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Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan seen as a bid to ‘overcome mistrust of the past’

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah’s recent visit to Pakistan, as head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, “reflects growing stability and mutual trust,” between Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Amina Khan, Director for the Center for Middle East & Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. 

In a brief, following Abdullah’s visit, published on Saturday, Khan stated that with the exception of a few brief moments of stability, the “Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship has followed a negative trajectory embedded in a vicious blame game, which has proved to be counterproductive for both countries.”

She said history has shown that whatever happens in Afghanistan has a direct impact on Pakistan and that this has been even more evident in the last two decades since the onset of the war on terror.

Khan stated that after several years of negativity, Abdullah’s visit is being viewed in Pakistan as an attempt by Afghanistan to overcome the mistrust of the past and embark on a new partnership with its neighbor. 

“This will also help in Kabul gaining Pakistan’s support regarding the ongoing intra-Afghan talks,” she said.

Abdullah “solicited Pakistan’s support in convincing the Taliban to reduce, and ultimately abandon violence,” she said adding that “Pakistan has publically, as well as privately been persuading the Taliban to reduce violence and move towards a negotiated settlement with the Afghan government.”

Citing some examples of Pakistan’s efforts and involvement in the peace process she stated that Pakistan not only played a pivotal role in the short ceasefire by the Taliban in June 2018 and again over Eid in 2020, but it also encouraged the group to engage with the US in direct talks. 

“These in fact resulted in the US-Taliban agreement of February 2020, and subsequently in the ongoing intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha,” she said. 

Khan added that “it is important for the Afghan leadership to recognize that Pakistan is actively engaging with all stakeholders, including the Taliban in an effort to convince the group to abandon its hostilities towards the Afghan state, engage with Kabul in intra-Afghan talks and ultimately reach a compromise.” 

In her brief, she stated that Pakistan’s role should be to support the peace process as well as any outcome that is achieved as long as it is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.

“All Pakistan can do is to encourage both sides to engage and compromise. It cannot dictate peace. Therefore, it is important for both sides, particularly the Afghan leadership,to recognize and accept that achieving peace and a workable outcome that is acceptable to all stakeholders is solely in the hands of the Afghans. Indeed, it is an Afghan prerogative.” 

She said for years, Pakistan has followed a policy of extending support to Pashtun groups alone – including the Taliban.

This she said “inevitably led to the alienation of other ethnic factions such as the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. 

“This then caused these groups to view Pakistan with immense mistrust and suspicion, leading many to consider Pakistan as a spoiler in Afghanistan’s path to peace. 

“Now, there is a clear and conscious awareness in Pakistan that relations need to be established with all ethnic and political groups in” Afghanistan and to “assure them of all of Pakistan’s support and sincerity,” Khan said. 

Statements made by the Pakistani leadership are not only important and necessary acknowledgments, but a clear indication of the change in the narrative on the Pakistani side, she stated adding that it will however take a lot more than mere words and promises to assure Afghans of Pakistan’s sincerity.

“But the fact that Islamabad is reaching out to the different Afghan factions and not just the Taliban or for that matter the Pashtuns, warrants recognition. This is a wise and desirable policy in the right direction,” she said.

In conclusion, she stated that although the burden of history cannot be washed away easily, a pragmatic and holistic approach needs to be adopted by both to address the key issues and irritants, and that “most importantly, the positive momentum generated in recent weeks must be kept alive to foster cooperation and create systemic, institutional linkages for sustainable collaboration in all fields.”

 

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Uzbekistan’s Samarkand city named 2023 World Tourism Capital

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

Uzbekistan’s historic city of Samarkand was chosen as the 2023 World Tourism Capital at the 24th General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Spain, Uzbekistan’s Tourism and Sports Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Samarkand will host the 25th General Assembly of the UNWTO, which will be a “historic event” as it marks the first time in history that the gathering will be held in Uzbekistan, read the statement.

The summit in Madrid was attended by a delegation led by Uzbekistan’s Tourism and Sports Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister.

The opportunity to host a UN organization meeting for the first time is the result of the Uzbek government’s policies and efforts to develop tourism in the country, the statement added.

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Pakistan seal semi-final T20 World Cup spot after beating Namibia 

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(Last Updated On: November 2, 2021)

Pakistan defeated Namibia by 45 runs on Tuesday night in Abu Dhabi to become the first side to qualify for the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup 2021.

Chasing a formidable target of 190, Namibia gave a good account of their ability and promise and eventually finished with 144-5 as Pakistan collected the two points they needed to go through to the next round.

Pakistan’s total is the second-highest in this tournament, behind Afghanistan’s 190-4 against Scotland in Sharjah.

Afghanistan’s next T20 World Cup match is on Wednesday against India.

 

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US administers over 420 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2021)

The United States has administered 420,657,683 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and distributed 518,701,225 doses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The agency said 221,221,467 people had received at least one dose, while 192,244,927 people were fully vaccinated as of 6am on Saturday.

The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, Reuters reported.

About 17.7 million people have received a booster dose of either Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

On November 8, the United States is lifting the extraordinary travel restrictions that have barred most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. 

It is also imposing new rules requiring nearly all foreign adult air visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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