Afghan Renegade Continues Advance Despite Talks
By Sayed Salahuddin Fri Apr 9,10:39 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan strongman whose forces have overrun a northern province issued a stark warning to the U.S.-backed president on Friday -- fire the defense and interior ministers or your government will fail.
Even as a delegation led by Deputy Defense Minister General Mohibullah met General Abdul Rashid Dostum to urge him to withdraw his fighters from Faryab province, the militia advanced further having taken the provincial capital on Thursday.
Speaking to Reuters for the first time since his forces attacked Faryab on Wednesday, Dostum complained he had not been consulted about the deployment of hundreds of national army troops to the province to restore order.
"I will help with the national army and I should be trusted," he said.
Dostum, who has continued to angle for a top position despite losing favor since helping U.S. forces topple the Taliban in 2001, called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sack officials including Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali.
"If he does not, his government will fail," he said.
He said Fahim was only interested in extending his power, while Jalali had been out of the country working in Washington while Dostum and others were fighting to overthrow the former Taliban regime.
Dostum, an adviser to Karzai, also complained that U.S. planes hovered over his house in the town of Shiberghan on Thursday night.
"My kids were frightened, but let me say that I am not the type of man to be afraid," he said.
Karzai rushed troops to Maimana on Thursday but they arrived too late to stop the advance of Dostum's forces that forced the governor and provincial commander Mohammad Hashim Habibi to flee.
While few casualties have been reported, the latest factional unrest is bound to cause worries in Washington about the stability of Afghanistan as the country prepares for elections and U.S. troops pursue Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
It is an unwelcome headache in President Bush's own election year as U.S. forces struggle in Iraq.
TALKS GOING ON
Karzai has ordered the immediate withdrawal of Dostum's fighters from Faryab, but so far has been ignored.
"Talks are going on and we hope that the issue can be settled without confrontation," a Defense Ministry spokesman said.
Karzai's spokesman Jawed Ludin confirmed an Afghan Islamic Press report quoting Habibi as saying that Dostum's forces had continued their advances on Thursday night and Friday.
He said they captured the district of Belcharagh on Friday morning and occupied other eastern areas of the province.
"Our forces have retreated, but now fierce fighting is raging in Gurzawan," Habibi told AIP, adding that several people had been killed and wounded.
Ludin said 500 troops would be in Maimana by evening and it was now calm. "It will probably take a bit of time to bring the wider region under control, but it will be brought under control," he said.
Ludin said Dostum had contacted Kabul on Thursday and insisted he was not trying to challenge Karzai's authority and that he had not sent fighters into Faryab.
Asked what action Karzai would take against Dostum, Ludin said: "I don't think it's useful to speculate. We're looking into the factors and we will cross that bridge when we come to it."
On Thursday, Jalali termed Dostum's moves "unconstitutional" but the ethnic Uzbek, whose forces have been involved in several rounds of fighting for territory since the Taliban fell, has a sufficiently large powerbase to make him difficult to arrest.
It is the second time in weeks that Karzai has sent troops from the still infant national army to deal with unrest involving provincial militias targeted for disarmament and underlines the problems he faces keeping to his vow to disarm 40,000 by June. (Additional reporting by Hanan Habizai in Mazar-i-Sharif and David Brunnstrom in Kabul)
Afghan governor escapes after warlord seizes city Unrest far from Kabul threatens to derail vote slated for September
By Douglas Birch The Baltimore Sun April 9, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan - It was troubling news from a place with an unfamiliar name.
Troops loyal to one of Afghanistan's most powerful and notorious warlords swept into the northern provincial capital of Maymana yesterday, brushing aside security forces of the U.S.-backed central government and forcing the governor to flee.
Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum seized control of the city near the Turkmenistan border as more than 600 of his fighters advanced from three directions, said Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali.
One person was killed and 15 injured when a crowd stormed the governor's offices, he said, in what a Dostum spokesman described as a demonstration. The interior minister said the demonstrators were probably Dostum's soldiers.
"What General Dostum has done is against all military rules and the constitution of Afghanistan," Jalali told reporters.
Enayatullah Enayat, the governor of Fariab province appointed by the central government in Kabul, was reported to be safe at Maymana's airport last night.
The clash demonstrates how difficult it is for Afghanistan's central government to curb the power of the country's warlords, who have been accused of reaping billions in profits from extortion and the burgeoning heroin trade.
It raises questions about whether Afghanistan's national elections, scheduled for September, can be conducted free of violence and intimidation. And the events are also a potential embarrassment for the Bush administration, which has pointed to Afghanistan as a success story in the war on terrorism.
