‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Mohammed Umer Daudzai. (AP/File)
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Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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Lebanese diaspora in London protest in support of Beirut protesters

Updated 24 min 27 sec ago

Lebanese diaspora in London protest in support of Beirut protesters

  • At least 100 people — both Lebanese and non-Lebanese — showed up at the protest denouncing government corruption and negligence following the port explosion that killed at least 158 people
  • Many of the chants at the London protest targeted politicians from across Lebanon’s ruling elite, including Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah

LONDON: The Lebanese diaspora in London gathered in Hyde Park on Saturday in a protest showing solidarity for those demonstrating in Beirut.

At least 100 people — both Lebanese and non-Lebanese — showed up at the protest denouncing government corruption and negligence following the port explosion that killed at least 158 people, injured more than 6,000 and left 300,000 homeless.

“It is very important to show support and solidarity with our fellow Lebanese protesting in the country,” one protester said. “Here in London we can peacefully protest, but those in Lebanon must go through attacks by both the internal security forces and political leaders’ thugs.”

Many of the chants at the London protest targeted politicians from across Lebanon’s ruling elite, including Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

“Terrorist, terrorist, Hassan Nasrallah is a terrorist,” was one of the slogans chanted at the protest.

Another was: “All of them means all of them, and your leader is one of them.”

The Lebanese national anthem was played at the beginning of the protest following a moment of silence to honor those who were killed in the explosion. Protesters were seen breaking down in tears as the names of those who died were read aloud.

Posters carried pictures of the victims, with others carrying the message that “their blood is on your hands” — referencing the government’s negligence around the cause of the explosion.

The Lebanese government announced that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was located in one of the warehouses in the port and was the main cause of the blast’s immense power. Lebanese President Michel Aoun did not rule out the involvement of foreign interference.

“The incident might be a result of negligence or external intervention through a missile or a bomb,” Aoun said on Friday.