Taliban launch fresh attack on Takhar province
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
WASHINGTON (Agencies):Afghanistan ruling Taliban resumed the second phase of their attack against the Northern Alliance forces in Takhar province.
Foreigners are also taking part in this operation.
The Taliban's initial attack, the report said, on Farkhar Gorge was repulsed.A group of Taliban infiltrators was captured in Parwan province by the security forces of the Northern Alliance hich provided military information to the Taliban.
Among other tasks, the report said, the group directed the Taliban air force in its bombing missions in the area.
Two women and two children were killed and several houses were destroyed as a result of one of these aerial attacks.
The members of the nabbed group have admitted that they were working for the Taliban.
They will be tried in a court of law, report stated.
The international community is playing an ambiguous role in the Afghan conflict.
The U.N. imposed sanctions on arms and fuel in December last year but did so only on the Taliban.
In the north, the Northern Alliance -is maintaining its control over a swath of land at the border with Tajikistan with the support of the West, Iran and Russia.
Both sides receive weapons that fuel a conflict claiming victims every day.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a report which said, "U.N. sanctions imposed on arms and fuel to the Taliban in December 2000 are one-sided and strongly influenced by short-term Russian and U.S. interests, not humanitarian goals." For Washington, the priority is the surrendering of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden accused of plotting the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and little attention is paid to the civil population.
Iran is the principal source of military assistance to the Ahmad Shah Masood's-backed Northern Alliance.
Despite claims that weapons have been purchased with cash, it seems unlikely that the Alliance could afford such purchases, given its loss of major cities and regional economy, said HRW.
A number of Iranian made antipersonnel and antivehicle mines have been found in Afghanistan, used apparently by the Northern Alliance.
Besides this, Russia and Central Asian states openly declare their support to the deposed President Burhanuddin Rabbani's government.
According to the HRW report, Moscow has facilitated the transportation of Iranian aid, and provided logistical support: Military assistance to anti-Taliban forces has crossed the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border with the active collusion of the Russian government.
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan provide an indirect, passive and/or political support to the anti-Taliban coalition, said the report.
HRW is calling for placing monitors in Central Asian states to enforce the weapon embargo on the Northern Alliance.
Representatives of the Alliance deny they receive weapons from Russia but admit talk commercial transactions with Moscow.
According to Joost Hiltermann, director of Human Rights Watch's arms division: ''Civilians are at the center of this conflict and their well-being must be at the center of the solution.'' Yet on both Taliban and United-Front-ruled parts of Afghanistan, civilians are the first victims of political and military violence.
The have imposed a series of decrees dramatically affecting the daily life of women, girls, youth and minorities.
According to latest rules, women are prohibited to work with a few exceptions of female doctors and nurses, and to receive education.
As a result, all female employees have been discharged.
Girls are not allowed to receive education either and all schools for girls have been closed.
Men are ordered to wear Islamic clothes and a cap and must grow a beard long enough to protrude from a fist clasped at the point of the chin.
In Northern Alliance-controlled areas, civilians are also victims of political violence.
While women are allowed to work, and have a limited social recognition, health conditions are deteriorating as a result of the ongoing conflict and record drought.According to Save the Children US, an NGO working in Northern Afghanistan, child mortality rates are reaching alarming levels.
While normal rates are two children per 10,000 people, the rate is now 5.9 children under the age of five per 10,000 people, says Lisa Laumann, deputy director of the Afghan programme of Save the Children.
Disease and lack of nutrition are the main causes of death. Laumann explains there has been virtually no immunization in the region.
A majority of young men have left the province and even the country to find work, leaving women, children and elders to fend for themselves.
Obviously, a solution to the Afghan conflict must come from coordinated efforts of the international community.
The existing Six Plus Two Group that includes China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, all bordering Afghanistan, as well as Russia and the US claims it is making all possible efforts to bring peace.
Yet at the same time some of its members are providing weapons and funds to both sides of the conflict
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
PESHAWAR: Northern Alliance has claimed that the Taliban militia's seven commanders along with their 97 armed men have joined hands with General Ismail Khan in Shahrak and Taura districts of Ghor province.Taliban side has so far not commented on the context of the report.
By UN correspondent Greg Barrow
Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
The United Nations Security Council is finalising the details of a new resolution designed to tighten the monitoring and enforcement of UN sanctions against the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan.
