Thursday, October 22, 2015

Video - Hillary Clinton answers questions on Benghazi emails, Chris Stevens

Video Report - President Obama Vetoes $612 Billion Defense Bill

Video Report - President Obama Defends Black Lives Matter Movement

Putin: Streets of Leningrad taught me one thing - if fight is inevitable, throw the first punch

Putin: No need to distinguish between ‘moderate’ & other terrorists

There can be no "moderate" terrorists, President Putin said, speaking about the situation in the Middle East at the Valdai discussion forum.
"Why play with words dividing terrorists into moderate and not moderate. What's the difference?" Putin told the forum.
A whole "snarl" of terrorist groups act in the region, who fight also against each other for "sources of income" and not for ideology, Putin said, adding that the weapons provided to "moderate" opposition in the region had ended up in the hands of terrorists.
Some countries are playing a double game, the Russian president said, adding that while they fight against terrorism they also "place figures on the board" in their own interests.
Success in fighting terrorists cannot be reached if using some of them as a battering ram to overthrow disliked regimes," Putin told the forum, saying that this way the terrorists would not go anywhere. "It's just an illusion that they can be dealt with [later], removed from power and somehow negotiated with," he added.
Saying that the efforts of the Russian military in Syria will positively affect the situation in the country, helping to provide conditions for political settlement, the Russian president also stressed that defeating terrorists will not solve all the problems in Syria.
"I'd like to stress once again that [Russia's operation in Syria] is completely legitimate, and its only aim is to aid in establishing peace," the Russian president said in Sochi, adding that the decision to deploy the Air Force was made following a request from the Syrian government.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has also agreed with the possibility of Russia offering support to the Syrian opposition in their fight against ISIS, Putin said. "I've asked [Assad]: What would you say if we support the opposition's efforts in their fight against terrorists the way we support the Syrian Army? And he said: My attitude is positive," the Russian leader told the Valdai forum.
Moscow has been seeking to exchange data about the positions of Islamic State militants in Syria with western countries for weeks, and now such cooperation is close, Putin said.
Countries should perceive one another as "allies in a common fight, and act honestly and openly," Putin said, adding that only in this way can victory against terror be guaranteed. "Syria... can become a model for partners... of how to solve problems that affect everyone.
The main task is "not to let terrorists move their activity into other regions," the Russian president said, adding that to prevent such an outcome all forces in Syria and Iraq, including state armies, Kurdish militia and various opposition groups, should be united.
The "hypothetical nuclear threat" allegedly posed by Iran has never existed, the Russian leader told the Valdai Discussion Club. Washington was just trying to "destroy the strategical balance," Putin said, adding that the US aimed "not to just dominate, but be able to dictate its will to everyone – not only geopolitical opponents, but also allies."
Russia and the whole world have been "misinformed" and even "deceived" by the US regarding Iran's suggested nuclear threat, Putin said. Even after Tehran has agreed with the world on the peaceful nature of its uranium enrichment program, missile defense systems are still being tested by Washington far away from its borders – now in Europe.
"We had the right to expect that work on development of US missile defense system would stop. But nothing like it happened, and it continues," Putin said, adding that the international security system has been destroyed under the pretext of the Iranian “threat.”
There is a possibility that US anti-missile shield bases in Eastern Europe might be used for offensive weapons, the president said, adding that it may be regarded as a threat to Russia. A dialogue on limitation of strategic nuclear forces should be continued, Putin added.
"This is a very dangerous scenario, harmful for all, including the United States itself," the Russian president told the forum.
There can be no winner in conflicts involving nuclear weapons, the Russian leader said.
"The deterrent of nuclear weapons has started to lose its value, and some have even got the illusion that a real victory of one of the sides can be achieved in a global conflict, without irreversible consequences for the winner itself – if there is a winner at all," Putin said.  

