Taliban in Pakistan for peace talks

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (L) speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 August 2020

Taliban in Pakistan for peace talks

  • The Taliban’s arrival in Pakistan follows a statement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry that it would enforce 2015 UN-imposed penalties that target dozens of individuals, including Baradar and several members of the Haqqani family, including Sirajuddin

ISLAMABAD: An Afghan Taliban political team arrived in Islamabad on Monday as part of efforts to help launch peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents, just days after Pakistan gave sweeping orders to enforce UN sanctions against the militant group.
The Taliban delegation, headed by political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, will discuss “recent developments in Afghanistan’s peace process” with Pakistani leaders, as well as the “relaxation and facilitation of people’s movement and trade between the two neighboring countries,” said a tweet by a Taliban spokesman.
In a press conference early on Monday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the meetings were meant to further the “aim” of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
“I have invited them again and will have a detailed meeting with them tomorrow,” he told reporters, adding that he will share the outcome of the talks with media.
Other members of the Taliban team include Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mohammad Nabi Omari, Shahbuddin Dilawar, Qari Deen Muhammad and Abdul Latif Mansoor.
“Afghan Taliban officials routinely pay visits to other countries as part of our political strategy to convey our views about the peace process,” the Taliban spokesman said, adding that recent trips have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Taliban’s arrival in Pakistan follows a statement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry that it would enforce 2015 UN-imposed penalties that target dozens of individuals, including Baradar and several members of the Haqqani family, including Sirajuddin, current head of the Haqqani network and deputy head of the Taliban.
The timing of the decision has been seen by some as a tactic to push the insurgent group into negotiations.
On Sunday the group said the sanctions could affect the peace process.
“These are not new sanctions, they were previously slapped on a number of members,” the Taliban said.
“But we are now entering into intra-Afghan negotiations and there is a need for travel, so of course these sanctions will hamper the peace process.”
But Qureshi said the officials were coming to Pakistan by invitation and that the peace process would not be affected by sanctions.
“We have invited them. We had a long and productive meeting in the foreign office with the Taliban delegation before the signing of the Doha agreement,” he said, referring to a US-Taliban deal signed in February that sets conditions for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, the Afghan government agreed to release 400 “hardcore” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for peace talks to end almost two decades of war.
The insurgent group welcomed the decision and said it was ready to begin talks within 10 days of the release. The Afghan grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, the country’s most powerful institution, approved the release.
The Taliban militants had demanded the freedom of the 400, the last group among 5,000 other prisoners who were released earlier, as a condition to join peace talks.
Among the 400 are Taliban members accused of major attacks against civilians and foreigners, including a 2017 truck bombing near the German embassy in Kabul that killed more than 150 people — the deadliest attack in the 19-year campaign.
With the release, the Afghan government will fulfill its pledge to release a total of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.


Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

Updated 3 min 20 sec ago

Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

  • Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Dan Lipinski
  • The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic

CHICAGO: Most Arab-Americans in an Illinois congressional district race chose to support an American candidate who supported Arab and Palestinian rights over a Palestinian Arab-American candidate they said could not win the election, the spokesman for the winner said on Wednesday.

Shadin Maali, whose family originates from Beitunia, Palestine near Ramallah, said she agreed to become the spokesperson for Marie Newman over the candidacy of Palestinian American videographer Rashad “Rush” Darwish because Darwish could not win and Newman could.

Maali, who serves as Newman’s campaign chairwoman and spokesperson, said Newman sought Arab-American support, embracing many of the community’s political concerns. Newman, she said, listened to the community and included them in her campaign. That support, she said, helped to unseat Congressman Dan Lipinski, an entrenched eight-term conservative Democrat who had marginalized Arab-American issues and supported many anti-Palestinian congressional bills.

“A representative, if they are going to represent our district, he needs to align with our values. If he wants our support, he needs to align with our values, which are not radical values,” Maali said during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Show” on Detroit’s WNZK AM 690 and US Arab Radio network, which is sponsored by Arab News newspaper every Wednesday morning.

“We support human rights. To support civil rights. To support justice. The fact that he (Lipinski) didn’t care and denied and declined meeting with us was a slap in the face.”

Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Lipinski, losing in March 2018. But with Arab-American support, she easily defeated Lipinski in the March 2020 Democratic Primary by more than 2,816 votes.

Newman won with 52,384 votes while Lipinski lost with 49,568. The Palestinian-Arab candidate who tried to appeal to Arab-American candidates, Rush Darwish, spent nearly $800,000 on the election but only won 6,351 votes, or 5.7 percent of the 110,852 votes cast.

Maali said that she unsuccessfully appealed to Darwish to exit the race and support Newman, who backs many of the issues that Arabs and Palestinian Americans support.

Newman “had the strongest path to victory,” Maali said, while Rush Darwish, a first-time candidate with little experience, did not. She called it a “tough choice,” but added that in the end the best interests of the district’s constituents, including Arab Americans, was the priority.

“So, when she asked me to be her campaign chairwoman, it was a hard decision for me to make because we did have an Arab-American, a Palestinian-American running,” she said.

“That was the reason why I supported her because she represented us on our issues. She gave us a platform . . . and she could win.”

The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic. It was ranked as having the eighth largest Arab-American population of 50 American congressional districts by The New York Times. It also has the largest concentration of Palestinian-American voters, Maali said.

Maali said that to be successful in winning support for Palestine, Arab-American voters also needed to support the mainstream American population on issues that were important to them.

“Palestine is not the only issue,” she said.

“We care about health care. We care about education. We care about incentives for small businesses. We care about the refugees and immigration reform. We care about all of those issues. We are here as Americans. We care about making sure human rights are not violated anywhere in the world.”

Maali said that Newman supported the right of Arab-Americans to express their opposition to the policies of foreign countries such as Israel, noting that boycotts were an expression of free speech.

Acknowledging that Americans boycotting the racism of the government of South Africa helped to force the end of apartheid there, Maali said Americans also supported boycotting Israel’s government policies, which discriminated against civilians.

“We wanted to make sure we would always be able to practice our right to boycott because it is a fundamental civil right,” Maali said.

Lipinski, she said, supported the passage of legislation that punished Americans who supported boycotting Israeli government policies in the Occupied West Bank.

During the second segment of the radio show, conservative political consultant, Jeff Davis, of Victory Media, said that the public should not rely on news media polling that showed former Vice President Joe Biden as having a significant edge over President Donald Trump.

Davis said that voters should concentrate on several key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan.

An analysis of the Arab-American population shows that four battleground states — Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have significant Arab-American voters who could help to drive the election results.

But Davis said that with the new system of mail-in ballots, some state elections might not be fully tabulated for as long as 10 days after the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

“The question really is, how soon will we know? The difference is vote-by-mail applications because of COVID-19 are through the roof. What that means is you are going to have a certain amount of percentage that is going to be outstanding on election day,” Davis said.

 “We might not know for nine days (after the election),” Davis said.

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“The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. EST in Detroit and simulcast on the Arab News newspaper Facebook page. For more information, visit Arab News online at www.arabnews.com/us2020election.