FM Qureshi hopes 2020 will be 'the year of peace in Afghanistan'

This photograph shared by Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Jan. 17, 2020, shows the minister speaking during a session at CSIS in Washington on Jan. 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Shah Mahmood Qureshi/Twitter)
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Updated 17 January 2020

FM Qureshi hopes 2020 will be 'the year of peace in Afghanistan'

  • It is in no one’s interest to repeat the mistakes of the 1980s, says Qureshi
  • Pakistani FM briefed US Under Secretary of Defense on Pakistan’s efforts to defuse ongoing tensions in the Middle East

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed hope that 2020 could be “the year of peace in Afghanistan” and “no precipitate action” would disrupt it, the Foreign Office quoted him as saying at a Washington-based think tank on Thursday.
Qureshi also said he hoped that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan territory would be “phased and orderly.”
“It is in no one’s interest to repeat the mistakes of the 1980s,” Qureshi said in a speech at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), referring to the abrupt US pullout from Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal, according to the Foreign Office’s statement issued on Friday.
“We need to remember that peace in Afghanistan is ultimately a shared responsibility. Pakistan will and is playing its role, but it alone cannot do all that is needed,” he said, warning against “spoilers,” as “sadly, not every country in the broader region wants to see peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
The United States-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and its abrupt withdrawal of forces in 1989, have been linked to the rise of militancy in Pakistan and the whole region. In 2009, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the US too had a part in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.
During his CSIS visit, Qureshi said that “for too long, the Pakistan-US relationship has remained hostage to the Afghan issue. We want this rather unhelpful framework to change.”
He also suggested that both the US and Pakistan need to “sharpen” their “focus and preparations for the post-conflict phase.”
Qureshi is currently in Washington for talks with the US officials.
In a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the foreign minister said that Pakistan was committed to the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
“The Committee members appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process and requested Pakistan’s continued support,” the foreign office said.
Qureshi also briefed the US Under Secretary of Defense John Rood about his recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran in Pakistan’s efforts to defuse ongoing tensions in the Middle East, following a US airstrike that killed the top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3.
Foreign relations analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais told Arab News that US and its allies are trying to make sure that “state institutions, security arrangements and political order they have helped cultivate and build in Afghanistan must continue, while they withdraw their troops.”
“It would require the US to remain engaged in Afghanistan by supporting political stability, intra-Afghan reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction,” Rais said.
Experts believe that US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan needs a basic expression of will for peace from the stakeholders.
Senior Pakistani diplomat Rustam Shah Mohmand said that the recent cease-fire announced by the Taliban was “not because of pressure from Pakistan.”
“This time when the talks resume, they would most likely lead to an agreement,” Mohmand told Arab News.
Foreign Office spokeswoman Farooqui said on Thursday that Pakistan welcomed the resumption of US-Taliban peace talks. “We hope that the talks would be concluded at the earliest leading the way to Intra-Afghan negotiations.”
“Under this umbrella, all efforts and negotiations whether it is cease-fire or any other aspect of the Peace Process is welcomed by Pakistan,” Farooqui said.


Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

Updated 18 February 2020

Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

  • 14 people have died since Sunday night, 350 have been hospitalized
  • Pakistan State Oil temporarily closes its storage terminals in Kiamari

KARACHI: Authorities on Tuesday said that soybean dust was the likely cause of toxic gas that killed 14 and left over 300 others sick in Pakistan’s portside city of Karachi since Sunday night.
“Preliminary report has been submitted by experts at Khi (Karachi) Uni (university) which suggests that Kiamari incident happened due to over exposure of soybean dust which is known to have also caused similar incidents in other parts of the world,” Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson of the Sindh government tweeted late Tuesday.
“This soybean is in a shipment docked at Khi Port,” he added.
The report by the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), which was sent to Karachi’s commissioner and is available to Arab News, read that the deaths were caused soybean dust exposure.
“The symptoms due to exposure to soybean dust (aeroallergens) may be considered as the possible cause,” the report stated, urging bronchodilator and anti-histamine treatment for the patients and extreme care while uploading soybean containers.
The report said that soybean dust exposure-related epidemics have been reported in other parts of the world with associated morbidity and mortality.

Earlier, a government source told Arab News that the incident occurred during unloading of soybeans on Saturday evening at berth 12 of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) after MV Hercules arrived from the US. The unloading created dust which made its way toward Jackson area of Karachi’s Kiamari municipality.
According to sources, MV Hercules was fumigated on Jan. 8 at Cargill grain reserve Los Angeles, US after loading onboard with 56 degree aluminum phosphide “using one of approved methods.”
The breathing of aluminum phosphide can irritate the nose, throat and lungs causing coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath whereas repeated exposure may damage the lungs, kidneys and liver. Aluminum phosphide reacts with water or moisture to release highly toxic and flammable phosphine gas, the sources said, adding that “It is likely that exposure to particles of aluminum phosphide may have created problems for individuals passing by at that time and such unfortunate incident.”
Meanwhile, health officials said the death toll from the poisonous gas leak has reached 14.
“At least 14 people have died in four different hospitals of the city,” Dr. Zafar Mehdi, spokesperson of the health department said, adding that over 350 others have been impacted and needed treatment.
Officials at Ziauddin Hospital, where most of the affected persons were brought, said they received over a hundred patients on Sunday night, of whom four died.
“There was lull during the day and then again over a hundred visited the hospital, indicating that the gas impacts go high during humidity at night,” Amir Shehzad, spokesperson of the health facility, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) said his company had closed operations at Kiamari storage terminals.
“PSO has temporarily closed its storage terminals in the Kiamari, Karachi due to health and safety reasons. The operations on this location will resume as soon as the area is deemed safe for the company’s staff and contractors to operate.”
“There will be as such no impact of this temporary closure on supply of POL products within Karachi, and in upcountry locations. PSO has sufficient stock available, with backup supply arrangements already in place to ensure an uninterrupted supply of the POL products,” spokesperson told Arab News.