Blinken sees unity on Taliban after talks with Pakistan, China 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media after meetings on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, on September 23, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2021

Blinken sees unity on Taliban after talks with Pakistan, China 

  • US state secretary reiterates priorities including women’s rights, not letting Afghanistan used by extremists
  • Islamabad has called for engagement with Taliban and unfreezing of Afghan assets

NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he believed the world was united on pressing the Taliban after speaking with Pakistan, China and Russia, key players with Afghanistan’s new rulers.
Blinken met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with his counterpart from Pakistan, the chief ally of the Taliban regime that was toppled by US troops in 2001, and held talks with ministers of the four other veto-wielding Security Council members including China and Russia on Wednesday evening.
“I think there is very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose,” Blinken told reporters.
“The Taliban says that it seeks legitimacy, that it seeks support, from the international community. The relationship that it has with the international community is going to be defined by the actions it takes.”
Blinken reiterated US priorities for the Taliban including allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave, respecting the rights of women, girls and minorities, and not letting Afghanistan be used again by extremists such as Al-Qaeda.
The State Department said Blinken highlighted “the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement” in talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Pakistan has called for engagement with the Taliban and the unfreezing of Afghan assets but Qureshi said earlier in the week that there was no rush to recognize a new Taliban government, a step opposed by Western nations.
Qureshi, opening his meeting with Blinken, said, “We have to find a way of collectively working to achieve our common objective, which is peace and stability.”
China and Russia have both moved to engage with the Taliban but have also stopped short of recognition and have longstanding concerns about Islamic extremism.
The Taliban swept through Afghanistan last month after President Joe Biden withdrew US troops, saying there was no point in extending America’s longest war beyond 20 years.


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

Updated 23 October 2021

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 three 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. 


Islamabad records highest single-day rise in dengue cases this month 

Updated 23 October 2021

Islamabad records highest single-day rise in dengue cases this month 

  • At least one man died of the disease in the federal capital on Friday 
  • Of total 174 cases in the capital, 110 were reported in rural and 64 in urban areas 

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad recorded the highest single-day rise in dengue fever cases this month and at least one death on Friday, local media reported, quoting the district health officer. 
Dengue is a threat to nearly half of the world’s population. Of the estimated 220 million people infected each year, two million, mostly children in Latin America and Asia, develop its severe form called dengue hemorrhagic fever. 
There is no specific treatment for the disease, though its early detection can help in treatment. 
The deceased patient was a resident of Islamabad’s G-7 sector and had been under treatment at Islamabad’s Polyclinic hospital, District Health Officer (DHO) Dr. Zaeem Zia told Dawn newspaper. 
“In the last 24 hours, 174 cases were reported in the city,” the report quoted Zia as saying. “It was the highest number of cases since Oct 15, when 152 cases had emerged.” 
The official said 110 cases in Islamabad were reported in rural and 64 in urban areas.
Of them, 47 patients were admitted in the Federal General Hospital, 25 in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), 20 in Holy Family Hospital (HFH), three each in Polyclinic and Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH), two in Capital Hospital and one in District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital, according to Zia. The remaining were admitted in private hospitals. 
Breaking the number of cases by area, the official said 39 dengue cases were reported in Tarlai, 22 in Koral, 20 in Alipur, 11 in Tarnol, five in Sohan, four in Chirrah, three in Sihala, two each in Bhara Kahu and Rawat, and one each in Jhangi Syedan and Kirpa. 
The death toll from dengue fever in the current season had reached 10, seven in rural areas and three in urban areas, according to the report. 
Islamabad has so far reported 2,603 dengue cases — 1,589 in rural and 1,014 in urban areas. 
Dr. Zia said in the last 24 hours, 345 indoor residual spray and 474 fogging activities were conducted in different areas to prevent the spread of the fever and eliminate potential breeding sites of dengue mosquito larva. Special teams also found and eliminated 596 potential breeding sites, he added.