Posts Tagged ‘tribal areas’

Pakistan’s powerful military is trying to crush a nonviolent movement for civil rights

February 13, 2019

By Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen

Mr. Pashteen is leading the movement for civil rights for the Pashtun minority in Pakistan.

I lost my home in 2009 when a major operation by the Pakistan military forced us to leave our village in South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Around 37 million Pashtuns live in this region that includes the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas — which have now been merged with the province — and parts of southwestern Baluchistan province. Our impoverished region has been desolated by the long war on terrorism.

The article you are reading sparked the “Massive Crackdown” in Pakistan, experts say:

When I was in high school, we moved to Dera Ismail Khan, a city around 100 miles away. Ours was yet another family among six million people who have been displaced from the region since Pakistan joined the war on terror in 2001. Tens of thousands of Pashtuns have been killed in terror attacks and military operations since.

But our economic and political rights, and our suffering have remained invisible to most of Pakistan and the world because the region was seen as a dangerous frontier after numerous militants moved there after the fall of the Taliban.

Image result for Pakistani security forces, tribal areas, photos

Pakistani security forces

The government ignored us when these militants terrorized and murdered the residents. Pakistan’s military operations against the militants brought further misery: civilian killings, displacements, enforced disappearances, humiliation and the destruction of our livelihoods and way of life. No journalists were allowed into the tribal areas while the military operations were going on.

Pashtuns who fled the region in hopes of rebuilding their lives in Pakistani cities were greeted with suspicion and hostility. We were stereotyped as terrorist sympathizers. I was studying to become a veterinarian, but the plight of my people forced me and several friends to become activists.

In January 2018 Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring model and businessman from Waziristan who was working in Karachi was killed by a police team led by a notorious officer named Rao Anwar. Mr. Anwar, who is accused of more than 400 extrajudicial murders, was granted bail and roams free.

Along with 20 friends, I set out on a protest march from Dera Ismail Khan to Islamabad, the capital. Word spread, and by the time we reached Islamabad, several thousand people had joined the protest. We called our movement the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or the Pashtun Protection Movement.

Ours is a peaceful movement that seeks security and political rights for Pashtuns. Apart from justice for Mr. Mehsud, we demand investigations into the killings of thousands of other Pashtuns by security forces and militants. We seek an end to enforced disappearances.

 Image result for Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, pictures
Pashtun Tahafuz Movement

The military unleashed thousands of trolls to run a disinformation campaign against the P.T.M., accusing us of starting a “hybrid war.” Almost every day they accuse us of conspiring with Indian, Afghan or American intelligence services. Most of our activists, especially women, face relentless online harassment. A social media post expressing support for our campaign leads to a knock from the intelligence services.

Scores of our supporters have been fired from their jobs. Many activists are held under terrorism laws. Alamzaib Khan Mehsud, an activist who was gathering data and advocating on behalf of victims of land mines and enforced disappearances, was arrested in January. Hayat Preghal, another activist, was imprisoned for months for expressing support from our movement on social media. He was released in October but barred from leaving the country and lost his pharmacist job in Dubai, his sole source of income.

Gulalai Ismail, a celebrated activist, has been barred from leaving Pakistan. On Feb. 5, while protesting against the death of Mr. Luni, the college teacher and P.T.M. leader, she was detained and held incommunicado in an unknown place for 30 hours before being released. Seventeen other activists are still being detained in Islamabad.

Imran Khan, who once boasted of his Pashtun origins, took office as the new prime minister of Pakistan in August, but his government has chosen to do little to change the state’s attitude toward our demands for justice and civil rights.

The military is keen to ensure absolute control. We are not seeking a violent revolution, but we are determined to push Pakistan back toward a constitutional order. We are drawing some consolation from the recent judgment by Pakistan’s Supreme Court telling the military and the intelligence agencies to stay out of politics and media.

To heal and reform our country, we seek a truth and reconciliation commission to evaluate, investigate and address our grievances. Since our movement emerged, public opinion in Pakistan has turned against extrajudicial killings. Most major political parties maintain that enforced disappearances have no place in the country.

The legal and structural changes will take time, but breaking the silence and reducing the fear sustained for decades by the security apparatus is a measure of our success, even if the P.T.M.’s leaders are imprisoned or eliminated.

Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen is the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/11/opinion/pashtun-protests-pakistan.html

Related:

Advertisements

Pakistan: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Members Released by Court Order

February 9, 2019

A sessions court in Quetta on Saturday ordered the release on bail of six activists of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), DawnNewsTV reported.

Police had arrested the activists from outside the Quetta Press Club on January 31 during a protest demonstration against a bombing in Loralai which claimed the lives of nine people.

Police officers had resorted to the use of tear gas to disperse the activists.

The held workers were later identified as Najeebullah, Muhammad Suleman, Saleh Muhammad, Mehboob Shah, Zainullah and Naik Muhammad. They had been sent to Quetta’s district jail after their arrest by police.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Najeebullah Khan accepted the bail application of the PTM activists and ordered their release against a surety of Rs0.1 million each.

PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.

Editorial: Talks with PTM

In another incident earlier this week, rights acti­vist Gulalai Ismail — along with several workers of the PTM — was arrested for holding a protest demonstration outside the National Press Club in Islamabad to protest the death of PTM leader Arman Loni.

Image result for Arman Loni., pakistan, pictures

Ismail was initially shifted to the G-9 Women’s Police Station when she was arrested on Tuesday. On Wednesday she was taken to Adiala jail. Later that evening, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told Dawn that Ismail has been released.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1462795/quetta-court-orders-release-of-6-ptm-activists

Bill for delisting Pakistan as major ally tabled in US Congress

January 14, 2019

A bill seeking to remove Pakistan from a list of America’s major non-Nato allies has been introduced in the US Congress, even though the Trump administration enhances its contacts with Islamabad in its pursuit of a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

The resolution — introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs who, like the Trump administration, is a Republican — sets new conditions for future re-designation.

Also read: Pak-US ties should not be viewed only through Afghan or Indian lens, says FM Qureshi

Trump administration is unlikely to support move. — File photo
Trump administration is unlikely to support move. — File photo

If a US president desires to put Pakistan back on the list, he or she will have to certify to Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the “safe haven and freedom of movement” of the Haqqani Network in the country.

The president also has to certify that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network’s senior leaders and mid-level operatives.

Take a look: Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit, says US President Donald Trump

The re-designation will require another certification from Congress that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to preventing the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven and that Pakistan actively cooperates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Known as Resolution H.R. 73, the bill has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.

Mr Biggs, a second-term legislator, has no cosponsor and his move will need a strong support from the Trump administration and the Democratic Party to pass a House dominated by the Democrats.

In recent statements, President Donald Trump has clearly expressed his desire to withdraw at least half of the 14,000 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan.

Senior Democrats — both in and outside Congress — have also said that the United States cannot remain involved in these apparently unending wars in Afghanistan and Syria.

But before an ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Trump administration wants to ensure that the pullout does not lead to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul.

To achieve this target, the US has initiated a series of dialogues with the Taliban leadership, hoping to make them participate in a future set-up in Kabul as partners of the Afghan government.

The fourth round of US-Taliban talks, which was to be held last week either in Riyadh or Doha, had to be postponed after Taliban refused to sit with Kabul’s representatives.

The Trump administration wants Afghanistan’s neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to use their influence to persuade the Taliban to stay engaged and accept the Kabul government. Washington believes that Islamabad can play a key role in making this possible.

Last week, the US once again sent its special envoy for Afghanistan to the region with a task to convince Pakistan, India and China to work together to ensure the success of the Afghan peace initiative.

It is unlikely that the Trump administration would encourage any move to further isolate Pakistan in the present circumstances.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1457448

Pakistan: Mohmand Dam inauguration ceremony postponed again

January 13, 2019
The construction of the Rs309bn dam said to be imperative to resolve water scarcity, power shortfall in country. — Dawn.com
The construction of the Rs309bn dam said to be imperative to resolve water scarcity, power shortfall in country. — Dawn.com

Justice Nisar has paid close attention to the issue of water scarcity and had ordered the creation of the Dam Fund in July last year ─ a fund that appeals to the general public and overseas Pakistanis for donations for the construction of the Mohmand Dam and the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

The top judge’s initiative was later joined by the prime minister. Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, according to State Bank of Pakistan data in December 2018.