Some 750 Afghan National Army troops landed at Maymana's airport yesterday and moved into the city, aiming to restore order. Last night, Jalali said, government and militia forces jointly occupied the city without serious clashes.
"The situation is tense," he said in an interview in his Kabul office, after a late meeting with security officials. But, he added, "there has been no heavy fighting. Shots were fired, but mostly in the air."
Most of the 13,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan are deployed along the nation's rugged southern and eastern border with Pakistan, where they are engaged in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other ranking al-Qaida leaders.
Afghanistan's north and west, meanwhile, are regarded as a relatively secure places.
Less than a month ago, he dispatched 1,500 soldiers to the western city of Herat, after fighting between the forces of warlord Ismail Khan and a rival commander killed at least 16 people, including Khan's son, the minister of aviation.
Jalali said the conflict in the north was triggered by the decision of Hashim Habibi, a former Dostum commander in Fariab province, to publicly pledge his loyalty to the central government.
Over the past few days, Dostum's militia fighters encircled Habibi's 800 soldiers, deployed around Maymana. Dostum's forces then entered the capital with little or no resistance. There were reports, Jalali said, of the defection of scores of central government soldiers to Dostum's side.
Karzai spoke to Dostum by telephone yesterday, but talks have so far failed to resolve the crisis. "He said he was loyal to the central government," Jalali said. "But after all he did? It means he's violated many things."
"If we send police to Fariab, how many can we send and for how long?" Jalali asked Bigzad. The police official said he could muster several hundred officers in the next few days.
Deputy Interior Minister Alala Din Allal told Jalali that before Dostum's troops advanced into Maymana, the warlord spoke to Enayat, the provincial governor, by phone. "Dostum pressured him," Allal reported. "He said, 'You are keeping me from doing what I want.'"
So Enayat agreed to withdraw.
Jalali, a former Howard County resident who returned to Afghanistan a year ago at the request of Karzai, spoke to The Sun on Wednesday as the crisis in the north was unfolding.
Jalali said Afghanistan's warriors had proved to be "paper tigers" in previous confrontations with the government, which is backed up by the might of the U.S. military.
"Nobody in Afghanistan can defy the authority of the central government," he said. "Most of what the central government wants, 98 percent of it has been accomplished."
A spokesman for Dostum, Akbar Boy, told the Associated Press that provincial officials were using government money to influence the outcome of September's elections. He said government troops were welcome to remain in the province, but only if they didn't take sides in what he described as a political dispute.
He also disputed Jalali's account of the clashes in Maymana, saying that Enayat's guards had fired on the crowd, killing four, as the governor raced from the city.
Karzai troops restore calm in northern Afghanistan
By Victoria Burnett in Islamabad April 9 2004
The ousted governor of the northern Afghan province of Faryab was in hiding with a broken leg on Friday after fleeing the provincial capital when it was overrun by troops loyal to a regional warlord.
A government official said soldiers sent from Kabul had restored calm in Faryab's capital, Maimana, but he did not know whether the warlord's troops had withdrawn.
Soldiers allied with Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek commander and security adviser to President Hamid Karzai, took control of Maimana and several surrounding districts on Thursday. Enayatullah Enayat, governor of Faryab, fled the city, as did Gen Hashim Habibi, the local army commander.
In an effort to reassert central government control, Mr Karzai sent about 750 soldiers from the new national army to Maimana and Jawed Ludin, presidential spokesman, said on Friday 500 were patrolling the city's streets. Mr Enayat was somewhere in the vicinity of Maimana seeking medical assistance for a broken leg, Mr Ludin said, but Gen Habibi's whereabouts were not clear.
It was not clear how Mr Enayat was injured. Speaking by satellite phone with the Associated Press, the governor said he feared for his life after his office and home were ransacked, allegedly by Gen Dostum's men.
Mr Ludin also told AP that in a telephone call to Mr Karzai on Thursday, Mr Dostum expressed "complete loyalty to the central government and said there had been some misunderstandings about him". Mr Dostum's representative in Kabul, Akbar Boy, said Mr Enayat and Gen Habibi "can never come back. If Karzai wants to send them back there will be an uprising."
The incident was a fresh blow to any hopes of stability in Afghanistan's remote provinces, analysts in Kabul said.
It was a consequence of Mr Karzai's failure to establish a state apparatus staffed by credible officials and convince his administration to rise above provincial power-mongering, they said.
