Afghan govt seeks Pakistan’s help to extend truce with Taliban

Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, left, and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security Director (NDS) Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai attend a joint news conference in Kabul. (Reuters)
Updated 14 June 2018
0

Afghan govt seeks Pakistan’s help to extend truce with Taliban

  • The Taliban’s leader offered to hold direct talks with the US to resolve the conflict through dialogue.
  • Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring and sheltering the Taliban and other militant groups, which Islamabad denies.

KABUL: The Afghan government is seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in extending a temporary truce that it recently announced with the Taliban, hoping that the move will pave the way for direct talks with the group, Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak said on Thursday.

The request was made on Tuesday during the visit of a Pakistani military delegation that coincided with Kabul’s declaration of the truce, Barmak added.

“There is hope that with the talks that we had with the Pakistani delegation, the truce will prolong,” he said.

“We asked them to cooperate in the extension of the truce between us and the Taliban and other groups, and provide the means for talks.”

Barmak did not comment on Pakistan’s response to the request. Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring and sheltering the Taliban and other militant groups, which Islamabad denies.

Kabul hopes that the Taliban will abide by its pledge of a three-day truce, which will start on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr and came in response to the government’s truce, Barmak said.

There were a number of Taliban attacks against government forces in various parts of the country in the past three days since Kabul announced its unilateral truce, he added.

While conceding government losses in those attacks, he denied reports that the toll stood at nearly 100.

Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, who was ambassador to Pakistan under the Taliban government, said the truce is the start of a “big process,” and expressed hope that it will be extended.

In an Eid message, Taliban leader Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada said the group’s fight is to end the US military presence in Afghanistan.

The only way to save the country is for the US military and “other occupying forces” to leave Afghanistan so an independent, Islamic government “can take root,” he added.

The Taliban has “kept the doors of understanding and negotiations open,” he said, urging the US to hold direct talks with the group.

If the US believes in a peaceful resolution, it must resolve the crisis through dialogue, Akhundzada added.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
0

Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.