IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, CHINA AGREE TO ‘SMOOTH’ IMPLEMENTATION OF CPEC (MARCH 20, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, China agree to ‘smooth’ implementation of CPEC projects
SOURCE: Daily Times
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

China and Pakistan Tuesday held strategic dialogue and undertook in-depth discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations, including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), trade, investment and economic cooperation, people-to-people contacts and regional and international issues, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

The dialogue was co-chaired by State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi for China and Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi for Pakistan.

The two foreign ministers reaffirmed their time-tested and all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and agreed to maintain regular two-way high-level political and official exchanges.

They expressed commitment to translate the vision of the leadership to build a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era.

The two sides reaffirmed support to each other on all core issues of their national interest. They underlined that state sovereignty and territorial integrity are the cardinal principles of UN Charter and the international law.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for de-escalation of tensions in South Asia and underlined the need for dialogue and peaceful means to resolve all outstanding disputes. The two sides also agreed to further intensify cooperation with regular meetings of all bilateral mechanisms to take forward practical cooperation in respective fields. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ASAD ON ECONOMY: ARMY CAN’T BE BLAMED IF POLICIES ARE WRONG (MARCH 20, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Asad on Economy: Army can’t be blamed if policies are wrong
SOURCE: The News International
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance Asad Umar said Pakistan’s economy is victim of ‘elite capture’ and it could be broken only through bringing openness, transparency in policies, strengthening parliament and accountability mechanisms.

While talking to reporters on the second day of Human Capital Summit, Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future organisedby the World Bank here on Tuesday, Asad Umar said when institutions are strengthened then openness in economy would automatically be ensured.

To another query, he said if policies are devised by the Army and he is sitting into the government then it is his responsibility to either own the policies or change them. He said there is an excuse being presented since long that keep enjoying ruling over this country and then blame the Army for all policies arguing they did not allow changing the policies.

If you do not agree to a policy then change it, he added. To another query regarding the opposition stance for his ties with the banned and proscribed outfits, the minister replied there is a need to analyse his election campaign as to what type of outfits had extended support to him.

These were the outfits who became the victims of terrorism, he said and added he had received message from them after allegations of the opposition that they were ready to issue statements in his favour. He said that a lot of work was done to bring about reforms in the FBR as it was pointed out in the WB summit that poor tax collection is one of the major reasons for low spending on the welfare of the people. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: CHINA SAYS 13.000 “TERRORISTS” HELD IN RESTIVE XINJIANG (MARCH 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, March 18th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

China says 13,000 “terrorists” held in restive Xinjiang
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Monday, March 18, 2019

*Diplomats from Pakistan and several other Muslim countries, who were recently taken on a guided tour of Xinjiang following allegations of detention of over a million Uygurs, said there was no religious and cultural repression

China said Monday it had arrested about 13,000 “terrorists” in a massive crackdown against militants in the volatile Uygur Muslim-majority Xinjiang region since 2014, denying criticism that Beijing is “buying” silence of the Muslim world with heavy investments in Pakistan and other Islamic countries.

China has faced mounting criticism for the detention of thousands of Uygur Muslims in massive “education camps”.

“Since 2014, Xinjiang has destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities, and confiscated 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials,” a white paper released Monday said.

It said that some areas in Xinjiang were severely disturbed by terrorism and the infiltration of religious extremism.

“For this reason, some people who cannot speak, read or write in standard Chinese, have a weak understanding of rule of law, and have difficulty finding employment through a lack of employable skills. As a result, such people are more inclined to be incited or coerced into criminality by terrorist and extremist forces,” it said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: MAINSTREAMING THE MILITANT FRINGE (MARCH 17, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, March 17th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Mainstreaming the militant fringe
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, March 17, 2019
By MUBASHER BUKHARI and WAQAR GILLANI

*Mainstreaming of militant groups should not be taken as a step but as a process. In the current situation, this process has not even begun yet

There is a renewed debate in Pakistan on the idea of tackling proscribed religious outfits through ‘mainstreaming’ to make them useful and responsible citizens. This time, the move to mainstream proscribed outfits, no less than 70 at the moment, comes in the backdrop of likely global restrictions if financial resources of banned outfits are not curbed.

The situation emerged after the Pulwama attack in the Indian held Kashmir, allegedly masterminded by Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Muhammad. The group backs Indian Kashmiris’ struggle to get freedom from India.

Policy-makers in Pakistan claim that mainstreaming has nothing to do with Pulwama attack or India’s pressure but is linked to national interest in the wake of Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) meeting and the UN’s concerns.

The PTI government that claims to be on the same page with the military is advocating social integration of such militant groups, active within and outside Pakistan for the past several years. According to a list of the Interior Ministry, there are at least 70 international, national and sub-national groups which are said to be armed and have been banned from time to time. Many resurfaced with new names and were banned again.

