Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Stalemate as fresh round of negotiations with US ends

    FOREIGN Secretary Tehmina Janjua receives Ambassador Alice Wells for a call at the Foreign Office on Monday.

    FOREIGN Secretary Tehmina Janjua receives Ambassador Alice Wells for a call at the Foreign Office on Monday.

    ISLAMABAD: Another round of Pakistan-United States talks aimed at getting Islamabad to fulfil Washing­ton’s expectations, envisioned in its South Asia and Afghanistan policy, ended here on Monday without any breakthrough or breakdown, but new issues have been added to the already heavy and complicated agenda.

    A senior official of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells visited Islamabad on Monday on a daylong trip for continuing her talks with Pakistani officials on the US list of expectations. Ambassador Wells met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office. This was her second trip in less than a month. She last visited Pakistan from March 28 to April 3.

    Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal only tweeted a picture of Ambassador Wells at the FO with the caption: “FS receives Amb Wells for a call at MOFA today.” No press release was issued on the meeting afterwards.

    More issues have been added to an already heavy agenda; Alice Wells holds talks with Tehmina Janjua

    The US embassy’s statement on the meeting was also unusually very brief. Ambassador Wells “visited Islamabad today for meetings with Foreign Secretary Janjua and other senior officials. In her meetings, she discussed the status of the United States’ South Asia strategy and efforts to make progress on regional security and stability,” the statement read and contained a link to President Trump’s Fort Myers speech in which he unveiled the US Strategy on South Asia and Afghanistan.

    The strategy, to quote Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, reflects the intention of the Trump administration “to hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to deny sanctuary to militant proxies” and “encourage(s) restraint in Pakistan’s military nuclear and missile programs, and seek(s) continued, closer alignment of Pakistan’s nonproliferation policies with our own”. The US has been calling on Pakistan to take decisive action against all militant and terrorist groups allegedly based on its territory.

    Pakistan, on the other hand, strongly denies the allegation and insists that no organised sanctuary exists on its soil. Moreover, it calls for ending terrorist sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border from where militants attack it. Islamabad has also been demanding an early repatriation of Afghan refugees.

    A diplomatic source said the agenda points of both sides at the meeting at FO were same as before with the addition of two new issues — the restrictions on Pakistani diplomats that would take effect from May 1 and traffic accident involving US defence attaché Col Joseph Hall, who had earlier this month ran a red light killing a motorcyclist. Pakistan has demanded waiver of diplomatic immunity enjoyed by Col Hall so that he could be prosecuted.

    “There was no forward movement. But at the same time we must acknowledge that both sides continue to remain engaged in search of the elusive common ground,” the source said.

    Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018

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    Pakistan, China pledge to work for regional stability through SCO

      FOREIGN Minister Khawaja Asif shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on Monday.—APP

      FOREIGN Minister Khawaja Asif shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on Monday.—APP

      BEJING: Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif has said that Pakistan and China have resolved to enhance bilateral cooperation with the pledge to play a key role for regional stability through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

      Talking to media, along with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after their meeting on the sidelines of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) moot held here at Diaoyutai State Guest House on Monday, he said Mr Wang termed Pakistan and China close friends, all-weather strategic and cooperative partners during their meeting.

      He said Mr Wang also appreciated Pakistan’s active participation in the SCO and expressed Beijing’s strong support to Islamabad’s efforts in enhancing regional peace and cooperation besides its tireless efforts in countering terrorism in the country.

      Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, along with foreign ministers of other SCO member countries, also met Chinese President Xi Jinping here at the Great Hall.

      Asif meets Chinese president, foreign minister

      Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov and Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure Yevgeniy Sysoyev also attended the meeting.

      Welcoming the foreign ministers, President Xi said the SCO set a new pilot model for mutual respect, as well as a just, fair, win-win relationship, since its founding 17 years ago.

      Mr Asif in his meeting with Mr Wang highly appreciated the vibrant role of the SCO in the region and said it was significantly vital forum for regional cooperation.

      He said Pakistan was looking forward to productive and fruitful meeting of the heads of states of the SCO at Qingdao in June this year. President Mamnoon Hussain would participate in the summit.

      The foreign minister expressed his appreciation for the Chinese initiative of Pakistan-China-Afghanistan Foreign Ministers Trilateral Mechanism for enhancing cooperation with Afghanistan.

      He also apprised Mr Wang of grave situation prevailing in India-held Kashmir.

      Mr Asif congratulated Mr Wang on his re-election as foreign minister and his elevation as state councillor. He also congratulated him on re-election of Xi Jinping as president of People’s Republic of China and as core leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

      He informed him about Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to China earlier this month and his participation in successful and productive Boao Forum for Asia conference.

      Mr Wang said that China and Pakistan were all-weather strategic and cooperative partners and friendship between the two countries had received support from the peoples’ hearts, with solid public opinion foundation.

      “No matter how the international and regional situation changes, the mutual trust between China and Pakistan remains unbreakable. No matter how domestic situations of the two countries change, the friendship between China and Pakistan is as stable as always. No matter how geopolitical structure adjusts, the cooperation between China and Pakistan enjoys continuous development,” he added.

      He said that China-Pakistan relations showcased strong soundness, stability and persistence, which were not only conducive to both countries, but also increasingly becoming an anchor of regional peace and stability.

      Mr Wang said China firmly supports Pakistan in defending its sovereignty and national dignity, its constant development and growth, and in fighting terrorism and safeguarding national security.

      Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018

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      ‘CPEC is a reality’: Two-day summit kicks off in Karachi

      • ,’CPEC is not a debt trap’,
      • ,’CPEC is a reality’,
      • ,’CPEC not only about economic growth’,
      • ,’CPEC is not about roads and motorways; it’s about connectivity.’,
      • ,’China and Pakistan have enjoyed great relations for past 5 generations’,
      • ,‘KP’s hospitality being extended to economic friendships through CPEC’,
      • ,‘One can’t imagine CPEC without Gwadar’,
      • ,Objectives of CPEC,

      The ,two-day CPEC Summit,, being hosted by the Dawn Media Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Development, kicked off at Karachi’s Bagh-i-Jinnah on Monday.

      Various speakers, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, addressed the conference on the first day of the event.

      While addressing the summit, PM Abbasi remarked that while the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was unheard of merely three years ago, the world acknowledges it as a reality today.

      The prime minister and all of the other speakers discussed the importance of CPEC with the attendees of the summit.

      Representatives of all four provinces discussed the importance of the joint initiative with reference to the development that it has brought to their particular region.

