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Kashmir solidarity day 2019

As the Kashmir solidarity day was observed the World over, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that all those who love freedom throughout the world must stand with the people of Kashmir. And President Arif Alvi demanded of Indian government to uphold the rights of the Kashmiri people instead of “justifying its terrorism” against innocent citizens. This year, the day was observed in Pakistan, both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and other parts of the world at a time when Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir have reached a new level of oppression and human rights’ denial to crush the indigenous freedom movement against the subjugating forces. Alongside Kashmiris, government of Pakistan had planned a number of activities to mark the day and expose massive human rights violations and brutality being committed by the Indian forces in the occupied Kashmir. International Conference on Kashmir in the UK Parliament was the hall mark of this year’s solidarity day celebrations. Rehman Chisti, currently, chairperson of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan (APPG-Pakistan), was the main organiser of the Conference. This conference was attended by all political parties from Pakistan and UK. AJK President and more than three dozen Pakistani parliamentarians were in attendance including opposition leaders. Dozens of Kashmiris representative groups also participated in the event.A seminar to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day was organized at the Embassy of Pakistan, Washington DC. The event began with screening of a special video message by President Azad Jammu and Kashmir which emphasized the importance of a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions. Speaking at the occasion, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed Khan urged the international community, specifically the United States, to play its due role in resolving this longstanding dispute. A special documentary portraying the unabated and undeterred resilience of the Kashmiri people was also screened. This year the day was observed in the backdrop of intensified atrocities by Indian occupation forces that are systematically eliminating Kashmiris physically as well as economically as part of India’s campaign of ethnic cleansing; their political rights are also being stampeded. Indian leadership is engaged in all sorts of manipulations aimed at bringing about a demographic change to the disadvantage of Muslim population of Kashmir. Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has effectively exposed the human rights abuses and brutalities by Indian occupation forces against Kashmiris in its report. Constitution of Commission of Inquiry by the UNSG is now overdue; UNSG needs to perform this duty without further delay.

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India’s Republic day

Traditionally Kashmiri people, the World over, commemorate India’s Republic day as Black day. This time the gloom had darker shades. Prime Minister Narendra Mode is all set to stampede the real mandate of the people of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) by holding another sham elections to the fake states assembly. Current situation in IoK is that New Delhi has totally lost the battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim-majority state. First the Governor’s rule was imposed by dismissing a government of which BJP itself was a part, and then moving the IoK under Presidential rule, at least for six months. BJP has announced to field its candidates against all 87 seats. Aim is to have a BJP led government installed in IoK that could support BJP’s ongoing onslaught with regard to Supreme Court hearings on Article 370 and Article 35A of Indian constitution. And have a couple of resolutions passed by the assembly to dilute the peoples’ hype with regard to their right of self-determination.It is high time for United Nations secretary general to take a step forward and appoint a special representative to explore a viable solution to the Kashmir conflict. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his message on the eve of Black Day said Pakistan will continue to raise the plight of oppressed Kashmiri people at every regional and international forum. He stressed the need for implementation of the United Nations Security Council's resolutions on Kashmir dispute. Referring to the Indian gross human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, the Foreign Minister said the Indian forces are bluntly victimizing the Kashmiri people and New Delhi has broken all records of atrocities.

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Afghan peace process back to Doha

Marathon talks between US Special Envoy Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban, in Doha, are concentrating on two questions: continuation of American military bases in Afghanistan, and Taliban guarantees of not letting Afghanistan’s territory be used as launching pad against any third country. Taliban are also ready to undertake that they would not support Al-Qaida and Daesh. Mullah Berader is now leading Taliban’s team. Both sides have acknowledged progress on vital points. For the first time Afghan peace process may be moving in the right direction. During the fifth trip of US Special Envoy Ambassador Zalmay to Pakistan, both sided reiterated their shared intent of an Afghan led and Afghan owned political settlement of Afghan conflict. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the dispute highlights a split that has emerged among countries with an interest in the region, with Pakistan and the US pushing Taliban to open talks with Kabul and other countries, including Iran, supporting the Taliban’s stance; “Iran and Qatar are supporting Taliban’s way but Pakistan is saying what the Afghan government and the US wanted”.Pakistan is not averse to the US’ demands but wants a ‘regional consensus’ on it since permanent presence of the US military in Afghanistan would certainly raise eyebrows in Russia, Iran and even China. These countries fear that the US may use the Afghan soil to advance its own strategic designs in the region. For this reason, Pakistan is striving to evolve a regional consensus on the possible Afghan peace deal. Guarantees and assurances aimed at promoting peace and security of both Afghanistan and other countries are understandable. However, demand for permanent military presence is indicative of the desire not only to keep Afghans subjugated but also to brow-beat other regional countries.

