Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: With the Istanbul Summit to discuss peace in Afghanistan round the corner, the Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan-Nai, said that media and freedom of expression should be respected and discussed in the Summit.
A statement issued on Sunday said that the Istanbul meeting will be held in continuation of the Doha meeting between the negotiating delegations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan.
According to the statement, Zalmai Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, is the initiator of this meeting and previous meetings. Nai called on Khalilzad to define the principle of freedom of expression and the achievements of the Afghan media as a limit and threshold which should not be crossed at the Istanbul Summit, and to urge the two sides to respect it.
Nai added that the Afghan media community is concerned about the fate of freedom of expression and the media, so that these values are not ignored or traded in the Istanbul peace summit.
According to Nai, freedom of expression, access to information and free media activity are the thresholds for Afghan citizens and the Afghan media community, and these values must be respected in the Istanbul peace talks.
Nai has called on the Afghan government and the Taliban, as key parties in the peace talks, to respect the legitimate demands of the Afghan people and the media community, and not to allow the 19-year-old media community to be harmed.
According to Amrullah Saleh, the first vice-president, the Turkish summit on peace in Afghanistan is likely to take place this week.
Kabul: There have been at least six new cases of the polio type 2 virus reported in the country, said officials at the Ministry of Public Health on Sunday.
Mirjan Rasekh, head of public awareness of the polio eradication program at the Ministry of Public Health, said that these polio cases were of the second type, registered in Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, Zabul and Badghis provinces.
Rasekh also said that all of the cases were reported from inaccessible areas, where the Taliban did not allow the polio vaccine campaign to take place.
He added that with the registration of these six positive cases, the total number of positive polio cases registered in the country this year has reached 32. He added that only one positive case of the type 1 polio virus has been registered in Ghazni province this year.
Rasekh said that the number of positive cases of type 1 polio virus has decreased significantly this year.
Earlier, the Ministry of Public Health said that the type 2 polio virus entered the country last year through Afghan migrants who arrived from Pakistan.
Kabul: In a major breakthrough, Fereydoun Khozoon, spokesperson for the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) on Sunday announced that the Committee for the drafting and Unification of Plans has finalized the draft peace of the republic system and has submitted it to the chairman of HCNR.
He did not give further details about the plan, but added that the chairman Abdullah Abdullah called the finalization of the peace plan a very difficult task.
The draft will be the unified document which will be presented by Afghanistan at the Istanbul Summit after it gets approval from the leadership committee of the HCNR. Earlier, the High Council for National Reconciliation had received 30 proposals from various individuals and parties, including President Ashraf Ghani’s three-phased peace roadmap.
Zalmai Khalilzad, the US special envoy to Afghanistan also stressed in a meeting with Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday that the world expects the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to participate in the Istanbul meeting with a single plan.
The announcement comes close on the heels of the statement by the Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh that the Turkish Summit is likely to convene this week. World leaders, the United Nations, the Taliban and other stakeholders are expected to meet in Istanbul on April 16 to discuss the peace roadmap for Afghanistan and possible ceasefire in the region. President Ghani too, while emphasizing that there is no shortcut to peace and that the peace process cannot be carried out in a hurry, said on Sunday that his plan to move beyond a state of war to just and lasting peace in the country is very clear.
Meanwhile, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, Khalilzad has also been busy with rally meetings to get views of various stakeholders on the Afghan peace process.
Kabul: In one of the most definite hints regarding the date of the Istanbul Summit, for which no formal announcement has been made as of yet, Amrullah Saleh, the country’s first vice-president, said that the Turkish Summit is likely to convene this week and has three slated agendas.
Speaking at a gathering in Koohdaman, north of Kabul, on Sunday, Saleh said that agreement on values, ceasefire and establishing a government of peace are among the agendas for the Turkish summit. He added that Zalmai Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for peace in Afghanistan, had discussed the three agendas of the Istanbul Summit with Afghan government officials during his recent visit to Kabul.