      ‘CPEC is not a debt trap’

      Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal in his address talked about the progress and development made in the country during the tenure of the PML-N’s government.

      Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal addressing the CPEC Summit. — DawnNewsTV

      Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal addressing the CPEC Summit. — DawnNewsTV

      “This event proves that Karachi is changing,” he said, adding that when the PML-N came to power in 2013, the city was known for target killings and extortion.

      “This is an age of development and growth, with the speed of an electron,” he remarked.

      Talking about the Belt and Road initiative, he termed it a huge opportunity. “Pakistan will become a hub of development with the help of this project.

      “We made regional connectivity a key component of our Vision2025 project,” he said, terming CPEC the biggest flagship project of the One Belt One Road initiative.

      PM Abbasi, Sindh CM Shah, Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing at the first day of CPEC Summit. — DawnNewsTV

      PM Abbasi, Sindh CM Shah, Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing at the first day of CPEC Summit. — DawnNewsTV

      “China extended its hand towards Pakistan when no one wanted to invest even 10 dollars.”

      Addressing the reservations about CPEC, Iqbal said: “There are lobbies that are not happy with CPEC — it is not a debt trap.”

      “Some say China will become the East India Company; they haven’t read history. China seeks partnership. There is nothing to fear for Pakistani businesses [...] this is propaganda.”

      “Long live China-Pak friendship,” Iqbal concluded.

      ‘CPEC is a reality’

      PM Abbasi addressing the CPEC Summit. — DawnNewsTV

      PM Abbasi addressing the CPEC Summit. — DawnNewsTV

      “We look upon CPEC as a partnership between two governments,” said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi — the event’s chief guest — at the inauguration of the summit in the morning. “It is a new form of cooperation.”

      “Three years ago CPEC was unheard of — today it is known globally. The BRI initiative of Chinese President Xi is a project for generations,” he said, “Recently, we discussed security and connectivity with Afghanistan, which also recognises CPEC as an opportunity.”

      “CPEC has now become a reality — two power projects under the initiative have been completed and the third one is about to be finished.”

      ‘CPEC not only about economic growth’

      For the past 40 years, China has made every effort to develop and grow its economy, said Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing in his address.

      “We’ve combined socialism and market economy to benefit people.”

      Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing speaking at the CPEC Summit. ? DawnNewsTV

      Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing speaking at the CPEC Summit. ? DawnNewsTV

      “China wants to see its relationship with Pakistan serve as an example for its relations with other states,” said Jing while speaking on the CPEC.

      “We look at CPEC as a significant project. I’m proud that after five years of implementation, it [CPEC] has contributed to Pakistan’s development.”

      “CPEC is not just about economic growth; we want to develop a community.”

      ‘CPEC is not about roads and motorways; it’s about connectivity.’

      Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif addressed the summit in the session ‘View from Punjab’.

      “CPEC has helped strengthen the federation of Pakistan; today, Pakistan is a happening place and CPEC has proven that it is a country where people’s money is safe,” he said.

      Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif — DawnNewsTV

      Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif — DawnNewsTV

      “CPEC has been a turning point in Pakistan’s history,” he said, adding: “Those who doubt intentions of the Chinese are enemies of Pakistan.”

      He negated the impression that CPEC was limited to one area or province, saying, “Together with Sindh, Balochistan, KP, FATA and AJK, we will build a better tomorrow.”

      “China is one of Pakistan’s most reliable friends. Once the Chinese were convinced that people of Pakistan rightly deserved their support, then came President Xi’s vision of ,Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI) which came to be known as CPEC,” said Shahbaz.

      Praising China’s support further, the Punjab CM said there has been no conditions or mantra of “do more” — a reference to the ,often repeated demand from the United States, — from the neighbouring country.

      “CPEC is not about roads and motorways; it’s about connectivity.”

      ‘China and Pakistan have enjoyed great relations for past 5 generations’

      Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Murad Ali Shah addressed the summit in the session ‘View from Sindh’.

      “The past five generations of the Chinese leadership and previous Pakistan governments have all had a great working relationship with each other,” the CM said.

      Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah — DawnNewsTV

      Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah — DawnNewsTV

      He added: “When China stood isolated on the world stage, it was Pakistan under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that staunchly supported its neighbour. Today, China Pakistan Economic Corridor has seen light of day because of President Xi Jinping and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s vision.”

      Speaking about the development taking place in Sindh under the CPEC plan, CM Shah said: “CPEC has resulted in the optimal utilisation of two commercial ports and the opening of Keti Bunder. The development of our commercial ports is in line with the CPEC plan, and Sindh pledges its full cooperation and facilitation in this regard.”

      “Sindh had started working towards renewable energy projects long before the formal launch of CPEC and it remains the the only province which has a land grant policy for renewable energy parks,” the CM said, adding that the long-term vision of the Sindh government has produced “turning results.”

      He elaborated that Sindh currently contributes 930 megawatts of wind energy to the national grid, “a large chunk of which comes from three early-harvest CPEC projects.”

      He also told the audience that an additional 300MW generated through wind power projects would be added to the grid once the projects are completed in October 2018.

      ‘KP’s hospitality being extended to economic friendships through CPEC’

      Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Secretary Hassan Ansari, who was representing the KP government at the summit, said that the province is responsible for the production of 15pc of Pakistan’s natural gas output.

      “In hydropower, KP has the potential of producing 30,000MW of energy. There are a number of fruits that grow in the province around the CPEC route,” Ansari briefed the attendees of the summit.

      Ansari also said that two hydropower projects in Chitral are part of the CPEC framework.

      ‘One can’t imagine CPEC without Gwadar’

      Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, who claimed to be representing the people of Balochistan and not the provincial government, said, “CPEC could not be conceived without Gwadar.”

      Bizenjo said that Balochistan constitutes 43pc of Pakistan, and is home to Reko Diq, the second largest copper reserve in the world, and many other minerals.

      “The people of Balochistan are hopeful that CPEC will grow and when it does, they will get to grow with it,” he explained.

      Objectives of CPEC

      A symposium, “The dynamics of economy and finance”, preceded the inauguration ceremony.

      The discussion featured, among others, former State Bank governor Ishrat Husain and former finance ministers Shaukat Tarin and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

      It’s one of the biggest events to be held in the country on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aimed at educating the public about the objectives of CPEC and its umbrella project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

      The highlight of the second day will be a session titl¬ed “The view from China”. Yao Jing is slated to be the main speaker.

