Tolo News – Security officials under fire over Kabul attack

An MP said there is a lack of coordination between different departments of the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

Kabul – Kabul Province, 18 May 2019. Some lawmakers and critics on Saturday criticized security officials for their “inability” to prevent a complex attack on a security outpost on the outskirts of Kabul city on Friday which left four security force members dead.

The MPs and military analysts said those behind the attack should be recognized and should be brought to justice.

So far, no group has claimed responsibly for the attack.

Taliban has claimed that they have captured a security outpost in Mahipar area in Sarobi district in Kabul and have killed four soldiers. These two incidents look similar, but the Public Protection Forces outpost was located on the outskirt of Kabul city.

The Kabul Police was also criticized for not sending reinforcements on time to respond to the attack. Eyewitnesses said the clashes continued for almost two hours.

“Head of the security department who did not act on time and did not anticipate such an attack should be held responsible,” said Mohammadagul Mujahid, a military analyst.

“There is no coordination between different departments of the Interior Affairs Ministry. The ministry does not have accurate communication with its outposts and police districts and cannot address their challenges,” said Fatima Nazari, an MP.

Kabul Police, meanwhile, said the incident is under “thorough” investigation.

“These soldiers were operating under the Public Protection Unit and they asked for help when the attack was ended. It means they did not ask for help in the first minutes,” said Firdaws Faramarz, a spokesman for Kabul Police.

The Acting Minister of Interior Affairs has ordered an investigation into the incident and has said that those who were found negligent in sending reinforcements to the area “should be punished”, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

This comes as General Salem Almas was removed from his post as head of the Crime Investigation Department in Kabul to pay more attention to Kabul security. Lieutenant Colonel Moeenuddin was appointed as acting head of the Crime Investigation Department.

“Recently, pressure has increased on criminal networks in Kabul,” said Nusrat Rahimi, a spokesman for Ministry of Interior Affairs. “At least 120 suspects have been arrested on charges of murder and robbery in Kabul over the past two weeks.”

Kabul residents said they are deeply concerned about an increase in crime in the city.

“Murder, kidnapping and any types of crime are happening in Kabul,” said Mohammad Sharif, a Kabul resident.

“We cannot walk freely in the city. The government should do something,” said Hashmatullah, a Kabul resident.

Dawn – Who was Brigadier General John Nicholson? And what should we do about his monument on GT Road?

It is important to preserve monuments, but also to contest the narrative built around them.

Osman Ehtisham Anwar

Taxila – Panjab – Pakistan, 17 May 2019. My heart would sink at the sight of Nicholson’s Obelisk, towering high atop Margalla Pass near Taxila on the left flank of the Grand Trunk Road as I travelled from Rawalpindi towards Peshawar.

It indicated that my boarding school, Cadet College Hasan Abdal, was only 30 minutes away and I would have to part with my parents, who would accompany me and my brother on the drive back to our college after vacations.

I remember asking my father once if he knew what that monument was. He had remarked that it was named after a British brigadier general. My father, being an alumnus of the same college, had frequented that road many times.

I knew very little at the time of who Brigadier General John Nicholson was, but assumed he must have been a very distinguished and remarkable man to have a towering structure in his remembrance.

It wasn’t until recently that I read about the moveable column (a tactical military formation) that he led during the uprising of 1857, the atrocities he committed and his extremely prejudiced, racist hatred towards the people of the Indian subcontinent and Afghans that I realised how important it is for us to recognise this British-era relic as an embodiment of our colonial subjugation.

William Dalrymple in his book The Last Mughal recounts that by the time the uprising started against the British in Meerut in 1857, Nicholson had already developed a very strong hatred for the people here:

“Nicholson loathed India with a passion (‘I dislike India and its inhabitants more every day’) and regarded only the Afghans as worse (‘the most vicious and bloodthirsty race in existence’). These views he had already formed before he was captured during the disaster of the 1842 Afghan War.

