Afghanistan to Delay Landmark Elections
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 28, 1:57 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's landmark national elections will be delayed until September to give the United Nations more time to register voters and organize the balloting, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.
Officials had warned repeatedly that the country's first post-Taliban elections, originally scheduled for June, would be delayed because of logistical problems and security fears.
"We are ready to manage both elections, for the parliament and presidency, in September," Karzai told reporters at his palace in the Afghan capital.
So far, only 1.5 million of an estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have been registered for the elections, and it remains unclear how the United Nations intends to carry out a plan to register most of the others in May.
The Afghan government said on Saturday it will disarm 40,000 irregular Afghan militia soldiers and round up heavy weapons around the country in time for the vote to reduce the risk of voter intimidation.
But the world body, the Afghan government and the U.S.-led military coalition that ousted the hardline Taliban in late 2001 are still working on plans to protect election workers from militants of the former regime in the country's south and east.
A Taliban spokesman said the delay until September was "a humiliation and defeat" for Karzai and his American backers, and claimed the elections would be fixed.
"They want to divert the attention of Afghans from the importance of jihad," or holy war, Hamid Agha told The Associated Press in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.
The top U.N. Special Representative in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, welcomed the delay, saying it would allow time also for NATO to expand its peacekeeping operation beyond Kabul in time for the vote.
He also called on the Afghan government to guarantee a level playing-field for challengers to Karzai and a rash of new political parties.
"Free and fair is not a given," Arnault said. "Many things that haven't happened in the past few years have to happen."
More than 200 people have died so far this year in violence around the country, including aid workers and government employees, as well as militants and foreign and Afghan soldiers.
Five foreign U.N. staffers helping prepare for the elections were attacked March 14 with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire as they slept in a government compound in eastern Paktia province.
Karzai said the United Nations and Afghan electoral officials had told him that the presidential election could have been held in June or July, but that parliamentary elections could only be held in September.
"We want both elections together," Karzai said.
A handful of candidates including a disgruntled former Cabinet minister have said they will run in the presidential election. But none is viewed as a serious challenger to Karzai, who has said he too will seek a new five-year term.
A scattering of new political parties have also been approved in advance of the elections.
But Karzai has yet to sign a decree allowing candidates to formally stand or regulating their access to the media or any government campaign funds.
Report: Japan to provide extra US $400 million in grant aid to Afghanistan
Associated Press Sunday March 28, 11:45 AM
Japan will announce an extra US$400 million in aid to Afghanistan to help disarm the country and rebuild a major highway, a Japanese media report said Sunday.
The aid, to be distributed over a two-year period in the form of grants, will be announced by Japan's special envoy to Afghanistan, Sadako Ogata, at a conference in Berlin this week, the Yomiuri Shimbun, a major daily, reported. It did not cite sources.
The extra funding will help disarm soldiers and provide them with job training in order to stabilize the country. It will also go toward rebuilding a major highway linking the southern city of Kandahar and western Herat, the Yomiuri said.
Japan allocated US$500 million for Afghanistan at a donor conference it hosted in January 2002. That amount was pledged over a two-year period and is set to run out in July 2004.
With the fresh aid package, Japan will have contributed more than US$1 billion to Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and subsequent ousting of the Taliban, the Yomiuri said.
Foreign Ministry officials were unavailable for comment Sunday.
The Afghan government has been pressed to speed up disarmament of the country's unruly militias and myriad factions ahead of national elections promised for summer, while rebuilding roads destroyed by two decades of war is seen as key to re-establishing trade and relations across the sprawling, rugged country.
China to write off huge Afghan debt
The Chinese government has decided to write off a 18-million US dollars debt that the Afghan government owes to it, a Chinese envoy said Saturday in Kabul.
The Chinese government has decided to write off a 18-million US dollars debt that the Afghan government owes to it, a Chinese envoy said Saturday in Kabul.
"This is a friendly gesture from the Chinese government and the Chinese people," Chinese ambassador Sun Yuxi said at a joint press conference held with Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.
According to the Chinese envoy, the Chinese government and the Afghan transitional government have reached an agreement to write off a debt totaling 10 million British pounds (about 18 million US dollars) that the then Afghan government borrowed in 1965.
