Will deal with Pakistan as ‘brotherly neighbor’ in future — Taliban

In this file photo, The Taliban’s political bureau in Doha, Qatar. The group said on Saturday that it has met with the new US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha on Friday. (AP/photo)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Will deal with Pakistan as ‘brotherly neighbor’ in future — Taliban

  • No pressure from Pakistan for peace talks, Taliban say
  • Half of Afghanistan under Taliban control, can open office anywhere, says the group

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban have dispelled the impression that Pakistan’s pressure forced them to start negotiations and said they are holding direct talks with the United States in line with their policy.
Comments by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid came amid reports that Pakistan exerted pressure on the Afghan insurgents to come to the negotiation table.
“We do not adopt or change our policies due to pressure from anyone. I have not seen any pressure,” Mujahid told Arab News. 
“The on-going talks taking place in (Qatar) are in accordance with our agenda,” the Taliban spokesman said in reference to the negotiations between the Taliban and the US officials to end the conflict in Afghanistan.
Taliban’s outgoing chief negotiator Sher Abbas Stanekzai said last week that the next round of talks will be held in Qatar on Feb. 25 that will focus on ways to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces and to prevent Afghanistan from being used for terrorism in future. 
“The perception about the use of pressure (by Pakistan) is false as there is no space for such a possibility of any pressure,” Mujahid said. 
“We had told the Americans to talk to us instead of starting war even before the invasion. Then we opened political office in Doha in 2013 for political talks with the Americans as the war option was not in the US interest. But the US was unwilling to agree to our proposal and instead preferred war. It is the US which has started negotiations with us, so it is a change in the US approach to come to the negotiation table. Ours is old stance that war has been imposed on us,” he said.
About Taliban approach toward Pakistan, he said Taliban will deal with Pakistan as a brotherly neighbor in the future and want strong relations on the basis of mutual respect. We want similar relations with other neighboring countries.”
The Taliban spokesman described as “misplaced” President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to Taliban to give them office in Afghanistan.
“We do not beg anyone to give us office in our own country. We presently control over half of Afghanistan and if we want we can open office and center anywhere.”
The US, Taliban and regional stakeholders, in the recent past, have had multiple round of talks seeking a political solution to the Afghan conflict. US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is on his latest six-nation tour to the region in a bid to secure a peace deal with the group before the Afghan presidential elections slated for July this year. 
The Taliban had until now refused to talk to the Afghan government and appear to be seeking a key role in the new political order of the country. 
Foreign affairs experts also do not believe Pakistan could mount pressure on the Taliban and insist that Islamabad can only encourage the Afghan insurgents to join peace process.
“Pakistan may be encouraging the Taliban to sit on negotiation table because the war in Afghanistan has also affected our country,” Pakistan’s former ambassador Asif Durrani told Arab News on Monday.
“Taliban are not naïve to accept pressures but I think they will do whatever is good for Afghanistan,” said Durrani, who has also served in Afghanistan. 
“They (Taliban) are Afghans and Afghans are fiercely independent people so the impression of pressure is a move to malign the Taliban,” the former diplomat said.
Defense analyst, Brig. (retired) Said Nazir Mohmand also agrees with the idea of convincing the Taliban instead of pressure as any such policy could “create problems for Pakistan.”
“It was the stated policy of the Taliban that they will only talk to the US as they consider them as occupation force so I do not think there was any pressure on them as the US agreed to start negotiations with them,” Mohmand told Arab News on Monday.
“But there is possibility Pakistan may have used its leverage on the Taliban and convinced them to focus on political solution,” he said.


Jadhav case: Pakistan, India to face off in ICJ on Monday

Updated 16 February 2019
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Jadhav case: Pakistan, India to face off in ICJ on Monday

  • Pakistani delegation to argue case in UN court left for The Hague on Friday 
  • ‘Will except the final decision of the ICJ,’ Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will resume on February 18 public hearing in Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case that was initiated by New Delhi against Islamabad in order to get consular access to its incarcerated citizen.
India claims that Jadhav was apprehended on trumped up charges.
The Pakistani delegation that will argue the case in the UN court, left for The Hague on Friday. 
According to the court’s schedule, the public hearings in the case will commence from February 18 till 21 in The Hague. Attorney General Anwar Man­soor will lead Pakistani delegation while Harish Salve represents New Delhi in the world court.
Salve is expected to argue first on February 18 followed by English Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi making submissions on February 19 from Islamabad’s side.
An Indian naval official, Commander Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, was arrested by Pakistan in March 2016 from the impoverished and rebel-infested Baluchistan province during a counter-intelligence operation. 
Islamabad claims he confessed to his involvement in subversive activities and espionage against Pakistan working for India’s premier intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Placed on trial by a military court in Pakistan, Jadhav was found guilty and sentenced to death a month later.
India, however approached the world court in May 2016, invoking the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Subsequently, the court passed an order directing Pakistan to stay the execution, pending a final decision.
Islamabad has made Jadhav’s statements public, but New Delhi has countered that the officer is retired, that he was kidnapped from Iran, and that he had been made to confess under duress to fabricated charges. 
“We will accept the final decision of the ICJ,” a senior foreign office official said, adding “there are more charges of terrorism and sabotage that he will be charged with after the court’s judgment.”
It may be recalled that Pakistan gave access to Jhadav’s family on humanitarian grounds in December 2017. Officials say Islamabad would be willing to entertain a request in future if his family submits an application to meet the ill-fated spy.
“There are specific instances (of terrorism) that he has confessed to and those cases against him are pending” but India needs to answer six key points of Pakistan against its demand to ICJ to order for the return of Jadhav, the official explained to Arab News.
In a special handout given to Arab News, Pakistan argues that India failed to provide evidence that Jadhav was kidnapped. It also failed to explain why and when the officer retired and why he was in possession of an authentic Indian passport under a false cover Muslim name. Why is India demanding his return pending an international court decision, another question Islamabad raised? Consular access cannot be granted to a person implicated in national security matters under the 2008 Agreement on Consular Access between both sides, argues Pakistan. 
India will scheduled to respond to submissions from Pakistan’s side before the ICJ on February 20 and the closing argument by Pakistan will be presented the day after. Islamabad expects the ICJ may deliver its final decision by summers this year.