The resolution calls for the establishment of a five-member sanctions monitoring team at UN headquarters in New York, and a sanctions enforcement team of up to 15 people to be deployed in the border regions of countries neighbouring Afghanistan.
The new resolution is designed to improve the effectiveness of the arms embargo already imposed on the Taleban.
This new Security Council resolution is being considered in the light of widespread reports that UN sanctions against the Taleban authorities are being abused.
Although the Security Council has been at pains to avoid accusing Pakistan of openly flouting the arms embargo against the Taleban, diplomats admit privately that the Pakistani authorities may well be guilty of turning a blind eye to weapons trading across their long border with Afghanistan.
For its part, Pakistan has always insisted that although it disagrees with the sanctions regime in principle, as a UN member state it has upheld its obligation to observe the weapons embargo.
The new resolution seeks to introduce measures designed to monitor abuse of the sanctions regime.
The biggest challenge the proposed field team will face is how to police traffic across a border that runs for more than 5,000 km (3,125 miles) through some of the most rugged terrain in the world.
The new resolution comes amidst continuing criticism of the current sanctions regime.
Human rights groups say the sanctions are making life for Afghan civilians unbearable, while some have called for a more comprehensive sanctions policy that would prevent the flow of arms to the Taleban's opponents as well.
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
PESHAWAR: The ruling Taliban have established a checkpost near the Torkham border to check the influx of refugees in Pakistan.
According to details, the Taliban militia has established a checkpost near the border with Pakistan with the purpose to verify the documents of those refugees intending to cross border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
The report said that the checkpost personnel were looking into the passports and special cards issued to the refugees by the Afghan Commissionerate at Peshawar so that the entrance of illegal Afghans into Pakistan be curtailed.
After the establishment of this checkpost,the report revealed, the number of illegal Afghan refugees has registered a rapid fall.
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
GENEVA (Agencies): The U.N.'s leading refugee agency said on Thursday it was alarmed at the rising number of refugees being sent back to their countries of origin despite possible threats to their lives.Under article 33 of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which marks its 50th anniversary on Saturday no country should expel or return a refugee to territories where "his life or freedom would be threatened." "This, I find really reprehensible," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers.
"If refugees are sent back to danger or prevented from leaving their countries in the first place then all the other measures designed to protect them count for nothing," he said.
The UNHCR pointed the finger at no countries in its statement issued to mark the anniversary of the convention.
But in recent weeks it has criticized the return of Afghan refugees by Pakistan and Iran, and by China sending escaping North Koreans home.
UNHCR officials said the agency was currently analyzing the extent of the practice in terms of the number of countries involved and the number of people affected.
The agency, which was recently forced to cut back on its aid programmes due to budget shortfalls, said it was also concerned that in recent months questions had been raised as to the continuing need for the convention.
"Politics are being played at the expense of the convention and, therefore, of the refugees it protects," it said.
The UNHCR said the attacks on the convention which it did not further specify had apparently been motivated by the rising number of asylum-seekers, the perception that the majority of asylum-seekers were 'bogus', and the high costs involved in maintaining asylum-seekers.
While acknowledging the concerns, Lubbers said that any criticism of the convention in this respect tended to ignore some basic facts.
"The main reason the numbers soared was that there were three major wars in Europe during the 1990s, in addition to numerous other conflicts around the world." The convention, he said, had been wrongly blamed for a collective failure to manage the soaring number of would-be economic immigrants.
Lubbers added that some countries were detaining every asylum-seeker entering the country without the proper documents, a move which was not only expensive and inhumane but which also possibly violated the convention.
Afghan refugees' eviction from Nasir Bagh attracts flak
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
PESHAWAR (IRIN): Facing eviction, a frail but very vocal Zahir Khan Jabberkhel was one of the first residents at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp for Afghans in NWFP.
Now, 20 years on, he and the other 120,000 Afghans at the site are being forced to leave by the Pakistani government to make way for a new housing development."It is a catastrophe," he told IRIN.
"We are not going out of our free will and we don't know where to go." Jabberkhel asked how it was possible for the refugees to return to Afghanistan when the ongoing civil war is showing no sign of ending and there is a growing humanitarian crisis.
"We cannot go back and we cannot afford to move to another Pakistani city," he said.
"Pakistan is not getting international aid that is why they say they cannot house us.
The housing development is just an excuse," Jabberkhel said, when asked why he thought the camp was being closed.
