Kabul tense after bombing of US security firm kills at least nine
Tuesday August 31, 9:56 AM AFP
A heavy security clampdown was enforced in the Afghan capital after the bombing of a US firm left at least nine people dead, including three Americans, and raised new fears about security just weeks before the country's historic elections.
The attack Sunday on security contractor DynCorp was claimed by spokesman linked to the former Taliban Islamic fundamentalist regime and Al-Qaeda, and analysts said more attacks could be expected in the run-up to October 9 polls.
A truck loaded with wood and packed with explosives was detonated outside DynCorp's office in the Shar-e-Naw district, home to many aid agencies and foreign firms. DynCorp provides Afghan President Hamid Karzai's bodyguards and trains the fledgling police force.
Ken McKillop, spokesman for the NATO-led peace-keeping force, said that three US citizens and three Afghan nationals treated by the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) had died in the attack.
However, the spokesman said he could not comment about casualties who may have been taken to other medical facilities in the city and could not confirm the total death toll from the attack.
The Afghan government said Sunday that three Nepalese citizens also died in the attack. A Western security source also confirmed to AFP Monday that three Nepalese were among the dead.
At least 22 people were wounded in the blast, according to a toll compiled by AFP from hospitals around Kabul.
The attack was the worst in Kabul since December 28 last year and the second major bomb attack over the weekend. At least 10 people, most of them youths, died when a bomb exploded at a religious school in southeastern Afghanistan late Saturday.
US troops Monday patrolled the streets of the Wazir Akbar Khan district, home to the US and many other foreign embassies.
Meanwhile in the Shar-e-Naw district, the streets leading to the blast site were blocked off and large numbers of NATO-led peace-keeping troops backed by tanks patrolled the streets.
Shar-e-Naw is packed with United Nations offices and the headquarters of many other aid agencies. Afghan police were stationed outside UN offices waving away vehicles and preventing them from stopping.
The US embassy and other Western governments have asked their staff to restrict their movements and avoid crowded shopping streets and restaurants popular with foreigners for fear of another attack.
"This was a well-predicted attack and a well-chosen target. I think it's prudent to expect to see more. We anticipate possibly a series and a campaign of attacks," said Nick Downie, security coordinator for the Afghanistan NGO Security Organisation.
The Afghan capital has been bracing itself for a large-scale bomb attack in recent weeks in the run-up to the elections.
Afghan intelligence officials supported by NATO-led peace-keeping troops found 530 kilograms of explosives as well as detonating devices and arrested two militants last week outside Kabul.
As the elections have drawn closer, security across the country has worsened and a string of attacks on election workers has left 12 dead since May.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday urged international forces to shield election workers in Afghanistan after the two weekend bombings.
"The secretary general is deeply concerned by the violent attacks," Annan's spokesman said in a statement.
"The secretary general calls on the government of Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan, and the Coalition forces to take the necessary safety and security measures to support those working on the ongoing electoral process," he said.
The Taliban, thrown out of power by a US-backed military campaign in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, have vowed to disrupt the polls, in which over 10 million people have registered to vote.
Taliban-led insurgents have been waging a guerrilla insurgency in the south and southeast. They have also mounted sporadic attacks in other parts of the country.
Man Questioned in Afghan Car Bomb Probe
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, AP
KABUL, Afghanistan - Investigators probing a deadly car bombing in the Afghan capital questioned a man detained at Kabul airport with traces of explosives on his hands, officials said Monday, while U.S. authorities warned all Americans in the capital to be inconspicuous.
Taliban rebels claimed responsibility for Sunday's blast at a U.S. security firm, but officials said they are not ruling out any suspects, including al-Qaida. Hospital officials said 10 people were killed, including three Americans. The company confirmed that three of its American employees had been killed.
NATO troops grew suspicious of a man on the grounds of Kabul airport on Sunday, spokesman Lt. Cdr. Ken Mackillop said. After finding explosives on his hands, NATO turned the man over to Afghan authorities on Monday. The man was not identified.
"There is a suspicion against him, but for now there is no link or proof that he was involved in yesterday's attack," Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast at the office of Dyncorp Inc., which provides bodyguards for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and works for the American government in Iraq.
Security officials have issued repeated warnings in recent weeks that militants could step up attacks to disrupt the country's landmark presidential election.
On Monday, the U.S. Embassy e-mailed Americans in Kabul to tell them to limit their movements, take strict security measures and avoid "potential target areas" such as government offices, military bases and upscale restaurants frequented primarily by foreigners.
U.N. staff were also urged to stay off the streets. Mullah Hakim Latifi, a man who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the Islamic radical group carried out the attack with a time-bomb in a car. He warned that more attacks would follow.
"We appeal to civilians to stay away from the elections and places where the Americans and coalition are living and working," Latifi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. "They are our priority targets."
His claim could not be verified independently, and Mackillop said investigators, including the FBI and Interpol, had closed off no line of inquiry.
"On whether we are seriously considering al-Qaida or anybody else, all possibilities are open," Mackillop said. There were conflicting reports of the number killed in the attack. The company confirmed Monday that at least three of its employees were killed, all Americans.
Mike Dickerson, spokesman for El Segundo-based Computer Sciences Corporation, parent company of Dyncorp, identified them as John A. Deuley, 36, of Rudy Ark.; Robert J. Bifano, 57, of Panama City, Fla and Gerald W. Gibson, 57, of Bates City, Mo.
"In addition, two employees, including one Afghani national and one employee from Nepal, are missing. Five employees were wounded. They included one American and two Nepalese who are being hospitalized and treated for their injuries," Dickerson said.
American Joseph Dickenson, 36, of Chesapeake Va. was seriously wounded but is in stable condition, the company said. Two other employees were treated for minor wounds and released.
The company said it would not release the other names until their families were notified. Hospitals said they had 10 bodies, which would make the attack the deadliest in Kabul since a car bomb killed 30 Afghans and wounded 150 on Sept. 5, 2002.
Mackillop said the bodies of three Americans and three Afghans were at the international force's field hospital. Four more bodies were at the Afghan National Army hospital, said its head doctor, Gen. Mohammed Atiq Shamim.
The blast left the Dyncorp office in flames and threw debris and body parts over a wide area of Kabul's bustling commercial district, where the U.N. and many relief groups have offices and homes.
Police and NATO troops prevented anyone from approaching the area on Monday, while shopkeepers swept up glass from windows blown out by the heavy explosion.
