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Pakistan FM and Taliban discuss status of peace process 

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: August 26, 2020)

A Taliban delegation from their political office in Qatar, led by Mullah Abdul Baradar, met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday to discuss the status of the Afghan peace process. 

In a statement issued by Qureshi’s office, the foreign ministry said views were exchanged on the current situation and discussions were held on the way forward, 

According to the statement, Qureshi emphasized that “there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a political settlement was the only way forward.”

The “Foreign Minister underlined that this historic opportunity must be seized by the Afghan stakeholders to secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive negotiated political solution,” read the statement.

Qureshi also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan and emphasized the need for the implementation of the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February so as to pave the way for the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations. 

“The Foreign Minister also cautioned against ‘spoilers’ who did not wish to see return of peace in the region,” the statement read. 

In addition to discussions around peace, Qureshi also highlighted the importance of Pakistan-Afghanistan ties based on amity, shared history and geography and reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. 

He urged the international community to enhance its engagement for reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan. 

The Foreign Minister also underscored the need for creating economic opportunities and an environment conducive for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honor.

Baradar in turn affirmed support for efforts for peace, security and development in Afghanistan, the statement read. 

A Taliban Political Commission delegation led by Baradar had also visited Pakistan in October 2019 for consultations on the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

This visit comes just days after Pakistan imposed sanctions on individuals and “terrorist associated groups”, including Baradar, in keeping with the United Nations Security Council resolutions in order to avoid being demoted from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list.

Included in the measures taken, which would theoretically directly affect Baradar, Pakistan imposed a travel ban on 88 individuals and seized bank accounts and assets belonging to terrorists in the country. 

In a statement last week, the Foreign Ministry said: “The sanctions are being implemented by Pakistan in compliance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and we hope that other countries will also follow suit.” 

This notification comes ahead of the crucial FATF meeting in October which will see the force assess Pakistan’s progress in fighting crimes such as money laundering and terror financing. 

Pakistan has long been accused of sheltering and supporting Taliban leaders but Islamabad has continued to deny the charges.

Pakistan meanwhile has been on FATF’s grey list since June 2018 and was given a final warning in February.

 

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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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