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Photo : Dawn

25 August 2020, Tuesday I Vol 1, No.115

An Afghan delegation led by Mullah Baradar visits Pakistan and meet with Mehmood Qureshi



PR Daily Brief | PR Team

On 24 August, a delegation from Afghan Taliban’s Qatar-based political office arrived has arrived for talks in Islamabad on the invitation of the foreign ministry. The delegation is led by Abdul Ghani Baradar will meet with FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi to discuss the Afghan peace process with the Pakistani leadership. This is a second visit of the Taliban’s political delegation to Pakistan; they had previously visited Islamabad in October 2019. (“FM Qureshi to meet Afghan Taliban delegation today,” The Nation, 25 August 2020)

Meeting Agenda
The delegation is to hold talks on issues hampering the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue for ending the 19-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. Further, as stated by Taliban political office spokesman Suhail Shaheen, the visiting delegation would discuss “recent developments in Afghanistan’s peace process, relaxation and facilitation of peoples’ movement and trade between the two neighbouring countries, issues related to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and other related topics.”

Leading the delegation: Mullah Baradar
Mullah Baradar, the director of the political office and Taliban’s deputy emir responsible for political affairs. Baradar is said to have spent nearly eight years in the custody of Pakistani security agencies before he was set free in 2018 on the US request for facilitating the Afghan peace process.
Further, the delegations from Taliban’s political office seeks to visit other countries as well with the aim of “furthering positive relations” and “conveying views and stance to the world about the peace process.” (“Talks with visiting Taliban team today,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Statement from the Foreign Minister of Pakistan
FM Qureshi stated that that negotiation was “the only way forward” in Afghanistan saying, “The majority of Afghans believe the only way forward is through reconciliation, but the decision to reconcile has to be taken by Afghans themselves,”. Further stating, “This is for Afghans to reconcile, and our task is that of the facilitator,” adding “The main objective is to secure peace and the next phase should be the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue.” (“Foreign minister Qureshi to meet Afghan Taliban delegation today,” The News International, 25 August 2020)

What does this meeting imply? Messages from the media
From an editorial in the Nation argues that the meeting between the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan here at home will hopefully help in the efforts to find more common ground. However, the editorial further states that the situation remains stagnant as on hand the US and other countries pointing fingers at the state, with accusation labelling the country of being “safe havens.” On the other hand, Pakistan’s efforts to control any form of militant activity on its soil through border fencing is criticized as unjust adding that this perception must change. Further, the editorial notes that this meeting goes to show Pakistan’s willingness to end the conflict in our neighbouring country as soon as possible. (“Negotiations Continue,” The Nation, 25 August 2020)

However, for Afghanistan, reaching peace is doing to be a daunting task, with talks commencing the peace process is expected to belong and tough with little guarantee of a successful conclusion if the parties stick to their well-known positions. (Maleeha Lodhi, “Daunting path to Afghan peace,” Dawn, 24 August 2020)

Developments in Afghanistan
The Kabul government and the Taliban are deadlocked over the outstanding prisoner releases, with the former insisting that the Taliban release the 22 Afghan commandos who they hold captive while the Taliban demand the release of a final 320 Taliban prisoners held in Afghan jails. The release of the remaining prisoners was approved by a Loya Jirga, called by President Ashraf Ghani earlier this month. The council approved the immediate release of the prisoners, however, later the government announced the Taliban were still holding Afghan soldiers and thus halted the process. Further, Abdullah Abdullah has gone on to call for the completion of the prisoner exchange and for the immediate commencement of the intra-Afghan talks to put an end to the agony of a nation. How Pakistan could break this tension remains to be a question. 
 

