Afghan opposition denies complicity in Kabul blasts
ISLAMABAD (NNI): Afghan opposition Northern Alliance has condemned the recent series of bomb blast in the Afghan capital Kabul and rejected Taliban accusations of its involvement as sinister move to launch crackdown of opponents.
"Taliban intend to use these explosions to vindicate systematic arrest of targeted ethnic groups," the alliance statement says.
Latest reports from Kabul reveal that a series of explosions have shaken corners of the city, damaging property and killing innocent civilians. Two bombs also exploded in Pakistan embassy in Kabul earlier this month, however, there were no casualty. Taliban blame Commander Ahmed Shah Masood-led opposition for the blasts.
"While condemning terrorist acts in its all forms and manifestations, the Northern Alliance wishes to affirm that-contrary to Taliban allegations and false claims-it has had no part in the explosions of Kabul city," the statement said.
The statement said that the alliance remains gravely concerned about the consequences of the Kabul blasts. "Previous undertakings of this sort by the Taliban have been used as pretexts in Kabul and other Taliban-occupied territories of Afghanistan to execute campaigns of ethnic cleansing, forced deportation, scorched-earth policy and mass arrests of local civilians".
It said that resorting to war cannot and will not provide a solution to the Afghan conflict. "Rather, negotiations and agreements among the parties to the conflict for the cessation of war, restoration of peace and the formulation and establishment of a multi-ethnic, fully-representative and broad-based government in Afghanistan could assure credible, just and lasting peace and security in Afghanistan".
All quiet on Afghanistan frontline
The Taleban and the opposition northern alliance in
Afghanistan have both said the front line in the north of the country
has been quiet following two days of fierce fighting.
Taleban forces captured territory straddling a vital
supply route for the opposition, and say they're now consolidating
The BBC correspondent in Kabul says that the issue of
who started the fighting is important in the propaganda war.
The United Nations has told both sides to refrain from
fighting, but only the Taleban has been threatened with more sanctions
if it launches offensives.
Our correspondent says the Taleban therefore has an
interest in playing down its conquests, while the northern alliance has
been openly publicising its setbacks.
Taliban want Pakistan to hand over wanted Afghans
The Times Of India
ISLAMABAD: In a tit for tat reaction, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has asked Pakistan to extradite "wanted" Afghans, who are involved in anti-state and anti-Islamic activities, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Through a recently issued letter, the Taliban leaders confirmed having established contacts with the Pakistani authorities for the extradition of wanted people which include politicians, former technocrats and bureaucrats, Mujahideen commanders, ulema, writers, intellectuals and journalists belonging to the opposition parties, the Nation reported.
Taliban authorities handed over a list of these political rivals to their counterparts from Pakistan, it said, adding one of these decree comprised names of some 20 people.
The daily also said that Taliban authorities directed their underground supporters for early elimination of those taking active part in anti-Islam and anti-Taliban activities.
Recently, Pakistan's federal interior minister Moeenud din Haider confirmed asking Taliban authorities for extradition of terrorists and criminals, staying in Afghanistan.
Pakistani authorities demanded extradition of people who have been declared as proclaimed offenders by various courts and are affiliated with hard line religious groups including Sipah Sahaba and Lashkatr-e-Jhangvi. (PTI)
Five Afghan asylum seekers who were held hostage on a
hijacked plane that landed in Britain earlier this year have lost their
Although the ruling upholds the Home Secretary's
decision to deny the five the right to stay in Britain it is widely
thought that they will remain in the country on a point of law that
will be introduced in October.
Under article three of the European Convention of the
Human Rights no-one seeking asylum in the UK can be removed against
their will, said solicitor David Enright, who represents five other
asylum seekers yet to have their cases heard.
Among the appeals dismissed by Judge Dunn, sitting at
the Immigration Appeals Centre in London, was that of a 25-year-old
mechanic who had boarded the Mazar-i-Sharif-bound Boeing 727 Ariana
airline in Kabul, to return home with some car parts he had bought in
The man, who like all of the other asylum seekers, was
identified by a number and not his name, said he wanted to provide a
future for his three children, because "there is nothing left in
Afghanistan - no schools and no education".
After he was released at the end of the five-day
hijack ordeal on the tarmac at Stansted Airport in Essex, the man told
immigration officials that he wanted to be in a situation where he and
his family "are not persecuted because of their ethnicity, language and
opposition to the laws imposed by the Taliban authorities" .
