IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN ANNOUNCES SPRING OFFENSIVE AMID AFGHAN PEACE EFFORTS (APRIL 12, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, April 12th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban Announces Spring Offensive Amid Afghan Peace Efforts
SOURCE: TOLO News
Friday, April 12, 2019

*The Ministry of Defense spokesman Qais Mangal said the Taliban’s spring offensive is “mere propaganda”

The Taliban on Friday announced their annual spring offensive, which comes as the Afghan and US politicians try to negotiate for a peace settlement with the militant group.

Operation Fath — which means “victory” in Arabic — will be conducted across Afghanistan with the aim of “eradicating occupation” and “cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption”, Taliban said in a statement.

The annual spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though the announcement is largely symbolic as in
recent winters the Taliban has continued fighting Afghan and US forces.

“Our Jihadi obligation has not yet ended,” the Taliban said.

The Ministry of Defense spokesman Qais Mangal said the Taliban’s spring offensive is “mere propaganda”.

This comes after the Afghan government on announced on April 2 that President Ashraf Ghani has approved the security plan for the current solar year as conflicts are intensifying between security forces and Taliban in different parts of the country. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PTI GOVT’S NON-PAPER SHOWS: HOW LAUNDERED $26 MILLION LANDED IN SHAHBAZ FAMILY’S ACCOUNT (APRIL 12, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, April 12th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PTI govt’s non-paper shows: How laundered $26m landed in Shahbaz family’s accounts
SOURCE: The News International
Friday, April 12, 2019
By ANSAR ABBASI

ISLAMABAD: The money laundering case, presently being pursued by the NAB and publicised by the PTI government against Shahbaz Sharif, his first wife and two sons, talks about $26 million that was allegedly laundered through remittances and landed in the family members’ bank accounts.

This is the case that Prime Minister Imran Khan wants his party men to propagate through the media. The Sharif family as well as the PML-N, however, dub this case yet another example of political victimisation.

Although, the courts will decide if there is any substance in this case or not, the ruling PTI leadership believes it’s a most serious and concrete case against the Shahbaz Sharif family. In earlier cases like Ashiana, Saaf Pani, etc, made against Shahbaz Sharif by the NAB amid tall claims, the Bureau had to face embarrassment as the LHC found these cases to have been made with mala fide intentions.

A PTI government source shared with this correspondent a brief of the alleged money laundering case against Shahbaz Sharif and family. The same brief, it is said, has been shared with Prime Minister Imran Khan and others.

According to the brief, the case against Shahbaz Sharif and his family members, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, Suleman Shahbaz Sharif and Nusrat Shahbaz Sharif, relates to “international organised money laundering” and acquiring assets beyond income. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: FOREIGN MEDIA, DIPLOMATS VISIT BALAKOT (APRIL 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

FOREIGN MEDIA, DIPLOMATS VISIT BALAKOT
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Thursday, April 11, 2019

*ORGANIZED BY THE MILITARY, THE TRIP SHOWED THE GROUP ‘GROUND REALITIES’ OF THE INDIAN AIRSTRIKE FROM FEBRUARY

A group of foreign journalists and diplomats were escorted to the site of an Indian airstrike to show that, contrary to New Delhi’s claims, no infrastructure was damaged, Pakistan’s military spokesman said.

The visiting group, which Major General Asif Ghafoor said was mostly based in Delhi, was shown observing a crater in Balakot in video published via Twitter late Wednesday, on the eve of India’s massive election. The group saw the “ground realities” of the strike site, Ghafoor said in a caption accompanying the tweet.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has campaigned hard on what he claims is the success of the Feb. 26 strike. Indian officials have claimed up to 250 militants were killed. Pakistan has denied from the start that there was any damage or casualties, with Modi’s counterpart Imran Khan framing it as an election ploy.

With the first phase of polls in India’s massive election opening on Thursday, Modi has styled himself as India’s “chowkidar” (watchman), and anyone even questioning the action against Pakistan is given short shrift.

