Pakistani PM, Saudi crown prince stress importance of 'inclusive' government in Afghanistan

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman(R) of Saudi Arabia talking to Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan in Saudi holy city of Makkah on June 1, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 06 September 2021

Pakistani PM, Saudi crown prince stress importance of 'inclusive' government in Afghanistan

  • Khan speaks on the telephone with Saudi and Abu Dhabi crown princes as well as Qatari emir
  • Khan says world community must remain engaged and support Afghanistan economically

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed on Sunday the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's state institutions collapsed when the Taliban took control of most of the country earlier this month and seized Kabul on Aug. 15. 

The war-torn state remains without administration as the Taliban have yet to announce their government. The delay has been seen as related to ongoing fighting in Panjshir Valley, the last holdout against Taliban rule.

During Sunday's phone call with the Saudi crown prince, PM Khan reiterated Pakistan's support for an inclusive future power setup in Afghanistan, as the world is waiting to see what kind of government the Taliban will eventually announce.

"Both the leaders agreed on the importance of an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan," Khan's office said in a statement. 




Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, speaks with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during a meeting at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad, Pakistan on January 6, 2019. (AFP/File)

Also on Sunday, Khan discussed Afghanistan with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed that the world community must remain engaged, in order to support the Afghan people, economically and to help rebuild the country," the PM's office said. "He emphasized the need to address the dire humanitarian needs and to ensure economic stability of Afghanistan."

Afghanistan's economy has been thrown into disarray in the past weeks and most payments to the country dependent on foreign aid have been suspended.

The United Nations has warned Afghanistan may face a humanitarian crisis over the political and economic situation, and up to half a million Afghans could flee their homeland by the end of the year.


Pakistan government says election body derailing electoral reform

Updated 19 September 2021

Pakistan government says election body derailing electoral reform

  • Government wants to introduce electronic voting in the next general elections in October 2023
  • Election Commission of Pakistan says use of electronic voting machines could jeopardize the polls

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani ministers on Sunday accused the country’s election body of derailing electoral reform by trying to prevent the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections.

Electoral reform has become a hot-button issue in Pakistan where political parties frequently raise rigging allegations against their rivals.

The government says it wants to address the problem by allowing electronic voting in the next general elections in October 2023, though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and opposition parties say technology alone cannot ensure free, fair and transparent polls in the country.

“A campaign has been launched to discredit the EVMs," Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said while addressing a press conference alongside Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz in Islamabad.

"That is against the spirit of reforms the government wants to introduce."

Earlier this month, the ECP submitted to the Pakistani Senate a list of 37 objections, warning that a hasty use of EVMs could jeopardize the upcoming polls.

The ECP said a largescale deployment of these devices was not possible in a short span of time, especially when they had not been properly tested and provided no ballot secrecy, voter anonymity and necessary transparency at various levels.

“It seems as if the chief election commissioner is speaking the opposition’s language,” Chaudhry said, as he accused the election body of excluding from its report data that is in favor of EVMs.

As following the ECP's report Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs voted against the Election Act Amendment Bill that would introduce the use of voting machines, Chaudhry said it "will be passed through a joint sitting of the parliament" if the government and the opposition do not find a common stand on the issue.


NZ tour pullout to cost Pakistan millions of dollars, credibility — cricket board CEO

Updated 19 September 2021

NZ tour pullout to cost Pakistan millions of dollars, credibility — cricket board CEO

  • New Zealand was visiting Pakistan for first time in 18 years for three ODI and five Twenty20 matches
  • Pakistan Cricket Board rules out New Zealand World Cup boycott despite the abandoned tour

ISLAMABAD: New Zealand's abrupt pullout from their Pakistan series has set a "dangerous precedent" that will cost the host side millions of dollars, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive said on Sunday.

The Black Caps were in Pakistan for the first time since 2003. They said they were abandoning the tour over security fears just as they were to face the host side at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in the first of three one-day internationals (ODIs) on Friday.

New Zealand Cricket said on Sunday the team was warned of a “specific, credible threat” against them. 

But the visitors did not provide any details about the threat, PCB chief Wasim Khan told reporters in an online conference.

"This is going to cost us millions of dollars. This has severely affected us from the cricket credibility perspective and has set us back," he said. "I think it sets a very dangerous precedent, when countries are unilaterally making decisions that potentially can have long-term consequences for countries." 

 

 

"When we contacted our security agencies, they clarified that there was no security threat to the visiting team," Khan said, adding the threat notice came from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US, and was not followed by any dialogue with the Pakistani side.

"I think the abrupt departure of the team has left many scars for us," he said. "We certainly hope that it is not going to have long-term consequences for us moving forward."

The New Zealand decision sparked calls for a boycott of the Black Caps as Pakistan are due to meet them in the Twenty20 World Cup in Sharjah on October 26.

But Khan said no such action is on the cards.

"Right now, there is no issue of us not playing NZ," he said. "We have a duty to the fans and we have to fulfill that."

Pakistan has been trying to revive tours by foreign squads after home internationals were suspended in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan side in 2009. It has ever since managed to attract many foreign players, especially with the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

New Zealand's withdrawal has put an unwanted question mark over the South Asian nation's ability to host international matches.

Pakistan is awaiting a decision from the England and Wales Cricket Board over the fate of scheduled short tours by the England men's and women's teams next month.

The West Indies is also due to tour Pakistan in December and Australia in February.


