Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Rs1bn donated by overseas Pakistanis for dams since July

ISLAMABAD: Overseas Pakistanis have so far contributed around Rs1 billion while local individuals as well as institutions have donated Rs7.47bn to the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams fund, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, the SBP data showed.

Also read: ,Not every diaspora Pakistani can donate $1,000. But even if Diamer-Bhasha reaches its funding goal, then what?,

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took the initiative of collecting donations by launching the fund on July 6 that was later joined by Prime Minister Imran Khan, making it a joint venture to overcome the country’s water scarcity.

Till December 6, according to the SBP, the overseas Pakistanis shared 10.6pc of the total contribution for the construction of the dams.

Locals contribute Rs7.47bn in PM-CJP joint initiative

Earlier, the prime minister in his televised address to the nation had appealed to the estimated nine million overseas Pakistanis, particularly those living in European countries and the United States, to contribute at least $1,000 per head to the noble cause, and warned that Pakistan could face famine-like conditions by 2025 if new water reservoirs were not built.

The CJP recently visited the UK for fundraiser to avert the looming threat of drought in Pakistan in coming years.

Around $14bn is required for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.

Within Pakistan, the contributions were made through cheques, cash and mobile phone message service. An amount of Rs125m was received through SMS services of the four cellular phone service companies operating in the country.

Many overseas Pakistanis sent their donations through debit and credit cards, while many others deposited money in the SBP Nostro account and commercial banks overseas.

Most of the foreign donations, around Rs362m, came from the Pakistanis living in the US, followed by around Rs214m from those living in the UK, while those in Canada donated Rs107m.

Other major donations by the overseas Pakistanis came from the United Arab Emirates (Rs65m), Saudi Arabia and Qatar (around Rs40m each), Switzerland (Rs32m) and others.

Generous contributions were also made by the overseas Pakistanis living in Norway, Turkey, Japan, China, Sweden, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Austria, Brunei, Denmark, the Netherland, Belgium, Finland, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ireland, South Korea, Thailand, Oman, Jordan, the Maldives, Nigeria, Peru, Tunisia and the Philippines.

When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari hailed the contribution from Pakistanis working abroad for the noble cause and said they always came forward to support the country in difficult times.

He announced constitution of an overseas Pakistanis associates committee, which would be mandated to raise fund till the completion of dams. He said the confidence of overseas Pakistanis was boosted after PM Khan assured them of maximum facilitation.

Mr Bukhari pledged to bring in more money from upcoming fundraisers he was scheduled to attend abroad.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Imran wants peace in Kabul without fighting others’ war

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically said Pakistan will no longer fight others’ war and those who had been asking Pakistan to “do more” now want us to mediate between the Afghan warlords and the US-backed Afghan government.

“We need peace in Afghanistan but ,Pakistan will not fight others’ war, [in the neighbouring country],” the prime minister said while addressing a group of students, hailing from Balochistan, at PM Office on Friday.

He said a wrong impression had been created by the country’s leadership in the past that Pakistan would be harmed if it did not fight someone else’s war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan being urged to play the role of mediator, PM tells students from Balochistan

Referring to the oft-repeated “do more” demand, he said Pakistan was asked to fight their [US] war in Afghanistan. “I have been saying for past many years that war is no solution to Afghanistan’s problem and now it has also been realised by the US,” he added. He held the US authorities and Afghan government responsible for failing to restore peace and stability across Afgha­nistan. “More than 40 per cent areas in Afghanistan are not under the control of the Afghan government,” he added.

The prime minister earlier in a tweet had asked the US government to reassess causes of their failures in Afghanistan instead of passing the blame on to Pakistan. “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 Nato troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” he had tweeted.

Pakistan joined the US-led war in Afghanistan in 2001 and paid a heavy price as mentioned by the prime minister on many occasions. However, the present government has taken a firm stance that the country will watch its own interests and not become a part of the US-led war in the neighbouring country.

Water situation

In a separate meeting, the prime minister was briefed by federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda and Water and Power Development Authority chairman retired lieutenant general Muzammil Hussain about water crisis and the measures being taken to overcome water shortage in the country. Mr Khan was also apprised of ongoing work on the construction of major dams and water-related projects.

Mr Khan appreciated the efforts being made by the water ministry and Wapda for addressing the looming water crisis in the country.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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US report highlights murky world of ‘contractors’ in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period, says an official US announcement released in 2010.

The announcement — highlighted by The Nation, the oldest US weekly, in May 2010 — solicits bids from private war contractors to secure and ship US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Among the duties the contractors were required to perform was “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

The solicitation notice — almost completely ignored by the Pakistani media — also underlines the enormity of the task: “There will be an average of 5,000” import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments”.

The terms of the contract indicate that US personnel were directly involved in these operations, although a bulk of the force was hired locally, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ninety American contractors were among the 65,000 people killed in Pakistan in 17 years, it says

A May 25, 2010 article in The Nation, by journalist Jeremy Scahill, points out that among the firms listed by the US Department of Defence as “interested vendors” were an Afghan firm tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of a former Afghan defence minister, Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani firm with links to Blackwater, a private security company based in the US.

