VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: 20 March, 2018
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PAKISTAN
Musharraf’s diplomatic passport renewed in January: Ahsan Iqbal: Dawn
March 20, 2018

Former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was not only issued a new passport two months before the expiry of his travel document but it was again a diplomatic passport that he was entitled to being a former head of state, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal confirmed to Dawn on Monday. The former military ruler has been declared absconder by courts in several cases including high treason case, judges’ detention case and Benazir Bhutto assassination case. However, it is not clear if specific permission was given for a diplomatic passport and who gave it. The interior minister claimed that the diplomatic passport of Gen Musharraf was renewed out of fear that he might use it as a pretext for not returning home to face the treason case. “He needs passport to travel back to Pakistan. He would have contended that without a passport he cannot travel and would have blamed the government for blocking his return,” Mr Iqbal said in response to a query about the renewal of the former military ruler’s passport. Click here to read...

Geelani steps down as leader of Kashmir group: Dawn
March 20, 2018

Mohammad Ashraf Sehraie, the founder general secretary of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat, on Monday replaced hardline pro-freedom leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. “In a unanimous decision taken in an extraordinary meeting, the highest decision making body (Majlis-i-Shoora) of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat [has] appointed Mohammad Ashraf Sehraie as interim chairman till the organisational elections to be held later this year,” says a press release issued in Srinagar, a copy of which was also emailed to Dawn. The meeting was held at the Hyderpora residence of Mr Geelani. However, reports said Mr Geelani would continue to hold the position of the chairman of his own faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Confe¬rence (APHC). Mr Geelani-led Hurriyat comprises at least 24 smaller parties. Click here to read...

AFGHANISTAN
US Held Private Talks With Pakistan on Sanctuaries: Nicholson: Tolo News
March 19, 2018

General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan said the United States held a series of private talks with Pakistani officials about the elimination of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. He said the recent pressure applied to Pakistan has not resulted in the reduction of violence in Afghanistan, but he reiterated that Washington will take other steps to cut the aid coming from Pakistan to the Taliban and other groups. “There have been many high level discussions, many of these have been in private to try to encourage the Pakistanis to do this; as of the beginning of the year, as you saw President (Donald) Trump suspended military aid to Pakistan and as you heard ambassador (John) Bass said as recently as yesterday the United States’ position has been that we want to see the Pakistanis eliminate these sanctuaries, eliminate the support,” said Nicholson. Referring to the peace process, Nicholson said that there is a possibility that some Taliban join the peace process but warned that some others will never denounce the war. Click here to read...

Iran-Afghanistan To Resolve Chabahar Problem: Tolo News
March 19, 2018

Iranian ambassador to Kabul Mohammad Reza Bahrami said in an interview with TOLOnews that Iran and Afghanistan governments will work together to resolve problems around Chabahar Port. Among the problems is the lack of a standard banking system that limits work and development in the port. Bahrami said in order to overcome these challenges, Iran and Afghanistan will work together to find appropriate solutions. According to Bahrami, sanctions in place against Iran by some countries that affect Iran-Afghanistan relations should be removed. “Those limitations that affect Iran-Afghanistan ties and have been imposed on Iran, should be removed,” said Bahrami. Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) meanwhile said US sanctions against Iran have slowed down the work process at Chabahar and Iran wants these limitations removed by gaining support from other countries. Click here to read...

NEPAL
India, Nepal talk bilateral trade boost, developmental aid partnership: Business Standard
March 19, 2018

As part of India's bid to reach out to the new dispensation in Nepal, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday held a meeting here with visiting Industry, Commerce and Supplies Minister Matrika Yadav and discussed ways to take forward bilateral trade and the developmental aid partnership. "Leaders discussed ways to take our trade, commerce and developmental partnership forward," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. India is Nepal's largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments, besides providing transit for almost the entire third country trade of Nepal. Click here to read...