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      Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 23, 2018 at 3:26 pm

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      IS accused of beheading trio of brothers in Afghanistan

        Three brothers have been beheaded in restive eastern Afghanistan, officials said Monday, blaming the gruesome executions on Islamic State group fighters.

        The men aged 19, 24 and 27 were taken from their home and killed by IS on Sunday night in Chaparhar district in Nangarhar province, provincial governor spokesman Ataullah Khogyani told AFP.

        Nangarhar borders Pakistan and is a stronghold for IS militants.

        Two of the brothers recently graduated from medical school and the third was still at university, Khogyani said, adding the boys’ father was also killed by IS last year.

        “Their bodies were found in Chaparhar district where they lived,” said the spokesman.

        Provincial police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal confirmed the brutal murders and said an investigation had been launched.

        “They were taken out of their house by armed men and their beheaded bodies were found by villagers near their house,” Mashreqiwal told AFP.

        IS first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 as NATO combat troops withdrew from the country and handed over responsibility to Afghan security forces.

        Despite being far smaller than the Taliban, IS has claimed responsibility for devastating attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in the country.

        On Sunday, IS claimed a suicide attack in a large crowd outside a voter registration centre in Kabul that killed 57 people and wounded more than 100.

        Some Western and Afghan officials believe IS has received help from the Haqqani Network, a brutal wing of the Taliban.

        Following an intense air and ground campaign by Afghan and US forces in Nangarhar, IS spread beyond its stronghold to the northern province of Jowzjan where it has also come under pressure.

        Earlier this month top IS commander in northern Afghanistan Qari Hikmatullah was killed in an airstrike.

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        ‘Nobody will vote’: attack on Afghan election centre in Kabul leaves 57 dead

        • ,Voter security,

        An Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 57 people including women and children and wounded 119 outside a voter registration centre in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday in the latest attack on election preparations.

        The assaults underscore growing concerns about security in the lead-up to legislative elections scheduled for October 20, which are seen as a test-run for next year’s presidential poll.

        There were anguished and angry scenes at Isteqlal Hospital where many of the victims were taken, with relatives criticising the Afghan government for failing to protect their loved ones.

        “Our patience is running out. This government should take responsibility for the lives of all these innocent people lost every day,” a man called Hussain, whose cousin was wounded in the blast, told AFP.

        “Nobody will go to vote anymore.” The health ministry gave the latest toll for the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group via its propaganda arm Amaq.

        The interior ministry had earlier said 48 people were killed and 112 wounded. Its spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the new toll.

        Blood-stained National ID papers and voters' photos are seen on the ground after the suicide attack. — AP

        Blood-stained National ID papers and voters' photos are seen on the ground after the suicide attack. — AP

        “They are civilians, including women and children,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said earlier.
        The centre in a heavily Shiite-populated neighbourhood in the west of the city was also being used by people to register for national identification certificates, which they need in order to sign up to vote.

        “I found myself covered in blood, with dead people — women and children — around me,” said Ali Rasuli, who had been standing in a queue outside the centre when he saw a “fireball” in front of him. He was taken to hospital with leg and abdominal wounds.

        Sheets of paper and passport-sized photos lay scattered amid shattered glass and pools of blood on the street near badly damaged cars — grim evidence of the force of the blast.

        “This senseless violence shows the cowardice and inhumanity of the enemies of democracy and peace in Afghanistan,” US ambassador John Bass wrote on Twitter. Nato and the United Nations also condemned the bombing.

        The last major attack in Kabul was on March 21 when an IS suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd celebrating the Persian New Year holiday and killed at least 33 people.

        Voter security

        Ariana TV showed angry crowds shouting “Death to the government!” and “Death to the Taliban!” A wounded man in a hospital bed wept as he told the network: “I don’t know where my daughters are. God damn the attackers!” A witness to the attack named Akbar told Tolo TV: “Now we know the government cannot provide us security: we have to get armed and protect ourselves.”

        Elsewhere, a roadside explosion in the northern province of Baghlan on Sunday killed six people, including three women and two children.

        President Ashraf Ghani condemned both attacks as “heinous”.

        Afghanistan began registering voters on April 14 for the long-delayed legislative elections.

        Officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern because the Taliban and other militant groups control or contest large swathes of the country.

        Afghan police and troops have been tasked with protecting polling centres, even as they struggle to get the upper hand against insurgents on the battlefield.

        Militants on Friday launched rockets at a voter registration centre in the northwestern province of Badghis, killing a police officer and wounding another person.

        Officials blamed the Taliban for the attack.

        On Tuesday gunmen attacked a voter registration centre in the central province of Ghor, kidnapping three election workers and two policemen.

        Taliban militants released the five on Thursday.

        Over the next two months, authorities hope to register up to 14 million adults at more than 7,000 polling centres for the parliamentary and district council elections.

        Officials have been pushing people to register amid fears a low turnout will undermine the credibility of the polls.

        Since the Persian New Year attack a tense calm had permeated the Afghan capital as people brace for the Taliban’s launch of its customary spring offensive.

        The Taliban are under pressure to take up Ghani’s peace offer made in February but so far the group has given only a muted response.

        Some Western and Afghan officials expect 2018 to be a particularly bloody year.

        General John Nicholson, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, told Tolo TV last month that he expected the Taliban to carry out more suicide attacks this fighting season.

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        Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 22, 2018 at 7:25 pm

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        31 killed in suicide attack on Kabul voter registration centre: ministry

        • ,Voter security,

        A suicide bomber killed at least 31 people and wounded dozens outside a voter registration centre in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, the health ministry said, in the latest attack on election preparations.

        The assaults underscore growing concerns about security in the lead-up to legislative elections scheduled for October 20, which are seen as a test-run for next year’s presidential poll.

        “It happened at the entrance gate of the centre. It was a suicide attack,” Dawood Amin, city police chief, told AFP.

        Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said 31 people had been killed and 54 wounded. The higher toll could not be immediately confirmed, but a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity that at least 25 people had been killed and 70 wounded.

        Earlier, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish put the death toll at nine and 56 wounded. He could not immediately be reached for an update.

        Afghan officials often give conflicting tolls in the wake of attacks and routinely understate the figures.

        Editorial: ,Kabul attacked, again,

        The centre in the heavily Shiite-populated neighbourhood in the west of the city was also being used by people to register for national identification certificates, which they need to sign up to vote.

        Footage on Ariana TV showed pools of blood and shattered glass on the street.

        Angry crowds shouted “Death to the government!” and “Death to the Taliban!” There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

        The Taliban have denied they were involved.