Pakistani forces complete Bright Star drill in Egypt after 12-year gap

Updated 19 September 2021

Pakistani forces complete Bright Star drill in Egypt after 12-year gap

  • Bright Star is the largest set of multinational army maneuvers in the Middle East
  • Pakistan contingent comprised the Army, Navy and Air Force troops

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani forces have completed the Bright Star drill in Egypt, the military said on Sunday, as Pakistan participated in the multinational exercise after a 12-year gap.

Bright Star is the largest set of multinational army maneuvers in the Middle East, which began in 1981 between Egypt and the US, before a large number of countries joined them, reaching 21 this year, with participants from Saudi Arabia, Greece, Jordan, Pakistan, UK and Cyprus, as well as 13 observer nations.

Bright Star exercises involve various branches of naval and air defense forces, as well as infantry, armored vehicles, and electronic warfare.

"Pakistan contingent comprising Army, Navy and Pak Air Force troops participated for the first time since 2009," the Pakistani military's media wing said in a statement.

The exercise that started on September 2 was focused on countering regional hybrid threats and strengthening regional stability through combined force interoperability, the military said.

The closing ceremony held at the Mohamed Naguib military base in northwestern Egypt on Friday was attended by Lt. Gen. Moazzam Ejaz, commander of the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers.

Bright Star drills are held in Egypt every two years, but were postponed last year over the coronavirus pandemic.


China to invest $15 billion in petrochemical industry at Pakistan's Arabian Sea port

Updated 19 September 2021

China to invest $15 billion in petrochemical industry at Pakistan's Arabian Sea port

  • Investment would include a power pipeline project from Gwadar port to western China
  • Pakistan said last month it is formulating a strategy to improve the security of Chinese companies operating in the country

ISLAMABAD: Chinese companies are ready to invest $15 billion in Pakistan’s petrochemical industry at the port of Gwadar, the investment promotion agency of Pakistan said on Sunday.
China has in recent years played a key role in developing the deepwater port on the Arabian Sea. Located in the southwestern province of Balochistan, Gwadar is at the heart of multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure projects that began in 2013.
“Chinese companies would invest in the petrochemical sector in Gwadar, including the project of energy pipeline from Gwadar to China,” Board of Investment (BOI) secretary Fareena Mazhar told the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
She added that talks related to the projects were underway, as BOI is working on 50 reforms to create a conducive investment environment and improve the ease of doing business in Pakistan.
Chinese business leaders met Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad last week and reposed their confidence in Pakistan’s “policy support and security,” months after a blast killed nine Chinese nationals working on a CPEC project in northwestern Pakistan.
In a statement after the meeting, Khan’s office said he would hold monthly meetings to “review progress regarding issues faced by Chinese investors.”
Last month, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced Pakistan was formulating a strategy to improve the security of Chinese nationals and companies operating in the country.
CPEC has seen Beijing’s pledge over $60 billion for energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan, central to China’s wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop land and sea trade routes in Asia and beyond.


Same expectations as West from new Afghan government, Pakistani NSA says 

Updated 19 September 2021

Same expectations as West from new Afghan government, Pakistani NSA says 

  • National Security Adviser Yusuf urges the Taliban to safeguard all Afghan rights 
  • Reiterates calls for inclusivity by PM Khan, who has initiated a ‘dialogue’ with Afghanistan’s new rulers 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said that Islamabad’s expectations from the Taliban are “identical to the West,” urging Afghanistan’s new rulers to protect everyone’s rights. 

In the past few weeks, the United Nations and other rights groups voiced concern over a reported surge in human rights violations in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country last month. 

In an opinion piece published in ‘The Independent’ on Saturday, Yusuf said: “Pakistan’s expectations of the new government are identical to those of the west.” 

He added that Islamabad had repeatedly called for a “government that caters to and protects the rights of all Afghans while ensuring that Afghanistan’s territory is not used for terrorism against any country.” 

“This is a goal we share in full with the international community,” Yusuf said. 

Ethnic diversity has been at the center of politics and conflicts in Afghanistan, with no single group enjoying a decisive majority in the country of 38 million people. 

The Taliban swept into the Afghan capital, Kabul, on August 15, cementing their return to power two decades after being ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001. 

Earlier this month, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announced an all-male interim government, facing intense criticism for not including women or ethnic groups in the setup. 

Islamabad has for long been persuading the Taliban to include representatives from its Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek and other ethnic groups in its new regime. 

On Friday, at the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) summit in Dushanbe, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the Taliban must fulfill its pledges “for an inclusive political structure; where all ethnic groups are represented.” 

“This is vital for Afghanistan’s stability. Also, it is important to ensure respect for the rights of all Afghans and ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists,” Khan said. 

Later, on Saturday, PM Khan said he had “initiated a dialogue” with the Taliban for an inclusive Afghan government to represent the country’s ethnic and religious minorities. 

Yusuf said that Afghanistan’s new rulers had also expressed their intention to engage with the world, “even asking western countries not to close down their embassies.” 

“This opens up space for the international community to engage constructively with Afghanistan,” he said. 

The top security official explained that an “abonnement of Afghanistan” has consequences that the world, especially Pakistan, has “lived through for the past four decades.” 

“It is the international community’s collective responsibility to avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and to ensure that the threat to all of us from terrorism is ended once and for all,” Yusuf wrote, adding that this required “constructive engagement with the new political reality in Afghanistan.”