Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
More than 18,000 Afghan have flown back to Kabul after being stranded in UAE for almost three months.
“Rush is over and we are back to normal as now only limited number of regular flights are operating,” Afghan Consul General to UAE Masood Azizi told Gulf News
He said the stranded Afghans included those who had lost their jobs and those who were on travel visas.
“Our people are still flying back home but there is no pressure anymore,” he said.
UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had also lauded the Afghan efforts of repatriation.
In a video call over the weekend, Al Nahyan thanked Azizi for his cooperation and support for the Emirati efforts to streamline the return of their nationals.
Around 180,000 Afghans live and work in the UAE and only 17,000 of them had registered with the consulate for repatriation.
Under the new agreement, border officials will allow 250 vehicles carrying goods from Afghanistan to enter Pakistan daily from the Torkham border crossing, from June 22.
The customs and border security officials of both nations met at Torkham on Wednesday, along with representatives of local transporters.
Bilateral trade had been affected since Pakistan stopped allowing Afghan imports into the country on March 16. They had closed the border-crossings to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
However, Pakistan had continued sending its own trucks, Afghan traders had complained.
The new agreement would allow a similar number of trucks from Pakistan to cross-over to Afghanistan.
In keeping with the Coronavirus’ preventive measures, drivers from both countries will have to hand over their vehicles to their counterparts at the zero point for reloading into local vehicle.
During the exchange, neither of the governments will be held liable from any damage caused to the others vehicles during the handling and return after reloading process.
Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatuallh Akhundzada appointed Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, as the military chief of the group, to further strengthen his hold on all affairs of the group ahead of the negotiations with Afghan leaders, Pakistan’s Daily Times reported, citing a senior Taliban member.
Yaqoob’s appointment had initially surprised the group’s powerful ‘Rehbari Shura’ (leadership council) members as they had not been informed by Akhundzada before, as was the norm, the Taliban member revealed.
“Yaqoob later visited the shura members to formally inform them about his appointment and to seek their cooperation,” he told the publication.
The Taliban member also said that the shura is discussing the formation of a new team or induct new people into the delegation for the intra-Afghan peace talks.
In recent weeks, the Taliban has reshuffled their Qatar political office and removed members from the negotiation team.
The idea is that the team should be out of the influence of anyone and under the direct supervision of Akhundzada, the Taliban member told the publication.
“Another meeting of the shura will decide the agenda for the intra-Afghan dialogue that is expected to be held soon,” the Daily Times quoted the Taliban member.
At least 42 fatalities were recorded in Afghanistan last night said the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the highest officially reported number of deaths due to Coronavirus since the outbreak started.
According to the MoPH, 19 deaths were reported in Herat while Kabul reported 17 in the past 24 hours. The death toll in the country recorded its biggest increase as it jumped to 546 COVID-19 fatalities.
The Ministry’s daily statistics showed the addition of 658 new lab-confirmed cases within the past day, bringing the total to 27,532, with the province of Kabul reporting the majority of the new cases, 415.
In the past day 1,502 COVID-19 patients have also recovered pushing those numbers to 7,660 cases.
Daykundi’s saffron cultivation is second only to Herat, according to provincial officials who said an increasing number of farmers in Daykundi are planting the valuable spice. The central mountainous province’s six provinces cultivate saffron in 40 acres of land.
The Daykundi government has distributed 19 metric tons of saffron bulbs this year as the income from their sales was higher than those derived from poppy cultivation.
Last year, the provincial agricultural head said, Daykundi farmers harvested 100 kgs of saffron and the sales also increased by up to 30%.
Farmers have requested the government’s support in providing them with more bulbs and farming technology so that they could improve the cultivation process.
Officials in the province are also encouraging women farmers to adopt the crop.
Russia does not believe that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would disturb Central Asia, said the Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
“We don’t believe that the pull-out of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is fraught with a growth in threats for Central Asian states. Rather, the presence of the U.S. and NATO contingents is an irritant for the armed opposition and an obstacle for normalizing the situation in the country,” the diplomat said, reports the state news agency.
She also said the expectation within Russia is that the implementation of the Doha peace agreement will see a complete pull-out of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
“We also proceed from the fact that the situation normalization in the country will allow the Afghan authorities to fight more effectively the threats of terrorism and drug crimes currently existing on the territory of the Islamic republic,” she added.
The Lower House of Parliament has decided to summon top security officials over recent target assassinations of religious scholars, retired officers and security forces across the country.
