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  1. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday said that India is using the Afghan war against Pakistan. Photo: Geo News file KARACHI: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday said that India is using the Afghan war against Pakistan. ?India's role in Afghanistan is not to establish peace,? Iqbal said in an interview to Al Jazeera. He stressed that a lot, apart from the peace efforts, needs to be done in Afghanistan. ?Peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee for peace in Pakistan,? he said, adding that the US cannot establish peace in the country without Pakistan?s assistance. ?Pakistan-US cooperation is imperative for regional peace and stability,? the interior minister said, adding that it is time that regional players unite with the common objective of bringing about sustainable peace in Afghanistan. He further said, in the interview, that negotiations with the US are underway to improve bilateral relations. ?We are negotiating with the US to establish peace in Afghanistan.? Iqbal also stressed that Pakistan will never allow its soil to be used against any country. ?We hope that other countries also don?t allow their soil to be used against Pakistan,? he added. Discussing the ongoing rumours about early elections in the country, the federal minister said that ?there is no chance of early elections? and political parties ?will not accept early election before new delimitations? following the recent census. Qatar compares Saudi actions in Lebanon to Gulf crisis Saudi Arabia has triggered crises across the region, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said He also commented on the Qatar related Arab crisis, saying that Pakistan has serious concerns over the tensions between the Arab countries. In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced they had severed ties with Qatar, sealing off the emirate's only land border in the wide-ranging boycott. They accuse Qatar's government of supporting extremism and fostering close ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges, claiming the dispute is an attack on its sovereignty. Both sides refuse to back down, but Doha says it is ready to engage with the US and Kuwaiti mediation.
  2. [embed_video1 url= style=center] ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Thursday that India is using Afghan soil for terrorism in Balochistan. While speaking to journalists, he said that the terror incidents are an attempt to sabotage multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). ?We will resolve all such issues in coming times,? he said. He said that Pakistan has moved beyond from the baggage of 1999 and 2002. Responding on a question, he said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is calling for general elections earlier before its schedule because he fears that his party?s nominated candidates will not be elected in the Senate elections. The interior minister reiterated that the government will complete its term. He added that every Pakistani believes that the country is on the path of progress. ?Every single Pakistani believes that today?s Pakistan is better from its recent past,? he said. Taking a jibe at the PTI, he said that running a government requires experience, how can the nation hand over its future to a person who has not even worked in a Union Council. Turbat terror incident As many as 15 bullet-ridden bodies were found on Thursday from Buleda area of Kech district in Turbat. Turbat Assistant Commissioner Dr Jamil Baloch told Geo News the bodies of the deceased were kept in the hospital after their post-mortem was conducted. The funeral prayers of the deceased were held in Turbat and attended by the chief minister, as well as other senior civil and military officials. The bodies will later be sent to the respective areas in Punjab where the deceased hailed from. A special plane of the military, C-130, will take the bodies back to their home cities. Earlier, it was reported that ambulances from the Edhi Foundation will transport the bodies.