Saleh said that agreeing on principles and values means that the Taliban will have to accept that Afghanistan will not become terrorist safe haven. Till, the Taliban accepts this, the negotiations will not proceed further.
He also stated that releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners was one of the biggest mistakes of the government and they will not repeat the mistake. According to him, among these Taliban prisoners were major drug traffickers who were released from prison under the guise of members of the group in exchange for bribes to the Taliban.
Regarding the ceasefire, the first vice-president said that the Taliban must accept a ceasefire if they want the people to support the current peace process. “It is very difficult for us to make progress in peace talks, if there’s no understanding and mutual acceptance and people are under threat of suicide killings and explosions,” Saleh said.
Addressing the Taliban, Saleh said, “We are committed to serious negotiations if the Taliban stops violence and agrees to a ceasefire.”
Regarding the future government, Amrullah Saleh said that in the event of any possible agreement at the Istanbul summit, they will again consult with different segments of the people through a consultative Loya Jirga.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday reported 82 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported eight deaths and 27 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of positive cases now stands at 57,242, total reported deaths is 2,529 and the total number of recoveries is 51, 989.
Kabul: President Ghani, while emphasizing that there is no shortcut to peace and that the peace process cannot be carried out in a hurry, said on Sunday that his plan to move beyond a state of war to just and lasting peace in the country is very clear.
While speaking through a video link to the Koohdaman People’s gathering, Ghani said, “We have the capacity to come up with a more comprehensive and principled plan for any plan that comes up from the outside. Peace is a dialogue between the Afghan government, the Taliban and the international community and it cannot be achieved in a hurry.”
“There is a need for a useful debate on peace. We must reach a conclusion on basic principles. Legitimacy must exist at all stages of the transition from war to peace and the crossing of the bridge of peace. The source of legitimacy is the current constitution, and the constitution has clear ways to amend it. Without a constitution, the risks will increase,” he said.
Ghani stated that he was committed to handing over the national authority to his chosen successor based on the will of the people, and that a Loya Jirga would be convened after a political consensus to ratify the agreement.
The president said that the Taliban needs to participate in the Loya Jirga and share their demands with the Afghan people.
He said that peace requires sacrifice and therefore, he was ready to hold fair elections in the country under international supervision.
Meanwhile, Afghan First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh has announced on Sunday that the peace conference in Turkey will be convened next week. “One of the government’s biggest mistakes was releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Among the 5,000 freed, 40 to 50 were drug smugglers who paid bribes to the Taliban to vouch for them in order for them to secure their release. Only after the 5,000 prisoners were released, it become clear that the Taliban never had any intention of working for peace. Of the freed Taliban fighters, 75% returned to the battlefields,” he said, adding that the afghan government will not repeat their mistake. According to government sources, the Turkish city of Istanbul is scheduled to host peace talks on April 16. The meeting is said to last 10 days and will discuss the future government of Afghanistan.
Kabul: At least 120,000 Afghan refugees in Iran have their health insurance costs covered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Access medical care for Covid-19 and other illnesses under Iran’s national health plan has been extended to 20,000 more refugees bringing the total to 120,000, a statement released on Saturday stated. Iran hosts nearly 800,000 Afghan refugees.
UNHCR has over the past year paid insurance premiums for 100,000 of the most vulnerable refugees. “Iran is one of only a handful of countries that allows refugees to sign up for its national health insurance and receive the same treatment as its nationals,” said UNHCR Spokesperson Babar Balloch.
“The national insurance scheme allows for free Covid-19 treatment and hospitalization. It also subsidizes the cost of surgeries, dialysis, radiology, laboratory tests, outpatient care and more. However, many refugees are not able to afford the premium costs,” he added.
Balloch said the pandemic has severely affected the ability of refugees to earn a living, as they usually rely on precarious and unstable jobs.
