China, Pakistan, Russia promise aid for Taliban but no recognition on eve of Moscow talks

ICMD, Oct 19, 2021: Russia, China and Pakistan are willing to provide aid to Afghanistan, the Russian foreign ministry said on Tuesday, but Moscow said it was not yet ready to recognise the Taliban government. The promise of humanitarian aid and economic support came after talks between Russian, Chinese and Pakistani officials, who will be joined by representatives of Afghanistan's rulers at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was withholding recognition from the Taliban while waiting for them to fulfil promises they made when they took power, including on the political and ethnic inclusivity of the new government. Critics say the former rebel movement is backtracking on pledges not to sideline women and minorities, or persecute foes. "Official recognition of the Taliban is not under discussion for now," Lavrov told reporters. "Like most of other influential countries in the region, we are in contact with them. We are prodding them to fulfil the promises they made when they came to power." -- Courtesy Reuters

US chief interlocutor for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad steps down

ICMD, Oct 19, 2021: Some two months after the U.S.’s chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s chief negotiator in what was meant to be an Afghan peace settlement, has resigned. Mr. Khalilzad, an Afghan-American, was appointed in 2018 by former U.S. President Donald Trump and continued to hold the position in the Biden administration. Thomas West, who has been Deputy Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation since January this year, will replace Mr. Khalilzad, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. In his role as Deputy, Mr. West had already met Taliban representatives in Doha after the American departure. He also made a trip to Kabul with CIA Director William Burns, as per a CNN report. “Thank you to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for decades of tireless service to the United States,” Mr. Blnken said on Twitter, shortly after the official announcement went out. Mr. Khalilzad has been criticised for orchestrating a February 2020 deal with the Taliban, details of which were mostly hammered out in Doha, cutting out the former Afghan government. The U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops by May 2021 (originally) with the Taliban refraining from attacking the troops in return. Mr. Biden extended the withdrawal deadline to August 31. After the U.S. departure, Mr. Khalilzad had helped get Americans and vulnerable Afghans out of the country, the New York Times reported. “The political arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not go forward as envisaged. The reasons for this are too complex and I will share my thoughts in the coming day and weeks,” Mr. Khalilzad said in his resignation letter, as reported in Politico. Earlier he had dismissed the notion that the Afghan forces would surrender to the Taliban. “I personally believe that the statements that their forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken,” Mr. Khalilzad had told the House of Representatives in May this year. Mr. Khalilzad had said, in an interview to The Hindu in May 2020, that the U.S. could not see a “better alternative” to the deal it had struck with the Taliban and that India should directly engage with the outfit.

Govt increases petrol price by Rs10.49 per litre, rate goes up to Rs137.79 per litre for petrol

ICMD, Oct 16, 2021: The government increased on Saturday the price of petrol by Rs10.49 per litre, taking its rate to Rs137.79 per litre. As per the notification issued by the Finance Division, oil prices in the international market had risen around $85 a barrel which was the highest since October 2018. "In the current scenario, the government has absorbed the pressure and provided maximum relief to consumers by keeping the petroleum levy and sales tax to a minimum," the notification said. "Therefore, prices worked out by Ogra (Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority) have been approved." The price of high speed diesel (HSD) has also been raised by Rs12.44 per litre and will now be available at Rs134.48. Moreover, the prices of kerosene and light diesel oil (LDO) have been increased by Rs10.95 and Rs8.84 per litre, respectively. The new price of kerosene is Rs110.26 per litre while LDO will be sold at Rs108.35 per litre. Ogra works out another hike in POL products Earlier, Ogra had sent a summary to the Petroleum Division for recommendations for a significant hike in the prices based on the current rate of petroleum levy (PL) and general sale tax (GST). Ogra recommended Rs8 per litre raise in rate of petroleum and another increase by Rs11 per litre in price of HSD. -- ICMD

TV reporter killed in explosion near his car in Balochistan's Hub; Shahid Zehri was associated with Metro 1 News and traveling in a car

ICMD, Oct 10, 2021: A television reporter was killed in an explosion near his car in Balochistan's Hub area on Sunday night, police said. Shahid Zehri, 35, who was associated with Metro 1 News, was traveling in a car in Hub when he was attacked reportedly with a homemade grenade, Eidgah Station House Officer Nadeem Haider said. Zehri, who suffered critical injuries, and another injured companion were initially taken to Hub Civil Hospital and subsequently brought to the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, where Zehri was pronounced dead. CCTV footage of the incident showed an explosion took place on the roadside near Zehri's moving car as soon as it made a U-turn on a busy road. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and the nature of the bomb could not be confirmed immediately. -- Dawn

Nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan laid to rest in Islamabad

ICMD, Oct 10, 2021: Renowned nuclear scientist and national icon Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan was laid to rest in Islamabad on Sunday. His funeral prayers, led by Prof Dr Ahmed Al Ghazali, were held at the Faisal Mosque at 3:30pm. A large number of people were in attendance during the funeral prayers, despite rain which began to pour shortly after 3pm. Among those who attended the funeral were cabinet members, parliamentarians and the military leadership. Previous story Pakistan's nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan passed away in Islamabad on Sunday morning. He was 85. Dr Khan was admitted to a local hospital where his health deteriorated early morning. He died after being transferred to a hospital with lung problems. Born in 1936 in Bhopal, India, Dr Khan had immigrated along with his family to Pakistan in 1947 after the partition of the subcontinent. Last month, Khan had complained that neither Prime Minister Imran Khan nor any of his cabinet members inquired after his health while he was under treatment at a hospital. According to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan, Dr Khan had been admitted to Khan Research Laboratories Hospital on August 26 after he tested positive for Covid-19. Later, he was shifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi but was discharged after recovering from the virus. Abdul Qadeer Khan was at the centre of a massive global nuclear proliferation scandal in 2004. In a series of dramatic developments, he was accused by then army chief and president Pervez Musharraf of running a rogue proliferation network for nuclear material. Shortly after Musharraf’s announcement, a recorded confession by Khan was aired in which he took sole responsibility for all the nuclear proliferation that had been revealed.

Taliban rules out cooperation with US to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan

ICMD, Oct 9, 2021: The Taliban on Saturday ruled out cooperation with the U.S. to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan, staking out an uncompromising position on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since America withdrew from the country in August. Senior Taliban officials and U.S. representatives are meeting on Saturday and Sunday in Doha. Officials from both sides have said issues include reining in extremist groups and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have signaled flexibility on evacuations. Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said there would be no cooperation with Washington on going after the increasingly active Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan. IS has taken responsibility for a number of attacks, including Friday’s suicide bombing at a mosque in Kunduz. “We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, when asked whether the Taliban would work with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS. The weekend meetings in Doha are the first since U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence, and the Taliban rose to power in the nation. The U.S. has made it clear the talks are not a preamble to recognition. The talks also come on the heels of two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Islamabad. The focus of those talks was also Afghanistan. Pakistani officials urged the U.S. to engage with the Taliban and release billions of dollars in international funds.

Faulty configuration changes on routers the root cause of the nearly six-hour outage: Facebook

ICMD, Ict 5, 2021: Facebook Inc on Monday cited faulty configuration changes on its routers as the root cause of the nearly six-hour outage that prevented the company's 3.5 billion users from accessing its social media and messaging services. "Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication," Facebook said -- Courtesy Reuters