Describing life as "difficult" in Afghanistan, he
recalled how he had been "stabbed in the knee and kicked in the
testicles" by a Taliban commander who refused to pay for work carried
out by the man on his car.
Dismissing the application, Judge Dunn said: "Even if
we do consider this evidence it still does not show a well-founded fear
of persecution. It's one very unpleasant incident to recover a debt."
The hijacking drama began when the plane carrying 164
passengers and crew arrived at Stansted airport on February 7 after
being seized a day before on a domestic flight to Mazar-i-Sharif.
After five days the hostages were released with 79 of
the Afghans seeking asylum and 73 voluntarily returning home.
Drought stricken Afghans to experience more hardships
ISLAMABAD (NNI): The war-ravaged Afghanistan can face even worst situation this fall with another failed harvest. If there were no more-than-usual rains and snowfall in winters, this would spell a real disaster for much of the southern and southwestern Afghanistan, Friday Times reported on Sunday.
"We will be able to help only the most needy and poor hungry people with food, but WFP can only do so much. There is a clear need for drinking water, health services and other technical support for the worst hit communities to help them support themselves over the coming months," it said quoting a UN official.
"It is a divine test," say hapless Afghanis the majority of whom has become fatalistic and is too busy with the pressures of earning their two meals a day to think of measures that may rectify the situation in the longer run. According to a latest UN report, the cereal deficit over the next year would be more than 2.3 million metric tons following two failed crops in two years in many regions.
The report estimates that in all 8 to 10 million Afghans have been affected by the drought, requiring the world community to respond urgently irrespective of what they think of the Taleban. Equally affected, says the report, are parts of Pakistan - mostly in the adjoining Balochistan province - where 2.2 milion people and 16 million livestock have suffered. Even in Quetta, the impact of few rains is clearly visible: apple trees are pale, but the fruit has already almost ripened, much earlier than usual because of heat. Vast stretches of cultivatable lands are lying barren in areas between Chaman and Quetta. Conditions in Afghanistan may trigger a fresh influx into Pakistan, fear UN and NGO officials. Their only hope is that more than usual rains in the fall may help the crops and also raise the water table in most areas.
The drought that has devastated Afghanistan's once-lush pastures and farmlands has relegated Daud, 42, from a proud owner of land and cattle to a petty wage slave.
"With 120 sheep, a few goats and some donkeys, I was my own master. Now I have to find work at the brick kiln across the road for a daily wage of 45,000 Afghanis (75 cents)," Daud told the Friday Times while sitting under an old tent made up of countless patches of cloth and presenting a mosaic of many colours. With temperatures soaring as high as 47 degrees celcius and strong furnace-like winds slapping it, the "mosaic" tent perched on a plain some 3 kilometres north of the southern town of Kandahar now seems to be Daud's permanent home. Daud's eight children and his mother look on as he recounts what befell him and seven other Kochi families from the Registan (literally, desert) area. For two successive years the area has received no rain. Streams and "karezes" - centuries' old underground irrigation channels - have dried up and pastures lost whatever little grass and bush was left for the animals to graze.
Daud's smiling, stocky mother, in her 70s, appeared undeterred by the fateful loss of the family's livestock. Neither did she know whether they would again be able to restart their march between Registan and the pastures in the central Ghazni province. "We lived in Makkur around this time of the year," she said, "I am not sure whether this settled life is better than the one we lived before." Makkur, a small district of the Ghazni province, is still considerably better in terms of greener landscape and water availability. The Dahla Dam, one of the main sources of water supply and power for the city of Kandahar, tells the story. Located some 50 kilometres north of Kandahar, the dam has been reduced to a few small pools of water as its main source - the Arghandab river, too, has far less water to offer for the reservoir. Once overflowing with water, and a big picnic attraction for many Kandaharis because of its abundant flora and fauna, the dam has shrunk so much that even Taliban guards deployed there have to travel a few kilometres to fetch drinking water. The United Nations and other agencies are mobilising efforts to bring relief to the drought-hit Afghanistan, but by their own account will not be able to provide for everyone. The world organisation has also begun implementation of a plan that envisages drilling over 700 wells in the drought-hit Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, Helmand and Nimroz provinces.