Kabul had been relatively peaceful since back-to-back suicide attacks killed two NATO soldiers in February, leaving the provinces as the scene of most fighting between U.S. and Afghan troops and militants. Hundreds have died this year alone, including aid workers and government officials as well as combatants.
US security firm in Kabul blast had high profile in Afghanistan
August 30, 2004
KABUL (AFP) - Brandishing firearms and riding in sports vehicles with tinted windows, staff of US security firm DynCorp had already attracted much attention in the Afghan capital before their office was the target of a deadly bomb attack.
The blast which killed at least seven people including three Americans was caused by a vehicle that exploded in front of DynCorp's offices in the downtown Shar-e-Naw district -- an area packed with international aid agency and United Nations offices.
Dyncorp had a heavy presence in Kabul, providing much of the security for President Hamid Karzai's presidential guard and training Afghanistan's fledgling police force.
In Afghanistan -- a country with an embryonic army and police force -- private security contracts are used by everyone from the country's president to US construction firms rebuilding the war-shattered country's roads.
President Karzai stepped up his security and began using a US-trained presidential guard after he survived an assassination attempt in 2002, and many other foreign firms have followed suit.
Visitors to the presidential palace are struck by the large numbers of US guards wearing dark glasses and civilian clothes who surround the Afghan leader.
Karzai himself travels nowhere without his large retinue of private security guards wielding semi-automatic weapons.
But like other contractors, DynCorp -- a division of California-based information technology company Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) -- may have become part of the problem in Afghanistan.
The large numbers of westerners in plain-clothes wandering the streets of the Afghan capital with guns has provoked confusion and resentment from both Afghans and western aid agencies alike.
"The city has been militarized, and more military people inside the city poses a greater threat for the civilians," said Sarwary, a 31-year-old money changer.
Sarwary said that many Afghans were concerned that private security contractors were using locals as a human shield.
"We know that they have got a mission: they help us with security. But it's not fair when they are sheltering behind civilians," he said adding that there were calls for many security firms to move to the outskirts of the city center.
The widespread use of private security contractors has become so prevalent that it left the door wide open for vigilantes and bounty-hunters to operate here without many questions being asked.
Three US citizens are currently on trial for illegally jailing and torturing Afghan citizens in a private 'war on terror', after duping both NATO-led peacekeepers and US troops that they were special forces.
"There are so many guys wandering around Kabul with guns doing indeterminate jobs that all they had to do was blend in," said a US military source.
The swagger and bluster with which many special forces and private security firms move around the capital has also sparked fears of attacks.
"I never feel safe when an American vehicle passes by me -- you know they have enemies waiting to target them any time. When they are among people it's obvious we will also get hurt," said Mohammed Akram, a shopkeeper in the downtown Shar-e-Naw district where the bomb went off.
Western aid agencies have also complained that the lines between US military, NATO-led peacekeepers and private security contractors have become so blurred it is impossible for aid workers to work safely in Afghanistan.
Nobel prize-winning aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres pulled out of Afghanistan last month after 24 years saying it was no longer safe for independent aid agencies to work here.
U.S. citizens warned to keep low profile as hospitals say death toll from Kabul blast reaches 10
Associated Press August 30, 2004
The U.S. government warned its citizens to keep a low profile in Kabul on Monday after a car bomb hit a private American security company, killing 10 people in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital in two years.
Three Americans were among the dead from Sunday's attack, according to Kabul's NATO-led security force, although the identity of some victims remained a mystery.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast at the office of Dyncorp Inc., which provides bodyguards for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and works for the American government in Iraq.
Security officials have issued repeated warnings in recent weeks that anti-government militants could ramp up attacks to disrupt the country's landmark presidential election.
The bombing came hours after another explosion killed at least nine people, eight of them children, at a school in southeastern Afghanistan, underlining the country's fragile security as it moves toward the Oct. 9 vote.
On Monday, the U.S. Embassy e-mailed Americans in Kabul to tell them to limit their movements, take strict security measures and avoid "potential target areas" such as government offices, NATO bases and restaurants.
U.N. staff were also ordered to keep off the streets as much as possible.
Mullah Hakim Latifi, a man who claims to speak for the Taliban, said one of its members carried out the Kabul attack with a time-bomb loaded in a vehicle, and warned that more attacks would follow.
"Taliban began trying to place a bomb in this area three days ago, and finally they have succeeded," Latifi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"We appeal to civilians to stay away from the elections and places where the Americans and coalition are living and working," he said. "They are our priority targets."
His claim could not be verified independently.
Lt. Cdr. Ken Mackillop, a spokesman for NATO-led troops in Kabul, said the FBI and Interpol had joined the investigation into the attack, but that it was still unclear who was behind it. He said the bomb was detonated by remote control.
Mackillop said one person had been arrested at Kabul airport with "traces of explosives on his hands," but cautioned that authorities had not found anything to link him to the bombing.
"On whether we are seriously considering al-Qaida or anybody else, all possibilities are open," he said.
Haji Ikramuddin, the chief of police in the downtown Shar-e-Naw district where the blast occurred, said "American professionals" were combing the site of the bombing.
Police and NATO troops were preventing anyone from approaching the area. Shopkeepers swept up glass from windows blown out by the heavy explosion.
There were conflicting reports of the number killed in the attack.
But hospitals said they were holding 10 bodies, making it the deadliest in Kabul since a car bomb killed 30 Afghans and wounded 150 on Sept. 5, 2002.
Mackillop said the bodies of three Americans and three Afghans were at the international force's field hospital. Two Nepalese and another American were being treated at the German-run facility in the capital, he said.
Four more bodies were at the Afghan National Army hospital, the only other facility in the capital with a morgue, said its head doctor, Gen. Mohammed Atiq Shamim.
"It's difficult to recognize them," Shamim said, refusing to speculate on their nationality.
Karzai's office initially said three Nepalese were also confirmed dead, but government officials had no updated tally on Wednesday.
Afghan officials said as many as 20 more people were wounded.
None of the victims was identified.
Karzai and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed shock at the attack against the contractor, which had been helping train Afghanistan's new national police.
"This cowardly attack will not deter U.S. participation in the ongoing effort to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet," Khalilzad said, describing the bombing as a terrorist attack.
Dyncorp Inc. is a division of Computer Sciences Corp. based in El Segundo, California. In Kabul, the company was also involved in training Afghan police.
