Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Pakistan, Iran vow to improve military ties

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa talks to Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri, who called on him along with a delegation at GHQ on Monday.—INP

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa talks to Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri, who called on him along with a delegation at GHQ on Monday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Monday pledged to further deepen their military cooperation.

This was the upshot of Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri’s visit to Pakistan.

The top Iranian commander’s three-day trip is being attached great importance because bilateral military exchanges between Pakistan and Iran have been very rare due to their mutual mistrust that kept them divided till recently.

Gen Bagheri visited caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Hussain Haroon at the foreign ministry and then went to the General Headquarters (GHQ) for a meeting with army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

The public affairs division of Pakistan military said Gen Bajwa underscored the need for intensification of military-to-military cooperation and noted that such cooperation would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region”.

In related development, Afghan president assures Islamabad of enhanced border security on election day

Reciprocating Gen Bajwa’s offer, the visiting Iranian commander “pled­ged to keep working for better relations between the two brotherly countries”, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Gen Bajwa is believed to be the architect of improvement in Pakistan-Iran ties particularly the military relations. Last year he had made an unprecedented visit to Iran setting the stage for improved cooperation. Later, Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar visited the country in June.

As the improvement in military relations was predicated on the basis of border security cooperation, discussion on border management was also on top of agenda during Gen Bagheri’s meeting with Gen Bajwa. Another key issue on the agenda of their meeting was regional security.

The journey towards improvement in military ties had not been free of irritants and problems but both the countries worked together to overcome those challenges and prevented nascent cooperation from falling apart, a diplomatic source said.

Recently the Iranian spymaster was in Islamabad to attend a rare meeting of the spy chiefs of the regional countries that involved Pakistan, Russia and China. The meeting reportedly focused on the threat posed by the growing footprint of the militant Islamic State group in Afghanistan.

Mr Haroon during his meeting with the Iranian commander expressed Pak­istan’s desire for strengthening cooperation with Iran for the benefit of both countries and ensuring peace and stability in the region. He also appreciated the Iranian leadership’s strong and consistent support on the issue of Kashmir.

Ghani condoles deaths in terror attacks

Meanwhile, Afghan Pre­sident Ashraf Ghani assured Pakistan of heightened security along the Pak-Afghan border during the July 25 general elections.

President Ghani exten­ded the assurance during a telephonic conversation with Gen Bajwa on Monday.

He also called caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk to condole the deaths in recent attacks on election rallies in Peshawar, Bannu, and Mastung.

President Ghani “assured COAS of enhanced border security measures on Afghan side as assistance to Pak security forces during election period,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted.

Gen Bajwa thanked Mr Ghani for his concern, according to the ISPR.

Pakistan has long alleged that terrorists having sanctuaries in Afghanistan have been carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

Although Mastung attack was claimed by the militant Islamic State, Daesh, and its local affiliate Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, other attacks are believed to have been carried out by Afghanistan-based TTP and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. It is feared that the two terrorist groups were planning further attacks.

Earlier during the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan, Pakistan Army had also undertaken special border security arrangements for smooth conduct of polling process. On the elections day, Pakistan had increased patrols along the border areas, besides stepping up aerial surveillance.

In his conversation with caretaker PM Mulk, President Ghani “expressed deep sorrow and sympathy on the tragic loss of precious lives”, the PM Office said in a statement.

The two countries agreed to work together to defeat the common enemies for peace and security in the region, the statement added.

While talking to Mr Ghani, Mr Mulk reaffirmed caretaker government’s commitment to hold the general elections on time. He said the attacks by the enemies were aimed at derailing the democratic process in Pakistan. “Such actions would not deter government’s resolve,” he vowed.

Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2018

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - July 17, 2018 at 11:26 am

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Bilawal concerned over allowing banned parties to contest polls

QUETTA: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari inquires about the health of a man injured in Mastung blast at the Combined Military Hospital on Monday.—PPI

QUETTA: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari inquires about the health of a man injured in Mastung blast at the Combined Military Hospital on Monday.—PPI

QUETTA: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday expressed concern over allowing candidates of banned organisations to contest the coming elections and said certain forces were again trying to form an Islami Jamhoori Ittehad-like alliance in the country.

He was addressing a press conference at a hotel after visiting Sarawan House to condole the death of Siraj Raisani in Friday’s Mastung suicide attack.

“Unfortunately, by allowing candidates of banned organisations to take part in the election, extremists have been given space,” the PPP leader said, adding that the move would harm the entire political process and would undermine parliament, democracy and the country’s position in the world.

He recalled that after the massacre of students and teachers in the terrorist attack at Army Public School, all political parties had agreed on a 20-point National Action Plan but that plan was not implemented by the PML-N government which caused difficulties in curbing acts of terrorism across the country.

“From day one, the PPP has been demanding the implementation of the National Action Plan in letter and spirit,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said. “Thousands of civilians and security personnel have lost their lives in acts of terrorism and these precious lives could have been saved had the National Action Plan been implemented.”

Referring to the possibility of delay in the polls, he said if elections could be held in Afghanistan and Iraq where the situation was worse then why they cannot be held in Pakistan.

“Despite the recent spate of violence and terrorist attacks, elections must be held on time,” he said.

He said PPP would launch public welfare programmes after coming to power and dispelled the impression that the party had lost its support in Punjab.

He said that PPP had not been given free hand to run its poll campaign in Punjab in 2013 elections and this time too the government was creating hurdles in its way.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2018

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Ghani assures Gen Bajwa of cooperation, enhanced security during election period: ISPR

Afghanistan’s President Dr Ashraf Ghani on Monday telephoned Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and assured him of the provision of “enhanced border security measures” on Afghan side to assist Pakistan’s law enforcement and security forces during the time of elections, military’s spokesperson said.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Maj Gen Ghafoor, the Afghan president called the army chief to condole the loss of lives in recent terror incidents in Pakistan. He also assured assistance to Pakistan’s security forces during the election period.

,,

Over 170 people lost their lives in bomb attacks targeting election campaigns in Mastung, Peshawar, and Bannu last week, as the death toll in the Mastung tragedy rose to 149 on Sunday.

The government has since decided to beef up security, with the prime minister ,urging ‘utmost precaution’, for the security of candidates and public ahead of general elections scheduled for July 25.

Ghani condoles PM Mulk for Balochistan, KP election violence

President Ghani also called Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk to offer condolences on the recent terrorist attacks targeting the election rallies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Condemning the attacks, he expressed sorrow and sympathy on the loss of lives.

The prime minister termed the attacks as cowardly acts. He said the attacks were aimed at derailing the democratic process in the country.

PM Mulk said that the caretaker government “is committed to ensure that elections take place on time.”

