EU calls for Afghanistan cease-fire

EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia was at a press conference in Kabul on Sunday. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

EU calls for Afghanistan cease-fire

  • US President Donald Trump last month declared talks with the insurgents “dead”
  • Afghanistan is currently in an uneasy waiting period following the first round of presidential elections on Sept. 28

KABUL: European Union officials called Sunday for a cease-fire in Afghanistan, saying the breakdown in talks between the US and the Taliban presented an opportunity to push anew for a truce.
US President Donald Trump last month declared talks with the insurgents “dead,” citing a Taliban attack that killed a US soldier.
Negotiations had been in the final stages for a deal that would have seen the US pull troops from Afghanistan after 18 years in return for various Taliban guarantees.
But to the dismay of many Afghans and international observers, the deal included no immediate, comprehensive cease-fire, rather it would supposedly have paved the way for a reduction in violence and later talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Roland Kobia, the EU ambassador to Afghanistan, said the talks’ collapse provided a chance to push for a cease-fire which would, in turn, prove a large enough change in Afghanistan for Trump to consider resuming negotiations.
“It’s the right moment and the right opportunity to maybe go one step beyond a simple reduction in violence and explore ways in which a cease-fire ... will take place,” Kobia told Kabul journalists.
“The idea is really to see how we can move the cease-fire idea forward instead of leaving it for later. ... There is an opportunity here today.”
When asked how the EU, which has only a limited footprint in Afghanistan, could leverage a cease-fire, Kobia suggested that the Taliban might return to power in “one form or another” within months so would entertain a truce to help normalize future relations with the European bloc.
“A cease-fire would be a token, a guarantee of goodwill and good preparation for the normalization of these relationships,” Kobia said.
The Taliban, for its part, has steadfastly ruled out an immediate cease-fire but last year downed weapons for a three-day truce.
Afghanistan is currently in an uneasy waiting period following the first round of presidential elections on September 28.
Results were supposed to be released Saturday but have been indefinitely delayed due to “technical issues,” the Independent Election Commission said.
Pierre Mayaudon, head of the EU delegation in Afghanistan, said a delay of a few days to finalize results was legitimate to ensure votes were fairly counted.
“But not many more days that again will go into weeks and will possibly raise the perception that something is happening,” he told reporters.
Violence in Afghanistan meanwhile continues unabated. On Friday, at least 70 people were killed when a mosque in Nangarhar province was bombed.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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