Afghan opposition seeks aid against cholera
KABUL, July 22 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's opposition alliance said on Sunday cholera deaths in a northern district it holds had mounted to at least 129 in the last six days and appealed for urgent international medical help.
An alliance spokesman, Ashraf Nadeem, told Reuters by satellite telephone from the area that 16 more people had died of cholera on Saturday night raising the toll to 129 since the outbreak of the disease in Aq Kupurk district of Badakhshan province on Tuesday.
"It is rising," he said of the death toll. "These figures are of the bodies counted and there must be more deaths in remote areas about which we have not yet heard," he added.
"We appeal to all countries for immediate help and they need to act before witnessing a humanitarian tragedy and catastrophe," Nadeem said.
He said more than 2,000 people of Aq Kupurk had been affected by the epidemic and if timely aid did not arrive, an estimated 70,000 people in the rugged region could suffer.
"You see children and weak women as well as men perishing in Aq Kupurk where there are no medical facilities," he said. Nadeem said most victims died after drinking contaminated water from traditional water storages.
He linked the epidemic to the worst drought in more than three decades that has hit the war-torn Afghansitan for three years in a row.
The ruling Taliban movement also said last week that 20 to 30 children were dying daily because of cholera and other diseases at a camp for displaced people near the western town of Herat.
The drought has put nearly five million Afghan people on the verge of hunger while around one million have been compelled to flee from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Aid agencies say they learned about the outbreak of cholera in Aq Kupurk, but there was no information yet about any plans to tackle the epidemic.
"The members are very much concerned about the deterioration of situation in Afghanistan and call on the international community to continue their donations," the council president, Ambassador Wang Yinfang of China, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York following a closed-door meeting on the issue.
The members also stressed the need to ensure the safety of personnel providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and the smooth conduct of relief activities there, according to Ambassador Wang.
Commenting on a recent report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the effect of sanctions on the humanitarian situation, the members noted its "important conclusion" that the impact has been limited,
Ambassador Wang said. He also underscored the report's conclusion that "the primary cause of the human suffering in the country is the ongoing conflict."
During its closed consultations, the council was briefed on Afghanistan by the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last Friday released the results of a survey showing that the a vast majority of Afghans returned to their country last year with half of them going back to their home villages.
According to the survey, only 7 percent of recent returnees interviewed by UNHCR did not return to their home areas, mainly because they found jobs elsewhere in Afghanistan, while others found their lands affected by mines or seriously damaged by drought.
"It is a good sign that a majority of the Afghans returned to their own homes and villages, but the situation inside Afghanistan continues to be critical," said Ahmed Said Farah, UNHCR chief of mission in the country. Access to services like health care and education is very limited among the people we interviewed, as well as for Afghans living in more remote regions.
UNICEF envoy Kuroyanagi visits refugee Afghan children
HERAT, Afghanistan, July 23 (Kyodo) - Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a Japanese goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), on Sunday visited refugee children and mothers at two camps near Herat, western Afghanistan.
Kuroyanagi visited and observed classes at a U.N.-supported tent school that opened in May and resumed classes this month after being temporarily closed by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban officials.
In another camp housing about 130,000 refugees, some 50 mothers voiced out their concern to Kuroyanagi about shortages of food and medicines. About 150 people reportedly died in a cold wave last winter at this camp.
''What was impressed on me was that within the camp, (boys and girls) are being given an equal education. However, I felt that the people were worn out from the long civil strife and droughts,'' said Kuroyanagi, who is also an actress, author and TV personality.
The same day in Herat, Kuroyanagi met a Taliban official who told her about efforts being made to improve the country's relations with the international community and to promote education for women. The Taliban follows a fundamentalist Islamic policy on the role of women in society.
The official reportedly told Kuroyanagi it will be hard to promptly change the educational system, in view of the elements of religion and tradition.
However, the Taliban is considering plans to increase the number of female teachers and raise the age up to which girls can receive education, which is 9 at present, when the country stabilizes, according to the official.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, (Kyodo) - Afghan opposition troops made modest gains following heavy fighting against the Taliban militia on Monday, an opposition spokesman said.