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - July 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm

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Nawaz Sharif, Maryam arrested by NAB, shifted to Adiala jail

Former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials upon their arrival in Lahore on Friday night, and subsequently whisked away to Islamabad on a chartered flight.

The two were separated and taken from the Islamabad International Airport in two convoys to the Central Jail in Adiala, Rawalpindi, for a medical examination.

As per official procedure, the examination was carried out in the presence of the Islamabad magistrate and senior police officials.

Meanwhile, a NAB prosecution team had approached the accountability courts seeking an exemption for Nawaz and Maryam’s appearance before the court. NAB Additional Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi told the court that the convicts cannot be produced before the court due to a high-security risk.

The accountability court conceded the request and appointed Magistrate Wasim Ahmed to execute the warrants of imprisonment at Adiala. By this exercise, the authorities eliminated any chance of producing Nawaz and Maryam before the court the same night or next morning.

Media representatives who had gathered to cover the production of Nawaz and Maryam before the court were not allowed to enter the premises of the court complex.

Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz being led out of the plane by NAB officials.

There was a lack of clarity over where the two would ultimately be incarcerated, at least for the short term.

The Islamabad chief commissioner had initially issued a notification declaring the Sihala Police Training College Rest House in the capital city “as sub-jail for keeping the convicted prisoner Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, ex-prime minister, and Mariam Nawaz, who have been arrested by NAB authorities, with immediate effect and till further orders.”

However, a second notification followed, stating that Sihala would serve as a sub-jail only for Maryam and that the preceding notification would be considered void ab initio.

Conflicting reports continued to make the rounds, with some stating that both Nawaz and Maryam would be incarcerated at Adiala, while others said Maryam would be separated and shifted to the Sihala rest house.

Return to Lahore

Nawaz and Maryam had taken off from Abu Dhabi for Lahore shortly after 6pm PST on the last leg of their journey home from London.

Their flight, Etihad Airways flight EY243, was earlier scheduled to land at 6:15pm PST at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport, but suffered a nearly three-hour delay.

An airport official, when approached by our correspondent, had stated the reason for the hold-up in Abu Dhabi as a delay in an Etihad flight arriving from Bangkok, which was supposed to fly EY243′s passengers to Lahore.

The flight eventually took off at nearly 6pm PST and landed in Lahore at 8.45pm.

According to media reports, dozens of security officials entered the plane after it landed and asked other passengers to leave. The duo’s passports were seized by a three-member Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team. Their immigration formalities were completed on board the plane.

The two were taken into custody at around 9:25pm and put on a chartered plane to Islamabad.

Nawaz and Maryam had been ,convicted by an accountability court in the Avenfield corruption reference, last Friday and handed jail sentences of 10 years and seven years, respectively. The former was found guilty of owning assets beyond known income, while his daughter was convicted for aiding and abetting her father in covering up a “conspiracy”.

After the verdict was announced, Nawaz and Maryam had ,said they would return to Pakistan, and appeal against the decision.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Punjab government had made arrangements to take the father-daughter duo into custody upon arrival and shift them to Adiala Jail, where they are supposed to serve their jail term.

PML-N workers rally in support

In Lahore, authorities had braced to maintain law and order as thousands of PML-N workers and supporters had gathered at various points in the city to welcome the ousted premier and his daughter.

Security officials at the site of the rally. ? DawnNewsTV

Security officials at the site of the rally. ? DawnNewsTV

Large parts of the city were locked down as the state seemed determined to prevent supporters from reaching the airport.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, whose caravan had gathered at Lohari Gate, had led the main welcoming rally to the airport to accord his brother and PML-N supremo Nawaz a warm welcome.

PML-N's Mushahidullah Khan in a heated conversation with ASF personnel. ? DawnNewsTV

PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan in a heated conversation with ASF personnel. ? DawnNewsTV

When Nawaz and Maryam were flown out, he was en route to the airport. PML-N workers who were part of the rally were chanting slogans of “Rok sako tau rok lo (stop us if you can)” and “Vote ko izzat do (respect the vote)”.

According to media reports, no PML-N supporters were allowed onto airport premises.

,#PMLN workers and supporters have come out in various parts of #Lahore to welcome the ousted premier and his daughter. #DawnToday,

A post shared by , Dawn Today, (@dawn.today) on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:09am PDT

‘Not afraid of being arrested’

While waiting at the Abu Dhabi airport for his flight home, Nawaz spoke to reporters from various news organisations over the phone.

During the call, Nawaz wondered how a flight “that is never late” had been delayed today and urged people to “think about who delayed this flight and why.”

When asked if he believes that returning to Pakistan in the current “tense” situation was a good idea, Nawaz said that he knows “what the situation in the country is like”.

“I know I have been handed a 10-year sentence and Maryam has been given seven years in jail, but we are returning because this country’s fate needs to change — we need to change it.”

“The media also needs be brave and take a stand in the face of it all,” Nawaz said, adding that the media’s freedom is being curbed today because “they see that this nation has risen and the media is rising and they are afraid. Why else would they do all this?”

“What is happening in this country today, what is happening in Lahore, raises questions regarding the elections. No other province is facing the situation we see in Lahore: hundreds of our party workers have been arrested; people are being pressured into switching loyalties. All of this forms a question mark on the credibility of the election,” Nawaz said.

“I am not afraid of being arrested. If I was, why would I be coming back? It does not matter if NAB or the people who have sent NAB personnel arrest me from here [Abu Dhabi] or from Lahore. I am ready for it,” Nawaz said.

BBC correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan Secunder Kermani, who was at Abu Dhabi airport, said that Nawaz and Maryam were in a lounge at the airport but security personnel would not let reporters through, so they had to huddle around a phone in a different lounge in order to speak to him.

Just conducted a surreal press conference with Nawaz Sharif on the phone – he’s in a airport lounge in Abu Dhabi but apparently security won’t let reporters come in – so we huddled around a phone (in a different lounge) with the speaker on, top lines of what he said coming soon

— Secunder Kermani (@SecKermani) ,July 13, 2018,

Earlier, in a video message, ,tweeted by Maryam,, the former premier had urged his followers to stand with him when he arrives and “change the fate of the country”.

“The country is at a critical juncture right now,” Nawaz said in the recording. “I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away — but I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you.”

Security ramped up

Cellphone services have been partially suspended in certain parts of Lahore, and as many as 2,000 Rangers personnel have been deployed at and around Lahore Airport where ? according to sources ? the Interior Ministry, in a meeting two days ago, had decided to contain Nawaz and Maryam, sources said.

