Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Close to three weeks after the signing of the power-sharing agreement, President Ashraf Ghani has yet to promote former vice president General Abdul Rashid Dostum to ‘marshal’ rank.
Dostum had been a vice president under Ghani but had become a key Abdullah Abdullah supporter in the last elections. He would be the third person in Afghanistan’s history to receive the rank, albeit honorary in nature.
He was also supposed to be given membership in the High Council of Government and the National Security Council.
The Presidential Palace said they are in the process of signing the decree with some amendments and there is no dispute about the issue.
Several lawmakers and leaders are against the award and had sent a signed petition to the president. He had been accused of human rights abuses during his military and other crimes during his time in office.
However, indicators point that the decree will go through soon.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said the government has so far released about 3,000 Taliban prisoners.
The remarks were made in a video conference on the issues of international support to start the intra-Afghan peace dialogue.
Abdullah said that for the first time, there was a real opportunity for peace in Afghanistan.
He stressed that there is a consensus among various factions inside Afghanistan, and that there have been major changes at the international and regional levels.
“We are witnessing an international consensus on achieving peace,” he said, noting that various countries have been affected by the war and terrorist activities in Afghanistan.
Abdullah called the reduction of violence and the exchange of prisoners, that started after the call for the Eid ceasefire, an effective step in starting negotiations.
He also pointed out that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, was talking to the Taliban in Qatar to finalize the representatives for the start of negotiations.
Abdullah said about 3,000 Taliban prisoners had been released by the government and hoped that the prisoner exchange would be completed by the day of the talks, or reach a level that would be acceptable to both sides.
The head of the Council added that the government is ready to negotiate and will spare no effort to achieve peace.
He called on the Taliban to take advantage of the opportunity to meet the demands of the people.
Meanwhile, the intra-Afghan peace process entered a new phase, with Khalilzad’s recent trip to Doha, Qatar then Islamabad, Pakistan and finally Kabul, Afghanistan.
The intra-Afghan peace dialogues ending the conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government may begin this month, sources told Reuters.
An Afghan presidential palace source and a diplomatic source told the news agency that disagreements, such as the number of prisoners released and the spike in violence, were gradually being talked over and resolved.
Momentum has grown over the week with the NATO and neighbouring countries showing interest to move the process forward and continue confidence building measures.
The talks may be held likely in Doha, sources have indicated.
However, due to the complications brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, some negotiations may be held virtually.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has announced that at least 38 police officials have been arrested in accusation of misusing their authority.
The spokesman of MoI, Tariq Arian the arrested officials are from Herat, Kabul, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Jawzjan, Takhar, Zabul, Khost, Kunduz, Parwan, Baghlan and Bamyan provinces.
Arian added that the documents of detainees have been submitted to the attorney office for investigation.
Afghanistan is the most exposed country in the world to cybersecurity and cybercrime threats, according to the new report.
The Cybersecurity Exposure Index (CEI) 2020 by PasswordManagers.co looked at data from Microsoft and the International Telecommunication Union to compile the list of 108 countries. Exposure was measured through data showing encounters with malware, ransomware, incoming attacks and the leadership’s commitment to cybersecurity.
Their research showed Afghanistan scored high in malware attacks, which is a malicious software designed to gain unauthorized access and/or cause damage to data and virtual systems.
They found Asia-Pacific in general, accounts for 60% of very high exposure countries including the lowest ranked Afghanistan, followed by Myanmar.
The Czech Republic allocated $20,000 to an NGO in Kunar to build a 7 KW micro-hydro power plant that would benefit 250 families in Watapoor district.
Filip Vurm, deputy head of the Czech Mission in Kabul, signed the contract with the Active Help Organisation for Women and Children.
Vurm said his country had also supported educational programmes in Afghanistan and had recently build a girl’s high school in Kabul.
The Czechs have funded various projects in the country including schools, hospitals, dairies, bridges, water wells, and power plants.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported 575 new cases of Coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 20,917.
The MoPH said 12 people have died and 329 others have recovered in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of dead to 369 and the number of recovered patients to 2,171.
Of the new cases, 193 were reported in Kabul, 151 in Herat, 39 in Kandahar, 39 in Helmand, 26 in Kunar, 23 in Nangarhar, 22 in Logar, 13 each in Badghis and Parwan, 10 each in Ghor and Nimroz.
In addition, eight in Zabul, seven in Maidan Wardak, seven in Paktia, five in Daikundi, five in Takhar, three in Laghman and one in Badakhshan had tested positive for COVID-19.
The MoPH said they had tested 978 suspected samples from 18 provinces.
Authorities in Herat’s health department said 15 people have died due to the Coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
Herat’s police chief Abdul Rauf Ahmadi has also died after contracting the virus. Ahmadi, who was the director general of Herat People’s Police Command, had been in home quarantine for 10 days and passed away yesterday evening after he was rushed to the hospital with severe breathing problems.
In addition, 151 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province, said Mohammad Rafiq Shirzai, the department’s spokesman.
According to him, Herat has reported 3,866 cases to date, of which 66 have died, 568 have recovered and 10 are in critical condition.
Nationwide ban on Hakim Alkozay vaccine
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that a COVID-19 vaccine made by Hakim Alkozay had been tested and found to have highly addictive substances.
Alkozay, a traditional doctor had said the vaccine was derived from natural plant extracts and had been tested on “several” Coronavirus patients successfully.
The MoPH had asked the public from abstaining from the vaccine as long as the official tests had not been conducted.
The Herat health department asked the local government to stop distributing the vaccine which had recently reached the province.
They also requested the public to refrain from using the drug.
With the Coronavirus pandemic spreading through Afghanistan, building social cohesion and cultivating a sense of solidarity has become essential to fight the virus, community leaders said during a series of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)-backed radio programme.
Experts and the radio hosts answer questions posed by local audiences in the programmes which began airing in May and will run through June across 18 provinces. They talk about the pandemic’s impact on their communities.
The pre-recorded discussions highlighted the public’s need for a reduction in violence as their families cope with the pandemic.
An overarching comment heard was all parties to the conflict should stop fighting so health workers can provide humanitarian assistance to the communities.
“COVID-19 affects everyone the same way,” said Bashir Mohammad, a listener in Kandahar, reports UNAMA.
“Therefore, we must all fight it together rather than fighting each other.”
Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar spoke with his Maldivian counterpart Abdullah Shahid yesterday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that they discussed the further expansion and strengthening of bilateral trade cooperation, tourism and political-security relations, especially within the framework of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Organization (SAARC).
The talk ended with the sides sharing their experiences while combatting COVID-19, wishing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the world free of the virus, the statement added.
President Ashraf Ghani spoke to the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, via a video conference yesterday.
During the meeting, they discussed the draft law on the regulation of parliamentary relations, the establishment of mechanisms for coordination with the National Assembly, the introduction of cabinet members to the lower house, Wolesi Jirga, for the vote of confidence and better coordination between the three powers.
Last week, Ghani had appointed several key members to his Cabinet who now had to be approved by the Parliament.
The Afghan Ministry of Defence said Iranian officials have pledged to lead charges against the people who were responsible for the deaths of three Afghan migrants after the Iranian police had opened fire on their vehicle in Yazd province. Four people had also been injured in the incident.
Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Tehran, Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, met with officials and said they had pledged a full investigation into the deaths and have promised to prosecute those responsible.
Liwal said, “We believe that human traffickers and the driver are responsible for this incident.”
The driver has been identified as he tried to overrun a security checkpoint.
Iran-Afghan relations had been affected since the Harirud incident came to light where Afghan migrants were tortured and then drowned in the river.