Imran Khan inaugurates 24/7 Pak-Afghan border crossing to boost trade

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A view of the Pak-Afghan Torkham border, where Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated a 24/7 border post on Wednesday, in a bid to boost trade. September 18, 2019. (Photo AN)
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Flanked by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (left), Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurates the round-the-clock opening of the Pak-Afghan Integrated Transit Trade Management System at Torkham border on Wednesday (September 18, 2019). Photo PTI media
Updated 18 September 2019

Imran Khan inaugurates 24/7 Pak-Afghan border crossing to boost trade

  • Trade with Afghanistan was $1.5 billion in 2016 but remained less than $1 billion during the current fiscal year
  • Anyone trying to wage holy war in Kashmir will “be an enemy of Pakistan,” Khan says

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that opening the vital Pak-Afghan Torkham border round-the-clock will considerably bolster trade between Kabul and Islamabad and boost regional commerce activities.
Torkham is located along the 2,500 km international border that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan and serves as a major transportation and shipping site, through which about 10,000 people cross daily. PM Khan, along with senior Afghan officials formally inaugurated the border post on Wednesday, though the expanded hours took effect earlier this month on a trial basis.
“This is a historic day. Trade with Afghanistan jumped by 50 percent during the trial period of the 24/7 border opening,” Khan told a press conference after inaugurating the Integrated Transit Trade Management System at the border. The move comes just days after Pakistan summoned an Afghan diplomat to account for militants from Afghanistan firing on Pakistani troops at the border, resulting in four deaths.
Flanked by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, PM Khan said the 24/7 opening of the important border crossing would multiply trade and employment opportunities for the entire region.
Afghan-Pakistani trade was worth $1.5 billion in 2016, with Pakistan shipments accounting for 80% of it, according to data compiled by the World Bank, UN, and the World Trade Organization. 
Earlier, Faiz Muhammad, President of Peshawar’s Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had told Arab News that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan had remained under a billion dollars during the current fiscal year.
“People’s lives will be changed and Peshawar will turn into a regional hub of business…and this will generate more employment opportunities,” Khan said, referring to the northwestern Pakistani city that is the capital of KP province.
Khan also said the entire region would transform once peace was restored in Afghanistan and said he hoped business activities would reach as far as Central Asia.
“It would be a huge tragedy if US-Taliban talks could not move forward,” he said, adding that he would meet US President Donald Trump on Monday during the UN General Assembly Session in New York and insist the two countries resume the stalled dialogue.
“First, the resumption of peace talks is of paramount importance for Afghanistan and for….Pakistan. We will try utmost to jump-start the talks,” he said. 
However, he ruled out any chance of direct talks with neighboring India until New Delhi revoked curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. 
“Let me promise you that I will present the Kashmir case in the General Assembly with full vigor on Monday,” he said but added Pakistan did not support any extremist actions in Kashmir.
“If one thinks to go to Kashmir for the purpose of Jihad (Islamic concept of holy war), it will be a great disservice to Kashmiris. Anyone who takes an extreme step will be the enemy of Pakistan as well as Kashmiris,” he said.

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.”