Afghan peace process not yet begun: US

Updated 18 January 2013
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Afghan peace process not yet begun: US

KABUL: A real peace process in Afghanistan has not begun and the United States does not know what has happened to Taleban prisoners released by Pakistan, the US ambassador to Kabul said yesterday.
Pakistan said 26 prisoners were freed late last year in a bid to kick-start peace talks ahead of the withdrawal of US-led NATO troops from Afghanistan, whose government is under pressure from an 11-year Taleban insurgency.
“We don’t know, frankly, what has happened to the people that the Pakistanis have released,” Ambassador James Cunningham told a news briefing.
“We would have preferred to have greater visibility into that, but still it’s positive that they were released, I think, from the Afghan point of view.”
With the control of prisoners in Afghanistan a major issue between the US and the government of President Hamid Karzai, Cunningham said some freed prisoners had returned to Taleban ranks in senior positions in the past.
A peace process “hasn’t even really begun,” he said.
“Our goal is the beginning, if not the conclusion of, a serious process on peace and reconciliation as soon as possible — but so far it hasn’t proven possible... to get that going,” he said.
Washington began tentative moves towards peace with the Taleban a year ago. But they broke off the talks a few months later, apparently over the failure of the US to free Taleban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
Now the US is negotiating its exit from its longest war, pledging continued support for the Afghan government against an undefeated insurgency.
But details of US involvement after NATO combat troops withdraw in 2014 remain vague and subject to a security agreement still under negotiation.
It had been expected that a residual force of up to 20,000 troops would remain behind to help counter the Taleban, who were ousted in 2001 for harboring Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.
Now US officials have suggested as few as 3,000 troops may remain behind, raising questions about what effect they could have in a country which many predict will plunge back into civil war.


Pakistan appoints former chief justice as caretaker prime minister

Updated 9 min 23 sec ago
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Pakistan appoints former chief justice as caretaker prime minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling and opposition parties on Monday announced the appointment of a former Supreme Court chief justice as caretaker prime minister.
The selection of Nasir ul Mulk comes days after the country’s president announced that general elections will be held on July 25 — setting up what would only be Pakistan’s second ever democratic transfer of power.
“Today is an important day in the democratic history of Pakistan, the name was chosen after consensus was reached,” said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during a press conference.
“We have chosen a person whose past is very clear.”
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah added that Mulk, who served on the top court for nearly a decade — including a stint as chief justice from July 2014 to August 2015 — had backing across the political spectrum.
Mulk famously helped pave the way for the removal of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after he was convicted for contempt in 2012 for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against then president Asif Ali Zardari.
The appointment of the widely respected judge came as a surprise because he was not named as a potential frontrunner in recent discussions in the Pakistani press about who would take the helm as caretaker premier.
The current government’s tenure will end on May 31. Power will then be handed over to a caretaker administration after the parliament is dissolved until a new government is formed following elections.
The July polls will bring to a head political tensions that have been mounting since former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges last July and later barred from politics for life.
Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s seven-decade history to be ousted before finishing a full term.
The country witnessed its first democratic transfer of power following polls in 2013, which Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won in a landslide.
The upcoming elections are expected to pit the PML-N against its main rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
Despite the numerous court rulings against the PML-N, the party has won a string of recent by-elections proving it will likely remain a powerful force.