‘The spirit of brotherhood defines Pakistan’s approach towards Afghanistan’

May 15, 2019

 

As tensions rise between Saudi Arabia/US and Iran it is good to read that heads of two troubled states are agreeing to seek peace and economic progress towards regional prosperity

In January, Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani phoned Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss recent efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Business Recorder reports that he expressed gratitude for Pakistan’s facilitation of these efforts, initiated by the US Special Representative for Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamlay Khalilzad. He invited Imran Khan to visit Afghanistan at his earliest convenience. Khan reciprocated by inviting President Ghani to visit Pakistan.

In April, PM Khan (below) said “Afghanistan conflict has brought great suffering for both Afghanistan and Pakistan over last 40 years. Now, after a long wait, the Afghanistan Peace Process presents a historic opportunity for peace in the region and Pakistan is fully supporting the process including the next logical step of Intra Afghan Dialogue wherein Afghans will themselves decide upon the future of their country”.

Earlier this month the Times of Islamabad reported that according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Imran Khan has called Ashraf Ghani (right) and they agreed to work to realise the true economic potential of the two countries and assure the socio-economic development, alleviation of poverty and welfare of the two peoples. He stated that the spirit of brotherhood defined Pakistan’s approach towards Afghanistan. The prolonged Afghan conflict had damaged Afghanistan and adversely affected Pakistan over many decades.

Imran Khan presented his vision of a peaceful solution in Afghanistan, fully owned and led by the Afghans themselves and stressed that Pakistan will spare no effort to advance the common objectives of building peace in Afghanistan and having a fruitful bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The Gulf News adds that – according to the Foreign Office statement – during the conversation, the Afghan president accepted the invitation to visit Islamabad “for a comprehensive exchange of views on all issues of mutual interest.”

 

 

 

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Trident: Bruce Kent and the Bishop of Chelmsford are ‘wise as serpents and (hopefully) as harmless as doves.’

April 8, 2019

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Renowned peace campaigner, Bruce Kent, has called on the Catholic bishops of England and Wales to condemn the Trident replacement plans.

Speaking to The Tablet at the 27th Ash Wednesday Witness at the Ministry of Defence, at the start of Lent, Mr Kent said: “It’s a time of penance, and prayer. And here is the most awful thing in the world, weapons that can destroy whole cities and thousands of people” (below) and that triggering a nuclear attack is “absolutely impossible, morally”.

He acknowledged that the bishops have condemned nuclear weapons in general, and singled out Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon, for his stance on nuclear weapons. 

After urging the Bishops’ Conference to speak out about Trident replacement, that Christian CND has estimated will cost more than £200 billion, he continued: “Now that we’re going to spend £200 billion on more nuclear weapons, I would expect a statement from the bishops about the immorality of it. And I’m still waiting”.

On April 5th, The Times reported that senior clergy are calling on Westminster Abbey to cancel a ceremony to honour Trident submarine crews, planned for May 3, to mark 50 years of Britain’s “continuous at-sea deterrent”, because it appears to “celebrate” nuclear weapons.

Today Dr Julian Lewis, MP, Chairman, defence committee, countered one assertion in a letter:

“Far from being “designed to indiscriminately kill and destroy thousands of innocent civilians”, as (the Bishop of Colchester) asserts, these weapons have been created — and for 50 years successfully deployed by the Royal Navy — to eliminate any realistic possibility of hostile powers threatening to kill millions of British civilians with impunity”. He did not cite the Bishop of Chelmsford’s more accurate reference to an affirmation in July last year by the church’s General Synod, that (emphasis added):

“(N)uclear weapons, through their indiscriminate and destructive potential, present a distinct category of weaponry that requires Christians to work tirelessly for their elimination”.

Lambeth Palace said that there were no plans for the Bishop to the Armed Forces or the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the invitation-only ceremony, which will be attended by Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, Earl Howe, the defence minister, and Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the First Sea Lord.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, also said that he did not doubt Westminster Abbey’s good intentions in celebrating those men and women who serve in the Royal Navy on these nuclear submarines, but saw this service as appearing also to celebrate the weapons, adding:

“I hope the abbey will include other voices in this service which can bear witness to the horror of nuclear weapons and the growing consensus . . . to work for their elimination.”

 

 

 

 

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‘Statesmanlike’ words, a peace gesture intended to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan

February 28, 2019

Times journalist, Hugh Tomlinson, described Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan as ‘statesmanlike’, after he urged restraint and warned of the horrors of a miscalculation between two nations with about 140 nuclear warheads apiece. 

Earlier Pakistan asked India to provide evidence for the claims that its government  supports Kashmiri rebel groups. In a statement made on 21st February, Pakistan repeated an offer to help investigate the attack, to take action against anyone found to be using the Pakistani soil for attacks on India and hold a “dialogue” with India on all issues, including terrorism.

Addressing India directly in a televised statement yesterday, Mr Khan offered a way to avert a full-scale conflict: “All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to. I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation?”

