Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: A just and lasting peace to end the war in Afghanistan is needed to reach the ultimate goal of an independent, democratic and united Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday evening.
President Ghani made the remarks during a meeting with tribal elders and influential people from different provinces of Afghanistan at the Presidential Palace, and said that the international community should provide the necessary guarantees to ensure lasting peace and an end to the war in the country.
The Presidential Palace announced this on Twitter on Monday evening quoting President Ghani as saying that now the opportunity for peace in Afghanistan is unique as compared to the last four decades, which he said should be used wisely.
President Ghani on Monday also submitted his three-phased peace plan to the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR). As per a report by Reuters, the three phases of Ghani’s peace roadmap include an internationally-monitored ceasefire and consensus on political settlement in the first phase; establishing a “government of peace” through elections in the second phase and building a “constitutional framework, reintegration of refugees and development” for Afghanistan in the third phase.
Kabul: Any transfer of power in Afghanistan must be based on elections and votes of the people, to ensure continuation of the existing political and security order, said Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president, on Tuesday.
The second VP also raised the issue during a meeting with NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Stefano Pontecorvotse on Tuesday.
Danesh reiterated in the meeting that elections are one of the most important and fundamental achievements of the Afghan people in the last two decades which guarantees the legal and political legitimacy of the system.
“Peace must lead to the stability and perpetuation of the existing political, security and administrative order and prevent the collapse of the system and repetition of a bitter past,” he added.
Danesh also said that the Afghan government, in order to ensure peace in the country, emphasizes the continuation of the system and constitution and amendment of the law after the peace agreement; But the plan of interim government is not acceptable.
The second vice-president said that the discussion about the type of political system in Afghanistan, whether presidential or parliamentary system or centralized or decentralized system, can be raised when the ground for amending the constitution is provided so that these discussions can be considered realistically. It must be a system that is acceptable to all, he added.
On the other hand, the NATO civilian representatives said that the transfer of power in Afghanistan should be such that it leads to peace, stability and preservation of the achievements of the Afghan people.
The representative said that NATO, in accordance with its commitment, will provide financial and military support to the Afghan security forces until 2024, after which it will continue to support them.
Kabul: President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday described his plan for peace at a meeting at the Presidential Palace.
No further details were released to the media by the Presidential Palace about the plan.
However, as per photographs released of the meeting, a number of high-ranking government officials, including First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh; Second Vice-President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh and Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar, also attended the meeting.
Ghani’s plan, as previously reported in the media, is in three stages. The plan is likely to be presented at the Istanbul Summit.
According to Ghani’s plan, the political agreement and the ceasefire are part of the first stage and establishment of a peace government is in the next stage.
Likewise, peacebuilding, state-building and market-building are in the provisions of the President’s plan.
This plan is under consideration in the High Council for National Reconciliation, like other plans.
Kabul: Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), says that the Istanbul Summit is expected to bring in lasting peace in the country.
His remarks come at the fourth meeting of the Regional and International Affairs Commission of the HCNR on Tuesday, wherein Seyed Saadat Mansour Naderi, Minister of State for Peace; Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, and other government officials, participated.
Abdullah said at the meeting that efforts were being made for the Afghan delegation to be inclusive and to participate in the Istanbul meeting with a unified plan.
Abdullah stated that the role and position of women will be prominent in the Istanbul meeting. During the meeting, Mohammad Hanif Atmar and Masoom Stanekzai also spoke about the Heart of Asia Summit – Istanbul Process and preparations for the Istanbul Summit.
According to the HCNR, at the meeting, ambassadors and representatives of countries and international organizations expressed support for the peace talks and stressed the need for continued international cooperation from Afghanistan.
Ambassadors and representatives of countries and international organizations have also called for a significant participation of women in peace talks, stressing that the rights of war victims must be given priority.
