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Focus on growing threat within as Taliban expands its hold

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Lanka’s former Amb. in Teheran discusses Afghan crisis

The latest US State Department announcement, quoted by Washington Examiner indicates that 99 countries, including the US, EU and NATO have worked out a deal with the Taliban, while honouring the 31st August evacuation deadline, to permit all foreign nationals, employees and Afghans who had worked with the foreign forces and missions and Afghans at risk, to leave freely, even after the deadline,in a safe and orderly manner, to any destination providing travel authorisation, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador in Iran M.M. Zuhair, PC told The Island yesterday.

Sri Lanka, though not in the list of 99 countries, and international entities named in the joint agreement with the Taliban, was unlikely to face problems, in view of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s post August 15 initiatives with the Taliban for a working arrangement with Afghanistan pending the formation of a care taker government, the former MP said.

“It is clear that the Taliban is in the process of enhancing its global credentials but dangerously constrained by possible terror attacks from Afghan violent extremist entities, like the Afghan Khorasan (IS-K) and to a lesser extent Ahmed Massoud’s National Resistance Front (NRF), believed to be under British handlers,” he said.

Zuhair said: “Meanwhile agents of the Western arms industry, operating from the US as well as Scandinavian countries, and Singapore, are decrying even a working relationship with the Taliban, raising issues of electoral legitimacy of the Taliban, obviously irrelevant at the moment. They continue to label Taliban as a “terrorist” outfit, ostracizing and alienating the freedom fighter movement’s efforts to regain the transitional administration of the country, ignoring the several positive statements of the new Taliban leadership that have come out of Kabul since August 15.”

“Some among them have gone far in fake fear mongering that dealing with the new Taliban will send wrong signals to the Tamil and Muslim minorities here, looking at all minorities divisively and thereby creating distrust and conflict at the expense of Sri Lanka’s national interest. They have also attempted to link the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks to the ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which terror outfits are widely believed to be linked to Western handlers. For more on this please see my article in The Island/Features of 30 August 2021 titled, AL Qaeda and ISIS will get buried if US and NATO stop invading other nations.

“These prophets of doom and gloom must stop fear-mongering that the Sri Lankan minorities are inimical to Sri Lanka. If this country had taken the advice of these prophets, Sri Lanka would have got isolated as against the 99 countries who have thought it fit to deal with the Taliban, the movement which is exercising power in Afghanistan today.

“However the The Island of 27.08.2021 has stood out with a commendable editorial, “Afghans deserve help” and may I add “not hate”.

Responding to The Island questions Zuhair said:

*Both the US and Sweden, according to Western media reports, had received intelligence of a likely attack at the Kabul airport, prior to the August 26 carnage that killed close upon 200 persons in the airport. Having resumed control of almost all parts of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban on August 15, resumed control of the Afghan capital Kabul, following Afghanistan’s US-backed President Ashraf Ghani abdicating post unannounced and escaping overseas, leaving the country without a government or facilitating a transitory administration. The US contingent expedited their departure from Kabul even faster.

According to the head of the US Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth F McKenzie Jr, the Taliban had thwarted several attacks in Afghanistan since resuming control of the country in mid-August. While the US forces were in full control of the Karzai airport, reports indicate that Taliban had enhanced security checks and posts, outside the airport, possibly aware of likely attacks targeting those flying off from the country.

The Afghan- Khorasans, identified by Western media as ‘IS-K’ and described as a        sworn enemy of the Talibans, with an estimated 2000 fighters said to be operating to the North East of Kabul, had been identified as responsible for the deadly August 26. With the threat of a further attack, targeting the airport, both the US and the Taliban had been seen anxious to complete the exit of primarily foreign forces, before the August 31st deadline expires on Tuesday. Taliban has also announced that others wanting to leave could leave thereafter on commercial flights.

*    The Afghan-Khorsans attack must be condemned. I do not claim any expertise on the dastardly events in Afghanistan but two possibilities must be considered. The Khorsans, much weaker than the Taliban, may want to strengthen their cadre, by showing that the Taliban were betraying the Afghans in allowing the free exit of those who treasonably worked for the country’s “enemies”. The other possibility for launching the attack may be to show the world that the Taliban, though in the seat of power, are not in effective control of the country and possibly will not be allowed to have their own way. With Western powers invariably keeping their options open, the Khorsans may be hoping desperately to gain Western attention to serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.

A good example is the 32-year-old Ahmed Massoud, anti -Taliban leader of the National Resistance Front (NRF) based in the Tajik ethnic stronghold of Panjshir valley, 33 miles to the North of Kabul. Massoud was quoted in the Washington Post this month seeking Western support for him to lead the fight against the Taliban. Ahmed Massoud is the son of the legendary leader of the Panjshir valley Shah Massoud who successfully thwarted the Russians from the valley in the 1980s. He was killed in 2001 and was succeeded by his son; picked up by the British, educated at King’s College, London and trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst!

*   Massoud’s offer for the West to back him against the Taliban may be seen as another attempt to serve as a counterweight to the Taliban. There is no doubt that the 20 year US-NATO rule of Afghanistan has led to widespread corruption in a country doomed for years to come economically. The US pull out will close the insidious pipelines of corruption and Massoud needs to show that his Sandhurst training must be put to good use. Massoud may thereafter either follow the footsteps of run- away President Ashraf Ghani or follow his own father’s footsteps.

*    The Easter Sunday carnage has no comparison to the developments in Afghanistan. Easter Sunday carnage appears to centre around majoritarian discrimination over the minorities, according to the Parliamentary Select Committee report as well as the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. Afghanistani issues centre on unceasing foreign invasions of a country under various unsubstantiated pretexts. The twain will never meet! In the war in Afghanistan the Taliban were left with an economically crashing country while the Western arms industry is the solitary winner. There is nothing in Afghanistan for anyone to admire or be inspired by. These are dangerous fear mongering against the Sri Lanka Muslims, the only community that stood with the majority against LTTE terrorism.

*    One needs to look dispassionately at Norway’s role in Sri Lanka which led to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe signing a peace accord not with the moderate TNA but with the terrorist LTTE and Norway’s likely disappointment with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. We need also to look at the role of Norway and possibly its Oslo University, in brainwashing BBS against the Muslims in 2011/12, which led to the exposure of the Norwegian’s despicable role in pitting the majority community against the country’s demonstrably loyal Muslim minority. Muslims in Sri Lanka today are an utterly disappointed community and that is not good for the economic advancement of the country (SF)



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President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.

He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.

The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court

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The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April

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Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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