  3. Photo: File KANDAHAR: The Afghan Taliban attacked more than a dozen checkpoints over six hours in the southern province of Kandahar, killing 22 policemen and wounding 15, officials said on Tuesday, as militants killed eight soldiers in the west of the country in a growing insurgency. Government forces killed 45 insurgents and wounded 35 and none of the police checkpoints was captured in the overnight attacks, officials said. ?Our forces resisted until they received reinforcements and air support,? said Zia Durrani, spokesman for Kandahar?s police chief. ?The Taliban were defeated.? However, the Taliban told reporters by WhatsApp that they killed 43 police and members of a militia and destroyed 13 armoured vehicles. The insurgents often exaggerate battlefield casualties. The Taliban, fighting to restore theocratic rule after their 2001 ouster by US-led troops, also attacked Bala Boluk, in the western province of Farah, on Tuesday, killing eight soldiers and wounding three, according to the provincial government. The government?s control or influence over the country has fallen to just under 60 per cent, down six percentage points from last year, according to the United States? Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
  4. DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor - File Photo RAWALPINDI: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted on Monday that Pakistan was paying the price for a security vacuum on the Afghan side of the border. In a series of tweets, Major General Ghafoor spoke of a Pakistan Army captain and a soldier being martyred when fired upon by terrorists from across the border in Afghanistan. The DG ISPR asserted that Pakistan had done its part by clearing all areas, fencing, new posts, enhanced presence along the border and establishing crossing points. According to the military spokesman, more effort was required from all stakeholders from the Afghan side. ?Lives of forces and citizens equally precious on both sides.? Major General Ghafoor added that there is a need to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan and for effective border security. On Monday, a cross-border attack by terrorists from Afghanistan in Pakistan's Bajaur Agency led to the martyrdom of two Pakistan Army troops. Captain Junaid Hafeez and Sepoy Raham were martyred in the attack on a border post of the Pakistan Army. Four other Army troops were injured in the assault on the border post. At least eight terrorists were also killed in the attack and others were injured in retaliatory fire from the Army
  5. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo: File KABUL: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday condemned the killing of Pakistan consulate staffer, Rana Nayyar Iqbal, in Jalalabad on Monday and ordered law enforcement authorities to investigate the incident, informed TOLO News. In a statement issued by the Presidential Palace, President Ghani asked the security institutions to ascertain the group responsible for the attack. The statement said the government is responsible for ensuring the safety of foreign diplomatic staff and said security institutions need to take this seriously. Meanwhile, National security advisor Haneef Atmar in a tweet mentioned that he had spoken with National Security Advisor of Pakistan General (retd) Nasir Janjua and offered his condolences. He said on Twitter, ?terrorists are enemies of both nations, thus needs joint, well-coordinated and realistic efforts to eliminate them.? Iqbal, who worked in the Pakistan consulate?s visa section, was shot on Monday evening in the Nangarhar capital in eastern Afghanistan. The body of the 62-year-old diplomatic staffer was transferred to Islamabad on Tuesday. Daesh has reportedly claimed responsibility for the shooting. Earlier, Pakistan's foreign secretary also summoned Afghan charge d?affaires to the Foreign Office and lodged a strong protest with him over the killing. The Afghan charge d?affaires was also handed a protest note. The incident comes a few months after two Pakistani diplomats working at the same consulate in Jalalabad were kidnapped and later freed. Earlier in January 2016, Daesh claimed a suicide attack on the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, with a gunbattle which lasted several hours. Afghan officials had said all three attackers and at least seven members of the security forces died during the attack The attack, which came amid efforts to restart the stalled peace process with the Taliban, resembled similar assaults on diplomatic missions in the country.
  6. BRUSSELS: NATO will boost its training mission in Afghanistan by 3,000 troops, chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday as Kabul reeled from the latest deadly attack on civilians. Around half the new troops will come from the United States, and the overall size of NATO´s training and support mission in the unrest-hit country will increase from 13,000 to 16,000, he said. Speaking a day before NATO defence ministers meet in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance would boost its presence "to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a clear message to Taliban to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground". "There will be more troops. Current level is around 13,000, the new level will be around 16,000... so far indications are roughly half US,half non-US," he added. But Stoltenberg insisted there would be no return to combat operations. "We are focusing on training the Afghan special operations forces, which have proven so key in the fight against the insurgents," he said. The Taliban, ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001, have been resurgent since NATO ended combat operations in 2014, and the Daesh group are also stepping up attacks. Gunmen disguised as policemen stormed Shamshad TV station in Kabul on Tuesday, killing one person and wounding two dozen others in an attack claimed by Daesh. Stoltenberg said there will also be more help to develop the Afghan air force. Over 16 years of war in Afghanistan, air strikes have proved a potent weapon against the Taliban. The decision to boost numbers will be formally approved by the NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said last month that Washington would ask other alliance members to contribute 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan. This was to add to the roughly 3,000 US troops who are already dispatched to train and advise the country´s security forces under President Donald Trump´s new Afghan strategy. Trump announced his new policy on Afghanistan in August, reversing his previous position advocating US withdrawal after military leaders convinced him that pulling out of America´s longest war would be worse than remaining.
