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.


16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

Updated 28 min 40 sec ago
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16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

  • The accident occurred outside Mahamasina Stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark National Day

ANTANANARIVO: At least 16 people were crushed to death and dozens injured in Madagascar on Wednesday at a stadium hosting national independence day celebrations in the capital Antananarivo.
The bodies of sixteen victims, including three children, were stored at the mortuary of HJRA hospital in the city, AFP journalists said.
Hospital director Oliva Alison Rakoto had earlier reported 15 dead and 80 wounded.
According to witnesses at the hospital, the accident occurred in the afternoon outside the Mahamasina stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark the national holiday.
At the end of a military parade, security forces opened the gates to allow spectators to leave the enclosure, causing the crowd to mass outside the stadium, witnesses said.
The police then immediately closed the gates and blocked the crowd, witnesses said, causing a deadly pile up.
“When the organizers opened the gate, we were in the front row, in the queue,” said Jean Claude Etienne Rakotoarimanana, 29, who suffered bruises from the crush.
“Suddenly people ran to get in front of us. They shoved us, some even punched us and pulled us,” he added, saying he then fainted.
In September 2018, a deadly crush killed one person and injured 30 people in similar circumstances at the entrance of the same stadium during a football match between Madagascar and Senegal.