Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah says that serious discussions of the intra-Afghan talks will begin on Wednesday.
“Yesterday, both sides [the Government and Taliban teams] held a meeting and heard each other’s opinions on the agenda. Today, the delegations have consultations among their members, and serious talks will begin tomorrow,” said Abdullah Abdullah at a meeting in Kabul on Tuesday.
According to him, both sides of the talks have a comprehensive agenda.
“What issues does our delegation want to address soon or what issues do they (the Taliban) want to address, the purpose should be achieving peace,” he stressed.
“Ending the war and establishing peace in the country are the demands of the Afghan people,” he added.
Mr Abdullah emphasized that “peace” requires peaceful thinking and belief, hoping that the Taliban group would take a “big step” and seize this opportunity for establishing peace.
It is worth mentioning that talks on the agenda have reportedly begun on Saturday after the two sides agreed on the procedure of the negotiations last week.
The 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards Ceremony, which took place on 8th December in Taipei, has awarded Russian journalist Elena Milashina with the Prize for Courage, Afghan radio station Merman with the Prize for Impact, and Egyptian chief editor Lina Attalah with the Prize for Independence. A special prize was also bestowed on Hong Kong’s Apple Daily founder, Jimmy Lai.
For its 28th edition after London in 2018 and Berlin in 2019, the 2020 Press Freedom Awards ceremony was hosted on 8th December at the National Central Library in Taipei, Taiwan. During the ceremony, which was broadcasted live on social media, two journalists and a radio station were awarded.
The Prize for Impact aims to award journalists, media or NGOs who contributed to evident improvements in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters.
This year, it was awarded to Afghan radio station Merman, the first to broadcast in Kandahar with the mission of promoting the cause of women (“merman” in Pashtu) in Afghanistan.
The team of 15 women also provides journalism training for women and carries out its activities despite threats from the Taliban, warnings from security services and attacks on its journalists.
Afghanistan and India will sign a deal on the construction of a major dam in Kabul, a news channel reported on Tuesday.
The project, when executed, would supply safe drinking water to two million inhabitants of Afghanistan’s capital.
Wion TV said Shatoot would be the second dam India would be establishing in Afghanistan after the Salma (India–Afghanistan Friendship dam) in Herat.
“Shatoot dam will go ahead with the commitment of the Indian government and we will pave the way for it,” the Afghan chargé d’affaires in New Delhi told a virtual event.
Tahir Qadery said: “We are very much hoping quite soon, the two countries will sign at a bigger function the agreement for the dam.”
Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority says the aviation sector and two Afghan airline companies-Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air have lost an estimate of $ 100 million due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Afghan aviation authorities said that several plans will be implemented to improve the aviation sector, including infrastructural plans at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
According to officials, there has been a $40 million reduction in the income of Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airlines and a $60 million reduction in the income of the civil aviation authority, compared to last year.
Officials added that they are working on four infrastructure projects, including the construction of a terminal at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that will be implemented in a partnership between the government and the private sector.
But the head of the Hamid Karzai International Airport emphasized the need for construction of a new airport in Kabul.
The chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah on Tuesday criticized the decision of the Ministry of Education (MoE) to use mosques for the 1-3 grades of school.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, Abdullah called the recent decision of MoE completely wrong, saying, abolishing the Islamic Education Department of the Ministry of Education and planning to shift the 1-3 grades of school to mosques is not a daily task of the government.
He noted that he had heard the issue from the media and still did not know what the Ministry of Education had to say about its plan.
The Ministry of Education on Saturday in a press release announced that it had planned to include mosques in the cycle of education system, according to which all students would study the first to third grades in the mosques.
In the meantime, Abdullah Abdullah called on the Taliban group to take measures for a ceasefire in the country.
“We expect the Taliban to take a big step. I am sure they will not regret it. This is not a political issue, it is a responsibility,” he said.
