Posts Tagged ‘tribal areas’

Afghan officials get 20 years for handing secrets to Pakistan

October 10, 2018

Two Afghan military officials were jailed for 20 years after a two-year trial for sharing state secrets with Pakistan, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The sentence highlights a long-standing belief between Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan that the other country does not adequately prevent cross-border militant attacks.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has long accused Pakistan of harboring Afghan Taliban insurgents. (File/AFP)

Shah Mohammad and Nazirullah were arrested in 2016 after traveling to Pakistan to hand over information to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. They pleaded not guilty but eventually “confessed to their crime” before the military court in the eastern city of Jalalabad, officials said.

“Each of them has been sentenced to 20 years in prison by the primary court,” said Najiburrahman Nadim, a military prosecutor.

Nadim said the accused had shared secret information about attacks and bomb blasts.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has long accused Pakistan of harboring Afghan Taliban insurgents, a charge that Islamabad denies.

Islamabad, in turn, accuses Afghanistan of not doing enough to eradicate Pakistani Taliban militants, many of whom are based in Afghanistan and mostly carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

A defense lawyer representing the two army officials rejected the court’s verdict, which was delivered on Tuesday.

“My clients were beaten during the investigations and they were forced to confess. We don’t accept the decision and we will appeal,” said Toryalai Muqanen.



Is Pakistan really ready to cut the cord with the United States?

September 28, 2018

With Afghanistan and Pakistan as the staging grounds, politics in South and Central Asia appears to be coming full circle with the making and breaking of alliances involving major regional and international actors.

The switching of goalposts by the erstwhile Cold War-era allies — keeping their converging and diverging geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geostrategic interests in mind — apparently indicates the beginning of a new “Great Game” in the region.

Russia’s re-emergence under Vladimir Putin; China’s vision of greater connectivity in Eurasia through Xi Jinping’s ambitious Road and Belt Initiative (BRI); America’s quest to safeguard its interests in the region by not losing the war in Afghanistan and containing China’s growing economic and military clout; India’s outreach to the world markets to compete Xi’s China; Pakistan’s struggle to retain its strategic importance by taking sides; and Afghanistan’s desire for lasting peace – these are some of the key drivers spurring the race.

By Daud Khattak

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, suit

Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

While Afghanistan’s unending struggle to attain peace and stability is the epicenter of this contest, it is nuclear-armed Pakistan, with its population of over 200 million and looming economic, political, and security troubles, that is attracting the focus of the major powers. For Pakistan, while a shift from its old goalpost seems to be imminent, it is not going to be without hassles.

Bittersweet Frenemies

Pakistan has been allied with the United States since the era of SEATO (South-East Asia Treaty Organization) and CENTO (Central Treaty Organization). This alliance, though off-again-on-again, was further cemented following the 1978 Saur Revolution in Afghanistan, which paved the way for military intervention by the Soviet Union in December 1979.

More recently, Pakistan was given the status of a non-NATO ally of the United States following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That devastating event forced the world’s sole superpower to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, from where the al-Qaeda terrorist network masterminded the attacks in Washington D.C. and New York City.

During this period of alliance, Pakistan remained dependent on U.S. largesse in military, economic, and developmental terms. Over the decades, Pakistani leadership successfully maneuvered to secure huge sums of money for their country’s services, whether in the CIA-sponsored (Reagan-era) anti-communist jihad or the Bush-era global war against terror, with its key focus on Afghanistan and al-Qaeda.

What Pakistan failed to do, however, was endear itself to the United States as an all-time trusted partner in the region. Instead, the relationship mostly remained transactional. Each bout of intimacy followed the emergence of a new security environment in the region and ended in a fiasco, leaving behind more doubts and animosities as soon as that particular security environment began to change.

The two countries’ diverging interests kept their alliance mostly transactional. The latest example is the United States’ 17-year-long war in Afghanistan. While the United States struggles to bring peace and stability by routing the Taliban, Pakistan believes the ousted militia offers the best guarantee for peace. The Haqqani Network, the most secretive group in the region, is the United States’ worst enemy. But Pakistan has its hopes pinned on this group’s survival, which Islamabad sees as the key to guaranteeing its strategic interests in the face of both anti-Pakistan sentiments in Afghanistan and perceived Indian encirclement.

Many in Pakistan’s security circles were disillusioned when then-U.S. Central Command chief Admiral Mike Mullen called the Haqqani Network a “veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence” in September 2011, months after the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Ladin in a mid-night raid by Navy Seals in Pakistan’s garrison town of Abbottabad. The same year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Islamabad, gave a blunt warning to her Pakistani allies that “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.”

