Pakistan’s hosting of Taliban leaders angers Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
Updated 05 October 2019

Pakistan’s hosting of Taliban leaders angers Afghanistan

  • Islamabad said on Thursday that it would continue making efforts for “lasting peace in Afghanistan” after holding initial talks with the Taliban leaders

KABUL: The Afghan government has slammed Pakistan for hosting Taliban leaders and demanded Islamabad stops sheltering militants on its soil.
A high-level Taliban delegation, led by the group’s deputy head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday to hold talks with Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the country’s intelligence chief.
“Hosting an insurgent group is against all norms and principles among countries,” said Sediq Seddiqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s chief spokesman.
Islamabad said on Thursday that it would continue making efforts for “lasting peace in Afghanistan” after holding initial talks with the Taliban leaders.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the meeting with Pakistani officials involved discussions on Afghan refugees, businessmen based in Pakistan and regional security.
The Taliban delegation arrived in Islamabad when the US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was also present and sources in the US Embassy confirmed that a meeting did take place between the two sides.
The development comes weeks after US President Donald Trump abruptly called off peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar after nearly a year of intense engagement that had created high hopes of a deal to restore peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan.

FASTFACT

Senior Afghan Taliban leaders and Pakistani officials have called for the resumption of peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

Trump linked his move to the killing of a US solider in Kabul by the Taliban in a suicide attack which also claimed the lives of 10 Afghans.
Khan, who met with Trump in New York at the UN General Assembly, urged the stalled peace dialogue to resume and offered his country’s positive role to help support the two sides.
However, Sediqqi said that the Taliban’s recent Islamabad visit would not help the peace process in Afghanistan.
“The peace process can be effective when it is led and owned by the government of Afghanistan and we do not see any sign of commitment for peace from the Taliban group,” he said.
“Our usual demand from Pakistan has been to destroy the safe havens of Taliban and terrorists on its soil and play a positive role in the security of the region,” he added.
Pakistan was among the few countries to recognize the Taliban’s government, which ruled much of Afghanistan from 1996 until it was ousted by US-led troops in late 2001.
Islamabad has been accused by both the Afghan government and US officials for backing and giving shelter to the Taliban on its soil, an allegation Pakistan has vehemently denied.
Ahead of the trip to Pakistan, the Taliban delegation also visited Russia, China and Iran, propagating the group’s point of view that it was interested in resuming talks with Washington while blaming Trump for canceling a peace deal that had reached its final stage.


No more tears: Dhaka to import onions from Pakistan to curb shortage

Updated 32 min ago

No more tears: Dhaka to import onions from Pakistan to curb shortage

  • Despite optimism, some experts remain skeptical that the onion trade will lead to a new era of diplomatic ties

DHAKA: In a bid to mitigate an onion crisis in its local markets, Bangladesh has decided to import 300 tons of the vegetable from Pakistan after nearly 15 years, despite strained diplomatic relations between the two countries in recent years.

Relations between Islamabad and Dhaka have never recovered from the 1971 war, when Bangladeshi nationalists broke away from what was then West Pakistan. Most recently, relations have been marred by the trials of prisoners taken in Bangladesh during the war nearly five decades ago. Pakistan publicly condemned the trial process by Dhaka, which the latter considered an interference into its internal affairs.

The surprise decision to import from Pakistan was taken during a government-level discussion on Friday, when Bangladesh’s Tasho Enterprise finalized the deal with Karachi-based Roshan Enterprise, as reported by Pakistan’s The News International.

Last September, following a ban on onion exports in India, the price of onions in Bangladesh rose threefold.

Experts in Bangladesh said the rise of trade relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh, especially with the new “onion diplomacy” could prove to have some positive impact over diplomatic relations between Dhaka and Islamabad. 

“With this onion diplomacy, there is the chance of expanding trade relations between the countries,” Dr. Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University told Arab News, adding: “It will definitely have a good impact on diplomatic relations but I would not say it will create a new era of their relationship overnight.

“As a whole, if Bangladesh reviews its foreign policy in a pragmatic context, the latest onion import trading may take a positive turn in terms of diplomatic relations,” Hossain said.

Last year, Dhaka did not approve the appointment of a new Pakistan high commissioner in Bangladesh.

Islamabad has been waiting for the appointment’s approval for over a year, though it is expected to come soon, sources inside Pakistan’s Dhaka mission said.

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Humayun Kabir told Arab News that the onion trade could open up a window for better diplomatic relations if the political leadership of both countries wanted it to, but that it was still too early to consider it a diplomatic win.

“Bangladesh needs onions and so we are importing them from Pakistan. But at this moment, there is not enough scope to attach it with diplomacy,” Kabir said. 

Dr. Shammi Ahmed, international affairs relations secretary of the ruling Awami League party, told Arab News that Bangladesh already had diplomatic relations with Pakistan but conceded there were problems between the two countries.  

“Importing onions from Pakistan is a government level decision. Bangladesh’s foreign policy also upholds the spirit of friendship with all nations,” he said, and added that the bilateral relationship could move in a “positive direction” in the days to come.

According to State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan’s exports and imports with Bangladesh during 2018 were $782 million and $67 million respectively.

But Mohammad Zamir, a former career diplomat, said there was little scope for politicizing the onion import, which was merely a necessity for Bangladesh.

“We have bilateral relations with Pakistan and have also imported many goods from the country in previous years. Currently, we are in need of onions and Bangladesh is also importing them from some other countries, like Myanmar, Egypt and Turkey for its national interest,” Zamir told Arab News. 

According to Muhammad Aurongzeb Haral, press councillor of Pakistan’s High Commission in Dhaka, trade was already showing a rising trend with signs of a new and “positive” attitude towards Pakistan in Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry.

Total bilateral trade figures for 2018 reached $850 million compared to $681 million for 2017, Haral said.

“Pakistan has been contributing to Bangladesh’s export industry and hence its economy by providing textile raw material to the country, and contributing to the ready-made garment industry exports of Bangladesh,” he continued.

“There is huge potential for further boosting of trade between the two countries.”