IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN WARN KABUL RESIDENTS TO ‘KEEP AWAY’ AHEAD OF ATTACKS (MAY 21, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, May 21st, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban warn Kabul residents to ´keep away´ ahead of attacks
SOURCE: The News International
Monday, May 21, 2018

Kabul: The Taliban warned Kabul residents Monday to avoid “military centres” in the heavily fortified city, saying they are planning more attacks in the capital where civilians have long taken the brunt of the casualties.

The militant group has issued such warnings to civilians before, including during a failed attempt to take the western city of Farah last week, but it is believed to be the first time they have singled out Kabul.

The warning comes after the United Nations said the war-weary capital — where the Islamic State group is also stepping up its attacks — is already the deadliest place in the country for civilians.

The Taliban said they are planning more attacks on “the enemy´s military and intelligence centres” as part of an annual spring offensive.

“Therefore, to avoid civilian casualties and only cause damage to enemy military, we are asking Kabul residents to keep away… We don´t want even a single innocent civilian to be killed”, a statement published online said.

The group did not define what was meant by “military and intelligence centres”.

Such targets are difficult to avoid given the overcrowded city is the heart of the country´s intelligence, government and military operations and also plagued by traffic jams due to ubiquitous checkpoints and barriers.

“Any attacks or explosions, even a small one, would cause civilian casualties because military installations are located in the centre of the city near people´s houses,” political and military analyst Nik Mohammad told AFP. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN ULEMA AGREE TO HOLD JOINT PEACE TALKS (MAY 21, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, May 21st, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, Afghanistan Ulema Agree to Hold Joint Peace Talks
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, May 21, 2018

Pakistan and Afghanistan’s religious scholars (Ulema) have reportedly agreed to hold conferences in both countries to explore ways for peace and to encourage the Taliban to join the reconciliation process, according to Pakistan’s Daily Times report.

According to the report, Syed Ehsan Tahiri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), said Pakistani and Afghan clerics had agreed to hold joint meetings to discuss peace in Afghanistan in accordance with Islamic teachings.

The Daily Times reported that Tahiri told Mashal Radio in Kabul that Pakistan had agreed to organise the meetings in Islamabad and also join similar meetings in Kabul that would be attended by hundreds of scholars from both sides.

The comments came after Afghan, Indonesian, Pakistani and Indonesian Ulema met in Indonesia on May 11 and “appreciated and supported” President Ashraf Ghani’s peace offer to the Taliban in February.

The Indonesian conference in its declaration also described suicide attacks as against the principles of Islam.

After the Indonesia meeting, Mawlawi Anwarulhaq Haqqani, head of Darul Uloom Haqqani madrassa in Pakistan, who participated in the meeting, said Pakistani religious scholars represented the Taliban at the conference.

Haqqani, brother of Mawlana Samiul Haq, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party in Pakistan, also known as the father of the Taliban, said In a video message after the meeting that he did not let the Ulema in Indonesia mention the Taliban in their declaration.

Ghani meanwhile said that the Indonesia conference in Jakarta was a good chance for the Taliban.

Ghani also welcomed the Ulema’s stance, clarity and decision and called on other Ulema members of the Islamic world to play a pivotal role in maintaining peace and eliminating terrorism.

The president has endorsed such meetings of Ulema to end the imposed battle of Afghanistan and for regional stability.

IN THE NEWS: GWADAR: FROM GHOST TOWN TO GOLD RUSH TOWN (MAY 20, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Gwadar: From ghost town to gold rush town
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Sunday, May 20, 2018
By RINA SAEED KHAN

From the sky, Gwadar looks like a dust bowl as the ATR aircraft, which regularly flies along the Makran coast from Karachi, circles in for landing. The new airport, currently being designed, will be the largest in Pakistan once it is completed, but for now one has to settle for the old airport. Its VIP section is used often as ministers, senators and even the prime minister and the army chief regularly visit this once sleepy fishing port. They have all proclaimed Gwadar to be the jewel of the upcoming China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC).

