Saturday, January 19, 2019

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US-Saudi ties can't move forward until MBS 'dealt with': Graham

The US senator says Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
Senator Lindsey Graham has said the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is "dealt with".
Speaking in Ankara a day after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Graham said Congress would reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.
"What has transpired over the last couple of years has been unnerving, to say the least," Graham told reporters.
"The leadership coming from MBS is not what I have envisioned. Imprisoning the Lebanese Prime Minister, taking all of your critics and throw[ing] them in prison, the brutal murder [of] Mr Khashoggi in Turkey, violating every norm of international behaviour.
"I have concluded that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States cannot move forward until MBS has been dealt with."
Last November, the CIA concluded that MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi in Istanbul, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of Prince Mohammed, was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit team in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October, prompting a global outcry.
"We will start sanctioning those involved in the killing of Mr Khashoggi," Graham added.
"We will make a definitive statement that MBS knew about it and is responsible for it and come up with a series of sanctions to let others know this is not what you do if you're an ally of the United States."
'Not one to mince his words'
The US Treasury sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals and the Senate adopted a resolution blaming Prince Mohammed. President Donald Trump, however, has so far been reluctant to directly implicate the royal or issue any punitive measures.
At least 21 Saudis have reportedly been arrested in connection with the case, with five facing the death penalty. Five officials were also fired, including senior royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, the alleged mastermind of the operation against Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia is yet to reveal what its agents did with the remains of Khashoggi.
Al Jazeera's Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said Graham's comments were not surprising considering his recent distaste for the Saudi Monarch. "Graham is not one to mince his words and has called MBS a wrecking ball in the past. So, this is not the first time he's airing his views about MBS and how he feels he's implicated in Khashoggi's murder. "He's based that on information provided by the CIA that orders did not come from a low-level operative but straight from the top, almost indicting the Saudi leadership, including MBS. "But the US president still sees MBS as a key ally, and sees Saudi Arabia's role as not just buying weapons from the US, but also in forwarding what Donald Trump has envisioned as a policy for the Middle East," Bin Javaid said. "So it's very interesting that Graham's stance is closer to the US ally Turkey but very different from what the president himself has been saying."
'Filling a void'
Andreas Krieg, an assistant professor at the Defence Studies Department of King's College London, said Graham was filling a much needed void in US foreign policy.
"[John] Bolton was trying to reach out to Turkey as a national security adviser but was given a bit of a slap by Erdogan because he doesn't trust him. Bolton has been very hawkish in his approach to Turkey and in general, Islamism in the region.
"Then you have [Mike] Pompeo who has been in the region recently but has been very pro-Saudi and hasn't responded well to the pressure in civil society and the media in the US over the Khashoggi affair. "And then you had [Jim] Mattis, who while being diplomatic was let go recently. So there's a void Graham is filling given he's a very prominent foreign policy expert in congress".

Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Washington DC, said while it was surprising Graham had visited Turkey amid the government shutdown, he couldn't have gone "without some sort of coordination with the White House".
Trump has refused to approve legislation to restore funding to about a quarter of the federal government, resulting in up to 800,000 employees going without pay.
And earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to abandon a planned trip to Afghanistan after Trump denied her the use of military aircraft.
"Considering how close Graham is with Trump, there's no way he could have gone to Turkey without some sort of coordination with the White House," Elizondo said.
"How much coordination, and how much he is speaking on behalf of the administration, remains to be seen. But Graham doesn't need President Trump's blessing to go anywhere. He can speak about anything. Graham is one of America's most powerful senators. He sits on the Foreign Relations committee, the Budget committee, the Appropriations committee.
"For several years now he's been a strong voice in international relations ... and this is the second time he's met with President Erdogan in the past six months".

Syria withdrawal

Senator Graham also said he hoped President Trump would slow the US withdrawal from Syria until the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) is destroyed.
Graham said he believed US Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford was working on a plan with Turkey to move Kurdish YPG elements away from the country.
By arming the YPG group in Syria, Washington "created a nightmare for Turkey," said Graham.
Underlining that the YPG/PYD is "clearly" tied to the PKK - listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, and the European Union - Graham told reporters that the US strategy in Syria has the potential to cause harm to Turkey.
The South Carolina senator stressed the importance of protecting Turkey and solving the problem the US "created" for Ankara, referring to US support for the YPG/PYD in the name of fighting ISIL.
Turkey has said it will soon launch an operation against the YPG/PYD in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, near the Turkish border.
There has been friction between Ankara and Washington over the upcoming operation amid the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

#Pakistan's Police Brutality - Three children watch father, mother, sister getting killed - #ساہیوال_لہولہو - #SahiwalFiring #SahiwalMassacre #SahiwalMassacre #SahiwalIncident