        A wounded man in a hospital bed wept as he told Ariana TV: “I don’t know where my daughters are. God damn the attackers!”

        A witness to the attack named Akbar told Tolo TV: “Now we know the government cannot provide us security: we have to get armed and protect ourselves.”

        Voter security

        Photos posted on social media purportedly of the scene showed several bodies on the ground and a badly damaged two-storey building.

        Afghanistan began registering voters on April 14 for the long-delayed legislative elections.

        Officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern as the Taliban and other militant groups control or contest large swathes of the country.

        Afghan police and troops have been tasked with protecting polling centres, even as they struggle to get the upper hand against insurgents on the battlefield.

        Militants on Friday launched rockets at a voter registration centre in the northwestern province of Badghis.

        At least one police officer was killed and another person was wounded, officials said, blaming the Taliban.

        On Tuesday, gunmen attacked a voter registration centre in the central province of Ghor, kidnapping three election workers and two policemen.

        Taliban militants released the five on Thursday.

        Over the next two months, authorities hope to register up to 14 million adults at more than 7,000 polling centres for the parliamentary and district council elections.

        Officials have been pushing people to register amid fears a low turnout will undermine the credibility of the polls.

        The last major attack in Kabul was on March 21 when an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd celebrating the Persian New Year holiday.

        At least 33 people were killed and dozens more wounded in the blast, which also happened in a Shiite area of the city.

        Since then a tense calm has permeated the Afghan capital as people brace for the Taliban’s launch of its customary spring offensive.

        The Taliban are under pressure to take up President Ashraf Ghani’s peace offer made in February, but so far the group has given only a muted response.

        Some Western and Afghan officials expect 2018 to be a particularly bloody year.

        General John Nicholson, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, told Tolo TV last month that he expected the Taliban to carry out more suicide attacks this fighting season.

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        Miftah meets US, Afghan officials in DC

          WASHINGTON: Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to form working groups to address trade-related issues and will hold a high-level meeting in Islamabad early next month to finalise the proposal, official sources told Dawn.

          The decision was taken in Washington on Thursday at a meeting between Special Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail and Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, who agreed that the meeting should be held in the first week of May.

          The Pakistani team will include representatives from the ministries of finance and commerce as well as the Federal Board of Revenue. Afghanistan also agreed to send a similar, high-powered delegation to Islamabad for the talks.

          In Thursday’s meeting, Pakistan is believed to have expressed concern at a sudden decrease in bilateral trade while the Afghan delegation urged Islamabad to allow transit trade between Afghanistan and India. The Pakistani side informed their Afghan counterparts that in the past such trade created internal problems as most of the goods intended for Afghanistan were sold in Pakistani markets instead. The officials said that once such problems were resolved, Pakistan could open its borders for transit trade between Afghanistan and India.

          Transit trade, current account deficit come under discussion; US side shows no interest in talking about FATF

          The Pakistani team pointed out that trade between the two nations had reached a record high of $2.4 billion in 2010-11 but now it was down to almost $800 million a year. In an earlier meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan had also underlined the links between the suspension of trade talks and a rapid decline in bilateral trade.

          Last year, Kabul unilaterally put off a meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA), a high-level forum set up to deal with problems hindering smooth implementation of a revised transit treaty. In October 2017, India too rejected an offer from Pakistan for talks on transit trade to Afghanistan.

          Miftah, who is ,in Washington to attend spring meetings, of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), also held bilateral talks with US officials.

          The American team asked if Islamabad was seeking another aid package from the IMF, as it did in 2013 but the adviser is believed to have informed the US team that the current government had no such plans as it had enough resources to cover its expenses for the next six months.

          The current government will launch the next fiscal year’s budget in end of April and hopes to leave enough funds for the interim government to meet its needs as well.

          In 2013, the country acceded to a $6.6bn loan from IMF’s Extended Fund Facility to help deal with “slow growth, declining reserves and increasing fiscal deficit.” Pakistan successfully completed the 36-month package and earned IMF’s praise for displaying fiscal discipline and reserve accumulation during this period. In its first post-programme monitoring report, however, the Fund has warned that these gains are now at risk as reserves fall and the external deficit persists, as well as a slackening of fiscal discipline.

          Americans ask if Pakistan is seeking another IMF programme

          Miftah also had a series of meetings with IMF and World Bank officials, and in those with the US team, the government’s fiscal policies also came up for discussion. In previous meetings. US, IMF and World Bank officials had all insisted that the government needs to revise its fiscal policies as the Pakistani currency was overvalued.

          In this week’s meetings, the Pakistani team pointed out that since December 2017, the government had devalued the currency by 9.25 per cent, in two steps. The Pakistani team informed the officials that while it felt the currency was no longer overvalued, Islamabad was ready to continue evaluating the exchange rate if it felt the need to do so. “The current policymakers in Islamabad do not share the rigidity of the former Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, on this issue. They appear flexible,” said an official who attended some of the meetings.

          The Pakistani side also acknowledged that current account deficit and trade gap were issues that needed more consideration, as did national savings. Though the country’s gross national savings (per cent of GDP) fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to decrease through 1998-2017, ending at 11.8pc of GDP in 2017. They said the government was working on plans to enhance it to 16pc.

          The discussions also covered other issues, such a decline in remittances, which had hit the national economy but the team noted that global remittances were once again going up, which will also benefit the country. Last year, Pakistan’s imports were valued at $45bn while exports only brought home $21bn. The delegation, however, explained that much of this gap was due to capital goods, which will bring medium to long-term dividends for the national economy. They also highlighted year-on-year increase in exports, which was in double digits in the last nine months, indicating a positive trend.

          In their conversation with US officials, Pakistani side also mentioned its preparations for a national action plan to avoid being ,put on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force, (FATF). The US team, however, did not show much interest in this issue.

          The FATF has already put Islamabad on a watch list of the countries whose financial systems have strategic deficiencies in combating money laundering and terror financing. It will decide in June whether to keep Pakistan on its grey list.

          Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2018

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          Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - April 21, 2018 at 4:25 am

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          Pakistan reducing dependence on US arms: FT report

            WASHINGTON: Pakistan is gradually reducing its dependence on American military technology and China is filling the gap, says a ,Financial Times report,, which also warns that this shift will have geo-political repercussions as well.

            The long, almost 2,000-word report notes that the shift started in the last few months of the Obama administration, when Congress blocked the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

            In Islamabad, this move was seen as a confirmation of Pakistan’s fear that the United States “could no longer be relied on as their armed forces’ primary source of advanced weapons”, the report adds.

