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April 24, 2003

Afghanistan's Karzai hands terrorist list to Pakistan
Wed Apr 23, 7:30 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Afghanistan has begun submitting lists of wanted "war criminals and terrorists" to Pakistan in an effort to stamp out Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists lurking along the neighbours' mountainous border, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said.

"In a meeting with the Pakistani prime minister, we spoke of some people, in general terms," Karzai told reporters at the end of a two-day state visit to the Pakistani capital. He was referring to his hour-long discussion with Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali on Tuesday.

"We are going to come up with a more specific list of names who will be considered criminals of war against the Afghan people. There are people who are definitely terrorists."

He named Akhtar Mohammad Usmani, a deputy of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's intelligence chief, Mullah Biradar, the militia's internal security chief and Hafiz Mujeeb, a lower-ranking commander.

Many Afghan officials, suspicious of Pakistan for its previous nurturing and support of the Taliban regime, have accused it of allowing sanctuary for fugitive extremists in its remote tribal border regions.

Afghan and United States forces hunting the extremists have come under repeated attack along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, leading to suspicions that anti-US and anti-Kabul groups have been regrouping on the Pakistani side.

Karzai did not say where the wanted men were believed to be hiding, but warned that they would cause trouble for Pakistan if they had taken shelter here.

"These people are criminals. Yesterday they were in Afghanistan. They created havoc. Today, if you allow them a place in Pakistan, they will probably cause the same trouble here.

"We want terrorists, whether in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, arrested and tried... for the benefit of both the countries. It is not that only Afghanistan will get hurt. Pakistan will get hurt equally."

Karzai said terrorists lurking along the mountainous border "and their occasional acts of terror inside Afghanistan," were the biggest challenge facing his war-shattered nation.

"If Afghanistan and Pakistan can adopt a proper operational strategy to curb extremism and terrorism on both sides of the border, there is no chance for anybody to emerge in any form in Pakistan," he said.

Karzai and President Pervez Musharraf late Tuesday had a "very sincere discussion" on the issue of remnant terrorists "and we have resolved to address it."


Pakistan, Afghan FMs renew anti-terror commitment
Wed Apr 23, 4:40 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed here to step up their joint fight against terrorism and to hold regular meetings to discuss their efforts.

"A broad understanding is there. This is not something new, but this two-day visit and yesterday's meetings strengthened that resolve," Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told reporters following talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri on Wednesday.

"I think there is a full understanding that it is only in the interests of both countries to expand good and friendly relations. To capitalise on it will be in the best interests of peace and stability in our region," he said.

Abdullah was part of the top-level delegation accompanying Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Islamabad for a two-day state visit which started Tuesday.

Tackling the suspected re-grouping of former Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters and loyalists of radical Islamist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was high on the agenda of talks between leaders of the uneasy neighbours.

Many Afghan officials remain suspicious of Pakistan for its previous nurturing and support of the Taliban regime, and have accused it of allowing sanctuary for fugitive extremists in its remote tribal border regions.

Afghan and US forces hunting the extremists have come under repeated attack along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, leading to suspicions that anti-US and anti-Kabul groups have been regrouping on the Pakistani side.

Karzai and President Pervez Musharraf met late Tuesday and pledged to jointly combat terrorism.

"We will fight terrorism all the way. We are mutually complementing each other to tackle the problems," Musharraf told reporters after talks at the presidential palace.
"The objectives are the same. The threat and visualisation of the concern are the same, therefore the strategic perceptions of the two countries are the same."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri said the two sides had agreed to meet twice a year, once in Islamabad and once in Kabul, to discuss efforts to clamp down on extremists.

"Both of us gave agreed that there will be a regular contact between us... so that we can take stock of the situation and make sure that the decisions that were arrived at between President Karzai on one side and President Musharraf and Prime Minister Jamali on the other are actually implemented," he said.

Future regular meetings would ensure "there is no cause whatsoever for interested quarters to try and spread disinformation and misgivings."

Foreign ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said Monday that accusations Pakistan was sheltering extremists were "ridiculous and baseless" and made by "vested interests who would like to create these kinds of misuderstandings."



Afghan President Shows Cards in Pakistan's Taliban Deck
By CARLOTTA GALL The New York Times April 24, 2003
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 23 — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan asked Pakistan today to hand over Taliban figures that it accuses of being terrorists and that it says are being sheltered in Pakistan.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali during a state visit to Pakistan, Mr. Karzai named specific Taliban commanders who he said were guilty of war crimes and were also behind a continuing campaign of violent attacks against the Afghan government.

"We spoke of people in general terms," Mr. Karzai said after the meeting. "We are going to come up with a more specific list of names who will be considered criminals of war against the Afghan people. There are people who are definitely terrorists."

Kabul has grown increasingly alarmed about attacks launched from Pakistan on Afghan government forces in the border regions, and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of aiding and abetting them, or of doing little to stop them.

Pakistan was a major backer of Afghanistan's Taliban leadership, and despite the government's new position as an ally of the United States in its war against terror, there remains strong support for the Taliban in both the Pakistani government and on the street.

Among the Taliban figures named today by Mr. Karzai was Maulavi Akhtar Muhammad Usmani, the former Taliban corps commander of Kandahar and a close associate of the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, who is thought to be behind an ambush that killed two American servicemen last month.

He also cited Mullah Dadullah, a commander responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Taliban government, who claimed responsibility for a roadblock in southern Afghanistan where a Red Cross engineer was shot and killed last month.

Mr. Karzai also named Mullah Bradar, a senior Taliban commander whom the American military was hunting for last year, and a lower ranking commander, Hafiz Mujib.

