World – Ariana News Bringing Afghan News to the World Tue, 22 Jan 2019 05:52:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 U.S. Senator Graham Urges Trump to Meet Pakistan PM for Afghan Peace Mon, 21 Jan 2019 13:52:01 +0000

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult U.S. relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

Graham’s comments come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

“I’ve seen things change here and all in a positive direction,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump “far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today”.

“With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship,” he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by “strategic engagement”, including a free trade agreement, he said.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham’s trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the U.S. side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the U.S. message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump’s plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said “without a doubt” but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

“The world’s not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable,” he told Reuters. “Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly.”

With Inputs from Reuters.

Pakistan Assures U.S. of Continued Efforts for Afghan Peace Process Fri, 18 Jan 2019 12:31:42 +0000

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday in Islamabad, where the Pakistani official assured him that his country would keep up efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process.

Ambassador Khalilzad was accompanied by an interagency delegation representing Departments of Defence, State, and National Security Council.

Both sides discussed the progress made in the peace process so far. Qureshi told Khalilzad that Pakistan’s efforts to bring peace and stability to the region would remain ongoing, DAWN newspaper reported.

Pakistan’s FM said that establishing peace in Afghanistan was the responsibility of all stakeholders.

On his turn, Khalilzad thanked Qureshi for facilitating direct talks between the U.S. government and the Afghan Taliban.

He said American leadership values Pakistan’s endeavors for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Citing Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal, DAWN also said that during Friday’s meeting with Qureshi, Khalilzad briefed him “on his recent engagements in the region for an Afghan peace and reconciliation process”.

On Thursday, Khalilzad met Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa upon arrival in Islamabad.

The U.S. envoy Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad comes as part of his multi-nation trip on Afghan peace, starting from January 8 – 21. 

Trump, Modi Discuss Afghanistan in Phone Call Tue, 08 Jan 2019 07:45:02 +0000

U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have discussed increasing cooperation in Afghanistan among other issues in a phone call on Monday.

According to reports, the two leaders agreed to work closely on plans to strengthen economic ties between U.S. and India and, as well as to increase their cooperation in Afghanistan.

“The leaders agreed to strengthen the U.S.-India strategic partnership in 2019 and exchanged perspectives on how to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with India, expand security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and increase cooperation in Afghanistan,” the report said.

This comes after Trump mocked Modi last week for constructing a library in Afghanistan, as a part of India’s efforts to invest on Afghanistan’s economy and military.

Turkey to Host Trilateral Summit on Afghan Peace Sat, 05 Jan 2019 07:36:34 +0000

Pakistan and Turkey will hold a trilateral summit in Istanbul to discuss Afghan Peace, an effort to find a political settlement to end the conflict in war-torn Afghanistan.

The announcement was made by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a joint news conference with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in Ankara on January 4.

“Afghans have suffered for decades and it is time for the International community to help bring an end to the war in the country. Pakistan is already helping dialogue between the Taliban and Americans. I look forward to the summit meeting in Istanbul where we hope that Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey will be able to help in this peace process,” Imran Khan said at a press conference after official talks with Turkish President.

Khan added that he hoped the meeting would bring “badly needed peace” to Afghanistan.

This comes amid U.S. attempts to encourage direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

The U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad has held at least three rounds of talks with the Taliban officials in recent months in the region, although the Taliban has refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.

Taliban Held Talks with Iranian Officials in Tehran Mon, 31 Dec 2018 10:23:30 +0000

Iran says a Taliban delegation held talks with Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday.

Speaking at a televised press conference on Monday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said that the talks were held with the knowledge of the Afghan government.

“A Taliban delegation was in Tehran yesterday. They had comprehensive negotiations with the Iranian deputy foreign minister,” Qasemi said.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, the main purpose of the talks was finding solutions to help facilitate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

This comes after Taliban representatives met this month with the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation in Abu Dhabi where the two sides discussed the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Taliban denied meeting with Afghan government representatives in Abu Dhabi.

The armed group, meanwhile, has not made a comment about its visit to Tehran, the capital of Iran.

Pakistan FM to Visit Afghanistan as Part of His Tour to Regional Countries Sun, 23 Dec 2018 13:36:23 +0000

Pakistani delegation led by the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will embark a three-day tour on Monday to Afghanistan, Iran, China, and Russia.

The Pakistani delegation will visit the countries from December 24-26, 2018, the Express Tribune said citing a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

During the visit, Qureshi is expected to discuss Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the senior leadership of the countries including Afghanistan to strengthen cooperation in various areas.

