Taliban say will consider Turkey an ‘occupier’ if it retains troops at Kabul airport

The undated photo shows exterior view of Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy: Online)
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Updated 12 July 2021

Taliban say will consider Turkey an ‘occupier’ if it retains troops at Kabul airport

  • Spokesman says Turkey to “bear responsibility” if it decides to intervene and keep its troops to guard airport
  • Ankara says has reached conditional deal with Washington to take over security of Kabul airport

KABUL: The Taliban on Monday warned Turkey against keeping its troops in Afghanistan to run and guard the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, adding that any country that opted to retain soldiers in the war-torn country after the US and NATO withdrawal would be treated as an “occupier.”
Turkey has more than 500 troops in Afghanistan as part of a non-combat NATO mission, with some soldiers training Afghan security forces and others serving at the international airport in the capital.
As NATO’s only Muslim member, Turkey’s non-combat troops have rarely been attacked by the Taliban or other insurgent groups in Afghanistan, with Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, telling Arab News on Monday the group wanted “normal ties” with Ankara.
However, he rejected Ankara’s proposal that its troops stay behind to oversee Kabul airport’s operations.
“Turkey has been in Afghanistan for the past 20 years with NATO, and if it wants to remain now, without any doubt, we regard it as an occupier and will act against it,” Mujahid said. “We have lots of commonalities with Turkey…and they are Muslim, but if they intervene and keep its troops, then it will bear the responsibility.”
On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara had reached a conditional deal with Washington to take over security of Kabul airport after the withdrawal. But Ankara says it cannot carry out the mission without support and would need additional troops for it.
Since the drawdown of coalition forces began on May 1, the Taliban have made rapid territorial gains against Afghan government forces in several regions, including areas near Kabul.
The Taliban’s advances have stoked fears about security in Kabul and its airport, which has come under rocket strikes by both Taliban and Daesh affiliates in the past, despite the presence of coalition forces at the facility.
The airport’s security is crucial for military and civilian flights and the safe passage of international aid groups and diplomats residing in Afghanistan.
An Afghan defense ministry spokesman said Kabul airport had been fitted with an air defense system to counter incoming rockets over the weekend.
“This system installed at Kabul airport, [which] has been tested in other parts of the world, will be highly effective in foiling rocket attacks on Kabul airport as well,” Fawad Aman said.


Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

Updated 04 December 2021

Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

  • Hammad Azhar says it is not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it cannot do much about global commodity prices
  • Pakistani opposition parties have been questioning the government's economic performance, though officials maintain they are misleading people

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's energy minister Hammad Azhar denied on Saturday unemployment was rising in the country, adding that the national economy was estimated to grow at five percent during the current year.
The government's economic performance has been widely criticized as Pakistan's national currency has drastically lost its value and its import bill has significantly mounted.
The country has also been forced to undertake economic reforms by the International Monetary Fund which agreed to offer a $6 billion bailout package to the administration in Islamabad in July 2019.
"Pakistan's economy is projected to grow at five percent this year," Azhar told the country's state-run PTV channel. "When an economy is growing at that rate, unemployment cannot rise: It can only decline."
Quoting a World Bank assessment, the minister said poverty had also come down in Pakistan despite the economic challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
He maintained it was not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it could not do much about global commodity prices.
The country's opposition parties have questioned the government's economic performance in recent weeks, though Azhar maintained they were misleading people.


Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

  • Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched by a mob in Sialkot, was accused of blasphemy after he removed a poster with religious inscription from factory’s wall
  • According to police investigation, he did not know the local language and apologized to workers after the incident

ISLAMABAD: A Sri Lankan factory manager who worked with a garment manufacturing company in Pakistan and was lynched by a mob on blasphemy allegation was not too popular with workers who had lodged several complaints against him with the owners of the facility, reported a local news channel on Saturday.
Sharing the findings of the criminal investigation into the case, Geo News said Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana “worked as an honest general manager” in the country’s southeastern Sialkot district where he looked after the production work and strictly implemented factory regulations.
“On the day of the incident, Priyantha Kumara visited the production unit where he reprimanded the supervisor for not keeping the place clean,” reported the news channel, adding the same person allegedly instigated workers against the Sri Lankan manager.
“According to the police, Priyantha Kumara had asked workers to remove posters and stickers from the walls which were being painted,” Geo News added. “He also took off some posters himself including one with a religious inscription which led to an outcry. However, he apologized to people on the instruction of his factory owners.”
The investigation also revealed Diyawadana did not know the local language and frequently faced communication problems at work.
While the issue had seemingly settled down after his apology, some workers continued to instigate people who physically attacked him.
The Sri Lankan factory manager ran to the roof where he wanted to hide, but a group of angry workers also chased him over there.
As Diyawadana’s body was dragged by the mob to the road, the security guards deployed at the building left the facility without making an effort to rescue him. His corpse was publicly set on fire in the presence of hundreds of people, many of whom filmed the incident before posting the video clips on social media.
The Pakistani prime minister described it as “a day of shame” for his country, though more than a hundred people were arrested by the police after the incident who are currently being investigated.


OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

Updated 04 December 2021

OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

  • There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover
  • Pakistan has also invited the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China to the meeting of Islamic countries

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign minister called on Saturday for a fresh effort to stop neighboring Afghanistan from sliding further into crisis as he announced an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) later this month.

The meeting of foreign ministers from Islamic countries will be held in Islamabad on December 19, with delegations from the European Union and the so-called P5 group of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China also invited.

"To abandon Afghanistan at this stage would be a historic mistake," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad, warning that half the country was facing the risk of starvation that could trigger further chaos.

"Instability could give way to renewed conflict, it could trigger an exodus of refugees," he said.

There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover on August 15 and fears of disaster if the situation is not brought under control.

However, getting help in has been hindered by sanctions on dealing with the Taliban, the US decision to freeze billions of dollars of central bank reserves held outside Afghanistan and the collapse of much of the country's banking system.

Pakistan recently agreed to allow 50,000 tons of wheat to transit through its territory from India to help Afghanistan but aid agencies have warned that much more help is urgently needed.


Sri Lankan president says expects justice from Pakistan after lynching of citizen over alleged blasphemy

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan president says expects justice from Pakistan after lynching of citizen over alleged blasphemy

  • Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana was beaten to death and set ablaze by mob in an incident Pakistan’s prime minister described as ‘day of shame’
  • President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urges the government to ensure the safety of all other Sri Lankan nationals in Pakistan

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Saturday he was deeply saddened by the brutal assassination of a citizen in Pakistan on blasphemy allegation, but praised the administration in Islamabad for taking steps to ensure justice.

Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, who worked at a factory in Pakistan’s eastern city of Sialkot, was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob on Friday, in an incident that Prime Minister Imran Khan described as a “day of shame” for Pakistan.

Sri Lankan foreign ministry spokesperson Sugeeshwara Gunaratne told Arab News the victim was in his late forties and survived by his wife and two children below 10 years of age.

The Pakistani prime minister said in a Twitter post he had spoken to the Sri Lankan president “to convey our nation’s anger & shame” over Diyawadana’s killing in Sialkot city, adding that over a hundred people had been arrested in the case and would be prosecuted.

“As an ardent friend of Pakistan, Sri Lanka commends the actions taken by the Government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure justice, immediately after this brutal assassination,” the Sri Lankan president said. “The Sri Lankan Government and the people of Sri Lanka look forward with great confidence on the future steps that will be taken by the Government of Pakistan in this regard.”

“I also urge the Government of Pakistan to ensure the safety of all other Sri Lankans living in Pakistan,” he said.

Armagan Gondal, a police chief in Sialkot district where the killing occurred in Pakistan’s Punjab province, told media factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said it was “shocking” to see the brutal and fatal attack on Diyawadana by extremist mobs in Pakistan.

