Pakistan says international community can’t ‘turn away’ from reality of Afghan Taliban

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in New York, U.S., September 22, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2021

Pakistan says international community can’t ‘turn away’ from reality of Afghan Taliban

  • Pakistan’s government is proposing global powers develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of Taliban
  • Expectations from Taliban include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls

UNITED NATIONS: Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all, don’t isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to deal with the fledgling government that is suddenly running the country next door once again — Afghanistan’s resurgent, often-volatile Taliban.
Pakistan’s government is proposing that the international community develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban — with incentives if they fulfill its requirements — and then sit down face to face and talk it out with the militia’s leaders.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi outlined the idea Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s meeting of world leaders.
“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Qureshi told the AP. “At the same time, the international community has to realize: What’s the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”
He said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Taliban to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country.”
“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”
Expectations from the Taliban leadership could include an inclusive government and assurances for human rights, especially for women and girls, Qureshi said. In turn, he said, the Afghan government might be motivated by receiving development, economic and reconstruction aid to help recover from decades of war.
He urged the United States, the International Monetary Fund and other countries that have frozen Afghan government funds to immediately release the money so it can be used “for promoting normalcy in Afghanistan.” And he pledged that Pakistan is ready to play a “constructive, positive” role in opening communications channels with the Taliban because it, too, benefits from peace and stability.
This is the second time that the Taliban, who adhere to a strict version of Islam, have ruled Afghanistan. The first time, from 1996 to 2001, ended when they were ousted by a US-led coalition after the 9/11 attacks, which were directed by Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan.
During that rule, Taliban leaders and police barred girls from school and prohibited women from working outside the home or leaving it without a male escort. After they were overthrown, Afghan women still faced challenges in the male-dominated society but increasingly stepped into powerful positions in government and numerous fields.
But when the US withdrew its military from Afghanistan last month, the government collapsed and a new generation of the Taliban resurged, taking over almost immediately. In the weeks since, many countries have expressed disappointment that the Taliban’s interim government is not inclusive as its spokesman had promised.
While the new government has allowed young girls to attend school, it has not yet allowed older girls to return to secondary school, and most women to return to work despite a promise in April that women “can serve their society in the education, business, health and social fields while maintaining correct Islamic hijab.”
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has a long and sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbor that includes attempts to prevent terrorism there and, some say, also encouraging it, which Islamabad denies. The Islamabad government has a fundamental vested interest in ensuring that whatever the new Afghanistan offers, it is not a threat to Pakistan.
That, Qureshi says, requires a steady and calibrated approach.
“It has to be a realistic assessment, a pragmatic view on both sides, and that will set the tone for recognition eventually,” the Pakistani minister said. The good news, he said: The Taliban are listening, “and they are not insensitive to what is being said by neighbors and the international community.”
How does he know they’re listening? He says the interim government, drawn mostly from Afghanistan’s dominant Pashtun ethnic group, made some additions on Tuesday. It added representatives from the country’s ethnic minorities — Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who are Shiite Muslims in the majority Sunni Muslim country.
“Yes, there are no women yet,” Qureshi said. “But let us let the situation evolve.”
He stressed that the Taliban must make decisions in coming days and weeks that will enhance their acceptability.
“What the international community can do, in my view, is sit together and work out a roadmap,” Qureshi said. “And if they fulfill those expectations, this is what the international community can do to help them stabilize their economy. This is the humanitarian assistance that can be provided. This is how they can help rebuild Afghanistan, reconstruction and so on and so forth.”
He added: “With this roadmap ahead, I think an international engagement can be more productive.”
On Wednesday night, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that all five nations — the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France — want “an Afghanistan at peace, stable, where humanitarian aid can be distributed without problems or discrimination.”
He also described a hoped-for “Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls are respected, an Afghanistan that won’t be a sanctuary for terrorism, an Afghanistan where we have an inclusive government representing the different sectors of the population.”
Qureshi said there are different forums where the international community can work out the best way to approach the situation. In the meantime, he asserted, things seem to be stabilizing. Less than six weeks after the Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, he said, Pakistan has received information that the law-and-order situation has improved, fighting has stopped and many internally displaced Afghans are going home.
“That’s a positive sign,” Qureshi said.
He said Pakistan hasn’t seen a new influx of Afghan refugees — a sensitive issue for Pakistanis, who are highly motivated to prevent it. A humanitarian crisis, a foundering economy and workers who return to jobs and school but aren’t getting salaries and don’t have money could cause Afghans to flee across the porous border into Pakistan, which has suffered economically from such arrivals over decades of conflict.
Qureshi prescribed patience and realism. After all, he says, every previous attempt to stabilize Afghanistan has failed, so don’t expect new efforts to produce immediate success with the Taliban. If the United States and its allies “could not convince them or eliminate them in two decades, how will you do it in the next two months or the next two years?” he wondered.
Asked whether he had a prediction of what Afghanistan might be like in six months, Qureshi turned the question back on his AP interviewer, replying: “Can you guarantee me US behavior over the next six months?”


