Drought makes UN curb Afghan refugee repatriation
GENEVA, June 2 (Reuters) - The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday that it had suspended repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan to four southern Afghan provinces because of the worst drought in three decades.
But spokesman Ron Redmond of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said its voluntary repatriation programme to other areas of Afghanistan would continue.
The situation in large areas stretching across the southern borders of the three countries is critical, with millions of people displaced and livestock and crops destroyed, according to the spokesman.
``UNHCR's assisted returns of Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan to the drought-stricken southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Nimroz have been put on hold,'' Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.
``The Afghan provinces are unlikely to receive any more rain before November and the next harvest is not due until the summer of 2001,'' he added.
Iran and Pakistan host 2.6 million Afghan refugees, the Geneva-based agency's single largest caseload. Some 400,000 Afghans have returned home in the last few years, including 22,000 in the past two months, mainly from Iran, Redmond said.
Uzbekistan refutes claims of Taliban
TASHKENT, June 2 (Itar-Tass) - Uzbek President Islam Karimov has refuted claims of Afghanistan's Taliban about the alleged repeated trespassing of the Afghan skies by warplanes of Uzbekistan, OSCE Chairperson, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in reply to an Itar-Tass question on Friday.
Ferrero-Waldern is in Uzbekistan on a two-day visit. Islam Karimov said that "the Taliban movement, which spreads such unobjective information, wants to misinform the international community, in particular the United Nations, where it has send the note of indignation," Ferrero-Waldner remarked.
US denies Osama deal for Taliban recognition - The News: Jang
WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Thursday that the Taliban did not offer Osama's handover against the recognition of their government. Spokesman Philip Reeker was asked about the reports that the Taliban allegedly made the offer during their meeting with Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering in Pakistan. The spokesman made it clear that the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 required that the Taliban unconditionally hand over Bin Laden to a country "where he'll be arrested and brought to justice." To another question, the spokesman said the State Department was not aware if Osama had replaced his Saudi guards with Pakistanis.
Mojaddedi condemns Russian threat
PESHAWAR, June 2, (Frontier Post): Expressing concern over the recent Russian threats of bombing Afghanistan, chief of Afghan National Liberation Front and former president of Afghanistan, Professor Sibghatullah Al- Mojaddedi, has said that the Russian threats are very strange for them and their allies should have learnt good lessons from their previous intervention in Afghanistan. In a press statement issued here on Wednesday, he said “unfortunately, it is the differences among the Afghans, which has provided them the opportunity to make such irresponsible statements”.
Prof. Mojaddedi said that had their brothers exercised wisdom and feared Almighty Allah, they would have never fallen victim to such deep disagreement, internal fighting and bloodshed of fellow Muslims. He prayed to Almighty Allah to bless the Afghans with wisdom and prudence. The Russians and enemies of Afghanistan must, however, understand that no matter how much the Afghans were disunited, they would come together on one platform against foreign intervention and unitedly defend their religion, soil and people, he stated.
pakistan launches construction of gas pipeline to india
new delhi, june 3 irna-itar-tass-acsna -- head of the pakistan
military administration general pervez musharraf has issued an order
to begin the construction of a pipeline to supply iranian gas to
the gas pipeline, which is to be 1,500 kilometers long, will run
across the territory of pakistan, which expects to get about 600
million u.s. dollars annually for transit carriages of iranian gas.
according to the available information, the islamabad government is
conducting active talks with the persian gulf states and turkmenistan
on the construction of similar gas pipelines.
commenting on this decision of the pakistan authorities, new delhi
official sources stressed on friday that the implementation of the
first project of this sort was being started without the indian side's
it is believed here that the construction of this pipeline will
allow pakistan to get most of the iranian gas for its own needs and to
leave only the remaining part for india. the indian government has
still not agreed to the delivery of iranian gas via pakistani
territory, fearing that islamabad may cut fuel deliveries in the event
of another conflict with new delhi.
Hekmatyar sees Wests hands in Russian threat to Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD (NNI): The former Afghan prime minister and chief of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbadin Hekmatyar has termed Russian threats as serious saying West might have encouraged Moscow to sound such threats.
"We call upon all Afghans to join hands with each others to counter these threats. Russians should also know that by doing so they are repeating their failed experience. However, its consequences will be more serious than their previous defeat", Hekmatyar told VOA in an interview.
