After Afghan Taliban’s victory, a quiet warning is circulating: Pakistan Taliban are returning

In this Aug. 5, 2012 file photo, Pakistani Taliban patrol in then their stronghold of Shawal in Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. (AP/ File Photo)
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Updated 18 October 2021

After Afghan Taliban’s victory, a quiet warning is circulating: Pakistan Taliban are returning

  • Pakistan Taliban have ramped up attacks in recent months, more than 300 Pakistanis killed in attacks since January
  • Local contractors report Taliban-imposed surcharges on every contract and the killing of those who defy them

PESHAWAR: In Pakistan’s rugged tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, a quiet and persistent warning is circulating: The Taliban are returning.
Pakistan’s own Taliban movement, which had in years past waged a violent campaign against the Islamabad government, has been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, experts say, which is also visible from an increase in attacks by the group in Pakistan.
More than 300 Pakistanis have been killed in attacks since January, including 144 military personnel, according to the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.
The Pakistani Taliban seem to be preparing to retake control of the tribal regions that they lost nearly seven years ago in a major operation by Pakistan’s military, analysts and security officials say.




In this Aug. 19, 2021 file photo, Taliban fighters display their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)

Now, they are working to increase their influence. Local contractors report Taliban-imposed surcharges on every contract and the killing of those who defy them.
In early September, for example, a contractor named Noor Islam Dawar built a small canal not far from the town of Mir Ali near the Afghan border. It wasn’t worth more than $5,000. Still, the Taliban came calling, demanding their share of $1,100. Dawar had nothing to give and pleaded for their understanding, according to relatives and local activists. A week later he was dead, shot by unknown gunmen. His family blames the Taliban.
Pakistan’s Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP, is a separate organization from Afghanistan’s Taliban, though they share much of the same hard-line ideology. The TTP arose in the early 2000s and launched a campaign of bombings and other attacks, vowing to bring down the Pakistani government and seizing control in many tribal areas. The military crackdown of the 2010s managed to repress it.
But the TTP was reorganizing in safe havens in Afghanistan even before the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15.
“The Afghan Taliban’s stunning success in defeating the American superpower has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban...They now seem to believe they too can wage a successful jihad against the Pakistani ‘infidel’ state and have returned to insurgency mode,” said Brian Glyn Williams, Islamic history professor at the University of Massachusetts, who has written extensively on radical movements.
The events in Afghanistan have also energized the scores of radical religious parties in Pakistan, said Amir Rana, executive director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.
These parties openly revile minority Muslims as heretics and on occasion bring thousands on to the street to defend their hard-line interpretation of Islam. One party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, has a single agenda: to protect a controversial blasphemy law. The law has been used against minorities and opponents and can incite mobs to kill simply over an accusation of insulting Islam.
Already buffeted by a growing religiosity, Pakistani society is at risk of transforming into one similar to Taliban-run Afghanistan, Rana warned.
A Gallup Pakistan poll released last week found 55 percent of Pakistanis would support an “Islamic government” like the one advocated by Afghanistan’s Taliban. Gallup surveyed 2,170 Pakistanis soon after the Taliban takeover in Kabul.
Pakistan has shied away from offering unilateral recognition to the all-Taliban government in Afghanistan, but has been pushing for the world to engage with the new rulers. It has urged the United States to release funds to the Afghan government, while urging the Taliban to open their ranks to minorities and non-Taliban.




 In this Aug. 3, 2021 file photo, Pakistan Army troops observe the area from hilltop post on the Pakistan Afghanistan, in Khyber district, Pakistan.The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. (AP)