Europe is America’s ‘vassal’ in US sanctions policy

Trade and sanctions wars show “unfair competition” on the US side, the Russian president said, commenting on current political and economic relations in the world. Moral norms should be considered in international, political, military and economic rivalry, Putin said, adding that otherwise the competition could get out of control.
Russia could also declare the necessity to democratize the USA, but that would, at a minimum, be impolite,” Putin told the discussion forum.
Formation of economic blocs based on conspiratorial principles will not make the world a safer place, but rather produce a basis for future conflicts, the President said. Pointing out that European companies have also suffered from sanctions the US has imposed on other nations, he concluded that these kinds of measures taken by Washington demonstrate that it treats other countries “like vassals who are being punished, rather than allies.”

Commenting on the situation in Ukraine, Putin said that Russia accepts any choice made by the Ukrainian people – “who we really consider as fraternal country, fraternal people,” but cannot agree with the way the power in the country was changed. Such methods “are bad, no matter where in the world it happens,” Putin added.
How can we accept coups? You can expect that Iraq and Libya scenarios are being organized for us here. After all, the US authorities weren’t shy about openly and publicly saying that they spent $5 billion on supporting the [Ukrainian] opposition,” the Russian president said.
The only way to reconstitute Ukrainian integrity and reach peace in the country’s southeast is to implement the Minsk agreements, Putin said, adding that at the moment key points of the peace deal have still been left unfulfilled by the Kiev authorities. He also stressed that “endlessly blaming Russia” in the conflict is “useless.”

Music Video - Runa Laila - Dama Dam Mast Qalandar

پاکستان میں بحالی جمہوریت کی جدوجہد میں مادرجمہوریت کا ناقابل فراموش کردار مشعل راہ کی حیثیت رکھتا ہے :چیئرمین پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی بلاول بھٹو

 پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے بیگم نصرت بھٹو کو زبردست خراج عقیدت پیش کیا ہے جنہوں نے ملک میں جمہوریت کے مقصد اور پاکستان کے عوام کو آمریت سے چھٹکارہ دلانے کے لیے اپنا شوہر، دو جواں بیٹوں اور ایک بیٹی کی قربانی دی،ساتھ ساتھ وہ اس ملک میں جدوجہد کرنے والے ہر مرد اور عورت کے لیے لجنڈ بن گئیں ، شہید ذوالفقار علی بھٹو کی اہلیہ، شہید محترم بینظیر بھٹو، شہید میر مرتضیٰ بھٹو، شہید شاہنواز بھٹو اور صنم بھٹو کی والدہ بیگم نصرت بھٹو کی چوتھی برسی کے موقع پر بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ بیگم نصرت بھٹو نے جو دکھ، تکالیف اور صعوبتیں برداشت کیں ان کی مثال جنوبی ایشیا کی سیاسی تاریخ میں نہیں ملتی، انہوں نے پاکستان کے لیے اپنا سب کچھ قربان کردیا، چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے مزید کہا کہ بیگم نصرت بھٹو مادر جمہوریت اور تمام جیالوں کی ماں تھیں،ہر پارٹی کارکن کو پہچانتی تھیں، خود دکھ برداشت کرنے کے باوجود بھی کارکنان کے لیے زندہ دلی کا سبب بنی رہتی تھیں، بیگم نصرت بھٹو نے جسمانی ٹارچر اور جیل کی صعوبتیں برداشت کیں لیکن ہر قدم پہ بہادری سے جدوجہد کی ، انہوں نے اپنی بیٹی شہید محترمہ بینظیر بھٹو کے ساتھ ملکر آمریت کے کالے دور میں بھی پارٹی کی مضبوطی کے ساتھ قیادت کی۔بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ میری نانی بیگم نصرت بھٹو انتھک جدوجہد کی پہچان تھیں اور وہ پاکستان کے عوام اورخصوصاً جیالوں کے دلوں میں ہمیشہ یاد رہے گی جن کو وہ اپنے بیٹوں اور بیٹیوں کی مانند سمجھتی تھیں، بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ مجھے اپنے پچھلے نسلوں پر فخر ہے جنہوں نے ایک مقصد کے لیے اپنی جانیں قربان کیں، پسماندہ اور پسے ہوئے عوام کے حقوق کے لیے ان کے ویژن اور مشن کے تحت جدوجہد جاری رہے گی۔

Bilawal Bhutto appreciated Party leaders for awarding tickets to candidates from minority communities

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has appreciated that the Party has awarded tickets to candidates from minority communities on general seats including District Councilors, Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Union Councils in three districts Mirpurkhas Division.

