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

Written by admin on Friday, January 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 TRYING TO RESUE US-LED AFGHAN PEACE TALKS (JANUARY 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, January 18th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Trying To Rescue US-led Afghan Peace Talks
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, January 18, 2019 (Posted)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has intensified efforts to keep the U.S.-led dialogue with the Afghan Taliban on track, but official sources in Islamabad maintain the responsibility for the “success or failure” of the fledgling peace process rests “exclusively” with the various negotiating sides.

The caution comes as U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, landed in the Pakistani capital On January 17 amid expectations a direct meeting could take place between his delegation and Taliban negotiators during his stay in the country.

Meanwhile, in a significant move, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on January 17 and discussed the efforts being made for bringing peace to Afghanistan.

Khan’s office said in a statement that Ghani expressed his gratitude for Pakistan’s “sincere facilitation” for Afghan peace and reconciliation.

It said the prime minister “assured President Ghani that Pakistan was making sincere efforts for a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan through an inclusive peace process, as part of shared responsibility.”

Official sources in Islamabad expected “important developments” over the next two days but they would not share further details. “There is no room for missed opportunities” under the circumstances, they insisted. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: A TUMULTUOUS TENURE ENDS (JANUARY 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, January 18th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

A tumultuous tenure ends
SOURCE: Daily Times
Friday, January 18, 2019

* Calls for introducing a ‘Charter of Governance’ to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated

Pakistan swears in a new chief justice on Friday (today), ending a whirlwind era under outgoing Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and opening the next chapter for the Supreme Court which has pursued an expansive agenda ranging from ousting a sitting prime minister to launching multiple inquiries aimed at reforming public institutions, going after political leaders and pressing authorities to build dams and control burgeoning population.

A full court reference was held in the honour of 25th Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on the occasion of retirement at the Supreme Court on Thursday. The reference was addressed by the outgoing chief justice as well as Chief Justice-designate Asif Saeed Khosa. All Supreme Court judges with the exception of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah attended the ceremony.

Addressing the reference, Chief Justice-designate Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said that during his tenure as top judge, he will ensure quick dispensation of justice and will build a dam against fake cases and the pending cases, as currently there were 1.9 million cases pending in different courts. “I want to build a dam against false witnesses as well,” he said, adding, “The power to take suo motu notices will be used sparingly.”

“Suo motu exercise of this court’s jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the constitution will be exercised very sparingly and only in respect of larger issues of national importance where either there is no other adequate or efficacious remedy available or the available constitutional or legal remedies are ineffective or are rendered incapacitated,” he said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: INDIAN FORCES KILL TOP TERROR COMMANDER WANTED IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR (JANUARY 17, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Indian Forces kill top terror commander wanted in Jammu and Kashmir
SOURCE: The Long War Journal
Thursday, January 17, 2019 (Posted)
By PHIL HEGSETH

Indian security forces killed a notorious and heavily sought-after bomb-maker and chief commander of the Pakistani-connected Al-Badr organization in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Indian officials and news sources identified the commander as Zeenat-ul-Islam, and illustrated his ties with numerous US-designated foreign terror organizations in the region, including Al-Badr and Hizbul Mujahideen. A second terrorist, identified as Shakeel Dar, was also killed and has been described as Islam’s “aide.”

The killing of Zeenat-ul-Islam is a big win for Indian security forces in the contested region, who encountered and killed the wanted commander and his aide during a “cordon-and-search” operation in the district of Kulgam. Jammu and Kashmir Police launched the operation in response to tips from residents that terrorists were present in the area.

Many of the active terror organizations in the Jammu and Kashmir region have benefitted from the work of Islam over the last 10 years. Last year, the Indian Army released a list of its 22 most wanted terrorists as part of its “Operation All Out.” Islam made the list, and earned its highest designation of “A++.”