Police officers deployed at Lahore airport. ? AP

Police officers deployed at Lahore airport. ? AP

Heavy contingents of police have been deployed at all entry points to the city, and containers have been readied to block off main roads.

A police official claimed that the arrangements were made to avoid any terrorism-related incidents, and that no orders had been passed to arrest political workers or to block the motorway.

Punjab Home Department sources earlier told Dawn that anyone holding a rally would have to seek prior permission from the deputy commissioner as per the Election Commission of Pakistan Code of Conduct, but so far no one has sought any permission in Lahore.

The sources had said that authorities would not allow any processions to go to the airport. Multiple blockades have been set up on roads across the city.

Three helicopters and the Punjab Chief Minister Prof Hassan Askari’s airplane have been placed at NAB’s disposal in the eventuality that Nawaz and Maryam will need to be transported to Rawalpindi.

Traffic plan

The caretaker government devised an alternate traffic plan on the eve of the arrival of Nawaz Sharif at Lahore airport on Friday.

Map of Lahore showing roadblocks around the city.

Map of Lahore showing roadblocks around the city.

Traffic coming from Islamabad will enter Lahore via motorway through Thokar Niaz Beg, Qazilbash Chowk and Shaukat Khanum Chowk. Traffic from GT Road will enter the city via Kala Shah Kaku through Thokar. Traffic from Kala Khatai Road will enter via Shahdara Chowk, Begum Kot and Faizpur Interchange through motorway. Traffic from Multan Road will enter via Bund Road and Mohlanwal Road. To exit Lahore, use Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, Johar Town Main Boulevard, Shaukat Khanum, Qazilbash Chowk, Motorway Interchange or Multan Road.

The international travellers have been asked to reach at least six hours prior to the departure time at designated areas in Lahore. They will be transported to airport via a shuttle service which will be provided from Bhatta Chowk, Chungi Dogaij, Gajjumata, Mehfooz Park and Niazi Shaheed Park.

Solemn farewell

Mayam had taken to Twitter to post pictures of scenes in London ahead of the father-daughter duo’s departure.

In one picture, the father and daughter were seen bidding farewell to Kulsoom Nawaz, who is said to be comatose and admitted at a London hospital.

Told my kids to be brave in the face of oppression. But kids will still be kids. Goodbyes are hard, even for the grownups. ,pic.twitter.com/ge17Al5gfY,

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) ,July 12, 2018,

.

بہادر باپ کی بہادر بیٹی اس قوم کے مستقبل ک جنگ لڑنے آرہی ہے ,#حاضر_وطن_کی_خاطر, ,pic.twitter.com/LN6hnbPh2d,

— ZM (@ZeshanMalick) ,July 12, 2018,

,#حاضر_وطن_کی_خاطر, ,pic.twitter.com/uH1SrAzzJn,

— Faisal Ranjha (@ranjha001) ,July 12, 2018,

Sentenced for corruption

The two PML-N leaders are returning to Pakistan to face a prison sentence handed out on July 6 by an accountability court in the Avenfield reference case, in which the judge ruled that Nawaz, Maryam and her husband Captain Safdar own assets beyond known income. They were respectively handed jail sentences of 10, seven and one year each.

The father-daughter duo were also fined £8 million and £2 million respectively. The money will go into the state treasury.

All three of them have also been disqualified from running for public office.

The Avenfield reference ? which was related to the purchase of four flats in Avenfield House, Park Lane, London ? was among the three corruption references filed by NAB against the former premier and his children on the Supreme Court’s orders in its [landmark July 28 Panamagate verdict.

Besides Nawaz, Maryam and her husband Captain Safdar, NAB had also nominated Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz — Sharif’s sons — as accused in all three SC-ordered corruption references.

Though the Sharif family insisted that they had purchased the apartments through ‘legitimate’ financial resources they remained unable to disclose those resources before the accountability court or the Supreme Court.

One day after the sentence was announced, NAB obtained arrest warrants for Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar. Safdar, who was in Pakistan at the time offered his [arrest to NAB officials in Rawalpindi][8] on July 8.

Nawaz and Maryam were in London when the verdict was announced, as they have been with the ailing Kulsoom Nawaz who was diagnosed with cancer last year and is reportedly comatose. They announced that they would return to Pakistan to appeal against the sentence after the verdict was issued.

A day before the verdict was announced, Nawaz and Maryam had [appealed to the accountability court][9] to postpone the announcement of the verdict for a week citing Begum Kulsoom’s health as the reason for seeking the delay. The appeal was turned down.

Addressing a party conference in London with Maryam by his side before his return, Nawaz said he had decided to return to the country to fulfil his pledge to ‘honour the vote’, “despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes”.

“Is there any Pakistani who has had three generations of his family go through an accountability process only to find out that no corruption was ever done?” he asked during the presser that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Nawaz also criticised the court’s decision to sentence his daughter to a seven-year term in jail, saying those who did so “did not even remember in their hate what stature daughters have in Pakistan”.

This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - July 14, 2018 at 3:25 am

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Nawaz, Maryam taken into NAB custody, flying to Islamabad

Sherrrrrrrrr ,pic.twitter.com/XOzYtEBkt5,

— Faisal Ranjha (@ranjha001) ,July 13, 2018,

Former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were taken into custody by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials shortly after arriving at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport on Friday night.

They were then boarded onto a small private plane bound for Islamabad International Airport (IIA). The flight has left Lahore. Upon landing at IIA, Nawaz and Maryam will either be flown to Adiala Jail or driven to Attock Jail.

The flight from Abu Dhabi to Lahore took off around 5pm local time and landed in Pakistan at around 8:45pm PST.

According to media reports, dozens of security officials entered the plane after it landed and asked other passengers to leave. The duo’s passports were seized by a three-member Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team.

Shortly after, the two were taken into custody at around 9:25pm and put on the plane to Islamabad.

Nawaz and Maryam were convicted by an accountability court in the Avenfield corruption reference last Friday and handed jail sentences of 10 years and seven years respectively. The former was found guilty of owning assets beyond known income, while his daughter was convicted for aiding and abetting her father in covering up a “conspiracy”.

After the verdict was announced, Nawaz and Maryam had said they would return to Pakistan and appeal against the decision. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Punjab governments had made arrangements to take the father-daughter duo into custody upon arrival.

PML-N workers rally in support

In Lahore, authorities have braced to maintain law and order, as a large number of PML-N workers and supporters have gathered in various parts of Lahore to welcome the ousted premier and his daughter.

Large parts of the city are in lockdown.

Security officials at the site of the rally. ? DawnNewsTV

Security officials at the site of the rally. ? DawnNewsTV

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, whose caravan had gathered at Lohari Gate, is leading the main welcoming rally to the airport to accord his brother and PML-N supremo Nawaz a warm welcome.