But independent reporting by multiple local and international outlets who have visited the site found no evidence of a major terrorist training camp—or of any infrastructure damage at all. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: UNDERSTANDING U.S. INTERESTS IN PAKISTAN (APRIL 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Understanding US interests in Pakistan
SOURCE: The Express tribune
Thursday, April 11, 2019
By RAZA KHAN

It is Pakistan’s good fortune that the US has important interests in Pakistan as it has had kept extensive relations with it despite many ups and downs. Yet, since the dawn of the 21st century, the mutual relations have been dominated by the Afghan conflict. Moreover, as Pakistan is currently engaged with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to contract a huge bailout package to address its colossal macroeconomic woes, its policymakers must understand that most international economic decisions are determined by international political factors. Against this backdrop also, understanding the key interests of Washington in Pakistan becomes important for our policymakers as the US has a dominant voting share in all major international financial institutions, particularly the IMF. So if Pakistan would have to contract economic packages from the IMF, it would have to show flexibility on political questions with the US.

Since the turn of this century, the US has the following key objectives in Pakistan: to get all-out support from Pakistan in the War on Terror, including military, counterinsurgency operations in the tribal areas, logistical and intelligence support primarily in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world like Iraq and Yemen; preventing Pakistan from (what Washington fears) proliferating nuclear material and technology particularly to Iran; getting Pakistan’s support for reconstruction in Afghanistan and its stabilisation; courting Pakistan to support the anti-Iran stance of the US; pressuring Pakistan into giving Gwadar Port control to US companies instead of China; to reduce Pakistan-India tensions but not by playing a role in resolving the key issue of Kashmir. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ABDULLAH SEES A ROLE FOR TALIBAN IF THEY QUIT VIOLENCE (APRIL 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Abdullah Sees A Role For Taliban If They Quit Violence
SOURCE: TOLO News
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

*Abdullah says he supports the US efforts to pursue a ceasefire with the Taliban
* Abdullah Says Fighting Terrorism Needs Collective Efforts
* Abdullah Renews Govt’s Commitment To Peace Process

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah says the Taliban can be part of a political process and that they can represent the people of Afghanistan at any level if the group gives up violence.

“The minute they joined the political process, they give up violence, they cut their ties with terrorist groups and organizations, they can be part of the political process,” Abdullah said. “They can be representatives of the people if they were voted for. And they can represent the people of Afghanistan at any level.”

“My concern is that since they know that true elections, they might not have a chance because the people of Afghanistan don’t want Talibanisation. They want peace, but they don’t want to live like the way that the Taliban want them to live,” Abdullah said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PTI IN LA-LA LAND (APRIL 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PTI in la-la land
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
By ZAHID HUSSAIN

THE magic wand has not worked. The promise of change has turned into a nightmare. Still, there is no shortage of self-congratulations. The eight-month rule of the PTI has so far been a lesson in how to blunder through.

It is not just about incompetence and inexperience but also about the self-righteousness that has become the hallmark of the Khan government.

The promise of instant good governance is far from being fulfilled; instead, chaos and paralysis have stalled even the regular functioning of the administration. The drift seems unstoppable. The performance of the government shows the limits of populism.

Imran Khan is now doing everything that he had criticised the previous governments for. He is launching the same kind of tax amnesty schemes that he had vehemently opposed in the past. He had labelled such schemes as ‘legalised corruption’. Has it now been declared kosher? For him, taking U-turns is a sign of leadership.

His so-called austerity drive has been flaunted by the PTI government in Punjab that has recently ordered a new fleet of 70 luxury cars for provincial ministers. The total cost of these new vehicles is certainly much higher than the money fetched by the auction of the Prime Minister House vehicles that he had declared were symbols of status quo that needed to be broken. A ‘humble’ background has not stopped his handpicked chief minister in Punjab from attempting to secure substantial benefits for his life after the high post. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN PM KHAN SAYS ANTI-MILITANT PUSH VITAL FOR STABILITY (APRIL 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan PM Khan Says Anti-Militant Push Vital for Stability
SOURCE: The New York Times
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s push to curb armed militant groups in the wake of a standoff with India that brought the nuclear-armed neighbors close to war reflected an urgent need for stability to meet growing economic challenges, Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Facing a financial crisis and heavy pressure to take on militant groups to avoid sanctions from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terror finance watchdog, Khan said Pakistan was acting in its own interests.

“Everyone now knows that what is happening in Pakistan has never happened (before),” Khan told a group of foreign journalists at his office in Islamabad on Tuesday, outlining a push to bring the more than 30,000 madrasas across Pakistan under government control and rehabilitate thousands of former militants.

“We have decided, this country has decided, for the future of the country – forget outside pressure – we will not allow armed militias to operate,” he said.