Much of the country continues to be run by regional strongmen and their private militia, and progress in replacing them with a professional, national army has been painfully slow.
It is believed that Gen Dostum's decision to march on Maimana was provoked by a recent pact between Gen Habibi - a powerful commander who had been allied to Gen Dostum's Junbish faction - and Marshal Mohammad Fahim, the defence minister and a rival of Gen Dostum. The pact threatened Gen Dostum's sway over predominantly- Uzbek Faryab province. In an interview with the BBC's Farsi service on Friday, Gen Dostum accused Marshal Fahim of trying to create tensions between the north and the central government.
The incident in Faryab comes on the heels of fierce clashes in the western provincial capital of Herat in late March between forces loyal to the governor, Ismail Khan, and a local militia controlled by the ministry of defence.
Dostum Accuses Faryab Governor of Creating Rift Between Kabul and Northern Afghanistan
RFE/RL 04/09/2004 By Amin Tarzi
In an interview with the BBC's Dari service on 8 April, General Dostum accused Faryab Governor Enayat of creating a division between Hamid Karzai and northern Afghanistan.
While Karzai himself is not involved in creating the current crisis, Interior Minister Jalali and Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim are involved in creating problems in the northern parts of the country, Dostum said.
Dostum accused Faryab military commander General Habibi of having links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Dutch Combat Helicopters Fired on Above Kabul
Fri Apr 9, 1:35 PM ET
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Two Dutch Apache combat helicopters were fired on during a mission above the Afghan capital Kabul, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Friday.
A spokesman for the ministry said the aircraft were not hit in the Thursday night incident and no one aboard them was hurt, but their mission was aborted for security reasons.
He gave no other details about the incident.
The Netherlands sent six Apache helicopters and 135 troops to Afghanistan recently to boost the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of some 5,700.
About 650 Dutch troops were stationed with the ISAF after the Taliban were ousted at the end of 2001.
Afghan Route to Prosperity: Grow Poppies
SHORABAK, Afghanistan — Rahmatullah trudged toward his village with his donkey, as men across Afghanistan have done for centuries. But in this century, men in Jeeps and on motorbikes were passing him by.
So this year Rahmatullah, a 37-year-old father of three, speaking in front of the village mosque and its mullah, said he would join his neighbors in growing poppies to harvest Afghanistan's most lucrative cash crop, opium.
His hierarchy of dreams is all sketched out. First he will pay off some $1,200 in debt. Then he will build a house to replace the one room he shares with his family, then buy cows for plowing.
"Then, if I get richer, I'll buy a car," he finished, eyes agleam.
Across Afghanistan, opium cultivation is surging, defying all efforts of the Afghan government and international officials to stop it. Officials are predicting that land under poppy cultivation will rise by 30 percent or more this year, possibly yielding a record crop. Last year the country produced almost 4,000 tons — three-fourths of the world's opium — in 28 of its 32 provinces. The trade generated $1 billion for farmers and $1.3 billion for traffickers, according to the United Nations, more than half of Afghanistan's national income.
The expansion of the trade presents a gathering threat to the new democratic government and a severe challenge to the American and international forces here. But American officials, reluctant to open a new front in the campaign against terror or engage in an antidrug war here, are conflicted about how aggressively to combat it.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, said in a recent interview that with Afghanistan's elections approaching — they are now scheduled for September — "the politics of it may require not to go too harsh" with eradication.
But as opium production underpins ever more of Afghanistan's economic life, from new business growth to home construction, officials also fear that the economic and political risks of uprooting it will only increase. To the chagrin of Afghan and international officials, the narcotics industry has far outpaced the legal reconstruction of Afghanistan, with a capitalist intensity they would otherwise applaud.
It has lured private capital for investment and created a free-market system. With Thuraya satellite phones, farmers in distant Kandahar, a rival source of poppy in the south, know almost in real time about changing weather conditions here in this northeastern province, Badakshan, and adjust prices accordingly.
Landowners and traffickers offer credit to farmers willing to grow poppy. Trafficking has linked Afghanistan to the global economy. It even brought the first real industry here, a heroin processing laboratory that villagers estimated had operated for six months to a year before it was destroyed by Afghan and British forces in January. One local referred to it as "the company."
Afghanistan's opium production peaked under the Taliban, who partly financed their movement from the profits. But in July 2000 the Taliban banned opium cultivation, to the distress of many farmers, and the price soared.
Many experts say the ban was simply meant to drive the price up, amounting to an effective cornering of the market for the Taliban and others who had amassed stockpiles.
