IN THE NEWS: BALKH TRIBAL ELDERS ASK GOVT TO END POLITCAL TENSION (JANUARY 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Balkh Tribal Elders Ask Govt to End Political Tension
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Sunday, January 14, 2018

KABUL – Some tribal elders in Balkh province at a gathering on Saturday called on the National Unity Government leaders to end the rift between Presidential Palace and Atta Mohmmad Noor, the ousted governor of Balkh and CEO of Jamiat-s-Islami Party of Afghanistan.

Atta Mohammad Noor was removed from his post as governor of Balkh last year in December 18.

However, he refused to leave the province, saying that he awaits the decision of Jamiat as the party is now in talks with a government delegation.

The event was held in Mazar-e-Sharif City on Saturday where elders came from 14 districts of Balkh.

The elders, who represented different people from across Balkh, said the country will move towards a further crisis if the political tension continues.

“The leaders of the national unity government must pay attention to the fate of the people and the leadership of Balkh province and solve this problem in accordance with the values of democracy and the provisions of the constitution,” said Sayed Abdul Jabar Jamal, a tribal elder and head of the Sadat Social Association.

“The rise value of foreign currencies (Against Afghani), the increase in insecurity in different provinces, the rise in food prices and so on are the results of these (political) issues which have made life difficult for the people,” Jamal added.

Other participants of the gathering meanwhile blamed the government leaders for the increase of Taliban and Daesh presence and insecurity in parts of the country.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: ANALYSIS – PML-N HUMBLED IN BALOCHISTAN (JANUARY 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

ANALYSIS: PML-N HUMBLED IN BALOCHISTAN
SOURCE: Dawn
Sunday, January 14, 2018
By MUHAMMAD AKBAR NOTEZAI

POLITICS is a tricky business in Balochistan; no one knows for certain what will happen next.
Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo — the new provincial chief executive — epitomises this uncertainty: a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), his ascent was made possible by the votes of the so-called dissidents of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). This is why 11 of the 14 members of his cabinet hail from the Nawaz league.

For the erstwhile ruling party, this is a major shake-up and lends credence to the impression that as a party, PML-N is only seen when it is in power. Indeed, following the ouster of their government, it suddenly seems as if the party does not exist in Balochistan anymore.

“The province has slipped out of PML-N’s control,” argues Sabauddin Saba, an Urdu columnist based in Quetta. “This is the beginning of the end for the Nawaz league.”

But party leaders have a clear idea about why this is happening. “The main purpose behind removing Nawab Sanaullah Zehri was to punish former prime minister Nawaz Sharif,” a PML-N member told Dawn on condition of anonymity.

There are also those who accuse the unseen hands of undemocratic forces of engineering this turn of events, but the fact is that mainstream political parties have always struggled to understand Balochistan and its political culture.

There are no longer any ideologically-driven parties in the provincial set-up; people vote not for parties, but for individuals who bend in the wind whenever there is an upheaval.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: SPAT ASIDE, U.S.-PAKISTAN DIALOGUE CHANNELS REMAIN OPEN (JANUARY 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, January 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Spat aside, US-Pakistan dialogue channels remain open
SOURCE: Dawn
Friday, January 12, 2018
By BAQIR SAJJAD SYED

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States are keeping channels of communication open in a bid to cool the row over terror sanctuaries that worsened with President Trump’s baffling New Year Day Twitter tirade.

“The two sides continue to communicate with each other on various issues of mutual interest at different levels,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said at a briefing on Thursday.

The US State Department had after President Trump’s tweet about getting nothing from Pakistan except “lies and deceit” despite paying $33 billion over the past 15 years suspended all military assistance for Pakistan. The freeze is likely to affect up to $900 million that Pakistan was to get this year from US in security aid.

But, soon after the announcement of the aid suspension, US Defence Secretary James Mattis disclosed that the Centcom Commander, who oversees the war effort in Afghanistan, was talking to Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

FO clarifies Asif’s remarks, saying he was only expressing his frustration at unwarranted accusations against Islamabad

The FO spokesman refused to go into the details of the talks saying they were being kept out of media glare. He wouldn’t either say at what level the talks were currently being held.

The two sides had earlier initiated a dialogue after the announcement of the new US policy for the region. However, the engagement ended last month without breaking the impasse. The process had started with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary Mattis visited Islamabad, while Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif travelled to Washington for talks.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: ‘BLOODIEST’ YEAR EVER FOR JOURNALISTS IN AFGHANISTAN (JANUARY 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, January 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

‘Bloodiest’ Year Ever For Journalists In Afghanistan
SOURCE: RFE / RL
Friday, January 12, 2018

An Afghan media watchdog says that 2017 was the “bloodiest” year ever for journalists and other media personnel working in Afghanistan, with the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militant groups being blamed for much of the violence.

The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) said in a report released on January 11 that 20 journalists and media workers were killed last year, an increase from 13 deaths in 2016.