PM Khan says Pakistan can beat India in T20 World Cup opener in Dubai

Updated 15 min 38 sec ago

PM Khan says Pakistan can beat India in T20 World Cup opener in Dubai

  • The prime minister tells his aides the national cricket squad will ‘definitely’ defeat the rival team on Sunday
  • Khan also met the Pakistani cricket team last month and advised its players to strengthen themselves psychologically

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday his country’s cricket team had requisite potential to defeat India in its Twenty20 World Cup opening match in Dubai on Sunday, reported a local news network.
Khan, a legendary cricketer of his time who won the 1992 World Cup for his country, met the national cricket team last month to advise the players to strengthen themselves psychologically and display greater team spirit.
According to Geo News, he discussed Pakistan’s upcoming contest with India with his aides while expressing confidence that his country’s cricket squad would be able to secure victory.
“This team has the talent to defeat India,” the prime minister was quoted as saying. “Insha’Allah [God willing], Pakistan will definitely beat India tomorrow.”
Much like Khan, Pakistan’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain also maintained that Pakistan would defeat India in the much-anticipated T20 World Cup opener.
“Spirits are high game on hai Pak is all set to win Inshallah,” Hussain said in a Twitter post.


Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup (50 over) clashes against India as well as five games in the Twenty20 World Cup and start as “underdogs.”
However, the Men in Green come into the Super 12s contest with 10 wins in a row in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Exuding confidence on Saturday, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam stressed that the past was irrelevant to his players.
“To be honest, what has passed is beyond us,” he told a virtual media conference. “We want to use our ability and confidence on the day of the match so that we can get a better result.”
Azam noted that records were “meant to be broken.”
Also on Saturday, India skipper Virat Kohli said they would take on a “very strong” Pakistan team in their first Twenty20 World Cup game while downplaying his team’s unbeaten record against their opponents.
“We never discussed these things, about our record and past performance,” Kohli told reporters in Dubai. “These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on that particular day, regardless of the opposition.”

 


Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan announces committee to negotiate with government as protesters march on Islamabad

Updated 16 min 52 sec ago

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan announces committee to negotiate with government as protesters march on Islamabad

  • 'If government is serious, we can hold talks,' the group says in statement announcing three-member team
  • Federal government summons reinforcements from other provinces to Islamabad to deal with protesters