“Implementing the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is eager to strengthen ties with neighbours and regional partners. Such cooperation is the key to unleashing Pakistan’s considerable potential and expanding mutually beneficial economic cooperation and development,” the statement said.

The recent developments concerning peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan would also be discussed during these meetings, the newspaper said.

It comes about a week after Kabul hosted the second round of trilateral dialogue with China and Pakistan in which the sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Counter-Terrorism to advance their cooperation in this regard.

FM Qureshi said that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. 

“I am here to encourage the different factions within Afghanistan to reconcile. Pakistan will play its role, we will do our best to push the reconciliation process forward but it is ultimately an Afghan decision,” He said.

He also called for an end to blame game between Kabul and Islamabad.

Pakistan to Host Soon U.S.-Taliban Talks on Afghan Peace Sat, 15 Dec 2018 12:37:07 +0000

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan says the United States is scheduled to meet on Monday (Dec 17) with the Afghan Taliban and that Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue at Washington’s request.

“The same U.S. that had been asking us to ‘do more’ is now asking Pakistan to facilitate its talks with the Afghan Taliban,” Imran Khan said as quoted by Pakistan Today.

 “When I used to say this matter cannot be resolved without dialogue, [they] would term me ‘Taliban Khan’,” said the PM, revealing that Pakistan had arranged talks between the US and Afghan Taliban on Dec 17.

Khan made the remarks while addressing a ceremony to mark the 100-day ceremony of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

The Afghan government will not have any representative in the U.S.-Taliban talks in Pakistan; however, Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) told Ariana News that the Taliban are meeting the U.S. representatives to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue.

“The Taliban meet Americans, but eventually, the Afghan government and Taliban delegations will kick off talks to reach on a peace agreement,” said Qazi Amin Weqad, a member of the HPC.

Sayed Akbar Agha, a former member of the Taliban, meanwhile, said that the United States asks Pakistan to put pressure on the Taliban to convince the armed group of allowing the U.S. to have base in Afghanistan while “Taliban is rejecting the issue.”

This comes as Kabul today hosted a trilateral meeting with China and Pakistan aimed at opening talks with the Taliban to end the 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

US Shouldn’t Give Even A dollar to Pakistan: Haley Tue, 11 Dec 2018 08:49:28 +0000 The outgoing American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill American soldiers, asserting that Washington should not give Islamabad even a dollar until it addresses the issue.

Haley said that U.S. did not need to give money to countries that wish harm to America, go behind its back and try and “stop us from doing things”.

” … I think there should be a strategic view on which countries we partner with, which ones we count on to work with us on certain things, and move forward accordingly. I think we just blindly allow money to keep going without thinking that this is real leverage. We have to use it,” Haley told US magazine ‘The Atlantic’, cited by the Times of India.

“The one example I’ll give you is, look at Pakistan. Giving them over a billion dollars, and they continue to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill our soldiers — that’s never okay. We shouldn’t even give them a dollar until they correct it. Use the billion dollars. That’s not a small amount of change,” she said.

Haley will step down as the UN envoy at the end of this year. U.S. President Donald Trump last week nominated chief State Department spokeswoman and a former Fox News journalist Heather Nauert as Haley’s successor.

This comes as recently in an interview with The Washington Post, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan dismissed U.S.’ allegations that there were safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan.

Khan said he would never want to have relations with the U.S. where Pakistan is treated like a “hired gun.”

Imran Khan to U.S.: ‘We’re Not Your Hired Gun Anymore’ Fri, 07 Dec 2018 14:31:42 +0000

Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the U.S. of “pushing Pakistan away” and said he would never want to have a relation with Washington where his country is treated like a “hired gun”. 

“Reflecting on the two nations’ changing relationship, the Pakistani prime minister said his country would no longer want to be “treated like a hired gun”, referring to the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and the ongoing US “war on terror”.

Khan and Donald Trump were involved in a Twitter spat last month after the American president suggested Pakistan had harboured Osama bin Laden despite receiving billions in US aid.

Khan told The Washington Post: “I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun – given money to fight someone else’s war.

“We should never put ourselves in this position again. It not only cost us human lives, devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity. We would like a proper relationship with the U.S..”

“For instance, our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries. We want a similar relationship with the U.S.,” he added.

When asked if Pakistan was trying to hedge its bets using China, Khan replied: “The US has basically pushed Pakistan away.”

Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and the head of al Qaeda, was killed in 2011 during a raid by US special forces on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid strained relationship between America and long-time ally in the region.