Although often highlighted in the US media, the mysterious world of private contractors drew little attention in Pakistan until recently, when a report by the Brown University’s Costs of War Project mentioned that 90 American contractors were among the 65,000 people killed in Pakistan in the last 17 years.

The activities of private contractors in Pakistan did not receive much attention in the US media either, mainly because the death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq were much higher.

According to the Brown University report, a total of 7,820 private American contractors have been killed since 2001. Of them 3,937 were killed in Afghanistan, 3,793 in Iraq and 90 in Pakistan.

For most Pakistanis, even 90 contractors are far too many as the number makes them realise that hundreds of private American contractors have been operating in their country without their knowledge.

But the 2010 solicitation expla­ins why the United States had to hire a large number of private contractors in Pakistan. It identifies “current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active invol­vement” as the main reasons for hiring private contractors.

Defining a contractor’s functions, the solicitation states: “The contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information.”

Although no official statistics are available about the total number of American contractors deployed in Pakistan, in 2012 the US Central Command informed Congress approximately 137,000 contractors were working for the Pentagon in the greater Middle East region that includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Of that total, 40,110 were US citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the US nor the country in which they were working.

“These numbers do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the US State Department,” journalist David Isenberg wrote in the Time magazine on October 9, 2012.

According to the US Department of Defence data, at the peak of their deployment (2008-2011) contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan represented 52 per cent of the total force, averaging 190,000 contractors to 175,000 uniformed personnel.

Focusing on the situation in Pakistan, journalist Antony Loewenstein, wrote in an Australian publication in April 2012 that in Pakistan “private security is a state within a state”.

He wrote that a total of 62 retired military officials were running these private companies and at least half of them “had been arrested and then released for corruption and working for the Americans”.

According to him, “the most revealing company name” on the 2012 list was G4S Wackenhut Pakistan. G4S is a British behemoth in the security industry with a troubling human rights record.

A January 2010 report of the Foreign Policy (news site) also covers the period when private security was its peak in Pakistan. It notes that in 2010, the top UN security official, Gregory Starr, the former head of US State Department Security, advocated an increase in the use of private security firms in Pakistan.

The report notes that the UN “accelerated its move toward hired guns” in Pakistan after the Taliban launched an attack against a UN residence in October 2009, killing five UN employees.

The report also identifies some of the companies active in Pakistan in that period, including Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy, Dyncorps and Aegis. Most of them have now hired local partners.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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‘Do not want Pakistan treated like a hired gun’: PM Khan on US ties

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in ,an interview with The Washington Post,, expressed his desire to have “a proper relationship with the US” akin to Islamabad’s ties with China rather than the one “where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun”.

The prime minister, in an exclusive interview with the American newspaper on Thursday, said: “I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun — given money to fight someone else’s war. It not only cost us human lives, devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity.

When asked to elaborate on the ideal nature of relationship that he would like to have with Washington, PM Khan added: “For instance, our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries. We want a similar relationship with the US.”

The prime minister rejected the notion that he is “anti-US”, saying that disagreeing with Washington’s policies did not make him “anti-American”.

“This is a very imperialistic approach. ‘You’re either with me or against me’,” he said.

When asked if he wanted relations between Pakistan and the US to “warm up”, the prime minister responded: “Who would not want to be friends with a superpower?”

The premier, however, stuck to his ,anti-drone attacks stance, and wondered why anyone would support it. “Who would allow a drone attack in their country when, with one attack, you kill one terrorist and 10 friends and neighbours?” he questioned. “Has there ever been a case of a country being bombed by its own ally? Of course I objected to it. All it did was create more anti-Americanism.”

‘Humiliating US did not trust Pakistan over OBL operation’

The prime minister also condemned the ,2011 US operation in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden,, saying that it was “humiliating” that the US did not trust Pakistan to kill the terrorist.

“It was humiliating that we were losing our soldiers and civilians and [suffering terrorist] bomb attacks because we were participating in the US war, and then our ally did not trust us to kill bin Laden,” he regretted and added that the US “should have tipped off Pakistan”.

When asked if he, at one time, had condemned bin Laden’s killing itself and called it a “cold-blooded murder”, the premier said he “didn’t know where this came from”.

“Coldblooded murder!” he repeated in exasperation.

The prime minister also dismissed ,US’ allegations, that there were safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan, saying that the security forces had briefed him on the matter and told him that they had asked Washington “time and time again” to point out where the sanctuaries are.

However, he did not discount the possibility of some Afghan Taliban, “maybe 2,000 to 3,000″ crossing the border under the guise of refugees and residing in camps.

The prime minister also discussed his ,recent spat with US President Donald Trump,, clarifying that it was not a “Twitter war, it was just setting the record right”.

He insisted that peace in Afghanistan was ,in Pakistan’s interests,, and assured that Islamabad would “try [its] best to put pressure on the [Afghan] Taliban” in order to bring them to the table and hold negotiations.

