Afghan analysts describe Afghan government’s trust in the commitments made by Pakistan as a recurrence of the past mistake, urging Kabul to deal with Islamabad on the basis of actions not words.
According to ARG (the President Palace), Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi discussed important mutual issues with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during his day-long maiden visit to Kabul on Friday.
In a press statement, ARG has said both sides took up the fight against terrorism, Afghan-led peace process, continued Pakistani incursions along the Durand Line, repatriation of Afghan refugees, exchange of prisoners, and finalization of “Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity or APAPPS”.
Gen. Atiqullah Amarkhail, a military expert, believes any agreement with Pakistan’s civilian government is tantamount to “a piece of writing on ice” -- an exercise in futility.
“Afghan government reposing trust in Pakistan’s promises will be just a recurrence of its past mistake, because Pakistani officials always make commitments but never follow through on them,” he told The Heart of Asia.
When Abbasi was in Kabul, Amarkhail stressed, the Pakistani military was still shelling Kunar province, and even Pakistani planes bombed areas deep inside Afghanistan, which means that Islamabad is pursuing its interests in an unstable Afghanistan.
Soon after taking up office, the National Unity Government (NUG) leadership trusted the promises Pakistan made as part of the tripartite and quartet mechanisms, and offered unprecedented concessions to Pakistan, which resulted in more bloody attacks in Afghanistan that were masterminded in Pakistan.
Waqifullah Rohani, a member of Kabul Provincial Council and political expert, stresses that if Afghan government buys into Pakistan’s promises, it will be nothing more than a repeat of the past bitter experience.
According to him, Pakistani officials always use such visits to relieve themselves of international pressures, a knack that Afghan leaders lack.
“During meetings, Pakistani leaders always aim to obtain concessions, a practice which has quite many examples in the past, one of which is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Border Management that has given nothing to Afghanistan,” Rohani asserted, adding that a global power should oversee the implementation of commitments made by Afghan and Pakistani officials if they are to be properly translated into actions.
Meanwhile, Afghan government insists it also has little trust in Pakistan’s pledges, hoping that Pakistan this time will translate its words into actions in the first round of the state-to-state negotiations.
Javid Faisal, the deputy spokesperson for the Chief Executive Officer, said Afghan government was not very sure if Pakistan would fulfill its promises, but it is expected to implement what is agreed upon in meetings afterwards.
Pakistani PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had visited Kabul at the official invitation of President Ghani, and Afghan government has described the visit as the beginning of first state-to-state talks.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says war and violence have displaced 54,000 Afghans in last three months.
According to the report of OCHA this much people were forced to leave their areas since the beginning of the year 2018.
The figures show that 12,000 Afghans were forced to abandon their houses in last week alone.
The UN registered 450,000 internally displaced people last year and 660,000 in 2016.
War has uprooted more people in Kunduz than any other provinces with 13,500 registered displaced people.
Kunduz is one of the most volatile provinces of the country and has been the ground for fiercest clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban, which usually inflict causalities to civilians besides the warring sides.
On Monday, Afghan Air Forces helicopter bombed a religious gathering in Dashte Achi district of the province, reportedly killing more than 70 and wounding dozens mostly civilian.
The Pakistan army chief has renewed his country’s commitment to promoting peace and stability in neighboring Afghanistan.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Qamar Bajwa held out the promise at a meeting with a top Trump administration official at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Speaking to Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Bajwa said Pakistan remained committed to peace and stability in the region, particularly in Afghanistan.
A statement from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the regional security environment and matters of mutual interest came up for discussion at Monday’s meeting.
Gen. Bajwa said Pakistan also expected other players in the region to play an equally positive role in stabilizing the conflict-devastated country.
Ambassador Wells said the United States was committed to lasting peace and support for efforts towards that end, the statement added.
Both agreed bilateral convergence should be leveraged to gain a positive momentum rather than remaining hostage to perceptions.
A number of civilians were wounded in eastern Kunar province during the latest wave of artillery shelling from the other side of Durand Line, the local officials said Tuesday.
Provincial police spokesman Faridullah Dehqan confirmed that nearly 300 rounds of artillery shells have landed in three districts of Kunar province in the past 24 hours.
The Kunar governor’s spokesman Abdul Ghani Mosamim also confirmed the shelling and said at least two civilians were wounded in Dangam district.
