Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: At a time when the international troops are withdrawing from the war-ravaged country and there are intense clashes being witnessed in 20 provinces of Afghanistan, humanitarian actors in Afghanistan (the UN and national and international NGOs) have announced that they will continue to stay in the country and deliver impartial and neutral assistance to people in need.
The ongoing conflict, spiralling food insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in doubling of people in need – up from 9.4 million in January 2020 to 18.4 million in January 2021, the statement read. Recent surveys also show that more than 14 million Afghans are currently without food security and more than four million Afghans are in a state of food insecurity, according to the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Despite challenges, 165 humanitarian organisations continued to work across the country and reached nearly 12 million people with life-saving assistance in 2020. Even with significant funding and operational challenges, 3.7 million people received aid during the first three months of 2021.
The actors have sought protection of civilians, aid workers and civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals in compliance with International Humanitarian Law; unimpeded access so that aid workers and service providers can deliver assistance and services without interference; increase in funding to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, in order to continue their mission in Afghanistan.
In 2021, the UN and humanitarian partners in Afghanistan require US $1.3 billion to help 15.7 million people in need. Only $166.8 million (13 per cent) of the funding has been received so far, said humanitarian coordinator Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, adding that, “The COVID-19 crisis has already had significant consequences on the lives and livelihoods of Afghans and on humanitarian operations. At this critical time, it is more important than ever that we continue to work together to uphold the rights of all people in Afghanistan, including their right to life-saving aid.”
Meanwhile, Food and Agriculture Security Cluster has found that wheat production in Afghanistan is below average and will decrease by about 31% in 2021 compared to 2020. The agency estimates the wheat harvest this year at 1.3 million tons; but it is likely that this figure will reach 2.9 million tons due to declining rainfall.
According to forecasts, the situation is likely to worsen due to the early time between planting and harvesting of wheat, late ripening of food, unemployment, the corona crisis and security problems.
The Food and Agriculture Security Cluster has stated that initial steps and the timely provision of humanitarian assistance are needed to prevent people from getting worse.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 100,000 Afghans were displaced during the first four months of 2021 due to insecurity, and more than 360,000 of Afghan refugees have returned from Iran and Pakistan.
Kabul: In a big development for the healthcare sector, Fazl Mahmoud Fazli, the director general of the Presidential Administration office, announced on Monday that the cabinet has approved the plan for the independence of government hospitals. Under the plan, the Ministry of Public Health will have only oversight role on such hospitals.
According to Fazli, it is a historic decision and will lead to positive changes in the provision of health services. Based on the plan approved by the cabinet, a specific budget will be allocated for each hospital instead of the Ministry of Public Health.
Also, each hospital will be able to hire qualified people independently and be able to provide its help in case of emergency. However, with all these powers, hospitals are obliged to respond to public complaints and not to blame their shortcomings on anyone else.
He says the plan will be implemented in several phases and will gradually cover all government hospitals. Also, government hospitals will no longer have to go through a long paperwork process to procure their equipment.
Fazli says this will create a healthy competition between government hospitals and the Ministry of Public Health will have a supervisory role.
Kabul: At least 32 journalists and media activists in Iran have succumbed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection since the pandemic started over a year ago. Statistics from the Afghanistan Journalists Center show that nine journalists and media workers in Afghanistan have died of the disease so far.
Iran is one of the countries with the highest number of people infected with the coronavirus and according to the findings of the Afghanistan Journalists Center, at least 32 media journalists in Iran have died due to the virus between February 2020 and May 2021.
The Iranian Ministry of Health has reported that a total of 77,415 people have died from COVID-19 during this period. The report states that the total number of patients is 2,779,415.
According to a recent report by the Geneva-based NGO Press Campaign, at least 1,330 journalists and media workers around the world have died from the infection between February 2020 and May 2021.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Monday reported 628 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 24 deaths and 260 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 66,903, while the number of reported deaths is 2,836 and the total number of recoveries is 56,295.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Nimroz, Paktia, Faryab, Parwan, Helmand, Wardak, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Ghazni, Laghman, Panjshir, Uruzgan, Ghor, Khost, Farah and Sar-e Pul provinces.
Kabul: The Acting Minister of Finance, Mohammad Khalid Payenda, who was scheduled to release a list of high-ranking government officials, including members of the House of Representatives, who are involved in bribery and corruption at customs, did not attend the summoning session of the Lower House of Parliament on Monday.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives has warned Payenda, who had announced in the previous session of the Parliament that about $8million is received daily through corruption at customs, that he would not ignore the disclosure of the names and would follow up on this issue.
Payenda had alleged that many government officials and members of the House of Representatives were involved in appointments and wasted $8 million a day at the country’s customs.
The House of Representatives held a question-and-answer session on Monday to investigate corruption in customs and to expose those involved, however, the meeting was attended only by Deputy Minister of Finance and Administration of the Ministry, who did not provide a list.
“If the government trusts the Parliament, it should nominate new candidates as soon as possible,” said Abbas Ebrahimzada, a member of the House of Representatives. The acting ministers do not care about the parliament, they blame the lawyers for everything that happens.”
Meanwhile, at least $2.55 billion is being embezzled annually in Afghanistan, said Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the House of Representatives on Monday, adding that 28 ports ports and all customs of Afghanistan are immersed in corruption.
Rahmani added, “If the deputy director or the customs is ready, we will allow them to enter the hall to reveal the list of corrupt people. They must reveal the list of high-ranking government officials, from lawyers to the president, who are involved in corruption.”