“My heart goes out to his wife and family,” he wrote on Twitter. “Sri Lanka and her people are confident that PM Imran Khan will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice.”

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said it was in the process of verifying the incident with Pakistani authorities, adding that it expected Islamabad to take “required action” to investigate the matter and ensure justice.

“The Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad is in the process of verifying the details of the incident from the Pakistan authorities,” it said in a tweet.

“Sri Lanka expects that the #Pakistan authorities will take required action to investigate and ensure justice. We are awaiting results of further #investigations and working with all parties concerned to bring the remains home.”

Sri Lanka’s Muslim Civil Society Alliance also expressed shock and dismay over the lynching of a national in Pakistan, calling it a “barbaric crime.”

“This is an extremely shameful and barbaric crime and should not be tolerated,” it said in a statement. “Extrajudicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost by anyone, no matter which religion, ethnicity or nationality they belong to.”

In his message on Twitter, Pakistan’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said he had been thinking what to write on the Sialkot lynching since words had lost their value after such incidents.

“Such incidents only pain us for 48 hours and then everything returns to normal and conscience remains buried until the next such incident occurs,” he wrote on the social media platform.

“This apathy is an indication of a bigger storm,” Hussain continued. “Rivers of blood have flown before us in countries [around the world].”

Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynching.

Video footage of the incident in Sialkot shared on electronic and social media showed hundreds of people gathered outside the factory, amid plumes of smoke rising from a spot in the center of the crowd where the perpetrators had reportedly burnt the body of the victim after beating him to death.

Other videos showed a mob dragging a man’s heavily bruised body out to the street, where they burned it in the presence of hundreds of demonstrators who cheered on the killers.

Many in the mob made no attempt to hide their identity and some took selfies in front of the burning corpse.

The slogans chanted in the social media videos were the same used by supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious political party that has railed against blasphemy on its rise to prominence.

The TLP has in the past paralyzed the country with protests, including an anti-France campaign after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last year republished cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The group was only unbanned last month and its leader freed from detention after another period of civil unrest in which seven police officers were killed.

Friday’s attack came less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwest Pakistan after officers refused to hand over a man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.


Pakistan applauds Saudi 'kind gesture' after kingdom deposits $3 billion in central bank

Updated 04 December 2021

Pakistan applauds Saudi 'kind gesture' after kingdom deposits $3 billion in central bank

  • Saudi Arabia gave $4.2 billion of economic assistance to Pakistan during Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent visit in October
  • The Saudi deposit is expected to provide some financial relief to the country which is grappling with a mounting import bill

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's finance chief Shaukat Tarin said on Saturday the country's central bank had received a deposit of $3 billion from Saudi Arabia amid a difficult financial situation while thanking the kingdom for its "kind gesture."
Saudi Arabia agreed to provide economic assistance of $4.2 billion in the form of cash and deferred oil payment facility to Pakistan during Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent visit in October.
The kingdom announced to deposit $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and supply $1.2 billion worth of oil to the country on credit.
"Good news, US$3 billion Saudi deposit received by SBP," Tarin wrote in a Twitter post. "I want to thank His Excellency Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the kind gesture."


Saudi Arabia also decided to shore up Pakistan's economy by offering an identical package back in 2019 when Prime Minister Khan's new administration was grappling with a huge current account deficit and balance of payment crisis.
Pakistan's currency and equity markets witnessed a significant decline on Thursday as benchmark KSE-100 index nosedived by more than 4.7 percent to 2,134 points and the Pak rupee hit a new all-time low of Rs176.42.
Analysts attributed the market crash to soaring trade deficit, extreme inflationary pressure and rising interest rates.
Tarin mentioned the weakening Pakistani currency while addressing the media in Karachi last month, saying the government was taking measures to ensure the movement of rupee in the other direction.
The Saudi deposit is expected to provide some financial relief to the country, though experts have long maintained that Pakistan needs to address its mounting trade deficit to gain some economic strength.