Taliban delegation holds talks in China as part of peace push

Taliban representatives during the peace talks on Afghanistan held in Moscow on Nov. 9, 2018. (TASS/File)
Updated 20 June 2019

Taliban delegation holds talks in China as part of peace push

  • Focus has been the Taliban demand for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces
  • China pays great attention to the evolving situation in Afghanistan in recent years, Chinese official

BEIJING: China recently played host to a Taliban delegation as part of efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
Representatives of the Taliban, who have been fighting for years to expel foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government in Kabul, have been holding talks with US diplomats for months.
The focus has been the Taliban demand for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces, in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for militant attacks.
Taliban negotiators have also met senior Afghan politicians and civil society representatives, including in Moscow recently, as part of so-called intra-Afghan dialogue to discuss their country’s future.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing that Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban representative in Qatar, and some of his colleagues had recently visited China, though he did not say exactly when.
Chinese officials met them to discuss the Afghan peace process and counter-terror issues, Lu told the briefing, without saying who met the delegation.
“China pays great attention to the evolving situation in Afghanistan in recent years. We have always played a positive role in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Lu said.
China supports Afghans resolving their problems themselves through talks, and this visit was an important part of China promoting such peace talks, he said.
“Both sides believe that this exchange was beneficial and agreed to keep in touch about and cooperate on continuing to seek a political resolution for Afghanistan and fighting terrorism.”
China’s far western Chinese region of Xinjiang shares a short border with Afghanistan.
China has long worried about links between militant groups and what it says are Islamist extremists operating in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people, who speak a Turkic language.
China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been deepening its economic and political ties with Kabul and is also using its influence to try to bring the two uneasy neighbors closer.
The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, visited Kabul last December.


Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

Updated 14 November 2019

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

  • New skills-based system to be launched from next month
  • Will include India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Starting next month, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new skilled foreign manpower program that will eventually include Pakistan, a senior official at the Saudi labor ministry said this week. 

Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor, said on Tuesday in Riyadh that the ministry was categorizing the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes.

Under the new policy, visas would be issued only after skill tests and the previous system would be gradually phased out. 

The new scheme would be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it would become compulsory, Al-Omair said. The new program would first be applied to manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.

Eventually, the program will cover seven countries, including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Workers belonging to these states constitute 95 percent of professional manpower in the Kingdom’s local market.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats those have been a vital source of foreign remittances.

Last year the country received $21.8 billion in remittances out of which $5 billion were remitted by Pakistani nationals working in Kingdom.

According to the Pakistani ministry of finance, there was a major decline in manpower export to Saudi Arabia where only 100,910 emigrants proceeded for employment in 2018 as compared to 2017, a drop of 42,453 emigrants.

However, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, special assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on overseas Pakistanis, said in an interview earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase the share of the Pakistani labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower. Pakistani groups will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize arrangements.