On the other hand, some other members of the House of Representatives called for the introduction of the acting Minister of Finance to the Attorney General.
Kabul: At least two members of a family have been killed at 9:30am on Sunday due to a feud between two families, said Khawaja Mohammad Hanif Siddiqi, the district governor of Qarabagh in Kabul province.
Siddiqi said the man accused of shooting the victims had fled the scene and was being pursued by the police.
Meanwhile, Parwan and Kapisa provinces have also witnessed several such incidents in recent months, resulting in casualties.
Kabul: Security forces managed to kill a ‘female suicide bomber’ before she could reach her target near the police headquarters in Qaisar district of Faryab province, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian on Monday.
Arian added that three Taliban insurgents were killed in the incident.
In 2012, a female suicide car bomber in Afghanistan killed at least 12 people, including nine foreigners. The armed group Hizb-e-Islami said that the attack was carried out in revenge of an anti-Islam film. Suicide bombings have become very common in the war-torn nation. In 2019, a child was used to carry out a suicide bombing at a wedding ceremony in Afghan’s Nangarhar province, killing six people and wounding 14 others.
Among the deadliest attacks, a female suicide bomber in 2010 killed 43 people in north-west Pakistan close to the Afghan border, while 50 others were injured.
Kabul: In a statement released on Monday, the Amnesty International has highlighted the poor progress in the Afghan peace process and how it affects the progress made in the field of women’s rights in the country.
The human rights organization said that it is gravely concerned that the current peace talks with the Taliban, alongside the proposed unconditional withdrawal of US forces, offer no confidence that the government of Afghanistan is committed to protect the gains seen over the last twenty years of the human rights of all people in Afghanistan. A new date for a high-level round of peace talks in Istanbul, postponed since April, is yet to be confirmed and the rights of all individuals hangs in the balance.
“Afghanistan is at a tipping point. As peace talks falter, the conflict continues to take the lives of civilians on an almost daily basis. Taken alongside the forthcoming withdrawal of international troops, Afghanistan is drifting towards an outcome that threatens to undo more than twenty years of progress for women and girls,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
The organization also highlighted that the fact that there is almost zero representation of women in the peace talks with the current composition of the delegations of both the Taliban, with zero women representation, and the government of Afghanistan, with limited women participation of four members. In the March peace conference on Afghanistan in Moscow, only one woman was included in the 16-member government delegation. It added that all parties to the peace talks must ensure an effective guarantee for the enjoyment of all human rights and especially women’s rights after the foreign troop withdrawal.
The organization also called for the full, equal and meaningful representation of women at all stages of the peace process and stated that the UN Security Council also has consistently affirmed the importance of women’s equal participation in peace.
Under Taliban rule from 1996-2001, Afghan women were subjected to severe restrictions including being banned from working outside the home and appearing in public without a close male relative. Women and girls were further denied access to education and had limited access to healthcare. These restrictions still invariably apply to women in areas currently controlled by the Taliban.
Now, there are now 3.3 million girls in education, and women more actively participate in the political, economic and social life of the country. However, Afghan women still face major obstacles to the full realization of their rights. According to UNICEF, 2.2 million Afghan girls still do not attend school.
“The significant under-representation and frequent side-lining of women throughout these talks is indicative of how far there is still to go. The Afghan government must ensure inclusive and meaningful participation of women in the talks,” said Yamini Mishra.
Kabul: A day after Mohammad Yasin Zia, the army’s chief of staff, visited Laghman province, reports are pouring in from Alishing district and Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman province, that the Taliban are slowing advancing in the province.
According to the reports, heavy clashes are underway between the Afghan security forces in the provincial capital of Mehtarlam city and the provincial prison is under siege. However, the prison director said security forces had been deployed around the prison and the situation had returned to normal.
Atiqullah Abdul Rahimzai, Head of the Provincial Council, citing sources said that two bases of Afghan forces in Alishing district, and a base in Mehtarlam fell to the Taliban in the last 24 hours while at least 12 outposts have been overrun by the Taliban in the province and that “some of the posts were abandoned without resistance”.
The provincial security officials have not yet commented in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed that its fighters captured a base and two outposts in Mehtarlam and also captured a number of Afghan security force members.
Zia had visited Laghman province on Sunday to review the security situation and said that for the past two days, security threats in some parts of Laghman had been due to technical and propaganda problems, but that the situation had changed with the arrival of new troops.
He said that security forces are operating along the Mehtarlam and Alingar roads and that the city of Mehtarlam had been secured and there were no concerns.
Laghman Governor Rahmatullah Yarmal says the situation in Mehtarlam city and districts of Laghman province is improving with the arrival of new troops. He assured people that with the arrival of new forces, the situation has changed and they should not worry.
The governor of Laghman added that the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties as a result of the security forces’ operation and that operations are currently underway in Alishang and Alingar districts.
Meanwhile, attacks by Taliban fighters in six districts of Badakhshan province have been countered, said Nik Mohammad Nazari, spokesperson for the Badakhshan governor on Monday.
He said that insurgents had attacked parts of Yaftal-e-Payan, Deraim, Khash, Jurm, Warduj and Raghistan districts on Sunday.
Nazari also said that the Taliban’s offensive was carried out with the help of foreign fighters and based on the preliminary information, more than 10 Taliban insurgents were killed and wounded during the clashes.
He stressed that the security and defense forces were not harmed during the clashes.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.