When US President Donald Trump, in his uncanny political demeanour, announced he had decided to pull out half the US military personnel from Afghanistan, not many people, even within his own defence establishment, anticipated such an abrupt announcement. However, the buck didn’t just stop there! Trump further asked Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional players, including India, Pakistan and Russia to play an active role in “rebuilding Afghanistan”. He is of the view that it is the duty of Afghanistan’s neighbours and not the US to fight the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS). However, staying true to his (lack of) ...Read Full Post
Declared ‘intangible’, the heritage of Kalash is over 3,000 years old – but will it survive the 21st century?
‘Ishpata Inn and Restaurant’, says the sign to a roadside hotel in Bumburet Valley in the Chitral district. Ishpata means welcome in the Kalasha language spoken exclusively by the endangered Kalash people, an ethnic group that has lived in three secluded valleys of these towering mountains for centuries: Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir. There are only around 4,000 Kalash villagers left in Chitral. They are one of the last peoples of western Asia to retain their aboriginal culture and have survived many waves of invaders, refusing to convert to Islam. Their neighbours across the mountains in the north-western region of ...Read Full Post
In an unprecedented move, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani surprised the world by proposing peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. He made this offer in his opening speech at the Kabul Process Conference, which was attended by the representatives of around 25 countries, signalling a major policy shift from his earlier belligerent stance. Ghani expressed his government’s willingness to accept the Taliban as a legitimate political group, and insinuated that factions of the Taliban will have to recognise the Afghan government and respect the rule of law, suggesting, “We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement.” The Taliban, who dominate a ...Read Full Post
Waging a war against the Taliban and then calling for peace talks – the US doesn’t know what it wants
A Pakistani foreign official (FO) recently disclosed that the US administration was secretly pushing Pakistan to bring the Haqqani network to the dialogue table. This revelation was shocking as the Donald Trump administration, following the footsteps of its predecessors, has constantly asked Islamabad to crack down against the anti-US and Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network allegedly operating out of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The FO official also revealed how there were no specific demands made by the Trump administration other than facilitating Washington on the reconciliation process with the Haqqanis. Such developments are coming at a critical juncture, with Afghanistan losing ground ...Read Full Post
Pentagon’s spokesperson recently acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices stating that the country has lost most number of troops in the global war on terror. However, this acknowledgement contradicted the official position that the White House has maintained over the past few years, asking Islamabad to ‘do more’, whenever Pakistan came under any security policy discussion in Washington and elsewhere. Pakistan, during US Secretary Defence James Mattis’s recent visit, has already made clear that Islamabad will no longer accept Washington’s redundant ‘do more’ mantra without evidence, and that proof of presence of terrorists in FATA should be shared before any finger pointing. This change of ...Read Full Post
At the beginning of this month, the government found itself in something of a pickle. Regardless of a dubious WhatsApp call fiasco and alleged political proclivities of the joint investigation team (JIT) members, the Sharifs had failed miserably in elucidating a tangible money trail for their opulent assets abroad. To truly offset the velocity of the storm they faced, they would have to counter attack with something far more potent and invidious – something powerful enough to offset the damning reality of their inconclusive money trial – a global conspiracy. A conspiracy that was hatched in collusion with the venal folks in the General Headquarters (GHQ), ...Read Full Post
For those as yet unaware of the legend, Darul Uloom Haqqania is a large religious seminary located in Akora Khattak in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). It was founded in 1947 by Maulana Abdul Haq, a prominent scholar of Hadith who had trained at the Darul Uloom Deoband, the centre of Deobandi Islam in undivided India. It remained, till the start of the Afghan-Soviet war, a somewhat respectable institution that stayed away from politics and controversy. The students and administration of the seminary even played an important role in ensuring security and safety for the engineers and labour crews of the massive Karakoram Highway project. ...Read Full Post
The US drone program in Pakistan killed over 200 children, how is it any different from the APS massacre?
Last week saw a lot of flurried comments once again condemning US drone strikes in Pakistan. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif in a meeting with United States Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, on May 25, 2016, expressed concerns over the US drone strike in Balochistan on May 23rd in which Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was reportedly killed. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had criticised the US drone strikes earlier, describing them as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. In an adjournment motion submitted by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar to the Senate, he said the issue would alter the security calculus ...Read Full Post
The second amir of the Taliban, Mullah Mansoor, has been dispatched to the hereafter by a hellfire missile fired from a Reaper drone or so claim the Americans. Others can neither confirm nor deny. Our own government is going through the same old motions. Denial. Conveniently a passport has been found unscathed. It is amazing how sturdy and fantastically fire-proof the material Pakistani passports are made of. If nothing else, this shows true ingenuity. Our passport might be considered the second or third worst passport in the world, but at least it can survive a drone attack. Imagine the potential. ...Read Full Post
With its marriage to the Taliban and its extramarital affair with the US, Pakistan is playing with fire
Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the leader of the Taliban group, was allegedly killed at around 3:45 pm on May 21st. He is said to have been killed in a US drone airstrike in Dalbandi, Balochistan. This is the most significant American incursion inside Pakistan ever since the Navy SEALs incident in 2011, in which the al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed. After realising the Afghan war was a complete failure, America changed its strategy and began pursuing the Taliban leadership, Mullah Mansoor, to come to the negotiation table. They did this by offering them lucrative offers including the release of Taliban prisoners and the opening of their Qatar office. With Mullah Mansoor having ...Read Full Post