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What does foreign media say on the Pakistan election

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Islamabad :Many foreign media reports published ahead of the Pakistan general election, to be held on Wednesday, dwelt on the twin concerns of likely military interference and militant participation in the democratic exercise.
A BBC article — titled ‘Pakistan election raises fears of creeping coup’ — starts by stating that the country’s dream of an undiluted democracy seems to be receding in the light of recent developments, before going on to suggest that its military may just be indulging in a fresh round of political manipulation in an attempt to pull a “democratic coup”. It listed the refusal to release convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif ahead of the polls, allowing militant groups to join the political process, and closely monitoring the voting process as some ways in which the military wants to give violently anti-India parties an advantage over moderate ones like Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
An article in the New York Times, titled ‘Military’s Influence Casts a Shadow Over Pakistan’s Election’, begins by describing how Pakistan Muslim League (N) candidate Rana Iqbal Siraj began receiving calls demanding that he defect from the party that governed Pakistan for the last five years. In June, roughly a month before election day, security officials had raided his business at the behest of the military, Siraj said in an interview.
“They are trying to ruin me financially by raiding my warehouse and beating my staff,” the NYT quoted him as saying. “What am I at fault for? Just because I’m running on the PML-N ticket?”
“The military campaign has been likened by some candidates to a soft coup, and has included sidelining candidates who are out of the military’s favor, censoring major news outlets and persecuting peaceful political movements,” the newspaper said, adding that the most likely beneficiary of this manipulation is Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
The Guardian, for its part, reported how the people of Pakistan were not bowled over by the alleged military interference in the election. An article headlined ‘Anti-military protests rock Pakistan in run-up to fiercely contested election’ describes how protesters queued up on the streets outside the Pakistan military headquarters in an unprecedented show of defiance over the weekend. This, it goes on to say, sums up the mood of the public in the Islamic country.
The Time magazine, however, chose to look at the positive side of things. It reported on the representatives of a small community — its transgenders — who were trying to make a mark of their own in the election.
“I am running against big names like Imran Khan and former Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi, and I’m not considered a real threat,” TIME quotes Kashish, who is running as an independent in Pakistan’s nationwide elections on Wednesday, as saying. “People hear about my election run and think it’s a joke, they just start to laugh.”
Nevertheless, the very candidature of Kashish and the others from her community is seen as a great achievement in terms of legal rights in post-Independence Pakistan, although they still face discrimination, harassment and societal exclusion.


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International

US confirms Taliban talks in Qatar

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Washington:The United States confirmed Wednesday that its envoy is meeting in Qatar with the Taliban, seeking to negotiate an end to the Afghanistan war despite a new major attack claimed by the insurgents.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative on Afghan reconciliation, met Tuesday in the Qatari capital Doha with Taliban representatives, the State Department said.

“We can confirm that Special Representative Khalilzad and an interagency team are in Doha today talking with representatives of the Taliban,” a State Department spokeswoman said, adding that the talks were taking place over two days.

 

Khalilzad has sat down several times with the Taliban but it marks the first time that the United States has confirmed his meetings so directly.

The meeting came even though the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack Tuesday against an Afghan intelligence base in central Wardak province.

A local official said that at least 65 people were killed, in the latest high-casualty attack in Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesman announced the meeting with Khalilzad on Monday, saying that the United States accepted an agenda of “ending the occupation of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future.”

President Donald Trump has ordered a halving of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he voices eagerness to end America’s longest-ever war, launched in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.

The Afghan-born Khalilzad, a key US policymaker under former president George W Bush, met the Taliban after talks in Afghanistan as well as stops in key regional players China, India and Pakistan.

In Kabul, Khalilzad spoke with President Ashraf Ghani and vowed that the United States would maintain security support to Afghan forces.

“We agreed military pressure is essential while we prepare to engage in negotiations for peace,” he tweeted.

 

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China to pick Afghan Taliban as political force: envoy

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PESHAWAR: Chinese Ambas­sador in Islamabad Yao Jing has said that his country will “pick Afghan Taliban as a political force” in the backdrop of their participation in the ongoing peace talks with the US and at other forums.

Speaking at a roundtable conference at the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, , he said that Beijing supported Pakistan’s fresh initiatives for facilitating efforts for political settlement of the Afghan conflict and confidence-building measures in relations with Kabul.

Asked about apparent lack of eagerness on the part of China in the ongoing talks for political settlement of the Afghan issue, the envoy said that his country had contacts with both the Taliban and the Afghan government. China had deputed a special envoy who was visiting the Taliban’s political office in Doha, he added.

 

“China will pick them (Taliban) as a political force because they are now part of the Afghan political process and they have some political concerns. They have to be allowed to play a legitimate role in the future political settlement,” he further elaborated his government’s policy on the Afghan peace process being discussed at different forums.

“If possible, China can exert pressure on the Taliban to join the peace process,” said the ambassador who had served in Kabul and New Delhi before taking over his new assignment in Pakistan. He urged all external stakeholders, including Afghanistan’s neighbours, to play their role for peace in the war-ravaged country.

“Afghans have been suffering for the last 40 years and they deserve peace and stability,” he said.

Supporting Pakistan’s fresh initiatives for facilitating talks between the Taliban and US administration, he said that China backed this ongoing process and had also played its role in the Moscow meeting and at other forums.

Mr Yao said that Afghans were very friendly towards China which had close relations with their country. “When we look towards west, the immediate challenge for us is Afghanistan having many international terrorist organisations.”

He said that Central Asian states had their own version and vision about Afghanistan and the same was the case of Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

“We are very much hopeful about a peaceful settlement of the Afghan issue, but this is a very complicated issue, which requires a lot of patience,” the envoy said. The US might announce withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan where elections were around the corner, he added.

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Four held in New York state for ‘plotting’ against Muslims

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New York:Three men and a teenage boy have been arrested and charged for an alleged plot against a small Islamic community in New York state, police said.

The suspects have been accused of possessing homemade bombs and firearms, and planning to attack Islamberg, founded by a Pakistani cleric in the 1980s.

The three men — Andrew Crysel, 18, Vincent Vetromile, 19, and Brian Colaneri, 20 — were due to appear in court on Wednesday.

 

All were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. A 16-year-old boy is also facing charges, the police said, adding that at least three of them served together as boy scouts.

Investigators say the group, based in the city of Greece in the northwest of the state, made at least three improvised explosive devices using duct tape and large jars and cylinders containing nails and other projectiles.

They were found in the 16-year-old’s home, a police officer added. Some 23 firearms were also found at various locations. The alleged plot was revealed following a tip-off from a school student, the BBC reported.

Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said the investigation was launched after comments made by the 16-year-old at school on Friday were overheard by a fellow student.

The Islamberg community, located west of the Catskill mountains near the city of Binghamton, has become a target for conspiracy theorists.

The mainly African American group settled there to escape crime and overcrowding in New York City. The community has been described as peaceful and friendly, but right-wing conspiracy-led media outlets keep suggesting that it was a training camp for Islamist militants, the BBC said.

In 2017 Robert Doggart, from Tennessee, was jailed for plotting to burn down the community’s mosque. In 2015, Arizona man John Ritzheimer threatened the community with an armed confrontation.

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