Afghanistan envoys aim for future meetings with Taliban, says UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to journalists at a summit on Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 19 February 2024
Follow

Afghanistan envoys aim for future meetings with Taliban, says UN chief

  • Antonio Guterres said delegates discussed ‘creating conditions, in next meeting, to have presence of de facto authorities of Afghanistan’
  • The Taliban’s administration in Kabul has not been officially recognized by any other government since it took over Afghanistan in 2021

DOHA: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said international envoys to Afghanistan hope for Taliban participation at their future meetings after the authorities snubbed an invitation to talks in Doha.

Guterres told a news conference that delegates had discussed “creating the conditions, in a next meeting, to have the presence of the de facto authorities of Afghanistan,” following their refusal to join the two-day conference which ended on Monday in the Gulf state.

The Taliban’s administration in Kabul has not been officially recognized by any other government since it took power and imposed a strict interpretation of Islam, with women subjected to laws characterised by the UN as “gender apartheid.”

In the aftermath of the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, the international community has wrestled with its approach to the country’s new rulers.

The UN had extended an invitation for Taliban authorities to participate, following their exclusion from the first meeting in May.

However, the Kabul government had said they would not participate in the talks unless they could be the sole representative of Afghanistan at the meetings — to the exclusion of civil society groups.

The UN had said that women were among the Afghan civil society representatives to the gathering of national and regional special envoys to Afghanistan.

A second demand was that the Taliban government delegation meet with the UN secretary-general and be given an opportunity to present its position.

Guterres said he received a set of conditions to participate that “were not acceptable.”

“These conditions, first of all, denied us the right to talk to other representatives of the Afghan society,” he said.

Many governments, international organizations and aid agencies cut off or severely scaled back their funding for Afghanistan in response to the Taliban policies — causing a serious knock to the already struggling economy.

“One of our main objectives is to overcome this deadlock,” Guterres said, explaining a roadmap needed to be created in which “the concerns of the international community are taken into account. But the concerns of the de facto authorities of Afghanistan are also,” he said.

Guterres said the meeting, which included the US, China, Pakistan and the European Union, had reached “total consensus” on proposals from a UN independent assessment on Afghanistan.

The assessment recommended the appointment of a UN special envoy. This proposal is backed by Western nations but rejected by the Taliban authorities.

Guterres said he would begin a “serious process of consultations to see if there are conditions to create a UN envoy.”

He said the proposed envoy could “have a coordinating role” in the country “and work effectively with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan.”

The meeting had also aimed at a more coordinated response to the country.

Guterres said there had been discussion of a “contact group,” with a “limited number of states able to have a more coordinated approach in the engagement with the de facto authorities.”

He said this could include permanent members of the UN Security Council, neighboring countries and relevant donors but it would be “up to member states to decide how to create it.”

“I believe it would be a way to have coherence in the way the international community is engaging with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan,” he added.


Pakistan pacer Ihsanullah leaves for England for assessment of elbow injury

Updated 17 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan pacer Ihsanullah leaves for England for assessment of elbow injury

  • The fast bowler sustained the injury in April last year following a white-ball series against New Zealand
  • At the time, the PCB did not believe the injury was severe and the initial treatment reportedly worsened it

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan fast bowler Ihsanullah left for England on Sunday for a crucial appointment with esteemed orthopedic surgeon, Professor Adam Watts, regarding his elbow injury, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said.
The pacer sustained the injury in April last year following a white-ball series against New Zealand. At the time, the PCB did not believe the injury was severe and the initial treatment, including gym and weight work, reportedly worsened it.
Ihsanullah’s appointment is scheduled for Monday, according to the PCB. Professor Watts specializes in hand and wrist surgery, shoulder and elbow procedures, sports injuries, and trauma surgery.
“Ihsanullah’s franchise, Multan Sultans, has collaborated with the PCB to secure this appointment,” the cricket board said in a statement. “The PCB, as Ihsanullah’s parent body, will cover all expenses for his treatment and rehabilitation.”
The PCB said it would provide further updates after the assessment and diagnosis by Professor Watts.
Since April 2023, there had been almost no official updates on Ihsanullah’s injury. His case received media attention this month, when Ali Tareen, owner of Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Multan Sultans, accused the PCB of failing to provide “appropriate treatment” to the player.
Tareen said the franchise had borne considerable expenses for the pacer’s treatment and he would likely require another surgery.


Pakistani man among six killed in Sydney knife attack — community groups

Updated 5 min 30 sec ago
Follow

Pakistani man among six killed in Sydney knife attack — community groups

  • Faraz Tahir was killed by a knife-wielding man who also killed five women
  • The 40-year-old suspect was previously diagnosed with mental health issues

SYDNEY: A 30-year-old Pakistani man was named on Sunday as the security guard killed in a weekend knife attack in a Sydney shopping mall, according to two local community groups.
The Australian Pakistani National Association and Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said Faraz Tahir was killed by a knife-wielding man who also killed five women.
On Sunday evening, members of the Muslim community held a silent vigil for the man, who is said to have moved to Australia last year.
“He quickly became an integral part of our community,” a statement said.
The Australian Pakistani National Association encouraged the community to “stand together in solidarity, offering support and prayers to those grieving and affected by this heartbreaking loss.”
As the attack unfolded on Saturday, online social media accounts falsely reported that the attack was linked to ideological or religious groups or events in the Middle East.
Police have named the assailant as 40-year-old itinerant man Joel Cauchi who was previously diagnosed with a mental health issue.
New South Wales police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said there was no evidence to suggest Cauchi was “driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise.”