But the real bombshell came from none other than President Donald Trump on January 1, 2018 when he accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit” in a tweet. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump said. “… No more!”

As the Trump administration struggles to wrap up the war in Afghanistan by seeking Pakistan’s help and support, Pakistan looks the other way by expanding and further cementing its economic and military ties with Russia and China, both of which are seen as adversaries in U.S. policy circles. Pakistan will have to balance its acts while walking this tightrope.

Sweeter Than Honey

“Sweeter than honey” is the new jargon suffixed to Pakistan’s “deeper than oceans and taller than mountains” friendship with China. The depth, height, and saccharinity, however, mostly depend on China’s contentment with the strategic, political, and economic interests that Beijing attaches to Pakistan.

There is no such thing as a free lunch in the realm of economics, but when it comes to China, every single loaf has a cost. The $62 billion that China promised for infrastructure development in Pakistan under the BRI’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will require Pakistan’s commitment not only to China’s economic and commercial interests, but also its political and security considerations.

Pointing to the potential CPEC faultlines in South Asian security, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says in its “The Silk Road Economic Belt” report that Pakistan’s Balochistan “remains a strategic area that could become a flashpoint for regional competition and is even referred to as the new epicenter of the ‘Great Game’ by some regional analysts.”

As a result, when a Pakistani official spoke about a review of the CPEC agreements, it sparked a flurry of meetings between Islamabad and Beijing in mid-September. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi landed in Islamabad just a day after the publishing of Razak Dawood’s interview in the Financial Times. Then Pakistan’s army chief visited Beijing and met top civilian and military officials. Meanwhile, Dawood, in a face-saving statement, said that he was quoted “out of context.”

New Friendships

Several about-faces have been witnessed over the past decade and half as the U.S.-led global war on terror continues in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan’s becoming an ally of Russia and Iran’s rapprochement with the Taliban, both to the chagrin of the United States, are the most spectacular changes. Pakistan’s new closeness with Russia, at a time when the latter is engaged in indirect war with the United States both in the Middle East and Ukraine, is clear indication of a rift with Islamabad’s erstwhile ally the United States. Likewise, Iran and Russia’s closer links with the Taliban are being seen as a new stumbling block to U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region.

Nothing is more evident of these new arrangements than a meeting of the spy chiefs of Russia, Iran, China, and Pakistan in Islamabad in July this year to discuss Afghanistan and Central Asia. While Russia and Iran’s ties with the Pakistan-backed Taliban have only been recently disclosed, China has long been seen as a trusted country by the Taliban leadership.

Islamabad’s emboldened stance regarding nonconformity with U.S. demands partially stems from its increased military cooperation with Russia. This bond-making between Russia and Pakistan is not new; former military ruler Pervez Musharraf visited Russia in 2003. But the pace of exchanges has picked up remarkably in the past few years.

Raheel Sharif, one of Pakistan’s most celebrated army chiefs, paid a visit to Moscow in June 2015 following the Islamabad visit of Russia’s defense minister in November 2014. Within three months of Sharif’s visit to Moscow, Pakistan received four Mi-35 assault helicopters from Russia as part of a newly signed deal.

In December 2015, Pakistani and Russian naval forces jointly organized anti-narcotics exercises dubbed “Arabian Monsoon” in the Arabian Sea. In September 2016, for the first time Russian commandos participated with their Pakistani counterparts in “Friendship 2017” exercises. And in yet another first, a Russian military delegation visited Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district, once known to be a Taliban emirate, in March 2017.

Pakistan’s current army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited to Moscow in April 2018, where, just days ahead of the U.S. decision to cancel training and aid for Pakistan’s military, Russia entered into a historic agreement allowing officers of Pakistan’s armed forces to receive training in Russia.

Already, there is no reversing Pakistan’s new friendship with Russia. The point here is how much Russia’s stepping in will cater to Pakistan’s military and economic requirements, particularly in terms of the space left vacant by the U.S. stepping back.

Meanwhile, Washington is tightening ties with Pakistan’s long-time rival, India. After a brief stop-over in Islamabad in early September, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proceeded for the first-ever “two-plus-two” ministerial dialogue in New Delhi, where the two sides agreed to further enhance their security cooperation under the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.

