Afghan government complains to UN over Taliban trip to Moscow

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the ‘intra-Afghan’ talks in Moscow on Feb. 6. (AP)
Updated 08 February 2019

Afghan government complains to UN over Taliban trip to Moscow

  • The trip was the second one to be made by the Taliban representatives to Russia since November

KABUL: The Afghan government has made a formal complaint to the UN for allowing banned Taliban members to travel to Russia for peace talks.

Officials on Friday said that 10 Taliban delegates this week attended a two-day meeting with influential Afghan politicians at a luxury Moscow hotel, to explore ways of ending the war in Afghanistan.

The two sides agreed on a total pullout of US-led troops from Afghanistan, a key condition set by the Taliban prior to enforcing a truce. 

The trip was the second one to be made by the Taliban representatives to Russia since November. The delegates have also held a series of meetings with US diplomats in Qatar and the UAE in recent months.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which was excluded from previous talks between Taliban and US officials on the insistence of the Taliban, did not participate in the Moscow meeting either and openly protested, branding it a useless exercise.

Officials from Ghani’s administration confirmed to Arab News that a complaint had been filed with the UN about the latest Moscow talks, but failed to explain why Kabul had not objected to previous trips undertaken by Taliban delegates to Russia and the Gulf.

Kabul said that the outcome of the Moscow meeting had no executive authority, but some analysts and legal experts believe the gathering represented another political blow to Ghani. 

His fragile government is facing an internal crisis with some of his former officials demanding the formation of an interim government with the Taliban’s participation.

The latest Moscow meeting was the first major one to see the participation of members from several past regimes who said that Ghani’s insistence on holding a presidential poll was because it represented his only chance of remaining in power through re-election in July.

Abdul Satar Saadat, who until recently was an adviser to the Afghan president, said Ghani felt threatened by the Moscow gathering and that was the reason behind Kabul’s complaint to the UN.

“The president thinks that the Afghan dialogue in Moscow is the start of a national effort for ending his power. Since he feels threatened by the progress of the conference, he tries to create a blockade for it,” he told Arab News.

The delegates who took part in the Moscow talks and pushed for the formation of an inclusive Afghan government, plan to convene again next month in Doha following a scheduled meeting between Taliban and US officials, the latter to be led by Washington’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The Taliban and Khalilzad have discussed the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan during past rounds of talks but have not yet announced an official timetable for the pullout. However, unconfirmed reports say that half of the 14,000 US soldiers stationed there are set to leave the country in the coming months.

The pending military departure, a long-standing demand of US President Donald Trump, has created concerns among some Afghans about the lack of a plan to ensure long-term peace in Afghanistan after decades of foreign interventions.

“There is ambiguity about the timetable of a withdrawal, with Russia also saying it will use its efforts to aid the process,” Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada, deputy head of a local journalists’ union, told Arab News. “Without a deliberate plan, the pullout of troops will have dire consequences for Afghanistan,” he added.

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.