China’s new silk road: What’s in it for Pakistan?

A cornerstone of the Chinese investment project will be to develop the port of Gwadar, on the doorstep of the Middle East. - Courtesy Photo
A cornerstone of the Chinese investment project will be to develop the port of Gwadar, on the doorstep of the Middle East. – Courtesy Photo

During his visit to Pakistan, China’s president will discuss a raft of energy and infrastructure deals as part of wider ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan had already generated a sense of nervous anticipation. Originally expected to come in September last year, Xi’s visit was postponed in the wake of prolonged anti-government protests in Islamabad, with the government not want anything untoward happening this time round.

As well as signing a raft of energy, trade and investment agreements, the Chinese president will inaugurate Balochistan’s Gwadar port, which is part of the 3,000 kilometre-long strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which could radically alter the regional dynamics of trade, development and politics.

Gwadar, once a part of Oman before it was sold to Pakistan in 1958, is one of the least developed districts in Balochistan province. It sits strategically near the Persian Gulf and close to the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 per cent of the world’s oil passes.

The construction and operation of this multi-billion dollar deep-sea port at Gwadar was contracted to a Chinese company in 2013 and some analysts argue that the port could turn into China’s naval base in the Indian Ocean, enabling Beijing to monitor Indian and American naval activities.

Establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was first proposed by Chinese premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013. “Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity, energy development and power generation,” Li said at the time.

Source: SCMP
Source: SCMP

Pakistan’s strong ties with China may mean the initiative succeeds where other regional energy projects have become mired in security problems and political disagreements, says Vaqar Zakaria, energy sector expert and MANAGING director of environmental consultancy firm Hagler Bailley Pakistan.

“The Pak-Iran pipeline is on hold, the World Bank-backed Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project has to contend with security issues relating to the passageway through Afghanistan, and importing power from India has to wait for core issues between the two countries to resolve,” he said.

Energy-poor Pakistan certainly seems to have found a saviour in China, which has promised to stand by the country in its dark hour (parts of the country suffer power cuts for up to 18 hours a day).

So overwhelmed is President Mamnoon Hussain that he has predicted the economic corridor will be a “monument of the century” benefitting “billions of people” in the region.

Zakaria believes projects conceived under CPEC will ease Pakistan’s energy shortages and make a “substantial difference in the long term with both generation and transmission covered.”

However, coal figures prominently and Chinese money is “timely and useful” for cash-strapped Pakistan struggling to finance energy projects from western donors.

The CPEC project will include building new roads, an 1,800-kilometre railway line and a network of oil pipelines to connect Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region to the port of Gwadar.

The project also includes an airport at the port and a string of energy projects, special economic zones, dry ports and other infrastructure.

The estimated cost is expected to be US$75 billion, out of which US$45 billion will ensure that the corridor becomes operational by 2020. The remaining investment will be spent on energy generation and infrastructure development.

China’s new silk roads

While the trade and energy corridor may be ‘monumental’ for Pakistan, for China it is part of more ambitious plans to beef up the country’s global economic muscle.

Chinese officials describe the corridor as the “flagship project” of a broader policy — “One Belt, One Road” — which seeks to physically connect China to its markets in Asia, Europe and beyond.

This initiative includes the New Silk Road which will link China with Europe through Central Asia and the Maritime Silk Road to ensure a safe passage of China’s shipping through the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

“China is not building the corridor as an act of charity for Pakistan,” says Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Washington DC based Woodrow Wilson Center.

“It will happily fund and build any structure that plays into this goal – whether we’re talking about roads or ports.”

Some experts argue this initiative can bring greater cohesion in South Asia, one of the world’s least economically integrated regions.

Adil Najam, Dean of the Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies, believes anything that binds the region together is “a good idea” since countries tend to focus on “zero-sum geostrategic posturing” rather than recognising the benefits of integration.

India, US worried

At the same time, the new silk roads are bound to intensify ongoing competition between India and China –and to a lesser extent between China and the US – to invest in and cultivate influence in the broader Central Asian region, says Kugelman.