Kabul: Anti-social elements set the province’s municipality vehicle on fire in Balkh province on Sunday, said local officials.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesperson for the governor of Balkh, said that the incident took place in Mazar-e-Sharif. “The shopkeepers of Mazar-e-Sharif Municipality did not set the car on fire. A mob which had blocked the road and were engaged in peddling on both sides of the road, set the vehicle on fire. The issue is currently under investigation.”
The spokesman for the Balkh governor stated that no one had been arrested yet. A municipal employee was also injured in the incident.
Meanwhile, the protesters in the area insist that municipal employees obstruct their activities on a daily basis, however, a spokesperson for the Balkh governor denied the allegations, saying that peddlers had been warned several times to not block the road.
Kabul: Afghan security officials say at least six Taliban militants have been killed and four more were wounded during an operation in Posht Band, Tatar, Chal Wa Alma in Khoram Sar Bagh district of Samangan province on Saturday.
The Shaheen 209 Corps in a statement said that Qari Shafi, a local Taliban commander who was released from Bagram prison, was arrested during the operation.
Qari Shafi’i is said to have spent two years and eight months in Bagram prison of the ten years of prison, after which he was released under a US-Taliban peace agreement.
Kabul: At least 1,691 fires which occurred in 34 provinces of Afghanistan over the past year has caused economic loses worth over 200 million afghanis, as per statistics from the General Directorate of Disaster Management and Firefighting of the Ministry of Interior.
Apart from the financial loses, the fires have also caused great human loss. In the Islam Qala fire in Herat, more than 380 million Afghanis have been lost alone. This number has not mentioned in the total statistics due to the incomplete review process.
On the other hand, officials says that most of these fires occurred due to the negligence of citizens, substandard fuel tanks and the construction of substandard buildings.
Officials say most commercial buildings and markets do not have standard electricity distribution safety and protection system, and most fires are caused by the presence of incendiary materials inside the markets and the substandard use of electricity.
They also complain about the lack of cooperation from the people and the media, adding that if citizens cooperate, the rate of fires will be significantly reduced.
Officials, however, point out that they have had better facilities in recent years, and they are working to increase those facilities to put out fires instantly.
According to the information of the General Directorate of Accident Investigation and Firefighting of the Ministry of Interior, 2020 has been a challenging year for this directorate.
Kabul: In the first round of political consultations between South Korea and Afghanistan, both the sides stressed on the protection of “gains achieved since 2001, the rights of Afghan people, including women, youth and minorities”, according to MoFA statement on Sunday.
As per the statement, Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab and South Korea’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Lee Kyung-Chul discussed the expansion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation at the regional and international levels.
In a joint press release, both sides underscored the importance of building a peaceful, stable, and democratic Afghanistan. Nab and Kyung-Chul, according to the statement, also welcomed international efforts, especially the United Nations’ role, in advancing peace talks and promoting stability in Afghanistan.
During the Seoul consultation, the two sides discussed the continuation of bilateral cooperation and reviewed the current status and effectiveness of South Korean projects in Afghanistan in combating Covid-19, promoting gender equality, and economic development cooperation.
The two sides agreed to continue bilateral consultations to ensure the effectiveness of the development projects.
Kabul: Afghanistan is likely to receive 150,000 tons of palm oil a year from Malaysia with the country’s Plantation Industries and Commodities ministry hinting at a rise in the export of the tropical oil to Afghanistan on Saturday.
Malaysia is the world’s second-biggest palm oil producer and Afghanistan ambassador met Malaysian minister Khairuddin Aman Razali earlier this week to discuss boosting the exports.
“The move is likely to open a “golden gateway” for Malaysia to expand its palm oil market share in the Middle East and accelerate exports to countries such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan,” Khairuddin said, adding that the ministry also plans to sign a memorandum of understanding to increase exports of other agricultural commodities including rubber, pepper, cocoa and timber.
Higher Malaysian palm oil exports to Afghanistan will help counter the impact of Sri Lanka’s recent ban on palm oil imports, Khairuddin said.