“Award of tickets to minority candidates on general seats in local bodies election has reinforced and reiterated PPP’s commitment to the marginalized and downtrodden people. This is also a clear manifestation of the Party’s ideology of equality and fair-play,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated while presiding over separate meetings of PPP Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparker districts at Bilawal House today.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MNA Faryal Talpur, Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jeelani, MNA Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Mir Munawar Talpur, Jameel Soomro , Senator Engneer Gianchand, Senator Hari Ram Kishori Lal and other elected representatives, Party office-bearers and senior workers from the three districts also attended the meeting.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the Party leaders to work hard unitedly in the Local Government elections as he wants 100% from entire Sindh including Mirpurkhas Division.

He said that the free-wheeling politicians and turncoats always cobbled alliance against the PPP in all the previous elections on the instigations of undemocratic forces but always met with defeat. People, PPP and its workers need not to worry about such alliances and marriages of conveniences by these elements.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed surprise that ROs and AROs were changed in Umerkot District by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after succumbing to the pressure groups. He said while Sindh government has been directed by the ECP not to make any transfer and postings after the announcement of schedule of Local government elections but violating its own directives under pressure from nuisance groups.

PPP Chairman also listened to the workers from three districts and assured them that the Party will take care of every one of them. He also asked the PPP leaders and workers from Thar to unite in their ranks and give the best result.

Pakistan and Afghanistan: The new Great Game

By Owen Bennett-Jones
 Ever since the Pakistan Taliban massacred 132 schoolboys in a Peshawar school last December, the Pakistan army has been confronting some of the country's militants, with unprecedented determination.
But the campaign is still patchy. While the Pakistan Taliban have been forced on to the back foot, other Pakistan-based militant outfits have been left undisturbed.
Publicly, Pakistani officials insist that they no longer make a distinction between the "good" Taliban (proxy forces of the Pakistan state) and the "bad" Taliban (which mount sectarian or anti-state attacks).
But privately they argue the army has to prioritise which groups to confront first. The immediate, urgent task, they say, is to fight the militants who have caused tens of thousands of deaths within Pakistan itself.

Afghan attacks

It means militant groups such as the Haqqani network, which focuses most of its efforts on Afghanistan, can fight on unimpeded. The group, which is based in Pakistan's tribal areas, is believed to have mounted a series of attacks on Kabul this summer.
It has been a devastating campaign. In the first six months of 2015, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented the highest level of civilian casualties in the country since it began keeping authoritative records in 2008.
Similarly, the Afghan Taliban have stepped up their military activity - most recently in the city of Kunduz in the north of Afghanistan.
Kabul for years has complained that many Afghan Taliban leaders live in and around the Pakistani city of Quetta.
When asked about the issue, Pakistani military officials say that, with as many as three million Afghans in Pakistan, it is difficult to be sure who is living where.
The lack of an outright denial is deliberate. The perception that Pakistan controls the Afghan Taliban gives Pakistani officials diplomatic leverage. If the West wants peace in Afghanistan, they are implicitly suggesting, it will have to secure Pakistani co-operation to deliver it.
In fact, history suggests that the Afghan Taliban, while happy to accept Pakistani support, are quite capable of ignoring Islamabad's instructions and formulating their own policies.


When the new Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, won power in 2014, he said improving the relationship with Pakistan was a top priority: if Islamabad would cut its links with the Afghan Taliban, then Kabul would try to prevent anti-Pakistan forces finding sanctuary in Afghanistan.
The two countries, he suggested, could only find stability by working together.

But for all the hope that President Ghani engendered, Islamabad and Kabul have reverted to hurling accusations at each other. And the distrust seems set to continue.

