IN THE NEWS: RETURN TO AFGHANISTAN FROM YOUR FOREIGN SAFE HAVENS, U.S. TELLS TALIBAN (APRIL 26, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Return to Afghanistan from your foreign safe havens: US tells Taliban
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Thursday, April 26, 2018

*The US said that there was no need for a new fighting season, and that it was time for the Taliban to participate in the country’s electoral process

The US on Thursday urged the Taliban to return to Afghanistan from their foreign safe havens, saying there was no justification for its announcement of annual spring offensive. It said that there was no need for a new fighting season, and that it was time for the Taliban to participate in the country’s electoral process.

“As President Ghani recently said, the Taliban should turn their bullets and bombs into ballots. They should run for office. They should vote. We encourage Taliban leaders to return to Afghanistan from their foreign safe havens and work constructively for Afghanistan’s future. More violence will not bring peace and security to Afghanistan,” Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan said

The Taliban on Wednesday announced the commencement of the spring offensive in the war-ravaged country

Ghani, Sullivan said, recently extended an “historic invitation” to the Taliban to join a peace process.

“There is no need for a new fighting season. Still, the Taliban announced another campaign of senseless violence targeting the democratically elected and internationally recognised Afghan government and their fellow Afghans,” he said.

Sullivan said the US stands with the Afghan people in response to the Taliban’s announcement.

“We support the brave Afghan security forces who are standing against the Taliban and terrorist groups that seek to destroy Afghan society. We commend the Afghan people, who are carrying on their lives, raising families, attending universities, building businesses, preparing for elections, and strengthening their communities despite violence and continued bloodshed,” he said.

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN ANNOUNCES ONSET OF ‘AL KHANDAQ JIHADI OPERATIONS’ (APRIL 26, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban announces onset of ‘Al Khandaq Jihadi operations’
SOURCE: The Long War Journal
Thursday, April 26, 2018 (Posted)
By BILL ROGGIO

The Afghan Taliban announced the opening of their 2018 spring offensive today, named the “Al Khandaq Jihadi operations” after the battle in Medina in 627 AD in which the Prophet Muhammad’s forces were significantly undermanned and besieged by Arab and Jewish forces yet still prevailed. US forces in Afghanistan are the primary target of operations, while Afghan government and security forces would be secondary, according to the Taliban statement.

The previous two spring offensives were named after the Taliban’s first two emirs: Mullah Omar, the group’s founder and first leader, and his successor, Mullah Mansour. Mullah Omar died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013, while Mullah Mansour was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2016.

“The planning and strategy of the Al Khandaq Jihadi operations are organized by the expert and proficient skilled cadre of the Military Commission of the Islamic Emirate which is based on guerilla [sic], offensive, infiltrated and various other new and intricate tactics against the new war strategy of the enemy,” the Taliban said in the statement.

Sirajuddin Haqqani leads the Taliban’s Military Commission, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub – Mullah Omar’s son – served as a senior leader before being appointed along with Sirajuddin as one of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada’s top two deputies. Sirajuddin is considered to be a skilled tactician and strategist, and has guided the Taliban to claim control or actively contest at least 58 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, its greatest measure of control or influence since the war began in 2001, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Al Khandaq Jihadi operations are “mainly focusing on crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters.”
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IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN TALIBAN ANNOUNCE LAUNCH OF SPRING OFFENSIVE (APRIL 25, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

AFGHAN TALIBAN ANNOUNCE LAUNCH OF SPRING OFFENSIVE
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Wednesday, April 25,

*LATEST OFFENSIVE SEEN AS APPARENT SNUB TO PEACE EFFORTS, WITH MILITANTS CLAIMING IT IS PARTLY IN RESPONSE TO NEW U.S. STRATEGY

The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive on Wednesday, in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.

Operation Al Khandaq—named after a famous seventh century battle in Medina in which Muslim fighters defeated “infidel” invaders—will target U.S. forces and “their intelligence agents” as well as their “internal supporters,” a Taliban statement said.

The Taliban said the offensive was partly a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan announced last August, which gave U.S. forces more leeway to go after insurgents.

The annual spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though this winter the Taliban continued to battle Afghan and U.S. forces.

The group also launched a series of devastating attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians.

Al Khandaq will mainly focus on “crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters,” the Taliban said. It added the presence of American bases “sabotages all chances of peace” and were key to “prolonging the ongoing war,” which began with the U.S.-led intervention in 2001 that overthrew the Taliban regime.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: BALOCHISTAN IS BEING LEFT BEHIND BY CPEC (APRIL 28, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Balochistan is being left behind by CPEC
SOURCE: Asia Times
Wednesday, April 28, 2018
By ADNAN AAMIR

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, has become an economic national anthem in Pakistan. It comprises of a portfolio of projects whose value has reached US$60 billion.