The drive from the airport along the newly built corniche (a wide road bordering the blue sea) is promising. However, other than this new road, there is very little visible development. Billboards proclaiming future housing estates are still to be found everywhere. Land speculation is continuing at a frantic pace, with property being bought and resold at exorbitant rates. However, a recent ad taken out by the Gwadar Development Authority in one of the Urdu papers has just declared a major chunk of these “housing estates” to be fraudulent.

The vision of a city of skyscrapers rising out of the sand is still far from being realised.

“The dream of a new Dubai is downloading at the moment – we are just having connectivity problems”, joked Sajid Baloch, one of the local journalists we met.

For now, Gwadar is a thirsty town where electricity comes and goes and water is so scarce that the local fishermen tell me they haven’t bathed with clean water in years. The last cyclone hit Jiwani in 2007, bringing heavy rains along the coast. In the last three years, it has not rained at all, drying up the local Akra Kaur Dam, which provided drinking water to Gwadar. At the moment, everyone is dependent on tankers to fetch water from as far as the Mirani Dam in Turbat. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: GRACEFUL EXIT (MAY 19, 2108)

Written by admin on Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

GRACEFUL EXIT
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Saturday, May 19, 2018

*THE CRACKS WITHIN THE PMLN ARE WIDENING

During a meeting last week, PMLN parliamentary leaders decided erstwhile head Nawaz Sharif’s confrontation with the Army should not be endorsed.

Current party chief Shahbaz Sharif chose to “reinterpret” his elder brother’s interview with daily Dawn, vouchsafing that whoever advised Nawaz to give the interview—in which the ousted prime minister hit out at the presence of non-state actors in Pakistan—was no friend of the PMLN.

But Nawaz wouldn’t bend to this “dodging” gesture of his party, insisting he had openly taken on the same military he had earlier called “extraterrestrials”—a reference that was not lost on anyone, including the retired generals who fire answering salvos on the country’s mostly hostile TV channels.

The PMLN leaders gathered at Parliament House were divided. Some differed with the party’s decision against using Sharif’s anti-Army “narrative” during upcoming polls. They likely do not support Shahbaz returning to his pro-Army line now that Nawaz has opted for “martyrdom.” However, this same road risks alienating the party’s biggest voter bank in Punjab province.

It is not too surprising that residents of Punjab balk at anti-Army rhetoric. Comprising 60 percent of the country’s population, many parts of the province back the ideology favoring the non-state actors Nawaz now attacks. The party therefore is at risk from “fissures within,” potentially endangering its chances of winning the 2018 elections.

This division is already visible, with the PTI picking up PMLN defectors and other “electables” before the polls thanks largely to its widely publicized support of the Army on foreign policy issues involving India and the U.S. Thanks to a myriad of factors, the PMLN faces a very real possibility of being trounced in Punjab and yielding authority to the PTI. If these predictions pan out, the next “great leader” of the nation will no longer be Nawaz Sharif but Imran Khan.

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN GOVT., US CONDUCT ‘INADEQUATE PROBE’ ON CIVILIAN DEATHS (MAY 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, May 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan Govt, US Conduct ‘Inadequate Probe’ On Civilian Deaths
SOURCE: TOLO News
Friday, May 18, 2018

*Human Rights Watch says the US and Afghan governments need to do more to fully investigate incidents that lead to civilian casualties

The United States and Afghan governments are not adequately investigating possibly unlawful airstrikes in Afghanistan, which may contribute to rising civilian casualties, Human Rights Watch said.

Recent accounts from airstrike victims and witnesses in Nangarhar and other Afghan provinces uncovered major failings in US and Afghan investigations of civilian deaths, injuries, and property damage – notably the unwillingness to interview witnesses and obtain other evidence on site, the watchdog said in a statement.

“US and Afghan forces have an obligation to investigate possible laws-of-war violations when their airstrikes harm civilians,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher.