The former cricketer told the newspaper he was merely “setting the record straight” with Trump “saying Pakistan was the reason for these sanctuaries [for Taliban leaders]”. The Pakistani leader insisted there “are no sanctuaries in Pakistan”.

He said: “The exchange was about being blamed for deeply flawed US policies – the military approach to Afghanistan.”

The comments come as Pakistan’s army has backed U.S. efforts for a political settlement with the Afghan Taliban to end 17 years war in Afghanistan.

With Inputs from Sky News 

Afghan Leaders, Iran’s Foreign Minister Meet in Geneva Wed, 28 Nov 2018 10:18:33 +0000

President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah held separate talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday.

According to a statement released by Ghani’s Office, during the meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, the two sides exchanged views on economic cooperation, expansion of Kabul-Tehran relations, intra-Afghan peace negotiation and elections.

President Ghani is expected to announce a comprehensive intra-Afghan peace plan today at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan.

He has told Zarif that the cooperation of world and regional countries including Iran is important in the Afghan peace process, the statement said.

According to the statement, the Iranian foreign minister has announced Tehran’s support from an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process, adding that Iran is ready to assist Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism by all means.

The Geneva Conference which is organized by the United Nations and the government of Afghanistan launched on Tuesday with high-ranking officials from over 60 countries as well as a large number of representatives from international bodies in attendance.

EU Announces New €474m Aid Package for Afghanistan Wed, 28 Nov 2018 08:32:40 +0000

The European Union has announced a financial package worth 474 million euros ($535 million) in financial aid for Afghanistan during a key summit focusing on development, peace, and security in war-torn Afghanistan.

The aid agreement was made on Tuesday at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan.

The new aid package is intended to support state building and public sector reforms, health, justice, and elections, as well as to address migration and displacement challenges in Afghanistan.

“The EU stands side by side with Afghanistan and its people to build a stronger future for the country. The EU’s new assistance package of €474 million will contribute towards addressing peace and security challenges and set up the foundations for a more stable and economically sustainable society. Through joint efforts we intend to reduce aid-dependency and invest in democratic governance for the benefit all citizens of the country,” said Neven Mimica, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development at the summit.

The package consists of: €311 million to support the government of Afghanistan in pursuing its reform agenda, €31 million to support reforms in the judicial organs, €80 million to improve the health and nutrition of the population, €15.5 million to support the presidential and provincial council elections in 2019, and €37 million to reinforce EU assistance to Afghanistan in addressing migration and forced displacement challenges.

Dozens of countries are attending at the Geneva conference on Afghanistan where the Afghan government is expected to renew its commitment to reform and discuss aid contributions in its bid to achieve stability and security.

Imran Khan Reacts at Trump’s Comments against Pakistan Tue, 20 Nov 2018 08:20:14 +0000 Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said U.S. President Donald Trump needs to inform himself about historical facts after Trump stated that U.S. is not paying billions of dollars for Pakistan for doing nothing.

In a series of statements on Twitter on Monday, Khan said “Trump’s false assertions” add insult to the injury Pakistan has suffered in U.S. war on terror, adding that “now we will do what is best for our people and our interests”.

“Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the U.S. should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” Khan posted on Twitter.

The comments came a day after Trump slammed Pakistan for taking Washington money while allowing former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to shelter in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, where he was killed by U.S. forces in 2011.

“We paid Pakistan billions of dollars and they never told us he was living there. Fools! We no longer pay Pakistan the billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That’s ENDING!” Trump posted after Khan’s tweets.

Washington and Kabul have always accused Pakistan of supporting and sheltering Taliban insurgent group who are fighting against U.S.-led troops and Afghan government since their ouster in 2001 while Pakistan continuously denies.

‘Father of the Taliban’ Assassinated in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi Fri, 02 Nov 2018 15:03:39 +0000

Maulana Samiul Haq, Chief of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S) who was also known as the ‘Father of the Taliban’, assassinated at his residence in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi on Friday, Geo News reported.

Haq’s his family and party officials confirmed to Geo News that the senior religious scholar and former senator was “stabbed multiple times”.

“He was trying to reach the protest in Islamabad but came back home due to roads being blocked. He was resting in his room during Asr time when his driver-cum-guard went out for 15 minutes,” Haq’s son Maulana Hamidul Haq told Geo News. 

“When he returned, he found Maulana Samiul Haq dead in his bed and his body covered in blood.”

Hamid added that his father had been “stabbed multiple times.”