Pakistan’s relationship with the Afghan Taliban is a constant source of angst in America, where Republican senators have introduced a law that would sanction Islamabad for allegedly working against the US to bring the Taliban to power. The charge has angered Pakistan, whose leaders say it was asked and delivered the Taliban to the negotiation table with the US, which eventually led to an agreement paving the way for America’s final withdrawal.
Pakistan’s ties to many of the Afghan Taliban are believed to go back to the 1980s when Pakistan was the staging arena for a US-backed fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. In particular, the Haqqani group, possibly Afghanistan’s most powerful Taliban faction, has a long relationship with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI. Pakistan denies this.
Pakistan has turned to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister in Afghanistan’s new Taliban government, for help in starting talks with the Pakistani Taliban, said Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert at the US Institute of Peace.
Some TTP figures in North Waziristan — a rugged area the group once controlled — are ready to negotiate. But the most violent factions, led by Noor Wali Mehsud, are not interested in talks. Mehsud’s Taliban want control of South Waziristan, said Mir.
It’s not clear whether Haqqani will be able to get Mehsud to the table or whether Afghanistan’s new rulers are ready to break their close ties with Pakistan’s Taliban.
In the attempts to put together negotiations with Islamabad, the TTP is demanding control over parts of the tribal regions and rule by its strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law in those areas, as well as the right to keep their weapons, according to two Pakistani figures familiar with the demands. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media and because they fear retaliation.
Bill Roggio of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a US-based think tank, said Pakistan is opening talks with the Taliban to stop the increasing attacks on its military, but he warned that “the government is opening Pandora’s box.”
“The TTP will not be satisfied with ruling a small portion of Pakistan, it will inevitably want more than what it is given,” Roggio said. “Like the Afghan Taliban wanted to rule Afghanistan, the TTP wants to rule Pakistan.”


Pakistan imposes travel ban on seven countries due to new coronavirus variant

Updated 27 November 2021

Pakistan imposes travel ban on seven countries due to new coronavirus variant

  • The omicron variant was first detected in South Africa where it infected young people in their 20s
  • Pakistan's planning minister says the new variant has made it more urgent to vaccinate eligible population of 12 years and older

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday imposed a complete ban on travel from seven countries after the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa which has started spreading to other parts of the world.

Medical experts say the omicron variant of the virus is highly transmissible, causing a rapid increase in the number of new COVID-19 infections in the African state.

Media reports indicate the omicron variant has also infected South Africa's young population, making some of them require intensive care.

"Consequent to emergence of Omicron corona variant in South Africa and its spread to adjoining regions, the following countries have also been included in [Category C] and complete ban has been imposed on direct/indirect inbound travel from these countries with immediate effect," said a notification circulated by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the country's central pandemic body.

The official statement named South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana, asking the aviation division to devise a mechanism for the screening of passengers traveling from these states through indirect flights.

The NCOC said the government would allow Pakistani passengers from the Category C countries to travel after obtaining emergency exemptions and following certain requirements which include a vaccination certificate, negative PCR report and rapid antigen test on arrival.

The statement added that stranded Pakistanis in these countries would be allowed to travel back until December 5 without seeking exemption, though they would have to follow the same health and testing protocols.

The NCOC has also made a three-day quarantine at home mandatory for those testing negative for the rapid antigen test on arrival.

However, any Pakistani national flying from one of these countries who tests positive for the virus will have to undergo a stricter 10-day quarantine period.

Pakistan's planning minister Asad Umar, who also heads the national pandemic response body, said in a Twitter post the emergence of the new coronavirus variant had made it "even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens [of] 12 years and older."

 

 

The country's COVID-19 positivity rate is currently less than one percent, though it reported seven deaths caused by the debilitating respiratory disease in the last 24 hours on Saturday.


IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry

Updated 27 November 2021

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry

  • The global lending agency provided $1.4 billion to Pakistan last year to mitigate the negative economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak
  • The ministry says the IMF acknowledged there was no embezzlement in the utilization of the COVID-19 fund

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance ministry said on Saturday the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had expressed satisfaction over the country’s utilization of COVID-19 fund after an audit report of the urgently procured supplies related to the disease was shared with it.

Last year, the international financial institution provided $1.4 billion to Islamabad to meet its balance of payment requirements stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, though it also required the government to conduct an ex-post audit of its utilization.

The ministry published the audit report on its website on Friday to fulfil an IMF condition, making the local media say some Rs40 billion of irregularities had been found in the COVID-19 budget.

Responding to the claim, the ministry said the auditor general of Pakistan had discussed the report “in detail” with the IMF in June and during the recently concluded sixth review for a multibillion-dollar bailout package.

“The IMF was fully satisfied that there was no case of fraud and embezzlement,” it said in a statement.

