Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
An Afghan media watchdog has urged the government to heed a demand for more media freedoms after 30 local media outlets released a signed statement, protesting “severe limitations in access to information”.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, the head of Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), said there is a good law in place guaranteeing the media’s ability to work and access information but that the government has failed to provide enough funding and institutional support to implement the law.
The joint media statement, unveiled at a protest rally in Kabul on Tuesday, comes against the backdrop of relentless violence across the country. Afghan forces, backed by U.S. allies, continue to fight the Taliban, who today control or hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.
“Throughout my tenure as the chief information commissioner, I have witnessed the media’s access to information being restricted by key government institutions,” said Afzali. “Unfortunately, the trend continues.”
Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, head of the Nai Supporting Open Media group, said that access to information has been worst in the last five years and that the situation is now critical.
“If there is no access to information, then the nature of the media as a tool of freedom of expression will vanish,” he said.
Local officials have confirmed that at least six Police soldiers have been killed and wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Helmand province.
The office of Helmand governor in a statement said a tank of Police forces hit a roadside bomb in Masjed Safid area of Greshk district early on Wednesday morning.
According to the statement, two Police soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in the incident.
The statement added that the Police forces who were targeted by the bomb were on duty to provide the security of a road construction project.
The important role of community leaders in promoting and protecting human rights was the focus of a UN-backed event in Afghanistan’s southeast province of Ghazni.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a report said that some 40 religious scholars, women’s rights activists, journalists and other community leaders gathered for the daylong symposium to discuss how civil society can more effectively empower their communities by increasing awareness of human rights and putting in place better mechanisms to protect those rights.
According to the report, during the discussion, the participants highlighted many challenges faced by communities across the southeastern province, including violence against women and human rights violations resulting from the armed conflict in Afghanistan.
As the discussion turned to education, participants called for investment in schools as well as in community awareness initiatives to promote human rights, especially the rights of women.
“Afghanistan should pay more attention to education,” said Wakil Ashrafi, a civil society activist. “Without an educated society, it’s difficult to address human rights.”
“At the conclusion of the daylong event – which also focused on formal methods to monitor and report violations – participants reaffirmed their commitment to promoting human rights in their communities and pledged to work together with the provincial government to advance the human rights agenda,” the report added.
The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) on Wednesday announced its decisions about hundreds of thousands of disputed votes from September 28 presidential election.
IECC Chairperson, Zuhra Bayan Shinwari at a press conference in Kabul said that only 15% of 102,012 votes outside polling hours are subject to special audit. If the 15% meet the 65% of the criteria, all of 102,012 votes will be validated.
Shinwari declared that of 3,097 polling stations involving 137,630 suspicious votes, 309 stations (10 percent) are subject to special audit.
She noted that all such votes will be validated if 65 percent of the polling stations are found to meet criteria of having biometric records, journals and result sheets, and if not, all the polling stations where such votes were recorded will be audited.
On the 102,012 votes outside polling hours, 1,103 polling stations (15 percent) of 7,354 stations where the votes were recorded are subject to special audit. If 65 percent of the polling stations are found to have biometric records, journals and result sheets, all such votes will be valid and if not all the votes will be invalidated.
On complaint about 2,423 polling stations without biometric verification, 298 polling stations are subject to recount.
On the difference between the number of votes in result sheet and biometric devices in a polling station, Shinwari suggested that votes from such a station are valid if there is a difference of 1-5 votes.
“We assure everyone that we as a neutral administration finalized the decisions. Now IEC has the responsibility to announce the results of elections,” she said.
The IECC chairwoman apologized from the people of Afghanistan about the long process of Afghanistan Election. We are not blamed for this issue.
“Adjudication process of complaints has concluded by the IECC. Inspections of IEC will not take more than one week. The final results will be announced in a week,” she added.
Afghan forces’ fighting planes struck a Taliban hideout in the southern Kandahar province killing seven insurgents, said a statement of Defense Ministry released here Wednesday.
A number of arms and ammunitions were also destroyed during the airstrikes, the statement further said.
Taliban militants fighting the government forces to regain power have yet to make comment. Enditem
On January 31, an airstrike in Afghanistan killed a family of five, including nine-year-old Fatih Mohammad who was enrolled in the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) education program in Badghis province.
“The IRC is heartbroken by the death of our student and his family. It is despicable that children and civilians have become unintended targets in this conflict. After four decades of war, more than five million Afghans, especially women and children, continue to live in fear of abuse, neglect, conflict, and violence. Children should never be a target, and Afghans deserve protection. The IRC calls on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and avoid civilian casualties at all costs,” Vicki Aken, Afghanistan Country Director at the IRC said.
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are increasing at a concerning rate. With more than 2,600 children injured or killed in 2019, Afghanistan remains the deadliest conflict for children.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between Khatam Al-Nabieen University of Afghanistan and Qom University of Medical Sciences in Iran.
The Chancellor of Khatam Al-Nabieen University Vahid Binesh met and held talks with the Chancellor of Qom University of Medical Sciences Mohammad Reza Ghadir in Qom.
Two sides discussed the ways to expand scientific and academic cooperation during the meeting.
“Iran and Afghanistan can have extensive ties in expanding scientific exchanges, therefore, we are ready to fully cooperate with Qom University of Medical Sciences”, said Binesh.
The Deputy of Khatam Al-Nabieen University Mousavi said, “We welcome the cooperation and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Qom University of Medical Sciences and strive to expand this scientific cooperation.”
A military unit from the Second Infantry Brigade of the Georgian Defense Forces has arrived in Mazari Sharif, a city in Northern Afghanistan.
As per Georgia Today report, the specific regiment was met by high Georgian officials and representatives in Afghanistan, as well as, the Colonels of the Third Infantry Brigade.
The troops arrived at the base of “Marmal”, under the control of the German Bundeswehr forces.
The Second Infantry Brigade will soon assume obligations from the Third Infantry Brigade and will fully be operational in the “Resolute Support” mission.
The specific duties of the regiment will be to safeguard the base “Marmal” and to be highly combative and swiftly reactive.
The “Resolute Support” mission which is the continuation of the “ISAF” (International Security Assistance Force) is not something new to the Georgian Army.
In both of these NATO missions, Georgia has been the largest non-NATO contributor, per capita. In the “Resolute Support” mission, 870 Georgian soldiers will take part.
The Taliban has rejected charges by the United States that the insurgent group lacks “will or capacity or both” to take steps needed to advance turbulent negotiations between the two foes aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.
The rebuttal came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban it would lower the level of Afghan violence before reaching a peace deal.
“We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence,” Pompeo told reporters on Monday during his visit to Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan.
But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday criticized Pompeo’s remarks and in turn accused Washington of harming the Afghan peace process.
“Mr. Pompeo should refrain from blame-shifting. Our stance is principled and concerted — unlike them [U.S.],” Mujahid said in a statement sent to reporters.
U.S. and Taliban representatives have been holding meetings in Qatar for more than a year, trying to negotiate a peace deal that would end what now has become America’s longest war.