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USA out, Russia in

The signing of agreement with Russia for training of Pakistani military officers coincided with the news that Trump administration has cut down coveted training and educational programs that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan/MOSCOW, Russia: Only days after the Russia and Pakistan signed an agreement for training of Pakistani military officers, the Trump administration trashed its own training programs for Pakistani officers that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations between the two country for more than a decade.

Political analysts and foreign relations experts say the breaking of the agreement will hit the already fractured ties between Washington and Islamabad hard and that it’s only a matter of time before the leaders of the two countries to the general public.

Take a quick look: US suspends military training with Pakistan

The effective suspension of Pakistan from the US government’s International Military Education and Training program (IMET) will close off places that had been set aside for 66 Pakistani officers this year, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters. The places will either be unfilled or given to officers from other countries.

There were no official comments on the development but some experts believe that it is counterproductive for the bilateral ties.

Dan Feldman, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called the move “very short-sighted and myopic”.

The cut in training programme is likely to have little impact on Pakistan as it has already shifted its focus on military needs towards Russia and China and latest accord with Moscow is a sign that both nations are getting closer than ever.

US media also expressed concerns and said the deal underscores ‘Pakistan’s increasing reliance on Russia for its military needs amid strained relations with the US’.

Take a quick look: Top 10 schools of Pakistan

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who is also chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, called the step “wrong and counterproductive.”

The US is repeating past mistakes through failed policy of trying to bully and browbeat Pakistan with such short-sighted sanctions, he further commented.

Current and former US officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued against excluding Pakistani officers from IMET courses.

“I am shocked… We worked so hard for this to be the one thing that got saved,” said a former US defence official, who was involved in the conversations.

The US military has traditionally sought to shield such educational programs from political tensions, arguing that the ties built by bringing foreign military officers to the United States pay long-term dividends.

Take a quick look: Pakistan to strengthen ties with Iran despite US warnings

For example, the US Army’s War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which would normally have two Pakistani military officers per year, boasts graduates including Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, the current director-general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The War College, the US Army’s premier school for foreign officers, says it has hosted 37 participants from Pakistan over the past several decades. It will have no Pakistani students in the upcoming academic year, a spokeswoman said.

Pakistan has also been removed from programs at the US Naval War College, Naval Staff College and courses including cyber security studies.

Pakistan News

Maryam’s interview “stopped forcefully:” Nadeem Malik

An interview of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the PML-N, was “forcefully” taken off air soon after it was run, it was reported on Thursday.

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Maryam Nawaz

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An interview of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif was taken off air forcefully seconds after it started.

“Just came to know Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s interview has been stopped forcefully just [a] few minutes after it started live,” tweeted show host Nadeem Malik.

Hum News, the channel on which the interview was aired for a few brief moments, released a statement shortly after the incident, saying: “Hum News believes in a free and responsible media. Protecting freedom of expression is one of our core values. At the same time, we stand for the respect and dignity of [the] judiciary in line with our ethical values and the Constitution.”

The development comes days after AbbTakk TV24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut after screening a press conference by Maryam Nawaz.

Authorities say the three channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global media watchdog, described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.

It slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.

READ MORE: Arrest me if you want to, I won’t run away like your master Musharraf: Hamid Mir

Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and a recent press conference she hosted featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.

The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”.

Earlier this month, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.

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Several dead and dozens injured in Pakistan train collision

A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

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RAHIM YAR KHAN, Pakistan: A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

The incident on Thursday took place at the Walhar railway station, located about 35km south of Rahim Yar Khan.

“The Akbar Express [passenger train] going from Bahawalpur to Quetta hit a freight train that was parked there at 7.40am,” a local police official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Senior police official Umar Salamat told local media the collision took place because the passenger train was diverted onto the incorrect track at the station, hitting the parked freight train.

Rescue operations were under way at the collision site, with workers using equipment to get to some of those trapped in the train wreckage, local media reported.

The injured were taken to a nearby government hospital and to a more advanced facility in Rahim Yar Khan, hospital officials said.

Nine of the dead were taken to the government hospital, with more than 60 people injured in the wreck also treated there, Liaquat Chohan, a senior hospital official, told Al Jazeera.

“The injuries were of multiple types – many had fractures, others had bleeding wounds. Some were crushed under objects,” he said.

At least one dead body was also taken to the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, where 11 of those wounded in the accident were being treated, hospital official Ilyas Ahmer told Al Jazeera.

“One person’s leg was cut off [in the collision], and another is having serious chest surgery,” he said.

‘Emergency steps’

Pakistan’s aging railway network carries both passengers and goods across the country, but suffers periodic derailments and other accidents due to aging infrastructure.

A major Chinese investment in the country is seeking to upgrade the main railway line that connects the length of the country, raising speeds and safety standards.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for those who were killed and injured, and ordered Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to speed up work on the country’s rail infrastructure.

“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure & ensure safety standards,” Khan tweeted after the accident.

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Pakistan News

Russia denies inviting Imran Khan to Eastern Economic Forum

Russia has conveyed to India that it has not invited Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan/MOSCOW, Russia: Russia has denied inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) to be held in eastern Russian city of Vladivostok in September.

“We draw attention to the publications in a number of South Asian media that the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan was invited to the events of the Eastern Economic Forum (WEF-5) in Vladivostok (September 4-6, this year) as the guest of honor. We would like to give some explanations in this regard… We expect that the President of Mongolia H. Battulga, Prime Minister of India N.Modi, Prime Minister of Malaysia M. Mohammad and the Prime Minister ofJapan S. Abe will arrive in the capital of Primorye,” stated Russian Foreign Ministry.

Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Tuesday also termed reports regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s participation in the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Russia as “speculative”.

Taking to Twitter, Dr Faisal said Pakistan and Russia remain in contact about engagement at the highest level.

“Any announcement in this regard would be made formally at [the] appropriate time,” he wrote.

Sources in the FO earlier told Pakistani media outlets that Prime Minister Imran Khan would join the EEF meeting in Russia on the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The invitation was extended by President Putin during the recently-held Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting that both leaders had attended, the sources had said.

Following the reports, however, Indian media outlets quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Russian foreign ministry had dismissed reports that PM Imran had been invited for the forum in September, where The Economic Times said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest.

It was not clear whether the FO spokesperson was terming the reports in the Indian media as speculative or those published by the Pakistani media, or both.

His statement comes as Prime Minister Imran is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump on July 22 during an official working visit to Washington.

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