By the time he was released, only to discover his younger brothers dead body, with his genitalia cut off and stuffed in his mouth, his feeling about Afghans, and indeed Indians and Muslims of any nationality, were confirmed: he felt, he said, merely ‘an intense feeling of hatred. Only his wish to spread the Christian Empire of the British in this heathen wilderness kept him in the East”.

Dalrymple goes on to add that when Sir John Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of the Punjab at the time, gave Nicholson a mixed-race Anglo-Indian subordinate, Nicholson felt insulted and humiliated:

“Nicholson’s response was to threaten to murder Lawrence, or, as he put it, ‘commit justifiable homicide. Individuals have their rights as well as nations’”.

Perhaps the brigadier general did attract some unsuspecting admirers amongst the population during his time and was called “Nikul Seyn”, possibly as a mark of respect. But Charles Griffiths, writing in 1910, suggests in his account of the Siege of Delhi that the word ‘Seyn’ (saeen) in Nicholson’s case implied more than that:

“Many stories are told of his prowess and skill, and he ingratiated himself so strongly amongst a certain race that he received his apotheosis at their hands, and years afterwards was, and perhaps to this day is, worshipped by these rude mountaineers under the title of “Nikul Seyn”.”

However, others contest this. The young Lieutenant Edward Ommaney who accompanied Bahadur Shah Zafar to exile in Rangoon was “one of the few who remained immune to the hero worship of this great imperial psychopath”, according to Dalrymple, and was shocked by Nicholson’s absurd viciousness directed not only towards the ‘mutineers’ (from his perspective) but also towards the unfortunate cook boys.

Dalrymple recounts in his book:

“‘He shows himself off to be a great brute,’ Ommaney wrote in his diary on 21 July. ‘For instance he thrashed a cook boy, for getting in his way in the line of the march (he has a regular man, very muscular, to perform this duty). The boy complained, he was brought up again, and died from the effects of the 2nd thrashing’”.

In another incident, he hung all the regimental cooks. As the officers in the mess waited for their dinner, Nicholson walked into the mess tent and announced:

“‘I’m sorry gentlemen to have kept you waiting for your dinner, but I have been hanging your cooks’. According to Nicholson he had discovered through his spies that the regimental cooks had just laced the officers’ soup with aconite. He first invited the cooks to taste the soup, then, when they refused, force-fed the hot liquid to an unfortunate monkey.

It writhed for a few seconds, then expired. Within minutes, as one of the officers present put it, ‘our regimental cooks were ornamenting a neighbouring tree’”.

The history of the subcontinent has other, more infamous generals who were of course celebrated by the British as saviours of the Raj.

With the recent centenary of the massacre at Amritsar, everyone in India is already familiar with General Reginald Dyer, who on April 13, 1919 led and ordered his soldiers to open fire on some 20,000 people, including women and children, who had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh, mostly to celebrate the Sikh festival of Baisakhi.

In 2015/16, there was an unsuccessful campaign in Oxford to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes; the protesting students did not want his imperialist legacy to be celebrated. The Rhodes Scholarship is administered through his will. Although I support the preservation of Nicholson’s Obelisk as a part of our history, what I contest is the narrative that is built around it.

For example, a news report from 2016 about the first ever archeological survey conducted in the federal capital concludes with a remark about Nicholson: “His life and career became a source of inspiration for a generation of British youth seeking adventure in emerging colonies, especially the Indian subcontinent”.

A lot more needs to be added as to who he was and how prejudiced and despicable his views and actions were. The British wanted to pay homage to Nicholson’s imperial achievements. To us, it should serve as a reckoning of our past. It is imperative for us to know the man for who he was as opposed to what the colonial empire wanted to remember him as.

Today, the road leading up to my alma mater brings back fonder memories; my heart still sinks at the sight of this obelisk though, but for different reasons now. Globally in academia, there is a strong student-led movement to decolonise curriculums. It is all the more important for us in Pakistan to do the same.