Geostrategic concerns

Senior Pakistani military officers say one of the reasons they have a continued interest in Afghanistan is because India is extending its influence there.
Islamabad fears that, among other things, Delhi is using its presence in Afghanistan to build a closer relationship with Baloch separatists, who for a decade have been fighting to split away from Pakistan.
The issue is especially sensitive because of Pakistan's plans to construct the China Pakistan economic corridor. The planned trade route will run through Balochistan, close to the Afghan border, down to the new deep-sea port of Gwadar.
Pakistan is hoping the corridor could generate billions of dollars of revenue.
It is a highly complex geostrategic situation.
Put at its most succinct, Pakistani strategists are supporting Islamist militants to counter Indian intelligence officers working with Baloch nationalists to thwart Chinese traders.
It all shows the extent to which the Great Game, in which outside powers struggle for control of Afghanistan, is alive and well.

The Great Game

  • Strategic rivalry between the British and Russian Empires for control of central Asia during the 19th and early 20th Centuries
  • Officially ended with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which divided Persia into three zones, declared Afghanistan an official protectorate of Britain and said that neither Russia nor Britain would interfere in Tibet's internal affairs
  • Britain's Capt Arthur Conolly is generally considered to have coined the term
  • Rudyard Kipling's 1901 novel Kim is set against the backdrop of the Great Game, which brought the phrase into the mainstream

As has so often been the case in the past, the stability of Afghanistan depends on it being left alone. But the regional powers all see the country as a place that can cause them problems.
The result is that many of Afghanistan's neighbours sponsor local, tribal and religious militias so as to prevent anyone else's proxy getting control.
It is a process Afghan civilians recognise all too well because, more often than not, they are the ones caught in the crossfire.

Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto paid glowing tributes to Begum Nusrat Bhutto

 Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has paid glowing tributes to Begum Nusrat Bhutto who lost her husband, two sons and a daughter for the cause of democracy and emancipation of the people of Pakistan from dictatorial clutches leaving behind inspiring legend for every struggling men and women.

“The sufferings, shocks and tragedies Begum Nusrat Bhutto had gone through are unmatched in the political history of South Asia and she sacrificed her everything for the people of Pakistan,” PPP Chairman stated on the 4th death anniversary of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, wife of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and mother of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Shaheed Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Shaheed Shahnawaz Bhutto and Sanam Bhutto.

He said Begum Nusrat Bhutto was Mother of Democracy and Mother of all Jiyalas who knew every Party worker and provide solace to them despite being herself deeply grieved. She suffered physical torture, imprisonments, solitary confinement and fought every odd bravely. Begum Nusrat Bhutto led the Party valiantly together with her daughter Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir against brutal martial law regime of its time, he added.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pointed out that his grand-mother was an icon of untiring struggle and she will always remain in the memories of the people of Pakistan, especially the PPP workers and Jiyalas who she treated like her own sons and daughters.

PPP Chairman said he is proud of his past generations who laid down their lives for a cause and pledged to continue the struggle for their vision and mission for the downtrodden and bare-foot masses.

Bilawal Bhutto for urgent practical steps to end Balochistan’s sense of deprivation

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party urged the Federal and Balochistan governments to take urgent steps to remove sense of deprivation in the province and provide basic needs to its people.
Chairman PPP was talking to Ijaz Baloch, PPP ticket-holder from Gwadar who called on him at Bilawal House today.

Ijaz Baloch informed him that people of Gwadar are facing a severe drinking water crisis since three months and authorities remain unmoved despite strong protests and demonstrations by the local people. He pointed out that Sui Gas Plants have been installed in Gwadar but the gas is provided to only few selected localities while the poor and traditional fishermen communities are deprived of gas.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that such injustices and discrimination in the provision of civic amenities in Gwadar were intolerable and his Party won’t remain silent on such acts. He said that Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto order construction of Akra Kaur Dam near Gwadar in 1988 and completed them same in her second tenure in 1995 to provide water facility to the people of Gwadar.

