Daily Archives: October 1, 2017

Afghan President, Pakistan Army Chief Discuss Cooperation In Kabul

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has met with Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa in Kabul as part of the Pakistani general’s visit aimed at repairing the strained ties between the neighboring states.

“Both sides discussed regional security, bilateral relations, the fight against terrorism, trade, and transit,” the Afghan presidential officesaid on October 1.

A statement quoted Ghani as calling for practical steps toward creating an atmosphere of trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bilateral relations have long been tense, with the sides accusing each other of housing terrorist groups that launch attacks on the neighboring country.

Ahead of Bajwa’s first visit to Afghanistan since he took up the post nearly a year ago, the Pakistani military said he would also meet with Afghanistan’s military leadership.

The visit comes after the White House recently unveiled a strategy to try to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan after nearly 16 years of war.

An important component of the new strategy is a threat to withdraw aid and other support for Pakistan if the country does not shut down what U.S. officials said are Afghan Taliban “safe havens” on its territory.

Islamabad has denied that it is offering “safe havens” to extremist groups, with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi warning that Pakistan was “not prepared to be anyone’s scapegoat.”

In his address before the UN General Assembly on September 20, Abbasi said, “Taliban ‘safe havens’ are located not in Pakistan, but in the large tracts of territory controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Abassi also said Islamabad was ready to work with Kabul to “end all cross-border attacks,” and that it will continue pursuing its domestic war against terrorists.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Russia Ranks 38th On Competitiveness List; Kazakhstan 57th

Russia has led its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with the highest ranking among the group in the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017-18 Global Competitiveness Report.

Russia ranked 38th on the list of 137 countries rated in this year’s WEF report, while Kazakhstan was next at 57 on the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI).

Other EEU nations ranked were Armenia, at 73, and Kyrgyzstan at 102. Belarus, also a member of the economic grouping, was not ranked.

Other countries ranked included Azerbaijan at 35, Georgia at 67, Iran no. 69, Tajikistan at 79, Ukraine no. 8,; Moldova at 89, and Bosnia-Herzegovina no. 103.

Pakistan was listed at 115, up from no. 122 a year earlier.

Switzerland topped the list, with the United States at no. 2. Singapore was third, the Netherlands came in fourth, and Germany ranked fifth.

Global competitiveness will be more and more defined by the innovative capacity of a country, said Klaus Schwab, WEF executive chairman.

Talents will become increasingly more important than capital and therefore the world is moving from the age of capitalism into the age of ‘talentism,’ he added.

Countries preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and simultaneously strengthening their political, economic, and social systems will be the winners in the competitive race of the future.

The report noted Russia’s five-point improvement from the previous year, but cautioned that its economy remains highly dependent on mineral exports and prospects remain uncertain.

It said weak links include the financial market, particularly the banking sector; aspects of property rights; judicial independence; and corruption, which remains one of the most problematic factors for doing business.

Russian Economy Minister Maksim Oreshkin told state-run TASS news agency that his country’s improved ranking was a result of structural reforms we had implemented in the macroeconomic policy sphere.”

He added that Russia still has things to do, particularly in such areas as competition and introduction of new technologies.

The WEF said the index was based on 12 pillars — institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods-market efficiency, labor-market efficiency, financial-market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Pakistan’s Army Chief Concludes ‘Constructive’ Afghan Talks

ISLAMABAD Pakistan’s military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, held candid and constructive” talks with Afghan leaders on bilateral relations and ways to enhance mutual cooperation to fight terrorism.

Accompanied by the chief of Pakistani spy agency, ISI, the general met Sunday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace in Kabul. The Afghan defense minister and the national security advisor among others assisted Ghani in the discussions, officials said.

Both sides discussed regional security, bilateral relations, fight against terrorism, trade and transit, according to a brief statement issued by Ghani’s office after the meeting.

