Afghan President invites Pakistan PM to Kabul for fence-mending talks

In this file photo, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani shakes hands with a foreign delegate at the second Kabul Process conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Feb. 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018

Afghan President invites Pakistan PM to Kabul for fence-mending talks

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has offered an invitation to Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to visit Kabul as part of a move to reset ties that have sharply deteriorated between the two uneasy neighbors over Islamabad’s alleged support for the Afghan Taliban.
Ghani made the offer on Saturday to visiting Pakistani National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua in Kabul. He is on a one-day visit after Ghani spoke nearly three weeks ago of his desire to improve ties with Islamabad when he announced his peace talks overture to the Taliban insurgents too.
“This is to initiate state-to-state comprehensive dialogue,” Ghani said in a tweet after meeting Janjua at the presidential palace.
A spokesman for the President, Dawa Khan Meenapal, said the focus of today’s meeting between Ghani and Janjua was the former’s offer of an olive branch to the Taliban, made at a regional meeting in the Afghan capital some three weeks ago and called the “Kabul Process.”
“At the meeting, the Pakistani National Security Adviser spoke about Pakistan’s backing for the Kabul Process,” Meenapal told Arab News.
He could not comment if the Pakistani NSA had made any pledge to persuade the Taliban delegates to speak with Ghani’s government or will hand over several former Taliban leaders who have been languishing in Pakistani jails for years as part of a goodwill gesture to Kabul.
The visit of Pakistan’s NSA and Ghani’s offer to Abbasi come less than a week after the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during a visit to Kabul that there was no military solution to the Afghan war and that elements within the Taliban were interested in initiating peace talks with Kabul.
Mattis’ utterances come after weeks of heavy bombardment of areas concentrated with suspected militants and their alleged drugs laboratories as part of Washington’s new war strategy announced last summer.
The militants have focused most of their attacks on urban areas, which some say proves their ability to strike back and to show that Kabul and the US military have not been able to crush its might.
So far the Taliban has refused to indicate whether the group will accept Ghani’s offer or turn it down as it has done several times in the past.
But the movement twice last month showed readiness to engage with the United States, which in an invasion toppled the radical Islamist government from power in late 2001 and whom it sees as the main adversary.
At the same time the militants have stepped up their attacks and on Saturday in a suicide car attack one of the group’s bombers in Kabul killed several locals.
The target of the strike seemed to have been a compound used by foreigners and there was no immediate report of casualties among the foreigners from the strike.
The visit of Pakistan’s NSA and Ghani’s offer to its PM came as Abbasi held an unscheduled meeting with US Vice President Michael Pence about the Afghanistan conflict in Washington on Friday, ANI reported.
A half-hour one-on-one meeting took place at Pence’s residence at the US Naval Observatory near the Pakistan embassy in Washington, as reported by the Dawn.
They discussed the on-going peace process between the Afghanistan ruling party led by Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban, it said.
During the meeting, Abbasi assured Pence of Pakistan’s “sincere commitment” to the efforts to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan while highlighting Pakistan’s successful efforts in combating terror within its own territory.


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.