Since the signing of the CPEC agreement in 2015, politicians in two small western provinces of Pakistan, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have repeatedly claimed that they are not getting their due share of CPEC projects. They allege that Punjab and Sindh, two relatively developed provinces, are the beneficiaries of Chinese development projects in Pakistan.

In the second week of April, Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, chief minister of the southern province of Balochistan, alleged that his province was being neglected in the CPEC project. Addressing journalists in the capital Islamabad, Bizenjo claimed that Balochistan was not even getting 1% of the CPEC projects.

This is the first time that a high-profile person in government has endorsed the assertion that Balochistan is not getting a fair share of CPEC development. Therefore, Bizenjo’s statement holds paramount importance in the debate concerning equitable distribution of projects among the federating units of Pakistan.

In the past, Baloch nationalist politicians who believed in the federation of Pakistan have criticized the federal government for not giving Balochistan its due share in CPEC. The former chief minister of Balochistan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, even claimed that CPEC was not meant for development of Balochistan but rather converting the Baloch nation into a “minority on its own soil.” Other ethnic nationalist politicians have echoed the same line of thinking about the CPEC.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, U.S. CONTINUE TO DIFFER ON AFGHAN POLICY (APRIL 24, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, US continue to differ on Afghan policy
SOURCE: The Express tribune
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
By KAMRAN YOUSAF

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States struggle to find a ‘common ground’ on Afghanistan and other regional issues despite several rounds of the talks between the two countries, officials said on Monday.

To break the stalemate, President Donald Trump’s senior aide visited Islamabad for the second time in less than a month. Ambassador Alice Wells, the Department of State’s Senior Bureau Official, in a daylong trip held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

The Foreign Office only issued a picture showing Wells and Janjua shaking hands before the talks. The US Embassy did release a statement but that also offered little insight into the latest round of discussions.

The statement, nevertheless, said Ambassador Wells in her meeting with the foreign secretary discussed the status of the US South Asia strategy and efforts to make progress on regional security and stability.

But a senior Pakistani official familiar with the talks told The Express Tribune that there was no tangible progress as far as finding a common ground on Afghanistan endgame was concerned.

“Talks remained inconclusive,” the official said, adding that the only positive thing was that the two sides were still talking to each other.

At the heart of the controversy is Trump administration’s insistence that Pakistan take decisive action against alleged safe havens of the ‘Haqqani network, Quetta Shura and Lashkar-e-Taiba’, according to another official.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: STAGNANT POLITICS (APRIL 24, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Stagnant politics
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
By NIAZ MURTAZA

A REVIEW of our history reveals a curious anomaly. Political change usually follows societal change. Our society has seen much social and economic change. Population, urbanisation, people’s mobility, flows of information and market reach have all increased. National social and economic integration have picked up and industrial and service sectors have expanded.

Yet, our politics remains stagnant. There is the stagnation in the quality of governance. Many say it has even fallen since the 1950s/1960s.

But while the ’50s-’60s governance provided quality elite urban services, it had limited outreach to rural masses. In the Bhutto era, its outreach increased but quality fell and it has improved little since then.

Furthermore, a review since 1947 shows stagnation in intermediate political processes too, especially the balance of power among powerful societal groups. Until 1951, the main problem was the centre not sharing power with regions and dismissing provincial setups. After ’51, national politicians themselves were marginalised by bureaucrats. And given the law of the jungle about bigger predators eating smaller ones, bureaucrats were pushed aside by generals in 1958, with the judiciary and opportunist politicians supporting these power grabs.

The ’71 tragedy brought the rule of politicians back but it too saw the centre dominating regions. The decades since then saw a cyclical pattern with the security establishment repeatedly grabbing power with the support of a pliant judiciary and opportunist politicians, and manipulating politics and elections even when politicians were ruling.
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IN THE NEWS: THE FAILED POLICE OF ISLAMABAD (APRIL 23, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The failed police of Islamabad
SOURCE: The Nation
Monday, April 23, 2018
By MUSHTAQ AHMED

Mr. Justice Shaukat Siddiqui, a judge of Islamabad High Court, made a staggering observation that Islamabad Police had miserably failed to accomplish its duties as 90% of its personnel were involved in running hubs of alcohol, whiskies, narcotics, and dens of social crimes and other immoral activities in the federal capital of Pakistan, adding that liquors and drugs were found in the rooms of the police inspectors. Not only that but also, the police inspectors look like rascals who wear costly silky clothes (boski) and ringlets around their necks. Apparent exposure of the primary law enforcers in Islamabad is of rogues and pranksters (tumashbeen). The honourable high court judge continued to send a powerful wave of immense shock to the people present in the court, saying that the rooms adjacent to the offices of the police officers were the places for sexual indulgence, lust and sedation. He was refereeing to the letter by the lady police officer to the chief Justices of Supreme Court and Islamabad High Pakistan, the Interior Minister and other high official in Islamabad.

