Tuesday February 19, 2019
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The mastermind behind the Mumbai terror attacks: Out on bail

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Islamabad: The failure to comply with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s assurances at Ufa in Russia over Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi’s trial will be “nothing short of a national embarrassment”, said a daily on Tuesday.

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Credits-www.deccanchronicle.com

The Nation said in an editorial “Lakhvi’s Non-Cooperation” that a few days after Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi released a joint statement in Ufa, Lakhvi’s lawyer, Rizwan Abbasi has said that his client refuses to cooperate by giving voice samples — “a key element of the joint statement”.

The joint statement had been heralded as a breakthrough in the strained relations between the two countries.

The daily said that resistance from Lakhvi was to be expected, “yet the statements of Chaudhry Azhar, part of the prosecuting team, saying that getting them is unlikely as no legal provision for it exists is far more damaging”.

Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind behind the Mumbai terror attacks, is out on bail in Pakistan.

“Already the indignation has started pouring from the other side of the border at this ‘U-turn’, and is damaging whatever little goodwill was created,” it added.

The editorial said that the “spectacular failure of the courts in trying Lakhvi has already been a source of criticism”.

“The failure to comply with the prime minister’s express assurances at an international stage will be nothing short of a national embarrassment,” it rued.

The daily went on to say the previous failures “can be put down to a weak judicial system and a hesitant prosecution, crippled by the ever-present threat posed by extremists. Previous assurances by Pakistani authorities of an expedited trial have also been generalised, and made at diplomatic level”.

Sharif’s “present statement is categorical, and any failure to follow these commitments will only be viewed as an admission of bias”.

“Lakhvi’s trial has already shown that he has friends in powerful places. It would be a hefty blow to the nation’s new anti-extremism narrative if those powerful friends mange to defy the highest executive authority,” it added.

Sharif has taken it upon himself to repair relations with India, “now he must see it through- the first step is the Lakhvi trial”.

(IANS)

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US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

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US, Taliban, Pakistan
FILE - Taliban political chief Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, in the first row, second from left, Abdul Salam Hanafi and other Taliban officials pray during the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.

A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, center, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Afghan media at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.

Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (3rd L) during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this handout photo released Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.

Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.

President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.

“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.

Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.

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The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.

“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)