US, Iran retreat from brink

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Middle East Desk Report BAGHDAD: Iran spurned the U.S. president’s call for a new nuclear pact and its commanders threatened more attacks, after both sides backed off from intensified conflict following the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and Tehran’s retaliatory missile strikes. Concern the Middle East was primed for a wider war eased after U.S President Donald Trump refrained from ordering more military action on Wednesday and Iran’s foreign minister diplomat said missile strikes “concluded” Tehran’s response. But each side’s next move in their protracted shadow war was uncertain, although Iranian generals resumed their habitual barrage of warnings to Washington. Trump’s Democratic critics have accused him of reckleness in his handling of Iran. But analysts say that in an election year, he wants to avoid getting into a drawnout conflict. In turn, Iran will try to avert direct confrontation with superior U.S. forces but can call on proxy militias across the region as U.S. sanctions bite. Iran fired missiles on Wednesday at bases in Iraq where U.S. troops were stationed in retaliation for the killing in a U.S. drone attack of powerful Iranian general QassemSoleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. The actions followed months of tension that has increased steadily since Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s nuclear pact with world powers in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have driven down Tehran’s oil exports and hammered its economy. Trump told Americans in an address on Wednesday: “The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it”. The Iranian missiles fired on military bases in Iraq had not harmed any U.S. troops, he said. Iran “appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned,” he said. Trump also said it was time for world powers to replace the 2015 nuclear Certain NAB law provisions against Islam, says CCI By Ali Imran ISLAMABAD: The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Thursday has declared few sections of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance as non-Islamic. Talking to media, the CII Chairman, Qibla Ayaz, said that sections 14D, 15A and 26 of the NAB ordinance don’t follow Islamic ways. There is no concept of approver and plea bargain in Islam, he asserted. Later, responding to the CII chief’s statement, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary said that the council has never provided its guidance in any matter. Spending millions of rupees on such institutions is beyond understanding, he added. The minister further demanded restructuring of the Council of Islamic Ideology. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Thursday termed some sections of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, as going against the Shariah. Addressing a press conference on Thursday, chairman of the CII, Dr Qibla Ayaz, said the council held a two-day-long meeting during which it concluded that sections 14-D, 15-A and 26 of the NAO were un-Islamic. Section 14 of the law pertains to presumption against accused accepting illegal gratification, Section 15 pertains to disqualification to contest elections (or to hold public office) and Section 26 pertains to the tender of pardon. Ayaz said that according to the council, handcuffing suspects and airing footage of the arrest on media is un- Islamic. Additionally, the council said that it was not the suspects’ responsibility to prove their guilt and keeping a suspect in custody for long periods without a case also went against Islamic principles. As per the CII, plea bargains and turning of suspects into approvers is also against the Shariah. Ayaz said with the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, the accountability law will become further discriminatory. “NAB law is not compatible with Islamic laws Striving for Saudi-Iran friendly ties, says PM Pakistan ready to play de-escalation role: FO EU envoys reject Indian offer of IoK guided tour By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday reiterated that contrary to the past, Pakistan would never become part of anyone’s war and rather would play a role for promoting peace among countries. “We will fully strive for the establishment of friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he said while addressing the launching ceremony of Rs 30 billion `Hunarmand Pakistan’ programme here. The prime minister said he had also offered US President Donald Trump that Pakistan was ready to play a role in promoting friendly relations between the United States and Iran. “No one wins the war, and the one that wins, also loses,” Imran Khan remarked, adding Pakistan had paid a high price in the war against terrorism. He vowed to transform Pakistan into a model and peaceful country that would play a lead role in promoting peace among states. The prime minister described the youth as the “biggest asset” of the country, saying the Pakistanis were the 2nd youngest population and its skilled youth alone could change the destiny of the country and the nation. He said the present government was hugely investing in the country’s human resource, particularly the youth, which were neglected in the past through various education systems based on discrimination between the rich and the poor. The prime minister said under the “Hunarmand Pakistan” programme, 500,000 youth would be equipped with the skills of modern technology such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics etc. during the next four years, which had had brought about a technical revolution in the world. In the first phase, the government had allocated Rs 10 billion for the training of 170,000 youth, he added. Imran Khan said that under the prgramme 500 technical training centers would be opened across the country, and 70 of them in By Asghar Ali Mubarak ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday expressed its readiness to contribute towards peace in the region, saying it would welcome any move by the United States and Iran to deescalate the current tense situation. “Any attempt by the concerned parties to diffuse tension and restore peace in the region will be welcomed by Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqi said at a weekly press briefing. The spokesperson said U.S President Donald Trump’s address to his nation carried a hint of peace following a retaliatory attack by Iran on its military bases in Iraq after assassination of its top military commander General QassemSuleimani in an air strike by U.S. forces