“Putting pressure on the [Afghan] Taliban is easier said than done,” he warned. “Bear in mind that about 40 per cent of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands.”

Take a look: ,US-Taliban talks,

The premier reminded the interviewer of his long-held stance that the Afghan conflict did not have a military solution, adding that he was termed “Taliban Khan” for it. “Now I’m happy that everyone realises there is only a political solution. From Pakistan’s point of view, we do not want the Americans to leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989.”

Prime Minister Khan dismissed the accusation that past Pakistani governments had “lied” to the US, adding that the American administration had been “misinformed”.

“Is it possible that the greatest military machine in the history of mankind — 150,000 Nato troops with the best equipment and over $1 trillion — are they saying that just a few thousand Pakistani insurgents are the reason they didn’t win in Afghanistan?” he asked. “The United States expected Pakistan to take on the Afghan Taliban. But the Afghan Taliban were not hitting Pakistan. Tehreek-i-Taliban and al-Qaeda were hitting us.”

Hopes for Pak-India talks

Prime Minister Khan also regretted that his government’s ,repeated overtures, for peaceful negotiations with New Delhi had been turned down.

,Unfortunate that Indian media tried to politicise Kartarpur border opening: PM Khan,

“The ruling party [in India] has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach,” he pointed out. “Let’s hope that after the election is over, we can again resume talks with India.”

He maintained that he wanted the case of the Mumbai attacks to be resolved, adding that he has “asked our government to find out the status of the case”.

‘Straight forward’

When asked about the ,recent arrests, of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) workers and leaders, including its party chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Prime Minister Khan said that the matter was “straight forward”.

“I had ,gone on television and warned everyone, that we will stand by the Supreme Court verdict,” he recalled. “If you don’t stand by what the Supreme Court says, then there’s no state left. The head of the TLP then passed a death sentence on the Supreme Court judges and kept saying that they should be killed.”

The prime minister reiterated his plan to end poverty from the country, with or without the International Monetary Fund’s programme.

He said that the country had received monetary help from Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, but said the latter two countries wanted the figures to remain “confidential”.

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US general addresses Pakistan concerns on India’s role

WASHINGTON: Two key elements of an Afghan peace deal — Pakistan’s concerns over India’s growing influence in Afghanistan and what the US could do to allay those concerns — were both highlighted at a congressional hearing this week.

Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie, the next chief of the US Central Command (Centcom), raised both points in a written response to the US Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing the other day.

He also said that as Centcom chief, he “will make Pakistan a priority engagement”.

Says as Centcom chief he will make Islamabad a priority engagement

“At this time, Pakistan does not appear to be using the full extent of its influence to encourage the Taliban to come to the table,” he wrote in a response posted on the committee’s website on Wednesday.

“We continue to see the Taliban being utilised as a hedge against India rather than as part of a stable, reconciled Afghanistan,” he added.

Gen McKenzie acknowledged that Pakistan “has national interests it wants addressed in any future political settlement in the region, including a politically stable Afghanistan”.

He said that under his command, US Centcom would continue to support efforts “towards a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Afghanistan which includes ensuring that Islamabad’s equities are acknowledged in any future agreement”.

The US general said that stability in South Asia was “the most important mutual strategic interest” for both the US and Pakistan, and “we must continue to engage with Pakistani leadership to realise how we can achieve this mutual interest”.

Gen McKenzie said Pakistan was an essential element in long-term stability in Afghanistan and could play a key role in facilitating talks between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan.

The general was asked to give his assessment of the strategic relationship between the United States and Pakistan as well as to outline areas of shared strategic interest between the two countries.

Gen McKenzie replied: “The US and Pakistan military-to-military relationship is strong. We share an important strategic relationship given that Pakistan is a nuclear power that sits at the nexus of Russian, Chinese, Indian and American geopolitical interests. However, Pakistan’s action or inaction, as it relates to stability in Afghanistan, has often led to frustration between our governments and militaries.”

In reply to a question about the major challenges in US-Pakistan relationship, he said: “Despite Pakistan’s positive rhetoric in support of the South Asia Strategy, violent extremist organisations (VEOs) operate along its border with Afghanistan.

“While Pakistan has conducted some operations against VEOs in Pakistan, they must continue to expand these operations and remain aggressively engaged.

“Taking concrete steps that deny VEO safe havens in Pakistan, as well as VEO freedom of movement from Pakistan to Afghanistan, remains an important task that Pakistan needs to fulfil. Pakistan must leverage their influence over Taliban leadership to help compel them to come to the table for reconciliation negotiations.

“It is important to remember that we are asking Pakistan to focus a significant fraction of their national power away from what they perceive to be an existential threat.”

Gen McKenzie was asked what changes he would recommend to improve US relations with Pakistan, particularly in terms of military-to-military relations.

The general said Centcom continues to support the US president’s South Asia Strategy and remains committed to holding Pakistan accountable for the commitments they have made to support US efforts in finding a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict.

