Afghan opposition leader condemns Muslim aid to Taliban
FAIZABAD, Afghanistan, July 24 (Kyodo) - Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani on Tuesday criticized Arab countries and Pakistan for providing assistance to Kabul, saying such aid hindered the possibility of dialogue with the Islamic fundamentalist government known as the Taliban.
Rabbani told Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a Japanese celebrity who is touring the country as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), that he is willing to negotiate with the Taliban if Arab countries and Pakistan halt their support to Kabul.
Rabbani, who was in power from 1992 to 1996 when the Taliban took control of Kabul, met with Kuroyanagi in the northern city Faizabad where opposition forces are based. Rabbani urged Japan to help bring peace to Afghanistan.
The former president also told the UNICEF envoy that the Taliban's prohibition against girls' schooling and female employment were based not on the teachings of Islam, but on tribal traditions.
''We place great importance on all children having equal access to education,'' Rabbani said.
Observers say the war in Afghanistan might be over now, if outside powers did not keep it going for their own interests. According to a Human Rights Watch report, various nations are giving crucial military aid to both sides, while claiming they want to end the conflict.
"No, we are not sending military supplies to the Taleban," Pakistanis assured UPI editor-at-large Arnaud de Borchgrave when he was recently in the region. But then he wondered what all those trucks were carrying across the border into Afghanistan. "In fact, my friends and I saw some artillery shells poking out of sacks of flour. It is quite open." Mr. de Borchgrave said.
That truck is only one of thirty transporting arms and ammunition from Pakistan to the Taleban on a daily basis, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. The report provides extensive details on outside military aid to the Taleban, who rule most of Afghanistan, and to the United Front or northern alliance, who control the rest.
Of all the outside powers, says the report, Pakistan is distinguished by the sweep of its objectives and the scale of its efforts. Pakistani companies, according to the report, buy weapons for the Taleban from dealers in Hong Kong and Dubai. Along with this military aid, the report notes, Pakistan has provided advisers and logistical support during key battles.
Pakistan also furnishes many of the recruits from madrasas or religious schools operated within its borders, says Mr. de Borchgrave, who observed the rigorous Koranic training at the important one directed by Samiul Haq. Some of the teachers proudly spoke of fighting alongside their fellow Muslims in Chechnya against the Russians. "There were 700 Afghan students among 2,500, all very pumped up," Mr. de Borchgrave said. "You can see that at the end of eight years of this kind of education they would be very anxious to go on to Afghanistan for what they call military training and what we call terrorist training."
Outside aid also sustains the group still holding out against the Taleban in northern Afghanistan, says Human Rights Watch. Iran, determined to exert its influence in Afghanistan, provides the largest amount of military aid to the northern forces, but Russia is not far behind. Its troops control Afghanistan's northern border with Tajikistan. So supplies freely cross the border, though the land route is tortuous and no major airfield is available.
Given the amount of outside military aid, nobody expects an early end to a conflict which has further impoverished an already devastated population. Cristina Rocca, newly appointed U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, says a review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan is under way as well as an examination of U.S. sanctions on Afghanistan and other countries. "The administration does currently talk to the Taleban," Ms. Rocca said. "We have had a number of meetings. However, there is a difference between recognizing them and talking to them. Osama bin Laden is one sticking point. The issue of providing safe haven for terrorists, of course, is another big one, as well as all the human rights abuses that are ongoing."
Arnaud de Borchgrave thinks Muslim extremism fuels the Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan. Even Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suggests he is a captive of this growing movement. "As Musharraf himself pointed out, 'one per cent of our population is extremist and are holding 99 per cent of the population hostage,'" Mr. de Borchgrave said. "Nobody really dares speak up against extremism in Pakistan today. Musharraf did, and hopefully that will encourage other people to do so."
But speaking out on extremism also means speaking out on other things, says Assistant Secretary Rocca. "The U.S. perspective and policy toward all these countries is to help alleviate the symptoms which are the root causes of the rise in violence and fundamentalism. Not fundamentalism, I should say, but rather extremism. The roots of these are poverty and education."
Assistant Secretary Rocca says the United States has been increasing programs for combating poverty and strengthening education in the region.
