Pakistan says monitoring Taliban’s ability to fulfill promises, respond to rights’ concerns 

A member of the Taliban walks at the airport in Kabul on September 13, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2021

Pakistan says monitoring Taliban’s ability to fulfill promises, respond to rights’ concerns 

  • Islamabad wants human and women’s rights to be preserved under new Afghan government, says envoy to Washington  
  • Asad Majeed Khan says ties with US ‘important and critical’ 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Asad Majeed Khan on Tuesday said that Islamabad was monitoring the Taliban government’s ability to fulfill promises and respond to rights’ concerns in Afghanistan. 

Over the past few weeks, United Nations officials and rights groups have noted a surge in human rights violations in Afghanistan. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Monday Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers had contradicted public promises on rights, including by ordering women to stay at home, blocking teenage girls from school and holding house-to-house searches for former foes. She said the country was in a “new and perilous phase,” with many women and members of ethnic and religious communities deeply worried. 

Pakistan wants human and women’s rights to be preserved under the new Afghan government, Ambassador Khan told Washington Diplomat in an interview on Tuesday. 

“We have not recognized the Taliban government,” he said. “No country has formally recognized it, but we are monitoring the ability of the new government in Afghanistan to respond to the concerns of the international community, and to deliver on the commitments and promises that they have been making over a period of time.” 

To a question about Pakistan-US ties, Ambassador Khan said they had always been “important” and “critical” for Islamabad. 

“Obviously, since 9/11, we have been essentially through the prism of Afghanistan. I can tell you that today, we are together on the same side in terms of our interests and expectations in Afghanistan,” he said. 

“The United States wants to see the conflict end; that’s also what we want. And we would like to see that the gains Afghanistan has made over the last few decades are preserved.” 

Asked how would Pakistan’s friendship with China affect its relationship with US, the Pakistani diplomat said Islamabad didn’t want its relationship “to be seen through any prism, be it Afghanistan, India or China.” 

“Yes, of course, our relations with China are close, but so is our relationship with the United States,” he replied. “As we speak, the US is the largest export destination for Pakistan, and our third largest source of remittances, around $3 billion a year.” 

The statement by the Pakistani ambassador comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington would reassess its ties with Pakistan over Afghanistan’s future. 

In the first public hearing in Congress about Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul, Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours.” 

“It is one that is involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan, it’s one that’s involved harboring members of the Taliban ... It is one that’s also involved in different points cooperation with us on counterterrorism,” he said. 

The US would be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks to formulate what role Washington would want it play in the future of Afghanistan, Blinken said. 


During army chief’s US visit, Islamabad and Washington agree to improve ties through trade, investment

Updated 05 October 2022

During army chief’s US visit, Islamabad and Washington agree to improve ties through trade, investment

  • General Qamar Javed Bajwa is in US on a week-long visit to discuss bilateral ties and regional security
  • Washington has over the years worked closely with Pakistani army chiefs alongside civilian governments

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met top US military and security officials during a week-long visit to Washington, with both sides agreeing on the need to boost bilateral ties by improving economic cooperation, trade and investment.

Washington has over the years worked closely with Pakistani army chiefs alongside civilian governments.

On Tuesday, Gen Bajwa called on US defense secretary General Lloyd James Austin III (Retired), national security adviser Jacob Jeremiah Sullivan, and deputy secretary of state Wendy Ruth Sherman.

“Both sides agreed that Pakistan-US have long history of bilateral cooperation and shall continue improving through economic ties, trade and investment,” the Pakistan army’s media wing said in a statement.

“Both sides had convergence on major international issues including Afghanistan and need for cooperation to avoid humanitarian crisis and improving peace and stability in the region.”

The army chief thanked the US for its assistance in the aftermath of recent floods and condoled over death and devastation in a hurricane in Florida.

Last month, Pentagon announced the US State Department had approved the potential sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at up to $450 million. The State Department subsequently said the equipment would sustain Pakistan’s “capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats.”

The US-built F-16 aircraft are a critical part of the military arsenal of Pakistan, whose arch-rival India worries that the fleet could be used against it by its neighbor.

Officially for years allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have had a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad was playing a double game.

Tensions grew that militants that targetted American troops in Afghanistan were long allowed to shelter on Pakistani soil. Islamabad denies this.


Investment, climate cooperation with US key to reducing Pakistan’s growing reliance on China — study

Updated 05 October 2022

Investment, climate cooperation with US key to reducing Pakistan’s growing reliance on China — study

  • Study group released its findings during a visit to Washington by the head of Pakistan’s powerful military
  • Says US must move beyond leveraging aid to change Pakistan’s policies, a tactic that has been a proven failure

WASHINGTON: The United States needs to keep engaging Pakistan despite lingering distrust over Afghanistan, with investment and climate cooperation key to reducing the South Asian nation’s growing reliance on China, a study group recommended Tuesday.

The group released its findings during a visit to Washington by the head of Pakistan’s powerful military, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a week after a trip by the civilian foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The study group, which did not involve the US government, included scholars and former US ambassadors to Pakistan Ryan Crocker, Cameron Munter and Robin Raphel, along with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador in Washington.

Pakistan and the United States were partners in the Cold War and, officially, in the Afghanistan war. But American officials lost patience with Islamabad which they suspected of quietly maintaining support for the Taliban, who triumphed as US troops withdrew last year.