Mackillop said it was unclear if a car or a truck carried the explosives, which witnesses said left mutilated bodies lying in the street amid the burning wreckage of several vehicles. Windows were blown out over a wide area.
Some Afghans turned their anger against the thousands of foreign security forces still in Afghanistan more than two years after the fall of the Taliban.
"It was a very, very big explosion, and there were a lot of injured," said Ahmad Emal, a young shopkeeper. "These foreigners should leave the residential areas."
Associated Press Writer Stephen Graham in Kabul contributed to this report.
UPDATE -Taliban warns of more attacks as Kabul toll rises
By Simon Cameron-Moore
KABUL, Aug 30 (Reuters) - The Taliban warned on Monday of further deadly attacks in the run-up to Afghanistan's first presidential election after a car bomb in the heart of the capital killed at least 12 people and injured dozens more.
Three Americans and three Nepalis were among those killed in The blast, aimed at the offices of international security company DynCorp, which provides bodyguards for Afghan president Hamid Karzai and also helps train the national police force.
Sunday's attack came less than 24 hours after another blast killed 10 people, including nine children, at a religious school in Paktia province, south of Kabul.
A senior Taliban commander said any city with a Western Presence could be a target ahead of the Oct. 9 elections, which U.S. ally Karzai is widely expected to win.
"We have started our operations from Kabul under new planning and preparation," said commander Mullah Daudullah, one of the ten members of the Taliban council headed by Mullah Omar, an ally of Osama bin Laden.
"We will carry out more attacks and bombings in Kabul and many of our mujahideen are present in cities where the occupying forces of infidels are present," he told Reuters by satellite telephone.
Sunday's blast, the biggest in the capital in nearly two years, raised concern over an already deteriorating security. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in the past year -- including militants, soldiers, civilians, aid workers and election officials.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul on Monday advised its citizens to avoid military facilities, national and international government buildings, crowded places such as bazaars and restaurants and internet cafes frequented by foreigners.
Staff at international organisations have been advised to lie low and increase security.
Analysts expect President George Bush to cite the advent of democracy in Afghanistan as a foreign policy success as he seeks re-election himself in November.
Major Scott Nelson at the U.S. military press centre in Kabul said emergency services were still looking for bodies buried under the rubble of the DynCorp building.
NATO-led peacekeepers cordoned off the site, and Federal Bureau of Investigation officers based at the U.S. embassy are leading the investigation.
The Taliban denied responsibility for Saturday's school blast, saying guerrillas were only targetting military centres or election staff.
U.S. spokesman Nelson said an improvised explosive device had been planted in the school and that the local authorities reported the academy's director went missing two days ago and they suspect he had been murdered.
The motive may have been some extremist group's anger at the modern curriculum taught in the madrassah, where classes for women were also held and funded by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Taliban, driven from power in late 2001 by U.S.-led forces, have threatened to step up attacks ahead of the presidential election and parliamentary polls in April. They dismiss the democratic process as an American sham.
Some 18,000 U.S.-led troops along with the newly formed Afghan National Army are hunting Taliban and Islamist militant insurgents in the country's south and southeast.
There are also over 8,000 NATO-led peacekeepers in charge of security in Kabul and northern Afghanistan.
Al-Qaida Also Claims Responsibility for Kabul Bombing
DUBAI, Aug 29 (AFP) - A statement purported to be from Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility Sunday for a truck bomb which killed seven people, including two US citizens, in Kabul, and which was earlier claimed by the Taliban militia.
'The mujahedeen (Islamic fighters) were able to plant a bomb in a car which was detonated by remote control outside the US center, killing at least six Americans and three Afghan collaborators,' said the statement signed by 'Al-Qaeda organization, Afghanistan,' and posted on an
'This operation was carried out with the help of our mujahedeen brothers from the Taliban and it will not be the last. It will be followed by more powerful operations, God willing,' it said.
The statement, whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed, came after the Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast in a satellite phone call to AFP from an undisclosed location, saying the bomber had escaped unharmed.
US military spokesman Scott Nelson told AFP in Kabul that NATO-led peacekeepers had detained one Afghan national in connection with the bombing.
The Afghan government said seven people were killed when a truck bomb
exploded in downtown Kabul Sunday evening just weeks ahead of
Afghanistan's landmark presidential elections.
A truck loaded with construction wood and packed with explosives detonated just before 6:00 pm (1430 GMT) outside the Kabul office of US security contractor DynCorp, which provides bodyguards for President Hamid Karzai and trains Afghanistan's fledgling police force.
'Two Americans, three Nepalese and two Afghan nationals, including a child, have been confirmed dead,' a statement from Karzai's office said.
The blast occurred just three days after the Taliban, in a statement posted on their website, threatened to kill US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and vowed 'a flood of jihad (holy war) ... against the Americans and their allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.'
The Taliban, a fundamentalist militia, were ousted from power in US-led military operations in late 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States which Washington blamed on the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, who was sheltered by Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Both Omar and bin Laden have so far eluded a nearly three-year manhunt by thousands of US troops in Afghanistan.
Afghan Blast Causes More Alarm Over Security Situation: U.S.
WASHINGTON, Aug 30 (AFP) - The United States said Monday a weekend bombing of a US firm in Afghanistan which killed at least nine people, including three Americans, caused more alarm over the security situation in the insurgency-wracked nation.
The blast, outside US security contractor DynCorp's office in the Shar-e-Naw district on Sunday, was the worst in Kabul since December 28 last year and the second major bomb attack over the weekend.
At least 10 people, most of them youths, died when a bomb exploded at a religious school in southeastern Afghanistan late Saturday.
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters the Sunday attack "was directly against a police training facility and therefore causes us even more alarm."
DynCorp provides Afghan President Hamid Karzai's bodyguards and trains the fledgling police force. The attack was claimed by spokesmen linked to the former Taliban Islamic fundamentalist regime and the Al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.
More attacks are expected in the run-up to the October 9 election. "I do want to take the opportunity to express our deepest sympathy to those killed and injured in the attack," Boucher said.
"We were certainly shocked and saddened by the attack, but we are also committed to working to Afghanistan's success and we will continue to work with Afghanistan in the training of security personnel to ensure a peaceful future for the people of that country," he said.
Boucher said the US embassy in Kabul had advised all Americans living and working in Kabul to restrict their movements, observe the strictest security measures and defer any unnecessary travel around the city. It had also identified some of the potential target areas.
