IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS TALIBAN COULD JOIN PEACE TALKS, DESPITE REJECTION (JULY 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan President Suggests Taliban Could Join Peace Talks, Despite Rejection
SOURCE: Gandhara
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 (Posted)

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has dismissed the Taliban’s rejection of his offer of peace talks, suggesting that the militant group can still be persuaded to come to the negotiating table.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul on July 16, Ghani said the Taliban’s opposition to peace talks was not “a full rejection.”

“It’s like when you ask someone’s hand in marriage and the family of the bride says no several times [before relenting],” said Ghani, referring to a culture in which refusal is seen as a sign of humility.

“In reality, it is likely that we will get a positive answer,” Ghani said.

Earlier this month, the Taliban said it would not negotiate with the Kabul government after a first-ever cease-fire between the two sides coinciding with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr raised hopes of jump-starting long-stalled talks.

Ghani declared an end to the truce, but he also called on the Taliban to resume peace negotiations. The extremist group Islamic State (IS) was not included in the cessation of hostilities.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, IRAN VOW TO IMPROVE MILITARY TIES (JULY 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, Iran vow to improve military ties
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
By BAQIR SAJJAD SYED

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.
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IN THE NEWS: REAL RULERS: HOW ELECTABLES TIGHTEN THEIR GRIP ON POLITICAL POWER (JULY 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, July 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Real rulers: How electables tighten their grip on political power
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, July 16, 2018
By IRFAN GHAURI and TAHIR MALIK

ISLAMABAD: A recent social media post quoting little known Khalilur Rehman, apparently a doctor from South Punjab’s Rajanpur district, attracted many hits.

When he was in his teens in the early 1980, an influential political figure of his area, Sardar Jaffar Khan Leghari, was elected to Majlis-e-Shura – the parliament – that came into being after a non-party based general elections held under late military ruler General Zia ul Haq.

Rehman was pursuing higher education and witnessed Leghari switching to Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) before 1988 general elections held after the sudden death of general, who had come to power by toppling the PPP’s government back in 1977.

Rehman still in medical college sees the politician contesting for the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI ) – an alliance of rightwing parties cobbled together against Benazir Bhutto’s PPP in the next elections held in 1990.

In the years to come, he sees Leghari switching loyalties and contesting yet another election from the platform of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) – a party formed by another military ruler General Pervez Musharraf by breaking Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N.

In the last National Assembly that completed its term in May this year, he served as a lawmaker associated with the then ruling party the PML-N but now this ‘electable’ Leghari, to the further surprise of Rehman, is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate and espouses the ideals of change.

Electable – individuals or families who have personal clout in an area and a sizeable vote bank which is independent from affiliation to any political party – is a hackneyed term in Pakistan’s contemporary politics and a subject of popular discussion before every general election. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: SHADOW OF ‘ENGINEERING’ HANGS OVER PAKISTAN ELECTION (JULY 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, July 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Shadow of ‘engineering’ hangs over Pakistan election
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Monday, July 16, 2018
By ASAD HASHIM

*Political leaders in Balochistan province claim they are being threatened to switch parties, alleging army involvement

Mastung, Pakistan – Surrounded by the arid mountains of the Chiltan range, Aslam Raisani’s voice rises in anger as he speaks of the political forces aligned against him.

Pakistan’s general election is less than two weeks away, on July 25, and the tribal chief and political leader from the impoverished southwestern Balochistan province says he is facing a playing field tilted by an old enemy.

“There is an element of pressure going on to divert voters to the candidate that has been fielded by the establishment,” he says, using a common euphemism for Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence agencies.

The military has ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 70-year history, since independence from the British in 1947, and has been at the centre of allegations of “political engineering” before an election that would see the country’s second civilian-to-civilian handover of power.

In Raisani’s rural district of Mastung, he alleges that the military has intimidated voters and offered incentives to switch loyalties, from installing electricity transformers to offering to release relatives allegedly “disappeared” by the intelligence services.

