IN THE NEWS: A MUCH-FEARED TALIBAN OFFSHOOT RETURNS FROM THE DEAD (JULY 19, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

A much-feared Taliban offshoot returns from the dead
SOURCE: The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
By HAQ NAWAZ KHAN and PAMELA CONSTABLE

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — When a fake sewage tanker truck carrying 3,000 pounds of explosives managed to reach a high-security district of Kabul on May 31, then detonated a huge bomb that left 150 people dead and 400 wounded, no insurgent or terror group claimed responsibility. But immediately, the rumours began to spread.

The Haqqanis. It had to be the Haqqani Network, people said. No one else could have pulled off such a precise and spectacular crime. The Afghan intelligence police soon publicly accused them too, adding that they had gotten help from Pakistan’s spy agency. Six weeks later, the bombing still remains unclaimed, and the Afghan capital is still reeling from it.

By rights, the Haqqanis should be barely standing. For years, this clan-based Taliban offshoot has been a high-priority target for Afghan forces and their U.S.-led allies. The group’s charismatic founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is believed to have died of illness, and most of his sons and senior commanders have either been killed or imprisoned. Pakistan, which once allowed the Haqqanis to rule their own “ministate” in the border badlands, now claims to have driven them out.

So why does the name “Haqqani Network” still evoke such dread? Why is this group of a few thousand fighters still center stage in a grinding, 16-year war, and why have their elusive whereabouts become Exhibit A among those who contend that the Trump administration must now punish Pakistan, a longtime security and military ally, for harbouring terrorists?

The answers to the Haqqanis’ survival have much to do with qualities that Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former Taliban minister and friend of Osama bin Laden, cultivated and passed on to his surviving son and successor, Sirajuddin. These include kinship bonds and unwavering religious ideology, strong discipline and careful planning, and an enduring ability to attract supporters, whether young suicide-bomb trainees or generous Middle Eastern backers. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: CAN PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN DEVELOP A RATIONAL RELATIONSHIP? (JULY 19, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Can Pakistan and Afghanistan develop a rational relationship?
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
By TALAT MASOOD

Pakistan’s greatest foreign policy challenge is to normalise relations with Afghanistan. Although Pakistan has years of experience in dealing with our western neighbour, regrettably our policy towards it lacks clarity and is heavily security biased. Ever since Afghan jihad and right up to now Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan has been India-centric.

This distortion has led us to support various militant groups in Afghanistan and thereby damaging our relations both with Kabul and Washington. A stage has now reached that if not corrected, it could invite increased hostility from the US and Afghanistan, and provide India political support to continue taking a hardline towards us.

No doubt, the Afghan government’s semi-dysfunctional status poses a dilemma for Pakistan. Despite these shortcomings, Islamabad should make serious efforts to engage with Kabul on all security and interstate matters. After all, if the rest of the world is engaging with Kabul despite the chaos in Afghanistan we need to do the same and work towards building mutual confidence. Our previous policy of supporting the Taliban has been the primary reason for Kabul’s distrust. It is long overdue that we revise this policy and develop clarity about our relations with the Taliban. The policy of being accommodative towards the Haqqani Network and Shura seems to have become obsolete and as a senior diplomat remarked “poses a clear and present danger.” They are no substitute for a stable relationship with the Afghan government now or in the future. There is no doubt that the Taliban has control of vast areas in Afghanistan and even if they were to capture power, it does not mean that they would be able to hold it for long. After all, we have the recent example of Daesh in the Middle East.

It is a mistaken assumption that to contain Afghanistan, Indian partnership lies in supporting the Taliban. The sound option is to follow the established norms of state-to-state relations. We cannot allow the Haqqani Network to operate in Pakistan. Experience has shown that the Taliban have never shown any compromise unless they are defeated militarily. The Taliban or any of the insurgent groups should not be allowed to use our territory, be it for planning, rest or recreation, except for the purpose of engaging in peace negotiations. In our engagement with the US we have to be candid about our Afghan policy and limitations in influencing the Taliban. Washington should be apprised frankly to what extent we could support them and where we cannot. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PANAMA PAPERS CASE: PM’s LAWYER RESUMES ARGUMENTS BEFORE SC (JULY 18, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Panama Papers case: PM’s lawyer resumes arguments before SC
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, July 18, 2017
By HASEEB BHATTI

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s senior counsel Khawaja Harris resumed his arguments in the Panama Papers case on Tuesday before the Supreme Court bench, objecting to the findings of the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report, which he called “unreliable” and “misleading”.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, resumed the Panamagate case hearings on Monday after nearly two months.

During the lawyer’s arguments, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the PM, despite being given the opportunity, did not “give us anything”, DawnNews reported.

“He [Nawaz sharif] was asked about his speech, but he did not answer […] when he was asked about the London flats, he said that he did not know,” said the judge.

“Don’t accept, don’t reveal — that seems to be the thinking,” said Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

Harris told the court that the documents submitted on behalf of the Sharif family on Monday were based on legal objections. “The JIT’s opinion does not have a legal holding,” he added.