            The shift started in the last few months of Obama administration, when Congress blocked sale of eight F-16s to Islamabad

            So, Pakistan shifted its focus from F-16s to the JF-17 fighter jets it is developing with China, and which is catching up with the F-16 in terms of capabilities.

            The ban accelerated Pakis­tan’s efforts to shift its “military procurement away from American-made weapons towards Chinese ones, or those made domestically with Chinese support.

            The report also quotes data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, showing that since 2010, US weapons exports to Pakistan have plummeted from $1 billion to just $21 million last year. During the same period, those from China have also fallen, but much more slowly, from $747m to $514m, making China the biggest weapons exporter to Pakistan.

            “The shift coincided with Islamabad’s growing suspicion about the closeness between the US and India, but was accelerated by the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in 2011, which badly damaged relations with the US,” the report added.

            US President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend $2bn of military aid to Pakistan — announced in January — further exacerbated the situation.

            Identifying one immediate impact of the move, the FT noted that US officials were “now finding that Islamabad is less responsive than usual” to their requests for support in Afghanistan.

            Harrison Akins, a research fellow at the Howard H Baker Jr Centre for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, told FT: “The Trump administration’s decision … can only push Pakistan further into the arms of Beijing — especially with Pakistan’s shift from US military supplies to Chinese military supplies.”

            The report also identified longer-term consequences of this development, noting that sales of weapons systems, often backed by preferential financial terms, were central to the way the US managed its network of military alliances and partnerships. But many of those countries were now buying some of that hardware from other governments, particularly China.

            The Financial Times noted that Pakistan has been buying from Beijing for decades, starting after the US placed an arms embargo on it in the wake of the 1965 war with India. “After that, every time Islamabad has suffered diplomatic problems with Washington supplies of Chinese weapons have risen,” it added.

            In the 1980s and 1990s, Beijing provided supplies and technical knowledge to help Pakistan develop its nuclear weapons, and in the early 1990s shocked Washington by selling its neighbour more than 30 M-11 missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

            The report also noted that in the past decade, the nature of the military relationship between China and Pakistan had changed. China was now selling the “high-end systems in which the US once specialised to Pakistan’s military, and is co-developing many others”.

            Jon Grevatt, an analyst at the defence research company Jane’s IHS Markit, told FT that in the last decade, China collaborated much more expansively with Pakistan. Since 2010, China has provided A-100 rocket launchers and HQ-16 air defence missile systems to Pakistan while VT-4 tanks were now being tested in Pakistan.

            The report, however, focused on three weapons systems that encapsulate the new Chinese capabilities, and threaten US influence in South Asia.

            The first is the JF-17 fighter aircraft.

            In 2007, Pakistan flew its first two JF-17s, which cost about a third of the price paid for an F-16. Later, China also shared the designs so the Pakistan’s armed forces can build their own, and even export them.

            In 2015, Pakistan used a drone to attack militants near the Afghan border, which strongly resembled a Chinese design.

            In October 2016, just a month after the US refused to subsidise new F-16s, Beijing agreed to sell eight attack submarines to Pakistan for about $5bn — the biggest single arms export deal in the country’s history.

            The report noted that submarines deal came at a time when Washington was relying on India to provide a bulwark against perceived Chinese maritime expansionism.

            Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018

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            Musharraf asks Imran to form alliance with him

              ISLAMABAD: Former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf has invited Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to form an alliance with his All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML), saying he will return to the country before the formation of a caretaker government.

              The offer was made by Dr Muhammad Amjad, secretary general of Musharraf-led APML, at a press conference on Wednesday.

              In reply to a question about Musharraf’s return, he said: “He will definitely return not only before elections, but before the formation of the caretaker set-up.”

              He said Musharraf had offered the PTI chairman an alliance with the APML because he did not have the desire for the office of the prime minister.

              “Gen Musharraf has asked Mr Khan that he could be the next prime minister while the former president will only act as an adviser to the PTI chief,” he added.

              “Mr Khan has not respon­ded to Gen Musharraf’s offer so far, apparently because he wants a solo flight,” he said.

              Dr Amjad said the former president was prepared to face cases being heard by courts against him.

              The APML secretary general said Musharraf would contest the elections from the platform of Muttahida Lea­gue (ML), an ally of the APML.

              Responding to a question, Dr Amjad ruled out the possibility of Musharraf heading the factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP).

              He, however, said that the former army chief had invited leaders of these groups to come under the umbrella of the APML.

              Answering a question about security of Gen Musharraf after his return, he said that the former president required the same security that had been provided to him earlier.

              Referring to allegations levelled against the former ruler of the country that during his tenure a large number of people had gone missing, Dr Amjad said that Gen Musharraf had not handed over Pakistanis to any other country, but he handed over only those foreign nationals to foreign countries who had been involved in acts of terrorism in the country.

              “Mostly Chechens were among the 300 foreign nationals handed over to the US authorities,” he added.

              He said that a number of Taliban who fought US forces in Afghanistan had been arrested by US-led security forces in Afghanistan and from there they (Taliban) had been sent to the US.

              The APML leader rejected the claim of chief of Missing Persons Commission retired Justice Javed Iqbal that over 4,000 people had gone missing during the former army ruler’s era and said that the Supreme Court should conduct an inquiry into the matter to unearth the truth.

              He said that people had gone missing even before Gen Musharraf’s rule and this was happening even today.

              Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018

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              US to restrict movement of Pakistani diplomats from May 1

                WASHINGTON: The United States will place ,“reciprocal restrictions” on the movement, of Pakistani diplomats in the country from May 1, forcing them to stay within 40km of the city they are posted in, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.

                In an interview with the Voice of America’s Uzbek service, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said the United States was doing so because Islamabad had already imposed similar restrictions on US diplomats in Pakistan.

                Take a look: ,FO summons US ambassador over death of biker in accident involving American diplomat,

                “Typically, these kinds of restrictions are reciprocal in nature, so I’ll just leave it at that,” said Mr Shannon when asked if the US government was going to restrict the movement of Pakistani diplomats in the country.

                Asked if the Trump administration had notified the Pakistani government, the senior US official said: “Our diplomats are under travel restrictions. They can travel further, but they have to notify the government of Pakistan.”

                Mr Shannon tried to downplay the impact of the US decision by adding that such practices were “very common in diplomacy”, and instead of focusing on this the need was to look at continued engagement between the two countries.