Image result for Mohmand Dam, pakistan, pictures

Justice Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan were to be the chief guests of today’s event.

Mohmand Dam contract controversy

The dam contract was awarded on a single-bid basis to a consortium of three companies led by Descon, a company previously by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, in which he and his family members currently hold ownership stakes.

A second contestant for the bid, a consortium comprising the Frontier Works Organisation, Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered, some top-ranking national contractors cited by Dawn said earlier.

The award of the bid to the Descon-led consortium raised questions about a possible conflict of interest and the process of the award.

Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda claimed the controversy around the award of the dam’s contract has been created “on the agenda of international powers”.

He said that Dawood had already resigned from the company before the bidding was held on July 18 ─ before the new government came to power. He added that the PM’s adviser had nothing to do with the contract and had no way to influence the bidding process.

Descon only holds 30pc of shares in the consortium and the bids were evaluated by technical experts comprising Nespak, an Australian company, and another foreign firm, according to Vawda.

Wapda Chairman Hussain said that it was coincidental that the single bidder’s price was also almost the same as estimated by the government and insisted there was no conflict of interest in the award of the contract to a company having links with a sitting cabinet member.

Although Hussain agreed that Descon was linked to Dawood, he maintained it had nothing to do with the bidding conducted by Wapda and dismissed the notion that he or the body was facing pressure over the groundbreaking of the project.

Abdul Razak Dawood in a statement also explained that he had founded and headed Descon like several other business ventures, but had disclosed all his business associations in writing to the prime minister and resigned from these positions before joining the government to ensure transparency and avoid conflict of interest.

The Mohmand Dam project

The construction of the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam ─ which will be situated on the Swat river in the Manda area ─ is said to be imperative to resolve the problems of water scarcity and electricity shortfall in the country.

A sum of Rs2bn has been allocated for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.

Work on the dam will begin this month and is expected to be complete within five years. It will have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and generate 800 megawatts of electricity. It will also irrigate 16,000 acres of land and increase agricultural production in the area.

The completion of the project will require 8,668 acres of land mostly in Mohmand tribal district and some parts of Bajaur and Malakand.

Pakistan Still Unable To Say The Tribal Areas Are Safe, Governed, Free of Taliban

January 6, 2019

THE legal limbo and financial vacuum in the settled tribal districts, the region formerly known as Fata, has finally received much-needed attention from the relevant government quarters. A high-level meeting convened to address administrative, financial and legal issues in the settled tribal districts achieved a significant breakthrough when it was decided that the centre, Punjab and KP would contribute up to 3pc of their shares from the federal divisible pool for the immediate needs of the districts.

Editorial
Dawn

Fata has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days. — File photo
Fata has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days. — File photo

While it remains to be seen how soon funds will start to flow to the districts, the decision ought to pave the way for a meaningful implementation of mainstreaming projects in the Fata region. Indeed, the fundamental constitutional, financial and administrative aspects have received insufficient attention by the state and the media, and there is a risk that the unresolved problems could lead to simmering discontent and alienation in a region that is still struggling to recover from the ravages of the decade-long militancy that was once rampant there.

Welcome as the contribution of Punjab  is — and important as the efforts of the KP and federal governments are — the difficulties in upgrading a region that was ruled under anachronistic legal provisions and had some of the poorest socioeconomic indicators in the country can be attributed to two persistent problems in governance: the absence of sufficient resources, and a lack of careful planning. As with the vital 18th Amendment, the transition phase after the abolition of Fata was not adequately planned.

Related image

The legal limbo in the region is also one step closer to resolution following a Supreme Court order last week that a six-month period be given for the introduction of a mainstream justice system in the districts, but that crisis too erupted because the interim governance ordinance for Fata was seemingly drafted in haste and without consulting constitutional experts. While the opposition of PML-N allies in the last parliament prevented the issue of reforms and mainstreaming to be taken up until the last days of the government, it was long known that a so-called mainstreaming project in Fata was imminent, even if the final status of Fata as a separate province or merged with KP was undecided. The Fata reforms commission recognised the importance of an orderly transition, but that realisation did not extend to those actually in charge of the transition.

