IN THE NEWS: AFTER TRUMP’S SPENDING DEMANDS, NATO SUMMIT TURNS TO AFGHANISTAN (JULY 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

After Trump’s Spending Demands, NATO Summit Turns To Afghanistan
SOURCE: TOLO News
Thursday, July 12, 2018

NATO leaders will try on Thursday to move beyond US President Donald Trump’s demands for higher defense spending, and focus on ending the long war in Afghanistan, in the second day of a summit in Brussels underscored by transatlantic tensions.

On a trip that will also take Trump to Britain and to Helsinki to meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the president spent the first day of the NATO summit lambasting allies for failing to spend the targeted 2 percent of GDP on defense and accused Germany of being a prisoner to Russian energy.

Trump, in a late-night post on Twitter, wrote: “Billions of additional dollars are being spent by NATO countries since my visit last year, at my request, but it isn’t nearly enough. US spends too much.”

It followed an uncomfortable first round at the summit where anxious Western allies were subjected to the US president’s “America first” approach. His comment that Germany was controlled by Russia earned a rebuke from Berlin.

On day two, leaders will welcome non-NATO partners including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko to the alliance’s new glass-and-steel headquarters as they seek to focus on policy rather than politics.

British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to set the tone on Wednesday by announcing more troops for NATO’s Afghan training mission.
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IN THE NEWS: NAWAZ SAYS HE WILL RID PAKISTAN OF ‘STATE ABOVE STATE’ (JULY 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Nawaz says he will rid Pakistan of ‘state above state’
SOURCE: Dawn
Thursday, July 12, 2018
By ZULQERNAIN TAHIR

LAHORE: As the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) prepares to give a rousing welcome to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on their arrival in Lahore on Friday, the party supremo has pledged that he will liberate Pakistan from “those who are running a state above the state”.

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, on Wednesday, spent a busy day meeting workers in various areas of Lahore and mobilising them for the welcome rally planned at the Allama Iqbal International Airport to receive their leader, come what may.

Speaking at a party conference in the ballroom of the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London’s Mayfair district, Nawaz Sharif said, “Despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes, I am going to Pakistan.”

He said he was returning to the country so that he could pay back the Pakistani nation for what they had done for him: making him prime minister three times.

Later while talking to journalists, the former premier said he wished he could address his supporters at the Lahore airport.

“I ask the people, especially women, to come out of their homes like tigers, and cross all barricades to reach the Lahore airport. No one can stop a mass gathering of the people,” he said, adding that no one had ever gotten freedom in a platter, because it demands sacrifice.
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IN THE NEWS: NATO REITERATES SUPPORT TO AFGHAN PEACE AHEAD OF KEY SUMMIT (JULY 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

NATO Reiterates Support to Afghan Peace Ahead of Key Summit
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

KABUL – President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah both left Kabul on Tuesday for NATO’s heads of state summit where they hope to secure continued support from the alliance.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) said the NATO summit provides an effective platform for Afghanistan to seek continued support of the alliance towards funding and equipping the Afghan security forces until 2024 and mobilizing views of the international community towards restoring lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

According to Afghan officials, the summit is of major importance for Afghanistan in terms of security, peace talks and the continued financial support to the Afghan security forces.

“The outcome of the summit can be very important for Afghanistan. Because we have the support of our international partners towards funding and equipping the security forces and also the political consensus of the countries towards the peace process,” said Ghani’s spokesman Shahhussain Murtazawi.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile said on Tuesday at a press conference that NATO would close the summit with a meeting on Afghanistan, joined by Resolute Support partners.

“We will continue our presence in Afghanistan to put pressure on Taliban so they join the peace process.”

“Our presence in Afghanistan is vital to ensuring the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.
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IN THE NEWS: WORKING TOWARDS RECONCILIATION IN AFGHANISTAN (JULY 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Working towards reconciliation in Afghanistan
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
By TALAT MASOOD

One of the foremost foreign policy issues demanding attention by the next government would be how to inject fresh vigour in improving relations with our neighbours, particularly Afghanistan. COAS General Bajwa’s sustained efforts to develop confidence in Afghan leadership shows that Pakistan is genuinely interested in advancing the peace process is showing encouraging signs. The two countries have agreed to establish an institutional mechanism of coordinating their policies and reviewing progress periodically. This policy would need a strong civilian back-up from our side after the elections.

The collusion between Indian and Afghan intelligence was a source of concern for the Pakistan establishment. With better understanding of each other’s position this issue in future should not stand in the way of relationship.

To improve relations with Afghanistan in isolation without improving the confidence level of the US and to an extent reducing the hostility of India would be difficult, if not impossible. We would need to strengthen our Afghan policy by pursuing a similar institutional approach with major regional powers such as China and Russia.

