Local tribal jirga visits Kabul to resume peace talks with Pakistani Taliban

A 17-member delegation of tribal elders from Pakistan arrived in Kabul on July 30, 2022, to resume peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). (Photo courtesy: Ariana News)
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Updated 31 July 2022

Local tribal jirga visits Kabul to resume peace talks with Pakistani Taliban

  • The delegation of tribal elders first visited Afghanistan last month to push peace process forward
  • The tribal jirga began its visit to Kabul after a team of Pakistani clerics returned from Afghanistan

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani delegation of tribal elders flew to Kabul on Saturday to resume their negotiations with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), reported the media, shortly after a contingent of local religious scholars returned from Afghanistan.

The TTP, which has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks inside Pakistan since 2007, is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, but the latter have been engaged in mediation between the group and the Pakistani government.

The Pakistani delegation comprising prominent religious clerics visited Afghanistan to push forward the ongoing peace process between Islamabad and the outlawed militant group.

It also held important meetings with officials of the Afghan Interim Government, telling Arab News the administration in Kabul was likely to reopen high schools for female students soon.

The tribal jirga, which went to Afghanistan on Saturday after the return of the Pakistani religious leaders from that country, previously visited Kabul in mid-June to move the peace talks forward with the TTP.

"Pakistan sent the 12-member jirga just a day after the return of the delegation of Pakistani ulema, headed by Mufti Taqi Usmani, who visited Afghanistan from July 25 to 29," reported Geo TV.

The tribal jirga was originally supposed to visit Kabul on Friday, but its plan was postponed for a day.

Former senator and tribal elder, Maulana Saleh Shah, who is part of the second Pakistani delegation, sounded optimistic about the outcome of the talks during a conversation with Arab News ahead of his Kabul visit.

"I'm more than optimistic that both sides will reach a peace deal," he said. "Both sides have disagreement on two points: the reversal of the merger between Pakistan's northwestern tribal territories and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and changing TTP's name after the agreement. However, I'm sure the jirga will help resolve these sticking points."

A few weeks before the visit of the tribal jirga to Afghanistan in June, Pakistani officials had also negotiated with the TTP, though the two sides failed to make a breakthrough.

However, their talks were mediated by the Afghan Taliban who asked the two sides to resort to indefinite ceasefire and iron out their differences through continued negotiations.

Pakistan PM urges Turkish investors to help enhance bilateral trade to $5billion

Updated 8 sec ago

Pakistan PM urges Turkish investors to help enhance bilateral trade to $5billion

  • Shehbaz Sharif assures Turkish companies of removing all impediments in the way of foreign investment
  • PM says Pakistan will build 10,000MW solar projects through investments from Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, China

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday invited Turkish companies to invest in Pakistan, a day after Islamabad and Turkiye signed a memorandum to enhance the bilateral trade volume to $5 billion over the next three years.

Sharif arrived in Turkiye on Friday on a two-day visit that he said would unpack the “untapped potential” of bilateral ties between the two countries.

He held a bilateral meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and together the two leaders inaugurated one of the four MILGEM corvette ships for Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul shipyard.

The Pakistan prime minister on Saturday addressed a meeting of the Turkiye-Pakistan Business Council meeting in Istanbul, wherein he urged Turkish businesspersons to invest in different sectors in Pakistan.

“Pakistan and Turkiye have fraternal and close relations, but these are not properly reflected through the volume of trade and investment between the two countries,” Sharif said.

“We have signed a memorandum of agreement to enhance our trade volume from a very small amount of less than $1.5 billion to $5 billion in the next three years.”

He said Turkiye’s trade was hovering at around $250 billion and its bilateral trade with Pakistan was far too less, given the potential of trade between the two countries.

“It’s not a big task at all and let’s resolve and commit today that we will do everything to achieve this target in three years, rather double it in three years,” Sharif urged the Turkish investors.

He vowed that his government would fully provide a hassle- and red tape-free environment to them: “My government would no longer tolerate any snags and impediments in the way of investment from foreign investors, including the Turkish brothers and sisters.”

To further promote bilateral trade and business ties, the prime minister said, the Turkish president had assured him that work on a “trade and goods agreement” between the two brotherly countries would be expedited.

“President Erdogan has instructed his minister to expedite its approval from the Turkish parliament,” he said.

Sharif said his government had resolved to cut down on the expensive oil and petroleum imports.

“Last year we had to spend $27 billion to finance imports of our petroleum [products] which we simply cannot afford,” he said.

“Therefore, we have rolled out our vision of 10,000 megawatts solar investment projects before local and international investors about one and a half months ago.”

He expressed his commitment to complete this scheme in letter and spirit, through investments from Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, China, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“So please be ready with your coffers open and come to Pakistan as I am going to hold a special conference for Turkish investors,” he added.

The premier said the Pakistani government would also ensure payments to investors within 60 days without, in a transparent manner and without the involvement of a third party.