During his two-day state visit to Pakistan, Mr. Karzai has been careful not to accuse Islamabad openly of undermining his government by supporting Taliban figures, but he warned that the attacks across the border represented a grave threat to his government and that the threat could rebound on Pakistan.

"These people are criminals," Mr. Karzai said. "Yesterday they were in Afghanistan. They created havoc. Today, if you allow them a place in Pakistan, they will probably cause the same trouble here."

"We want terrorists, whether in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, arrested and tried," he continued. "It is not that only Afghanistan will get hurt. Pakistan will get hurt equally."

After meeting with Mr. Karzai today, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan told journalists that Islamabad would join Kabul to "fight terrorism all the way."

His statement of support came amid reports of more violence in Afghanistan. Two Afghan soldiers, including a senior government commander, were killed and seven wounded when a roadside bomb tore into their vehicle several miles south of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. Local officials blamed Taliban supporters and said the bomb was a remote-controlled device, detonated as the army vehicle approached.

There was also fighting in Oruzgan province in central Afghanistan, where government forces pursued a group of Taliban they said had tried to blow up a bridge and attack a government checkpoint on the main road in the province.

American forces, meanwhile, were engaged in an operation in Kandahar to capture a group thought to be responsible for the murder of an expatriate Red Cross worker last month. On Monday, American troops raided a compound and killed a man who they said they believed was the assassin of Ricardo Munguia, 39, a water engineer from El Salvador. Seven more men were arrested.

The military was confident that the dead man was the assassin, an American military spokesman, Lt. Col. Douglas Lefforge, said in a telephone interview from the military headquarters at Bagram Air Base.


Nascent Afghan education system faces budget woes: minister
KABUL, April 23 (AFP) - Afghanistan could be forced to turn children away from school if its requested education budget does not materialise, Education Minster Yunus Qanooni said Wednesday.
The ministry's proposed 200 million dollar budget for this school year, which started March 23, had been approved but Qanooni said it had only received 86 million dollars to date.

"The challenge that the ministry of education is facing is that if we are not successful in receiving the proposed budget next year or this current year we will have a big problem in the education sector," he told reporters at a press conference.

"Last year it was the government or ministry of education who was asking the parents to send their children to school and the children to come to school," he said.

"If we are not successful in getting our proposed budget, this year we will be forced to stand at the school gates and tell the children not to come to school."

Last year 3.3 million children flocked to schools for their first post-Taliban lessons and for most of the girls their first ever lessons after the fall of the militia that banished females from the classroom.

Qanooni said he expected about 5.8 million children to attend school this year.

Most of Afghanistan's schools were destroyed or badly damaged during 23 years of war. Many students currently attend classes in tents while their schools are being rebuilt with international help.

Higher Education Minister Sharif Fayez said Afghanistan was hoping to use information technology to help overcome a lack of resources and qualified teaching staff.

Plans were underway to establish distance learning centres to link Kabul University to the provinces and to affiliated institutions abroad with help from a Berlin university, he said.

"Our vision for the future is to use technology for distance learning, in this area we have taken some steps," he said.

US networking hardware giant Cisco Systems has built a computer centre in Kabul University and the first networking students graduated earlier this month.

"The ministry of higher education places significance on the use of information technology so that we can jump from the middle ages to the modern age, linking our academic institutions with several universities in the West and also in Asia," he said.

Afghan universities have established links with five Japanese universities and several US, German and French ones, including Lyons, he said.

"So our academic society is no longer isolated from the world." While Afghanistan had not been very successful in attracting academic returnees, especially those teaching in US and European universities, Fayez said technology could help overcome this shortcoming.

"This is an area in which we need a lot of help; faculty development is very important and we hope that by using information technology we would be able to compensate for this problem."


U.S. Says Juveniles Among Guantanamo Prisoners
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A handful of the Afghan war prisoners held at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been identified as juveniles and have been separated from the adult prisoners, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.

Those under 18 represent ``less than half a dozen'' of the 660 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo, said a spokesman for the joint military task force running the prison operation.

The spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said the boys had been ``pressed into becoming combatants, in this case by known warlords in Afghanistan.''

Military officials would not give the boys' names, nationalities or ages.

But Canada's foreign minister said in October that a Canadian teen arrested in Afghanistan was at Guantanamo. He identified the boy as Omar Khadr, then 16, who was arrested after being wounded in a July firefight with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

News that there were several juveniles at the prison camp prompted an outcry from rights group Amnesty International, which has long urged the United States to either charge the Guantanamo prisoners with crimes and try them, or let them go.

``Amnesty International is deeply disturbed that the United States, under the assumption that they are 'enemy combatants,' is holding children at Guantanamo Bay,'' said Dr. William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

``The detention of children in these circumstances is particularly repugnant and flouts basic principles for the protection of children under international law.''

Most of the Guantanamo prisoners were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan during the U.S. military campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban government. The United States began moving them to the remote base in southeastern Cuba in January 2002.

While the United States has pledged to respect the detainees' rights under the Geneva Convention, it has refused to declare them prisoners of war, leaving them in a legal limbo in which foreign courts cannot interfere and U.S. courts have ruled they have no jurisdiction.

None of the prisoners has been charged with a crime and only about two dozen have been released from Guantanamo.

Johnson said the juveniles are housed together but separate from the adult prisoners and are under the watch of guards trained to deal with adolescents. They receive some schooling in basic reading, writing and math and have access to medical care and mental health professionals, he said.

``They're generally healthy and they receive regular exercise,'' he said by phone from Guantanamo. ``A real effort is being made to ensure their emotional and physical well being.''

Amnesty said that even so, detaining them without access to courts, families or lawyers ``is in serious breach of the special protections that should be afforded to juvenile detainees'' under an international treaty the United States ratified last year.

