Friday, July 19, 2019

Blast Kills At Least Eight outside Kabul University

Afghanistan’s Health Ministry says at least eight people have been killed when an explosion struck near the entrance to Kabul University. Dr. Wahidullah Mayar, a ministry spokesman, said that 33 people had also been wounded and taken to hospital. The car bomb went off near the entrance gate of Kabul University which is the country’s largest educational Institution. One traffic police is amongst the killed and others are civilians. The university was hosting an exam of the judicial stage this morning, where thousands of student from all over the country were attended. Most of the casualties are said to be students. The Taliban denies their involvement in the incident. Ferdous Faramarz, a spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said two vehicles caught fire after the blast. Faramarz said police defused a second bomb that was placed close to the explosion site. The explosion occurred as students were waiting outside the university to attend exams.

The Taliban Removes Ban on Swedish Committee Health Facilities

Afghan Taliban announced that they removed the bans on 42 health facilities which were shut down for 5 days in Maydan-Wardak Province. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said that they were reopening all the facilities run by them. The ban deprived over 5000 people of health services on daily bases. The Swedish Committee requested the war parties to respect the civil institutions and do not target it.

 

Thursday, 18 July 19, 2019

Attack on Kandahar Police Headquarters

At least twelve people were killed and almost 90 wounded after a car bomb rocked the city of Kandahar. After the blast attackers stormed the police headquarters and then engaged in a gunfight with the Afghan security forces. Baheer Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, said that 12 people had been killed, including nine civilians and three police officers. Another 89 were wounded, he added. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told RFE/RL by telephone from an unknown location that Taliban militants carried out the attack. Afghan security forces across the country have been coming under nearly daily attacks by the Taliban.

Call for Civilian and Aid-Workers Protection

On the eve of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) meeting in Kabul on July 22nd, ACBAR an umbrella organization for NGOs called for civilians and aid-workers protection in Afghanistan.  The call came after Afghan forces operation on a health facility backed by SCA in Wardak Province followed by the closure of over 40 health clinics by the Taliban. WHO has recorded 65 cases in 2019 affecting about 170 health centres across the country. WHO says 36 aid-workers were either killed, wounded or kidnapped.

Afghan Army Heavy Causality in Badghis

There are conflicting numbers of Afghan army casualties in the western province of Badghis. The head of Provincial Council told the media that 34 bodies were taken to the provincial capital on Tuesday after heavy fighting with the Taliban. The Afghan defence ministry says less than ten Afghan soldiers were killed. Fawad Aman MoD deputy spokesman says 20 personal were missing but only 12 of them re-joined the unit. He says clearance operation is underway and fighting is ongoing. Mr. Aman claimed that 29 Taliban insurgents were also killed. There was no comment from the Taliban.

 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Pakistan Arrested Hafiz Saeed

The authorities in Pakistan have arrested Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a number of militant outfits and charity organizations support militancy, in Punjab province of Pakistan. He was the founder of a militant group accused by the US and India of orchestrating the Mumbai attacks in 2008. His militant group Lashker-e-Taiba has been also mentioned as responsible in a number of sophisticated attacks over the years in Afghanistan. Mr. Saeed founded the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group in the 1990s. He has been living openly in Pakistan with sporadic periods under house arrest since the Mumbai attacks in which more than a hundred-and-sixty people were killed. He has denied any involvement. Saeed has been carrying a bounty of USD 10 million on his head announced by the US Government since 2012. Saeed has been arrested on many occasions in the past as well and he served under house arrest as well on different occasions. A global terror finance watchdog last year included Pakistan on the so-called “grey list” of countries with inadequate controls over terror funding. Since then the government has been under increasing pressure to stop the financing of militant groups. Hafiz Saeed’s arrest is taking place at a time that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is going to decide the fate of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan is preparing for a visit to Washington.

Review and analysis of Hafiz Saeed’s arrest reveal that it is the same old mantra of Islamabad repeated time and again as and when the country is faced with the wrath of the international community. It is expected that the arrest will be used as a narrative both at the FATF and Washington summit of the two countries in order to rebuke the potential question on Pakistan’s harboring and use of militancy as an asset in the region. It is believed that Hafiz Saeed will be back to normal as soon as Pakistan is able to cash his arrest.