JUI-S leader Maulana Abdul Majeed said there was no one present at the residence when Haq was killed. “We do not know who attacked him. He was alone, the person who was supposed to be with him had gone to the market,” Majeed said.

Haq was a senior religio-political figure who had twice been elected as a senator. He was a member of the Senate of Pakistan from 1985 to 1991 and again from 1991 to 1997.

Rohani Accuses U.S. of Seeking Regime Change in Iran Sun, 14 Oct 2018 14:18:16 +0000 Iranian president Hassan Rohani accuses the U.S. of using psychological and economic warfare against his country, saying the United States is seeking regime change in Tehran.

“In the past 40 years there has not been a more spiteful team than the current U.S. government team toward Iran, Iranians and the Islamic Republic,” Rohani said in a speech broadcast on state TV. 

Tensions have increased between Iran and America after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a multi-lateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in May.

“Reducing the legitimacy of the system is their final goal. When they say getting rid of, regime change in their own words, how does regime change happen? Through reducing legitimacy. Otherwise, a regime doesn’t change,” Rohani said during his speech.

The United States also reimposed sanctions against Iran, with a second round targeting Iran’s oil sector due to take effect on November 5.

Russia, India Agreed to Cooperate in Fight Against Terrorism Sat, 06 Oct 2018 13:13:37 +0000 India and Russia have denounced terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterated the need to combat the menace with the decisive and collective response without any double standards. 

According to a joint statement in unequivocal terms, “The Sides agreed to converge their efforts to eradicate terrorist networks, their sources of financing, arms and fighters supply channels, to counter terrorist ideology, propaganda and recruitment. The Sides condemned all kinds of state support to terrorists including cross-border terrorism and providing safe havens to terrorists and their network.”

“Recognizing the importance of adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, pending in the United Nations, to become part of the international law, both Sides called upon the international community to make sincere efforts towards its early conclusion. ?? address the threats of chemical and biological terrorism, the Sides supported and emphasized the need for launching multilateral negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament on an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism,” the Joint Statement further noted.

In an indirect reference to Pak-sponsored terror in Afghanistan, India and Russia called upon the international community to join efforts to thwart any external interference in Afghanistan, to restore its economy, contribute to sustaining peace and security, economic and political development of a stable, secure, united, prosperous and independent Afghanistan.

The two Sides will direct their activity to launch joint development and capacity building projects in Afghanistan.

Trump: I Told Saudi King He Wouldn’t Last Without U.S. Support Wed, 03 Oct 2018 12:12:44 +0000

U.S. President Donald Trump has made an undiplomatic remark about close ally Saudi Arabia, saying he warned Saudi Arabia’s King Salman he would not last in power “for two weeks” without the backing of the U.S. military.

“We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they’re rich. And I love the King, King Salman. But I said ‘King – we’re protecting you – you might not be there for two weeks without us – you have to pay for your military,’” Trump said to cheers at a rally in Southaven, Mississippi.

Despite the harsh words, the Trump administration has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which it views as a bulwark against Iran’s ambitions in the region.

Trump made Saudi Arabia his first stop on his maiden international trip as president last year.

Trump called King Salman on Saturday and they discussed efforts being made to maintain supplies to ensure oil market stability and global economic growth, according to Saudi state news agency SPA.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter and the de facto leader of OPEC, which has been criticized by Trump for high oil prices.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, Trump said OPEC members were “as usual ripping off the rest of the world.”

“We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good. We want them to stop raising prices, we want them to start lowering prices,” Trump said.

He has also pressed other U.S. allies, such as Japan, South Korea and Germany, to take more of the financial burden of their defense.

By Reuters

Qureshi Admits Pakistani Army Played Double Game in Region Sun, 30 Sep 2018 14:27:53 +0000 In an interview to a foreign news channel, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has clarified Islamabad’s policy regarding Afghanistan.

In response to the claims that some of Pakistani army and intelligence ISI were playing a double game, helping Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, the foreign minister said, “They were helping their own country (and were trying to) overcome a situation which was not of their own making,” he said.

Qureshi referred to America’s links with Afghan freedom fighters during the 1980s, when Washington backed a Mujahedeen insurgency against the Soviet occupation forces. “Who were these people? Who supported them? Who trained them? We forget history and at times we overlook that friends change,” he complained.

“People that you supported, some of the people, were called extremists. Weren’t they invited to the US? Weren’t they entertained in the White House? So, friends change. Circumstances change. We were just defending and protecting ourselves,” he said.

Qureshi also said Pakistan wants to play a positive role in Afghanistan, but it is not only responsibility that has to be shared with others.