As for any policy changes, he added, Centcom will continue to provide coordinating support and military advice to the president and the Secretaries of Defence and State for any changes they are considering regarding US-Pakistan military-to-military relations. Since 2001, the United States has provided significant security assistance to Pakistan, including funds for reimbursement for the costs associated with military operations along the Afghan border.

The committee sought Gen McKenzie’s opinion about Pakistan’s role in helping to reconcile the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is an essential element in long-term stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan could play a key role in facilitating talks between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan, and I would welcome that development,” the general said.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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Tapi project to create 10,000 jobs, meeting told

ISLAMABAD: The construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) pipeline will begin in the first quarter of 2019 and the project will be completed in two and a half years. Moreover, Afghanistan and Pakistan have given sovereign guarantees to ensure the pipeline’s security.

This was stated by speakers during a public talk titled “Implementation of Tapi pipeline” organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) here on Thursday.

The chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Tapi Pipeline Company Ltd, Turkmenistan, Muhammetmyrat Amanov, said that the survey for the project, through which total 33 billion cubic metre gas per annum would be provided by the 1,814-kilometre-long pipeline, had been completed.

He said construction work would start in the first quarter of next year. Pipeline would be laid till Pakistan in two years and it would take between six and eight months to lay the pipeline from Pakistan to India, he said, adding that the project would create as many as 10,000 jobs.

He said the price of gas provided through this pipeline would significantly be lower as compared to the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

He said that the project, for which the Asian Development Bank and Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and the Export Credit (ICIEC) had confirmed $500 million and $300m, respectively, would boost industrialisation in the region.

Replying to questions, Mr Amanov said that his company had experience of working in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so hopefully there would not be any security issue. Moreover, there was commitment from Afghanistan that it would provide foolproof security to the project.

“From political point of view I believe that all countries, including the United States and China, are supportive of this project. Moreover, Russian, Japanese and American machinery and support is being used in the project,” he said.

The Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, asked two questions, one was about the price of gas and other was that who would bear the loss in case the pipeline was damaged by blasts and attacks.

Mr Amanov said that it was not possible for him to tell the price of gas.

Replying to other question, he said there would not be any security issue in Pakistan, adding that Afghanistan had also given assurance to provide security to the pipeline.

ISSI Director General and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said that both the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan had given sovereign guarantees regarding the security of the pipeline.

Earlier, Mr Chaudhry said that though the world had been moving towards renewable energy resources, the efficacy of fossil fuel could not be ignored.

“All stakeholders are on board regarding the project. In the survey, which was completed in one year, as many as 1,600 people participated and not a single human casualty was reported,” he said.

ISSI Chairman Khalid Mehmood said that a number of financial institutions were involved and resources were being mobilised for timely completion of the project.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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All stakeholders agree on need for talks to end Afghan conflict: FO

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday emphasised that all stakeholders of the Afghan conflict were now on the same page with regard to finding a political settlement through a dialogue for ending it.

“I would again emphasise that the point to be registered is that all stakeholders now agree with Pakistan’s position that the final settlement of the Afghan conflict can only be achieved through dialogue,” said FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal at his weekly media briefing.

In a major development this week, US President Donald Trump ,wrote a letter, to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Pakistan’s help for starting peace negotiations between Kabul and Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has positively responded to the US request and renewed its commitment to contribute to the process.

Dr Faisal said there were no preconditions for this cooperation for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

“I want to clarify that when we negotiate there are no pre-set demands. Both sides give their positions and we try to identify converging areas to move forward. This is diplomacy. It remains our desire that matters may be resolved through dialogue rather than resorting to settlement through the gun,” he asserted.

Ties with India

The spokesman said that progress in Pakistan-India ties could only be achieved if India remained steadfast on the matter.

“We can only move forward if India remains steadfast. India’s reluctance in reciprocating to Pakistan’s proposal is the biggest hurdle in normalisation of relations between the two countries,” said Dr Faisal.

Recalling Prime Minister Khan’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he ,proposed the way forward, for resolving all outstanding issues between the two countries, he said: “You all know India agreed to our proposal one day, only to ,renege on their commitment, the next day. There is a lack of clarity and will, on the Indian side.”

“They have their domestic elections round the corner which have overtaken their policy. It is India that has to agree to work on the proposals that you just mentioned and to a comprehensive dialogue, in general. No other country is involved in this,” he added.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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ISPR chief reflects on nation’s fault lines, says Pakistan is at ‘watershed of history’

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Thursday reflected upon the nation’s “fault lines” and mentioned that over the past 70 years Pakistan has suffered due to “weak economy, lack of governance, flaws in judicial and education systems, and religious extremism”.

Addressing a news conference in Rawalpindi, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have fought wars, tackled terrorism, rendered sacrifices — our economy suffered from it — but today we are at a watershed of history from where the situation can be turned towards betterment.”

Ghafoor recalled that the country has passed through tough times, “we lost half of our country, suffered economic crises and faced terrorism, but over the past few years, we have been moving towards betterment”.