                “What’s important here, what’s important to note and underscore is that we’ve had some very fruitful conversations with the government of Pakistan about events inside of Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s my hope that we’re going to be able to build on those in a way that helps this broader reconciliation process.”

                The Trump administration notified Pakistan recently that from May 1, diplomats at their embassy in Washington and at consulates in other cities would not be able to travel beyond 40km of their offices without permission.

                According to this notification, diplomats would need to apply for permission at least five days ahead of an intended travel outside the imposed 40km radius.

                US officials also reminded their Pakistani counterparts that Islamabad had already imposed similar restrictions on American diplomats in Pakistan, who were not allowed to visit the tribal belt or Karachi.

                Pakistan, however, argues that those are not restrictions but security measures intended to protect American diplomats. They point out that the State Department too does not allow its diplomats in Pakistan to visit Fata, Karachi and certain other places in Pakistan out of security concerns.

                In his interview to VOA, Mr Shannon also talked about the need for Pakistan to step up pressure on the militants who still had a presence in the country.

                When the interviewer suggested that Central Asian countries wanted the US to “bring pressure on Pakistan” on this issue, Mr Shannon said: “I understand, but we’re not the only big partner. China is a very important partner and especially for Pakistan.”

                Asked if Russia could also influence the decision-making process in Islamabad, he said: “It’s not as bigger partner as China is for Pakistan because Russia has a conflicted history in that region, but the US will be very happy to have a larger conversation with Russia about this also.”

                Mr Shannon said that Islamabad also needed to understand the concerns of Central Asian countries about “remnants” of militancy in Pakistan.

                “I’m not sure how much we can help that process because this is really something that the Pakistanis have to understand… but it will be much easier to work with Pakistan in attempting to fashion peace in Afghanistan as opposed to trying to fashion a way to fight the war,” he said.

                The United States, he said, hoped to start a larger reconciliation process and wanted Pakistan to play a meaningful and important role in that process. “If so, it will open, I believe, the possibilities for deeper conversations especially with neighbours and especially with the Central Asian countries,” he added.

                Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2018

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                Afghanistan returns bodies of 5 Pakistani soldiers

                  PARACHINAR: Afghan officials handed over the bodies of five martyred personnel of the Frontier Corps as well as an injured soldier to the elders of Kurram Agency on Monday as talks continued between the two sides to deescalate tension along the border.

                  According to reports, 10 attackers from the Afghan side were also killed in clashes that erupted in the area after the FC men erecting a fence along the border at Laka Tiga post in Lower Kurram Agency came under fire.

                  MNA Sajid Hussain Turi, who is leading a delegation of local tribes holding talks with the elders of Zazi tribe of Afghanistan, confirmed the death toll and said that 12 more personnel of the FC were wounded in the clashes with Afghan forces. They were taken to a hospital in Thall Garrison.

                  Military officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan held a flag meeting at a location near the border to hold ceasefire. According to local officials, the armed tribesmen who took position along the border to provide backup support to Pakistani troops were called back after the flag meeting between field commanders of the two countries.

                  Hundreds of tribesmen carrying heavy weapons had rushed to the Laka Tiga post and adjacent areas on Sunday to support the ,FC soldiers who came under attack from the Afghan side,. Heavy exchange of fire took place in the area. Armed tribesmen from the Afghan side also supported their border forces.

                  Sources said that after the flag meeting the elders of Turi and Zazi tribes — said to be cousins — held a jirga to defuse the tension escalated after the border clashes. Political Agent Baseer Khan also attended the jirga held near Mali Khel village on the Kurram side.

                  According to the sources, the Afghan officials asked their Pakistani counterparts to erect fence five metres inside the demarcation line.

                  It is worth mentioning that the borderline on the Kurram side is properly demarcated and both countries have no dispute.

                  Under a multi-billion-rupee border management plan, Pakistan began fencing the border on its side last year. The plan aims at preventing unlawful cross-border movement.

                  The Afghan government has reservations over the fencing plan.

                  Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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                  PM Abbasi, COAS meet Saudi king, attend war games

                    ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday left Saudi Arabia after attending the concluding ceremony of Joint Gulf Shield-1 military drill.

                    He was expected to reach Islamabad in the early hours of Tuesday morning. During his two-day stay in the Kingdom, Mr Abbasi was accompanied by Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.

                    Besides attending the concluding ceremony in the Kingdom’s eastern city of Jubail, the prime minister and his entourage on the second day of their trip met King Salman bin Abdulaziz. There was a brief interaction with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman as well.

                    The concluding ceremony was attended by leaders of the participating countries.

                    Twenty-four countries participated in the Gulf Shield-1 military exercise, which continued for nearly a month. Besides hosts Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the other countries that took part in the exercise were the US, the UK, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Mauritania, Malaysia, Chad, Djibouti, Niger, Comoros, Afghanistan, Oman, Guyana, Turkey, and Burkina Faso.

                    FO says PM will lead Pakistan delegation to 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London

                    Troops from the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, and Pakistan Navy participated in the exercise.

                    The drills are being described as one of the largest military exercises in the region, aimed at “raising level of preparedness; enhancing mutual coordination and cooperation among the participating countries, exchange of expertise and security integration”.

                    “The drills featured two types of military operations that included conventional military operations represented by coastal defence attacks against the enemy, in addition to the irregular war operations carried out by besieging and penetrating villages and industrial installations so as to cleanse them of hostile elements,” spokesman for Joint Gulf Shield-1 Brig Gen Abdullah Al-Subaie said, according to Arab media.

                    Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said that PM Abbasi would lead the Pakistan delegation to the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM-2018), in London from Wednesday to Friday (April 18 to 20). The main theme of this conference is ‘Towards A Common Future’.

                    APP adds: Pakistan is one of the founding members of the organisation. The current membership of the Commonwealth consists of 53 member states reflecting diversity of all continents of the world. During his stay in London, the prime minister will call on Queen Elizabeth II, Prince of Wales and meet the British leadership.

                    Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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                    Parliament did nothing about missing persons: Justice Iqbal

                      ISLAMABAD: The head of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED), retired Justice Javed Iqbal, on Monday mocked parliamentarians, saying he believed that they were the most powerful stakeholders of the state but failed to deliver.

                      Justice Iqbal, who is also chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, was briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights about details and status of the cases of missing persons.

                      Zahra Wadood Fatemi presided over the meeting. Not a single male member of the committee attended the meeting.

                      Justice Iqbal told the meeting that he wanted to set the record straight as it was a fact that because of unemployment a large number of people joined firari (fugitive) camps and they were getting Rs40,000 as month salary, but they had been declared missing persons.