"This is also significant for our further financial assistances," the Chinese top diplomat said. "We conclude the old debt, and so we can continue to have new commercial and financial relations between us."
Sun Yuxi also disclosed that at the forthcoming Berlin Conference, the Chinese government will announce new plans to provide the Afghan authorities with more aids. Right now, Chinese engineers and workers are working on two major assistance programs: rebuilding a major hospital in the capital of Kabul and building an irrigation system in Parwan Province to the north of Kabul.
China and Afghanistan established diplomatic relations in 1955.After the founding of the Afghan transitional government in late 2001, China was the first country to announce a huge assistance program totaling 150 million dollars.
Afghan locals unhappy with new US base on Pakistan border
Sat Mar 27,12:25 AM ET
LWARA, Afghanistan (AFP) - To the United States, Lwara base is a "forward operating site" on the Afghan-Pakistan border in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and leading figures in Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
To the local villagers, it is a danger and a nuisance.
Set in a former Taliban stronghold and close to Shkin, once described by a US military official as "the most evil place on earth", Lwara is home to Afghan and US-led coalition troops, as well as US Special Forces.
The base is part of Operation Mountain Storm, designed to capture Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the rugged southeast and complements the Pakistani army's offensive on the other side of the frontier in the "hammer and anvil" approach announced by the United States.
Afghan National Army and Afghan Militia Forces troops are working alongside the US soldiers to help seal the porous border against what villagers say are frequent incursions by Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
But far from seeing the base and its occupants as protectors, Lwara residents are furious that the US has decided to set up base in their backyards.
Coalition soldiers patrol the area, sometimes searching caves and houses in nearby villages to look for weapons caches and suspects, residents told AFP.
Moreover, they claim the base, which recently came under rocket attack from suspected Taliban militants, also exposes their villages to damage.
"They have built the military base near our village to use the village as a firewall to protect themselves. We don't want them here," village elder Naim Khan told AFP.
"A rocket originally targetting Americans missed the base and hit a civilian house and badly injured two young girls," Khan added.
Remote and without basic healthcare or educational facilities, Lwara is incapable of dealing with casualties of this kind of violence.
According to villagers, the injured girls were taken to the US base for treatment but when the girls' families were told they would be flown to Kabul's Bagram Air Base for further medical attention and their relatives would not be able to accompany them, the offer of further treatment was refused.
Under the traditional and hardline Islamic laws of tribal areas like Lwara, two Muslim girls should not be left in the company of any men who are not close relatives.
The relatives decided to take the two girls overland to Miran Shah in Pakistan for treatment.
"One of the girls passed away on the way to Miran Shah and the other survived," villager Gul Mohammed said.
The newly-established base, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of the Pakistan border, is believed to be the fourth US base in Paktika province after Shkin, Urgun and Sharan.
"We arrived at this camp 23 days ago," Mohammed Qasim Khan, an Afghan soldier at Lwara base told AFP.
However, before he could say anything further he was interrupted by a US soldier who told him to stop speaking. The American, whose surname was Mark according to his uniform and who also refused to speak, told the soldier he was not authorized to give interviews.
A border commander with the Afghan Militia Forces has previously told AFP that there were 100 US and 900 Afghan soldiers at the base, and that they were planning a "major operation".
The US has admitted they have stepped up surveillance on the border but have refused to reveal details for security reasons.
America leads a 13,500-strong coalition force in Afghanistan hunting Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other insurgents, and will send extra US Marines to the country to help beef up security, defense department officials said Thursday.
For almost two weeks, a military operation has been going on in Pakistan's tribal South Waziristan, just 70 kilometres south of Lwara.
