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Nominated US envoy to Pakistan says cooperation critical in peace efforts

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

Nominated US envoy to Islamabad William Todd told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that cooperation between the two countries was essential for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

“Peace in Afghanistan is in both our countries’ best interests, and effective US-Pakistani cooperation is essential to achieve that objective,” he said.

“Today, our countries recognize that we share a common interest in a durable peace in Afghanistan,” Todd told the Senate panel.

He also said Islamabad “played a critical role in creating the conditions that brought Afghan leaders and the Taliban to the historic start of Afghan Peace negotiations” but that Pakistan now has “an even more important role to play in supporting efforts toward a negotiated political settlement that ends 40 years of war.” 

“This is a moment of opportunity for Pakistan to continue to forge a new and better role in the region,” he said.

He said if his nomination was approved and he was appointed ambassador to Pakistan, one of his top priorities would be to encourage Pakistan to play this role.

“In terms of regional dynamics, although we have a strong relationship with India, that does not need to come at the expense of Pakistan,” he said. “I believe that under the right conditions, we can have a strong relationship with both countries.”

He also said he thought Washington’s close ties with Delhi and Islamabad could help reduce tensions in the region. 

“Our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions, and as President [Donald] Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it,” he said.

He also stated he would work with Pakistan to advance a “shared interest in eliminating terrorism from its territory and advancing security in the region.”

Todd, who was nominated by Trump earlier this year, told the Senate panel that Pakistan remained a difficult but essential US partner in South Asia, and Washington was seeking to reset its ties with Islamabad.

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Renegades signs Afghan teenager for Australia’s Big Bash League

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

Australia’s Melbourne Renegades have signed up 15-year-old Noor Ahmad after a 12-month scouting mission and plan to unleash him on the Big Bash League later this year. 

Earlier this week Renegades confirmed Mohammad Nabi had also signed up and on Thursday, the club announced on its website, 15-year-old Noor Ahmad, from Kabul, will also join their team. 

“We’ve been tracking Noor Ahmad closely for more than a year now and although he’s in the early stages of his career, he’s an exciting prospect and he has a few tricks that’ll make life difficult for batsmen,” Renegades Coach Michael Klinger said. 

Ahmad is a left-arm wrist-spinner who has earned high praise around the globe.

Ahmad earned a contract in the Caribbean Premier League earlier this year and won a T20 trophy under Mohammad Nabi’s captaincy in 2019.

“The Renegades fans and followers of the Big Bash may not know much about Noor at this stage but I can tell you, he is a very exciting talent who I feel has a big future in the game,” Nabi said.

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Khalilzad meets with Taliban’s Baradar, discusses increase in violence

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha on Wednesday night to discuss a range of issues relating to the Afghan peace process, including the high levels of violence. 

In a series of tweets by the Taliban’s Doha spokesman, Mohammad Naeem, Khalilzad was accompanied by US Forces Afghanistan commander General Scott Miller.

Naeem said the discussion centered around a number of issues and talks were held on the full “implementation of the whole articles of the agreement signed between the IEA [Taliban] and the US”.

He also said the release of remaining prisoners was discussed as was removing names of Taliban members from the US’ blacklist. 

According to him, the increase in hostilities was discussed and attributed the high levels of violence to a number of factors. He said the “humiliation of the martyrs’ bodies” was one reason, as was that of raids carried out against released prisoners and “their killing”. 

He also said, “offensives and the violation of the agreement overall were reckoned the causes that don’t lead the circumstances to a good direction.”

Khalilzad returned to Doha earlier this week to meet with negotiating teams in Doha to press both sides to immediately reduce the levels of violence that Afghan civilians are forced to bear. 

According to a statement issued on Wednesday by the US State Department: “Too many Afghans are dying. The sides urgently need an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.” 

“Along with international partners, Ambassador Khalilzad will press the two negotiating teams to accelerate their efforts and agree to a political roadmap that ends Afghanistan’s 40-year-long war. The sides must move past procedure and into substantive negotiations. American and international assistance remains available to all sides,” the statement read. 

Khalilzad meanwhile said in a series of tweets on Tuesday night that he returns “to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened.”

“The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said.

“Intransigence and a refusal to abandon animosity, embrace fellow citizens, and agree on a formula for political cooperation/competition underpin the ongoing war.”

Khalilzad said: “Afghans are dying at a high rate, and regional spoilers are using Afghans as cannon fodder for their illegitimate objectives.  Bloodshed must end.

“Afghans need to pivot to development instead of destruction, stability instead of chaos, forgiveness instead of vengeance, compromise instead of inflexibility,” he said.

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Bajwa warns Pakistan and Afghanistan ‘can’t afford chaos’

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Wednesday that Afghanistan and Pakistan could not afford the risk of lawlessness and chaos as such a situation would have catastrophic consequences for both countries.

Speaking during his visit to a hospital in Peshawar to visit victims of Tuesday’s bombing at a madrassa that killed at least seven people, including children, and wounded more than 100, Bajwa said that Afghan refugees in Pakistan should exercise caution about unfavorable elements so that they were not wittingly or unwittingly used in terrorist activities, Dawn News reported. 

He said Pakistan has always wanted peace in Afghanistan and would spare no effort to restore peace and stability in the country.

Bajwa also said Pakistan and Afghanistan had faced terrorism for the past two decades but that peace in both countries was intertwined.

Tuesday’s explosion happened as a prominent religious scholar was giving a special class about the teachings of Islam at the main hall of the Jamia Zubairia madrassa, police confirmed. 

Some Afghan students studying at the seminary were also among the wounded persons, officials said.

 

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