46 Afghan soldiers seek refuge in Pakistan after losing border military posts

An Afghan National Army soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near Bagram Air Base on the day the last American troops vacated it, in Parwan province, Afghanistan, July 2, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 26 July 2021

46 Afghan soldiers seek refuge in Pakistan after losing border military posts

  • Hundreds of Afghan soldiers and civil officials have fled to neighbouring Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan in recent weeks
  • Taliban has escalated offensive since US announced it would withdraw troops by September, ending 20-year military presence

Forty-six Afghan soldiers sought refuge in Pakistan after losing control of military positions across the border following advances by Taliban insurgents, Pakistan’s army said on Monday.
Hundreds of Afghan army soldiers and civil officials have fled to neighboring Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan in recent weeks after Taliban offensives in border areas.
The Afghan military commander requested refuge at the border crossing in Chitral in the north, the Pakistan army said in a statement, adding the soldiers were given safe passage into Pakistan on Sunday night after clearance from Afghan authorities.
“Afghan soldiers have been provided food, shelter and necessary medical care as per established military norms,” the statement said.
The move comes at a time of poor relations between the neighbors. Afghanistan recalled its diplomats from Pakistan after the brief kidnapping of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad earlier in the month.
Afghan officials did not respond to a request for comment.
The Taliban has escalated its offensive since the United States announced in April that it would withdraw its troops by September, ending a 20-year foreign military presence.
Washington has said it will continue to carry out air strikes to support Afghan forces facing insurgent attacks.
Afghan government and Taliban negotiators have met in Qatar’s capital, Doha, in recent weeks, although diplomats say there have been few signs of substantive progress since peace talks began in September.
Reeling from battlefield losses, Afghanistan’s military is overhauling its war strategy against the Taliban to concentrate forces around critical areas such as Kabul and other cities, border crossings and vital infrastructure, Afghan and US officials have said.
The Pakistan army said the soldiers who sought refuge will be returned to Afghanistan after due process, as had taken place in the case of another batch of 35 soldiers earlier in July. 


Cricket Australia says ‘monitoring situation’ for Pakistan tour

Updated 4 sec ago

Cricket Australia says ‘monitoring situation’ for Pakistan tour

  • Australians are scheduled to tour Pakistan next year in their first trip to the country since 1998
  • Possibility of tour materializing looks slim after England and New Zealand pulled out of scheduled series

ISLAMABAD: Cricket Australia has said it was “monitoring the situation” regarding its scheduled tour of Pakistan early next year, Pakistan’s Geo News reported, quoting a spokesperson.
The Australians are scheduled to tour Pakistan for a full series next year in what would be their first to the country since 1998.
But the possibility of the tour materializing looks slim after England on Monday called off their men’s and women’s teams tour of Pakistan next month citing the “mental and physical well-being” of the players. This followed New Zealand’s abrupt abandonment of their tour minutes before the opening fixture in Rawalpindi on Friday following a security alert from their government.
“We are monitoring the situation and talk with the relevant authorities once more information becomes known,” Cole Hitchcock, a spokesperson for Cricket Australia, said in an email to Geo News.
In a virtual press conference, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ramiz Raja said he expected the Australians “will probably do what the New Zealanders and England have done.”
“So there goes our domestic international calendar.”
Shunned by all after the deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore, Pakistan have been trying to woo back top international teams.


Islamabad wants to break out of ‘cyclical pattern’ of Pakistan-US ties — foreign minister

Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

Islamabad wants to break out of ‘cyclical pattern’ of Pakistan-US ties — foreign minister

  • Qureshi says Pakistan looking for new “anchors” in trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges
  • Wishes to work with US to create jobs, economic prosperity on both sides of Pak-Afghan border

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said Pakistan wanted to “break out of the cyclical pattern” that had long defined its ties with the United States and build a more broad-based and multidimensional relationship.
Qureshi was delivering a keynote address at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York on Tuesday.
Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound for decades by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad is playing a “double game.”
Tensions grew over the last decade over US complaints that the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that target American troops in Afghanistan were allowed to shelter on Pakistani soil. Pakistan denies the charge and has long insisted that the US view Islamabad beyond the lens of Kabul.
“With the end of the US mission in Afghanistan, Pakistan wanted to build a more broad-based and multidimensional relationship with the United States,” Qureshi said in his address at CFR. “Pakistan wanted to break out of the cyclical pattern that had defined Pakistan-US ties in the past and find new anchors for the relationship in trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges.”
He said an economically strong Pakistan would be “an anchor of stability” in the region, which had suffered because of 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan. He added that Islamabad wanted to work with the US in areas that would create jobs and economic prosperity on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and help the Afghan people rebuild their country.
“Isolating Afghanistan had proven to be a mistake in the past,” Qureshi said, urging the international community to encourage progress toward a more inclusive government in Afghanistan through sustained engagement.
“A stable government in Afghanistan would be more effective at denying space to terrorist groups. While the Taliban should be held to their commitments on counter-terrorism, human rights and political inclusivity, the immediate priority must be to help the Afghan people as they confronted a potential humanitarian crisis.”
Qureshi is in New York to represent Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly session scheduled for later this week. The session will focus on boosting efforts to fight climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, along with discussions on Afghanistan and Iran.


