Afghan, Pakistani leaders in talks to end ‘growing mistrust’

Pakistani PM Imran Khan meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the 14th Islamic Summit in Makkah. (AFP)
Updated 01 June 2019

Afghan, Pakistani leaders in talks to end ‘growing mistrust’

  • Breakthrough meeting offers hope on security, economic ties, analysts say

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday in what analysts described as a move to ease growing tensions between the neighboring countries.

The leaders met on the sidelines of the 14th Islamic Summit in Makkah and discussed improving relations and the Afghan peace process.

The meeting was the first between the two leaders since Khan took office last year.

With US and Taliban talks gaining momentum outside Afghanistan in recent months, Khan’s comments about the formation of an interim government in the country — to replace Ghani’s leadership — angered Kabul.

Afghanistan has also accused Islamabad of backing militants — a claim that Pakistan denies — and hampering its trade ties with India.

The meeting on Friday follows a visit to Pakistan by Hamdullah Mohib, Ghani’s national security adviser, several days ago.

Khan told Ghani that Islamabad supports “peace and stability in Afghanistan,” and favored an “Afghan-led and owned peace process,” the Pakistani prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Both leaders will discuss security and economic ties during Ghani’s coming visit to Pakistan, the statement said.

An official in Kabul confirmed that the meeting between the two leaders was the first since Khan became prime minister last year, but could not say when Ghani will visit Pakistan.

A statement issued by Ghani’s office said the two leaders also discussed “regional connectivity, trade and transit.”

Khan has promised to resolve the issue surrounding the closure of Pakistani air space to Afghan flights bound for India, the statement said. Pakistan barred the flights after clashes with India in the disputed Kashmir area.

Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistani have historically been uneasy, mostly due to a dispute over a border drawn by British rulers in the 19th century, which divided Pashtun families of Afghan origin and annexed swathes of Afghan territory to Pakistan.

Successive Afghan governments have accused Pakistan of aiding militants, which has further strained relations.

Zalmay Khalilzad, US special envoy for Afghanistan, welcomed the meeting between Ghani and Khan.

“Improved Afghan-Pakistan ties are key to reaching, implementing and capitalizing on opportunities for regional connectivity, integration and development,” he said in a tweet, adding that Washington was ready to help both sides mend ties.

An Afghan lawmaker, Daud Kalakani, told Arab News that the meeting “can be the start of a process for improving ties.”

Khan’s suggestion that Afghans lead the process was a “positive development,” he said.

However, political analyst Waheed Mozhdah said “mistrust” between Kabul and Islamabad runs so deep that the meeting offered little hope of an immediate change of relations.

“There are lots of problems and complications. There have been far more promising meetings in the past, but we have not seen any improvement. On the contrary, things have become worse,” he told Arab News.

Kabul assumes that Pakistan can influence the Taliban, while Pakistan opposes the growing presence of India in Afghanistan. Both factors make it difficult to improve ties, Mozhdah said.

Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

Updated 29 sec ago

Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

WASHINGTON: Teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, delivered a pointed message before a US congressional hearing on Wednesday: “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
The 16-year old founder of the “Fridays For Future” weekly school walkouts to demand government climate-change action submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the hearing in lieu of testimony. It urged rapid, unprecedented changes to the way people live in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by 2030.
“People in general don’t seem to be aware of how severe the crisis” is, Thunberg said, urging lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and take action, pleading that people treat climate change “like the existential crisis it is.”
Thunberg was one of four students invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to provide the next generation’s views on climate change.
She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday and pressure lawmakers to take action on climate change.
At the hearing on Wednesday was also 21-year-old conservative climate-change advocate Benji Backer. He told lawmakers that young conservatives also favor climate change action, but through an approach focused on technology and allowing the continued use of fossil fuels.
“As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly. We need your leadership,” he said.
While he praised Thunberg and other climate activists for putting the issue at the forefront of politics, he said there was time to take more measured action.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, Thunberg met former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Obama described the teenager on Twitter as “already one of the planet’s greatest advocates.”
Later on Wednesday, she will join seven young Americans who have sued the US government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They will urge political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
At the panel, Republican representatives praised the students for raising awareness about climate change but disagreed over what action the US should take.
Representative Garret Graves from Louisiana, said his state was affected by rising sea levels and that he supported the US emission reduction target enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, but he criticized the pact for allowing emerging economies like China to continue to emit greenhouse gases.
“I think that signing on to an agreement...that allows for China to have a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030 is inappropriate,” he said.
Thunberg responded that in her home country, Sweden, people similarly criticize the United States for not taking enough action.
Another activist on the panel, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin from Seattle, called out lawmakers for taking too long to enact climate change policies.
“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride; it should fill you with shame,” she said.