"The current US travel warning strongly warns citizens against travel to Afghanistan, but we also work with the Americans who are there to try to ensure their safety and security," Boucher said.
ADRA Afghanistan office damaged, staff injured in Kabul explosion
Source: Adventist Development and Relief Agency International 30 Aug 2004
Silver Spring, Maryland - An explosion that destroyed a building in downtown Kabul yesterday damaged the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) office in Afghanistan and injured an ADRA staff member.
"The windows and doors of two ADRA buildings have been damaged by the blast," stated Dr. Peter Jaggi, country director for ADRA Afghanistan. "Debris from the car bomb is in our yard and our office and apartment are full of glass splinters," Jaggi concluded. Fortunately only one staff member sustained minor injuries.
ADRA's recent projects in Afghanistan include water, hygiene, and basic health initiatives. It also completed an education project that rehabilitated a school and provided desks, chairs, sports and playground equipment, water wells, and glass for classroom windows.
ADRA is present in more than 120 countries providing individual and community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, or ethnicity.
Additional information about ADRA can be found at www.adra.org.
Annan voices deep concern at weekend series of deadly bombings in Afghanistan
UN News Centre 08/30/2004
Noting the high death toll from the two explosions in Afghanistan over the weekend, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced his deep concern at the continuing violent attacks on the country's electoral process.
Ten people, including nine children, were reported killed after an explosion on Saturday tore through a religious school in Paktia province, southeast of the capital, Kabul. Then, at least nine people died following a car bombing in Kabul itself yesterday, according to press reports.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also reported that a vehicle of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) was struck by an improvised explosive on Saturday in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul. No one was hurt in that attack.
Mr. Annan "is particularly troubled by the high toll of dead and wounded, including children," he said in a statement released by his spokesman at UN Headquarters in New York.
The Secretary-General urged the Afghan Government, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan (ISAF), and the Coalition forces to take all necessary safety and security measures to protect people working towards the election process.
As many as 10 million Afghans are due to go to the polls on 9 October to select a president, and then return next April to cast their ballots for members of national and regional parliaments.
But there have been a series of bombings directed at electoral workers and the electoral process generally since a voter registration campaign began last December.
UN halts mission in eastern Afghan district as vehicle hits mine
KABUL - The United Nations has suspended its field activities in Rodad district of eastern Nangarhar province in Afghanistan as one of its vehicles hit an explosive device Saturday, the spokesman of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.
"The UN has suspended road mission to Rodad district temporarily after one of the vehicles of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) was hit by improvised explosive device late yesterday morning," Manoel de Almeida e Silva said at a news briefing here Sunday.
The spokesman said that preliminary reports suggest that the improvised explosive device "had a remote control system and it could have targeted the JEMB vehicle."
"No one was hurt, however, the vehicle did have some minor damages," the spokesman added. It was the latest attack on the election workers but no group or individual has claimed responsibility for that.
Due to efforts of the UN-sponsored JEMB, over 10.5 million Afghans have registered to participate in the Oct. 9 presidential elections as well as parliamentary polls in next April.
Earlier, remnants of the former Taliban whose regime was unseated under a US-led military operation in late 2001 have on many occasions accepted responsibility for such attacks.
Twelve election workers have been killed and over 30 others injured in the interval of the beginning of electoral process in late last December and the closure of voter registration sites in the nation on Aug. 15. "We suspended road movement in Rodad until we have a fair understanding of what actually happened," the spokesman said.
Japan, Tajikistan to cooperate for peace in Afghanistan
Kyodo (Japan) August 30, 2004
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov agreed Monday in Dushanbe their countries will reinforce cooperation to promote peace in Afghanistan, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
They pledged to coordinate efforts in Japan and Tajikistan to promote Afghan peace and stability as the situation there affects Tajikistan's stability and prosperity, the ministry said.
Rahmonov praised the meeting of foreign ministers from Japan and five Central Asian nations held Saturday at Japan's initiative in the Kazakh capital Astana, ministry officials said.
Japan and the five nations -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- vowed during the meeting to strengthen cooperation on issues such as antiterrorism and energy development, the ministry said.
Kawaguchi said Japan will continue supporting Tajikistan's efforts for democratization and building a market economy, the ministry officials said.
Kawaguchi held talks with Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov earlier in the day and exchanged notes addressing Japan's pledge to extend grants of up to about 50 million yen in aid to update musical instruments for the members of an orchestra in Tajikistan, they said.
Kawaguchi, who left Japan last Wednesday on a nine-day trip, made her first stop in Uzbekistan before arriving in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. She will visit Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia before returning to Japan on Thursday.
Striking a Bargain: Afghans will soon get their first chance to vote. But not before Kabul's power brokers cut their own deals
It's easy to spot where the secret negotiations are taking place in Kabul. Look for heavily armed men in camouflage fatigues blocking traffic, or for armadas of luxury four-by-fours with tinted windows double-parked. Inside restaurants, private residences and guesthouses around Kabul, presidential candidates are meeting with each other or the representatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the man to beat in the country's first presidential election on Oct. 9.
Rather than building their political operations or hitting the campaign trail in dusty towns and mud-brick villages across the country, the 17 candidates opposing Karzai are doing what comes naturally: resorting to traditional, tribal-style bargaining to secure political power before the vote. "The name of the game right now is 'Let's Make a Deal'," says Andrew Wilder, director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, an independent research organization. The fact that the war-ravaged country is about to hold elections has introduced an unpredictable variable into Afghan politics: popular will.
Nearly 10 million Afghansmore than 90 percent of the eligible electorate, according to the United Nationshave already registered to vote. Many candidates, even powerful former mujahedin who are backed by large, ethnic-based militias, are reasoning that it may be better to strike a bargain beforehand than to risk the vagaries of a popular vote. Some are looking for a slice of influence, while others want to extract concessions that could derail the president's reform agenda.
In fact, many Afghans think reaching a pre-electoral deal with Karzai in exchange for their support may have been the motive that drove most of his 17 opponents to register their candidacies in the first place. "None of the candidates believes that he has even the remotest chance of beating Karzai," says a Western source close to the Afghan government.