AAR Note: Kudos to Ed Warner for writing a more balanced and objective article on the Afghan crisis in comparison to other recent ones published through the VOA, which have raised eyebrows and serious questions within the Afghan affairs community.
Can we say the same about allegations of political favoritism within one particular known branch of the Afghan language services at the VOA? Not definitely yet, but with official attention and scrutiny, improvements and reform will surely remedy the journalistic imbalance that prevails. It is critical for the VOA to maintain a credible and effective Afghan operation to reflect the Afghan realities, Afghan and American views, informative value and policy options in a professional style, by not involving itself in blatant and lopsided political manipulations that could seriously tarnish the image and reputation of a respected government agency. Any serious attempt at investigating such allegations will need to look at the overall objective of such a service under current conditions, and also address the routine operational functions within a professional and accountable management framework to ensure that the US taxpayers' money, as appropriated by Congress, is not wasted.
Iran gives arms on Afghan border against bandits
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Residents of more than 1,100 villages in northeast Iran near the Afghanistan border have been given arms to help them fight bandits, the official IRNA news agency said Tuesday.
It quoted Akbar Ebrahimzadeh, a commander of the volunteer Basij militia force in Khorasan province, as saying that 42,000 militiamen had also been deployed in border villages to restore security.
Iran is fighting a costly battle with armed bandits and drug traffickers on the Afghanistan border, where officials say villagers are often held for ransom.
Iran is a major drug transit route from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the so-called Golden Crescent to lucrative markets in Europe and oil-rich Gulf Arab states.
Iran spent nearly $20 million last year to fight drug trafficking and armed thousands of villagers on its eastern borders.
UNHCR reports anti-Afghan violence in Iran
GENEVA, July 24 (AFP) - Violence against Afghans living in Iran has erupted on at least two occasions in recent weeks, prompted largely by anger over the belief that Afghans are taking jobs, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
Anti-Afghan protestors rampaged through the Pishva neighbourhood, south of Tehran last week, which turned into clashes leaving a number of people hurt, said a spokesman for the Geneva-based UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Local residents shouted "death to Afghans" and similar slogans were scrawled on the walls of buildings in the area, spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing.
"The recent outbreaks of violence seem to have been caused by rising anger among some sections of the Iranian population who believe that Afghans are taking their jobs," Redmond said.
In another incident, Iranian media reported that a group of about 100 Iranian motorcyclists had attacked Afghans in Falavarjan, in Isfahan province, on July 6.
UNHCR had raised its concerns with the Iranian Interior Ministry, Redmond said.
Iran and Pakistan currently host about two million Afghan refugees each. Even though four million have already returned home since 1989, the Afghans have been the single largest refugee group in the world for 20 years.
Iran has been one of the "world's most generous hosts" to refugees, the UNHCR said. The vast majority of Afghans in Iran live among the local population, while only five percent of them live in camps, it said.
Afghan Taliban to set up camps for returning refugees
ISLAMABAD, July 25 (AFP) - Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia Wednesday vowed to establish camps for returning refugees inside the country and called for an end to UN sanctions amid a humanitartian crisis.
Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef said the hardline Islamic militia would set up camps to help tens of thousands of returnees from Iran and Pakistan, where they were facing increasing harassment.
"The council of ministers of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) has taken a decision to set up camps inside the country on an emergency basis and also to provide relief according to the government capacity," he told a press briefing.
"We appreciate both Pakistan and Iran for accommodating Afghan refugees, but we also condemn the recent harassment and maltreatment of refugees in these countries."
Pakistan and Iran currently each host about two million Afghan refugees, most of whom fled their homeland during the 1979-89 Soviet invasion.
Even though four million have already returned home since 1989, the Afghans have been the single largest refugee group in the world for the last 20 years.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has criticised Iran and Pakistan for a "very steep decline" in hospitality in the past year, citing harassment by police and forced deportations.
Pakistan has recently decided to close the Nasir Bagh camp near the northwestern city of Peshawar, where some 100,000 Afghans have lived for years, to make way for a housing development.
But international relief agencies have opposed setting up more camps inside Afghanistan, saying the returnees should be encouraged to return to their home villages.
