Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani today in a seminar entitled “Foreign Policy Priorities and Reforms in Afghanistan’s Diplomatic System” said that he will not transfer power to his successor without elections.
President stressed that he will be ready to transfer power to his successor if Taliban accept elections.
He stated that 42 years of war have been going on and Afghans, like other nations in the world, have the right to live.
Appreciating the US “urgency” for peace in Afghanistan, Ghani said: “We have 100 times more urgent than any other country in the region and the world to achieve peace, but we are going forward based on realities to ensure lasting peace.”
This is the second time that President Ghani has called for early elections since the new US peace plan, which includes the option of an interim government.
The new US plan is also set to be discussed at the Moscow and Ankara peace summits.
A 16-member delegation of the Afghan government led by Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) will attend the Moscow peace summit that will be held on Thursday, HCNR office confirmed.
According to HCNR office, the delegation includes: Parliament Speaker Mr Rahman Rahmani, former president Hamid Karzai, ex-vice president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, former vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili, Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Deputy Head of Reconciliation Council Babur Farahmand, State Minister for Peace Affairs Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, Chief Negotiator Masoom Stanekzai, republic negotiator Matin Bek, republic negotiator Nader, republic negotiator Habiba Sarabi, Senate Deputy Speaker Alam Izedyar, State Deputy Minister for Peace Affairs Abdullah Khinjani and Hizb-e-Islami members Abdul Sattar Khawasi and Ghairat Bahi.
This comes as the Taliban and the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have agreed to attend the conference in Russia, which is seeking to raise efforts in the Afghan peace process.
The US Department of State on Monday said Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will also attend the meeting.
China and Pakistan have also been invited to the talks, which come ahead of a May deadline for US President Joe Biden to decide whether to end the US’s longest war in Afghanistan.
The members of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations Team have met with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
IRA Peace Team in a statement said thatduring the meeting, they discussed security issues, achieving a ceasefire, political participation in the peace process and the Moscow Conference.
According to the statement, they emphasized that there should be a principled discussion on the above-mentioned issues.
They added that in addition to speeding up the peace process in Doha, the quality of the negotiations should be maintained so that further steps for speeding up the process do not exacerbate the crisis in Afghanistan.
Roshan, Afghanistan leading digital communications provider, announced the winners of its biggest lucky draw at an event in Kabul.
The Roshan company in a press release said that the winners were selected in a totally transparent process where all of Roshan’s 6 million customers had the chance to win weekly, monthly and the mega prize of 2 million Afghanis.
“This year’s biggest prize of 2 million Afghanis went to Said Hakim, a 30-year old doctor, resident of Kabul,” the press release said.
“At Roshan we are committed to helping the people of Afghanistan, not only through the newest mobile technology and digital content, but also by creating economic and financial opportunities,” said Altaf Ladak, Roshan deputy CEO. “This year, we also wanted to support our customers and thank them for their loyalty by launching Afghanistan biggest lucky draw.”
According to the press release, for the past four years, as part of its commitments to support the people of Afghanistan, Roshan has been launching lucky draw initiatives.
“This year’s lucky draw was launched in November of 2020 and ended on January 28th, 2021. Roshan’s customers from wherever of the country had the chance of winning 50,000 Afs weekly 200,000 Afs monthly or the mega prize of 2 million Afghanis,” the press release said.
The company added that in this year’s lucky draw, there were a total of 18 winners of weekly and monthly prizes, of 50,000 Afs and 200,000 Afs, and one winner of the biggest prize of 2 million Afghanis.
Amid stalled U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban, and with no clear indication whether President Biden will withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by a previously agreed May 1 deadline, pressure has been mounting for progress on peace.
Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Afghan parliament and women’s rights activist, has survived two assassination attempts — the first in 2010, when her convoy was targeted by the Taliban, and the second in August, when she was shot by unknown gunmen.
In an interview with Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin, Koofi says it’s vital to protect Afghanistan’s hard-won gains since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
“For the past 20 years we have invested, along with our partners and allies like the United States, blood and treasure for these [democratic] institutions,” Koofi says. “Now, we cannot easily let them collapse.”
