Waiting to exhale – no breakthrough expected in Pak-Afghan ties

Pakistan has send on Friday 40,000 tonnes of wheat to the people of Afghanistan as a gift, one day before foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi embarks for his first foreign visit, which will be to Kabul. ( Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad)
Updated 15 September 2018

Waiting to exhale – no breakthrough expected in Pak-Afghan ties

  • Peace talks top agenda as FM Qureshi heads to Kabul even as experts urge caution
  • Look to resolve volatile conditions in three provinces, among other things

KARACHI: As Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi heads to Afghanistan today on a one-day visit, experts said the step forward should not be mistaken as a major breakthrough in the fragmented relations between the two countries.
Qureshi is the first high-level Pakistani official to visit Afghanistan since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office on July 26.
Among other things on the agenda is the deteriorating law and order situation in Afghanistan, especially in the violence-hit provinces of Ghazni, Nangarhar and Logar provinces, a senior diplomat in Kabul told Arab News. “The Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), agreed between President Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in April earlier this year, will be the major topic of discussion,” the diplomat, requesting anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to media, said.
“Qureshi is coming to Kabul on his first foreign tour at the request of his Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani, as the Afghan government desperately needs peace in the three troubled provinces ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections on the 28th of next month,” he said.
Restoring peace in Nangarhar, Ghazni and Logar — the three areas where the Taliban and Daesh have wrecked major havoc —  is a matter of serious concern “for both the US and the Afghan government”. “Ghani, who is going to contest the presidential elections next year, wants to take credit by having peace in these areas,” he said.
He explained that the APAPPS provides a comprehensive and structured mechanism to enhance engagement between the two countries and all talks held on Saturday will look to build on its inaugural session held on July 22, in Kabul.
In the meeting, officials from both sides had assessed all areas of mutual interest, including counter-terrorism, bilateral ties, repatriation of Afghan refugees’ and prospects for peace and reconciliation. However, a massive Taliban attack followed in Ghazni soon after, making the meeting look like an exercise in futility. “The APAPPS hasn’t worked so far and the Afghan government now wants it to produce the required results,” the diplomat said.
Rahimullah Yousufzai, a Peshawar-based veteran journalist and an expert on Afghan affairs, said: “It is an initial exploratory visit in which the negotiating teams will get to know each other so we should not expect any major breakthrough.”
This meeting will provide the basis for the focused discussions, Yousufzai explained. “The Afghan government will speak about the APAPPS, especially the point binding both countries not to allow its soil to be used against the neighbor. So action against Afghan Taliban will be urged. The Pakistani delegation will press for action against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is using Afghan soil against Pakistan.”
Shahid M Amin, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya, said PM Khan and Qureshi have categorically stated that peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. “Peace in Pakistan depends on a peaceful Afghanistan and our government has always wanted it,” Amin told Arab News, adding that Kabul had been wrongly “crediting” Pakistan for Afghan Taliban’s success in Afghanistan. “The Taliban have achieved its success on its own but the situation is wrongly assessed by making Pakistan a scapegoat,” he complained.
The good thing, Amin said, is that the US’ commitment toward attaining peace in Afghanistan has increased, while the Taliban’s attitude has also softened after having direct talks with Washington. “If Pakistan can assert any influence it will surely make for a peaceful Afghanistan, which in turn is indispensable for a peaceful Pakistan.”
Amin said the visit will certainly have an impact on addressing these grievances. “It is high time that both countries remove each other’s reservations and go ahead for broader peace. Imran Khan has said that the issue of Afghanistan can be resolved through a political solution,” he added.
Yousufzai, however, is skeptical and says the timing should also be kept in mind before predicting the outcome of Saturday’s visit.
Former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan said a major change can be expected only if the US leaves Afghanistan. Ruing on the fact that 18 years have passed since the Afghan war, he said that the US has yet to take a leaf from history and should realize that peace in Afghanistan cannot be restored until all foreign forces leave the country.
“Peace is not electricity that you [can access by] turning on a switch. For resolving issues, one needs time and an understanding of root causes, which are not caused by Pakistan but because of the US presence,” he said. Turning the focus on the influence of India due to American presence, Khan adds: “All these hurdles should be removed for peace in the region.”

India’s Magsaysay award winner says ‘democracy is in danger’

Updated 07 October 2019

India’s Magsaysay award winner says ‘democracy is in danger’

  • Kumar is pained by the decline of independent institutions that have upheld the flags of democracy for more than seven decades

NEW DELHI: Ravish Kumar is nervous about the “danger that Indian democracy is facing today” and how “a systematic attempt is being made by the ruling establishment in Delhi to suppress all the dissenting voices in the country.

“Journalism prepares you to face the unknown everyday, so I was not really surprised when I got the call from the (Magsaysay) award committee,” Kumar said.

“The problem was that I was asked to keep it a secret until they had made a public announcement. It was painful to keep quiet for almost a month,” he told Arab News with a smile.

“When the news became public, I realized what I had been bestowed with. I feel the award is a vindication of trust in good journalism. People felt as if the award had been bestowed on them,” he added.

It is this concern for democracy and its institutions that earned Kumar the prestigious Magsaysay award for 2019.

Instituted in 1957, it is awarded every year by the Philippine government in memory of its former president Ramon Magsaysay for “integrity in governance, courageous service to the people and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.”

Kumar, who works as a managing editor of India’s leading bilingual TV channel, NDTV, has created a niche for himself in the world of journalism with his daily primetime show, which draws huge audiences from across India. 

At a time when most mainstream TV channels and newspapers have stopped questioning the government and challenging its narrative, Kumar’s reporting takes a critical approach to the lawmakers.

For this constant critique of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the government does not send any of its spokespersons on his show or the channel.

He laments that a large section of the Indian media has become “an extended arm of the government and the mouthpiece of the establishment.”

For his outspoken attitude, Kumar and his family have received threats from “people who are subsidized by the ruling party.”

“I don’t have any hope for the media. It is dead in the country. Just a few are holding the placard of fearless journalism,” he said, adding that “the death of independent media has affected true reporting from Jammu and Kashmir.

“The situation in the region is so bad that after the abrogation of its special status, even the significant moderate voices in India have been pushed to the militant camps,” he said.

Describing the government’s policy on Kashmir as “brazen,” he questioned the “audacity of the government to hold local body elections in the valley when there is a complete lockdown.

Kumar is pained by the decline of independent institutions that have upheld the flags of democracy for more than seven decades, adding that he was aghast at the Supreme Court’s silence on the abrogation.

“Why is it taking so long for the apex court to intervene on the issue of the internet lockdown in the Kashmir valley? Can you imagine the American Supreme Court behaving the way the Indian judiciary is acting on such a crucial issue?” He asked.

He said that the decline of independent institutions such as the media, judiciary and election commission is gradually creating a democratic imbalance.

Kumar understands the award has given an extra responsibility on him and that he felt “burdened with expectations.” So great are those expectations, he has not ruled out entering politics.

“Politics is a good thing. I tell everyone to join politics,” he said, adding that his current responsibility is to “warn people about the danger that is lurking in Indian society.”