Justice Ejaz Afzal replied that the judges will not look at JIT’s opinion, but instead, they will take into consideration the contents of the report.

Hudaibiya Paper Mills

Harris argued that the JIT did not have the mandate to recommend reopening cases, yet, in its final report, the team had recommended to reopen 15 cases against the PM. Among the 15 cases are five that have already been decided by the Lahore High Court (LHC). “The JIT has mentioned cases that have already been quashed; the LHC decided upon the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference as well,” Harris asserted. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: SINDH’S POLLUTED WATER (JULY 18, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Sindh’s polluted water
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday July 18, 2017

RECENT analysis by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) of surface and groundwater samples from across Sindh reveals that water quality in the province has worsened — 80pc (from 75pc a few months ago) of sampled sources, including at educational institutions and tertiary-care hospitals, is now contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and unfit for human consumption.

Add to this the extent to which the creeks of the Indus delta have been polluted with heavy metals and emerging cases of multidrug-resistant typhoid, and we have before us an environmental and public health crisis of devastating proportions.

Unsafe water supply and inadequate sanitation are responsible for substantial economic and human losses. Children are the most vulnerable to preventable water-related diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and polio; diarrhoeal diseases are the leading cause of infant and child deaths in the country. Sindh leads with the highest number of cases of diarrhoea as well as the highest number of deaths of children under five.

This has placed a tremendous burden on the province’s already under-resourced public health sector. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: NEW WATER RESOURCES STRATEGY LANDS IN PARLIAMENT (JULY 18, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

New Water Resources Strategy Lands in Parliament
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Wednesday, July 18, 2017

KABUL – The energy and water minister on Monday presented a new strategy on the country’s water resources to the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of the parliament for approval.

Eng. Ali Ahmad Usmani, the minister said, his ministry’s studies showed that environmental problems had resulted from the shortage of water in Afghanistan and as well as Iran’s poor management of water resources.

Testifying before a hearing session of the Wolesi Jirga, Usman said the new water resources strategy had three orientations including availability of water, management of water and diplomacy.

All challenges towards construction of dams and environment in Afghanistan and regional countries including Iran and Pakistan had been accurately studied in the new strategy, he said.

The new water resources strategy suggested construction of 40 dams across the country, Usmani added.

“The Ministry of Energy and Water is faced with serious procurement problems, our water resources may be lost if this problem is not resolved, no investor in such a situation shows interest in construction of dams,” he said.

The minister said he had no authority in executive affairs and this gave birth to challenges the water resources faced. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S FAILING TRADE STRATEGY (JULY 17, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, July 17th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s failing trade strategy
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, July 17, 2017
By MANZOOR AHMAD

*Country is not in sync with the rest of the world as far as its policies are concerned

ISLAMABAD: According to a recent press report, the government of Pakistan has finally realised that its 3-year Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) implemented in 2016 has failed and it needs to be discarded and recalibrated.

When the policy was being implemented in 2015, some of us had pointed out that the framework was likely to face the same fate as its predecessor 2012-15 policy. Now that we are nearing June 2018, our target date for achieving $35 billion, it is being realised that we never had the right policies in place.

Trade policy likely to meet the same fate as earlier ones

Our poor export performance means we will continue to be a laggard in the South Asian region. Although our economy is now growing at about 5%, faster than any time in the last ten years, it is still one of the slowest in the region. India is expected to grow by 7.4% in 2017 and further to 7.6% the year after. Bangladesh is expected to grow at 6.9% in 2017 and 2018. Bhutan is estimated to grow at 8.2% in 2017 and 9.9% in 2018 through focusing on hydroelectric projects. Even the earthquake-devastated Nepal’s growth is at 5.6% in 2017 and 5.4% in 2018; ahead of us as we are forecasted to grow at 5.2% in 2017 and 5.5% in 2018.

What our policymakers have to realise is that Pakistan is out of tune with the rest of the world as far as its trade policy is concerned.

Unless our exports start growing at 14 to 15% as they did during the early 2000s (2001 to 2006), we will continue to lose our trade share, which has been falling by 1.45% per year for the last 10 years.

The global trading patterns have changed. Almost 70% of global trade is now conducted through global supply chains (GVCs). Around 30% of total trade consists of re-exports of intermediate inputs. Pakistan is not a part of these emerging trends because of its high taxes on international trade and cumbersome trade procedures. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: MID-YEAR UN REPORT PAINTS GRIM PICTURE (JULY 17, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, July 17th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Mid-Year UN Report Paints Grim Picture
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, July 17, 2017

*The UN said in its latest report that extreme harm to civilians continues amid a worsening toll from suicide attacks

The number of civilians killed and injured in the Afghanistan conflict during the first six months of 2017 persisted at the same record high levels as last year, according to a mid-year report from the United Nations.

A statement issued by the organization said: “Extreme harm to civilians continued amid a worsening toll from suicide attacks, and a greater impact on women and children.”

