Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Mohammad Haneef Atmar met the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, Ms. Deborah Lyons, yesterday afternoon.
MoFA in a statement said that the two sides discussed the latest developments with regards to the Afghan peace process and the resumption of negotiations between the Afghan government delegation and the Taliban in Doha.
According to the statement, the Foreign Minister expressed serious concerns over the escalation of violence by the Taliban and the rising number of civilian casualties through targeted killing of journalists and human rights activists, including women, in different regions of Afghanistan.
“Minister Atmar noted that ensuring an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire, protecting and promoting democratic values including human rights, rule of law, and freedom of speech, and strengthening the civil society were the main priorities of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan amid the ongoing peace process,” the statement reads.
In the meantime, Ms. Lyons briefed the Afghan Foreign Minister on the programs being implemented in Afghanistan by various UN agencies, assuring Mr. Atmar of UNAMA’s full support for the resumption of talks and restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The statement added that FM Atmar expressed his appreciation for the constructive role the UN and its related organizations, especially UNAMA, had been playing in running development projects inside Afghanistan and in supporting and enhancing the Afghan peace process at regional and international levels.
One week after the Lower House of Parliament rejected the draft budget for the fiscal year of 1400, President Ghani says that the parliament’s responsibility is only to “reject” or “accept” the draft budget.
President Ghani raised this issue at today’s cabinet meeting. He said that according to the constitution, the preparation and presentation of the budget is the work of government and that parliament can only reject or approve it.
“Parliament cannot replace the government in terms of the constitution,” he stressed. “The constitution makes it clear that budgeting is the responsibility of government. It is the parliament’s responsibility to either accept it or reject it.”
In the meantime, the President said that additional projects will not be included in the draft budget for the fiscal year of 1400. He added that the government can not afford “billions of large-scale projects.”
The draft budget for the fiscal year 1400 was rejected by the Lower House seven days ago.
The Finance and Budget Commission of the House of Representatives announced that the budget plan for the year solar year of 1400 had 17 serious problems. The removal of 1,131 provincial projects, the allocation of large sums of money to the operational unit of the Office of Presidential Affairs, the allocation of 1.8 billion Afghanis to the 91 precautionary code and another 1.8 billion Afghanis in the 92 precautionary code have been cited as the main problems.
The Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday approved a draft to standardize the salaries of government employees.
The draft was proposed by 30 members of the Afghan lawmakers.
Mir Rahman Rahmani, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said that according to the proposal of the members of the House, to equalize the salaries of government officers, teachers, retirees, mercenaries and soldiers in order to ensure social justice from the 91st and 92nd panel codes, salary rankings should be increased.
The draft was approved by a majority of votes at the Lower House and the Finance and Budget Commission of Parliament was instructed to include it in the budget draft for the fiscal year.
Previously, the draft budget for the solar year 1400 has been rejected by the House of Representatives.
At today’s session at Parliament, the Speaker of the House of Representatives warned that the lawmakers would not approve the draft until the budget is allocated in a balanced way for all provinces.
Mir Rahman Rahmani said the House of Representatives would not take a winter break until the draft budget is approved and finalized. According to him, the government wants to send the budget draft in the last days so that the parliament can decide on it in a hurry.
The budget for the fiscal year is estimated at 452 billion AFG which includes 295 billion AFG for the ordinary budget and 156 billion AFG for the development budget.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 102 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 9 deaths and 174 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 53,207 the number of total reported deaths is 2,253 and the total number of recoveries is 42,840.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Paktia, Nimroz, Ghazni, Logar, Badghis, Kapisa, Helmand, Ghor, Kunar, Khost and Faryab.
The Afghan embassy in Saudi Arabia says 349 Afghan prisoners have been transferred from Saudi to Kabul.
A statement issued by the Afghan embassy in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia has said that with the efforts of Afghan authorities and the cooperation of the Saudi administration, the prisoners were transferred to Kabul yesterday.
The statement added that these Afghans had come to Saudi Arabia for Umrah and had settled there illegally.
The Afghan embassy said the Afghan nationals were being held in detention centers in different areas after being detained.
