MAP: AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Written by admin on Saturday, July 21st, 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: REGIONAL STATES MUSCLE IN TO SEEK A BIGGER ‘SAY’ IN AFGHAN CONFLICT (JULY 20, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, July 20th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Regional states muscle in to seek a bigger ‘say’ in Afghan conflict
SOURCE: Asia Times
Friday, July 20, 2018
By M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

*Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran are joining forces against terrorist group the Islamic State Khorasan Province in Afghanistan

A new strategic fault line appeared in the Afghan conflict last week when Islamabad hosted an unusual meeting of the heads of the intelligence agencies of Russia, China and Iran on July 11.

Moscow thoughtfully publicized the event both for its optics as well as to pre-empt misperceptions that some sort of zero-sum game might be afoot.

The focus was on joint measures to stop the terrorist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) from threatening the territorial boundaries of the four regional states. In the Russian estimation, there could be up to 10,000 fighters in IS-K’s ranks already and the group is already active in nine of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

The four participating countries “reached understanding of the importance of coordinated steps to prevent the trickling of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, where from they would pose risks for neighbouring countries.” But they also “stressed the need for a more active inclusion of regional powers in the efforts” to end the war in Afghanistan.

Clearly, the leitmotif is in the latter claim by the regional states seeking a greater say in Afghan peace-making. Three related developments over the weekend also signal the new churning. One, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Mohammad Baqeri, started a three-day visit to Islamabad on July 15 at the invitation of Pakistani army chief General Qamar Bajwa.
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IN THE NEWS: TANGOING WITH THE TALIBAN (JULY 20, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, July 20th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

TANGOING WITH THE TALIBAN
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Friday, July 20, 2018
By EJAZ HAIDER

*THE U.S. WOULD DO WELL TO STICK TO THE GHANI OFFER AND WORK OUT SOME ARRANGEMENT WITH THE TALIBAN THAT WOULD MAKE THEM MORE AMENABLE TO KABUL’S INCLUSION — IF AT ALL

In a significant departure from the United States policy on Afghanistan so far, President Donald Trump’s administration has ordered its diplomats to explore the option of opening direct talks with the Afghan Taliban.

This is also a major concession to the insurgent group that has long sought to talk directly with Washington, refusing to sit down with U.S.-propped governments in Kabul.

Consider what it means.

First, it is an acknowledgement, though tacit, that the policy unveiled last year has not worked. The policy, which came at the end of a seven-month review process, sought to send in more troops and give field commanders carte blanche in using force as they deemed fit and in appreciation of the ground situation.

Interestingly, however, the main architect and pusher of the policy was Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Trump’s National Security Adviser and then a serving general. Trump himself, while unveiling the salient features of that policy at Fort Myer, said that he was instinctually opposed to staying on in Afghanistan: “My original instinct was to pull out—and, historically, I like following my instincts.”
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IN THE NEWS: THE MAIN PLAYERS (JULY 19, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

THE MAIN PLAYERS
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Thursday, July 19, 2018

*A BRIEF LOOK AT THE PRIMARY STAKEHOLDERS OF PAKISTAN’S GENERAL ELECTIONS

The Pakistan general elections on July 25 come after a brief but acrimonious campaign, complicated by a string of attacks—including the second-deadliest bombing in the country’s history—which have prompted security fears.

The election represents only the second democratic transition in a country ruled by the military for roughly half its history, and is considered a vital step for Pakistan, with its fragile institutions and turbulent past.

The main players in the polls include two who cannot even hold political office—former premier Nawaz Sharif, and the military—as well as the leaders of the three main parties.

Nawaz Sharif

Dubbed the Lion of Punjab, Sharif was thrice prime minister but has never completed a term, his latest ending when he was ousted by the Supreme Court last year and banned from politics for life over corruption.
The saga reached its peak earlier this month, when he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison. Sharif spectacularly returned to Pakistan from London a week later and was arrested. Sharif claims he is being targeted by the military. Analysts say he has returned to fight for his political life, as his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party stumbles in the campaign.
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IN THE NEWS: BEIJING’S $63BLN CPEC INVESTMENT TO ENHANCE DEBT TRAP, SAYS NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW (JULY 19, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Beijing’s $63bln CPEC investment to enhance debt trap: Nikkei Asian Review
SOURCE: The News International
Thursday, July 19, 2018

GWADAR: Pakistan’s trade deficit with China has been rising, and there are concerns about what happens if it is unable to repay its debts vis-à-vis $63 billion worth of the corridor projects, Nikkei Asian Review said on Wednesday.

“As with other countries that have benefited recently from Beijing’s largesse, some in Pakistan worry that the price of such investment could be a huge debt burden,” the Asian-focused publication said.

The Nikkei Asian Review and The Banker examined how Belt and Road (BRI) projects are unfolding in eight countries: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, India, Poland, Laos and Pakistan. They also collaborated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Reconnecting Asia Project to aggregate key BRI infrastructure projects worldwide.

The idea of transforming the ancient fishing village of Gwadar into a bustling port city has been around since at least 1954, when Pakistan commissioned the US Geological Survey to examine its coastline. It found that Gwadar, which sits on the Arabian Sea, would be an ideal location for a deep-water port.

Nikkei Asian Review said Gwadar’s potential went unrealised for decades, but it is now at the heart of a hugely ambitious plan known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

China has pledged to spend $63 billion to bolster Pakistan’s power plants, ports, airports, expressways and other infrastructure under the initiative, which Beijing positions as one of the pillars of its $1 trillion global Belt and Road Initiative championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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IN THE NEWS: GOVT REJECTS POSSIBILITY OF TALKS BETWEEN U.S. AND TALIBAN (JULY 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Govt Rejects Possibility Of Talks Between US And Taliban
SOURCE: TOLO News
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 (Posted)
By SHARIF AMIRI

Afghan officials on Tuesday rejected reports about the possibility of direct peace talks between the US and the Taliban, and maintained any negotiations would be an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process.