He explained that the policy against Afghan refugees had worsened with the change in government following the 1999 coup by General Pervez Musharraf, now President of Pakistan.
Jabberkhel was worried that the situation could get even worse.
Nasir Bagh has proven a contentious issue between the Pakistani authorities and the international aid community following an eviction order by Islamabad this spring.
The refugees are furious and ignored a 30 June deadline for eviction but, a few days, later elders from the camp said they would leave.
Two thousand one hundred and twenty six Afghan families vacated their homes and returned through a UN facilitated repatriation programme between 3-19 July, but many are still faced with the dilemma of where to go next.
Eighty percent of the 231 families interviewed at Nasir Bagh said they "don't know where they will go or whether to remain in Pakistan," according to an International Rescue Committee (IRC) report released on Monday.
Many made it clear that they were financially unable to resettle elsewhere and the results underscore an urgent need for a screening process.
Screening and Alternative Accommodation Needed "There needs to be a comprehensive screening programme to determine who can stay," IRC country director for Pakistan/ Afghanistan, Sigurd Hanson, told IRIN.
The government of Pakistan and UNHCR should be prepared to find substantial numbers of persons in Nasir Bagh who qualify for refugee status when the proposed screening is conducted, according to the IRC.
The NGO's survey figures suggested "that many Nasir Bagh residents may have well-founded fears of persecution in Afghanistan," it said.
Hanson maintained that Nasir Bagh was not like the makeshift Jalozai camp near Peshawar, where people fed up with the poor living conditions are fleeing back to their homeland.
Only 17 percent of the Nasir Bagh interviewees said they would return to Afghanistan, according to the assessment.
Demolished houses built by Afghan refugees at Nasir Bagh Only after adequate housing is available will the government be able to vacate Nasir Bagh without creating a crisis elsewhere, the IRC report stated.
"If alternative shelter is not found for those who stay in Peshawar, there could be a major crisis in the city," Hanson said.
Pakistan's first priority should be to identify and secure alternative accommodation for a large number of Afghans who will inevitably remain in the country after the closure of the camp, the IRC report stated.
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
HERAT (SANA): Afghanistan is on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, said an non-governmental organisation official who is hosting two and a half lakh refugees in the province."Ten thousand Afghans are heading towards a refugee camp every week.
The war and drought have displaced many people" official Robb Shaffle said in interview with BBC.
"I never saw such a bad situation.
People are digging earth to escape hot weather and wind.
The Maslakh camp is located in a desert and the UN says that humanitarian catastrophe is worst here.
Last month, the WFP said that five million Afghans were facing the danger of famine, I saw some children at the Maslakh camp, whose bodies were reduced to just bones and skin.
People say they are hungry for one week," he said.
He said that at present they could just provide these refugees with basic amenities. "We are providing just food, water and medicines to them.
Many children are stricken by skin diseases, who need treatment. People in the Afghan villages face the worse situation, as they do not enjoy any facilities.
Therefore, we are trying to provide relief goods to them at their villages so that they are not forced to shift to camps" he informed.
He said that they held talks with the UN recently and the UN officials said that they needed more international assistance for helping the Afghan people.
7/27/2001 11:05:42 AM
TEHRAN (Agencies): A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tehran separated his office from a report of United Nations Information Center (UNIC) stating that Afghan refugees were experiencing instances of violence perpetrated against them in Iran.Ron Redmond, UNHCR official has stated that the agency is becoming increasingly concerned about some outbursts of violence against Afghans living in Iran.
The UNHCR spokesman was referring to isolated clashes which took place in an overpopulated housing state in southern Tehran last Tuesday.
Redmond, the high commissioner, painting a stark picture of the situation, in an exaggerated move has written to the Iranian interior minister raising his concern about the sporadic incidents.
The concern of the UNHCR over the plight of refugees is admirable and we too believe that such incidents, isolated as they are, could be instrumental in creating bad feelings and tension amongst the refugee community in Iran.
It is hoped however that the concern of the UNHCR is not limited only to random instances in Iran.
It is well known to the UNHCR and in particular to its Tehran office that the Islamic Republic of Iran has for the past two decades welcomed and sheltered millions of Afghan refugees.
Even the commissioner himself has said "Iran has been among the world's most generous hosts to refugees".
So what prompts such statements and declaration of concern over incidents that although unfortunate and regrettable are by no means a concerted effort against the refugees who are treated more like guests of the country? We shall have more to say on this in due course.
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