Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries & Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, 3rd left, is seen in a meeting with Alice Wells, 2nd right, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South & Central Asia Affairs alongwith Ambassador Paul Jones, right, in Islamabad on Jan. 20, 2020. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 January 2020

Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

  • The US deputy secretary of state for South and Central Asia visited Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival
  • On Friday, FM Qureshi reminded Washington of Pakistan's help in Afghan peace process and asked for help in FATF issue

ISLAMABAD: Alice G. Wells, chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a four-day visit centered on discussions regarding the peace process in Afghanistan, bilateral and regional issues, the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement on Sunday.
Wells — US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs — was received at the airport by foreign office and US embassy officials. She has been on a tour of South Asia since Jan. 13 and has been to Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival in Pakistan.
Wells’ visit to Islamabad comes immediately after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi concluded his trip to the US where he interacted with senior United Nations and American officials in New York and Washington. 




The U.S, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Ms. Alice Wells met with Adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan for Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment in Islamabad on January 20, 2020. (Photo Courtesy: Abdul Razak Dawood Twitter Account)

According to Amir Rana, director of prominent Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, the Afghan peace deal will be top of Wells’ agenda during her Pakistan tour.
Pakistan’s role in recent developments in the Middle East has positioned it as “an effective backdoor communication channel between Iran and the United States,” he added. 
In a news briefing in Washington on Friday, Qureshi strongly urged the US to help get Pakistan off the grey-list of global anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at a decisive meeting in Beijing next month. A downgrade from the grey-list could result in crippling economic sanctions.
During the briefing, Qureshi said Pakistan had fulfilled its commitments to the US on facilitating the Afghanistan peace process, brought the Taliban to the negotiating table and assisted in releasing western hostages from insurgents — and had met FATF’s demands. 
The foreign minister reminded Washington: “Pakistan fulfilled your expectations. Now, we too had some expectations, what have you done (for us)?”— hinting Pakistan expected the US would help Islamabad in turn.
The US has consistently enlisted Pakistan’s help in facilitating rocky US-Taliban negotiations, which are reported to be inching near a peace deal this month.
“This is a sequel to Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit, to coordinate the expected peace deal signing with the Taliban and potential US troops’ pullout from Afghanistan,” leading security analyst, Imtiaz Gul, told Arab News. 
Political expert Taimur Shamil told Arab News: “FATF is a tool to politically pressure Pakistan to do America’s bidding in Afghanistan. It... will likely continue till the Afghan issue is resolved.” 
Wells is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during her visit, as well as foreign minister Qureshi.
Her last visit to Pakistan was in August last year.


Pakistan decides to suspend Iran flight operation due to coronavirus cases

Updated 24 min 2 sec ago

Pakistan decides to suspend Iran flight operation due to coronavirus cases

  • Two people, who recently traveled from Iran, tested positive for the virus
  • Officials say the flight operation has been stopped until further notice

KARACHI: The government of Pakistan has decided to suspend flights to and from Iran after the emergence of coronavirus cases in the country, said a senior official of the aviation division on Thursday.

“The Aviation Division has decided to stop all direct flights between Pakistan and Iran with effect from 12am tonight until further notice,” said the department’s spokesperson, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, while talking to Arab News.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah urged the federal government to immediately suspend Iran flights after two people, who recently returned from that country, were found suffering from the coronavirus infection.

“The flight operations to Iran is yet to be stopped,” he said while briefing the media about the measures taken by his administration to deal with the situation. “I request the federal minister of aviation to immediately halt flights from Iran.”

Two coronavirus cases were reported in Pakistan on Wednesday, and one of the people was confirmed to be a resident of Karachi in Sindh province.

“One case has been reported in Sindh, whereas the second person tested positive in federal areas,” State Minister for Health Zafar Mirza said during a press conference in Quetta and answered “maybe” when asked if he was referring to Islamabad.

Both the persons traveled to Iran in the past 14 days, Mirza said, adding that they were in stable condition.

The coronavirus patient in Sindh has been identified as a 22-year-old resident of Karachi who is already quarantined.

The man “and other members of his family have been quarantined at a private hospital,” Meeran Yousuf, spokesperson of the Sindh health department, told Arab News, adding that the patient arrived in Karachi on a flight from Mashhad on Feb. 20.

The development followed the establishment of isolation wards in hospitals and closure of education institutes for two days in Sindh.

In Balochistan, which borders Iran, all education institutes have been temporarily closed until March 15 “as a precaution to protect children from the coronavirus,” the province’s education directorate announced in a circular on Wednesday.

The Sindh chief minister said in his press briefing that a separate health center with isolation facilities would soon be established in the province.

Shah said the data acquired from the aviation department confirmed that around 8,000 passengers had traveled from Iran, adding that 1,500 of them had arrived in Karachi and all of them would be contacted for screening.

“A group of 28 people who had traveled along the coronavirus patient has also been identified and will be approached for screening,” Shah said, informing that the person suffering from the virus had been shifted to an isolated place from the Aga Khan Hospital.

Meanwhile, speaking to Arab News, Assistant Commissioner of Taftan Najibullah Qambrani said that a tent-hospital had been set up in the border area. “The border remains closed for the fifth consecutive day and no one is allowed to enter Pakistan,” he said.

Iran has the highest coronavirus toll outside of China. The country’s health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Wednesday that 19 people had died from the illness, with 139 confirmed cases in the country.

The World Health Organization says the virus had infected more than 80,000 people around the world, causing over 2,700 deaths, mainly in China.

Experts are concerned that Iran may be under-reporting coronavirus cases and deaths.