Taliban in contact with US negotiators, seeking clarification on cancellation: spokesperson

In this file photo, Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2019. ( AP/File)
Updated 10 September 2019

Taliban in contact with US negotiators, seeking clarification on cancellation: spokesperson

  • If peaceful settlement not an option, Taliban prepared to wage war, says spokesman
  • Timing of Trump’s cancelation of peace talks took Taliban leaders by surprise

ISLAMABAD, Sept. 10 – Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a video interview that Taliban and US negotiating teams were still in contact and that the Taliban have shared their concerns with the US side on President Trump’s cancelation of lengthy peace talks.
On Saturday, Trump unexpectedly announced in a series of Twitter posts that he had canceled a secret summit with major Taliban leaders at Camp David due to an attack in Kabul last week which killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
Shaheen told the Taliban “al-emarah” website in a Pashto language interview posted on Tuesday, that the Taliban have sought “official clarification” from the American negotiating team about the cancelation, which came despite finalizing the draft of an agreement for a drawdown in US troops from America’s longest war, one of Trump’s foreign policy objectives.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha talking to “al-emarah”, The Taliban's website.  On Tuesday September 09, 2019, the Taliban has posted in its webpage a video interview with Shaheen. (Courtesy: alemarahvideo.org)

“There are contacts between the negotiation teams. We had contact with them since long which is still intact. We have conveyed our concerns and they have also informed us about their stance. We have called for official clarification about the recent developments and we await their response,” the Taliban spokesman said.
For now, Washington has recalled its special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief US negotiator.
But Shaheen said Trump’s argument for pulling the plug on talks was misplaced and that American and other foreign forces had also intensified ground operations, aerial bombings and night raids, with the Taliban simply responding in kind.
“He (Trump) talked about the attack in Kabul but there was no cease-fire. They (US forces) also carried out operations and night raids in different provinces like Badakhshan, Farah, Kunduz and Helmand to provoke reaction from the Islamic Emirate,” Shaheen said, referring to the Taliban’s preferred title.
“They conducted operations when the negotiations with us were ongoing. I think the single attack was no justification to call off the talks. They should have also stopped attacks if they object to our attack. If they think attacks harm peace talks, then why were they conducting operations,” the Taliban spokesman said.
He also referred to a recent statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said American forces had killed 1,000 Taliban in ten days. Shaheen said the dead were mostly Afghan civilians.
After news emerged of the Camp David scenario, Trump was heavily criticized for planning to host the militant group on US soil, days before the 18th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda led Sept. 11, 2001 attacks where almost 3,000 people had died, and whose mastermind, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban had sheltered.
Shaheen confirmed the Camp David invitation which he said the group’s Qatar representatives had accepted.
“Yes, they (the US government) had extended invitation to us through Khalilzad at the end of August and we accepted the invitation but we told them to let the agreement be signed and announced first at a ceremony attended by foreign ministers from other countries,” Shaheen said.
The timing of Trump’s Twitter posts had taken the group’s political leaders by surprise, Shaheen said, because they came after the final draft agreement had already been handed over to Qatari officials to pick a date for the formal signing.
“Trump’s unexpected tweets were surprising for us. There was neither any indication about Trump’s decision, nor did the US side make new demands during the last meetings which were also attended by Khalilzad, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Miller, and Mullah Baradar,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen said the group remained committed to a peaceful settlement, but added that if peace was not an option, the group was prepared to wage war.
“Our position is clear. We want a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem. If not, we have been waging jihad for 18 years and want to end Afghanistan’s invasion (by US and foreign forces) through jihad and to establish an Islamic system,” he said, referring to the Islamic concept of holy war.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Pompeo told CNN that the US would not withdraw its troops on a timeline, or stop supporting Afghan forces, if “the Taliban don’t behave.”

Tuned in: Pakistani twins ride the wave of Ertugrul’s success with local soundtrack

Updated 26 May 2020

Tuned in: Pakistani twins ride the wave of Ertugrul’s success with local soundtrack

  • Musician brothers say reaction to the cover version has been a ‘breakthrough’ experience
  • Work gets millions of views, retweets by Turkish deputy minister, global bloggers

KARACHI: It’s got a ring to it.
Or so say fans and followers of 26-year-old Pakistani musician brothers, Leo Twins, after the duo created a cover version of Turkish drama Diriliş: Ertuğrul’s original soundtrack.
“We were actually asked by our fans to create a cover version of the original soundtrack in the comments section of our channel. So, it’s an amazing feeling to know that it’s being loved so much,” Sharoon Leo, one of the twins, said during an exclusive interview with Arab News.
It’s the cover track which accompanies the roll credits for Ertugrul Ghazi, the Urdu-dubbed version of the drama series which is based on the history of the Muslim Oghuz Turks from the 13th century, and was released on state-run PTV on April 25 after Prime Minister Imran Khan said it would “help the youth learn about Islamic values and history.”
Since being released on video-sharing platform Youtube three weeks ago, the soundtrack has already garnered 5.1 million views.
Sharoon told Arab News that while recreating the cover was a challenge – owing to the popularity of the OST conceptualized by Jenerik Müziği – they’ve tried to retain its “Middle-Eastern feel” as much as possible.
“We always try to do our covers differently from the originals,” Sharoon said talking about their cover versions of HBO’s popular series, Game of Thrones, and Pakistani drama Mere Pass Tum Ho.
“There was an instrument in the original track which we thought could best be replaced with the rubab. We also enhanced the violin, which was not very obvious initially,” he explained.

A screengrab from the music video of the track 'Hum Zalmi' featuring Leo Twins.

While Sharoon plays the violin and cello, his twin, Haroon works with other instruments such as the guitar, rubab, tabla, piano, cajon, ukulele, mandolin, darbuka, and more.
Together, they set up Leo Twins, a namesake of their zodiac sign, in their birthplace of Rawalpindi in 2012.
Sharoon credits their success to their “real teacher in music,” Ustad Idrees Ahmed Khan, explaining how a simple gesture of kindness on his part set the tone for their triumphant rise.
“One day, we saw a guitar and violin at a shop, but did not have enough money to buy them. So, we sold our new mobiles and paid for the instruments. Ustaad Idrees Ahmed Khan, who used to give music lessons at the shop, was observing us the whole time, and asked if we would like to learn music from him for free. He said it was because he saw a passion in us for music, which was rare those days, especially in our generation,” Sharoon said.
That was eight years ago, and while they’ve had several hits and misses through the years, they got their first big break in 2015, after featuring alongside music giants, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam, as part of their team on Nescafe Basement’s Season 3.
However, nothing compares to the accolades they’ve received for the Ertugrul cover, Sharoon said, with the soundtrack being retweeted by Turkish Deputy Minister Ali Shaheen and several other bloggers in Turkey.
“It has attracted a very different audience. We have been doing covers to pay tribute to our legendary artists for several years now and could only gather 45,000 subscribers. Still, after we uploaded the Ertugrul Ghazi soundtrack, the number of subscribers has crossed 243K. This soundtrack has given us a new breakthrough,” he said.