Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov called on Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi, a statement issued by the country’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated on Wednesday.
The Pakistani military’s media wing said that matters of mutual interest, overall regional situation including Afghan Peace Process and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.
The visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s role for regional peace and stability, especially Afghan Peace Process and pledged to keep working for better relations between two brotherly countries.
Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan-Nai, says a new survey shows that the number of media outlets in the country has increased, but the number of media workers, especially women, has decreased in the provinces.
At a press conference in Kabul on Thursday, Nai said that the number of female journalists had dropped by 90 percent in Kandahar, 40 percent in Nangarhar, and 20 percent in Balkh, but a 5 percent increase in Kabul.
The poor security situation, the assassinations and the targeting of social activists, especially journalists, have raised concerns among journalists and media outlets.
Nai stated that the poor security situation has displaced more than 30 journalists, some of whom have left the country.
Abdul Mujib Khalwatgar, the Chief Executive of Nai, said the survey focused on five provinces in Afghanistan.
“In Nangarhar province, female journalists have lost 40 percent of their media coverage. In Herat, we see fewer women appearing in the media, which shows that some media outlets do not even have female employees. In Kandahar, we see a 90 percent decrease in women presence,” he said. “Balkh is witnessing a 20% decrease in women’s presence. Due to the decrease in female journalists in the four major cities of Afghanistan, we are witnessing a 5% increase in the presence of women in the Kabul media.”
Mr Khalwatgar said that although 17 percent of journalists in Afghanistan were women, 40 percent of the total number of female journalists had been killed, indicating that female journalists were more likely to be targeted by terrorist attacks.
The second ambassadorial consultative meeting aimed at preparations for the 9th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process, co-chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab and Ambassador of Tajikistan to Kabul Dr. Sa’di Sharifi, was held today at the Storay Palace, the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs said.
MoFA in a statement on Thursday said the meeting was also attended by Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (Political) for Afghanistan Ms. Mette Knudsen and Ambassadors of the member states of the Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process.
Deputy Minister Nab welcomed the participants and spoke about his recent visit to the Republic of Tajikistan and the necessary arrangements for convening the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process in Dushanbe.
The participants termed important the convening of Heart of Asia conference under the current circumstances in Afghanistan, for discussing the Afghan peace negotiations and strengthening regional and global consensus in support of the peace process.
They also debated over the joint declaration of the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process scheduled to take place on the 30th of March 2021 in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
The first Turkmen-language private radio station in Afghanistan launched today in Sheberghan city, the capital of Jawzjan province.
“There are many radio stations in Afghanistan, but there was no specific radio for the Turkmen people, so we decided to launch this radio with the help of our Turkmen people,” Bashir Hakimi, the owner of Turkmen Radio, told Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan-Nai.
Turkmen Radio will broadcast from 6 to 12 pm, including political, social, religious and cultural programs.
According to Nai, the radius of coverage of this radio will be up to one hundred kilos and its waves can be received in six districts of Jawzjan province.
Afghan Turkmen people live mostly in the northern provinces of Afghanistan and their language remains more dialectal and so far no significant work has been done to develop this language.
Habiba Sarabi, a Member of the Negotiation Team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, attended a meeting titled “Women’s Role in the Peace Process” held on the occasion of #IWD2021 at Kabul University.
IRA Peace Negotiations Team in a statement said that during the meeting, Habiba Sarabi spoke about the importance of women’s role in the peace process.
Emphasizing women’s strong presence in government institutions, especially in peace structures, she called for the Afghan people’s strong voice to meet their demands.
Ms. Sarabi added that all international efforts for peace in Afghanistan should support the peace process, adding that the negotiations’ quality is important and should not be sacrificed to speed up the process.
Afghan local officials claim that the Almar district of Faryab province has been collapsed to Taliban, but the Ministry of Defense (MoD) rejected in a statement.
Abdul Manan Qate, a member of the Faryab Provincial Council, told Reporterly on Thursday that for the past three years, only the building of the police HQ of Almar district had been under the control of government forces, as the the most parts of the district were in Taliban’s control.
According to Qate, the Police HQ had been besieged by Taliban and after 30 days of security forces efforts to break the siege, the district today collapsed to Taliban.
Qate noted of the 40 security personnel stationed in the district, about 20 of them with a Humvee tank, reached the army base in the northwest of the district, but the fate of the rest is unknown.
He said there was still no information from the remaining forces in the district as to whether they had been killed, wounded or captured or had managed to escape in some other ways.
According to this member of Faryab Provincial Council, Mohammad Amin Patang, the head of Almar police command, surrendered to the Taliban with a weapon yesterday.
In the meantime, Hanif Rezaei, spokesman for the 209th Shahin Corps, said that not only did Almar Faryab district fall to Taliban, but that the area was cleared by commandos.
Rezai emphasized that police officers trapped in the district have been rescued and airstrikes continue unabated over Taliban positions.
According to reports, 15 Taliban militants were killed in airstrikes on Taliban positions in the district.
The Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian also denied that the district had fallen to the Taliban, but did not elaborate on how the clashes would take place.
Faryab Governor Naqibullah Fayek told media that government forces had deliberately left the center of Almar to prevent military and civilian casualties.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 23 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 3 deaths and 21 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,940 the number of total reported deaths is 2,454 and the total number of recoveries is 49,465.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar, Helmand, Faryab, Kunar, Laghman, Uruzgan and Noorestan provinces.
Ministry of Public Health said that 39,263 health workers have been vaccinated since the first day of the corona caccine.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned over the critical situation of Afghan journalists and calls on the Afghan government to guarantee their safety.