File picture of Taliban fighter

Second, the problem of inadequate resources to address various projects of national importance will not go away until the state tackles the inadequacies in its revenue and tax strategies. Surely, no reasonable observer would argue that the settled tribal districts not receive a generous share of national resources, but then the state has to have a sustainable strategy of financing those needs. Otherwise, ad hoc desperate strategies will prevail.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1455831

Related:

 

Pakistani military patrol border fence.

Photographer: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

 

Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Without Constitution, Administration

December 11, 2018
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days
The U.S. has long said that the Taliban could often be found here operating between Pakistan and Afghanistan
.
*****************************************
.
Below from Dawn (Map supplied)
Fata has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days. — File photo
Fata has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days. — File photo

The blitzkrieg speed with which the 25th Amendment was pushed through the parliament on May 24 just over a week before the caretaker government was sworn in and the hurriedly drafted and promulgated Fata Interim Governance Regulation on May 29 spawned a complex set of problems that no one seems to have a ready and quick answer to.

Also read: The economics of mainstreaming Fata

The scrapping of Article 247, which could have provided constitutional cover to an interim arrangement in the erstwhile Fata for five years as originally recommended by the Sartaj Aziz committee till arrangements were made to establish courts and extend criminal and judicial system to the tribal districts, led to the ultimate unravelling of Fata Interim Governance Regulation (FIGR), according to the documents and officials. The FIGR replaced 1901 Frontier Crimes Regulation for the dispensation of justice.

The Fata merger: Towards a brave new world

The Peshawar High Court in its judgement on October 30, 2018 declared the FIGR as ultra vires of the Constitution, saying it violated the constitutionally binding principles of separation of the judiciary from the executive by allowing commissioners and deputy commissioners to act as judges and council of elders to decide civil and criminal cases.

Declaring Fata Interim Governance Regulation illegal, PHC had asked KP govt to separate executive from judiciary in tribal districts by Nov 30

Significantly, the PHC gave one month to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to establish a system for the administration of justice ensuring the separation of the executive from the judiciary for the erstwhile Fata. The one-month period given in the PHC judgement expired on November 30 resulting in an administrative, legal and constitutional vacuum.

The erstwhile political agents and assistant political agents in Fata renamed as deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners with judicial powers to adjudicate cases under the FIGR now stand stripped of any legal or administrative authority.

In the words of a senior administration official, “We are now operating largely on bluffs.

“We have no legal authority to entertain any criminal or civil complaint, make arrests, impose penalty or enforce law and order. It is squarely the goodwill of the nearly five million people in roughly 27, 000 square-kilometre area that the state authority is respected and upheld.”

Related image

“Legal uncertainty, administrative vacuum and institutional incapacity”, a review petition filed by the KP government in the apex court warns, “could generate “public unrest” as had been seen in the recent history which “ultimately snowballed into uprising and militancy”.

Citing lack of huge funds and resources to establish institutions such as police, prosecution, judiciary and prison in the erstwhile Fata, the KP government is now seeking reprieve from the apex court for the continuation of FIGR for at least five years to remain in force in the area. Officials said the apex court accepted its plea for an early hearing of the appeal in view of the dire situation in the tribal districts and is likely to take up the case later this week.

At the root is not just lack of legal foresight to see through the issue while pushing the amendment through the parliament to do away with the previous status of Fata, resulting in a legal and administrative vacuum, but also the lack of leadership, vision and focus required to resolve some of the most complex issues facing the people in the region.

Who will bell the cat?

Resultantly, confusion abounds. Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted an 11-member task force on September 6 to identify impediments and facilitate the merger process. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Establishment Arbab Mohammad Shehzad, who was made convener of the task force, was replaced the very next day by KP Governor Shah Farman. The task force has had two meetings since then and has made little progress.

Adding to the confusion, the KP government came up with its own inter-ministerial committee on November 27. Mandated to “set strategic and policy level directions, reviewing PSDP and ADP projects, propose reform initiatives, liaise with the police and other law enforcement agencies and review local government initiatives, amongst others, the committee is now being dispensed with two weeks after its creation, according to KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai. Led by senior minister Atif Khan, the committee has yet to meet.