British and Afghan officials are now counting on mullahs to spread the word that it is haram, or forbidden, under Islam to cultivate opiates. But interviews in many villages found that such preachings were ignored. Other mullahs were growing it themselves.
For many Afghans, poppy has allowed for piety. A United Nations report on Afghanistan's opium economy noted that 85 percent of opium traders surveyed had performed the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is incumbent on every Muslim but too costly for most Afghans.
The growth in opium production is among the gravest threats facing the administration of President Hamid Karzai. It has corrupted the government from bottom to top, including governors and cabinet officials, according to senior Afghan and American officials.
American and Afghan officials say opium is financing warlords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, local militias, the Taliban and possibly Al Qaeda.
Annan Appoints Human Rights Expert For Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS, 9 April (RFE/RL) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has approved the appointment of a law professor at a U.S. university to be an independent expert on human rights in Afghanistan.
Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian who is a law professor at DePaul University in the city of Chicago, will have the job of developing, in collaboration with Afghanistan's transitional government, a program of services to ensure the protection of human rights in Afghanistan. He will also report on the human rights situation in the country.
Bassiouni was a campaigner for the establishment of the International Criminal Court and in 1993 chaired a U.N. commission which investigated human rights violations in the former Yugoslavia. He is currently president of the Chicago-based International Human Rights Law Institute.
US court jails 'Virginia jihadis'
Saturday, 10 April, 2004, 01:12 GMT 02:12 UK BBC News
Two Americans have been jailed for conspiring to wage a holy war, with activities which included military training with paintball games.
Randall Todd Royer and Ibrahim al-Hamdi were among nine men facing sentences over their roles in the so-called "Virginia jihad network".
Royer, who got 20 years, said he helped conspirators join a Pakistani militant group after 11 September 2001.
Some of the group said they intended to go on to fight for the Taleban.
Al-Hamdi, who was jailed for 15 years, admitted training with the Pakistani group, Lashkar-e-Toiba, in 2000.
"Today's sentences demonstrate the severe penalties for aiding terrorist causes," said US Attorney-General John Ashcroft. "We will not allow terrorist groups to exploit America's freedoms to pursue their deadly goals."
The group trained by playing paintball games in woods near the town of Fredricksburg.
After the 11 September 2001 attacks on America, several of the men went to Pakistan with the intention of joining the Taleban and fighting US troops.
None of them actually ever joined the Taleban.
Three other members of the group will be sentenced in June.
Pakistani sheltering al Qaeda says won't surrender
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A notorious tribesman wanted by Pakistan for harbouring foreign militants from al Qaeda and the ousted Afghan Taliban regime has said he had no plans to give himself up, a local newspaper reported on Friday.
The government has given leaders in the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan until April 20 to hand over foreign fighters and local tribesmen sheltering them, or to come up with an alternative plan.
Senior elders gathered in the western town of Wana on Friday to decide how to respond to the ultimatum, which Islamabad hopes will pave the way for a political solution after dozens of soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in the region last month.
But comments from Nek Mohammad, a tribal commander involved in those clashes and believed to be sheltering al Qaeda guerrillas, suggested more fighting loomed.
"We are still in this area. Where else can we go?" Mohammad told the News daily, after contacting the newspaper from an undisclosed location.
Mahmood Shah, FATA's security chief, said Mohammad was the most wanted among Pakistani tribesmen who have close military and family ties to foreign fighters from Arab countries, Central Asia, China and Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya.
The links go back more than 20 years, when Pakistan was used as a launching post for attacks on Soviet forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Pakistan was also the main backer of the Afghan Taliban regime, toppled from power in late 2001, before Islamabad abandoned the militia after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Taliban had sheltered al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has come under increasing pressure to hunt down foreign fighters, including senior al Qaeda members, in its tribal areas, where around 50,000 troops are now deployed.
A major battle between 5,000 soldiers and hundreds of militants and tribesmen raged near Wana last month, during which more than 100 people were killed in 12 days of heavy fighting in South Waziristan. No top al Qaeda figures were found.
Initially officials believed Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's deputy, may be in the area. Then suspicion turned to Tahir Yuldashev, a renowned Uzbek al Qaeda fighter also wanted in Uzbekistan for attacks there.
Mohammad told the News he did not know of Yuldashev's whereabouts.
Shah told Reuters that senior tribal "maliks", or elders, had gathered in the South Waziristan town of Wana, some 380 km southwest of Islamabad, on Friday ahead of formal deliberations over the weekend aimed at ending the crisis.
