IN THE NEWS: SHADOWY GROUP AGAIN THREATENS IRAN-PAKISTAN RELATIONS (FEBRUARY 19, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Shadowy Group Again Threatens Iran-Pakistan Relations
SOURCE: Gandhara
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 (Posted)
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

The relations between Pakistan and Iran have taken a nosedive following one of the worst attacks on Iranian forces in a restive southeastern region connecting the neighbouring Muslim countries.

Amid mounting pressure and talks of retaliation, Tehran has joined Islamabad’s archrival New Delhi in pledging close cooperation to “combat terrorism in the region.” While condemning the attack, Pakistan has called on Iran to share evidence.

Iran is pushing Pakistan to help combat the hard-line Sunni Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) group, which claimed responsibility for the February 13 attack.

At least 27 members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were killed on the road between the cities of Zahedan and Khash in Sistan-Baluchistan Province when their bus was hit by a suicide car bomb.

On February 18, there were signs of an intense Iranian crackdown on Jaish al-Adl. The IRGC claimed to have destroyed the group’s hideouts and arrested three of its suspected members while seizing large amounts of weapons and explosives in Sistan-Baluchistan.

The raids followed warnings by top Iranian security officials.

“If, for whatever reason, the activities of the training centers and shelters of terrorist groups in Pakistan continue, Iran has the right to fight these centers based on the UN charter and will adopt related decisions if required,” Mohammad Bagheri, chief of general staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said on February 18.

Two days earlier, the IRGC’s top commander issued a similar warning.

“If Pakistan doesn’t do its duties in fighting terrorism, Iran will fight the terrorist groups organized by regional and extra-regional intelligence services,” Major General Mohammad-Ali Jafari told a mourning service for the slain IRGC members. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN PM IMRAN KHAN’S PULWAMA TERROR ATTACK STATEMENT IS AN ECHO OF ITS ARMY’S LINE ON TERROR (FEBRUARY 19, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s Pulwama terror attack statement is an echo of its Army’s line on terror
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

*Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Pulwama terror attack: India always has a precondition of discussing terrorism. I am telling you that we are ready to talk about terrorism. Terrorism is an issue of the entire region and we want it to end

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first statement after the Pulwama terror attack was essentially an echo of the Pakistan Army’s line on terrorism against India and indicated the current close alignment of the civilian government with the military in that country.

But it had two significant departures.

One, he said that Pakistan was willing to discuss terrorism with India. “India always has a precondition of discussing terrorism. I am telling you that we are ready to talk about terrorism. Terrorism is an issue of the entire region and we want it to end,” he said.

Two, he threatened to “retaliate” if India attacked Pakistan. “If you think you would launch any attack on Pakistan and we would not think of retaliating, Pakistan will retaliate. Pakistan would not have any other choice but to give an answer,” he said. You can read the full text of his speech here.

Through all the years of terrorism in India, elected leaders of Pakistan have generally avoided such language, with the issuing of threats being generally done by the generals. Post Pulwama, despite a certain clamour for “revenge” on the street in India, official statements, and those issued by the political class, have called for calm. (more…)

IN MEMORIAM J.H.J.M. (JAN) VAN HEUGTEN

Written by admin on Monday, February 18th, 2019

In memoriam J.H.J.M. (Jan) van Heugten (1957-2018)

It is with great grief and bewilderment that I must inform you about the untimely death of my long-time research partner, friend, co-author, criticaster and website editor for over 30 years, Drs Jan van Heugten. His rather sudden demise after a devastating illness came rapidly and merciless, leaving all of those around him stunned and dazed.

Being one of the very few truly well-informed and professional academics on Afghanistan and Pakistan contemporary history in the Netherlands, his demise means the irreplaceable loss of sound, thorough perspectives on developments in and concerning both countries.

Olivier Immig, January 2, 2019, Amsterdam

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN HONOURS SAUDI CROWN PRINCE WITH HIGHEST CIVILIAN AWARD (FEBRUARY 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, February 18th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan honours Saudi crown prince with highest civilian award
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Monday, February 18, 2019
By ASAD HASHIM

*President Arif Alvi awards Mohammed bin Salman the Nishan-e-Pakistan a day after $20bn investment deals were signed

Islamabad, Pakistan – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been conferred with Pakistan’s highest civilian honour a day after signing $20bn in investment deals with the South Asian country.

On the second day of his trip to Pakistan on Monday, Prince Mohammed (also known as MBS) met President Arif Alvi in the capital Islamabad, where he was awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan) at a formal ceremony.