The comments underline a push by Pakistan to improve its image after years of accusations that its security services have exploited militant groups as proxies against neighbors, including India and Afghanistan.

Islamabad has consistently denied the accusations and said Pakistan has suffered more from militant violence than any other country, with tens of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in economic damage over recent decades. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: WORRIES IN AFGHANISTAN OVER MOUNTING U.S.-IRAN TENSIONS (APRIL 9, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Worries In Afghanistan Over Mounting U.S.-Iran Tensions
SOURCE: Gandhara
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE and NAJIA SAFI

KABUL, — Afghans are worried over the possible impact of growing tensions between Iran and the United States after Tehran reacted sharply to Washington’s designation of its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) this week.

“The ongoing tensions and conflict between the U.S. and Iran impacts Afghanistan in the security, political, and economic spheres,” lawmaker Mohammad Daud Kalakani told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Kalakani, deputy head of the international relations commission in the lower house of the Afghan Parliament, says his country should not turn into an arena of competition between Tehran and Washington. “Tensions between them are of no benefit to Afghanistan and other countries in the region.”

Iran is prominent among Afghanistan’s six neighbours and has played a major role during the various phases of the now four-decade war in the country. The United States, on the other hand, still has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and is the main supporter and donor of Kabul. Washington is currently engaged in delicate peace talks with the Taliban to end the longest war in its history in Afghanistan.

The Shi’ite clerical regime in Tehran quietly supported Washington in ousting the hard-line Sunni Taliban from power in late 2001. But its posture gradually changed after former U.S. President George W. Bush included Iran in his ‘Axis of Evil’ during his State of the Union address in early 2002.

Still, the two mostly avoided clashing in Afghanistan directly. In recent years, Afghan and Western officials have accused Tehran of supporting the Taliban. Afghan officials even accused the Quds force, the IRGC’s special operations arm, of advising insurgents in a western Afghan province bordering Iran. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IMRAN-KHAN LED GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW PML-N’s TAX AMNESTY SCHEME (APRIL 9, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Imran Khan-led govt to withdraw PML-N’s tax amnesty scheme
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
By SHAHBAZ RANA

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to withdraw an open-ended realty sector tax amnesty scheme from July, which the previous PML-N government introduced to allow people to legalise their ill-gotten assets by paying only 3% tax any time.

The federal and provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) have also decided, in principle, to reduce withholding tax rates, stamp duties and capital value tax on property transactions from the next fiscal year 2019-20. The tax and duty rates will be reduced to incentivise people to declare their properties at fair market values instead of lower rates.

These decisions were reached at a meeting held last week between the federal finance minister and provincial finance ministers of K-P and Punjab, said an official of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Monday.

The move is aimed at curbing the use of black money for property transactions – an area that is also on the radar of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

In December 2016, the National Assembly had passed an open-ended tax amnesty scheme that allowed people to retain 97% of ill-gotten and tax-evaded money. It added Section 236-W to the Income Tax Ordinance that made the amnesty scheme permanent. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAK FM WARNS INDIA PLANNING ANOTHER AGGRESSION (APRIL 8, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, April 8th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

FM warns India planning another aggression
SOURCE: The nation
Monday, April 8, 2019
By MUHAMMAD IRTAZA

Multan – Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has warned that India is planning to launch a fresh military aggression against the country, calling for the world community’s intervention to dissuade New Delhi from endangering regional peace and stability.

“We have reliable intelligence that India is planning and preparing to carry out another military aggression against Pakistan. This action could possibly take place between the 16th to the 20th of April.” Qureshi said.

Addressing a news conference at Multan Circuit House on Sunday, Qureshi said Pakistan has formally shared the “authentic information” and conveyed its “apprehensions” to diplomats in Islamabad representing the five permanent member countries of the United Nations Security Council.

“We want the international community to take notice of this irresponsible behaviour and warn India against treading this path,” Qureshi stressed.

“I am saying it with responsibility and I have a responsible position, I know each word I say would make headlines in the international press,” said Qureshi

The FM warned that if India committed any aggression they would give (them) a befitting answer in light of nation’s aspirations and international laws. He said the news of another military action could be heard from India and so far no contradiction of it was received which was an issue of serious concern. “We want the world to take notice of irresponsible behaviour of India and warn it to refrain from taking this path,” he asserted. He pointed out that many countries kept silent on Indian aggression due to geo-politics and if the international community remained silent again it could ruin the peace in South Asia. (more…)