MAP: AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Written by admin on Saturday, November 17th, 2018

we are out of office during the weekend

On our return on Monday we will publish our selection of articles.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

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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…)

IN THE NEWS: TAJIKISTAN LAUNCHES GIANT DAM TO END POWER SHORTAGE (NOVEMBER 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, November 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

TAJIKISTAN LAUNCHES GIANT DAM TO END POWER SHORTAGE
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Friday, November 16, 2018

*THE $3.9 BILLION ROGUN HYDROELECTRIC DAM HOPES TO GENERATE SURPLUS POWER TO EXPORT ELECTRICITY TO AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Tajikistan on Friday inaugurates a $3.9 billion hydroelectric power plant, a mega project that will enable the impoverished country to eliminate domestic energy shortages and export electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Built on the Vakhsh River in southern Tajikistan, the plant championed by President Emomali Rakhmon is expected to reach a height of 335 meters in a decade, becoming the world’s tallest hydroelectric dam.

The first of six turbines in the Rogun hydroelectric dam goes online on Friday, with the power plant expected to reach capacity of 3,600 megawatts—the equivalent of three nuclear power plants—when completed.

At present, Rogun still resembles a vast construction site, with rocky earth covering the territory from which the powerful Vakhsh flowing through the Pamir mountains was diverted.

In 2016, Rakhmon, who is a former collective farm boss, climbed into a bulldozer at a groundbreaking for the dam, in a sign of the president’s personal attachment to the project. It will double energy production in the country of nearly nine million people, alleviating a long-lasting, debilitating national energy deficit. Surplus energy will be sold to neighbors such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Plans to build a dam in southern Tajikistan date back to the Soviet era, but the project was scaled up following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2017, Tajikistan raised $500 million from an inaugural international bond to help finance the construction.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN GOES AGAINST THE GRAIN WITH COAL POWER SPREE (NOVEMBER 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan goes against the grain with coal power spree
SOURCE: The News International
Thursday, November 15, 2018

In Pakistan´s bleak Thar desert, the roar of trucks is constant at a massive Chinese-backed coal power project the government sees as an answer to chronic energy shortages, but which activists warn is an environmental disaster.

Machines are running round the clock to finish the mine and coal power plant, a flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan that has seen Beijing provide billions of dollars in financing to its southwestern neighbour.

Much of it is for infrastructure and power in a country where blackouts have infuriated citizens and hamstrung the economy for years.

And while coal is going out of vogue in most other parts of the world because of its environmental impact, it will fuel nine of the 17 proposed CPEC power plants.

The one in Thar in southern Sindh province sits atop 175 billion tonnes of coal — one of the largest deposits in the world. Discovered in 1992, it has remained unexploited until now, but is expected to yield 3.8 million tonnes a year when fully operational.

A few kilometres away, towering chimneys emerge from the sand dunes as Pakistani and Chinese workers toil away on a 660-megawatt power plant which will burn coal from the mine.

After struggling for years to upgrade its power infrastructure, Pakistani leaders have touted CPEC as a “game changer” that will help lift the ailing economy.

“We are five months ahead of schedule,” said Shams Shaikh, director-general of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), a joint China-Pakistan venture that has invested around 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in the Thar mine-and-plant project.

Experts say the site should be able to produce 200,000 MW of electricity over the next hundred years — a boon for the energy-starved country where demand increases by eight percent each year, according to official statistics.

IN THE NEWS: FENCING AFGHAN BORDER (NOVEMBER 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Fencing Afghan border
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Thursday, November 15, 2018
By S TAJIK

A fence for defence is an old concept. The 13,000-mile- long Great Wall of China is one of the earliest such structure. It was constructed 2,000 years back to defend Chinese territories from invading Mongols. Another famous border barrier, the Berlin Wall, separated the Communist Germany and the Democratic Germany. It remained a concrete symbol of the Cold War for 28 years till dismantled in October 1989. Due to unprecedented globalisation, an integrated borderless world was expected. However, the reversed happened. According to the Quebec University researcher Elisabeth Vallet, the construction of walls and fences got a boost once again after 9/11. At the end of World War II, there were only seven walls and when the Berlin Wall fell, the number reached to 15. Today the walls and fences have increased to 77. Some of the prominent walls and fences that separate territories include US-Mexico fence, North Korea-South Korea partition, Zimbabwe-Botswana separator, Malaysia-Thailand wall, Iran and Iraq divider, Israel-Gaza wall, etc. The two main reasons for this spike in the number is the perceived threat of terrorism and illegal immigration.

