Taliban say Supreme Council stopped negotiators from visiting US

Head of Political Office of Taliban Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai (R) and chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (L) attend peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 08 September 2019

Taliban say Supreme Council stopped negotiators from visiting US

  • US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad suggested Taliban political representatives should go to US
  • Controversy over cease-fire led to breakdown of talks, say Taliban

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban Rahbari Shoura – or Supreme Council – recently stopped the group’s negotiating team from visiting the United States since any interaction with the Americans in Washington would have been viewed as abject surrender, a Taliban leader privy to the shura’s decision told Arab News on Sunday.
The revelation was made only a few hours after US President Donald Trump said he had called off a secret summit with the Taliban at Camp David due to the group’s ongoing campaign of violence in Afghanistan.
“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” he said in a tweet, adding: “What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!”
Talking on condition of anonymity after the breakdown of US-Taliban talks, the senior member of the Afghan militia informed it was US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who had suggested the visit to the Taliban political representatives during the ninth round of talks last month in which both sides finalized a draft agreement to end the conflict in Afghanistan.
“But when the suggestion was shared with the shura, the Amir Al-Mu`minin [Maulvi Haibtullah] and other members rejected the proposal,” he said.
The Taliban leader added the head of the group’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and a majority of the Qatar office members supported the proposal, but it was opposed by the shura that also condemned the willingness of several members to travel to the US.
Meanwhile, a Taliban negotiator admitted that differences over cease-fire during the ninth round of US-Taliban negotiations was one of the major reasons for the cancelation of talks in Qatar by President Donald Trump.
He said Khalilzad insisted the Taliban should declare cease-fire across Afghanistan, a suggestion rejected by the Taliban negotiators as it would have constituted a deviation from the group’s earlier understanding.
The Taliban had previously agreed to declare a cease-fire in those areas from where the foreign forces were considering to begin the withdrawal process, he added.
However, the US envoy came up with the new demand last month which was declined by the Afghan faction.
“The Taliban rejected Khalilzad’s demand and reiterated their position on the issue. They also said the cease-fire would be decided during the intra-Afghan dialogue that was planned to begin two weeks after the announcement of the US-Taliban peace agreement,” he said.
The US wanted the Taliban to declare cease-fire at the start of the talks in Qatar in October last year, but the Afghan group had concerns that Washington was trying to reduce the militia’s fighting capability while American and NATO forces were still stationed in Afghanistan, said the Taliban official.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had also told Arab News in a series of audio messages on Saturday that there was no agreement with the Americans that the group would not carry out attacks against them. “But when the peace deal is signed, [we] will honor whatever decisions are made in the agreement,” he added.

 


Even the PM’s a fast bowler: Pakistan cricket’s need for speed 

Updated 14 min 21 sec ago

Even the PM’s a fast bowler: Pakistan cricket’s need for speed 

  • Pakistan have eight quicks in their 20-man squad for the three-Test series against England 
  • The production line is so consistent that when one player goes, another is ready to take over 

KARACHI: To understand the culture of fast bowling in Pakistan, look no further than Imran Khan — once a feared quick, and now the country’s prime minister.
Not all of Pakistan’s pacemen will fly so high, but Khan’s rise underlines a tradition where speed is king, and blistering pace is essential for any team.
As if to reinforce the point, Pakistan have eight quicks in their 20-man squad for the three-Test series against England, starting on Wednesday, ready to unleash their trademark pace and swing.
They carry the baton passed by predecessors such as Khan, left-arm great Wasim Akram and his destructive partner Waqar Younis, the unassuming Aaqib Javed, and Shoaib Akhtar, the feared “Rawalpindi Express” who is considered the fastest bowler in history.
The current generation includes the precocious Naseem Shah, still only 17, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz, and the accurate Mohammad Abbas.
The production line is so consistent that when one player goes, another is ready to take over — as seen in 2010 when Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, banned for spot-fixing, were replaced by Junaid Khan, Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali.
Even Amir’s decision to retire from Tests at just 27 did not slow Pakistan, as Shaheen became the spearhead and Naseem announced himself with a stunning Test hat-trick.
But the steady emergence of quicks — left-armers, right-armers, even one who is ambidextrous — raises an obvious question: how does Pakistan keep doing it?
Former fast bowler Sarfarz Nawaz, regarded as the pioneer of reverse swing in 1970s, said the factors included Muslim Pakistan’s meaty diet — unlike mainly vegetarian India, once known for its spinners.
“We are a nation obsessed with fast bowling,” Nawaz told AFP. “We eat meat which strengthens the body, we love wickets clattering and the batsman shivering so it’s natural that we produce fast bowlers.”


Nawaz passed on his reverse-swing skills to Khan under whose tutelage Wasim and Waqar became “The Two Ws,” a menacing partnership in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wasim said he followed Khan’s legacy, and that pace bowling matches the Pakistani mentality.
“I think it’s the culture (to become a fast bowler), especially this generation of Waqar and I and then Akhtar, we all had a role model in Khan,” he said.
“Generally, when we talk about cricket it’s mostly about the fast bowlers, they get batsmen caught napping. We are aggressive people in nature and that’s what helps.”
Wasim often holds camps to train emerging fast bowlers, swelling Pakistan’s ranks.
“When I came I always wanted to be a fast bowler and then a crop of fast bowlers came, and now we have Naseem, Shaheen, Mohammad Hasnain and Musa Khan who bowl at 140-150 kph (87-93 mph),” he said.
However, perhaps the most decisive factor is Pakistan’s legion of tape-ball players, who play in parking lots and disused patches of land using tennis balls wrapped in electrical tape to make them heavier, putting the onus on pace rather than spin.
Lahore Qalandars, a Pakistan Super League franchise which has been at the forefront of nurturing fast bowlers in recent years, received more than 350,000 applicants for their talent-hunt program — nearly half of them tape-ball players, including the ambidextrous pace marvel Yasir Jan.
“We give them platform in our development program and send them to Australia to hone their talent,” said head coach Aaqib Javed.
According to Wasim, fast bowling is so deeply ingrained that Pakistan’s stocks will never run out.
“Many natural resources will dry up, but not Pakistan bowling’s reservoirs,” he said. “Our fast bowling future is secure as they follow footsteps and run-ups.”