“But unless you interview survivors and witnesses, you’re not going to get the full story. Inadequate investigations into civilian loss from airstrikes may violate the laws of war and deny victims justice and appropriate redress, which fosters distrust and resentment toward the Afghan and US governments,” Gossman said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ONCE ‘TERROR CENTRAL’, PAK ARMY SHOWCASES ITS COUNTER-TERROR ‘SUCCESS’ IN NORTH WAZIRISTAN (MAY 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, May 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Once ‘terror central’, Pak Army showcases its counter-terror ‘success’ with fancy infra amidst rubble in North Waziristan
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Friday, May 18, 2018
By SUSHANT SINGH

*Known as “terror central”, Miranshah was, until a few years ago, a safe haven for some of the most dreaded terror groups in the region: the Haqqani Network, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

If the Pakistan Army needs any evidence of an “Indian hand”, it should look inside the heavily fortified headquarters of its Golden Arrow 7 Infantry Division in Miranshah in North Waziristan. That’s where Indian mobile phone networks come to life.

Barely 17 km from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, mobile phones catch signals from Afghan phone networks, making the phone of this reporter beep incessantly in the unlikeliest of places.

Known as “terror central”, Miranshah was, until a few years ago, a safe haven for some of the most dreaded terror groups in the region: the Haqqani Network, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), besides others who could easily move between Afghanistan and Pakistan through the porous border.

An area where no one went except American drones, it was cleared by the Pakistan Army in a heavy-duty military operation, called Zarb-e-Azb after the Prophet’s sword, starting 2014.

Notwithstanding its questionable claims about eradicating terror from the area, the Pakistan Army, out to showcase its success in North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), has taken groups of foreign officials, analysts and journalists on guided tours of Miranshah — this reporter was part of a group of 21 South Asian journalists who were escorted to the town Monday.

Brigadier Jawad, the brigade commander, conducts the guided tour like a well-rehearsed professional, while the bus is escorted by heavily armed soldiers in vehicles with security check-posts, barriers and armed military guards along the way.

It is a curtailed visit because Pakistan Army helicopters fear bad weather during the return trip to Islamabad, and the streets of the town are unusually quiet — there are no children playing, there is no buzz in the markets and not a soul on the streets. Dotted with Pakistani flags, much of the town lies in ruin. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: YOUR ‘NEW’ PAKISTAN (MAY 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Your ‘new’ Pakistan
SOURCE: Dawn
Thursday, May 17, 2018
By F.S. AIJAZUDDIN

DESPONDENT Pakistanis would put their heads on the railway tracks, if they could be sure trains would arrive on time. Or they would swallow phials of cyanide, if these were not adulterated. They could always electrocute themselves, if they knew when load-shedding would occur. And they could shoot themselves, if guns were not snug in the holsters of security personnel or in the hands of militants.

Meanwhile, Pakistanis are forced to expire slowly every day.

Take our dying parliament. It is dependent upon last-minute whiffs of oxygen, desperately resuscitating itself by passing insidious resolutions unanimously in a near-empty house. The most recent one will remain on our conscience for longer than it will stay on the statute books — the attempt to obliterate at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, the name of Dr Abdus Salam, our first Nobel laureate.

Many years ago, someone wrote that Dr Salam loved Pakistan more than Socrates loved Athens. Socrates had to drink the cup of hemlock at the hands of the Athenians only once; Dr Salam has been made to drink it by his fellow Pakistanis repeatedly. By excising his name, Pakistan has not only done him a disservice; it has lobotomised the minds of its future physicists.

Pakistanis are forced to expire slowly every day.

Take our toothless foreign policy. After 70 years of cohabitation with the United States, we have decided that even a belated too little is more than enough. We have chosen to confront our long-term benefactor the US, this time over one of its Islamabad-based officials — Col Joseph Hall, defence and air attaché. He was charged with manslaughter. It must have been galling for Washington to fly a C-130 from Afghanistan to Islamabad to collect him, and then have to return empty-handed. (He has since left the country on another aircraft.) Exactly seven years ago, in May 2011, US Stealth Black Hawk helicopters made a similar sortie, with greater success. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: LASHKAR-E-JHANGVI COMMANDER KILLED IN BALOCHISTAN (MAY 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

LASHKAR-E-JHANGVI COMMANDER KILLED IN BALOCHISTAN
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Thursday, May 17, 2018

*MILITANT SALMAN BADENI WAS WANTED FOR MORE THAN 100 MURDERS

A notorious Islamist militant wanted for more than 100 murders was killed in an intense gunfight with security forces in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, the military said.