The group said it was ``particularly disturbed'' by reports the juvenile prisoners had been interrogated.

Military officials would not comment on those reports but have said previously the Guantanamo prisoners were being interrogated in hopes they could provide information that would help thwart attacks against the United States.



Pakistan Wants India to Join Gas Project
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) Pakistan wants India to participate in a $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline project now that tensions between the nuclear rivals appear to be easing, the foreign minister said Wednesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Kursheed Kasuri said Pakistan would like India to join the 1,000-mile central Asia pipeline project in the spirit of reconciliation started by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Last week, Vajpayee called for negotiations to settle outstanding disputes between the two nations.

``I would like to say to India: Pakistan has a vital interest in improving relations with India,'' Kasuri said.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan first invited India to join the pipeline project in February, indicating the plan would not be economically viable without New Delhi's participation.

The project, which will take three years to complete, is expected to transport up to 39.2 billion cubic yards of gas from the Dauletabad fields in Turkmenistan to consumers in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

India, the main potential buyer of Turkmen gas, so far has shown little interest in participating because of tense relations with Islamabad.

New Delhi says its main concern is that the pipeline through Pakistan would not be safe. Feuding tribes have attacked a major pipeline in Pakistan several times.

Kasuri said Pakistan is ready to meet New Delhi's demands for the pipeline's security, adding that trade between the two countries is a good beginning to improve relations even without a settlement in Kashmir.

Both countries lay claim to the disputed Himalayan state and have twice gone to war over it.



U.S. army kills aid worker's assassin
Wednesday April 23, 4:46 PM
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The U.S. military says it has killed an Afghan man in a firefight who it believes was responsible for the murder of a Red Cross worker in the south of the country last month.
Ricardo Munguia, an El Salvadorean working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, was pulled from his car and shot dead by suspected Taliban militants in the southern province of Kandahar on March 27.

The U.S. military said it had conducted a raid on Monday aimed at catching those responsible, adding that the raid had been carried out in coordination with the Afghan government and on the basis of information gathered from Afghans.

"Seven persons were captured and the eighth person, believed to be the assassin, was killed after opening fire on U.S. forces," Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Lefforge told reporters at Bagram air base, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the U.S. military announced it had killed one man and detained seven others in a raid, but did not at that stage give details of who they were or why the raid was carried out.

Lefforge said a company of coalition soldiers backed by four Blackhawk helicopters carried out a follow-up "search and seizure" mission in the Shurkay area, north of Kandahar city on Tuesday, based on information gleaned in the first raid.

He said they had detained another seven people and seized a cache of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

But he said efforts were still under way to track down everyone involved in the death of Munguia, since the assassin was reported to have received the order to kill the aid worker after making a satellite phone call.

INSTABILITY HAMPERS AID

Munguia's death was the first killing of a foreign aid worker in Afghanistan for at least five years, and raised concerns that security issues would prevent aid workers from reaching more of Afghanistan's most vulnerable people.

In a further sign of instability in the volatile south of the country, a senior official said two Afghan government soldiers and three suspected Taliban rebels were killed when rebels ambushed a patrol in Uruzgan province on Monday night.

Uruzgan Governor Jan Mohammad Khan told Reuters Taliban forces had fired rockets at an Afghan patrol in Gizab district, some 85 km (53 miles) north of the provincial capital Tarin Kowt.

He said Afghan forces returned fire, killing three suspected Taliban rebels and wounding three others.

"The Taliban fled the area after the ambush and no one was arrested," he said, speaking late on Tuesday.

Lefforge said 11 rockets were fired at a U.S. base near the eastern village of Shkin on Tuesday, close to the Pakistan border. An Afghan army post in the eastern town of Khost was also attacked later that day, wounding one soldier, he said.

Some Afghan officials say the fundamentalist Taliban militia, ousted late in 2001 by U.S.-backed opposition groups, is trying to regroup in neighbouring Pakistan, helped by some Pakistani officials. Islamabad has denied this.

More than 11,000 U.S. and allied troops are in Afghanistan hunting leaders of the former Taliban regime and the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.


Afghan Soldiers Battle Suspected Taliban
Wed Apr 23,12:51 PM ET  By TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan soldiers battled suspected Taliban fighters Wednesday, trading mortar and rocket fire across the Afghan-Pakistan border, an Afghan commander said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The battle came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was on a two-day state visit to Pakistan, where he said Wednesday he would give Pakistan a "most-wanted" list of Taliban fugitives.

Afghan authorities, who say Taliban forces are regrouping after being defeated in a U.S.-led war, have long said Taliban remnants have bases in Pakistan and are using the country's lawless, deeply conservative tribal regions to launch cross-border attacks in an attempt to destabilize Karzai's government.

Afghan soldiers near the Afghan village of Shinki came under fire shortly after midnight from assailants just across the rugged border in Pakistan, sparking a skirmish that lasted several hours, Gen. Khial Baz said.

"They fired on our positions from inside Pakistan, and we fired back," Baz said by telephone from the eastern province of Khost.

Baz said he did not believe any Pakistani soldiers were involved in the fighting. Afghan border guards clashed with their Pakistani counterparts last week in Ghulam Khan, another border village about 25 miles to the west.

Karzai met Tuesday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali. His message to both was the same: Pakistan and Afghanistan have to work together to curb terrorism and religious extremism.

Pakistan once was the main supporter of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime, but the country abruptly cut ties with the Taliban after the U.S.-led war to oust them.


Two deminers attacked in eastern Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, April 22 (AFP) - Two Afghan deminers from an international organisation were shot and injured by unknown gunmen in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.
The assailants fired at the deminers' vehicle as they were driving down the main highway between Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad, the private Pakistan-based newsagency said.