Qureshi, however, expressed concerns that the Taliban are regaining foothold in Afghanistan.

“I think they also do realize that things have changed within Afghanistan over the last 17 years and they cannot just run over and get to Kabul and take of the country. There is new realization everywhere. Pakistan’s foreign minister asserted. “I think the Afghan government also recognizes and realizes that there are areas where Taliban have amounts of influence. They are at districts that they control. There is a new realization that is in the making that is let’s give peace a chance and let’s give dialogue, reconciliation a chance.”

Meanwhile, the Afghan government calls for Islamabad’s cooperation in fight against terrorism and the peace process.

“We expect Pakistan to cooperate with us in fight against terrorism,” Najib Danish, the Ministry of Interior spokesperson added.

This comes as Islamabad is scheduled to hold a meeting between the religious scholars of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the near future.

Trump, Rouhani Exchange Threats at UN General Assembly Wed, 26 Sep 2018 12:17:35 +0000 U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have exchanged taunts and threats at the United Nations General Assembly during which they made powerful claims about each other in front of World leaders.

Trump used his annual address to the United Nations to attack Iran’s “corrupt dictatorship,” praise last year’s bogeyman North Korea and lay down a defiant message that he will reject globalism and protect American interests.

But much of his 35-minute address was aimed squarely at Iran, which the United States accuses of harbouring nuclear ambitions and fomenting instability in the Middle East through its support for militant groups in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump told the gathering in the green-marbled hall. “They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.”

Hassan Rouhani has delivered an explosive speech at the UN General Assembly and severely criticized Trump’s policies, claiming they resemble “a Nazi disposition” and added his country opposes to the US President’s “bullying”.

President Rouhani said: “It is unfortunate that we are witnessing rulers in the world who think they can secure their interests better or at least in the short-term ride public sentiments and gain popular support through the foment of extremists, nationalism and racism.

“And through xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition as well as through the trampling of global rules and undermining international institutions.”

Tensions between the US and Iran have soared since Trump, an outspoken critic of Tehran, took office last January.

24 Killed in Attack on Iranian Military Parade Sat, 22 Sep 2018 11:40:31 +0000 At least 24 people were killed and 53 others injured in an attack on a military parade in Iran’s southwestern city of Ahvaz on Saturday, Iran’s state news IRNA said.

The dead and wounded were both military personnel and civilians including a journalist who were watching the parade, IRNA added.

“Terrorists began shooting from a long distance while inside the park, at the armed forces as well as civilians watching the parade,” Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarch, a spokesman for the Iranian armed forces told MEHR, another Iranian news agency.

Three of the attackers were gunned down during clashes with the security forces and one other arrested, news agencies reported.

“The terrorists disguised as Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basiji (volunteer) forces opened fire to the authority and people from behind the stand during the parade,” Governor of Khuzestan Gholam-Reza Shariati said, according to IRNA.

IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif said the attackers were affiliated with a terrorist group supported by Saudi Arabia, Press TV said. “The individuals who fired at the people and the armed forces during the parade are connected to the al-Ahvaziya group which is fed by Saudi Arabia,” Sharif said. Saudi Arabia has yet to respond to the allegations.

PM Imran Khan Offers Citizenship for Afghans Born in Pakistan Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:45:48 +0000

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday pledged to offer Pakistani citizenship to Afghans born in his country, according to local media reports.

Imran Khan said that the government will issue national identity cards and passports to immigrants from Bangladesh and Afghanistan. He made the remarks during his maiden visit to Karachi city on Sunday.

 “Afghans whose children have been raised and born in Pakistan will be granted citizenship inshallah (God willing) because this is the established practice in countries around the world. You get an American passport if you are born in America,” Khan said who took office last month.

The Pakistani PM said that the identity crisis of thousands of Bengali and Afghan immigrants is pushing them to crime.

“Terrorism and target killing has declined in Karachi but there is a major reason behind the street crimes. It is an underclass. They are illiterate and jobless. They are the Bengalis and Afghans who are living in Pakistan.”

“These immigrants have lived here for decades, their children were born here, but they don’t have identity cards and passports,” he said as cited by Pakistan’s Samaa TV.

This comes as according to the United Nations refugee agency there are 2.7 million Afghans, including 1.5 million registered as refugees, in Pakistan. Most of the displaced families have fled decades of conflict, poverty and economic hardship in war-weary Afghanistan.

Survey reports by the United Nations, meanwhile show, at least 60 percent of Afghan refugees were either born in Pakistan or were minors when their parents migrated to the country.