ISLAMABAD: The banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party said on Saturday it had formed a three-member committee to hold negotiations with the government even as its followers continued their march on Islamabad.
The development comes only a day after deadly clashes broke out between the group and police in Lahore, claiming the lives of two uniformed personnel and injuring several others.
The TLP is protesting the incarceration of its top leader, Saad Rizvi, as well as seeking the expulsion of the French ambassador over the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in France last year.
Rizvi was arrested in Lahore in April for threatening the government with anti-France rallies, and his detention was followed by violent demonstrations by TLP workers that resulted in the death of six policemen.
“If the government is serious about negotiations, we can hold talks,” the group said in a statement while announcing a three-member negotiation committee comprising Mufti Muhammad Wazir Ali, Allama Ghulam Abbas Faizi and Mufti Muhammad Umair.
The Punjab government announced a two-member committee to hold negotiations with the TLP leaders a day earlier to stop them from leading the protest rally to Islamabad.
“The Punjab government has formed a committee with senior cabinet members to hold negotiations with TLP,” Hasaan Khawar, the provincial government spokesperson, told Arab News on Friday. “We hope that dialogue will resolve this issue.”
The government committee comprised provincial law minister Raja Basharat and public prosecution minister Chaudhry Zaheeruddin.
The negotiations, however, remained inconclusive and the group started its march toward Islamabad.
As the local media reported that the government had constituted another three-member team to hold a dialogue with the banned religious group, the TLP said in its statement: “If the government wants to hold dialogue, it will have to create a peaceful environment for it.”
The new government team consists of interior minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, religious affairs minister Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab law minister Muhammad Raja Basharat.
“The government believes in resolving issues through dialogue,” a local news network, Geo, quoted Qadri as saying, adding that protecting the lives and property of people was the top priority of the ruling administration.
The government moved to appoint negotiators after thousands of TLP activists tried to cross blockades placed on the roads in Lahore, forcing the police to fire teargas shells, use rubber bullets and resort to aerial firing.
Meanwhile, the government on Saturday summoned reinforcements from other parts of the country to Islamabad after the clashes in Lahore.
A notification from Pakistan’s interior ministry to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir asked for 10,000 policemen to be deployed in the capital from each region.


India’s Kohli says Pakistan ‘very strong’ ahead of T20 blockbuster in Dubai

Updated 23 October 2021

India’s Kohli says Pakistan ‘very strong’ ahead of T20 blockbuster in Dubai

  • India have beaten Pakistan in all 12 T20, 50-over World Cup matches
  • Babar Azam’s Pakistan are now looking to break their World Cup jinx

DUBAI: India skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday said they will take on a “very strong” Pakistan team in their Twenty20 World Cup opener and downplayed their unbeaten record against their opponents. 
India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups. 
“We never discussed these things, about our record and past performance,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the much-anticipated clash in Dubai on Sunday. 
“These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on that particular day, regardless of the opposition.” 
Kohli said regardless of their past dominance Pakistan is and always has been packed with talented players. 
“Pakistan, according to me is a very strong team and always has been a strong side,” he said. 
“You have to play your best cricket against them, because they have lots of talent and players who can change the game.” 
Babar Azam’s Pakistan will look to break their World Cup jinx against India, who have won all five clashes in T20’s showpiece event. 
Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman hold the team’s batting key while quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali lead a potent bowling attack. 
Kohli backed his team’s match winners including Hardik Pandya to come good in the tournament despite the all-rounder struggling with his bowling. 
“He is getting better in terms of getting prepared to bowl two overs for us,” said Kohli. 
“What he brings at that number six spot is something that you cannot create overnight and hence I was always in favor of backing him in Australia as a batter purely. 
“He can take the game away from the opposition when he is in full flow.” 
Pandya emerged as India’s top all-rounder after his white-ball debut in 2016 but a spate of back injuries affected his career and he underwent back surgery two years ago. 
The pace bowler did not bowl in the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates for his side Mumbai Indians. 
But Kohli says the attacking batsman is an asset to the team in the shortest format. 
“We understand the value he brings to the team as a number six batter,“said Kohli. 
“In world cricket if you look around there are specialists who do that job and it is very important to have that guy specially in T20 cricket. 
“He is motivated and keen to start giving us a couple of overs and when that happens obviously the balance becomes even better. 
“But we are pretty confident how we are heading into the start of this tournament.” 
The tournament is Kohli’s last as captain of the national T20 side, but he refused to speak more on the issue. 
“Our focus is to play well in this World Cup and do what we need to do as a team,” he said. 
“I have explained myself very honestly (on Twitter). If people feel there is more to it, then I feel sorry for them.” 


