Pakistan's new FM wants better relations with India

Pakistan's newly appointed Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi vows to improve Pakistan's ties with countries, including India, Afghanistan, and the US, in his first press conference after being sworn in as a Cabinet member. (Photo by Pakistan Foreign Office)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Pakistan's new FM wants better relations with India

  • There is a need for continued and uninterrupted dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi, says Shah Mahmood Qureshi
  • Pakistan to improve relations with the US but on the basis of mutual respect, he says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday promised to improve his country’s relations with India, Afghanistan and the US through diplomatic engagement and negotiations.
Addressing a news conference at the Foreign Office in Islamabad hours after being sworn in as Pakistan’s foreign minister, Qureshi said that peace and stability in the region would be a cornerstone of his government’s foreign policy.
“We will review Pakistan’s foreign policy and set a new direction where necessary in order to achieve peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Speaking about war-ravaged Afghanistan, the foreign minister said he wanted to visit Kabul with a message of peace and love from Pakistan because stability in both countries is interlinked.
“We need to help each other ... I ask the people of Afghanistan to resolve our issues through bilateral talks and negotiations,” he said.
“I have heard that we have a bilateral agreement in place which has five tracks and we want to move forward with those.”
The foreign minister who is also the vice chairman of the ruling party — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — said that his government also wanted to resolve all outstanding issues, including that of Kashmir, through dialogue with India.
“We both — Pakistan and India — are nuclear powers and cannot afford any adventurism,” he said. “We have to engage; we have to accept the realities and resolve all issues amicably.”
“We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage,” he said.
The foreign minister said that there was a need for continued and uninterrupted dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi as this was the only wise approach for moving ahead.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a congratulatory letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan and expressed his desire for dialogue, Qureshi said.
As an answer to one question, the foreign minister said that he was aware of concerns and priorities of the US administration and would try to bridge the trust deficit on both sides.
“We want to improve bilateral relations with America, but on the basis of respect,” he said.
About the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that it was a game-changer and a long-term project and that the PTI government would continue working with the Chinese leadership on it.
“We would like to see how to enter the phase of socio-economic development as there has been a lot of emphasis only on infrastructure development in the past,” he added.
Qureshi emphasized that the government would try its best to improve the quality of life for the common man through economic diplomacy and international engagement.
“Socio-economic development will remain one of the top priorities of our government,” he said.
The foreign minister said that he would try to build a national consensus through a bipartisan approach regarding the country’s foreign policy. “We will take the opposition parties on board too … I will be representing Pakistan in an upcoming important meeting at the UN,” he added.
The foreign minister also urged Pakistani missions abroad to remember that they are “not rulers. You are meant to serve. The intent with which Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation and our attitudes will have to change towards our people.”
“A good nature and courtesy never make you lose anything. You gain friends. Treat our overseas Pakistanis with respect. This is now the duty of all our embassies abroad,” he added.


Vote count begins for Afghan election

Afghan election observers at a polling center after ballots in the country’s legislative election were counted in Kabul on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2018
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Vote count begins for Afghan election

  • Some candidates said powerful figures were behind election rigging
  • The Electoral Complaints Commission said there was mismanagement during the election, and as of Sunday it had received some 5,000 complaints from voters and candidates

KABUL: Vote counting began on Monday for Afghanistan’s parliamentary election, which was marred by violence and irregularities, with political parties alleging “organized fraud.”

The parties said mismanagement and hundreds of Taliban attacks, which led to an extension of voting for another day at hundreds of polling stations, could raise questions over the election result, which is expected to be released in two months.

Some candidates said powerful figures were behind election rigging, and biometric devices, which were put in place to counter fraud, were smashed to facilitate the rigging. 

Abdul Bade Sayad, head of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), was cited by local media as confirming incidents of biometric equipment being smashed, and the presence of strongmen inside some polling stations. 

But the IEC should not be held responsible for this, he said, adding: “When the government itself feels helpless before powerful figures, then senior officials of the commission should not be blamed.”

The Electoral Complaints Commission said there was mismanagement during the election, and as of Sunday it had received some 5,000 complaints from voters and candidates.

Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said people could not vote on Saturday in some 1,000 polling stations. 

Ahead of the election, which was delayed for more than three years, the government said it could not open more than 2,000 stations due to security threats.

Alleged irregularities included polling stations opening late, biometric devices malfunctioning, and the absence of IEC staff and voter registration lists.

Of the 9 million people who had registered to vote, nearly 4 million cast their ballot, the IEC said.

The IHRC said the IEC should not shun its responsibility regarding “shortcomings and grave violations in voting centers.”

The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan said: “In some of the polling stations, ballots were not counted; instead the ballot boxes were transferred to a different location for counting… without informing the observers about the new location.”