                      “Parliament had to find a solution but it did nothing. A report of the Judicial Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Kamal Mansoor was released five years ago, but parliament did nothing,” he regretted.

                      “Former interior minister Aftab Sherpao claimed that 4,000 people were handed over to other countries. Pervez Musharraf, in his book, admitted that people were handed over to other countries, but parliament never bothered to ask who they are. Currently, there are 2,500 persons on ships near the Philippines and thousands are in Bosnia and Guantanamo Bay. Out of which some are Pakistanis, but no one has bothered to ask about them. At least, we should have the actual number of Pakistanis kept there,” he said.

                      Says 3,500 people went to Afghanistan along with Sufi Mohammad, but only 135 returned

                      Justice Iqbal said he had asked Mr Sherpao to provide details, but he said he was not made aware of it.

                      He said 3,500 persons went to Afghanistan along with Sufi Mohammad, but only 135 of them returned. Other persons were in Afghanistan and involved in conspiracies against Pakistan, he alleged.

                      “The situation is normal in the country, but a negative perception has been created. Generally, it is blamed that the army is involved in cases of missing persons. Only 10 out of 100 persons are with some institutions. You [guys] have failed to clarify the situation at international forums. One woman, who is running an NGO, has been blaming institutions on the directions of other countries. UN agencies provided us lists and we recovered most of the missing persons,” he said.

                      In reply to a question asked by JUI-F legislator Aliya Kamran, Justice Iqbal said that a judicial commission was set up on the issue of mass graves, but its report would be in the shelf of some bureaucrat. “Some countries are fighting their war on our homeland. On the other hand, people passed derogatory remarks about the judiciary and the Constitution,” he said.

                      When Dr Shazia Sobia of the PPP asked if the committee could get the report about the persons who were handed over to other countries after receiving dollars, Justice Iqbal said first of all it had to be analysed how strong they [parliamentarians] were.

                      “As per the Constitution, parliament is the most powerful institution, but I remember that when I was briefing the then prime minister about the Abbottabad Commission report I realised after half an hour that the premier did not understand anything at all. In the end, the premier asked me to suggest what he should do. I said ‘lock the file in a cupboard and throw the key’. The same thing happened as no one bothered to implement the recommendations,” he said.

                      An MQM legislator handed over a list of 132 workers who had been missing since 2013 and asked what happened to the cases of missing persons who had been missing since the 1990s.

                      Justice Iqbal, after receiving the list, said that he would soon tell the the party how many of them were in South Africa and other countries. He said the MQM remained in the government, but it hardly tried to recover its missing workers.

                      He informed the committee that the commission had disposed of 3,219 of 4,929 cases it had received as missing persons who had been recovered or their location was identified.

                      Justice Iqbal said, being NAB chairman, he would like to clarify that he never took dictation from anyone and the day someone tried to dictate to him he would quit.

                      PML-N legislator Surriya Asghar said no one asked him to clarify. “We are well aware that how allegations are made and who is behind them,” she added.

                      Published in Dawn, Aprill 17th, 2018

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                      Ambush at Pak-Afghan border leaves 5 FC personnel martyred

                        At least five Frontier Corps (FC) personnel deployed at the Pak-Afghan border were reported martyred while 12 others were injured in ,an attack from across the border that started a day earlier,, DawnNewsTV reported on Monday.

                        The attack, which was carried out from the Khost province of Afghanistan, targeted a border post in Laka Tika area of Lower Kurram Agency, officials of the political administration in Kurram Agency said.

                        According to MNA Sajid Toori, the skirmishes, which spanned more than 24 hours, also left at least 10 assailants dead and several injured. The bodies of the slain FC troops were recovered after officials from both sides held dialogues, of which MNA Toori and several others were a part of.

                        The political administration, however, has not yet confirmed the recovery of bodies.

                        Armed tribesmen arriving to Pak-Afghan border to join security personnel.— Photo provided by author

                        Armed tribesmen arriving to Pak-Afghan border to join security personnel.— Photo provided by author

                        According to government officials, scores of armed tribesmen from the Bangash and other tribes, at the request of tribal elders, had rushed to the border to support under-fire Pakistani security personnel.

                        Following extensive retaliatory firing, the security personnel and tribesmen had managed to repel the attackers.

                        On Sunday, Inter-Services Public Relations, the Army’s media wing, said FC troops were fired upon from Afghanistan while they were busy in “routine surveillance along the Pak-Afghan border for plugging of gaps and making necessary preparations for starting fencing in that area.”

                        “Pakistani troops are exercising maximum restraint so as to avoid any Afghan civilian casualties,” the statement had said, adding: “military engagement is underway to defuse [the] situation.”

                        An investigation into the firing incident has been initiated.

                        Kurram is one of the most sensitive tribal areas as it borders three Afghan provinces and at one point was one of the key routes for militant movement across the border.

                        Pakistan began fencing the Pak-Afghan border last year to prevent terrorists from crossing into the country from Afghanistan — an initiative strongly opposed by the government in Kabul.

                        The two countries accuse each other of harbouring their militant enemies — a charge both deny.

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                        ‘Hybrid war’ imposed on country to internally weaken it, says Bajwa

                          ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Saturday a “hybrid war” had been imposed on Pakistan to internally weaken it, but noted that the enemies were failing to divide the country on the basis of ethnicity and other identities.

                          “Our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square and have thus subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war. They are trying to weaken our resolve by weakening us from within.” Gen Bajwa said in his speech at the passing-out parade of cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul while referring to the strategies of the ‘enemies’ employing political and other means of interventions.

                          This was the second time in a week that the army chief has indirectly referred to a ,new movement, launched in the name of rights of Pakhtun people.

                          Speaking at events in Peshawar and Rawalpindi on Thursday, he had ,cautioned against the “engineered protests”, and emphasised that “no anti-state agenda would be allowed under the garb of those protests”.
                          He believes that these protests have been instigated to undo the gains made by the armed forces in the fight against terrorism.

                          Editorial: ,Is PTM a destabilising threat to this country or a testament to its resilience?,

                          Army chief gives credit to sacrifices and courage of people, particularly tribesmen of KP and Fata, for success against terrorism

                          A selection of video testimonials of the graduates, released by the Inter-Services Public Relations, included cadets from the Federally Adm­inistered Tribal Areas (Fata) who mentioned contributions of the Army in restoring peace and normality to their areas. The line of messaging in the testimonials was aimed at challenging the narrative of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement that is built around deprivation of and discrimination against Pakhtun people, besides denial of their basic rights.