The ministry informed a majority of paragraphs and observations included in the report related to procedural shortcomings due to emergency procurements.

“The IMF was further informed that divisions/organisations have noted those shortcomings and taken remedial measures,” it added.

The ministry admitted it had published the report on the website as a “prior action under the recently completed 6th review” of the IMF extended fund facility.

It said the report had already been presented to parliament and was therefore in public knowledge.

“The government strongly believes in and is committed to transparency and accountability,” it continued.


Pakistan’s foreign ministry praises Arab diplomatic missions for fervent participation in cultural event

Updated 27 November 2021

Pakistan’s foreign ministry praises Arab diplomatic missions for fervent participation in cultural event

  • Organized by the Pakistan Foreign Office Women’s Association, the charity event was held after a gap of two years due to COVID-19
  • Diplomats and their families arranged cultural performances and shared traditional cuisine with people visiting the event

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood applauded the diplomatic missions of Arab countries for passionately participating in a charity event organized in the federal capital on Saturday, saying their involvement highlighted the diversity of Islamic culture to the rest of the world.
Planned by the Pakistan Foreign Office Women’s Association, the event was inaugurated by Samina Alvi, the wife of the country’s president, after a gap of two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Diplomats and their families set up stalls of their countries where they arranged cultural performances and shared traditional cuisines with people.

The officials of the United Arab Emirates are briefing visitors about their products at a charity event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN photo)

The stalls of the Middle Eastern embassies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, captured the attention of visitors attending the charity event which was organized to raise funds for low-income staff members Pakistan’s foreign ministry.
“Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and other important Gulf states have participated in this noble cause by setting up big stalls,” said the foreign secretary. “Along with this, they are also offering very good and substantial prizes in the raffle draws and other activities to support this event.”
“The diplomatic missions from different countries have brought their handicrafts, cuisines and other cultural things which put up a very beautiful mosaic here,” he added.

Visitors are posing for pictures in front of a traditional Saudi tent installed at a charity event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN photo)

The embassy of Saudi Arabia set up a traditional Bedouin tent at the event which displayed handicrafts from the kingdom and served dates and Arabic coffee.
“This event has provided us a good opportunity to show the Saudi culture and traditions to Pakistanis as well as other countries,” the kingdom’s cultural attaché, Muhammad Abdulaziz Al-Madani, told Arab News.
“Pakistan is just like our second home since Pakistanis have always shown great respect and affection for Saudis,” he added.
Al-Madani maintained the love and understanding of Arab culture had increased in Pakistan due to such events, adding this was also evident by the gradually increasing number of Middle Eastern restaurants in Islamabad and other cities.

Jordanian embassy officials are briefing visitors about their products at their country’s stall at a charity event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN photo)

Jordan’s envoy to Pakistan Ibrahim Al-Madani said the event had given people an opportunity to see the whole world in a small but colorful place.
“We set up our stall to highlight what Jordan actually looks like to visitors, whether they are from Pakistan or other countries,” he said. “We have been offering traditional Jordanian food which is presented by women in traditional clothes. We are also informing visitors about important tourist destinations in our country.”

Iraqi embassy officials are briefing visitors about their products at their country’s stall at a charity event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN photo)

Asked about the event, Iraq’s ambassador Hamid Abbas Lafta said such projects were much needed in a society.
“We are serving the humanity by being here and participating in this great cause since this is a charity event,” he told Arab News.

Palestinian students and embassy officials are performing their traditional dance at a charity event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 27, 2021. (AN photo)

The initiative to arrange the event was also applauded the Palestinian envoy.
“It is an important occasion since we can present Palestinian culture to our Pakistani brothers and sisters,” said Ambassador Ahmed Rabei.
He added that Pakistan and Palestine were very close since every government in Islamabad had supported the Palestine issue at every world forum.
Yemen’s ambassador to Pakistan Mohammed Motahar Alashabi said he was happy to see so many people at the event since COVID-19 had almost made such gatherings impossible.
“It is an amazing event, providing a wonderful opportunity to people who want to gain information on different cultures from around the world,” he said.