India has already been given wider space in the U.S. National Security Strategy, while Trump’s South Asia Strategy recognizes an even bigger role for India in “Afghanistan’s stabilization.” These fresh measures will further distance Pakistan from its Cold War-era ally.

A Difficult Moment

While the United States is set to proceed toward an Afghanistan solution with or without support from Pakistan, it is a difficult moment for Islamabad. Pakistan must decide whether to take side with Washington by ditching the Taliban and Haqqani Network or continue to take sides with the two militant groups, to the annoyance of its long-term partner. As part of this decision, Pakistan will need to assess whether the Russians are capable of meeting the country’s defense needs if it continues to stay detached from the United States.

Another complicating factor is that action against individuals such as Hafiz Saeed and his group Jamat-ud- Dawa will also benefit India. By acting under U.S. pressure against such groups, Pakistan will lose its strategic assets, which are being used as a counterbalance against the much bigger neighbor India.

For Pakistan, it is tough to do it, but even tougher not to.

Daud Khattak is Senior Editor for Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty’s Pashto language Mashaal Radio. Before joining RFE/RL, Khattak worked for The News International and London’s Sunday Times in Peshawar, Pakistan. He has also worked for Pajhwok Afghan News in Kabul. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

Pakistan FM: War with India is not an option

September 28, 2018

Pakistan’s new foreign minister on Pakistan-India relations, the Taliban and frayed relations with the US.

Pakistan’s new government, headed by new Prime Minister Imran Khan, has inherited strained relations with two key countries, India and the United States.

Observers are questioning how the country’s new leadership will seek to reshape its foreign policy regionally and globally as it continues to battle the Pakistan Taliban, attempt engagement with India and address its aid and military relationship with the US.

Despite Prime Minister Imran Khan’s overtures to India to engage in dialogue, India cancelled the first planned talks between the two countries since 2015 that were meant to have taken place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week. The cancellation of talks came hours after three policemen were killed by rebels in Kashmir.

Citing the “brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign ministry added that the release of a series of 20 postage stamps depicting a young Kashmiri rebel commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016 was “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.”

Image may contain: 1 person

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan foreign minister

Pakistan also saw its relations with the US threatened one month after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s election victory on July 26, when the US Pentagon announced that it would be cancelling $300m in military and security aid to Pakistan, part of the $1.1bn suspended in January over allegations that the country was not acting against armed groups such as the Afghan Taliban.

The US has alleged that, in the years since 9/11, Pakistan has been playing a double game, harbouring Osama bin Laden and maintaining relationships with elements of the Taliban and other armed groups.

Pakistan’s new foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has been attending the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, talked to Al Jazeera about the challenges and options facing a new government, which is led by a political party that’s never governed and a new prime minister who’s never held political office.

On allegations of aiding the Taliban, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that previous Pakistani governments had been “helping their own country. “They were helping overcome a situation which was not of their own creation. Who were these people? Who supported them? Who trained them? We forget history and at times we overlook that friends change. People that you support, some of the people, were called extremists. Weren’t they invited to the US? Weren’t they entertained in the White House? So, friends change. Circumstances change. We were just defending and protecting ourselves.”

Though Foreign Minister Quereshi expressed that the US, as a global power, expects “special treatment”, Pakistan does hope “to be friends” with the US, while exercising its option to cultivate relations with China and others:

“We want the US to be friends with Pakistan. We recognise that the US is an important global power, and they will continue to be a military, technological and economic power in the foreseeable future. They are looking at different options, they are looking at new friends in the region. We do have friends who have been consistent and very valuable. China is one of them. The others who recognise how important, how strategically located Pakistan is and to understand Pakistan’s importance. So, we are not alone and everyone has options.”

On Pakistan-India relations, Qureshi referred back to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first public address on July 26th, in which he said, “You take one step towards peace, we will take two,” and pointed to Prime Minister Khan’s subsequent requests for constructive, peaceful dialogue with India as part of the new government’s approach.

“What we did.. we thought made sense. Two neighbours with outstanding issues, atomic powers. How do you fix things? War is no option. There is no military solution. The only solution is a dialogue.”

Qureshi acknowledged that another priority of the new government will be to address internal corruption and foreign debt and to the use of Pakistan’s resources for “human development, the most valuable asset of Pakistan, the people of the country, we haven’t invested enough in education, in health.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Pakistan: Saudi Arabia to finance three CPEC projects

September 28, 2018

The government of Saudi Arabia has signed three grant agreements with Pakistan to finance three road infrastructure and energy projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“These agreements have been inked in line with the understanding reached during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia,” Information Minis­ter Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference on Thursday.

