VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: 15th March, 2018
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PAKISTAN

Taliban bomber kills nine in Raiwind: The Nation
March 14, 2018

At least nine people, including five policemen, were martyred when a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint on Raiwind Road late Wednesday. More than 25 people, including several police, were wounded in the explosion, the third suicide terror strike on Lahore police since 2017. A young officer and at least nine other policemen were also ferried to hospitals on ambulances soon after the terror hit that shattered calm in the city after months-long lull. The bombing was claimed by the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in which the jihadists threatened more attacks on police in retaliation for killing their “associates” in Punjab. Rescue workers said the death toll may swell because several victims were admitted to emergency units with multiple injuries. The authorities declared a state of emergency in all city hospitals amid calls for blood donations as ambulances with sirens wailed through the traffic-clogged streets.Click here to read...

Karachi nuclear power plants heavily protected: IAEA chief: Dawn
March 15, 2018

International Ato¬mic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano has praised the arrangements made for the security of nuclear power plants operating in Karachi. Mr Amano, who visited the plants on Wednesday, said that the new Kanupp II and III “plants are very heavily protected. Your country needs more electricity and you are committed to nuclear safety; you are working with the IAEA”. “The IAEA greatly values cooperation with Pakistan in peaceful uses of nuclear technology,” he said. He stated that access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries as developing states should also have the right to use atomic power.Click here to read...

AFGHANISTAN

39% of Afghans Live Below Poverty Line: Tolo News
March 14, 2018

Officials from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Economy (MoEc) on Wednesday said that the poverty and unemployment rates have significantly increased despite efforts over the past few years to develop the country. Thirty nine percent of the people live below the poverty line and 23 percent of Afghans are unemployed, said Suhrab Bahman, spokesman for the ministry of economy.
Meanwhile, a number of economic commentators have said that the National Unity Government (NUG) under President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has failed to address the issue of poverty and unemployment over the past three years. According to the ministry of economy, Afghanistan’s economic growth rate this year has been around 0.5 percent following a visible increase in the country’s exports abroad, but poverty and unemployment remains a huge challenge. Click here to read...

US Envoy, Resolute Support Reject Claims of Supporting Daesh: Tolo News
March 14, 2018

The US Ambassador to Kabul John R Bass vehemently denied US involvement in transporting Daesh fighters in Afghanistan. In a statement issued by Bass on Wednesday afternoon, the envoy said in response to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s claims of “US support for ISIS (Daesh) in Afghanistan are laughable and patently false. “The facts are clear: US forces have removed more than 1,000 ISIS-K (Daesh Afghanistan) combatants from the battlefield, and the combined efforts of the United States and the Afghan National Defense and Security forces have reduced ISIS-K’s presence in Afghanistan. “As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells said recently, ‘They’re very much in the cross-hairs at present.’ The Iranian government should be focusing on supporting the Afghan government’s efforts to promote peace rather than spreading falsehoods,” he said.Click here to read...

NEPAL

Bickering over portfolios continues: My Republica
March 15, 2018

Eleven ministries in the new cabinet continue to remain vacant even a month after Prime Minister KP Oli came to power with the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) failing to divide portfolios between themselves and prospective partners in the ruling alliance. Leaders said a host of factors including internal feud in the UML and the Maoist Center and lack of progress in coalition talks with two Madhes-based parties are causing delays in cabinet expansion. This prolonged delay in cabinet expansion has not only crippled governance in the country but also highlighted the challenges facing the new government, which holds two-thirds majority in parliament. With the delay in cabinet expansion, Oli, who was appointed the head of the government on February 15, two months after he guided the left alliance to poll victory, is still overseeing the activities of the vacant ministries. Click here to read...

SRI LANKA

Japan and Sri Lanka to step up maritime cooperation: Nikkei Asian Review
March 15, 2018

Japan will reinforce cooperation on maritime security with Sri Lanka, as well as support infrastructure and health projects there, in initiatives aimed at countering China's growing influence in the Indian Ocean. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Maithripala Sirisena Wednesday to his residence here, where they agreed to promote Tokyo's "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy" and signed a memorandum of understanding for a 10.6 billion yen ($99.6 million) loan for health-related projects. At the meeting, Japan confirmed that it will offer support for infrastructure projects for ports, roads and energy in Sri Lanka. Tokyo also plans to send specialists to train locals in the health care and disaster prevention fields. The two countries agreed to closer communication on defense issues as well. "By working together, we will make the Indo-Pacific an international commons that offers peace and prosperity for any country without discrimination," Abe said at a joint press conference. Sirisena added that the two countries will deepen their existing partnership.
Click here to read...

MYANMAR

Myanmar Rejects U.N. Findings: ‘No Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide in Our Country’: New York Times
March 14, 2018

Senior Myanmar officials denied on Wednesday that the country’s military had committed any crimes against Rohingya Muslims, one day after a United Nations expert suggested that the government was implicated in “the crime of genocide” against the persecuted Muslim minority. “There is no ethnic cleansing or genocide in our country,” said U Aung Tun Thet, the chief coordinator of the Myanmar government body dedicated to the Rohingya crisis. “Accusations are very easy to make, but we are not involved in anything at all.” Some 700,000 Rohingya, a mostly stateless ethnic group from Rakhine State in western Myanmar, have fled a violent military campaign that began last August after Rohingya insurgents attacked government security posts. The military’s scorched-earth tactics resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings and rapes of Rohingya, according to the United Nations and international rights groups.Click here to read...

Maldives lays out state of emergency, India ties to foreign media: Haveeru
March 14, 2018

A panel of the Maldives’ ministers held a special press conference targeting international media Tuesday at the President’s Office, in which they responded to talks of the archipelago’s allegedly deteriorating ties with neighbouring India, the ongoing state of emergency and its effects on tourism. Replying to reporters’ inquiries regarding the Maldives’ current relations with India, economic minister Mohamed Saeed declared that India remains the Maldives’ “best friend” and hit back at allegations of souring diplomatic ties between the two.Click here to read...

CHINA

New leaders elected to guide CPPCC: China Daily
March 15, 2018

A new leadership was elected on Wednesday to guide the development of the top political advisory body for the next five years.Click here to read...

Xinjiang reported free of terror attacks last year: China Daily
March 15, 2018

There were no terrorist attacks in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region last year, the region's chairman said on Tuesday as he discussed the regional government's determination to keep the social situation calm. "Xinjiang will continue to enforce the comprehensive anti-terrorism measures to keep the region stable," said Shohrat Zakir, chairman of Xinjiang. He spoke during a plenary session of the Xinjiang delegation to the first session of the 13th National People's Congress, the top legislature.Click here to read...

Xi congratulates Nepalese president on taking office for new term: China Daily
March 15, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday congratulates Bidya Devi Bhandari on assuming office as Nepal's president for a second term.In a congratulatory message, Xi said China and Nepal are close neighbors. China always respects and supports the Nepalese people's independent choice of social system and development path, and believes that Nepal will make greater achievements under the leadership of Bhandari and the Nepalese government.Click here to read...

Chinese president congratulates Merkel on re-election as German chancellor: China Daily
March 14, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday extended his congratulations to Angela Merkel on her re-election as German chancellor for the fourth time. In the congratulatory message, Xi said since the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Germany in 2014, the two countries have witnessed continuous development in bilateral ties, constantly-deepened common interest and mutual cooperation, closer cooperation in improving global governance and boosting globalization and multilateralism, among other aspects.Click here to read...

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