It is believed that Taliban insurgents are hiding in rugged mountains and fortified caves left over from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Afghan Finance Ministry (MOF) 03/26/2004
The Afghan government has confirmed that representatives of more than 50 countries will be gathering at a conference in Berlin on 31st March and 1st April to discuss much needed aid for the country. Speaking in Kabul, the Afghan Finance Minister, Dr Ashraf Ghani, said that investments by donors in the country today "will save hundreds of millions and then billions of dollars tomorrow." The conference in Berlin is also due to be attended by many leading world figures, including the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
According to Dr Ghani, "the aim of the Berlin Conference is threefold. Firstly, it's to acknowledge that the needs of Afghanistan over the seven year period amount to between 27 and 28 billion dollars. Secondly, it's to secure multi-year pledges of aid to provide a basis for predictability. And thirdly it's to increase cash commitments for our budget year 1383, which corresponds to March 21st 2004 through to March 20th 2005."
"A goal of the conference", says Dr Ghani, "is to build a long-term partnership between the international community and Afghanistan to secure the country's future."
He said the total figure of aid needed had been reached by over one-hundred international specialists from the multilateral development institutions, working alongside their Afghan colleagues. Together they have compiled the report for the Berlin Conference, "Securing Afghanistan's Future".
Afghanistan and Sierra Leone vie at present for the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest country in the world. Donors have sometimes forgotten this. Even with all the aid being asked for, seven years from now Afghanistan will probably still be one of the world's poorest nations.
The aim of the Afghan government is to raise the per capita annual income in Afghanistan from less than US $200 today to $500 by 2015. It is upon this basis that the overall figure for the foreign aid has been reached. As Dr Ghani puts it, "the $27.6 billion being asked for will lift Afghans from dire poverty to poverty with dignity."
Economists working in Afghanistan say that if all goes to plan, ten years from now 80% of Afghans will be living above the poverty line, but more than 50% will still be illiterate, and 20% wont have access to safe drinking water. They estimate the maternal mortality rate will still be double the present rate of Afghanistan's five neighbours.
Afghanistan is very much at a crossroads. The most recent opium poppy crop has beaten all previous records, with a third of the country's income now coming from illicit narcotics. Security in many areas of the country continues to deteriorate.
Dr Ghani argues that concerted action is needed now to prevent the country descending into a state of anarchy, and that if flows of foreign aid continue at their present level, the future could be very bleak.
The report for the Berlin Conference says of Afghanistan that "the risk of a complete descent into a narco-mafia state continues to increase". It argues that the underpinning element of any sustainable counter-narcotics strategy is robust economic growth. The political, economic and security dimensions must be addressed together, it says.
The United States has already doubled its contribution for aid to Afghanistan, adding US $1.2 billion. The United States government has stressed that failure in Afghanistan "is not an option". But last year alone the United States allocated US $22 billion in aid to Iraq, a country about the same size as Afghanistan, whose standard of living is decades ahead.
Compared to the request of US $27.6 billion for aid over seven years, the Coalition and ISAF forces operating in Afghanistan are costing at least US $13 billion per year. The report, "Securing Afghanistan's Future", describes the figure of US $27.6 billion as an investment by the international community in stability and peace building. It says it should not be viewed as charity, but as an investment designed to lower the defence and security spending of major nations, and to reduce the risks of major terrorist incidents globally.
Afghanistan starts final phase of disarming
The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan forces on Saturday began the final phase of a drive to rid Kabul of accumulated weapons and armor after two decades of war.
Dozens of old Soviet-era tanks and artillery were rolled out of the capital.
Pressed to speed up disarmament ahead of national elections later this year, Afghan officials pledged to disarm factions and regional militias — a key part of the U.N.-sponsored peace plan launched after a U.S.-led assault ousted the Taliban in late 2001.
The militias are to make way for a new U.S.-trained Afghan National Army.
Saturday's ceremony sent 13 tanks, seven anti-aircraft guns and 29 other pieces of artillery, and one armored-personnel vehicle, to a holding area outside Kabul.
Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Rahim Wardak said collection of unauthorized heavy weapons in the provinces would start within days and end by June — an ambitious timeline and one that hinges upon the willingness of regional warlords to dismantle their private armies.
Wardak also outlined the government's next step in a U.N.-set goal of returning 100,000 factional soldiers and officers to private life.
Afghanistan Anti-Mine Group Seeks Funds
Mar 27, 5:12 PM (ET)
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Millions of mines and unexploded bombs that kill or wound 100 Afghans on average every month could be cleared in a decade if international funds are made available, a government official said Saturday.