  7. There was no immediate indication of casualties or the identity of the attackers-Representational image KABUL: A private television station in the Afghan capital of Kabul was attacked on Tuesday by gunmen who entered the building after an explosion, a staff member who witnessed the attack said. There was no immediate indication of casualties or the identity of the attackers.
  8. Officials in the Chahardara district outside Kunduz city said 13 people in two villages had been killed by US air strikes in the area KABUL: A US investigation into reports that at least 13 civilians were killed during an operation in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz last week found no evidence of any civilian casualties, a statement from the US military in Kabul said on Tuesday. ?United States Forces ? Afghanistan (USFOR-A) has investigated allegations of civilian casualties in Kunduz province during the period of November 3 and 4; no evidence of civilian casualties has been found,? the statement said. Officials in the Chahardara district outside Kunduz city said 13 people in two villages had been killed by US air strikes in the area, while some reports said as many as 65 people had been killed. However, other Afghan civil and military officials denied the reports and said civilians had been evacuated before a combined operation in the area began. They said dozens of Taliban insurgents had been killed. ?We can confirm operations occurred in this area and numerous enemy combatants were killed, as also confirmed by Kunduz Governor Omarkhail and Ministry of Defense Spokesman Major General Dawlat Waziri,? the US statement said. ?The USFOR-A investigation was conducted independently and concluded that there were no civilian casualties. Specifically, no hospitals or clinics in the local area indicated treatment of people with wounds from armed conflict,? it said. The issue of civilian casualties has taken on increasing sensitivity as the United States has stepped up air strikes against the Taliban as part of a more robust strategy aimed at breaking the stalemate with the insurgents. United Nations figures from last month showed a 52 percent increase in civilian casualties from air strikes in the first nine months of the year from the previous year, with 205 killed and 261 wounded.
  9. An Afghan female student looks on during the graduation ceremony of the first-ever class of Gender and Women?s studies master's programme in Kabul. Photo: AFP KABUL: Afghanistan?s first graduates in women?s studies donned caps and gowns on Sunday to collect their unusual qualifications in the patriarchal country. Kabul University is the country?s first higher education institute to offer a degree focused on gender and women?s issues, according to the United Nations Development Programme and university officials. Feminist theories, media, civil society and conflict resolution were among the largely women-focused topics covered in the two-year Master?s course, funded by South Korea and run by the UNDP. Offering such a degree would have been unthinkable during the Taliban?s repressive 1996-2001 regime, when female issues were taboo and women were largely confined to their homes and banned from education. While protection of women?s rights has improved since a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban, they remain second-class citizens in the male-dominated country. Among the 22 graduates were seven men, including Mujtaba Arefi. "This is the beginning of a change," Arefi told AFP as he waited to receive his certificate. "With these programmes, we can understand the women?s place and status in our society. There is the possibility that we will reach a level of gender equality like the West." Another graduate, Sajia Sediqqi, said she hoped her classmates would use their degrees to improve the situation of women in Afghanistan. "In a short period of time we cannot bring about any dramatic change, but with our higher education we can help change our society and serve our people, particularly our women."
  10. Afghan skiers Alisha Farhang (left) and Sajjad Husaini, pictured in February 2017, became the first Afghan athletes to register for the Winter Olympics. Photo: AFP Two Afghan skiers have been selected for the 2018 Games marking the first time the war-torn country will raise its flag at a Winter olympics. Sayed Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Husaini, who are training at Swiss resort St Moritz, will compete in the giant slalom in Pyeongchang. Afghanistan Olympic Committee president Mohammad Zahir Aghbar entered the skiers on the sidelines of the Association of National Olympic Committees meeting in Prague. "At the meeting which we had with the head of Korea's Olympic Committee we registered two Afghan athletes for the Winter Olympics," Aghbar told Afghanistan's Tolo News in the Czech capital. Afghanistan Ski Federation chief Mohammad Aslam Noori told AFP the pair's selection marked "the first time in history" that Afghanistan would take part in the Winter Olympics. The Games will be held from February 9 to 25. Farhang and Husaini, who learned to ski on the snow-blanketed slopes of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, said competing for their country at the Winter Olympics had been their dream. "We wanted to represent Afghanistan in a different way, to show the other countries that Afghanistan is not only war," said Husaini. The 26-year-old put on his first pair of skis in 2012 after returning from Iran where he had been living with his family as a refugee for 13 years. "We wanted to show a positive picture of Afghanistan to the world," said 27-year-old Farhang, who began skiing in 2011. "It's quite amazing," he added. The pair have just returned to Switzerland for their fourth winter of training under the guidance of their Swiss coach Andreas Hanni. They rely on the financial support of several foreign organisations.