“India has long had its eyes on energy assets in Central Asia and Afghanistan, even as China has gobbled many of these up in recent years. The US has announced its own Silk Road initiative in the broader region,” he said.

India is concerned about China’s growing investment in Pakistan, particularly its recent decision to fund a new batch of nuclear reactors. Pakistan plans to add four new nuclear plants by 2023, funded by China, with four more reactors in the pipeline (adding up to a total power capacity of 7,930 MW by 2030).

Many argue that China is supplying nuclear technology to Pakistan in defiance of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines, which forbid nuclear transfer to Pakistan as it has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. China argues that these projects were agreed with Pakistan before it became a member of NSG in 2004.

Conflict in Balochistan

However, the economic corridor is unlikely to be successful unless there is peace in Gwadar, a district embroiled in conflict. Militant groups opposed to foreign-funded investments are active in the region, with some of them also having attacked Chinese engineers working on the port.

This is one reason given by experts for the change of route to pass mostly through Punjab, thereby avoiding some of the country’s most strife-torn areas in the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and much to the chagrin of local legislators.

At the same time, China has concerns about the growing influence of radical religious groups in Pakistan in its own province of Xinjiang, which has a significant majority of Uighur Muslims.

For now, the Pakistani military plans to train over 12,000 security personnel and form a “special division” to provide security to Chinese personnel working on the economic corridor.

Some 8,000 security personnel have already been set out to protect over 8,100 Chinese personnel working on 210 projects across Pakistan. Source

The Prime Minister Announced Hunza and Nagar to be two Districts

Nawaz Sharif visit Gilgit-Baltistan on Dec 6

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Nawaz Sharif is already in Gilgit for a one day visit meeting with his party leaders and govt. officials.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to embark on his maiden visit to Gilgit-Baltistan on December 6, Radio Pakistan reported on Thursday. 

During his visit, the first since he was sworn into the prime minister’s office in June, he would chair a meeting of Gilgit-Baltistan Council to discuss budget for the next fiscal year.

The annual budget of Gilgit-Baltistan Council worth Rs826 million against revenue target of Rs543 million was presented for the year 2013-14 at Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan on November 23.

Allocation of Rs145 million has been proposed for the construction of the G-B Council building in Islamabad.

Aside from discussing the budget, Prime Minister is also expected to inaugurate the new terminal building of Gilgit Airport which has been completed at a cost of Rs 148 million. Source

UAE condemns Pakistan’s vote on Yemen

Warns of heavy price for ambiguous stand.

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Dubai — The UAE on Friday strongly condemned a Pakistani decision to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, rejecting Saudi demands for Islamabad to join its military coalition against Houthi rebels.

“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash tweeted after a unanimous resolution passed by a special session of Pakistan’s parliament.

The resolution, however, backed the government’s commitment to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory, which has so far not been threatened by the conflict.

Gargash said Pakistan is required to show a clear stand in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Arab Gulf cooperation Council, as contradictory and ambiguous views on this serious matter will have a heavy price to pay.

“This is nothing but another chapter of laggard impartial stand,” Gargash said, criticising identical views held by Turkey and Iran about the armed conflict in Yemen, as affirmed by the Turkish foreign minister, who had said a political way out of the crisis is the responsibility of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries, Gargash added. “Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments,” Gargash said.

“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries, and the crisis is a real test for neighbouring countries.”

The Pakistan parliament resolution turned down long-standing ally Riyadh’s request for troops, ships and warplanes, saying: “Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in fighting in Yemen.”

“Parliament of Pakistan…underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” the resolution said.

“(Parliament) desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”

Saudi Mufti calls for youth conscription

Riyadh — The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Shaikh, who is also chairman of the senior scholars authority has called for military conscription of youth.

Shaikh Abdul Aziz said: “We must prepare our youth properly to become a shield for us in the holy war against the enemies of religion and the nation.”

In his Friday sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, he said: “We should well look after our youth and prepare them for enlistment, which will enable them dis-charge their duties effectively.”