Aslam Raisani, a tribal chieftain and former chief minister of Balochistan province, says the military is involved in election engineering. Pakistan’s military denies any involvement in politics, saying it supports the democratic process. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TOWARD A HINDU PAKISTAN? (JULY 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Towards a Hindu Pakistan?
SOURCE: The Indian express
Sunday, July 15, 2018
By TAVLEEN SINGH

If the BJP does manage to win a second term, the Prime Minister would do well to ask himself why we have violent Hindutva instead of a Hindu renaissance that could make Indians truly proud, writes Tavleen Singh

Last week, BJP spokesmen frothed with rage as they denounced Shashi Tharoor for saying that if Narendra Modi became prime minister again in 2019, India would become a ‘Hindu Pakistan’. When Tharoor refused to withdraw his comments, he was reviled for ‘demeaning’ and ‘defaming’ Hindus. The odd thing is that every time some ‘secular’ Congress leader uses the word Hindu these days a reaction of this kind comes from the BJP. Could it be because there is realisation that under a powerful BJP prime minister not even baby steps have been taken towards bringing about a real Hindu renaissance?

The BJP now rules in nearly all of India’s major states and yet there are no signs of the reforms in education that would have counted as baby steps. Indian children continue to be taught almost nothing about India, so the real achievements of the ancient Hindus remain a mystery. A friend who runs an engineering college recently invited Amish Tripathi as chief guest to the college’s graduation ceremony. The celebrated author began his speech by asking how many students in the audience had studied mathematics. These were engineering students, so every hand went up. He then asked how many had heard of Bhaskaracharya and only one hand went up. If Indian students of mathematics have never been taught about one of our greatest mathematicians, there is a serious problem with our education system. A problem that should have been addressed in these Hindutva times. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S ECONOMIC CRISIS DEEPENS IN AN ELECTION YEAR (JULY 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s economic crisis deepens in an election year
SOURCE: Asia Times
Sunday, July 15, 2018
By KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

*Pakistan desperately needs to borrow to stave off a major economic crisis. But the IMF says it is in no position to service existing debts

The Pakistan government to be formed after July 25 elections will inherit a record high-trade deficit of $37.7 billion, a plunging stock market that hit this year’s lowest at 39,288 points on Monday and a currency that has been devalued by over 15% in the past seven months.

The outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has been criticized for its economic policies, which have left the country with a balance of payments crisis, and a record debt, with the rupee being devalued three times since December 2017.

A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report on Pakistan says “risks to Pakistan’s medium-term capacity to repay have increased significantly… due to mounting external and fiscal financing needs and declining reserves.”

The report says, Pakistan’s external financing needs are expected to rise from $21.5 billion (7.1% of GDP) in 2017 to $45 billion by 2023 (9% of GDP). The figures suggest that the next government will have few options but to seek another IMF loan to reduce the current account deficit.

Finance Ministry sources told Asia Times that a recent $1 billion loan from China was agreed to in May this year. It will provide a much needed respite to the foreign currency reserves. Pakistan has received an additional $3 billion worth of loans from Chinese commercial banks in recent months in connection with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Finance Ministry officials, however, say Chinese loans are a short-term fix and Islamabad will need a longer-term solution. “Pakistan has borrowed up to $7 billion from China over the past two years, but an IMF bailout has become a necessity. And it is the new government that will carry it out,” said Waqar Masood Khan, a former federal secretary at the Ministry of Finance. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AS PAKISTAN’S NAWAZ SHARIF IS SENT TO JAIL, HIS RIVAL IMRAN KHAN SHOULD NOT CELEBRATE (JULY 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

As Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif is sent to jail, his rival Imran Khan should not celebrate
SOURCE: The Washington Post
Saturday, July 14, 2018
By BARKHA DUTT

Right after sweeping the 2013 elections in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif told me that as prime minister he would show the world that he, not Pakistan’s army chief, was the real boss. But now, on the eve of Pakistan’s next election, he has returned from London (where he went to visit his ailing wife) to face not only jail time but a military establishment that is determined to finish him.

In choosing to return (instead of opting for exile) and possibly spend 10 years in prison for corruption, he has in fact given his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), a fresh burst of energy — and maybe even an advantage — in the imminent elections. Flanked by his daughter and political heir, Maryam, Sharif has presented himself as the only Pakistani civilian with the courage to take on an army that has ruled Pakistan by either diktat or stealth for the past 70 years.