PPP Chairman stressed upon the Federal and Balochistan government to pay heed to the water shortage in Gwadar to avoid any human tragedy there adding that following 18th Amendment, the local people are made owners of their resources.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also assured Ijaz Baloch that he would meet the PPP workers from Balochistan and look into its organization.

“Talibanization” of Pakistan - Federal clerics body to determine if Ahmadi Muslims are kill-worthy apostate or simple non-Muslims

Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), said that he intended to take up three “most controversial religious issues”, but lacked the necessary support from council members.

“We have had these items on our agenda for a long time now, but they will only be taken up if my colleagues are ready to cooperate,” Maulana Sherani, who is also a JUI-F MNA, told reporters at the end of the two-day council meeting.

The first of these issues is the question of whether Ahmadis are to be classified as non-Muslims or murtads (those who renounce Islam). It is a widely held belief that the punishment for renouncing Islam should be death.

The second issue, he said, was the imposition of religious tax – or jizya – on Pakistani non-Muslims. The third issue, he said, was a determination of which sects fell under the ambit of Islam and which ones should be considered to be outside the ambit of Islamic ideology.

Council sets yardstick for transgender individuals to be given share in inheritance
“It is up to the members to come up and discuss these important matters and resolve them,” he said, expressing the confidence that the CII would take up these topics in its next meeting.

While these matters have been on the CII’s agenda for some time, some of the more vocal members have been reluctant to take them up for discussion as they may hurt the social fabric.

“We do not want to see riots in the country as we see in India over non-issues like the ban on beef. It is the responsibility of the religious and political leadership to set directions for society and to not be pressured into going with the flow,” said a CII member, on condition of anonymity.

The cleric was reluctant to speak on the record, because “the other problem we are combating is extremism. If I give a statement to the media, I can be accused of being somebody’s agent.”

However, analysts feel that by taking up such non-issues, the CII is stooping beneath its stature.

“They have already displayed such irrationality that nobody takes them seriously anymore,” senior journalist Zahid Hussain told Dawn.

He cited the examples of several other rulings by the council, which included the contention that the marriage age for girls could be as low as 13, as well as the pronouncement that DNA evidence was not admissible as evidence in rape cases. “Besides, their rulings are not legally binding,” he added.

But even Mr Hussain acknowledged that by virtue of their stature, senior clerics on the CII did hold sway among the masses and could easily “spark a disturbance by speaking unnecessarily on such issues”.

Transgenders’ rights

On Tuesday, the CII also ruled that transgender individuals have the right of inheritance and that their share in the family’s property should be determined by the gender they are closest to.

“If a [transgender] person is closer [in their appearance] to a woman, then the share in property applicable to women will apply for that person. If a [transgender] person is closer [in their appearance] to a man, then the share given to him should be equivalent to that given to men in the family,” Maulana Sherani said.

Shia Genocide In Pakistan - Bombing at Shiite Mosque Kills 10 in Southwest Pakistan

A suicide bomber targeted a Shiite mosque in southwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and wounding several others, a government official said.
Provincial home minister Sarfraz Bugti said the attack took place in the district of Sibi, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. He said the suicide attacker entered the mosque as Shiites were holding a gathering ahead of the Ashoura, a key religious event.
Six children were among those killed, Bugti said. The male suicide bomber was wearing a woman's head-to-toe burqa dress to deceive guards, he said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell of Sunni extremists who have been blamed for previous such attacks.
The latest attack came ahead of Ashoura, a 10-day ritual during which Shiites commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan has boosted security for Ashoura, when minority Shiite Muslims hold public rallies despite threats from Sunni extremists who consider them to be heretics.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's army said Thursday airstrikes overnight killed 21 "terrorists" in the villages of Tirah and Rajgal in the Khyber region.
The military provided no further details about Wednesday's strikes, and the information could not be corroborated as journalists are barred from tribal areas. Pakistan has been waging a military offensive against al-Qaida and other militants in the North Waziristan province bordering Afghanistan since June 2014.