Zaeef said UN sanctions against the Taliban, imposed in January over the militia's alleged support for international terrorism and drug traffickers, had multiplied the miseries of the Afghan people.
"These sanctions have a negative humanitarian impact and we hope they are lifted immediately so that the suffering of Afghan people would come to an end," he said.
"If there is any human tragedy resulting from these sanctions, the responsibility will squarely rest with the world body."
He said certain countries were using the UN as a vehicle to oppress the people of Afghanistan and prop up armed opposition groups battling against Taliban rule.
The sanctions include an arms embargo against the Taliban but not the opposition, as well as diplomatic, aviation and financial curbs, but they are tailored to avoid any humanitarian impact.
Afghans decry police excesses
KOHAT, July 23 (Dawn) -- The Afghan families being repatriated while feel burdened with the hospitality of the local people who extended all sorts of help during their decades-long stay here, have been extremely critical of the behaviour of Pakistani police whose greed and highhandedness they may never forget, reveals a Dawn survey.
Noor Bibi and Shakeela, who had both sweet and bitter memories to recall, experienced during their 16-year-long stay in Kohat, say most of the Afghan women are employed in homes as maids, the rest are beggars and prone to all types of exploitation, whereas they have no right to raise voice against injustices done them.
When they approached the police they were treated as third grade humans. The men could withstand all pressures and atrocities but the women could not. They complained that all Afghan women were treated as prostitutes, especially by the police which was not true.
In written history, there are references to slave auctions of women who were bought either for domestic labour or brothel bondage. As late as 1991, we hear of kidnapped women at the Pakistan-Afghan border being sold in the marketplace. Because in the prevalent tribal system, women enjoy very little or altogether no respect.
Behram, an Afghan taxi driver, willing to go back to his native town of Zazi in Paktia province told Dawn that the hostilities of police ranged from demanding illegal gratification from Afghans doing business in the various cities to girl and boy hunting. In some cases, the police deprived the Afghans of their earnings.
He said that the same situation prevailed in their own country where the "so-called" mujahideen groups looted their houses, molested women, killed men and women and kidnapped the youth for forced military service. They found the circumstances not so different here when they migrated to Pakistan.
The refugees who did not receive full aid from the Afghan Commissionerate officials despite the fact that the US and its allies poured millions of dollars during the war felt so helpless that they forced their women into prostitution. This was also the major factor behind the movement of refugees from their restricted camps to the cities. Some who belonged to rich families could not compromise with the circumstances and joined the flesh business to meet both ends meet or keep the high standard of living they were used to.
The survey revealed that while the government agencies have been very vocal in criticising the klashnikov culture finding its way into the country from across Afghanistan they were least bothered to mention the plight of Afghan women in Pakistan who have either lost their chastity or were pushed into prostitution by the local and Afghan-Pakistan women traffickers.
But there are "volunteers" from the Kabul red-light area who came to Peshawar and were doing a roaring business and obviously do not wish to go back because they could not survive under the Taliban rule. They find Pakistan a haven for their business. They own costly houses in the posh Hayatabad locality in Peshawar and in other districts.
power breakdowns: Pesco has failed to overcome the problems resulting in the regular breakdowns in Kohat for the last one month, which have added to the miseries of the consumers in the hot weather. On Saturday evening the electricity supply was suddenly cut off to the city-1 area, where the Zanana hospital is also situated.
US hints at lifting India sanctions - BBC
The United States has given a strong indication that economic sanctions imposed on India will be lifted. A senior American official, Christina Rocca, said the sanctions were being reviewed and her government was keen to see India take a leading role in ensuring stability in the region.
However Ms Rocca, the Assistant Secretary of State on South Asian Affairs, took India to task for what she called its protectionist trade policies, its investment climate and its failure to provide an effective system for the protection of intellectual property.
She said the United States was India's largest trading partner, but the volume of bilateral trade remained low.
In a sweeping and generally positive assessment of bilateral ties, Ms Rocca said India had a key role and responsibility in helping secure "stable peaceful conditions" in South Asia and beyond.
"In this connection, I hardly need to tell you, a review on our sanctions policy is now underway," she said.