The ISPR chief also raised concerns over the increasing ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary by the Indian forces, saying 55 civilians have been martyred due to Indian cross-border aggression this year — the highest in history. He said that Indian forces were deliberately targeting civilians across the LoC.

Ghafoor highlighted that Pakistan has taken several positive initiatives for peace with India, the latest one being the groundbreaking of Kartarpur corridor. The ISPR chief, while regretting that the initiative was negatively presented in India, hoped that India (in time) will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”.

He informed the audience that the corridor will be constructed in six months after which 4,000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit the Kartarpur daily. “It will be a one-way corridor from the Indian side to Kartarpur, and the Sikh pilgrims will remain restricted to Kartarpur,” the spokesperson said.

Giving an overview of the domestic security situation, the ISPR chief said law and order situation has greatly improved across the country. “Incidents of terrorism and other crimes like abduction and extortion have greatly decreased in erstwhile Fata, Balochistan, and Karachi,” he said.

Moreover, a total of 2,200 ferraris have laid down their weapons in Balochistan during the past three years. Ghafoor further urged the disgruntled elements in Balochistan to “relinquish their violent path and join the national mainstream”.

Military wants to deal with PTM politely, says Ghafoor

While discussing the matter of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), the military’s spokesperson said that the PTM had made three demands — clearance of landmines, reduction in security check posts and recovery of missing persons.

“In 2016, there were around 469 check posts [in erstwhile Fata] but as of today their number has been reduced to 331,” Ghafoor said, adding that further reduction in the number of check posts was directly related with the security situation across the western border [in Afghanistan]. “The cross-border threat is still there; we are building a fence along the border,” he said.

Talking about the clearance of landmines from the area, the ISPR chief revealed that 43 teams of military engineers were currently working in Fata districts and have cleared landmines from 44 per cent of the war-torn area.

Furthermore, Ghafoor said that 4,000 out of 7,000 pending cases of missing persons have been settled, while “the process is underway in the remaining cases”.

When asked why the army has not reacted against the ‘strong’ criticism levelled by the PTM, the military’s spokesperson said, “We have engaged with them politely because we understand that they are our Pakistani brothers who have suffered a lot from terrorism and then faced a lot of administrative inconvenience during the subsequent military operation.”

“They are our people, they are hurt and have suffered losses, but still they haven’t resorted to violence till now, therefore we have dealt with them politely,” said Ghafoor.

“But now they are heading in a direction where the situation might arise that they cross a ‘line’ […] we request them not to cross that line where the state is compelled to use authority to control them [PTM]”.

The ISPR chief also urged the media to play its “effective role in projecting a soft image of Pakistan as it did to shape public opinion against terrorism”.

Responding to a question about the reported heavy military build-up by India, he said Pakistan was a “confident and responsible nuclear-capable state and any misadventure from India will be responded in a befitting manner”.

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Unfortunate that Indian media tried to politicise Kartarpur border opening: PM Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the federal cabinet on Thursday, termed it unfortunate that Indian media have Pakistan’s positive gesture of opening the ,Kartarpur border a “political colour”.,

“Unfortunately the Indian media has given Kartarpur [border opening] a political colour, as if we did this to gain some sort of political mileage [...] This is not true. We did it because it is part of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s manifesto,” the prime minister said

“We have religious sites that are important for Hindus and Buddhists; we should open them up and facilitate the people,” he added.

“The Sikh community has responded very positively to the effort [to open the Kartarpur border]. It is to them what Madinah is to us Muslims. We hope that India will also respond positively in return,” Prime Minister Khan said.

Foreign policy matters

In reference to Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad’s meeting with the prime minister yesterday, the cabinet was told that “Pakistan’s role in the region is now being recognised”.

“Pakistan has always played an active role to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and it is a matter of great satisfaction that the United States has recognised Islamabad’s contribution to this effect,” the prime minister was reported as saying.

Touching upon Pakistan’s offer to act as mediator in the Yemen conflict, Prime Minister Khan said, “We talked to Saudi Arabia and Iran on the matter, Iran’s foreign minister gave us the go-ahead to try and see what could be done. We will try our best in this regard as well.”

Deflecting criticism

The prime minister also came to his ministers’ defence, saying that: “The finance ministry, planning and commerce ministries should be lauded for the efforts they have made under great pressure.”

The prime minister added that despite difficulties and challenges, various multinational companies have pledged to invest in Pakistan.

“Let me name a few of the companies that are planning to invest here. Suzuki’s chairman promised an investment worth $450 million, The Coca-Cola Company will invest $500m and PepsiCo will invest $400m,” the prime minister said.

“Exxon — which is the largest gas drilling company in the world — has come back to Pakistan after 27 years. They are immediately investing $200m in the country and they are saying that by next summer, they expect to know exactly how many off-shore gas reserves we have,” he added.

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Islamabad knows peace in Afghanistan unlikely without its support: US general

WASHINGTON: A senior US general has informed Congress that Pakistan knows very clearly there can be no peace in Afghanistan without their assistance and the United States has to make it “attractive” for them to cooperate.