Pakistani forces raided the Killi Almas village on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of the restive Balochistan province, based on a tip that there were suicide bombers hiding there, according to a military statement.

Three militants were killed in the firefight that erupted, including Salman Badeni, the provincial commander of the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Badeni—described by authorities as a “high-value target”—was wanted for his involvement in the killing of more than 100 people, including policemen and members of the minority Shia Hazara community. The other two militants were suicide bombers, the military said.

An army intelligence officer was also killed in the operation, it added, and four other soldiers were wounded—two of them critically.

Jhangvi, a Sunni group, is widely considered to be one of the most violent sectarian outfits in Pakistan. It has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks in recent years on Shias, who are considered heretics by sectarian Sunni extremists.

Several Islamist militant groups are active in Balochistan, including the Taliban and local affiliates of the Islamic State group.

More than 1,500 Shia Hazaras have been killed in the province in recent years, according to Abdul Khaliq Hazara, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party. Many of them were killed in attacks blamed on Jhangvi and I.S. Both groups claimed responsibility for an attack on lawyers in Quetta last year that killed more than 70 people.

Pakistan has also been battling separatist insurgents in Balochistan for over a decade, with hundreds of soldiers and rebels killed in the fighting.

IN THE NEWS: CHINA TRIES TO BRING PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN CLOSER (MAY 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

China Tries to Bring Pakistan, Afghanistan Closer
SOURCE: Gandhara
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD, China has proposed hosting a new round of three-way talks with Pakistan and Afghanistan this month to continue with its diplomatic push in helping the two neighbouring countries improve their strained bilateral ties.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing told an unofficial conference of government representatives and experts from the three countries in Islamabad on May 15 that Beijing had initiated the trilateral vice foreign ministers-level dialogue in 2015. He said that since then, several rounds of talks have taken place, with the mission of easing Kabul’s tensions with Islamabad and promoting security, counterterrorism and economic cooperation among the three nations.

“So, for this purpose, the Chinese government has proposed to … hold the next round of the strategic dialogue and also the practical cooperation dialogue at the end of this month in Beijing,” Jing announced.

The engagement will further enhance “our sense of common community, our sense of development, our sense of common destiny for the three countries,” he added.

The ambassador underscored that without the participation and common development of neighbouring countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, Beijing could not achieve development of western China under its global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Major Investments

China is investing billions of dollars in Pakistan to build road, rail and communication infrastructure, power plants and ports to connect the two countries. Beijing has declared the megaproject, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as the flagship project of BRI. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: CONCERN IN PAKISTAN OVER FLOOD OF CHINESE INVESTMENTS (MAY 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Concern in Pakistan over flood of Chinese investment
SOURCE: Asia Times
Wednesday, May 6, 2018
By FM SHAKIL

*There are fears in the Pakistani manufacturing sector about Chinese inroads in the e-commerce market as Alibaba gains a large foothold

There is growing concern in Pakistan’s manufacturing sector over Chinese investment and the lack of interest in the country by American and European investors.

Local entrepreneurs are also concerned about trying to compete with Chinese business titans.

The latest Chinese investment, a US$500 million venture by e-commerce giant Alibaba, which acquired 100% equity of leading online retailer Daraz Group, has caused a stir. The venture raised apprehension in business circles about the dumping of Chinese products and the closure of small startups, which could have a devastating impact on local trade and industries.

Daraz, established in Pakistan in 2012, posted sales of more than Rs3 billion (US$26 million) last year with its Big Friday event.

“Dumping is a serious issue because the market is flooded with Chinese products and that does not augur well for the local industries,” Shaikh Mohammad Shafiq, the Central Chairman of Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), told Asia Times.

He added that e-commerce had great potential in Pakistan and the expertise of Alibaba would definitely diversify e-trading, but the government needed to take tax and non-tax measures in a way that would secure the local manufacturing sector.

Chinese dominance in budding sectors

With massive funds being pumped in the energy and transport sector under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China is now casting its eyes on the e-commerce and banking industries through Alibaba, Bank of China and Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). (more…)