IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN, THE ‘UNINTENDED CASUALTY’ OF U.S. SANCTIONS ON IRAN (AUGUST 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan, The ‘Unintended Casualty’ Of U.S. Sanctions On Iran
SOURCE: Gandhara
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
By FRUD BEZHAN

As the United States reinstates crippling economic sanctions on Iran, Washington’s ally in the region, Afghanistan, could become collateral damage.

A first wave of U.S. sanctions against Iran that had been eased under a 2015 nuclear deal went back into effect on August 7, targeting the country’s economy.

But Washington’s censures of Tehran will also hurt Afghanistan, which has forged increasingly strong economic links with its western neighbour.
As Iran’s financial woes worsen, an exodus of Afghan migrant workers is expected and an economy in Afghanistan that relies on remittances flowing in from Iran will suffer.

The new U.S. sanctions could also lead to landlocked Afghanistan losing access to Iran’s sea routes and a budding trade could be scaled back.
Analysts also warn that Iran could retaliate to U.S. sanctions by ramping up its covert support for the Afghan Taliban, the militant group that has fought against U.S. forces since 2001.

“Afghanistan is at risk of becoming an unintended casualty of heightening tensions between Washington and Tehran,” says Ahmad Majidyar, the director of the IranObserved Project at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal that eased international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. A second wave of U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and financial system will be reinstated in November.

‘Significant Decline’ In Economy

A record 440,000 Afghans migrants left Iran this year, with nearly half of them returning to their homeland voluntarily, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM says the mass exodus has been largely driven by Iran’s crippling economic crisis, which has sent unemployment soaring and the national currency plummeting, hitting migrant workers particularly hard.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTANI ELECTIONS AND THE THORNY WAY AHEAD (AUGUST 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistani elections and the thorny way ahead
SOURCE: Asia Times
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
By S K CHATTERJI

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is poised to rule Pakistan for the next five years. But before we anoint him as the next prime minister of Pakistan, the arithmetic of the business needs clarity.

The total number of seats in the National Assembly is 342. Of these, 272 are directly elected, but only 269 were contested in the July general election. The 70-seat balance is filled by nomination, 60 seats for women and 10 for non-Muslims.

Imran Khan’s PTI has won 116, and is the single largest party in the National Assembly. However, the party will have to shed up to six seats, with Khan having won from five constituencies and two other party leaders each having won from two national/provincial constituencies. (In the Pakistani election process, a candidate can seek election from more than one constituency.) The Election Commission of Pakistan has allocated the reserved seats, giving PTI 33 in all. Nine Independents have joined PTI.

Hence it would have an effective bench strength of 152 in the National Assembly of 342.

Reportedly, 27 members of seven other parties will be supporting Khan, taking his tally to 179 and past the simple-majority mark in the National Assembly.

The tally of the next three major parties are: ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) 83 seats, Pakistan Peoples Party 52 and Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) 15.

For Imran Khan, it has been a case of making it by the skin of the teeth. Along with Khan himself, an establishment that will be considerably relieved at his making the cut, albeit precariously, would be the Pakistan Army. He has been the army’s favorite for some time.

The military establishment had a role in the Pakistani Supreme Court debarring Nawaz Sharif from holding any public office and also sentencing him to prison. The military also deployed more than 370,000 troops to ensure smooth conduct of elections. The fact that Khan’s position is barely stable ensures that he will be dependent on the army to remain in power.
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IN THE NEWS: RAJA MANDALA – BREAKING THE RADCLIFFE BARRIER (AUGUST 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Raja Mandala: Breaking the Radcliffe barrier
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
By C. RAJA MOHAN

*Overland transit trade with India could be the gamechanger for new Pakistan’s economy. In unfreezing trade ties, Punjab holds the key

It is not often that China’s envoys to Delhi find time to visit Punjab.

That is what Luo Zhaohui did last week. Besides wearing a turban, drinking lassi, chatting with farmers and paying obeisance at the Golden Temple, Ambassador Luo went to the Indo-Pak border at Attari-Wagah. After watching the popular flag-lowering ceremony, Luo tweeted his hope for “peace, friendship and cooperation” between India and Pakistan.

Such sentiment, of course, runs against Delhi’s traditional wariness on China’s role in India-Pakistan relations over the last many decades. Sceptics might say Luo’s hope is less about articulating China’s policy than the envoy’s well-known high-octane diplomatic style. A number of factors, however, might be at work in the north western Subcontinent to nudge the narrative on the triangular relationship in a more positive direction.

One is Beijing’s interest in making the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s expansive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), more profitable by extending it to India. Chinese spokesmen have long affirmed that CPEC is not an exclusive bilateral project between Islamabad and Beijing and can be turned into a more broad-based regional initiative.

