it owed to the US, “We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help.”

PAKISTAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

Pakistan’s National Security Council is the country’s most powerful policy group on national security and foreign policy matters. The country’s president is its chairman and its members include the country’s prime minister, other senior ministers, three services chiefs, leader of the opposition, chairman of Pakistan’s senate, speaker of Pakistan’s national assembly, provincial chief ministers and other senior officials like the intelligence chiefs and the national security advisor. It is said that the NSC was created with the sole intention to formalize the Pakistani military policymaking role.

Earlier, on August 25, Pakistan had to convene an emergency meeting of its NSC after Donald Trump unveiled his Afghanistan centric South Asia policy which called Pakistan a terror haven and a treacherous nation involved in double-dealings. The revamped US policy in Afghanistan has major role for India in the country, something that has unnerved Pakistan.

Then the Pak NSC had outrightly rejected the US policy and the claims made in it, like it has done today, repeating the routine Pakistani bluster that the US is making Pakistan a scapegoat to hide its own failures in Afghanistan.

©SantoshChaubey