The wounded men were brought to Pakistan for medical treatment, Pakistani border officials told AIP.

The pair worked for the Mine Clearance Programme for Afghanistan (MCPA).

Foreign aid organisations in Afghanistan have come under increasing attack in recent weeks. Last month a Salvadoran-born Swiss man working for the International Committee of the Red Cross was pulled from his car and shot dead in central Uruzgan province.

After 24 years of conflict, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, with an estimated 10 million mines scattered across the country.


Spike in Afghanistan Violence Leads to New Pressure on Pakistan
U.S., Afghan Officials Want Islamabad to Root Out Regrouped Taliban's Backers
Ahmed Rashid The Wall Street Journal.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Afghanistan's worsening security problem is forcing the U.S. to put pressure on Pakistan to help stabilize the situation.

Over the past several months, attacks on U.S. and Afghan troops have increased, particularly in the south and east of the country. In Kabul, recent mine explosions have heightened fears that terrorists are operating inside the capital. Western diplomats and Afghan officials say rogue elements of Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, and the country's Islamic parties have renewed support for a reconstituting Taliban. Elements of the Taliban-as well as al Qaeda-based in Pakistan are presumed to be responsible for the attacks.

Yesterday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met in Islamabad with Pakistani leaders to urge them to rein in elements that allegedly are supporting Taliban activities along the nations' common border. The meeting came after U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad went to Pakistan last week to pave the way for the talks.

Mr. Karzai told a news conference yesterday that there are thousands of Taliban in Afghanistan and that while most can be left alone, "certain key leaders" must be apprehended. He said Pakistan had assured him of its full cooperation in the hunt for former leaders of the Taliban. <NO1>"As a brother, Pakistan will do all to help Afghanistan attain the best levels of safety and security," he said. "That sort of assurance I have from the government of Pakistan."

Mr. Karzai was scheduled to meet with the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, while other Afghan officials met with officers from the ISI, which backed the Taliban until after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Gen. Musharraf met with Mr. Karzai alone for two hours last night, but made no statement about the talks.

While Mr. Karzai's comments were noninflammatory, tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been rising. Last week, they accused each other of mounting incursions into each other's territory, after Afghan and U.S. troops chased a group of Taliban who attacked a U.S. base in Khost province and were escaping back into Pakistan.

Afghan officials also accused Pakistani intelligence agencies of organizing an ambush in the border town of Chaman on April 13, when unknown gunmen opened fire on a convoy, killing the cousin and injuring the brother of Gul Ahmed Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar province. Pakistan strongly denied the charges.

While it remains unclear whether Pakistan will take concrete steps to reduce tensions, the U.S. is pressuring Gen. Musharraf's government to do so. Last week, Mr. Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy, told reporters in Kabul that "it is not helpful" if Pakistani troops entered Afghanistan as a result of recent border incursions. "They ought to get out," he said.

He also warned against fomenting instability. "Success of the new Afghanistan ... is in America's interests, and any effort that undermines that stability is a challenge to U.S. interests," he said.

Pakistan reacted strongly to Mr. Khalilzad's comments. "These are totally ridiculous and baseless allegations that Pakistan would allow its soil to be used against the present government in Afghanistan," said Aziz Ahmed Khan, the Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The tougher line being taken by U.S. officials toward destabilizing influences in Afghanistan-even if it means annoying an ally such as Pakistan-is prompted in part by the increasing dangers the Taliban pose in the south of the country. It also is a reaction to harsh criticism the Bush administration is receiving from Afghan officials, Western aid agencies and the United Nations for its failure to ensure security, strengthen the central government and carry out reconstruction projects.

"Fighting terrorism is not about running with a gun and a horse and going after the baddies-it's done through reconstruction," Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, said in an interview with Indian state television on April 17.

Meanwhile, Mr. Karzai met with the country's warlords and commanders over the weekend to get their approval to launch a $125 million U.N. plan, funded by Japan and Canada, to demobilize over 100,000 soldiers loyal to warlords around the country. However, because of the dire security situation, it appears unlikely that many will agree to hand over their weapons. The U.S. has been blamed by critics for failing to control the landlords, many of whom it sponsored and armed in the war against the Taliban and which it continues to support.



AFGHANISTAN: Mixed reaction to Karzai's Pakistan tour
(IRIN) - ISLAMABAD, - Experts showed a mixed reaction to Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai's one-day state visit to Pakistan, which ended on Wednesday morning. This was his second visit to the neighbouring nation in one year.

"The visit was carried under the shadow of some Afghan authorities accusing Pakistan of interference in their country," an Afghan analyst, Roasthar Tarakai, told IRIN from the French city of Lyon. "It might be too early to assess the extent of his success or failure."

Karzai spent a busy day in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, meeting Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali and President Pervez Musharraf. The two sides agreed on the importance of defeating terrorism, enhancing bilateral trade and mutual cooperation in police training, and allowing extra flights.

Prior to Karzai's visit, the international media carried reports of Afghan officials accusing Pakistan of allowing Taliban to use its territory for cross-border operations. Moreover, Pakistani and Afghan forces exchanged fire over the border in Ghulam Khan village along the southeastern Afghan province of Khowst on 17 April.

However, Karzai played down reports of border tensions, and said he had been assured that Pakistan was not supporting extremists believed to be mounting attacks on Afghan and US forces from its side of the border. "Pakistan is a brother of ours and will do all [it can] to help Afghanistan attain the best levels of safety and security. That sort of assurance I have from the government of Pakistan," he told journalists on Tuesday.