Satisfying Afghanistan and the US on major issues such as “Pakistan’s support of Haqqani’s and Quetta Shura” is also critical. Because no policy on Afghanistan would succeed without the tacit support of the US and regrettably they still have serious reservations about “Pakistan providing shelter to top leadership of the Taliban”. Principal Deputy Assistance Secretary Alice Wells, who has been a frequent visitor to the region, remarked that Pakistan take “sustained and decisive steps” against the Taliban and encourage them to join the Afghan peace process.
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IN THE NEWS: THOUSANDS OF UNDOCUMENTED AFGHANS RETURN FROM IRAN (JULY 10, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Thousands Of Undocumented Afghans Return From Iran
SOURCE: TOLO News
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Afghanistan said in a new report that thousands of undocumented Afghans have returned home from Iran and Pakistan in the past week.

A total of 13,689 undocumented Afghans spontaneously returned or were deported from Iran through the Milak (Nimroz) and Herat (Islam Qala) border crossings between 01-07 July 2018 – nine percent more than in the previous week, the IOM said.

However, in the temporary absence of IOM, due to funding constraints, and in line with the “ONE UN” initiative, partner organizations WFP, UNICEF, WHO, DRC, and the WASH Cluster have agreed to step up and support returning Afghans using IOM facilities; thus, demonstrating a well-functioning and well-coordinated returnee response at all four border crossings with Iran and Pakistan.

On Monday, IOM held a donor roundtable in Kabul presenting its funding requirements for the remainder of this financial year with the participation of senior government officials and 19 Embassies.

In order to ensure core cross border return assistance operations, continue and specific returnee vulnerabilities are addressed, IOM is seeking $6.3 million in new funding across eight programmatic areas including but not limited to post-arrival, cash-based assistance, and protection.

In a statement issued by the organization, IOM said it was also pleased to announce that with the approval from the government of Japan, a budget reallocation means that cross border operations will resume during the week of July 15 for the rest of the month.

This brings the total number of undocumented returnees from Iran since January 1 this year to 370,575.

Meanwhile, partner organizations have agreed to step up and support returning Afghans using IOM facilities until IOM’s funding constraints have been resolved.

IN THE NEWS: DG ISPR REJECTS ‘POLITICAL ENGINEERING’ ALLEGATIONS (JULY 10, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

DG ISPR rejects ‘political engineering’ allegations
SOURCE: The News International
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

RAWALPINDI: Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations, on Tuesday said the Election Commission of Pakistan has sought Pakistan Army’s assistance in holding of general election 2018 in a free and fair manner.

Addressing a press conference , the military spokesman said all the doubts regarding the general elections have come to an end.

“Army has no direct role in conduct of the election,” he said, adding that voters should exercise their right of franchise without any fear.
“It is Election Commission’s job to address irregularities,” he said.

He said 371388 personnel would be deployed to assists the election commission. The spokesman said given the security challenges facing the country, it was not possible to deploy such a huge number of personnel at the polling stations.

He said to address this issue, the army has also called in a number of recently retired soldiers to perform election duties.

“We neither have a political party, nor any affiliation. People should vote for the candidate of their own choice,” he said.

Political Engineering

Answering a series of questions regarding allegations about rigging and army’s role in “political engineering”, he said: there is no election in which political parties didn’t level rigging allegations.
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IN THE NEWS: NAWAZ SHARIF’S CONVICTION CONFIRMS THAT A POLITICIAN CAN’T BE CORRUPT AND ANTI-MILITARY AT THE SAME TIME (JULY 9, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, July 9th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Nawaz Sharif’s conviction confirms that a politician can’t be corrupt and anti-military at the same time in Pakistan
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Monday, July 9, 2018
By HUSAIN HAQQANI

For the first 23 years after independence in 1947, Pakistanis were denied the right to vote. Since 1970, they have been allowed to vote intermittently but they are still denied the right to vote freely. The upcoming July 25 election in Pakistan has been marred by a series of attacks, some by the judiciary and others by the country’s ubiquitous military-intelligence machinery, aimed at politically decapitating former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

Sharif was disqualified a few months ago by the Supreme Court for not fulfilling the constitutional criteria for honesty and sagacity. Few, if any, prominent Pakistani politicians fulfill that vague requirement. It was inserted into the constitution by Sharif’s original mentor, General Zia ul Haq, precisely because its vagueness enabled unelected branches of government to choose who could or could not run for elected office.

Ironically, Sharif refused to support other political parties in deleting the articles of the constitution that were used to disqualify him just a few years ago. His trial, and conviction last week for possessing assets beyond his means, seems like poetic justice to those who hate the fact that he started his career as a military protégé, amassed considerable wealth while in office, and went on to build an independent political base in the Punjab province with the help of that wealth. But those who can rise above their pique at Sharif or other individual politicians realise that no politician in Pakistan is ever punished for corruption and Sharif is no exception. Sharif’s career affirms the unwritten law of Pakistani politics: A politician can be corrupt or he/she can oppose the military-led Pakistani establishment but he cannot be corrupt and anti-military at the same time. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: SHARIF AIMS TO CHANGE HISTORY WITH RETURN TO PAKISTAN (JULY 9, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, July 9th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Sharif aims to change history with return to Pakistan
SOURCE: Asia Times
Monday, July 9, 2018
By IMAD ZAFAR

It was expected that after refusing to bow down to Pakistan’s military establishment, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam would pay the cost, and much to those expectations both were convicted by an accountability court in the Avenfield property case.

