IN THE NEWS: SUICIDE ATTACK IN AFGHANISTAN KILLS 10: OFFICIALS (JUNE 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Suicide attack in Afghanistan kills 10: officials
SOURCE: Dawn
Sunday, June 17, 2018

A suicide attack in restive eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed at least 10 people and wounded many others, officials said, in the second attack in as many days.

The explosion happened outside the Nangarhar provincial governor’s office, his spokesman told AFP.

An Afghan security source confirmed the suicide attack and death toll.
The attack came a day after a suicide bomber targeted a joint gathering of Afghan Taliban fighters, police and army personnel who were celebrating an unprecedented ceasefire and Eidul Fitr.

Death toll from suicide bombing in Afghanistan climbs to 36

The death toll from a suicide bombing against a gathering of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has risen to 36, an official said on Sunday.
Najibullah Kamawal, director of the health department in the eastern Nangarhar province, said another 65 people were wounded in Saturday’s attack.

The bomber targeted a gathering of fighters who were celebrating a three-day truce coinciding with the Eidul Fitr holiday. No one immediately claimed the attack, but it was likely carried out by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, which was not included in the cease-fire and has clashed with the Taliban in the past.

After the attack, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a nine-day extension of the cease-fire. The three-day holiday and cease-fire ends Sunday.

The chairman of the High Peace Council, a government body charged with negotiating an end to the nearly 17-year war, called on the Taliban to accept the extended cease-fire and join the peace process. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN HIGH PEACE COUNCIL CALLS ON TALIBAN TO EXTEND CEASEFIRE (JUNE 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan High Peace Council Calls On Taliban to Extend Ceasefire
SOURCE: TOLO News
Sunday, June 17, 2018

*The HPC thanked religious scholars for their recent fatwa over the war in Afghanistan and said they believed this led to the temporary ceasefire in the country

Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) on Sunday called on the Taliban to extend the ceasefire at the request of the people. HPC says it will cooperate with the Taliban.

“There is no doubt that there would be more developments in peace talks with the Taliban, Karmi Khalili, HPC chief said, adding that Taliban always emphasized the need for an Afghan owned peace process.

Akram Khpalwak, secretariat chief of the HPC has thanked religious scholars for their recent fatwa over the war in Afghanistan and said they believed this led to the temporary ceasefire in the country.

Early this month, more than 2,000 Afghan religious scholars from around the country issued a fatwa, an Islamic directive, saying “the ongoing war in Afghanistan is forbidden under Islamic law”.

“There are some people in government or among the Taliban that will not see the benefit of the ceasefire and will create some problems,” Khpalwak said, adding that “we thank the government, Taliban and people for the ceasefire and all the credit of this ceasefire goes to the people of the country.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: KABUL CONFIRMS TTP CHIEF FAZLULLAH’S DEATH (JUNE 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Kabul confirms TTP chief Fazlullah’s death
SOURCE: The Nation
Saturday, June 16, 2018

*Ghani phones Gen Bajwa, Saudi King to seek help for peace talks with Taliban

Peshawar/KABUL – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday phoned Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and confirmed the earlier reported death of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah.

Fazlullah, believed to be in his forties, was wanted to Pakistan for years-long reign of terror in which thousands of civilians and security personnel were martyred.

He was eliminated in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province bordering Pakistan on June 13 (Wednesday), and Afghan officials had reported his death the next day.

Lt-Col Martin O’Donnell, the spokesman for the US forces in Afghanistan, had also confirmed the “counterterrorism strike” in Marwari district near the border.

But he stopped short of claiming Fazlullah’s death. “A senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation was targeted” in the strike, he had said in his statement. “It’s not a violation of the ceasefire [with Afghan Taliban],” he added.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday said the [Afghan] Taliban are honouring their three-day ceasefire that began Thursday night in response to his truce. He expressed hope for its extension. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: UNCONFIRMED REPORTS: TTP CHIEF MULLAH FAZLULLAH KILLED IN U.S. DRONE STRIKE (JUNE 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, June 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Unconfirmed reports: TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah killed in US drone strike
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Friday, June 15, 2018
By IFTIKAR FIRDOUS

PESHAWAR: The elusive chief of outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has reportedly been killed in a US drone strike in northeastern Afghanistan, according to security and intelligence sources.

Mullah Fazlullah, who was named TTP chief after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike in November 2013, is said to have been killed in the drone strike in Kunar province of Afghanistan.

The drone strike that took place in the Nur Gul Kalay village of Dangam district on June 13 also killed four other TTP commanders who have been identified as Abu Bakar, Umar, Imran and Sajid.

Fazlullah and his commanders were having an Iftar party at a compound when a remotely piloted US aircraft targeted them, according to sources.