Parwan lawmakers said around 75 such killings had taken place in his province since the beginning of 2020, and it continued to worsen.
Kabul representatives spoke about the two recent bombing attacks on the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Sher Shah Suri Mosque that killed both their imams among others.
They raised questions about the efficacy of the security forces if such attacks could happen in the country’s capital and urged the lower house to summon the security bosses.
Speaker of the house, Mir Rahman Rahmani, also expressed his deep concern over the country’s security and said the officials will be summoned the following week.
Afghan women’s meaningful engagement in peace efforts, and in all areas of society, will benefit Afghanistan as a whole and will be “precedent setting” due to their inclusion, said Deborah Lyons, Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
UNAMA reports that Lyons, together with Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Right Commission (AIHRC), moderated a virtual panel discussion on ‘Women in the Afghan Peace Process’ organised by UN Women and chaired by its country representative, Aleta Miller.
The other panellists included Hasina Safi, Minister of Women’s Affairs; and Habiba Sarabi and Sharifa Zurmati, members of the negotiating team for the Afghanistan.
In her opening remarks, Lyons said it was important for Afghan women and young girls across the country to see an inclusive peace process referring to a global study that showed peace agreements were more durable and successful when women were fully integrated and engaged.
“It’s important for us to recognize the collective role that Afghan women have already played in the search for peace,” she said.
One of the goals of the discussion was also to strategize available avenues for women to participate in any peace process nationally and at the local level.
“Well-functioning networks throughout Afghanistan, where women can participate nationally and at the local level… allows Afghan women to be peace advocates, experts and advisers, and most importantly full participants in the negotiating teams in the peace process,” said the top UN envoy in Afghanistan.
International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and partners have signed the debt financing package for Afghanistan’s first long-term public-private partnership: the Mazar-e-Sharif gas-to-power plant.
The pioneering 59 MW power plant, which will cost an estimated $89 million, will boost the country’s domestic electricity generation by up to 30%, allowing more people to access the electricity grid while reducing their reliance on imports as well as costly and polluting diesel-generated power.
“This is a transformational project for Afghanistan,” said Nena Stoiljkovic, IFC’s Vice President for Asia and Pacific. “It paves the way for Afghanistan to take a major step forward in reducing its reliance on imports. It also sends a clear signal to the world that internationally bankable deals with the private sector are possible in Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan currently imports about 75% of its energy needs while providing electricity to only about 34% of its 37 million population.
The Mazar power project will help Afghanistan meet its critical need for electricity using the country’s domestic natural gas. It will also create about 200 direct jobs and many more indirectly.
The greenfield power plant, which will use gas from the Sheberghan gas fields located in the same region of the country, is expected to generate around 400 GWh of electricity annually for the residents of Mazar-e-Sharif, Kabul, and Jalalabad.
“This project will not only allow more people in Afghanistan to have access to grid electricity, a successful IPP will motivate more private institutional investors to invest in Afghanistan,” said Daud Noorzai, CEO of Afghanistan’s power utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherket (DABS). “This first of its kind project maximizes the use of private and foreign investment to help put the country on a new energy path.”
It is expected that the plant will have a multiplier effect, spurring other projects promoting renewable energy such as solar and wind in the country.
The project will be implemented by Afghan Power Plant Company in partnership with HA Utilities, the utilities investment and development arm of Hassan Allam Holdings, an Egyptian multinational engineering and construction group.
The European Union (EU) Humanitarian Air Bridge flew in a shipment of over 26 metric tons of vaccines to support Afghanistan’s expanded immunisation programme, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was an initiative by the European Commission Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) in collaboration with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“Afghanistan is one of the countries where 1 in 2 children are not fully immunized, making the battle against preventable diseases like measles, rotavirus or polio, while responding to the COVID-19 cases, extremely critical,” said Ahmad Jawad Osmani, Acting Minister of Public Health.
“During this pandemic, Afghanistan cannot afford to face additional outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Osmani emphasized.
In Afghanistan, the pandemic is straining human and financial resources, further weakening the health system, and disrupting its routine services. Just this week, polio cases were reported in provinces where they had previously been eradicated from.
Also, due to lockdowns, and mothers’ fears of infection, visits to health care centres are declining. This disruption of routine immunization services, even for brief periods, will result in increased numbers of susceptible children, and raises the likelihood of outbreak-prone vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) such as measles.
The Humanitarian Air Bridge includes vaccines, and vaccine related supplies that will protect children from diseases such as polio, pneumonia, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough amongst others.