Pakistan summons reinforcements after three policemen killed in clashes with banned religious party

Updated 23 October 2021

Pakistan summons reinforcements after three policemen killed in clashes with banned religious party

  • Government asks for 10,000 police officers each from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir
  • Forms committee led by religious affairs minister to broker peace with protesters who are marching to Islamabad 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Saturday summoned reinforcements from other parts of the country to Islamabad after deadly clashes between police and supporters of an outlawed religious group left three policemen dead in Lahore a day earlier, with protesters continuing their march toward the federal capital. 
On Thursday, the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) announced a march on Islamabad and on Friday its supporters clashed with police when authorities tried to block demonstrators from leaving Lahore for the capital. TLP is protesting the incarceration of its top leader Saad Rizvi as well as the government’s refusal to expel the French ambassador over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in France last year.
Rizvi was arrested in Lahore in April for threatening the government with anti-France rallies. His detention was followed by violent demonstrations by TLP supporters across the country. The protests, which lasted over a week, saw the blockage of major roads and highways in major cities in Pakistan, and resulted in the deaths of six policemen, with over 800 people injured. Rizvi has been in custody since.
A notification from the Pakistani interior ministry to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir asked for 10,000 policemen to be deployed to the capital from each region. 
“The following strength as per detail mentioned against each may kindly be provided in ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory) for adequate security arrangements... to avoid any untoward incident,” the interior ministry said.
The government also constituted a three-member committee to negotiate peace with TLP supporters, Geo News channel reported on Saturday. The group will comprise Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Religious Minister Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab Law Minister Muhammad Raja Basharat. 
“The government believes in resolving issues through dialogue,” Qadri was quoted as saying, adding that protecting lives and property was the top priority of the government. 
On Friday, Hasaan Khawar, the provincial government spokesperson, confirmed to Arab News that the committee had been formed: “We hope that dialogue will resolve this issue.” 
The government moved to appoint negotiators after thousands of TLP activists tried to cross blockades placed on the roads in Lahore, forcing the police to fire teargas shells, use rubber bullets and resort to aerial firing. 


 


Forget the past in India match, Babar tells Pakistan team before faceoff in Dubai

Updated 23 October 2021

Forget the past in India match, Babar tells Pakistan team before faceoff in Dubai

  • Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup clashes against India as well as five T20 World Cup games 
  • South Asian giants will play against each other in Sunday's T20 World Cup opener in Dubai

DUBAI: Skipper Babar Azam vowed his team will not think about Pakistan’s poor record against arch-rivals India when they meet in a high-octane Twenty20 World Cup match in Dubai on Sunday. 

Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup (50 over) clashes against India as well as five games in the Twenty20 World Cup and start as ‘underdogs’. 

Exuding confidence, Babar stressed that the past is irrelevant to his players. 

“To be honest, what has passed is beyond us,” Babar told a virtual media conference on Saturday, as both nations buzzed in anticipation of a thrilling match. 

“We want to use our ability and confidence on the day of the match so that we can get a better result. 

“Records are meant to be broken.” 

The tickets for the match were sold out within hours of going on sale after the United Arab Emirate government allowed a 70 percent crowd for the Twenty20 World Cup matches in a relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions. 

The South Asian nuclear rivals have only played in multi-national events like the World Cups and the Champions Trophy as strained relations have stalled bilateral cricket since 2007. 

Pakistan did tour India in 2012 for five limited over matches but ties were not fully resumed as the two nations continued to be at loggerheads over multiple issues, with the disputed region of Kashmir and terrorism heading the list. 

Babar admitted it will be a match full of intensity. 

“The matches between Pakistan and India are always full of intensity so we need to perform well in all three departments of the game,” said Babar. 

The second-round matches — Super 12 Stage — start on Saturday with Australia taking on South Africa in Abu Dhabi while defending champions the West Indies face England in Dubai in the evening match in Group 1. 

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are the other two teams in the Group. 

Former champions India and Pakistan are placed in Group 2 along with New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland and Namibia, who both came through the qualifying stage. 

Babar announced 12 for the match with hard-hitters Haider Ali and Asif Ali competing to make the final eleven. 

“The boys are excited to play the World Cup and we have a crucial match on Sunday,” said Babar, who will be leading Pakistan for the first time in a senior World Cup match. 

“A winning impact is necessary and then we will go match by match.” 

Babar said Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan — who led the country to victory in the 1992 World Cup — had shared his experiences with the team. 

“The Prime Minister met us before our departure and shared his experiences of the 1992 win and told us to play aggressive and fearless cricket against India.” 

Earlier this week, India won both their warm-up matches, beating England and Australia while Pakistan beat the West Indies but lost to South Africa.