  11. KABUL: A loud blast shook windows and doors in an area of the Afghan capital Kabul where many foreign embassies and government departments are based, Reuters reporters heard on Tuesday. The cause of the blast and the extent of any damage was not immediately apparent.
  12. King and his Australian colleague Timothy Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 as they were returning to their compound in the Afghan capital-Twitter KABUL: The Afghan Taliban said on Monday that Kevin King, one of two professors from the American University of Afghanistan who were kidnapped at gunpoint in Kabul last year, is seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said King, an American, was suffering from ?dangerous? heart disease and kidney problem. ?His illness has intensified, his feet have swollen and sometimes he becomes unconscious and his condition worsens every day,? Mujahid said in a statement. ?We have tried to treat him time to time but we do not have medical facilities as we are in a war situation,? he added. King and his Australian colleague Timothy Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 as they were returning to their compound in the Afghan capital. Afghan and Western officials believe they are being held by the Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated with the Taliban which has carried out many previous kidnappings. They acknowledge that an unsuccessful rescue attempt was made in eastern Afghanistan months after the two were taken. The Taliban statement came around two weeks after Pakistani troops rescued Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman, who had been held by the Haqqanis since being kidnapped in 2012, from an area near the Afghan border. Earlier this year, the Taliban released a video of King and Weeks, showing them pleading with their government to release Taliban prisoners in turn for their freedom. Kidnapping high profile targets has become a lucrative business for the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan who in return often demand huge ransom or release of their members.
  13. Afghan forces have suffered soaring casualties since NATO forces ended their combat mission in late 2014. Photo: REUTERS KABUL: Taliban insurgents, some wearing night-vision goggles, killed 22 Afghan policemen in separate attacks on checkpoints over the weekend in the latest blow to the country's beleaguered security forces. Militants wearing the googles launched a pre-dawn assault on a police post in Khan Abad district in the northern province of Kunduz on Sunday and killed 13 officers, said provincial police chief Abdul Hamid Hamidi. Only one policeman survived the attack, he told reporters. The attackers destroyed the checkpoint and stole a Humvee, according to district governor Hayatullah Amiri. On Saturday Taliban fighters killed nine policemen and wounded two others stationed at checkpoints in Ghazni, the capital of the southeastern province of the same name, said provincial governor´s spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori. Twelve of the militants were killed and four wounded, Noori said. The Taliban claimed the attacks in statements to media. The insurgents have stepped up attacks on security installations as they seek to demoralise police and troops and steal equipment to fuel the insurgency. The militants have acquired "dozens" of armoured Humvees and pickup trucks in recent years, defence ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh told AFP recently. Some of those vehicles have been used in suicide attacks on police and military bases with devastating effect. Afghan forces have suffered soaring casualties since NATO forces ended their combat mission in late 2014.
  14. ISLAMABAD: An Afghan provincial deputy governor, Mohammad Nabi, has allegedly gone missing from Peshawar and the Afghan embassy has contacted the Foreign Office regarding the incident. The Afghan embassy also informed the FO that the official from Kunar province was in the country for medical treatment and the embassy has been unable to contact the official, said the spokesperson from the FO. The FO has been asked by Afghan authorities to look into the matter and also sought help to locate him. Pakistani officials were informed regarding the incident after the contact between FO and the foreign mission. The FO spokesperson added that concerned authorities have been asked to look into the matter and find the missing Afghan official.