Afghan Taliban forced dozens of health centers to close in Wardak

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan says the Taliban have forced more than forty health facilities to shut down in Wardak province, affecting tens of thousands of people. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said denying health services to people was against international humanitarian law. The Taliban has not commented so far. The closures have hit Wardak province west of Kabul, where the Taliban have shuttered 42 of the 77 health facilities being run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, the aid group said in a statement. “Due to this closure, an estimated number of over 5,700 patients are affected on a daily basis,” it said. Denying people medical treatment and health services in this way “is an obvious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law”, SCA’s country director Sonny Mansson said. “We demand immediate reopening of all health facilities for the people and we strongly urge all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from such actions which deliberately put civilian lives at risk.”

 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Rumors continue to cause doubts about the upcoming presidential elections

The question of whether the Presidential election will take place on an announced schedule or at all will the elections be conducted has been ever-present since last one year. Changes in the schedule before finalization of 28 September as the ultimate date added to the doubts. However, dubiety keeps emerging every now and then. As late as this week, there were unconfirmed murmurs about Presidential candidate Haneef Atmer who was believed to have asked his campaign team to slow down on expenses as the elections might get postponed once more due to the looming peace agreement with the Taliban. While it is difficult to confirm such news, yet; they tend to create confusion for the public and impact their already eroded interest in the elections.

In order to tackle such rumors and unauthenticated news bits, Independent Election Commission (IEC) should remain in close contact with the public through different mediums of communication and as such, through the rapport, assure people of proceeding as per the plan.

Pakistan Reopened its Airspace to Civil Flights

The Afghan government has announced that Pakistan has fully re-opened its airspace to civilian flights from Kabul to India and vice versa. The airspace was closed 135 days ago after a clash between Pakistan and India in Kashmir. The closure is thought to have cost both Indian and Afghan airlines tens of millions of dollars, with companies forced to re-route flights. Afghan officials say the ban has also inflicted huge material losses on Afghan traders. Afghan Civil Aviation Authority asked Indian airlines to resume their flights. Since the closure, India stopped all its flights to Afghanistan, and Afghan airlines re-routed its flights that almost doubled the air-fare rates, and it took over seven-hour flights. Pakistan lies on an important aviation corridor, and the decision offered a welcome break for international airlines.

 

Monday, 15 July 2019

Reactions to increase in civilian casualties

Several Afghan newspapers published editorials on the topic, criticizing both the Afghan government and the Taliban for failing to protect civilians in their operations. “The government is observing silence over all these attacks. It is not taking any action to prevent it, nor is it talking about prosecuting the perpetrators of these attacks… It seems that foreign forces are the main perpetrators of these killings,” the private Maseer daily wrote in an editorial titled “Why are civilian lives not important to the presidential palace?” The private Etilaat-e Roz newspaper, meanwhile, blamed the Taliban for the civilian deaths. “This (a recent Taliban attack in Badghis province) is against the resolution signed in Qatar last week. The Taliban cannot deny the mistake that they made in Badghis… In our view, we cannot achieve peace by breaking promises,” it said. Among other things, the eight-point resolution signed at the end of the two-day intra-Afghan dialogue in Qatar on 7 and 8 July called for ensuring the security of public institutions – including schools, madrassas, hospitals and markets.

Sexual Exploitation Reports and Reactions

BBC produced a report on cases of sexual exploitation in the Afghan Government institutions this week followed by another by Azadi Radio reporting exploitation at the academic institutions. The reports stirred a range of reactions as some saw it pre-election defamation campaign, others as genuine issue requiring remedial actions. Some others thought that the issue should not be raised so much to avoid loss of Afghan honour. The reports are released in the aftermath of similar claims against Arg (The Presidential Palace) and Government institutions by individuals. Deputy spokesperson of the President rejected BBC report out-rightly.

