Friday, June 16, 2017
Published on Jun 8, 2017
A White House official has confirmed that the US will deploy an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. The move follows concerns from top commanders that the Afghan army is being pushed back by a resurgent Taliban.
The Pentagon is getting ready to send some 4,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official confirmed on Thursday.
The latest wave of US troops will mainly be deployed to train and advise Afghan forces, following warnings by top US commanders in the region that the local military was facing a resurgent Taliban and a rising threat posed by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group.
According to the White House official, who spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, a smaller number of US troops would also be assigned to counterterrorism operations in the region.
The Pentagon is expected to announce the decision next week.
The rise in troop numbers follows US President Donald Trump's decision on Tuesday to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan. The move mirrored an earlier decision by the president to hand over similar powers to Mattis concerning the number of troops involved in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
Mattis has repeatedly stressed that increasing troop numbers is vital for the stabilization of Afghanistan. However, he has ruled out ever returning troop levels to what they were in 2010, when more than 100,000 soldiers were deployed in the besieged country.
At least 4 dead in Kabul mosque attack
The rising threat of terror in the regionwas seen earlier on Thursday when a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing four people and wounding at least eight others.
Among the dead was the leader of Afghanistan's ethnic Hazaras, Hajji Ramazan Hussainzada. IS, which has frequently targeted Kabul's Shiite minority, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency.
Kabul is already on edge following a wave of recent deadly attacks. A massive truck bomb explosion in the capital's diplomatic quarter on May 31 killed more than 150 people, making it the worst attack in its 16-year war.
Cherry picking will neither improve internal security, nor remove neighbors’ suspicions.
This year two of the three drone strikes by the US army were aimed at Afghan Taliban commanders living in Pakistan. The strike on Tuesday which was the latest in the series killed a senior commander belonging to Haqqani network. The presence of foreign terrorists in Pakistan is used by Afghanistan and the US to maintain that despite repeated denials Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network continue to operate from sanctuaries inside Pakistan. This is reflected in Foreign Secretary James Mattis’ testimony before a Congressional panel where the former general underlined a regional approach while formulating an Afghan policy. He particularly stressed the need to recognise “that problems that come out of ungoverned spaces, like that as we experienced on 9/11 … do not stay there. They can come home to roost here.
The IS poses a threat to the world at large including US, Russia and China. Despite some of the most horrendous terrorist attacks in Pakistan having been orchestrated and owned by the IS, the government continues to be in a state of denial about the existence of the network. This year the group launched attack at Sehwan killing about 90 and targeted Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri killing at least 27. It has now executed two Chinese nationals kidnapped from Quetta.
While Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasad have brought down the incidence of terrorism, the terrorists still constitute a serious threat to national security. Terrorist sanctuaries are not only to be eradicated but also widely recognised to have been genuinely eliminated. Unless the widespread perception of cherry picking is removed, doubts and suspicions will continue to persist between Pakistan, its neighbours and allies. Nawaz Sharif and Ashraf Ghani have agreed to revive at the quadrilateral process at their meeting on the side-lines of SCO. China has reportedly volunteered to remove the differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The future of these moves depends on firm and across the board action against all terrorist networks in Pakistan.
The province of Sindh has become the hub of the banned extremist outfit, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ).
As on previous occasions, the organisation was found to be operating under the guise of other bodies. The federal government has already expressed its concerns to the home ministry of Sindh; this time around it is the Sunni Raabta Committee that is overseeing the activities and providing a platform to expand the network and its agendas. This is not the first time that the outfit has used this tactic and it is certainly not the case that the authorities are unaware of it; this leave a huge question mark on their loyalty to the state and its security.
The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has formally written a letter to the Sindh Home Department to inform them of their concerns regarding the growing influence of the outfit in the region.
While it is the responsibility of the provincial government to resolve such matters, a case like that of ASWJ cannot be resolved unless and until the government in its entirety takes action against them and gets rid of the apologists within. And Sindh is not the only province – Punjab also has extremist problems of its own. Noted terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed have their pictures in posh localities of the provincial capital, asking the public for charity. With these organisations operating under other names, it is clear that we offer them protection and a way out despite their activities, which is what helps them thrive.