“The peace negotiations will only be held under the leadership and ownership of the Afghan government, but the United States of America can have a facilitator role in this regard,” said the CEO’s deputy spokesman Omid Maisam.

Meanwhile Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the reconciled leader of Hizb-e-Islami group, on Tuesday said that US officials consulted him about the prospects of holding talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year-long war.

Hekmatyar said: “I told them (Americans) that my suggestion to the Taliban was to enter into inter-Afghan dialogue, because it is good for the dignity of the people and it also helps to resolve the crisis in Afghanistan. But if they (Taliban) want to meet you (Americans), I don’t see any problem with it and you (Americans) can jump-start the negotiations,” said Hekmatyar.

Hekmatyar also said he told US officials to tell the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government as it was important for the Taliban’s dignity and also a step forward towards resolving the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN BACKS UN RESPONSE TO INDIAN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST KASHMIR REPORT (JULY 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan backs UN response to Indian allegations against Kashmir report
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Pakistan on Wednesday supported the United Nations’ (UN) dismissal of Indian allegations against its report on the poor human rights situation in Kashmir.

The first-ever UN report on alleged rights violations committed by both India and Pakistan in Kashmir released last month focuses mainly on India-held Kashmir (IHK), and accuses Indian troops of being responsible for an estimated 145 unlawful killings, far surpassing the 20 people estimated to have been killed by militant groups during that period.

It also speaks of “a range of human rights abuses” in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), but notes they “are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature”.

When the report first came out, India termed it a biased account.

According to the Times of India (TOI), the Indian Ministry of External Affairs rejected the report, describing it as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”, and questioned the intent in releasing such a report. It was also said to have violated India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The report came up once again at a United Nations Security council session on Children and Armed Conflict on Tuesday, when Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi made a reference to it during the session, NDTV reported.
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IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS TALIBAN COULD JOIN PEACE TALKS, DESPITE REJECTION (JULY 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan President Suggests Taliban Could Join Peace Talks, Despite Rejection
SOURCE: Gandhara
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 (Posted)

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has dismissed the Taliban’s rejection of his offer of peace talks, suggesting that the militant group can still be persuaded to come to the negotiating table.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul on July 16, Ghani said the Taliban’s opposition to peace talks was not “a full rejection.”

“It’s like when you ask someone’s hand in marriage and the family of the bride says no several times [before relenting],” said Ghani, referring to a culture in which refusal is seen as a sign of humility.

“In reality, it is likely that we will get a positive answer,” Ghani said.

Earlier this month, the Taliban said it would not negotiate with the Kabul government after a first-ever cease-fire between the two sides coinciding with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr raised hopes of jump-starting long-stalled talks.

Ghani declared an end to the truce, but he also called on the Taliban to resume peace negotiations. The extremist group Islamic State (IS) was not included in the cessation of hostilities.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, IRAN VOW TO IMPROVE MILITARY TIES (JULY 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, Iran vow to improve military ties
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
By BAQIR SAJJAD SYED

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Monday pledged to further deepen their military cooperation.

This was the upshot of Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri’s visit to Pakistan.

The top Iranian commander’s three-day trip is being attached great importance because bilateral military exchanges between Pakistan and Iran have been very rare due to their mutual mistrust that kept them divided till recently.

Gen Bagheri visited caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Hussain Haroon at the foreign ministry and then went to the General Headquarters (GHQ) for a meeting with army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

The public affairs division of Pakistan military said Gen Bajwa underscored the need for intensification of military-to-military cooperation and noted that such cooperation would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region”.

In related development, Afghan president assures Islamabad of enhanced border security on election day

Reciprocating Gen Bajwa’s offer, the visiting Iranian commander “pledged to keep working for better relations between the two brotherly countries”, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Gen Bajwa is believed to be the architect of improvement in Pakistan-Iran ties particularly the military relations. Last year he had made an unprecedented visit to Iran setting the stage for improved cooperation.
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IN THE NEWS: REAL RULERS: HOW ELECTABLES TIGHTEN THEIR GRIP ON POLITICAL POWER (JULY 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, July 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Real rulers: How electables tighten their grip on political power
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, July 16, 2018
By IRFAN GHAURI and TAHIR MALIK

ISLAMABAD: A recent social media post quoting little known Khalilur Rehman, apparently a doctor from South Punjab’s Rajanpur district, attracted many hits.

When he was in his teens in the early 1980, an influential political figure of his area, Sardar Jaffar Khan Leghari, was elected to Majlis-e-Shura – the parliament – that came into being after a non-party based general elections held under late military ruler General Zia ul Haq.

Rehman was pursuing higher education and witnessed Leghari switching to Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) before 1988 general elections held after the sudden death of general, who had come to power by toppling the PPP’s government back in 1977.

Rehman still in medical college sees the politician contesting for the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI ) – an alliance of rightwing parties cobbled together against Benazir Bhutto’s PPP in the next elections held in 1990.

In the years to come, he sees Leghari switching loyalties and contesting yet another election from the platform of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) – a party formed by another military ruler General Pervez Musharraf by breaking Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N.

In the last National Assembly that completed its term in May this year, he served as a lawmaker associated with the then ruling party the PML-N but now this ‘electable’ Leghari, to the further surprise of Rehman, is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate and espouses the ideals of change.

Electable – individuals or families who have personal clout in an area and a sizeable vote bank which is independent from affiliation to any political party – is a hackneyed term in Pakistan’s contemporary politics and a subject of popular discussion before every general election. (more…)