On Afghanistan peace talks, she said, “We have entered issues of substance over the last two or three weeks. We have been discussing points that matter for the security and safety of our people, including extrajudicial killings and the security of the highways and roads. We have also been discussing how prisoners should be kept according to the rules and procedures. And I think we have kind of come to some sort of agreement on these issues.”
“We certainly need some pressure on the other side to enter the main topics for discussion. We started with not-so-complicated issues as a means of trust building and to understand each other’s points of view. From our side, the main issue is a discussion on cease-fire, because we know that there is an unacceptable level of violence, especially extrajudicial and targeted killings that have targeted human rights activists, journalists, et cetera. And also people are stopped on the highways traveling between cities, villages, and districts. And they are being unlawfully punished.”
“From the other side, I think the first thing that they have put in the agenda is a kind of a political pathway and a discussion on Islamic structure. But I think they probably want more time to see what the final U.S. strategy will be,” she added.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday reported 21 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported no deaths and 18 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 56,016 the number of total reported deaths is 2,460 and the total number of recoveries is 49,499.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar,Nangarhar, Laghman and Nuristan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced appreciation for the efforts and support of neighboring countries and the region in achieving peace in Afghanistan, and emphasizes the importance of continuing these efforts and cooperation.
The MoFA in a press release acknowledged that the holding of peace talks in Afghanistan in the Russia and Turkey is a continuation of the Qatar process and is not an “alternative”.
MoFA cited that the delegation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is negotiating with the delegation of the Taliban in Qatar and these negotiations will continue in the future.
“Afghanistan appreciates the sincere efforts of the Qatari government to ensure peace in Afghanistan, especially the hosting of peace talks between the delegations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban, and hopes that these joint efforts will yield the desired results,” the press release added.
Amnesty International says months of campaigning for better protection measures for Afghanistan’s human rights defenders led to a Presidential decree in December 2020 establishing a protection mechanism, but threats and attacks on human rights defenders have continued.
AI in a press release on Tuesday said, “Human rights defenders have bravely continued with their work despite the enormous challenges they face every day in Afghanistan. They have come under attack from different sides in the ongoing conflict, including state and non-state actors. For the last few months, threats, and attacks against them have spiked.”
Amnesty International, in close collaboration with 32 human rights organizations, presented the “Afghanistan Human Rights Defenders Protection Strategy” in January 2020.
In December 2020, the government issued a Presidential Decree establishing the Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Three months since, there has been very little visible progress to indicate the protection mechanism is effective and functional.
Merely days after the Presidential Decree, women’s rights activist Freshta Kohistani was killed by a group of unidentified gunmen. A day prior to that, another prominent activist Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed was ambushed and shot at by unidentified gunmen. In March, three journalists were shot at gunpoint. Other activists have received explosives delivered to their houses as a clear threat.
AI asks the President of Afghanistan to expedite the process in ensuring that the protection mechanism for human rights defenders is effective and functional, and to investigate the threats and attacks on human rights defenders promptly, thoroughly, impartially and independently, and in full adherence to international standards on fair trials.
Further cuts in aid to Afghanistan by the United States and other donors could cause the government to collapse and return the country to chaos similar to the 1990s, a U.S. government watchdog said on Monday.
“Eighty percent of Afghanistan’s budget is funded by the U.S. and the (other international) donors,” Sopko said in a Reuters interview. “If, for whatever reason, the donors keep drawing down funding … that could bring the sudden demise of the Afghan government as we know it.”
He warned of “history repeating itself,” referring to the anarchy that convulsed Afghanistan after the Soviet Union ended its 1979-89 occupation and cut its assistance to the Kabul government.
International annual development aid to Afghanistan has decreased from a high of $6.7 billion in 2011, hitting $4.2 billion in 2019, according to World Bank data.
Sopko testifies on Tuesday before the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee on his latest report.