If dangerous groups such as ASWJ and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are allowed to run charitable organisations, operate twitter handles and conduct all the activities of other, legal organisations, should the presence of ASWJ in Sindh surprise us in the slightest?
It is a shame that men such as Molana Manzoor Solangi, the provincial president of ASWJ, Hafiz Muhammad Riaz, Ashraf Memon, and IIyas Farooqi – organisers – are all operating freely in the province. They are administrators of several seminaries – some on state land – where several Sindhi and Balochi students are getting education. This means that they have influence in the areas and can corrupt the minds of young individuals at their disposal. At the same time, they are also actively involved in local politics. People like Maulana Ludhianvi have no restriction on contesting in the elections.
This is a huge failure of the National Action Plan (NAP), and a sign of our misplaced priorities.
But what should one expect when there are people in government and the bureaucracy who want to bring these terrorists into mainstream politics and refuse to accept the danger of housing these outfits.
The family of an underage Hindu girl from Tharparkar has claimed that she was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man. The girl and her husband, however, have filed a petition in Sindh High Court seeking protection and declaring the conversion and marriage consensual.
Ravita Meghwadh, a teenager, reportedly converted to Islam on June 6 and changed her name to Gulnaz. On the same day, she married Syed Nawaz Ali Shah at the marriage registrar’s office in union council Samaro in Umerkot, according to Shah and his family.
However, Ravita’s family denies this and has accused Shah of kidnapping her.
“She was abducted from her house and forcibly married to a man twice her age,” said her father Satram alias Satio Meghwadh who lodged the FIR of the kidnapping at Nano Dandal police station in Nangarparkar, Tharparkar four days ago.
Ravita’s brother-in-law, Lajpat Meghwadh, who married her elder sister on April 29 this year said:“My wife is barely 18 years old. How can her younger sister be an adult?” Interestingly, the marriage registrar has mentioned Shah’s year of birth as 1980, and national identity card number on the marriage certificate, but Ravita’s age has been written as “approximately 18” and her NIC number not mentioned. Similarly, the certificate of conversion to Islam also does not mention her date of birth and NIC number, listing her age as “approximately 18.”
Lajpat alleged that Ravita was kidnapped to force the Meghwadh family to leave the village.
“Our family has just four houses in the village. Some men from Syed and Junejo communities, who dominate the village population, kidnapped her and asked us to leave the village through some intermediaries,” he claimed. Lajpat further said that Ravita didn’t use a cell phone and that she had remained restricted to the house after completing her primary education. “Unlike other women, she never left home to fetch water from the well or worked as a maid in anyone’s home,” he said. Shah could not be reached for his version. However, he and his wife told the local media in Kunri, Umerkot that they married of their free will and accused the Meghwadh family of issuing threats to Shah and his family.
Advocate Bhagwandas told The Express Tribune that the Meghwadh family is also filing a petition in Sindh High Court against the marriage. He said the marriage was solemnised in violation of Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013, which was passed by Sindh Assembly in April 2014. The law restricts the registration of marriages of people below 18 years of age. An offence under this act is cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable with a punishment of up to three years in jail for the groom, person solemnising such marriage and even the family of the man and woman tying the knot.
According to the local police station’s SHO Qurban Rajpar, the police are not arresting people nominated in the FIR because of the SHC’s notice.
By STEPHEN J. HADLEY and MOEED YUSUFJUNE
After more than $30 billion in assistance to Pakistan since 2002, it is understandable that critics of the current United States policy toward Pakistan advocate a more coercive approach: slapping further conditions on assistance, imposing sanctions or listing Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The trouble is that such “sticks” are unlikely to change Pakistan’s behavior, because its existential concerns are tied to broader regional priorities. To get Pakistan to alter its approach in Afghanistan, the United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties.
The Pakistani military, in particular, is moved foremost by their country’s rivalry with India. They have always feared a scenario in which Afghanistan offers India a second base from which to squeeze Pakistan. Leaders in Islamabad also worry that India’s support may embolden their counterparts in Kabul to forcefully challenge the validity of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and reassert Afghan claims on Pakistani territory.