Tarakai maintained that Pakistan gained little from the Bonn agreement, concluded after the fall of Taliban regime, which had been recognised by Islamabad. "Pakistan's regional rivals emerged victorious as the anti-Taliban Northern alliance grabbed a major share in power," he said, adding that Pakistan's current policy on Afghanistan consisted in searching for enhancing its role in the Afghan issue.

"We cannot balance the diverse regional interests of our neighbours until an elected government is formed in our country," he stressed. Tarakai went on to say that both nations needed to work towards a common better future.

An international relations expert and author, Rasul Baksh Rais, told IRIN from Pakistan's eastern Punjabi city of Lahore that Karzai's tour could be described as a routine visit. "It was meant to continue a process of dialogue and engagement between the two countries," he said.

"Pakistan's neutrality is important to end the conflict in Afghanistan," he said, adding that after the fall of the Taliban and the events of 11 September, Pakistan had become neutral on Afghan affairs and no longer interested in trying to bring to power a regime of its choice. He added that Pakistan had a vital role in the ongoing reconstruction effort of its western neighbour.

Although Islamabad pledged US $100 million in assistance to Afghanistan at the Tokyo donors' conference for Afghanistan, experts believe that Pakistan has been tardy in carrying out its promises.

While landlocked Afghanistan traded through its neighbours' territory by availing transit trade facilities, Afghan traders resent the presence of a negative list in Pakistan, barring them from importing certain items.

Meanwhile, the international media recently reported that the government of Iran was developing its southeastern port of Chabahar for the transit trade via the southern Afghan province of Nimruz. Meanwhile, Pakistan's arch-rival, India, was investing heavily in this project by developing hundreds of kilometres of roads between Chabahar and Nimruz.

Rais said future relations between the two countries depended on stability in Afghanistan, which might take years. "There is a misconception among Afghans, the Northern Alliance in particular, that they can develop themselves without Pakistan's support, which is vital," he added.


US warns Iran against actions in Iraq
Thursday April 24, 10:33 AM AFP
The United States said it had warned Iran against "any outside interference" in Iraq and begun military patrols near the border, amid concerns that Tehran may have sent agents to push its brand of Islamic government.

"We have well-known channels of communication with Iran and we have made clear to Iran that we would oppose any outside interference in Iraq's road to democracy," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"Infiltration of agents to destabilize the Shi'a population would clearly fall into that category," Fleischer said, amid media reports that Tehran had dispatched agents to shore up its interests in Iraq.

Fleischer would not explicitly confirm the reports, and dodged repeated questions on the precise nature of Washington's message to Tehran.

But US Central Command said Marines have begun patrolling stretches of the Iraqi border with Iran in order to screen border traffic for hostile infiltrators.

The patrols involve members of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion attached to Task Force Tarawa and have been underway in northeastern Iraq since Monday, it said.

"The patrols were designed to maintain Iraqi territorial integrity and will simultaneously assist Iraqi expatriates to return home to their loved ones as well," the command said in a statement.

The White House rebuke recalled a similar warning in the aftermath of the US-led campaign in Afghanistan, when Washington cautioned Iran not to seek to expand its influence in eastern areas.

Earlier, The New York Times, citing US officials, reported that Iran-trained agents were crossing into southern Iraq to promote friendly Shiite clerics and possibly an Iranian model of Islamic government.

The unnamed officials told the daily that, based on intelligence reports, some agents were members of the Badr Brigade, the military wing of an Iraqi exile group operating from Iran, and irregular members of a special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Fleischer downplayed concerns that Iran would win a warm welcome in Iraq, even though both nations have a predominantly Shiite Muslim population, because those populations are very different.

"I think that any efforts or anybody outside of Iraq to try to create an outsider's version of what should take place for the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people, will not have much chance of success," said Fleischer.

The United States severed formal diplomatic ties with Iran after the 1979 revolution and the bitter embassy hostage crisis.

Washington routs most of its contacts with Tehran through the Swiss diplomatic mission in the Iranian capital as well as through a Geneva-based, UN-sponsored forum created to discuss Afghanistan.

US President George W. Bush has lumped Iran in with Iraq and North Korea in an "axis of evil." Lately, however, his public warnings have been aimed more at Syria, which he accused of harboring remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Tehran may be seeking to promote an Iranian model of government or at least building bases of support for Iran.

Iraq's majority Shiite population was oppressed for years under Saddam's dictatorship. After the 1991 Gulf War, the US-led coalition, it is believed, did not try to overthrow Saddam for fear that a Shiite-led Islamic goverment would take his place.

Fleischer strove to differentiate between US opposition to "an Islamic dictatorship" and a new Iraqi government run by Muslims.

"I think it's a given that it will be an Islamic leader, it's an Islamic country."

"That's different from an Islamic dictatorship that doesn't respect the religious disagreements among the people, that is not tolerant, that is dictatorial, that is closed, that doesn't govern by a rule of law or transparency," he added.


Afghanistan Offered Help From Pakistan to Rebuild Industries
Thursday April 24, 9:16 AM
ISLAMABAD, April 24 Asia Pulse - Pakistan has offered technical assistance to Afghanistan for the rehabilitation of sugar and cement industry including joint ventures in different sectors.

Liaquat Ali Jatoi, Minister for Industries and Production, told reporters that they offered technical know-how to Afghanistan for industrialisation and joint ventures through the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC).

The issue of power shortages in Afghanistan also came under discussion, and the Pakistani side offered that it was ready to send experts to conduct a survey for hydro and thermal power projects.

Jatoi further said that Pakistan has asked the delegation to import construction and road machinery from Pakistan, which would not only reduce their cost but also promote Pakistan's engineering sector.

During the talks, both sides discussed the possibilities to develop the mining sector and Pakistani expressed an interest in importing iron ore from Afghanistan for export purposes after purification.