It quoted the Afghan president as saying the time has come to take practical steps toward creating an atmosphere of mutual trust. The statement added Pakistan assured of its readiness to cooperate in tackling the threat of terrorism facing both countries and supported Afghan-led efforts to promote peace.

The meeting was candid, positive, respectful, constructive and encouraging in a long time, said Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, who also attended the talks.

Bilateral ties have been marred by mistrust and suspicion, with both Islamabad and Kabul routinely blaming each other for backing fugitive anti-state militants to plot terrorist attacks against the other.

During the one day visit, General Bajwa had been expected to reiterate offers of training for Afghan soldiers and police personnel in Pakistani institutions and emphasize the need for the two countries to resolve differences by relying on bilateral mechanisms and dialogue, according to officials in Islamabad.

Insurgents gaining ground

The U.S.-backed Afghan government insists that sanctuaries on Pakistani soil have enabled the Taliban to sustain and expand insurgent operations in Afghanistan during the past 16 years. Recent assessments have put the Islamist insurgents in control of more than 40 percent of Afghan territory.

Pakistani authorities deny charges they are supporting the Taliban. In turn, they blame the Afghan intelligence agency for sheltering fugitive anti-state militants who are plotting deadly attacks against Pakistan.

Washington supports the Afghan assertions. President Donald Trump unveiled his new strategy for the Afghan war in August, and he criticized Islamabad’s counterterrorism efforts and urged the country to undo terrorist havens on its soil.

Pakistan: Failures aren’t ours

Islamabad insists it is being scapegoated for failures of the U.S.-led international efforts to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan.

The Pakistan military says its sustained counterterrorism operations in the past few years have dismantled all militant hideouts in the country. It also cites the building of a fence and new security outposts on its nearly 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan.

Officials say the border management project is expected to be completed within the next two years and is key to deterring illegal infiltration along a largely porous frontier.

The Pakistani government also has been campaigning for resolving the Afghan conflict through peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, and it strongly opposes further militarization of the war, already the longest overseas military engagement in the U.S. history.

Source: Voice of America

MUHAMMAD WASEEM WINS WORLD BOXING COUNCIL SILVER FLYWEIGHT TITLE

World Boxing Council Silver flyweight champion Muhammad Waseem defeated Panamanian opponent Carlos to successfully defends his title today.

It was the eighth consecutive win for the Pakistani boxer.

Waseem, who has been undefeatable in all the eight fights in his career, retained number one position in the world ranking.

Waseem knocked out Carlos in the first round of the match.

Source: Radio Pakistan

Iran Accused of Recruiting Afghan Children to Fight in Syria

ISLAMABAD An international rights defender has accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan immigrant children as young as 14 to fight in Syria alongside government forces.

In a detailed report published Sunday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says its researchers reviewed photographs of tombstones in Iranian cemeteries and identified eight Afghan children who apparently fought and died in Syria.

The report charges Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) with recruiting and providing combat training to mainly Shi’ite Hazara Afghans who have settled in Iran after fleeing decades of hostilities in their native country.

Afghan children as young as 14 have fought in the Fatemiyoun Division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Iran that fights alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict. Under international law, recruiting children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime, warned HRW.

The watchdog noted that Iranian media reports also corroborated some of these cases and documented at least six more instances of Afghan child soldiers who died in Syria.

HRW’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, called on Tehran to immediately end the recruitment of child soldiers and bring back any Afghan children it has sent to fight in Syria.

Rather than preying on vulnerable immigrant and refugee children, the Iranian authorities should protect all children and hold those responsible for recruiting Afghan children to account, she said.

The persistent conflict in Afghanistan has led millions of its citizens to take refuge in neighboring Iran and Pakistan.

Iranian officials estimate there are around 2.5-million Afghan refugees living in the country, many of them without residency papers.

Rights groups have documented cases of Afghans, mostly Shi’ite Hazaras, in Iran who volunteered to take part in the Syrian conflict in the hopes of gaining legal status and a monthly income for their impoverished families.