"They see running as the best way to position themselves to extract deals from the center." That seems to be true of Karzai's former Education minister Yunus Qanooni, 46, who could be the president's toughest challenger. In late July, Karzai stunned Afghans by dropping his powerful Defense minister and Qanooni's close associate, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, as his vice presidential running mate. Instead he picked Ahmed Zia Massoud, the brother of the late, charismatic leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud. Fahim's ouster and the sudden defection of Massoud weakened the influence of the Northern Alliance's commanders and effectively shut out its core Tajik following, led by Qanooni and Fahim, from a second Karzai administration. In response, Qanooni resigned from Karzai's cabinet and immediately declared his candidacy with Fahim's full backing.
Of course, Qanooni insists he's not looking to bargain. "I will not cut a deal with Karzai before the election," he says, sitting in the living room of his posh Kabul house. "I will stay in the race." But the longtime Northern Alliance political operative is leaving his options open, he says, if Karzai does not get more than 50 percent of the vote in the election, forcing a second round. In that case, he says, "I will not reject an offer of a deal with Karzai for national unity."
On the other hand, Massoud, Karzai's liaison to senior Northern Alliance leaders, is confident that Qanooni and the other candidates are eager for a deal. In fact, Massoud says he has been in direct talks with Qanooni about rejoining Karzai either before or after the election. "Qanooni will probably come back to us," Massoud told NEWSWEEK. "He wants a share of power." Speaking inside the house of the late Afghan dictator Mohammad Najibullah, Massoud adds, "If he runs and loses, he risks becoming a weak opposition leader for the next few years." Qanooni may already be feeling isolated.
At his heavily guarded Kabul headquarters, turbaned tribal elders and men in business suits sit on couches and sprawl on carpets, sipping tea, asking for favors and pledging their support. Most are Tajiks. But outside his native, Tajik-dominated Panjshir Valley, northeast of the capital, Qanooni cannot count on much support. He simply doesn't have a far-flung political organization that can go from village to village, meet with elders and attend tribal councils to ensure a high voter turnout. Many of Qanooni's own supporters seem to sense that.
"It's in the nation's interest for Qanooni to join Karzai," says Anam Khan, a bearded and wizened supporter at Qanooni's headquarters. Nor are the Northern Alliance commanders likely to rally behind anyone drawn from their ranks. Even before Massoud's defection, the former mujahedin were racked by disunity. Powerful warlords like Ismail Khan, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Mohammad Mohaqeq have gone their own ways, rebuilding independent, regional power bases. Spurning offers to join with Qanooni, Dostum decided to run for president himself. So did Mohaqeq.
Karzai has also weakened the once dominant ethnic Tajik forces within his government by replacing them gradually with technocrats belonging to his ethnic Pashtun majority. "[The Northern Alliance] can't reunite," says Vikram Parekh, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Kabul. "None of its leaders wants to give up the impression that he's the top dog." The other commanders may be close to an agreement with Karzai.
Massoud is convinced that his talks with Khan, who controls large swaths of western Afghanistan, have already succeeded in bringing him into Karzai's camp. Presidential candidate Mohaqeq, the ethnic Hazara warlord, appears intent on cutting a deal, too. He has told visitors that in a recent meeting with Karzai and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, he asked for two cabinet ministries, two deputy ministries and the naming of the new Kabul-to-Bamian highway after a Hazara leader who was killed by the Taliban, in exchange for throwing his considerable weight behind the president.
Although they haven't reached an agreement, both sides are still talking. (A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman denies that Khalilzad is negotiating with the candidates, saying that his meetings with presidential hopefuls are a normal part of his job.) More generally, rivals like Mohaqeq, Dostum and Qanooni are eager to get back a share of power in order to slow down Karzai's key reforms, such as disarming and demobilizing more than 60,000 private militiamen and extending the central government's control over security and taxation in the provinces.
The regional warlords need their gunmen to keep control of the people and local revenues that are the source of their unchecked power. But sources close to the presidential palace say that reform is the one thing that's not on the table. Karzai is apparently willing to welcome Qanooni back into government but only on the president's, not Qanooni's, terms. "Anyone he makes a deal with has to be on the same page," says one source. Many Afghans don't want Karzai to negotiate with the warlords.
They still have nightmares about the Afghan civil war in the mid-1990s when the mujahedin groups, including those in the Northern Alliance, turned on each other, destroying much of Kabul and the country. "We don't want people with bloody hands in Karzai's new government," says Jamshid Logharai, 24, whose family runs a construction company.
A recent survey conducted by 12 Afghan aid groups found that most Afghans view the militias as being a bigger threat to their security than that posed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But running without reaching an electoral compact has risks for Karzai, too. Sources close to the president say he wants to win big on Election Day and avoid a runoff. To do that he needs to make some headway with the non-Pashtun communities that are loyal to the various mujahedin chieftains.
The price could well be the reforms he values most. "This is his last and best chance to clean the stables," says Wilder. "If he deals, it will make reform difficult if not impossible in the future." That's a bargain that may not be worth striking.
Afghan ex-combatants and poppy growers receive new livelihoods
Source: World Bank
KABUL, August 28, 2004 - Thousands of Afghan people whose only livelihood has been combat or the growing of illegal opium poppies will be given the opportunity to enter Afghanistan's new economy with help from a US$19.6 million grant to be provided by the Government of Japan and administered by the World Bank.
The objectives of this grant are: (i) to provide immediate employment opportunities through the Government of Afghanistan's National Emergency Employment Program (NEEP) for ex-combatants in order to facilitate their reintegration into civil society as a component of the broader Afghanistan New Beginnings Program (ANBP), and (ii) to contribute to the Government's alternative livelihood program in opium poppy producing areas. The grant focuses on two areas: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and Rural Livelihood Support (RLS).
'Reintegration of ex-combatants is our great concern as a lead donor country of DDR,' said Kinichi Komano, Ambassador of Japan. 'Such reintegration program has to be based on the regional development and, so does alternative livelihood program. NEEP provides the opportunity of income generation for both former fighters and people in need through infrastructural rehabilitation, which could lead to regional development.'
The Government's DDR program maintains that demobilization of forces and their reintegration into society are essential prerequisites for the consolidation of the peace process and restoration of social and economic development in Afghanistan. The RLS program, designed to help eliminate the production of illicit drugs in the country, provides alternative income opportunities for those who have seen growing opium poppies as the most desirable or only path out of poverty.
'The Government of Afghanistan has demonstrated a clear understanding of the significant challenges faced by people whose lives have been shaped by conflict and extreme poverty over the past two decades,' said Amer Zafar Durrani, the World Bank Task Leader for the Project. 'The Government requested help to develop programs that will allow these people to follow a different path and contribute to the growth of the new Afghanistan that is emerging.'