 
(Image Source: Dawn)

Riyadh never ceased oil supply or demanded loan repayment, claims Qureshi
On 25 August, The News International’s Top Story was Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement in which he categorically denied tensions between Islamabad and Riyadh, while accusing the media of conjuring such speculations. The FM said “Saudi Arabia has neither asked Islamabad to return its loan nor has it suspended oil supply to Pakistan. The Kingdom has not changed its stance on Kashmir and we are on the same page as far as recognition of Israel is concerned”. Reporting to a journalist’s question regarding Riyadh demanding a loan repayment of $1 billion, Qureshi said "Your question is based on an assumption. These are speculations. No decision like that was taken." Regarding Saudi Arabia’s stance on Kashmir he said, “There is no ambiguity but absolute clarity. I am telling you this clearly, there is no change in Saudi Arabia’s stance on Kashmir. And OIC’s stance is before you; now we have to decide how we will take this forward”. (“Saudis neither stopped oil supply nor asked to return loans: Shah Mehmood Qureshi,”The News International, 25 August 2020) The FM rejected any breakdown in Pak-Saudi relations saying the ties were “people-centric” and “long-standing”. He also pointed out the commonality of the positions of Islamabad and Riyadh on the Kashmir and Palestine disputes respectively. (“FM rejects impression of rift in Pak-Saudi relations,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Context: The FM’s statement earlier
Saudi Arabia was displeased by FM Qureshi’s unusually sharp remarks to the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Countries. Qureshi warned OIC against procrastinating the Pakistan-requested OIC’s Foreign Ministers’ meeting (CFM) on Jammu and Kashmir. Qureshi reminded Riyadh of how Pakistan had skipped the Kuala-Lumpur summit led by Turkey and Malaysia on Saudi’s request. Qureshi said he fully understood his statement’s implications and added that he was “taking a position despite our (Pakistan’s) good ties with Saudi Arabia”. Islamabad has been pushing for the OIC CFM meeting on Kashmir since Indian government’s revocation of Article 370 on 5 August 2019. (“Qureshi asks OIC to stop dragging feet on Kashmir meeting,” Dawn, 6 August 2020) Following the diplomatic spat, Saudi Arabia froze the oil supply and credit facility to Pakistan. Further, on 10 August, the kingdom demanded a $1billion repayment of the $6.2billion package provided to Pakistan. Islamabad returned the amount by utilizing the $1billion from China’s deposits in the State Bank of Pakistan. Islamabad called the repayment an economic favour to the kingdom during the difficult times of the pandemic. ("Pakistan returns $1 bn to Riyadh", The News International, 8 August 2020)

COAS’ Saudi Visit
Following the diplomatic spat, on 16 August, the COAS and ISI chief commenced their Saudi visit. On 17 August, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister for Defence Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed “matters of mutual interest including bilateral defence and security cooperation and regional security”. Following the meeting, Saudi’s Prince Khalid bin Salman, full younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tweeted, “Met today with my brother, H.E. General Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff. We discussed bilateral relations, military cooperation, and our common vision for preserving regional security.” ("Bajwa meets military leaders in Saudi Arabia," Dawn, 13 August 2020) Significantly, the COAS and ISI chief were unable to secure a meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salmaan.

Qureshi’s bravado lures Domestic Criticism
National Assembly Opposition leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif had strongly criticised the FM’s statements against Saudi and OIC by calling them "highly unfortunate and (an) irresponsible" diplomatic folly. Sharif tweeted "It flies in the face of history and Pakistan's trusted relationship with the Kingdom" and warned that PTI’s "cavalier" attitude would undermine Pakistan's core relations with friendly nations. ("Shahbaz assails Qureshi's remarks about Saudi Arabia," Dawn, 8 August 2020)