  15. KABUL: A suicide bomber killed 15 Afghan army trainees as they were leaving their base in Kabul on Saturday, the defence ministry said, in the latest deadly attack in the capital. "This afternoon when a minibus carrying army cadets was coming out of the military academy, a suicide bomber on foot targeted them, martyring 15 and wounding four," defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP. It was the second suicide attack in the Afghan capital in 24 hours and the seventh major assault in Afghanistan since Tuesday, taking the total death toll to more than 200, with hundreds more wounded. The spate of deadly attacks underscores deteriorating security across the war-torn country. It was also the fifth time since Tuesday that militants have launched a major attack against Afghanistan´s beleaguered security forces already badly demoralised by high casualties and desertions.
  16. Afghan men inspect inside a mosque after last night attack in Kabul, Afghanistan October 21, 2017. REUTERS KABUL: Suicide bombers attacked two mosques in Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least 72 people including children, officials and witnesses said. One bomber walked into a mosque in the capital Kabul as people were praying on Friday night and detonated an explosive, one of the worshippers there, Mahmood Shah Husaini, said. At least 39 people died in the blast at the Imam Zaman mosque in the city?s western Dasht-e-Barchi district, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a statement from the group did not provide evidence to support its claim. Separately, a suicide bombing killed at least 33 people at a mosque in central Ghor province, a police spokesman said. The attack appeared to target a local leader from the Jamiat political party, according to a statement from Balkh provincial governor Atta Mohammad Noor, a leading figure in Jamiat. No one immediately claimed responsibility.
  17. KABUL: At least ten people were killed with as many injured according to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health after a suicide bomber targeted a mosque in Kabul on Friday evening. Afghanistan's TOLO news initially reported the explosion inside the Imam Zaman mosque in Dasht-e-Barchi; quoting Basir Mujahid a police spokesman the news outlet confirmed the attack.
  18. [embed_video1 url= style=center] RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday met with Afghanistan's Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal and said terrorist attacks can not shake our resolve for peace in the region, said a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday. The army chief, in his meeting with the Afghan envoy, further said terrorism has affected both the countries equally. On the occasion, Gen Bajwa also paid his respects to the families of the victims and condemned the attacks, added ISPR. Militants launched two separate attacks on Afghan security installations earlier this week, killing dozens of soldiers, the latest in a series of devastating assaults that have left more than 120 people dead and underscored spiralling insecurity. Dozens killed as Taliban launch fresh assaults on Afghan bases The militants sought entry into the base through explosive-laden Humvee vehicles At least 43 Afghan soldiers were killed and nine wounded in a Taliban-claimed assault on a military base in southern Afghanistan which saw the insurgents blast their way into the compound with at least one explosives-laden Humvee, the Afghan defence ministry said. A security source in Kandahar put the toll at 50 dead and 20 wounded. The militants razed the base in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district in Kandahar province to the ground, according to the ministry.
  19. KHOST: Suicide bombers and gunmen launched an attack on a police training centre in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said, in the latest violence to rock the war-torn country. The Taliban claimed responsibility in a tweet for the ongoing attack at the centre in Gardiz, capital of Paktia province, which borders Pakistan. "At first a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives near the training centre, making way for a number of attackers to start their assault", the interior ministry said in a statement. A battle between the attackers, armed with guns and suicide vests, and security forces was under way inside the centre which is located near the Paktia police headquarters, according to the interior ministry statement. There were no immediate reports of casualties. A local official said two car bombs blew up near the compound that also houses the provincial headquarters of the national police, border police and Afghan National Army. "A group of gunmen have entered the compound and fighting is ongoing," Allah Mir Bahram, a member of the Paktia provincial council, told AFP.
