IN THE NEWS: WHEN TRUMP MEETS IMRAN (JULY 22, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

When Trump meets Imran
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Monday, July 22, 2019
By C. RAJA MOHAN

*The essence of talks: What General Bajwa can deliver on regional peace, what he wants in return

Briefing the press before the talks, senior US officials said Pakistan will have to “change its policies” towards terrorism and militancy if it wants to rebuild a productive relationship with America.

Today’s talks between US President Donald Trump and a Pakistani delegation at the White House could mark an important inflexion point in the evolution of India’s north-western frontiers. As Trump seeks to end America’s longest war ever in Afghanistan, Pakistan has an opportunity to reset its troubled relationship with the US, rearrange its regional policy and seek reconciliation with Kabul and Delhi.

Although Pakistan’s leadership has given verbal support to these goals for some time now, Washington, Kabul and Delhi have all been sceptical about Islamabad’s willingness to match words with deeds. In the recent past, Pakistan has certainly teased the US and the South Asian neighbours with some steps — like facilitating talks between Washington and the Taliban and detaining Hafiz Saeed of the LeT.

Briefing the press before the talks, senior US officials said Pakistan will have to “change its policies” towards terrorism and militancy if it wants to rebuild a productive relationship with America. While noting some of the steps that Pakistan has already taken, US officials say these must be made “irreversible and sustainable”.

In Delhi, though, there is entrenched cynicism about the prospects for genuine change in Pakistan. There is also a persistent fear that the US will once again be taken in by Pakistan’s political dissimulation. That is not surprising, given India’s historic experience. Yet, Delhi needs to keep an open mind on the new phase of engagement between the US and Pakistan. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN SEEKING TO TAKE OVER AFGHANISTAN: EX-PAKISTANI ENVOY (JULY 22, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban Seeking To Take Over Afghanistan: Ex-Pakistani Envoy
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, July 22, 2019
By SHABEER AHMADI

* A former Pakistani envoy says the Taliban will use Pakistan’s help in taking over Afghanistan after US troop withdrawal
* US Working On Post-Peace Plan For Afghanistan: Wells
* Doha Talks Inch Towards Troop Withdrawal ‘Agreement’

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, says the Taliban does not believe in elections and that the group is seeking to take over Afghanistan by force once the foreign forces leave the country as part of a peace deal.

In an interview with TOLOnews, Haqqani said there is no justification of continuing the talks with the Taliban in the view of a surge in violence in Afghanistan.

He suggested that the US should swiftly suspend the negotiations with the group.

“I think that the Taliban’s real intention is to talk to the Americans, have an agreement that will result in an American withdrawal and after that, go ahead and take Afghanistan by force,” he said.

Haqqani said that the Taliban would have recognized the legitimacy of the government in Kabul “if they were sincere about peace”.

“The only way there will be peace in Afghanistan is when all parties compromise, especially the Taliban, who have been the most uncompromising so far,” the ex-Pakistani envoy said.

Haqqani said the real peace in Afghanistan will come “when Pakistan’s ISI stops interfering in Afghanistan and when Afghan leaders stop approaching various other powers whether it is India, or Iran or Russia or America”.

He also suggested that real peace will happen when Afghans deal with Afghanistan as a sovereign country with full respect. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: SCO PROVIDES PAKISTAN NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (JULY 22, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

SCO provides Pakistan new opportunity for economic development
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, July 22, 2019
By SHAKEEL AHMAD RAMAY

ISLAMABAD: Rapid changes were seen in the global economic, social and diplomatic landscape in the past decade. The changing power structure was led by the changing economic landscape and powerhouses.

China has appeared as a powerful economic player and has taken lead in refining the global economic and governance system. It is not a surprise as emerging powers always steer change in the existing system.

However, the approach taken by China is different from others. It is trying to do so by building partnerships and by not creating fuss. It is building platforms, which should be beneficial for all the participants and contributors, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is one such platform.

SCO was created to resolve issues related to border management and security but later its scope was widened. At present, SCO is the biggest regional organisation in terms of its size and population. Its members constitute about 45% of the world population, 23% of land mass and 25% of gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire world. The total worth of GDP is $14.5 trillion.