Pakistani, Egyptian foreign ministers meet on UNGA sidelines

Updated 26 min 8 sec ago

Pakistani, Egyptian foreign ministers meet on UNGA sidelines

  • Discuss finding peaceful solutions to crises in Middle East, South Asia
  • Qureshi visited Cairo in February this year and met President El-Sisi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Hassan Shoukry in New York on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, with both leaders agreeing to enhance bilateral political exchanges.
Qureshi is leading Pakistan’s delegation at the UNGA, which Prime Minister Imran Khan will address virtually.
“(They) agreed to enhance the frequency of bilateral political exchanges to foster understanding between the leadership and eventually the peoples of our brotherly countries,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said about the Pakistani and Egyptian leaders’ meeting.
They agreed to remain in close contact to upgrade ties and discussed important developments in the Middle East, South Asia and Gulf region. Both leaders emphasized the importance of finding “peaceful solutions through diplomatic means.”
“Situation in Afghanistan also came under discussion between the two Foreign Ministers. Qureshi apprised his Egyptian counterpart about continued humanitarian support by Pakistan in several ways for their Afghan brethren through air and land routes,” the statement said.
Qureshi visited Cairo in February this year and met President El-Sisi.


Pakistan ‘used and binned’ by England over canceled tour

Updated 21 September 2021

Pakistan ‘used and binned’ by England over canceled tour

  • The British High Commissioner to Pakistan confirmed the decision was taken on the grounds of player welfare
  • Pakistan’s cricket chief says ‘a little bit of caring was needed after the New Zealand pull out and we didn’t get that from England’

LONDON: Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja said on Tuesday he felt “used and then binned” after England canceled a white-ball tour for their men’s and women’s teams next month.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) cited “increasing concerns about traveling to the region” just days after New Zealand also pulled out of a tour to Pakistan over security concerns.
However, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Christian Turner, confirmed the decision was taken by the ECB on the grounds of player welfare.
The first trip by the England men’s side to Pakistan since 2005 was only meant to last four days with two Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi on October 13 and 14.
Two women’s T20 matches were scheduled on the same days as double-headers with three women’s one-day internationals to follow in the same city.
Reaction to the withdrawal in Pakistan has been furious.
Pakistan traveled to England last year at a time when COVID-19 infection rates in Britain were among the highest in the world for a three-match Test and T20 series that saved the ECB millions in television rights deals.
“It’s the feeling of being used and then binned. That’s the feeling I have right now,” Raja told reporters.
“A little bit of hand-holding, a little bit of caring was needed after the New Zealand pull out and we didn’t get that from England which is so frustrating.
“We’ve been going out of our way to meet the international demands, being such a responsible member of the cricketing fraternity, and in return we get a response from ECB saying the players were spooked by New Zealand’s withdrawal. What does that mean?“
New Zealand officials refused to give details of the security threat that forced them to abruptly cancel their matches.
A deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore saw Pakistan become a no-go destination for international teams.
In 2012 and 2015 Pakistan hosted England in the UAE, which has staged most of their “home” games since the attack.
A rapid improvement in security in recent years has led to the return of international cricket, with Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh touring in the past six years.
“I share the deep sadness of cricket fans that England will not tour Pakistan in October,” Turner said in a video post on Twitter. “This was a decision made by the ECB, which is independent of the British government, based on concerns for player welfare.
“The British High Commission supported the tour; did not advise against it on security grounds; and our travel advice for Pakistan has not changed.”
The series was supposed to be part of the preparation for England’s men ahead of next month’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
But many of their star players would now be free to play in the latter stages of the lucrative Indian Premier League, also being hosted in the UAE, should their sides reach the knockout phase.
“You are quoting fatigue and mental tension and players being spooked and a hour-and-a-half flight from here before a World Cup they are quite happy to be caged in a bubble environment and carry on with the tournament,” added Raja.
“One feels slighted, one feels humiliated because withdrawal doesn’t have an answer.”
The ECB’s decision has also been met with fierce criticism at home.
“They had a chance to repay a debt, uphold their honor and side with a cricketing nation that has undergone the kind of challenges others cannot even begin to contemplate,” former England Test captain Michael Atherton wrote in The Times.
“Instead, citing a mealy-mouthed statement, they did the wrong thing.”


PM Khan says Afghanistan’s ‘strong’ women will assert rights under Taliban rule

Updated 21 September 2021

PM Khan says Afghanistan’s ‘strong’ women will assert rights under Taliban rule

  • The Pakistani prime minister says absence of an inclusive government in Afghanistan may lead to a civil war
  • Khan warns the world community that an unstable Afghanistan will be an ‘ideal place for terrorists’

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday Afghan women were “very strong” and likely to assert their right under the Taliban rule.
Khan was responding to a question about the rights of women in Afghanistan after the fall of the US-backed Ashraf Ghani administration and the emergence of the Taliban regime during an interview with the BBC.
Women were not allowed to work and girls could not go to school when the conservative Afghan faction came into power between 1996 and 2001.
While the Taliban have said they will not implement their previous policies, they recently closed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul and replaced it with the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
“Their women are very strong,” the Pakistani prime minister told the British news channel. “I feel give them time and they will assert their rights.”
Asked how much time would be required for that to happen, he said: “A year, two years, three years ... It’s too early to say anything because it has just barely been a month. After 20 years of civil war, they have come back into power.”

A Taliban fighter watches as Afghan women hold placards during a demonstration demanding better rights for women in front of the former Ministry of Women Affairs in Kabul on September 19, 2021. (AFp)

Khan said his biggest worry about the situation in Afghanistan related to a possible humanitarian disaster that could lead to another refugee influx in the region.
He reiterated it was important for the Taliban to form an inclusive government since Afghanistan could witness another civil war if all the factions in the country did not get a stake in its governance and administration.
The prime minister also warned that an “unstable and chaotic Afghanistan” was going to be an “ideal place for terrorists.”