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Pakistan won’t support any attempt by Taliban to recapture power: ISPR general

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

Pakistan’s Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar said Wednesday that Pakistan has done what it can to promote peace efforts in Afghanistan and that Islamabad will not support the Taliban in any attempt to “recapture Kabul”.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Iftikhar said: “Even Afghan leaders are admitting that Pakistan has done utmost for peace in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan’s The News International quoted him as saying that it is for the citizens and the government of Afghanistan to determine the future of their country, and how the negotiating process would progress.

“We only aim for a long-lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

On a question on NATO forces’ likely drawdown and a possible return of the Taliban, he said: “Afghanistan now is not what it was in ’90s and the state infrastructure cannot be trounced easily, and Pakistan also has changed.

“It’s impossible for the Taliban to recapture Kabul and that Pakistan would support them. It isn’t going to happen,” he said.

The News reported that he maintained the policy of the Pakistan government to extend a hand of peace to the neighbours was very clear.

This comes just days after Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov visited Islamabad to encourage Pakistan’s support for a meeting in Moscow to help facilitate the stalled Afghan peace process.

Kabulov told Russian news agency Sputnik that his “leadership has set the task of finding ways that will facilitate the start of inter-Afghan negotiations through consultations within the framework of the enlarged troika. We agreed on such a meeting with the American special envoy [Zalmay] Khalilzad. It can happen in Moscow.”

The “enlarged troika” was in reference to what Kabulov said was a group that evolved over the last two years, including countries with the most influence on the Afghan peace processes – the United States, China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

VOA reported that the Moscow format was a Russian initiative to organize regional stakeholders involved in the Afghan peace process. Its second meeting in 2018 brought the Taliban to an international forum for the first time. The U.S. sent representatives to observe.

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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Afghan swimmer makes waves in World Para Series in Texas

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi won a silver medal at the World Para Swimming Series tournament in Texas on Friday evening in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 category.

Posting the news on his Facebook page, Karimi said: “I won this medal for 80 million refugees in the world.”

The Afghan-born swimmer is competing as part of his bid to get into the Refugee Para Athletes Team for the Tokyo Olympics.

He made history at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City when he became the first refugee to win a medal at a major Para-swimming event. In 2018 he also won gold at the World Series in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, Karimi said about his latest win: “This medal is cool but I want Paralympic medals [from Tokyo].”

More than 100 swimmers have come together in Louisville, Texas for this year’s major swimming contest.

Karimi has so far secured first place in 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly heats in his category, and second place in the 200m freestyle heat.

Karimi is also expected to take part in the 50m backstroke event in his category on Sunday.

“Thank you so much, everyone, who’s been supporting and praying for me,” Karimi wrote.

Should Karimi make it to the Tokyo Paralympics, he will be the first Afghan to do so.

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EU envoy urges Taliban to attend Istanbul peace conference

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt has called on the Taliban to engage in serious negotiations with the Afghan government.

Addressing the inauguration of the “Afghanistan Free Speech Hub” by a group of Afghan journalists and media officials in Kabul, Von Brandt said that the Taliban should not miss opportunities for maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

“As we entered in the holy month of Ramadan I still hope that the Taliban will not miss this opportunity offered to them in Istanbul,” he said.

“There is actually no time to waste,” Von Brandt stressed.

“If the Taliban want to be part of a government in Afghanistan, benefit from our development assistance from our trade, from our humanitarian aid, from the international exposure they better start seriously negotiating,” the EU diplomat said.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday announced that a full withdrawal of troops would start from May 1 and end by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

EU Ambassador stated that the organization would continue its mission in Afghanistan beyond foreign troop withdrawal.

“Let one thing be clear the EU delegation will continue to be here and continue to do its work,” Von Brandt said.

He, meanwhile, called on the warring parties to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“Understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed,” Von Brandt said.

“It is an example…how the blood on the battlefield can be exchanged for patience at the negotiating table, how horrific conflicts and wars can be ended through joint institutions.”

“But all these needs of course compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions,” he added.

He emphasized that if war continues or intensifies “everybody will lose terribly”.

“Of course we are strong supporters to an inclusive peace process that reflects the concerns of the people of Afghanistan that includes women, war victims, civil society, and of course all groups of the population,” he said.

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