In light of Islam’s death, terrorist organizations in the region including Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba paid tribute to the commander. Additionally, so-called moderate political parties associated with the “freedom movement” in the region heaped praises on the killed terrorist. According to news outlet Greater Kashmir, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Geelani said in a statement, “the youth are sacrificing their precious lives to end the forcible control of their nation,” adding that, “our youth are forced to adopt the extreme path as the peaceful voices are not responded [to].” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR US-LED AFGHAN PEACE EFFORTS (JANUARY 17, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The challenges ahead for US-led Afghan peace efforts
SOURCE: Asia Times
Thursday, January 17, 2019
By MANOJ KUMAR MISHRA

Afghanistan has witnessed a surge in efforts to end its protracted conflict and attain peace in recent days. However, the momentum of the peace talks has been temporarily impeded by the Afghan Taliban abruptly cancelling a scheduled meeting with US officials in Qatar on the grounds of “agenda disagreement.”

There are reports that the impasse in the negotiations between the US and the Afghan Taliban to reach a political settlement is related to the issue of the maintenance of US military bases in the country.

Waheed Muzhda, a former Taliban official in Kabul who remains in regular contact with the insurgent group’s leaders, reportedly said: “The US wants the Taliban to accept at least two military bases, Bagram and Shorabak. The Taliban are not willing to accept it.” He further maintained that the insurgent leaders are unwilling to accept anything more than a nominal number of troops required to secure the US diplomatic mission.

The US has been courting the support of Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to bring the Taliban to the peace table. It is also resetting its relations with Pakistan to achieve a peace breakthrough.

Recent attempts at resetting relations

The Trump administration’s move to gradually end the American military entanglement in Afghanistan with its decision to halve the size of its troop presence and push for political negotiations has forced a change in Washington’s approach toward Islamabad. President Donald Trump had earlier accused Pakistan of “not doing a damn thing” to help the US despite receiving massive amounts of American aid.

To ensure Pakistan’s support in the Afghan peace process, the US has reportedly attempted to allay Pakistani concerns about sanctions by making it clear that although the South Asian nation remains on the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list, there would be no additional sanctions imposed. Being in the throes of an economic crisis, Pakistan has responded positively to America’s conciliatory gesture. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: FIVE-YEAR REVIVAL PLAN FOR PIA BY MARCH, PROMISES CEO (JANUARY 16, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Five-year revival plan for PIA by March, promises CEO
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, January 16, 2019
By AMIN AHMED

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will submit a five-year ‘Strategic Business Plan 2019-2023’ to the government by March.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik said the plan, currently being developed, consists of cost-cutting and revenue generation through detailed analysis of the market, right sizing operations, work centre, flights and routes for the revival of the national carrier.

PIA’s financial restructuring will be carried out through government support and at the same time the current fleet will be reviewed and purchase of new aircrafts will be decided, he said.

Explaining PIA’s financial health, he said the current operational losses are at Rs3 billion per month but this bleeding would be successfully plugged. The accumulated losses have risen to Rs431.1bn, while loans/borrowings have touched Rs247.7bn.

The government will announce a new aviation policy in February to boost
PIA’s business, he said. Prime Minister Imran Khan has assigned the task of drafting a new aviation policy to Privatisation Minister Mohammad Mian Soomro and the Secretary Aviation.

The Open Skies policy of the previous governments brought losses to the national carrier, Mr Malik said. The government has already decided in principle to end the open skies policy.

“PIA’s 550 weekly international flights were brought down to 101 flights.
Foreign carriers took away the business from 101 flights per week to 555 flights per week. These airlines are supported by their respective governments, particularly the Gulf carriers which get fuel subsidy whereas PIA does not get any subsidy. How can PIA compete with other airlines in the market,” he questioned.

