No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 June 2019
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No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

  • The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban
  • Afghan president says deal not possible without a ‘regional consensus’

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani said late on Friday that a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s peace process will require more time.
“We consider the US commitment to a political solution to be credible and are coordinating to build the necessary international consensus on peace. But without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time,” Ghani said.
Ghani made the comments on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His remarks are his first in public since a series of talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban emissaries held in recent months in Qatar.
Afghan government delegates were excluded from the discussions because the Taliban consider Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.
Khalilzad is in Afghanistan hoping to revive talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government delegates, after Ghani called off such a gathering in April in Qatar. Ghani summoned a grand traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga, afterwards in Kabul to set a mechanism for talks with the Taliban.
In Bishkek, Ghani said his government’s mandate for seeking peace with the Taliban comes from the 23-point resolution of the Jirga.
He said that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence.”
Ghani put forward four proposals for an Afghan peace deal. It includes the formation of a regional and international coalition for peace and the creation of a regional task force to develop bankable programs and projects for regional connectivity and poverty reduction.
He said dealing with drugs as a driver of conflict and criminality should be comprehensively addressed within the peace-making and peace-building framework. Agreeing to a regional framework for fighting terrorism was also essential.
Ghani said his government will hold the presidential elections on Sept. 28, which have been delayed twice so far. Some of Ghani’s rivals accuse him of using government resources in his favor for the poll, while other politicians, including Khalilzad, favor postponing the poll until the talks with Taliban have finished so that the latter can also take part in the elections.
Jamaludin Badar, a former governor who is a member of the government-appointed High Peace Council, said that, given the regional and international involvement in Afghanistan’s long war and the complication of the conflict, headway cannot been expected soon in the talks.
“There are countries in the region and beyond who want their interest to be protected in Afghanistan post the peace deal,” he told Arab News. “So it is natural for the peace process to drag on and on. These countries have a consensus on ending the war, but not on their interests and future involvement here.”
Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, an analyst, said: “Ghani wants to remain in power for another five years and makes different comments at different juncture of time. The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban.”


Anger soars over vicious mob attack on Hong Kong protesters

Updated 57 min 27 sec ago
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Anger soars over vicious mob attack on Hong Kong protesters

  • Footage from the attack broadcast live on Facebook showed people screaming as the men beat multiple protesters and journalists in Yuen Long station and inside subway trains
  • The clashes have ratcheted up fears that the city’s feared triad gangs are wading into the political conflict

HONG KONG: Anger soared in Hong Kong on Monday over a vicious assault against pro-democracy protesters by suspected triad gangsters that left dozens wounded, in a dramatic escalation of the political turmoil plaguing the Chinese city.
The financial hub’s roiling unrest took a dark turn late Sunday when gangs of men — most wearing white T-shirts and carrying bats, sticks and metal poles — set upon anti-government demonstrators as they returned from another huge march earlier that day.
Footage from the attack broadcast live on Facebook showed people screaming as the men beat multiple protesters and journalists in Yuen Long station and inside subway trains, leaving pools of blood on the floor.
Hospital authorities said 45 people were wounded in the attack, with one man in critical condition and five others with serious injuries.
Critics rounded on the city’s embattled police force, accusing officers of taking more than an hour to reach the station despite frantic calls from those under attack and then failing to arrest the armed men who stayed in the streets around the station into Monday morning.
Some men in white shirts were later filmed leaving the scene in cars with Chinese mainland number plates.
Lam Cheuk-ting, a pro-democracy lawmaker, was one of those wounded in the melee, sustaining lacerations to his face and arms.
He criticized police for their response and accused “triad members” of being behind the attacks.
“Their very barbaric and violent acts have already completely violated the bottom line of Hong Kong’s civilized society,” he told reporters early Monday.
Nathan Law, a prominent pro-democracy activist, added on Twitter: “When the Chinese mobs are attacking the citizens, no law enforcement are there. Shame on the government.”
The clashes have ratcheted up fears that the city’s feared triad gangs are wading into the political conflict.
Yuen Long lies in the New Territories near the Chinese border where the criminal gangs and staunchly pro-Beijing rural committees remain influential.
Similar assaults by pro-government vigilantes against demonstrators during the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests were blamed on triads.
Hong Kong has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history by weeks of marches and sporadic violent confrontations between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.
The initial protests were lit by a now-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
But they have since evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.
The city’s parliament was trashed by protesters earlier this month, as Beijing’s authority faces its most serious challenge since Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.
As the mob rampage unfolded in Yuen Long police were simultaneously battling hardcore democracy protesters in the middle of the city’s commercial district.
Riot officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at anti-government protesters, hours after China’s office in the city was daubed with eggs and graffiti in a vivid rebuke to Beijing’s rule.
Wang Zhimin, the head of the office, blasted the protesters on Monday, saying they had insulted “all Chinese people” as he called on Hong Kong’s government to pursue the “rioters.”
Xinhua added the demonstration “blatantly challenged the authority of the central government” and was “absolutely intolerable.”
Earlier in the day, another huge and peaceful anti-government march had made its way through the city — the seventh weekend in a row that residents have come out en masse.
Six weeks of huge protests have done little to persuade the city’s unelected leaders — or Beijing — to change tack on the hub’s future.
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 those provisions are 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.
Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until their core demands are met such as an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested, a permanent withdrawal of the bill, universal suffrage and Lam’s resignation.
There is little sign that either Lam or Beijing will budge.
Beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill there have been few other concessions and fears are rising that Beijing’s patience is running out.