Italy vote campaign heats up as 5-Star takes aim at Berlusconi

In this file photo taken on January 18, 2018 in Rome Italian former Prime Minister and leader of center-right party Forza Italia (Go Italy), Silvio Berlusconi arriving to attend the TV show "Quinta Colonna", a programme of Italian channel Rete 4. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Italy vote campaign heats up as 5-Star takes aim at Berlusconi

ROME: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday he would sue the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement for calling him “a traitor to the country,” in an increasingly bitter election campaign.
Surveys show 5-Star is the most popular party ahead of the March 4 vote, but it lags a center-right coalition led by Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!) — the bloc with most hope of obtaining a majority in Parliament.
“I have instructed my lawyers to prepare the case,” Berlusconi said in a radio interview after 5-Star's leader Luigi Di Maio accused Forza Italia politicians of contributing to a lucrative “business” involving camps for immigrants.
Such camps have been at the center of criminal investigations for alleged corruption.
More than 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from north Africa by sea over the last four years, and the issue has become the main battleground of the election.
With the ruling Democratic Party (PD) lagging in the polls, 5-Star is seen as the main obstacle to a centre-right victory, and Berlusconi and Di Maio have stepped up their attacks on each other while largely ignoring PD leader Matteo Renzi.
“If Di Maio won power it would be a catastrophe, Italy would be internationally isolated and our economy would be devastated by taxes,” said Berlusconi, 81, who cannot personally run for office due to a 2013 conviction for tax fraud.
Di Maio said he was “not worried in the least" by the lawsuit and published a Facebook post listing EU treaties on fiscal and immigration policy signed or backed by Berlusconi, which he said had sold Italy short. The post was titled "Berlusconi, seven times a traitor to the country.”


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.”