“We have a three-pronged strategy to deal with the proscribed organisations,” Fawad Chaudhry, federal information minister told media last week. “First, banned outfits would be disarmed and then there would be economic integration. Those associated with them would be given loans. Employment opportunities would be created for them. At the third stage there would be political mainstreaming.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PEACE TALKS: TRANSPARENCY ENSURES MUTUAL CONFIDENCE (MARCH 18, 2019)

Written by admin on Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Peace Talks: Transparency Ensures Mutual Confidence
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Saturday, March 16, 2019

The longest round of Afghanistan peace talks yet between the U.S. and the Taliban ended in Qatar, and both sides told that progress has been made.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted Tuesday night that “conditions for #peace have improved.” And the militant group said: “For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams.”

However, Afghan government as the representative of the Afghan people is not involved in the process and does not know the results of the peace talks. That’s why the NSA, Hamdullah Mohib, took particular aim at US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and his personal “ambitions” in Afghanistan, after the second round of talks ended in Qatar. He said, “We don´t know what´s going on.” In terms of the transparency of the talks he said, “We don´t have the kind of transparency that we should have.”

Peace talks is a critical issue that can affect the life of all Afghans and shapes the future of the country. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad shall constantly update the Afghan government about his meetings with the Taliban and then the Afghan government shall update the public regularly.

We understand the context and complexities of the talks and Usually, when you talk behind closed doors, you don’t announce what happened, but it has to be very transparent. And he shall keep the Afghan government abreast in order it keeps abreast the public always.

We also keep in the mind that, “Khalilzad also has to respect the position of the other, and cannot immediately put it out publicly, because there are requirements, and there are imperatives for these kinds of meetings.

Nevertheless, transparency of peace talks has been a tense issue, but Afghanistan and the US could manage it in the past not to create a problem, at least a problem leaking to the public. One of the issues that could help the both sides to be hopeful about the transparency was that, Khalilzad usually traveled to Kabul after the peace talks and put Kabul in the picture. However, this time Khalilzad, traveled directly to Washington to consult with others. This issue caused the anger of Kabul.

According to the NSA, “The last people to find out are us.”

If the negotiators do not put the relevant bodies in the picture, this approach can create tensions between them and this has already happened in the Afghan peace talks. ‘Viceroy’Beyond Khalilzad´s possible lapse in diplomatic decorum by not briefing Kabul, Mohib lambasted US intentions, in a rare outburst. And emphasized that “We like to hear that progress is made.” Worse than this, “Our understanding is if there is a deal, it´s a bad deal.” He added.

Lack of transparency in the Afghan Peace talks can lead to lack of trust of Afghanistan to the U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the intension of both the US and her envoy. That is why Mohib said, “Knowing Ambassador Khalilzad´s own history, personal history, he has ambitions in Afghanistan,”. It also creates a negative environment and ambiguity of the future of the government, as Mohib has pointed out, “The perception in Afghanistan, people in the government think that perhaps, perhaps all this talk is to create a caretaker government of which he will then become the viceroy,”. Finally, lack of transparency in the talks can harm the partnership between the two countries as Mohib said, “He is ostracizing, and alienating a very trusted ally and partner”.

Confidence between the US and Afghan government is the only mechanism that ensures a successful peace process and transparency in the negotiations is the only tool than can maintain such a confidence. It is a positive move that Palladino told reporters that Washington maintained its confidence in Ghani, and admitted there could be more coordination and regular contacts between the two capitals.

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN OFFICIAL, U.S. PUBLICLY CLASH OVER KHALILZAD’S CONDUCT IN TALIBAN PEACE TALKS (MARCH 15, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, March 15th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan Official, U.S. Publicly Clash Over Khalilzad’s Conduct In Taliban Peace Talks
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, March 15, 2019 (Posted)

*Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, has criticized U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s conduct in peace talks with the Taliban.

A senior Afghan official accused the U.S. special envoy to his country, Zalmay Khalilzad, of “delegitimizing” the Kabul government by excluding it from peace negotiations with the Taliban and acting like a “viceroy.”

The comments on March 14 by Hamdullah Mohib, who serves as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s national security adviser, drew immediate rebuke from Washington, with the State Department saying that his remarks “only serve to hinder” U.S.-Afghan ties and the peace process.

Speaking during a news conference at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, Mohib, a former ambassador to Washington, directed his attacks at U.S. Special Representative Khalilzad’s conduct of peace talks with the Taliban.

Kabul has been excluded from the talks, held in Qatar, because the Taliban refuses direct negotiations with the Afghan government, insisting it is a puppet of the West and demanding that foreign troops pull out of the country before bilateral talks can begin.

U.S. officials have insisted they will not accept a peace deal with the Taliban without direct talks between the militant group and the Afghan government. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE BALOCHISTAN (MARCH 15, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, March 15th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Building an inclusive Balochistan
SOURCE: The News International
Friday, March 15, 2019
By AMIR HUSSAIN

Most of us who have been told stories of violence and terror in Balochistan tend to believe in them. But in doing so, we lose sight of the real Balochistan, its people and its pluralistic culture. The miseries heaped upon the wonderful people of Balochistan have indelible imprints, which may not go away any time soon. But life does go on and the peace-loving people of Balochistan still have hopes for a better future.

