Chinese President Xi Jinping displayed his expansionist ambitions within a year of taking over as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) when he launched the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that traverses through Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting dozens of countries. The first country that partnered with China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was Pakistan, when the US$ 62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), comprising of a wide range of infrastructure projects, was signed with much fanfare in 2015. Due to its expanse, the CPEC, often referred in Pakistan as the flagship project of the BRI, provides the observer with a ringside view of the actual objectives and expectations of Xi Jinping from his dream initiative.
Multiple French flags and effigies of President Emmanuel Macron have been burnt all over Pakistan in the last couple of days as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government encouraged political parties, radical Islamic groups, lawyers and students’ associations to come out to the streets in thousands against the perceived Islamophobia in France.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terror-financing watchdog, will hold its next plenary session virtually from October 21-23. At these plenary sessions the various countries that are on the FATF’s ‘Black’ and ‘Grey’ lists come up for review. Currently there are 2 countries, North Korea and Iran, on the agency’s Black list and 16 countries including Pakistan on the grey or increased monitoring list.
On September 2, the trial of the January 2015 terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo office and the Hyper Cacher of Porte de Bagnolet in Paris commenced at the Paris Criminal Court. The same day, the Charlie Hebdo magazine re-printed the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that had made those who worked in the magazine target of lslamist terrorists. When questioned during his visit to Lebanon, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not intervene against the reprint of these cartoons, as the press in France enjoys freedom of expression and even the freedom to blaspheme. While Mr. Macron’s statement was well received in France and in most countries around the world, it sparked strong opposition in some countries in the Muslim world.
Tucked away in a small by-lane in Changklan Road in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai is a nondescript restaurant called ‘Al Hussein’ that sells the typical Indian fare of naan bread and curry. The restaurant generally does brisk business, being located at the Anusarn Night Market with many hotels in its vicinity. The owner of the restaurant is one Baqar Shah, a Pakistani national. Married to a Thai woman for nearly 12 years, Shah is known to have good connections in the local government, immigration, customs and airlines. To an ordinary visitor, all looks normal when you visit the restaurant. However, not many, till recently, knew of Baqar Shah’s links with a fake passport racket, money laundering or the Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
A recent US Department of Defense report submitted to the United States Congress concludes that though the US and Taliban representatives signed an agreement on February 29 as a move to end the conflict in Afghanistan, a number of subsequent events has raised questions over whether the peace process would take place.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched nearly 5 years ago with much fanfare. However, over the last few years, the progress of the CPEC has been hampered by questions on the economic viability of these protests for Pakistan, China’s increasingly intrusive presence in the country and huge environmental concerns.