According to the press release, they were transferred to Kabul free of charge.
The Afghan embassy thanked the Saudi government for its assistance in transferring the Afghan nationals to their country.
Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar in a telephone conversation with the Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Raşit Meredow has discussed bilateral relations and issues of common concern between Kabul and Ashgabat.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in a press release said, “In addition to discussing Mr. Mardov’s upcoming visit to Kabul, during which he is scheduled to meet with the President Ashraf Ghani and the National Security Adviser Hamdullah Moheb, the two sides discussed about the opening of three important projects.
According to the press release, the projects, which are scheduled to be inaugurated this year are the Aqina-Andkhoy Railway, Karaki – Andkhoy – Pul-e-Khumri power transmission project and a fiber-optic line that will connect Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and provide fast, advanced and continuous internet to Afghans.
“During his visit to Kabul, the Turkmen Foreign Minister is expected to sign several Memorandum of Understanding with Afghanistan, including a MoU on political consultations, an agreement on agricultural quarantine, a security MoU, as well as an oil and gas MoUs,” the press release added.
Afghan security forces have destroyed a Taliban tax collection point during an operation on Kabul-Mazar-i-Sharif Highway in Baghlan province, officials said.
Wais Samimi, Baghlan police chief, has told reporters in Baghlan province that Afghan forces launched an operation to dismantle the Taliban’s tax collection post in Cheshma-i-Shir area.
He said at least six Taliban militants were killed and four others wounded during a clash and their tax post was destroyed.
He added that efforts are underway to tighten security on Kabul-Mazar-i-Sharif highway.
Iran’s Esfahan Steel Company (ESCO) has signed an agreement to export $4.332 million worth of rail tracks to Afghanistan, according to the Iranian Steel Producers Association (ISPA).
The mentioned rail tracks will be used in the country’s railway development projects, IRNA reported.
Afghanistan is currently taking serious measures for developing its railway infrastructure and will be needing millions of tons of rail tracks to this end, and Iran as a major producer of rail tracks in the region can meet all its neighbor’s needs in this sector.
Iran and Afghanistan officially inaugurated a joint railway project called Khaf-Herat on December 11, 2020, to link eastern Iran to western Afghanistan.
Some sections of this project were implemented by the Iranian side and Afghanistan was in charge of constructing one part.
Amrullah Saleh, the first vice president, said security cameras worth more than $ 100 million were to be installed in Kabul.
“The last time security cameras were installed in Kabul on a regular basis was in 2008,” Mr Saleh wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday. “Now that technology has advanced dramatically, Kabul is set to be better covered, more covert than ever, and covered with security cameras with advanced technology.”
According to him, this large program, which costs more than one hundred million US dollars, will be implemented with the help of Afghanistan’s allies and strong support.
Mr. Saleh stressed that the area will be narrower for terrorists and thieves. It should be noted that the lack of security cameras is one of the main reasons for not identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of criminal cases in Kabul.
Traders and exporters of Afghanistan and Pakistan have urged Islamabad and Kabul to review policies to further improve mutual trade and economic relations between the two neighboring countries.
According to Pakistani media, the identified bottlenecks that were hampering bilateral and transit trade, including complicated regulations and procedures, strict policies and cumbersome goods’ clearing processes.
This demand was made during a joint meeting of Pak-Afghan traders held under chairmanship of the Pakistan’s Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).
The participants of meeting demanded the introduction of a visa free entry regime for the business community, making proper consultation with relevant stakeholders before implementation of the new Afghan Transit Trade Agreement.
The participants furthermore proposed the launch of a joint bonded carriers system between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address the issues of transport.
US Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has met the National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and the Foreign Minister Muhammad Haneef Atmar, the Office of National Security Council said.
NSC in a statement said that the sides discussed efforts underway to reduce Taliban violence and reach a ceasefire.
“Discussions also covered efforts to effect regional and international consensus in support of peace in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The statement added that the sides agreed to continue bilateral work to reach a political settlement consistent with President Ghani’s vision, shared by the US and international partners, of a sovereign, unified, democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself and the world, capable of preserving & expanding our gains.