Afghanistan applies to WTO club
By Stefan Armbruster BBC News Online business reporter
Afghanistan starts on the long road to WTO membership
Afghanistan has asked to join the 146-member World Trade Organisation (WTO), but it could take years before it is admitted.
The transitional government, installed by the US in December 2001, sent the request to the trade body on 10 April, a WTO spokesman told BBC News Online.

The 146-member general council meets on 15 May when the request will be tabled, and if accepted will give Afghanistan observer status.

This would allow officials from Afghanistan to attend WTO meetings, even though the country wasn't yet a proper member of the organisation.

"If there are no objections, a working party will be established to consider the application but it is the start of a fairly long process," said WTO spokesman Luis Ople.

Afghanistan would join a waiting list of 26 countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Serbia who also want to join.

Fast track
The working party will negotiate terms and conditions of membership.

"Afghanistan is eligible under the fast track procedures recently adopted by the WTO for poorer countries," said Mr Ople.

"The applicants are given extensive technical assistance and the demands are less stringent," he added.

Usually applicants must make their laws consistent with the WTO rules before they become members.

Fast tracking gives poorer countries longer transition periods to introduce the necessary laws.

Waiting list

But it could still take many years before Afghanistan is admitted.

China's application took a record 15 years to process before it joined in December 2001.

Requests by Iran, Syria and Libya have been blocked by the US and as a result they do not even enjoy observer status.

Cambodia and other countries could be given full-membership at the WTO's ministerial meeting in September in Cancun, Mexico.


Afghan Minister Hails Iran's Efforts at Returning Refugees
The Tehran Times April 24, 2003
TEHRAN Afghanistan's Minister for Refugee Affairs Enayatullah Nazari here expressed appreciation for Iran's efforts and measures taken to repatriate Afghan refugees to their homeland.

As he toured Mashhad's Repatriation Center, Nazari praised Iran's "positive" efforts toward implementing the province's repatriation plan, and called for more cooperation and assistance from the Islamic Republic to return Afghan refugees to their homeland, said IRNA.

The minister is also expected to visit refugee camps in the border cities of Torbat-e Jaam and Dogharoun in Iran's northeastern Khorasan Province.

Meanwhile, Isfahan's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) reported on Tuesday that over a thousand Afghan refugees have voluntarily returned to their country from the province since the start of the current Iranian year (started March 21, 2003).

Isfahan is one of the country's most active repatriation sites for Afghan refugees.

The ongoing repatriation of Afghans is governed by a tripartite accord signed in Geneva on April 3, 2002 by Iran, Afghanistan, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

At the time of the signing of the agreement, the number of Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic was placed at two million. Under the accord, all will hopefully be repatriated in the next three years.

Since the implementation of the accord, Afghan refugees have been required to present passports and valid visas to enter Iran and those found to have illegally entered are to be arrested in accordance with the country's immigration laws.

The accord further requires returning Afghans to pass through either the Dogharoun or Milak border checkpoints in Iran's northeastern Province of Khorasan and southeastern Province of Sistan-Baluchestan, respectively.

The returnees are given a cash grant to cover transportation cost that is calculated according to the distance traveled. They are also given food assistance and some household items to help them restart their lives back in their homeland.

Meanwhile, Enayatullah Nazari added that about two million Afghan refugees have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran since transitional government took office in the country.

Nazari said on Tuesday that moreover, about 100,000 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan from Britain, France, Australia, Thailand and some European states.

He said more than six million Afghans had left Afghanistan during 23 years of civil wars.

He added that international organizations and governments had spent 1.8 million dollars on Afghanistan reconstruction in 2002.

The minister said 500,000 Afghan refugees should repatriate from Iran annually and grounds have been prepared for the purpose.

He said more than 1.3 million Afghan refugees, residing in Pakistan, returned home under a trilateral agreement among Pakistan, Afghan transitional government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


Afghan refugees told to leave UK
JOHN ROBERTSON AND TRACEY LAWSON scotsman.com
AN AFGHAN asylum seeker whose removal from Scotland was delayed because of staff shortages at the Home Office was yesterday told he must leave the UK.

The Court of Session has ruled that Himid Khairandish and his son, Ramesh, must leave Glasgow, even though it is now more than a year since they arrived, the child is settled in school, and Mr Khairandish has found a new partner.

Mr Khairandish, 34, who says his wife and another child were killed in a Taleban raid, has been told he must return to Austria to make his asylum application, the first "safe" country he reached after fleeing his native Afghanistan.

Campaigners for asylum seekers yesterday criticised the decision, which they said failed to take into account the family’s humanitarian needs.

Robina Qureshi, of Positive Action in Housing, which campaigns against racial discrimination, said: "This decision forgets the emotions of these people. This man has started a new life in Scotland and it makes no sense to send him to Austria where he has no links. This is the letter of the law at work and it is forgetting human rights."

The decision by the Court of Session is in line with the Dublin Convention which governs asylum cases in the European Union. Under the convention, an application for asylum is usually heard by the country in which it is first made.

The court heard that Mr Khairandish and his son left Afghanistan in 2001, after alleged persecution by the Taleban. Intending to make a new life in Britain, Mr Khairandish arranged to travel to the UK by a route which stopped off in Austria. On arrival in Austria, he was interviewed at a refugee centre and made his claim for asylum.

People granted asylum by one European Union country have the right to move among other member states, and Mr Khairandish continued his journey to the UK without his application for asylum in Austria ever being considered. He arrived in the UK in August 2001, where he made another asylum application.

Mr Khairandish was given a flat in Brand Street, Govan, Glasgow, where he settled with his little boy.

However, in February 2002, the Home Office secured confirmation that Austria would deal with Mr Khairandish’s case because this was the first place he had sought asylum.