While Pakistani media houses echoed Pakistan's ruling elite’s frustration over the Kashmir issue, they were critical of the FM’s statements that irked Saudi Arabia and lamented frictions caused between the traditional allies due to Qureshi's remarks. They highlighted potential fallouts of a bilateral rift pronouncing the regional, political and financial dangers it would pose to Pakistan. For instance, an editorial in Dawn disapproved his blunt criticism and the Foreign Office's statement regarding clarity of Pakistan’s foreign policy goals. It acknowledged the swelling frustration among Pakistan's ruling elite and the geostrategic blocs in the Muslim world, but pointed out that no former government has been this critical of Saudi Arabia. Another editorial in The Express Tribune said: "While we have all the right to give precedence to our own national and diplomatic interests, nothing should annoy a friend like Saudi Arabia with which our bilateral ties spans our entire existence as a nation. We are sure the incumbent government realizes the importance of Pakistan's strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and knows how to proceed ahead." An opinion article by Umar Waqar and Adeela Naureen highlighted the importance of Pakistan's position in the OIC in the spirit of Islamic brotherhood and fraternity, with Saudi as the OIC's "Fountainhead". They reminded Pakistan of the historical and traditional nature of the bilateral relationship since Pakistan's birth in 1947; said Saudi's and Pakistan's constitutions were based on the Quran and Sunnah; and spoke of how the Kashmir problem has been a cornerstone of Pak-Saudi ties. ("Saudi-Pak relations are unique," The Nation, 12 August 2020)

 
 (Image Source: The News)

“Chinese business houses should establish their regional offices in Pakistan,” says PM Imran Khan 
On 24 August, PM Imran Khan asked Chinese entrepreneurs to establish their regional offices in Pakistan while emphasising the need for more cooperation between China and Pakistan in all fields, reiterating “Strengthening of business-to-business ties of the people of the two countries is a foremost priority.” This statement was made at a meeting which was chaired by PM Imran Khan with a delegation of 10 leading Chinese companies undertaking business ventures in critical sectors, including energy, communication, agriculture, science and technology, financial sector and industry. (“Imran asks Chinese entrepreneurs to establish offices in Pakistan,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Representing China
Along with the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Mr Yao Jing, the delegation comprised representatives of Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China), China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), China Gezhouba (Group) Pakistan, China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Company Ltd, China Railway Group Limited, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Machinery Engineering Corporation and China Mobile Pakistan Limited. The delegation while expressing their gratitude stated their satisfaction over business-friendly policies of the present government, especially in improving the ease of doing business.

Quotable
Chinese ambassador stated, “Various reforms introduced at policy and implementation level have enhanced confidence of the Chinese business community and Pakistan is being looked as a major partner in development in the post Covid-19 environment.”

A common interest for Beijing and Islamabad to cooperate
An editorial in the Dawn while emphasising on the strengthening ties between the long-time allies’ states that Islamabad is following a strategy which aims to strengthen its ties with the dependable Chinese capital as well as exploring new reliable partners for joint ventures in the international community. Further, noting that the Pakistan-China relationship is a central pillar on which this policy is based. (“FM’s China visit,” Dawn, 23 August 2020)
 


In Brief
INTERNAL
Banning armed groups
An editorial in the Dawn on 25 August has presented a disturbing picture on the presence of banned groups in Pakistan. With the inclusion of a new outfit called Khatam-ul-Ambia, the total number of such organisations has reached 77. According to sources in the government, the new outfit is an offshoot of Ansarul Hussain, a Shia set-up formed to fight against the Islamic State group. Ansarul Hussain was earlier listed in 2016. The editorial opines that the state’s failure to dismantle the structure has led to the increase in the number of banned groups despite banning a large number of them or keeping them under surveillance. It has also mentioned about the emergence of this set-up during the tenure of military dictator Gen Zia ul Haq when Pakistan was an important partner to the US and Saudi Arabia in tackling the Societ Union’s activities in Afghanistan.