                          Among the cadets, who got commissioned in service at the ceremony, were 67 cadets from Balochistan and 31 from Fata.

                          The army chief vowed to defeat the nefarious designs of “inimical forces”.

                          “We also refuse to be pulled asunder on issues of sect, ethnicity, caste or creed. The diversity of Pakistan is our strength. The very resilience of Pakistan comes, not just from our military capacity, but from the synergetic mix of a people who have come together, willingly towards a single purpose,” he said.

                          He credited the successes against terrorism to “the willing sacrifices and matchless courage of our people in general and Pashtun tribesmen of KP and Fata in particular”.

                          Gen Bajwa noted that the armed forces were determinedly focused on the “primary objective” of “eradication and elimination of terrorism” and said that the action was indiscriminate against terrorists of all hues and shades.

                          “As a result of past and ongoing operations, Pakistan has eliminated almost all organised terrorist presence and infrastructure from its soil. We are now going after the residual and scattered traces of this menace under the banner of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad,” Gen Bajwa said while giving the current status of counter-terrorism operations.

                          He also touched on external issues, including Afghanistan, and reaffirmed the support for the reconciliation process there.

                          About Kashmir, he reaffirmed Pakistan’s political and moral support to the basic right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and said the route to peaceful resolution of Pak-India disputes — including the core issue of Kashmir — ran through comprehensive and meaningful dialogue.

                          “While such dialogue is no favour to any party, it remains the inevitable precursor to peace across the region. Pakistan remains committed to such a dialogue, but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour,” he added.

                          Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2018

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                          ‘Comprehensive dialogue’ the route to restoring peace in Kashmir: COAS

                            Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Saturday said that “comprehensive and meaningful” dialogue with India remains the inevitable route to restoring peace in the region but stressed that any bilateral talks with the neighbours can only be held “on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour”.

                            Speaking at the passing out parade of the 137th PMA Long Course, 8th Mujahid Course and 56th Integrated Course, the army chief once again offered his support to the embattled people of Indian-held Kashmir, where a surge in violence has seen more than 100 people killed just this year.

                            “I take this opportunity to express our complete political and moral support to the basic right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he was quoted as saying by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

                            “Those peace-loving innocent citizens [of India-held Kashmir] are being subjected to one of the worst forms of state terrorism. It is high time for the world community to wake up and play a positive role in bringing peace to that unfortunate part of the sub-continent.”

                            The army chief reiterated that lasting peace in the region can be achieved only through dialogue, saying: “It is our sincere belief that the route to peaceful resolution of Pak-India disputes — including the core issue of Kashmir — runs through comprehensive and meaningful dialogue.

                            “While such dialogue is no favour to any party, it remains the inevitable precursor to peace across the region. Pakistan remains committed to such a dialogue, but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour.”

                            Gen Bajwa said that even though Pakistan seeks harmonious and peaceful co-existence with all countries, “this desire for peace must not, in any sense, be construed as a sign of weakness”.

                            “Our valiant armed forces are fully prepared to respond across the full spectrum of threat in a befitting manner.”

                            The army chief expressed his desire to see a more stable Afghanistan, saying that Pakistan is fully committed to helping the Afghan government in restoring peace.

                            “We are also committed to peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan at all bilateral and multilateral forums,” he said. “We sincerely believe that there will be no peace in Pakistan, if there is no peace in Afghanistan.”

                            The COAS highlighted Pakistan’s shunning of extremism and victories in the fight against terrorism.

                            “Pakistan has eliminated almost all organised terrorist presence and infrastructure from its soil,” he said. “We are now going after the residual and scattered traces of this menace under the banner of Operation Raddul Fasaad.

                            “We have done our part to cleanse Pakistan of the scourge of terrorism and extremism without any distinction and our efforts have started to bear results. We are committed to continue these efforts, not out of any compulsion, but to make Pakistan a safe, prosperous and progressive country.”

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                            KP Assembly asks govt to raise Afghan seminary attack at UN

                              PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Friday condemned the killing of over 100 students and teachers in the recent US bombing of a graduation ceremony at a seminary in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province.

                              By unanimously adopting a resolution, the house asked the federal government to raise the issue at international forums, including the United Nations, to ‘expose the US barbarism’.

                              Pakistan People’s Party MPA Fakhar Azam tabled the resolution, which was unanimously adopted.

                              The resolution declared the US attack on seminary inhuman and open terrorism and said the US aggression was an open challenge to the international community but no country condemned it.

                              Speaker Asad Qaisar presided over the session, which was requisitioned by the government.

                              With a single item on the agenda, the proceedings ended within 30 minutes of the start due to thin attendance. Only six members of the ruling coalition were present in the house.

                              Slams ‘US barbarism’ in Kunduz, also warns against ‘abolition’ of 18th Amendment

                              Despite the Peshawar High Court’s directives, Speaker Asad Qaisar didn’t issue production order of minority MPA-elect Baldev Kumar of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, who has been jailed in the Sardar Soran Singh murder case. Mr Baldev has been declared the prime suspect in the murder case.

                              Another resolution warned against the possible revocation or abolition of 18th Constitutional Amendment.

                              It called for concerted efforts to prevent any move to amend the Constitution and demanded that 18th Amendment be implemented in letter and spirit.

                              The mover said certain forces wanted to roll back the 18th Constitutional Amendment and that a conspiracy was being hatched to withdraw the provincial autonomy by abolishing the 18th Amendment.

                              Earlier, law and parliamentary affairs minister Imtiaz Shahid and dissident PTI member Amjad Afridi exchanged barbs over the issue of the distribution of funds in the head of royalty on oil and gas.

                              Mr Afridi complained about injustice meted to his constituency over the distribution of royalty funds during the government of the ‘champions of justice’ and said three constituencies had been denied due rights.

                              The minister informed the house that a huge sum of Rs1 billion had been released by the provincial government but the legislator concerned moved the court against the distribution of funds.

                              He said the court had vacated the stay order but the Election Commission of Pakistan had inappropriately banned the release of development funds.

                              On a point of order, Qaumi Watan Party MPA Abdul Karim Khan demanded the distribution of tobacco cess in the constituencies of Swabi district.

                              He recalled that a committee headed by senior minister Shahram Khan was directed to present a report in that respect in two weeks but despite the passage of 35 days, it had yet to be done.

                              Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli of the QWP decried the non-implementation of the government’s assurances.

                              The speaker adjourned the proceedings until at 3pm on Monday.

                              Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2018

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