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
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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.


Thailand immigrant crackdown eyes ‘dark-skinned people’

This photo taken on October 18, 2018 shows Thai immigration bureau chief and police Major General Surachate Hakparn speaking to foreigners held for investigation in Bangkok's Patpong district during a police operation called "X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner". (AFP)
Updated 26 min 21 sec ago
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Thailand immigrant crackdown eyes ‘dark-skinned people’

  • Thailand’s reputation as a place to disappear and reinvent yourself combined with lax visa rules can be a headache for law enforcement
  • Thailand is not a party to the UN convention recognizing refugees and made headlines in 2015 for deporting more than 100 Uighurs back to China

BANGKOK: Allegedly aimed at busting visa abusers and illegal migrants, a Thai police operation called “X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” has raised questions about racial profiling and fears for asylum-seekers caught in its web.
Tens of millions of tourists come to Thailand each year for the cheap living and postcard-perfect beaches, with some seeking out the seedier thrills of a bustling sex industry.
But as weak law enforcement, porous borders and corruption help make the country a hub for transnational crime, Thai authorities are intensifying Operation X-Ray — a program that started about a year ago — with more than 1,000 people arrested in recent weeks, most for overstaying their visa.
Although the vast majority caught in the dragnet are migrants from nearby countries, the racial overtones of the campaign have sparked concerns about profiling based on skin color.
“Our job is to classify who are the good dark-skinned people and who are the ones likely to commit crimes,” said immigration bureau chief Surachate Hakparn.
He told AFP that the operation was aimed at weeding out visa overstayers and nabbing criminals — especially “romance scammers” who lure lonely locals online to defraud them of cash.
He insisted that the romance scammers are often Nigerian or Ugandan.

At the start of one night time operation witnessed by AFP in Bangkok’s rowdy Nana district earlier this month, about 75 Thai police officers stood in rows at a briefing.
“The suspicious targets are the dark-skinned people,” shouted an officer. “First, we search their bodies, then we search their passports.”
Soon they began stopping suspects, including three people from Mali who were tested for drugs on the spot.
By 11:55 pm, almost 30 individuals — about half of whom were black — had been rounded up.
Only one was Caucasian, a Frenchman caught smoking marijuana.
Surachate’s staff said details on the breakdown of nationalities was “confidential.”
But in the first two weeks of October, police arrested a Korean citizen wanted by Interpol for sexual assault, and busted a team of four Nigerians and 16 Thais allegedly involved in romance scams, according to authorities.
They also found a Laos national who had overstayed his visa by more than 11 years.

Thailand’s reputation as a place to disappear and reinvent yourself combined with lax visa rules can be a headache for law enforcement.
The junta that seized power in 2014 justified its power grab by promising stability amid street protests and political upheaval.
But rights groups warn that refugees and asylum seekers who transit through Bangkok en route to a third country for resettlement are also being ensnared in the latest police operation as they lack legal protections.
According to rough estimates from the non-profit Fortify Rights, there are about 100 adults and 30 children who fit this description, mainly from Pakistan but also from Syria and Somalia.
“Thailand’s immigration crackdown has swept up refugees and asylum seekers, sent young children into horrid, prison-like conditions, and appears to have clear aspects of racial profiling against South Asians and Africans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Thailand is not a party to the UN convention recognizing refugees and made headlines in 2015 for deporting more than 100 Uighurs back to China.
More than 70 Pakistani Christians were rounded up and detained this month by police under charges of illegal entry and overstay even though they were assumed to be in transit and escaping religious persecution in their Muslim-majority homeland.
But the authorities remain unapologetic.
According to immigration chief Surachate’s count, Thailand is home to more than 6,000 people who ought to have left the country already.
“In order to clean house, we need to bring in the good people and deport the bad people so that the country will have sustained stability,” he said.