Powerful General Raheel Sharif Eclipses Pakistan’s Prime Minister

President Barack Obama is set to meet Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, at the White House on Thursday. But next month, top American officials will hold talks with the man many people say calls the shots on the issues Washington cares most about: Gen. Raheel Sharif.
The chief of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Sharif has eclipsed the authority of the country’s elected leaders on critical security-policy matters, including the fight against Islamic extremists, the Afghan peace process and the country’s nuclear-weapons program, officials and analysts say.
“The civilian entities don’t have the ability to deliver on a few things at this point,” a senior U.S. official said. As for Gen. Sharif, the official said: “He can deliver.”
Gen. Sharif, who isn’t related to the prime minister, has turned himself into a cult hero by battling terrorism and restoring a measure of order in Pakistan’s biggest and most violent city, Karachi. That has bolstered the army’s standing and political power in a country where democracy has struggled to take firm root.
The improvement in Pakistan’s security situation is stark. The number of civilians and soldiers killed in terrorist attacks is on track to be lower this year than at any time since 2006, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks casualties. That has helped spark an economic rebound.
“There is God in the sky, and here on the ground there is Raheel Sharif,” said Muhammad Atiq Mir, chairman of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad, an association of small traders. Billboards in the city, paid for by local businesses, proclaim: “Thank you for saving Karachi, Raheel Sharif.”
Speaking to a small group recently at the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank in London, Gen. Sharif said Pakistan’s lack of good governance had “created a vacuum” and required him to play a wide-ranging role as “a soldier-statesman,” according to a person who was present.
A senior aide to the prime minister said governing Pakistan is a “joint venture” between the elected civilian leadership and the military brass. A western diplomat described it as an “unequal coalition” that now favors the armed forces. Since Pakistan became independent in 1947, military strongmen have competed and alternated with democratically elected political leaders.
There is God in the sky, and here on the ground there is Raheel Sharif.
—Muhammad Atiq Mir, chairman of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad
The civilian government insists it is firmly in charge. “The prime minister is in the driving seat,” said Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif. He said it is Nawaz Sharif who is “managing the balance between institutions.”
Gen. Sharif, who is due to step down in November next year, declined to comment.
“The army chief identifies security gaps and flags them to the government,” said a senior Pakistani army officer. “Like in any country, the military gives input.”
Pakistani politicians and political analysts, however, say the military’s sway has grown. Earlier this year, military courts were set up to try civilians for terrorism, while the military sits on new “apex committees” that oversee internal security issues across the country.
In June, Asif Zardari, who served as president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, gave a speech warning that the army was “stepping out of its domain.” Ayaz Amir, a former lawmaker in the prime minister’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, said: “The army is setting the direction and taking the major decisions.”
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, Dawn, published an editorial about the prime minister’s visit to Washington, saying: “Worryingly, for the civilian dispensation and the democratic project, Mr. Sharif has appeared an increasingly peripheral figure in shaping key national security and foreign policy issues.”
Current and former U.S. officials said they believe the prime minister had ceded control over certain security matters to Gen. Sharif, while the prime minister focused on the economy and other issues. They said the prime minister appeared comfortable with the division of labor and that Gen. Sharif had been “supportive” of civilian institutions. In a recent meeting in Rawalpindi, Gen. Sharif told a visiting U.S. delegation how important it was to him “not to be seen as the main power” in Pakistan, according to a U.S. official who was present.
The prime minister’s visit comes as the administration moved to finalize a long-standing plan to sell up to eight additional F-16s to Pakistan. Administration officials said the proposed sale, aimed at bolstering Pakistan’s counterterrorism campaign against militants, won’t be formally announced on Thursday.
Officials said Thursday’s meeting between Mr. Obama and the prime minister, in the absence of Gen. Sharif, was meant to highlight the importance the White House places on empowering Pakistan’s civilian government. But given the country’s history and the role of the armed forces, U.S. officials said a transition to civilian leadership in all matters of state would take time.
