Pakistan Prime Minister Khan says will try to persuade Taliban to meet Afghan government

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, left, and United States Institute of Peace President Nancy Lindborg take part in a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019

Pakistan Prime Minister Khan says will try to persuade Taliban to meet Afghan government

  • Says Taliban had wanted to meet him a few months back but he didn’t due to Afghan government opposition
  • Taliban have so far refused to negotiate with the Kabul government, denouncing it as a US puppet regime

WASHINGTON: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said he would try meet with the Taliban in an effort to persuade the group to meet with the Afghan government, as the United States seeks to end the nearly 18-year-old war.
“I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government,” Khan said during an appearance at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.
Khan said a Taliban delegation had wanted to meet him a few months back but he did not because of opposition from the Afghan government.
The United States and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal that is expected to be centered on a US pledge to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to let Afghanistan be used as a base for terrorism, officials say.
However, the Taliban have refused to negotiate with the government, denouncing it as a US puppet, but in an effort to foster Afghan reconciliation, a 60-strong delegation of citizens met the Taliban for two days of talks in Qatar from Sunday.
Pakistan’s role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, a charge Pakistan denies, saying it has suffered heavily from the fighting.
The United States has also pressed Islamabad to do more to curb militant groups based in its territory.
Even as talks continue, the Taliban and the government have continued fighting.
Afghan government forces mistakenly killed seven civilians, including children, in an attack on militants south of the capital, a provincial official said on Monday, the latest victims of a war undiminished by peace talks.


Pakistan probes multibillion-rupee losses from cargo misdeclaration

Updated 04 February 2020

Pakistan probes multibillion-rupee losses from cargo misdeclaration

  • Incidents of fraud reported at Torkham, Quetta and Karachi customs stations
  • Automation of the system needed to prevent corruption in duty collection, experts say 

KARACHI: Pakistan’s tax authorities are investigating a series of fraud incidents at the country’s main customs stations, which inflicted multibillion-rupee losses on Pakistan’s economy, an official confirmed on Sunday.

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) spokesman Hamid Ateeq Sarwar told Arab News an investigation “is underway” and its findings will be shared with the public. 

The FBR’s Directorate General of Customs Intell­igence and Investigation, in early January, uncovered a case involving a network of top officials suspected of a large-scale practice of cargo misdeclaration which it estimates resulted in state losses of billions of rupees.

A report by the directorate sent to the FBR chairman indicated that “organized fraudulent activity (is) taking place at Torkham Customs station through which foreign origin goods are being smuggled.” An initial investigation disclosed that 110 vehicles carrying imported goods have passed the checkpoint on the border with Afghanistan uncharged, the document seen by Arab News reads. 

Similar incidents of misdeclaration were detected in Karachi and Quetta, where more than 900 containers were cleared without paying duties. 

Customs experts are calling for all officials involved in the incidents to be punished. “No matter how influential those involved are they should be given exemplary punishment so that such incidents are prevented in future,” Abdul Qadir Memon, lawyer and former president of the Karachi Tax Bar Association, said.

While corruption appears to be the main obstacle to the FBR’s sound functioning, according to Memon, the problem could be solved by technology. “Automation of the system and installation of scanners at customs stations is key to eliminating corrupt practices. Improvement in the audit system may prevent under-invoicing,” he told Arab News.

The incidents of mass fraud are yet another blow to the FBR, which at the same time is facing a leadership crisis, with its chairman Syed Shabbar Zaidi’s health reportedly deteriorating due to acute stress.

The FBR is also facing a shortfall of around Rs218 billion against its revised revenue target of Rs2.62 trillion set for the July 2019–January 2020 period. 

All these result in an atmosphere of uncertainty, which “is the worst one can afford at this moment. Revenue mobilization is necessary for Pakistan’s economic viability as a state,” taxation expert Dr. Ikram ul Haq told Arab News.

The developments raise concerns over the International Monetary Fund (IMF) second quarterly review of Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout program. IMF representatives arrived in Islamabad on Monday.