“Instead of allowing existing differences to define the partnership, it may be time to recognize that both sides need to understand the other’s interests so that they can then find a way to work on areas of mutual concern,” the study group said.

The United States must move beyond leveraging aid to change Pakistan’s policies, a tactic that has been a proven failure.

Islamabad, in turn, needs to accept “that all of Pakistan’s problems, especially terrorism and militancy, cannot be laid at the door of the US.”

Pakistan has forged increasingly close relations with China, triggering warnings from the United States that Beijing — seen as Washington’s key global competitor — will saddle the economically troubled nation with debt.

The study group said that after previously linking the Pakistan relationship to Afghanistan or its historic rival India, the United States should avoid now seeing ties through the lens of China.

Instead, the United States can “help build Pakistan’s capacity for transparency and compliance” on Chinese loans and can reduce reliance on China by encouraging investment by US companies and others, it said.

The United States can also focus on building climate resilience — a key challenge for Pakistan, which was recently devastated by floods.

While the United States wants to step back from Afghanistan, the study group said the need for counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan “has if anything increased” due to the loss of US intelligence assets on the ground.

“While Pakistan and the US often fail to see eye-to-eye when it comes to Afghanistan, China, or India, they do share mutual interests in seeking stability in the region, combatting the problem of extremism and averting armed conflict in nuclear South Asia,” it said.


Two Pakistani soldiers, 7 militants killed in shootouts 

Updated 04 October 2022

Two Pakistani soldiers, 7 militants killed in shootouts 

  • First firefight happened near Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • Separately, troops killed four militants in northwestern town of Tank in overnight raid

PESHAWAR: Militants with small arms attacked a convoy of Pakistani security forces near the northwest border with Afghanistan, triggering an intense shootout that killed two soldiers and three insurgents, the military said Tuesday.
The firefight happened near Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The military provided no further details and the identities of the slain insurgents were not known.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Separately, in an overnight raid, troops killed four militants in Tank, a northwestern town that also borders Afghanistan, the military said. It provided no further details.
Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, said the four men killed in Tank were their “holy warriors.” In a statement, he said such military raids indicate that the government and its institutions do not want peace in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but are allies of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago as the US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout.
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, who are known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP. 
A monthslong cease-fire between the TTP and Pakistan is intact.
Although the Taliban in Afghanistan have encouraged Islamabad and the TTP to reach a peace agreement, talks between the two sides that started in May have not had results.
 


Pakistani chief justice calls constitutional article on disqualification of MPs a ‘draconian’ law

Updated 04 October 2022

Pakistani chief justice calls constitutional article on disqualification of MPs a ‘draconian’ law

  • Article 62(1)(f) has been used to end the terms of sitting heads of government and top politicians
  • In 2017, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from office under Article 62(1)(f)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial on Tuesday said Article 62(1)(f), which pertains to the disqualification from politics of members of parliament, was a “draconian” law, calling into question a legal provision that has been used in the past to end the careers of sitting heads of government and top politicians.

In 2017, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from office by the Supreme Court for not being “honest” or “truthful,” otherwise known as “ameen” and “sadiq,” respectively in Article 62(1)(f).

On Tuesday, while a hearing a petition filed by opposition politician Faisal Vawda against a lifetime ban from politics in a case pertaining to the submission of a false affidavit in election papers, the chief justice said: 

“Article 62 (1)(f) is a draconian law and we will hear this case with caution and in detail.” 

In April 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ruled that lawmakers disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) would be unable to contest elections for the rest of their lives.

The apex court said the disqualification would hold until the court declaration disqualifying the lawmaker stood. The judges also unanimously ruled that the Constitution states that those not ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’ as per the law were banned from parliament for life.

Opposition politician Jahangir Tarin was also disqualified for life under Article 62(1)(f) in 2017.


After government assurances, farmers call off nearly week-long Islamabad protests over tariffs, taxes

Updated 04 October 2022

After government assurances, farmers call off nearly week-long Islamabad protests over tariffs, taxes

  • Kissan Ittehad, comprising farmers from across Punjab, were protesting in Islamabad since last week
  • Demands include the restoration of a previous tube well electricity tariff and removal of taxes

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of farmers on Tuesday called off their nearly week-long demonstrations in Islamabad over electricity tariffs and taxes after a breakthrough was reached with the federal government of Pakistan.

The Kissan Ittehad, comprising farmers from across Punjab, has been protesting in Islamabad since last week, demanding the restoration of a previous tube well electricity tariff of Rs5.3 per unit and the removal of taxes and adjustments, among other things. The protests had led to road closures in the capital and long traffic jams.

At a media talk with Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Kissan Ittehad Chairman Khalid Butt called off the protest.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah addresses media after negotiationg with farmers in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 4, 2022. (PML-N/Twitter)

“Farmers are our guests, we sat with them and solved their problems,” Sanaullah said on Twitter after the negotiations. “Will also resolve their demands in an adequate way. A committee of ministers has been formed for implementation of their demands.”

The farmers’ demands include being allowed to pay power bills in instalments and the cancelation of fuel adjustment charges.

Sanaullah said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would announce a package for farmers within 10 days.

“It is our philosophy that Pakistan will be prosperous when farmers are prosperous,” the minister told media. “So we will consider all things in a better manner and solve these problems.”

“It is our responsibility to solve your demands and we will do it,” Sanaullah added.