Afghan government has no links with Daesh, former insurgent leader insists

Former Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, center, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, left, and former militant leader Abdul Rabb Rasool Sayyaf attend a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul on May 4, 2017. (Reuters/File)
Updated 06 January 2018

Afghan government has no links with Daesh, former insurgent leader insists

KABUL: Former Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who joined President Ashraf Ghani’s government last year, has categorically denied the allegation of links with Daesh militants made by Afghan ex-spy chief Amrullah Saleh.
Daesh has emerged as a complex and murky phenomenon in Afghan militancy as the group stepped up and expanded its attacks in Afghanistan recently.
Saleh served for years as chief of Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), in the previous administration, and was a harsh critic and rival of Hekmatyar during the bloody factional fighting over power in the 1990s. His assertions come amid growing division within the Ghani government and ethnic tension stirred up mostly by politicians and factional leaders.
The veteran Hekmatyar, who is in his late 60s, is a leader of Hizb-e-Islami; one of the main Afghan factions who fought during the Cold War against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Last week, Saleh said the government “had 20 ISIS (Daesh) suspects in custody all having current or pre-reconciliation ties with Hekmatyar. None has been referred to the court system in order to cover up affiliation with Hekmatyar to save the deal. Hekmatyar has been lobbying and bargaining for their release.”
Hekmatyar, in a news conference held in Kabul, Thursday, rejected Saleh’s allegations.
“It is just part of defamation (campaign) by liars. We don’t have any kind of political or party-based relations (with Daesh) and will not think about it. We don’t have relations with the Taliban nor with Daesh or Al-Qaeda or any other party.”
A presidential palace official told Arab News on Friday that if Saleh has concrete evidence backing his claim against Hekmatyar, then he should step forth with it. He added that Saleh’s allegations come amid heightened political and tribal tension that threatens further the stability of the Ghani government.
Daud Kalakani, an ethnic Tajik lawmaker, said that Saleh’s comments were never discussed in the Parliament. He told Arab News that Daesh rank and file comprised defected Taliban militants and former followers of Hekmatyar, but that does not mean Hekmatyar “has any link with Daesh.”
Baktash Siyawash, a political analyst and ex-MP, said legislators in the Parliament have on various occasions accused the “government of using Daesh to suppress and eliminate its political opponents under the label of Daesh.”
“Afghanistan’s political situation is such that these kind of accusations (Saleh’s claim) can very well impact the mindset of the people to quite an extent.”
Daesh, which sprang in Afghanistan in late 2014, has made significant ingress in recent months despite repeated offensives by the Afghan government and US troops based in Afghanistan.
The network has escalated and expanded its attacks across the country over the past few months.
Daesh’s latest suicide attack in Kabul killed more than 20 people, many of whom were police personnel, not far from the presidential palace and the US Embassy. The latest strike was the fourth claimed by the network in less than three weeks in Kabul alone.
Last Thursday, an attack claimed by Daesh on a cultural center in Kabul killed nearly 50 Afghans and injured a dozen others. Days ago, the group targeted the funeral of a former district chief, killing 17 civilians, all of whom were ethnic Pashtuns in eastern Nangarhar province.
In his news conference on Thursday, Hekmatyar said Iran had become a transit route for the flow of Daesh’s defeated fighters in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan.
“If I say that Daesh comes from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan through Iran, it will not be an exaggeration.”
Hekmatyar warned against dividing the government among ethnic groups, saying such a move could lead to the disintegration of Afghanistan.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.