The World Food Programme, currently at loggerheads with the Taliban over the recruitment of some 600 women for a socio-economic survey in Kabul, will likely be stretched to its limits again as far as distribution of food and seeds in the affected areas are concerned. Every time there is a disaster in Afghanistan, it is been the NGO sector - the UN and ICRC or other NGOs - that comes to redeem the situation anyway.
The WFP warned on May 2 that the situation could get worse. "There are no walking skeletons yet, but without an adequate response, thousands of Afghans in the southern provinces would face a merciless summer after having lost almost all their rain-fed wheat crops and up to 80 percent of their livestock due to the lack of precipitation," Mike Sackett, WFP's Afghanistan country director was quoted as saying at a press conference after a three-day inspection visit to the provinces of Zabul and Kandahar in the first week of May. Even with the new aid, Afghans will probably end up with a shortage of more than a million tons of food.
The sinking underground water table, scant rains and little snowfalls have turned what used to be a fertile and colder region dotted with lush-green fields and meadows into barren stretches of land. Daud's case typifies the fate of thousands of Kochi families - the nomads that roam from south to north and south to northeast in summers and descend to plains in winter. Hundreds of them have been repatriated to the outskirts of Kandahar, Kabul, Jalalabad (eastern Afghanistan) and other areas where there is still some water available. An animal market at Sange-Saar, some 35 kilometres west of Kandahar, also highlights the impact of the drought that nomads and farmers across the region have been suffering for over two years now. The agri-land in the region has been reduced to wasteland. Dry and yellow grape vinyards between Ghazni and Kandahar and further to the west of the city simply explain the calamity that has hit tens of thousands of farmers and Kochis across Afghanistan. Taliban authorities have moved a few hundred Kochi and farmer families from the Registan area as well as the plains between Ghazni and Kandahar to the outskirts of Kandahar, the headquarters of the Taliban movement. One reason for the dry weather is the massive water-logging that has taken place in much of Afghanistan. In connivance with the timber mafia of Pakistan, Afghani traders have been cutting trees indiscriminately. This is in addition to the pillage the forests have been subjected to because of the 20-year-old warfare and civil strife.
The drought conditions are most likely to engulf the whole of south and southwestern Afghanistan in a couple of years in the absence of any reforestation which again will take years - even if started now - to replenish the fast depleting forests, say experts. They point to the need to take short- and long-term relief measures immediately. However, the situation is compounded by the UN sanctions against the Taliban government.
Operation to clear Afghan mines
By Kate Clark in Kabul
Monday, 31 July, 2000
The Taleban has made gains in the last couple of days
An emergency mine clearing operation is beginning in an area of northern Afghanistan, the most heavily mined country in the world.
About 30,000 families were forced to leave their homes in the Alburz mountains and head down to the plains after the harvest failed and drinking water supplies dried up.
The Halo Trust mine clearing group has now relocated teams from the rest of Afghanistan because of what it says is an emergency.
In all, it has sent eight teams of de-miners plus surveyors and mine awareness instructors to the area.
The trust says mountain villages either did not know about the minefields or felt they had no choice but to risk everything to get access to water and pasture for their animals.
The people brought what remained of their sheep and goat herds - minefields proved a deadly attraction, the grass high and ungrazed. People and livestock have been injured as a result.
The minefields which are now being cleared belong to the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, but all sides have planted mines during the last 22 years of war.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's ruling Taleban and opposition Northern Alliance have both said the front line in the north of the country is quiet following two days of fighting.
Over the weekend, the Taleban captured territory straddling a vital supply route to the opposition. The Taleban said on Monday that it had been forced to defend itself against an opposition offensive, but that it was now consolidating its position.
The issue of who started the fighting is important in the propaganda war.
The United Nations has told both factions to refrain from fighting, but only the Taleban has been threatened with more sanctions if it launches offensives.
The Taleban has an interest in playing down its conquest, while the Northern Alliance has been openly publicising its setbacks.
Afghans face danger from mines
KABUL (July 31) : Land mines are threatening the lives of thousands of Afghan families displaced by a severe drought in the country's north, a Western de-mining agency said on Sunday. "Most of the lives of some 40,000 families, who have fled their houses in the Alberz mountains due to the drought and lack of water, are at risk from mines. It is a big tragedy," said Humayun Farid, head of Halo Trust, a British de-mining agency. The mountains are in the northern province of Balkh. Afghanistan has been hit by its worst drought in 30 years and the United Nations says it affects half of the country's 20 million people. Farid told reporters that people from the Alberz mountains left their houses recently after their reservoirs dried up and moved to other areas in search of food and water.