"And we will need to work closely with Congress to see how the current situation might be changed. Getting beyond sanctions would do much to deepen the bilateral relationship," she added.
The US imposed sanctions against India following its series of underground nuclear blasts in 1998. "Non-proliferation remains an important goal of US policy," Ms Rocca said.
"But we want to expand and transform our engagement on defence issues, talking more about potential areas of co-operation while continuing to narrow our differences."
Her visit here came just one week after the landmark Indo-Pakistan summit in Agra, which she praised as an important beginning despite both sides' failure to seal the talks with a joint declaration.
Ms Rocca has held a series of meetings in New Delhi with Indian leaders, including Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and national security advisor Brajesh Mishra.
On the economic front, Ms Rocca's stance on the state of Indo-US relations was combative, criticising the level of "protectionism" in India.
Ms Rocca particularly highlighted a damaging payments dispute between the western Indian state of Maharashtra and a $2.9bn power project involving US energy giant Enron.
The survival of the project - the single largest US investment in India - has been threatened by Maharashtra's refusal to pay what it considers extortionate tariffs charged by the power station.
"The ongoing dispute... casts a dark cloud over India's investment climate," Ms Rocca said. "It will be difficult for international investors to view India favourably until it is resolved."
Health care in Afghanistan has reached rock bottom
Monday, July 23, 2001
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Thirty years ago, Kabul had some excellent hospitals. I studied heart surgery in one of them in the early 1970s.
Now, they are mostly crowded and chaotic dormitories for the sick, in which a few brave and selfless physicians sometimes accomplish near-miracles with very limited resources.
The Wazir Muhammad Akbar Khan Hospital, a 250-bed acute care facility that serves people for 100 miles around, is a multistory building crammed with patients and their attendants, many lying in string cots brought from home and on quilts on the floor.
Doctors -- all doctors, regardless of their training and experience -- are paid the equivalent of $100 a month in the notoriously shaky and increasingly worthless Afghan rupee. They supplement their meager salaries by seeing patients in their homes or makeshift one-room clinics.
Health care in Afghanistan has reached rock bottom even by Third World standards. Infant mortality is 18 percent; one-fourth of children never live to see their 5th birthday.
Life expectancy is just 44 years of age -- one of the lowest in the world. Even other developing countries average 61 years, compared to the mid-70s for the industrial West. Two-thirds of the population has no access to health care at all.
The Taliban aren't responsible for this crisis; they inherited it from years of civil war and anarchy. But they have apparently done little to improve things.
-- S. Amjad Hussain
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, a clinical professor of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the Medical College of Ohio, is one of a handful of Westerners allowed to travel to Afghanistan in recent years and to talk with leaders of the Taliban.
A native of Pakistan, Hussain has lived in Toledo, Ohio, since 1974 and is past president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. He has authored five books and writes a column for The Blade, for which he contributed these articles. The Blade and the Post-Gazette, both owned by Block Communications Inc., make up the Block News Alliance.
AAR Editorial Note: We appreciate and share the medical doctor's concerns, but blaming the Afghan factions alone for the "civil war and years of anarchy" is misrepresenting part of the tragic realities of Afghanistan.
The Afghans are to blame for falling into a trap set up by foreign interests to reach certain strategic goals beyond the Afghans' ability to control; The Afghans, especially some so-called leaders, are to blame for focusing more on their narrow power-base than the overriding national interests; the Afghans are to blame for not finding the political will and skills to bind together against a powerful and well oiled conspiracy hatched in dark intelligence and even corporate boardrooms. But there is little evidence to prove that the Afghans - whichever credible party they belonged to - knowingly or deliberately, instigated a self-consumming civil war or state of anarchy in their own country.
Thus, conveniently omitting the overwhelming challenges facing the victorious post-Soviet/communist Afghans, in the form of Pakistani conspiracies and other foreign designs, is, to say the least, unfair, not totally correct and deceitful. By the same token, it is not too late for concerned countries and involved parties to look at the overriding issues and interests of all interested sides in a constructive, pragmatic and somewhat evenhanded approach. Too much gamesmanship has not resulted in much success for anyone ... unless Islamabad's militarists mistakenly think they have scored big and are on the winning side.
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