Taliban have ‘no excuse’ to continue war after Ghani’s peace overture, says Pakistan

Gen. Nasir Khan Janjua
Updated 19 March 2018
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Taliban have ‘no excuse’ to continue war after Ghani’s peace overture, says Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top security adviser has said Afghan Taliban insurgents “do not have any excuse” to continue war after President Ashraf Ghani’s proposals to recognize the Taliban as a political party, allow them open an office in Kabul, issue passports to their members and remove the names of senior commanders from the UN terrorist blacklists.
The Taliban have not issued any formal reaction to President Ghani’s latest initiative but a Taliban political official has told Arab News the Afghan leader has “skipped” the real issue — foreign invasion — in his address to the “Kabul Process” meeting in the Afghan capital on Feb. 28.
Pakistan National Security Adviser (NSA) Nasir Khan Janjua, who wrapped up his day-long visit to Kabul on Saturday evening, said on his return on Sunday that he has expressed complete support for the long-awaited peace offer.
Janjua’s office said he had elaborate and successful meetings with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, his counterpart Haneef Atmar, minister of defense, and the intelligence chief.
Abdullah’s office quoted the Pakistani NSA as saying: “The Taliban have no excuse to continue war” after what he described as unprecedented peace efforts.
In the statement on his return, Janjua termed the peace offer as “a light on the other side of the tunnel in a war which had become rather perpetual.”
The Taliban declined to offer any comments on Pakistan’s NSA remarks.
Janjua said the Afghan president “desired a roadmap to be prepared for a comprehensive engagement with Pakistan to carry the relationship further with a leap of faith.”
He confirmed President Ghani also handed over the letter of invitation to him for the Prime Minister of Pakistan and expected him to visit as soon as possible.
Analysts in Pakistan believe the main purpose of the NSA talks in Kabul was to “reduce mistrust” between the two countries.
Imtiaz Gul, head of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, says the visit is a major confidence-building measure that could “open the way for bilateral dialogue.”
“The visit will also underline Pakistan’s push on the Taliban to come to the negotiations table,” Gul told Arab News.
Defense analyst Lt. Gen Amjad Shoaib called for more high-level interaction between the two countries which will help to create understanding on security issues. He termed the NSA visit as a major confidence-building measure and that there is a need for high-level exchanges.
“There is currently lack of bilateral interaction. Both countries should enhance intelligence sharing and Afghanistan should give up its opposition to the border management and fencing,” Gen. Amjad told Arab News on Sunday.
It is believed that Pakistan is under pressure from the US to act against the Afghan Taliban and its affiliate the Haqqani Network, and the same demand was repeated during the meeting between Prime Minister Abbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington on Friday.
“Pence reiterated President Trump’s request that the Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country,” a White House statement said after the meeting.
“The vice president stated that US efforts to eliminate terrorist groups who threaten US security and the stability of the region will continue and noted that Pakistan could and should work more closely with the United States,” the statement said.


Tunisian women hit campaign trail as equals to men

Updated 6 min 45 sec ago
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Tunisian women hit campaign trail as equals to men

  • The North African country’s 2014 constitution has been praised as a key milestone, paving the way for greater equality
  • Fifty-two percent of Tunisia’s 5.3 million voters are under the age of 35
TEBOURABA, Tunisia: Tunisian women “have the chance to act,” says Ines Boussetta, as she hits the campaign trail in northern Tebourba, listening attentively to the problems of the rural region’s inhabitants.
Boussetta is one of hundreds of Tunisian women heading party lists in May 6 municipal polls — and for the first time, women will be on an equal footing with men, thanks to a new electoral law.
“I have faced many criticisms and commentaries, like ‘you are too young,’ ‘you don’t have political experience,’ ‘how can a woman lead a council?’” Boussetta, a candidate for the ruling Nida Tounes party, she says.
But “women today have the chance to act, to have an opinion that counts,” she added.
Around 100 party lists have been rejected for failing to meet a strict requirement for the candidacy of men and women to alternate in the municipal polls, the first since mass protests forced dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power in 2011.
Boussetta says she was attracted by Nida Tounes because its founder, Tunisia’s 91-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi, has sought to promote the role of women and young people.
The head of state’s 2014 election triumph was “thanks to women,” says the former health volunteer.
The North African country’s 2014 constitution has been praised as a key milestone, paving the way for greater equality.
A law on violence against women, passed last year, came into force in January.
“A new political generation is in the process of appearing,” says Torkia Chebbi, vice president of the League of Tunisian voters, a group set up in 2011 to promote female participation in political life.
Fifty-two percent of Tunisia’s 5.3 million voters are under the age of 35.
Women now sit at the top of more than a quarter of the 2,074 party lists.
Many of the female candidates first dipped their toes into politics with the fall of Ben Ali through their work in civil society, Chebbi says.
But “without the law on parity, we would never have achieved such a figure, because attitudes continue to favor men,” says Chebbi.
The key parties, Nida Tounes and its junior coalition partner the Islamist Ennahda party, were found to have fulfilled the new gender requirement.
For Boussetta, who moves onto her next campaign stop in a modest black car, her experience working in the health sector makes improving infrastructure a big priority.
Many have placed their confidence in her “because she is young and sensitive to the needs of the region,” she says.
Boussetta’s family have a long history in Tebourba, where fresh street protests erupted in January this year against the high cost of living, unemployment and corruption.
And there is a yearning for change at the local level.
With the fall of Ben Ali seven years ago, municipalities collapsed.
While replaced by temporary councils, these are widely perceived as having failed to respond to communities’ needs.
There is hope that the upcoming elections could help improve daily life in the country, cleaning up public spaces, attracting new investment, and helping to develop marginalized regions.
“Tunisian women don’t have experience,” acknowledges Simone Susskind, a Belgian gender politics specialist who recently ran a workshop on female leadership.
“But they have to start somewhere.”