Considering the frequency of reports vis a vis sexual exploitation, there is a need for a thorough review of the allegations and remedial actions. Arg and Government should take proactive action instead of taking a defensive position. A problem can only be resolved by confronting it instead of sweeping it under the carpet. And confrontation can also mean challenging media findings and accusations made by individuals with facts.

 

IEC granted credential to presidential candidates

Independent Election Commission (IEC) said they are finalizing their preparations for the presidential elections, called on candidates to properly assess the election affairs. The IEC also granted credentials to candidates on this day. Some presidential candidates express doubted about IEC’s capacity to hold transparent elections. The upcoming presidential election is scheduled for 28th of September 2019. IEC officials said that everything moved normally and the required budget (US$130 million) was secured. This is the first time that the government itself is paying over half of the election budget. However, critics voiced concerns about the elections. Weesa, a privately-owned newspaper in its editorial entitled “Is peace or elections priority for the international community?” urged the international community to choose peace over elections. It said that Afghanistan will continue to experience bloodshed and violence if the presidential election is held before reaching a possible peace deal with the Taliban. It believes if peace is established prior to the elections, an interim government will probably be installed in the country.

 

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Civilians Killed in Wardak Province

Reports from Maidan Wardak said 24 people including civilians were killed in airstrikes by Afghan forces in Jaghato district of the province. Local residents say all killed were civilian residents. Officials claimed that those killed were Taliban insurgents.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, SCA, also condemned an attack the night between July 8-9 on one of SCA’s health facilities in the Tangi Saidan area of Daimirdad district in Wardak province. Four people are confirmed dead and one is missing. “This is a shocking violation against international humanitarian law and we urge warring parties to immediately stop targeting civilians and health facilities”, Dr. Khalid Fahim, SCA program Director was quoted by media. According to SCA sources, the attack was carried out by ANSF forces. When the forces were entering the building, they killed one person who was accompanying a patient.

Sexual harassment Allegations to be Addressed Seriously

Afghanistan attorney general, Farid Hamidi, has called on victims of sexual harassment to share their grievance without disclosing their identity. Speaking at the opening of a four days conference about violence against women, Mr. Hamidi said the government is obliged to create a safe working environment for women. He pledged to assess every single alleged case of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, the second vice president Sarwar Danish said that the allegations of sexual harassment would be investigated by the judiciary system. He said that some people are using sexual harassment allegation against the government as a political tool.

Darul Aman Administrative Complex Inaugurated

The construction of a major administrative complex inaugurated in Darul-Aman area of Kabul. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a number of cabinet ministers laid the foundation of the complex. President Ghani said with the completion of the complex almost all government institutions will move to the complex. At the moment, most of the ministries are located in the centre of the city causing huge disruption and traffic in the city. 14 departments including thee banks will be moved to the new complex.

 

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Most Afghans Keen to Cast their Vote in Election, Survey

A survey showed that the government, election commission, and international community do not have a clear roadmap for the next election and peace process. Electoral watchdogs say the international community is reluctant to help and fund the electoral process. The finding of the survey suggested that 80% of the Afghan citizens are willing to cast votes in the upcoming presidential election, scheduled to be held on 28th of September 2019. The Afghanistan’s Social Research NGO in contribution with 1TV interviewed 2400 people, including 500 women, in 32 provinces of Afghanistan. Over 300 participants have said that they were not taking part in the presidential election.

  • The Pentagon says some 3,200 civilians have either been killed or wounded in Afghanistan in militant attacks over the past six months, adding that the Taliban and the Islamic State group are mostly behind civilian casualties. Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) calls on the warring sides to protect lives of the people. Video shows an AIHRC official; an observer speaking.
  • The Pentagon in a report says Iran financially and militarily supports the Taliban in Afghanistan, expressing concern about activities of militants in Afghanistan. It also says IS is a group which poses threat to the world.
  • Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for the Afghan peace process, said China, USA and Russia have insisted on start of an intra-Afghan dialogue with the participation of the Afghan government. Some sources close to the Taliban say the group is currently making consultations with their leaders on the peace talks. Some MPs express optimism about ongoing peace talks.

 

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