Under the Dublin Convention, immigration officials should have sent him and his child back to Austria within one month of the confirmation having been received.

But the Court of Session heard that due to "operational difficulties" caused by a lack of manpower at the Home Office, arrangements to remove them from the UK were not made until May 2002 - ten months after his arrival in the UK.

Mr Khairandish raised a court action against the Home Office, seeking a judicial review of the decision to remove him from the UK after the one month time limit set by the convention had passed.

His petition stated that both he and his son had settled and made friends in Glasgow, and that the boy is doing well in primary school.

It said of Mr Khairandish: "He has formed a relationship with Celia Wallace, who lives in Glasgow. It is a committed relationship. His son is also emotionally attached to her." Mr Khairandish has also been offered a college place to study television and video maintenance. The father and son have no links with Austria, the court was told.

However, Lord Drummond Young, presiding, said that Mr Khairandish’s claims to have settled in Glasgow were irrelevant. He ruled that the one month time limit could be relaxed "in special circumstances" - such as the lack of Home Office manpower available to supervise the transfer.


BRAC Afghan programme extends to Jalalabad
The Daily Star Internet Edition
BRAC-Afghanistan has expanded its multifaceted programme to Jalalabad bringing four provinces, in addition to Kabul, under its network, says a press release.

Starting its programme in July last year, BRAC-Afghanistan now has twelve offices with 130 staff.

So far 150 Village Organisations have formed with 4500 women members.

Loan disbursement to them amounts to over US$250,000.

BRAC has also set up 24 Primary Girls Schools and two health centres in rural areas. Another health centre has been handed over to BRAC by the government.

BRAC has also introduced Community Based Health Programme with about 200 women Health Volunteers. The community based health programme is the first of its kind in that country.

At the request of the Afghan Ministry of Education, BRAC had undertaken an Accelerated Education Programme in Kabul. Under this programme 35 women teachers of government schools were trained as Master Trainers for providing basic training to 632 teachers.

A capacity development programme for local NGOs will be undertaken with a BRAC Training Centre to be set up in Kabul shortly. Oxfam-Hong Kong has provided financial assistance for this programme.

Oxfam-Canada, Swedish International Development Agency, UNICEF and DFID are providing funds for the programmes of BRAC-Afghanistan.


125 Russian-made rockets seized near Afghan border
The News International (Pakistan)
PESHAWAR: Authorities in the NWFP have seized 125 rockets allegedly being smuggled from Afghanistan for terror attacks in Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday. "Some 125 Russian-made rockets were recovered from a truck loaded with animal fodder," said Zahirul Islam, an official in North Waziristan tribal region where the cache was seized late Tuesday. The area borders Afghanistan. Islam said the arms were being smuggled from eastern Afghanistan for "terrorist acts in Pakistan". The truck driver was being interrogated, he added. The arms cache is the third in the tribal territory in a week.


Hamid Karzai interview
(Financial Times) - Farhan Bokhari, the FT's correspondent in Islamabad, talked to Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan's transitional government, shortly before his return to Kabul on Wednesday. Mr Karzai addressed a range of issues from the fight against terrorism to co-operation with Pakistan and next year's promised parliamentary elections. The following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: You have been in power now for over a year. Do you think you're any closer to achieving your vision for Afghanistan?

A: The challenge that we face in Afghanistan is the continuation of terrorism and their presence along the borders of Afghanistan and the occasional activities that are happening inside Afghanistan and it is extremely important for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to strategically address this question of extremism and terrorism in the interests of the people of the two countries.

If the two of us, Afghans and Pakistanis address this question together in a strategic manner, Afghanistan will do very well and Pakistan will do very well. Other than that, in Afghanistan we don't have a difficulty. The institutions are being built, the political institutions, the government institutions are being built.

Along the way of course we'll have difficulties in implementing certain things but the clear picture ahead of us is one of a good prosperous Afghanistan, provided Afghanistan and Pakistan address the question of extremism and terrorism in a sincere, honest and brotherly manner.

Q: Do you think Pakistan is addressing this in as sincere a manner as you would like or are there gaps?

A: I've had a very sincere discussion with President Musharraf about all these questions and we have resolved to address it.

Q: You said during your visit that it is the Taliban leadership that concerns you, not the ordinary Taliban. Did you discuss the specifics with the government of Pakistan?

A: We have given them some names.

Q: How many? And is this is the first time you have given names?

A: It's not the first time that we have given names. The names have been floating around for long time. In the meeting with the [Pakistani] prime minister [Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali] we spoke of some people in general terms, but we're willing to come up with a more specific list of names that we consider to be criminals of war against the Afghan people... and we want to have them arrested.

Q: Who are you looking at that you think should be put on trial?

A: There are some people who are definitely terrorists, for example Akhtar Mohammad Usmani, for example Mullah Dadullah, for example Hafiz Majeed, for example there's a fellow whose name is coming up now, Hafiz Abdul Raheem

Q: Are there any assurances that these measures you talk about will be implemented soon?

A: I had a very very good conversation with the prime minister and the president. I'm sure in the interests of the two countries it has to be done, for Pakistan as well, because if you don't check extremism and the use of religion by terrorists to justify what they're doing, very soon we'll have a serious situation in Pakistan as well. These people are criminals and they will do anything to justify their stay in power or to achieve what they want. Yesterday, they were in Afghanistan, they created havoc. Today, if you allow them a place in Pakistan they will probably cause the same troubles here.

Q: Did President Musharraf say why these people haven't been arrested until now. It's been 18 months since you came to power and lots of people know where they are?

A: We didn't go that far.

Q: A lot of the justification here is India's policy and the fact that India is opening its consulates in Afghanistan. How did you explain that to president Musharraf?