According to Mosamim, the artillery shells landed in three districts of Kunar including Dangam, Shiltan, and Sarkano districts.
However, another security official says at least five civilians have been wounded during the latest shelling and hundreds more have been force to abandon their homes.
This comes as Mr. Dehqan said Monday that more than 150 rounds of artillery shells landed in Shiltan and Dangam districts during the latest wave of the shelling.
He also confirmed that the shelling has not inflicted any casualty on the local residents but it has caused property damages.
The local officials said last week that more than 100 artillery shells have landed in various parts of Dangam district.
The ministry of foreign affairs summoned chargé d'affaires of Pakistani embassy in Kabul last week and shared the Afghan side concern on the shelling.
The United Nations Human Rights team has launched an investigation regarding the possible casualties of the civilians during a deadly airstrike in Kunduz province.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the mission is actively looking in to disturbing reports of serious harm to civilians on Monday from an airstrike at Dashti Archi, Kunduz.
According to UNAMA, the Human Rights team on ground establishing facts. “All parties reminded of obligations to protect civilians from impact of armed conflict,” the UN mission said.
The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan military in the North says a large gathering of the top Taliban leaders was targeted in Bajauri area of the district, however, residents of the district said it was a religious graduation ceremony.
The Shaheen Corps said their latest finding indicate that a member of the Quetta Council of the Taliban Qari Biryan was killed along with several others in the airstrike.
According to the Shaheen Corps, the other Taliban leaders killed in the airstrike have been identified as Qari Hamidullah Taliban’s military commission chief for Kunduz, Mawlavi Shahidullah, a member of the military commission of the Taliban, Mawlavi Mumtaz, one of the instructors of the Red Unit of Taliban.
Other Taliban leaders killed in the airstrike have been identified as Qari Amad and Abdul Malik who were killed along with at least 17 others, the Shaheen Corps added.
Contrary to Shaheen Corps, Sayed Jaan, a resident of the district, said he participated in two mass funerals of almost 40 people, adding that others followed Monday’s bombing by the Afghan Air Force (AAF).
He told the Reuters news agency that the helicopter attack happened during a religious ceremony, called Dastaar Bandi, to mark young men completing the memorization of the Koran.
“There were two mass graves to bury the victims of the bombing and I took part in both burials. In one grave, 16, and in another, 21. Many were young children,” Sayed Jaan said on Tuesday.
“There were other burials and people were digging graves.”
Taliban insurgents have gunned down a lawmaker’s brother in southeastern Paktika province, officials said on Tuesday.
Provincial council member Afsar Khan, also a nephew of the victim, told Pajhwok Afghan News Haji Dawood was shot dead while offering night prayer at a local mosque.
He said Dawood, a tribal elder and brother of Wolesi Jirga member Sulemankhel, had no link to the government.
Police chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Azim Hashimi alleged Dawood was killed by Taliban. He said soon after the shooting, a clash took place between police and rebels in the area.
The police boss added the firefight left three militants injured. But resident of the area said no clash had happened between police and Taliban in the area.
Members of the High Peace Council (HPC) and the Ulema Council have gathered in Kandahar for the HPC’s general assembly, which aims to encourage the Taliban to join the peace process.
According to the HPC, efforts to promote peace are also now being undertaken on a provincial level, hence the meeting in Kandahar.
After the HPC’s general assembly, members will participate in the Ulema conference.
This is the first time the HPC has held its general assembly outside of Kabul.
HPC chairman Mohammad Karim Khalili addressing participants at the conference on Tuesday morning called the Taliban a movement and said that the foundation of Afghanistan was laid in Kandahar and it is hoped that the process of restoring peace and stability will start from Kandahar province.
“We came here to seek a new era for our country the same as our history that Afghanistan was established from Kandahar.
Khalili said foreigners do not want peace in Afghanistan, so there needs to be an intra-Afghan dialogue to achieve peace.
He also called on the Taliban to join the peace process.
“Today is the time to work together for peace; we hope our Kandahari countrymen stand for peace; calling on Taliban from history Kandahar province to come for peace so that history changes,” Khalili said.
Khalili also praised the protestors in Helmand for promoting peace.
“We salute the Helmand residents calling for peace and ceasefire,” Khalili added.
The HPC chief also emphasized that the leadership of the council is ready to make sacrifices for peace. There is no fear of any conspiracies that, according to him, are hatched against the HPC.
