US envoy to visit Pakistan, Afghanistan for ‘intra-Afghan’ talks 

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad participates in a discussion on “The Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan” at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, DC, on Feb. 8, 2019 . (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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US envoy to visit Pakistan, Afghanistan for ‘intra-Afghan’ talks 

  • Zalmay Khalilzad will head an interagency delegation from February 10 to 28
  • His six-nation tour is focused on bringing ‘all Afghan parties together’

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat is set to lead a large delegation on a six-nation tour, including Afghanistan, to boost that country’s peace process and bring “all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue,” the State Department said Sunday.
The statement said Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan who has undertaken extensive recent talks with the Taliban, would head an interagency delegation from February 10 to 28.
It was unclear whether the group had already left at the time of the statement.
The itinerary will take the US delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said, adding that Khalilzad would “consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip.”
The emphasis on bringing “all Afghan parties together” appeared crucial. US-Taliban peace talks have not included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets, and Khalilzad said recently that intra-Afghan negotiations were essential.
The US envoy has in recent months met several times with Taliban officials in Qatar, where the group’s leaders have an office in the capital Doha.
Khalilzad said Friday that he hoped to see a peace deal in place before Afghanistan’s July presidential elections.
President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed. But Khalilzad emphasized that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground.
Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and a US invasion following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.


Mosque attack victims: Eight Pakistanis buried in Christchurch

Updated 22 March 2019
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Mosque attack victims: Eight Pakistanis buried in Christchurch

  • Funeral was attended by more than 5,000 people
  • New Zealand broadcasts the Islamic call to prayer across the country

ISLAMABAD: Out of the nine Pakistani nationals who were shot dead in two New Zealand mosques last week, eight were laid to rest on Friday after a mass funeral in Christchurch, the largest city of the country’s South Island.
At least 50 people were killed in twin attacks on two mosques on March 15 when a white supremacist opened fire on the worshippers.
“Today, eight Pakistani Shaheed (martyrs) have been buried in a local graveyard in Christchurch according to Islamic rituals. More than 20 family members, who flew from Pakistan, were able to join (the procession),” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dr. Muhammad Faisal tweeted on Friday.
Travel arrangements for the family members of the victims were facilitated by Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) and the government of New Zealand.
On Friday, thousands of people gathered for a mass funeral which was “attended by more than 5,000 people, of which there were about 1,500 Muslims, who came from all over New Zealand...Shaheed (martyred) Syed Areeb Ahmed will be repatriated to Pakistan in the next few days. His family is being kept informed”, excerpts from a statement released by the FO read.
“Emotions were high, during the funeral prayers,” Kaleem Khan, a Pakistani community leader, told Arab News from Christchurch.
Meanwhile, as a mark of respect, New Zealand broadcasted the Islamic call to prayer on Friday, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joining the congregation of mourners near Al-Noor mosque, one of the two locations which had been targeted last week.
Ardern and thousands of others observed two minutes of silence in memory of the victims, following which the premier said that New Zealand was mourning with the families of the victims. 
A day earlier, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had called Ardern to condemn last week’s attacks before expressing his admiration over her handling of the situation, particularly her attempts to help the nation’s grieving Muslim community heal.