The Istanbul Summit is likely to take place on April 16 and will last for 10 days as per media reports. Till April 5, the HCNR had received at least 30 peace plans from various stakeholders in Afghanistan, including President Ghani’s three-phased peace roadmap.
Kabul: If peace is achieved and observed for the next four years in Afghanistan, its GDP will increase by 7 percent, estimates a report by the UNDP titled “Achieving Afghanistan’s Long-term Goals amid Short-term Adversities ”.
The report, released on Tuesday, is the latest in a series of country Notes by UNDP Afghanistan that observes macroeconomic and fiscal situation of the country and offers policy recommendations on the way forward.
The increase in GDP will also increase the government’s revenues and ability to fund aspirational development and social programs. However, governance needs to improve and corruption to be addressed head on, otherwise things will not change for better, adds the report.
The report is part of UNDP’s ongoing policy level support to Afghanistan to give an assessment of the present situation and identify opportunities and challenges facing Afghanistan.
The report is made based on the existing official data using Computable General Equilibrium Models developed by UNDP for Afghanistan. It is intended to provide the policymakers with the evidence to better understand the policy trade-offs, and provide policy recommendations to ensure informed decision making in the face of shrinking resources.
No progress in peace and governance and a growing population along with low economic growth in the last decade has resulted in reducing per capita incomes and increasing poverty. The report estimates that, while the economy may recover its pre-pandemic level in the next two-three years, per capita incomes may still be lower by nearly 10 percent in 2024 compared to 2019. Poverty rate may raise to up to 70 percent and number of those who would need humanitarian assistance may reach 18 million by the end of 2021.
The report also estimates that improvements in the business environment and the investment climate, easing access to credit, reductions in trade costs, agricultural improvements and strengthening governance, if pursued individually, each can add between 1.5 and 2.5 percentage points to the economic growth rate. However, if these policies are pursued in tandem, GDP could increase by more than 40 percent by 2030 compared to the business-as-usual scenario.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday reported 94 fresh positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported two deaths due to the virus and 25 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of positive cases is now 56,873, the number of reported deaths stand at 2,512 and the total number of recoveries is 51,928.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Paktia, Nimruz, Helmand, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Kunar and Laghman provinces.
Kabul: Peace is built by support of all the people of central regions and both sides should make sacrifices to ensure peace in the country, said Mohammad Karim Khalili, leader of Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan said on Tuesday at the death anniversary commemoration event of Abdul Ali Mazari in Bamyan province
Khalili added that the Islamic Emirate is irreversible and the current situation is not acceptable for the Taliban.
He stated that peace must be just and inclusive. “Imposed peace is not acceptable to anyone or any ethnic group in Afghanistan. The world should know, we will stand against the imposed peace. If peace is not just, Afghanistan will face crisis and conflict again.”
Peace in which the position of all influential ethnic groups and parties is not considered will not be acceptable, added Khalili.
Khalili stressed that no effort should be spared for peace and no one should stand in the way of peace and the future system must be based on the people’s vote.
Kabul: For the first time in Afghanistan, a ballot box has been installed to elect district governors in Panjshir province. For each of Panjshir’s seven districts, three people will be elected and then, nominated for appointment.
Mansour Anabi, spokesperson for Panjshir governor, said that people in the province went to the polls for the first time in Afghanistan to elect district governors and vote for their trusted candidates. So far, most local officials in the country have been appointed through political and non-democratic methods. The process of selecting district governors in Panjshir begins as President Ashraf Ghani had promised to appoint mayors, governors and other local officials through elections in several meetings over the past few years.
According to Anabi, the elections for selecting district governors have started in the first district of the province and this process is expected to continue in six other districts of the province.
He added that 12 candidates had been nominated in Hese Awal district, including three leading candidates with high votes who were suggested to the central government and Independent Directorate of Local Governance.
According to Anabi, the elections will be held in accordance with the procedure assigned to them by the central government, so that the people can nominate three leading candidates from each district to the government.