China opens up finance sector to more foreign investment

The focus of this organisation is gradually shifting towards economic linkages and development of member countries. Chinese prime minister in 2004 urged all SCO countries to work for free trade among member states. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE GROWING CHINESE ROLE IN AFGHAN PEACE (JULY 21, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The growing Chinese role in Afghan peace
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, July 21, 2019
By RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

*China is increasingly involved in the Afghan peace process as efforts continue to further engage the Taliban in a bid to find a political settlement to end the drawn out conflict in Afghanistan

Twice in recent weeks, China figured prominently among countries that actively pursued efforts to pervade the major stakeholders — the Afghan government and the Taliban — to engage in the peace process. First, China joined Russia and the US to pledge support for the Taliban-US peace talks, an intra-Afghan dialogue and the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Next, China apparently played a key role in enabling Pakistan to join the three big powers to work for their stated goal of bringing the Afghan conflict to an end through peace talks involving all major stakeholders, including the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The consensus demand by these countries, all important in their own right as far as the Afghan conflict is concerned, would pressure the Taliban to give up their refusal to hold direct talks with the Afghan government in Kabul.

This isn’t the first time that China was deemed important in the context of the Afghan peace process. Together with Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US, China was member of the quadrilateral coordination group (QCG) that tried for several months to kick-start the process. China was included in the QCG as Afghanistan and the US hoped it would be able to persuade its close ally, Pakistan, to play a more positive role in the context of the Afghan conflict by bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. The QCG was never formally disbanded. However, after failing to contribute to the peace process in Afghanistan, it appeared to have outlived its utility. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE AFGHAN PRISM (JULY 21, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The Afghan prism
SOURCE: Dawn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
By MUNIR AKRAM

DESPITE the Indian media’s assumptions of a US strategic volte-face, Islamabad would do well to acknowledge that the Trump administration still views its relations with Pakistan largely through the prism of Afghanistan. President Donald Trump’s desire for an early end to America’s longest war is the principal reason for his invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan has played a key role in facilitating the Afghan peace process and the US-Taliban talks. These have reportedly made encouraging progress over the past few months. An agreement on the withdrawal of US-Nato troops has evidently been reached between the US and the Afghan Taliban, although no timetable for the withdrawal has been finalised and it is not clear if the troop withdrawal would be commenced before, during or after a political settlement in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, for their part, have agreed to prevent terrorism against the US and third countries from Afghan territory post a settlement. It is unclear if the US will ask, as it did earlier, to leave behind a ‘small’ counterterrorism force in Afghanistan.

Despite facilitating US-Taliban talks, Pakistan has not secured any tangible reciprocity from the US.

Two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Kabul that “the time for peace has come”. He hoped for a political settlement by Sept 1.

While the troop withdrawal and counterterrorism agreements are ready, the US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, has so far insisted on resolving two other issues simultaneously: an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Taliban and Kabul government and a general ceasefire, tweeting that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. US withdrawal from Afghanistan could be delayed if the US insists on the conclusion of intra-Afghan negotiations before troop withdrawals commence. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAK-INDIA RELATIONS: THE PATH FORWARD (JULY 19, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, July 19th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The Path Forward
SOURCE: The Jinnah Institute
Friday, July 19, 2019 (Posted)
By ZAHID HUSSAIN

The headway made in the recent talks between India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor marks a way forward towards normalization of relations between the two nations. The two sides have agreed to allow 5,000 visitors of all faiths to pass through the corridor per day without a visa.

The agreement has cleared the way for making the corridor operational by November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. That will also connect the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India’s Punjab region to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan.

Undoubtedly, this is an extremely positive development raising hopes for the two nations of extending engagement on other issues too. Pakistan’s initiative on the corridor reflects its desire to open religious sites for devotees from across the border. Such steps could create a conducive atmosphere for the two countries to resume bi-lateral talks that have been suspended for the past several years.

Pakistan and India had walked back from the brink of conflagration in February this year. The Indian incursion, first time since 1971, was the main cause of escalation. Deft handling of the crisis by the Pakistani leadership may have helped de-escalate tensions. But it is not over yet.

With artillery guns blazing along the Line of Control, the situation remains volatile and even a minor incident could spiral out of control. The clouds of war may have receded but they have not gone away completely. There is an urgent need to deescalate the present situation. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IMRAN KHAN GOES TO WASHINGTON (JULY 19, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, July 19th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Imran Khan goes to Washington
SOURCE: Asia Times
Friday, July 19, 2019 (Posted)
By SAIKAT DATTA

*By leveraging Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace talks, visiting PM hopes to wrangle more benefits for his country

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is all set to be a guest of President Donald Trump at the White House on his maiden visit to the United States, hoping to leverage Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan in a bid to end its isolation. Khan took over as prime minister in August last year, at a time when the economy was in free fall and US relations had been rolled back substantially.