The Saudi investment deals came at a key time when Pakistan struggles with a faltering economy, a looming balance of payments crisis and waning domestic growth.

The crown prince, who wields tremendous influence and power over Saudi policy since his elevation as heir apparent in 2017, will also hold talks with Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

General Bajwa is the chief of Pakistan’s powerful military, which has ruled the country for roughly half of its 71 years since independence from the British.

Pakistan was the first stop in the crown prince’s three-nation tour. He is scheduled to visit India and China next.

On Sunday, MBS was given a red carpet welcome in Islamabad, with Prime Minister Imran Khan receiving him at an airbase and personally driving him into the city. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE COST OF FRIENDSHIP (FEBRUARY 17, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, February 17th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The cost of friendship
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, February 17, 2019
By UMBER KHAIRI

*What price will Pakistan pay for Saudi support?

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding links: the Saudis have been heavily invested in Pakistan’s military and have benefitted from its expertise over the years and Pakistan has received more aid from Saudi Arabia than any country outside the Arab world since the 1960s. Now the visit by the Saudi crown prince and the new investment deals that are being signed, mark a re-affirmation of this relationship.

While this investment and support from the old ally comes at a time when Pakistan’s economy is falling apart and is in desperate need of money without expensive IMF loans and their attached and restrictive conditionalities, it is worth reflecting on what the actual cost of this help from Saudi Arabia is going to be. The social and political cost, that is, not merely the financial one.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Saudi Arabia pumped money into Pakistan both funding their proxy war against Iran as well as supporting the Soviet fighting mujahideen in Afghanistan. They also exported all their own fundamentalist Islamic militants (including people like Osama bin Laden) who were opposed to the sort of political regime present in the Kingdom, and thus diverted their energies to jihad against ‘infidels’ and even against Muslims who weren’t ‘Muslim enough’. This initiative also involved funding hardline madrassahs in Pakistan, and funding political groups working towards the elimination of Shia Muslims. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IRAN SAYS DEADLY ATTACK ON REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS PLANNED IN PAKISTAN (FEBRUARY 17, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, February 17th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Iran Says Deadly Attack On Revolutionary Guards Planned In Pakistan
SOURCE: Gandhara
Sunday, February 17, 2019

Iran’s parliament speaker has said that an attack that killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was “planned and carried out from inside Pakistan.”

In the remarks carried by the state-run IRNA news agency on February 17, Ali Larijani said that Pakistan should answer for its involvement in the attack.

The comments come as Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador on February 17 to protest the assault, one of the deadliest attacks on Iranian security forces in years.

Islamabad condemned the bombing but has not commented on Tehran’s allegations.

The IRGC says a suicide bomber on February 13 drove an explosives-laden vehicle into a bus that was transporting troops in Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

A militant Sunni Muslim separatist group called Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sistan-Baluchistan is a volatile area near Iran’s borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan where militant groups and drug smugglers frequently operate.

The province is populated mainly by Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluchis.

Tehran has repeatedly accused the United States, Israel, and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia of backing Sunni militia groups that carry out attacks against Iranian security forces, charges those countries have denied.

IN THE NEWS: INDIA WARNS PAKISTAN OF ‘STRONG RESPONSE’ FOR KASHMIR ATTACK (FEBRUARY 15, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, February 15th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

India warns Pakistan of ‘strong response’ for Kashmir attack
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Friday, February 15, 2019

PM Narendra Modi warns Pakistan against ‘destabilising India’ after car bombing kills at least 42 troops in Kashmir.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised a “strong response” to a car bombing in Kashmir that killed at least 42 troops, with New Delhi calling for “the complete isolation of Pakistan” for harbouring the armed group behind the devastating attack.

“We will give a befitting reply,” Modi said in a speech on Friday morning, soon after he called his security advisers to consider a response to the worst attack on Indian security forces in decades.

“Those who committed this heinous act will pay a heavy price. Those who supported it will definitely be punished,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper.

“If our neighbour thinks it can destabilise India, then it is making a big mistake.”

Thursday’s attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), an armed group that has carried out a number of suicide and other attacks against Indian security forces since it’s formation in 2000.

India blamed Pakistan for Thursday’s assault on the military convoy, accusing it of letting armed groups stage attacks from its soil – a claim Islamabad denies.