He said Mohammad was one of five Pakistani tribesmen, all from the Zalikhel sub-tribe, wanted by the authorities.
Troop movements around Azam Warsak in South Waziristan and Shawal in North Waziristan have led to speculation of fresh operations in the area.
"We will not announce the location of an operation in advance," Shah said. "Shawal is the adjoining area to South Waziristan, so the whole area is one where we have troops."
Some analysts have questioned the wisdom of setting deadlines for the handover of militants or their protectors, saying it gave suspects the opportunity to escape or hide in time.
Military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan said the political process should be given time to work, and that "the movements (of militants) are also being watched."
US envisages to connect Afghanistan with India by road
The Times of India April 9, 2004
WASHINGTON: The United States is planning to connect Afghanistan with Central Asian countries, Pakistan and India by extending the newly built Kabul-Kandahar highway, which according to Washington will put the 'Silk Road' back into operation.
"President Bush's commitment to de-mine and repave the entire stretch of the Kabul-Kandahar highway was fulfilled. The road had not been functional for over 20 years. What was once a 30-hour journey can be accomplished in just 5 or 6 years, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Operations on Thursday.
"This fundamentally changes all kinds of dynamics within Afghanistan. People can move around. The country can be brought back together with the simple act of completing this road," he said.
Elaborating Washington's plans to extend the road to the west as well as the north, he said we will "try to create a ring road in this Central Asian nation that then can connect to the other Central Asian nations, to Pakistan, and through Pakistan, ultimately to India, which will put the Silk Road back into operation after so many years of misuse and no use."
On Iraq, he sought to play down the impact of the current fighting between US-led forces and Sunni and Shiite fighters. "Despite the headlines of the last several days, the Coalition Provisional Authorities and the Iraqi Governing Council have made great strides in the area of security, in the area of economic stability and growth and democratisation," he said.
Bush warned Musharraf on bin Laden before September 11: Rice
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Just one month after taking office in 2001, President George W. Bush bluntly told Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to bring terror kingpin Osama bin Laden to justice, the official September 11 inquiry was told.
Musharraf was also told to abandon support for the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and close al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan, Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, told the independent inquiry into the deadly 2001 attacks on the United States here on Thursday.
US and Afghan opposition forces eventually ousted the radical Taliban Islamic militia in late 2001 with the support of Musharraf. Rice stoutly defended Bush's pre-September 11 counterterrorism strategy and suggested that it failed largely due to Pakistan's backing for the Taliban. The hearing was also told that Washington had to change its longstanding policy on India as the United States joined hands with Pakistan to weed out the extremist Taliban.
"Within a month of taking office, President Bush sent a strong, private message to President Musharraf urging him to use his influence with the Taliban to bring bin Laden to justice and to close down al-Qaeda training camps," Rice testified.
She said Secretary of State Colin Powell also "actively urged the Pakistanis, including Musharraf himself, to abandon support for the Taliban." Rice met with the Pakistani foreign minister in her office three months before September 11, 2001 and "delivered a very tough message, which was met with a rote, expressionless response."
She said integrating US counterterrorism and regional strategies "was the most difficult and the most important aspect" of a new Bush strategy to effectively battle terrorism. "Al-Qaeda was both client of and patron to the Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan.
"Those relationships provided al-Qaeda with a powerful umbrella of protection, and we had to sever them. This was not easy." "Not that we hadn't tried," Rice said, citing Bush's strong message to Musharraf.
The White House anti-terror strategy has been slammed by Bush's former counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who said the president failed to consider the al-Qaeda network an urgent threat until the September 11 attacks that killed about 3,000 people, nine months after he took office in January 2001.
With Bush portraying himself as a "war president" who took a tough line on security after the attacks, Rice's testimony is seen as crucial to the campaign for the November 2 presidential election. Recalling the events before the attacks, Rice said US policy against al-Qaeda could not work because "our Afghanistan policy wasn't working.
"And our Afghanistan policy wasn't working because our Pakistan policy wasn't working. We recognized that America's counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies and to our overall foreign policy."
Grilled by the inquiry panel, Rice said unilateral action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was "absolutely not possible." "Unless you find a way to get regional cooperation from Pakistan, from the Central Asian countries, you're going to be left with essentially stand-off options, meaning bombers and cruise missiles, because you're not going to have the full range of military options," she said.
Rice said to address these problems, she involved key South Asia experts, including Afghanistan expert Zalmay Khalilzad, the current US envoy to Kabul, who had worked closely with the Afghan Mujahedeen to turn back the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.