Pro-government Iranian media describes the Fatemiyoun Division as a volunteer Afghan force fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran is said to have supported and trained thousands of Afghans, including undocumented immigrants, in the past few years and sent them to the battlefields in Syria.

Iranian authorities reportedly tell Afghan recruits they are being trained to fight to protect major Shi’ite shrines in Damascus, Aleppo and Raqqa.

The tombstones also identified the children’s places of death in Syria, and in seven of the eight cases, the tombstones described the Afghan child as a defender of the shrine, the euphemism the Iranian government uses to describe fighters it sends to Syria, according to the HRW report.

HRW in its report has called on the United Nations to investigate alleged recruitment of Afghan child soldiers.

Iran has not yet commented on the report though officials in Tehran have previously denied allegations Afghans are being recruited and sent to the Syrian conflict.

Iran is reported to have poured billions of dollars into Syria in addition to raising Shi’ite militias from countries with significant Shi’ite population, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, which also hosts millions of war and poverty-stricken Afghans.

Pakistan has also long been accused of encouraging Sunni Afghans in the refugee settlements to join ranks of the Taliban waging insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Source: Voice of America

Banned Militant Leader Sues Pakistan’s FM for Defamation

WASHINGTON A militant group leader in Pakistan is suing the country’s foreign minister for his remarks at an Asia Society event last week in New York.

A lawyer representing Hafiz Mohammad Saeed sent a $950,000 (100 million Pakistani Rupee) notice to Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday.

An absolute lie and falsehood that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is one of those persons who had been the darlings of Americans and had been dining and wining in the White House, Saeed’s lawyer, A.K. Dogar alleged, according to media reports.

The lawsuit calls on Asif to offer an apology within two weeks or face punishment. Defamatory statements are punishable under the Pakistan Penal Code with up to five years imprisonment and a fine, according to Dogar.

Refuting recent allegations by the United States and BRICS, an economic bloc composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, that Pakistan harbors violent extremist groups that pose a threat to regional security, Asif denied that his country supports such groups.

“Don’t blame us for the Haqqanis [the Haqqani Network] and don’t blame us for the Hafiz Saeeds. These people were your darlings just only 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say ‘go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people’,” Asif said, referring to the U.S. support to Afghan resistance movement during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Saeed’s lawyer alleged that his client is a patriotic Islam-loving Muslim who refrains from consuming intoxicants, which are forbidden in Islam.

“I have been advised by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed to tell you that he has never been near the White House, not to speak of [being] wined and dined. It is shocking to know that the foreign minister of my country is accusing Hafiz Muhammad Saeed of taking wine, Dogar said in the notice.

Listed as terrorist by US

Saeed is a U.S.-designated global terrorist. He has been accused of orchestrating militant attacks against Indian interests in the region, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans. The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest. He is also on the U.N. blacklist. Saeed has been under house arrest in Pakistan for the past several months.

Saeed leads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, or JUD, which has been listed as a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department for more than a decade. JUD contends it is a humanitarian organization without links to terrorists, but it is widely considered a “front group” for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which has been banned for terrorist activities since 2001.

“Saeed, LeT, they are a liability, I accept it, but give us time to get rid of them,” Asif said Tuesday in New York.

The move by Saeed’ lawyer drew some reactions of surprise on social media.

There is irony, and then there is irony. Not sure I can recall any other case of a terrorist suing for defamation, Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, tweeted.

Hilarious. Global terrorist Hafiz Saeed seeks damage to the tune of 100 million from Pak FM Khawaja Asif. Can Pakistan economy afford it? Indian journalist, Aditya Raj Kaul, tweeted.

Pakistani journalist, Naila Inayat, tweeted: Waiting for Hafiz Saeed to sue U.S. that designated him a terrorist, $10 million bounty could come in handy after all.

Source: Voice of America