He is currently at Regal Chowk, on his way to the airport. PML-N workers who are part of the rally are chanting slogans of “Rok sako tau rok lo (stop us if you can)”.

According to media reports, no PML-N supporters have been allowed onto airport premises.

Last leg

Former prime minister and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz had taken off from Abu Dhabi for Lahore shortly after 6pm PST on the last leg of their journey home from London.

Their flight, Etihad Airways flight EY243, was earlier scheduled to land at 6:15pm PST at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport, but instead took off from Abu Dhabi at 6:02pm PST after suffering a nearly three-hour delay.

An airport official, when approached by our correspondent, had stated the reason for the hold-up in Abu Dhabi as a delay in an Etihad flight arriving from Bangkok, which was supposed to fly EY243′s passengers to Lahore.

‘Not afraid of being arrested’

While waiting at the Abu Dhabi airport for his flight home, Nawaz spoke to reporters from various news organisations over the phone.

During the call, Nawaz wondered how a flight “that is never late” had been delayed today and urged people to “think about who delayed this flight and why.”

When asked if he believes that returning to Pakistan in the current “tense” situation is a good idea, Nawaz said that he knows what the situation in the country is like.

“I know I have been handed a 10-year sentence and Maryam has been given seven years in jail, but we are returning because this country’s fate needs to change — we need to change it.”

“The media also needs be brave and take a stand in the face of it all,” Nawaz said, adding that the media’s freedom is being curbed today because “they see that this nation has risen and the media is rising and they are afraid. Why else would they do all this?”

“What is happening in this country today, what is happening in Lahore, raises questions regarding the elections. No other province is facing the situation we see in Lahore: hundreds of our party workers have been arrested; people are being pressured into switching loyalties. All of this forms a question mark on the credibility of the election,” Nawaz said.

“I am not afraid of being arrested. If I was, why would I be coming back? It does not matter if NAB or the people who have sent NAB personnel arrest me from here [Abu Dhabi] or from Lahore. I am ready for it,” Nawaz said.

BBC correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan Secunder Kermani, who was at Abu Dhabi airport, said that Nawaz and Maryam were in a lounge at the airport but security personnel would not let reporters through, so they had to huddle around a phone in a different lounge in order to speak to him.

Just conducted a surreal press conference with Nawaz Sharif on the phone – he’s in a airport lounge in Abu Dhabi but apparently security won’t let reporters come in – so we huddled around a phone (in a different lounge) with the speaker on, top lines of what he said coming soon

— Secunder Kermani (@SecKermani) ,July 13, 2018,

Earlier, in a video message, ,tweeted by Maryam,, the former premier had urged his followers to stand with him when he arrives and “change the fate of the country”.

“The country is at a critical juncture right now,” Nawaz said in the recording. “I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away — but I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you.”

Security ramped up

Cellphone services have been partially suspended in certain parts of Lahore, and as many as 2,000 Rangers personnel have been deployed at and around Lahore Airport where ? according to sources ? the Interior Ministry, in a meeting two days ago, had decided to contain Nawaz and Maryam, sources said.

Police officers deployed at Lahore airport. ? AP

Police officers deployed at Lahore airport. ? AP

Heavy contingents of police have been deployed at all entry points to the city, and containers have been readied to block off main roads.

A police official claimed that the arrangements were made to avoid any terrorism-related incidents, and that no orders had been passed to arrest political workers or to block the motorway.

Punjab Home Department sources earlier told Dawn that anyone holding a rally would have to seek prior permission from the deputy commissioner as per the Election Commission of Pakistan Code of Conduct, but so far no one has sought any permission in Lahore.

The sources had said that authorities would not allow any processions to go to the airport. Multiple blockades have been set up on roads across the city.

Three helicopters and the Punjab Chief Minister Prof Hassan Askari’s airplane have been placed at NAB’s disposal in the eventuality that Nawaz and Maryam will need to be transported to Rawalpindi.

Traffic plan

The caretaker government devised an alternate traffic plan on the eve of the arrival of Nawaz Sharif at Lahore airport on Friday.

Map of Lahore showing roadblocks around the city.

Map of Lahore showing roadblocks around the city.

Traffic coming from Islamabad will enter Lahore via motorway through Thokar Niaz Beg, Qazilbash Chowk and Shaukat Khanum Chowk. Traffic from GT Road will enter the city via Kala Shah Kaku through Thokar. Traffic from Kala Khatai Road will enter via Shahdara Chowk, Begum Kot and Faizpur Interchange through motorway. Traffic from Multan Road will enter via Bund Road and Mohlanwal Road. To exit Lahore, use Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, Johar Town Main Boulevard, Shaukat Khanum, Qazilbash Chowk, Motorway Interchange or Multan Road.

The international travellers have been asked to reach at least six hours prior to the departure time at designated areas in Lahore. They will be transported to airport via a shuttle service which will be provided from Bhatta Chowk, Chungi Dogaij, Gajjumata, Mehfooz Park and Niazi Shaheed Park.

Solemn farewell

Mayam had taken to Twitter to post pictures of scenes in London ahead of the father-daughter duo’s departure.

In one picture, the father and daughter were seen bidding farewell to Kulsoom Nawaz, who is said to be comatose and admitted at a London hospital.

Told my kids to be brave in the face of oppression. But kids will still be kids. Goodbyes are hard, even for the grownups. ,pic.twitter.com/ge17Al5gfY,

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) ,July 12, 2018,

.

بہادر باپ کی بہادر بیٹی اس قوم کے مستقبل ک جنگ لڑنے آرہی ہے ,#حاضر_وطن_کی_خاطر, ,pic.twitter.com/LN6hnbPh2d,

— ZM (@ZeshanMalick) ,July 12, 2018,

,#حاضر_وطن_کی_خاطر, ,pic.twitter.com/uH1SrAzzJn,

— Faisal Ranjha (@ranjha001) ,July 12, 2018,

Sentenced for corruption

The two PML-N leaders are returning to Pakistan to face a prison sentence handed out on July 6 by an accountability court in the Avenfield reference case, in which the judge ruled that Nawaz, Maryam and her husband Captain Safdar own assets beyond known income. They were respectively handed jail sentences of 10, seven and one year each.

The father-daughter duo were also fined £8 million and £2 million respectively. The money will go into the state treasury.

All three of them have also been disqualified from running for public office.

The Avenfield reference ? which was related to the purchase of four flats in Avenfield House, Park Lane, London ? was among the three corruption references filed by NAB against the former premier and his children on the Supreme Court’s orders in its [landmark July 28 Panamagate verdict.