Khan will be accompanied by the powerful Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa. The two hope to repair a relationship with the US at a time when bilateral relations are at their lowest ebb. In December 2017, the Trump administration released its national security strategy, identifying Pakistan as a “destabilizing force” in Afghanistan, and the US “continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan.”

Trump continued to rail against Pakistan publicly. By the time Khan took over, not only was the country facing international isolation, it was also in the midst of a major economic downturn. The fact that he has managed an invitation to the US is being seen as a major achievement, given the recent deep freeze in the relationship. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS MUST CONTINUE IN AFGHANISTAN: PENTAGON (JULY 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Counterterrorism Efforts Must Continue in Afghanistan: Pentagon
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Thursday, July 18,2019

*The Pentagon’s report was published a day after Army Gen. Mark Milley warned against pulling US troops from Afghanistan “prematurely”

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon in a new report is warning that a “robust” counterterrorism capability must remain in Afghanistan against groups including al-Qaida, even if a peace deal with the Taliban is secured.
The Afghan government, the US and coalition partners will continue to face risks from al-Qaida, the Daesh of Iraq and Syria, as well as from some in the Taliban, the report says.

“Even if a successful political settlement with the Taliban emerges from ongoing talks, AQ, ISIS-K (Daesh), and some unknown number of Taliban hardliners will constitute a substantial threat to the Afghan government and its citizens, as well as to the United States and its coalition partners,” the report says.

According to the report, this enduring terrorist threat will require the United States, the international community, and the [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] ANDSF to maintain a robust [counterterrorism] CT capability for the foreseeable future.

The Pentagon’s assessment coincides with recent comments made by the US special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who touted recent progress made during peace negotiations this month in Doha, Qatar. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAK ARMY CHIEF’S HOURS LONG MEETING WITH ULEMA, MINISTER ON MADRASSA REFORMS (JULY 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Army chief’s hours long meeting with Ulema, minister on Madrassa reforms
SOURCE: The News International
Thursday, July 18, 2019
By ANSAR ABBASI

ISLAMABAD: The government claims to have achieved significant progress in the Madrassa Reform Programme under which the religious schools without getting under government’s control will be registered besides imparting compulsory subjects like English, Maths etc to offer chain of careers to the students of these institutions.

Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood told The News he wanted to announce in a press conference on Wednesday the significant progress achieved so far but because of the Kulbushan case decision, he had to postpone his interaction with the media on this important issue. To a question, Shafqat Mehmood confirmed that a group of top Islamic scholars (ulema) of the country also had a meeting with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday night to discuss the issue of madrassa reforms. Shafqat Mehmood was also present in the meeting, held at GHQ.

Mufti Muhammad Naeem of Jamia Binoria, who was present in the GHQ meeting, told The News that the Army Chief was very positive and accommodating on the subject of madrassa reforms to the satisfaction of Ulema and the madrassa boards. Mufti Naeem said the Army Chief told the participants that the effort is to mainstream the religious schools to different careers for the students of madaris like other students of ordinary schools. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTANIS WEIGH ANOTHER TERM FOR POWERFUL ARMY CHIEF (JULY 17, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistanis Weigh Another Term For Powerful Army Chief
SOURCE: Gandhara
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

Pakistanis are debating whether the country’s current army chief should be given a new term in office beyond November, when he is set to retire.

Proponents and opponents of extending General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s term are going to great lengths to argue for or against why his stay in office or departure would best serve the interests of the military and Pakistan.

“Overall, we are going through a very sensitive phase – an important phase,” Pakistani journalist and television host Kamran Khan said this week. “Efforts are underway to stop the spread of extremism and the dangers of FATF [blacklisting of Pakistan] have not gone away,” he added, referring to the Financial Action Task Force, which keeps Islamabad on a gray list of countries for allegedly failing to enforce strict laws to end terrorist financing. FATF will review Pakistan’s progress again in November.

The debate surrounding Bajwa’s tenure is important because the future of the civilian administration and key security and economic policies are tied to whether he stays in what is arguably the country’s most powerful office. Four army chiefs have ruled the country as military dictators for nearly half of Pakistan’s 70-year history.

During the past two decades, supporters of two of Pakistan’s former army chiefs, General Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, made similar arguments to extend their terms in office. Musharraf held the post until 2007 after launching a coup in 1999. After 9/11, he became a frontline ally of Washington. In July 2010, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani extended Kayani’s term in office for three years because his leadership was deemed ‘indispensable’ in the country’s fight against terrorism. (more…)