The three-year program will provide immediate wage labor employment for 10,000 unskilled ex-combatants while providing around 100 to 300 ex-officers and ex-commanders with employment, training and equipment (under a lease-purchase arrangement) to start up small scale labor based contractor businesses. The program will also provide vocational training to 1,500 ex-combatants and will train 1,000 more in operating and maintaining road construction equipment. It expects to generate 3 million labor days of employment for ex-combatants, rural workers in poppy-growing areas, and others who are living in poverty.
The grant is being provided by the Japan Social Development Fund, established by the Government of Japan in 2000 to help poor and vulnerable people participate in the development process. The fund is administered by the World Bank. The two parties agreed to set up a special window within the JSDF to support Afghanistan's reconstruction and transition toward political, economic, and social stability.
For More Information on the World Bank's Activities in Afghanistan visit: http://www.worldbank.org/af
Alleged U.S. vigilantes' hearing postponed in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Monday, August 30, 2004, 6:16 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A hearing for three Americans charged with torturing Afghans on a private anti-terror mission was postponed on Monday for 10 days at the defendants' request after they brought in American lawyers.
Jonathan Idema, Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett, who are also charged with kidnapping and holding Afghans in a makeshift jail, were due in court Monday for what had been expected to be the decisive hearing.
But Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari said authorities granted their request for extra time to prepare their defense with the help of the newly arrived U.S. attorneys. The three men could face 20 years in prison if convicted.
"After 10 days, if they want more time, we will give it for the sake of humanity and democracy," Bakhtyari said.
The three were arrested July 5 when authorities freed about a dozen Afghans from a private home in Kabul. The men were allegedly beaten, deprived of food and doused with hot water. Idema, a former U.S. soldier with a checkered past that includes a stint in federal prison for fraud, denies he tortured anyone and claims he was working with the approval of the Pentagon and senior Afghan authorities.
The U.S. military has described Idema as a freelancer with no connections to it whatsoever. However, it has acknowledged receiving a prisoner from his crew and holding the man for about two months. The military says it released the suspect without charge.
Idema claims to have uncovered a plot to bomb U.S. and NATO military bases and assassinate a string of Afghan leaders.
Prosecutors say Afghan officials also cooperated with Idema, who wore military-style uniforms bearing American flags, because they thought he was a legitimate agent.
Bakhtyari said new American lawyers had arrived in Kabul in recent days to defend Idema and Caraballo, while Bennett would be represented in court by an Afghan attorney.
Bakhtyari said he had refused a motion from the new defense team for the trial to be held in America. "I say no, because this all happened in Afghanistan," he said.
"Lion of Herat" offered way out of west Afghan crisis
KABUL - Afghanistan's government has asked the country's most powerful mujahideen commander to give up rule over the western province of Herat in order to escape attacks from encircling enemies, a western diplomat said on Saturday.
The vulnerability of Ismail Khan, known as the "Lion of Herat", was revealed earlier this month when the forces of a renegade Pashtun militia leader swept through the province of which he is governor.
"Time is not on his side ... He will find himself in an increasingly difficult situation," said the diplomat, who noted several of Khan's own officers had defected to his enemy. Khan survived an assassination attempt earlier this year, but his son Mirwais Sadiq was killed shortly after.
Afghanistan holds its first ever democratic vote for a president on October 9. Security and ethnic issues will dominate an election President Hamid Karzai is expected to win.
While 18,000 U.S.-led troops and the new Afghan National Army hunt remnants of the vanquished Taliban in the country's Pashtun-dominated south and east, how Karzai handles the crisis in Herat could affect his standing with non-Pashtuns.
Renegade commander Amanullah Khan's forces were heading toward Herat city from the south but the United States envoy in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Afghan government forced him on August 17 to submit to a ceasefire and withdraw.
On Friday, Amanullah was brought, the government says willingly, to Kabul. The diplomat said he was a "a guest of the government" and his militia would be stripped of their heavy weapons.
Ismail Khan told Reuters earlier on Saturday he had not decided who to support in the elections. He has accused members of Karzai's cabinet of plotting against him.
Tajiks, the largest ethnic minority in Afghanistan, form the majority in Herat, which borders Iran. Pashtuns and Shia Muslim Hazaras in Herat were unhappy with their Tajik governor's rule.
Amanullah's threat was snuffed out by the deployment of some 1,500 Afghan National Army troops backed by U.S. air power. But the diplomat foresaw Khan's rivals in the neighbouring provinces of Badghis and Ghor taking advantage of Khan's weakened state.
Khan, a hero of the war of liberation against the Soviet Union and one-time prisoner of the Taliban militia who escaped to help overthrow them in late 2001, is being offered a ministerial position by Karzai.
That Karzai has offered Khan, one of his strongest critics, a post before the election rather than after showed how perilous the situation is, the diplomat said. "He deserves a position of respect. He deserves a good job," said the diplomat.
Asked whether Khan was likely to agree to tell his troops to give up their heavy weaponry, as the government has requested, and take the post on offer in Kabul, the diplomat said: "It would be in the interests of Herat and himself to do that."
He said if Khan takes the offer his rivals in Badghis and Ghor will also be moved to different posts as part of an overall plan to defuse tensions in western Afghanistan. "This is an opportunity to change the equation in the region," said the diplomat.
World's biggest drive against intestinal worms reaches 4.5 million Afghan kids
Source: UN News Service 30 Aug 2004
For a cost of less than half a million dollars, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has completed its largest-ever campaign to fight intestinal worms, treating more than 4.5 million children in Afghanistan against the biggest cause of disease in young children in the developing world.
WFP Deputy Country Director for Afghanistan Michael Jones described the programme - which was conducted with the help of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Afghan government ministries - as an "incredible achievement."
"Not only because it has been organized for the first time, but also because it has been done in Afghanistan, a country whose needs are as huge as its challenges," Mr. Jones said in a statement last week.
The de-worming campaign is estimated to have reached more than 90 per cent of the targeted children - between the ages of six and 12 - and cost $476,000, or just over 10 cents per child.
More than 400 million children around the world are known to be affected by worms, which ranks as the greatest cause of disease in both infants and school-age children. A study last year showed that nearly 50 per cent of Afghan schoolchildren were infected by one or more types of intestinal worms.
