IN THE NEWS: PM KHAN UNVEILS 4-PRONGED STRATEGY TO PULL NATION OUT OF ‘QUAGMIRE OF LOANS’ (NOVEMBER 21, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PM Khan unveils 4-pronged strategy to pull nation out of ‘quagmire of loans’
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The prime minister, while addressing the Pakistani community in Malaysia where he is currently on a two-day official visit, said that the government was committed to uplift the living standard of poor and downtrodden segments of society by improving governance and ending corruption.

The premier said that the PTI-government was working on four areas on priority basis.

Increasing exports

The first step towards ridding the country of its chronic loan cycle is to increase exports, said Khan.

“If Malaysia, with a population of 30 million people, has exports worth $220 billion, but we, with a population of 21 million people have exports worth $24bn, then clearly we are doing something wrong,” Prime Minister Khan said, adding that his team was working on a “programme to increase exports”.

Sending remittances through legal channels

The second step, the premier said, was to create legal channels for overseas Pakistanis to send their remittances through. He said that the finance minister was working on an incentive programme to make routing of remittances easier.

“Currently, we receive $20bn in remittances,” the premier said. “We (the government) think that if all the money sent in remittances [is sent via legal channels], then we will receive at least $10-12bn in addition. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE PRIVATIZATION OF WAR IN AFGHANISTAN (NOVEMBER 21, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The Privatization of War in Afghanistan
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
By ABDUL QAHAR BAKHSHI

Private military industries in the US are behind the proposal of privatization of the war in Afghanistan. Erik D. Prince, the founder of the Blackwater Worldwide private military company, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, each see a role for themselves in the future of the US long-drawn-out war in Afghanistan.

It could get worse if handled in this vein. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Prince laid out a plan whereby the fighting force would be led by an American viceroy who would report directly to Trump. Modelled after General Douglas MacArthur, who ruled Japan after World War II, the viceroy would consolidate all American power in a single person. His mission: Do whatever it takes to pacify Afghanistan. No more backseat driving of the war from pesky bureaucrats in Washington, or restrictive rules of engagement imposed on soldiers. An American viceroy with a privatized fighting force would make trains run on time in Afghanistan—if they had trains.

Who would this viceroy be? Probably Prince had himself in mind, and that worries everyone. Under his watch, Blackwater military contractors opened fire in a city square in Baghdad, killing 17 civilians in one of the worst episodes of the Iraq war. When asked by Congress how he addressed potential wrongdoing among his employees in 2007, he said: “If there is any sort of … problem, whether it’s bad attitude, a dirty weapon, riding someone’s bike that’s not his, we fire him. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: FALSE CLAIMS HAVE ADDED INSULT TO THE INJURY: PM KHAN (NOVEMBER 20, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

False claims have added insult to the injury: PM
SOURCE: Daily Times
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

* Imran challenges Trump to name another ally that gave such sacrifices in US war on terror
* Pakistan will now do what is best for its people and interests

ISLAMABAD: In an angry retort to Donald Trump’s rants against Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday asked the US president to put his record straight, reminding him that Islamabad joined the US-led war against terrorism even though no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan as no Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pakistan decided to participate in US War on Terror; Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion loss was inflicted to its economy and US “aid” was a miniscule $20 billion,” the prime minister said in a series of tweets.

“Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spending on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” he continued.

The prime minister said Pakistan’s tribal areas were devastated and millions of people uprooted from their homes. “The war drastically impacted lives of ordinary Pakistanis,” he added. “Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications (GLOCs/ALOCs),” he said. “Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?” he questioned.

The prime minister in another tweet in the evening further said, “Trump’s false assertions add insult to the injury Pakistan has suffered in US War on Terror in terms of lives lost and destabilized and economic costs.”

“He needs to be informed about historical facts. Pakistan has suffered enough fighting US’s war. Now we will do what is best for our people and our interests,” he maintained.

The prime minister’s tweets came after the US President Donald Trump, in an interview with Fox News aired on November 18, accused Pakistan of not doing “a damn thing for us” and defended his administration’s decision to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Islamabad.

IN THE NEWS: UN AGENCY REPORTS SHARP DROP IN AFGHAN OPIUM PRODUCTION (NOVEMBER 20, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

UN Agency Reports Sharp Drop In Afghan Opium Production
SOURCE: Gandhara
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

*Opium production in Afghanistan dropped by 29 percent last year, the United Nations anti-drug agency reported, a decrease attributed mainly to a severe drought

The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report released November 19 that the drop — from 9,000 tons to 6,400 tons –coincided with a decrease in the amount of land area being used for cultivating the crop.

The Afghanistan Opium Survey, which is jointly compiled by the UN agency and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, said a total of 263,000 hectares of land was used for opium cultivation, representing a decline of 20 percent compared to 2017.

“Despite the decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is the second-highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

The report said the farm-gate prices of dry opium — which fell for the second consecutive year to an average of $94 per kilogram, the lowest level since 2004 — may have contributed to less cultivation of opium poppy.

Eradication of opium poppy has also dropped by 46 percent in 2018 to 406 hectares, compared to 750 hectares last year.

