Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar says that no one can deny the will of the nation, and any transition of power must be based on the will of the nation.
Speaking at the government’s accountability program to the nation on Monday, Mr. Atmar said: “The position of the Afghan government is that any kind of transition should be based on the will of our people. This will is also represented through elections. Apart from the will of the nation, no other result will bring a lasting peace.”
According to him, the countries of the region and the world have a consensus on the issue of preserving Afghanistan and bringing peace; But they have no consensus on the process of moving from today to the future.
“This consensus within the country has not yet matured, and differences of opinion have led to differences in worldviews,” Mr Atmar added.
The Foreign Minister said that as a result of active diplomacy in Afghanistan, the region and the world have realized that the return of the Taliban is a fundamental danger for all and that maintaining the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is in everyone’s interest.
He added that the Foreign Ministry had emphasized religious diplomacy to legitimize the Taliban war, which has been called illegitimate by major Islamic scholars, including the Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Deoband scholars.
According to Mr. Atmar, 57 Islamic countries have issued three resolutions saying that the current war in Afghanistan is against Islamic norms.
Afghanistan received COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said on Monday.
MoPH in a statement said that in addition to 468,000 doses of vaccines, 470,000 syringes and 4,700 safety boxes were also part of the shipment.
According to the statement, the delivery is part of a first wave of arrivals that will continue in the coming weeks and months.
Afghanistan is the first country in central Asia to receive the vaccine via the COVAX – the facility that is set to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.
“The arrival of the first COVAX doses today is a major milestone. Gavi looks forward to continuing our collaboration with the people of Afghanistan and partners to ensure the smooth and equitable distribution of vaccines to those most in need. It is going to be challenging, but if we all maintain momentum and keep working together, we will defeat this pandemic,” said Ricard Lacort, Senior Country Manager Afghanistan and Djibouti for Gavi.
Afghanistan has sought the UAE’s support for digitalisation of its logistics infrastructure, which will help the country facilitate regional trade to achieve economic growth and become a bridge between South and Central Asia, and Arabian Gulf, said a top Afghan diplomat.
In an interview with Emirates News Agency (WAM), Javid Ahmad, the Afghan Ambassador to the UAE, said, “We have a planned large-scale programme on digitalisation with the UAE, which would involve digitalisation of our trade and logistics infrastructure.”
Afghanistan is in talks with a UAE firm to look into the schematics of the country’s dry ports and customs ports to see how they could mainstream the customs revenue collection, he said without revealing the UAE firm’s name as the talks are not concluded as of now.
“That’s very important for us, because an estimated 46 percent of our government revenues come from customs but the current system allows some loopholes for leakages, waste and misallocations,” Ahmad said.
The digitalised logistics infrastructure will enhance Afghanistan’s regional connectivity, he pointed out.
“We believe that if we want Afghanistan to be the land bridge between South and Central Asia, regional connectivity is important, especially as part of our own plan for economic growth,” the envoy added.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Monday reported 14 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported no deaths and 24 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,868 the number of total reported deaths is 2,451 and the total number of recoveries is 49,402.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, and Nimroz.
Following Afghan officials’ criticism of Pakistan, President Ghani says Islamabad must end this undeclared war and accept a free, independent and democratic Afghanistan.
President Ghani on Monday addressed the closing ceremony of the “Safe and Stability” regional conference, which was attended by a number of elders and women from the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and the Awami National Party from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at the presidential palace.
“The Government of Afghanistan is committed to ending the current crisis fundamentally,” Ghani said.
President Ghani also stressed the need to increase trade due to fundamental changes in the lives of residents on both sides of the Durand Line, adding that it is the will of both sides.
He noted that a joint transport company would be set up for residents on both sides of the Durand Line, and that he was working closely with them.
The president also instructed the Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs to begin work on a major reconstruction of the tomb of Pashtun poet Ghani Khan.
President Ghani’s remarks comes as
Afghan government officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban.
Yesterday, Hamdullah Mohib, the National Security Adviser, said that talks with the Taliban would not lead to a permanent end to the war in the country, so talks should be held with the group’s foreign supporters.
Friends of Afghan Women Ambassadors’ Group today announced support for the loud and consistent calls of Afghan women for a ceasefire, and condemned the continued targeted attacks on and threats against women carry the pain of the conflict in their everyday lives.
The group in a statement said that women from across Afghanistan have reaffirmed that peace not only means the absence of war, but freedom from all forms of violence and coercion, respect for human dignity, justice, human rights, and equality for all.
“We support the calls, by Afghan men and women alike, that the gains made by women are preserved in negotiated poitical settlement. We have heared Afghan women tell us of the importance of religious and community leaders raising their voices for women’s fundamental rights to engagement in all social spheres, to education and work opportunities, and to protection from violence wherever it may take place. We therefor welcome the many statements by Afghan, regional and global Ulema that affirm the centrality of women’s rights within Islam,” the statement said.
The statement stated that experienece from around the world shows that sustainable peace depends on women’s equal and meaningful engagement in politics, governance, institution building, the rule of law, the security sector and reconstruction efforts.
“Women play a key role in bringing diverse perspectives to the negotiating table and developing consensus. We urge all parties to the conflict to make more space in leadership and peace structures for women- particularly in decision-making roles, but also roles, but also as advisors and experts in a range of fields. Afghan women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in the peace process will be essential to a durable political settlement and the rebuilding of the country.”
“Afghan women have bravely stepped up-often at great personal risk- to call a sustainable and just peace. We reiterate our support for them. We shared their hopes for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan-today, and every day in the future,” the statement added.
Amrullah Saleh, the first Vice President, warns that a deal on the constitution and the right of the Afghan people to vote will never be acceptable.