However, the period also saw tensions between ethnic groups reaching heights as groups like Sipah-i-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Mohammad were established. This led to sectarian violence. The list also features banned Baloch and Sindhi armed groups. The editorial puts forth a narrative that Gen Pervez Musharraf had shut down the activities of many organisations in the post-9/11 scenario but failed to completely uproot them. Thus, they remain active even as they change names. It has suggested that strict measures have to be taken like convicting terror leaders, freezing bank accounts and denying the source of funding by seizing assets. (“Banning groups,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Troops visited by General Bajwa at Pakistan-Afghanistan border
Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited troops in the Dawatoi sector of North Waziristan tribal district at the Pakistan-Afghan border. There have been consolidation operations along the border to ensure effective area domination of some inaccessible pockets which have been used by terrorist groups as hideouts. Around 90 explosives were found in the operations and efforts have been taken to lay fences and strengthen illegal crossing at the border. Gen Bajwa was briefed on complementing border security/management measures. He had appreciated the operational performance of the forces and high state of morale and lauded the cooperation of the local populace in fighting terrorism. He said “We have to remain vigilant and steadfast to thwart hostile attempts to create chaos and reverse the gains of Operation Raddul Fasaad.” (“Bajwa visits troops at Pakistan-Afghan border,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Shahbaz Sharif criticizes Imran Khan’s government
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and his party leaders issued a white paper on the two-year performance of Imran Khan’s government describing it as part of an international conspiracy to dismantle the country’s institutions. In a press conference, Mr Sharif had stated that his party was against the recognition of Israel until the Palestinians got their rights back. The report titled, “Destruction of National Power: two-year performance of PTI government” had also covered the alleged wrongdoings and described the PTI leaders as corrupt and incompetent.

The opposition leader added that he would get in touch with Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari regarding a multiparty conference. Mr Sharif raised the issues of inflation and ‘false propaganda’. Former foreign minister Khwaja Asif said that the PTI government’s foreign policy was a big failure as it could not respond to India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir as well as failing to maintain a balance in the Muslim world. He said “Pakistan has been left alone in the world. There is no response from Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) over our call, whereas if they improved relations with Iran and Afghanistan the western border would have been secure.” Ex-Prime Minister Abbasi criticized the government for raising the power tariffs by 30 per cent. (Kalbe Ali, “Shahbaz blasts PTI govt performance,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Two more FATF-related bills passed by National Assembly; Heated debate between members
The PTI government managed to get two more bills passed from the National Assembly, including the Amti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill. The other bills passed by the assembly were Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Waqf Properties Bill, Companies (Amendment) and the Limited Liability Partnership Bill. Many opposition members skipped the proceedings and attended a news conference. Speaker Asad Qaiser allowed the Opposition members only to speak on the bills at the time of moving the amendments which were rejected by the government. A major objection was the inclusion of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the anti-money laundering bill. In the debate, the opposition was led by Khwaja Asif and Shah Khaqan Abbasi while the government had Law Minister Farogh Naseem and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar. (Amir Wasim, “NA passes two more FATF-related bills,” Dawn, 25 August 2020)

Quoting some case of money laundering, Mr Akbar said that billions of rupees were found in the accounts of Mushtaq Cheeniwala and Manzoor TT. Earlier, the former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf questioned as to why the black law was passed as it violated human rights as he claimed that the authority has been given to investigation agencies to arrest without a warrant being issued. Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said the government would not compromise on the legislation which involved the national security. (Muhammad Anis and Mumtaz Alvi, “NA, Senate pass many bills rejecting opposition amendments,” The News International, 25 August 2020) 

ON CPEC
China, aids to build an underground museum at Bhasha Dam, to preserve cultural relics
According to the analysis, during a meeting between the National Heritage and Culture Division Secretary Nausheen Javaid Amjad and Chinese Cultural Counselor Zhang Heqing in Islamabad, it was disclosed that China will aid in building an underground museum at Bhasha Dam to preserve cultural relics discovered.
Zhang Heqing said Beijing is willing to cooperate with Islamabad to conduct workshops on the subject. She also said, Chinese people are fond of the Gandhara civilization and mentioned about the exhibit of 19 antiquities in China. On the other hand, Nausheen Javaid Amjad said, this year is a mark of 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan and both sides have agreed to organize cultural events. (“China to help build museum at Bhasha dam”, The Express Tribune, 25 August 2020)

CPEC to boost Pakistan economy, says an analysis
As per the analysis, the Pakistan economy is estimated to fall into recession in the 2020 fiscal year, with a negative growth rate of over 4 per cent due to COVID-19. Despite pandemic, CPEC cooperation has proven to enhance, it's all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with China. It also states, that the Chinese Consulate General in Lahore, along with the Punjab government and the people, will continue facilitating for projects including the Industrial City. These projects give an all-round impetus to people’s livelihood and agriculture cooperation.

