Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), met Mir Rahman Rahmani, the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, and the administrative board of the House.
Abdullah said that his members of the cabinet will be announced soon after he gives a completed list to President Ashraf Ghani.
On its Facebook page, Sapidar Palace which houses the HCNR, said that during the meeting, Rahmani called for the acceleration of the introduction of Cabinet members so that the ‘acting’ ministers could start working as appointed leaders of their portfolios.
Rahmani also expressed the parliament’s support for the intra-Afghan peace process.
While appreciating the efforts and support of the Parliament, Abdullah said he would be sending a list of members who would be joining HCNR and beginning the negotiation process with the Taliban soon.
According to the power-sharing agreement between Ghani and Abdullah, the two sides will appoint an equal number of members to the Cabinet.
So far, the presidency has nominated more than 11 members, including the three who were announced today, while Abdullah has yet to appoint a single nominee.
More than a thousand trucks have stopped at the Iranian side of the Dogharoun border crossing along the Iran-Afghan border.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Ahmad Zamanian Yazdi, head of the Transportation and Transit Commission of the Khorasan Razavi Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture in Iran, blamed the poor management of the terminal.
At a meeting with the members of Iran’s House of Representatives, Yazdi said that “the challenges of the Dogharoun border remain strong despite criticism from the private sector.”
He pointed that the delays in truck acceptance into Afghanistan are driving up rental and transport costs by as much as 60% for traders.
Jilani Farhad, spokesman for Herat governor in Afghanistan, told BBC that there were no problems on their side of the border.
In fact, he said Afghan land transport authority had sent 500 trucks yesterday to the crossing.
Farhad added that the Afghan authorities had introduced measures to unload to the Iranian side so transfers could be facilitated without restrictions.
The Office of the National Security Council (NSC) said 422 security personnel have been killed and wounded by the Taliban in the past week.
Javid Faisal, NSC spokesman tweeted that the Taliban had carried out 222 “terrorist attacks” in the past week destroying 51 bridges and 16 roads.
Faisal stressed: “They take advantage of both the ceasefire and the reduction in violence to continue to kill Afghans.”
“The Taliban has not reduced the violence but increased it,” Faisal said at a press conference earlier.
Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior blamed the Taliban for Friday’s bombing of the Sher Shah Suri Mosque in Kabul and said they had arrested a suspect in connection the recent attacks.
Civilian casualties continue
Meanwhile, Badakhshan police spokesman Sanaullah Rouhani told the media that the Taliban had shot dead two residents of the province in the Khan Abad district of Kunduz today morning.
This brings the morning’s total civilian casualties to 17 people killed and wounded in three separate attacks.
Rouhani added that the men were traveling in a car from Badakhshan to Kabul when they encountered a Taliban checkpoint on the way to Kunduz’s Khan Abad area.
He said the Taliban had abducted one of the passengers.
The Afghan government will be meeting the Taliban for the intra-Afghan peace negotiations in Doha, the capital of Qatar, Aljazeera Arabic reported.
The news comes as no surprise since Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the high Council for National Reconciliation, had previously said the talks might be held there as the Taliban’s political office was located in Doha.
President Ashraf Ghani met Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, the Qatari Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution last week.
Qahtani had visited Kabul and met key government and Taliban leaders to talk about the peace process and the prisoner exchange.
The Qatari envoy had then said he hoped that the process could be completed soon for the talks to start.
President Ashraf Ghani officially announced the nomination of three new members to his Cabinet today.
In a statement released by the Presidential Palace, Ghani appointed Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri as the acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum, Rangina Hamidi as the acting Minister of Education, and Mohammad Tahir Zaheer as the acting Minister of Information and Culture.
Chakhansuri, who is from Nimruz province, had previously served as the Deputy Foreign Minister-Political Affairs since January 2020.
In his speech, he said he would try to change the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum from a means of war to a means of prosperity.