  20. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has called on the United States to exercise restraint on drone strikes at a time when attempts are underway to revive Afghan-Taliban peace talks. Speaking on Geo News' programme 'Aapas Ki Baat', the foreign minister expressed hope that the four-nation moot in Muscat, Oman to find ways of reviving peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants would yield positive results. ?But the US should show restraint on drone strikes anywhere in Afghanistan, or Pakistan,? he said. [embed_video1 url= style=center] Asif said the US is not providing any aid. ?We want relations with US based on equality,? he reiterated. Four nations meet to resume stalled Afghan peace talks in Oman It was not clear if any Afghan Taliban had joined the talks Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the United States met in Oman on Monday to try to revive Afghan-Taliban peace settlement. The four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QGC) ? which last met in Islamabad early last year, has been trying to ease the path to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But it was not clear if any Afghan Taliban had joined the talks, which have so far failed to restart a tentative process that collapsed in 2015. The Pakistani delegation is being led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.
  21. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry (R) ? Pakistan's ambassador to the United States and the head of Pakistani delegations ? listens during a meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/Files ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the United States met in Oman on Monday to try to find ways of reviving peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants, two officials in Pakistan?s foreign ministry said. But it was not clear if any Afghan Taliban had joined the talks, which have so far failed to restart a tentative process that collapsed in 2015. Taliban sources had previously said they would stay away from the discussions in Muscat, casting doubt on prospects for reviving long-stalled negotiations. The Pakistani officials ? who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information ? said the talks had resumed on Pakistan?s initiative. The Pakistani team was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. There was no immediate comment from the United States, China or Afghanistan about the talks resuming. The four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QGC) ? which last met in Islamabad early last year and comprises Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the US ? has been trying to ease the path to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with little success. Amin Waqad ? a close aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a senior member of the High Peace Council (HPC) ? said last week his country would participate in the Muscat meeting and that the Taliban representatives would also be there. The Taliban denied that they had received an invitation. Efforts to kick-start negotiations have failed due to the Taliban?s refusal to attend talks after their last leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan last year. The United States wants Pakistan ? which it accuses of harbouring Afghan Taliban commanders ? to exert more influence on the group to bring them to the negotiating table. 'Let it come' In August, US President Donald Trump had lambasted Pakistan and its leadership for providing safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorist elements and urged the nation to "do more" to prevent it. Pakistan needs to show 'commitment to civilisation, order, peace': Trump Talking about his plans, Trump said military power alone will not bring peace in Afghanistan and that Pakistan needs to step up its efforts "We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time [when] they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," he said, warning that the vital aid the US offers to the country could be cut. ?That will have to change and that will change immediately." Pakistan Army in response had brushed off speculation that Trump's new strategy could include taking a stronger line against Islamabad, insisting the country has done all it can to tackle militancy. "Let it come," army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters, referring to Trump's decision. "Even if it comes? Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest."
  22. A delegation of Pakistan, led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, is participating in the four-nation talks on Afghanistan that began in Oman, Muscat from Monday. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and US, will attempt to revive talks with the Taliban to bring a negotiated peace settlement in the war-torn country. This is the first meeting of the QCG after Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor's death in a US drone strike in Balochistan in May 2016. The QCG held its first meeting in Islamabad on January 11, 2016 with the aim to revive the Afghan peace process. Talking to Voice of America recently, Pakistan's Foreign Minister seemed optimistic regarding the QCG meeting. ?The quadrilateral arrangement will again be in operation. So, that is something we still hope will? still work,? he remarked. On Sunday, Tehmina Janjua and Dr Mohammed Bin Awadh Al Hassan, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Oman, met for the 6th Round of Pakistan-Oman Bilateral Political Consultations in Muscat. According to a Foreign Office announcement, bilateral political relations as well as economic and trade cooperation at multilateral forums were discussed. Both sides expressed satisfaction at the close fraternal relations and progress made thus far. This included sustained and rising trajectory of interaction between political and parliamentary leaderships during 2016-17, exchange of visits between the foreign ministers, chairmen of upper houses as well as participation in the international conferences. While exploring ways and means to furthering bilateral economic and commercial relations, it was agreed to enhance business-to-business interaction and convene the next session of Joint Economic Commission (JEC) during the first quarter of 2018. The Foreign Secretary also briefed her counterpart on relations with neighbouring countries, including the situation of human rights in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Held alternately in Islamabad and Muscat, the mechanism of Bilateral Political Consultations was established in 2005.