Besides Nawaz, Maryam and her husband Captain Safdar, NAB had also nominated Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz — Sharif’s sons — as accused in all three SC-ordered corruption references.

Though the Sharif family insisted that they had purchased the apartments through ‘legitimate’ financial resources they remained unable to disclose those resources before the accountability court or the Supreme Court.

One day after the sentence was announced, NAB obtained arrest warrants for Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar. Safdar, who was in Pakistan at the time offered his [arrest to NAB officials in Rawalpindi][8] on July 8.

Nawaz and Maryam were in London when the verdict was announced, as they have been with the ailing Kulsoom Nawaz who was diagnosed with cancer last year and is reportedly comatose. They announced that they would return to Pakistan to appeal against the sentence after the verdict was issued.

A day before the verdict was announced, Nawaz and Maryam had [appealed to the accountability court][9] to postpone the announcement of the verdict for a week citing Begum Kulsoom’s health as the reason for seeking the delay. The appeal was turned down.

Addressing a party conference in London with Maryam by his side before his return, Nawaz said he had decided to return to the country to fulfil his pledge to ‘honour the vote’, “despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes”.

“Is there any Pakistani who has had three generations of his family go through an accountability process only to find out that no corruption was ever done?” he asked during the presser that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Nawaz also criticised the court’s decision to sentence his daughter to a seven-year term in jail, saying those who did so “did not even remember in their hate what stature daughters have in Pakistan”.

This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.

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FO says not aware of quadrilateral meeting of spy chiefs

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday expressed ignorance about a reported meeting of spy chiefs of Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan in Islamabad over the growing threat to the region from the militant Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Officials, however, privately confirmed to Dawn that the unprecedented meeting took place on Tuesday, which could besides dealing with IS provide a basis for greater regional cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.

The meeting, which was supposed to be secret, was ,first reported by Russian newswire TASS,. The Voice of America (VoA) also ,carried a report, on the meeting.

TASS had quoted spokesman of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Ivanov as saying that heads of intelligence services of Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan met in Islamabad to discuss measures against assembling of IS terrorists returning from Iraq and Syria in Afghanistan.

TASS had said that the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, represented Russia at the meeting.

“The discussions focused on the dangers arising from a build-up of the Islamic State on the Afghan territory,” Ivanov said.

Russia has been extremely worried about IS threat emanating from the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Its officials held a number of meetings with Pakistani officials before the latest quadrilateral event.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had in February raised the issue of IS expanding its footprint in Afghanistan during the visit of the then Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Asif to Moscow.

“This trend of spread of ISIS is extremely worrying and the US and Nato tried to obfuscate and neglect the facts and presented information that did not correspond with the reality. ISIS presence is serious. …It boosts the risk of terrorists infiltrating into Central Asian countries from where they can enter the Russian Federation,” Lavrov had said and criticised US and Nato for failing to provide explanations about flight of unmarked helicopters to areas having IS presence.

Pakistan and Russia had later at the 7th meeting of their Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism in March also reiterated this concern.

Pakistan, it is said, had also been discussing the matter with China and Iran. In those meetings Pakistan had expressed alarm over relocation of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, particularly its north-eastern parts.

The meeting of spymasters of the four countries, nevertheless, took many, particularly US, by surprise. The US, it is said, is particularly concerned over the emerging regional cooperation because it sees it as a potential challenge to its role in Afghanistan.

Russia and Iran have played a major role in the defeat of IS both in Syria and Iraq.

FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal, speaking at the weekly media briefing, renewed the call for Taliban to renounce kinetic options and join the peace and reconciliation process to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

He recalled that Pakistan and Afghanistan were discussing the Taliban issue under the newly-instituted bilateral mechanism — the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.

Indian spy

Dr Faisal said that Pakistan on July 17 would be filing the second counter-rejoinder in International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, adds APP.

“Our team has prepared a comprehensive reply to Indian rejoinder, which will be filed on July 17,” the FO spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018

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ANP leader Haroon Bilour killed in Peshawar blast

At least four persons including Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour were killed in a suspected suicide blast which targeted an election gathering of ANP in Yakatoot area of Peshawar on Tuesday night, DawnNewsTV reported.

Initial reports reveal that more than a dozen people have been injured in the explosion, who have been shifted to nearby Lady Reading Hospital.

Haroon Bilour was the son of senior ANP leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour who was killed when a Pakistani Taliban bomber blew himself up in a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar in 2012.

The ANP has been a continual target of militant groups operating in the northwest. Militants have waged a campaign of attacks across Pakistan, mainly in the northwest, bordering Afghanistan, in retaliation for government offensives against insurgent strongholds.

Earlier this month, seven people including a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal were injured in an explosion during an election rally near Takhtikhel canal.

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FO hopes Afghan Taliban will accept Kabul talks offer

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office expressed the hope on Thursday that the Afghan Taliban would avail themselves of Kabul’s unconditional offer of talks to find a politically-negotiated solution of the protracted conflict.

Speaking at the weekly media briefing, FO Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said: “We hope that Taliban would grab the opportunity for the unconditional peace talks.”

The United States has once again ramped up pressure on Pakistan to either convince the militant group to join peace talks or expel their leaders and other cadres that it believed to be based here.

Denies knowledge of Nawaz seeking asylum in UK

The US sees Pakistan-based Taliban as the main obstacle to initiation of peace process in Afghanistan.

Senior State Department official Alice Wells earlier this week visited Islamabad and met senior political and military leaders and some of the foreign ambassadors. Ahead of her visit, she, according to Reuters, said that US had so far not seen “sustained and decisive action on the part of Islamabad”.

Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal met on Wednesday to follow up on their discussions with Amb Wells. The US officials had met both of them separately during her visit.

Dr Faisal said that Pakistan was ready to play its part, but bringing Taliban to the negotiating table was the shared responsibility of all stakeholders.

This year’s unprecedented Eid ceasefire had raised hopes of peace in Afghanistan, but those hopes were dashed after Taliban resumed attacks immediately after Eid.

President Ashraf Ghani ordered continuation of counterterrorism operations last week after Taliban did not reciprocate his gesture.

Kashmir

The FO spokesman again called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an independent international commission of inquiry for India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had last month recommended setting up of a ‘Commission of Inquiry’, the UN’s highest-level probe, to investigate human rights violations in Kashmir.

“It is essential for the UNSG and the UNHRC to visit IOK to ensure the credibility of the international multilateral system and to prevent the human rights charter from being reduced to verbal rhetoric,” Dr Faisal said.

In reply to a question about a claim attributed to former president Asif Ali Zardari, the FO spokesman denied having any knowledge about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

“It is not obligatory on the country wherein the political asylum is taken to inform the country of origin,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2018

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Afghan envoy acknowledges Pakistan’s role in Eid ceasefire

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal on Thursday acknowledged Pakistan’s role in the ,Eid ceasefire, in Afghanistan.