And then there is the apex committee comprising senior political and military leadership at the KP level. There has been back and forth on suggestions and recommendation between the apex committee and the provincial government but nothing so far seems to have materialised, according to officials familiar with the exchanges.

Take the issue of Fata secretariat as an example. Prime Minister Khan directed its abolition and merger with KP civil secretariat for smooth administrative transition, overruling the concept of a truncated secretariat. After a lot of debate and exhortation by KP’s legal advisers the federal cabinet agreed that the decision to merge rested with the KP cabinet. But the cabinet decision, too, it later transpired, was not final and that it was to be decided by the inter-ministerial committee to discuss its pros and cons.

Mr Yousafzai, however, told Dawn on Monday that since PM Khan had already directed the secretariat merger with KP, there was no need for the inter-ministerial committee to do any further deliberations on the matter and was hence being dispensed with.

The power struggle

Those who are familiar with the situation say this could be the result of a tug of war between KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and two of his cabinet colleagues. Both sides are jostling for space and power. To add to the CM’s woes is Governor Shah Farman, who is stripped of his constitutional powers to oversee the affairs in the erstwhile Fata, but is still trying to retain some sort of control.

“There is free rolling and no discipline,” commented one such source. “Police are out on a solo flight in the tribal district, suspecting the bureaucracy is out to undermine them, while the bureaucracy is miffed that the civil armed force unilateral ambitious plans could lead to more potential problems vis-à-vis the resistance from the tribal people.”

“This [current situation] is because you have a weak leadership,” said sources aware of the development. “CM Mahmood is either unable to or is incapable to assert himself. It is not very different from what is being seen in the Punjab. The CM’s main area of interest is transfer and postings. Some of the good initiatives undertaken in the last PTI government now seem to be going down the drain,” commented one such source. “There is no sense of urgency when it comes to the tribal districts.”

Meanwhile, the promised Rs100 billion annual development fund for the tribal districts for the next 10 years is nowhere in sight, pending a meeting and approval of the National Finance Commission. It was only last week the federal government informed KP government that it could prepare an ADP. Also, it was indicated that the federal government would continue to pick up the tab for the salaries of its employees in the erstwhile Fata till the NFC made its decision on the matter.

This means that not only the tribal districts would have to wait for the promised fund to better the lives of the people, the local government system and anything related to the extension of civil and criminal justice system, police and other institutions would also have to wait until then. With the fate of khasadars and levies hanging in the balance, no one knows what happens next.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1450739/uncertainty-prevails-in-tribal-districts-without-legal-cover

Pakistani leader Imran Khan tells the U.S.: We’re not your ‘hired gun’ anymore

December 10, 2018

The U.S. has consistently said publicly that Pakistan remains the key to convincing the Taliban to make peace in Afghanistan — while at the same time privately complaining that the Pakistan government only pays lip service ending the Taliban’s safe havens on its soil. In an interview with The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth, Pakistan’s new prime minister, and former cricket star,Imran Khan pushes back on the allegations, while insisting his country won’t be America’s “hired gun.”


Imran Khan addresses a campaign rally in July. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

“When I came into power, I got a complete briefing from the security forces. They said that we have time and time again asked the Americans, ‘Can you tell us where the sanctuaries are, and we will go after them?’ There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan,” Khan told the Post. “But where are these people? Our border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has the greatest amount of surveillance. The U.S. has satellites and drones. These people crossing would be seen.”

That said, Khan says he agrees peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. “We will do everything … We will try our best. Putting pressure on the Taliban is easier said than done. Bear in mind that about 40 percent of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands.” And he insisted he does not want the Americans to leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989. “I talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan, and they called me ‘Taliban Khan.’ If you did not agree with the U.S. policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. Now I’m happy that everyone realizes there is only a political solution.”

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/milley-could-have-extended-period-as-joint-chiefs-chair-in-waiting

See also:

Pakistani leader to the U.S.: We’re not your ‘hired gun’ anymore

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/pakistani-leader-to-the-us-were-not-your-hired-gun-anymore/2018/12/06/e138790c-f8a5-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.dbe6fe343251

Related:

Pakistan sees talks on US financial aid restoration

December 10, 2018
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says there are chances of restoration of dialogue with the US government for the restoration of American financial assistance to Pakistan. ─ AFP/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says there are chances of restoration of dialogue with the US government for the restoration of American financial assistance to Pakistan. ─ AFP/File

He said that political leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had no objection to the creation of south Punjab province, however a `small segment’ in Sindh and Punjab had some reservations.

