2017 March 01 : AsiaNet-Pakistan

Archive for March 1st, 2017

Qatari emir, Bahrain PM discuss ways to enhance bilateral cooperation

March 1, 2017 |

Doha (IINA) � Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met here on Tuesday with Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who was on an official visit to Doha.

The emir welcomed the prime minister’s visit which reflects the keenness of both countries’ leaderships on enhancing the existing consultation, coordination and cooperation, especially in light of the grave challenges facing the region.

Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported that the talks during the meeting addressed bilateral relations and means to further develop them for the welfare and interests of the two brotherly peoples in addition to ways of enhancing Gulf joint action.

The two sides also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and exchanged views on a number of issues of mutual concern.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

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Former Afghan Interpreter Heartened by Trump Vow to Pursue Extremists

March 1, 2017 |

President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress hit home for Hewad Hemat, a former interpreter who lived with the threat of terrorism every day while helping U.S. and U.N. forces in his native Afghanistan.

Hemat attended the address Tuesday night as the guest of Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from the northeastern state of Connecticut. A vocal opponent of the Taliban and Islamic State, Hemat was encouraged by Trump’s vow to pursue the extremist groups that have claimed responsibility for numerous terror attacks around the world.

“What I found interesting was that President Trump said he will intensify the fight against Islamic State,” Hemat said during a visit to Voice of America’s headquarters Wednesday. “They’re killing Afghan troops, U.S. troops, women, children � they’re killing everyone.

“Those who are fighting are not following Islam. They’re not real Muslims. They’re abusing Islam, misinterpreting it. It’s politics, not Islam.”

While Trump did not specifically mention Afghanistan, it was on the minds of many in the audience. Hemat had dinner with several senators, who thanked him for his assistance to the U.S. military, the American Embassy and the United Nations.

“We talked a lot about Afghanistan and the security situation there,” he said. “I was really excited, happy, honored to be there.”

Alleged terror supporters

If given a chance to talk with Trump, Hemat said he would tell the president to try to reduce outside support for the Taliban, Islamic State and allied groups.

“I would tell him that the Afghan people are victims of the same terrorists who did 9/11,” Hemat said. “Put pressure on the countries � Pakistan, Iran, Russia � that are huge supporters of the Taliban and other groups, providing them with training, safe havens, money and medical facilities and directing them.

“Without that support, the Taliban is nothing; they would lose in a month.”

Pakistan has denied supporting the Taliban and blames Afghanistan for not going after extremist groups that have claimed responsibility for a rash of cross-border attacks that have killed more than 150 people. It closed the border with Afghanistan two weeks ago.

Russia has claimed its contact with the Taliban is only aimed at persuading the group to take a positive role in efforts to foster peace in Afghanistan. Iran also has denied supporting terrorist groups.

Peaceful disagreement

Hewat, now a security officer with the University of New Haven’s Orange campus, was also glad that Trump didn’t mention the executive order � now on legal hold � banning travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Instead, the president talked of establishing a merit-based system for visas similar to those that other countries have established.

“I like what I heard,” Hemat said. “He said he will try to unify the nation. We are growing.”

Hemat was even cheered to witness the stark contrast between Republicans giving Trump’s speech numerous standing ovations while Democrats carried out a silent, seated protest.

“This is the best part of democracy, that people can peacefully differ,” he said. “Back in Third World countries, people are killing each other when they disagree.”

Hemat was in college during the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. He came to the United States two-and-a-half years ago and still shares a sense of disbelief that his new home has been so welcoming.

“I’m still not used to not fearing someone will kill me,” he said with a smile.

Source: Voice of America

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Participants in Islamabad Summit Call for Closer Ties

March 1, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN � A regional economic summit in Pakistan on Wednesday concluded with participants pledging to collectively fight the “challenge of terrorism” and push for greater collaboration in areas of trade, energy and infrastructure development.

Islamabad hosted the daylong 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization summit that finalized a “Vision 2025” plan for expanding trade and prosperity among member nations.

“There has never been a more opportune time to realize our dreams of connectivity for regional prosperity,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was elected chairman of the organization. “We can and should achieve even more by pooling together our individual efforts for greater synergy.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the heads of states who attended the summit.

Stability a key

Turkey, Iran and Pakistan founded ECO in 1985. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, who represented Kabul, said that peace and stability in the region would play a greater role in achieving mutual economic goals.

“We can meet the challenges of poverty by implementing a joint strategy,” Zakhiwal said.

Sharif, in televised remarks at the end of the summit, expressed the member nations’ resolve to fight terrorism and extremism collectively.

“We have committed ourselves to working together for bringing progressive change to the lives of the people in our region, transforming it into a bastion of peace, progress and prosperity,” he said.

The participants also adopted an “Islamabad Declaration” on improving trade. Earlier, heads of member states “underscored the need for expansion of cooperation in various fields under the framework of ECO,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

The statement said the participants reached an understanding to “transform the ECO region into a zone of peace and collective prosperity.”

Tight security

The conference took place under tight security after a wave of recent suicide bombings by various militant groups killed more than 125 people across Pakistan. Pakistan’s decades-long war with local Taliban, al-Qaida-linked militants and other Islamic extremists has killed tens of thousands of people.

All roads leading to the venue in Islamabad were blocked, and all offices, schools and most businesses in the capital were closed Wednesday.

Islamabad also used the summit as a chance to show its potential as one of Asia’s emerging markets. “Our economic indicators are up,” Sharif told the meeting.

Government officials also described the summit as an opportunity to show that Pakistan cannot be isolated from the international scene. Last year, a key regional cooperation conference was canceled after neighboring India and Afghanistan refused to attend; both nations blame Pakistani-based militants for carrying out attacks in their countries, and tensions with India have been high over cross-border violence in the disputed Kashmir region.

The heads of member states left Islamabad after the summit.

Source: Voice of America

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