Pakistan is no exception to this post-9/11 border-fencing spree. For better monitoring of the uncontrolled movement of people and containing of terror-osmosis across its western border, Pakistan has recently started selective fencing of its 2,611-km-long border with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has also unilaterally enhanced border controls at Torkham (Khyber district), Chaman (Qilla Abdullah district), Arandu (Chitral district), Ghulam Khan (North Waziristan district), Angoor Ada (South Waziristan district), Nawa Pass (Mohmand district), Gursal (Bajaur district) and Kharlachi (Kurrum district). The border-fencing, as part of target hardening measure against militants’ incursions, will be completed in phases. The first phase will cover 430km and the second phase will add another 400km fence to the border. The fence itself is a double wire trellis, each 10 feet high, with a six feet gap and topped with a razor wire. It will be tech-meshed with state of the art Unattended Ground Surveillance System (UGS) and Man portable Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar (MSTAR) technology. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN TALIBAN SEEK ELUSIVE CONTROL OF HAZARA REGION (NOVEMBER 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan Taliban Seek Elusive Control Of Hazara Regions
SOURCE: Gandhara
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tucked in a valley in the remote highlands of central Afghanistan, Jaghori has been a safe haven in recent years for members of the country’s beleaguered Hazara minority.

But the peace in Jaghori, a district in Ghazni Province heavily populated by the mainly Shi’ite Hazara, was shattered last week when Taliban militants launched a major offensive to seize it. Afghan special forces and pro-government Hazara militiamen continue to battle the militants, with clashes killing hundreds of people and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

When asked why the Taliban would try to take an area that has long been considered unattainable, analysts suggest that the hard-line Sunni movement is emboldened by territorial gains made elsewhere in the country, and has something to prove.

Expanding its reach into a central region inhabited by an ethnic group renowned for its opposition to the Taliban could be a game changer in the battle for national influence.

The Taliban terrorized Hazara during their oppressive 1996-2001 rule, when the militants wrested control of central Afghanistan through brute force and a campaign of targeted killings. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban have been unable to make inroads in Hazara-dominated areas.

“The Taliban want to prove that they are capable of governing non-Pashtun territories,” says Haroun Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst. “They have been able to govern ethnic Tajik and Uzbek areas in the north, and they want to govern Hazara-dominated districts, as well.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE ‘MOSCOW’ FORMAT (NOVEMBER 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The ‘Moscow format’
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
By ZAHID HUSSAIN

THE gathering in Moscow of disparate Afghan groups and regional players last week is indicative of the shifting sands of regional geopolitics.

Described as the ‘Moscow format’, the Russian initiative is seen as a significant move to finding a regional solution to the protracted Afghan war. The spectacle of a former invading power hosting old foes was, indeed, remarkable.

Despite the strong reservations of Kabul and Washington on the format, 11 countries were represented in the talks. It was the first time that the Afghan Taliban were invited to an international forum. More significant was the fact that the insurgents shared the platform with Afghan delegates.

Although the Kabul government did not officially participate in the talks, the presence of members of the High Peace Council, which oversees peace efforts, and individual Afghan leaders was highly significant. The US, too, had sent observers. The conference may not have broken the stalemate but certainly melted some ice. It was, indeed, a diplomatic triumph for the Afghan Taliban.

Surely, the ‘Moscow format’ cannot be seen as a parallel peace move; it aims mainly at building greater regional understanding on the issue. This initiative signifies a certain shift in the Russian policy, beyond merely reactive patterns, to adopt the role of a more proactive player in Afghanistan and in the region. The regionalisation of Russia’s policy on Afghanistan is dictated by shifting power dynamics in the area.

The Russian initiative aims at building greater regional understanding on the Afghan issue.