“A small segment in Sindh thinks that the creation of south Punjab may pave the way for the demand for the division of Sindh which is totally baseless as no one is demanding the division of Sindh,” he said.

He said that the PTI government was sincere for the creation of south Punjab. “Right now we are trying to create a consensus among political parties.”

He said initially a sub-secretariat (of south Punjab) would be established in Multan for which funds would be allocated in next fiscal. Qureshi said he was not aware of changes to be made in the ministries.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1450530/foreign-minister-sees-talks-on-us-financial-aid-restoration

US envoy on Afghan peace in Pakistan for talks about Taliban

December 4, 2018

The US special envoy tasked with finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year old war has arrived in Islamabad for meeting with the country’s political and military leadership about bringing the Taliban to peace talks.

.
Tuesday’s visit comes a day after the President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking his cooperation.

The US special envoy tasked with finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year old war has arrived in Islamabad. (AP/Rafiq Maqbool)

.
US envoy Zalmay will also travel to Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in a stepped-up effort to find a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

.
The United States and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the Taliban, whose leadership is based in Pakistan.

.
Islamabad says it has little influence on the Taliban but it will play role for peace in Afghanistan.

Associated Press

Related:

Trump tells Pakistan Taliban talks help fundamental to ‘enduring’ ties

December 4, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for Pakistan’s help with faltering Afghan peace talks in a letter to new Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he made clear that Islamabad’s assistance was “fundamental” to the health of the two countries’ strained relationship, a senior Trump administration official said.

The U.S. president wants to end the 17-year-old conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, who are fighting to drive out international forces and reestablish their version of strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

The administration official, who did not want to be identified, said on Monday that Trump requested “Pakistan’s full support” for the U.S. effort to advance the Afghan peace process and for U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s trip to the region.

Image result for Zalmay Khalilzad, cnn, photos

Zalmay Khalilzad

Trump also said in the letter to Khan that he “recognizes that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory,” the official said.”The letter also makes clear that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring U.S.-Pakistan partnership,” the official said.

The Pakistani foreign ministry had a different take on the letter, saying Trump asked for its “support and facilitation” in negotiating an end to the war, and offered to renew bilateral ties.

Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan, where the United States still has 14,000 troops, but plagued by accusations Islamabad is playing a double game.

U.S. officials have long been pushing Pakistan to lean on Taliban leaders, who Washington says are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table. Pakistani officials deny offering safe havens to the Afghan Taliban and say their influence on the group has waned over the years.

Trump appointed Afghan-born U.S. diplomat Khalilzad as special envoy tasked with pushing through peace talks.

Khalilzad said last month he hoped a deal would be reached by April 2019.

But Afghan Taliban militants said they had not accepted any deadline and said a three-day meeting in Qatar between their leaders and Khalilzad ended with no agreement.

Khalilzad on Sunday began an eight-country tour, including Pakistan, Russia and Qatar, to promote peace and convince the Taliban to join negotiations.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that the war in Afghanistan had gone on for long enough.

“We are looking for every responsible nation to support peace in the subcontinent and across this war in Afghanistan,” Mattis told reporters. “It is time for everyone to get on board.”

Trump has been clear that he wants to bring home U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support and a separate counter-terrorism mission aimed against militant groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State.

“President Trump has also acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan. He has emphasized that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that Pakistan was committed to playing “a facilitation role in good faith”.

Last month, Trump said Pakistan doesn’t “do a damn thing” for the United States despite billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

He defended cutting aid to Islamabad and also suggested Pakistani authorities knew Osama bin Laden’s location prior to his killing by U.S. troops in a raid inside Pakistan in 2011.

Khan hit back by saying the United States should not blame Pakistan for its failings in Afghanistan.

Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had formed a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban but implementation of any deal would take at least five years.

Reporting by Steve Holland, David Brunnstrom, Alexandra Ulmer and Idrees Ali in Washington; additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic in Islamabad; Writing by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Sonya Hepinstall

Reuters