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Pakistani actors threatened, Indian Film Festival called off in Sydney

Festival director Vikas Paul says, "I have received threats from vested interest groups and was worried about the security of my celebrity guests, myself, sponsors and my team so we have decided to defer it”.

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Pakistani actors threatened over participation in IFF, Sydney; Source- Wikimedia Commons
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Sydney, May 7, 2017: Indian film Festival which was supposed to take place in Sydney, Australia has been canceled after the objections over the participation of Pakistani actors by the Indian community in the country.

Indians have been opposing Pakistani actors in India as a result of which many Pakistani actors had to leave the country for a certain period of time.  Now, actors have also been threatened in Sydney.

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The festival is being treated as anti-Indian on the social media. Festival director Vikas Paul says, “I have received threats from vested interest groups and was worried about the security of my celebrity guests, myself, sponsors and my team so we have decided to defer it”. Paul emailed his statement  “We were to also see some artists from Indian Sub-Continent, who were to perform and attend the event, to promote harmony and peace among two countries. But fundamentalist groups here [in Australia] turned it into a political agenda.”

This opposition is in the light of Uri attack in Kashmir which resulted in the martyrdom of 17 soldiers and the breaking of the cease-fire now and then by the Pakistani soldiers has been aggravating the situation.

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The festival was supposed to run for a week starting from 7th may. Many Indian celebrities including Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Dharmendra, Javed Akhtar, Jitendra, Illeana DCruz and many more were expected to be here and to share the stage with the Pakistani actors. However, they showed apprehensions and denied from doing so.

As a result of these threats, Vivek has canceled Pakistani participation in the festival and has made it an “India-Only” performance.

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Paul further added “Even after withdrawing the Pakistani actors and with heightened pressure over our event from ‘anti’ groups, we have decided not to go ahead with the event in view of the safety of not just the celebrities, my personal and family’s well-being, but also for the thousands of people who will be present to view the cultural extravaganza.”

– prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram, Twitter: @NikitaTayal6 

 

 

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U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The United States said Saturday it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his country has arranged another round of Washington’s peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.

US negotiator

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Neither Khan nor the U.S. spokesperson have disclosed the possible venue for the upcoming meeting with Taliban officials.

Some Afghan sources say Monday’s meeting will take place in Islamabad, but no official confirmation is available.

USA, afghanistan
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad, who is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks, is to lead the U.S. delegation in talks with insurgent representatives. This will not be the first time Khalilzad has met with the Taliban.

Since taking office in September, the special U.S. envoy has held two publicly known rounds of preliminary discussions with insurgent negotiators in Qatar, where the Taliban runs its so-called political office. The talks have been for the sake of talks, according to insurgent and other sources aware of the meetings.

Trump’s letter to Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote a formal letter to Khan asking for his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met with Khan and his military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on Trump’s request, Pakistani officials say.

Speaking in northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, Khan said the U.S. has changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. officials have previously insisted.

“By the grace of Allah, the dialogue is now happening inshallah [God willing] on the 17th [Khan did not mention the month] and Pakistan has facilitated the talks between America and the Taliban,” Khan said. He did not share further details.

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Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khan recounted Friday that critics used to mock him as “Taliban Khan” for saying the Afghan war could not be ended without political negotiations but now all key stakeholders are jointly working to pursue a political settlement to end the violence in Afghanistan.

“If peace were achieved, God willing, Peshawar will change and become a hub of commerce and tourism, as things around the 2,500 years old living city are likely to change,” Khan said Friday.

Ambassador Khalilzad is 13 days into an 18-day visit to the region. He has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium and plans to visit the U.A.E. and Qatar.

Withdrawal an issue

Pakistani officials privy to the U.S. interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Also Read: What to Make of Taliban’s Continued Rare Silence on Ghani’s Peace Offer? 

U.S. officials have long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. (VOA)