A: This is an issue that has come up a lot. Afghanistan and India have had old relations, nothing new. The consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar were there after the independence of India. Its not a new development, its an old consulate, they simply came to reopen it.

Having said this I must be very specific here to say that Afghanistan is aware of the sensitivity of these things between India and Pakistan and Afghanistan doesn't want to be involved in the politics of the two countries. Afghanistan will not allow its territory to be used by one friend of ours against another friend and a brother of ours, that has to be understood very very clearly.

Afghan-India relations should have no bearing whatsoever in a negative manner towards Pakistan. If it can be positive we will welcome that of course. The same with Pakistan. Our relations with Pakistan shall not in any way affect our relations with India in a negative way. If it can be productive in a positive way, of course we'll be happy to deliver that. We are very careful, we will not let any consulate from any country to be used in Afghanistan against the other country.

We have had the Iran-America situation in Afghanistan, but we spoke to both of them. We said both are our friends, one is a neighbour and a brother, the other one is a friend and a strong supporter. They understood perfectly well. I hope it will be the same with regard to India and Pakistan.

Q: One of the things that's said here is that part of the problem is that Pakistanis do not have a security dialogue with Afghanistan at the level of the defence ministry and the military?

A: That is being established.

Q: So there is a chance that General Fahim, the Afghan defence minister, may travel here at some point?

A: He will travel, we've had other visits as well to Pakistan. We're developing that.

Q: Barnett Rubin, the US academic, says that Afghanistan's attempt to draft a new constitution could prove a meaningless exercise without efforts to improve security in the country. What's your response?

A: That's a good analysis. The constitution will be meaningless without a central army, a central police force, without the measures that are necessary to give the Afghan people the freedom to exercise their right to vote.

Q: Some critics say that Afghanistan is still a nation without a state. Is there any truth in such assertions?

A: I can say Afghanistan is a hell of a nation in this part of the world. That's been proven by the many years of war and the holding together of this country by the common people of Afghanistan. But I can also say that Afghanistan is a nation without strong state institutions. We have to give Afghanistan the state institutions. The institutions were there but they were destroyed in the past 30 years.

Q: What risk is there that Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, will play a destabilising role? Could he be forming alliances that will have to be dealt with in the future? Is he receiving support from outside, or even inside Afghanistan?

A: Mullah Omar can not play any role in destablising or getting together people in Afghanistan. If Afghanistan and Pakistan can adopt a proper operational strategy to curb extremism and terrorism on both sides (of the border), there is no chance for anybody to emerge (to challenge the government) in any form in Afghanistan.

Q: Where do you think Mullah Omar is?

A: I am not going to tell you.

Q: Is he in Afghanistan?

A: I don't think so.

Q: Where do you think he might be? In Pakistan?

A: I am not going to speak on this.

Q: Does your government have plans to recognise Israel, given that it has already been recognised by a Muslim country like Egypt?

A: No no no, we have no such plans.

Q: Are you going to run for election in 2004?

A: It depends on how we deliver to the Afghan people.

Q: Do you think the conditions are right for elections in 2004?

A: We're working to have proper conditions for holding elections. We recognise that elections, free and fair ones, require institutional structures and we're in a hurry to provide the Afghan people with those institutional structures. One of them is the constitution, the other is the army and the police, to protect them and to give them the right to vote.

Q: Have you decided that you will let your name stand for president?

A: I have not decided to run, I have not decided not to run. I am just not thinking about elections at this time for myself. I am thinking about building the institutions necessary to hold elections in Afghanistan.

Q: Is it your assessment that in a year's time Afghanistan will be stable enough for a transition of that kind to begin taking place?

A: Yes, it will be stable enough provided we, and our brothers in Pakistan, find a proper mechanism to curb terrorism. I keep repeating this, please note this.

Q: What do you think is the proper mechanism?

A: There have to be very good intentions between the two countries, which I find in President Musharraf, which I find in Prime Minister Jamali, and which I hope would be translated into action down the line. The same intentions are there in Afghanistan...We have to put this into reality by providing...facilities for the two people to trade, to work together and that way we'll be bringing about a change in Pakistan. I don't think pushing radicalism or extremism or ignoring the threat of terrorism is in the interest of anybody.

Q: You have said intentions are good at the top. Where does the problem lie?

A: There is no problem as such. The problem is curbing effectively terrorists when they cross from one country to another country, a proper effective mechanism has to evolve to do that, and we're working on that.

Q: There appears to have been an increase in attacks on US bases since the beginning of the Iraq war. Has the Iraq invasion compromised the ability of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) to carry out its mission?

A: ISAF is only in Kabul. It's not responsible for protection of the allied bases. The attacks are mostly in the territories closer to Pakistan, which brings us to the same question that I keep repeating, that we have to jointly fight terrorism. The terrorists felt that with the operation in Iraq they had an opportunity. They thought Saddam Hussain would stay in a huge fight, and this would give rise to a wider resentment (against the US) and an opportunity for the extremists.

That didn't happen, Saddam Hussain collapsed quickly and with that, probably, the little bit of boost in the morale of terrorism has also died down.

Q: From what we've heard from officials in your government, there seems to be a certain degree of frustration with the international response to reconstruction?

A: There was that kind of frustration last year. We have an improved situation this year. More money is coming directly to the Afghan government, more projects will be under the control of the Afghanistan government. This year the reconstruction is better. With regards to reconstruction we had a serious problem of information sharing and statistics. Now as the information keeps coming from various provinces of Afghanistan, a lot of reconstruction has actually taken place through the UN, through some of the NGOs that have done good work and governments as well. The picture with regards to infrastructure is much better than you imagine.



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