Afghan president emphasizes need to implement APAPPS to Pakistan FM

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday emphasized the need to fully implement the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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Afghan president emphasizes need to implement APAPPS to Pakistan FM

KABUL: During talks with Pakistan’s visiting foreign minister, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday emphasized the need to fully implement the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), as Kabul seeks to reset ties with the new government in Islamabad.
The one-day visit by Shah Mahmood Qureshi is the first by a top Pakistani official to Kabul since Imran Khan became prime minister in July.
The talks with Qureshi will show if there is a change of heart in Pakistan with the arrival of a new government, said a senior Afghan government member.
Earlier this month, the US froze $300 million in aid to Pakistan for allegedly not doing enough to curb the Afghan Taliban’s activities.
Qureshi’s visit coincides with a sharp rise in Taliban and Daesh attacks and long-delayed parliamentary elections in October, as well as presidential polls slated for April 2019 that Ghani plans to contest. Ghani is keen for Pakistan to convince the Taliban to not disrupt the elections.
The presidential palace in Kabul said Ghani and Qureshi discussed peace and security in the region, the joint fight against terrorism and implementation of APAPPS, which the two countries signed in April this year.
“The president, referring to the importance of APAPPS, said that this plan is all-sided and its effectiveness becomes important when enforced fully,” the palace said in a statement.
Qureshi also met with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
The closure earlier this month of Pakistan’s consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad was discussed with Rabbani, an Afghan official said.
Current and former officials in both capitals have expressed doubt that Qureshi’s visit will lead to any drastic or immediate change in bilateral relations.
Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan spy chief, tweeted that Qureshi “will repeat word by word everything his predecessors have said in the past 17 years that Pakistan is not harboring terrorists.”


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 21 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017
GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”