Speaking in Kabul on the seventh death anniversary of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, VP Saleh pointed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken letter to President Ghani, saying Afghanistan values its relationship with the United States, but that under no circumstances should anyone deprive the Afghan people of the right to vote.
“We are not worried about this letter and our position has not changed,” he said.
He added that the West and the United States have the right to decide about their forces in Afghanistan, but “it is our legitimate right not to compromise the fate of Afghanistan’s 35 million people based on others timetables.”
Regarding the meeting of politicians in Turkey, he said that 20 people could not decide the fate of the people by gathering in one room, but that the people wanted a dignified peace.
He warned that if that happens, he, like Imam Hussein, will stand up against the Taliban and their supporters.
“If the Taliban agree with us on the principle of the election, we can talk about its date,” he said. “If the deal between a few people takes away our system and our achievements and the right of the people, we will not accept it at all.”
In the meantime, Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said at the meeting that two days before the arrival of Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan to Kabul, the US embassy representative had sent the letter to them.
“Although I do not want to defend the letter, important issues in the letter should be discussed” he added.
“No one can impose anything on the people of Afghanistan. Divisiveness, discrimination and incompetence have caused everything to be imposed on us,” Abdullah said.
He stressed that “the achievement of the right to vote, which is the greatest achievement, should not be dealed.”
Mohammad Mohaqiq, President for Security and Political Affairs, also told the meeting that Afghanistan is in a critical situation.
“We cannot undermine our past achievements,” Mohaqiq said.
“Countries must respect Afghanistan’s dignity,” he added.
Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) in it’s new survey says the number of women working for media in Afghanistan shows an 18 percent decline during the past six months.
AJSC says the decrease is caused by deteriorating safety for journalists, particularly target killing of journalists and the economic challenges of the media caused by the pandemic.
“The figures for the first six months of the solar calendar (April – September 2020) showed that there were 1,678 women working for media in Afghanistan, while it has dropped to 1377 in the new survey,” the survey said.
According to AJSC survey, in 9 provinces, including Ghor, Nimroz, Sar-e-Pul, Laghman, Parwan, Kapisa, Uruzgan, Wardak, and Logar, only female media workers are employed in various sectors in the media and there are no female journalists.
“In five provinces, Nuristan, Kunar, Paktia, Paktika, and Zabul, there are no women in the media.”
AJSC expressed deep concern over the decrease in the number of women working in the media.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has announced that 33,690 people have received the Coronavirus vaccine since the beginning of the vaccination process in Afghanistan.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Health on Monday said that 2,316 people in Afghanistan had received the corona vaccine in the past 24 hours.
According to the statement, 33,330 health workers and 360 media workers have received the corona vaccine so far.
Most of those who received the coronavirus vaccine were in Kabul, which includes 4,519 health workers and 223 media workers.
At the beginning of the vaccination process, several people received corona vaccines on behalf of health institutions, security and defense forces, and journalists.
The Indian government has donated 500,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Afghanistan, which will be applied for 250,000 people.
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) says the concerns, demands and views of Afghan women should be considered during the peace talks.
AIHRC in a press release on the International Women’s Day on Monday said, in the last two decades, Afghan women have made great achievements through continuous efforts and sacrifices in various political, social, economic and cultural fields, but they still face serious challenges and are in a highly vulnerable situation.
“Women are one of the main victims of armed conflict in Afghanistan. The country’s ongoing conflict has resulted in violations of citizens’ human rights, especially women’s rights,” the press release reads.
AIHRC called on the negotiating parties, the High Reconciliation Council, human rights activists, civil society and the international community to listen to the voices of Afghan women and their demands for their role in the negotiation process.
The rights body stressed that during peace negotiations, the following points should be considered:
Women should be present at all stages of the peace process, including decision-making, negotiation process and implementation of the peace agreement, and their concerns, demands and suggestions should be listened, ensuring justice, responding to victims’ demands and respecting their rights, especially women’s rights, should be the core of the peace process and the peace negotiations should not undermine victims’ demands for justice.
“The healing of victims’ pain, the rights of war victims and the end of the culture of impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity must be taken seriously in the peace process;
The human rights, fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, the principle of free and fair elections and the participation of citizens, particularly women in elections to decide their own destiny and that of the nation, are inalienable and non-negotiable principles.”
“Establishing an immediate ceasefire to enhance understanding, dialogue and trust, and provide the conditions to people to better enjoy the freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and ensure participation of all strata of society, including women, political groups and parties to the conflict.”
The press release added, “The United Nations and the international community must emphasize the need to protect and promote the access of the Afghan people to their human rights, and to defend the fundamental rights of the Afghan people, including women’s rights, children’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, minority rights and the rights of war victims.”
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to visit Pakistan on Monday for talks on his new peace plans, his first visit to the country in the Biden administration, Pakistani media said.
According to the reports, Khalilzad will be meeting with civil and military leaders in Islamabad days after his visit to Qatar and Afghanistan where he has shared a US plan about a ‘participatory government’ as the Taliban and the Kabul’s team have not yet reached agreement on a future political system.
Taliban have not commented on the reported plan, however, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a veiled response to Khalilzad’s plan, told the parliament on Saturday that Afghanistan’s constitution will decide on the future administration, not plans made by ‘others’.
India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad spoke over phone on Sunday and discussed the latest developments pertaining to the Afghan peace talks.
“Received a call from US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad. Discussed latest developments pertaining to peace talks. We will remain in touch,” Mr. Jaishankar tweeted.
Last November also, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Khalilzad had held talks during the latter’s India visit on the peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government and related issues.
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.