Lt Gen Kenneth F. McKenzie, the next commander of the US Central Command, also said at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the death toll of Afghan security forces was unsustainable and that’s why a peace deal was needed.

“Their losses have been very high. They are fighting hard, but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem,” Lt Gen McKenzie told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Mazie Keiko Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, introduced the Pakistan factor in the debate when she asked the general why he believed Pakistan had a role in the Afghan peace process. “Are there any indications that Pakistan wishes to play that kind of a role?” the senator asked.

“I do believe that any solution in Afghanistan is going to require the assistance of Pakistan. It has to be a regional solution, not just a solution centred in Afghanistan,” Gen McKenzie replied.

He said Pakistan would be interested in playing this role because “it’s in Pakistan’s long-term interests to have a government in Afghanistan that is stable, that they can do business with”.

But Gen McKenzie also acknowledged that Pakistan has “not shown indications, by and large, over the last few years, of being a serious partner in this regard”.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassa­dor Zalmay Khalilzad was ,meeting Pakistani leaders, to find some way forward, he said, noting that “it will be hard to reach a settlement without some form of assistance in Pakistan”.

“And you say that Pakistan has still not acknowledged that it has a potential major role to play,” Senator Hirono asked.

“Pakistan knows very clearly that their assistance will be required to reach an end state in Afghanistan. I think the task that we have is to make it attractive to them so that they see that it is in their best interests to do that,” Gen McKenzie replied.

“You use the words like attractive to them that means they will want something from us in return,” asked the senator. She also asked if the general believed the Taliban too have a major role in a future setup in Afghanistan.

“I believe that it does,” said Gen McKenzie while responding to her question about Pakistan. The Taliban, he reminded the lawmaker, still had around 60,000 in Afghanistan, compared to a US-led Nato force of about 16,000.

In a written statement shared with Dawn, the White House National Security Council also underlined some of the points raised by the general.

It noted that in a ,letter he sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan, earlier this week, President Donald Trump sought “Pakistan’s full support” for the Afghan peace process and for Ambassador Khalilzad’s reconciliation mission.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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PM, army chief discuss security situation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa on Wednesday discussed the prevailing security situation in the country.

“Matters relating to the armed forces and overall security situation were discussed during the meeting,” the Prime Minister Office said in a one-line statement on the meeting.

A source at the PMO claimed that the talks were wide-ranging and covered the latest sedition cases against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan leadership, ongoing counterterrorism operations under Raddul Fasaad and challenges on the external front.

There was no independent verification of the agenda of the meeting.

A day earlier, a military spokesman in a briefing to foreign journalists had said that there had been major progress on the security front. He had told the journalists that security situation in the country had largely improved through successful clearance operations and it was heading towards stability.

Having restored peace in the country, he added, Pakistan wished to see peace beyond borders, especially in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, the US government sought Pakistan’s help for the peace process in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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PM reiterates Pakistan’s ‘abiding interest’ for Afghan peace in meeting with US envoy Khalilzad

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday reiterated Pakistan’s “abiding interest” in achieving lasting peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan through a political settlement.

The premier gave the reassurance during a meeting a with the US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who called on Khan at the Prime Minister House.

Khalilzad conveyed good wishes by President Donald Trump to Khan, saying the “US leadership looked forward to working with Pakistan in furthering the shared goal of peace through a political settlement in Afghanistan”, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

During the “courtesy call” by the US envoy, Prime Minister Khan recalled his personal commitment to the cause of regional peace, the press release said.

He welcomed the letter written to him by President Trump seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in ending the 17-year-old Afghan conflict, as well as Washington’s “assurance to work with Pakistan on this shared objective”.

Khan also emphasised the importance of boosting regular bilateral engagement in priority areas especially trade, investment, education, health and social sector development, the statement said.

Ambassador Khalilzad is on his ,third visit to Pakistan, since he took charge of the office dealing with peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in September. He accompanied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Islamabad just a day after his appointment and later visited the country again in October. His planned visit in November was cancelled because of scheduling issues.

Despite reservations over his appointment, Pakistan extended full support to him because of its principled position about supporting efforts for peace in Afghanistan and secondly to capitalise on the shift in the Trump administration’s policy towards negotiations with the Taliban.

In a major gesture to Washington in October after Khalilzad’s visit, Pakistan had ,set free former Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar,. Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal had on that occasion said that Baradar was released “at the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan”.

There was, however, a brief hiccup afterwards due to Trump’s interview and a twitter exchange with Prime Minister Khan in which the US president questioned Pakistan’s contributions in the fight against terrorism, saying it did not “do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us”.

However, in an effort to salvage the situation, Khalilzad’s Islamabad trip was preceded by a ,letter from President Trump, to Prime Minister Khan in which he sought Pakistan’s help for the peace process and at the same time acknowledged that Pakistan suffered from terrorism. The letter managed to set a positive tone for the special envoy’s visit.

Khalilzad had on Monday met with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and held delegation-level talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on the Afghanistan issue.

“Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest,” Qureshi had tweeted after his meeting with the US envoy.

Khalilzad had in an interview before he embarked on his latest trip to the region said that he had been reassuring Pakistani leaders that the US was “not seeking an Afghanistan as the result of a political settlement that’s hostile to them”. He said that it was time for Pakistan to “play a positive role” for peace in Afghanistan.

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US envoy Khalilzad arrives to seek Pakistan’s support for settlement in Afghanistan

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States special envoy tasked with finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year old war, arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for meetings with the political and military leadership about bringing the Afghan Taliban to peace talks.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, Khalilzad called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and reiterated US President Donald Trump’s desire to seek Pakistan’s cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Qureshi has assured the US side of Pakistan’s steadfast support for a negotiated settlement in war-torn Afghanistan.

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The visit comes a day after Trump ,wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan,, seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

In Washington, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council (NSC) ,told Dawn, that in his first letter to PM Khan, President Trump had sought “Pakistan’s full support” for the US-led peace process in Afghanistan and for his special envoy’s trip to the region.

Khalilzad will also travel to Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in a stepped-up effort to find a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

“He will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to decide their nation’s fate,” read a ,press release by the US Department of State,.

‘Less arrogant mindset’

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, in reply to Khalilzad’s tweet regarding his regional visit, ,asked the special envoy, to “bring a less arrogant and hostile mindset when you visit Islamabad [this time]“.

Dr Mazari is considered a hawk in the PTI government on relations with the US and has in the past called out Trump ,over his tirade against Pakistan,.

Khalilzad has a ,prickly relationship with Pakistan,, having often accused Islamabad of fomenting violence in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban.

Following Khalilzad’s appointment in September as Trump administration’s new envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had ,urged him to be more sensitive, to Pakistani opinion than he has been as a private citizen.

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PM Khan approved Rs70 million package for martyred SP Dawar’s family: Afridi

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved a package of Rs70 million for the grieving family of Superintendent of Police (SP) Tahir Khan Dawar.

SP Dawar, head of Peshawar police’s rural circle, was kidnapped in Islamabad on October 26 and his body was ,recovered in Afghan­istan’s Nangarhar, province the next month.

“SP Tahir Dawar was a brave son of Pakistan,” Afridi said at a press conference in Islamabad alongside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Khan Mehsud and SP Dawar’s brothers. He recalled that the deceased police officer had previously survived two attacks and was a bread earner for three families.

Editorial: ,Family of SP Dawar and the police force he represented deserve a full explanation on his murder,

Giving a breakdown of the aid package, the minister said Rs50m would be given to SP Dawar’s wife and children, Rs10m would be given to two of the police officer’s widowed sisters and their children, and another Rs10m would be handed to the family of Dawar’s deceased brother.

In addition to the financial assistance package, SP Dawar’s son will also be offered a job as an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of police, Afridi announced.

He said a ,joint investigation team (JIT) had been formed, to probe his abduction and murder after Prime Minister Khan took notice of the case. The probe team was continuing its work in the investigation, he said.

The minister announced that a five-member parliamentary committee would be formed to review progress in the investigation of SP Dawar’s murder.

The panel, comprising three members belonging to treasury benches and two from the opposition in both the National Assembly and Senate, will coordinate with the JIT.

Ahmed Din, a brother of SP Dawar, thanked the government for announcing the package for his family and reposed his confidence in the parliamentary committee and the ongoing investigation.

SP Dawar had gone missing under unexplained circumstances in Islamabad on Oct 26. A kidnapping case was registered with the Ramna police on Oct 28.

On Nov 15, the missing police officer was found murdered in Afghanistan and a few days later his body was handed over to Pakistani authorities. Following the recovery of the body, section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) were added to the FIR.

‘Anti-Pakistan forces’

Afridi during the press conference cautioned the nation against being deceived by “anti-Pakistan forces”, which he said were misusing footages taken from electronic and social media to polarise the people.

He said everybody had the right to do politics but those forces that were using the people to spread disinformation and destabilise the country would be countered.

“We are watching everything. We are vigilant,” he warned, adding that the government will make an example out of such negative elements.

The minister said there was a consensus among the political leadership and the armed forces on issues of security. He said the key stakeholders should realise their responsibility regarding peace and security of Pakistan.

“Some elements are creating differences in the society but we have to promote positive thinking. The state is strong and it will not compromise on its principles,” he said.

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Letter to PM: Trump ‘acknowledges Afghan war cost both USA, Pakistan’

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday received a letter from US President Donald Trump seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

“President Trump has also acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan,” the statement added. “He has emphasised that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership.”

The ministry “welcomed” the US decision for negotiations, noting that “Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan”.

“Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith,” the statement reads. “Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility.”

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry ,also confirmed Trump’s letter to Reuters,, saying: “President Trump has written a letter. He has asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks.”

Trump’s letter was first talked about by the prime minister in a meeting with journalists earlier in the day.