  23. Joshua Boyle walks through the airport after arriving with his wife and three children at Toronto Pearson International Airport/REUTERS OTTAWA/TORONTO: A US-Canadian couple freed in Pakistan this week, nearly five years after being abducted in Afghanistan, returned to Canada on Friday where the husband said one of his children had been murdered and his wife had been raped. American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network. They arrived in Canada with three of their children. ?Obviously, it will be of incredible importance to my family that we are able to build a secure sanctuary for our three surviving children to call a home,? Boyle told reporters after arriving at Toronto?s Pearson International Airport, wearing a black sweatshirt and sporting a beard. Pakistani troops rescued the family in the northwest of the country, near the Afghan border, this week. ?The stupidity and the evil of the Haqqani network in the kidnapping of a pilgrim ... was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorizing the murder of my infant daughter,? Boyle said, reading from a statement, in a calm voice. ?And the stupidity and evil of the subsequent rape of my wife, not as a lone action, but by one guard, but assisted by the captain of the guard and supervised by the commandant.? Rescued US-Canadian family arrives in Canada The family travelled from Pakistan to London and then to Toronto, where they arrived late on Friday: Canadian media He did not elaborate on what he meant by ?pilgrim?, or on the murder or rape. Coleman was not at the news conference. Boyle said the Taliban had carried out an investigation last year and conceded that the crimes against his family were perpetrated by the Haqqani network. He called on the Taliban ?to provide my family with the justice we are owed?. ?God willing, this litany of stupidity will be the epitaph of the Haqqani network,? said an exhausted-looking Boyle. He did not take questions form reporters. The family travelled from Pakistan to London and then to Toronto. Boyle provided a written statement to the Associated Press on one of their flights saying his family had ?unparalleled resilience and determination.? AP reported that Coleman wore a tan-colored headscarf and sat with the two older children in the business class cabin. Boyle sat with their youngest child on his lap. US State Department officials were on the plane with them, AP added. ?Helping villagers? One of the children was in poor health and had to be force-fed by their Pakistani rescuers, Boyle told AP. They are expected to travel to Boyle?s family home in Smiths Falls, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Ottawa, to be reunited with his parents. Canada has been actively engaged with Boyle?s case at all levels and would continue to support the family, the Canadian government said in a statement. ?At this time, we ask that the privacy of Mr Boyle?s family be respected,? it said. Joshua Boyle stands next to his father Patrick Doyle after arriving with his wife and three children at Toronto Pearson International Airport/REUTERS The journey home was complicated by Boyle?s refusal to board a US military aircraft in Pakistan, according to two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Boyle instead asked to be flown to Canada. But Boyle said he never refused to board any mode of transportation that would bring him closer to home. Boyle had once been married to the sister of an inmate at the US military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The marriage ended and the inmate was later released to Canada. The families of the captives have been asked repeatedly why Boyle and Coleman had been backpacking in such a dangerous region. Coleman was pregnant at the time. Boyle told the news conference he had been in Afghanistan helping ?villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no NGO, no aid worker, and no government? had been able to reach. The Taliban and Haqqani network share the same goals of forcing out foreign troops and ousting the US-backed government in Kabul but they are distinct organisations with separate command structures.
