Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
An alleged audio recording of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh has him telling an Afghan police officer to kill and behead those who do not heed their commands.
The leaked audio tape was made when Saleh was still serving as the Minister of Interior.
He is heard telling the officer to carry out these acts against those who do not follow their commands on the Kabul-Parwan highway.
Saleh then tells him to bring the dead bodies and he would take responsibility for the act.
“If someone does not stop on the highway, bring his head to my office. I will take responsibility for it… if you kill someone, then don’t say that you killed – throw his body away. If you think that you can’t do that, then bring his head to the Ministry of Interior, I will deal with it.”
Saleh’s office has denied the now-viral audio recording and has said it is forged.
However, Amnesty International South Asia commented on the incident and called on the Afghan government officials to not “use their position to encourage or violate human rights, especially through the use of violence.”
They asked the government to independently investigate the incident.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has denied reports of any gender disparity and said Afghan women do not have limited access to COVID-19 testing facilities.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) on Wednesday said that women’s access to health resources and tests was limited in Afghanistan. Over 72% of the COVID-19 cases were reported in men showing this gender disparity.
“All Afghans have the same access to the [COVID-19] tests. Our centres are open,” an MoPH official said.
“The more they [women] go, the more they are tested,” he added referring to the 7,411 women who have tested positive for Coronavirus to date.
According to the MoPH, there are currently 30,175 cases of COVID-19 in the country.
The Ministry of Public Health has released a list of 54 ventilators that are available, including those that were donated by other countries towards Afghanistan’s COVID-19 efforts.
Officials said their previous list of 37 ventilators had increased after they accounted for those that had been directly donated to the provincial or central hospital by international foundations.
The Ministry of Health released the list following allegations of embezzlement in a Pajhwok Afghan News agency report.
The MoPH said the purpose of the list was to identify all the ventilators available in the country.
Earlier this week, Pajhwok Afghan News reported that 32 ventilators had been smuggled into Pakistan.
President Ashraf Ghani has appointed a high level committee to investigate the incident.
The country’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, suspended four top officials on seven alleged cases of corruption.
The bank’s Supreme Council made the decision and the cases are being forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office for further legal proceedings.
“In order to keep the value of the Afghan currency and the modern banking system stable, serious action is needed to be taken against corruption in the first place, and the leadership of the Central Bank and the Supreme Council will take action against any corruption case in line with the law,” said the bank.
The bank’s Second Deputy Mohammad Qasim Rahimi, in a Facebook post accused the Acting Governor of the bank Ajmal Ahmady of dismissing him “illegally.”
Another board member, Wahidullah Nosher, also announced his suspension.
Both, Rahimi and Nosher are members of the bank’s Supreme Council. However, Nosher said he was asked to leave the meeting of the Council and the decision was made in his absence.
The bank said it had also taken corrective measures with other employees who were involved.
The Afghan Attorney General’s Office (AGO) said 1,173 cases of violence against women and 832 of child abuse have been reported so far in 2020.
Since the beginning of 2020, Kabul has topped the list of violence against women with 339 such cases, while Herat reported 94 cases.
Sina Shena Mansour, deputy attorney for Violence Against Women and Children, said the department had registered 249 cases of women getting physically assaulted during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when they were all at home.
AGO spokesperson Jamshid Rasouli said cases of violence against women include rape, physical assault, harassment, forced marriage, obstruction of the right to marry, forced isolation, and the prohibition of inheritance.
He said that 548 women were physically assaulted, 141 reported harassment and 121 were victims of rape.
The AGO has set up a special section, Prosecution for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment, to address these issues in public and private offices.
They have also noted a 22% increase in the presence of women in the judiciary across provinces.
A spokesman for the AGO said their Combating Violence Against Women operations are now established in 34 provinces.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanif Atmar spoke to Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Gunawardena about expanding bilateral ties.
They discussed issues of mutual interest like their respective country’s response to COVID-19.
The main topics of discussion included the developments in the Afghan peace process, the expansion of bilateral relations, and increased cooperation and coordination among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Fiber-optic network that can provide internet now cover 25 provinces in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said.
Ahmad Samad Hamed Poya, a spokesman for the MCIT said the ministry is now seeking foreign investment to advance the project and its coverage.
Afghan Wireless Telecommunication Company has also invested in the sector, but no one has managed to attract any foreign investors.
The MCIT also launched the Wakhan Corridor Viber Optic Survey Project to install a cross-border link with China.