Speaking at Ideas Conclave 2018, hosted by the Jinnah Institute, the envoy said: “I must acknowledge Pakistan did have a role in the ceasefire and we are thankful for that.”

This was the first public acknowledgement of Pakistan’s role in the short-lived ceasefire by any Afghan official although it was widely speculated that Pakistan had pushed Taliban to reciprocate President Ashraf Ghani’s unilateral announcement of cessation of hostilities on the occasion of Eidul Fitr.

Taliban observed the ceasefire for only three days and returned to fighting immediately after Eid. Despite the bonhomie observed over Eid, the fighting after Eid was very intense in which scores of Afghan troops lost their lives. President Ghani initially looked hopeful after the revival of ceasefire, but last week he ordered resumption of counter-terrorism operations when Taliban showed no signs of flexibility.

Dr Zakhilwal is, however, still hopeful that Taliban would resume the truce and says Pakistan will have a role in it.

Published in Dawn, July 06th, 2018

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Indian envoy hopes bilateral ties will improve after elections in Pakistan

India’s High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, while addressing a seminar in Islamabad, hoped that the relations between India and Pakistan will improve after the 2018 general elections.

“We hope that Pak-India relations will improve following the general elections in Pakistan,” Bisaria said, adding that the two countries started facing strained relations since 1999.

“There has been a mutual contract to not harass diplomats from either side,” the Indian high commissioner said while referring to ,the agreement, which was announced through a statement simultaneously issued by the Foreign Office and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in March this year.

The statement reads: “India and Pakistan have mutually agreed to resolve matters related to the treatment of diplomats and diplomatic premises, in line with the 1992 ‘Code of Conduct’ for treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan.”

He also said that poverty is both countries’ mutual enemy and that the people of both nations do not hate each other.

“The truth is that terrorist events hindered the talks between the two countries,” he said while adding that the two countries need to take baby steps in order to make their relationship better.

Afghan envoy says Pakistan’s policies created Taliban

Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal alleged that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan used to be a part of the Afghan Taliban and they have benefitted from the policies of Pakistan government.

The allegations came during a heated argument with former Inter-Services Public Relations chief retired Maj Gen Ather Abbas at the seminar.

“Taliban have been in Pakistan and the TTP has held control of various areas of the country,” the Afghan envoy alleged, adding that even the “Lal Masjid was once under the Taliban’s control”.

Responding to the Afghan envoy’s remarks, Abbas remarked that Pakistan has never tried to influence the Afghan government.

“Pakistan has always tried to broker peace through political operations,” he asserted.

“Pakistan has dealt with its fair share of problems, just like Afghanistan,” Gen Abbas said while adding that the “Afghan conflict has directly affected Pakistan and its people”.

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You can’t win without electables and money: Imran

IN a reference to new entrants to PTI,  Imran Khan says that the newcomers would have to comply with the party’s policies and discipline, and that those who didn’t would be kicked out.—White Star

IN a reference to new entrants to PTI, Imran Khan says that the newcomers would have to comply with the party’s policies and discipline, and that those who didn’t would be kicked out.—White Star

FOR Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, the key to the Prime Minister House lies in understanding the country’s complex political realities.

In a conversation with Dawn during his ,election campaign in Karachi, on Wednesday, Mr Khan said that although he cannot vouch for each of the near 700 national and provincial-level candidates his party has fielded to contest the upcoming elections, he is playing with what exists in Pakistan’s political class.

“You contest elections to win. You don’t contest elections to be a good boy. I want to win. I am fighting elections in Pakistan, not Europe. I can’t import European politicians,” Mr Khan said.

He talked about the importance of manpower and financial resources for a successful election campaign.

PTI chief says Nawaz Sharif tried his best (to mend relations with India). “I will give him the credit. Nawaz Sharif tried everything, even personal [gestures] calling him [Modi] over to his house.”

“After 1997, I came to the conclusion that unless we took people in the party who know the art of winning election, we will not be able to succeed.

“This is not Europe, where all you need to do is tell people what you stand for and they will go out and vote for you. In Pakistan, you need money and thousands of trained polling agents who can bring out people on the day of election. If you do not have those workers, you cannot contest the election.”

Even as his critics question why he has awarded tickets to political turncoats instead of workers who have had a long association with the party, Mr Khan said: “The political class here doesn’t change that much. You can introduce new actors but you can’t change the political class wholesale. This is why I give the example of Mahathir Mohamad, who changed Malaysia with the same political class by giving them clean leadership.”

He denies that he has compromised his ideals by awarding tickets to ,electables,. “It would be a compromise if I did not stick to my objectives after coming into power, and if I did not run a clean government.”

Mr Khan said that the new faces would have to comply with PTI’s policies and discipline, and that those who didn’t would be kicked out.

When asked if his campaign slogan of ‘Naya Pakistan’ is only achievable with a ‘new PTI’, Mr Khan said there was no change in his strategy. “This is a joke going around that I have now gathered electables. I always sought out electables, but before this they were not willing to join us.

“Forget MPAs and MNAs, in the past we have even invited electables from union councils in other cities to join us. It is after the success of the 2011 rally at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore that people changed their minds and started to join us.”

Relations with India

While there is very little that the PTI chief would give Nawaz Sharif credit for, when it comes to the former prime minister’s efforts to improve relations with India, Mr Khan concedes that Nawaz tried his best.

“Nawaz Sharif tried his best [to mend relations with India],” said Mr Khan. “I will give him the credit.”

“Nawaz Sharif tried everything, even personal [gestures] calling him [Modi] over to his house. No one got in his way. But I think it is the policy of the Narendra Modi government to try and isolate Pakistan. They have a very aggressive anti-Pakistan posture because Modi wants to blame Pakistan for all the barbarism they are doing in Kashmir. What can one do in the face of this attitude?”

Civil-military relations

Asked how he would tackle the delicate relationship between the civil and military leadership if his party came to power, Mr Khan said good governance would be his strength.

“When you have democratic governments that perform and deliver, that is their strength. We have had military influence on politics in Pakistan because we have had the worst political governments. I am not saying it is justified but where there is a vacuum something will fill it.”

He added: “Under crooked and corrupt governments, people welcome the military with open arms. In 1999 when Musharraf’s martial law was declared, people were celebrating in Lahore – Nawaz’s political centre! – because governance had failed.”

He recalled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the strongest prime minister to come through electoral process who was totally in charge of the country’s affairs.

