By Suresh Jaura*
This news brief deal with: the unstable situation in Afghanistan; Pakistan’s continued support for the Taliban; the deployment of military tracking technology to hunt COVID-19 patients; continued India-Pak tension on the alleged role of Islamabad in terror attacks in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir; and tearing down of Hindu homes in Bhawalpur, located in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Other topics are related to India’s relations with China; the U.S. offer to mediate and Pakistan’s resentment over hostile U.S. comments on its ties with China.
Afghanistan wants truce extension as it begins freeing 900 Taliban prisoners
The Afghan government said it was in the process of freeing 900 Taliban members from prison on May 26 even as it urged the insurgent group to extend a three-day ceasefire set to end at midnight, according to news agency Reuters, reported WION on May 27.
This is the biggest such release yet as part of a prisoner swap under a deal struck by the Taliban and the United States in Qatar in February.
“For better management of the prisoner issue, it is important to extend the ceasefire,” Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s national security adviser, told a news conference.
Bomb in Afghanistan capital kills journalist and driver
A journalist and a driver were killed and at least six people were wounded when a private bus carrying employees of an Afghan television station was bombed in Kabul, said the director of Khurshid TV, as per Reuters report in WION on May 30.
A preliminary probe showed a bomb attached by magnets to a bus used by Khurshid TV employees was blown up during the evening rush hour. No militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We can confirm that a journalist and a driver were killed on the spot,” said Khurshid TV’s director Jawid Farhad, but gave no further details.
Afghanistan transit trade begins through Pakistan’s Gwadar port
Afghan transit trade through Pakistan’s Gwadar port became operational on May 30. This is the first sea trade between the two countries, reported WION.
The first cargo ship berthed at the port on May 29. Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood announced the development on social media.
The trade commenced under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement-2010.
Pakistan continues to support Taliban: Pentagon report
In the first report since the February 29 agreement, the United States Department of Defense issued its quarterly report to the US Congress, reported WION on May 22.
In this report, the Pentagon reported that Pakistan continues to harbour the Taliban and associated militant groups in Pakistan, such as the Haqqani Network, which maintains the ability to conduct attacks against Afghan interests.
The report is valuable as it covers the first month after the US signed a peace agreement with the Taliban.
Locust attacks in Pakistan raise fear of massive food shortages
After creating havoc in Africa, locusts have entered South Asia and now threatening to cause massive crop loss and food shortages in the region, reported WION on May 29.
Locusts, which move in swarms of up to 50 million, have led to the worst plague in Pakistan in recent history, with damages costing billions of dollars and causing fears of long-term food shortages.
Chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Lt. General Muhammad Afzal also warned on May 26 that besides COVID 19, Pakistan was experiencing two more looming disasters, locusts and floods, in the next month.
Pakistan to use militant tracking technology to hunt COVID 19 patients
Pakistan’s intelligence services are deploying secretive surveillance technology normally used to locate militants to instead track coronavirus patients and the people they come into contact with, reported AFP on May 28.
In a programme publicly touted by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government has turned to the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for help in tackling the virus, which still is spreading at an accelerating rate across Pakistan.
Details about the project have not been released, but two officials told AFP that intelligence services are using geo-fencing and phone-monitoring systems that ordinarily are employed to hunt high-value targets including home-grown and foreign militants.
Intelligence sources warn of terror attack in J&K by Pak trained terrorists
Intelligence sources have warned of many attacks in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan trained terrorists, reported WION on May 28.
A number of infiltrations are being planned by terrorist groups
According to sources, a group of around twenty members of the Taliban, according to sources are being trained by Pakistan’s SSG in a location in Jalalabad, Afghanistan to plan attacks in J&K.
Pakistan tears down Hindu homes in Bhawalpur
As countries encourage people to stay indoors to contain the pandemic, Pakistan has made its own people homeless. The incident came days after the country’s Human Rights Commission of Pakistan tore into the government for its failure to protect the rights of minorities, reported ANI on May 22.
A Basti of minority Hindu community was razed to the ground in the blistering heat of Bhawalpur in its Punjab province.
What’s even more shocking is, the demolition of walls and roofs over people’s head were crushed under the watch of Tariq Bashir Cheema, the Housing Minister in the Imran Khan cabinet, who was accompanied by the country’s Principal Information Officer Shahid Khokhar.
India responds to US offer to mediate with China
India on May 27 said it was engaged with China to resolve the border row while reacting to US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between the two countries to settle the festering dispute, reported WION on May 28.
“We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve it,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, replying to a question at an online media briefing.
Trump offered to arbitrate the raging border dispute between India and China, adding he was willing to ease the tensions.
China says Elephant & Dragon can dance amid a face-off with India
The Chinese envoy to India, Sun Weidong speaking at the Confederation of Young leaders Zoom meet said, “realization of ‘Dragon and Elephant dancing together’ is the only right choice for China and India, which serves the fundamental interests of our two countries and two peoples.”
“China and India are each other’s opportunities and pose no threat to each other” and both “need to see each other’s development in a correct way and enhance strategic mutual trust. We should correctly view our differences and never let the differences shadow the overall situation of bilateral cooperation.”
India-China standoff: PLA soldiers eyeing the Galwan valley
India is stepping up infrastructure, on its own side of the border, and on its own land. The idea is to help Indian forces reach remote locations quickly, reported WION on May 26.
Union defence minister Rajnath Singh today held a meeting with the chiefs of India’s Army, Navy, and Air Force along with CDS chief Bipin Rawat to review the situation in Ladakh. The Prime Minister’s Office also held a meeting to discuss the India-China standoff.
China, meanwhile, is in no mood for dialogue. In fact, Beijing is blaming India and China’s state-run newspaper the Global Times is at it again. It has been publishing aggressive and anti-India commentary. It claims that India has “illegally constructed defence facilities across the border into Chinese territory”.
Maldives thwarts Pak attempts to single out India on Islamophobia at OIC
Maldives has thwarted Pakistan’s attempt to single out India at a virtual meet of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Islamophobia highlighting the country’s democratic credentials and multicultural society, reported Sidhant Sibal in WION on May 22.
Speaking at the OIC United Nations envoys virtual meet, Maldives Permanent Representative in New York Ambassador Thilmeeza Hussain said, “Targetting a specific country will be like side stepping the real issue. In this light, let me state that singling out India, the largest democracy in the world and a multi-cultural society and home to over 200 million Muslims, alleging Islamophobia would be factually incorrect.”
During the meeting Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram had said India is actively promoting Islamophobic,
After US attack, Pakistan, China defend CPEC project
America’s top diplomat in South Asia Alice Wells just stopped short of calling China a loan shark on May 22. In a message to China, the US said take some pity on Pakistan and, stop the “unfair and predatory” lending, reported WION.
America has criticised China of crippling Pakistan with multi-billion dollar loans which would keep Pakistan in servitude to China not for years, but for decades.
The corruption-shrouded China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) has become a big flashpoint.