The drone strike coincided with a whirlwind visit to Kabul by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa where he threw his weight behind the fresh peace overture of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Though the drone and the target have been confirmed by the Western media, the death of Mullah Fazlullah has not been officially confirmed by Islamabad, Kabul or Washington.

“US forces conducted a counter terrorism strike on June 13 in Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organisation,” a US military official confirmed to CNN that the target was TTP chief.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: NATION IS PROUD OF ITS BRAVE ARMED FORCES, SAYS ASKARI (JUNE 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, June 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Nation is proud of its brave armed forces: Askari
SOURCE: Pakistan Observer
Friday, June 15, 2018
By SALIM AHMED

Corps Commander Lahore Lt. Gen. Amir Riaz called on Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi at Chief Minister’s Office, here today. The Chief Minister paid rich tributes to the sacrifices of Pak army in the war against terrorism and lauded the great sacrifices of martyrs.

Talking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said that nation is proud of its brave armed forces adding that war against terrorism is the fight for the survival of the country.

The whole nation is firm and united in this war, he added. He said that armed forces of Pakistan have played a remarkable role against terrorism and every segment of life including the army, police and law enforcement agencies have rendered invaluable sacrifices. He said that those who presented their precious lives in this war are brave heroes of the nation.

The reward of immortal sacrifices of the martyrs has been achieved in shape of peace; he added and further said that nation salutes the great sacrifices of our martyrs. The passion and commitment of brave and patriotic Pakistanis is strong. He said that brutal criminals cannot face the unwavering commitment of the Pakistani nation. The brave armed forces of Pakistan have written a new history of bravery in the war against terrorism and armed forces have the fullest capabilities to deal with internal and external challenges. Pakistan has won unprecedented achievements in the war against terrorism. He said that mindset of terrorism, fanaticism; extremism and sectarianism will have to be crushed with full force.

IN THE NEWS: GROUNDWATER POLLUTION RENDERS PARTS OF AFGHAN CAPITAL UNINHABITABLE (JUNE 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Groundwater Pollution Renders Parts Of Afghan Capital Uninhabitable
SOURCE: Gandhara
Thursday, June 14, 2018 (Posted)
By NAJIA SAFI and ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

KABUL, — Residents of Afghanistan’s restive, teeming capital have struggled for years with terrorist attacks, a lack of services, a booming population, clogged traffic, and toxic air.

But the alarming pollution of Kabul’s groundwater is now rendering parts of the high-altitude capital uninhabitable. The problem is even forcing beleaguered residents to contemplate moving elsewhere.

Hameed, who goes by one name only, is one such resident. He says that the pollution in some eastern Kabul neighbourhoods is so intense that that the groundwater tastes and looks different than normal water.

“Kabul is gradually turning into a city not suitable to live in,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “All the groundwater is polluted, which adds to our miseries and has afflicted us with various diseases.”

Zahra, another Kabul resident, says polluted groundwater is now their primary concern. “We want the relevant authorities to take immediate action because our water is no longer usable,” she said.

Faiz Mohammad Misaq, a physician in Kabul, says waterborne diseases are on the rise in the capital. “We are seeing increased cases of diarrheal diseases, typhoid, and other diseases caused by bacteria and pathogens that thrive in polluted groundwater,” he said.

A study by the nongovernmental organization Fikr earlier this year established that in many areas of Kabul groundwater is contaminated with pathogens that pose a serious risk to human health.

“We have witnessed pollution in a third of the groundwater in parts of Kabul,” researcher Abbas Payendanek told Tolo News.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: ARE PAKISTAN-U.S. RELATIONS ON THE MEND? (JUNE 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Are Pakistan-US relations on the mend?
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Thursday, June 14, 2017
By TALAT MASOOD

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have remained under severe stress ever since the US raided Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout in 2011, without taking Pakistan into confidence.

Are we then to assume that the recent phone calls by US Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary Pompeo to Pakistan’s PM and COAS be taken as an indication of a thaw in US-Pakistan relations or a mere one-off diplomatic nicety?

The most obvious reason for engaging Pakistan seems to be Washington’s renewed efforts at bringing peace to Afghanistan by seeking its assistance in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. The Afghan imbroglio hangs like an albatross around the US’s neck. Prospects for peace still remain elusive. There seems to be realisation of Pakistan’s legitimate concerns and its critical role in any potential Afghan peace process that the US has been ignoring in the past. Peace in Afghanistan could be greatly facilitated with Pakistan’s cooperation. Moreover, Pakistan’s support in ensuring effectiveness of the temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan was also a consideration. China played a crucial role in influencing the Taliban to agree to President Ghani’s offer of ceasefire during Eid holidays. Despite the short duration of the ceasefire it could be a harbinger for initiating the peace process by creating a congenial climate.