Balochistan is a mesmerising land of incredible geographical diversity and beauty. All the prose and poetics that one may deploy to describe Balochistan stop short of giving an appropriate account of its magnificence. I am lost for words to express what I experienced during my recent visit to the province to explore it beyond the stories of horror and terror. The natural beauty is magnified by the hospitality of its people as well as the cultural diversity.

It was an amazing journey of learning about the untold stories of extremism which is being presented as the root of all our socio-political evils. Who are these extremists and how do they see themselves and the world around them? Extremism has its own political history of disillusionment and deprivation which can be overcome through an inclusive political process. When we lump together the political classification of extremists, anti-state insurgents and objects of political control we lose the battle for their reintegration. We also lose political legitimacy in the eyes of so many peace-loving people of Balochistan when we show our hatred for them as being anti-development, anti-civilisation, anti-freedom and anti-peace and so on and so forth. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN – BUILDING A NEW ORDER (MARCH 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Building a new order
SOURCE: Dawn
Thursday, March 14, 2019
By KHURRAM HUSAIN

THE prime minister’s promising to build a “new FBR” as a response to disappointing revenue collection figures is an example of his government’s growing helplessness before the massive dysfunctions that he promised he would fix with a magic bullet. The promise is absurd because building a whole new institution from the ground up is almost as illogical an idea as financing a mega dam through public donations.

If the FBR were a faulty washing machine that one was fed up of trying to keep functional it would be rational to talk of discarding it and buying a new one (provided one was in a position to afford it). But public policy choices are not like consumer choices in this regard. If the prime minister is frustrated with the FBR to the point where he is willing to talk publicly about scrapping it, what will be his approach when someone brings to his attention the developing situation in the power sector and the circular debt? Throw it all away too?

There is a sense, that is getting stronger now, that this government came in thinking that the chronic and intractable problems of our economy (and society) have simple solutions. Foreign exchange reserves declining? No problem, grab those Swiss bank accounts, bring back Ishaq Dar and shake him down since he knows where the “looted wealth” is buried. Fiscal deficit? No problem, auction off the PM House fixtures and buffaloes, appeal to people to pay their taxes as a “national duty” and back up the appeal with a personal, emotional commitment that “I will personally watch over the money to ensure that it is not misappropriated”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TERROR FINANCING WATCHDOG (FATF) SEEKS REDUCED ISI ROLE (MARCH 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Terror financing watchdog seeks reduced ISI role
SOURCE: Asia Times
Thursday, march 14, 2019
By F.M. SHAKIL

*While the FATF has added three more conditions before the review in May, Pakistan asks for the removal of India from the review panel

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international terror-financing watchdog, has demanded that Pakistan to foster “inter-agency cooperation” to end the domination of the country’s prime intelligence watchdog in handling proscribed terror organizations.

While the new demands seek to discourage the terror networks defined by pro-establishment security analysts as “strategic assets” from resurfacing with a new identity and features, the dominant role of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is also sought to be minimized.

Rana Afzal Khan, a former finance minister and a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told Asia Times, “The FATF demand for inter-agency cooperation is aimed at decentralization of responsibilities and de-monopolization of anti-terror operations against the proscribed outfits. This will increase the cooperation and collaboration among agencies fighting terrorism and coordinate their efforts to come down hard on the forces inimical to regional peace.

“I personally believe that [the] Intelligence Bureau should be given added responsibilities to deal with the banned extremist groups instead of ISI, because most of these elements start operation with new names and identity and make a mockery of the state actions,” he added. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: CHINA AGAIN VETOES AZHAR’S TERROR TAG (MARCH 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

China again vetoes Masood Azhar’s terror tag
SOURCE: Asia Times
Thursday, March 14, 2019
By KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

*The proposal was lodged after last month’s suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir

China once again blocked the blacklisting of the chief of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Masood Azhar, as a “global terrorist” at the United Nations on Wednesday. The resolution, spearheaded by France and backed by the United States and Britain, was vetoed by Beijing on the last day before the proposal was to be ratified by the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council.

The proposal was initiated after last month’s suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir, which killed 40 Indian police officials. JeM claimed responsibility for the terror attack, which later led to cross-border military exchanges between India and Pakistan.

This is the fourth time, and the third successive year, that China has blocked a motion to blacklist Azhar at the UN. Beijing also vetoed the move in 2009, a year after the Mumbai terror attack was carried out by militants affiliated with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Asia Times reported following the Pulwama attack last month that Beijing had reassured Islamabad that it had “no immediate plan” to retract its veto against Azhar’s sanctioning at the UN. Observers noted that the reassurance meant that Islamabad did not feel any urgency to go after JeM. It also translated into repeated offers for peace talks extended by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his counterpart Narendra Modi, which led directly to the release of Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

In a statement released to the United Nations Security Council, China maintained it “needed more time” to examine the proposed sanctions against Azhar. Last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman also expressed his support to Pakistan, with a joint statement asking India to “avoid politicization of the UN listing regime.” (more…)