Image result for Imran Khan in Saudi Arabia, photos

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visits the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia

The agreements were signed by the Saudi envoy and the officials of Pakistan’s finance ministry.

Minister says agreements on Reko Diq gold, copper mines and Gwadar oil refinery likely to be signed next week

“The first step has been taken as three grant agreements have been signed. This is a very positive step and bodes well for relations between the two countries,” the minister added.

Giving a briefing about the federal cabinet’s meeting held earlier in the day, he said that a high-level Saudi delegation would arrive in Pakistan on Sunday for mate­rialising the deal between Islamabad and Riyadh.

More agreements would be inked next week between a high-level Saudi delegation and Pakistani officials, Mr Chaudhry said. The accords will be related to Reko Diq’s gold and copper mines and the oil refinery at Gwadar Port, and the delegation would comprise the Saudi investment team, minister for petroleum and minister for energy.

“During the prime minister’s recent visit, Saudi Arabian leaders including Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman were eager to fanalise the deal within days despite the fact that such deals require months for materialising,” the minister said.

It may be mentioned that since the prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the opposition has been asking the government to unveil the pledges made by Riyadh regarding mega investment and monetary assistance to Pakistan.

Afghan refugees

The information minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had issued directives that a comprehensive policy be designed for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 2019.

He said 2.5 million Afghan refugees were residing in Pakistan of whom 2m were registered and the remaining ones were undocumented.

“There are only two ways to go about this issue: either we let things remain the way they are, or [do something about it]. There are 879,198 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan who have citizen cards issued by their country; 1,394,000 who have POR (refugee) cards; and 500,000 who are undocumented,” he said.

Afghan refugees have been given an extension for their stay in Pakistan till June for the renewal of their accreditation cards and the prime minister wants to see a comprehensive policy drafted before the next extension,” the minister said.

100 big defaulters

He said that the cabinet had decided to take action against 100 big tax defaulters. “The government will be launching a major operation soon against 100 major FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) defaulters”.

“The first stage of reforms in the FBR has been completed and details in this regard will be provided by Finance Minister Asad Umer next week,” Mr Chaudhry said.

To overcome the prevailing financial crisis in the country, he said, the government had set up the Fina­ncial Action Task Force and appointed Mansoor Hussain Siddiqui the director

general of the financial monitoring unit at the State Bank. Earlier the post was non-existing in the department.

He said former Justice Abdul Rauf had been appointed the new chairman of the Wage Board to decide within 120 days the matter of low and untimely-paid wages of journalists.

Mr Fawad said that the government believed that the right to information was part of its policy as only with the right to information and transparency journalists would have easy access to information.

The cabinet, he said, also declared that an anti-encroachment drive would be launched in Karachi to reclaim large swathes of land belonging to the Karachi Port Trust and the Pakistan Railways. “We are heading towards Karachi after getting vacated 6,000 kanals of state land in Islamabad,” he added.

Tax amnesty for tribal areas

The minister said that the federally and provincially-administered tribal areas, which were previously being run under independent systems outside the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws, would continue to enjoy tax amnesty for five years.

“This means that these regions will continue to enjoy the use of non-custom paid cars up to June 30, 2023. Similarly, residents (of the tribal areas) will be exempted from paying sales and withholding tax,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said that all ministries had been instructed to not only stop making selective appointments, but also to desist from forwarding their ‘recommendations’ for candidates for other ministries.

He said that the prime minister had urged members of his cabinet to move towards more technologically-savvy practices and adopt e-communication practices, instead of wasting paper for printing agendas and budgets. “All ministries have been instructed to go paperless in our effort to become an e-government,” he said.

He said that the IT ministry had been tasked with implementing the government’s initiative and it would give a presentation in two weeks on this.

Later, Minister for Power Umar Ayub accused the previous government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of leaving an acute financial and electricity crisis to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

He defended the PTI government even for increasing gas and electricity tariffs and said that as a result of faulty polices and decisions of the last government the country had come under huge burden of foreign and local debts.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2018

Pakistan disputes U.S. account of call between Pompeo and new PM Khan

August 24, 2018

Pakistan has called for the United States to amend what its foreign ministry described as a “factually incorrect” account of a phone call between U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and new Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. PHOTO: EXPRESS

The U.S. State Department said it stands by its account.

The row comes ahead of a planned visit by Pompeo to Islamabad in the first week of September to meet with Khan, who was sworn in as prime minister last week.