Ten of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are considered poppy free, unchanged from last year.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and international donors have spent billions of dollars on counternarcotics efforts in the country over the past decade, including initiatives aimed at encouraging farmers to switch to other crops.

IN THE NEWS: US SPECIAL ENVOY ‘CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC’ ABOUT TALIBAN DEAL (NOVEMBER 19, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, November 19th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US special envoy ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Taliban deal
SOURCE: Asia Times
Monday, November 19, 2018
By ASIA TIMES STAFF

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States special envoy, is hopeful that the Taliban and the Afghan government can strike a peace deal within five months, despite the militant group inflicting record high casualties on security forces.

Back in Kabul after the second round of regional meetings that are believed to have included the Taliban, Washington’s Afghan-born representative said he remained “cautiously optimistic” for an end to the 17-year conflict.

The former US ambassador to Kabul has been spearheading American efforts to convince the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

His appointment in September was followed weeks later by a meeting with the group’s representatives in Qatar.

But there are growing fears that any progress towards peace could be derailed by the April 20 presidential election, which is expected to be marred by violence.

“The Taliban are saying that they don’t believe that they can succeed militarily … I think there’s an opportunity for reconciliation and peace.”

“I remain cautiously optimistic,” Khalilzad told Afghan media at a briefing. “I hope that the Taliban and other Afghans would use the [presidential] election as a deadline to achieve a peace agreement before then – that would be my hope.

“The Taliban are saying that they don’t believe that they can succeed militarily … I think there’s an opportunity for reconciliation and peace,” he added.

The US embassy in Kabul sent a recording of Khalilzad’s remarks to foreign journalists based there, who had not been invited to attend the briefing.

Still, Khalilzad’s comments follow increased Taliban attacks on Afghanistan’s security forces with the death toll among soldiers and police nearing 30,000 since the start of 2015, President Ashraf Ghani revealed this month.

The figure was significantly higher than anything previously acknowledged.

In a report, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction cited the NATO mission in Kabul as saying this summer’s toll had been worse than expected for Afghan forces.

Indeed, Khalilzad said he recognized the “complexity” of the conflict but insisted: “I would like to make as much progress as possible as soon as possible.”

His comments underscore an apparent increasing sense of urgency in President Donald Trump’s administration and America’s diplomatic corps for a deal to be done quickly.

IN THE NEWS: KREMLIN BRINGS KABUL AND TALIBAN TO THE TABLE (NOVEMBER 19, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, November 19th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Kremlin brings Kabul and Taliban to the table
SOURCE: Asia Times
Monday, November 19, 2018
By GIOVANNI PIGNI

*Despite failing to reach an agreement, the Moscow-sponsored talks represent a diplomatic coup for the Russians

“A modest first step in restoring full-fledged negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.” This was how senior Russian senior diplomat Zamir Kabulov defined the landmark conference in Moscow last week, which aimed to find a resolution to the long-running Afghan conflict.

Although the two warring sides would not admit they were in “official” negotiations, that the talks took place at all was an achievement. This was the first time that a Taliban delegation had publicly attended talks together with representatives of Kabul’s Western-backed government.

While no major breakthrough was reached, the conference suggests that Moscow is reasserting itself as a player in the war-torn country.

During the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov seated himself between the two opposing factions, playing the role of mediator.

“The problems of Afghanistan can be solved solely by political means, through the achievement of a national consensus with the participation of all the warring parties,” he said at the opening the talks, which took place in a large hotel in central Moscow, and which was attended by representatives of 11 countries, including China, India, Iran and Pakistan. A US diplomat was also invited as an observer.

As the conference came to a close, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the parties “agreed to continue consultations within the framework of this mechanism.”

With Afghanistan bordering central Asia states that were former Soviet republics, Moscow has long had an interest in Afghanistan, where, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it dueled for influence with the United Kingdom in “the Great Game.” But for Russians, the Moscow event also evoked painful and more memories of the 1978-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which ended with the humiliating retreat of the Red Army. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE MEDINA PROJECT (NOVEMBER 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The Medina project
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, November 18, 2018
By AFIYA ZIA

*Pakistan is at the mercy of yet another experimentation in the relationship between state and religion

In its first hundred days, the PTI government has demonstrated a single consistency — at every crisis or blunder, Prime Minister Imran Khan resorts to his grand vague vision of converting Pakistan into a Riaysat-e-Medina. He uses it as a crutch, rather than explaining the administrative or legal specifics of this blessed imagined state. Clearly, Pakistan is at the mercy of yet another experimentation in the relationship between state and religion.

As compensation and reward for their violent reaction over the acquittal of Aasia bibi, the prime minister has decided to outsource the architecture of this Medina project to ‘the ulema’. The irony is not just that, in seventy-one years, the disparate clergy in Pakistan has contributed nothing of academic, economic or political value or, that they are deeply divided on the very centrality of Medina itself. The paradox is that by authorising the unelected clergy to redefine the state today, Khan is undermining his own promise to rebuild Jinnah’s Pakistan.