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India’s apartheid strategy towards Muslims

BJP is following a systematic approach to push Indian Muslims against the wall. From symbolic to substantial, countless items are part of strategy tool box. From beef ban to not fielding a single Muslim candidate in state elections of the Uttar Pradesh point towards same objective—to deprive Muslims of their legitimate political, economic and social rights.India's apartheid strategy towards Muslims is now a well thought out corner stone of BJP's overall policy framework towards India minorities. Modi government is also accused of routinely disseminating fake news, demonizing Indian Muslims. Modi is indeed creating a dangerous precedent. Minority rights crisis is getting worse in India; life is upended for those left off Indian citizenship list. Anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiments are being hyped in India for the sake of capitalizing on Hindu vote.

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Afghan peace process in disarray

President Trump is tasting the real power these days. Taliban have the military prowess to attack the places of their liking at the timing of their choosing. In the diplomacy domain, Taliban dictate the venue and agenda. And when they meet Americans, they field Guantanamo hardened Taliban negotiators to stare in the eyes of top American diplomats. Of late, peace talks between Taliban and US officials were cancelled over agenda disagreement. Senior Taliban members based in Afghanistan said “both sides have agreed to not meet.” Three meetings have already taken place between Taliban leaders and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December. Reports last month about US President Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan has triggered uncertainty. However, Afghan peace process is in disarray.Interestingly, as an afterthought, the US has taken a step back from the earlier hype of pulling out 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. An Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) representative has declared that if Taliban insist on not meeting Afghan government delegation, then, HPC won’t participate in Saudi Arabia session of talks. With these firmly grounded irritants and posturing, Afghan peace my not just be around the corner.

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Negotiations can solve the Kashmir Dispute

Kashmir is internationally recognized as a disputed territory whose final status is yet to be determined by the people. This is a matter that urgently needs to be put on a road to find a just and viable solution. A problem which has figured on the active agenda of the United Nations, which has been the subject of fourteen substantive resolutions of the Security Council, on which the United Nations has painstakingly worked out an agreement with both India & Pakistan would not seem to be a problem which deserves to be ignored from the operational sphere of the United Nations. The Secretary General will appreciate that this consideration acquires added force in a situation in which no alternative peace process is in motion. The refusal by India to sit down to the table with Pakistan or those who represent the Kashmiris indicate that India is not even close to addressing the realities of Kashmir and the will of the people. This must change. Sounder minds must prevail. More rational methods of dealing with differences must be sought. Repeating the same mistakes while expecting different results has long ago been found to be the path of failure. Seventy-one years should demonstrate a need for a change in policy, a policy that accepts the need for coming together in a process that accepts the right of all people to determine their own destiny.

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Afghan peace process oscillations

The Trump administration is aiming to strike a deal with the Taliban before the Afghan presidential elections, for which new schedule shall be announced in due course. The Taliban, who control over 60 per cent of the Afghan territory, want the US forces to leave Afghanistan. Representatives of the Taliban, the US and several Asian countries gathered in the UAE on December 17-18. The talks were supposed to last three days, as per earlier official announcements, but neither side explained what prompted them to abruptly end the process. Afghan government officials also travelled to the UAE, but were not invited into the meeting. They met with other delegations and said that efforts to join the discussions continued. Afghan peace process in a a state of perpetual oscillations. Taliban, say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace. Even as the peace process gathers momentum, fighting has continued with heavy casualties on both sides. President Ashraf Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated that Afghan government had not taken part directly in the talks, however a team from Kabul met US and Saudi officials in the UAE. Pakistan Foreign office welcomed a new round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and other international stakeholders: “Along with international community and other stakeholders, Pakistan is committed to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” said FO Spokesperson on Twitter: “Talks are being held in UAE. We hope this will end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region.” Notwithstanding the optimism, Afghan peace may stay elusive unless occupation forces offer concrete concessions including firm timeframe for the departure of last foreign soldier and substantial restructuring of Afghan constitution.