Pakistan’s army bid farewell to Gen Nadeem Raza in transition of military leadership 

Updated 6 min 34 sec ago

Pakistan’s army bid farewell to Gen Nadeem Raza in transition of military leadership 

  • Raza will be succeeded by Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as new head of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee 
  • Mirza, who comes from Sindh Regiment, has had illustrious career and served in multiple leadership roles 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army on Friday bade farewell to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza, the Pakistani military said, in a transition of military leadership which put to rest widespread speculation earlier this week. 
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday picked Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the CJCSC and Lt Gen Asim Munir as the new chief of the country’s all-powerful army, ending uncertainty surrounding the high-profile appointment that caused months of political instability in Pakistan. 
The office of the army chief is arguably the most influential position in Pakistan, given the country’s turbulent history of civil-military relations. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for around half of its 75-year history and enjoys extensive powers even under civilian administrations. 
To bid farewell to the outgoing CJCSC, a special ceremony was held at the Pakistani military’s Joint Staff Headquarters, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, said in a statement. The ceremony was attended by former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and senior officials of the tri-services. 
In his farewell address, General Raza thanked the Almighty for enabling him to discharge his duties to the best of his abilities and applauded the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces in the defense of Pakistan. 
“[The] defense of the country is impregnable and gallant soldiers will not hesitate in making it even more formidable,” he was quoted as saying by the ISPR. 
The outgoing CJCSC was also presented a ‘Guard of Honour’ by a smartly turned out tri-services contingent at the venue. 
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee works for coordination among the three branches of the military, while its chairman also serves as the principal military adviser to the prime minister. 
CJCSC-designate Mirza will be taking over the office after the retirement of Gen Raza following his 41 years of military service. Mirza, who comes from the army’s Sindh Regiment, has had an illustrious career and has served in multiple leadership roles in the army. 
He came into the spotlight after he became the director-general of military operations in the last two years of former army chief Raheel Sharif’s tenure. 
Since his elevation to the rank of a three-star general, Mirza has served as the chief of general staff — the second-most powerful position in the army after the chief himself — and then the commander of the army’s 10th Corps. 
In accordance with the constitutional procedures, President Arif Alvi ratified the appointments of the CJCSC and the army chief Thursday evening, with some experts expressing concerns Alvi might not immediately ratify the prime minister’s summary to prolong the process. 
The fears were raised in the backdrop of ex-prime minister Imran Khan, a chief rival of Sharif, saying in an interview on Wednesday the president, a close aide and member of Khan’s party, was in contact with him and would consult him on the appointments on the top slots.

Interior minister asks ex-PM Khan to return to parliament, hold dialogue for early elections

Updated 26 November 2022

Interior minister asks ex-PM Khan to return to parliament, hold dialogue for early elections

  • Khan has asked his supporters to gather in Rawalpindi today, in a final showdown with government
  • Intelligence agencies have warned of a threat to Khan’s rally in Rawalpindi, interior minister says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday asked former prime minister Imran Khan to return to parliament and hold a dialogue with the government and its allies for early elections, a day before the ex-premier is scheduled to hold a massive rally in a final showdown with the government.

Ex-PM Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, resigned from his parliamentary membership a day later. His resignation followed mass resignations of members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from parliament.

The former premier has since been agitating against the coalition government of PM Shehbaz Sharif and has held several rallies in a bid to pressure the government into announcing snap polls in the South Asian country, which are scheduled to be held in the latter half of 2023.

In a final showdown with government, Khan has urged his supporters to gather in the garrison city of Rawalpindi today, Saturday, for a massive protest against his ouster, but Sanaullah advised Khan to “act like a politician” in order to achieve his goal, instead of being “obstinate.”

“Don’t be obstinate. If you want a date for the election, then act like a politician, sit with other politicians [and] have a dialogue,” the minister said on Twitter.

He also told Khan that he should not pin his hopes on the country’s army, which even when not in power is the invisible guiding hand of politics in the country, as the army as an institution would not go beyond its constitutional role.

“Come back and become a part of the parliament. Let the political and democratic process go forward.”

Khan says his ouster was part of a United States-backed foreign conspiracy for pursuing an independent foreign policy for Pakistan. Washington and Khan’s opponents have repeatedly denied the allegation.

Late last month, he launched a march toward the Pakistani capital of Islamabad from the eastern city of Lahore, which was ended this week upon reaching Rawat town near the capital.

The former premier has also been increasingly critical of Pakistan’s powerful army and its outgoing chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, for not blocking his ouster and maintains he has been protesting for a “free” Pakistani nation.

Sanaullah also asked Khan not to pin his hopes on the country’s establishment, a term that is synonymous to the all-powerful army in Pakistan’s context, and said the army as an institution would neither step back from or go beyond its constitutional role.

Pakistan’s army has ruled the South Asian country for nearly half of its 75-year history, and even when not in power, it is seen as the invisible guiding hand in the country’s politics.

Sanaullah also asked the former prime minister to postpone his anti-government rally in Rawalpindi, saying intelligence agencies had warned that a militant attack could target the gathering.

