US, Taliban to continue peace talks on Sunday

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The Taliban's former envoy to Saudi Arabia Shahabuddin Delawar (L) arrives with Taliban Qatar spokesman Suhail Shaheen (C, behind) and Taliban negotiator Abbas Stanikzai (C, front) to attend the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on July 7, 2019. (AFP)
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US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad attends the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on July 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2019

US, Taliban to continue peace talks on Sunday

  • Focus of resurrected talks to be intra-Afghan dialogue and a cease-fire – US official
  • Anas Haqqani who was just freed in a prisoner swap has joined Taliban negotiating team, spokesman tweeted

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban and the United States will continue their peace talks in Qatar on Sunday, as they try to resolve the protracted conflict in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement.

The two sides restarted formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative after President Donald Trump’s decision to call off talks in early September, an American official privy to the developments, told Arab News.
Trump’s earlier decision to halt talks came in reaction to the deaths of 12 people, including a US soldier, in a Taliban-induced bomb attack in Kabul.
“The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of the discussions will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a cease-fire,” the official said.
In a Twitter post, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also confirmed the resumption of talks and said they would continue on Sunday.
"The talks started from where they were stopped. We discussed signing of the agreement. Talks will continue tomorrow (Sunday),” Shaheen tweeted.
Shaheen also said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban political office, led the Taliban side during negotiations.
In a separate tweet, Shaheen said Anas Haqqani, who was among the three Taliban leaders freed in a high profile prisoner swap earlier this month, had also joined talks as a member of the Taliban negotiating team. 
The peace talks, which began last year, aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to allow the 18 year war in Afghanistan to end. This would involve the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee of a cease-fire and that they would not use Afghanistan to launch attacks on other countries.
Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department had said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would be discussing next steps with the Taliban for intra-Afghan negotiations and “a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a cease-fire.”
A day later, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Arab News that formal peace negotiations would resume with the US in a few days.
This followed Khalilzad’s meetings with Afghan leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and several political leaders in Kabul on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the presidential palace issued a statement saying that the meeting would focus on “the cease-fire and Taliban hideouts outside the 
President Ghani told Khalilzad that both issues should be taken seriously in order to take the peace process forward.
The Taliban and the US had finalized the peace agreement in August – at the conclusion of the ninth round of talks –but the signing of the deal was blocked after Trump’s abrupt decision to call off negotiations.

Police detain Pakistani activists protesting PTM leader’s arrest

Updated 28 January 2020

Police detain Pakistani activists protesting PTM leader’s arrest

  • Lawmaker Mohsin Dawar and other activists of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement arrested as they demonstrated in Islamabad
  • The protests were against Monday’s arrest of PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen who is now charged with ‘sedition’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani police on Tuesday arrested activists and lawmakers protesting the arrest of the leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), local media said.

Lawmaker Mohsin Dawar, along with several activists of PTM, were taken into police custody as they demonstrated outside the National Press Club against Monday’s arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, the movement’s leader.

Local media footage and videos circulating on social media showed police arriving at the protest site and rounding up demonstrators. One video showed Dawar in a policeman’s chokehold as another shouted: “Take them away!”

Kohsar police Station House Officer (SHO) Akhtar Ali told local Dawn TV channel that fifteen member of the PTM, including Dawar, had been taken to Kohsar police station from outside the National Press Club in Islamabad.
Pashteen was arrested by police from Peshawar in the early hours of Monday on a number of charges, including “sedition,” a senior police official of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa told Reuters.

PTM campaigns against alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of Pashtuns and other ethnic minorities.

It emerged in 2018 after the killing of an ethnic Pashtun man by police in the port city of Karachi. That killing led to nationwide protests and turned the issue of alleged state violence against Pashtuns into a national debate.

The Pakistani military accuses the PTM of being funded by foreign enemies India and Afghanistan. The PTM denies foreign links.

Many of PTM’s supporters are ethnic Pashtuns who hail originally from areas bordering Afghanistan, which has been the center point of a long insurgency by Taliban and other militants and subsequent operations by the Pakistani military. Millions of people from the area have been displaced due to the operations.

Two members of the PTM, including Dawar, are elected lawmakers and were arrested under anti-terrorism laws and detained for close to four months after a deadly clash between troops and activists at a security post in northern Pakistan in May last year.