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Afghan peace process: Evolving Scenarios

The Trump administration is aiming to strike a deal with the Taliban before the Afghan presidential elections, for which new schedule shall be announced in due course. The Taliban, who control over 60 per cent of the Afghan territory, want the US forces to leave Afghanistan. Representatives of the Taliban, the US and several Asian countries gathered in the UAE on December 17-18. The talks were supposed to last three days, as per earlier official announcements, but neither side explained what prompted them to abruptly end the process. Afghan government officials also travelled to the UAE, but were not invited into the meeting. They met with other delegations and said that efforts to join the discussions continued. Prime Minister Imran Khan, publicly took credit for facilitating the “peace talks,” and reiterated that his country “will do everything within its power” to further the Afghan peace process. The US spokesperson said a recent letter from President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Imran Khan "emphasized that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US Pakistan partnership.” He added: “We welcome any actions the Pakistani government takes to advance security, stability and cooperation in South Asia, including the fostering of negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government and other Afghans”. Apparently it may appear that Afghan peace process is on fast track.

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Trump’s new found love for Pakistan

Now the US president has adopted a formal, diplomatic way of approaching its frontline partner in the terror war, instead of making use of the crude oratory that he is best at. Trump’s letter indicates that now there is a realization within the US administration that Pakistan’s co-operation is vital to ensuring peace in Afghanistan. Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari demolished Khalilzad for his hawkish approach towards Islamabad by advising him to bring a “less arrogant and hostile mind set” during his visit to Islamabad. She credited Imran Khan for promptly responding to Trump’s Twitter tirade. She claimed that premier’s reply had ‘compelled Trump to do a reality check’. “So much for those in Pakistan who were quivering after Imran Khan’s tweets,” she added.Pakistan has suffered more than 75,000 casualties in the war on terrorism as it had agreed to cooperate with the US in that effort, even though “no Pakistani was involved” in the 9/11 attacks. Instead of “making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures,” the United States should undertake a “serious assessment” of why, after a war involving hundreds of thousands of NATO and Afghan troops and more than $1 trillion in costs, the Taliban today are stronger than ever before. Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, the US decision is welcomed,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” statement added. If current phase of diplomacy between the US and Pakistan is steered well, it could help ease tension between Washington and Islamabad; and bring peace to Afghanistan.

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Geneva Conference on Afghanistan: A cart and horse dilemma

The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, was co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and the UN “to renew their partnership and cooperation for Afghanistan’s peace, prosperity and self-reliance”. Meet was attended by delegations from 61 countries and 35 international organizations, and representatives of civil society, the private sector and the media. The Geneva Conference was a midway review between two pledging conferences: the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (2016) and the next pledging conference expected to be held in 2020. While Afghan leadership was looking for peace in Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, back home there were two back to back raids raids on occupation forces, two on the US and one on the UK assets. Four Americans soldiers were killed, taking the number to 12 during this year; more than 2,200 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 9/11. Since the start of 2015, when Afghan forces assumed lead in combative operations, 58 Americans have been killed, as compared to 30,000 Afghan police and soldiers. At least twelve people were killed after a massive blast outside a British security company’s compound in Kabul on November 28; the attack claimed by Taliban was the latest violence to target the Afghan capital. Blast was a car bomb targeting a compound which houses G4S, a private British security company, in east Kabul. Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh told AFP “10 dead, 19 wounded have been evacuated from site,” he did not mention victims’ nationalities. Attack came just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a team for prospective peace talks with the militant group, as the United Nations (UN) renewed calls for direct negotiations between Kabul and the insurgents. And on November 20, at least 55 people were killed when a bomber blew himself up in the middle of a banquet hall in one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan this year. The violence came as the Taliban intensify pressure on Afghan security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts towards talks. If Khalilzad's effort also fizzles out, then Presidential elections may be put off. Notwithstanding the optimism, Afghan peace may stay elusive unless occupation forces offer concrete concessions including firm timeframe for the departure of last foreign soldier and substantial restructuring of Afghan constitution.

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