Former Afghan PM slams Iran’s ‘negative’ role

In this file photo, former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 4, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Former Afghan PM slams Iran’s ‘negative’ role

ISLAMABAD: Former Afghan prime minister and chief of Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said Iran’s role in his country “has always been negative.”
Tehran “has always preferred continuation of war in Afghanistan… Iran has invested for at least 30 years (on war),” he told Pakistan’s Geo TV.
“Iran is a party to the war in Afghanistan and supports different groups... Most of the weapons came from Iran after the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union (from Afghanistan),” he said, adding that Tehran is providing weapons to the Taliban.
“Many countries think their national interests are served by the continuation of the war,” he said, adding that other countries should not bring their rivalries to Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately some neighbors don’t want an end to the war… so there’s instability, differences among Afghan leaders and a weak government. They’ve been spending on this war for 30 to 40 years,” Hekmatyar said.
“Pakistan is the only country badly affected by the Afghan war. Pakistan… suffered the most. This war paved the way for the creation of groups that took up arms against Pakistan,” he added.
“Pakistan wanted to import energy, gas, electricity and oil from Central Asia, but the war has blocked this and Pakistan faces a lot of problems due to an energy crisis.”
Hekmatyar said the US has achieved nothing from the war: “The US has not only spent billions of dollars, but thousands of their personnel have been killed and injured. I don’t understand what the US wants to achieve from this war.”
He renewed his offer to mediate between the Afghan government and the Taliban, adding: “We have contacts with the Taliban at different levels. I’m hopeful of progress as we’ve received positive signals from the Taliban.”
Hekmatyar cited a “change in the Taliban approach to some extent, as the majority of Taliban leaders want peace.”
He said: “I believe the Taliban have been forced to fight… due to internal and external factors.”


Pakistan rejects downgrading by US in religious freedom

Updated 14 min 31 sec ago
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Pakistan rejects downgrading by US in religious freedom

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign ministry has rejected Washington’s move of placing Islamabad on its annual list of worst offenders for nations that infringe on religious freedom.
In a statement on Wednesday, it termed the decision as “unilateral and politically motivated.”
It said “besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise.”
Pakistan’s reaction came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he added Pakistan to the US list of “countries of particular concern” regarding protection for people to worship according to their beliefs.
Pakistan had previously been on a special watch list for religious freedom.
The downgrade means Pakistan could be hit with US sanctions, although Pompeo waived those penalties in the US national interest.