“This step is important for our youth towards their religion and for protecting their homeland,” he said, adding that the nation should always be prepared to face enemies.

“We are leading a secure life, a boon that others envied us for,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz said and added that while we should be thankful to Allah for this mercy, our nation should remain alert to defend the religion and country through compulsory military training.

“We should be careful and cautious of the enemies who want to spoil our religion, morals and economy, as well as destroying our unity”, he said, adding that to face such chal-lenges, “we must prepare our youth militarily, intellectually and educationally”.

For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/khaleejtimes, and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes

This is an astonishingly good Iran deal


EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the announcement of a framework dealEU Council/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
 When Aaron Stein was studying nuclear non-proliferation at Middlebury University’s Monterey graduate program, the students would sometimes construct what they thought would be the best possible nuclear inspection and monitoring regimes.

Years later, Stein is now a Middle East and nuclear proliferation expert with the Royal United Services Institute. And he says that the Iran nuclear framework agreement, announced on Thursday, look an awful lot like those ideal hypotheticals he’d put together in grad school.

“When I was doing my non-proliferation training at Monterey, this is the type of inspection regime that we would dream up in our heads,” he said. “We would hope that this would be the way to actually verify all enrichment programs, but thought that would never be feasible.”

“If these are the parameters by which the [final agreement] will be signed, then this is an excellent deal,” Stein concluded.

The framework nuclear deal establishes only the very basics; negotiators will continue to meet to try to turn them into a complete, detailed agreement by the end of June. Still, the terms in the framework, unveiled to the world after a series of late- and all-night sessions, are remarkably detailed, and almost astoundingly favorable to the United States.

Like many observers, I doubted in recent months that Iran and world powers would ever reach this stage; the setbacks and delays had simply been too many. Now, here we are, and the terms are far better than expected. There are a number of details left to be worked out, including one very big unresolved issue that could potentially sink everything. This is not over. But if this framework does indeed become a full nuclear deal in July, it would be a huge success and a great deal.

Iran gives up the bulk of its nuclear program in these terms

Iran's then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks over centrifuges at the nuclear facility at Natanz (Photo by the Office of the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran via Getty)

Iran’s then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks over centrifuges at the nuclear facility at Natanz (Photo by the Office of the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran via Getty)

The framework deal requires Iran to surrender some crucial components of its nuclear program, in part or even in whole. Here are the highlights:

  • Iran will give up about 14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges
  • Iran will give up all but its most rudimentary, outdated centrifuges: its first-generation IR-1s, knock-offs of 1970s European models, are all it gets to keep. It will not be allowed to build or develop newer models.
  • Iran will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium: it will hold on to only 300 kilograms of its 10,000 kilogram stockpile in its current form.
  • Iran will destroy or export the core of its plutonium plant at Arak, and replace it with a new core than cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium. It will ship out all spent nuclear fuel.

Iran would simply not have much of its nuclear program left after all this.

A shorthand that people sometimes use to evaluate the size of Iran’s nuclear program is its “breakout time.” If Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei woke up tomorrow morning and decided to kick out all of the inspectors and set his entire nuclear program toward building a nuclear warhead — to “break out” to a bomb — right now it would take him two or three months. Under the terms of the framework, his program would be so much smaller that it would take him an entire year to build a single nuclear warhead.

These terms are not abject surrender. Iran is allowed to keep a small nuclear program, and it won some concessions of its own. For example, what little uranium enrichment is allowed will be done at Iran’s facility at Natanz — a hardened, reinforced-concrete structure that was once used for covert enrichment and that the US had hoped to close.

Iran will also be allowed to do some research at another hardened facility the US had wanted to close, at Fordow, though the research is restricted and will be barred from using fissile material. These are not big concessions, and they matter mostly for their symbolic value, but it’s something.

Still, when you look at many of the specifics laid out in the framework, the hard numbers and timetables and the detailed proscriptions, those all tend to be quite favorable to the United States.