When students at a premiere boarding school aren’t taught anything about a monument that is in such close proximity to their campus, it points to a systemic issue. We ought to engage more openly and critically with our history, so that we know our past better than I did when I was in school.

Osman Ehtisham Anwar is retracing the footsteps of one of the greatest travellers of all time, Ibn Battuta. You can read more about his journey at A Wandering Within.
He tweets @OEAnwar.

Tolo News – Police accused of neglect in rescuing Afghan Sikh

Singh’s mother said her son would have been rescued if police had acted on time.

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 14 May 2019. Relatives of Arijit Singh, 22, an Afghan Sikh from Kabul, who was kidnapped and killed by a group of kidnappers in Kabul said police had “neglected” in rescuing Singh from the abductors.

Singh’s body was found and buried by Kabul police at Kabul Municipality cemetery two months ago, but his family was informed this week.

“Why the municipality did not inform us? Sikh is known for his appearances and what he was wearing. Why we were not informed?” Singh’s mother asked.

Singh’s relatives said police were informed about his disappearance, but they buried the body.

“I don’t know why they buried the body that had no relative while they were informed about disappearance of Singh,” said Anarkali Hunaryar, a senator.

Nusrat Rahimi, a spokesman for Ministry of Interior Affairs, said they have arrested a couple in connection to the case.

“The anti-crime department of the Interior Ministry has arrested two main suspects who had kidnapped Arijit Singh from PD13. The killers are a wife and husband that one of them was arrested from PD13 and another was arrested from Baghlan province,” Nusrat Rahimi, spokesman of interior ministry said.

Tolo News – USA, Taliban made steady but slow progress in Qatar: Khalilzad

Khalilzad says there is a need for more and faster progress and the proposal to reduce violence remains on the table.

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 10 May 2019. The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad wrapped up another round of talks with the Taliban members in Qatar where, he said, the two sides made “steady but slow progress on aspects on the framework for ending the Afghan war”.

Khalilzad, who provided the information about the talks on Twitter, did not go into more details about the result of the sixth round of the talks between the two sides, but said: “we are getting into the ‘nitty gritty’”.

“We made steady but slow progress on aspects of the framework for ending the Afghan war. We are getting into the ‘nitty gritty’. The devil is always in the details,” he said in a tweet.

He said the current pace of talks “is not sufficient when so much conflict rages and innocent people die”.

“We need more and faster progress. Our proposal for all sides to reduce violence also remains on the table,” Khalilzad added.

However, the Taliban seemed optimistic as they called the talks productive and constructive in a statement released on Thursday evening.

The statement said the two sides discussed issues they agreed in draft in the fifth round of talks and that progress was made on some of them, not all the issues.

The key issues under debate were foreign forces withdrawal, ceasefire, counter-terrorism assurances, and intra-Afghan dialogue.

The two sides agreed in draft on counter-terrorism assurances and foreign forces withdrawal from Afghanistan in the fifth round of the talks in mid-March.

“The sixth round of talks, in total, were positive and both sides patiently heard each other’s views,” the statement reads.

The statement said both sides will discuss the issues on which progress has been made and also the issues which no progress was made on them and will prepare for another round of talks.

Bhaktar News – President Ghani thanks participation & active role of Afghan Sikhs in Peace Jirga

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 07 May 2019. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani met with a number of representative of AL-e-Hunood and Sikhs participating in Peace Consultative Jirga.

In the meeting held Sunday evening at presidential palace, Anarkhali Honaryar, representing the Afghan Sikhs, spoke and congratulated successfully holding the Peace Consultative Jirga to the President and people of Afghanistan.

Honaryar added that debates of the Jirga occurred in an open environment and praised the country’s President for respecting the people’s views, saying that Afghans needed lasting peace in the country.

Also praising the ministry of education for attention to schools of Afghan Sikhs, Honaryar asked the country’s President for attention to Cheshma-e-Muqadas in Nangarhar and Shamshan in Ghazni and Nangarhar.