Aforesaid grim attribution to the overall environment dominating the prime law enforcing agency in civil structure of power is nothing but an indicative of the rapid decline of the administration controlled by the public representatives who usually come into power after pledges for rule of law, justice and respect of humanity. In global perspective, a capital of every nation state represents comparatively a better image of the nation as it houses foreign diplomats, missions, embassies and delegates; naturally having an epic center of power such as parliament, apex court and central government comprising of federal cabinet headed by a prime minister and president of the state itself. If a capital of a state seems to be in the hands of rogues and rascals; how can the far flung areas of the republic be the places of nicety, polity and civic morality? Despite these compelling requirements, Islamabad continues to expand as a disoriented abode of our modern world. Rule of law is gradually disappearing from the minds of those who administer the capital city. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN PRESIDENT VOWS NO WEAKENING OF DEMOCRATIC PROCESS AFTER DEADLY BLAST (APRIL 23, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan President Vows No Weakening Of Democratic Process After Deadly Blast
SOURCE: Gandhara
Monday, April 23, 2018

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says a deadly suicide bombing outside a voter registration center in the capital, Kabul, will not “weaken” the country’s “democratic process.”

The bombing on April 22 in Dashte Barchi, a heavily Shi’ite-populated area in western Kabul, killed at least 57 people and wounded 119 others, although officials said the death toll could rise.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. The Sunni group has frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi’ite minority, whom it views as “apostates.”

Ghani condemned the attack but said it “cannot divert us from our aims or weaken this national democratic process.”

The government has set up more than 7,000 centers across the country to handle some 10 million voter registrations for upcoming elections.

Election officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern as the Taliban and other militant groups control large swaths of the country, and some officials have speculated that elections could be delayed if there are major disruptions to the registration process.

Several attacks on registration centers have already been reported since the process began on April 14 ahead of long-delayed parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

That vote is due to be followed by a presidential election in 2019.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said a bomber on foot targeted a crowd that had gathered to pick up national identification cards. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: 8.000 ATTEND PAKISTANI RALLY DESPITE STATE PRESSURE (APRIL 22, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

8,000 Attend Pakistani Rally Despite State Pressure
SOURCE: TOLO News
Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Pakistani ethnic rights group drew over 8,000 people to a rally in Lahore on Sunday, despite pressure from security officials to call off the event focusing on human rights violations in areas bordering Afghanistan.

The leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), student activist Manzoor Pashteen, delivered an address criticizing the country’s powerful military and its actions in the majority ethnic Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

“I urge professional soldiers not to follow the command of the generals and brigadiers. Refuse to obey their orders because they (generals) can get you killed like they did with people of Waziristan and other parts of the country,” Pashteen said.

The North and South Waziristan areas of FATA were the site of large military operations in 2009 and 2014 after the Pakistan Taliban took control of swathes of territory in the region.

Waziristan is still affected by media restrictions, limiting the ability
of journalists to travel there, and activists say that has contributed to the portrayal of the Pashtun population as wedded to backward tribal customs and maintaining close ties to militant groups.

On Saturday, five PTM members were taken from their hotel by Lahore police and told they did not have permission to hold a rally, organization leader Ali Wazir told Reuters. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S LONG #METOO MOMENT (APRIL 22, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s long #MeToo moment
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Sunday, April 22, 2018
By RABIA MEHMOOD

*Over the past few months, Pakistan has witnessed a growing trend of women speaking up publicly about sexual harassment

One would think that a woman going public with accusations of sexual harassment against a man and then facing a severe backlash would not be so common in 2018. But in Pakistan, it keeps happening.

On April 19, Meesha Shafi, a Pakistani pop-star, put up a thoughtful Twitter statement accusing Ali Zafar, Pakistani star actor-singer, of sexually harassing her.

“Today, I speak up because my conscience does not allow me to be silent anymore,” she wrote in the statement.

Her tweet was retweeted more than 5,400 times, got a little over 10,000 likes and garnered some 3,000 responses, many of them attacking her. The backlash Shafi is facing is quite abusive and much of it is rejecting the existence of sexual harassment or shaming her for making this public. (more…)