Afghan security forces clash with Taliban for third day in Ghazni

The attack was the largest tactical operation launched by the Taliban since an unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary pause. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 12 August 2018
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Afghan security forces clash with Taliban for third day in Ghazni

  • The push by the Taliban on Ghazni is the main one on the town since the ouster of the militants in a US-led war in late 2001
  • The Taliban, in messages to reporters, said the group had seized the prison and freed fellow comrades held by the government

KABUL: Afghan troops clashed with Taliban guerrillas on Sunday in Ghazni, three days after the militants overran parts of the historical and strategic town in a major push, a lawmaker and a security source said.
Scores of fighters from both sides and at least two dozen civilians have been killed in the fighting, which also involves US air support since the Taliban began their four-pronged offensive on the town early Friday, the two men said.
The main hospital in Ghazni town is overwhelmed with casualties, with a shortage of medicine, and the entire town is reported to be shut because of the fighting.
Telephone towers and communication systems have been badly affected in the fighting and the main highway that runs through the province linking Kabul with the southern and southwestern region has remained closed, Mohammad Ali Alizada, a lawmaker representing Ghazni, told Arab News.
He said government reinforcements bound for the town have been stuck near a pass outside the town which lies some 120 km to the southwest of the capital.
“Unfortunately, the reports from Ghazni are not good. There are continued skirmishes inside the town and its surrounding areas. We do not have first-hand information because of poor communication, but one thing is clear: The Taliban have presence in many parts of the town.”
He said government authorities were confined to three main areas where the compound for the governor, the headquarters for the police and intelligence are located.
He said there were conflicting reports about the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners after the militants captured the town’s main prison.
The Taliban, in messages to reporters, said the group had seized the prison and freed fellow comrades held by the government.
One government spokesman refused to speak, while others could not be reached to discuss the situation. But a security source said the Taliban were still inside the town and fighting had intensified in its various areas on Sunday.
The country’s army chief Sharif Yaftali promised in a news conference to reopen the highway in two days’ time and blamed the Taliban for sheltering in residential areas.
“Considering the capabilities of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANSDF), we hope to bring significant changes in Ghazni’s security and open the highway in two days.
“Strategic and key areas of Ghazni are under the government control of the ANSDF. The reason for ANSDF’s slow clearance is preventing civilian casualties. The Taliban have hidden in houses and stores.”
Later on Sunday there were reports that the Taliban had even captured the main police headquarters, but that could not be immediately confirmed independently.
And before evening, a local TV channel reported that a convoy of government reinforcement from neighboring areas came under a Taliban ambush, causing casualties. 
A video posted on social media showed a group of apparent government soldiers surrendering to the militants with their military equipment, while another showed Taliban armed fighters strolling on a main street of the town.
Residents late Friday reported that the Taliban had shot down a government military helicopter, but officials said the chopper went down for technical reasons.
The push by the Taliban on Ghazni is the main one on the town since the ouster of the militants in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
The developments in Ghazni come weeks after Taliban emissaries and US officials held direct talks for finding a way to end the 17-year US war in Afghanistan.
Both sides are expected to hold a similar meeting in the future too, and some observers believe the attack on Ghazni is part of the Taliban’s effort to gain the upper hand in the talks.
The attack comes amid escalation of violence elsewhere by the insurgents against the embattled government in recent months ahead of the long-delayed parliamentary polls set for October and the presidential polls six months later.
While the two sides fight for control of Ghazni, reports emerged from northwestern Faryab about the loss of more than 25 government soldiers in a Taliban attack early Sunday after a long siege.


Pakistan opposition takes prime minister to task over IMF deal

Updated 38 min 29 sec ago
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Pakistan opposition takes prime minister to task over IMF deal

  • The daily dithering has paralyzed the economy and precipitously devalued the rupee, says Sen. Sherry Rehman
  • Govt has instilled a sense of 'comfort and confidence' in the markets, says official spokesman

KARACHI, Pakistan: Questioning the government’s lack of perspicacity to avoid “painful economic decisions,” Pakistan’s opposition said on Monday that it was shocked at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inability to avert a crisis, if any.  

“We have serious questions about this kind of strategy, where just the daily dithering has not just paralyzed the economy and precipitously devalued the rupee, but hugely compounded the crisis in the country’s public finances,” Sen. Sherry Rehman, former leader of the opposition in the Senate, told Arab News.

The reaction follows Finance Minister Asad Umar’s comments on Saturday wherein he said that “the government will have to take tough decisions that would be painful for people,” signaling a possible hike in utility prices, following Pakistan’s decision to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout program. 

Opposing the decision, Rehman said: “We are shocked at the lack of a plan for a crisis we all saw looming. Now the slash and burn of utility prices is going to cause severe economic hardship. It’s one thing to have promised a completely different Pakistan, but another to not present alternative plans at least to manage the inflationary impact…on the most socially vulnerable sectors of Pakistan.”

Defending the move, Dr. Farrukh Saleem, government’s spokesman on economy and energy issues, said that the government has instilled a sense of “comfort and confidence” in the markets, not only within Pakistan but outside the country too, which was not possible without approaching the IMF for financial help. “IMF gives one prescription to those who avail its program, which includes an emphasis on increasing exports and curtailing imports and an end of subsidies,” he said.  Adding that the country’s “circular debts have gone up to 1.3 trillion rupees” — inherited from previous governments in the past 10 years — Dr. Saleem said that it was up to Imran Khan’s administration to do away with the liabilities as otherwise “the burden would eventually be shifted to consumers.”