After three hours of fighting, the opposition captured a village near Hajaghar, about 190 miles north of the capital Kabul, spokesman Mohammed Abil told The Associated Press by telephone from the embattled region.
Taliban militia, defending the district, retreated leaving behind several bodies, he said. No immediate comment was available from the Taliban, who rule almost 95 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul.
The Taliban, who are mostly Sunni Muslims and Pashtun, Afghanistan's majority ethnic group, are fighting opposition forces on several northern fronts in an attempt to capture the entire country.
Earlier this year, they scored major victories against opposition soldiers. In recent months there has been a stalemate in the fighting.
The opposition, which is predominantly made up of religious and ethnic minorities, has been squeezed into several small pockets, mainly in the northeast.
Opposition preparing for fresh offensive
KABUL (NNI): The Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban while reacting on the statement made by ousted Afghanistan President Professor Rabbani, said that the opposition on the one hand calling for talks while on the other, they are preparing for fresh fighting.Professor Rabbani recently said that the opposition was ready to sit to the negotiating table with the Taliban to end war and problems of the people.
“In fact, this is the war which has caused trouble to our people and forced them into migration,” Rabbani said.
“In fact the opposition want to get a political mileage out of their proposed talks.
As far the Taliban government is concerned, it has from the very beginning been supporting holding of talks and has been taking sincere steps in that direction,” reports Radio Tehran.
However, the opponents have every time used such negotiations as a tool for their negative propaganda.
On the other hand, presence of intelligence circles among the opponents has increased to such an extent that it has snatched their capability of taking any bold initiative. In such a situation, how would such talks give any results.
Going by its past bitter experience, Taliban have announced that if the opponents really do not want fighting, they should, as a first step end fighting and practically demonstrate that they are capable to take an independent decision.
“If, in that situation, the Taliban did not accept their peace call, it will certainly be liable to blame. However, if the opponents do not have their independent view, then talks are of no use and would only be wastage of time,” the report concludes.
Meanwhile, Anti Taliban Northern Alliance spokesman Mohammed Habil has claimed killing of 200 Taliban militiamen including six commanders during recent fighting in Takhar province. But he did not reveal the names of the Taliban commanders reportedly killed during last week’s war.
So far, the ruling Taliban as well as independent sources have not confirmed the claim of the Northern Alliance.
PESHAWAR: Afghan groups form alliance
PESHAWAR, July 20: Some Afghan groups living in exile have formed a political alliance to dislodge the Taliban as well as the Northern Alliance from their respective strongholds in Afghanistan.
The organizers claimed that around 115 prominent figures belonging to various Jihadi and political groups had attended a meeting of the alliance here on Thursday night.
The alliance would soon convene a grand Jirga in Peshawar to decide its future line of action. About 500 former Jihadi commanders and tribal chieftains, living in Pakistan, would be invited to Jirga.
Two murderers publicly executed - FP
PESHAWAR: Two murderers were publicly executed under Qisaas in the central stadium of Mazar-e-Sharif, a northern city of Afghanistan.
According to details, Ghaus Uddin s/o Abdul Jabbar hailing from Sarpul province had killed two men Ghulam Haider and Ghulam Qadir.
Security personnel arrested the culprit and handed over to the law enforcement agencies. After investigation, the court awarded death penalty to the convict.
The other accused Syed Ibadullah s/o Syed Jabbar had entered the house of Shahjhan with an intention of theft and killed her.He was also arrested by security personnel and handed over to concerned authority.
After endorsement by Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammed Omar, both the murderers were publicly executed in the city’s central stadium of Mazar-e-Sharif.
15 TV, 25 VCRs set ablaze publicly - FP
KABUL(Agencies): Personnel of the Amr-bil-Maroof ministry recovered 25 VCRs, 15 TV, 300 videocassettes and a dish antenna during their operation in Maidan city, Wardak and other adjoining areas and the tools were set ablaze publicly.
Meanwhile, the personnel of the ministry awarded punishment to many people for shaving beard, and closed down for an indefinite period the shops of those who missed congregational prayers.
