Libya Is Peaceful Enough for the Return of Soccer

International matches return to Libya

SOFIA

Reuters) – International soccer will return to Libya on Monday when local clubs Al Nasr Benghazi and Al Ahli Tripoli meet CSKA Sofia in matches that will mark the first anniversary of the revolution, the Libyan embassy in Bulgaria said.

The 31-times Bulgarian champions will become the first foreign team to play in the African country after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule erupted on February 17 last year.

“We are very grateful to the Bulgarian team, who agreed to participate in this historic event for Libya,” the embassy told Reuters by email on Sunday.

The Libyan league has been suspended since last February but clubs have continued to play in continental competitions, by forfeiting their right to play at home in knockout ties, which were reduced to a single match at their opponent’s ground.

The national team used Mali and Egypt as their home grounds in the Nations Cup qualifiers but still managed to reach the finals, which were co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

CSKA visit Libya for the first time since the 1960s when the team took part in an international tournament.

The matches will take place at the “Benina Martyrs” stadium in the eastern town of Benghazi, which is about 1,000 kms east of the capital Tripoli with capacity crowds expected for all games.

Haitham Saliman Mahmoud, a member of the organising committee, told Reuters by telephone that a three-way tournament would be played on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Asked why a Bulgarian side had been invited, he replied: “This tournament is organised by a political party and they have business relations with the CSKA president so they offered to play this tournament and he accepted.”

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Additional reporting by Osama Khairy; Editing by John Mehaffey)

US Negotiations with Taliban Looking for A Way Out, NOT for Afghan Peace

Afghan Opposition Leader: No Change in Taliban Ambitions

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Afghan political figure stressed the failure of the so-called peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia’s efforts in pushing the Taliban leadership ahead, and underlined that the Taliban has maintained its belligerent nature and aspirations and is the same group as it was before 2001.

“The growing number of suicide attacks shows that the Taliban has the same ‘Islamic Emirate’ in mind and is seeking to overthrow the existing system,” Afghan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah said in an interview with FNA.

“That is what it had sought before 2001 (when it was ousted from power),” the former Afghan foreign minister stated, adding that the group enjoys the same supporters as it had before.

He rejected the necessity for the establishment of a Taliban office in Doha or any other place outside Afghanistan.

Abdullah further stressed the necessity for negotiations with Taliban for the establishment of peace, and added, “We want negotiations with Taliban under the supervision of the United Nations and on Afghan soil.”

Afghan officials say that talks between the US and the Taliban in Qatar will not result in the establishment of peace in Afghanistan since the talks are in pursuit of the US interests.

“It seems unlikely that these talks (US-Taliban talks in Qatar) lead to the establishment of peace because the US objectives in the region lie in the most central part of the talks,” Soror Javadi told FNA in January.

“The US is seeking to stir military tension in Afghanistan and Pakistan in a bid to achieve its larger goal that is controlling the region,” he noted.

Earlier in January, Taliban announced that they had struck a deal to open a political office in Qatar that could allow for direct negotiations.

Some analysts are skeptical of the prospects for meaningful peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The developments came as Pakistani media revealed that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has removed the name of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar from the list of “most wanted terrorists.”

The report came following Washington’s secret meetings with the Taliban after one decade of war. US officials have held several meetings with representatives of the Afghan Taliban leader, headed by Tayyib Agha, in Germany and Qatar over the past months.

During the meetings, the US and Taliban negotiators reached a deal to transfer five Taliban militants, who are under custody in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, to Qatar. The removal of Mullah Omar’s name from the terror list comes after the prisoner deal.

The founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, has been in hiding since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Parachinar Blast Blows Away Bullshit About Army Peacekeeping in Kurram–the Army IS the Problem

[SEE:  Is Kurram Offensive Just Another Soap Opera?]

Parachinar blast

SECTARIAN terrorism returned to the volatile Kurram Agency on Friday when over 30 people were killed in a suspected suicide attack in a Parachinar market. Among the dead were protesters the security forces reportedly fired upon following the explosion. The incident has severely jolted the fragile government-backed peace accord that has held between the area’s Shia and Sunni populations. Normality was slowly returning to the neglected region and displaced families from both communities had begun to return to their native areas. The arterial Thall-Parachinar road, which was reopened in October last year after several years of closure due to militant attacks, has been closed indefinitely. Though the road was still largely unsafe for civilians, traffic had been running as people had no choice, considering it is the only viable route connecting the region with the rest of Pakistan.