The sometimes fatal disease can cause stunting, weight loss, anaemia and learning difficulties, as well as reduce physical fitness and increase susceptibility to other infections.
Using about 7,000 schools around the country, officials treated children with de-worming drugs and gave advice about hygiene and health awareness. A follow-up campaign focusing on Afghanistan's cities is scheduled for November.
Five hurt in Al-Qaeda linked rocket barrage in Pakistani tribal area
ISLAMABAD, Aug 30 (AFP) - Five civilians were injured and a military building damaged in a rocket attack on a Pakistani town near the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan by suspected Al-Qaeda militants, an official said Monday.
'Five civilians, two men and three women, were hurt when five rockets fired by Al-Qaeda linked miscreants landed on their homes before dawn on Monday,' a local police officer told AFP.
The rockets hit Bannu city which lies some 240 kilometres (149 miles) southwest of capital Islamabad, and just 100 kilometres from the Afghan border. It is a major base for the bulk of Pakistani troops hunting Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in the tribal district of North Waziristan.
'Three rockets fell in a civilian area, while two rockets slammed a telephone exchange and a military building in the garrison city,' the officer said, on condition of anonymity.
The attack came two days after a rocket lobbed on a military camp in South Waziristan killed two Pakistani soldiers while an attack on a military convoy left one soldier dead in the neighbouring North Waziristan district.
There has been an upsurge in rocket or mortar attacks against Pakistani security forces hunting Al-Qaeda fighters since authorities launched a five-day operation in June and destroyed several suspected hideouts.
That operation, in the Shakai valley 25 kilometers north of the main tribal town of Wana, left 65 militants and 18 soldiers dead.
Pakistani authorities say 500-600 Al-Qaeda suspects, including Chechen and Uzbek fighters, sneaked into the region after a US-led military offensive ousted Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.
Security forces in a stepped-up campaign in Pakistan have arrested more than 60 Al-Qaeda suspects since last month.
Even if It's Not Perfect, a Ballot Beats a Bullet
Los Angeles Times 08/29/2004 - By Paula Newberg –
WASHINGTON — Is an imperfect election better than no election?
Afghanistan will find out Oct. 9, when Afghans elect a president, a significant step along the country's road to national recovery. But Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghan warlords and drug barons — and those fighting against them — are causing deep worries among Afghans and the international community that has shepherded Afghanistan's emergence from 30 years of war. As in other volatile countries plagued by conflict, continuing insecurity in Afghanistan is a risk to the election and may also color the political legitimacy conferred by the voters.
Eighteen candidates, including Hamid Karzai, the interim president, are running. Almost 10 million Afghan citizens have registered to vote, and an appointed commission has set up voting procedures in a country without electoral traditions or opportunities. Although delayed, this presidential election could help fulfill the letter, if not the full spirit, of the 2001 Bonn agreement for an orderly transfer of power in Afghanistan.
But Afghanistan's wars are jeopardizing election plans. The ethnically polarized candidate list recalls old quarrels more than political promise, and registration irregularities have led disaffected tribes to allege political discrimination. Because the international anti-terrorism coalition still fights along the country's eastern border and clan warfare erupts intermittently — as it did two weeks ago between warlords Ismail Khan and Amanullah Khan — campaigning has been limited to a few locales. Neither the national army nor police are equipped to prevent most disturbances. (Twenty-four of the country's 34 provinces have no international security presence at all.) The Taliban is surreptitiously campaigning against the "wicked regime of Karzai," who, they say in threatening "night letters" to border communities, is a puppet of Westerners in "occupied Afghanistan."
The most disturbing feature of the electoral landscape is the private militias that dominate politics in the center and north of the country. They could spoil the election through violence or, like the infamous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, surrogate presidential contenders.
The law says candidates cannot deal in narcotics, control private armies or have been convicted of human rights abuses. It's difficult to prove drug trafficking even in a country awash with poppies, and judicial reform has moved so slowly that no courts have heard cases involving alleged human rights offenses, although private reports detailing abuses will soon be released.
But everyone knows where to find militias; they patrol large sections of Kabul. No one doubts that 20 battle-hardened years have cemented the loyalty of Dostum's men. Like Dostum, two other candidates had to prove to the election commission that their militia associations were over, although it's hard to know what that proof means. Karzai dropped his warlord running mate, Mohammed Qassim Fahim, from his ticket. But authorities worried that Dostum might disrupt the entire election and so worked a special deal to transfer some of his forces to government control.
This is the heart of Afghanistan's electoral problem: Bullets and ballots don't mix, but Afghans will vote within sight of gun barrels. Thirty years of war has left middle-age fighters knowing little else, and Afghanistan's constitution enshrines freedom fighters as national heroes. But warlords are freedom fighters run amok, and their stranglehold on Afghan society is a kind of war against the state.
The Bonn agreement assumed that soldiers would be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into the civilian economy before votes were cast. This has not happened. Programs to disarm and demobilize private armies often fall short in countries where reintegration is nearly impossible. The Afghan economy cannot yet stand on its own, and the security Afghans need — to be free to imagine a life of safety, certainty and opportunity — remains elusive.
Karzai has backed away from his preelection commitment to bring 60,000 fighters into civilian life, and the government's international partners in this election have not pushed him to fulfill his promise. His 17 opponents aren't spoiling for this fight either. Some routinely disparage the noxious combination of guns and narcotics that threatens the security and integrity of voting, but none have the power to stand up to warlords. Most are united only against Karzai, whose control of limited state resources reflects, they believe, the inappropriate wishes of donor governments.
These problems led many observers to denigrate the elections or call for their postponement. Karzai has rescheduled technically complicated local, provincial and parliamentary elections for next spring, a risky move that challenges constitutionally guaranteed checks and balances. But he clearly believes a president needs the mandate that elections provide. By running against him, his rivals seem to agree, and so, it appears, do prospective voters.
But what kind of legitimacy is conferred on a leader whose country is split among armed factions that equate authority with the spoils of war?
This question is critical for Afghans and equally important for the governments that support Afghanistan's recovery. More than new Afghan voters, these governments understand the vital electoral values of equality, equity, inclusiveness and fairness. Their experience in other conflict-prone states should have equipped them to help in the reconciliation of militarism, state-building, transitional justice and democratic development. The fact that international standards for free elections will not be met in the presidential election reflects not only the unfinished partnership between Afghanistan and the international community but also the incomplete political legitimacy vested in the country's future government.
