Pakistan visit to improve ties, says Ghani

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani arrives for a speech after offering Eid Al-Fitr prayers during the Eid Al-Fitr at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (AP)
Updated 04 June 2019
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Pakistan visit to improve ties, says Ghani

  • Ghani said he agreed to visit Imran Khan after the two leaders met on the sidelines of the OIC meeting in Saudi Arabia

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said he will visit Pakistan on June 27 to open a new chapter in his country's uneasy relationship with its neighbor and mend ties that are often characterized by mistrust and tit-for-tat accusations.
Ghani said he agreed to visit Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan after the two leaders met last week on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Saudi Arabia.
"I hope the visit will be positive," Ghani said in his message to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that caps the fasting month of Ramadan.
Kabul routinely accuses Pakistan of harboring its Taliban enemies, yet in recent months Islamabad has lent its support to US efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan's long-running war. Ghani said he held out hope that years of mistrust can be replaced with a new relationship that will allow peace to flourish in the region.
Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in Islamabad on the weekend meeting with senior officials, including Khan and the powerful army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. Khalilzad is looking to press forward on efforts to find an end to America's longest running conflict. Pakistan has promised to aid the peace process and has so far pressed Taliban, many of whom have families living in Pakistan, into talks. Khalilzad, who has already held several rounds of talks with the religious militia will meet again with their leadership later this month in Doha, where they maintain a political office.
He will press the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government, which the insurgent group has continued to refuse, calling Ghani's administration a US puppet.
In his address to the nation, Ghani urged the Taliban to again mark Eid with a cease fire as they did last year, but the religious militia has already refused, saying there will be no end to fighting while US and NATO troops are still in Afghanistan.
Taliban leader, Maulvi Hibatullah Akhunzada, in his Eid message to insurgents issued on Monday, again rejected a cease-fire while repeating a Taliban promise that they have no ambitions to monopolize power in a post-war Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, in northern Baghlan province, a remote-controlled mine hidden in a motorcycle parked outside a mosque exploded, killing two worshippers and wounding eight.
The explosion occurred as worshippers were leaving the mosque in Nahrin district after saying their morning Eid prayers, said Javed Bashrat, provincial chief police spokesman.
A series of bombings in the past week have rattled the Afghan capital. On Monday, five people were killed when a bomb attached to a bus exploded, the second attack of this type in as many days.
The Islamic State affiliate operating in Afghanistan has taken responsibility for several of the attacks, and the Taliban claimed an attack against a US military convoy last week that killed four Afghan civilians and slightly wounded four American service personnel.


Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

Updated 20 July 2019
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Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests
  • Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong’s police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarization coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests — as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police — sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday’s rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
“Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves,” said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalized the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
“I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme,” Leung said.
Police estimated a turnout of 103,000 people at the peak of the rally, while local media cited organizers as saying 316,000 attended.
Hong Kong’s police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.
There is growing frustration among the police force’s exhausted rank and file that neither the city’s leaders, nor Beijing, seem to have any idea how to end the crisis.
Chinese state media and powerful pro-Beijing groups threw their weight behind the pro-police rally.
Saturday’s edition of Hong Kong’s staunchly pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a front page encouraging readers to join with the headline: “Kick away the violence.”
It featured a drawing of a large foot kicking over a pro-democracy demonstrator.
Many of those at the rally held aloft large slogans printed on the spread of Wen Wei Po, another stridently pro-Beijing newspaper in the city.
A rally last month by police supporters saw ugly scenes, with many participants hurling insults and scuffling with younger democracy protesters as well as media covering the gathering.
While the pro-government protests have mustered decent crowds, they have paled in comparison with the huge pro-democracy marches that have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of people.
Anti-government protesters are planning another large march Sunday afternoon and say they have no plan to back down until key demands are met.
Tensions were also raised after police on Saturday said they had discovered a homemade laboratory making high-powered explosives. A 27-year-old man was arrested and pro-independence materials were also discovered.
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.
But many say that 50-year deal is already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.
Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.