UN conducting Afghan nomads’ survey
ISLAMABAD (NNI): The Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator for Afghanistan is undertaking a survey of kuchis (nomads) in northeastern Afghanistan this month in collaboration with Afghan Technical Consult-ants (ATC).In northeastern Afghanistan, the kuchi population and their economy have been adversely affected in many ways by the course of the war and the more recent drought.
Their presence and role in the regional economy are now much reduced. To what degree this has occurred is still unclear.
A large percentage of the population of Kunduz, Takhar, and formerly Baghlan, were dependent on seasonal animal husbandry or were from communities with mixed economies where livestock rearing was prominent.
These populations utilised summer pastures in a number of areas in Badakhshan (Shiwa, Dash-i-Ish, and Darwaz being the most prominent areas).
Access to summer pasture resources have traditionally been contested, and many pastures have changed hands during the course of the war.
Many kuchis have disap-peared during the war, either due to conflict or through appropriation of summer pasture areas by new kuchis or by local agriculturist populations.
For those who could adapt to changing circumstances during the earlier years of the war, it is not known exactly how they have been affected by the recent intensification of conflict in their winter quarters in Takhar Province.
This is expected to have had a serious impact on the Takhar kuchis, and recent and ongoing conflict is expected to have affected the ability of the Kunduz kuchis to move cross-line into the northeast.
Moreover, the collapse of veterinary services during the war and the restricted recent investment in this sector have greatly affected livestock health. Health problems are still unquantifed, as is change relative to the pre-war situation.
In essence, the im-portance, status, and issues that are cur-rently affecting the kuchi economy of the northeast are not fully understood.
Given their former importance and role in the regional economy, data is needed to enhance understanding and to enable proper rehabilitation planning.
KABUL (Agencies): In continuation with the repairing and restoration works of the historical monuments throughout the country, refurbishing and renovation work of shrine and historical school of Shamsul Arefeen in Ghazni province was started on Saturday.A reception was hosted to mark the completion of restoration works of Hazrat-e-Hakim Sanaie Ghaznawi shrine and commencement of the renovation works of the historical school of Ghazni.
On this occasion, Governor, Ghazni, Mulla Doost Muhammad Akhund and incharge of Information and Culture department of Ghazni province Mufti Lutfullah Halimi addressed the ceremony.
They said that rehabilitation and restoration works of the holy shrines and sanctuaries are a top priority of the Islamic Emirate.
The governor of Ghazni province mentioned in his speech that budget for restoration projects are funded by the department of information and culture department of provincial government.
Destruction of Buddha statues - Japan urges UN body to protect cultural assets
TOKYO (SANA): Reacting to the destruction of giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan, a subcommittee of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO has urged the government to strengthen protection of cultural assets around the world, a Japan Times report quoting officials said.This is the first time in six years that the subcommittee, headed by well-known artist Ikuo Hirayama, has adopted a resolution delivered to the government.
Senior US official visits South Asia - BBC
US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca isin India at the start of her visit to South Asia.
Her visit comes a week after the leaders of India and Pakistan had talks in Agra which collapsed when they couldn't agree on a joint declaration.
Speaking in Washington on the eve of her visit, Mrs Rocca said the United States considered the Agra talks a success because they had happened at all.
She is also due to visit Nepal and Pakistan. Ms Rocca will be the first senior official of the Bush administration to visit Pakistan and she has indicated that she will press for political reforms.
Roller-coaster: A tale of US-Pakistan ties
MOWAHID H. SHAH - The Nation Opinion 7/23
Roller-coaster is how former diplomat Dennis Kux describes fluctuations in US-Pak relations over the past 50 years or so, in his 470-page book, The US and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001) launched recently at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC. The work is a culmination of a project expected to last a couple of years which ballooned into 5 years because US-Pakistan relations are 'more complex with more happening' compared to the relative 'plateau' in Indo-US relations about which the author also wrote a book which only took 2 years.