Welcoming the democratic process, Panjshir residents say that they expect elections to be held in the same way to appoint all local officials at the provincial level, and for the people to appoint local officials with their own consent.
According to them, holding elections to appoint local officials will reduce the gap between the government and the people and minimize the challenges.
Kabul: Afghan Second Vice-President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh said that he regrets Senator Anar Kalay Honaryar’s remarks about discrimination against Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan and is ashamed of what had happened to this part of the country’s society.
Recently, Anar Kalay Honaryar spoke tearfully at the Ibn Sina International Award ceremony about discrimination against Hindus and Sikhs in the country, as well as her own experiences of facing discrimination and discriminatory treatment. The Ibna Sina International Award was presented to Anar Kalay by the Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies.
“Upon hearing your trembling voice and seeing your tears, we all wept and trembled and were ashamed of what happened to you and your peers,” second VP Danesh said.
Sarwar Danesh said that Anar Kalay’s bitter experience is the narrative of a majority of the people of this country and called her tears “the tears of all the oppressed, deprived and angry on earth”.
The second vice-president went on to say that anyone who thinks of discrimination is far from serving God. Sarvar Danesh wrote to Anar Kalay Honaryar and said, “We are all proud of your high human thinking and pure patriotism. Afghanistan is the common land of all its citizens, including our Muslims and Hindus.”
The Second Vice-President stated that a common and lasting struggle is needed to establish justice, peace, eradication of discrimination, oppression and violence.
He expressed hope that a day would come when no Afghan citizen would taste the bitter taste of discrimination and shed tears.
Honaryar’s remarks about discrimination against the Hindu and Sikh community in Afghanistan have provoked widespread reactions on social media. Many have sympathized with Honaryar and criticized the discrimination against the country’s Sikhs and Hindus.
Kabul: At least four police officials have been killed after the Taliban attacked a checkpoint in Nangarhar province on Monday night, as per local media reports.
According to the reports, the incident took place in Ghazi Baba area of Sorkhrud district of the province when a group of the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint. Reports suggest that after the attack, the Taliban also took police equipment with them.
Local officials in Nangarhar province have not yet commented on the attack. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, local officials on Monday said that 26 government forces had been killed and 30 others, including six civilians, had been wounded in the past 24 hours in six provinces.
Kabul: More focus will be given to Russia and Pakistan’s cooperation to push for a political solution to the Afghan conflict during Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s scheduled visit Islamabad on Tuesday.
Lavrov will be in Pakistan with 13-member delegation including, Russian special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov; Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and several other senior officials, for two days to discuss bilateral and regional matters.
A meeting of the extended Troika was hosted by Russia including representatives of the Taliban, Afghan government and other Afghan political leaders two weeks ago. The extended troika, comprising representatives of Russia, China, US and Pakistan, focused on making progress in intra-Afghan peace process to reach a negotiated settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
The Pakistani Foreign Office said on Monday that the Russian foreign minister will have delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. He will also call on Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and have interaction with other dignitaries.
The Pakistan Foreign Office statement said during the talks between the two foreign ministers, the entire gamut of Pakistan-Russia relations will be reviewed and ways discussed to further broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
Kabul: Afghanistan, whose tax revenue dropped by 40% in April-May 2020, will receive 2.9 million Euro in grant funding by the European Union (EU) which will be used towards debt relief, the EU announced in a press statement on Tuesday.
Afghanistan has been witnessing decreasing revenue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has adversely affected health, social and economic sectors. The country has had to face restrictions on economic activity and trade while there was extreme burden on expenditure on health, added the EU statement.
The Afghan government successfully managed to borrow considerable amounts in highly concessional loans from the IMF to cover its fiscal deficit during the crisis.
“Tuesday’s announcement is good news for Afghanistan, as this additional funding will free space to increase the social, health and economic spending in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This comes in addition to the substantial support the EU has already provided to Afghanistan to tackle the pandemic, both bilaterally and through the COVAX facility,” said Arnout Pauwels, Chargé d’ Affaires a.i.