Although it was the first time Moscow had officially invited the Afghan Taliban, the two sides had already established contact earlier. There have been some reports of Russia providing financial and material support to the Afghan insurgents. That has caused serious concerns in Kabul and Washington. The meeting was initially planned for August, but was postponed at the insistence of the Kabul government. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, CHINA WANT AFGHANISTAN TO JOIN CPEC, BELT & ROAD INITIATIVE (NOVEMBER 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, China want Afghanistan to join CPEC, Belt & Road Initiative
SOURCE: The News International
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Addressing the opening session of the 4th Trilateral Dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Chinese envoy said, “Kabul can also act as a bridge to help expand connectivity between East, South and Central Asian regions.

Yao Jing said that all partners of peace would use their influence on fighting groups to join negotiating table for a peaceful solution to the conflict, saying: “China would also push the development process in war-torn Afghanistan as it is a facilitator of better dialogue and connection between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

He added, “CPEC is not against any country, it is purely an economic initiative aimed at the peaceful development of its neighbourhood,” he added.

Underscoring the Pakistan’s efforts for stability and peace in the region, The ambassador said that Islamabad is doing a lot to bring peace back in its neighbouring country, adding that peace in Afghanistan was China’s objective.

“The Pakistani government is working hard for a political settlement of the Afghan issue and China would cooperate with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve peace,” he added.

“Under the BRI, China wants peaceful development of all its neighbours,” Yao said, adding that China would take all necessary measures to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the occasion, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said the 21st century was the Asian Century with a decline of the West. “The Greater South Asia has emerged as a geo-economic concept, driven by economy and energy, roads and railways and ports and pipeline, and Pakistan is the hub of this connectivity due to CPEC.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN SEEKS EUROPE’S HELP TO SECURE IMF LOAN (NOVEMBER 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan seeks Europe’s help to secure IMF loan
SOURCE: Daily Times
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has sought help from European countries to ensure smooth sailing during talks at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Board for securing a bailout package and recovering ‘stolen’ assets, presumably stashed in the European states, including Switzerland.

The request for help was made by Finance Minister Asad Umar during an interaction with ambassadors of some 15 European nations. The interaction took place at the Board of Investment (BOI) and was also attended by BOI Chairman Haroon Sharif and Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood.

The interaction was also aimed at conveying to the European capitals that Pakistan was open to doing business with the developed world, as the incumbent government’s tilt has so far remained towards China and the Middle East.

It was the first such high-level interaction by Pakistan’s economic managers with the European ambassadors. Before that Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited Saudi Arabia twice, besides going to China last month.

“Pakistan has communicated the message that it is open to all countries for investment and would provide level-playing field to all,” said Sharif, the BOI Chairman. He said Pakistan looked forward to European investment and technology.

Moreover, Finance Minister Umar has appreciated the UK response to Pakistan’s request for legal assistance in recovering assets acquired through illegal means.

However, Umar said Switzerland was not forthcoming in discussing issues related to the provision of mutual legal assistance, sources told. He sought support from the envoys in this regard, but the Swiss ambassador was not present in the meeting. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: DEADLY CLASHES, SUICIDE BOMBING KILL DOZENS IN AFGAHNISTAN (NOVEMBER 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, November 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Deadly Clashes, Suicide Bombing Kill Dozens In Afghanistan
SOURCE: Gandhara
Monday, November 12, 2018

Dozens of people have been killed in violence across Afghanistan, including in a suicide bombing in Kabul targeting a protest by members of the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority, officials say.

The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility for the suicide blast on November 12 that killed at least six people and wounded 20 others in the center of the capital, where hundreds of people were protesting the government’s failure to protect the Hazara community from Taliban attacks.

The explosion rocked the city as fighting raged in the central province of Ghazni, where Afghan forces and pro-government militias have been battling the Taliban for the past week.

Officials said on November 12 that 25 Afghan security personnel were killed in Ghazni’s predominately Hazara districts of Malistan and Jaghori. The Taliban also attacked a third district, Khas Oruzgan, in neighboring Oruzgan Province two weeks ago.

The Taliban offensive in the three predominately Hazara districts has left dozens of government troops, pro-government Hazara militia men, and Taliban militants dead and forced hundreds of civilians to flee their homes.

In the western province of Farah, at least 37 local police were killed when Taliban fighters overran several security checkpoints, regional officials said on November 12.

In a statement, the IS militant group said it targeted a gathering of Shi’ites. The extremist Sunni group considers Shi’ites as heretics and has frequently targeted them in recent years. (more…)