He added that everyone will have share in the country’s system and are accountable to the God and Afghan people.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday reported 230 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 1,654 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 6 deaths and 49 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total reported deaths from COVID-19 is 1,908 and the total number of recoveries is 38,033.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Parwan, Nimruz, Badghis, Ghazni, Wardak, Helmand, Laghman, Ghor, Kapisa, Panjshir, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces.
The Lower House of Parliament says it will shift the paper voting to electronic voting and the work on new plan is 90 percent complete.
The Lower House secretariat said that the plan also includes an electronic system tracking MPs’ attendance.
“The voting system in the Wolesi Jirga will shift to electronic in the next few days as the technical department of the Wolesi Jirga has completed the project by 90 percent,” said Hujjatullah Kheradmand, the deputy head of the parliament secretariat.
Last Wednesday, the voting process for five nominee ministers and Central Bank acting governor was disrupted due to a dispute on some votes that were marked twice.
A new survey by the Afghanistan National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) shows that more than 47% of Afghan citizens live below the poverty line.
According to a survey released Monday, 47.3 percent of Afghanistan’s population is below the poverty line.
The survey cited that the poverty rate has decreased by about 10% compared to the previous solar year.
Poverty rose to 54.5 percent in the country in the last solar year.
The National Statistics and Information Authority surveyed 21,000 households, including Afghan nomads.
According to the new survey, the national unemployment rate is 18.6 percent, with 15.2 percent of the country’s workforce unemployed.
The survey shows that of Afghanistan’s total labor force, 34.9 percent is in urban areas and 43.9 percent is in rural areas. The workforce of nomads also reaches 53.6%.
The National Statistics and Information Authority said: “The findings of this survey show that the share of young people (aged 15-24) who are unemployed and not engaged in education reaches 34.4%. Of the total unemployed youth far from education, 14.0 percent are men and 53.4 percent are women.
“Nationally, 36.1 percent of adults and 54.0 percent of young people are literate.”
According to the survey, the multidimensional poverty index in Afghanistan has dropped from 51.7 percent to 49.4 percent.
In last year’s winter, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations reported that more than 17 million people in Afghanistan were living below the poverty line.
An Afghan government proposal that children study in mosques for the first three years of primary school raises concerns about its commitment to the right to education, the Human Rights Watch said.
“We are working to transfer the first, second, and third grades of the school period to the mosque,” Acting Minister of Education Rangina Hamidi announced on December 6. “The newly recruited students will study these three classes in the mosque and then go to school.”
HRW in a press release said The issue is not whether children should study religion.
Human Rights Watch research found that many children, especially girls, are unable to attend government schools because they are too far away, or their families could not afford the costs of uniforms and supplies. Some of these children could go to donor-funded classes operated by nongovernmental organizations known as community-based education (CBE).
“Madrasas are not obliged to use the national curriculum. They receive little oversight from the Ministry of Education and their quality varies widely. Most children we interviewed who studied in madrasas received only religious education. They generally cannot transfer to a government school as they lack the basic education necessary to advance to higher grades, which calls into question the government’s proposal to transition students to government schools after three years. Human Rights Watch recommended that madrasas be required to register with the Ministry of Education and teach the national curriculum, but these reforms have not happened,” HRW added.
Following the second wave of coronavirus in the country, the cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministery of Public Health (MoPH) to stop the activities of wedding halls in the country.
Presidential Palace in a statement said that MoPH and Arg’s public relations office have also been tasked to launch awareness programs to inform citizens about the outbreak of the second wave of the Corona virus and launching a nationwide campaign to use masks in crowded places and the environment.
According to the statement, the measures will be taken in close cooperation with government ministries and departments, religious scholars, social institutions and volunteers.
One hundred Georgian servicemen have left for the NATO-led peacekeeping Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, following the ‘full pre-deployment training’ in Georgia.
Before the departure the servicemen have gone through a four-month training in Georgia, which has been highly praised by the United States European Command (EUCOM).
Prior to departure Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili thanked the servicemen for their dedication to global security and wished them good luck throughout the mission.
The Resolute Support mission (RSM) is a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions, which was launched in 2015 following the stand-down of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).