The U.S. State Department readout of the call said Pompeo wished Khan success and also asked Khan to take “decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan”.

U.S. officials routinely raise the issue of Taliban and other militants operating from safe havens in Pakistan, where they plot attacks on U.S. and Afghan troops across the border.

Pakistan regularly denies that the Afghan Taliban operates from its soil.

And overnight on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry asserted that the issue of militants never came up in the phone call between Pompeo and Khan.

“Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by U.S. State Dept on today’s phone call,” the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter.

“There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This should be immediately corrected.”

However, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert indicated there would be no correction in response to Pakistan’s complaint.

“I can only say we stand by our readout,” Nauert told a news conference on Thursday, calling Pakistan “an important partner” in the region.

“The secretary had a good call with the new prime minister and we look forward to having a good relationship with them in the future,” Nauert added.

Pompeo is expected in Islamabad on September 5, and is likely to be the first foreign dignitary to meet with Khan since he was sworn in.

Khan is well known for his criticism of U.S. military policy in Afghanistan, but he said after winning elections last week that he seeks better relations with the United States after a series of aid cuts and the suspension of U.S. military training.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore



Pompeo phones PM Imran, highlights Pak’s importance in action against terrorist




Pakistan has taken strong exception to the “factually incorrect” statement the United States State Department issued on a telephone call between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by the US State Department on today’s phone call between PM Khan & Secretary Pompeo,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a tweet.

“There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This should be immediately corrected,” he further wrote on the microblogging site.

The tweet came immediately after State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement: “Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.”

US looks forward to working with Imran-led govt: State Dept

According to her, the Trump administration’s top diplomat also expressed his willingness to work with the Imran-led government “towards a productive bilateral relationship”.

During the hotline contact, the secretary of state raised the importance of Pakistan’s vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.

Premier Imran emphasised the importance of strengthening bilateral relations on the basis of mutual trust and benefit. He also underscored the importance of peace and stability in the region.

With reference to Afghanistan, both agreed that peace is a priority for their two countries.

Dawn: Pakistan’s Imran outlines his vision for true “Islamic welfare state”

August 20, 2018

Dawn report by Syed Irfan Raza states that in his first address to the nation a day after assuming the prime minister’s office, Imran Khan on Sunday vowed to transform Pakistan into a true “Islamic welfare state” with the focus of his government on overcoming foreign debt, austerity, reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other institutions, eradication of corruption, retrieving the money stashed abroad and creation of jobs. The prime minister, who refrained from attacking his opponents much in his 70-minute recorded speech, pledged to bring about significant “change” in people’s lives through economic reforms including investment incentives and improvement in tax system.

Imran Khan. (AFP)

In his first address to the nation a day after assuming the prime minister’s office, Imran Khan on Sunday vowed to transform Pakistan into a true “Islamic welfare state” with the focus of his government on overcoming foreign debt, austerity, reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other institutions, eradication of corruption, retrieving the money stashed abroad and creation of jobs.

The prime minister, who refrained from attacking his opponents much in his 70-minute recorded speech, pledged to bring about significant “change” in people’s lives through economic reforms including investment incentives and improvement in tax system.

Clad in a black waistcoat over white shalwar kameez, a relaxed Mr Khan outlined his government agenda that included plans to bring reforms in civil services, police, courts and in health and education sectors. However, he stressed, the biggest menace that the country was dealing with was the Rs28,000 billion foreign debt, which could be retired only through revolutionary steps including cutting down expenditures, better tax system and bridging trade deficit gap. “The country’s total foreign debt was Rs6,000 billion some 10 years ago. By 2013 it had increased to Rs15,000 billion whereas now in 2018 it has surged to Rs28,000 billion,” he said.

Mr Khan vowed that he would set up a task force to bring back billions of dollars laundered in offshore banks and would extend support to NAB in this regard. He announced that his government would legislate to reward whistleblowers who would highlight corruption in government departments.

The prime minister expressed his desire to meet Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal to discuss reforms in their respective institutions. He appealed to the CJP to ensure early disposal of cases filed by widows against land-grabbers and other civil suits.

He urged people to pay taxes and assured them that their money would be spent on their welfare.

“In total population of 200 million, only 800,000 pay taxes,” he pointed out.

In his speech, which was televised by the state-run PTV, the prime minister ignored the opposition’s demand for the formation of a parliamentary commission to probe allegations of rigging in the last month’s general elections.