Afterwards, the country’s President spoke and while praising the Afghan Sikhs for their participation and active role in Loya Jirga said problems of the Afghan Sikhs would be addressed through presidential office, ministry of urban development and land and independent governance of local organs.

President Ghani also praised them for considerable role in boosting the country’s economy in the past.–active-role-of-afghan-sikhs-in-peace-jirga.html

World Sikh News – Brave Narinder Pal Singh nominated lone Sikh MP in Afghanistan

Jagmohan Singh

Kabul – Kabul Province, 04 May 2019. Amidst radically dwindling numbers of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, Sardar Narinder Pal Singh has been appointed as the new Member of Parliament through the minority quota by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ah­madzai. WSN chronicles Sikh Afghan Members of Parliament over the decades.

Despite multifarious challenges to life, the drastically decreased Sikh and Hindu population in Afghanistan, still continues to keep the flag flying. Narinder Pal Singh, the son of Avtar Singh Khalsa, who was Member of Parliament in in Afghanistan and who along with other Afghan Sikh leaders and activists was killed in a suicide bomb attack nearly a year ago has been nominated Member of Parlia­ment.

With the number of Sikhs and Hindus down from a nearly two lakhs to just under a thousand, those that remain are fighting a struggle to keep their religious historical legacy intact by guarding their Gurdwaras and Temples.

Brave Narinder Pal Singh nominated lone Sikh MP in Afghanistan

Tolo News – Afghan government ready for ceasefire: Ashraf Ghani

Ghani says the Afghan government will implement all recommendations mentioned in Peace Jirga delegates’ resolution.

Kabul – Kabul province, 03 May 2019. President Ashraf Ghani addressed the closing ceremony of the Grand Consultative Jirga on Peace on Friday where he said the Afghan government is ready to implement all recommendations mentioned in the Peace Jirga’s resolution.

He said the Afghan government is ready to announce a ceasefire if the Taliban show readiness in this regard.

President Ashraf Ghani addressed the closing ceremony of the Grand Consultative Jirga on Peace on Friday where he said the Afghan government is ready to implement all recommendations mentioned in the Peace Jirga’s resolution.

He said the Afghan government is ready to announce a ceasefire if the Taliban show readiness in this regard.

“I am ready to implement your (the Peace Jirga delegates’) legitimate demand which is ceasefire. I see the courage and power in the National Defense and Security Forces lines to implement the discipline of a ceasefire. If the Taliban is ready for a ceasefire in a way, we can work on technical details of it,” he explained.

Ghani said he apologizes to Kabul residents for the problems created for them during the Peace Jirga, including road closures in the city.

He added that the Peace Jirga resolution will be the action plan and the roadmap for the Afghan government and that all recommendations of the resolution will be implemented.

“We are ready to provide the ground for Taliban to be part of the country’s development. It is a friendly suggestion,” Ghani said.

Meanwhile, Ghani announced the release of 175 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill towards peace.

He called on the Taliban to send their delegation to Kabul or another province of the country to receive the 175 prisoners.

Ghani said that a post-Afghanistan peace will help economic development in Pakistan. He said the Afghan government wants a relationship with Pakistan which is based on mutual respect and friendship, which is clear and is an equal government-to-government relation.

Ghani said he appreciates US efforts for Afghan peace and added that Afghanistan has strategic relations with the United States.

He thanked all countries including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, and the European Union which are interested in hosting the Afghan peace talks.

He said the Taliban has to make their choice that whether they will attend the talks inside Afghanistan or in any of the mentioned countries.

Ghani also called on the Taliban to get ready for peace talks inside Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, head of the Peace Jirga, said the grand council serves for the interests of Afghans, which is a durable peace in the country.

He called on the Afghan people and the Taliban to remove hatred from their hearts against each other as he addresses the closing ceremony of the Peace Jirga.

He said also called on President Ghani to consult the Afghan people in any decision on peace.

Sayyaf said Peace Jirga delegates expressed their recommendations in a free environment. He said Afghans have a strong will for peace.