This chronologically and amply documented book is a straightforward narrative diplomatic history with no particular agenda to push and is chock-full of facts, leaving the reader to make his own determination.
Among the Pakistani leaders, Ayub Khan impresses his American interlocutors and comes across frank, sincere, and caring about Pakistan's future. Z. A. Bhutto appears Machiavellian, Yahya inept, Benazir too pliable to US pressures, Nawaz Sharif too keen on monopolising power, and Zia over-zealous on Afghanistan perhaps to Pakistan's occasional detriment.
From the American side, Nixon emerges tall and statesman-like. The one American president who by his own admission was most friendly to Pakistan, a goodwill reconfirmed when Bhutto, Mujib, and the Pakistan ruling circles provided India with an opportunity to break up Pakistan in 1971. Kennedy is engaged on Pakistan but during the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 not adequately honourable to keep his pledge of not giving military aid to India without prior consultation with Pakistan. Ayub never forgave him for that and did not attend JFK's funeral, sending Bhutto instead who had an acerbic meeting with LBJ. JFK, also, did not follow up through a public statement — as Pakistan wished — his commitment to come to Pakistan's aid in the event of an Indian aggression given through an aide memoire in November 1962 (vide p. 132). Johnson is too steeped in Vietnam to be effective; and Carter, though well-meaning, too callow to respond effectively to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Currently, the stated criteria, from the U.S. point of view, for sound relations with Pakistan include:
* distancing from Taliban;
* reining in the Jehadi elements;
* moving away from nukes; and
* control of narcotics.
To this, one could have added the resumption of the democratic process but that is belied by the fact that U.S.-Pakistan relations were at its pomp during the military rule of Ayub, Yahya, and Zia.
To put balance and accuracy in perspective, Pakistan's largely submissive diplomatic elites have yet to duly highlight that all of the above are to some extent negative byproducts of United States' own 'user' policies and inconsistencies. The blame, if any, has to be shared.
The book highlights the salience of Pak-Chinese ties and how it pinched the White House over the years: And, yet, as pointed out, during Nixon's China initiative of 1969-71, this 'major sin' of Pakistan became its 'cardinal virtue' when Pakistan acted as a conduit for the breakthrough back-channel diplomacy between Nixon and Chou En-lai. Typically, Nixon did not keep the State Department in the loop.
One lacuna about the book is little focus on the long shadow revolutionary Iran cast on US-Pakistan relations which had influenced the US in part, initially not to disapprove the emergence of the Taliban, seen as a useful regional counterweight to Iran. Parenthetically, Condoleeza Rice, National Security Adviser, revealed crude unawareness of the region when she told the New York Times last year she was concerned over the alliance between Taliban and Iran. Arguably, the fear of driving Pakistan into the arms of Iran may have also dissuaded the US from putting Pakistan on the much-trumpeted terrorist list in 1993. Another lacuna may be the insufficient attention paid to the Chinese threat to intervene during the peak of the September '65 War over Kashmir and its impact on Johnson and his policy circle. And it was actually Majid Nizami, Editor-in-Chief of Nawa-i-Waqt and The Nation who told Nawaz Sharif during meeting with Pakistani Editors in May 1998 that if there was no nuclear explosion to match India's, his government would be blown away (p. 346).
Despite US posturing that Pakistan is no longer pivotal, Pakistan, because of its geo-strategic location, continues to be significant for the US, contrary to Jim Hoagland's foolish assertion in the Washington Post of July 1, that Pakistan is largely a problem of the past for India.'
Dennis Kux concludes that problems in US-Pakistan relations 'stem more from the fact that American and Pakistani perceptions of what is best for Pakistan and its national security have not been the same, especially where India is concerned.' A case in point would be the core issue of Kashmir. The author posits that, should Islamabad 'temper its obsession with India', Pakistan may become a regional power.
A similar query about this 'obsession' was posed to me during a lecture at the State Department. The response, 'I'm equally baffled with the United States' generations-old fixation with Fidel Castro's tiny Cuba.'
This accomplished book is a fair and illuminating account and is a must read for students, teachers, and practitioners of international diplomacy.
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