A majority of the families ended up in Chimtal, Sholgara and Charkent districts of Balkh province, which were heavily mined during the Soviet occupation of the country in the 1980s. He said the number of people and livestock falling victim to the mines was rising every day. "They came to unoccupied fertile plains to have access to water without knowing about the mine fields and we have noticed mine-related accidents increasing daily," he said. Farid said aid agencies have already started distributing food and Halo Trust was going to launch an emergency operation to clear mines in the area. "We have the funds available for this emergency programme which will be launched in the beginning of August to make the area safe for people," he said. Life has become increasingly difficult in other parts of Afghanistan as well because of the drought.
The capital Kabul has been hit by electricity rationing because of a drop in water levels at the two dams feeding the city's two hydro electricity plants. People are also forced to line up for hours at hand-pump wells every day because of the drying up of the capital's main water reservoirs.-Reuters
Taleban emerges from shadows
South China Morning Post
by RORY MCCARTHY in Islamabad, Pakistan
Afghanistan's hardline Taleban militia, stung by criticism from the West, is trying slowly to open its reclusive regime to the world.
In the past week, the Islamic clerics have published the first defence of their radical vision and methods, and have begun considering permitting television to be broadcast once again across the country they have ruled with an iron fist for four years.
Under pressure from the international community to hand over Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire and the most wanted terrorist suspect in the world, the Taleban fears new sanctions.
In the first issue of an English-language magazine published by the Taleban, the militia described itself as a "simple band of dedicated youths from Kandahar".
Under their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taleban has enforced a ruthlessly strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, leaving women virtual prisoners in their homes and ordering public amputations and executions for criminals.
The magazine was planned to counter "misinformation from the Zionist media" and opposition to the Taleban from the United States.
In a four-page interview, Mullah Omar said the Government would never hand over bin Laden, who is wanted by a US court for the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two years ago in which more than 200 people died. The Taleban regards bin Laden as a hero for his involvement in and funding for the resistance against the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.
"Extraditing Osama bin Laden, who made jihad [holy war] against the communists for the duration of their occupation of Afghanistan, is tantamount to leaving a pillar of our religion," Mullah Omar said.
He denied American claims that bin Laden runs a network of terrorist training camps inside the country. "There are no terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and we do not permit any individual or organisation to use our soil as a base of operations against any country," he said.
In the magazine, the movement also defended its human rights record and strongly criticised Washington for trying to impose its own world order.
Meanwhile, there are signs of an internal row over television broadcasting. After seizing Kabul in 1996, the clerics decreed that television and other entertainment like music were un-Islamic and banned them. Cinemas were closed and television sets publicly smashed. The majority of Afghans now tune in to foreign radio stations for news of their country, which has been torn apart by war in the past 20 years.
During a seminar with local pro-Taleban journalists, the idea of lifting the ban on television was raised and appeared to win approval from some in the militia. "The proposal is being thought about and is under consideration," said Deputy Information Minister Abdur Rahman Hotak. A more senior minister quickly stepped in to deny a policy reversal was planned. But it was the first time in four years of Taleban rule that such a rethink has been considered, however briefly.
Authorities gave permission earlier this year for the US network CNN and the Arabic television station Al-Jazeera to open offices in Kabul.
Ironically, the Taleban debate over television comes at a time when Islamic extremists in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan, have forced the provincial Government to ban cable television.
"The Taleban wants to be more relaxed," said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani journalist who has studied the regime closely. "They are traditional in their outlook. But they realise they cannot ignore the media. They want to try and make an effort to rebut allegations about them and remove the myths surrounding them. Now they are worried about more sanctions."
In an apparent attempt to mollify international criticism of Afghanistan as the world's top drug producer, Mullah Omar, in a surprise announcement, said on Friday that poppy cultivation would be banned. In the past, the Taleban has been reluctant to ban the planting of poppies, which produce the opium that is refined into heroin, saying they need international aid to encourage farmers to grow replacement crops.
Despite the latest signs of an apparent opening-up by the Taleban, the militia still does not shy away from imposing its brutal and sometimes peculiar sense of justice.
A team of Pakistani soccer players in Kandahar earlier this month was arrested mid-match and had their heads shaved for wearing shorts. And, despite pleas from the United Nations, the regime is maintaining a ban on work for female Afghans, even those helping foreign aid organisations.
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