She said the new approach to Pakistan combined the use of carrots and sticks to persuade Islamabad to drop its support for the Taliban. "And we began to change our approach to India, to preserve stability on the subcontinent," she added.
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear rivals. Pakistan was an ally of the United States during the Cold War, when India tilted to the Soviet Union, but the September 11 attacks brought Washington increasingly close to New Delhi.
Chinese, Pakistani foreign ministers pledge to improve close ties
BEIJING (AFP) - Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri and his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing pledged at a meeting here to improve already close relations between their countries.
"We are very happy that our all-weather friendship has been going well and growing stronger each day," Li told his guest on Thursday. "We want to keep up the momentum. Your visit is another indication that this momentum has been kept up."
Kasuri said: "I also share your sentiment. I have no doubt that this meeting will bring us closer, if it is at all possible." Kasuri arrived in China Tuesday and spent two days in Shanghai. He departs on Friday.
His visit follows a trip by Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan to Pakistan in March which yielded a pledge for a 12-million-dollar interest-free loan for Pakistan's armed forces. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was in China in November when the two sides discussed an agreement to build a second Chinese nuclear power plant in Pakistan for civilian use.
No public announcement on the fate of the deal has since been made, while the United States has reportedly urged Beijing not to go ahead with the plant. Pakistan has relied heavily on China for its defence equipment since 1990 when the United States stopped supplying it with military hardware amid claims Islamabad had acquired the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Pakistan confirmed it had nuclear weapons in May 1998 when it matched nuclear tests conducted by India.
Afghan law students win special prize at largest international legal competition
Source: UN Development Programme - April 8, 2004
Four Afghan law students are returning to Kabul after winning a special prize in a highly competitive international contest in Washington, D.C., last week that attracted more than 520 students from top law schools in 80 countries.
They were the first Afghan team to ever take part in the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition, and came in 74th out of 94 teams, a credible performance considering their country's difficult circumstances. The team got enthusiastic applause at the start of the competition, and at the end they received the "Spirit of the Jessup" award in recognition of their efforts and accomplishments.
Teams from different universities competed against each other over fictitious cases before the International Court of Justice. They drafted legal submissions and prepared complex legal arguments that they pleaded before a bench of renowned international law scholars, practitioners and judges.
"We want to see that the rule of the gun is replaced by the rule of law," said Hekmatullah (many Afghans have only one name), captain of the team, who are all students at the University of Kabul's Faculty of Law. "For that to happen, it is necessary that our generation understands that conflicts should not be solved on the battlefield, but in court."
"Without knowledge, however, the gun might be perceived as the only solution," he said. "We need to rectify this by sharing with our fellow students what we have learned during the previous four months of preparing for this competition."
"Without a strong legal system and talent to support that legal structure, development cannot reach its fullest potential," said UNDP Country Director Ercan Murat. "Rule of law is one of the most basic building blocks for any democracy. We are proud of the accomplishments of these students who are the future for Afghanistan and its legal community."
The students' participation is part of a US$5.8 million UNDP project to help rebuild Afghanistan's justice system, including reform of legal education, funded by Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
The initiative includes strengthening law faculties in cooperation with the international academic community, helping university staff improve teaching and research skills, and assisting law curriculum development. It is also refurbishing libraries and research facilities, procuring legal texts, facilitating exchange visits for students and research staff, and helping establish students' representative bodies.
With the support of UNDP, the students started preparing the written submissions for the competition in December, notwithstanding the paucity of research material and expertise in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the team persevered and made it to the competition, their first trip outside their homeland. The topics of this year's Jessup award competition related to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, and the crime of genocide. For further information please contact Siphosami Malunga, UNDP Afghanistan, or Cherie Hart , UNDP Asia and the Pacific Regional Communications Adviser.
Native of Afghanistan sentenced for immigration fraud in Detroit
April 9, 2004, 8:20 AM
DETROIT (AP) -- A native of Afghanistan accused of using a false identity and passport who pleaded guilty to possession of false identification, visa fraud and lying to investigators will be deported.
Issa H. Zahir, who used the alias Mohamed Ahmed Issa, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to six months in custody on the charges. It was the maximum under guidelines, but less than the 17 months he has served since his arrest.
It was unclear how long it will take to deport Zahir, The Detroit News reported.
Zahir was first identified as Tajibaev Bourkhanidin, traveling on a Kyrgyzstan passport, when he was arrested Nov. 6, 2002, at Detroit Metropolitan Airport carrying $610 million in phony letters of credit.
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