He said that Russians should not think that the prolonged civil war in Afghanistan has made the Afghans unable to put resistance to invaders and aggressors. This will be big mistake on their part. The Afghans are, undoubtedly, fed up with the civil war and the war mongering groups. But each of the Afghan is ready to fight a war which is for the defence of their country and its dependence, he said.
"Let the Russians be not mistaken that the West will support their such drive. The fact is that though the West may incite them for such an act but their objective will be to keep Moscow busy in such clashes", Hekmatyar said.
This also is a fact the Russian threats are totally baseless and are only an excuse. There are neither Chechen fighters in Afghanistan nor training camps for them. Afghanistan is not even close to the Chechen border. The are repeating the mistake of the Communists but will meet the same fate.
"We strongly condemn these threats. We will strongly defend every inch of our countrys soil. In case of any aggression, it will not be important for us to think as to who is ruling Kabul. We will only consider the defence of our countrys independent and sovereignty as our responsibility"
Hekmatyar said that Russia had several objectives behind threatening Afghanistan. The first thing is that President Putin wants to please the army and get its support as the army might welcome such a step which may help it in regaining its lost honor in Afghanistan. The other objective is that the forces in Afghanistan supported by Russia, are being abolished and Russia wants to prevent their fall. He said Russia also wants to further consolidate its hold on Central Asia, particularly on Uzbekistan, which has gone out of its hand.
Hekmatyar also condemned the fresh statement of the Pakistani military leader, General Pervez Musharraf about Afghanistan and said that the expressions made by Islamabad are worthy of strong concern. Pushtoons, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras are all brothers and no one can divide them. "We condemn every act which is harmful to our national unity and independence, we will strongly resist it and not allow any one to divide Afghans".
The remarks have come at a time when Russians are also threatening to attack Afghanistan. The Afghan should unite against foreign interference and defend their national unity. "We ask all Afghans to forget their differences, strengthen their mutual brotherhood and jointly defend their countrys independence and sovereignty. We are ready to give any sacrifice for the countrys national unity.", Hekmatyar said.
No militant training in NWFP madaris: minister
ISLAMABAD (NNI): Federal Minister for Health and Religious Affairs, Dr Abdu Malik Kasi Friday said that he recently visited various deeni madaris (religious schools) in NWFP, but did not find any place where people were getting militant or jihad training.
Talking to the visiting Ambassador of the European Union, Kurt Juul in a meeting Friday, the minister said that some of the madaris are imparting computer training as well to their students. "The modern education will definitely have some impact on the students studying there," he said.
Referring to the Afghanistan situation and the Talibans attitude towards the masses, the Minister said Taliban have maintained peace in the country. They are good and cooperative people, and if America and the European community extend helping hand they could lead quality life, he added.
He said the Taliban have maintained peace in Afghanistan, and they are leading life according to their culture and civilization. He said the Taliban are not against female education and they have requested a Turkish NGO working in Afghanistan to start a girl school in Herat.
Dr Kasi said the Afghans always fought against imperialism and the world should end their isolation. "The cooperation of other countries in the development of various sectors can make policies of the Taliban moderate," he maintained, adding the European Community should hold dialogue with Afghans.
The European Union envoy Kurt Juul also discussed various ongoing projects on primary health care and education in Pakistan. He expressed complete satisfaction on the progress.
He said that on the successful completion of ongoing projects, the European Community is very eager to extend cooperation in the training project meant for doctors and nurses and health worker in family planning sector.
The envoy the European community has allocated $5 million for this very projects. He said $ 71 million be given for promotion of primary education in the remote areas.
Plight of the Afghani child soldiers
June 2 (Frontier Post): Afghanistan’s children have been born into a nation whose social indicators are amongst the lowest in the world. The country’s economic capacity and human resource base have been seriously impaired. Today the children of Afghanistan present a paradox: the world’s most vulnerable children are their nation’s greatest hope. More than one-quarter of Afghan babies do not see their fifth birthday. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report, Afghanistan has the forth worst record in under-5 child mortality of 257 amongst all nations - the infant mortality rate being 152 per 1,000 live births. More than a quarter of a million children under five die each year, many more than those caught in armed conflict or killed by mines. Military commanders have a tendency to forcefully recruit children and adolescents into military units. These groups of society are targeted most easily as they are the most vulnerable.