While most of India’s aid to Afghanistan has been economic, India has stepped up security assistance in recent years, including military equipment, to bolster the Afghan security forces against the Taliban. Other Indian efforts, like financing for Iran’s Chabahar port that allows landlocked Afghanistan to bypass Pakistan, have further stoked Pakistani concerns.
Though many in the United States and India believe Pakistan is being paranoid, the fact remains that Pakistan is convinced it is under threat. The Pakistani security establishment sees the Taliban as a check on Indian activity in Afghanistan and has doubled down on its efforts to counter deepening Afghan-India ties.
Yet Pakistan’s goal is not continued chaos in Afghanistan. Nor does it wish for a Taliban victory, as this would strengthen their militant kin in Pakistan. What Pakistan wants is a reconciliation process that ushers the Taliban back into the political fold in Afghanistan, without allowing the militants to control the country once again. The Taliban would counterbalance Indian influence in Afghanistan, and an inclusive political settlement would prevent their radical ideology from taking hold or spilling across the border. United States policies toward Pakistan have long underestimated the centrality of this regional dynamic in defining Pakistani choices. An approach that links efforts to enlist Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan to a strategy aimed at improving India-Pakistan ties could change this.
Better India-Pakistan relations are necessary to reduce Pakistan’s apprehensions in Afghanistan. They also serve other long-term American interests: eliminating terrorist threats from the region, reducing the risk of nuclear war and supporting a greater global role for India.
To achieve this, the United States should facilitate an India-Pakistan dialogue on the full range of economic and political issues, including their mutual concerns in Afghanistan, without trying to stage-manage the results. The United States’ playing this role should be contingent on Pakistan preventing cross-border terrorist attacks in India. President George W. Bush encouraged such a comprehensive dialogue after a dangerous nuclear standoff in 2002. Within three years, India-Pakistan relations had made unprecedented progress. Terrorist movement from Pakistan across the border dropped dramatically, and India and Pakistan got extremely close to signing a deal on Kashmir. The budding rapprochement was cut short in part by an internal political clash within Pakistan.
The United States must also get serious about a political settlement in Afghanistan that involves all elements of Afghan society, including the Taliban. An opportunity to start this process has been created by last week’s agreement between President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan to resurrect the stalled Quadrilateral Coordination Group (the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China). The United States should back this effort as a means of getting the Taliban to the reconciliation table. Other regional consultative forums like the Kabul Process, started by Mr. Ghani recently, will remain useful in keeping a larger set of important countries engaged.
Without reduction in Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan, the Afghan government will be unable to rally its people behind negotiations. So in exchange for getting a say in reconciliation through the Quadrilateral forum, Pakistan must take verifiable steps to curtail the financing and arming of the Taliban, target those Taliban elements that oppose talks, and give those willing to negotiate with the Afghan government the freedom to do so. The United States also should work closely with China to encourage Pakistan. China has committed over $60 billion in investment in Pakistan and risks losing it if the region remains unstable.
Our recent conversations with senior Pakistani officials suggest that a window of opportunity exists. Pakistani officials recognize that the Trump administration will have little patience with them if it senses their continued double-dealing on Afghanistan. At the same time, they will not move if they see this as ignoring Pakistan’s own security needs.
This new, more strategic approach would give Pakistan the incentives it needs to work with the United States on common priorities across the region. And it does so without eliminating any United States options should Pakistan still fail to see the benefits for its own future.
Pakistan Peoples party is the only ideological party of the country which is following philosophy of its founder Saheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said this while speaking at the Iftar gathering of PPP Rawalpindi division. He said that workers of PPP and followers of Bhuttos are his strength. He said that people deserted PPP before as well but they became non-entity in no time. PPP workers should not worry about them leaving the party, he said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the elements that were against his grandfather and mother cannot be with him or his father Asif Ali Zardari. He said that PPP has always worked for the have-nots and downtrodden masses and vowed to remain loyal to those poorest of the poor. He asked workers to become his ambassador and keep in contact with the people.