Sacked Catalan leader vows to lead despite Spain ‘threats’

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont (C) arrives at the University of Copenhagen to take part in a debate entitled: “Catalonia and Europe at a crossraods for democracy?” on January 22, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Sacked Catalan leader vows to lead despite Spain ‘threats’

COPENHAGEN: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Monday vowed to form a new government despite “threats” from the central government in Madrid, after a Spanish judge refused to re-issue a European warrant for his arrest.
Speaking at a debate on Catalonia at the University of Copenhagen, Puigdemont said: “We will not surrender to authoritarianism despite Madrid’s threats.”
“Soon we will form a new government... it’s time to end their oppression and find a political solution for Catalonia,” the 55-year-old politician added.
Puigdemont’s comments came hours after the speaker of the Catalan parliament proposed him as president of Catalonia following an election in December in which separatist parties once again won an absolute majority.
Roger Torrent said Puigdemont’s candidacy to once again head Catalonia’s regional government is “absolutely legitimate,” even though the secessionist leader faces criminal proceedings in Spain over his role in Catalonia’s independence drive.
Puigdemont defied Spanish prosecutors’ attempt to re-issue a European arrest warrant if he left Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid.
But Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena turned down the request, arguing Puigdemont had gone to Denmark “to provoke this arrest abroad” as part of a strategy to boost his arguments in favor of being allowed to be sworn in as president of Catalonia again.
Puigdemont wants to be sworn in from Belgium, where he fled in late October after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence, sparking shock waves across an EU already shaken by Britain’s vote to leave.

Madrid sacked Puigdemont and his entire government, and it dissolved the parliament following the declaration.
Charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, Puigdemont now faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in the independence drive.
“Fundamental freedoms have been undermined, democratically elected politicians have been sent to prison and treated like terrorists,” he told students in Copenhagen, describing the moves as acts of “revenge.”


Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

Updated 18 August 2018
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Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office says Afghanistan has not shared any evidence to support its recent allegations against Pakistan
  • Imran Khan’s idea of a soft border between Pakistan and Afghanistan may have suffered a big setback in the wake of the Ghazni attack

PESHAWAR: In the backdrop of the Taliban’s brazen assault on the southern city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the bodies of the perpetrators had arrived in Pakistan, though Islamabad maintained that Kabul had not officially shared any information or evidence in this regard.
Soon after that, the Afghan president said in a fiery speech to a jirga in Ghazni: “I have a message for Pakistan. Dead bodies (of the Taliban) have arrived in (Pakistan). Peace cannot be forcefully imposed on Afghanistan. Where did they (Taliban) come from and why are they being treated in (Pakistani) hospitals?”
But Pakistan strongly rejected reports claiming that some Taliban fighters involved in the Ghazni attack had been offered medical treatment in its hospitals.
In the absence of any official communication through regular channels established bilaterally, such reports cannot be given any credence, said Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Haq Nawaz, a senior Peshawar-based security analyst, told Arab News that the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a string of daunting challenges, such as economic revival, political stability, tackling corruption, and improving relations with his country’s immediate neighbors.
However, he added that recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up violent activities, will probably constitute a much bigger predicament for the new political administration.
He recalled that Khan had mentioned in his victory speech that he wanted a European Union-style soft border with Afghanistan, claiming that the idea had seemingly received a setback after the Ghazni attack.
“The latest bout of allegations will have a negative impact on the process of reviving good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Nawaz noted.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed “deep concern” over the recent surge in violence in Afghanistan and lamented in a statement released by the military’s media wing the loss of precious lives.
Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan was not supporting terrorist activities inside Afghanistan. He added that the allegation about the movement of injured or dead terrorists from Ghazni to Pakistan was incorrect.
However, the army chief noted that there were scores of Pakistanis working in Afghanistan, and that some of them periodically fell victim to acts of terrorism along with their Afghan brothers inside Afghanistan. “Terming such victims as terrorists is unfortunate,” he maintained.
Yet, the Afghan president sought an explanation from Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on the Ghazni attack.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. General Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga.
Bajwa said that different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hiding in their sanctuaries in Afghanistan after assuming Afghan identities, were transported to Pakistan for medical help after receiving injuries.
Nawaz said the Afghan government should share relevant evidence with Pakistan in this case, arguing that using the media or social media to deal with such serious and sensitive developments can worsen the situation.
He said it was not just a statement or allegation from an ordinary official since the claim was made by a head of state, adding that both countries should settle such teething issues through dialogue and diplomatic channels.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement: “Such reports can only be viewed as malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”