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After US-North Korea summit, PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif asks India to follow suit

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Shahbaz Sharif

Lahore | Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s brother and PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif has asked India to resume peace talks with Islamabad, saying the Singapore summit between the US and North Korea should set a good precedent for both the bickering neighbours to follow.

Marking an epoch in the history of the decades-long tense relationship between the US and North Korea, leaders of the two countries yesterday met in Singapore for a summit where the North’s Kim Jong-un pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearisation” in return for security guarantees from Washington.

“Ever since the start of Korean War, the two nations have been at odds with one another – both threatening to use military force with their nuclear arsenals facing each other.

“If the United States and North Korea can return from the brink of a nuclear flashpoint, there is no reason why Pakistan and India cannot do the same … beginning with a dialogue on Kashmir whose heroic people have resisted and rejected Indian occupation,” Shahbaz Sharif said in a series of tweets.

He further said: “It is time for comprehensive peace talks in our region. International community must focus on the peace process in Afghanistan. Dialogue between Pakistan and India over Kashmir should also resume so that the long-festering Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with the UN resolutions.”

This is a rare statement from Shahbaz Sharif on India, contrary to his elder brother (Nawaz Sharif) whose one of the major reasons behind his ouster, as many political pundits here say, was his efforts to normalise ties with New Delhi.

Shahbaz, who is a prime ministerial candidate from his party, also asked India to leave behind the past tensions between the arch-rivals and starts afresh.

“The US and North Korea talks should be a role model for Pakistan and Indian. If they can return from their previous hostile positions of attacking each other, Pakistan and India can also resume composite dialogue,” he said.

The leader said a dialogue between Pakistan and India over Kashmir was needed to resolve the long-festering dispute in accordance with the United Nations resolutions.

The PML-N chief said if his party returns to power in July 25 elections, it will promote peace in the region with a focus on Afghanistan, as peace in Afghanistan is “inextricably intertwined” with peace and security in Pakistan.

He welcomed the initiatives mooted by the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban for ceasefire in Afghanistan during Eid-ul-Fitr.

Terming it as a positive first step towards promoting an Afghan-led Afghan-owned peace process, Shahbaz said the PML-N government had played a pivotal role in initiating steps for peace in Afghanistan, including hosting the first-ever direct, face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban in Murree in July 2015.

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Imran Khan seeks British PM May’s help to combat money laundering

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Imran Khan has sought UK’s help to combat the menace of money laundering during a conversation with his British counterpart Theresa May, Pakistani media reported, a day after he vowed to act against those who “looted” the country.

Mr. Khan’s request is significant as former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his close relatives are currently jailed in one corruption case and are facing more allegations of money laundering and graft.

Hours after Mr. Imran Khan was elected the new prime minister of Pakistan, Ms. May called him to congratulate and offer her best wishes, Dawn newspaper reported.

The British Prime Minister, during her telephonic conversation with Mr. Khan, said that her government is ready to further improve Britain’s relations with Pakistan.

“We are ready to open new avenues of partnership with Pakistan,” Ms. May told Mr. Khan. “We will fully assist the new government.”

Mr. Khan, after thanking Ms. May for her call, said that he hopes to work with the British government to root out the menace of money laundering.

“Money laundering is a severe problem for developing countries,” he said. “To stop this we want to work with foreign governments, especially Britain’s,” Mr. Khan was quoted as saying.

Prime Minister May agreed to Mr. Khan’s desire of working together to eradicate the practice, the report said.

In his inaugural address to the newly-elected Parliament, Mr. Khan said, “I promise my nation today that we will bring the tabdeeli [change] that this nation was starving for.”

“We have to hold strict accountability in this country; the people who looted this country, I promise that I will work against them,” he vowed.

“The money that was laundered, I will bring it back – the money that should have gone towards health, education, and water, went into people’s pockets,” Mr. Khan said.

Sharif (68), along with his daughter Maryam (44) and his son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar are already serving jail terms of 10-years, seven years and one year respectively in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, after an accountability court convicted them on July 6 over the family’s ownership of four luxury flats in London.

The ownership of the four London flats by the Sharif family surfaced in the Panama Papers in April 2016, indicating that the posh properties were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children.

The Panama Papers cases were launched on September 8, 2016 following the Supreme Court verdict of July 28 that disqualified Sharif as prime minister and ordered the National Accountability Bureau to probe corruption cases against him.

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Former UN chief Kofi Annan has died: foundation

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Geneva  |  Former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan has died today after a short illness at the age of 80, his foundation announced.

“It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness,” the foundation said in a statement.

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Taliban say no peace with ‘occupation,’ want US talks

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Kabul  |  The leader of the Taliban said today there will be no peace in Afghanistan as long as the foreign “occupation” continues, reiterating the group’s position that the 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.

In a message released in honour of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah said the group remains committed to “Islamic goals,” the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.

The Taliban have had a major resurgence in recent years, seizing districts across the country and regularly carrying out large-scale attacks.

Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometres from the capital, Kabul. Afghan security forces battled the militants inside the city for five days, as the US carried out airstrikes and send advisers to help ground forces.

The battle for Ghazni killed at least 100 members of the Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials.

A year ago, President Donald Trump announced that he would send additional U.S. forces to confront the Taliban. But since then the insurgents’ profile has risen, both on the battlefield and in the diplomatic sphere.

The Taliban sent a delegation to Uzbekistan to meet with senior officials earlier this month, and say they recently met with a senior US diplomat in Qatar for what they called “preliminary talks.” The US neither confirmed nor denied the meeting.

Earlier this week, the Taliban’s top political official, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, led a delegation to Indonesia, where he met Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi as well as Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s deputy president, according to a statement the Taliban sent to The Associated Press.

The three-day trip ended on Wednesday. The statement said Stanikzai discussed the presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and the need for them to leave if peace is to return to the country, said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman based in the group’s Qatar office.

While in Indonesia, Stanikzai also “exchanged views on bilateral relations,” Shaheen said in the statement, without elaborating.

From 1996 until 2001, the Taliban ruled in accordance with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Women were barred from education and forced to wear the all-encompassing burka whenever they left their homes, and the country hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

The Taliban have refused to enter into talks with the Afghan government, which they view as a U.S. puppet, saying they will only negotiate the end of the war directly with Washington. The group has said it is committed to regional security and would not pose a danger to other countries.

However, it has also demanded the complete withdrawal of all US and NATO forces. Although NATO officially ended its combat mission at the end of 2014, it has repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces, and it’s unclear whether the government in Kabul would be able to remain in power without foreign military aid.

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