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American lawmakers move act to designate Pakistan a Terror State

Two American lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a State Sponsor of terrorism

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Pakistani suspects allegedly associated with the Islamic State group wait to appear in an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala, Pakistan, Dec. 29, 2015. VOA
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Washington, 22 Sept, 2016: Two American lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a State Sponsor of terrorism. The legislation is introduced by Republican Representatives Ted Poe of Texas and Dana Rohrabacher of California. They accused Pakistan of harboring global terrorist leaders and supporting terror groups. Among those is the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity that opposes the Afghanistan government and the U.S.-led NATO forces in the country.
“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,” the proposed legislation said. “From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the war on terror. And it’s not America’s.”

Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015, VOA
Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015, VOA

Pakistan plays the victim

Pakistan accuses U.S. lawmakers, saying the harsh anti-Pakistani gives a false idea about the government’s efforts to root out extremism. Pakistani officials further claim that thousands of Pakistani lives have been lost in terror attacks.
“Pakistan is not supporting terrorism, it is rather a victim,” Rohail Dar, a leading member of the ruling Muslim League party, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terrorism.”

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On Wednesday, in his speech before UN, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while talking about his government said it has, ” comprehensive strategy of law enforcement and targeted military operations that have produced remarkable results and enabled Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.”
He did not address the problem of terrorist groups targeting neighboring countries from Pakistan.
U.S lawmakers recently urged the U.S. government to cut off the financial and military aid to Pakistan because its “military and intelligence services are still linked to terrorist groups.”
Isolation
U.S. bill has a long way to go before becoming it becomes a law — as a version of it must be passed by both the houses of Congress and has to be signed by the President — “Washington’s tough stance shows the level of global and regional isolation that Islamabad is facing,” analysts said.
“Pakistan has not satisfied the U.S. on the question of its alleged supporfor the Haqqani network, and that is deteriorating the relations with the U.S.,” Peshawar University professor Ijaz Khattak told VOA’s Deewa service. “Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan also are not good. It has tensions with India.”
This week, the deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir has increased the tension between Pakistan and India to the levels that have not been seen since the terror attack on Mumbai in 2008.

A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday's attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir's Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA
A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir’s Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA

India blames Pakistan for allowing the attack to happen. Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh claimed Pakistan to be a terrorist state and further added that it “should be identified and isolated as such.”
The Pakistan government rejected all the allegations and accuses of India of oppressing Kashmiris and violating the human rights.
U.S., Afghan opposition
Islamabad is also at odds with Washington and Kabul over Pakistan’s support of Afghan militant groups.
During a meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Nawaz Sharif, on the side-lines of the U.N. General Assembly, to prevent Pakistan from being used as a shelter for terrorists.
“We have repeatedly asked our neighboring country Pakistan to destroy the known terrorist safe havens, but we, unfortunately, are yet to witness any change in the situation,” Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danesh said Wednesday at the United Nations. “Terrorist attacks are being planned on Pakistani territory.” Days after bombings in New York and New Jersey Danesh’s commented these.

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The bombing suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan years ago. When he was in Pakistan, he spent time in Quetta and Karachi, the considered hubs for the Taliban and many other militant groups.
The two American lawmakers are pushing the bill, “because of the recent Kashmir attack, though perhaps also coupled with the fact that the man accused of staging the recent New York City blasts had spent time in Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, an analyst at Washington’s Wilson Center, a global policy research group. “For these two congressmen, this man’s connections to Pakistan likely reinforced the fact that terrorism has many links to Pakistan.”

by NewsGram with inputs from VOA

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Grass-Roots Peace Movement Spreads Across Afghanistan

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Afghan protesters for peace hold banners during a protest in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, March 31, 2018. Several hunger strikers taking part in a rare sit-in peace protest in Afghanistan's restive south have been taken to a hospital for treatment, officials and protesters said. VOA

The grass-roots call for peace by some residents that began as a sit-in in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province is gathering momentum and spreading to other provinces of the country.

A car bomb explosion March 23 in the nation’s southern region, near a packed sports stadium in the provincial capital of Lashkargah, killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more.