In the meantime, “the U.S. can’t want something for the civilians more than they want it for themselves,” a senior administration official said.
A 59-year-old infantry officer and former commandant of Pakistan’s military academy, Gen. Sharif has won widespread approval for moving authoritatively where previous Pakistani leaders, military and civilian, have dithered. The extent of his popularity in Pakistan has prompted intense speculation that his term as army chief could be extended.
Last year, he opened a new front in the fight against extremists with an offensive in North Waziristan, a region along the Afghan border that was a haven for Pakistani Taliban, Afghan insurgents and al Qaeda—a move long advocated by the U.S. and initially opposed by the prime minister.
Army-led forces have also led a bloody fight against jihadists and criminal gangs in the country’s commercial capital, Karachi. The campaign has won Gen. Sharif plaudits, despite its reliance on what human-rights groups say are hundreds of extrajudicial executions.
Gen. Sharif also has a high profile abroad. He met the British prime minister at his official Downing Street residence earlier this year. Last year in the U.S. he met Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials and was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit for his contributions to “peace and security.”
When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made his first visit to Pakistan after being elected last year, he drove straight from the airport to see Gen. Sharif at his headquarters in Rawalpindi—before going to nearby Islamabad to meet the civilian leadership.
Officials in Washington, Kabul and New Delhi, however, also accuse the defense establishment headed by Gen. Sharif of continuing what they say is Pakistan’s policy of giving safe haven to the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups, and using them as proxy warriors in Afghanistan and India.
The U.S. has warned Gen. Sharif that it will withhold $300 million in military aid if Pakistan doesn’t do more to curb the Haqqani network, an insurgent group allied with the Taliban that is responsible for a series of recent deadly attacks in Kabul.
The U.S. sees the Haqqanis as an arm of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency. A Haqqani was named as the new deputy chief of the Taliban at a meeting held in Pakistan earlier this year.
The Pakistan army maintains it is taking on all militants. “We are against use of proxies and won’t allow it on our soil,” Gen. Sharif said in London this month, according to his spokesman.
President Obama said last week that the U.S. is keen for Pakistan to use its influence on the Afghan Taliban to advance peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government.
U.S. and Afghan officials say Gen. Sharif was the force behind a brief breakthrough in the Afghan peace process earlier this year, when a group of senior Taliban were brought to meet Afghan government representatives just outside Islamabad.
The U.S. has also been engaging in exploratory talks with Pakistan about a possible deal to limit the country’s growing nuclear-weapons program, seen as especially risky because of the country’s history of political instability and jihadist attacks on military installations.
When Prime Minister Sharif was elected in May 2013, many believed it was a time when civilians could assert themselves and that military leaders, then criticized for inaction against terrorists, would be pushed into the background. In a sign of his intention to run foreign and defense policies, Nawaz Sharif kept both those portfolios for himself after election; he is still has no foreign minister.
The prime minister started peace talks with insurgents in North Waziristan. He also made overtures to India in an effort to ease strained ties. And he moved forward with treason charges against Pervez Musharraf, an army coup leader who also served as president.
By mid-2014, however, the political ground was starting to shift, and the prime minister pushed the military hard on issues it saw as its domain. The prosecution of Mr. Musharraf was derailed after the military stood by its former leader. After an attack on Karachi’s airport, Gen. Sharif, who had promoted counterinsurgency doctrine when he was the army’s training head—focusing the army’s targets toward terrorists rather than its traditional enemy, India—launched military operations against militants in North Waziristan in June 2014.
Later that summer, Pakistani cricket player-turned-politician Imran Khan and his supporters started a sit-in protest against alleged vote-rigging in the election that propelled Mr. Sharif to office. The demonstrations paralyzed the capital, calling for the military to intervene and unseat Mr. Sharif. Some members of Mr. Sharif’s cabinet accused military intelligence agents of fomenting the protests, something the military and Mr. Khan’s party deny.
The army chief backed Prime Minister Sharif. But the price, some senior government officials say, was high: the prime minister agreed to relinquish some powers, letting the military take charge of defense and foreign policy.