The warning by John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, came as the United States, Russia and other countries strive to kickstart stalled Afghan peace talks and President Joe Biden faces a May 1 deadline for withdrawing all remaining U.S. troops.
Iran has released 612 Afghan convicts in a humanitarian move over the past couple of days, Mahmoud Abbasi, deputy minister of justice for human rights, has said.
On Monday, 306 Afghan convicts were transferred to their country, while another 306 were handed over to Afghan authorities last Wednesday, IRNA quoted Abbasi as saying.
Eighteen Iranian convicts in Afghan prisons will be transferred to the country by the next few days, he stated.
He went on to note that over the last three years, more than 2,000 Afghan criminals have been extradited to their home country, and almost as many are ready to be handed over to their country.
Following the gunmen attack on a security outpost of Pashdan Dam in Herat province, the security forces launched an operation in Tonian village of Pashtun Zarghon district today, local officials said.
Jilani Farhad, the spokesman of Herat governor said that at least five culprits of the attack on the security outposts were killed during the operation.
This comes as earlier, Nizam Khplwak, the spokesman for the province’s National Water Affairs Regulation Authority said that three security forces were killed, one injured and four more went missing in the attack.
With Afghanistan’s human rights defenders facing a renewed surge of threats and attacks, the authorities must urgently deliver on their pledge to establish a functional body dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders at risk, said Amnesty International on Tuesday.
The Amnesty International in a press release said that more than three months since a Presidential Decree nominally created the Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, no practical steps have been taken to make it an effective protection mechanism, with a lack of information forthcoming on any plan or strategy to address the escalating threat faced by members of Afghan civil society.
An already dire situation for Afghanistan’s human rights community has significantly worsened over recent months, with no fewer than 11 human rights defenders and media workers killed in targeted attacks between the start of peace negotiations on 12 September 2020 and 31 January 2021, according to figures from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“This delay has already cost lives and there is no sign of the violence abating,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
“The announcement of the Joint Commission was a vital step towards providing human rights defenders across the country with the support and security they so desperately need. But it’s a body that currently exists in name only. In more than three months, during which we have witnessed a frenzied escalation of killings, attacks and threats against activists, the Commission has made no tangible progress or taken any meaningful action,” said Yamini Mishra.
“This delay has already cost lives and there is no sign of the violence abating. The Joint Commission must urgently expedite its work and prioritize the immediate security needs of human rights defenders, investigate all cases of threats, attacks and other forms of intimidation, and hold those responsible to account.”
Amnesty International also called on the Joint Commission to ensure that, where necessary, human rights defenders are provided with adequate protection measures including relocation, relief and psychosocial support.
The United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation will attend a summit in Moscow later this week to advance the Afghan peace process, the US State Department said on Monday.
Zalmay Khalilzad will attend the conference on Thursday, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.
The meeting will “complement all other international efforts to support the Afghanistan peace process and also reflects the international community’s concerns about progress to date”, Porter said.
The Taliban and the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have agreed to attend the conference in Russia, which is seeking to raise its profile in the Afghan peace efforts. China and Pakistan also were invited.
The Taliban on Monday said it intends to send a 10-person, high-level delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund, to the meeting in the Russian capital.
Afghan peace talks, now stalled in Qatar, should be rotated to other venues, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said, indicating the Qatari hosts had not pushed hard enough for the Taliban to reduce violence.
Ambassador Javid Ahmad said peace talks should not be held in one fixed location, but rotate among venues in Europe, Asia, the Middle East or Afghanistan itself.
He later told Reuters his comments reflected his personal view and not that of the Afghan government.
The Taliban, which opened an office in Qatar in 2013, were too “comfortable” there, he said. “We want the Taliban to get out of their comfort zone.”
“The Qataris could have used its role as a host to play a more active and decisive role in pushing the Taliban to reduce violence or declare a ceasefire,” Ahmad said. “They have not properly used their leverage, as a host to the Taliban …, to push the group’s leaders to declare a ceasefire or to visibly reduce violence.”