BANGLADESH
Relocation of 1 Lakh Rohingyas: Preparations on in Bhasanchar: Daily Star
March 19, 2018

Around one lakh Rohingya refugees are going to be relocated to Bhasanchar of Hatiya upazila in Noakhali as works of building shelters and housing are in progress. The relocation may start before the upcoming rainy season depending on completion of the construction works, said officials of the divisional commissioner's office. Contacted, Divisional Commissioner Abdul Mannan said primarily they are planning to relocate nearly one lakh Rohingyas from Ukhia to Bhasanchar. “The Bangladesh Navy is building the shelters, houses and doing protection works in Bhasanchar. We have requested the principal secretary of the Prime Minister's Office to form a committee in this regard as the district administration is the owner of the land,” he added. The divisional commissioner expressed the hope that they would start the relocation before the upcoming rainy season. The Rohingyas who are sheltered in Kutupalang and Balukhali in Ukhia would be shifted first, said Kamal Hossain, deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar. Click here to read...

SRI LANKA
Most Sinhalese happy about recent riots: Election Commission: Daily mirror
March 20, 2018

Dismissing the popular view on the attitude of a majority of Sinhalese towards the attacks on Muslim-owned properties and mosques during the recent riots in Ampara town and the Kandy District, Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya claimed they seemed happy about what happened. "The claim that a majority of Sinhalese were against the recent attacks on Muslims is wrong," he said. At a workshop on ethnic harmony on the theme, "building Bridges" held on Saturday at SLIDA, Mr. Deshapriya was quick to observe that a majority of Sinhalese were happy to see the Tamils too being attacked in 1983, only to regret it a few years later. He said embracing some aspects of Arab culture by Muslims in Sri Lanka is fanning fires of distrust while Muslim girls were being further and further pushed into an insulated society since they had been compelled to go to the mushrooming small international schools run by Muslims, as they have no schools to attend. Mr. Deshapriya urged the Muslims to assimilate themselves into a Sri Lankan nation and reminded the Sinhalese that there is no unmixed community in the country or in the world. Click here to read...

CHINA
NPC endorses State Council lineup: People's Daily
20 March, 2018

The 13th National People's Congress, China's national legislature, decided on the new lineup of the State Council at the seventh plenary meeting of its first session on Monday morning. Nearly 3,000 NPC deputies voted to endorse vice-premiers, State councilors, the secretary-general of the State Council, ministers, the governor of the central bank and the auditor-general, who were nominated by Premier Li Keqiang. Among them, Han Zheng, Sun Chunlan, Hu Chunhua and Liu He were endorsed as vice-premiers, while Wei Fenghe, Wang Yong, Wang Yi, Xiao Jie and Zhao Kezhi were endorsed as State councilors. They were officially appointed when President Xi Jinping signed a presidential decree. Click here to read...

AIIB inks natural gas deal with Chinese firm to improve air quality: People's Daily
20 March, 2018

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) signed a natural gas project with a Chinese company Monday to improve the air quality in Beijing. "It is the common responsibility of the international community, including multilateral development banks, to tackle climate change. With substantial support of the board of directors of the AIIB, this project hopes to contribute to meet this global agenda," AIIB President Jin Liqun said at the signing ceremony. Click here to read...

Gov't work report, other documents to be put for vote Tuesday: China Daily
20 March, 2018

The presidium of the first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) decided to put several important documents, including the government work report, for vote Tuesday. The decision was made at the presidium's 11th meeting Monday afternoon, presided over by Li Zhanshu, the presidium's executive chairman. Six other documents will also be voted. They include the draft supervision law, the report on the national economic and social development plan, the report on the central and local budgets, and the work reports of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Click here to read...

Trade war with US? Those words aren't compatible - China won't be led by emotions, says Li Keqiang in veiled swipe at Donald Trump: South China Morning Post
20 March, 2018

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is this morning conducting a press conference to mark the end of the National People’s Congress. It has been an unusually long session resulting in many significant changes, including the constitutional revision to remove presidential term limits, a sweeping plan to restructure the State Council and the appointment of many new figures to top government posts. Click here to read...

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