The US probably has realised that its past policy of maligning Pakistan and harping on the Haqqani network has not worked and only widened the chasm between the two countries. Despite serious governance and policy weaknesses, the people of Pakistan have demonstrated once again extraordinary resilience and ability to overcome US pressures.

The other factor that strengthens Pakistan’s ability to resist pressure is its growing strategic, political and economic relationship with China.

Interestingly, Pakistan has wisely improved its relations with Russia and widened contacts with Central Asian states. The development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as a viable alternative power centre is also contributing towards diffusing the US global power and providing alternative options for countries like Pakistan.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN LEADER ISSUES EID MESSAGE, CALLS FOR TALKS (JUNE 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban Leader Issues Eid Message, Calls For Talks
SOURCE: TOLO News
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
By FARIDULLAH HUSSAINKHAIL

*The group’s leader said if the US believes in a peaceful resolution, they must resolve the crisis through dialogue

The Taliban’s leader Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada said in an Eid message that the group’s fight is to end the presence of US military in Afghanistan.

Akhundzada said the only way to rescue Afghanistan was for the US forces and, in his words, “other occupying forces” to leave the country, so that an independent, Islamic, intra-Afghan government “can take root”.

He said the group has “kept the doors of understanding and negotiations open” and “appointed the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate as the exclusive avenue of activity in this regard”.

He again called on the US to hold direct talks with the group and said if US officials believe in a peaceful resolution, then they must resolve the crisis through dialogue.

Following the announcement of a temporary ceasefire by the Afghan government with the Taliban, the United States on Thursday said it is ready to participate in talks with the Taliban.

Deputy Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Senior Director for Central Asia at the National Security Council, Lisa Curtis, said US cannot act on behalf of Afghan officials in the peace talks with the Taliban, but they want to participate in the talks.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S THIRD CURRENCY DEVALUATION NOT THE CHARM (JUNE 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s third currency devaluation not the charm
SOURCE: Asia Times
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
By GARY KLEIMAN

Pakistan stocks and bonds tried to shake off the third rupee devaluation since December as it touched 120/dollar for a 15% drop over the period.

Foreign reserves are down to $10 billion or two months’ imports on a 5% of gross domestic product current account deficit, swelled by equipment imports under China’s Economic Corridor energy and infrastructure projects and sliding remittances.

The interim government recently borrowed more through Chinese banks and the bilateral central bank swap line to bolster the position and repay foreign debt, as the business and financial communities brace for possible reapplication of an International Monetary Fund program after July elections. Caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar urged “immediate corrective measures” to restore debt and balance of payments sustainability, as Moody’s kept the low “B” sovereign rating on both credit and political risks.

The PML-N party in power under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had basked in the glow of IMF exit and easy global bond access before his ouster on corruption charges, but his successor faces immediate cash and economic policy credibility crises that will leave foreign investors, already net equity sellers, on edge.

The World Bank predicts a near 1% GDP growth slowdown to 5% next fiscal year, as inflation veered toward that figure in May. The budget deficit could be 6.5% of GDP when the 2017-18 year ends in June, and the World Bank expects fiscal and monetary tightening ahead. Massive government borrowing lifted public debt to 80% of output, and interest payments exceed development and defense spending.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN’S SURPRISE CEASEFIRE SPARKS HOPES (JUNE 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban’s surprise ceasefire sparks hopes
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
By MOHAMMAD ZAHIR AKBARI

The surprise and unprecedented ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban has sparked hopes that the move may open the door for peace talks and eventually end the nearly 17-year conflicts. The Afghan officials including Afghan people widely expressed hopes that the temporary ceasefire may lead to the extension of the period of ceasefire.

Some people say that the pleasure of shedding no Afghan blood in Eid might become so irresistible that rest of year is also declared as Afghan Eid. Meanwhile, in three days, the unity of Taliban insurgents will be put to test; If different factions don’t accept the ceasefire, then attacks will continue.

Since 2001, this is the first time that Taliban have agreed to a ceasefire, and follows the unilateral truce announcement by Afghan, foreign supported, government. The Taliban have long insisted on the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a precondition for peace talks — a major sticking point to kick-starting any potential negotiations. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “the Taliban move was an opportunity for the militants to realize their violent campaign was not winning them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause”. In recent years, they have intensely increased their fatal attacks in Afghanistan, particularly Kabul, with the nascent Islamic State group adding to the challenges faced by struggling security forces. The capital becomes the deadliest place in the country for civilians as casualties’ surge.

Ghani’s decision for ceasefire came after a historic meeting of Ulema issued a fatwa against suicide bombings but it was responded by lethal attacks in which killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace gathering tent in Kabul. The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban and Ghani endorsed the recommendation. Thus, in February, Ghani had offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 17 years of war. he proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among options including new elections involving the militants and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that last year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 civilians.
(more…)