Afghanistan needs $425 million for a 10-year drive to clear mines and ordnance left by a quarter-century of war, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Haider Reza said.
"So many people suffered from mines in Afghanistan," Reza told reporters in Kabul during the Asian regional conference on the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines. "It shows the need for a big campaign."
Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, with millions of explosives laid down during Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the brutal civil war which followed.
Afghan officials say they have no useful maps of where the mines are.
The Nobel Prize-winning ICBL's Afghan representative appealed to international donors to provide funds to continue clearance.
"We need sustained, multiyear funding to help us maintain our high rate of clearance and to address the needs of land mine survivors," Shohab Hakimi said.
Afghanistan, which joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, or Ottawa Convention, on Sept. 11, 2002, has begun destroying its stockpiles of mines.
But warlords and faction leaders who still control much of the countryside have yet to do so.
Anti-mine campaigners hope that progress in Afghanistan will help persuade Asian countries such as Indian and Iran as well as the United States to join the treaty, which bans the production, stockpiling, trading and use of anti-personnel mines.
According to the ICBL, Afghanistan has the biggest de-mining program in the world, with 5,000 de-miners at work clearing explosives. Still, it estimates that about 100 people a month are killed or maimed by mines or unexploded ordnance every month.
Pakistan says wounded Uzbek al-Qaida leader on the run
Kyodo (Japan) Sunday March 28, 9:01 AM
A senior Uzbek al-Qaida member was injured in recent fighting with Pakistani forces on the border with Afghanistan and is on the run, a Pakistani Defense Ministry spokesman said Saturday. Tahir Yoldeshev, one of senior al-Qaida members, is hiding somewhere in the border area after the battle in the lawless South Waziristan area of northern Pakistan, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told Kyodo News.
Suspected terrorists arrested during the fighting said Yoldeshev was injured during a Pakistani military campaign against several hundred al-Qaida militants that began March 16, according to the spokesman.
Earlier reports in the local media said Yoldeshev was visiting his wife and children, who had settled in the Pakistani tribal area after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, and was trapped during the military operation in South Waziristan.
His wife and children were reportedly killed during the operation but he himself managed to escape.
Federal Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said Saturday that an estimated 400-600 Uzbek, Chechen and Arab terrorists were hiding in South Waziristan but there was no possibility of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden or Aiman al-Zawahari, bin Laden's right-hand man, being in the area.
Al-Qaida, Taliban fighters on run from stepped-up offensive, officials say
AP March 26
Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, increasingly pursued by American and Pakistani forces, are on the run or hunkering down rather than mounting a threatened spring offensive of their own, U.S. and Afghan officials say.
More than 50 alleged terrorists have been killed and 163 detained in Pakistan's largest military operation yet against suspected al-Qaida fighters and local sympathizers in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say.
Brig. Mahmood Shah, chief of security in Pakistan's tribal areas, acknowledged that some terrorists might have escaped at the start of the 10-day-old operation. His comments further fueled speculation that a "high-value" terrorist suspect _ said by some officials last week to be al-Qaida No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri _ had escaped.
On Thursday, a tape purportedly recorded by al-Zawahri called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a traitor and urged he be overthrown. The audiotape was broadcast by the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera.
Afghan government leaders in border provinces told The Associated Press that Taliban and al-Qaida are fleeing into Afghanistan to escape the crackdown in Pakistan. But the fighters leaving Pakistan appear to be seeking new hiding places, not launch pads for immediate attacks of their own, the Afghans say, citing cross-border intelligence from fellow Pashtun tribes.
The fugitives "are not in a position to do any terrorist attacks. ... They are just trying to find safe shelter," said Gov. Qulad Khan Mungle of Paktika province, an assessment echoed by other Afghan officials.
Simultaneously, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are two weeks into Operation Mountain Storm _ an offensive bent on catching Osama bin Laden and his top al-Qaida and Taliban allies.
The U.S. operation involved a deployment of hundreds of U.S. troops into one of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar's home provinces, leaving villagers burying their dead Wednesday from a U.S. ground and air attack.