PM directs speeding up relief operations as rains, lightning kill over 20 in Pakistan 

Updated 14 April 2024
Follow

PM directs speeding up relief operations as rains, lightning kill over 20 in Pakistan 

  • Heavy rains in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Punjab provinces have killed over 20 since Friday, say authorities 
  • Pakistan consistently ranks among the world’s countries that are most vulnerable to climate change effects

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday directed authorities to speed up relief operations as heavy rains, and lightning strikes killed over 20 in Pakistan’s Punjab and Balochistan provinces this week. 

Rains, thunderstorms and gusty winds hit Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces on Friday. Intermittent showers continued in these regions on Saturday and Sunday. 

The death toll from lightning strikes in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar districts were recorded at 17, the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Saturday. 

In the southwestern Balochistan province, at least eight people were killed in similar incidents in Surab, Dera Bugti, Pishin and other areas, local media reports said.

“The prime minister has directed the NDMA [National Disaster Management Authority] and other relevant institutions to speed up relief activities in affected areas,” a statement from Sharif’s office said. 

He also directed authorities to provide medical aid to the injured and expressed deep sorrow and regret over the loss of lives in the incidents. 

Pakistan has been prone to natural disasters and consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries due to the effects of climate change.

Last month, heavy rains in Pakistan’s Balochistan triggered urban floods in Gwadar and Kech districts, destroying nearly 100 homes and killing at least five people.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people. Over 33 million people were affected by the floodwaters — a staggering number close to the population of Canada.

Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools as well as thousands of kilometers of roads and railways still need to be rebuilt.


Pakistan ‘deeply saddened, shocked’ by mass stabbing at Sydney shopping center 

Updated 14 April 2024
Follow

Pakistan ‘deeply saddened, shocked’ by mass stabbing at Sydney shopping center 

  • Faraz Tahir, 30-year-old security guard from Pakistan, was the only male victim killed in the Bondi junction stabbing incident
  • Five of the six killed were women while eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office said on Sunday it was “deeply saddened” and “shocked” by the mass stabbing at a Sydney shopping center a day earlier which claimed six lives, including that of a Pakistani security guard. 

An attacker fatally stabbed six people on Saturday afternoon at the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center in Sydney. 

Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a press conference. 

The only male victim who was killed in the attack was identified as 30-year-old Faraz Tahir from Pakistan, who worked at the mall as a security guard. 

“We are deeply saddened and shocked over the terrible and tragic events at Westfield Bondi Junction in Sydney, Australia on Saturday,” the foreign office said on social media platform X. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost their lives.”

Webb said during a press conference on Saturday that police did not believe the attack was “terrorism-related” Webb while Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was no indication yet of the man’s motive.

Australia has some of the world’s toughest gun and knife laws, and attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare. 


Pakistan calls for ‘utmost restraint’ as Iran launches retaliatory strikes against Israel 

Updated 14 April 2024
Follow

Pakistan calls for ‘utmost restraint’ as Iran launches retaliatory strikes against Israel 

  • Iran launched a swarm of explosive drones and missiles at Israel late on Saturday 
  • Pakistan watching situation in Middle East with “deep concern,” says foreign office

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office on Sunday expressed deep concern over the escalation of hostilities in the Middle East following Iran’s retaliatory strikes against Israel, urging all parties to exercise “utmost restraint” and work toward de-escalation of tensions. 

The statement comes in response to Iran launching a swarm of explosive drones and firing missiles at Israel late on Saturday in its first ever direct attack on Israeli territory, risking a major escalation in the Middle East. 

Israel’s military said more than 100 drones were launched from Iran, with security sources in Iraq and Jordan reporting dozens seen flying overhead and US officials saying the American military had shot some down.

Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement that Islamabad was watching the situation in the Middle East with “deep concern.”

“It is now critically urgent to stabilize the situation and restore peace,” it said. “We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and move toward de-escalation.”

Iran launched the missiles and drone attacks against Israel for what it said was a retaliatory attack against an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven Revolutionary Guards officers, including two senior commanders. 

The foreign office said Pakistan had pointed to the dangers of the attack on the Iranian consular office in Syria as a “major escalation” in an already volatile region.

“Today’s developments demonstrate the consequences of the breakdown of diplomacy,” it said.
“These also underline the grave implications in cases where the UN Security Council is unable to fulfill its responsibilities of maintaining international peace and security.”

The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, now in its seventh month, has driven up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.

Pakistan, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, has urged the international community to intervene and impose a ceasefire in the Middle East. 

Islamabad has consistently demanded a separate homeland for the Palestinians in accordance with their wishes, and with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.