After a special address on Indian-Pakistani tensions in the Pakistani Parliament, he announced that his government will return Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, an Indian air force MiG-21 pilot, shot down over Pakistani controlled territory on Wednesday morning, to India as a “peace gesture” intended to de-escalate tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Mr Khan tweeted afterwards.

Sources, the Times, the FT and India’s Economic Times

 

 

 

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Korean update

January 30, 2019

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The last reference on this site was the cheering April declaration by the two Korean leaders that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In a September agreement, the Koreas pledged gradually to withdraw all guard posts within the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone. They also agreed to create buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries, as well as a no-fly zone above the border. South Korean President Moon Jae-in described the agreement as an important trust-building step that will reduce border tensions.

Associated Press reported in October that the North and South Korean militaries agreed to destroy 22 front-line guard posts by the end of November as they discussed their next steps in implementing the September agreement. In a statement released after the general-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom they agreed to conduct a November joint survey of a 70km waterway near their western border which will eventually be used by civilian vessels from both countries.

The Koreas and the U.S.-led U.N. Command completed removing firearms and troops from a jointly controlled area at the border village and have been clearing mines from front-line areas. They plan to start their first joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War in April. South Korea’s Defence Ministry issued a statement that the Koreas plan to jointly verify that all these measures have been carried out in December.

November: the road built across the military demarcation line inside the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea.

Seoul’s defence ministry announced that North and South Korea have connected a road across their shared border for the first time in 14 years, in the latest reconciliation gesture. The dirt road, which is wholly within the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, will be used for joint operations next year to recover remains from the 1950-53 Korean War as agreed at the Pyongyang summit between the South’s President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un in September.

The BBC reported that in November, for the first time in more than a decade, a train travelled from South Korea across the heavily guarded border into North Korea.

When the leaders of North and South Korea had their historic meeting in April, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un asked for help with updating his country’s railways, which he said were in an “embarrassing” state.

South Korean engineers boarded the train in Dorasan, just north of Seoul, on Friday morning for the short journey to the Demilitarised Zone which has divided the Korean peninsula since the Korean War in the 1950s. They will live on the train for the next 18 days while inspecting 1,200km (745 miles) of track and railway infrastructure.

In December, the Koreas jointly verified the removal of the border Armed Guard Posts. Voice of America reports that a South Korean delegation left for North Korea on to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for reconnecting roads and railways across the divided peninsula despite stalled denuclearization talks. Joint railway and road inspections are to take place this month in preparation for this project.

In January, following a visit by Mr Kim’s top aide to Washington, the FT reported that the White House has confirmed that a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump will take place at the end of February.

 

 

 

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Israel/Palestine: the Prince, the President, the Activist, the Pope and the Writer

December 4, 2018


In June the Duke of Cambridge – the first senior member of the royal family to make an official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories – was asked by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to take a “message of peace” to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Rivlin has made a point of reaching out to Israel’s Arab minority, saying that they form a “bridge to peaceful coexistence” with the Palestinians. He is a popular figure who enjoys cross-party support though his outspoken opinions have led to a series of disputes with key figures in the Israeli government.

He said to Prince William: “I would like you to send him a message of peace. And tell him it is about time that we have to find together a way to build confidence.

“To build confidence as a first step to bring to an understanding that we have to bring to an end the tragedy between us that goes along for more than 120 years.” 

William said in a speech at the British embassy in Tel Aviv: “Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbours, for a just and lasting peace.”

Uri Avnery, who died in October, was described in a Haaretz obituary as one of the first Israelis to extend a hand to the Arab minority.

He co-founded Gush Shalom (Hebrew for the Peace Bloc), a pressure group and published an English-language version of the column titled “Who the Hell Are We?” The group advocates the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and describes itself as “the hard core of the Israeli peace movement.”

After fighting as a commando in Israel’s 1948 war of independence and being seriously wounded, he emerged with a conviction that the new Jewish state was part of the Middle East, not the West, and needed to live in peace with its Arab neighbours.

He was one of the first proponents of the “two-state solution”, with Israel and Palestine existing side by side with open borders and Jerusalem as their joint capital, which would become the basis of peace negotiations decades later: “The war totally convinced me there’s a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them. To achieve that goal, a Palestinian nation-state had to be established.”

In July 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he crossed the front lines in besieged Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel’s arch-enemy. It was allegedly the first time that Arafat had met an Israeli. They talked for more than two hours, filmed by a German television crew. Avnery joked that the unmarried PLO leader could solve the Middle East conflict in an instant by marrying an Israeli woman.

He then returned to Israel to face the inevitable accusations of treason. Even his mother disowned him, cutting him out of her will and complaining: “He did not take care of me and instead went off to visit the murderer Yasser Arafat.”