Prior to that, the provincial government in Punjab, which Rawalpindi is a part of, said it had made arrangements to provide “foolproof” security to Khan and his protest rally.

Pakistan PM invites Turkiye to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional progress

Updated 26 November 2022

Pakistan PM invites Turkiye to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for regional progress

  • Shehbaz Sharif says he will discuss the matter with Chinese leadership, if Turkiye agrees to the idea
  • Pakistan prime minister vows to make all-out efforts to achieve the target of $5 billion bilateral trade

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday invited Turkiye to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to bring about regional prosperity, alleviate poverty and empower people through better education and health facilities, Pakistani state media reported.

Sharif arrived in Turkiye on Friday on a two-day visit that he said would unpack the “untapped potential” of bilateral ties between the two countries.

The prime minister vowed to boost Pakistan-Turkiye trade and defense cooperation to $5 billion, inviting Turkiye to join CPEC, a major segment of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

Under the $65 billion project, Beijing is building a network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan that will connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy.

“I would suggest that let this be a cooperation between China, Pakistan and Turkiye. This would be a wonderful joint cooperation. This will bring prosperity and progress to this entire region,” Pakistan’s APP news agency quoted Sharif as saying at a joint press stakeout with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“This will help alleviate poverty and unemployment. This will certainly empower our poor people. This will promote education and health. This is how we can meet the challenges of today.”

Sharif said he would be “happy” to discuss the matter with the Chinese leadership, if Turkiye moved ahead on the idea of joining the CPEC.

In their meeting, the two leaders underscored the effective implementation of a trade and goods agreement the two countries signed in August this year, according to the report.

Sharif said the $1 billion trade volume between Pakistan and Turkiye did not reflect the close brotherly relations and promised to make all-out efforts to achieve the target of $5 billion trade between the two countries.

Erdogan said both countries were hopeful of further increasing their relations in trade, defense and other sectors.

Expressing grief over the deaths and destruction caused by the recent floods in Pakistan, the Turkish president said, “Our solidarity has been shown to each other during challenging times… Pakistan’s joy is our joy and their grief is our grief.”

The deadly floods, blamed on climate change, killed more than 1,700 Pakistanis, affected 33 million others and caused the country more than $30 billion losses earlier this year.

In northwest Pakistan, one police official bans music and dance at wedding ceremonies

Updated 25 November 2022

In northwest Pakistan, one police official bans music and dance at wedding ceremonies

  • Some people of Shahpur community say they should be free to mourn and celebrate their grief and joy in traditional ways
  • CCPO Peshawar maintains the decision was to curb crimes, discourage use of narcotics at parties and prevent aerial firing

PESHAWAR: A police official in Peshawar decided to impose a ban on music and dance during wedding ceremonies in areas falling under his jurisdiction earlier this week, saying such festivities were against religion and directing all residents to abide by his decision.
Peshawar is the capital of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which is thought to be a conservative region of the country.
According to media reports, the provincial assembly speaker also asked traffic police recently to ban music in vehicles providing transport services to students of public and private education institutions.
“Yes, we have taken the decision [to ban music and dance at wedding parties],” Abdul Ali Khan, station house officer (SHO) at the Shahpur police station, told Arab News on Thursday. “You should ask yourself if these [music and dance] are good things.”
A resident of the area, Ulas Muhammad Zai, confirmed that the SHO had convened a meeting of local elders earlier this week and verbally instructed them to ban music and dance during wedding ceremonies.
“There are countless un-Islamic practices taking place in our society on a daily basis,” he said. “Police should adopt measures to curb those practices instead. They should let people mourn and celebrate their grief and joy according to their traditions.”
However, the SHO also found support among some community members.
Malik Roshan, another Shahpur resident, said he was present at the meeting and decided to support the ban.
“The police officer didn’t stop us from celebrating,” he continued. “He just directed people of the locality to celebrate their weddings within certain moral boundaries.”
Asked about the development, Peshawar's Capital City Police Officer Muhammad Ijaz Khan said no official notification had been issued which was binding on people, adding that the SHO had only taken the decision to ensure the security of his area.
The CCPO maintained the ban on dance parties during the wedding ceremonies was only to curb crimes, discourage the use of narcotics and prevent aerial firing.
“In the past, we have had precedents when these music and dance parties turned violent, ending up in armed clashes and putting people’s lives in danger,” he added. “The SHO imposed the ban from a security viewpoint, not an Islamic perspective.”
Commenting on the development, Qamar Naseem, a civil society activist, said the ban on entertainment programs was an arbitrary decision and a clear human rights violation.
He maintained if the police feared that criminals were forcing their ways into such gatherings, they should view it as an opportunity to apprehend such elements.
“Will we shut down the motorway if we observe a surge in accidents,” he said while giving an analogy. “Banning music is against law and the police official is clearly overstepping his authority here. The police are legally mandated to implement existing laws, not enact new ones.”