According to him, a majority of delegates are in favor of integrated peace efforts.

The Jirga delegates’ resolution includes the following demands:

  1. Afghans remain committed to bringing a durable peace in the country.
  2. Taliban should listen to the Afghan people, end violence and bloodshed and take part in the country’s development.
  3. There should be a unified view of Islam by the Taliban and the country’s religious scholars.
  4. The Afghan government and the Taliban should agree on an immediate ceasefire starting from the first day of Ramadhan.
  5. The Islamic Republic system should be preserved.
  6. Afghanistan’s Constitution should be preserved and if needed, amendments should be brought to it through required legitimate mechanisms.
  7. The basic rights of all Afghans, including women’s rights and their rights for education, should be preserved in the peace process.
  8. A strong Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is a need for ensuring durable peace in the country.
  9. The Peace Jirga delegates call on the involved parties and countries in the peace process to provide the ground for the opening of the Taliban’s political office in Afghanistan.
  10. The Peace Jirga delegates call on the Afghan government to preserve the achievements of the past two decades and in collaboration with the international community prepare a timeline for “responsible” withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
  11. Members of the Peace Jirga call on all political parties and movements as well as influential figures in the country to enter the peace talks through a unified position.
  12. All involved parties should prevent from recommending preconditions for starting direct peace talks.
  13. All involved parties should implement flexibility towards prisoners and act on releasing prisoners as a goodwill gesture and for creating trust environment.
  14. The delegates call on the international community and countries in the region to coordinate their peace efforts with the Afghan government and place the government of Afghanistan in the center of these efforts.
  15. The Jirga delegates call on the Afghan government to maintain good relations with regional and neighboring countries in all its peace efforts and if it sees any interference by these countries, it should lodge its complaint to the United Nations Security Council.
  16. The Afghan government should expedite its consultations with influential figures in the country on peace efforts and on starting direct talks with the Taliban.
  17. Reforms should be brought to the structure, formation, and activities of the High Peace Council.
  18. The negotiating team should include at least 50 members from former Jihadi leaders, religious scholars, women, youths, Kochis and representatives of different classes of the society.
  19. Taliban’s legitimate demands should be recognized by the Afghan government and it should take required steps for trust building.
  20. The Peace Jirga delegates remain committed to their efforts for peace as the messengers of peace and they will pass on the message of the Jirga to the relevant areas.
  21. The Jirga delegates call on the Afghan government to ensure good relations with the delegates and keep them updated about consultations and developments in the peace talks.
  22. The Afghan government, the Taliban, the international community, regional countries, and other involved parties should respect the demands of the Jirga delegates and take practical steps to reduce violence.
  23. All suggestions and recommendations of the 50 committees of the Jirga should be published as an official document.

The Hindu – No good options in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, ‘reconciliation’ means different things to different players and to different groups of Afghans

Rakesh Sood

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 30 April 2019. During the last 50 years, Afghanistan has been through different governance systems, Monarchy till 1973; Communist type rule, initially home-grown and then imposed by the USSR with its 1979 intervention; Jihadi warlordism in the early 1990s; Shariat-based Taliban rule; and a Democratic republic based on a presidential system since 2004.

Wracked by a growing Taliban insurgency, peace today remains elusive. Reconciliation with the Taliban is increasingly projected as the way forward. But ‘reconciliation’ means different things to different players and to different groups of Afghans.

Negotiating an USA exit

The USA began its operations in Afghanistan, primarily against the al-Qaeda, 18 years ago. As it set about creating new institutional structures in Afghanistan, supported by the international community, USA troop presence began to grow. From a few thousand in 2002, the numbers increased and stabilised around 20,000 between 2004 and 2006 when they started climbing.

By 2010, it had spiked to 1,00,000, dropping to 10,000 in 2016 and currently numbers around 15,000. The cumulative cost has been over $800 billion on U.S. deployments and $105 billion on rebuilding Afghanistan, with nearly 2,400 American soldiers dead.