He claimed to have taken “bold steps” for cost cutting. Duration of flights to Europe will now be reduced by an hour as a result of flying over the territories of Iran and Turkmenistan. Previously, all Europe-bound PIA flights avoided flying over these two countries just to avoid payment of fee to the civil aviation agencies of Iran and Turkmenistan, resulting in extra consumption of fuel. However, the matter has been resolved with the intervention of Army and PAF chiefs, he said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: KHALILZAD IN KABUL FOR TALKS ON ‘NEXT STEPS’ FOR AFGHAN PEACE (JANUARY 16, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Khalilzad in Kabul for Talks on ‘Next Steps’ for Afghan Peace
SOURCE: TOLO News
Tuesday, January 16, 2019

KAUBL – The United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is in Kabul for the third time in less than four months after he was appointed to the post “to facilitate peace talks between Afghan government and the Taliban”.

Khalilzad’s third multi-nation trip on Afghan peace was started on January 8 and will continue through to Jan. 21, the US Department of State has said.

The US Embassy in Kabul in a statement said Khalilzad will hold talks with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah as well as political leaders “to discuss the next steps in US efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to chart a shared course for
their nation’s future”.

His arrival in Kabul follows stops in India, the United Arab Emirates, and China where he held talks with senior officials and discussed the Afghan peace.

Khalilzad tweeted on Jan. 13 that he held “fruitful talks” with senior Chinese officials “who committed to the success of Afghan peace”.

“We discussed regional support for an inclusive peace process for all Afghans & ensuring #Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for terrorism,” Khalilzad tweeted.

On Jan. 12, he met India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale in New Delhi where the Indian officials emphasized that the peace and reconciliation process in the Afghanistan “must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.

Khalilzad continues to coordinate with the National Unity Government and other Afghan stakeholders to ensure an intra-Afghan peace process, the US Embassy’s statement read.

“The US goal is to promote dialogue among Afghans about how to end the conflict, and to encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement in which every Afghan citizen enjoys equal rights and responsibilities under the rule of law,” the statement added.

During his last trip in December, Khalilzad reiterated that the only solution to the conflict is for all parties to sit together and reach an agreement on the political future of Afghanistan with mutual respect and acceptance.

IN THE NEWS: PM KHAN LASHES OUT AT OPPOSITION FOR ‘PRESSURE TACTICS’ AFTER NA WALKOUTS (JANUARY 15, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PM Khan lashes out at opposition for ‘pressure tactics’ after NA walkouts
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
By JAVED HUSSAIN

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday lashed out at the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts.
In a tweet — which came a day after the opposition walked out on the opening day of the National Assembly’s new session — the prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was “the only function they (opposition) intend to perform”.

He claimed that walkouts are used as “pressure tactics” to “seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)”.

In another tweet, the prime minister wondered if democracy for the opposition meant “immunity from corruption”.

“It seems for them being elected is a license to plunder the country,” he added.

In a Parliament that costs taxpayers billions yearly, yet another walkout in NA by the Opposition shows that this is the only function they intend to perform. These are pressure tactics to seek an NRO & evade accountability for corruption in NAB cases not initiated by PTI.

A day earlier, PPP leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari had lashed out at NAB on the floor of the assembly, demanding that the chairman of the country’s top anti-corruption watchdog be summonedbefore parliament for his recent actions against parliamentarians.

The opposition members then staged a walkout as soon as Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda took the floor to respond to the speeches of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif and Zardari.

So far, the current assembly has had 34 sittings, out of which the premier has attended six, including the one held for his election as premier. The opposition has staged several walkouts from the NA since the new government came to power, leaving Speaker Asad Qaiser struggling with the formation of house committees as the opposition flexes its muscles to give the ruling coalition a tough time on a number of issues, including the ongoing energy crisis, ‘one-sided’ accountability, the mini-budget and the recent increase in the prices of medicines.

The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the National Assembly is functioning with only two committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, that was formed last month after a deadlock between the government and opposition over naming Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the committee was broken.

‘Baseless allegations’: politicians react to prime minister’s tweets

When asked about the premier’s claims that opposition was seeking an NRO by staging repeated walkouts, Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif said that “the allegations hurled by Imran Khan are so baseless that they don’t merit a response”.

