Briefing :- 18/9/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 18th of September, 2017 :-

1. Pakistan: 6 dead in bomb explosion near Afghanistan border :-

A roadside bomb killed a local government official and five policemen on Sunday in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

The blast took place in the town of Mamoond, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Khar, the main town of Bajaur, one of the country’s seven semi-autonomous tribal districts, where the army has been battling Taliban militants.

“A local government officer and five tribal police were killed when an improvised explosive device planted on a roadside exploded when their vehicle passed,” senior local government official Anwarul Haq told AFP.

Local security officials confirmed the attack and casualties.

Pakistani militant umbrella group Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for the explosion.

“Our mission is to eliminate the black infidel democratic system in Pakistan and impose Islamic justice system. We will trample every hurdle in the way of our mission,” spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said in a message sent to reporters.

Violence in Pakistan has declined in recent years following a series of military offensives against insurgents along the northwestern border.

But militant groups are still able to carry out bloody attacks, particularly in the northwest.

2. U.S. stealth fighter jets, bombers fly over Korean peninsula :-

South Korea’s defense ministry said today the US flew four F-35 stealth fighter jets and two B1-B bombers over the  Korean peninsula in a military drill on Monday as tension over North Korea’s missile tests continued to destabilize the region.

Last Friday, North Korea had fired a ballistic missile over Japan in less than a month even as the United Nations Security Council(UNSC) imposed new sanctions to deter the country’s ballistic and nuclear missile programme.

“Four stealth fighters and two bombers flew over the peninsula to demonstrate the deterrence capability of the US-South Korea alliance against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats”, the ministry said in a statement.

The bombers flew from the US military base in Guam and the fighters flew from Japan, joined by six South Korean fighter jets in the drill, the South Korean defence ministry added.

North Korea had said on Saturday it aims to reach an “equilibrium” of military force with the United States, which earlier signaled its patience for diplomacy is wearing thin after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan for the second time in under a month.

Earlier in the month, the South Korean Navy had conducted live drills just days after North Korea donated a hydrogen bomb.

3. UN hasn’t reached full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement: Trump :-

In his first appearance at the United Nations, US President Donald Trump said the “world body had not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement”.

“The United Nations was founded on truly noble goals, in recent years the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement,” the US president said.

Meanwhile, Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn categorically denied the US had changed its mind on withdrawing from the Paris climate pact.

Cohn speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN meeting said: “We made the president’s position unambiguous, to where the president stands, where the administration stands on Paris”.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Reuters quoted a White House official saying,”We are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement unless we can re-engage on terms more favorable to the United States. This position was made very clear during the breakfast.”

4. Pakistanis vote in by-election seen as test of support for ousted PM Sharif :-

Pakistanis began casting votes on Sunday for the parliamentary seat vacated by ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a by-election seen as a test of support for the Sharif dynasty ahead of the 2018 general election.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party hopes a resounding victory in the eastern city of Lahore would show that support for the family was undiminished despite the Supreme Court’s removal of Sharif in July.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam has spearheaded the PML-N campaign for her mother Kulsoom – who is the PML-N candidate despite receiving cancer treatment in London with Nawaz at her side.

Maryam, who some PML-N leaders see as a future leader, has framed the poll as a chance for voters to give a bloody nose to the judiciary by handing the party a thumping victory.

“Will you take revenge for your disrespected vote?” Maryam asked supporters at a recent rally.

Opposition leader Imran Khan, whose threats of street protests pushed the Supreme Court to launch a probe into Nawaz’s wealth, is seeking to build on the success of his anti-graft crusade by making inroads into Sharifs’ power base in Punjab.

The Supreme Court in July disqualified Sharif because he did not declare a monthly salary, equivalent to $2,722, from a company owned by his son when the veteran leader, who had held power twice in the 1990s, became prime minister for the third time. Sharif denies receiving the salary.

Khan has turned the by-election into a plebiscite about corruption and has accused the provincial Punjab government, which is run by Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz, of abusing state resources to help the PML-N campaign.

“Your prime minister owns some of the most expensive real estate in the world, all in his daughter’s name. Meanwhile half the children of this country are malnourished,” Khan told a rally on Saturday.

Analysts predict PML-N will win again but they say Khan’s party would build momentum ahead of the 2018 poll if PTI candidate Yasmin Rashid, a gynecologist from the area, substantially reduces the PML-N’s 40,000 vote-winning margin from 2013.

“PTI would be very happy if the margin ended up being small. That would be a victory for them,” said Hasan Askri a political analyst.

Many of the 321,633 registered voters in the central Lahore NA-120 constituency are conflicted.

“My head goes towards PTI while my heart goes towards PML-N,” said Ali Raza, 25, a bank employee.

Kulsoom and Rashid will be competing against about 40 other candidates, including religious parties. One candidate is backed by a new party that is led by an Islamist firebrand who is subject to a $10 million bounty offered by the United States.

Hafiz Saeed heads the Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD) charity, having founded and formerly led the Lashkhar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people. The United States has placed Saeed, the charity and LeT on a terrorist list.

Voting began at 9 am (0400 GMT) and the polls are due to close at 5pm, with results likely to be announced after midnight.

5. Indus Water dispute: Pakistan once again requests World Bank to establish court of arbitration :-

Pakistan has requested the World Bank to fulfil its obligation to establish a court of arbitration to settle its water dispute with India in the light of the Indus Waters Treaty.

The request came after delegations of India and Pakistan met at the World Bank headquarters in Washington on September 14 and 15 for the second round of talks on Ratle and Kishanganga hydroelectric projects, over which Islamabad has raised objections.

A media report said citing sources that despite the passage of more than a year, the World Bank is not establishing the court of arbitration.

Pakistan has now requested the World Bank to fulfil its duties under the Treaty by empanelling the Court of Arbitration, the paper reported.

Earlier, the secretary-level talks between the two countries ended without any agreement.

“While an agreement has not been reached at the conclusion of the meetings, the World Bank will continue to work with both countries to resolve the issues in an amicable manner and in line with the Treaty provisions,” the World Bank said in a statement after the talks.

“Both countries and the World Bank appreciated the discussions and reconfirmed their commitment to the preservation of the Treaty,” it said.

The World Bank remains committed to act in good faith and with “complete impartiality and transparency” in fulfilling its responsibilities under the Treaty, while continuing to assist the countries, it said in its statement.

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory.

Pakistan had raised objections to India’s plans at the Permanent Indus Commission more than a decade ago. When the objections were not addressed, Islamabad approached the World Bank on August 19, 2016 for the court of arbitration as provided in the Indus Waters Treaty, the paper said.

Subsequently, on October 4, 2016, India made a request for appointment of neutral expert to adjudicate in the dispute. The World Bank initially agreed to set up both the fora but later “paused” the two processes, fearing their separate rulings might conflict with each other.

In an effort to end the impasse, the World Bank invited the water resources secretaries of the two countries for consultations. In the first round in Washington on July 31 and August 1 this year, Pakistan proposed amendments to the designs to make the Indian project treaty compliant.

But in the latest round of the talks in September, India not only refused to accept any of the design amendments proposed by Pakistan but also refused to agree to any of the dispute settlement options suggested by the World Bank, the paper reported.

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