The three-time prime minister’s hold over his government began unraveling when his family was named in the Panama Papers leak in 2016. He and his daughter were eventually convicted and barred from contesting elections because Pakistan’s special anti-corruption court decided the family had been unable to disclose how they funded four luxury flats in London. The court acquitted Sharif of the charge that he acquired the flats by corrupt or illegal means but ruled that the purchase of the properties was beyond the range of Sharif’s known and disclosed income. Before this jail verdict, Sharif had been removed from the post of prime minister by Pakistan’s Supreme Court for not being “honest” or “truthful.” These vaguely worded descriptions (otherwise known as “ameen” and “sadiq,” respectively) are two of the most contentious articles in Pakistan law and were brought into force by its most despotic military dictator, Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN READIES FOR DISGRACED EX-PM SHARIF’S RETURN FROM UK (JULY 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, July 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan readies for disgraced ex-PM Sharif’s return from UK
SOURCE: The Washington Post
Friday, July 13, 2018
By ZAHEER BABAR

LAHORE, Pakistan — Disgraced ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be whisked away by helicopter to the federal capital of Islamabad when he returns Friday to Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore from London to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges.

Sharif, set to arrive at 6 p.m., will be accompanied by his daughter Mariam, who was sentenced to seven years in prison. The two were in London visiting Sharif’s ailing wife when a Pakistani court convicted them of corruption and sent them to prison.

Sharif’s son-in-law is currently serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in Britain that the court said were bought with illegally gotten money.

Sharif is expected to appeal his conviction and seek bail.

Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.

In a video message Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.
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IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN ATTACKS ON AFGHAN FORCES LEAVE 40 DEAD (JULY 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, July 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban attacks on Afghan forces leave 40 dead
SOURCE: Dawn
Friday, July 13, 2018

KUNDUZ: Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces in the country’s north have caused “heavy casualties”, officials said on Thursday, putting the number of soldiers killed as high as 40 in ongoing fighting.

Militants using night-vision goggles launched simultaneous raids on several Afghan military bases and posts in Dashte Archi district in Kunduz province overnight, defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish and other Afghan security sources said.

“We have suffered casualties, the Taliban have also suffered casualties,” Radmanish said.

Between 10 and 15 Afghan soldiers had been killed so far, and about the same number wounded, he added.

But an Afghan security source said that the death toll among security forces was “more than 40”, and another confirmed that 39 had been killed and 10 wounded.

A separate security source said there had been “heavy casualties” among the soldiers.

An air and ground operation against the Taliban was under way, Radmanish said.

But on Thursday afternoon an army base on the border between Kunduz and Takhar provinces, where 29 security forces had been killed and 17 others wounded, was still under Taliban control, Takhar governor spokesman Sunatullah Timor said.
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IN THE NEWS: A DIRTY WAR ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS IN PAKISTAN (JULY 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, July 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

A dirty war on freedom of the press in Pakistan
SOURCE: The Nation
Friday, July 13, 2018
By HAMEED HAROON

As Pakistan heads toward its next democratic elections on July 25, the transition to a new government is likely to be a hazardous one. The main reason: an unprecedented assault by the Pakistani military on the freedom of the press, which is threatening our chances for free and fair elections.

Press freedom in our country has always existed in a delicate state of balance. It is the product of decades of struggle. At the end of the 1970s, to name but one example, a military-run government sent hundreds of journalists to jail and had four of them whipped. Those in power have never liked the idea of unfettered freedom for the press. Yet many newspapers in the country have continued to defy the authorities.

The reason for the current assault is simple. Certain forces aim to prevent the media from providing independent coverage of the country’s central political issue — specifically, a deepening power struggle between the military and the civil authorities. The current campaign against the media involves many elements of overt coercion, including severe disruptions of the distribution network of independent newspapers and the blocking of broadcasts of dissenting television news channels.

Is this “business as usual”? Not quite. Recently, the military has embarked on a campaign to remake the political landscape by depicting the leaders of certain political parties as corrupt or hostile to national security. The result of this “decapitation strategy” has been the destruction of the careers of several prominent members of the civilian political leadership — largely, though not exclusively, confined to the Pakistan Muslim League, the ruling party. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the party, was subsequently forced to step down as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in a corruption case. (On July 6, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges.) Pakistan is ruled by a caretaker administration, as stipulated by our constitution.
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