The group said there were 169 reported cases of violence and threats against journalists on the job, with 12 of them directed toward female media workers. In 2106, AJSC documented 101 such cases.

The report said “terrorist groups” such as the Taliban and IS were responsible for “all cases of the killings of journalists.” The Taliban was blamed for the deaths of 18 journalists, while IS was blamed for two.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been fighting Taliban extremists since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 drove them from power. IS and other terror groups have also begun operating in Afghanistan, often attacking mosque worshippers and government and security officials, along with journalists.

“An unprecedented increase in threats and violence against journalists has created serious concern about the survival of freedoms of expression and press,” the Kabul-based AJSC said in its regular six-month report.

“Because freedom of expression, freedom of press, and media pluralism are among the country’s most important achievements in the past 16 years, the threat to media is considered a threat to the country’s overall progress,” added the group, which describes itself as an independent, nonprofit organization supporting press freedom in Afghanistan.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTANIS PROTEST AS POLICE SEARCH FOR GIRL’S KILLER (JANUARY 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistanis protest as police search for girl’s killer
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Thursday, January 11, 2017
By ALIA CHUGTAI

* Pakistan’s police are being criticised for failing to apprehend the man who raped and murdered a seven-year-old girl.
* The girl was the 12th raped and murdered in the city over the past year

Karachi, Pakistan – Scores of demonstrators continued to protest the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in the central Pakistani town of Kasur, while four security personnel who opened fire on an earlier demonstration were taken into custody.

Protesters blocked the main roads into the city, about 50km south of the eastern city of Lahore, using tractors and large cement blocks, and shouted slogans against the government on Thursday.

They called for “justice for Zainab”, the name of the child whose body was found in a rubbish dump on Wednesday after being missing for four days. Closed-circuit television footage showed her being led down a street near her home by an unidentified man.

On Thursday, police told Al Jazeera they were still investigating leads, after interrogating 227 people in connection with the case.

The rape and murder of Zainab Ansari was the 12th such case in Kasur district in the last year, according to local media reports.

In the first half of 2017, at least 1,764 cases of child abuse were reported across Pakistan, according to the non-profit Sahil child protection organisation. At least 65 percent of those occurred in Punjab province, where Kasur is situated.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE CELLS OPERATE IN KABUL UNDER NOSES OF AFGHAN AND U.S. FORCES (JANUARY 10, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

IS cells operate in Kabul under noses of Afghan and US forces
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
By AFP

* New IS base?

Middle-class Afghans turned militants have assisted the banned Islamic State (IS) group’s expansion from its stronghold in Afghanistan’s restive east to Kabul, analysts say, helping to make the capital one of the deadliest places in the country.

IS has claimed nearly 20 attacks across Kabul in 18 months, with cells including students, professors and shopkeepers evading Afghan and US security forces to bring carnage to the highly fortified city.

It is an alarming development for Kabul’s war-weary civilians and beleaguered security forces, who are already struggling to beat back the resurgent Taliban, as well as the US counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan.

“This is not just a group that has a rural bastion in eastern Afghanistan — it is staging high casualty, high visibility attacks in the nation’s capital and I think that’s something to be worried about,” said analyst Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Centre in Washington.

The Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K), the Middle East group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, emerged in the region in 2014, largely made up of disaffected fighters from the Taliban and other jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE EXPANDED FOOTPRINT IN PAKISTAN IN 2017 (JANUARY 9, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Islamic State expanded footprint in Pakistan in 2017
SOURCE: Afghanistan Sun
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
By SHEETAL SUKHIJA

* ISIS claimed six of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan in 2017
* A total of 153 people were killed as part of these six ISIS-led terrorist attacks
* The Pakistan Security Report 2017 said that ISIS had expanded in the country

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – After facing a deadly defeat in the Middle East, the group, once believed to be the world’s most dangerous terrorist outfit – the Islamic State military group, or ISIS is now believed to be spreading its wings in central Asia.

The Pakistan Security Report 2017, released by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), revealed that over the last year, ISIS has claimed responsibility for six of the deadliest attacks in the country that have killed 153 people.

The report noted that the activities of the Islamic State are on the rise in Sindh and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan.

According to the report by the think tank, most of the terror attacks in the country in 2017 were however carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

PIPS official Muhammad Ismail Khan was quoted as saying, “The ISIS has claimed responsibility for just six terrorist attacks in the country, but they were the most deadliest ones, such as attacks on the convoy of Senate deputy chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Sehwan shrine, Shah Noorani shrine in Lasbela, Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta and Dargah Pir Rakhyal Shah in Fatehpur area of Jhal Magsi district and the abduction and killing of two Chinese nationals.”
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S ASYMMETRICAL RESPONSE TO TRUMP’S TWEET IS A CLEVER WAY TO FLIP THE TABLES ON AFGHANISTAN (JANUARY 8, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, January 8th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s asymmetrical response to Trump’s tweet is a clever way to flip the tables on Afghanistan
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, January 8, 2018
By ANDREW KORYBKO

The US-backed Afghan government is already failing its citizens as it is.