USA President Donald Trump’s policy announced in August 2017 was aimed at breaking the military stalemate by authorising a small increase in U.S. presence, removing operational constraints, putting Pakistan on notice, improving governance and strengthening the capabilities of Afghan security forces.

Within a year, the policy failure was apparent. Afghan government continued to lose territory and today controls less than half the country. Since 2015, Afghan security forces have suffered 45,000 casualties with over 3,000 civilians killed every year.

Last year, USA senior officials travelled to Doha to open talks with the Taliban, followed by the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation. Five rounds of talks have been held and a sixth is likely soon.

Mr Khalilzad is seeking guarantees that the Taliban will not provide safe haven to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Afghan territory will not be used to launch strikes against the USA, while the Taliban have demanded a date for USA withdrawal along with the release of all Taliban detainees in Guantánamo and Afghanistan.

Mr Khalilzad has also sought a ceasefire in Afghanistan and engagement in an intra-Afghan dialogue in return. The Taliban have responded with their new spring offensive, al-Fath, and refuse to engage with the Afghan government.

An intra-Afghan dialogue with political and civil society leaders planned for around the third week of this month in Doha was called off on account of the presence of Afghan officials.

It is clear that Mr Khalilzad is not negotiating peace in Afghanistan; he is negotiating a managed USA exit. Given the blood and treasure expended, the optics of the exit is important. As former USA Defence Secretary J Mattis said, “The U.S. doesn’t lose wars, it loses interest”.

Increasing polarisation

There is growing polarisation in Afghanistan along ethnic and even sectarian divides. With three presidential elections (in 2004, 2009 and 2014) and three parliamentary elections (in 2005, 2010 and 2018), faith in the electoral process and the election machinery has eroded.

The 2009 presidential election showed the growing mistrust between then President Hamid Karzai and Washington. The USA kept pushing Mr Karzai to agree to a second round between him and his rival Abdullah Abdullah despite Mr Karzai’s insistence that he had won more than 50% votes in the first round.

After months of wrangling when Mr Karzai agreed, Dr Abdullah backed out and Mr Karzai felt that his second term had been tarnished.

The 2014 election yielded a disputed result with neither Ashraf Ghani nor Dr Abdullah willing to concede. Despite an audit, results were never declared.

Instead, the USA-backed political compromise produced a National Unity Government (NUG) with Ashraf Ghani as President and Dr Abdullah as CEO, a position never legitimised by the promised constitutional amendment. The NUG has aggravated polarisation and has often found itself paralysed.

The 2019 presidential election, due in April has been postponed twice, to July and now to September 28. This may have been pushed by the USA to give time to Mr Khalilzad for his talks, but any further postponement will not be accepted by the people in view of the eroding legitimacy of the NUG.

Parliamentary elections due in 2015 were finally held in October 2018 even though the promised electoral reforms remained unimplemented. Under the circumstances, the results have yet to be declared six months later, further delegitimising the process.

Together with the deteriorating security situation, the prospects for a credible and legitimate election in September seem remote.

This is why there is growing support among certain Afghan sections for an interim government. Such an arrangement would prepare the ground for fresh elections after constitutional amendments and electoral reforms using the Loya Jirga process over the next two years.

Expectedly, this is strongly opposed by the more secular and liberal Afghan groups, including women, which see any such move as a step back from the democratic principles of the 2004 constitution.

The real risk is that as Western funding for salaries and equipment dries up and political legitimacy of Kabul erodes, the cohesiveness of the Afghan security forces will be impacted.

Elusive peace

Just as there is no domestic consensus on the terms of reconciliation with Taliban, there is a breakdown of regional consensus too. Mr. Khalilzad met with his Russian and Chinese counterparts in Moscow where the three reiterated support for “an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process”.

However, there is no common understanding of what it means or which Afghans should own and lead the process. The NUG feels abandoned and has blamed Mr Khalilzad of betraying the Afghan government; the USA has demanded an apology from the Afghan NSA, Hamdullah Mohib, for his outburst against the USA.