Ali, Shafique give Pakistan solid platform against Bangladesh

Updated 27 November 2021

Ali, Shafique give Pakistan solid platform against Bangladesh

  • Abid Ali scored 93 while Abdullah Shafique was batting on 52 as Pakistan reached 145-0 at stumps
  • Bangladesh were bowled out for 330

CHITTAGONG: An unbroken opening century stand by Abid Ali and debutant Abdullah Shafique gave Pakistan a solid platform after bowling out Bangladesh for 330 on day two of the first Test in Chittagong on Saturday.
Ali closed in on his fourth Test century to stay unbeaten on 93 while Shafique was batting on 52 as Pakistan reached 145-0 at stumps, 185 shy of Bangladesh’s first-innings total.
“In the afternoon, it started to spin a bit. The ball was old. So it was gripping and doing a few other tricks. Our plan was that we have to stay at the wicket and utilize the bad balls,” Ali said after the day’s play.
Pace bowler Hasan Ali led Pakistan earlier with the ball, finishing with 5-51, his sixth five-wicket, which kept Bangladesh in check after the hosts resumed with 253-4 in the morning.
Liton Das top-scored with 114 for Bangladesh, adding just one run to his overnight score, while Mushfiqur Rahim, unbeaten on 82 at the end of the opening day’s play, fell for 91 runs.
Mehidy Hasan struck an unbeaten 38 to take Bangladesh past 300 before he claimed two wickets in two balls to bring an end to Bangladesh’s efforts with the bat.
“When we lost four wickets before lunch, everyone thought we would be bowled out early. Mushfiqur and I put together a good partnership,” said Liton.
“By the end of the day, we were thinking about a big total. But cricket is unpredictable. Pakistan are in a good position now. If we can take two or three wickets tomorrow morning, we will be back on par.”
Pakistan had Bangladesh on the ropes on day one at 49-4 but the hosts fought back thanks to Liton and Mushfiqur.
Pakistan looked sharp right from the start of the second day’s play when Hasan trapped Liton leg-before in the second over of the morning.
Struck on his backfoot, Liton was initially given not out but Pakistan successfully reviewed the decision.
Liton, who shared 206 runs with Mushfiqur in the fifth wicket, hit 11 fours and a six in his 233-ball innings.
Hasan then dismissed Yasir Ali for four with a fine in-swinger that rattled the leg and middle stumps of the debutant.
Faheem took a thin edge from the bat of Mushfiqur, effectively ending Bangladesh’s chance for a big total.
Mushfiqur struck 11 fours in his 225-ball stay at the crease.


PIA expands Saudi Arabia operations as kingdom allows direct entry from Pakistan

Updated 27 November 2021

PIA expands Saudi Arabia operations as kingdom allows direct entry from Pakistan

  • The national flag carrier has decided to operate 35 flights to various destinations in the kingdom on a weekly basis
  • PIA spokesperson says all passengers will have to comply with the Saudi quarantine requirement

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines announced to expand its flight operations to Saudi Arabia two days after the kingdom lifted an entry ban on expats from six countries that was introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Saudi interior ministry allowed fully vaccinated expatriates from Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, Egypt and India to enter the kingdom without spending 14 days in transit outside of their countries.
The policy will take effect from December 1.
“The PIA administration has decided to expand its operations to Saudi Arabia by operating 35 flights from the beginning of December to Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam and Al-Qassim,” the airline spokesperson, Abdullah Khan, told Arab News, adding that the decision to further expand the operations would be taken after evaluating the travel demand.
He said the flights would originate from Pakistani cities of Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Karachi.
The Saudi interior ministry said in its statement on Thursday expats arriving from unbanned countries should spend five days in quarantine outside the kingdom regardless of their vaccination status.
It added that all procedures and measures in relation to the pandemic were subject to continuous evaluation by the kingdom’s health authorities.
Saudi officials also instructed the expatriates to undergo all health measures to ensure they are free from coronavirus infection.
The PIA spokesperson maintained all passengers would need to ensure compliance with the Saudi rules.
It may be recalled that Saudi Arabia suspended all flights to and from the kingdom on March 14, 2020, after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic.
Entry to the kingdom by air, land and sea resumed on January 3, 2021, though it imposed a direct entry ban on certain countries of concern the next month.