Pakistan’s other neighbours, Afghanistan and Iran, are eager for such an extension. Further to the north, the Central Asian Republics are very much part of the BRI. Delhi’s longstanding critique of CPEC and BRI would seem to make it impossible for India to engage with these projects. But there might be ways in which the political differences — especially the critical one on CPEC’s transit through Kashmir— can be bridged.
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IN THE NEWS: FOREIGN EXCHANGE DEPOSITS – PAKISTAN GETS ASSURANCE FROM CHINA, SAUDI ARABIA (AUGUST 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Foreign exchange deposits: Pakistan gets assurance from China, Saudi Arabia
SOURCE: The News International
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
By MEHTAB HAIDER

ISLAMABAD: In a last ditch effort to avoid going back to the IMF, Pakistan has received assurances from China and Saudi Arabia for solving its foreign exchange crisis but first the incoming PTI-led government will have to take ‘tough corrective measures’ on front, reducing imports and slashing the budget deficit in a big way.

Pakistan had officially asked Saudi Arabia during the tenure of the last PML-N-led regime for providing $5 billion deposits for keeping into foreign exchange reserves and provision of oil facility on deferred payments in a bid to ease out the balance of payment crisis, The News has learnt.

Now the prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan has also established contacts as he received a phone call from the Saudi crown prince and it is hoped that the Kingdom will come forward to rescue Islamabad from avoiding the crisis and going back to the IMF to get another bailout package.

When contacted, former finance minister in PML-N-led government Dr Miftah Ismail on Monday said that they had requested both China and Saudi Arabia for helping Islamabad avoid the foreign exchange crisis. China, he said, agreed to help Islamabad and provided $2 billion after recent elections.

“We had requested Saudi Arabia to provide $5 billion for deposits to keep into foreign exchange reserves and Pakistan can pay them well on these deposits in our central bank. We have also requested provision of oil facility for five years on deferred payments. We are hopeful that Saudi Arabia will also come forward helping Islamabad overcome the crisis-like situation,” he added.

He recalled that Pakistan had requested the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for three-year oil payment to the tune of $4.5 billion with $1.5 billion in each year starting from the current fiscal year from July 1, 2018. “We had not made a request of $4 billion cash loan to the IDB in our tenure in power,” he added.
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IN THE NEWS: PPP UNDER PRESSURE NOT TO VOTE FOR SHEHBAZ IN PM CONTEST (AUGUST 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, August 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PPP under pressure not to vote for Shehbaz in PM contest
SOURCE: The Nation
Monday, August 13, 2018
By SHAFQAT ALI

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari are under immense pressure not to vote for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif in the prime minister’s election this week, sources said.

Senior PPP leaders told The Nation that some party leaders believed that the party MNAs should cast their votes for Shehbaz Sharif as per the commitment with the joint opposition but several advised the leadership to skip the PM’s election or abstain from voting.

A close aide of the Bhutto family said that Zardari would make a ‘big sacrifice’ if he voted for younger Sharif for the PM’s slot, though the opposition is unlikely to win against the PTI-led alliance spearheaded by Imran Khan. “So many PPP leaders and most of the workers are against voting for Shehbaz. But since the decision has been made (by the joint opposition), the PPP leadership is not expected to announce a U-turn.
They (Bilawal and Zardari) personally vote for him or not is a different issue,” he said.

He added, “I think if we are going for a joint opposition, then it has to happen (Bilawal and Zardari have to vote for Sharif), though our workers are resenting hard and you know what is going on in the social media.”

In the past, Shehbaz Sharif has been vocal against Zardari and even threatened to drag him in the streets and force him to return the ‘looted’ money. His elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, however, remained more diplomatic. Ultimately, Shehbaz had to publicly apologise to Zardari but it would still be a nightmare for the PPP to vote for him in the PM’s election. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN CROSSES THE RUBICON WITH TASHKENT MEETING (AUGUST 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, August 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban crosses the Rubicon with Tashkent meeting
SOURCE: Asia Times
Monday, August 13, 2018
By M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

The Taliban, against the backdrop of tightening Uzbek-Afghan relations, last week paid a landmark visit to Tashkent, heralding new regional stature for the militant group.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry on Saturday released a terse statement confirming the visit had occurred.

A Taliban delegation, led by the head of its political office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, visited Tashkent and the two sides “exchanged views on prospects of the peace process in Afghanistan,” it said.

The Taliban has been more forthcoming with details.

A press statement said the five-day visit (August 6-11) took place on the basis of a formal invitation from Tashkent and talks were held with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and the Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev.

The parties discussed the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country as well as “current and future national projects such as security for railroad and power lines,” the Taliban said in a press release.

The Uzbeks have previously engaged in direct dealings with the Taliban.

Kamilov himself is known to have visited Afghanistan and negotiated with the Taliban government in the late 1990s. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: US CUTS MILITARY TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR PAKISTAN (AUGUST 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US Cuts Military Training Programs For Pakistan
SOURCE: TOLO News
Sunday, August 12, 2018 (Posted)

*The US government has cut training and educational programs for the Pakistani military as part of a decision to suspend US security assistance to the country

As the Trump administration refused to provide funds for training of Pakistani officers for the next academic year, the US military institutions are trying to fill the 66 slots they kept for cadets from Pakistan, Dawn.com said in a report on Saturday.

The fund for training Pakistani officers came from the US government’s International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) but no funds were made available for Pakistan for the next academic year, the report said.