  24. Saint-Omer has become a rare centre of cricketing excellence in a country where football and rugby dominate-Reuters SAINT-OMER, FRANCE: On a rugby field overlooked by a towering cathedral, a group of young refugees has introduced a small northern French town to the beautiful game of... cricket. Saint-Omer lies 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the Channel port of Calais, the main launchpad for attempts by migrants to smuggle themselves into England. As in many western European towns and cities, the integration of migrants is creating new challenges. But thanks to its new arrivals, Saint-Omer has become a rare centre of cricketing excellence in a country where football and rugby dominate. The town broke new ground in September when a group of Afghan and Pakistani refugees wearing the colours of the Saint-Omer Cricket Club Stars (Soccs) brought home the regional Hauts-de-France cricket title. "I didn´t know people played cricket in France!" said Ataullah Otmankhil, a devotee of the sport from northern Afghanistan with short, gelled hair and a trim beard. When the athletic 21-year-old set out from his war-torn country for Europe "on foot, by train, truck, car, you name it", his heart was set on reaching England. But his dreams of starting a new life in the home of Lord´s Cricket Ground came crashing down on the shores of the Channel. Day after day for six months he tried to clamber aboard a truck heading across the sea from Calais -- to no avail. ´Like family´ When the squalid and sprawling, informal "Jungle" migrant camp was dismantled in Calais last year, and its occupants relocated around the country, Otmankhil was placed with a host family and began studying to become an electrician. Picking up a bat again brings back memories of home, he said -- a sentiment echoed by his 16-year-old Afghan teammate Oriakhil Shahid. About 30 refugees, all from either Afghanistan or Pakistan whose ages range from 15 to 32, have joined the club, which has yet to attract any locals among its members. For Oriakhil, one of the youngest, the club is "like family". "It´s for everybody, French, Afghan and others." But the sight of foreigners dashing around the rugby field, bats in hand, has not gladdened the hearts of all in this town of 16,000 souls, situated in the northern heartland of the anti-immigration National Front. "Sometimes I get insults, aimed at me personally or the club," said Nicolas Rochas, one of a handful of volunteers who is trying to help the migrants integrate. The pressure to ensure the players are above reproach at all times is acute. "As a club with young refugees we have an even greater duty to be exemplary on and off the pitch," he admitted. So far the efforts of both volunteers and players appear to be bearing fruit. All the team members have a roof over their heads, are either working or in school and wear their club´s navy jersey with its crest of crossed bats with pride. Less than a year after being created, the club managed to win the regional title giving the players a pass into France´s third division. Despite the opportunity however, the Soccs have decided to stay out of the big league for now. They want to up their game first, starting by having a proper cricket ground slated for early 2018. Taking their adopted town to regional glory has already given the players a confidence boost. Rochas, who had to learn cricket on the fly, hopes it will endure. "The challenge for every sporting association is to last over the years. Our players are young, which is an advantage. The disadvantage is that cricket is a relatively unknown sport (in France)," he said. Oriakhil is hopeful that further glory lies ahead. "We will play well, God willing," he said.
  25. In September, US warplanes dropped more bombs than in any single month since 2010, driven largely by Trump?s strategy of trying to reassert pressure on militants after several years of drawdown by foreign troops. Photo: Reuters KABUL: Civilian casualties from Afghan and American air strikes have risen more than 50 per cent since last year, the United Nations said on Thursday, as troops increase attacks on militants under a new strategy announced by US President Donald Trump in August. As of the end of September, at least 205 civilians had been killed and 261 wounded this year in air strikes in Afghanistan, UN investigators said in a quarterly report. At least 38pc of those casualties were caused by international military forces, while the majority were attributed to the Afghan Air Force, which has begun to conduct more attacks on its own. More than two thirds of the civilian victims were women and children, the report said. In September, US warplanes dropped more bombs than in any single month since 2010, driven largely by Trump?s strategy of trying to reassert pressure on militants after several years of draw-down by foreign troops. A spokesman for the US military command did not immediately comment on the report. General Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence, rejected the findings and said the government took civilian casualties seriously. ?It is quite obvious that Taliban and other insurgent groups cause more civilian casualties,? he said, adding that insurgents also ?use civilians as human shields and hide in residential areas?. Overall civilian casualties decreased slightly compared to the same period last year, the report said. At least 2,640 civilians were killed and 5,379 injured this year, compared to 2,616 killed and 5,915 injured in the same period of 2016. The drop reflected fewer casualties from fighting in populated areas, the report noted, as militants failed to capture any major cities. The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, praised the Afghan government for formally endorsing a national policy designed to reduce civilian casualties. ?The government owes it to its citizens, particularly the victims of the armed conflict, to ensure full implementation of the policy through a concrete action plan,? he said. Overall the UN attributed 64pc of civilian casualties to anti-government militants like the Taliban and Daesh. Pro-government forces were responsible for 20pc overall, while the remainder was attributed to joint fighting or unidentified groups, according to the UN.