He has the right to change his mind but it’s a grave folly to think that this is just temporary appeasement or, inconsequential eye-wash.

In the 1990s, Imran Khan had diagnosed his spiritual lapse to be the result of his westernised and secular lifestyle. Discarding his hedonism, he sought redemption through piety, religiousity and charitable work.

This self-fashioning is a popular trend in recent piety movements around the Muslim world. Personal metamorphosis is well and good but how does one baptize a nation-state and make it virtuous? (more…)

IN THE NEWS: DREAMS AND EXPECTATIONS (NOVEMBER 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Dreams and expectations
SOURCE: Dawn
Sunday, November 18, 2018
By MUHAMMAD AMIR RANA

LED largely by a jubilant CPEC discourse in recent years, Pakistan-China ties have entered a review and rationalisation phase. The outcome of this process has yet to be seen, but it has already started to raise expectations on both sides.

On the eve of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing, many in Pakistan were anticipating maximum economic cooperation from China — at least a six-billion-dollar package. This anticipation rested on their idea of the strategic significance that Pakistan has for the Chinese dream of comprehensive global connectivity for China’s economy. As it appears now, China is more concerned about the early completion of the CPEC projects under way. Perhaps it had not experienced any uncertainty about the fate of CPEC projects since the initiative was launched in 2013.

In fact, both countries have been caught in their own trap of CPEC sloganeering, with ‘game changer’ being a popular catchphrase. They are back to the basics now and trying to find ways for broader cooperation that takes them beyond CPEC.

The CPEC initiative came at a time when Pakistan’s economy was under severe stress and its relations with the US were at a low point. Pakistan perceived CPEC as a groundbreaking project that would shift its economic and defence cooperation needs towards China. However, China was not willing to take America’s place and, instead, wanted Pakistan’s geo-economic cooperation to make its Belt and Road Initiative a success. In fact, these divergent motives were not properly thought through during the inception phase; nor had the two sides realised the future complications. While for China, CPEC was a tool to achieve its broader connectivity goal, Pakistan perceived it as an antidote to all its ills ranging from economic to geopolitical. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: WHY ARE THE TALIBAN ATTACKING HAZARAS IN AFGHANISTAN? (NOVEMBER 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Why Are The Taliban Attacking Hazaras In Afghanistan?
SOURCE: Gandhara
Saturday, November 17, 2018 (Posted)
By ASMATULLAH SARWAN and ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

For nearly 18 years, Afghanistan’s hard-line Islamist Taliban movement largely refrained from attacking the country’s predominately Shi’ite Hazara minority.

But the Taliban recently began targeting Hazara-inhabited regions in the central provinces of Uruzgan and Ghazni. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced by the fighting, which began in late October.

The fighting was apparently provoked by the breakdown of a longstanding agreement between the two, according to former Taliban members and Ghazni locals. Hazara leaders, for their part, deny they had engaged in any written or verbal understanding with the insurgents. The Taliban regime is accused of harshly persecuting the beleaguered minority during its stint in power in the 1990s.

Nazar Muhammad Mutmaeen, a Kabul-based former Taliban official, says both the Taliban and Hazara community — which is spread over several provinces in central Afghanistan — largely respected an understanding that required them to keep out of each other’s affairs.

“The understanding was that the Taliban will not be harmed by the Hazaras while members of Hazara militias, too, will refrain from traveling to regions controlled by the Taliban,” Mutmaeen told Radio Free Afghanistan.

He says an increase in the number of rural territories controlled by the Taliban has prompted authorities across the country to engage in secret local deals. “The Hazaras concluded the most deals,” he said.

He says this agreement collapsed after fighting broke out between Hazara commander Abdul Hakim Shujae and the Taliban in Uruzgan Province in October. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IMF FOR CONTROLLING TRADE DEFICIT, INCREASING TAX COLLECTION (NOVEMBER 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, November 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

IMF for controlling trade deficit, increasing tax collection
SOURCE: The nation
Friday, November 16, 2018
By IMRAN ALI KUNDI

ISLAMABAD – Talks between Pakistan and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for new loan programme continued on Thursday as the visiting delegation met with the officials of ministry of finance, NEPRA and BISP.

The delegation of IMF has met with chairman of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Tariq Sadozai. The NEPRA has briefed the Fund about performance of the Authority and power situation of the country. Sources informed that NEPRA has told the Fund about power generation, line losses, and power tariff. The aim of the NEPRA visit was to have an independent view of the regulator on power sector issues and challenges.

Later, the Fund also met with the officials of ministry of finance. The delegation said that government should take measures to control the increasing trade deficit of the country. Similarly, the government should increase the revenue collection to control the soaring budget deficit of the country.

The IMF delegation also visited Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) headquarters, as part of their ongoing visit to Pakistan to assess the economic and financial challenges faced by the country. The IMF delegation was led by Harald Finger whereas Chairperson BISP Dr Sania Nishtar and Secretary BISP Omar Hamid Khan represented BISP.

Finger pointed out the overall economic challenges faced by the country and said that social protection is one of the key areas to be focused. He added that BISP has impressive engagement working model to address the wider canvas of social protection. (more…)