Recently, Pakistan’s Railway ML-I Refurbishment and Expansion Project was approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) as well as The Karakoram Highway (KKH) Project Phase II was opened. The analysis also highlights the concern and support by the Punjab government in enabling Chinese companies with full confidence in investment and development. (“CPEC; a boost for economic recovery”, The Nation, 25 August 2020)

Pakistan's World View
The US reimposes sanction Iran including an arms embargo
According to the analysis,  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo triggered a new 30-day countdown, to impose sanctions on Iran in which many UNSC member nations disagreed including the UK, France, Germany and Belgium alongside China, Russia, Vietnam, and 17 others. It also stated that President Trump may not succeed with any success, but his actions have further heightened tensions in the Middle East and in between Tehran and Washington.

In 2015, the security council resolution stated, no council member has proposed a draft resolution to extend sanctions relief on Iran, within 10 days of non-compliance complaint then the body’s president will do so within the remaining 20 days. The views of the states involved would be taken into consideration before any decision on sanctions. (“US sanctions and Iran”, The News International, 25 August 2020)

Saleem Safi says Islamabad needs friends not foe in this critical time 
The analysis looked in two major challenges faced by Pakistan, first, over Kashmir issue, where the world is not listening to Pakistan and second, the economic crisis in Pakistan. Its further states, “Islamabad is in a need of friends not foes” and the country should consider its own challenges saying, “it is not a wise stance by Pakistan’s religious parties, to be angry with the UAE, for its independent decision. (“Israel, Pakistan and the Muslim World”, The News International, 25 August 2020)

New twist in the Middle East
An opinion put forth by Dr Naazir Mahmood in The News International highlights the challenges of a deal between UAE and Israel for countries like Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. The author has been critical of the possible motives behind the deal. He has highlighted that unlike Iran which has opposed any decision to compromise with Israel, Pakistan faces hurdles from these dynamics. After mentioning the outcome of the deal, the author states that Iran perceives it to be an alliance formation aimed at it. He also brings out the angle of US presidential elections where President Donald Trump is finding ways to secure the support of the Jewish lobby in the country to swing the results in his favour. Mr Mahmood mentions the three reasons where first, Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA has made Saudi Arabia and UAE happy. Second reason is related to the dependence of the royal families of Saudi Arabia and the third reason is that the two Arab countries want to gain financial and military benefits from Israel. The author has criticised Turkey’s remarks on UAE’s stance as “betrayal” as the former has formal diplomatic ties with Israel. (Dr Naazir Mahmood, “New turn in the Middle East”, The News International, 25 August 2020)

 


"Chinese business houses should establish their regional offices in Pakistan...Strengthening of business-to-business ties of the people of the two countries is a foremost priority"

-  Imran Khan

 

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Disregard for SOPs peaks Covid-19 cases

14 May 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No 14

Violence in Afghanistan and the Media in Pakistan

12 May 2020, Tuesday, Vol 1, No 12

Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities

9 May 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No 9

Record COVID-19 spike in a single day;

6 April 2020, Monday

Punjab: Surge in Covid-19 cases

2 April 2020, Thursday

Centre extends lockdown to 14th April

25 March 2020, Sunday 

Multiparty conference blames Imran Khan

24 March 2020, Tuesday 

Curfew last option: Imran Khan

21 March 2020, Saturday

Pakistan fights CoronaVirus

5 March 2020, Thursday

26.5 per cent drop in trade deficit

27 January 2020, Monday 

PTI's Punjab problem

27 January 2020, Monday 

For the PTI, all is not well inside Punjab

25 January 2020, Saturday

Pakistan successfully tests Ghaznavi 

16 January 2020, Thursday

PTI's coalition conundrum enlarges

25 November 2019, Wednesday

Terrorism declines in Balochistan during 2019

07 November 2019, Thursday

Azadi march and sit-in

04 November 2019, Monday

Pakistan rejects India's new J&K map

29 October 2019, Tuesday 

Karachi signs a MoU with Qingdao