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials shot dead four persons, including a couple, their 13-year-old daughter and a friend of the family in the presence of three children on Saturday.
The incident took place near the Sahiwal toll plaza, where members of the CTD killed the car riders in cold blood, accusing them of being terrorists, on Saturday afternoon. The deceased were identified as Khalil, his wife Nabeela, daughter Areeba and Khalil’s friend. Mystery shrouded the shooting incident, as the CTD officials kept changing their statements after the killings; first declaring them child kidnappers, and then dubbing them as terrorists.
The CTD claimed that the car riders had opened fire on the raiding party, which had tried to intercept the vehicle as well as a motorcycle on the main road. The family in the car also included three children, two sisters and a brother, and the surviving boy also sustained minor injuries. The injured child, Khalil’s son Umair Khalil, told the media persons that his parents, sister and a friend of his father were killed in police firing. He said the incident took place when they were on their way to attend the wedding ceremony of his uncle Rizwan in Burewala. He said they were travelling from Tariqabad (Kot Lakhpat) area of Lahore, to Burewala (Sahiwal) when the police opened fire on their vehicle.
He said his father had asked the law-enforcers to check their vehicle and told them that there were no weapons. However, the police did not pay any heed and opened fire, killing his parents on-the-spot.Eyewitnesses contradicted the CTD statements and said the car-riding family did not open fire at the officials. "No weapons were found with the bodies," they said. The eyewitnesses said the children told them at a nearby petrol station that the “police killed their parents”.Following the firing incident, the CTD officials first abandoned the children at a petrol station. However, later on, they came back and took them to some undisclosed location, and then to an area hospital.
A CTD spokesman said the operation was conducted as follow-up of an action carried out in Faisalabad on Jan 16.
"The car was coming from Lahore and the women killed were 40 and 13 years old, respectively.”
The CTD also claimed that there were three other suspected terrorists on-the-spot, who managed to escape. “They were identified as Shahid Jabbar, Abdul Rehman and their accomplice," the CTD spokesperson added.
Earlier, the CTD officials claimed that the four people were kidnappers, but later on dubbed them as terrorists.
The CTD identified one of the deceased as Zeeshan. The department said that he was wanted for several crimes, including the abduction of Ali Haider Gilani, son of former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani, and several American nationals. The CTD also claimed that he was the deputy chief of a banned outfit.
Reportedly, the children were in an area hospital at the time of filing of the report, which had been cordoned off completely, and no one was being allowed to enter the emergency department. Ironically, the crime scene was not preserved, neither by the CTD nor by the area police.Taking notice of the incident, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday contacted Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and sought a report on the incident. He ordered for conducting a transparent and detailed inquiry into the incident.
Also, on the order of the Punjab chief minister, the CTD officials, who took part in the action, have been arrested.
Inspector General of Police Punjab Amjad Javed Salimi has also constituted a four-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the incident. Additional IG Establishment Punjab will be the head of the team, and one each representative from the ISI and the IB would be part of the JIT. The team will submit its report within three days.Meanwhile, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Saturday Prime Minister Imran Khan contacted Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar and asked him to immediately reach Sahiwal and called for bringing facts to the fore.In a video clip, the minister noted that the Counter-Terrorism Department had claimed that terrorists had been gunned down in the incident, whereas the media reports and interviews of the children of the victims, were telling something else.He said action would be taken against the CTD raiding party members and they would be made an example if found to be guilty of any wrong-doing.
“And, if CTD’s version is found correct and they (deceased) were terrorists, then that would also be shared with the nation. On both ways, details would be shared with people,” the minister added. He noted that when the incident happened, the chief minister was away from Lahore and the PM contacted him and directed him to immediately reach Sahiwal. Later in the evening, the chief minister reached Sahiwal from Mianwali and visited the children at the DHQ Hospital.
Meanwhile, the inspector general of police (IGP), Punjab, took notice of the incident. He sought an inquiry report on the incident from the Sahiwal RPO and the Punjab CTD. The CTD submitted its initial report regarding the incident to the IGP. According to the report, the CTD team did a joint intelligence-based operation in which four terrorists related with the defunct organisation Daesh were killed, whereas, weapons and explosive material was seized from their possession.
The report said the CTD team tried to intercept terrorists, who were riding a car and a motorcycle near the Sahiwal toll plaza, but they opened fire on the CTD team, and a shootout ensued. When the firing stopped, four persons, including two women, were found dead by firing of their accomplices. Three terrorists fled the scene. The CTD said that the operation was in continuation of the operation conducted in Faisalabad on January 16. The CTD was tracking the remaining terrorists of Red Book namely Shahid Jabbar and Abdul Rehman. According to the CTD, this is the Daesh Network which killed three ISI officers in Multan, one police officer in Faisalabad and kidnapped American national Warren Weinstein and Ali Haider Gilani, son of former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. The network had also killed dozens of people in blasts and firing. It was the most dangerous network of Daesh in Punjab.
Meanwhile, family members, relatives, friends and locals staged a demonstration in Lahore on Saturday and blocked the main Ferozpur Road against the killings.
The protesters burnt tyres in protest and chanted slogans against the Punjab Police and the CTD and demanded immediate action against the culprits. A terrible traffic mess was witnessed on the Ferozpur Road Chungi Amar Sidhu as thousands of motorists remained stuck almost for hours. However, the protesters dispersed after getting assurance that a police officer would accompany the family to Sahiwal so that bodies could be handed over to the heirs without any trouble.