Moscow has its own format for talks and is convinced that the USA-backed experiment of the NUG needs to end, the sooner the better. Chinese interest is primarily with securing its Xinjiang province and the Belt and Road Initiative projects in the region.

Iran maintains its own lines with the Taliban even as elements of the Syria returned, battle-hardened Fatemiyoun brigade have given it additional leverage.

The Pakistan factor

Pakistan is once again centre-stage as the country with maximum leverage. To demonstrate its support, Pakistan released Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a leader and founder of the Taliban, after keeping him in custody for nearly nine years.

Ironically, he was picked up because he had opened direct talks with the Karzai government a decade ago and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was furious when it learnt about it. The ISI’s investment in providing safe haven to the Taliban for 18 years is finally paying off as the USA negotiates its exit while the Taliban negotiate their return.

A sense of triumphalism was visible in Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement suggesting the formation of an interim government in Kabul to overcome the hurdles in the Doha talks provoking a furious backlash from Afghanistan from the government and the opposition figures.

Even Mr Khalilzad dubbed the statement as ‘inappropriate’. Pakistan has since backtracked but it shows that old habits die hard.

Even without getting into details of why the post-Bonn order in Afghanistan is fraying, there is agreement that peace in Afghanistan cannot be restored by military action.

It is also clear that a prolonged U.S. military presence is not an answer. The problem is that a USA withdrawal will end the USA war in Afghanistan but without a domestic and regional consensus, it will not bring peace to Afghanistan. Sadly, today there are no good options in Afghanistan.

Rakesh Sood is a former diplomat and currently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.


The News – Ijaz Shah – the right man for Afghan peace process

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 28 April 2019. Pakistani officials have said the newly-appointed Interior Minister Ijaz Shah is an expert on Afghanistan as he had worked on the issue when the US war on terrorism was at its peak in early 21st century.

Elected MNA from Nankana Sahib, Ijaz Shah is a former spy chief and close ally of Pervez Musharraf who has long been accused of deep ties to militant groups.

The appointment of retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah has been heavily criticised by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose slain former leader Benazir Bhutto regarded him as a deadly enemy.

Some analysts said it suggested Pakistan’s military continued to wield heavy influence over the civilian administration, a persistent allegation since Khan took office eight months ago that both his government and the generals deny, a foreign wire service reported.

In an interview with the BBC after his appointment, Shah said he had left his institution a long time ago.

“I am a civilian and have participated in elections.” The prime minister’s office and the information ministry did not respond to requests for comment. Shah was among four persons named by Bhutto in a letter written to then President Pervez Musharraf months before her assassination as suspects who should be investigated if she was killed.

“Are you trying to send a message to the world that we have terrorists and the abettors of terrorists in our cabinet?” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto told the National Assembly this week, referring to Shah’s appointment. “This cannot happen.”

Shah’s office did not respond to a request for an interview or a list of questions sent by Reuters, but earlier this month then Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told local newspaper Dawn that “he is a clean man” and had been cleared of all allegations against him in a government inquiry.

The sweeping cabinet reshuffle comes as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investment and present itself as a reformed country. But critics say the inclusion of an “old school” figure such as Shah in the government shows little has changed.

Under Musharraf, who as army chief seized power in a 1999 coup and ruled until 2008, Shah served as head of the military’s leading spy agency in the Punjab province, and was later appointed the head of the civilian Intelligence Bureau.

He oversaw the surrender of wanted militant Omar Saeed Shaikh, who masterminded the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in 2002.

That contributed to allegations he had been close to Islamist groups based along lawless border with Afghanistan.

“The biggest controversy is his links with the Afghan jihad and figures like Omar Saeed Sheikh,” author and analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters. Allegations leveled by the United States, Afghanistan and others regarding sheltering militants has based along its borders.