There are quite a few unanswered questions about this incident. Firstly, how could a bomber sneak past the considerable security presence in the area?

It is also unacceptable that security forces fired on protesters when effective non-lethal methods of crowd control exist. And while militant Fazal Saeed, who leads his own faction of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack because “the Shia community of Parachinar were involved in activities against us”, many are circumspect about this claim.
Though Saeed is a notorious militant, other factors need to be considered and the bombing needs to be investigated, as the mainstream TTP’s involvement — which is at odds with the Saeed faction — cannot be ruled out. The bombing may have been the result of intra-militant feuds and the Fazal Saeed claim may be a false flag. Whoever is responsible must be brought to justice and militants of all stripes in Kurram need to be eliminated. As we have said before, it is the state’s responsibility — specifically that of the security forces — to keep the Thall-Parachinar road open and safe for travel and to neutralise the militants.

Unfortunately, the security establishment has failed miserably on all these counts, to the detriment of the people of Kurram. It needs to act now to prevent the resumption of sectarian violence in the agency.

Rohrabacher’s Pressler moment

Rohrabacher’s Pressler moment

pakpotpourri2

By Fahd Husain

Dana Rohrabacher has just become a meddlesome villain. But is he a lone ranger, or is something more sinister cooking in Washington DC?

The resolution that Rohrabacher has introduced in the US House of Representatives calling upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right of self-determination is an outrageous act of provocation. It is shocking in content, and deliberately insensitive in wording. And it will wreck the atmosphere prior to the debate on the new rules of engagement that Pakistan has put together to deal with the United States.

But clearly there is more to it than a US politician looking to back an issue which can guarantee him headlines. Rohrabacher would like nothing more than to grab centre-stage in the volatile arena of Pakistan-US relations. Remember Larry Pressler? He was a random US politician who introduced an amendment in the 1980’s calling for US aid to be cut to Pakistan if the US president certified that Pakistan had crossed the nuclear threshold. The piece of legislation came to be known as the Pressler Amendment, and it kicked into effect when George Bush the Elder decided it was time to squeeze Pakistan. The Pressler Amendment, and its author, single-handedly soiled Pakistan-US ties for almost a decade. Rohrabacher is now donning the Pressler mantle. But the repercussions of his mischief have the potential to be far more damaging than Pressler’s. He is, in fact, reinforcing the widely-held impression that the US is out to destroy Pakistan.

Let’s not use the word ‘destroy’ lightly. It conjures up images of what the Americans did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. It paints a picture of bombing sorties, burnt out cities, tens of thousands killed and a country reduced to a wasteland. Transplant these images on to Pakistan and it send shivers down your spine. This is the worst case scenario.

What is possible though is the triggering of a series of events which can snowball into unpredictable situations. In fact, the unthinkable has already started: a very public and a very acrimonious debate on the demand for an independent Balochistan. As long as such a debate was confined to private conversation, or a limited section of the very local and regional press, it could be ignored. Such a debate, based on such demands, never reached a stage where it could be taken seriously. Yes Baloch have genuine grievances, yes they had suffered from criminal neglect, and yes their alienation from Islamabad was never really seriously addressed, but the simmering situation remained on the fringes of our national discourse.

Not anymore. By plucking this issue from the fringes and placing it bang centre in Washington DC, Rohrabacher has transformed the dynamics of the entire issue within a month. The resolution he has just introduced will ensure that this debate gains traction, both in the American and Pakistani media.

What do we do? Issuing condemnations is not enough. Our outrage at this blatant interference in our affairs should be heard loud and clear. The US government will try and distance itself from Rohrabacher and mouth the usual statements. Our parliament will probably pass a counter-resolution and pile pressure on the hapless Gilani government to rake Washington over coals. This is all for public consumption, and there isn’t much wrong in doing so.

But the real task is two-fold: First, get our facts clear on Rohrabacher, his resolution, and what’s happening at his back. If ever, a deep behind-the-scenes information on what’s cooking in Washington DC was ever required, it is now. Our new ambassador has a huge challenge on her hands. Second, and more important, is for us to get a grip on the situation in Balochistan, which is spiralling out of control with each passing day. Killing and counter-killings now seem locked in a vicious cycle which no one is able to stop. Despite extreme positions, the door to dialogue needs to open. Rules of engagement need to be spelt out, and the Establishment needs to change tack.

Rohrabacher is indulging in villainy because we are providing him fodder. He is exploiting our weakness. Let’s condemn him for what he is doing, but at the same time douse the flames that we have lit ourselves.

Published in The Express Tribune