Judge Muhammad Bashir sentenced Sharif to 10 years in prison and handed a seven-year term to Maryam, while retired Captain Muhammad Safdar was sentenced to a year in prison. It did not come as a surprise, as the legal and journalist fraternities were expecting the decision against Sharif, his daughter and his son-in-law, Safdar. It was not the first time that a dissenting politician had been sentenced to prison on charges of corruption, while the generals who have imposed martial law have remained free.

From Khawaja Nazimudin to Zulfikar Bhutto and from Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif, it is the same story. Create hype through the media that politicians are responsible for every misery and failure of the country, and after creating this perception against the politicians, dismantle political parties and launch new puppets.

It has been a blind journey, traveling again and again in circles and maintaining the monopoly and hegemony over policies and financial resources for the establishment.

So what’s next? Sharif has been removed; has Maryam Nawaz also been disqualified even before being launched as the political heir of her father? Many including the establishment would have thought that the game is over for Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and it will be a smooth sailing for their puppet Imran Khan afterward.

But Sharif’s decision that he will come back to the country along with his daughter this Friday has completely changed the picture. Sharif is unpredictable and he often surprises his opponents as well as his close aides with his decisions. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ANOTHER PEACE-TALK SETBACK (JULY 8, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, July 9th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Another Peace-Talk Setback
SOURCE: The Nation
Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Afghan Taliban have once again rejected an offer for peace talks with the government in Kabul, leaving the peace-talks effort in Afghanistan, and the actors involved in it, including Pakistan, in ambiguity about the future of this chaotic situation.

This rigidity by the Afghan Taliban is just a series of blows to this already precarious plan for cooperation between the Taliban and the government. There had been several violations to cease-fires or peace talks conducted by Taliban and government, with a recent cease-fire by the Kabul government during the month of June still saw intensified Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces, government installations, provincial and district centres. It could not be clearer to any one that this coordination effort was falling apart.

This time, at least, the United States cannot blame Pakistan for the unsuccessful attempt at striking peace with the Taliban. President Donald Trump, and later Ambassador Alice Wells, had been implying Pakistan as the culprit for not doing enough to engage the Taliban, with Trump suspending military assistance to Pakistan. The statement by Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, however indicates another issue, as he has specified that the Taliban will not meet officials of the US-backed government, saying they will only negotiate with the United States directly about the withdrawal of all foreign forces.

The initiative is on the US now, to reach out directly to the Taliban, and the surrounding actors, like the Afghan and Pakistan government, in hopes of any peace. This should serve as a lesson, to all countries involved, that suspending military aid or isolating allies should not be the way to go about any future coordination efforts. While the peace effort may have been set back by this rejection, the door is still open and there are options on the negotiating table. The peace initiative must go on, and both US and Pakistan should commit their best efforts towards it.

IN THE NEWS: GHANI’S OPPONENTS ACCUSE HIM OF BEING ‘AUTOCRATIC’ (JULY 8, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Ghani’s Opponents Accuse Him Of Being ‘Autocratic’
SOURCE: TOLO News
Sunday, July 8, 2018
By ARIF MUSAVI

Atta Mohammad Noor, the chief executive of Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan and Mohammad Mohaqeq, the second deputy of the CEO Abdullah Abdllah, on Sunday accused President Ashraf Ghani of autocracy over the arrest of Nizamuddin Qaisari, the police chief of Qaisar district and a close aide to the First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum.

They claimed Ghani takes decisions without the National Security Council’s (NSC) input and then tries to implement his decisions unilaterally without consulting government officials.

The two officials said that the exile of Dostum, the arrest of Qaisari, the dismissal of the minister of water and energy affairs and the judicial action against former minister of IT and communications were against the law and in contradiction of the spirit of the agreement on the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG).

They said the banishment of Dostum to Turkey was not within the president’s authority. As vice president, only the Loya Jirga has the authority to disqualify him, they stated.

“The central and core issue is that General Dostum should return to the country. Until now we have demanded his return, but after this, we want to say that we will bring him back, both the world and the government should hear this, if they do not bring him back, we will bring him (Dostum) back, later if there is a crisis, then those who are responsible (for this) created the crisis,” said Mohaqeq.

“I don’t say that Nizamuddin Qaisari had no faults, perhaps he has some faults, but your approach has been very dictatorial, aggressive, unethical and repressive, several members of his family have been killed and his house had been attacked,” said Noor. (more…)