In what appeared to be an indirect reference to politicians facing corruption and money laundering cases, Mr Khan warned that when his government would go after the corrupt, they would make hue and cry and even could take to the streets. “When we will lay our hands on these corrupt mafias sitting everywhere, they will make noises. Even democracy can come under threat. You should support me. Now either the country will survive or these corrupt people,” he declared in categorical terms.

On a number of occasions, the prime minister quoted the examples of his party’s previous government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and vowed to introduce the same reforms all over the country. Mr Khan, who used to criticise the Punjab police in his speeches at public meetings, announced that former KP police chief Nasir Durrani would be made an adviser to the Punjab government to improve the police in the country’s largest province.

He said his government would take measures to prevent child abuse cases.

Announcing austerity measures, PM Khan said he would start austerity from himself “as I have decided to live in a three-bed annex of my military secretary and will use only two official vehicles and keep two servants”. He, however, said it was because of the security concerns that he had to keep guards with him as the security agencies had told him that his life was in danger.

“I will save your money and will not carry out any business till the time I am in power,” he declared.

Previously, he said, a prime minister used to have the services of 524 employees and 80 luxurious vehicles, including 33 bulletproof cars valuing over Rs50 million each. “I will invite top businessmen for the auction of these vehicles and the money to be collected from it will be deposited to the national exchequer,” he added.

Mr Khan reiterated that the PM House would be converted into a top class, elite university. Similarly, he said, a special advisory committee of experts would decide about the fate of Governor Houses, Chief Minister Houses and government rest houses in KP and Punjab.

The prime minister reiterated that he would transform the country into a true welfare state like the one established by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in Madina where justice was provided not only to the Muslims but also to non-Muslim minorities.

Announcing to introduce massive reforms in civil services, the prime minister urged the civil servants to “give respect to the common people when they visit government offices”.

Mr Khan also discussed water crisis, lining of canals, malnutrition and stunted growth of children, quality of education at government schools and religious seminaries.

He declared that he would make every effort to expedite the planned merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so that the war-torn tribal areas could be brought on a par with the rest of the country.

“We will try our best to complete the merger of Fata with KP at the earliest so that development activities can be initiated there after local government elections.”

Mr Khan highlighted the need for improving the curriculum of madressahs. Presently, he said, 2.4 million children were getting education at seminaries across the country. He said he wanted to see the students of these institutions become generals, doctors, engineers and judges.

The prime minister also talked about schemes to improve environment and general cleanliness in cities. He said Pakistan had a great potential in the tourism sector. The government would establish four tourist resorts every year, he said, adding that parks, playgrounds and beaches would also be developed.

Announcing that his government would implement the National Action Plan against terrorism, he said that he had decided to keep the interior ministry portfolio with him so that he could keep a check on the Federal Investigation Agency to prevent money-laundering. He especially mentioned Karachi, saying the federal government would support the Sindh government in improving policing and transport system in the city. He said the Rangers could not be deployed permanently in Karachi.

To build five million low-cost houses, the government would launch a scheme which would also generate job opportunities and revive at least 50 industries, he announced.

Terming the water shortage the biggest crisis the country could face in the coming years, he said his party had suggested a number of steps for water conservation but there would be no compromise on the construction of dam.

The prime minister also vowed to restore better relations with neighbouring countries.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2018

See also:

Prime Minister Khan asks nation to have compassion for poor, adopt austerity

Pakistan Will Add 60,000 Troops to Patrol Afghan Border

August 8, 2018

Pakistan will add 60,000 troops to boost its patrols along its disputed border with Afghanistan in an effort to curb the flow of insurgents passing between the two nations, according to military officials familiar with the matter.

Forty percent of the troops have already been recruited in the exercise, which is expected to take two years, the officials said, asking not to be identified so they could discuss sensitive troop movements. About 13 percent of a fence planned along the 1,456 mile-long disputed border has also been completed, they said. The armed force’s media department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Pakistani military patrol border fence.

Photographer: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

The move will consolidate Pakistan’s border operations, which have been beefed-up in recent years after widespread insecurity wracked the country following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Domestic terror-related violence is now at its lowest in more than a decade. The army has an estimated 560,000 active personnel, according to the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies. Forces have previously been more focused on the country’s eastern border with arch-rival neighbor India, with which it’s fought three wars against since British India’s partition in 1947. The two continue to contest the disputed region of Kashmir.