Over 300 Afghan female journalists have quit their jobs in recent months due to security concerns, including a spate of female media workers’ killings in the country.
Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, recent report revealed several female journalists from 34 provinces have left the country due to the threats and harassment they were suffering. The report also cites the recent wave of targeted killings as one of the main reasons for women to stop reporting.
The remaining female journalists are demanding the implementation of further safety measures to continue working, while media employers claim they can’t hire female journalists anymore over fears for their safety.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “The Afghanistan government must intensify its efforts to protect journalists who risk their lives every day to keep the country informed. The IFJ is deeply worried about the recent wave of violence towards female journalists, which is driving them out of the profession over security fears”.
Since peace talks started between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2020, attacks against media workers have continued to rise. The UN mission in Afghanistan has reported that at least 11 human defenders and media workers were killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan from September 12 to January 31, 2021.
Ahmad Nader Nadery, head of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, says most women working in the civil service administrations are in the middle and lower echelons.
“There is a need to increase the presence of women in the upper echelons and decision-making ranks,” Nadery said at a conference on Thursday to monitor the implementation of a policy to increase women’s participation.
“It is our collective duty to make the workplace free of harassment for women,” he said, referring to the creation of a safe work environment for women.
“Women must stand up to harassment with no fear and courage whenever they encounter harassment,” he asserted.
Mr. Naderi expressed hope that men and women would work for justice, equal rights, and the values of a different Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) says the right to education, freedom of expression and access to artistic skills are fundamental rights of all children, without discrimination on the basis of age or sex and all boys and girls can exercise their rights equally and freely within the law.
AIHRC statment comes as the Afghanistan’s Education Ministry is barring schoolgirls older than 12 from singing at public events,
Schoolgirls older than 12 will only be able to sing at events that are “100 percent attended by women,” according to a letter of the decision shared with the media.
The rights body said, “The imposition of any restriction on the rights and freedoms of children is contrary to the general principles of human rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the national laws of Afghanistan, in particular the Constitution and the Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Children.”
The commission said it is expected that any decision of the Ministry of Education to refuse children to participate in public meetings and programs, celebrations and receptions, does not promote gender discrimination.
The decision has sparked outrage on social media platforms as people compared the government’s decision to the Taliban’s ideology.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) says at least 47 Taliban insurgents have been killed during the clashes in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
MoD in a statement on Thursday said that Afghan security forces launched an operation with the support of air forces in Arghandab, Zherai and Shah Wali Kot districts of Kandahar province.
According to the statement, 34 Taliban militants were killed and 22 more were wounded in the operation.
In the meantime, MoD says in a separate operation in Helmand province, 13 Taliban militants were killed which the operation was conducted in Nahr-e Saraj district.
The statement added that Afghan forces seized a large amount of arms and weapons during the operations.
The Taliban group has not commented on the incident so far.
Under the framework of the agreement on the extradition of convicts, Iran transferred 306 Afghan convicts to their home country in the 1st phase of the exchange of convicts between Tehran and Kabul.
According to Iranian media, Iran’s Justice Minister Deputy Mahmoud Abbasi said: “306 Afghan convicts were transferred to their country on Wednesday, in the first phase of the exchange of convicts between the two countries.”
“They were handed over to Afghanistan under the framework of the agreement on the transfer of convicts between the two countries at the Dogharun border,” he added.
“These individuals, most of whom are accused of drug trafficking, must continue their sentences in Afghanistan’s prisons,” Abbasi noted.
“In the second phase, another 500 Afghan convicts will be transferred to their home country next week,” he added.
An employee of the Iran’s embassy in Kabul came under armed attack in PD9 of the capital on Wednesday evening.
Confirming the incident, the Iranian embassy in a statement said that unidentified armed robbers attempted to rob the vehicle of an employee of the embassy’s consular section yesterday.
“The employee tried to resist the armed robbers and leave the area, but the gunmen opened fire on the vehicle. Fortunately, the employee was not seriously injured and now is in a good condition,” the statement said.
This comes as the Police have not yet commented on the incident.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said that the United States so far has not made a decision on the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“We boosted diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan ahead of the May 1st deadline,” Blinken told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Blinken said the US wants to see progress in terms of the Taliban’s commitment to disassociate from Al-Qaeda.
Blinken stated the US is engaged in a diplomatic effort to try to drive the warring parties to the table “meaningfully on a peaceful future for Afghanistan” and enlisting the UN and regional neighbors.
The comments came in response to reports that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, warned that Ghani’s government may have to deal with a Taliban onslaught on its own if the Afghan leader fails to urgently consider proposals on accelerating U.S.-initiated peace efforts.
Prominent Afghan politicians on Wednesday urged that an assessment be made of the US-proposed draft peace plan and called on the Afghan government to not create barriers in the way of the peace process.
Younus Qanooni, the former vice president of Afghanistan, said that the peace plan which was shared with them by US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad needs amendments, but shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.
He warned that rejecting the US-proposed peace plan without a careful consideration is an invitation to war.
“A blind acceptance of peace without deliberations and without an agreement on the fundamental principles will also lead Afghanistan toward another war,” said former VP Younus Qanooni.
Other political leaders said that the president cannot represent the entire nation in the peace process.
The politicians spoke during a gathering to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of General Mawlana Saeedkheli, the former police chief of Kunduz.
The politicians said that all parties should be involved in the peace process.
“This opportunity shouldn’t be wasted for short-term gains and for a symbolic ceasefire, or for a group to exploit it for the continuation of its illegitimate grip on power,” said Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of Jamiat-e-Islami.