‘Military did not interfere in Bhutto’s govt’

“He [Bhutto] was the strongest prime minister. He dismissed many army officers. No one could say he was not in charge. When people talk about military interference, they should know that the military did not interfere in Bhutto’s government, because he was a powerful prime minister.”

When asked to comment on the military’s influence in setting Pakistan’s foreign policy, Mr Khan said: “The army will get involved where there are security situations. If you look at the US policy in Afghanistan, a lot of the US-Afghan policy was influenced by Pentagon. Even when Barack Obama didn’t want to continue the war in Afghanistan, he did it because he was convinced by Pentagon.”

Possibility of forming coalition

Although he is confident about his chances of making federal government with a simple majority, when asked about an alternative plan, Mr Khan said: “A coalition depends on the partner in question. If the coalition partner allows us to implement our manifesto, it’s fine.”

He added that his party had trouble with former coalition partner Qaumi Watan Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and that it had to kick out members who resisted their anti-corruption code. “If the head of a political party is corrupt, then it would be difficult to make a coalition with them.”

On eradicating militancy

Although it is a position he has been criticised for, Mr Khan remains adamant on engaging militants in dialogue.

“There has to be a dual policy: one is dialogue and the other is military action. I have been labelled ‘Taliban Khan’ just because I did not agree with this one-dimensional policy that Pakistan implemented under American pressure.”

He said the war in Afghanistan was a classic example of how military solutions alone did not work. “The US has been there for 15 years with a military option but has failed. If there is consensus among the American and Afghan governments and allies that they want unconditional peace talks with Taliban, it means the military option has failed.”

Confidence ahead of polls

“I am as confident as I’ve ever been and more prepared than before,” said Mr Khan.

Ahead of polls on July 25, surveys conducted by the Jang Media Group showed the PTI gaining ground.

A survey by Pulse Consultant showed the PTI ahead with the support of 30 per cent of respondents nationwide, compared to 27pc for the PML-N. The Pakistan Peoples Party was at 17pc.

A separate nationwide poll by Gallup Pakistan had the PML-N on top with 26pc, the PTI with 25pc and the PPP at 16pc.

According to Reuters, the new polls indicate a swing towards Mr Khan’s party compared to similar nationwide polls in 2017 that had put the PML-N 8-9 percentage points ahead of the PTI.

“I don’t know what will happen but I am more optimistic than I have been in my 22 years in politics,” Mr Khan said.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018

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COAS, Afghan envoy discuss framework implementation

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met Afghan ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal on Wednesday to discuss the implementation of the recently formed bilateral ties framework — the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) and cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.

“Today in my regular meeting with Pak Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had detailed discussion on key issues of bilateral importance including our joint efforts for peace and reduction of violence in Afghanistan and full implementation of APAPPS,” Ambassador Zakhilwal tweeted after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Inter-Ser­vices Public Relations (ISPR) said: “During the meeting matters of mutual interest including security situation in the region/Afghanistan were discussed.”

The meeting took place a day after senior US official Ambassador ,Alice Wells visited Islamabad, and held a meeting with Gen Bajwa in which both sides had agreed to remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan.

The US has renewed its pressure on Islamabad to take action against Taliban leaders, which it claims to be based in Pakistan and sees them as an obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.

The US has started addressing Pakis­tan’s security concerns in a bid to win its support for peace efforts in Afghanistan. Last month, Afghanistan-based Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah, whose elimination or capture Pakistan had been demanding for long, was killed in a drone attack. Another senior TTP figure Omar Rehman, also known as Ustad Fateh, who served as the militant group’s operational commander was reportedly killed in another drone attack on Tuesday. Several other TTP militants were also killed in the incident.

According to Voice of America, Rehman was also in line as possible replacement for Fazlullah, but the TTP leadership council elected Mufti Noor Wali, known as Abu Mansoor Asim, as its new chief.

Rehman briefly served as TTP leader after Fazlullah’s killing.

The United States and Afghanistan are now pushing Pakistan to either act against the Taliban or bring the militants to the negotiating table. The Taliban, this year observed unprecedented Eid ceasefire, but soon afterwards returned to fighting.

This week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered resumption of counterterrorism operations after the Taliban did not reciprocate his restraint. However, he has kept the option of resumption of ceasefire open. “I am ready for a ceasefire with the Taliban whenever they require me to do so because the ceasefire is a national demand. I leave it for them to decide whether they want to have a ceasefire truce for 10 days or one year,” he said in Kabul.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018

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Pakistan, US to work towards peace in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan.

This was agreed during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

“Both reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region and discussed measures towards that end. Both also agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

American official Alice Wells meets Gen Bajwa

Amb Wells was on a ,three-day visit to Pakistan, to again seek Pakistani authorities’ help for the Afghan peace process. She met Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar.

She also met business leaders and ambassadors from other embassies in Islamabad.

During her visit to Kabul, which preceded the Islamabad trip, Amb Wells said Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”. She had further accused the “Taliban ….who are not residing in Afghanistan” of being obstacle to the peace talks. She was apparently referring to Pakistan-based Taliban against whom the US has long asked for action.

During her meetings, she reminded her interlocutors of Pakistan’s commitment to take action against all terrorist groups that might be found on its territory. “Ambassador Wells discussed Pakistan’s stated commitment to eliminating all terrorist groups present within its borders,” the US embassy said in an apparent reference to the Taliban elements claimed to be present in Pakistan.

The embassy said that Amb Wells’ discussion was consistent with the Trump administration’s South Asia and Afghanistan strategy. The strategy announced last year signalled that Washington might take coercive steps to push Pakistan to crack down against the Taliban and Haqqani network.

The US strategy for the region had aggravated an already tense bilateral relationship with Pakistan. The two sides have since then been unable to put their ties on an even keel despite an extensive engagement. However, lately both sides took steps that led to hopes of improvement in the relationship. The Pakistan Army last month reaffirmed its commitment to seeing the US exit Afghanistan after winning the protracted war. The US, meanwhile, eliminated Afghanistan-based terrorist Mullah Fazlullah, whose capture or elimination was long demanded by Pakistan.

The ceasefire between Afghan warring factions further raised hopes of a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict. But, things are again turning for worse in Afghanistan where the Taliban resumed fighting immediately after Eid and the Afghan government order resumption of counter-terrorism operations last weekend.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2018

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Nacta warns about terrorist attacks on politicians

ISLAMABAD: A counterterrorism official warned on Tuesday that terrorists could target top leaders of political parties during their election campaigns.

“We have received as many as 12 threat alerts which are about leadership of political parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and six personalities can be targeted during election,” Director of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Obaid Farooq said while briefing a sub-committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.

The committee, headed by PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi, has been constituted to look into security arrangements for the July 25 general elections and officials of law enforcement agencies provided to different personalities.