Donald Trump is soon going to regret what he tweeted about Pakistan on New Year’s Day, in accusing it of giving safe haven to terrorists, since Islamabad is poised to hit Washington with an asymmetrical counterpunch that it surely won’t forget.

The Pakistani government just announced that over 1.9 million Afghan refugees must leave the country within the next 30 days, a plan that it has been working on for a while, which just received not only a fresh impetus, but an internationally-acceptable justification with Trump’s tweet.

Had it not been for the American President’s zero-tolerance towards immigration from what his administration labels as “terrorist-prone” countries, which crucially includes Afghanistan for substantial and not political reasons (as the latter relates to Iran’s inclusion and Saudi Arabia’s exclusion), then Pakistan would have risked drawing heavy pressure from the State Department on exaggerated claims that it is “violating the human rights” of the refugees.

Trump, however, said that Pakistan was giving “safe haven to the terrorists”, and since the US formally regards Afghan refugees as being too much of a potential security hazard to allow into its own country, it is forced to accept Pakistan’s expulsion of 1.9 million of them on the implicit basis that they also constitute a serious terrorist threat to the state, such as the one the president tweeted about.

This isn’t at all what Trump meant when he issued his tweet, nor the reaction that he was expecting. By cleverly exploiting the president’s own policies at home and the suggestion he was making towards Pakistan abroad, Islamabad found a creative way to asymmetrically strike back at Washington.

Not only could Pakistan soon rid itself of actual terrorist sleeper cells and societal malcontents who have long overstayed their welcome in the neighbouring country, it will also be catalysing a series of cascading crises for Kabul through the employment of what can be described as reverse “weapons of mass migration”.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: U.S. CONVEYS ‘CONCRETE’ STEPS PAKISTAN MUST TAKE TO RESUME SECURITY AID FLOW (JANUARY 8, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, January 8th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US conveys ‘concrete’ steps Pakistan must take to resume security aid flow
SOURCE: Dawn
Monday, January 8, 2018
By AFP

* Suspension of aid a ‘chance’ for Pakistan: CIA chief
* Worsening relations

The United States has told Pakistan what it must do if it wants Washington to resume paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid, the Pentagon said on Monday.

“Our expectations are straightforward,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning told reporters.

“Taliban and Haqqani leadership and attack planners should no longer be able to find safe haven or conduct operations from Pakistani soil.”

Last week, President Donald Trump froze payments from the “Coalition Support Fund” for Pakistan, worth $900 million, saying Pakistan is not doing enough to target Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group bases.

The coalition funding is set aside to refund Pakistani spending on counter-terrorism operations.

Also in question is almost $1 billion of US military equipment that has allowed Pakistan access to advanced military technology.

“The United States has conveyed to Pakistan specific and concrete steps that it could take,” Manning said.

“We stand ready to work with Pakistan to combat terrorist groups without distinction. We will continue these conversations with the Pakistani government in private.”

Pentagon officials are watching to see if Pakistan is going to retaliate against the US by cutting supply lines to US troops from its port at Karachi into Afghanistan.

So far, Manning said, there was no sign Islamabad was preparing to take that course of action. He stressed that the suspension of funding was not permanent “at this time” and that the money was not being diverted elsewhere.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFTER TRUMP’S DIATRIBE, SENSIBLE APPROACH NEEDED TO RESCUE ECONOMY (JANUARY 8, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, January 8th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

After Trump’s diatribe, sensible approach needed to rescue economy
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, January 8, 2018
By IHTASHAMUL HAQUE

* US may influence global institutions to stop disbursing billions to Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s $4-billion annual foreign assistance is at stake due to rapidly deteriorating relations with the United States and the matter is becoming serious in the absence of a functional government.

The way things are unfolding, the PML-N government could face suspension of conventional and commercial sources of foreign funding and the issue requires urgent policy action. The important question, however, is whether anybody in the government is realising that economic stranglehold by the superpower is around the corner.

The Trump administration has refused to release $225 million in economic assistance and there is no hope that it will disburse the remaining $4 billion that was to come through the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which in fact is a reimbursement.

A total assistance of $33 billion offered over the past 17 years by the US includes $22 billion in security assistance and $11 billion in economic support. Serious implications of US policies, it is said, should not be ignored, especially when the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) would be influenced to stop disbursing $2.3 billion – $1.2 billion by the ADB, $1 billion by the International Development Association (IDA) – a concessionary window of the World Bank, and $0.1 billion by the IBRD.

Besides this, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) could be pressurised through Bahrain to desist from disbursing $1.6 billion annual assistance to Pakistan. This is a short-term credit line made available over the years to meet Pakistan’s urgent financial needs. “This makes a total of $4 billion in annual assistance, which I am afraid could be withheld because of the new very hostile US policy towards Islamabad,” a former finance minister said.

“The problem is we have a very weak government and things are compounded when one does not find any governance,” he said while requesting anonymity.
(more…)