Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani has recalled the amended draft of the media laws from the parliament and asked for a review headed by Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh.
During his Cabinet address, Ghani restated his commitment to supporting and strengthening freedom of expression and a free media and said that “fortunately, we have no one in custody on charges of violating freedom of speech.”
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said Danesh would be consulting with the country’s media professionals and rights activists on the proposed amendments.
Members of the Lower and Upper House of the Parliament had voiced their opposition to the amendments during the Sunday session.
The mass media law, which was enacted in 2006, has 54 articles, of which the government is proposing amendments to at least 13.
Media organisations and critics have called the amendments as restrictions that would silence the media and violate the rights of journalists.
President Ashraf Ghani touched upon key issues during his introductory speech to the Cabinet on Monday.
The government condemned the recent terrorist attacks by the Taliban against the security forces and the civilians and called the continued violence against the “spirit of commitment to peace.”
Ghani strongly condemned the terrorist attack on the car carrying poet and writer Asadullah Walwalji and his wife in Paghman district, Kabul, which killed his spouse. Ghani said, “I called Ustad Walwalji this morning and offered my condolences to him and the Government of Afghanistan.”
“We are in the throes of a catastrophe caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus, and this is the most difficult stage in the fight against it,” Ghani said expressing his grief at the death caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
His message to the people was to “follow the health guidelines and the government, in turn, is using all available means to combat this phenomenon effectively.”
Welcoming the publication of Hashteh Sobh newspaper’s investigative report on the possible misuse of resources in the fight against COVID-19, Ghani said that was also an exercise of the country’s freedom of expression and the government’s accountability.
He asked the responsible bodies, including the General Directorate of Administration, the Inspector General and the Supreme Audit Institution, to review the report within a week and share their findings with him.
“I urge the government to take serious action against those who have misused the resources to fight the coronavirus,” he said.
On the IMF’s assistance to Afghanistan, Ghani said the funds are needed to stabilise the Afghan budge and is a precautionary measure for when they may be facing financial difficulties.
The President emphasized that at present the country’s revenue management is running smoothly.
The third section of the Khaf-Herat railway project, that connect Afghanistan to Europe and the Indian Ocean, will be inaugurated by the third quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (September 22-December 20), announced Iran’s Energy Minister Reza Ardakanaian.
Speaking on the side-lines of his meeting with Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar, Ardakanian said the completion of this project will boost bilateral economic relations.
Khaf-Herat is part of the Iran-Afghanistan rail corridor which was started in 2007. The new link is meant for both passenger and cargo rail service.
Ardakanian also spoke to Atmar over the maximum use of opportunities for developing economic relations where they reviewed holding specialized exhibitions in to showcase Iran’s technical and engineering expertise in Kabul in the near future.
Efforts are already underway to include long-term cooperation of several energy projects in fossil fuels and renewables, as well as electricity.
Iran also said they would offer Afghanistan special facilities and incentives for doing business in Chabahar port.
German police officers arrested over 24 rioters after dozens of small groups hurled stones at the police in Stuttgart’s city centre on Sunday morning.
The riots broke out after officers conducted checks related to a crackdown on drug dealing.
Several groups ganged up on the policemen and started to threaten them before turning “extremely aggressive” and attacking the forces.
A total of 19 officers were injured while the rioters who were detained included Germans, Bosnians, Portuguese, Iranian Iraqis and Afghans, reports The Daily Express.
Officers had to use pepper spray to push back the crowd which at one point had grown close to 500 people.
At least 300 stores were damaged and nine reported looting.
Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council Ali Shamkhani told Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar that “enemies” of the two-nations are trying to disrupt their friendly relations, pointing to the US. presence in the region.
Atmar met Shamkhani on Sunday during his trip to Tehran to sign a comprehensive cooperation document and discuss the treatment of Afghan migrants in the country.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed the comprehensive development of cooperation between Kabul and Tehran in various fields and stressed on the importance of finalizing and signing it as soon as possible.
Shamkhani indicated that signing the “strategic” document will strengthen the historic ties between the two nations and create a basic development framework for future cooperation.
He also extended his regret over the deaths of Afghan refugees and said “fake media campaigns” by some Afghan officials was responsible for the tensions because there was “indisputable” documentation to reject the involvement of Iranian border guards in the Harirud drowning incident.
Atmar, on his part, appreciated Iran’s continuous, all-out and effective support of the Afghan government.
He spoke about legalising the presence of Afghans in Iran and their human rights by giving them electronic identity cards.
Atmar also expressed regret over “unacceptable” measures taken by ill-wishers of Iran and Afghanistan that took advantage of their relations to hurt people’s feelings. He said Afghanistan will underline solving issues through negotiations.
The two sides also exchanged views on Iran’s support for the intra-Afghan peace dialogue and the follow-up and investigation into the two tragic incidents involving the Afghan people.
Local officials confirmed that Taliban insurgents had killed at least five members of the public uprising forces and wounded three others in Takhar province.
The Taliban attacked a security checkpoint in Jarqishlaq village in Baharak district at 11pm on Sunday.
A spokesman for Takhar police said that Taliban insurgents had also been killed in the attacks, but their exact number was unknown.
Similar attacks on Saturday night had killed at least 15 members of the public uprising and local police forces when they targeted seven security posts in the province.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported 310 new Coronavirus samples had tested positive in the last 24 hours in Afghanistan. This increase pushed the nationwide toll to 29,143 cases to date.
Over the past day, 12 patients died and 77 were discharged from hospitals bringing their numbers to 598 deaths and 8,841 recovered cases so far.
