Pakistan no longer a militant safe haven: PM Imran Khan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted Monday that his country is no longer a militant safe haven during a speech in Islamabad. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Pakistan no longer a militant safe haven: PM Imran Khan

  • ‘I can tell you that there are no safe havens here’
  • The Taliban, Afghanistan’s security forces and the US are supposed to be launching a seven-day ‘reduction in violence’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted Monday that his country is no longer a militant safe haven, and said his administration fully supports the Afghan peace process.
Khan’s comments come as the US and the Taliban appear on the brink of a deal that would see US forces begin to pull out of Afghanistan.
In return, the Taliban would enter talks with the Afghan government, stick to various security guarantees and work toward an eventual, comprehensive cease-fire.
Pakistan, which has long been accused of supporting the Taliban and other extremist groups along its border with Afghanistan, is seen as key to helping secure and implement any deal.
“I can tell you that there are no safe havens here,” Khan said at a conference in the capital Islamabad.
“Whatever the situation might have been in the past, right now, I can tell you ... there is one thing we want: peace in Afghanistan.”
Khan’s comments came after Sarwar Danish, Afghanistan’s second vice president, accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to recruit new fighters from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.
Khan was addressing a conference marking 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees in his country.
While Pakistan cannot “completely guarantee” that no Taliban are hiding among the estimated 2.7 million Afghans living in Pakistan, Khan said his government had done all it can to prevent attacks in Afghanistan, including by building a border fence.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has for more than a year led talks between the Taliban and Washington, also attended the conference. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about progress toward an eventual deal.
The US has “commitments from the Talibs on security issues,” he said.
The Taliban, Afghanistan’s security forces and the US are supposed to be launching a seven-day “reduction in violence,” officials announced last week. The move is part of a confidence-building measure ahead of the announcement of a fuller deal.
But bloodshed continued over the weekend, including a Taliban attack in Kunduz province.
Refugees began flowing into Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and continued to come during the Taliban regime.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan, credited the nation for supporting Afghan refugees.
“For 40 years, the people of Afghanistan have faced successive crises, for 40 years, the people of Pakistan have responded with solidarity,” Guterres said, while calling on the international community to do more.
“As we look to the challenges ahead, the global community must step up,” he said.


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.