Doha Peace Negotiations
Ninth round of peace negotiations between the United States and Taliban continued during the week. As has been the case in the previous eight rounds, very little information has been released from negotiation table. However, informal reports suggested that the two sides had reached agreement on key issues pertaining the United States and the sides were gearing towards next round of the talks i.e. intra-Afghan talks. The possible place for talks is stipulated to be Oslo while reports also emerged that German Berghof foundation was preparing to organise trainings for the would-be negotiators representing the Afghan Government. The officials of Berghof also showed their commitment that they remain committed to offering technical support to the ongoing Afghan peace process.
The ongoing negotiations have created a sense of hopefulness among the general public but there is significant anxiety as well vis a vis the speed of the process. People believe that the process is very slow and frustrating. Lack of information have also been casing skepticism among the analysts about the possible outcome and future course of action.
Publication of Guide Book for Friday Sermons
Ministry of Hujj and Religious Affairs published a guide book for the religious scholars to be used during the Friday sermons. The book concentrates to help the scholars plan their Friday sermons accordingly focusing on elimination of violent extremism and promoting national agenda. The action was long wanted by the experts in the country and the move was widely welcomed.
Though the book has been published, the extent of implementation will be something to be seen. At a time when the religious scholars act independently, expecting them to follow a given pattern will be a major challenge. However, this can be termed as good first step.
Pakistan Rocket Attacks on Kunar Province
Pakistani forces shelled districts on Afghanistan side of the Durand Line in Kunar province without any notice or explanation. The aggression resulted in civilian casualties in the villages in Dangam district. The Afghan Government lodged a complain about the incident with the UN security council. A number of people on social media made reference to the strategic partnership agreement of the Afghan Government vis a vis the Pakistani aggression and lack of action from the international community in regard.
Pakistani forces have been firing on the region for many years under different pretexts causing casualties among the civilians. Lack of interest and response among the international community in this regard has been cause of concern among the general public.
President Ghani’s visit to Saudi Arabia
President Ghani visited Sauid Arabia. During the visit, besides discussion on issues of bilateral interest, the Afghan peace process was also discussed. In addition, a loan agreement was also signed between the two countries meant to construct the bypass road around Kabul and 100 school buildings. The analysts believed that President Ghani wanted to gain support to the Saudi Royal family in the ongoing peace process and use Saudis as source of leverage with Trump administration. In the meantime, a number of politicians and analysts questioned taking loan as they saw it as a burden on future generations.
Thursday, August 28
Election Campaigns Continue to dominate news headlines
The election campaigns of presidential hopefuls continued to dominate headlines last week. Following discord among Hanif Atmer’s election ticket, members of his team turned their faces to Dr. Abdullah, among them the most prominent was Mohqiq, the prominent Shia leader. In the meantime, Rahmatullah Nabi also launched his election campaign. In one of the election rallies, Dr. Abdullah said that in case required by the ongoing peace process, he was prepared to give up on elections for peace. This is against the narrative of the president Ghani running for his second term who has constantly emphasized on elections regardless of the outcome of the peace process.
The election campaigns have lacked intensity and fervour mainly due to the ongoing insecurity and rumours of possible postponement of the elections due to the ongoing peace process. The confusion has left many in limbo about the future of the political process.
Reactions over Cutting down Trees on Airport Road
Cutting down trees on the airport road in Kabul by a security company has provoked serious reactions among Kabul citizens. Kabul Municipality told the media that the security company will face fine for cutting the trees. Uproar on social media criticized cutting of trees and reiterating that cutting down trees won’t improve security at all. A security official in Kabul Police department told the BBC that they were not aware who gave permission to the security company to cut trees.
Wednesday, August 27
Amnesty International: Afghan Human Rights Defenders under Attack
Amnesty international said Afghanistan’s human rights community was under intensifying attacks from both the government and the armed groups. In a report, the organization said Human rights activists faced intimidation, harassment, threats, and violence. The report claimed that the Afghan government had repeatedly failed to investigate attacks on human rights activists. The organization had documented some of the cases but said: “as of today, the government, unfortunately, has not arrested anyone,”.
Tuesday, August 26
FP- It was reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation, is on the verge of an agreement with the Taliban that would pave the way for the withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the war-wracked nation would not be used as a haven for international terrorism, according to diplomatic sources. Khalilzad will now mount a final push to persuade Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, to accept the agreement ahead of the country’s Sept. 28 presidential election. If a deal is clinched, the United States will hold a signing ceremony with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, before an audience of representatives from key world powers, including from the region, Europe, and possibly China and Russia.
Monday, August 25
Concerns over Limitation of Fund for the Elections Observation
Major election watchdog bodies warned that due to lack of funding they may not be able to fully observe the upcoming presidential elections. Officials of FEFA and TEFA, two election observing bodies, with technical experts, who played key role in the last three rounds of elections have told a press conference that unlike 2018 autumn parliamentary election, this time they have not received funding from donor community, thus their observation capacity will be significantly low for the September polls. Afghan Independent Elections Commission IEC said in addition to FEFA and TEFA there are other civil society organizations who have been accredited and tasked to observe the elections.
Election Campaigns Continue Despite Ambiguities
CEO Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, one of the serious contenders of September Afghan presidential elections addressed a mass gathering of women, emphasizing that elections should go ahead as planned. This is happening a day after the US ambassador in Kabul said that peace was their highest priority than the election. The US Ambassador in Kabul, John Bass, who visited the northern province of Balkh on Saturday, said that both election and peace are important but peace in Afghanistan is the ‘highest priority for the United States because it is the highest priority for the Afghan people as well.
The Taliban Overrun a Military Base in Zabul Province
Local officials in Southern Zabul Province confirmed to media that the Taliban overran a military base in Qalaat city of the province and set it on fire. Atta Jan Haqbayan, the provincial council chief of the province said 11 military personals had been killed. The Taliban claimed the responsibility, saying, they killed 15 troops and seized their military vehicles and equipment.
Saturday, August 24
Signs of Progress in US-Taliban 9th Round of Talks
The ninth round of talks between the Taliban and US representatives on ending the war in Afghanistan continued for its third day in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. Both sides had said that these round talks may firm up a deal enabling the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban security guarantees. US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad had been leading the negotiations with the Taliban since last year and was scheduled to travel to Kabul after his talks with the Taliban representatives.
New Centre to Boost National ID Verification
Afghanistan’s Central Statistic Administration inaugurated what they called ‘a highly standard ID verification center’ in Kabul. The center will intensify the National ID’s verification process and at the same time it guarantees the transparency. Currently, the National IDs ( Tazkeras) have been verified by a civil registration office, which is very crowded and time consuming. All Afghans who need to get a passport in Kabul or to translate their IDs for visa purposes have to verify their Tazkeras, a process which many people have complains about.