Of the 889 samples tested, cases were reported in Kabul (166), Kandahar (37), Baghlan (22), Kunduz (21), Badakhshan (11), Helmand (9), Takhar (9), Wardak (7), Zabul (6), Kunar (5), Bamyan (5), Ghor (3), Parwan (3), Nangarhar (3), Logar (2) and Paktia (1).
Currently, there are 19,704 active Coronavirus cases nationwide with 19 people in severe condition.
The government tested 889 samples over the day.
A day after the British minister in charge of veterans, announced that their troops will not be prosecuted over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, the U.K. Defence Secretary was accused of secretly closing the probe a year ago.
Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, has been accused of prolonging the “torment” of Afghan veterans by not announcing the closure of Operation Northmoor which was investigating 675 criminal allegations made by 159 separate complainants.
The Daily Mail reports it took 11 months for the cover-up to be made public.
“It beggars belief that the Operation Northmoor investigation may have been closed last summer but the Defence Secretary has not told Parliament or veterans who served in Afghanistan,” said John Healey, an opposition spokesman and politician.
Veteran Trevor Coult who served in Afghanistan, told the Mail that he had also not been informed about the closure of the investigation that cost taxpayers £10 million.
“We would all have loved to have been told 11 months ago when this happened. We didn’t know if our names could suddenly be pulled out for investigation. It’s a weight lifted off our shoulders,” he added.
The Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) said the past week was the “deadliest of the past 19 years” with 841 Afghan security force members killed or wounded.
Javid Faisal, ONSC spokesperson said the Taliban carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces, killing 291 Afghan National Defence and Security force (ANDSF) members and wounding another 550.
“Taliban’s commitment to reduce violence is meaningless, and their actions inconsistent with their rhetoric on peace,” Faisal tweeted.
The ONSC warned the Taliban that the ongoing violence against the people is “absolutely unacceptable” to the Afghan government, and that it must end as soon as possible and begin real and effective peace efforts.
Earlier, the ONSC also released a graph showing the 147 civilian casualties over the past week.
This comes as the Afghan government and the Taliban have said they are prepared to hold initial talks for the start of the intra-Afghan peace dialogue.
The government of Kyrgyzstan shipped humanitarian aid to ethnic Kyrgyz living in Afghanistan’s Pamir mountains.
The package consisted of 12.5 metric tons of flour, 500 blankets, 100 boxes of detergents, 5 metric tons of rice, 1,250 litres of cooking oil and 10 boxes of medications.
A Sikh man, identified as Nidhan Singh, was abducted from Paktia’s Tsamkani district four days ago, confirmed the Afghan Sikh community living in the U.S.
Singh worked as a helper at the local gurudwara.
The Afghan Sikhs living in the U.S., once again appealed to the Indian government to help in the resettlement of over 600 Sikhs living in Afghanistan and provide a safe haven.
Narinder Singh, a Sikh member of the Afghan parliament, has assured the community that he will help to find the abducted man. He has also reached out to the Taliban leaders.
Leaders of the Afghan Sikh community have also reached out to the Indian government asking to be evacuated in the Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights.
Authorities in Pakistan are concerned that Turkmen Gas Company has yet to fulfil all the conditions of financing the $10 billion trans-national Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline which was supposed to be operational by 2020.
Pakistan says the $10 billion project will now come on stream in 2023 if the Turkmen Gas Company can complete the financial closure by 2021.
The TAPI project started in 2015 and has faced hurdles since its inception. As of now pipes continue to be welded in Afghanistan while Turkmenistan has just managed to secure the steel pipes they need for their section.
Top sources told The News International that unless the Turkmen authorities change the gas delivery point and review the gas prices, Pakistan will not go ahead with the project.
Under the existing agreement, Turkmenistan will provide the gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field via Afghanistan to Pakistan and onwards to India. All the gas transit loss in the territory of Afghanistan had to be borne by Pakistan.
However, the current government has objected to this agreement and said it was not in their country’s interests. Pakistan’s liabilities should not be invoked when the gas is in transit through Afghan territory.
Pakistan and Turkmenistan expect to hold a number of meetings between their Petroleum Division and Turkmen Gas to ensure the project is underway.
Iran said it has yet to receive the evidence from the Afghan government’s investigations over the drowning of dozens of Afghan migrants in the Harirud river.
Head of the Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces of Iran said they have not received any evidence which the Afghan government claimed had already been handed to the Iranian diplomatic delegation.
The Afghan findings had evidence which showed that Iran was responsible for the May 2 incident where 46 Afghan nationals were “forced by the Iranian border force” to cross the Harirud River, leaving 12 of them dead, 17 missing and 17 survivors.
The Afghan Foreign Ministry said that their report along with interviews from seven of the survivors, had been handed to the Iranian consulate on Herat.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also objected to Iran’s refusal to take responsibility for the deaths who officials claimed were migrants illegally crossing into Iran.
Afghan Rights organisations have urged the government to take this matter up in international courts.
This comes as a delegation from Afghanistan headed by Acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar visited Tehran on Sunday to meet with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
They reviewed a comprehensive cooperation agreement covering economics, transit, political and border security that will be finalized within the next three months. They also worked on legalizing the status of Afghan migrants in Iran.
A month after signing the power sharing deal that allowed him to appoint 50% of the cabinet, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, has yet to announce his picks.
President Ashraf Ghani on his part, has almost completed the appointments which he was responsible for.
The Presidential Palace said the remaining ministers would be announced within the next few days but are awaiting the list which has to be shared by Abdullah.
Last week, Abdullah had said his members of the cabinet will be announced soon and he indicated the list would be sent to Ghani.
Sources close to Abdullah said the list is still being finalised and will be handed over to the Presidential Palace in the next few days.
So far, Ghani has appointed more than 11 acting ministers who are all pending the Parliament’s vote of confidence.