Most of Operation Mountain Storm has been smaller than past U.S. offensives, with small patrols through border villages, for instance, and hundreds of additional special operations forces reportedly taking a leading, though covert, role in the hunt.
The United States has yet to announce any major successes, but the relative dearth of attacks _ against the American military or softer targets _ shows the operation is working, a U.S. military spokesman said.
"We're doing a great deal to disrupt operations," the spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, said in Kabul. "The absence of violence against the Afghan people generally shows how well we're doing."
With spring "we would expect stepped-up activities against the Afghan people and aid agencies _ and that's one of the things Mountain Storm is designed to prevent," Hilferty said.
Spokesmen for the Taliban militia, the deposed rulers of Afghanistan, have allegedly promised a spring offensive of their own. Whether the talk was bluster or not, Taliban offensives traditionally come in the spring. But so far, two weeks into the Pakistan and U.S. operations, retaliatory attacks have been sporadic, and borderline suicidal.
On Wednesday, a lone suspected Taliban opened fire on a U.S. jeep in the southern city of Kandahar, near a U.S. intelligence base at the former home of Mullah Omar. U.S. forces killed him on the spot. And a man in Uruzgan province, whom Afghan officials described as a Taliban sympathizer, opened fire on a U.S. convoy March 18, killing two U.S. soldiers.
The U.S. military responded by pouring hundreds of troops into the area, a difficult-to-reach central mountain province where Omar spent much of his itinerant childhood and where many believe he has now retreated.
U.S. bombers and A-10 Warthog attack planes leveled the gunman's compound. U.S. forces ended what was a six-day cordon of the area Wednesday, allowing residents to return to bury their nine dead, Afghan officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. U.S. officials said an Afghan soldier also died in the fighting, resulting in an overall U.S and Afghan death toll of 12.
Reached by satellite phone, a Taliban spokesman claimed Taliban fighters already had launched offensives in Uruzgan province and two others, Kandahar and Zabul. "We are spreading our operations in all of Afghanistan against U.S. forces," said the spokesman, Mullah Abdul Hakim Latifi.
The Taliban's leaders remain in Afghanistan, including Mullah Omar, or in other areas of Pakistan _ not in Waziristan, Latifi claimed. He insisted the Taliban had no contact with al-Qaida _ "wherever they are."
Mungle, the Paktika governor, said tribal informants reported a high but unspecified number of fugitives fleeing from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Other border officials concurred, and said the fleeing fighters now were concerned only with finding hiding places.
Central government officials last week said that authorities arrested "semi-senior" terror suspects in recent days. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said Thursday he knew of no surge in arrests, however.
There are more than 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. About 2,000 Marines aboard ships in the Persian Gulf plan to join the search for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, U.S. defense officials said Thursday. They did not say when the Marines plan to arrive in Afghanistan or how long they would stay.
Japan grants Afghan refugee status
TOKYO, March 26 (UPI) -- A Japanese district court Friday granted an Afghan national refugee status, overturning an earlier decision.
Immigration authorities had overturned a refugee application from Mohad Mosa, 31, an ethnic Hazara, who was part of a group that opposed Afghanistan's former Taliban regime, the Kyodo news agency reported. He arrived in Japan in November 1998 and applied for refugee status the following January.
Presiding Judge Tomoji Yamada, of the Osaka District Court, overturned the ruling, however.
"It was illegal for the immigration authorities to reject his application," he said in the decision.
The Taliban enforced a rigid form of Islam upon the people of Afghanistan until they were ousted from power by U.S.-led forces following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that killed some 3,000 people.
'I met Osama Bin Laden'
Source: BBC News Friday, 26 March, 2004, 11:37 GMT
Osama Bin Laden's journey from moderate Islamic youth to ruthless leader of world jihad has been traced in a BBC Two programme that uses only the testimony of people who have actually met the al-Qaeda figurehead.
Bin Laden was born into a large, extremely wealthy Saudi family. According to Brian Fyfield-Shayler who taught the young Osama English at an elite school in Jeddah, he was taller than his classmates and very good looking.
However he was shy, reserved, too nervous to speak up in class and showed few signs of the extremism that marked his later life.