The core issue that the framework really nails

IAEA nuclear inspectors at Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz in 2014 (KAZEM GHANE/AFP/Getty)

IAEA nuclear inspectors at Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz in 2014 (KAZEM GHANE/AFP/Getty)

Even though the agreement is only a framework, the summary released on Thursday goes into striking detail on an issue that was always going to be among the most crucial: inspections.

Whatever number of centrifuges Iran has or doesn’t have, whatever amount of uranium it’s allowed to keep or forced to give up, none of it matters unless inspectors have enough authority to hold Tehran to its end of the deal — and to convince the Iranians that they could never get away with cheating. To say that the US got favorable terms here would be quite an understatement; the Iranians, when it comes to inspections, practically gave away the farm.

“I would give it an A,” Stein said of the framework. When I asked why: “Because of the inspections and transparency.”

There are two reasons that inspections are so important. The first is that super-stringent inspections are a deterrent: if the Iranians know that any deviation is going to be quickly caught, they have much less incentive to try to cheat, and much more incentive to uphold their side of the deal.

The second is that, if Iran were to try a build a nuclear weapon now, it likely wouldn’t use the material that’s already known to the world and being monitored. Rather, the Iranians would secretly manufacture some off-the-books centrifuges, secretly mine some off-the-books uranium, and squirrel it all away to a new, secret underground facility somewhere. That would be the only way for Iran to build up enough of an arsenal such that, by the time the world found out, it would be too late to do anything about it.

Really robust inspections would be the best way stop that from happening. They would prevent Iran from sneaking off centrifuges or siphoning away uranium that could be used to build an off-the-grid nuclear weapons program, without the world finding out.

The inspections issue has not gotten much political attention. When I spoke to Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury’s Monterey Institute of International Studies, on Tuesday before the framework was announced, he seemed worried that negotiators would not focus on it much. Rather, overwhelming political focus in Washington and Tehran on issues like Iran’s number of allowed centrifuges seemed likely to push inspections from the top priorities.

Lewis suggested that a top item on his wish-list would be inspections so robust that inspectors don’t just get to visit enrichment sites like Natanz and Fordow, but also centrifuge factories. That, he said, “would be a big achievement.”

Sure enough, come Thursday, Lewis got his wish, and then some: centrifuge factory inspections is one of the terms in the framework, and it’s pretty robust. For the next 20 years, inspectors would have “continuous surveillance at Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities.”

“I was shocked to read that they got them to agree to let us walk around their centrifuge production facilities. That’s amazing,” Stein said.

It’s not just centrifuge factories. Inspectors will have access to all parts of Iran’s nuclear supply chain, including its uranium mines and the mills where it processes uranium ore. Inspectors will also not just monitor but be required to pre-approve all sales to Iran of nuclear-related equipment. This provision also applies to something called “dual-use” materials, which means any equipment that could be used toward a nuclear program.

“The inspections and transparency on the rotors, and the bellows, and the uranium mines is more than I ever thought would be in this agreement,” Stein added.

Other favorable items buried in the terms

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran in 2004 (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty)

Stein pointed out two details in the framework that I’d missed, both of which appeared to be pretty significant concessions by the Iranians.

First, Iran has finally agreed to comply by a rule known as Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement, shorthanded as Modified Code 3.1. It says that Iran has to notify inspectors immediately on its decision to build any new facility where it plans to do nuclear work — long before construction starts.

Iran in the past has either rejected this rule or stated that it would only notify inspectors a few months before introducing nuclear material at a facility — a “cover your ass” move in case the world caught them building a new nuclear site. Tehran’s promise to comply may signal that it intends to stop building such covert facilities.

Second, Stein reads the framework as including Iran’s ballistic missile program — something that critics of the deal warned would be left out. Indeed, even many supporters of the negotiations have said that it would be unlikely that American negotiators could get the deal to cover ballistic missiles or other conventional weapons programs; it would simply be asking for too much in one agreement.

“It looks like they were able to expand the scope beyond just nuclear issues,” Stein said. He pointed to a line in the section that explains that the UN Security Council would replace its old resolutions imposing sanctions on the nuclear program with a new resolution that incorporated the finalized deal.

The line reads, “Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.”