The telecom network now covers over 90% of the Afghan population.
As Afghanistan crosses the 30,000 cases mark, an analysis by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) showed that there is a gender disparity in women’s access to testing facilities and healthcare in the country.
The IRC found that over 72% of the positive COVID-19 cases, 19,500 to be precise, in Afghanistan were men, indicating that testing is extremely limited to women in conflict settings. Their data showed this discrepancy across many such conflict-affected nations.
Of the 1,175 samples tested for COVID-19 during the past 24 hours in Afghanistan, 460 were positive, the Ministry of Public Health announced on Thursday. This brings the total number of people infected with Coronavirus to 30,175.
Samples tested positive in Kabul (166), Paktia (69), Herat (59), Takhar (38), Daykundi (29), Kapisa (25), Kunduz (24), Baghlan (18), Wardak (13), Badakhshan (7), Nangarhar (5), Bamyan (3), Kunar (2), Laghman (1) and Logar (1).
There were 36 people who died during the day, pushing the nationwide fatalities to 675. The number of patients who were recovered increased to 10,174 after 305 people recovered.
Irrigation was a dream for some in the mountainous areas of Nurgal in Kunar province, despite being close to one of the country’s largest rivers. The land was completely arid in some villages that lacked the means to divert the river water.
However, Tetsu Nakamura, a Japanese aid worker helped the residents build a giant metal water wheel to feed an irrigation canal to their lands.
He used simple technologies and local materials for the canal to irrigate nearly 40 hectares of land which feeds several villages in Nurgal district and changed the life of hundreds of impoverished families.
The farmers can now grow wheat, maize, fruits and vegetables through the year.
Uncle Murad, as Nakamura was fondly called, helped Kunar locals irrigate nearly 30,000 hectares of previously arid lands by building similar projects across the province.
His tireless work in these remote areas, benefited over a million residents.
Afghanistan’s authorities must give fresh impetus to achieving progress in combatting corruption to bolster peace and development efforts, a UN official said during an Afghan civil society roundtable to address anti-corruption efforts.
Speaking at the Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) event, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Rule of Law head, Romana Schweiger, called for new resolve in the government’s anti-corruption efforts and stressed the UN’s full support for their efforts.
“We advise the Afghan government to develop a new, realistic and long-term strategy against corruption, building on past achievements in a consultative process with all stakeholders, including civil society,” said Schweiger.
UNAMA’s anti-corruption report had found that sustained and effective efforts in fighting corruption in Afghanistan remain critical for the country’s future.
The report concludes that, notwithstanding the many legal and policy reforms that have been undertaken, corruption remains one of the most significant obstacles to Afghanistan’s long-term peace and prosperity.
This comes the day after the Minister of Finance said embezzlement of customs revenue remained a major problem that ate into the country’s earnings, and the Ministry of Public Health announced their employee had been arrested for receiving an $80,000 bribe.
Provincial officials say at least 25 Taliban fighters were killed in an Afghan air force airstrike in Balkh on Wednesday night. The airstrike targeted Dawlat Abad village of Balkh district where the Taliban were gathered.
A tribal elder has said the attack killed four members of a family, including a woman and child, and wounded five more. They said some livestock were also killed when the airstrike hit a farmer’s house.
The provincial governor ‘s office and military members have rejected the locals’ claims.
The Taliban have not commented on the airstrike.
The Afghan parliament has asked for an investigation team to look into the recent clashes in Maidan Wardak between the Hazaras and the nomadic Kochis.
A number of ministers engaged in physical and verbal fights, as they spoke about the violence in the province. At one stage, Mir Rahman Rahmani, the speaker of the parliament, had to rebuke the members and tell them to not resort to school yard tactics and use the microphone.
Some politicians said in recent days, over 14 people have been killed in the armed confrontations, including children.
Similar incidents last year, had also prompted this issue in the parliament, however lawmakers said no action had been taken then.
The Afghan Ministry of Finance estimate puts the loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and corruption to around $285 million (20 billion Afghani) in the second quarter of 2020.
Acting Minister of Finance Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, in a recent media appearance, said the embezzlement of customs revenue was a major problem and pledged to start an anti-graft campaign.
This warning comes amidst international concern over the level of corruption in Afghanistan and a recent UN report mentioning that sustained and effective efforts to fight it are critical for the country’s future.
Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan said that anti-corruption efforts and integrity reforms must become key priorities for Afghanistan’s leadership, especially so given the country’s pressing challenges and opportunities around peace and development.