Child soldiers is an important aspect of the Afghani military. Families have been known to move from one village to another in order to avoid harassment by the local commander. Heads of shuras (district councils) have been known to provide the commanders with lists of households in their districts, where young boys reside, who would not be able to put up any resistance. Some youngsters have tried to take refuge in cities such as Mazar-i-Sharief, however this puts their families at the mercy of the commanders who demand food and cash from them for their troops. Some adolescents are driven to join the military units due to sheer economic necessity. By joining the military unit, they help to reduce the burden on their own families as it becomes one less mouth to feed. Moreover, both they and their families know that even if the child does not get a salary, he will be fed and clothed by the commander. It is the military units which have access to the information networks, the transport system, as well as the financial resources. They are the ones who can use these resources for the social welfare of some children and their families.
There is no substantial evidence of children under the age of 15 being in the armed forces. According to “the impact of conflict on children in Afghanistan, 1998”, out of nearly 500 children interviewed, only 74 knew of boys between the ages of 15 and 18 who had been recruited. There was more incidence in Kabul, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharief, than in Herat and Kandahar. Moreover, the ICRC staff working in the hospital in Kandahar treating war casualties had not noticed children under 15 among the casualties. A child soldier wanted to go to Kandahar to seek help for his foot from the hospital but in the meantime he had joined the military unit. He was being provided with food in return for preparing tea and cooking for the Taliban. The commander had given him a waistcoat, and the boy hoped that he would also be able to give him a lift in a vehicle to Kandahar. The previous year he had worked at the Qul Urdu military base in Qalaat as one of the armed guards. He had carried a kalashnikov despite his ability.
Children under the influence of Landmines and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) constitute one third of Afghanistan’s landmine victims. A national survey conducted in 1999 indicated that 10-12 people fell victim to landmines and other unexploded ordinances daily. Those children who survive the trauma of a mine incident are a burden on their families and require extensive medical care, rehabilitation and most importantly, economic support throughout their lives. The annual medical bill of the mine victims is estimated to be more than US$ 20 million.
Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) is ammunition that has failed to explode as designed. In some cases the failure rate can be as high as 30%. Chemically, these items stay at a relatively sensitive state, needing to be touched or handled to cause them to explode. Their destructive power makes them more deadly than mines and in many areas UXO poses a greater danger than mines themselves. Each month as many as 300 or more especially children continue to be killed or maimed for life due to explosive devices. Amputees are a common sight in Afghanistan, where everyday 4 children under the age of 16 are killed by landmines and another 4 are seriously injured. Over 350,000 Afghan children are amputees and over one million Afghan children are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.
Of the estimated 100 million mines spread throughout 64 countries, 10% of these were laid during a decade of fighting in Afghanistan. Children are hardly likely to survive after detonating a mine accidentally as their small bodies are closer to the mine and thus more damage is caused to them than to adults. Save the Children Federation, Inc. collected data from Kabul’s 10 major hospitals and some health clinics in the period January-June 1997 to gauge the gender and age disparities in UXO and landmines cases. The survey showed that: 1. 71.5% percent of all UXO victims and 52.6% percent of all mine victims were males under 18 years. 2. 10.2% percent of all UXO victims and 5.3% percent of all mine victims were females under 18 years. The reason why males are more susceptible to UXOs and mines is the patriarchal society in Afghanistan, which ensures that boys can be found roaming outside their homes whereas the girls are confined to work at home. According to the latest research conducted by the British UN experts there are an estimate 10% undetonated and undiscovered bombs dropped by the Russians.
On an average, these undetonated explosive claim one life and maimed dozens every month in western Afghanistan. 90% percent of land mines are located in residential areas, farm lands, grazing pastures and irrigation canals. Throughout 1998, MAPA (UN’s Mine Action Program for Afghanistan) provided mine awareness training to more than four million people, cleared 330 square kilometers, and destroyed 180,000 mines and 730,000 UXOs. MAPA is managed from UNOCHA Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (MACA) located in Islamabad. There are a network of four regional offices in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat. However, even now there are still 700 square kilometers of land contaminated by landmines. The MAPA’s mine dog center (MDC) has currently deployed over 150 mines with the help of trained dogs. Mine awareness takes place at various border stations, in camps for internally displaced people, mosques and in communities.