“The way I read that is that they address the ballistic missile issue, that that will remain in the new UN Security Council resolution,” Stein said. “So you’re going to keep the restrictions on ballistic missiles that are already present.”

The giant gaping hole in the framework terms

kerry zarif

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at nuclear negotiations (RONALD ZAK/AFP/Getty)

Still, this is just a framework deal on the basic terms; it covers a lot, but not everything. And there is one really important topic that is referenced only vaguely: how and when the world will lift its economic sanctions on Iran.

This has been a major sticking point throughout negotiations. Iran demands that all sanctions be lifted right away; their country needs a functioning economy, they say, and if they’re complying with all of the restrictions as of day-one then they shouldn’t have to endure crippling sanctions on day-two. But the US and others worry, with good reason, that if they lift all sanctions immediately then Iran will have far less incentive to follow through on its commitments, as it would be very difficult to re-impose those sanctions. And Iran has cheated on such agreements before.

This is a really difficult issue; each side has to trust, to some degree, that the other side will uphold its end of the deal. And someone has to go first. After decades of enmity, that’s hard.

The terms in the framework do not come near solving this issue. Iran and the world powers, apparently failing to find a solution, have largely punted.

“I read the fact sheet as confirming that they are still far apart on scheduling sanctions relief,” Lewis said in an email. “Still a very large devil — a Great Satan if you will — in the details.”

What the terms do say is that the US, Europe, and UN Security Council will remove their sanctions after Iran fulfills its end of the deal. But it is still very unclear how exactly that gets determined, when that happens, or whether it means the sanctions are lifted all at once, or over time.

The terms do suggest that the IAEA will have “teeth,” as Stein put it, in punishing Iran if they conclude that the Iranians are not upholding their commitments. And if Iran breaks its end of the bargain, the sanctions will in theory “snap back.”

Russia, though, opposes putting any sort of automatic enforcement mechanism into UN Security Council sanctions. So it’s not clear if “snap back” means that sanctions will automatically trigger back into place (unlikely) or if the US would have to try to coral the necessary votes to bring them back manually (very difficult).

This was always perhaps the hardest issue. It remains the hardest issue. That the negotiators could not find anything more detailed to say is concerning.

This, so far, is about the best we could ask for

kerry zarif iran nuclear

Kerry and Zarif shake hands in 2014 as Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi and former EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton watch. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

“Really, it’s a very strong framework,” Jeffrey Lewis said when I asked him what he thought.

“As a framework it’s very good,” tweeted Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He added, “A sharp critic of Iran and skeptic of the talks told me after the announcement that it seemed to be heavily tilted in favour of the West.”

The Arms Control Association issued a statement saying that the “historic” agreement “promises to lead to one of the most consequential and far-reaching nuclear nonproliferation achievements in recent decades.”

Everyone is very careful to note that this is a provisional framework. It could fall apart before it becomes a full, final deal. The negotiators, between now and the end-of-June deadline, could get bogged down in details like sanctions relief. It will be hard and it could fail.

But we do have something substantial and important in this framework. The terms in the agreement are just about the best that we could hope for — even better, in some ways, than many had thought possible. The concessions from Iran are painful and many; the concessions by the US minor and few; the details surprisingly robust.

President Obama is framing the deal, somewhat defensively, as the best alternative to war. Indeed it is that. But it is also the start of what could become a substantial and long-term curb to Iran’s nuclear program, a major step toward reducing the hostility between Iran and the West, and thus a potentially transformative change for the region.

WATCH: President Obama’s remarks on nuclear deal with Iran

  • Source: http://www.vox.com/2015/4/2/8337347/iran-deal-good

Who are Houthis of Yemen

Houthis

The Houthis (Arabic: الحوثيونal-Ḥūthiyyūn), also known as Ansar Allah (anṣāru llāhi أنصار الله “Supporters of God”), are a Zaidi Shia group operating in Yemen.[14] The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who launched an insurgency in 2004 and was reportedly killed by Yemeni army forces that September.[15] Led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the group succeeded in a coup d’état in 2014/15 and currently retains control of the Yemeni capital Sana’a and the parliament.[16]

History[edit]

Current territorial situation in Yemen as of March 22nd 2015. Houthi forces are shown in green.