PPP Chairman Bilawal, while talking to DawnNewsTV, pointed out that “Imran Khan does not even come to the parliament”.

“What does he know about parliamentary proceedings?” he asked.

“The prime minister had promised that he will appear before the parliament and answer questions. But that promise turned out to be false as well,” Bilawal regretted.

Referring to a proposal to grant an extension to military courts, the PPP chairman said that “it is hardly possible for his party to support the bill”. He added that the government had not yet approached his party for consultation over the matter.

Prime Minister’s aide Mirza Shahzad Akbar agreed with his leader and said that attending the National Assembly session was used as a “pretext” to escape accountability.

In a Parliament that costs taxpayers billions yearly, yet another walkout in NA by the Opposition shows that this is the only function they intend to perform. These are pressure tactics to seek an NRO & evade accountability for corruption in NAB cases not initiated by PTI.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a video message, claimed that “Imran Khan’s tweets show that he is worried because of the incapability of his federal cabinet”.

“The parliament whose cost Imran Khan is fretting about is the same that he remained absent from for five years,” she said and added: “Mr Imran, parliament and government are not run over Twitter.”

She also referred to the premier’s low attendance in the assembly, saying that “the Pakistani public was about to give out an advertisement to look for their prime minister.”

Aurangzeb accused Prime Minister Khan of “seeking an NRO for his ineptness by hurling allegations” and declared that the “opposition will not remain silent”.

“You will not be granted an NRO over Aleema [Khanum’s overseas properties’ case] and foreign funding,” the former information minister said, adding that the opposition will continue to question the poor performance of the government.

IN THE NEWS: GASPING FOR LIFE (JANUARY 15, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Gasping for life
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
By KAMAL SIDDIQU

Pakistan’s urban air pollution is among the highest in South Asia, exceeding several high-profile causes of mortality and morbidity in Pakistan. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over four million people around the world succumb to air pollution-related illnesses on an annual basis, due to toxic air quality levels that go well beyond the standard guidelines outlined by the WHO.

In addition, the WHO report also highlights countries such as China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that have “increasing trends in PM2.5 exposure.” PM2.5 readings are often included in air quality reports from environmental authorities and companies. It refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair.

The good news is that China has made some improvement in tackling air pollution. But India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have experienced the steepest increases in air pollution levels since 2010 and now present the highest sustained PM2.5 concentrations.

The number of ailments and illnesses due to the poor quality of air in the cities of Pakistan has risen significantly over the past few years. While this may mean more business for doctors and pharma companies, the extent of urban air pollution in Pakistan — South Asia’s most urbanised country—is among the world’s most severe, significantly damaging human health, quality of life and the economy and environment of Pakistan. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: CHINA IN AFGHANISTAN (JANUARY 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, January 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

China in Afghanistan
SOURCE: Daily Times
Monday, January 14, 2019
By AHMAD RASHID MALIK

China has been emerging as a major power bringing peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This matters significantly as worrying nations could defuse mutual tension. China’s relation with Pakistan are most pleasant.

The recent China-Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue in Kabul was the most significant peace process held in years. China and Pakistan discussed new changes in Afghanistan.

Both sides believe that military alone cannot solve all the issues in Afghanistan. The US plans to withdraw all of its 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. In that case, China and Pakistan also need to chalk out their plan.

Meanwhile, China has been using its influence to make a change inside Afghanistan. The purpose is to create friendship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meeting in Beijing, the Chinese Government’s top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a “deep discussion about new changes to the situation in Afghanistan and reached a consensus.” Both sides believe that military means cannot resolve the Afghanistan issue, and promoting political reconciliation is the only realistic way.

Wang Yi visited Kabul earlier in the month of December, where he pledged to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome their long-standing suspicions of each other. China’s main concern in Afghanistan is the situation in Uighur-dominated Xinjiang region where there is Afghan influence and that must be mitigated. China has to see how to look after Afghanistan post-US withdrawal. (more…)