The US National Defense University in Washington DC has had reserved seats for Pakistani officers over the past decade, according to the report.

The outgoing Pakistani officers, however, were told that the university has been asked to fill the positions for the next year with officers from other nations, Dawn said in the report.

The university is one of several US military institutions that train officers from Pakistan.

This comes after the United States Congress made a significant cut to the security-oriented financial aid to Pakistan earlier this month.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019 ramped up the military spending and avoided policy changes that would have antagonized US President Donald Trump.

In the latest NDAA, the security aid to Islamabad — that had once started from almost $750 million per year to $1 billion — was marked down to a mere $150 million. However, it also relaxed certain conditions that were attached with the financial assistance, including action against the Haqqani Network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), AFP said in a report on August 3. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN ROUTS AFGHAN COMMANDOS WHILE OVERRUNNING REMOTE DISTRICT IN GHAZNI (AUGUST 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban routs Afghan Commandos while overrunning remote district in Ghazni
SOURCE: The Long War Journal
Sunday, August 12, 2018
By BILL ROGGIO

As Taliban fighters continue to battle Afghan forces for control of the provincial capital of Ghazni city, its fighters overran the remote district of Ajristan and routed elite Afghan Commandos who were assigned to defend it. Upwards of 100 Commandos are reported to have been killed after their unit melted away into the mountains.

On its official website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed it overran the “Ajristan district administration center, police headquarter and other installations” on the afternoon of Aug. 11. The Taliban claimed it killed “an infamous enemy commander Baido along with 5 others,” and captured 25 Afghan security personnel.

Ironically, the Taliban appears to have underestimated the extent of the casualties inflicted on Afghan forces. The New York Times, in a report updating the status of the fighting in Ghazni City, confirmed that Ajristan has fallen to the Taliban and the “elite army commando unit” stationed there has been routed.

“[T]he Taliban seized control of the Ajristan District, and the elite army commando unit that had been defending the district disappeared for two days and their superiors were uncertain of their fate,” The Times reported. “When they found out on Sunday, estimates of the dead ranged from 40 to 100. Twenty-two survivors were carried to safety on donkeys by rescuers who found them lost in the mountains.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN, INDIA DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS (AUGUST 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan, India Discuss Development Projects
SOURCE: TOLO News
Saturday, August 11, 2018

*Afghan and Indian officials highlighted the importance of access through Chabahar port for strengthening trade and economic relations

Officials from Afghanistan and India exchanged views on different ongoing development projects on capacity building, infrastructure, education, healthcare, good governance and human resource development during the second meeting of India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group on Development Cooperation (JWG-DC) in Kabul on Friday.

The JWG-DC is one of the four Joint Working Groups formed under the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council, which is headed by the External Affairs Minister of India and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Afghanistan.

The Strategic Partnership Council is mandated for the overall management of the strategic relationship between Afghanistan and India.

The Afghan and Indian officials had an exhaustive review of the large number of ongoing development projects spread over varied areas of cooperation such as capacity building, infrastructure, education, healthcare, good-governance and human resource development, said a statement by India’s External Affairs Ministry.

The two sides also expressed satisfaction over the successful completion of several development projects such as the Afghan parliament building, Afghan-India Friendship Dam, the first phase of Chabahar port and others, the statement said.

The Afghan side highly appreciated India’s timely assistance of 170,000 tons of wheat and 2,000 tons of pulses during this year when large parts of the country are suffering from drought, the statement said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S WATER WOES: DON’T BLAME INDIA (AUGUST 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s Water Woes: Don’t Blame India
SOURCE: South Asia Analysis Group
Saturday, August 11, 22018
By S. CHANDRASEKHARAN

Daily Pakistan of July 29, 2018 carried a very detailed article on the water crisis in Pakistan and it said that the challenges faced by Pakistan in the shape of water scarcity and absence of clean water pose a threat to the very survival of the country and its people. It also said that rapid growth in population, extensive urbanization, traditional agricultural practices and industrialization all have put Pakistan on the path of drought, hunger and instability.

Water storage has been reduced drastically to 30 days from the minimum of 120 days required for any country. This shortage of water has earned Pakistan, a name in the list of 15 most water scarce countries. The per capita availability of water is said to be 908 cubic meters now from 5200 cubic metres it had seven decades ago!

Instead of looking at the mismanagement of water internally, Pakistani press and politicians have continued to blame India for its “water woes.” India has been accused of violating provisions of Indus Water Treaty and the LET in their election campaign focussed on the water problem and accused India of stealing the waters of Pakistan. One of the analysts had even gone to the extent of declaring that Pakistan not only risks water shortage but is vulnerable to a war.

In an earlier paper of ours dated 11 December, we had quoted the findings of Dr. Daniel Mustafa, a Pakistani Professor teaching in UK and a distinguished expert on Water issues who said – “There is no shred of evidence that India has violated the Indus Water Treaty or that it is stealing Pakistan’s water. India has to date not violated any of the clauses of Annexure D that was jointly written by Pakistani and Indian Engineers.” (more…)