The Houthi movement began as the Believing Youth (BY), which was founded in 1992 in Saada Governorate[17]:1008 by either Houthi family member Muhammad al-Houthi,[18]:98 or his brother Hussein al-Houthi.[19]

According to Ahmed Addaghashi, a professor at Sanaa University, the Houthis began as a theological movement that preached tolerance and peace that held a considerably broad-minded educational and cultural vision.[20] Western sources report that BY established school clubs and summer camps[18]:98 in order to “promote a Zaidi revival” in Saada.[19] By 1994–1995, 15–20,000 students had attended BY summer camps.[18]:99

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, BY-affiliated youth began chanting anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans in theSaleh Mosque in Sana’a after Friday prayers. This led to confrontations with the government, and 800 BY supporters were arrested in Sana’a in 2004. President Ali Abdullah Saleh then invited Hussein al-Houthi to a meeting in Sana’a, but Hussein declined. On 18 June 2004 Saleh sent government forces to arrest Hussein.[21]Hussein responded by launching an insurgency against the government, but was killed on 10 September 2004.[22] The insurgency continued intermittently until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2010.[23]

The Houthis participated in the 2011 Yemeni Revolution, as well as the ensuing National Dialogue Conference(NDC). However, they rejected the provisions of the November 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council deal, which included immunity for former president Saleh and the establishment of a coalition government.[24]

As the revolution went on, Houthis gained control of greater territory. By 9 November 2011, Houthis were said to be in control of two Yemeni governorates (Saada and Al Jawf) and close to taking over their third governorate (Hajjah),[25] which would enable them to launch a direct assault on Yemeni capital Sana’a.[26] In May 2012, it was reported that Houthis controlled a majority of Saada, Al Jawf, and Hajjah governorates; they had also gained access to the Red Sea and started erecting barricades north of the capital Sana’a in preparation for more conflict.[27]

By 21 September 2014, Houthis were said to control parts of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, including government buildings and a radio station.[28] While control of the capital expanded to the rest of the Sana’a, as well as other towns such as Rada’ City, control was strongly challenged by Al-Qaeda. It was believed by Western states and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis had accepted aid from Iran while Saudi Arabia was aiding their Yemeni rivals [29] Al-Qaeda.

On 20 January 2015, Shia Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace in the capital. While President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was in the presidential palace during the takeover, he was safe.[30] The movement officially took control of the Yemeni government on 6 February, dissolving parliament and declaring itsRevolutionary Committee to be the acting authority in Yemen.[16] On 20 March 2015, The al-Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques came under suicide attack during midday prayers. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant quickly claimed responsibility. The blasts killed 142 Houthi worshippers and wounded more than 351, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Yemen’s history.[31] In a televised speech on March 22, Houthi leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi accused US and Israel of supporting the terrorists attacks. He also blamed regional Arab states for financing terrorist groups operating inside Yemen.[32] On 27 March 2015, in response to perceived Houthi threats to Sunni factions in the region, Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike against Yemen.[33] The military coalition is supported by the Untied States and Turkey.[34]

Gilgit-Baltistan Elections in to be Held in June

The government has finally slated elections in Gilgit-Baltistan for June 7, said Chief Organizer Pakistan Muslim League (N) for GB Mr. HafIz Hafeez Ur Rehman on Friday.  The Chief Election Commissioner for GB, Tahir Ali Shah, has sent a summary in this regard to Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif for final approval, he said. He added that official announcement in this regard would be made public after approval of the summary by Mr. Sharif.

Image result for election schedule for gilgit baltistan

Meanwhile, preparation of voters list for the elections has kicked off and is expected to be completed in 21 days. Review of the voters list will require additional 10 days. Schedule for the elections will be finalized after review of the voters list.

“Now that the date for elections has been set, debates to conduct elections in Septermber or October shall come to an end,” Mr. Rehman said.

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