  • He exposed atrocities by Israeli soldiers.
  • After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Avnery urged Israel to withdraw from the territories it had gained and set up a Palestinian state.
  • In 1975 he co-founded the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
  • He acted as a “human shield” to prevent the Israel military shelling Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah during the second Intifada.
  • In 1965 Avnery created a political party in response to a defamation law that appeared to target HaOlam HaZeh. He won a seat in the Knesset that year and held it four years later, but the party disintegrated. He wrote a book about his tenure called 1 against 119: Uri Avnery in the Knesset.
  • Later Avnery developed secret relationships with some Palestinian officials and served on occasion as an unofficial back channel between them and the Israeli government.
  • He was one of a handful of Israelis to attend Arafat’s funeral in 2004.
  • He supported negotiations with the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas and a boycott of goods produced in Israel’s West Bank settlements.

His estate is bequeathed to peace activism.

Pope Francis welcomed the Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, to a private audience in the Vatican on December 3rd.

In a statement released after their meeting, the Vatican said the two leaders focused on “efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

They exchanged gifts and discussed the status of Jerusalem, underlining “the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.

Writer Amos Oz was one of the first Israelis to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict after the Six-Day War.

In 1978, he was one of the founders of Peace Now. He is opposed to Israeli settlement activity and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO. His thoughtful book How to cure a fanatic is a collection of Amos Oz’s lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Read more here.

He advocates the two-state solution, which he sees as the best answer to what is effectively a “real-estate dispute”

“The Palestinians are in Palestine because Palestine is the homeland and the only homeland of the Palestinian people. In the same way in which Holland is the homeland of the Dutch, or Sweden the homeland of the Swedes.

“The Israeli Jews are in Israel because there is no other country in the world which the Jews, as a people, as a nation, could ever call home. As individuals, yes, but not as a people, not as a nation.”

He draws a parallel between the experience of the Palestinian people and the experience of the Jews, stressing that both claims to Palestine are justified and right. Accordingly he concludes “What we need is a painful compromise.”

 

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India and Pakistan: the ebb and flow of peace-making

October 21, 2018

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The writer, who has lived in India, noted the feelings of friendship between the ordinary people of both countries and the common appreciation of cricket, music and films.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an August letter to his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan, said that India was committed to peaceful neighbourly ties with Pakistan.


In September, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan continued the proposals for peace talks between India and Pakistan in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he asked for the two neighbouring countries to resume dialogue and iron out differences. The Times of India reported that he also suggested a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi – on the side-lines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York – to discuss bringing a positive change and peace.

This was agreed but called off the next day by the Indian government because three policemen were abducted from their homes in south Kashmir’s Shopian district and shot dead by the Hizbul Mujahideen, ‘Pakistan-based entities’.

On October 20th, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan extended condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in a train accident near Amritsar, India and was praised by social media users from both Pakistan and India. On his official twitter account, @ImranKhanPTI, Khan posted:

Tweep @jaideepwadali, who hails from Amritsar, responded to Khan’s tweet and wrote: “We are with the people affected, being from same city. Thanks for your words Imran sir.” @KKX056, a Pakistani tweep based in Italy, posted: “We all are with Indians.” Tweep @Politico_Jay, based in Gujarat, India, wrote: “It was a horrifying incident. Thanks for your sympathy and kindness Mr Prime Minister.” @SidraRajpoot786, a tweep based in Pakistan, added: “This shows that humanity comes first.”

Within four hours, his tweet had more than 600 comments, 3,200 retweets and 14,500 likes. Khan’s tweet also brought many social media users from both sides of the border closer over this tragedy.

 

 

 

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Will North and South Korea build their own path to peace?

September 19, 2018

Today’s news that Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut down one of North Korea’s main missile testing and launch sites and the two Korean leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation” is the third step towards reconciliation and peace taken by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In April the Korea Times reported that the leaders had signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which they made it clear there would be no more war on the peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun (read on here)..

CNN reported New US sanctions against North Korea on September 13th. They were aimed at two Chinese information technology companies, which are North Korean-controlled, according to the US Treasury Department, which alleged that the Russia-based company Volasys Silver Star and China-based China Silver Star had been violating US sanctions.

Despite this and other tensions, on September 12th, the Straits Times reported that North and South Korea will open a joint liaison office at the site of the Kaesong industrial complex, where for about a decade, South Korean companies ran production lines staffed by North Korean workers at the industrial park. A South Korean delegation discussed this in June with North Korean officials at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Seoul said the office will become operational –  working to improve cross-border communications and exchanges – immediately after the opening ceremony on Friday, September 14th. Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea’s delegation said, “The two sides are now able to take a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula by quickly and frankly discussing issues arising from inter-Korean relations”.

The office is a significant move in thawing relations between the two countries, and follows a meeting this month between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and a South Korean presidential envoy and Mr Trump’s warm reaction to a personal letter from Mr Kim offering a second summit with the US.

The two Koreas previously communicated by fax and special telephone lines, which were often severed when their relations took a turn for the worse. Seoul’s patient and persistent unification ministry said the office would become a “round-the-clock consultation and communication channel” for advancing inter-Korean relations, improving ties between the US and the North, and easing military tensions.

If North and South Korea succeed in building their path to peace they could encourage other fractured regions to do so.

Will the Indian sub-continent also begin to act in its people’s best interests?

 

 

 

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