“The government did not raise the gas rates for the last four years despite repeated requests from the concerned departments. Someone will have to swallow bitter pills of last 10 years,” he said. 

The stock market was jubilant following Pakistan’s decision to approach the IMF. However, investors’ newly acquired confidence was quickly replaced with concern as details emerged about the terms and conditions attached with the bailout program, resulting in a 750-point plunge in the benchmark KSE 100 index on Monday.

“Panic selling continued in the quarter earnings season amid a major fall in global equities and investor concerns for likely surge in interest rates and rupee depreciation with the potential IMF loans bailout package,” said Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive of Arif Habib Group. 

Pakistan has devalued its currency for the fifth time by 27 percent since December 2017, with analysts and stakeholders expecting another markdown as the IMF deal gathers steam.

“Its first impact would be in the currency market and the currency would be further devalued. With the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar, the prices of almost everything would start increasing especially those of imported goods,” Zafar Paracha, general secretary of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Arab News.  Another community that is expected to bear the brunt of the decision is the country’s industrialists and traders who said they could foresee an impact on the price of inputs and raw materials.

Junaid Esmail Makda, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The finance minister should take the country’s business community into confidence before taking the ‘painful decision’ because if the government comes up with harsh decision without taking us into the loop it would have a disastrous impact.” 

He further warned that such a decision would be unfavorable not just “for foreign investors but for local investors too” who might move their assets to other countries.  

However, Dr. Saleem continued to remain optimistic.

Reiterating the fact that the steps taken by the government to mitigate the impact of the IMF’s conditions would yield results, he said: “The government is working to increase exports to stabilize foreign exchange and starting a housing project that would spur economic activities in the backdrop of a growing demand of allied industries.”

 

FASTFACTS: 

The daily dithering has paralyzed the economy and precipitously devalued the rupee, says Sen. Sherry Rehman.

 

Govt has instilled a sense of ‘comfort and confidence’ in the markets, says official spokesman.


Questioning the government’s lack of perspicacity to avoid “painful economic decisions,” Pakistan’s opposition said on Monday that it was shocked at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inability to avert a crisis, if any.    

“We have serious questions about this kind of strategy, where just the daily dithering has not just paralyzed the economy and precipitously devalued the rupee, but hugely compounded the crisis in the country’s public finances,” Sen. Sherry Rehman, former leader of the opposition in the Senate, told Arab News.

The reaction follows Finance Minister Asad Umar's comments on Saturday wherein he said that “the government will have to take tough decisions that would be painful for people,” signaling a possible hike in utility prices, following Pakistan’s decision to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout program. 

Opposing the decision, Rehman said: “We are shocked at the lack of a plan for a crisis we all saw looming. Now the slash and burn of utility prices is going to cause severe economic hardship. It’s one thing to have promised a completely different Pakistan, but another to not present alternative plans at least to manage the inflationary impact…on the most socially vulnerable sectors of Pakistan.”


Defending the move, Dr. Farrukh Saleem, government’s spokesman on economy and energy issues, said that the government has instilled a sense of "comfort and confidence" in the markets, not only within Pakistan but outside the country too, which was not possible without approaching the IMF for financial help. “IMF gives one prescription to those who avail its program, which includes an emphasis on increasing exports and curtailing imports and an end of subsidies,” he said. 

Adding that the country’s “circular debts have gone up to 1.3 trillion rupees” — inherited from previous governments in the past 10 years — Dr. Saleem said that it was up to Imran Khan’s administration to do away with the liabilities as otherwise “the burden would eventually be shifted to consumers.”

“The government did not raise the gas rates for the last four years despite repeated requests from the concerned departments. Someone will have to swallow bitter pills of last 10 years,” he said. 

The stock market went jubilant following Pakistan’s decision to approach the IMF. However, investor’s newly-acquired confidence was quickly replaced with concern as details emerged about the terms and conditions attached with the bailout program, resulting in a 750-point plunge in the benchmark KSE 100 index on Monday.

“Panic selling continued in the quarter earnings season amid major fall in global equities and investor concerns for likely surge in interest rates and rupee depreciation with potential IMF loans bailout package,” said Ahsan Mehanti, chief executive of Arif Habib Group. 

Pakistan has devalued its currency for the fifth time by 27 percent since December 2017, with analysts and stakeholders expecting another markdown as the IMF deal gathers steam.

“Its first impact would be in the currency market and the currency would be further devalued. With the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar, the prices of almost everything would start increasing especially those of imported goods,” Zafar Paracha, general secretary of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. 

Another community that is expected to bear the brunt of the decision is the country’s industrialists and traders who said they could foresee an impact on the price of inputs and raw materials.


Junaid Esmail Makda, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The finance minister should take the country’s business community into confidence before taking the ‘painful decision’ because if the government comes up with harsh decision without taking us into the loop it would have a disastrous impact.” 

He further warned that such a decision would be unfavorable not just “for foreign investors but for local investors too” who might move their assets to other countries.    

However, Dr. Saleem continued to remain optimistic.

Reiterating the fact that the steps taken by the government to mitigate the impact of the IMF’s conditions would yield results, he said: “The government is working to increase exports to stabilize foreign exchange and starting a housing project that would spur economic activities in the backdrop of a growing demand of allied industries.”