“We will have a message of speed and dynamism in collaboration with the people, civil society and transparency watchdogs,” he said.
Hamidi, who is a renowned women’s activist and the president of Kandahar Treasure, the first women-run business in Kandahar, thanked Ghani and said: “I will spare no effort in serving the children of the country.”
The former Bamyan governor, Zaheer, had already been announced as an appointee in April. He had served as Ghani’s spokesperson during the 2014 presidential elections.
The new Minister of Information and Culture said that Afghanistan’s cultural legacy has been side-lined in the decades-long war.
“We want the President and the leadership of the government to support us so that culture becomes a focus of attention,” Zaheer added.
The acting ministers are pending vote of confidence by the parliament.
A roadside mine blast in Nangarhar and a clash between the security forces and the Taliban in Logar province have left 15 civilians dead or injured since today morning.
In Nangarhar province’s Jalalabad, at least one was killed, and two others injured in a roadside mine blast at 8:30 am local time.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor said the incident occurred in PD12 close to the customs department in the city.
All 12 passengers of a car were injured after getting caught in a crossfire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near Logar’s Pul-e-Alam city.
Hasib Stanikzai, head of the provincial council said the incident took place on the Kabul-Paktia highway in the Khudr Bazaar area.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that 664 new cases of Coronavirus were reported over the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 24,766 confirmed cases.
According to the data, 20 people have died and 524 have recovered during the day.
Of the new cases, 316 were reported in Kabul, 34 each in Parwan and Kandahar, 32 each in Takhar and Baghlan, 31 in Panjshir, 30 in Kapisa, 24 in Nuristan, 22 in Paktia, 21 in Laghman, 19 in Paktika, 14 in Kandahar, 12 in Daykundi and 11 in Logar.
An additional eight samples tested positive in Kunar, seven each in Helmand and Nangarhar, three each in Zabul and Nimroz, and two each in Bamyan and Badghis.
The country’s health minister already announced that they would start clinical testing of patients with symptoms since they did not have enough facilities to do lab tests.
Over the past day, a lab closed down in Herat province because it did not have any RNA extraction kits.
At a meeting to discuss the problems faced by Afghan migrants, the National Security Council (NSC) decided that all Afghani citizens will receive an electronic ID card as soon as possible.
The NSC met with the Minister of Refugees, the head of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the Deputy Foreign Minister yesterday, to discuss the challenges faced by Afghans living abroad and in neighbouring nations.
It was decided that the CSO will work together with the relevant authorities to make and distribute the ID cards to all citizens.
All Afghan nationals have to complete two online steps and then go a specified address in their host country to complete two biometrics steps to register for a card.
This would also make it easier to consolidate Afghan nationals abroad so that their concerns could be acted upon sooner.
The fresh batch of 285 stranded Pakistanis returning from Afghanistan via Torkham border are not being kept at quarantine centres in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa district.
Officials said newly arrived Pakistanis are allowed to leave for their respective districts after being served a meal and getting a swab sample done with instructions to stay at home till the test results arrived.
Initially, the Pakistani administration had built seven quarantine centres in Landi Kotal and Jamrud along with isolation wards at three hospitals. All new entrants had to undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine.
The change in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) went into effect last week for those returning from Afghanistan every Saturday.
Meanwhile, authorities at Torkham issued special ID cards to at least 100 carriers for their daily movement. These services will now be allowed to carry personal luggage and goods of Afghanis and Pakistanis who travel through the border regularly.
Young Afghans have enormous potential to build a culture of peace while preventing and resolving local disputes, even in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, said participants in the UN-backed radio series broadcast in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.
“If all young Afghans join together and speak out, the country’s communities will be in a better position to help stop the fighting and to address the Coronavirus,” said Salahuddin Qarizada, a Badakhshan University lecturer and a member of the provincial Peace and Conflict Resolution Network, reports the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
The participants in the Badakhshan radio programme included a lecturer, a journalist, a rights activist and a medical doctor – all of them young. During the show, they expressed their views about the importance of youth being part of decision-making processes and discussed the need for cultivating a spirit of volunteerism.