Obama sets sights on Pakistan's nuclear program after Iran

After reaching a deal to restrict Iran's nuclear capabilities, President Barack Obama may seek to curtail Pakistan's fast-growing arsenal of atomic weapons.
Obama hosts Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House on Thursday amid speculation that their nations are in talks to limit the scope of Pakistan's nuclear arms program in return for greater access to technology and fuel for civilian purposes, similar to a U.S. deal with its arch-rival India. Obama also wants Pakistan's commitment to curb Islamic militants operating within its borders and to play a role in brokering an accord with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
The discussions highlight complexities in U.S. relations with Pakistan, a country that has received more than $30 billion in American aid since 2002 even though Obama didn't trust its leaders enough to inform them of the mission there that killed Osama bin Laden. Last week, Obama cited Pakistan in calling for the elimination of sanctuaries for Afghanistan's Taliban fighters.
Sharif told Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday that Pakistan's anti-terror operations have improved internal security. Talk of a nuclear deal percolates amid growing concern over the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, which along with India's is the world's fastest-growing.
"The U.S. and Pakistan, now and historically, have been working toward differing goals," said Aparna Pande, a South Asia scholar at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. "America hopes this deal will calm Pakistan down, make it a better actor in the region. Pakistan sees it as another way to achieve parity with India and to keep building nuclear weapons."
Satellite images indicate Pakistan started up its fourth reactor earlier this year, making it capable of more than doubling the amount of weapons-grade plutonium it produces, according to the Institute for Science and International Security.
More fissile material could give Pakistan the world's third-biggest nuclear arsenal in five to 10 years -- behind the United States and Russia but twice as large as India's -- according to an August report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center. India currently has an estimated 90 to 110 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan has about 100 to 120, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The White House and Pakistani officials have played down reports that the U.S. is nearing a deal with Pakistan to restrict its nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
"I would significantly reduce your expectations about that occurring on Thursday," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday when asked about the prospect that such a deal may be announced as part of this week's visit.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry was more emphatic, saying "no deal" is being discussed and pledging "to maintain a full- spectrum deterrence capability in order to safeguard our national security, maintain strategic stability and deter any kind of aggression from India."
The nuclear issue "probably will be discussed, but I don't think there is any mood in Pakistan to yield on that," Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, said in an interview. "This is a long process. Pakistan is not in a great hurry to stop developing the delivery systems it has."
Obama is in a tough spot when engaging with Pakistan given its fractious government and a political spectrum that ranges from friends of the West to those who want to destroy anything related to the U.S., Rep. Brad Sherman told Bloomberg reporters and editors in Washington on Tuesday. Sherman of California is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I don't think there's one Pakistan. I don't think there's one Pakistani government," Sherman said. "But is the Pakistani military fighting and dying to combat terrorists? Yes. Are elements of the Pakistani military funding and aiding terrorists? Yes."
India and the U.S. announced a nuclear cooperation deal in 2005 to lift a three-decade ban so that India could access civilian nuclear technology and import uranium for fuel. It was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2008.
Pakistan immediately lobbied for a similar deal, but then- U.S. President George W. Bush ruled it out, saying India and Pakistan couldn't be compared.
Pakistan's past will make it tough to convince the skeptics. In the 1980s, it accepted Chinese assistance to build a bomb while it was pledging to enrich only enough uranium to produce power. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, confessed publicly in 2004 to running a network that sold technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
China this year said it has helped Pakistan with six of the seven reactors either built or under construction. Most members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group would consider this a violation of rules, making cooperation with Pakistan "impossible" unless it agrees to new commitments, said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Still, violations of the rules are common. Russia flouted them to ship fuel to Indian reactors in 2001. India also ran a secret bomb program and, like Israel and Pakistan, has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
While China has stopped short of publicly backing Pakistan's aspirations to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it has questioned the exemption awarded to India that lets it import uranium from countries including Australia and France.
Any deal is unlikely unless Pakistan agrees to safeguard its nuclear facilities under international rules and give up its tactical nuclear program, said Najam Rafique, director at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Pakistan's leaders mostly want talks to maintain good ties with the U.S. and China, he said.
"I really don't think Pakistanis are very keen to have American technology," Rafique said. "It's just political expediency at this point of time."