The attack occurred while a wrestling match was underway. The Taliban did not officially claim responsibility, but Afghan officials assigned blame to the insurgent group, saying it typically denies responsibility for attacks that kill large number of civilians.

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Initially, it was viewed as just another routine terror assault that killed civilians, and it would have remained so had it not been for the residents of Helmand province, who decided they had to act.

A man carries a wounded boy to a hospital after a car bombing outside a sports stadium in Lashkargah, capital city of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 23, 2018. Provincial chief of police Abdul Ghafar Safi said the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber and that the target was civilians. VOA

A group of young local men began a sit-in at the capital of the province and demanded an end to violence. Later, women joined the sit-in and urged the warring sides to end the vicious cycle of violence that has been tearing through the nation.

“Stop making us widows and making us cry over the death of our children,” a woman said at the rally in Helmand last month.

Hunger strike

The initial anti-war sit-in turned into a hunger strike after the Taliban rejected the protesters’ pleas for peace and instead warned them not to go near Taliban territory. The insurgent group instead instructed locals to conduct their protest at a nearby Afghan and NATO military base.

The strike continued for three days before religious clerics intervened and encouraged protesters to eat.

“Religious clerics considered the hunger strike to be against Islam, and they asked us to end it, promising they would go to the Taliban and discuss our demands with them,” Bacha Khan, a protester in Helmand, told VOA.

The hunger strike did end. The sit-in, however, continues, gaining momentum and rapidly expanding to other provinces.

Iqbal Khyber, an activist from Helmand and a key member of the sit-in, told VOA demands for peace would not end.

“Our sit-in will continue until we see at least two days of cease-fire between warring sides. Our long march began in Kandahar province [in southern Afghanistan] today [April 5]. We will put up the peace sit-in tents in every corner of the country,” Khyber told VOA.

“Preparations for putting peace sit-in tents in Kabul, Zabul, Paktia, Khost, Bamyan, Balkh, Kunduz, Badakhshan and Farah are already underway. We will not stop until our demand for peace is met,” he added.

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Growing demonstrations

Demonstrations have begun in western Herat and central Bamyan provinces, where dozens of protesters got together and expressed their solidarity with the Helmand peace sit-in.

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“The call for peace is the voice of all Afghans and it cannot be attributed to a specific tribe, group or party,” Faqir Ahmad, a protester at a Herat peace sit-in tent, told VOA.

At a gathering in central Bamyan province, activists announced their backing of the Helmand sit-in.

“Today we pronounce our support for the peace and advocacy movement of our brothers in Helmand,” Ismail Zaki, a civil society activist in Bamyan, told VOA.

Government reaction

While at an international conference in Kabul in late February, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered unconditional peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. He advocated for the peace movement across the country.

“I welcome the campaign in Helmand and other provinces where women, elders and youth have gathered to seek peace and raise their voices against war and violence. And I hope this peaceful national movement will be strengthened and supported by the people in large numbers,” Ghani said in a Dari tweet on Wednesday.

The Taliban have yet to officially respond to the Afghan government’s offer of unconditional peace talks.

The Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), a government body tasked with talking to the insurgents, also praised the initiative of Helmand residents.

“I call on Tahrek-e-Taliban, the commanders of the Taliban, the people who are living in Taliban-controlled areas, let’s end the war and embrace peace,” Karim Khalili, chairman of the HPC, told a gathering on Wednesday in southern Kandahar province.

Taliban’s stance

While the Taliban initially rejected the local plea for peace, the insurgent group has since softened its stance.

A Taliban official requesting anonymity told VOA that his group is looking forward to meeting and talking with the protesters.

“It is a totally new subject for us. We are studying it and we will meet with these people and listen to their demands and will try to find out why they are making such demands from the Taliban alone,” the insurgent official told VOA.

That meeting apparently happened. According to the organizers of the sit-in, local Taliban groups in Helmand have supported their call for peace.

“Local Taliban delegations visited us, extended their support and expressed their frustration of war,” Khyber, a sit-in organizer, told VOA. VOA