Innovative efforts are ongoing to reach women and girls by providing mine awareness training at health centers, and by training mine awareness communities for families particularly for children. Mines deprive children of the chance to enjoy many of their basic rights. Providing physical psycho-social rehabilitation to child landmine victims can help them survive and develop in accordance with their inalienable rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, children’s recreational activities are being curtailed by many parents in order to save their lives. One adult male in every ten has been involved in a mine episode. Save the Children Federation Inc. is playing its part in solving the problem through the safe playgrounds scheme in the residential areas of Kabul.
These playgrounds are demined to provide children with a safe place to play. Taliban authorities reaffirmed their commitment to Mine Action by announcing in late 1998 a ban on the use of landmines by their force. Afghanistan is a country that has been torn apart by continuous warfare. Under the Taliban, there seems to be a certain degree of peace prevailing. However, traditional concepts, beliefs and practices mean that helping children, especially female children to recover from the traumatisation of war is going to be a difficult job. Until the world’s attention shifts to those children living with the daily horror of landmines, then places like Afghanistan will continue to suffer a slow and undignified collapse into anarchy and mutilation.
EXCERPTS of Gen. Pervez MUSHARRAF's interview with CNN on 6/1/2000:
Q: General Musharraf, I represent National Television in Uzbekistan. Based
on some recent reports about the deployment of the Taliban troops close to
border with Uzbekistan. And some statements of Russian government
officials. What is the possibility of Russian strikes against the Taliban and an
escalation of the political situation in Central and what would Pakistan's
role be, if this happens?
GENERAL MUSHARRAF: Well, I certainly think that any ideas or any attempts
of bombing of Afghanistan by the Russians from bases in Central Asia would be
extremely dangerous. It would certainly escalate and it would throw this
whole region into some kind of danger. I would strongly recommend restraint
on the part of Russia to avoid escalation of this Afghan conflict. As far
as Pakistan's role is concerned, we are a separate entity. We will see, we
would like to exert all kind of diplomatic leverage, so that Russia does
not undertake air strikes against Afghanistan. This is the role in the
diplomatic field certainly.
Q: General Musharraf, I am from NTV in Turkey. To coming on your dealings
with the Taliban regime, Sir. Where do you see the regime heading towards
and have they been given you any hint where Osama ben Laden is located at
this point. And is it true that the Chechen leadership is also in
GENERAL MUSHARRAF: Well, the Afghan leadership, as the situation in
Afghanistan, and the Taliban are running their own country. Now as far as
the issue of Osama Ben Laden is concerned, really it is between the
Taliban, Afghanistan and United States and anyone who thinks that Osama ben Laden is involved in terrorist activities. But certainly to think that it is
Pakistan who was to resolve this issue of Osama ben Laden, is very unfair to
Pakistan. But with all the entirety, in its entire complexity, Afghanistan
issue involves, first of all, that we need to bring ceasefire and peace
into the region. We need to address this issue of terrorism with its entirety,
if at all, there are any sanctuaries or people who want to carry out terrorist
activities and are using Afghanistan territory as safe havens. We need to
address that with the Taliban. And lastly is the issue of Osama ben Laden.
So there are three issues involved. One would certainly like to, I would
like to suggest and strongly recommend that one needs to engage the Taliban
on all these issues. And I am sure that if there is sincerety in this
engagement of Taliban and understanding their point of view, the Taliban
point of view, there will be progress made on all these issues.
Q: Good morning from Geroga of CNN. I work for CNN. I like to ask you with
this situation of Taliban in power in Afghanistan the situation of women
can easily be characterized as type of gender side and I was wondering how you
see that and how you see the future of women's rights in Pakistan also,
GENERAL MUSHARRAF: Well if you know Pakistan, if you never visited
Pakistan, you ought to be knowing that Pakistan is the religiously moderate state. No religious party in the past has won any kind of substantial number of seats
in the Parliament. We are religiously moderate state and women have total
rights and freedom in Pakistan. I would request you to come to Pakistan and
see that for yourself if you have not been to Pakistan. Do come to
Now you are talking of women in Afghanistan. Well, Taliban have their own
views. They are an independent people. One has to see the environment there
from the eyes of the Afghans. Please do not see Afghanistan from your eyes
sitting in the West because there is where we go wrong. You need to come
down to the level of Afghans and then see what is happening there. They had
their own environment, they have their own culture. But however, having
said that certainly one could moderate them, one could engage them, one could
influence the Taliban towards whatever your view of women is and to that
extent I would like to say that we need to engage the Taliban. So that one
is able to may be bring about some changes in their perception.
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