At best, elections are one step toward democracy. If Afghans can cast ballots without fear of intimidation or retribution, if candidates and voters accept the results, and if war does not break out after polling day, they will probably believe their voices count. In this sense, the election, as imperfect as it will be, will offer Afghans a lens through which to imagine a political future. But if voting is only symbolic, the day after the election, no matter who wins, will be a difficult one.
Paula Newberg, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, recently visited Afghanistan on behalf of the National Democratic Institute.
Over 2.2 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan - UNHCR
ISLAMABAD, 30 August (IRIN) - More than 2.2 million Afghans have returned home so far from Pakistan since the voluntary repatriation programme of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) started in 2002, an official of the agency told IRIN in the capital, Islamabad, on Monday.
"Over 300,000 Afghans have returned to their homeland since the UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme resumed in March this year," Jack Redden, the spokesman for UNHCR in Pakistan, said.
All the Afghans living in Pakistan wishing to return can avail themselves of UNHCR assistance, consisting of a travel grant ranging from 3 to US $30, plus additional grants to help with re-integration in Afghanistan.
The UN refugee agency currently operates six departure centres and four Iris Verification Centres (IVCs) in four cities across Pakistan. The IVCs check the identity of refugees and help to reduce fraud. Since March, a total of 184,000 Afghans who passed through these centres were living outside established refugee camps, while 135,000 came from such camps, the agency said.
Some 173,000 repatriated Afghans passed through the Peshawar departure centre in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) which has two IVC facilities. Another 83,000 refugees were processed through two departure centres at Quetta in the southwestern province of Balochistan. While 33,000 passed through two centres located in the southern port city of Karachi in the province of Sindh, around 30,000 were processed in Islamabad.
Under the voluntary repatriation programme of the UNHCR, nearly 1.6 million refugees returned in 2002 following the fall of the Taliban regime, while only 340,000 repatriated during 2003. With 300,000 returnees having departed from Pakistan this year, the refugee agency estimated that over a million refugees were still residing in camps in Pakistan. However, in the absence of any comprehensive census, there is no specific figure for the number of refugees living in urban settlements throughout Pakistan.
The UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme from Pakistan operates under a special tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will run until March 2006. According to an agency statement, more than 292,000 Afghans have received their repatriation assistance from UNHCR centres inside Afghanistan.
All who oppose Islamic system are terrorists: Fazl - By Amir Rana
LAHORE: Those demanding an Islamic system in pakistan are mujahideen, while those opposed to it are terrorists, declared Maulana Fazlur Rehman, general secretary of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), while addressing a seminar on the Hisba Act, arranged by the Mufti Mehmood Academy, on Sunday.
“The United Nations charter gives every nation the right to adopt policies according to their faith, religion and traditions, but the West is creating problems for Muslims around the world and obstructing the Islamic system, which is an attack on their basic human rights,” Mr Rehman said. He also said the world should differentiate between terrorism and jihad and that Europe and America had no right to impose their decisions upon others.
“One nation wanting to impose its ideology and decision on other nations is terrorism. Our Constitution clearly states that it is the people’s basic right to demand and adopt the Islamic system,” he said. “In the light of the UN charter and Pakistan’s Constitution, we can say that those who demand their principal rights to establish an Islamic system in the country are mujahids and those who oppose it are the terrorists.” Mr Rehman said the federal government was creating problems for the NWFP government and obstructing the establishment of the Hisba Act. “It should respect the people’s mandate and demands,” he said.
He said the Hisba Act would create an administrative body, not a parallel judicial system. He said the Taliban seized power by force, but the MMA had come into power with public votes. “Mullah Omar was independent to make and impose policies, but we are bound by the Constitution.” He said the MMA believed in the Constitution and wanted to change the system, not destroy it.
MMA President Qazi Hussain Ahmad addressed the seminar and said the Hisba Act addressed public needs, but the federal government did not want it to be established. “The courts and the judiciary have failed to provide justice and people are fed up with the long procedural British judiciary system,” he said, adding that no one could stop the MMA from enforcing an Islamic system in the NWFP. “We will establish the same system in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan as well because the people demand it,” he declared.
NWFP Law Minister Ayaz Ahmad Khan said in 1983, the federal government had established a ‘Federal Muhtasiab’. It had done the same for Sindh in 1992, Punjab in 1997 and Balochistan in 2001, but no one had objected. “We just changed the name and everyone has started criticising us, which is not fair,” he said.
Mr Ayaz said the purpose of the Hisba Act was to provide free and timely justice to people at their doorsteps. He said the act would become an example for other provinces. Maulana Ghulamur Rehman, head of the NWFP Nifaz-e-Shariat Council, said after approval of the Sharia Bill, there had been major positive changes in the province and the Hisba Act would make more positive changes. He said the act was currently “under siege” by the Council of Islamic Ideology, but as soon as it was passed, it would be brought to the National Assembly for approval.
NWFP government spokesman Mufti Kafait Ullah warned that if the federal government tried to destabilise the MMA government, all other provincial governments would be destabilised. JI (NWFP) head Prof Ibrahim, advocate Ismail Quraishi and other Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl group) leaders also addressed the seminar.
Two held for possessing Taliban leaflets
KABUL, Aug 30: Afghan security forces have arrested two men distributing Taliban leaflets calling for a holy war against US-led coalition forces and the government, an official said on Monday.
The pair, a Pakistani and an Afghan national, were taken into custody near Afghanistan-Pakistani border, Abdul Wakil Atak, spokesman for the governor of eastern Nangahar province said.
"Border police arrested two people that were carrying 2,000 leaflets to distribute in Nangahar," he said.
The arrests of Pakistani Shahzada Gul and Afghan Hesmatullah were made over the weekend as the pair was en route to distribute the leaflets in Jalalabad, Ibrarullah, deputy commander of the Border Police Contingent, said. -AFP
Iran opens bank in Kabul
Tehran Times Business Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) — Afghan government has allowed Iran to establish its bank, Arjan in Kabul, Radio Tehran quoted Pakistan Tribune as reporting on Saturday.
According to the report, the Afghan Trade Minister Kaidimi said in Kabul that the Bank would help resolve trade and economic issues between the two countries.
He was optimistic that with establishment of the bank, the Iranian investors would invest money and expertise in Afghanistan, the report also noted.
"Iran and Afghanistan and enjoying good trade relations and this bank will bring closer the business community of the two countries," he maintained, the report explained.
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