Afghanistan fears fallout from Soleimani’s death

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier inspects passengers at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan September 25, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Updated 04 January 2020

Afghanistan fears fallout from Soleimani’s death

  • There are some US military bases near the shared border with Afghanistan becoming an indirect battleground between the US and Iran in recent years

KABUL: Afghanistan is concerned about the fallout from the assassination of Iran’s top army commander by a US airstrike, with President Ashraf Ghani saying he would not allow the country to be used against any foreign country.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force and architect of its regional security strategy, was killed in an airstrike near the Iraqi capital’s airport.
There are grave concerns that the spike in tension between the US and Iran could lead to further bloodshed.
Afghanistan shares a border with Iran that measures almost a thousand kilometers, and there are fears the country could become embroiled in any escalation.
“The Afghan government reassures the Afghan people and the neighboring countries that Afghanistan’s territory will not be used against any other nation in the region,” Ghani said in a statement.
There are some US military bases near the shared border with Afghanistan becoming an indirect battleground between the US and Iran in recent years.
“It is not clear where Iran may hit US interests,” Ahmad Saeedi, a former diplomat, told Arab News.
“We worry that since we are close to Iran and there are a number of American bases, Iran may choose to go after them here. We are highly vulnerable as America may retaliate from here and then a protracted war could spark in which Afghan refugees in Iran will suffer ... our business through Iran which makes over 60 percent of imports will suffer too,” he said, adding that a lack of unity among Afghan leaders may also further complicate the situation and make Afghanistan more vulnerable.
Former Afghan interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, said: “The rising tension between Washington and Tehran puts the Afghan government in a precarious situation as it walks a tightrope between maintaining friendly relations with Iran as a neighbor and working with the US as its strategic partner in security and developmental matters.”
The Afghan daily newspaper Weesa said in a Saturday editorial that the presence and war goals of the US in the region were of “high risk” because Washington had no clear definition of its foes and friends, and allowing it to act with a free hand was dangerous.
Former Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Tamim Asey argued that Soleimani’s killing could trigger a war between Tehran and Washington, which would eventually foment a proxy war in Afghanistan.
“Iran has a lot of influence in the region, while American (military) bases are also spread over the region,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “This will prompt both sides to rely on proxies.”
Asey also said that Tehran could prompt the Taliban to end peace negotiations with the US, while also pushing some Afghan political factions under its influence to imperil the stuttering peace process.
Some government officials have alleged that Tehran in recent years has been providing arms and training to the Taliban to fight US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
There has also been mixed reaction to Soleimani’s death in Afghanistan. Some consider him a martyr and others accuse him of mobilizing thousands of Afghanistan’s Shiites for Iran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.

Arabic-speaking Pakistanis meet online to bridge cultural gap

Updated 6 min 36 sec ago

Arabic-speaking Pakistanis meet online to bridge cultural gap

  • Apolitical platform to promote language, encourage people-to-people contact, organizers say

ISLAMABAD: For an hour and a half every fortnight, a group of Pakistanis log on to Zoom, a video-conferencing platform, to enter the digital space of the “Halqa-e-Aldardsha Al-Arabia” or the Arabic Speaking Circle.

The group of 20 are joined by 50 other linguaphiles from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan and even India — Pakistan’s nuclear-armed neighbor, and its archrival since the 1947 partition.

However, due to the apolitical nature of the group, the conversations are exclusive to and revolve around their experiences and mutual love of Arabic — a language that transcends their digital boundaries.

“Currently, there are 70 members in the group, 20 Pakistanis and 50 from other countries. The Pakistanis and two Indians aren’t native Arabic speakers, they’ve learnt it in the 1970s (as overseas workers), while members from Middle Eastern countries are native speakers, so it’s a good mix,” Dr. Inamul Haq Ghazi, founder of the group and chairman of the Arabic translation department at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, told Arab News on Tuesday.

The group held its first meeting on May 15 with an aim “to promote the language and exchange cultural experiences.” 

The idea, Dr. Ghazi said, originated from the fact that a lot of overseas workers and expatriates were well-versed in spoken Arabic but “didn’t have a platform to connect to a larger audience.”

“Our governments (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) have strong historical relationships, but we want to promote people-to-people contact through our platform. Millions of our nationals are employed in different fields in several Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” he said.

Prime among those is Ambassador Javed Hafeez, another founding member, who said that it began as an informal “group of friends” who were fluent in classical Arabic and “wanted to share their social and cultural experiences.”

“Being fluent in the language, I appear on numerous Arabic news channels as an analyst where I promote a positive image of Pakistan,” Hafeez, who has served in many Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia as an ambassador, told Arab News.

He added that Arabic was a rich language, before urging Pakistani youth to learn it “to expand their careers in the Middle East and know more about their social and cultural values.screen grab shows participants of the Arabic Speaking Circle meeting via Zoom held on May 15. (Supplied by ambassador Javed Hafeez

A screen grab shows participants of the Arabic Speaking Circle meeting via Zoom held on May 15. (Supplied by Ambassador Javed Hafeez)

All are welcome, Dr. Ghazi added, since there are “no restrictions on nationality.”

“We are, in fact, including people of different nationalities in our group to make it a multinational platform,” he said.

The topics vary from talking about personal experiences to curated subjects.

“In our next meeting, we are planning to discuss ‘Arab travelers to the sub-continent, and how they have portrayed the area in their travelogues.’ We’ve already circulated this topic among the participants, and each member will come prepared to talk about it and ask different questions,” Hafeez said, adding that in the previous session he’d shared his experience of learning the language and how it helped him “climb the ladder of success as a diplomat.”

Next, the group has plans to set up a “Regional Arabic Center” in Pakistan, with the help of Saudi Arabia, to promote the Arabic language and cultural exchange between the two countries.

“The platform could also be used to dub classical dramas and films in both Urdu and Arabic to promote them in Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries. This is an apolitical platform, and its only purpose is to promote Arabic language and strengthen our relationship with Middle Eastern countries,” Dr. Ghazi said.