Dr. Shahriwar Khawhani urged young people to volunteer in their communities to fight the pandemic, writes UNAMA.
“During this period, I myself have become a volunteer and have used my medical training to help underserved patients,” she added. “I encourage others to do the same, to do what they can to help in spreading accurate information.”
Abdul Samad Shirzad, the head of Badakhshan’s Directorate of Youth Affairs, said increasingly young people have volunteered in areas related to local peace initiatives aimed at resolving disputes.
“Volunteer efforts have resulted in anti-government elements allowing the reopening of schools in several districts of Badakhshan, and without any limitations on health services delivery,” said Abdul.
The radio programme was recorded and broadcast by one of UNAMA’s partner media outlets, Sada-e-Banowan.
Afghanistan’s Acting Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Osmani said that COVID-19 testing was no longer within the ministry’s capacity as the government ran out of laboratory testing centres.
Osmani said “clinical testing” would now be done and a medical worker will determine whether people with symptoms have COVID-19.
This will allow private clinics and hospitals to conduct the testing of COVID-19 samples.
“At present, we have laboratories in 11 provinces, and we plan to increase the testing services in all 34 provinces, but this needs time which is out of the control of the Ministry,” he said.
Earlier, the health ministry had admitted it was flooded with samples and they were only able to get through about 10% of them during a day.
The ministry had vowed to increase the testing capacity to 5,000 tests a day but has never met targets.
Osmani said they were still waiting for medical equipment to come in which had been pledged by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Latest figures indicate a total over 24,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the country with 556 new cases reported in the day.
Osmani added that any patient exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19 would be treated positive.
“The new decision that we have made is that any patient that visits health centres with clinical symptoms, they will be recognized as a Coronavirus patient and will be admitted for treatment.”
Hajj pilgrimage affected
The Hajj and Religious Affairs Ministry announced there were no plans for this year’s proposed Hajj pilgrimage due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The country’s highest religious institution said the Saudi government had not shared any contingency plans so far, which means the annual August pilgrimage is halted till further information.
Despite the opening of the Attari-Wagah border to promote trade with Afghanistan, Indian traders have yet to see any imports from the country.
On the first day of trade resumption, a truck of imported dry fruit had crossed over. However, from May 29 onwards, there has not been any Afghan truck.
The crossing was opened on May 28 after being closed during the COVID-19 lockdowns and trade had resumed with Afghanistan via Pakistan’s Chaman and Torkham border crossings.
Since the trade started, many traders had placed orders for Afghan goods and have been left waiting for the last 15 days.
Indian traders suspect the Pakistani government is not allowing trucks from Afghanistan to enter through the Chaman border crossing.
Similarly, Afghan traders had also complained this week, about how despite opening their borders for trade with Pakistan, they were not allowed to export goods while Pakistani trucks kept coming in.
The traders had all requested the appropriate ministries to sort out the issue since the Afghan harvest season was upon them.
The Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in Afghanistan is working to establish a primary healthcare centre in Kandahar province.
The District 3 facility costs $582,000 and is aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality rates among the locals, especially women and children.
The other goal of the project is to improve the skills of medical and technical personnel, as well as creating obstetric emergency night shifts and a referral system.
Since its opening, the health centre has served 45,182 patients, including mainly under-5 children, mothers, pregnant women, and women in the childbearing age.
To respond the pandemic, they also held training and awareness sessions for the staff.
UAE called upon Afghan Consul General Masood Azizi, to laude their efforts in repatriating their nationals from the UAE since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, spoke to Azizi over a video call and also thanked him for their cooperation and support to the Emirati efforts to streamline the return of their national back home.
Nahyan noted that their collaboration underlined the necessity of ensuring concerted action and collaborative environment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic with the ultimate goal of ensuring safety and security for all nations of the world.