Historic peace talks underway between Afghanistan and Taliban
Afghanistan’s long-awaited intra-Afghan talks got underway Saturday morning in Doha, Qatar after years of behind-the-scenes activity to get to this historic point.
Opening the ceremony officially was Qatar’s deputy premier and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani who was then followed by Afghanistan’s Chairman of the High Council of National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.
Abdullah said the Afghan team has come to Doha with a clear intention to hold honest talks with the Taliban in order to end 40 years of bloodshed and bring lasting peace.
“The legitimate demand of our people and the goal of peace is to end all forms of war and violence through political means,” he said.
He told delegates Afghans want a constitutional system and stability.
“The current war has no winner through war, but a political solution according to the will of the nation has no loser!” he said.
On the issue of the deal signed between the United States and the Taliban, he said people had hoped for peace after this.
“Unfortunately, since then, more than 12,000 Afghans have been killed and about 15,000 wounded in the conflict,” he said.
Addressing the Taliban, he said: “We have released a large number of your prisoners from our prisons for peace and thank you for releasing the prisoners of state.”
He also called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” with the Taliban.
“We have to stop violence and agree on a ceasefire as soon as possible. We want a humanitarian ceasefire,” said the former minister who chairs the High Council for National Reconciliation.
In conclusion, he said: “I believe that if we all give each other the hand of brotherhood with honesty and sincerity, the current torn edge of grief will bring lasting peace to all and to the country.”
Taliban’s head of their negotiating team, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, then delivered his speech and said the Taliban assures Afghans that they will conduct the negotiations sincerely but stated that Afghanistan should have an Islamic system.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also addressed delegates and noted the importance of the day.
Pompeo urged warring Afghan sides to seize the opportunity to strike a peace deal.
“The choice of your future political system is, of course, yours to make,” he said, adding that he hoped the solution would protect the rights of all Afghans and protect social progress, including the presence of women in public life.
“I cannot strongly enough urge you, seize this opportunity”, he added.
Afghanistan makes history after beating Pakistan in T20I series
Afghanistan made history on Sunday night when they beat long-time rival Pakistan in their second successive T20I match in Sharjah to win the series.
Sunday’s match saw Afghanistan beat Pakistan by 7 wickets with one ball remaining.
This is the first time in Afghanistan’s cricketing history that they have beaten Pakistan in an international series and as fans back home and across the world erupted with joy after a nail-biting last two overs, congratulations started pouring in.
Afghanistan Cricket Board said it was a “momentous occasion for Afghanistan cricket!”
The board said in a tweet that the team had “created history by securing their first-ever T20I series win over traditional rivals Pakistan. It’s a triumph of grit, courage, and teamwork.”
Rashid Khan’s squad did indeed show grit, courage and teamwork and after winning the toss and opting to bat first, Pakistan faced an early blow from Fazalhaq Farooqi who dismissed Saim Ayub for a duck on the second ball of the innings.
He then trapped Abdullah Shafique LBW on the very next delivery to take Afghanistan to a dream start. Pakistan kept on losing wickets at regular intervals but Imad Wasim’s 64 not out off 57 and Shadab’s 32 off 25 took them to a respectable total.
Chasing a target of 131 runs, Afghanistan were calm and focused throughout the second innings but needing 30 runs off the last three overs, and 22 from the last two overs.
However Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi hit a six each off pace bowler Naseem Shah in the penultimate over to reduce the target to five runs. Zadran then hit the winning boundary off Zaman Khan’s last over to chase down the 131-run target with one ball to spare.
This was Afghanistan’s first bilateral T20I series against any of the top six teams — India, England, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
They have previously won a T20I series each against the West Indies and Bangladesh and five in five against Zimbabwe.
Khalilzad slams ‘brutal’ but ‘failed’ regime in Iran
Former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Sunday called the Iranian regime a “political and economic failure at home and a growing threat to the region and the world”.
In an interview with UK-based Iran International, Khalilzad said the Tehran regime has lost the support of the Iranian people.
Following up with a detailed tweet after the interview, the former envoy said the Iranian “regime rules through brutal suppression of those who back the Zan (women), Zendagi (life), and Azadi (freedom) movements.
Referring to the ongoing poisoning mystery, he said “many female students have been poisoned at school.”
He also lashed out and said: “Iran has become the capital of al-Qaeda, is determined to acquire nuclear weapons, and provides military support to Russia in its aggression in Ukraine.”
Khalilzad also stated that the Iranian regime “might well use al-Qaeda to target regime opponents abroad and former US officials it has declared it wants to kill.”
He said the Biden administration and US Congress needs to increase support for Iran’s democratic opposition, isolate Iran internationally, press allies to declare Iran’s special military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization, and downgrade relations with the regime by withdrawing their Ambassadors.
“We must increase sanctions, especially stopping the import of Iranian oil. We must also strengthen deterrence against potential Iranian aggression,” he said.
Mohammad Sadiq resigns as Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan
Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special representative to Afghanistan, resigned from his post on Wednesday.
“After serving close to three years as Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, I have requested the government that the time had come for me to move on and focus on my personal pursuits — family, books and agriculture/environment,” he said in a series of tweets.
Sadiq said that he was grateful to the prime minister and all the other stakeholders for their “wholehearted support” to him as the special envoy.
“I deeply appreciate the hard work of many of my colleagues who spent long hours to make the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship work,” he added.
Sadiq was appointed to the Afghan position in June 2020 and had worked closely with other envoys during the peace talks process between the US and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in the lead up to the signing of the Doha Agreement on February 29, 2020.
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