#Pakistan - #ساہیوال_لہولہو - - #SahiwalFiring #SahiwalMassacre #SahiwalMassacre #SahiwalIncident - اس اینکر نے حق ادا کردیا۔۔۔ اور وھی زبان استعمال کی جو 22 کروڑ عوام استعمال کرنا چاھتی ھے۔۔۔👇👇👇

#Balochistan: Baloch Republican Army claimed to damage #Pakistan military helicopter

The Baloch Republican Army (BRA) spokesperson, Sarbaz Baloch, in a statement to media said that on Wednesday morning Pakistani forces’ helicopters bombed hideouts of Baloch fighters in Shaikhen area in Kohlu.
He further said that Baloch Republican Army (BRA) snipers have targeted the force’s helicopter and damaged it.
In another statement, the BRA has accepted responsibility for an attack on a Pakistani force’s check post in Kolahu area of Tump in district Kech Balochistan.
He said, ‘Our snipers have targeted and killed a security officer on duty at the check post.’
‘The video for the attack on helicopters will be released shortly,’ Sarbaz Baloch said vowing that such attacks will continue till the establishment of an independent Baloch state.


In what appeared another U-turn, the PTI-led federal government has issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to former army chief retired General Raheel Sharif for his job as head of a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition.

The NOC has been issued in view of an approval that was granted by the federal cabinet during its meeting held on Jan 10, according to a source.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that the NOC had indeed been issued after approval by the federal cabinet.
“The issue was not on the normal agenda of the federal cabinet’s meeting but it was approved through circulation,” the minister said. Cabinet approved decision in last meeting
Gen Sharif retired in November 2016 and joined the Saudi led coalition that was called counterterrorism coalition, in April 2017 amid controversy that he could not go for any job, especially abroad, within two years of his retirement from Pakistan Army.
Initially, it remained unclear whether the-then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had issued any NOC to the general. But former defence minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif in 2017 revealed that Gen Sharif had applied for an NOC and that it was approved by the Ministry of Defence after due process. However, legally, Federal Cabinet approval is required for such NOC which was not granted to Raheel Sharif by the federal cabinet under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
For that reason, the Supreme Court later directed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government to issue a fresh NOC that was needed by the general for employment abroad during the two-year period when he was not supposed to be employed.
The information minister said the government had submitted the NOC to the Supreme Court.
Earlier, the PTI had opposed the issuance of an NOC and questioned the decision to allow Gen Sharif to lead the coalition without knowing its terms of reference, and aims and objectives. The PTI was one of the parties that remained vocal on the issue in the days of the PML-N government.
Former defence minister Khawaja Asif had informed the National Assembly in April 2017 that the Saudi government would hold a meeting soon in which it would unveil the TOR of the alliance.
Mr Chaudhry had presented the PTI’s point of view on the issue and said: “We strongly oppose this decision and will soon bring the issue to parliament.”
The party was of the view that all parliamentary parties had decided that Pakistan should be neutral in the Middle East crisis and the decision to issue an NOC to Gen Sharif was contrary to the parliament’s decision.

#Pakistan - #ساہیوال_لہولہو - Son of man killed in Sahiwal raid narrates incident - #SahiwalFiring #SahiwalMassacre #SahiwalMassacre #SahiwalIncident

The son of a man who was killed along with his wife, daughter and a friend, has narrated the entire episode to media.
Umair Khalil, son of Khalil, told media that his father had begged CTD personnel to take money and spare their lives, but they refused and opened fire on the car.
“My papa, mummy, sister and a friend of my father were killed. We survived the firing,” he said. “We were taken to a petrol station and left there,” he said.
The boy said that they were going to a wedding in Burewala from Lahore when they were intercepted by the CTD personnel.Jalil, brother of suspect, also rejected the police claim that his brother was a terrorist.“We all were going to Burewala to attend a marriage. We were in three cars,” Jalil said.Nabeela Ghazanfar, a Punjab police spokeswoman, said that action would be taken against the CTD men if those killed were found to be innocent.
Ms Ghazanfar said that a joint investigation team was formed to probe the matter.DIG Zulfiqar Hameed will head the team which will also have officials from ISI, MI and IB.The JIT has been directed to complete the inquiry and submit the report within thee days. On the other hand, a CTD spokesman insisted that people riding the car were terrorists. "They opened fire on the security personnel which led to the shooting, he said. Meanwhile, relatives of the Khalil took to the streets in Lahore and urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to take notice of the incident.