Other boys would try to convert Mr Fyfield-Shayler to Islam, but he said: "Osama was not one of those, he was not noticeable in his class for his strict religious observance or keenness."
He was happy to learn English - according to his teacher - but unlike many of his half-siblings who were educated abroad and embraced a Western lifestyle, he did not.
Instead Osama stayed in Jeddah where he went to university, to study economics, and first encountered radical Islamic thinkers.
'He adores his mother'
One of the most prominent was the Jordanian Abdullah Azzam who tuned Bin Laden into a glorious Arab past; Saladin the 12th Century vanquisher of the infidel Crusaders should be the students' inspiration, he taught.
And when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan Bin Laden, then 23, followed Dr Azzam to Peshawar, a frontier town on the Pakistan-Afghan border, to help the Afghan mujahideen liberate their country.
The adult Bin Laden who emerges from the film, is like the boy, shy, softly spoken, outwardly polite and unassuming.
He loves riding and adores his mother. But as one who knows him says - "He is very humble and is very shy, but then on the other hand he's very vicious, he is very vindictive."
His experience in Afghanistan radicalised him further. Initially his role was that of a financier, but he became a fighter and local hero.
A fellow mujahideen Essam Deraz fought alongside him and was amazed that this rich man should choose to throw himself so completely into the fray.
'Prince is a jerk'
He came under the influence of Dr Ayman al-Zawahri an extremist Egyptian with a violent ideology. It was at this point that al-Qaeda changed from being an administrative centre, to a private army dedicated to jihad or holy war.
With the Soviets vanquished, Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia but he was not happy with civilian life.
The head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisel, remembers his amazement at Bin Laden's request to use his mujahideen fighters to overthrow the Marxist regime in neighbouring Yemen.
"The reaction I felt towards his claim that these were his mujahideen was incredulous, and I also realised, that this shy, retiring and seemingly reticent person had changed," he said.
In 1991 Osama left Saudi Arabia for Sudan. Scott Macleod, the first American journalist to interview him, met him then and provides insight into a vain, petty man whose pride was hurt.
"He would say this Prince is a jerk, and this Prince insulted me once. It was actually kind of very local, almost family feud, kind of politics that he would go into."
'A lithe, muscular man'
But Bin Laden's feud was not just with the Saudi royal family. Stripped of his Saudi citizenship, and expelled from Sudan, he had nowhere to go but back to Afghanistan where the chilling nature of his global jihad began to unfold.
The British journalist Robert Fisk was invited to his mountain lair.
After a long, cold journey he was taken to a tent. Osama entered, "like a cat," Fisk said, "A very, very lithe muscular man."
His parting words - spoken four years before 9/11 - sent a shiver down the spine: "Mr. Robert, I pray that God permits us to turn America into a shadow of itself.
Most believe that Bin Laden is still alive. When asked by Abdel Bari Atwan, who visited him in Tora Bora, whether he expected to be kicked out of Afghanistan one day, Osama replied: "Yes, and I have my plans."
I Met Osama Bin Laden will be shown in the UK on BBC TWO, Sunday 28 March at 2000BST
Pakistan face Afghanistan in SAF Games soccer opener today
via Daily Times (Pakistan)
Sunday, March 28, 2004
PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s clash with Afghanistan is the preliminary football match of the 9th South Asian Federation (SAF) Games and will take place at the Qayyum Sports Complex on Sunday (today) at 3:00 pm.
Talking to journalists, Pakistan team skipper Jaffar Khan expressed the hope the team would secure a win against Afghanistan. He said: “Pakistan have an edge over Afghanistan after defeating them in the SAARC Football Championship at Bangladesh. “
Abdul Rasool of Afghanistan expressed the confidence of winning the first match against Pakistan. “We have some potential, and young players in the side, and I hope that the we will give a tough resistance to our rivals,” he added.
Pool A consists of Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan while Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are in Pool B. The Maldives are not participating in the football event. The winning team of each pool will contest the runners-up team of the other pool in the semi-finals on April 3. The matches for the third and fourth positions will be played along with the final on April 5. Syed Aqil Shah thanked 9th SAF Games organising committee chairman Arif Hasan for awarding the match to Peshawar.