Arun Jaitley, India’s foreign minister, promised all steps “to ensure the complete isolation of Pakistan from the international community”, saying there was “incontrovertible evidence” that Islamabad had a “direct hand in this gruesome attack”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ATTACK THAT KILLED 44 INDIAN TROOPS SHOWS HOW MODI’S NATIONALISTIC STRATEGY HAS INFLAMED THE INSURGENCY (FEBRUARY 15, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, February 15th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Attack that killed 44 Indian troops shows how Modi’s nationalistic strategy has inflamed the insurgency
SOURCE: Asia Times
Friday, February 15, 2019
By MANOJ JOSHI

The suicide bomb that killed 44 soldiers south of Srinagar in the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir is the most deadly single attack that Indian security forces have suffered since the beginning of the insurgency in 1990.

Comparisons are being made with the J&K Legislative Assembly attack in 2001 that led to the killing of 38 people. Both dramas saw a suicide bomber ram a car loaded with explosives on to a target. And both were orchestrated by the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

The terrorist group was created by Maulana Masood Azhar, a terrorist released by India in exchange for hostages on board an Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked to Kandahar in 1999 by four Pakistan-based terrorists. Azhar has been based in Pakistan carrying out attacks on Indian targets through Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The main difference was in the Legislative Assembly attack the suicide bomber was a Pakistani, Wajahat Hussain, while Thursday’s bombing between Lethpora and Pulwama allegedly involved a local JeM recruit, Adil Ahmad Dar, who joined the outfit last year.

Despite the deep currents of Sunni radicalism in Kashmir’s militancy, suicide bombings have been rare. But there has been no dearth of Pakistani “fidayeen” or suicide attackers carrying out such missions in the Valley.

The only other local known to be suicide bomber is Afaq Ahmad Shah, a Class 12 student who blew himself in a car while attacking the 15 Corps headquarters in Badami Bagh in Srinagar in May 2001.

Jump in youths joining militants

This incident follows the steady rise of local recruits drawn to militants. From the mid-1990s to 2015, militancy was a Pakistani affair in terms of those fighting in the Valley. But this has changed over the last three years, especially in south Kashmir. At the same time the infiltration of Pakistani militants, mainly from the Jaish-e-Mohammad group allegedly involved in the attack yesterday, continues. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: GERMANY TO EXTEND AFGHANISTAN MILITARY MISSION (FEBRUARY 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Germany To Extend Afghanistan Military Mission
SOURCE: TOLO News
Thursday, February 14, 2019

*The German government’s move defies concerns the United States is preparing to pull out of the country
* German Cabinet Approves Increase In Troops For Afghanistan
* Netherlands To Move Troops From Mali To Afghanistan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet has decided to extend the military mission in Afghanistan for another year, Deutsche Welle reported, adding that a leaked document showed government expressing doubts about the prospects of peace in Afghanistan.

According to the report, this comes a day after an internal strategy paper showed Germany had offered to host another peace conference, this time with an extra invitation for the Taliban.

Germany’s Bundeswehr currently has around 1,200 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.

In December, reports emerged that the US President Donald Trump was planning to withdraw around half of the US military’s 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. However, no confirmation or details have yet been announced.

In fact, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said recently that recent agreements reached with the Taliban during Doha talks were around a peace agreement and not a troop “withdrawal agreement”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: 30 YEARS ON, RUSSIA VIEWS AFGHAN WAR WITH PRIDE (FEBRUARY 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

30 Years on, Russia Views Afghan War With Pride
SOURCE: The New York Times
Thursday, February 14, 2019
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW — When the last Soviet tanks rumbled back home across a bridge on the border with Afghanistan 30 years ago, the withdrawal was hailed as a much-anticipated end to a bloody quagmire.

Since then, Moscow’s view of the war has changed radically.

As Russia prepares to mark Friday’s anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal, many see the 10-year Soviet war in Afghanistan as a necessary and largely successful endeavor. Just like the ongoing Russian campaign in Syria, the Afghan war is widely perceived as a legitimate action against U.S.-backed militants.

And in a twist of history, Russia also has emerged as an influential power broker in Afghanistan, mediating between feuding factions as it jockeys with Washington for influence in a country where a U.S.-led coalition has been fighting for more than 17 years.

Ata Mohammad Noor, a former warlord who fought Soviet troops and served as governor of the northern Balkh province from 2004-2018, attended a meeting last week in Moscow that brought together former Afghan officials, opposition figures and the Taliban.

“I don’t think that Russia would like to repeat what it did in the past. It’s totally different today,” Noor said in an interview with The Associated Press. “On the other side, there have been 40 years of war in our country, and the Afghan people are all tired of war. People would support any country that would step forward to bring peace.” (more…)