When The News reporter tried to contact high officials late at Saturday night, they were not available; however authorities said that Ijaz Shah has done a lot on Afghan front and he knows people and problems related to that issue, and his appointment will help the US in its initiative to have peace in Afghanistan as Pakistan is a major stakeholder in Afghan peace process.

Talks between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban have been stalled for now but its expected that they will restart soon. The Taliban have also announced fresh spring offensive which has been criticised widely.

They said that it is a sincere effort from Pakistan civilian government that they want a peaceful neighbor on the western front. Prime Minister Imran Khan the other day had resolved that Pakistan will not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

“Afghanistan conflict has brought great suffering for both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last 40 years.

Now, after a long wait, the Afghanistan peace process presents a historic opportunity for peace in the region and Pakistan is fully supporting the process including the next logical step of Intra-Afghan Dialogue wherein Afghans will themselves decide the future of their country”, Prime Minister Khan had said in a statement.

The officials said that it was a positive thinking on part of the prime minister to resolve decades old Afghan imbroglio that he chose a person who knows how the things should go.

The officials said that had Ijaz Shah was involved in assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the last PPP government would have unearthed this. After a complete investigation would have been carried out to prove his involvement. They said that all were mere allegations.

On the other hand ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf officials said that the party wants to strengthen it self in the province of Punjab and Ijaz Shah has defeated a prominent PML-N leader Dr Shizra Mansab in the elections. They said that earlier Nankana Sahib was a stronghold of the PML-N.

Under Khan’s government, Islamabad has been trying to convince the outside world that it will not tolerate militants operating from inside Pakistan.

Pakistan currently finds itself on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “grey list” for inadequately dealing with money laundering and terrorism financing, a designation that makes it harder for the country to access international markets at a time when its economy is stumbling.

Convincing the FATF that it is making sufficient efforts to crack down on militancy will be harder with a controversial figure such as Shah in the cabinet, said PPP Senator Mustafa Khokhar.

“Ijaz Shah’s appointment just reinforces the perception that nothing has changed in Pakistani politics,” political analyst Aamer Ahmed Khan told the wire service.

Tolo News – USA – Russia and China reach ‘consensus’ on Afghan peace

United States, Russia and China envoys said they support a second round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha.

Siyar Sirat

Kabul – Kabul Province, 26 April 2019. The trilateral meeting between special envoys of United States, Russia and China in Moscow on Thursday ended with a “trilateral consensus” on the Afghan peace process, reads a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

It was the second trilateral consultation on Afghanistan in Moscow, in which US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, Chinese Special Envoy Deng Xijun, and Russian Presidential Representative Zamir Kabulov discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and the ongoing peace process.

According to the statement, the three sides agreed on the following matters:

  • The statement reads that the three sides respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan as well as its right to choose its development path. The three sides prioritize the interests of the Afghan people in promoting a peace process.
  • The three sides support an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and are ready to provide necessary assistance. The three sides encourage the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks with a broad, representative Afghan delegation that includes the government as soon as possible. Toward this end, and as agreed in Moscow in February 2019, we support a second round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha (Qatar).
  • The three sides support the Afghan government efforts to combat international terrorism and extremist organizations in Afghanistan. They take note of the Afghan Taliban’s commitment to: fight Daesh and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ETIM, and other international terrorist groups; ensure the areas they control will not be used to threaten any other country; and call on them to prevent terrorist recruiting, training, and fundraising, and expel any known terrorists.
  • The three sides recognize the Afghan people’s strong desire for a comprehensive ceasefire. As a first step, we call on all parties to agree on immediate and concrete steps to reduce violence.
  • The three sides stress the importance of fighting illegal drug production and trafficking, and call on the Afghan government and the Taliban to take all the necessary steps to eliminate the drug threat in Afghanistan.
  • The three sides call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process.
  • The three sides call for regional countries to support this trilateral consensus and are ready to build a more extensive regional and international consensus on Afghanistan.
  • The three sides agreed on a phased expansion of their consultations before the next trilateral meeting in Beijing. The date and composition of the meeting will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.