A special enclosure has been created to accommodate the female students of colleges and universities, he added. He said the entry to the match would be free. NWFP Governor Iftikhar Hussain Shah will be the chief guest and will give away prizes to the players.
The Afghanistan football team is already in the city for practice. The Pakistan team had practice sessions at PAF football ground.
Pakistan: Jabbar (captain), Muhammad Issa, Adell Ali, Buram Ali, Mehmood Khan, Arif, Imran Niazi, Qamar Zaman, Mudassar, Ijaz Ahmed, Muhammad Zahid, Shahid, Nasir, Shehzad, Mehmood, Farooq Shah, Abdul Aziz, Naveed, Atiq, Zahid. (Chinese coach Wang Lee), (Pakistani coach Tariq Lutfi), (manager Ch. Abdul Rashid).
Afghanistan: Shams Khan, Abasin, Rozdin, Hamidzai, Nasim, Waheed, Khalid, Ahmaad, Tawab, Rahman, Nagialia, Ahmed Fareed, Hadi, Abdul Maroof, Ibad Ullah, Muhammad Hanif, Fareed Ahmed, Qasim Ali, Raza Mehmoodi and Raza. (coach Abdul Rasool), (assistant coaches Muhammad Azizi and Abdul Fazali) (manager Muhammad Saboor Walidad) (delegation head Said Hamaad). -- APP (Associated Press of Pakistan)
Proud lion: Zoo plans dedication
3-27-04 By Mark Brumley News & Record (Greensboro News Record)
ASHEBORO -- The Marjan that people saw in the news a couple of years ago was a blind lion with a face mangled by a hand grenade during Afghanistan's civil war in 1994.
It was a face that helped the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro launch a $500,000 relief effort for the Kabul Zoo, where Marjan was kept until he died in January 2002.
But it's not the face that Texas artist Bob Coffee wanted to portray in his bronze sculpture of Marjan, which he is giving to the Kabul Zoo.
"He was completely whipped," said Coffee, 70, who delivered his sculpture to the N.C. Zoo on Friday. "I didn't want to do him like that. I wanted to do him as a proud lion."
Coffee's lion is a younger version of Marjan, who was believed to be between 25 and 29 years old when he died.
His proud face is free from deformity and suffering. Though hollow, his eyes are keen.
" I think it kind of symbolizes the country of Afghanistan," said Coffee, explaining that lions are fierce, but social creatures that show their own kind of affection.
The sculpture will be dedicated during a ceremony today at the North Carolina Zoo, where it will be on display across from the patas monkey exhibit until later this year.
After a forklift lowered the statue into place Friday, the curious monkeys peered across a watery moat from their habitat to see what was happening
Zoo Society officials say they are still trying to work out the details of getting the 300-pound sculpture to Afghanistan as the U.S. continues its war on terror.
For now, Russ Williams, the Zoo Society's director, said the park is thrilled to have Coffee's sculpture on loan for park visitors to admire.
"We're just happy that it's on its way to the people of Afghanistan and Kabul," Williams said.
Marjan, whose name refers to a precious stone, was a gift from Germany.
He was blinded after he killed a guerilla fighter who climbed into his cage to show off, and the man's brother threw a grenade at the lion.
For Williams and other zoo officials, the sculpture is another example of the outpouring they've seen for the Kabul Zoo.
"People have wanted to do this ever since they learned about the trouble with the zoo and the trouble with the other animals," Williams said. "It's been wonderful to see all the things we've gotten -- the small gifts from kids who did without birthday presents and Christmas presents to send money and the school groups that have given us pictures of animals they've colored. But nothing like this (sculpture)."
An architect by training and trade, Coffee said he's always had an interest in zoos. He even did a zoo design for his master's thesis.
So Coffee was especially moved by the stories coming out of Afghanistan in late 2001 about the abused, injured and neglected animals at the Kabul Zoo.
Coffee -- who took up sculpting as a hobby around 1970 and now jokes that it's a job -- decided he wanted to do a piece for the Kabul Zoo. He quickly heard from Williams, who asked him to do a statue of Marjan.
"I hope it's just right for Afghanistan," Coffee said.
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