In the letter, the PM said, Trump has asked Pakistan to play its role in the peace talks which seek to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

This is the first direct communication between the two leaders since Imran Khan assumed power in August.

Trump has been consistent in his criticism of Pakistan since he launched his ,South Asia and Afghanistan strategy, despite multiple attempts made by the two governments to fix the problems in their ties.

Last month, a ,row that began with Trump’s interview to Fox News, led to a series of tweets by both the US head of state and PM Khan.

President Trump, while talking about the reasons for ,ending the over a billion dollar annual aid for Pakistan, at the beginning of the year, said the country didn’t do “a damn thing for us”.

Prime Minister Khan ,had led the sharp reaction by political leaders, to Trump’s tirade against Pakistan by hinting at review of foreign policy options and asking the US president to introspect on the real reasons for America’s failure in Afghanistan.

‘Not a googly,’ says PM

The prime minister, ,according to Geo News,, also said that the “Kartarpur initiative was not a googly; it was a sincere effort”.

The “googly” remark was made by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who last week had said that Prime Minister Khan had bowled India a “googly” by taking the initiative of opening the Kartarpur border connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district.

Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj got involved in a ,‘war of tweets’ on Sunday,, accusing each other of using the occasion for political gains, after the Indian minister for external affairs showed her displeasure over the “googly” remarks.

Swaraj through her official Twitter account alleged that Qureshi’s remarks had exposed that Pakistan had no respect for the Sikh sentiments and was doing it all for politics. “Mr Foreign Minister of Pakistan — your ‘googly’ remarks in a dramatic manner has exposed none but you. This shows that you have no respect for Sikh sentiments. You only play ‘googlies’,” she tweeted.

Using the same social networking platform, Qureshi termed Swaraj’s comments a “deliberate attempt” to “mislead” the Sikh community. He said that Pakistan had taken this initiative in “good faith”.

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MNA Dawar questions his arrest

PESHAWAR: An independent member of the National Assembly from North Waziristan, Mohsin Dawar, has expressed concern over his offloading from a Dubai-bound plane by authorities on the ground that his name was on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Speaking at a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Sunday, the lawmaker recalled that he along with another MNA, Ali Wazir, was going to the UAE to attend a cultural event in Dubai when security personnel stopped them, saying they were wanted by the Swabi police.

“We had held a peaceful public meeting in Swabi and did nothing wrong, but police registered a case against us without any reason. I approached the court which granted me bail before arrest till Dec 4, but I along with the other MNA was detained at the Bacha Khan International Airport,” he regretted.

Mr Dawar said the Federal Investigation Agency kept him in custody for three days without getting prior permission from the speaker of the National Assembly.

He claimed that their names were put on the ECL a day before their flight to the UAE on Friday. “We are in contact with leaders of various political parties as our arrest is an insult to the mandate of Waziristan’s people,” he said.

The MNA demanded action against those personnel who arrested them.

“We held a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan and conveyed to him our demands regarding peace and development in our region. The prime minister agreed to support us and during his recent visit to Waziristan announced many development schemes for it,” he said.

The lawmaker appreciated the government’s stand on Kartarpur corridor and suggested that people of Pakistan and Afghanistan should also be facilitated in the same manner at Torkham, Chaman, Spin Boldak and Ghulam Khan borders.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018

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Struggle for rights to continue, says Achakzai

QUETTA: Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chairman Meh­mood Khan Achakzai has said that his party will continue its peaceful struggle for protection of people’s constitutional and dem­­­ocratic rights.

Speaking at a public meeting held here on Sunday to commemorate the 45th death anniversary of Khan Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, he said: “This is our country and our loyalty is to a federal and democratic Pakistan where equal rights of every nationality, ethnicity and minority are guaranteed by the constitution which the state should hold sacrosanct and supreme.”

Senior PkMAP leaders Ayaz Khan Jogezai, Abdur Rauf Lala, Senator Usman Kakar, Obaibullah Babit, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal and Nasrullah Zerey also spoke on the occasion.

They paid tribute to the late Samad Khan Achakzai and underlined the need to follow in his footsteps and political and ideological philosophy.

Asserts PkMAP’s loyalty is to a democratic Pakistan where equal rights to all are guaranteed

Mr Achakzai said he believed in non-violence and peaceful struggle. He said Pakistan needed to be a genuinely democratic federation where people enjoyed constitutional guarantee of their fundamental, political, economic and cultural rights. He said the establishment had no right to interfere in politics.

The PkMAP chief called for convening a multi-party conference to take stock of the political and economic situation.

He expressed concern over the ongoing violence and alleged violation of rights, particularly in the Pakhtun belt.

“Pakhtuns are not terrorists. We should erase such stereotypes and concocted images,” he said, adding that “Pakhtuns love their land”.

He said in order to establish peace in Afghanistan, its sovereignty should be respected by all the powers involved.

“Conducive environment needed to be created to enable the Afghans to bring peace to their country,” he suggested.

Senator Usman Kakar criticised the government for its lack of democratic credentials and inefficiencies.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018

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