Harmful for peace process to exclude Kabul from conferences — Afghan envoy

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Islamabad Atif Mashal speaks during an interview with Arab News at this office in Islamabad on Sunday, 23 June, 2019. (AN photo)
Updated 25 June 2019

Harmful for peace process to exclude Kabul from conferences — Afghan envoy

  • Urges international community to emphasize Kabul lead the peace process
  • More than 50 Afghan leaders arrived at the Pakistani hill station of Bhurban on Saturday for a peace meet

ISLAMABAD: All meetings and conferences would be harmful for the Afghan peace process if they are not coordinated with the Kabul government, Afghanistan’s top envoy in Islamabad said on Sunday after Pakistan hosted a conference for Afghan leaders to bolster a faltering peace process aimed at ending a lengthy civil war in the neighboring country.
More than 50 Afghan leaders, including politicians and tribal elders, arrived at the Pakistani hill station of Bhuran on Saturday for the meet, but there were no representatives of the Kabul government or the Afghan Taliban militants, who have been fighting for years to expel foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government in Kabul.
Envoy Atif Mashal said he was present at the first session of the Bhurban conference in his personal capacity, just to meet guests from Afghanistan. 
“When meetings and programs for peace are not coordinated with the Afghan government and the other parties in the country, especially with the Afghan government, it harms the peace process rather than benefiting it,” the Afghan ambassador told Arab News in an interview at his office in Islamabad. “Agenda of all meetings and conferences, which are held in the region and other countries, should be open and should be coordinated with the Afghan government.”
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained in recent years amid long-standing allegations by Kabul and Washington that Pakistan has been sheltering the Taliban militants since US-led forces removed them from power in 2001, something Islamabad denies. Pakistan also says its influence over the Taliban has waned over the years.
The United States has been pushing Pakistan to use its influence with the Taliban to open direct negotiations with the Kabul government, which the Taliban regard as an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime. Since December last year, US and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks but the Taliban have repeatedly refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.
“Afghan political leaders understand there is a chance for peace. The international community should emphasize that Afghan government leads peace efforts,” Mashal said. 
In April, thousands of Afghans congregated in Kabul for a rare ‘Loya Jirga’ consultative meeting aimed at finding ways to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. But opposition political leaders and government critics, including former president Hamid Karzai, boycott the assembly accusing President Ashraf Ghani of using it as a platform to boost his status as leader in an election year.
Without naming anyone, Mashal said the people of Afghanistan would decide about those who had shunned a Loya Jirga aimed at finding peace for the country. 
When asked if the Afghan government supported talks between the Taliban and the US in Qatar from which the Ghani government had been excluded, he said the US and the Afghan government were moving forward with the peace process with consensus.
“All details are shared with each other,” Mashal said. “Besides this, we work on a common agenda. We also want other countries to coordinate all of their efforts with the Afghan government and move forward with understanding to achieve the required results.”
Notable attendees at the Bhurban conference included Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, presidential candidate Haneef Atmar, chief of the High Peace Council Mohammad Karim Khalili, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Ustad Atta Mohammad Noor, Wali Masood, the brother of Ahmad Shah Masood, Hizb-e-Wahdat leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, ex-MP Fauzia Kofi, presidential candidate Latif Pedram, former minister Anwar ul Haq Ahadi, and Pir Hamid Gailani.


Pakistani jailed for Dutch anti-Islam MP murder plot

Updated 18 November 2019

Pakistani jailed for Dutch anti-Islam MP murder plot

  • A Dutch court found the 27-year-old guilty of ‘planning a murder with a terrorist motive’
  • The judge added four years in jail to the six years sought by the prosecution

THE HAGUE: A Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani man to 10 years behind bars Monday for planning to assassinate a politician Geert Wilders after the MP announced an anti-Islam cartoon competition.
The man, identified as Junaid I. by local media, was arrested in August 2018 at a train station in The Hague after he posted a film on Facebook in which he said he wanted to “send Wilders to hell” and urged others to help.
Judges at The Hague’s district court found the 27-year-old man, who had traveled from France, guilty of “planning a murder with a terrorist motive” and “incitement to commit a terrorist deed.”
“The suspect more than once said that Wilders’ death would be a good deed,” said presiding judge Jan van Steen, who added four years in jail to the six years sought by the prosecution.
“Furthermore, the suspect wanted to commit the murder in one of the parliamentary buildings, the heart of Dutch democracy,” Van Steen said, adding “the court is alarmed that the suspect... declared that this case will boost his image in Pakistan.”
The suspect had denied any terror-related motives.
He said during the trial that he was “peace-loving” and had only traveled to the Netherlands from France to protest against Wilders’ cartoon competition.
The Facebook video was seen by more than 153,000 people and shared 14,000 times.
Far-right leader Wilders canceled his plans two days later to stage a cartoon competition against the Prophet of Islam, a move that angered many Muslims, particularly in Pakistan where protests were led by the hard-line Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party.
Wilders, 56, known for his peroxide bouffant hairdo and firebrand anti-immigration and anti-Islamist statements, lives in a safe house and has been granted 24-hour protection by the Dutch state.
The court did not say how Junaid I. planned to kill Wilders but found that in a bugged phone call after his arrest he said he took “specific things with him... without which his mission would not be complete.”
He had also walked round with a “large backpack, which he did not have when he was arrested” and lied about what it contained, the judges said.
A day after Wilders announced the cancelation, an Afghan man stabbed two American tourists at Amsterdam’s main train station. The man, who said he wanted to “protect the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” was last month sentenced to 26 years in jail.