Meanwhile, Mawlawi Kashaf, head of the Ulema council, also addressed the gathering, calling on the Taliban to join the peace process. urging the Taliban to join the peace process, come to Kabul and form a political party.
He pointed out that the Taliban have not yet responded to government’s peace offer.
“Peace is a need and must be established according to Sharia instructions. We must work for peace. We are all Muslims and it is prohibited to kill innocent people in Islam,” said Kashaf. Ulema council supports the peace process in the country, Kashaf added. “Life of our Prophet Mohammad PBUH is a lesson for us towards achieving peace. We should all raise our voices and work for peace in our country. Ulema support the peace process in all parts of Afghanistan,” Kashaf stated.
This comes after the HPC recently said that a timetable would be set for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country if the Taliban sign a peace agreement with the Afghan government.
The top US and NATO commander has welcomed the Independent Election Commission’s announcement of the long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections. The poll panel says Wolesi Jirga and district council elections will be held on October 20, 2018 three years behind the schedule.
In a statement, the Resolute Support commander said: “We commend the commission on the announcement of this year’s elections.”
Gen. John Nicholson added: “The elections represent part of three pressures that will bring the Taliban to reconciliation.”
In addition to military and the diplomatic pressures, he believed, the elections applied social pressure by deepening the legitimacy of the Afghan government and offering a way for the Taliban to join the political process.
“The elections are entirely Afghan-led, and the RS mission will continue to provide effective train, advise and assist support to ANDSF so that they can provide greater security,” the commander said.
Gen. Nicholson said: “We respect Afghan political processes, Afghan political evolution, Afghan politicians, and the electoral choices of the Afghan people.”
Local tribal elders say roads connecting three districts with the provincial capital of southeastern Paktika province remain blocked for past 17 years, a reason essential goods are sold at a higher rate in local shops.
Malak Zarin, a tribal elder from Terwa district, told Pajhwok Afghan News that roads between Terwa, Wazi Khwa and Warmami districts and Sharana, the provincial capital, remained blocked for long years.
He said the road blocks were a result of skyrocketing prices of food and other items in the mentioned towns near the Pakistani border.
According to Zarin, a 50-kg sack of flour was sold for 1,800 AFN – at least 600 AFN higher rate than Kabul and other cities. A liter of petrol was sold 90 AFN.
“All goods are expensive. This time if the government does not open our roads, our people would not vote in the upcoming elections, we would also set on fire our ID cards because the government has totally ignored these districts,” he said.
Malak Bahawal, a tribal elder from Wormami district, also expressed similar views. “The Wormami district may fall to Taliban soon if the government fails to reopen its roads with the provincial capital.”
“Eight days ago, one policeman was killed and a second wounded when their car hit a roadside bomb, but local security officials were unable to take the wounded cop to hospital in Sharana,” he said.
Malak Manan, a resident of Wazakhwa district, told Pajhwok that government officials, including the President, had promised reopening the roads, but so far no action could be taken.
“We prepared 300 youths for security of the roads, the youth also received a six-month training, but they have been home doing nothing and the Taliban now deem them as enemy.”
He criticized Paktika officials for doing whatever served their personal interests and ignoring people’s security and other major problems.
A number of residents of other districts also demanded reopening of the roads.
However, Paktika deputy police chief Col. Abdul Rauf Massoud said transferring wounded police and securing highways were not their responsibilities.
On the other hand, the governor’s spokesman, Mohammad Rahman Ayaz, said that measures were being taken to reopen roads to the mentioned districts.
“Police forces are trained for protection of these roads and weapons are made available and security officials would make a decision next week,” he said.
Warmami, Terwa and Wazakhwa districts of Paktika share border with Pakistan. Last year, Taliban militants laid siege to the districts for three months.
Taliban insurgents have shut down 30 schools in Charkh district of central Logar province, an official said.
Saleem Saleh, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said that facilities closed include 10 high schools, 10 middle schools and 10 primary schools.
Taliban have yet to make comment on the report.
Afghanistan’s education system has made major gains since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. During Taliban rule, girls were not allowed to attend schools and less than 1 million boys went to school.
Still 3.5 million children in Afghanistan are deprived of school, according to the United Nations.
Afghanistan has 17,500 schools, but 1,075 remained shut last year, largely due to raging violence.