Read more: Pushing Pakistan Seems Obvious But Isn’t Simple: QuickTake Q&A

Pakistan has come under increasing pressure to act against the Afghan Taliban and the affiliated Haqqani network since President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of allowing them safe haven. In January, Trump suspended military aid to the nuclear-armed nation and accused Pakistan of giving “lies and deceit” in return for years of U.S. funding.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have denounced the other for harboring insurgents, prompting relations to drastically sour in the past year. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said Pakistan is waging an “undeclared war of aggression” against his nation and has threatened armed confrontation over the fence construction across the disputed Durand Line, which divided the largely ethnic Pashtun communities in the region during British colonial rule.

Pakistani officials have said the fence across the mountainous border is needed to stop the flow of militants crossing into both countries. Islamabad has often blamed Afghan nationals and refugees for bombings and attacks in Pakistan. More than 2 million refugees live in Pakistan and the government has said those camps are breeding grounds for insurgency.

The border is porous and has 235 crossing points, some frequently used by militants and drug traffickers, of which 18 can be accessed by vehicles, according to a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network research group in October.

“It may not stop every terrorist, but it will deter them,” said Ikram Sehgal, a former military officer and chairman of Pathfinder Group, Pakistan’s largest private security company. “If you are serious about no encroachment, this is necessary.”

However, the AAN report said the Taliban can move with ease between the two countries in the often lawless border lands and are usually waved through by Pakistan security forces. Pakistan’s military has long denied supporting militant groups.

Khan Pledge

After winning last month’s national election, incoming Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to work for peace in Afghanistan and told Ghani in a call after his victory that he would visit Kabul at an unspecified time.

“If there is peace in Afghanistan, there will be peace in Pakistan,” said Khanin a televised victory speech from Islamabad last month.

However, there are questions as to how much influence he will have over foreign policy, which has long been the domain of the military. Pakistan’s generals are accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban to counter its fears of Indian encirclement and influence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s forces have directly ruled the nation for almost half of its 71-year history and has defined the nation’s role in world affairs for decades. It continues to assert its authority on the civilian government and the run-up to the election this year was tarred by widespread allegations of military manipulation.

Analysts also see Khan as a pliant prime minister who won’t challenge the army’s hold over foreign and national security policies. Both Khan and the army have denied the allegations.

Two dead in militant attack on Afghan govt office: officials

July 11, 2018

Gunmen stormed an education department compound in Afghanistan’s restive east Wednesday and were battling security forces in an ongoing attack that has left at least two people dead, officials said.

Five others have been wounded in the second attack in Jalalabad city in as many days and a number of employees were trapped inside the building, Nangarhar provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.

© AFP | Map of Afghanistan locating attack in Jalalabad

Security forces were trying to clear the militants from the compound and rescue the workers. It was not clear how many gunmen or employees were inside.

A security guard employed by the department was among the dead, Khogyani said.

Jalalabad health director Najibullah Kamawal confirmed five wounded people had been brought to hospital so far.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the raid.

Nangarhar’s provincial capital has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks, with the Islamic State group claiming most of the attacks.

On Tuesday, a suicide attack in the city killed at least 12 people and ignited a nearby petrol station, with witnesses describing screaming victims “swallowed” by flames.

The bomber was targeting Afghan security forces when he blew himself up. Ten civilians were among the dead.

IS claimed that attack via its Amaq propaganda agency.

The group has claimed a series of high-casualty suicide bomb attacks in the province in recent weeks, as US and Afghan forces continue offensive operations against the group.

While the Taliban is Afghanistan’s largest militant group, IS has a relatively small but potent presence, mainly in the north and east of the country.

Wednesday’s attack comes a day after President Ashraf Ghani flew to Brussels to attend a NATO summit where he will be hoping to get a greater commitment from members to the nearly 17-year conflict.

Currently, there are about 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, providing the main component of the NATO mission there to support and train local forces.

The attack also coincides with the start of a university entrance exam for more than 16,000 students in Jalalabad, but it was not clear if the two events were linked.

The attack comes exactly a month after militants raided the education department in the city.

In that incident a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the department, triggering a fierce battle between gunmen and security forces.

At least 10 people were wounded after terrified employees jumped out of the windows.

A recent ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban during the Islamic holiday Eid had raised hopes that an end to hostilities in the war-weary country was possible.

Since then, however, the Taliban has returned to the battlefield and IS, which was not involved in the truce, has continued to carry out deadly attacks.

Nangarhar borders Pakistan, which has been under growing US pressure to crack down on extremist groups operating in the country.

Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and providing safe haven to its leaders, charges Islamabad denies.

Pakistan, in return, has accused Afghanistan of sheltering the Pakistani Taliban.



Pakistan election rally suicide bomb toll climbs to 20

July 11, 2018

 The death toll in a suicide bombing at an election rally in northwestern Pakistan rose to 20 Wednesday as Taliban militants claimed responsibility, officials said, in the first major attack ahead of July 25 polls.

A local leader of the Awami National Party (ANP), Haroon Bilour, was among those killed in the attack in the city of Peshawar late Tuesday, officials have confirmed.

© AFP | Pakistani security officials at the site of Tuesday’s election rally suicide bombing in Peshawar

The party has been targeted by Islamist militants in the past over its vocal opposition to extremist groups like the Taliban.

The bombing came hours after the Pakistan military spokesman said there were security threats ahead of national elections.

“The death toll has risen to 20 and 63 others were wounded, out of whom 35 are still admitted in two Peshawar hospitals,” Peshawar police chief Qazi Jameel told AFP.

Peshawar hospital official Zulfiqar Babakhel confirmed the updated death toll.

Bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik told AFP that the suicide bomber — who he said was around 16 years old — had eight kilogrammes of explosives and three kilogrammes of pellets, ball bearings and other shrapnel on his body.

Peshawar lawyers went on strike on Wednesday to protest and mourn the death of Haroon, who was also a barrister. Local traders also announced a strike and mourners thronged to Bilour’s residence to offer condolences.

Bilour was one of the ANP’s election candidates and belonged to an influential political family in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.

His father Bashir Bilour, one of the ANP’s top leaders, was also killed by a suicide bomber in 2012.

Police said the bomber struck when Bilour was about to address some 200 supporters.

Mohammad Khorasani, spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant group, claimed the responsibility for the attack.

“Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s mujahid (holy fighter) Abdul Karim last night carried out a suicide attack on important ANP leader Haroon Bilour in which he has been killed,” Khorasani said in a statement.

He said the militants “have already declared a war” on the ANP and called on the public to keep away from them, “or you will be responsible for your own loss”.

Peshawar city is considered a gateway to Pakistan’s troubled semi-autonomous tribal regions, where many militant groups — including al Qaeda — operated until the government launched operations to oust them.

Militants have targeted politicians, religious gatherings, security forces and even schools in Peshawar.

But security across Pakistan, including in Peshawar, has dramatically improved since government and military operations in recent years.

Analysts warn however that Pakistan has yet to tackle the root causes of extremism.


Pakistan, US to work towards peace in Afghanistan

July 4, 2018

Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan.

This was agreed during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

“Both reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region and discussed measures towards that end. Both also agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

American official Alice Wells meets Gen Bajwa

Amb Wells was on a three-day visit to Pakistan to again seek Pakistani authorities’ help for the Afghan peace process. She met Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting
US Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

She also met business leaders and ambassadors from other embassies in Islamabad.

During her visit to Kabul, which preceded the Islamabad trip, Amb Wells said Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”. She had further accused the “Taliban ….who are not residing in Afghanistan” of being obstacle to the peace talks. She was apparently referring to Pakistan-based Taliban against whom the US has long asked for action.

During her meetings, she reminded her interlocutors of Pakistan’s commitment to take action against all terrorist groups that might be found on its territory. “Ambassador Wells discussed Pakistan’s stated commitment to eliminating all terrorist groups present within its borders,” the US embassy said in an apparent reference to the Taliban elements claimed to be present in Pakistan.

The embassy said that Amb Wells’ discussion was consistent with the Trump administration’s South Asia and Afghanistan strategy. The strategy announced last year signalled that Washington might take coercive steps to push Pakistan to crack down against the Taliban and Haqqani network.

The US strategy for the region had aggravated an already tense bilateral relationship with Pakistan. The two sides have since then been unable to put their ties on an even keel despite an extensive engagement. However, lately both sides took steps that led to hopes of improvement in the relationship. The Pakistan Army last month reaffirmed its commitment to seeing the US exit Afghanistan after winning the protracted war. The US, meanwhile, eliminated Afghanistan-based terrorist Mullah Fazlullah, whose capture or elimination was long demanded by Pakistan.

The ceasefire between Afghan warring factions further raised hopes of a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict. But, things are again turning for worse in Afghanistan where the Taliban resumed fighting immediately after Eid and the Afghan government order resumption of counter-terrorism operations last weekend.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2018

For more live updates, follow’s official news Instagram