on January 3. “We believe there is an indication by President Donald Trump that peace must be given a chance,” she said, adding that Pakistan was evaluating the contours of his speech. Spokesperson Farooqi said there was always a room for engagement within the region and beyond, saying the upcoming visits of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to Saudi Arabia, Iran and United States on direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan was aimed at delivering a message of peace. “War is in no one’s interest and the region cannot afford any more conflict. The collective wisdom demands that all must play their role towards peace, which Pakistan is certainly doing at the moment,” she said. The spokesperson said NEW DELHI: Ambassadors from European countries have rejected India’s invitation for a two-day visit to occupied Kashmir, seeking instead the “freedom to meet the people unescorted”, several Indian media outlets reported on Wednesday. According to Associated Press, envoys from 15 countries including the United States are visiting occupied Kashmir starting from Thursday (today) for two days, the first by New Delhi-based diplomats since India revoked the special status of the region and imposed a harsh crackdown in August 2019. The diplomats are expected to meet civil society members and government officials during their visit to Srinagar and Jammu, officials said. Details are not immediately available, but they are expected to receive a briefing on the security situation from various agencies. The Press Trust of India news agency said diplomats representing Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, the Maldives, South Korea, Morocco and Nigeria will be part of the delegation. According to NDTV, European diplomats said they didn’t want a “guided tour” of the occupied territory and “would visit later and meet the people they want to meet”. Quoting diplomatic sources, The Hindu reported that diplomats from EU had decided not to accept the invitation and asked for “more freedom to travel and meet people unescorted”. Consequently, the Indian government has decided to organise a separate visit for the European envoys at a later date, the report added. The report says Australia, Afghanistan and the Gulf countries were also invited for the visit but declined due to “other commitments”. “While many ambassadors are still on winter UTAH: US Air Force F-35A aircraft, from the 388th and 428th Fighter Wings, form up in an ‘elephant walk’ during an exercise at Hill Air Force Base, here on Thursday.–Agencies NAB calls Sana on Feb 3 in assets case Hafiz Saeed to record statements in terror funding cases Naval Chief visits Chinese ship in war drills ECP set to suspend over 100 legislators Bureau Report LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore has summoned Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab president Rana Sanaullah in connection with its probe into his assets on Feb 3. The anti-graft watchdog had previously asked him to turn up before it later this month with a reply to a questionnaire handed to him during his appearance on Jan 2. However, it has now rescheduled his appearance for Feb 3. According to sources, the questionnaire handed to him comprises fourteen questions. The questions related to the assets the PML-N MNA and his family members acquired over the past two decades, they said. He has been asked to provide the money trail behind his residential and commercial plots in Lahore and Faislabad and shares in the Bank of Punjab. He has been further instructed to explain how his assets multiplied exponentially over the past 18 years. Earlier, on Jan 2, Rana Sanaullah had appeared before the NAB Lahore and was handed a questionnaire about the investigation into his assets. He was also quizzed about his income and assets. Speaking to reporters after the investigation session, he had said his assets were the same he had already declared before the Election Commission of Pakistan. From Abid Usman LAHORE: An Anti-Terrorism Court has summoned JamaatudDawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed to record his closing statement on Friday after it wrapped up the trial of two terror financing cases against him. Trials of both the cases against the JuD leader wrapped up on Thursday. The cases, heard by ATC judge Malik ArshadBhutt, were registered by the Counter- Terrorism Department (CTD) over charges of accumulating illegal funding. Deputy Prosecutor General Abdul RaufWattu represented the state in the case where statements of 23 witnesses were recorded. On December 11, 2019, Saeed and four other JuD leaders were indicted by the court, six months after they were booked for offences pertaining to terror financing. The JuD leaders denied the allegations against them as being baseless and a result of international pressure on the Pakistan government. They claimed that they have been charged in the cases by wrongly attributing them as leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). They pleaded that it was an admitted fact, supported by the superior courts’ From Zeeshan Mirza KARACHI: Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood A bbasi on Thursday visited the (Navy) Flag Ship YINCHUAN on the 4th day of the ongoing bilateral exercise ‘Sea Guardians- 2020’. The 6th bilateral exercise is being conducted between Pakistan and PLA Navies in which Chinese Flotilla comprising naval platforms/ assets along with PLA (Navy) Marines Corps Detachment is participating. Upon his arrival onboard PLA (Navy) Ship YINCHUAN, the Naval Chief was warmly welcomed by Deputy Commander PLA Southern Theatre Command Vice Admiral Dong Jun. A smartly turned out contingent presented Guard of Honour to the Naval Chief and was given briefing onboard. Thereafter, Admiral By Uzma Zafar ISLAMABAD: More than 400 senators and members of the national and provincial assemblies who have failed to submit the details of their assets and liabilities could face the termination of their membership from January 16. According to sources, 495 lawmakers failed to submit their annual statement of assets and liabilities with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by the due date. At least 1195 have submitted their statement; those who failed to submit their legal obligation include 21 members of the Senate and 125 members of the National Assembly. Those who failed to submit their legal obligation in provincial assemblies include 140 members of Punjab Assembly, 46 of Sindh Trump holds back further military action Offers unconditional dialogue to Tehran but crisis not yet over Continued on Page 7