The EU funds are channeled through the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), to which the EU and its Member States (Team Europe) are the largest donor, with support amounting to EUR 335.9 million globally, which represents 51% of the relief fund. Besides Afghanistan, 27 of the most vulnerable countries around the world will benefit from debt service relief through the support of the EU.
The support announced on Tuesday will also contribute to Afghanistan’s macro-economic stability. Since the pandemic started, the EU has mobilized almost 147 million euros to Afghanistan to address the immediate health crisis and provide humanitarian assistance to the people in need. As the largest donor to the COVAX facility, the EU and its member states have also enabled the delivery of almost 500,000 doses of vaccine to Afghanistan.
Kabul: At least one person died and eight others have been injured after gunmen opened fire at a mosque in Farah province on Monday evening, said Farah police chief.
Gholam Sakhi Ghafouri, Farah police chief, said, “Unfortunately, the incident took place in the area or in the village of Kahdanak. People are also to be blamed as they did not contact security forces to take security measures for the mosque.”
Ghafouri linked the incident to the Taliban and said that investigation in the incident was underway.
One of the group’s local commanders had also taken responsibility for the incident, however the Taliban’s official spokesperson has not yet commented on the matter officially.
Kabul: Javid Ahmad, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UAE, while expressing his views about the Afghan peace process, said on Monday that the talks scheduled to take place in Turkey this month were likely to end in deadlock.
Ahmad, who was addressing a US think tank, said that talks between his government and the Taliban are not likely to see results because there was not enough pressure from the US.
The US is working with the UN to finalise a peace deal between the Afghan government and Taliban to ensure a permanent ceasefire in the war-ravaged nation. Taliban has warned to more violence if the May 1 deadline of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil is not met. Hence, the peace talks are of utmost importance in the current scenario.
“If the Turkey conference take places, my personal view is that it will end in a deadlock,” Ahmad told an online meeting of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in recent years have faltered and should be rotated around other venues, as per Ahmad. The Taliban were too comfortable in Doha, he added.
Meanwhile, President Ghani has submitted his three-phased peace roadmap to the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) which is working to prepare a unified proposal for the Turkey Summit after receiving 30 peace plans till April 6. Ghani’s plan is an alternative to the US proposal, which had been rejected by Kabul.
The US, which has been at war in Afghanistan for 20 years, with the conflict first beginning following the September 11 terrorist attacks, had planned to draw up a new legal system for an interim power-sharing administration with Taliban members.
Kabul: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an interview with Indian newspaper Hindustan Times reiterated that India is an important player in the Afghan peace process and that Russia plans to resume the work of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan.
Lavrov, who is currently in New Delhi to meet with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, added that India should be involved in the international efforts supporting the Afghan national reconciliation.
“New Delhi is not a participant of the extended “Troika” (Russia, the US, China and Pakistan) on Afghanistan, in the framework of which Moscow hosted intra-Afghan consultations on March 18. The meet had aimed at facilitation of the launch of the peace process in the country. At the same time India is part of the Moscow format uniting the neighboring states of Afghanistan, key regional countries and the USA,” said Lavrov in the interview.
“Such a composition allows coordination of assistance to the national reconciliation process which is based on broad regional consensus. As the Afghan peace process moves forward, we are planning to resume the work of this mechanism,” The Russian FM added.
The remarks come even as the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) is working to prepare a unified proposal for the Turkey Summit after receiving 30 peace plans till April 6, including President Ghani’s three-phased plan. The Afghan government is scheduled to attend the peace summit, reportedly to be held from April 16 for 10 days, in the Turkish capital of Istanbul.
Meanwhile, the war-ravaged country continues to witness bloodshed in the days leading up to the peace talks as security forces up their operations against Taliban insurgents in a series of clashes and counter-clashes.