Mr Farooq said that Nacta got information from the Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau and then alerts were sent to different quarters through fax.

Punjab home department orders security for PPP, ANP candidates

“In the past a threat alert was sent that the ,Army Public School, Peshawar,, could be attacked and after four months it happened. Similarly, some other alerts were issued, but precautionary measures could not be taken,” he said.

The chairman of the committee said that such alerts should be taken seriously.

Briefing the committee, Senior Superintendent of Police Security, Karachi, Hassan Sardar Niazi said that Sindh had benefited the most from the order of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar about ,withdrawal of security, from influential personalities.

He said as of today 1,000 security personnel and 50 vehicles had been returned to the police department which could now be used efficiently.

The CJP had directed all provincial police chiefs in April to withdraw the security protocol provided to influential individuals not entitled to official security. However, later the CJP said that security could be provided to those who were really under threat.

The committee in its next meeting will take detailed briefings from police departments of the four provinces.

Later talking to newsmen, Nacta director Obaid Farooq said there were threats to leaders of all political parties, including religio-political parties.

Mohammad Asghar adds from Rawalpindi: The Punjab home department has directed the authorities concerned to provide security to the candidates of the PPP and the Awami National Party in the province during their election campaigns.

The cabinet sub-committee on law and order had decided at a meeting held earlier this month to intimate the leadership of these political parties about the threats from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The meeting, presided over by the additional chief secretary of Punjab, was informed that days before he was killed in a drone attack in Afghanistan, TTP commander Mullah Fazalullah had issued directives to increase terrorist activities in Pakistan — to target the PPP and ANP during the general elections, in addition to carrying out terrorist attacks in various parts of Pakistan.

Police have also been directed to follow the guidelines issued by the home department in letter and spirit for the security of important personalities who are under threat during their public gatherings.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2018

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10 injured in blast at PTI candidate’s election office in North Waziristan

At least 10 people were injured in a blast at the election office of a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate in Razmak tehsil of North Waziristan tribal district on Tuesday, officials said.

“A huge explosion happened when I was inaugurating my election office in Razmak city,” Malik Aurangzeb Khan, PTI’s candidate from NA-48 in the region bordering Afghanistan, told AFP.

“At least 10 people were injured in the blast,” he said, adding that he could not confirm the nature of the explosion.

A local administration official told AFP on condition of anonymity that an unidentified person threw a grenade at the gathering. A security source also confirmed the attack.

Sources said panic ensued after the attack and the injured were crying for help.

“Around 100 to 150 supporters of Malik Aurangzeb were present at the time [of the blast],” a local resident told DawnNewsTV.

A large number of people suffered minor injuries in the grenade attack, while 10 people with major injuries were shifted to a nearby hospital, a source said.

There was no immediate claim by any militant groups for the blast.

North Waziristan is one of Pakistan’s seven tribal districts bordering Afghanistan, a region long rife with militancy.

But the Pakistan Army has conducted a series of operations there in recent years and claims to have flushed the militants out, with the region set to be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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Senior US official arrives to discuss Afghan peace

ISLAMABAD: A senior official of the US State Department, Ambassador Alice Wells, reached Islamabad from Kabul on Monday to again ask Pakistani authorities for pressurising the Taliban to join the peace process in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Wells, deputy assistant secretary of state at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, opened her trip with a ,meeting with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, at the Foreign Office. She is expected to meet other civil and military officials on Tuesday.

During her stay in Kabul, she had said that the Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”. She also accused the “Taliban ….who are not residing in Afghanistan” of being obstacle to the peace talks. She was apparently referring to Pakistan-based Taliban against whom the US has long asked for action.

Alice Wells set to hold talks with military, civil officials today

Last Saturday Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had asked his forces to ,resume counterterrorism operations, after nearly a two-week-long ceasefire for Eid. Mr Ghani had initially unilaterally announced the ceasefire and later extended the pause in hostilities after the success of his Eid initiative.

The Taliban too observed an unprecedented ,three-day ceasefire on Eid,, but resumed fighting after its expiry.

Afghanistan has also been seeking Pakistan’s help for resumption of ceasefire and bringing Taliban to peace talks.

A high-level Afghan security delegation visited Islamabad immediately after Eid for discussing bilateral security and intelligence cooperation and exploring the prospects for Pakistani support for peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have recently witnessed improvement and the two countries have committed to a new bilateral ties framework.

President Ghani while speaking in Kabul last weekend said: “The issue of Taliban should be solved in our relations with Pakistan. Some things have been done in this respect and some things are still needed to be done. … Now, serious actions are required”.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2018

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Afghan Sikhs, Hindus grieve after suicide attack kills 19

Grief mixed with anger among Afghanistan’s minority Sikh and Hindu community on Monday as they prepared for funerals of loved ones, including an election candidate, ,killed in a suicide attack,.

At least 19 people were killed and 21 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus waiting to meet President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday.

Scores of mourners shouted “death to Ashraf Ghani” and “death to the government” as they placed coffins in ambulances that would take them to a temple for funeral ceremonies.

Among the dead were 17 Sikhs and Hindus, officials said, including Avtar Singh, the only Sikh candidate running in the October 20 legislative elections, and Rawail Singh, a prominent social activist.

“This attack has killed many of our elders, those who loved their country more than anything else,” Narendar Singh told AFP as he took the body of his father, Avtar Singh, from the hospital.

“We were the direct target. The government really does not care about us. We used to be a huge community but most of us have left.”

Around 1,000 Sikhs and Hindus are estimated to reside in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly Muslim nation.

The vast majority live in Jalalabad as well as the southeastern city of Ghazni and the Afghan capital Kabul.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest carried out by the militants in the restive province where they have a foothold.

Ghani was in Jalalabad on Sunday as part of a two-day visit to the province. He was not harmed.

Singh said a group of 20 Sikhs and Hindus had planned to meet with Ghani in the morning at the provincial governor’s compound but the meeting was postponed until the afternoon.

As their convoy neared the compound, they were stopped by security forces and ordered to get out of their cars to be checked.

“That is when a suicide bomber on foot detonated among us,” Singh said.

Jagandar Singh, who lost his brother in the attack, said the mourners would consider taking to “the streets in Kabul” to express their anger at the government’s inability to protect civilians.

“We have lost hope with this government,” he said.

“Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are all brothers but unfortunately under this government none of them is safe.”

IS was not part of the government’s recent ,18-day ceasefire with the Taliban, that expired on Friday.

The government’s unilateral truce overlapped with the Taliban’s three-day ceasefire for Eid. It was marred by two suicide attacks in Nangarhar that were claimed by IS.

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