A total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between 1 January and 30 June – an increase of two percent against the same period last year, according to figures from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The number of civilians injured in the same period fell one percent to 3,581.

“The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan – loss of life, destruction and immense suffering – is far too high,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.

“The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop,” he said.

The report highlights that 40 per cent of all civilian casualties during the six-month period were killed or injured by anti-government forces using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices, which were responsible for the deaths of 596 civilians and injured 1,483. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: WHY IS INDIA SO ANGRY (JULY 16, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Why is India so angry
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, July 16, 2017
By NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

*How India views Pakistan, and how it views its own Muslim population have always been two sides of the same coin; in BJP-ruled India, this has become all too apparent

A strange thing has happened in recent years: the word peace, “shanthi/shantha” in Sanskrit and all Sanskritic Indian languages, a common Indian name for women and men, and a word that is part of everyday prayers in Hindu households — “Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi-hi” — has become a pejorative. It is used as a word of abuse, or accusation.

An Indian who wants her country to seek peace with itself, and with neighbours, particularly with Pakistan, is someone who is backward, a moron, an offspring of an illegitimate relationship, betrayer of India, and Indianness. At the very least, any talk of peace with Pakistan is likely to be met with a raised eyebrow and a “You’re one of those, are you?”

In truth, we did not get here yesterday, or even in 2014. What we see today is the product of over 70 years of bad history that began over partition, and got handed down from generation to generation. The hope that memories would fade, that a new generation of Indians and Pakistanis, would step up to normalise relations, was misplaced. Instead, each generation has experienced war or terrorism or failed talks.
Still, the present public animosity in India towards Pakistan is at a scale that has never been so evident earlier, at least not in recent memory. One reason, of course, is that social media has enabled the easy public expression of views in a way that was not possible before.

As well, Indians who have come of age in the last 10 years have no significant memory markers of India-Pakistan ties aside from the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that can offer a counterpoint to the narrative of terrorism from Pakistan. Instead, since Modi’s ascent to power, there has been a Pathankot, most certainly in response to Narendra Modi’s Lahore visit, an Uri, surgical strikes and the rest.

26/11 put all that in a box and shelved it. Pathankot has become the untearable duct tape on that box. Even the formidably popular Fawad Khan did not survive the anti-Pakistan sentiment that has held sway since then. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN ARMY LAUNCHES OPERATION KHYBER-IV IN RAJGAL VALLEY (JULY 16, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Army launches operation Khyber-IV in Rajgal Valley
SOURCE: The Frontier Post
Sunday, July 16, 2017

RAWALPINDI : Pakistan Army launched an operation Khyber-IV in Rajgal Valley of Khyber Agency along the Pak-Afghan border to clear the area of terrorism.

This was announced by Director General Inter Services Public Relations Major General Asif Ghafoor in Rawalpindi on Sunday.

He said DA’ISH has increased its influence on the Afghan side and objective behind the operation is to check their cross border intrusion to carryout terrorist activities on our side of the border.

The DG said one division troops with the support of PAF are taking part in the operation. He said Rajgal Valley is the toughest terrain in FATA.

He said international border with Afghanistan will be fully secured to check infiltration of terrorists and to destroy their hideouts in our side of the border.

Asif Ghafoor said that about 500 families had been living in this area, which are currently staying at safer places as Temporarily Displaced Persons. He said due to effective security operations in the tribal belt, incidents of terrorism have reasonably been declined in the country.

Turning to Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, the ISPR Chief said 46 major operations and over 9,000 intelligence based operations were launched, while 10707 joint check posts were established across Pakistan. Thirteen major operations and over 800 IBOs were conducted in Balochistan. In Sindh, 522 terrorists voluntarily surrendered while fifteen killed. In Punjab, six major operations and over 7000 IBOs were carried out. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN TAKES UNILATERAL STEPS TOWARD AFGHAN BORDER SECURITY (JULY 15, 2017)

Written by admin on Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Takes Unilateral Steps Toward Afghan Border Security
SOURCE: Gandhara
Saturday, July 15, 2017

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says it finds it necessary to build a fence along its long porous border with Afghanistan, in part because of a lack of cooperation from authorities in Kabul. The border region has long been a source of instability, with militant groups, terrorists, and smugglers using the remote, mountainous terrain as cover.

Pakistan says it is now moving forward unilaterally to improve security in the region and increase the monitoring of millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

Afghanistan opposes the border fencing plans because it disputes the demarcation of the border, which was set by the former British rulers of the Indian subcontinent. Afghan leaders also accuse Pakistan’s military and its ISI spy agency of helping Taliban insurgents and their dreaded Haqqani network allies sustain the insurgency in Afghanistan. The allegations have long strained bilateral relations, and Islamabad’s border fencing project has fueled tensions.

‘No Option’

Speaking at an international conference in Islamabad this week, army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said the military has deployed more than 200,000 troops along the border and established nearly 1,000 posts while Afghans have maintained just over 200 outposts.

This has left a large portion of the nearly 2,600-kilometer border unguarded, making it impossible to control illegal cross-border movement, he complained. (more…)